IMG_5289I found these figural linen cocktail napkins on ebay.

IMG_5290 IMG_5291This one has a wonky eye 

I think they were made in the 1950s.  I had these birds of a feather framed together, and they brighten up my laundry room.  (It’s not like I was going to buy original art to hang next to the washer.)

My family has always had a thing for hens and roosters, because our last name or some variation of it means “chicken” or “hen” in German.  I collected roosters for a while, starting in college, but there’s no real challenge to finding them — they’re everywhere — and I kept just a few when I got married.

When I was around 8 years old, I came across a book of riddles in one of my parents’ friend’s bathrooms.  They had those kinds of friends.  Anyway, one of the riddles involved a rooster, and I had no idea what was so funny about it, but when I told it to my parents (because they liked roosters) they about bust a gut laughing. From that point on, they would encourage me to tell it to their friends (“oh, go on, tell them your joke!”), who would also cackle with laughter.  Like I said, they had those kinds of friends.  Here’s the riddle, in case you’d like to teach your young ones to tell it for cheap laughs:

Q:  What’s the difference between a rooster, Uncle Sam, and an old maid?

A:  The rooster says “cock-a-doodle-do,” Uncle Sam says “Yankee doodle do,” and the old maid says “any cockle do.”

Again, they had those kinds of friends. [Note:  “cockle” is intentionally misspelled :)]

Well, just as some times you want cheap and easy wall art, or a cheap and easy laugh, some times you want a cheap and easy chicken dinner, and that’s what has inspired this Easy Chicken Pot Pie.  It’s tasty and satisfying factory-to-table fare that you can put together in about five minutes.  I was introduced to it when my friend Laura, herself a new mom, brought it over for my family after my daughter was born, and it was as appreciated then as it is now on busy school and work nights.  Cock-a-doodle-do!

Recipe type: Poultry, Main Courses
  • 2 9-inch pie crusts (I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts)
  • 2-3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (I usually use rotisserie chicken)
  • 8 ounces frozen peas and carrots*
  • 8-ounces frozen corn
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Potato Soup
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: can substitute 1 pound of frozen mixed vegetables for corn and peas and carrots
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one pie crust in a deep dish pie plate. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer filling to pie plate, and cover with remaining crust. Press edges of top and bottom crusts together, crimping decoratively. Cut 3 or 4 vents in top of crust. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until crust is golden. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

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Spoon the filling into the crust  003 (7)

 Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape

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Cheap and easy — like my parents’ friends


It’s Hatch chile time!  About 2 weeks ago, Hatch chiles showed up at my local grocery store.  Central Market is holding its annual 18th Annual Hatch Chile Festival from August 7-20.


Chuy’s restaurants get in on the Hatch chile excitement too, with their 25th annual Green Chile Festival, which runs from August 19 to September 8.

The Hatch chile grows in the Hatch Valley, an area that stretches north and south along the Rio Grande in New Mexico.  It’s a “designer” chile, developed at New Mexico State University over the past 130 years specifically for conditions in the Hatch Valley.  The peppers come in mild, medium, hot, and extra hot, although you can’t tell how hot they are just by looking at them.  Extra hot chiles have the strongest chile fragrance.

When buying fresh Hatch chiles, look for bright green, symmetrical peppers.  The peppers should be firm, with smooth skin, and feel heavy for their size.



For lots of interesting facts, photos, and videos about Hatch chiles, Hatch chile products, and scores of Hatch chile recipes, check out Central Market’s excellent website.

The smell wafting from the giant iron roasters in front of the grocery stores entices me to purchase bags of roasted chiles every year.  Usually I go home and stick them in the freezer, where they remain until they are destroyed by freezer burn months later.  But not this year!  Recently, I purchased a package of Frontera Green Chile Enchilada Sauce, and made green chile chicken and cheese enchiladas, which were quite a hit here.



Using my bag of freshly-roasted Hatch chiles, I made my own salsa verde, based on a recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.  It was surprisingly easy and surprisingly tasty, and I am already planning to go buy more roasted chiles and fresh tomatillos to make another batch or two to freeze.

Recipe type: Sauces
  • 1 pound tomatillos (10-12 medium), husked and rinsed
  • 3 fresh Hatch or serrano chiles, stemmed
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Roast tomatillos and chiles, either by placing on grill or on a baking sheet under a broiler. Roast until blackened and blistered on one side, approximately 5 minutes, then turn over using tongs and roast the other side. Transfer tomatillos and chiles to a food processor or blender.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer onions and garlic to food processor or blender. Pulse to a rough-looking puree -- avoid overprocessing.
  3. Heat remaining ½ tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add puree and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes, until puree thickens and darkens slightly. Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, and season to taste with salt.

