Saturday, September 30, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I'm a daddy's girl in a lot of ways. To him I owe my love of nature and curiousity for science (and diseases that we might have or one day get.) Thank you Dad, for battling Chicago traffic to take mom and I to natural (and cultural) spots of the city. And for teaching the me the names of wild flowers on camping trips and hikes...

And and for teaching me another kind of hiking! (sorry no pictures of us actually hanging out of the sailboat) And thank you for never capsizing me once!

(Above)My cousin John, me and Dad in Chicago... the day with absolutely no wind, but we had a motor. (Right)Here he is in his element, unaware that I'm taking a photo from my uncle Doug's apt. window.
With my dad I also share a fondness (but maybe not a brilliant green thumb) for gardening and strange, unidentifiable plants. We still don't know what this one is.
To Be Continued...

More Mennonites, more mums

And an angry rooster.

I'm sure he didn't start the morning out mad, but my slinking around the mum forest trying to take his picture like a poultry paparazzi probably didn't help matters.

Schlabach's Bakery

Life Lesson
Something I've learned from my dear parents, Brad and Mamie Tilsch: Travelling means finding the best food an area has to offer and buying lots of it.

Yesterday morning (after our YMCA workout, of course) Mom, Dad and I drove out to Schlabach's Bakery in Guthrie, Ky.; a Mennonite store offering amazing pecan rolls and other delightful ways to counteract a morning YMCA workout.

Which angel food cake did we buy for my dad's birthday? They had plain, lemon, strawberry and chocolate chip.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Forget the yeast, try an unleavened loaf
Taste Bud Travels
Emily Parrino

(My food column for Wednesday, Sept. 27)
The morning before I was born, my mom kneaded and baked 12 loaves of bread.
As far as I know, she hasn’t made bread from scratch since 1978. Sadly, she also failed to pass on the bread-baking genes to her daughter.
I’ve tried several times to fashion a nice crusty loaf of my favorite comfort food. But in my experience yeast is a finicky organism. It doesn’t like to sit on the shelf for too long. It catches cold if there’s a draft, or languishes if the water is too warm. And if the climate isn’t to its liking, yeast goes on strike, reveling in your misery as would-be dinner rolls take on the consistency of zwieback.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with unleavened flatbreads. Consider them comfort foods beyond the comfort zone of western cooking. And take comfort — these breads need no yeast, just common ingredients.

Cong You Bing (Pronounced tsong-yo-bing)
Translated green onion pancake, cong you bing is a popular savory snack in China and Taiwan. I learned to make them from a roommate when I was an undergrad in Cleveland, Ohio.
There are several variations, such as adding sesame seeds in place of the onions or spreading scrambled egg on one side of the cake before frying. But this is the basic recipe.

Cong You Bing
1 cup flour
1/2 scant cup warm water
4 small green onions, chopped
Salt to taste
Sesame or other vegetable oil

To make the dough, combine flour and water in a mixing bowl. Stir until a soft dough is formed. Add a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Flour your hands and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. This may take some elbow grease, but it’s worth it. Divide the dough into four balls and set aside three of them, covered with a wet paper towel.
Roll the ball out with a rolling pin to the thickness of a tortilla. Dab the round with sesame oil and sprinkle green onions and salt on top. Then roll the dough around the toppings into a tube. Roll the tube between your hands, stretching it gently until it becomes a longer rope. If the oinions begin to pop through, you’ve rolled too far.
Next, coil the rope into a cinnamon roll shape, tucking the outer end of the rope under the coil. Dust the dough with a little flour and use a rolling pin to flatten to a pancake about 1/8-inch thick.
Transfer the pancake to a generously oiled frying pan over medium heat. When the cake bubbles and turns golden brown, flip and cook until the other side bubbles.
If you want, you can stack cong you bing and slice them into quarters for easier snacking. I’ve also heard from friends in Taiwan that these flatbreads can sub for pizza crusts in a pinch.

Chapati (Pronounced cha-pa’-tee)
I’ve yet to travel to India, though conversations with Indian friends have placed it high on my wish list. Until then, I can enjoy making and eating chapati — a mainstay of traditional Indian meals. My friend and favorite Indian chef, Alina, taught me how to make them when I was a grad student in Champaign, Ill. She makes chapti and other Indian breads fresh each day.

Plain chapati
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup water
Pinch salt

Stir oil into salt and flour. Add water until a firm dough is formed. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and knead each ball several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Roll out one piece as thin as you can.
Heat a frying pan (avoid Teflon if possible) on high heat. Place the chapati in the pan and wait for it to bubble and form brown spots, then flip. As the second side cooks, lightly press the edges with a spatula (or your bare hands if you’re brave like Alina) and rotate the chapati in the pan until it poofs up with steam (similar to a pita bread). You will need to have the pan on high heat for it to puff up.
Chapati are great for scooping up curries or dal — a simple lentil stew.

