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Friday, June 29, 2012

Are You A Weirdo? (A Short Test is Enclosed)

Ever since the Food Network starting airing shows where former chefs travel the world to eat exotic garbage.....ya'll have gone crazy!!! (LOL).

I mean really???

You want to watch dude eat a monkey bladder, or mix elephant toe jam into his cocktail?

I think I've made my point.

Baking Blogs are picking up on this trend as well. I have run into more things in the last year that have not only made me wince in fear, but in many instances, there recipes have seem so off the wall, I wouldn't even consider sampling them if you offered me a weekend in Vegas with Heidi Klum.

I don't know though, maybe I am just getting old. I don't usually ask you guys to comment, but I would be curious if you agree with me on this, or think I am just an uptight Pollack.

Listed below is a recipe that isn't horrific, but none the less.....5 years ago, there would have been no reason to even have access to it...right?

The following comes from a Blog entitle Delish

Saurkraut Cupcakes
  • 1 can(s) (16-oz.) sauerkraut, drained
  • 2 can(s) (14.5) pear halves, in light syrup
  • 1 box(es) (18.25-oz.) devil's food cake mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup(s) (fat-free sweetened) condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup(s) (unsweetened) applesauce
  • 1/4 cup(s) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon(s) (unsalted) butter
  • 2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) almond extract
  • 1/2 cup(s) (flaked) coconut
  • 1/2 cup(s) chopped pecans

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and mist two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray (or line with paper liners). In a strainer, rinse sauerkraut under cold running water then wring dry and chop coarsely; set aside. Purée pears with their liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth; set aside.
  2. Combine cake mix, half the puréed pears and the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes more, or until the batter is thick and smooth; fold in the sauerkraut.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool cupcakes in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare frosting: Whisk condensed milk, remaining puréed pears, applesauce and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and almond extracts, coconut and pecans; set aside to cool. Spoon cooled frosting onto cupcakes.
The End -

So L.A.B. Rats.....how adventurous are you?

Is this something you would even consider?

Or are you gonna hang out with Klecko and bake vanilla cup cakes while yelling at kids to keep off the lawn?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Good Niight Curt Borchert (Cherry Pie Muffin Recipe)

Like clockwork....the Last American Baker shows up to his coffee shop at 7:12 a.m. to order his large light roast, 2 shots of espresso (with a little bit of ice) to kick start PHASE #2 of his day.

While standing in line, the shops longest tenured barista Phil is working the counter.

On his head he was wearing a Fidel Castro looking hat, so it took me a moment to realize that over the weekend he had participated in his biannual head shaving.

Phil is an intresting cat, and I value his friendship because he may have the most well round mind in my city.

Although his comments are soft spoken, he often offers up conversations ranging from Sci-Fi books in the 70's to current Japanese rock stars.

The guy could pretty much work for MTV or PBS and navigate through his daily chores with equal ease.

So on this day, he brings up how he has been baking some "Cherry Pie Muffins" and the second he says this, my palate starts lusting after the flavor of cherry pie filling.

I've never been a "Lick the can" guy, but when it come to cherries, lets just say Klecko can neither confirm or deny can licking protocol.

 I checked my e-mails, while doing this, and I got some sobering news.

It was reported that the man (Curt Borchert) who has been the mastermind behind the Upper Midwest Baking Association had recently died.

In the Midwestern - United States, if you are a commercial or retail baker, this news is huge, it's kinda like beeing a sports junkie and finding out Pele or Derek Jeter just passed away.

Now I'm standing there, a little quiet, and kinda in shock and I began to shake my head knowing that in the last few years, I have found myself getting this type of bad news over the internet.

Now I don't want to sound like a hater, but I think when a person sheds their mortal coil, each of us is deserving of a sharp trumpet blast, and then a large scroll should be rolled out across the floor like a red carpet and somebody with a soothing voice should gently break the news to us, while we the crowd see transparent cherubs fluttering over the orators shoulder.

It only seems fair.

But this is 2012, and now days you find out that an Icon has fallen from a cell phone in a coffee line....sigh

Needless to say, my heart and prayers go out to Mr. Borchert's family, I share in their grief.

When people pass, I usually don't like to express personal thoughts, not during the grieving period.

