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This week 12-29-15

The Rules: New Years Eve Parties

There are two kinds of New Years Eve parties, the ones when you come with a date and the ones when you don't. There are rules to New Years Eve parties. Rule 1. You have to stay till midnight. This is obvious but it makes it hard to leave early if you are sitting there wishing you were someplace else.  Rule 2. You have to drink Champagne or something like it. I suspect that this started because some rich guy wanted to drink the most expensive thing he could find and Champagne was it. However, most of the stuff I've had at parties cost between $3 and $7. Rule 3. You have to sing Auld Lang Syne. Most people have no idea what the words are, so here you go:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne

That's the first verse, there are 5 total. It was written by Robert Burns in 1788. I wonder if anybody ever heard of it before the movies "White Christmas" and "It's a wonderful life". "auld lang syne" is Scottish and translates to "times gone by" and is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten.  Rule 6. At midnight you have to kiss somebody. This is where the "Come with a date" part comes in. If you come with a date, she knows the rules. If you get asked to a New Years Eve Party it implies a kiss at midnight. It doesn't matter if it's the first date or you've been married 20 years, that's who you're going to kiss. It's all decided. So the night is a night of relaxation and observation (you get to watch other people do stupid stuff). If you come by yourself it's a night of high anxiety, anticipation, and terror. As soon as you walk in the door you have to start looking for an escape route so you can leave at 11:58pm and come back at 12:02am. You also have to come up with an excuse to do that in case you are standing there with someone who is all puckered up, but you really don't want to kiss. Of course you are also looking for that one person that might have come alone that you've been wanting to kiss for a long time, she's right over there. In this case timing is everything. If you go talk to her too soon she may have to go to the restroom or something, then you've lost her and you have to start all over. You don't want to be following her around like a puppy. On the other hand if you get there too late, you're too late. The trick it to be standing there talking to her at exactly midnight and hope she has the same idea.

The only New Years Eve party that I remember from college was one where I went alone. The only thing I remember is sitting in an all white kitchen drinking eggnog and planning my escape. There was only one girl there that I was even kinda interested in and she was talking really hard and laughing really loud at every joke this one guy was telling her. That was a sure sign that she had locked on to him. There were a bunch of people standing in front of the kitchen door. So that looked like a bad escape plan, I didn't think I could get out fast enough. I was thinking about moving to another location when a couple started talking to me (they didn't care because they were going to kiss each other). They had me pinned down and the clock was ticking. There were 3 girls that were really close, and I know this sounds bad, but I just wasn't interested and I didn't want any of them thinking that I was. Then I heard Dick Clark.. 10,9,8,7.... One of the girls turned around and faced me. Where could I go?...6,5,4...  she got closer, moving in for the kill, starting to pucker... 3,2.. and just then one of the prettiest girls I knew who was kinda dating another guy walked up and kissed me smack on the lips and disappeared back in to the crowd. The pucker queen quickly turned around and I was free ... 

God's like that: We worry about small things to the point that we're almost in a panic. Then he comes and takes the problem away and disappears in to the crowd. Lesson: Wait for God not for the problem... 

My wife won't let me go to New Years Eve parties anymore, at least not by myself. No telling who I might kiss???

Happy New Year .. See you this weekend ..Bring a friend!

Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:
These all work for New Years day or for your New Years Eve party. We'll get back to healthy stuff next week..

Mexican Pizza from Spike Mendelsohn. His Restaurants are Good Stuff Eatery.. We, The Pizza.. and Bearnaise in Washington D.C.


1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped jarred roasted red peppers
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon chili powder
Kosher salt
1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough
Cornmeal, for dusting
1 cup shredded low-fat Monterey Jack cheese (3 ounces)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded butter lettuce
3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream


Set a pizza stone/baking sheet on the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°. In a food processor, combine the black beans with the roasted red peppers, garlic clove and chili powder and puree until smooth. Season with salt.

