Friday, September 10, 2010

“Cooking With Gusto”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Gusto (noun) – “A vigorous enjoyment or appreciation; vitality marked by an abundance of vigor or enthusiasm.” See also: Schlitz Beer advertising, 1960’s.

A recent Icehouse discussion involved the subject of ‘healthy’ eating. Specifically, we debated what really constitutes a diet that is rewarding for the body.

My niece offered a culinary plan learned at college, that used salt-free and vegan dishes. Meanwhile, my nephew confessed to simply creating meals out of available leftovers and Ramen noodles.

Against this backdrop, my sister spoke wisely about the need to combine calorie restriction with proper exercise. Yet none of these summations answered my initial question – What is ‘healthy’ eating?

I proposed to the group that an important factor had been overlooked in modern cooking guidelines. Namely, the ‘joy’ of consuming tasty foodstuffs that draw on the longstanding traditions of our American pioneers.

I proposed that genuine ‘health’ is promoted not only by intelligent choices at the dinner table, but also through eating with gusto and without stress-creating inhibitions.

My equation was straightforward:

Artificial self-denial = stress
Stress = harm to the body

Eating with gusto = joy and happiness
Joyful lack of stress = good health

I concluded my argument with a few old recipes from my personal collection:


15 oz can corn (drain and reserve juice)
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Bacon grease or margarine for frying

Directions: Drain the liquid from the canned corn. Measure 1/4 cup of it, and discard the rest. In a medium sized bowl combine the corn juice you've just measured and the eggs. Use a whisk to beat them smooth. Add the salt, flour, baking powder and sugar. Mix really well, until there are no lumps. Add the drained corn and mix again. Heat about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease or margarine in a large iron skillet over medium high heat. When the fat is hot, it's time to drop in the fritters. I drop about 1/4 of a cup of batter for each fritter, cooking about 3 or 4 together in the same pan. Fry them just like pancakes, turning them, after the under side is crispy brown. They cook a little slower than pancakes, because they are thicker. After they have browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate to keep warm. Add more fat to the pan as necessary. This recipe makes about 8 or 9 fritters.


4-6 slices bread, torn into pieces
1 lb. sausage, browned & drained
6 eggs
2 c. milk
Salt & pepper to taste
1 c. mild cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions: Place bread in bottom of 13"x9"x2" greased baking dish. Spread meat over top of bread, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over bread and meat. Sprinkle with cheese, cover and refrigerate overnight. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. This casserole can be baked as soon as it is prepared. Great for company breakfast.


Makes: 20 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes

This bread is quick and easy to do!

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 can 12 oz warm beer

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl. Put into a greased bread pan. Let rise about 15 minutes. Bake in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown. This bread can go with anything.


14 hard shell corn tortillas
2c tomato sauce (2 standard cans)
1/2c chopped hot & spicy pork rinds
1/4c onion, chopped
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Oil for frying

Directions: Break pork rinds and tortillas into pieces. Set aside. In a medium pan sauté the onions. Mix about 2 cups of water with the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve: line bowls with tortilla pieces and pour the soup into 4 bowls. Sprinkle generously with pork rind pieces for a crunchy topping. Add cheese as desired.


Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 25 min
Makes: 6 servings, about 1 cup each

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen bite-size shredded seasoned potatoes
3/4 cup CHEEZ WHIZ Cheese Dip
1 cup Salsa

Directions: PREHEAT oven to 425°F. Brown meat; drain. Mix with remaining ingredients. SPOON into 13x9-inch baking dish. BAKE 20 minutes or until heated through.


8 1/2-oz pkg. cornbread mix
10-oz pkg. frozen broccoli spears
12-oz can SPAM, cubed 1/2" thawed and drained
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: Heat oven to 400. Prepare cornbread according to package directions. Stir in SPAM. Spread into greased 9" pie plate. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cornbread is almost done. Arrange broccoli spears on top of cornbread; sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven; continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and cornbread is completely baked. Yield: 6 servings.

Predictably, only my nephew was impressed by this collection of recipes. But I felt liberated. Now, it was time for dinner!

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