Thursday, December 13, 2012

KFC's Colonel Sanders Signals Christmas in Japan

I find this rather amusing:

KFC's popularity can be traced back to a highly successful marketing campaign that began nearly 40 years ago.

At the time, the Christmas holiday wasn't as widely celebrated in Japan.

Yokokawa says many foreigners came to eat at KFC because they couldn't find a whole turkey or chicken anywhere else.

A KFC employee saw an opportunity to cash in, and the company launched its first Christmas meal in 1974: chicken and wine for $10, a pricey meal at the time.

"The Japanese are keen to celebrate Christmas in a non-religious way," said Roy Larke, a Rikkyo University Business Professor. "There's a certain amount of nostalgia attached to the KFC Christmas meal. People try to pass the tradition onto their children."

And this is how traditions begin?

ABC US News | ABC Entertainment News

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chicken Baked In A Pumpkin Pot

I've never made this, but I found it interesting.  I'll have to print a copy for myself to try later.  However, it uses something the author calls "Sweet Seasons"  When you read the list of ingredients you find some of them are a not cheap!  Pomegranate powder?  $16 for 8 ounces.  Yikes!  I think I'll just go with the pumpkin spice!

Chicken Baked In A Pumpkin Pot
  • one medium pumpkin
  • one 2 ½ pound chicken
  • 2 cups fresh herbs to taste (rosemary, thyme, basil, scallions, sage, fennel)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet Seasons spice blend, or pumpkin pie spice
  • olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut a lid in the top of the pumpkin and remove the seeds and pith.
  3. Season chicken and pumpkin with salt and pepper. Don't be afraid to be generous!
  4. Throw herbs inside pumpkin and stuff chicken cavity with herbs. For extra flavor, use two fingers to lift the skin on the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff herbs inside chicken so that they lay directly against the meat.
  5. Place seasoned chicken inside pumpkin.
  6. Add wine, paprika, garlic powder and Sweet Seasons spice blend to chicken and pumpkin. Drizzle with olive oil and replace lid. Secure the lid by sticking the pumpkin with wooden skewers.
  7. Add ½ inch of water to a roasting pan so the bottom of the pumpkin won’t burn. Place pumpkin in roasting pan and cook in 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Juices from the chicken should run clear as an indication that it is fully cooked.
  8. Serve chicken with wedge of pumpkin and drizzle with juice from the pumpkin.
Here's the link to the Sweet Seasons...if you want to try using it instead.

UPDATE October 2013.  I finally made it.   But...I wasn't too impressed.  For one, to cook it in the pumkin takes FOREVER.  The chicken did have a lot of flavor. wasn't a great recipe.

Pumpkin Pot

This is a tradition at our family during the October/November season when pumpkins are plentiful.  The most important thing?  Make sure the pumpkin can fit in your oven!!

I first found this recipe in a magazine several decades ago.  I think Good Housekeeping.  A few years back I found it online at a website that is defunct.  It's reincarnated at the above link.  Below is the recipe in its entirety.

1 pumpkin (7 lb.)
1 1/2 lb. garlic sausage
1 c. sliced sweet pepper
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
2 apples, cored and cubed
2/3 c. dry white wine
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. raisins
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut top off pumpkin. Discard seeds and stringy pulp. Place pumpkin, cut side down, in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Fill pan with water to a depth of 1 inch. Bake pumpkin for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until tender. After pumpkin has been baking for 1 hour, prepare filling.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove sausage and add peppers, onions and apples and thyme to skillet. Sauté until onions are transparent. Add wine, water, raisins, sugar and simmer 20 minutes.

Take pumpkin from oven. Discard water. Replace pumpkin, cut side up, in pan. Fill pumpkin with sausage mixture, mounding at the top, if necessary. Cover top with foil. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes or until pumpkin and filling are heated. Serve directly from the pumpkin, scooping out pumpkin flesh to accompany each serving. Serves 6.

I normally serve the dish with rice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

You're Not in Kansas Anymore...

My wife, daughter and I had a wonderful time in Switzerland visiting the small town of Bellinzona just above the Como, Italy a little ways.  It was Fastnacht. And all the cities, large and small are filled with wonderful colorful parades.   But, the day was growing darker and it was time to go.

We boarded the Swiss train and found our seats.  It was late and we hadn't eaten anything for dinner yet so we headed to the dining car after dumping our luggage. 