Stretch the pizza dough to a 12-inch round and transfer to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Spread the black-bean puree on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with the cheese, tomatoes, olives and scallion.

Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone and bake for 12 minutes, until the bottom is crisp and the cheese is bubbling. Transfer the pizza to a work surface and top with the lettuce and dollops of the sour cream. Cut into 4 or 6 wedges and serve at once. 


Crisp Polenta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes


8 1/2 cups water
6 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound polenta (2 3/4 cups) (((This is just plain old yellow corn meal. Same as you use to make cornbread. Don't search for polenta)))
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes on the vine
8 thyme sprigs
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled


Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large saucepan, bring the water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a boil. Gradually (((Really slow))) whisk,whisk,whisk in the polenta and cook over low heat, whisking, until thick, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. (((Taste, Taste, Taste .. re-season! It may take what seems like lots of salt and pepper. If this part doesn't taste good, the whole thing won't taste good.))) Scrape the polenta into the baking dish and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently toss the tomatoes with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet and scatter the thyme sprigs on top. Roast for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to burst; discard the thyme. (((Realize here that you could make this with any vegetable:onions, carrots, squash, butternut squash, even roasted garlic would work. Anything you could put on top that has flavor. Even a coating of mustard, pickles, hot sauce. It's like pizza except you have fried cornmeal squares instead of dough. This can be a roll-your-own type of thing where you empty out the fridge for toppings.)))

Meanwhile, turn the polenta out onto a work surface and trim 1/2 inch off all sides (((The sides you cut off are for you. Chef's treat.))). Cut the polenta into 8 rectangles(((or more depending on the size you want))). Heat a large nonstick skillet. Brush both sides of the polenta with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt. Working in 2 batches, cook the polenta over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the polenta to plates and sprinkle with the goat cheese. Arrange the roasted tomatoes over the polenta and serve.


Brownie Carmelita’s in a skillet (or springform pan) 


1 1/2 cups butter, melted, divided
(((if you use un-salted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt)))
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed and divided
2 cups flour, divided
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2 cups rolled oats, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda, divided
1 1/2 cups caramel sauce
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips


In a medium bowl add 3/4 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, cocoa, 1 cup flour and 1 cup rolled oats.

(((Spray your iron skillet with pam or smear some butter all inside before you put the 1st batch of cookie mixture in it. Want it to be easy to get out)))

Mix until just combined and then press into the bottom of a prepared 12/10inch cast iron skillet. (((or springform pan, baking pan. bread pan There's no rules about this, use any pan you have that will fit in the oven.)))

Place skillet into 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. (Convection oven 350)

While that is baking (and using the same bowl) put remaining melted butter, remaining brown sugar, remaining flour, remaining oats and remaining baking soda in bowl and stir until combined.

When time is up, remove skillet from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the hot cookie.

Pour caramel sauce over chocolate chips.

Press the second batch of cookie mixture over the top of the caramel sauce. Be careful as the skillet is still very hot.

If any of the caramel is showing it may burn and turn dark brown, so try to cover up as much as possible. Usually this means grabbing small hand full's of the cookie mixture and pressing it a bit, then laying it on top of the caramel carefully. Repeat until completely covered.

Bake for 12-16 minutes more. The edges should be darker, but not burnt.


Allow the carmelita to cool for at least 25 minutes before serving.

You can serve is straight out of the skillet, especially if you want it to still be warm (((Ice cream on top, yeh baby))) or if you're feeling brave and you sprayed the skillet with pam, you can either slide it out or flip it out on to a cutting board. If you want to do this, first see if it's lose and free from the skillet by shaking the skillet and see if it moves inside the pan. If it moves, you're good. After you attemp this, if it does fall apart don't worry, scoop it in to bowls and fake it. Nobody but you knows what Carmelita is anyway.

Can be stored at room temperature in an air tight container.


Posted by Mack Oates at 9:18 AM