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Stir the puree constantly

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Salsa verde


 Place shredded chicken and cheese on a corn tortilla

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 Roll ’em up, spread a little sauce on the bottom of a baking dish,

and place seam side down 

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 Cover with sauce and sprinkle with additional cheese

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 Bake at 350 degrees approximately 20 minutes,

until heated through and cheese is melted


It’s been really hot here this weekend.  Although I like to cook a hearty Sunday dinner in the cooler month(s), this time of year main course salads are my idea of a perfect Sunday dinner.  This Vietnamese salad was just right for my husband and I tonight, and there was still room for ice cream for dessert.

Recipe type: Salad, Main Course
  • 1 cup shredded roast duck (rotisserie duck from freezer section works great)
  • 3 cup finely shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
  • 2 large radishes, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
  • 12 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings (for optional garnish)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying shallots
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large bowl, mix together duck, cabbages, radishes, and mint. In a small heavy saucepan over high heat, add enough oil to come up ¼". When oil is hot, add shallots and fry until golden brown and crispy. Remove from heat, and using a slotted spoon, remove shallots from oil to paper towel-lined plate.
  2. To make dressing, place garlic in a mortar, and add pinch of kosher salt. Using pestle, mash garlic to a paste. Add fish sauce, rice vinegar, oil, and honey, mixing well. Pour over cabbage mixture. Mix in red pepper and black pepper.
  3. To serve, divide salad among two plates. Top with fried shallots and mint sprigs, and serve.





I found this at an estate sale last year.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was, so I called it an Alaskan herb chopper.  That weekend I went on a Boy Scout training campout (I know, I know), and on the table of sharp and pointy things, I was surprised to see another Alaskan herb chopper:


The man in charge of the table of sharp and pointy things told me it was an ulu knife (ulu meaning “cheap souvenir” in Eskimo languages), and that the ULU factory is located in Anchorage, Alaska.  Who knew?

According to the ULU factory website, the ulu knife is one of the most innovative tools that came from the Eskimo culture, and was the main cutting tool used by the Eskimos.  It was originally made from flat, thin rocks or slate, and the handles were carved from wood, ivory, or bone (mine is made from resin).  Eskimos used the ulu knife for everything including skinning seals, sewing mukluks, and eating blubber.  Today, according to the website, it is still a versatile tool  that is good for skinning fish and cutting meats, vegetables, cheese, and pizza.

On a recent visit to my Dad, guess what I found in his apartment?  Yep, an Alaskan herb chopper:

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At this point, I was starting to feel like one of those people in a horror film who discovers that everyone around her has the same tattoo or necklace or something like that except her, and that something REALLY BAD is about to happen.  And now I want — make that need — to know who else has an Alaskan herb chopper?

Inspired by my versatile Eskimo tool, I decided to use it make a dish.  No, I did not use it to skin fish or eat blubber, but I did use it to . . . chop herbs!  Specifically, I used it to chop mint and cilantro for Thai-Style Chicken Salad.  It worked pretty well, and although it’s sharp enough that I wouldn’t try to get past airport security carrying one in my purse, it will never replace my beloved santoku knife.

This is not your tea room chicken salad (although those are perfectly tasty, too).  I’ve always made it using rotisserie chicken breasts — they really add to the flavor (and convenience).  Serve it with crackers for an appetizer or light meal.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Appetizer, Poultry, Salad
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 cups minced cooked chicken breast
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped shallot
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt, chili powder, cilantro, mint, and sugar. Add the chicken, shallot, scallion, and mayonnaise, and mix until thoroughly combined.


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 The ULU knife reports for duty

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 Herbs annihilated by the ulu knife

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012I found this cute little vintage wooden duck bowl on ebay.  I liked the decorative carving around the edge and on the tail.  The bowl part is only about 4″ in diameter, and  I can think of a lot of uses for it.


It’s a little hard to see, but carved on the bottom are the words “Handmade in Yugoslavia.”  Yugoslavia broke up into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia in the early 1990s.

Did you ever wonder why we say “duck” when you want to warn someone to put their head down?  According to my interwebs research, the word duck referring to the bird, came from the verb “to duck,” meaning to bend down.  This is because many members of the duck family feed by “upending.”  In Dutch, the word “duiken” means “to dive.”  Many languages have words for “duck” and “end” that are similar– such as the Dutch “eend” for “duck,” and “eind” for “end.”  So the next time you are at a cocktail party and run out of things to talk about or people to make fun of, you can bore everyone with the origin of the word “duck.”  One step closer to being Cliff Clavin.