To me, the words oftentimes are deluded, people seemed to be pushed into a corner where they feel compelled to respond.

But then I saw Billy Hanisch's e-mail (he owns a bakery in Red Wing MN) in a chain that had been circulating throughout our states baking community.

It read.....

"Tonight I will bake with a heavy heart."

Bravo Billy, what more could another baker ask for than to know that another person from their camp would pay their respects while standing in front of the oven.

Cherry Pie Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose baking mix
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 15 oz cherry pie filling
  • 5 oz diced rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp b-powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F) .

  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper baking cups.

Stir together the baking mix, white sugar, egg, and milk in a bowl just until combined.

Stir in 1/2 of the cherry pie filling and rhubarb pieces.

Fill the lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Top each muffin with cherries from the remaining cherry pie filling.

Mix flour, brown sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon, b-powder and salt together in a small bowl and hand mix until it becomes crumbly.

 Sprinkle over the muffins.

Bake until done.

L.A.B. RATS - FYI

Klecko has started his 3rd and final Blog entitled "Church of the Warsaw Saints"

If - Last American Baker - addresses the palate.....

And - Poets are Lame (and other things Mike Finley taught me) - addresses the heart.....

Then - Church of the Warsaw Saint - is meant to target the soul.

It too is hosted on BLOGGER






Friday, June 22, 2012

The Ivan's Are Coming

Props out to my friends in the former Soviet Union!

For the last 2 years, my home boys from Germany have been my #1 Viewership (other than my hometown USA of course).

At the end of my first year the Russian's had just finally cracked the top 10 and moved into the #8 slot.

This morning, some 320 post later, my Ruskie friends had taken the throne of international viewership for the first time.

I feel so honored, Prevet Comrades.

In closing, you might have been bumped down a notch Germany, but don't forget, it was on you backs that I obtained my momentum, I.E. Literary Success.

Thanks to everyone involved, but i do hope you will join me in thanking and celebrating our Russian friends commitment to baking.

Mad Love.....Danny Klecko



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Priests, Poets and Bakers

Last night I had a tough choice to consider, go to the University Club for the season ending reading, or watch the NBA finals.

With confronted with such choice, typically I will opt for the one that gets me out of the house, therefore preventing me from becoming a total Plop A**.

But Lebron is "My Guy" and I was wanting to will him across the finish line.

So I go the artsy route anyway, and it was OK, except the Celtic guy who insisted on playing those God Awful high pitched pipes.

Afterwards, I headed into the bar, grabbed a Carona, and the bartender (who was a guy) asks....

"Ya want a lime with that?"

Well of course I do, its a Carona, but dude should know that no "Real Guy" wants to ask  for a lime....

Just shut up and shove it down the bottle neck brah.

So now the Poet Laureate grabs the chair across from me, others join her, and then finally a priest is the last slides into our group as well.

My stars...if it isn't Father Gillespie.

Father Gillespie was one of the readers on this evenings ticket, and w/o a doubt gets my vote for one of the cities Top 10 most interesting orators.

Dude must of flourished in Homiletics 101, because he had the lot of us eating out of his hand.

He starts his set mentioning that his poetic reading will be like a perfect Mass, you know...the kind where the ending is close to the begining.

But then he talked about the Poet Billy Collins.

So at our table people are sqwauwking...."Blah-blah, Saint Paul Stuff, more Saint Paul Stuff, Irish this and Irish that."

Eventually the priest looks at me and says.....

"Baker, you are kinda quiet tonight."

"Father' I said "I was trained as a youth to never discuss the Irish."

The Poet Laureate rolls her eyes and reminds me....

"C'mon Klecko, after all 1/2 your blood is Irish."

So I turn to the table, smile, nod.... and then report the following.

"In 1965, when I was 2, my father the Mick deserted my mother, and from that time on, she always got annoyed when we embraced shamrocks or leprechauns. Ever since then we just set our eyes on the red and white, and all the angels of Warsaw."

The table sits silent.....

One - One thousand, Two - One thousand, then the priest interjects.

"Well your mom was a Pollack, no wonder why he left her, I'm surprised he stayed as long as he did!"

O-M-G.....I so LMAO.