We sat next to a window watching the trees and poles whiz by.  The dining room attendant came over to us and just stood there.  I looked at him and tried to give him our order in the best Italian I could muster...which isn't saying a lot.  After a few attemtps, the attendant looked at me and said in perfect American English "Sorry, I don't speak Italian."

With a mixture of surprise and relief I shut the menu. "Niether do I!" And then I gave him our order.  After he walked away I leaned over to my wife. "I don't think he's from around here."

A few minutes he came back with drinks.  So we talked.  "Where are you from?"

Wichita, Kansas. 

I said, well, fella, you took a wrong turn somewhere.  What the heck are you doing here?

He explained: I lived in Witchita and worked for Worldcomm.  When they folded I was let go.  There was nothing.  No one was hiring.  I sat in the living room with my wife, discouraged, trying to figure out what to do. 

Then out of the blue, my wife said "let's move to Switzerland".  She had just read some on it and it seemed like a nice place.

Wow!  Talk about random. But if you have nothing, what do you do?  I can see him rubbing his chin saying "You know that idea sounds so crazy, it might just work."

And it did.

The American and his wife had lived there now for eight years.  I asked him how is German was.  "Excellent." he said.  Well, I guess after eight years, it had better be.  I recall him saying they had one, maybe two children now.

So, I said.  Eight years.  Is there anything you miss about the US?

He smiled and said 24 hour grocery stores.  24 hour drug stores.  24 hour anything!

Yes, we knew how he felt.  We had been living overseas several times by now.  We missed those as well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I stood there in the Whole Foods on Waugh St with my mouth hanging open.  The "baker" was giving me every reason in the world why she could not and would not make focaccia.  Here I was a customer trying to explain to her no one in Houston that I knew of had real focaccia bread.  After imparting a few choice words to her, I stormed away. 

In Milan, Italy, school would let out at about 2:30pm at the school located at Felice Casati.  There was a large internal court yard where the crowd of parents would wait at for the children to be brought out.  As the children are united with us parents, we would all slowly make our way out the back, round the corner to the left or right.  We would head left.  The crowd would disperse but a number of us would stop at a local bakery for freshly made focaccia bread.

The children would line up, squishing their faces against the glass, smacking their lips for what is only....bread.  If you have never had real focaccia, this all is very strange and weird.  A baked good with no sugar other than that to feed the yeast and help the focaccia to rise.  And kids can't get enough of it.

Did you ever in your life see children lining up to eat Wonder Bread?

So why would children and their parents want....bread?  This

Because focaccia is delicious.

Tre, per favore.
  I would say in the little Italian I knew.  One for me, my wife and our daughter.  You'd have to eat it using the little paper sack as a holder due to the enormous amount of olive oil that it is cooked in, then painted on the surface.  The bread is baked on large cookie sheets (Not the correct term.  I forget what the term is for the large shallow tray) baked to a spongy crispness.  It is anywhere from half of an inch to a whole inch thick.  The thicker focaccia bread could be sliced in half and used to make the most delicious sandwiches in the world.

Imagine my dismay at coming back to Houston and not finding it anywhere.  Oh, there are restaurants and bakeries that sell what they call focaccia.  But it's all fake.  None of it is real.

The Central Market on Westheimer where bakers wear the tallest hats in Houston sell focaccia.  Or so they think.  But all I can do is shake my head.

Panera Bread has a sandwich made with "focaccia" bread.  But again, it's not real focaccia bread.

Stop looking for it.  All you do is get angry and disappointed.  My wife would say.  I guess she's right.

I haven't checked out all the restaurants - which is an impossibility - so hope springs eternal that I will find a place in Houston that had decided to be honest with us and do it right.

I've decided I'll have to make some and shove into the Whole Food store manager's pie hole to make them sell the real stuff.


The first time I lived in Dresden in 2005 and 2006 I visited the Cafe and Konditorei on Zwinglistrasse just beside the tram Haltestelle there.  "Guten Morgen!" I would say and the server would always reply in kind.   I would hang my hat and coat on the wall that bore a sign that roughly translated "you do this at your own risk".

I was the
 Gedeckzweimann.  I always ordered the same thing. Gedeck Zwei was two Brötchen with Butter and Marmelade and a Kännchen of coffee.  I would pull out my PDA and read the RSS of various websites.  I kept an eye out the window on the marquee that gave the estimated time for each tram.  When the number 1 or 2 tram was within 5 minutes, I would pay my four euros, say "Tschuss!" and leave for work.  I was spoiled.

