Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wartime Wednesday and a Few Thoughts for the Red-Headed Clown of Fast Food


Once again, we are going to be skipping this week's Cookbook Casting Call because I'm working so much and didn't have time over the weekend to even think about making a menu. Besides, I had that lovely Bread Baking Babe anniversary bread to bake too!

So, we're going to delay our review of Mark Bitmann's How To Cook Everything

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

until Saturday and introduce the next cookbook that we are going to check out for Cookbook Casting Call.

Because of all this working, I haven't been able to do a recipe from my copy of The Victory Binding of the American Woman's Cook Book (VBotAWCB)to do Wartime Wednesdays with my good friend Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness. I've got an offering for Wartime Wednesdays this week but before we get to that I have a few food things I just have to get off my chest.

I was at the venerable Apollo Theatre today to check out a few things going on with the sound system. Let me tell you walking out on stages like the one at the Apollo, the MET, or Radio City and standing center stage peering into the dark house with the stage lights in your eyes is pretty thrilling, even if I'm there only to check out the technical side of things. But I digress....

When it came time for lunch I headed out the front door and turned left towards Park Ave. Unfortunately, I discovered there aren't many choices for a quick meal around the Apollo outside of the usual fast food restaurants, which I really and truly try my darnedest not to eat. Unfortunately, I had a very limited amount of time to get something to eat and couldn't explore the better known soul food restaurants a few blocks away.

Which is how I ended up in the McDonald's a few doors down, where I hoped at least I could get a salad. We've now arrived at the point where I get to stand on my soapbox...

While I was standing in line, I looked at the menu trying to locate the salads. I couldn't find them. I could find the triple Quarter Pounder with Cheese at a whopping 1400 calories (NYC makes chain restaurants put calories on the menu in plain sight) and the double Filet O' Fish with a whale of calories numbering 960 calories. I could have two apple pies for a dollar or two cheeseburgers for two. But nowhere did I see any fresh salads on the menu.

Deciding that the cheeseburger offered the fewest calories of the menu, with the exception of the hamburger (which I just don't like at McDonald's), I ordered, paid and stood to the side to wait since the lines were long behind me. That is when I saw, tucked way back in the corner on a wall not even FACING the lines where people stand to order a very tiny menu sign showing the salads. The writing on the menu was so small, I couldn't make out what the offerings were or their prices.

Basically, it was a reduced sized menu hung in a place where no one would see it and therefore not even consider eating a more healthy meal. I started to find myself get angry because that exact same menu, with the exact same pictures of lovely salads, grilled chicken wraps and fruit and yogurt combos is prominently displayed front and center at the McDonald's in Westport, CT and Darien, CT as well as the McDonald's on the "right side of the tracks" in Norwalk, CT. Kind of makes you think doesn't it?

I mean, you can't tell me that no one who enters the 125th St McDonald's near the Apollo (or over near the less affluent side of Norwalk for that matter) doesn't want to eat healthy or can't afford a salad. I mean, come on... They were setting up the McCafe in the Harlem location for heaven's sake to shill their McLattes and McCapacinos with whipped cream and sprinkles on top!

And you can't tell me that if that healthy choice menu wasn't displayed more prominently with their better calorie offerings like 320 for the Southwest Salad with Chicken (without dressing) and an yogurt parfait at 160 for dessert, that people might not stop and think before ordering that Big Mac Value Meal that clocks in at 1170 calories?

But no, instead the folks who eat at this McDonald's are steered toward foods that contain more than half their daily required calories for the entire day as well as high sodium levels. It's shameful...

OK,I'm getting off my soapbox now.

One of the menu items from last week was the Smoky Slow Cooker Chili from this month's Cooking Light cover. It was very good but of course made a ton so I have quite a bit of it still hanging out in the fridge. I knew that this week, had I done Cookbook Casting Call, I would have used the left over chili for filling in either enchiladas or in a taco casserole. So, imagine my delight when I found in the "Wartime" section of The VBotAWCB a recipe for Tamale Pie.

Wartime Wednesday: Tamale Pie

I've made Tamale Pie before; after all it is the staple of any good college student's kitchen. But, I've typically made it with either corn chips on top or with a box of Jiffy Corn Bread mix. The VBotAWCB recipe calls for you to cook corn mush (corn meal, salt and water) and use that as a bottom crust and a top crust.

I'm happy to say, that I really enjoyed this meal. I love corn bread with my chili so this was like chili love sandwiched between two nice crusts of cornbread.

Wartime Wednesday: Tamale Pie Inside

I'll definitely be making this again because this recipe is a great way to use up leftover chili.

Tamale Pie
From the Wartime section of VBotAWCB

Note: I'm going to give you the real recipe from the cook book, but you can short cut this recipe by using left over chili like I did.

1 cup corn meal
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion
1 green or chili pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups cooked tomatoes
2 cups ground cooked meat
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne or chili powder

Cook corn meal, water, and salt in double boiler for 45 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

Chop onion, pepper and fry in hot oil. Add tomatoes, meat, salt, and cayenne or chili and cook until thickened.

Line a greased baking dish with half the mush. Pour the meat mixture over and cover with remaining mush. Bake in a hot oven (375 degrees) for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned and mush is baked through.