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  • The Music of Food

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jul 17, 2024

    Last week I wrote about the conundrum so many of us face when we ask ourselves the age old question “What’s for dinner?” What a strange irony it is that even with our incredible bounty of food, at five o’clock we still stroll into the kitchen and wonder what to eat for dinner. If I don’t know in the morning, that question will repeat itself throughout the day like a woodpecker that hammers on my shoulder. Eating dinner is more than just eating dinner. It’s the period at t...

  • The Dinner Dilemma

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jul 10, 2024

    A couple of weeks ago I wandered up and down the aisles of a Safeway and felt an odd combination of awe, appreciation and overwhelm. That’s quite a bubbling stew of emotions, isn’t it? Why so many? The vast amount of food choices we have in our society is truly something to behold. Yet despite this overflowing cornucopia of plenty, most people struggle with the question of what to make for dinner. Wow, that’s a strange paradox! The scholarly and academic people have concl...

  • Isabel's Kitchen: Kansas Cheesy Crackers

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jul 3, 2024

    A while back, my friend Lorraine Smith of Spray told me about her quick and easy cheesy crackers recipe and I finally got around to making them last week. They were dangerously delicious! I suggest you make these only if you can eat the whole batch in one fell swoop because they are like Fritos and potato chips that way – why stop before they are all gone? These crackers remind me of leveled up Cheez-Its. They are versatile, too. I crumbled some over a tossed green salad which...

  • Isabel's Kitchen: The Perfect Pork Roast

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jun 20, 2024

    One evening I dropped by to visit my friend Randal Miller who had just pulled a pork roast out of the oven. The delectable aroma greeted me like an airborne welcome mat. My mother used to tell me it was very bad manners to go visiting during the dinner hour but apparently I had forgotten. Randal graciously offered me dinner and it was so delicious I had three helpings. I wanted a fourth but eating like a lumberjack in front of other people is not very ladylike, is it? But...

  • The Treasure in Your Trash

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jun 12, 2024

    Some of my very favorite pantry things are the two bivg boxes of glass jars and bottles that I’ve rescued from the garbage. I clean them up and remove the labels so they are like new. I noticed a long time ago that food lasts longer in glass than it does in plastic. I often decant food that is packaged in plastic into glass containers. Just say NO to random food clutter and all the mismatched packages that don’t seal properly. Those invite staleness and attract bugs, mot...

  • Six n' One

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated May 22, 2024

    I love to eat granola for breakfast, the kind stuffed with goodies like nuts, seeds and dried fruit. That is really a crumbly, healthful cookie in disguise! However, the luxurious, loaded-with-nuggets granola typically sold at high-end grocery stores can cost upwards of $15-$17 a pound. A while back, I learned to make granola and after some trial and error now have a reliable recipe that is, of course, easy to make. You can mix and match this recipe to suit your own tastes;...

  • An Easy Cake

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated May 1, 2024

    I love that the town of Fossil invites everyone to lunch on Wednesdays at the community center. The home cooked food is so delicious that I almost always have seconds. And recently, even thirds on dessert! What on earth was in that cake, one of the best cakes I had ever eaten? The baker, Carla Hornbrook, just happened to have the recipe on hand and shared it with me. Surprise! The cake was made from Bisquick. Thank you, my dear Betty Crocker, for this simple-to-make cake....

  • Real Men Don't Eat Tofu

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Apr 24, 2024

    Real men don't eat tofu. . . unless it's cooked the right way and my friend Randal Miller knows how to do just that. He fries it like onion rings and tops it with sweet and sour sauce. Delicious! Tofu gets a bad rap because some say that it's like eating cardboard, but tofu doesn't deserve this reputation. Poor tofu suffers from being misunderstood!! As I mentioned before, I was raised by a mother who was a vegetarian during a time when most people didn't know what that was. V...

  • Isabel's Kitchen: The 30,000,000,000,000,000 Answer

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Apr 18, 2024

    I’ve been contemplating the same topic over and over for a couple of weeks now and my mind is stuck in a loop. That topic is “If there are 26 letters in the alphabet and they combine to make 275,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, then how many recipes can a person make with just 100 foods in their pantry?” I don’t know why I am fixated on this question; maybe it’s because I want to know why, with so many food choices available, people still fret about “What’s f...