Emily Parrino is a New Era copy editor. Her column runs once a month.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Just something pretty to look at.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bhel Puri

Our culture quest
in Hoptown is never ending. And we always seem to find ourselves in colorful new places, like this Indian festival that our neighbor Ravi invited us to.

I LOVE Indian food. This dish is called Puri. It's like the Indian version of taco salad with a base of savory rice-krispie-like cereal instead of tortilla chips. Over that is a layer of toasted chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, potatos, green chili sauce, sweet brown sauce and fresh cilantro. They also gave us sandwiches to blot our tongues from the spicy-ness of the dish. I didn't need mine (it had american cheese and mayo on it). To borrow a term from Matt, it was Delicious!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Food Quiz #5

Can you guess?

What is this man making? Hint: it's a popular 'pizza'-like dish in the country that boasts the world's largest rice paddle.

If you're having trouble posting, it's probably because I switched to beta. But try posting as anonymous or other... or you can e-mail me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Salad's in trouble

You know that almost all of the photos on this blog are my own. But I decided to make an exception for this pic my mom sent me.

I guess my reaction was supposed to be 'How unsanitary!' or 'E. coli, no wonder!' But instead all I could do was feel sorry for the little guy. Just look at that expression on his timid little face. Imagine his horror, realizing he has to share his salad with a big pink oaf.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Freeze dried goodness

Not just for astronauts any more.

The green things are okra (okura) chips and green bean chips. They've been freeze dried and seasoned so they're crisp and extremely snackable. And while you might be able find some of these extra portable vegetables on the street markets in Asia and at Japanese groceries in the states, I've long been of the opinion that American food companies could make a fortune if they caught wind of this trend.

Consider okra. A favorite for deep frying or thickening soup in the South, but really quite gross and gelatinous in any other preparation. But when freeze dried, it metamorphasizes into a crunchy munchy vitamin-packed snack. And oh-so-fun to amuse your friends with. Gone is the inner goo, but the structure of this pretty vegetable is left intact.

I think these snacks could be a valuable player in fight against obesity as well... imagine reaching for a handful of green bean sticks instead of Cheetos? What if they could be packaged and sold in vending machines? Kept in your drawer at the office? In your backpack for a between-classes snack?

Freeze dried veggies and fruits contain none of the evils of other munchies: no trans fat, no saturated fat, low sugar; and contain plenty of virtues like high fiber, nutrients, antioxidants? (well, I don't really know, but I wouldn't be surprised if some are retained.)

Sadly, I doubt it will catch on. It's too perfect.

A year ago I sent a message to Just Veggies, a company out in (where else) California that produces freeze dried foods for Trader Joes and other health food ventures. The difference is that their veggies are diced into tiny chunks... perfect for dumping in soup if you're an Appalachian Trial through-hiker... but really not so convenient to eat out of the container as a snack. I told them I liked their products and wondered if they had plans to make larger pieces and market them as snack foods substituting potato chips. They wrote back a rather snotty letter that the veggies I had in Asia were probably deep fried and thus far inferior to their products. "We hope you will learn to love Just Veggies they way they are." wrote their brilliantly inept PR person. I was so irked that I decided not to buy their little carrot bits ever again.

In fact, I'm pretty sure they are not deep fried. I let one sit on a paper towel and found no oily puddle after I removed it. Pretty hard to deep fry without oil, eh?

Well, big food companies, I know you have discovered what crunchy berries can do to cereal. So, if you're out there, I hope you will consider the next big diet trend canidate: Vegetables. You could probably even beat the little healthy food vendors at their own game.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Swedish rats

A visit to my hometown is not complete if it doesn't involve several hours at IKEA. Salty licorice fish, anyone? Click on the pic to see it close up.
Three-stories high, this blue and gold behemoth is home to a fast food restaurant (selling 50-cent hotdogs and 99 cent cinnamon rolls), a specialty food shop (selling gummy rats and lingonberry jam) and a Swedish cafe (below).

I like to eat at IKEA maybe even a little more than I like shopping there. The food is always tasty and filling and dirt cheap. Yah. We ate dinner there on Thursday night. (My last post was actually Wed. night, I goofed.) Mom had the 3 salmon plate, dad the chicken marsala, me the baked salmon.
Mom's dish was the most photogenic.

Thai Garden

Panang the way I like it: tofu and vegetables (but I avoided the celery)
Decisions, decisions
Deep in thought, lost in the wonders of the menu at Thai Garden in Schaumburg, my mom and dad didn't even know I snuck this picture of them.
Heh heh.