No one, however, seems to know the origin of the phrase “just ducky,” generally used to mean something is fine or wonderful.  I think “just puppy” might be a more appropriate description of something great.  Definitely not “just kitty,” though.

Inspired by the little wooden bowl handmade in the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, I made Smoked Duck, Mango, and Blackberry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette.  The smoked duck breast comes fully cooked and frozen, and because it can be elusive to find, I will usually buy it and put in the freezer when I come across it.  You can also order it online.  It tends to be somewhat pricey, but a little goes a long way and it is really worth it for this special salad.  This salad really is just ducky.

  • For the raspberry vinaigrette:
  • ½ cup raspberry vinegar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup grapeseed oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • For salad:
  • 6 cups mixed field greens or baby lettuces
  • 1 smoked duck breast, fat trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
  • ½ ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • ½ cup fresh blackberries
  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios
  1. To make vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer to serving container.
  2. To assemble salad, divide greens among two salad plates (chilled, preferably). Arrange duck and mango slices decoratively in a spoke-like fashion on top of greens. Arrange blackberries decoratively among mango and duck slices. Sprinkle pistachios over salad. Drizzle with vinaigrette, reserving unused dressing for another use.

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Smoked duck breast — the beginning of a great salad

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Just ducky!


Mad as a wet hen?  How about mad as a dirty duck?


IMGThe family that sleds together, stays together, right?  I was scratching my head trying to figure out what was going on in this vintage photo I found on ebay.  But the Rodeo is in full swing here in Houston, and all of a sudden it dawned on me — these are Alpine professional bull riders, honing their skills without the benefit of a mechanical bull.  Of course!


 Arm up, Bud!

Last year I watched two hours of professional bull-riding at the Rodeo.  It was fascinating.  The goal is to stay on the bull for 8 seconds.  That doesn’t sound so hard, until you see the bulls, and then you just start praying that the cute cowboy doesn’t fall off and get trampled or gored.  The bullriders, whether on a real bull or a mechanical one, wave one hand in the air to help maintain their balance.  As one person describes, bullriders don’t just wave their hand in the air to look cool, even though it does.  You’re not supposed to hold on with both hands–that’s why you only get one glove.  You waive your free hand in the air to help adjust to the bucking of the bull, much like a tightrope walker keeps his arms outstretched to help with his balance, or a drunk person keeps his arms extended trying to walk a straight line for the officer.

Part of the fun (OK, a lot of the fun) of the Rodeo is the carnival food.  There’s tacos, nachos, pizza on a stick, giant smoked turkey legs, chocolate-covered cheesecake, and bacon-topped cinnamon rolls, for starters.  Then there’s fried everything — red velvet cake, twinkies, cookie dough, Kool-Aid (huh?), and Fruity Pebbles, just to name a few.  (Local favorite columnist Ken Hoffman described Fried Fruity Pebbles as having the 4 basic food groups covered–sugar, fried, brown, and a stick.)


 My daughter said the Fried Oreos were to die for.  Or maybe she said they’ll kill you.


Fried Twinkie — yum or yuk?

I read that new this year is something called a Popcornsicle — “a ball of candy-coated popcorn on a stick kept in dry ice, making it so cold it emitted vapor clouds.”  I wonder if your tongue sticks to it if you lick it?  But more than anything, it wouldn’t be the Rodeo without barbecue. The Rodeo kicks off with the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, a three-day event where approximately 300 teams compete for barbecue glory.  You can smell the smoke for miles.


Do I smell barbecue?

Seems everyone’s got a favorite barbecue recipe, and my Mom was no exception.  French Barbecued Chicken was one of her most requested “dinner party” recipes — she used to boast that one of her friends told her she should never cook chicken any other way.  Inspired by the photo of the Alpine sledders and the smell of smoke wafting over from the Rodeo, I offer you French Barbecued Chicken.  It’s an oven-baked dish, and is about as French as I am (just like anything with water chestnuts in it is automatically crowned “Asian.”).  The “French” in the recipe is half an envelope of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix.  This is, of course, not “barbecue” in the Texas sense of the word, but it is tasty, and you don’t need a smoker or a cowboy hat to prepare it.  Yee haw!

  • ½ package dry onion soup mix
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup catsup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 6 skinless bone-in chicken breasts
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl, and mix together until well combined. Place chicken, breast side down, in a 9" x 13" baking dish and cover with half of the sauce. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Using tongs, turn chicken over and coat with remaining sauce. Bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes, until sauce is baked onto the chicken. Transfer chicken to serving platter and spoon any sauce remaining in the baking dish over the chicken.



Bon appetit, y’all!