Now that's my kind of priest, keeping it real, sipping a high ball and have a little fun with his flock.

Now the Padre asks me if I knew Bruno, the guy who baked at Kramarczuk's Deli?

"Yeah, I knew him. That's a Pollack joint over Northeast, I was raised over there, and btw....at Holy Cross, they said the Mass in Polish. How old was Bruno when he passed Father?

"Funny you should ask, I don't remember the age of everyone whose funeral I officiate, but Bruno was 83."

I smile and toss a little theory onto the table.

"Don't quote me on this, but I think Bruno baked all the way, up until his death."

Father Gillespie takes a belt off his cocktail and verifed my thought....

"Yeah, he did bake till the end. about a year before his passing, I asked him when he was thinking about retiring, and he just said WHEN I NO LONGER REMEMBER THE RECIPES. Yes, Bruno was loved. In fact, when the hearse carrying his remains was headed to the cemetery, they made certain to pass Kramarczuk's. when it did, the entire staff stood outside on the curb and they all removed their hats and had a moment of silence as Bruno passed by."

Ya think?

I so hope somebody misses me when my final ride passes, don't you?




Sunday, June 17, 2012

OMG - Lets Talk Oreo's

If you grew up in America, its all about the Oreo Cookie huh?

For those of you in other countries, take a quick second to learn some interesting stuff about this iconic treat.

Oreo's are 70% cookie and 30% cream filling.

This cookie was introduced 100 years ago, and has flourished in sales the entire time.

20 1/2 million are eaten each day.

Over 345 billion Oreo cookies have been sold.

Nabisco uses 47 million pounds of cream filling for only one batch of cookies.

Somebody recently told me that Oreo's have become the #1 cookie in China, but do your homework on that.

But the one thing that kinda makes me sad is that Oreo's have been the most popular cookie in America throughout my entire life.

Let's take a quick look at what ingredients make up an Oreo.

INGREDIENTS -

Chocolate flavor sandwich biscuits with a vanilla flavor filling

Sugar, wheat flour, vegetable fats (with antioxidants: E-306, E-304), fat-reduced cocoa powder, glucose and fructose syrup, raising agents (sodium and ammonium bicarbonates), whey powder (from milk), cocoa mass, salt, emulsifier (soya lecithin), flavoring (vanilla).

Will these cookies kill you?

No, maybe not, but look at those ingredients, these of the favorite cookie of my entire nation.

I don't even want to get into the fact that who knows where they are made, and how many days do they sit on a truck or train traveling across the country (or maybe now days the world).

And then they sit on your grocers shelf for how many days or weeks?

And then when you finally-finally get them home, how many days does it take you to devour an entire package?

And this my friends is more popular than Grandma's, Mothers or Church Lady Betty's Chocolate Chip cookies......

Forgive them Polish Jesus.....they know not what they do.

End of Transmission.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pink Hot Pants and the Wise Butcher

Sometimes when you get older....current experiences help elavate moments that occured earlier in your life.

Yesterday I got out of the gym, and as I was about to cross the parking lot to hop into the bread truck, something almost instinctual pulled me next door to the Cheapo Records store....

It was like this voice was telling me to run in there and go buy PINK FLOYD - THE WALL.

I really don't know why, but I actually had an urge to hear it, It was one of those monetary desires, like when Sue McGleno slams on the brakes to pull into a Dairy Queen.

So now I walk in, and standing there behind the counter was a young woman.

For starters, this was kinda odd, I've been buying discs here for years, and if I stop to think about, it's usually portly dudes with pony tails that ring up my order.

But like I said, today it was a woman, and not just any woman, but a pretty woman. A pretty woman wearing hot pants, and those hot pants were hot pink.

Within moments, Klecko's standing in the classic rock "P" aisle....Tom Petty, the Pogues...ah, here we go....Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd actually had 2 different little aisles on the table, so I started clack-clack-clacking through the discs right?

Dark Side of the Moon, Welcome to the Machine, Animals, and even a bunch of foreign released Floyd discs were there.

But there was no sign of The Wall.

How could this be?

If I were some people, I might have hung my head, or took it as some kinda sign, but instead I walked up to hot pants and asked.....