Thai Garden is a very happy place for me. I love their food. And this restaurant is second only to Thai Terrace in Urbana IL. We started off with fresh spring rolls stuffed with lettuce, sprouts, basil, cilantro and mint and some bean noodles. The wrapper is rice paper. The sauce is mostly sweet, with some vinegar and garlic. It was like eating herba salad with my hands.

Mom ordered "Popeye Chicken" (above) -- Morsels of sweet-as-candy meat on a bed of fresh spinach... yes, spinach. As far as I know, no signs of E. coli yet. Despite the suspect name, it is

Dad ordered something new: "ho jok mag salmon." We have no idea how to pronounce it. But the waitress had fun correcting him. The dish is a salmon casserole set in banana leaves with a nice dollop of coconut cream on top. And check out that deep friend basil garnish.

The meal was a welcome end to a long Thursday that began at 3 a.m. Joe drove me to Nashville to catch my 6:30 flight to O'hare. The flight was delayed and got to to Chicago just in time to make it to the Inland Press design workshop in Schaumburg at 9:30.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Food Quiz #4 answer

Rhubarb muffins
You all guessed rhubarb right away, and many of you know I'm fond of muffin making. It's the best way to use up random produce.

This rhubarb was courtesy of the John Parrino garden. Joe ate just a few more than me. But I suppose if you were to work out a ratio of muffin to pound of person, I probably ate more muffins proportional to my size. :-)

Rhubarb strawberry muffins
(makes 2 dozen)
Wet: (These are the ingredients in the Food Quiz photo)
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries (pick them out of your Special K, or go to Trader Joe's for these!)

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Mix, pour into muffin cups, bake at 350 until they look done.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Food Quiz #4

What is it?

What did I make of the mix below? And where did I get the key ingredient to the left? And who ate more of the finished product, me or Joe?

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Powwow Pigout
Joe and I split some pumpkin fry bread with honey. I've heard about the nutritional deficit of fry bread... but it was actually less oily than funnel cakes. Plus it was PUMPKIN!

The event was at the Trail of Tears Park, behind the New Era where we work. The annual Powwow is a kind of a native American expo. They have lots of native knick-knacks for sale, lots of incense burning and lots of entertainment.
Matt was covering the event, Joe and I were just there to enjoy.
These men beat drums and sang a haunting, howling song as others danced in the central grassy arena.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Last flight of summer

Looking out
the window

Joe saw this monarch resting on the patio this morning. I had to inspect.

He was very docile, hardly moving as I probed with my olympus. Though not tattered, his wings show signs of wear. You can see they are drying out at the edges and in the next photo you can see faded streaks. His antaene look a little rumpled and forlorn too.

His furryness surprised me.

Then when I thought I had taken all the photos I wanted, he closed his wings and flopped over on his right side. I thought it would be sad to have his little body on the patio, so I carefully scooped him into my hand... thinking to take him to one of my potted plants. But once in my hand, his wings popped open again and he heaved himself to the fence, where he clung precariously for a few seconds. I took this shot and then left him alone.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Food Quiz #3 revealed

Halva is a sticky, sweet, oily loaf of tahini (sesame seeds) and other nuts. This particular block came from Lebanon. It's dessert, and can be spread on crackers. Ours got a little hard, so we have to saw through it with our cutco knife. Joe just eats it plain. Sorry-- I know this one was tough. I'll try to make the next quiz a little more reasonable.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Alina and Lily will appreciate these... Chapati is a traditional unleavened Indian bread that goes well with dips and sauces. I made them tonight for dinner with a packet of "Egg Gravy" that our neighbor gave us. The package says that "egg lovers the world over have given this preparation a nod." Kind of a different dish, but I guess I'll give it a nod too. :-)

My chapati recipe -- roughly:
1 heaping cup flour
1/2 cup hot water
1 T oil
salt, pepper, spice of choice

Kneed the dough... should be soft and elastic, not sticky. Separate into 8 balls, then roll out to tortilla-thinness.
Add a tiny bit of oil to pan, let pan get smoking hot (medium high). Drop one chapati in at a time. When it bubbles, move it about so it bubbles evenly. Then flip before it burns and let it cook on the other side.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Moody caterpillars (Food Quiz below)

My brand of humor.

While I'm waiting for more guesses on Food Quiz #3, I thought I'd share a little video Joe found on the web.

Food Quiz #3

1. What is this?
2. What meal would it be part of? (eg breakfast, snack, dinner, side, main dish, dessert etc.)
3. What country that has been in the news lately produced this?
4. And just for fun ... what utensil(s) does Joe use to eat this?