The second time I lived in Germany, I started out living in Freiberg which is located about a 40 minute train ride outside of Dresden.  Freiberg still is filled with buildings that predate the fall of the Iron Curtain.  But much of it is modernized.  It's a small town that one can easily traverse on foot to most parts.

My colleague and I would eat at a very small bakery just up the street from the
 Pension we were staying.  The same lady worked there practically everyday.  As our German got better we could make small talk with her.  My colleague's German was much better than mine.  My breakfast consisted of something similar to the Gedeck Zwei I used to order at the Konditorei on Zwinglistrasse.  Two Brötchen and a cup of coffee.  It all cost about 3 euros.

Later, I moved to Dresden after my family joined me.  I would make my way to the Hauptbahnhof and buy a 
Wurstcroissant or Schinken und Käsecroissant with a small cup of coffee at the oddly named Crobag pastrey shop.  Most times I would eat it on the train while I read.  The commuter train was smooth and quiet. Many times I would fall asleep going to and from Freiberg.  Upon arriving in Freiberg, I would walk down to the bakery and my colleague, who stayed there in the small town, would be there waiting on me. We'd chat for a few minutes, then leave for work.

It goes without saying...I was spoiled.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In search of the perfect Croissant.

I'm afraid I have to admit that after traveling all over Europe and several other countries, one tends to become a little spoiled.  You raise your expectations and find that settling for second just doesn't cut it. Especially when you've lived in countries where people seem to really care about the quality of their food that they produce.

While living in Milan Italy my daily routine, became, well...routine.  We lived on via Luigi Settembrini just around the corner from the Caiazzo subway station.  And this was about three blocks from the Milano Centrale train station.  I would catch the greenline to the Loreto station, jump over to the red line and head straight to the Precotto stop where Technimont's office was.

There under the ground just about 40 feet from where I would get off was a small, and I do mean small, cafe.   The smell of fresh baked brioche mixed with the heavenly scent of fresh brewed coffee would come wafting out.  I loved this place.  I looked forward to it every morning before starting my work day.  The cafe was almost completely glass and I could look in as I approached it.  There were the signs of the two workers bustling about serving customers at the bar.  Exchange of money, etc.  In fact, it wasn't too uncommon for some of my fellow co-workers to come up to me while I was inside, thump on the glass, wave to me and quickly move on.

I would walk through the door in my confident American Air.  People would turn, look at me for a second and then turn away.

"Good morning, Mister Brown!" The server said.  That was not my name.  But that was what he called me everyday he saw me.  Later, I found out that this was the Italian generic name for Englishmen.

I would sheepishly smile and say good morning back.  It was all in English.  The other server would look at me and smile and say "buon giorno!"  as he would open the oven door, remove the fresh baked croissants and other morning pastries, then quickly shut it.  The smell...was intoxicating.

I would reply in kind.

The first server would ask me "what would you like today?"  I don't know why he always asked me.  Of course, he knew what I wanted.  It was the same every day.  Today I was sort of pressed up against an older, short woman in front of me.  She turned and faced me and only said "Scusa!".  I tried to back away as much as I could in the tight surroundings.

"Uno croissant e Cafe' Americano" I would say.

Cafe Americano.  A very strange thing indeed.  For the life of me I don't know how this name came about.  But to Italians it is espresso diluted down with hot water.  In fact, they would make the espresso in a large cup and serve it to me with a small pitcher of the hot water.  As I would drink, thus lowering the level in the cup, I would add the hot water.  The effect being that the coffee was getting more and more dilute and tasting more and more like hot water.

But whatever Milan lacked in American coffee, they more than made up with the fresh brioche.  Warm, crisp, soft croissants.  Some plain.  Some filled with marmalade or with almonds.

The place was small and filled up easily.  I found a little nook around the corner of the place where I could sit privately and read from my PDA catching up on the news from back home.

Afterwards I would make my way to the door, waving goodbye.  "Ciao!"

They always smiled and replied in kind.  Thus, was the beginning of my day.

Relaunch of my blog

I started this blog several years ago and accidentally blew it away.  What I can do is start from the end and work my way back to the beginning.  Blogging is sort of addicting.  For me, it doesn't matter if anyone reads my blog. I just feel I have things to say and this is better than just mumbling to myself which drives my wife crazy.

So, the subtitle to Cooking For The Family is "Travel and Food.  Eating in and eating out."

If you are reading this I hope you enjoy it.  And please, feel free to leave me a comment.