"Is is possible that there might be a copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall in any other space other than the Pink Floyd section?

Hot Pant's flashes me the look that your dog does when you fake like you are going to throw a chunk of a hot dog, but secretly palm it instead.

"Where else would we put a Pink Floyd Disc other than in the Pink Floyd section?" She asked in an almost irritated tone.

"Yeah, that's what I'm asking." Klecko replies......

"Well (exhales dramatic sigh), I can have you one here, special ordered,by Tuesday, but it would be new and cost 24 bucks."

"Money's no object" I explained "but it can't be Tuesday. It has to be now, I won't want it by Tuesday."

Now hot pants smirks, she likes my style, but kinda thinks I'm being a dick.

"I can check the computer and see if we have one in our Uptown location." she informs me, but before her thin fingers can even start popping the computers keypad....yep, Klecko interrupts again.

"Don't bother, I don't want to go to Uptown to get it, I'm not trying to be "THAT GUY" but its like this, I need that disc this second or I don't want it. I just figured you guys have stacks of random discs piled up, like those one's behind you, and I just wanted to do what middle aged guys do and exhaust my options. It never hurts to ask right?"

So just as I'm saying this, hot pants spins around, eyes the random piles on a counter behind her and shrieks as if she discovered a dead body.

"Oh My God, I can't believe it...Oh can you, how trick is that? Its right here..HA HA HA HA, and it's only $16"

Klecko slides a 20 across the counter, gets his change, disc and a smile of surprise like I haven't seen in a long time.

So now as I go back to the parking lot, and head back towards the bread truck, a rush of childhood memories gushed through my mind.

When I was 7 or 8 (1970-1971ish)my mother had a hot date set up with some guy. She dated a lot during that era, but even as a kid I remember realizing that she seemed extra stoked about this cat.

You know my mom was stoked because she was going to cook for this guy. My mother is a very sound cook, and its not like she's ever said she hates doing it, but food has never been a big part of her life. She works with it because she has to, but I've never seen her get the same kind of joy from it that you L.A.B. Rats experience.

So now we are in the meat case and my mom looks upset....

"You OK Ma?" the little sensitive Klecko asks....

"Well Danny, I don't know? I am kinda torn at the moment. Do you know what a boycott is?"

I shook my head no.

After explaining the definition, she explained that meat prices had gone so crazy high, that the general public was banding together and boycotting meat.

Then she confessed that even though the boycott was taking place, she wanted to get some pork chops and stuff them on Tuesday night when her date came over.

Then I remember with perfect clarity how she just stared through me, and looked into the distance and laughed while saying....

"God, can you believe that, breaking the boycott is bad, but to do it for a man is practically unforgivable."

Then she kinda laughed and floated back into the present moment.

But for the record, one interesting thing the world should know about my mom is that when my sister and I were kids. My mother never talked down to us, or sugar coated life. She had this knack for speaking to us like we mattered, like were were 34, not 7.

So now my mom is thumbing through meat, she can't find any pork chops. So now she commissions my help, and the 2 of us start scouring every meat aisle in the joint.

No pork chops anywhere.

So my mom throws her hands up to the Polish Christ and mentions that maybe it was a sign.

At the check out line, the cashier was ringing up our order, and my mom ordered a carton of "Merit" cigarettes so one of the managers had to come down and unlock the case that would prevent hoods from stealing them.

While all of this hullabaloo was taking place, little Danny sees a man in a red butchers coat pushing an empty cart down the aisle.

"Sir, my mom wants pork chops, but your store doesn't have any. Why?"

The old butcher chuckled while noticing my Ma had her grocery cart in the aisle, and then he offered me the following advice.

"Kid,we ran out of Pork chops so I've been in back cutting some more. I'll get some for your mom, but in the future, during your life if there's something you need, and you can't find it on your own....NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER GIVE UP. And then just ask somebody for help.

That's 1/2 the battle kid."

My mom took those pork chops, and hopefully her date went well. I'm not sure I ever asked. As a 7 year old boy, I was still intrigued by a butchers wisdom.




Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The "ART" of Baking

Yesterday at work my phone rang, I picked it up, and a Nun on the other line says...

"Are you better Danny?"

I thought for a second, because I always try to be careful when responding to Nuns....