  • The Champagne Problem

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Apr 3, 2024

    Lately I have contemplated the excess in our society. Most people I know struggle with spare rooms, attics, basements, garages, outbuildings and storage units full of things they don’t know what to do with. They get caught in the indecision twilight zone and they want to keep the thing and dispose of it all at the same time. I call a good problem a champagne problem. Champagne problems are good things to have! As I contemplated on the champagne problem of excess, I r...

  • Easter Aftermath

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 27, 2024

    One of my favorite memories of growing up was going to Mrs. Eden’s house for the annual Easter egg party. Mrs. Eden and her husband were retired and they loved kids. We loved every minute of making a big mess in her kitchen. When we were finished decorating the eggs, we ate a rabbit cake that had a pink gumdrop nose, licorice eyes and coconut fur. Down the street we went with a basket full of colorful hardboiled eggs. After Easter comes and goes, your fridge might overflow wit...

  • Crispy fish and chips

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 20, 2024

    My friend Jerry makes the best fish and chips ever! Since I live in the middle of nowhere, I can’t run down to the local Skippers or beach fish house every time I want to eat those. So, I asked Jerry to teach me how to make them. Fish and chips are incredibly easy to cook and there are just a few dishes to wash. Jerry has a Fry Daddy deep fat fryer made by Presto which makes deep fat frying remarkably easy. There is no temperature control to fiddle around with and it’s sim...

  • Flour Power

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 14, 2024

    Have you ever been to a county fair and seen the entries where bakers make the same exact baked good but the results are so varied you wonder if they were baked on different planets? Why does that happen? That question made me want to conduct an experiment. So I made the exact same bread recipe, baked it in the exact same pan and oven but used different flours. I used a simple four-ingredient recipe from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. Using a recipe with jus...

  • The Perfect Kitchen

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Mar 7, 2024

    I recently came across a short film in the National Archives titled “A Step Saving Kitchen”. In 1949 the Department of Agriculture designed this innovative kitchen to make cooking and baking easier. The idea was to minimize the need to walk, stoop and stretch during kitchen tasks. The film mesmerized me and I watched it on pins and needles like it was some kind of thriller. I wondered why all the kitchens built since 1949 weren’t like this one because the design and funct...

  • Refried Beans

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 26, 2024

    Last week I wrote about how to cook beans from scratch and why they are so much better than canned beans. Did I inspire you enough to go to the store and buy a bag or two? I hope so! Taking the next step to make refried beans is almost too easy. Refried beans are not really fried twice as the name suggests. The word “refried” comes from the Spanish word “refritos”, which means “well-fried”. Refried beans are simply cooked beans that are mashed and fried in a skillet with some...

  • Refried Beans, Part II

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 16, 2024

    Last week I wrote about falling in love with refried beans and learning how to make them. They are simple to cook and are the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day. The number of people who don't know how to cook beans from scratch surprises me and they eat them from cans. Are they afraid of the beans? Is it because there is so much confusion about the right way to cook them – to salt or not to salt, that is the question! Presoak or no? Cooking beans from dried is not m...

  • Refried Beans 101

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 16, 2024

    Lately I've been reminiscing about riding my paint quarter horse, Quincy, on my friend Lolita's five hundred acre working farm in Hubbard, Oregon. Lolita and I rode most Sunday mornings and we would laugh and say that we were at "The Church of the Horse". Riding with her was a deeply spiritual experience because on every ride we would see sights that were breathtakingly beautiful and the images would stay with me the whole week. For example, on one winter not-a-cloud-in-the-sk...

  • The Banana Bread Hack

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Feb 1, 2024

    You know by now that I am a fan of food made from scratch ingredients. Usually boxed food or “cheat and heats” just don’t hold a candle to food cooked with love and real ingredients. I can’t now recall how a box of Pillsbury Quick Bread banana nut mix made its way into the pantry. Perhaps in the middle of the night it snuck in on little cat feet? Or maybe in an unconscious daze I plucked it off a shelf at the grocery store. Regardless, there it was sitting in the cupboar...

  • The Shrinking Bread Saga, Part One

    Isabel Montclaire|Updated Jan 25, 2024

    Last week I went to a bakery in Bend and was shocked to see artisan bread being sold by the half loaf. The bread was about the same price I paid for a whole loaf a couple of years ago. We've all witnessed the rising cost of food in the past year but this seemed to punctuate the seriousness of the problem. I have heard the term "shrinkflation" which means smaller sizes for about the same price and this was a perfect example. This price increase had a profound effect on me and...

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