Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

Have you started your diet yet? Resolved to work out more? Joined a gym? Made that list of New Year’s resolutions?

Not me. I already limit carbs during the week and I’ve belonged to the same gym for at least 20 years. Between spin classes, intricately choreographed step classes and our crazy 15-mile walks, I usually manage to get in a reasonable amount of exercise every week (of course, none of this seems to make me a skinny cook, but at least I try). I do have to say though, that I HATE it when all those newbies crowd the gym in January, taking up all the equipment and parking spaces. Oh well, they’ll be gone by March. Happens every year.

But about those New Year's resolutions.....

Do you remember my post about Peg Bracken and the HOOTENHOLLER CAKE?

She wrote “The I Hate to Cook Book” back in 1960 and you can’t read the thing without falling to the floor, laughing hysterically. Well, it turns out she also wrote “The I Hate to Cook Almanack” in 1976. I know this because my mom found a copy of it at a tag sale recently and bought it for the whopping sum of $1. Thanks, Mom!

This book has a plethora of recipes with names like SHUTTEMUP COOKIES, STRAWBERRY NINCOMPOOP, RICH WITCH CAKE and GOOD PHONY DOUGHNUTS.  It also has a list of New Year's resolutions which include the following:

Not to open a new bottle of ketchup until the old one is used up

To read the newest news magazine instead of catching up with week-before-last’s first, which is like always eating rotten apples

To educate the kids out of the rollicking notion that just because something exists they have to have one of it

To organize the kitchen tool drawer and keep it organized

To refrain from removing the blender’s lid the minute you’re done blending something hot unless you are looking for an excuse to scrub the ceiling

To hit the next person who says, “What are we having for dinner?”

Now these are some achievable resolutions if you ask me.  Is there anyone out there who can’t relate to at least one of them? Peg was one “with-it” lady! Here is her list of “New Words for a New Year.”

Antipesto – Italian roach powder

Blandwich – hamburger without any onions

Caviar Emptor – it’s only some kind of fish eggs

Eatnik – health food buff who won’t touch it if it isn’t enriched with granular kelp and black-strap molasses

Piasko – what you’re involved in when the pastry comes apart

Scruffulous – how the house looks when it’s in good enough shape that you don’t feel like doing anything about it but not good enough that you’re dying to have anybody drop in

Swallup – the extra bonus of cake frosting left in the pan for somebody to lick

Stewp – any mixture thinner than stew and thicker than soup
(Aha! Caught you, Rachael Ray! You might refer to it as “stoup” but clearly you didn’t think of this concept first)

In honor of Peg Bracken, I am posting a recipe from her book. I chose the following because I loved the name, not because I thought it would be any good. I made it the other night, served it to Henry and almost fell out of my chair when I tasted it. It was really delicious and it is my new go-to, last-minute- need- to-rustle-something-up-in-a-hurry solution. You can make this even if you can’t cook. Just don’t tell anyone how easy it is.

THE EASIEST NONTHINKING DINNER THIS SIDE OF RAW (adapted from Peg Bracken's "The I Hate to Cook Almanack")

2 medium eggplants, unpeeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
A crumble or two of good feta for garnish (if desired)

Cut the eggplant into 1 1/2-inch chunks.  Do not peel.  Place into a large skillet and pour tomatoes and their juice over. Stir in rosemary.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender and mixture becomes "stew-like."  (Haha, let's call it a stewp!)  Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if using) and serve immediately, topped with some feta cheese if you like.

Serves 6

A couple of things:

I know it sounds weird to leave the eggplant unpeeled, but it actually gives the finished dish a better texture.  Besides, this way you don't have to go to the trouble of peeling anything.

No, I did not forget about adding oil to the pan.  The recipe doesn't call for it and guess what?  It doesn't need it.  I would not have believed that either, but trust me on this.

It's rare that I don't salt something during the cooking process, but resist the urge to to do that here, otherwise the eggplant will release too much liquid and you will have a watery dish. 

I think the feta is a really good addition so I would encourage you to include it.  Alternatively, you could add a bit of goat cheese. 

This dish is good eaten alone or as a side dish.  If you want to turn it into something heartier you could always brown up some lamb in the skillet before adding the eggplant and tomatoes.  Personally, however, I like it without the meat.

Oh, and forgive me.  It wasn't my intention to post a healthy recipe here, it's just the way it worked out.  No worries, sugar-laden treats will grace these pages again soon!

And here's to a happy and healthy New Year.  I appreciate all of you for following my blog and I hope 2011 is a good year for everyone!


  1. YUM! I'm going to give this a try - so easy! You are too FUNNY! Happy New Year!!!

  2. Thanks, Liz for another year of great stories and recipes.