Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Frosty Times Call for a Frosty Dessert

Winter is almost here, at least in most parts of the U.S., so why am I writing about ice cream?  This year on Thanksgiving, I served ice cream in addition to pumpkin pie.  Not pumpkin pie a la mode, after all, whipped cream is the proper topping for pumpkin pie.  (In the husband's case, lots and lots of whipped cream.)  In our family of four, there are only two pumpkin pie eaters -- the husband and our daughter.  Daughter likes it so much she has even been known to request a pumpkin pie for her month of May birthday!  Our son and I, however, are not pumpkin pie fans.  So when I asked him what he wanted for his Thanksgiving dessert, he asked for "that ice cream dessert."

I got the recipe for "that ice cream dessert" when we lived in the little town of Harvard, Illinois.  Harvard is the end of the train line, so when we were ready to move out of our Chicago condo and into a single family house, that's where we wound up.  We just kept going out until we found something decent we could afford and, before we knew it, we were at the end of the line in Harvard.

Harvard is a really small town.  When we lived there, the population was around 6,000 people.  It has increased since then to more than 9,000.  At one time, Harvard was the center point of an area with the greatest milk production in the nation.  Thus, the big event in Harvard each year is Milk Days, complete with a parade, a carnival, a Milk Queen, bed races, and big wheel races.  Our daughter was in preschool when we lived there, so the big wheel race was important. She competed and lost.  Our neighbor, whose daughter was the same age, put his child in training for the big wheel race.  I am not making this up.  He took his four-year-old daughter to an empty parking lot several times before the race for training.  She won her age category.  In a couple of years, she was entered in the Milk Days Princess competition and eventually was crowned Milk Queen.  So I suppose that early training paid off.

The logo my husband designed.
I belonged to a women's group named Women for Harvard.  It was a good group of women, mostly young. We raised money to stock a little store that was set up one weekend in December for Shopping with Santa.  Children could come in, visit with Santa Claus, have their picture taken, and be taken into a secret store -- no parents allowed -- to shop.  Gifts cost no more than a couple of dollars.  There was a sample of each item and the rest were wrapped, so the child could surprise a family member on Christmas morning.  That was such a wonderful event.  Sadly, I don't think they have the store anymore.  What they do have is the same group logo that my husband designed for them twenty years ago.  It features Harmilda, the town mascot.  I really can't believe they are still using a cow logo for a women's group!  Anyway, we always had dessert at our monthly meetings, which rotated among the members' homes. One meeting, Julie, that month's hostess, brought out this yummy ice cream dessert.  All the women, including me, raved!  We had to have the recipe.  Julie kind of laughed about that.  It's the easiest thing in the world, and you can change up the flavors any way you like.  I have made this with mint ice cream, pecans, any combination would be good.  For Thanksgiving, I made the original version, Peanut Bar Ice Cream Dessert, one we might call the Buster Bar Dessert if "Buster" wasn't trademarked by Dairy Queen.

Peanut Bar Ice Cream Dessert

40 Oreo cookies, crushed into crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 gallon softened vanilla ice cream
15 oz. hot fudge topping
2-3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 cup peanuts

Reserve about 2-3 tablespoons of cookie crumbs.  Combine remaining cookie crumbs and melted butter in small bowl.  Press crumb/butter mixture in bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Layer remaining ingredients as follows, spreading each layer as evenly as possible:
Cookie crumbs, ice cream, fudge sauce (fill in bare areas with a little chocolate syrup), nuts, Cool Whip, reserved cookie crumbs (these should not fully cover the Cool Whip)

Freeze several hours until firm.

Note:  You can use any flavor of ice cream you wish and change the nuts as well.  Chopped pecans make a nice change.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Excuse Me, What? Word Choice and Rocket Chicken

I love words.  As a writer and an editor, I guess that's not much of a surprise.  Written or spoken, words are what get me.  I've never been a fan of action movies, for example, or slapstick.  Give me good dialogue anytime.  Take this classic scene from The Thin Man.  William Powell and Myrna Loy are unbeatable actors, but the script by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, based on Dashiell Hammett's novel, also gives them a lot to work with.

I love witty dialogue, especially when it doesn't rely on curse words to get a laugh.  I also get a kick out of unintentionally misused language.  Years ago, I got quite a chuckle when someone on PBS said the network would be having a special program during pledge time featuring "Pearl Bailey and just a list of guests."  I imagined Pearl Bailey standing onstage with a scrap of paper.  No way, old Pearl knew it takes at least "Two to Tango."

A parkway --
or is it a devil's strip?
Another fun thing about language is regional variations.  In the United States, for instance, there are numerous ways to describe an Italian sandwich -- submarine (or sub), grinder, hero, hoagie, po' boy, and doubtless other variants.  And you can wash that sandwich down with a soft drink, a Coke (as a generic term), a soda, or a pop.  When it's cold, one can wear long johns or thermals depending on where you live. The strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street?  What I call a parkway is also known as a tree lawn, a nature strip, a sidewalk buffer, and even a devil's strip.  When I was a teenager, my group of friends was fond of decorating people's yards with toilet paper -- what we called rolling yards.  The first time I heard a Midwesterner refer to tp-ing a yard, I honestly had no idea what that meant!  It even took me a while to figure out why it was called tp-ing (duh).  Having a mother from the south and a northern father, I got to hear some different word choices growing up depending on which side of the extended family I visited. My northern grandfather called flowers "posies," which I found charming, and which led to the name of this blog, and instead of saying something was small, he would say "little wee," as in "Look at the little wee posies."

Of course, if we start comparing American English to British and Australian English, we could go on forever with the different words for things.  In my work, I edit employee surveys for consulting firms.  One company that I used to work with has a lot of clients in Australia.  The first time I came across an employee saying "here at the coal face," I found that expression fascinating and much more evocative than the common U.S. expression "on the front lines."

Okay, you're no doubt saying, what the heck does all this have to do with chicken and what is rocket chicken anyway? Well, one of my favorite word variations has to do with food.  What we in the United States call arugula is more commonly called rocket in England and Australia.  When I adapted a Gordon Ramsay recipe for Sticky Lemon Chicken into a less sticky dish with more sauce and served it on arugula, I decided Rocket Chicken sounds much more fun than Arugula Chicken.  Rocket Chicken will blast your taste buds and take you places!  (Well, maybe it won't transport you, but it will blast your taste buds.)

Rocket Chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, well trimmed (slice in half if needed to reduce thickness)
Salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon powdered thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, cut into halves or thirds
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup hot water
1 bunch of arugula (salad rocket)

Season chicken very lightly with salt and with freshly ground pepper and the thyme.  Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over high heat.  Cook chicken and garlic, turning as needed, until cooked through.

Add vinegars and cook over medium heat for about five minutes.  Add honey, lemon juice, and soy sauce.  Mix together.  Add hot water.  Cook at medium to medium high for 20-30 minutes to reduce liquid.

Place chicken on bed of arugula.  Drizzle sauce over top of chicken and arugula.  Serves 2-3 people.