"Why yes Sister, you know I am. You and the Sisters spoke on my behalf to God."

She liked that answer, and she continued speaking...

"Yes we sure did, and we are sure glad you feel better. We said a special Mass for you."

So now I kinda feel like that guy at the beginning of the Godfather who approached Don Corleone for justice.

Remember when the Godfather says.....

"There may be a day when I call on you for a favor, and that day may never come...."

Basically those Nuns own me for life now and they know it LOL, but I would have it no other way.

This morning was my last doctor appointment to double and triple check that I am OK.

I'll bet this was the 12th, 14th 18th time I've seen Dr. Cox since last December.

When you feel like crap and think you are going to die, and then you feel worse, and kinda wish that you would die, and then a doctor heals you....it kinda forms a bond.

Well it does for me at least.

My appointments with Dr. Cox have been spread out over different locations during my dealio.

However, the last 3 Wednesday mornings, I have been fortunate to get 8 a.m. slots at his office in a hospital that is 5 minutes from my house, and 1/2 way between the Klecko estate and the bakery.

Any one of these last 3 visits could have been my last appointment, all I needed was for him to feel comfortable with my healing.

So during these last 3 visits, I have brought full sheet cake boxes jammed with pastry for his staff.

The first "Gratitude Package" kinda blew him away.

Remember, up until this point, he didn't know what I did for a living, or where I worked.

All he knew was I had tattoo's of life sized monkeys, communist propaganda, and baby rattles just to name a few.

Each time I went to the doctor's office I wore clothes from Klecko's gangsta collection.

What I'm trying to say is if he thought I was a hood, I certainly wouldn't blame him.

But I'll tell ya, my thuggish looks never deterred his mercy.

That guy focused, executed and healed me.

But when I had a rack filled with sourdough, desserts and dog biscuits...he had a strange look on his face, like maybe disbelief.

So I pulled out a business card that announced me as "Klecko" and listed the name of my bakery, I didn't want him to think I was some weirdo who stole a rack of baked goods and stuffed it full of poison.

You have to remember, up until this point he knew me as Danny McGleno.

"My wife knows about you." he said "You guys have that first of the month sale right?"

And now his hands dug through the product like 4 year digs into a box of cereal to get to the decoder ring at the bottom.

So the following week Dr. Cox told me about the stuff I brought, and who ate it, and what they said....and then I handed him another one.

He smiled again, tells me I had to come back in one more week (which was today) and when I returned.....he was going to show me his art.

So this morning I go back, I get the official clearing, and as much as I hate medical stuff. I did feel overwhelmed.

It is humbling when you know you can't repay somebody's mercy.

Now I know many will say it is mercy that comes with a price tag, but you weren't there.

Dr. Cox was ecstatic that he returned the quality of my life to were it originated.

So now Klecko is feeling kinda choked up as he says his good bye, but then Dr. Cox remembers.....

"Hold it right there" he says to me "I want to show you something."

And then he exits for 2 minutes and returns with an I-Phone and begins pulling up pictures.

"I wanted to show you MY ART." he said with a grin.

And then he rifled through all these pics of roses in a large, organized overgrown garden with cool walls and trellises. It looked quite English.

"This is my art" he said.

So first off, I think this flower topic started because he must have viewed my bake goods as art, and perceived me to be an artist.

Dude was so excited to show me what he created, and it was impressive, very much so.

But as I walked towards the elevators, I had to chuckle.......

Here's a guy who knows how to open a human body, shuffle the deck,and return peace and hope to a persons life who lost it....but yet he views flowers as his art.

LOL...Dr. Cox is cool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

L.A.B. Statistics - The Russians Are Coming

Lab Rat's, not that it matters, but just in case you are curious who reads this silly Blog, let's post some numbers.....

For over 1 1/2 years, after my American readers, the Germans have been the #2 demographic.

Around a year ago, The Russian cracked the top 10 list,but something is going on with those crazy cats in Moscow (and elsewhere across the Motherland).

At this moment, my Russian friends have been surging up the charts.

My German friends have hit this blog 50 times this month.......

But for reasons unknown to me......

The Russians have hit it 140 time and are within striking distance of my #2 viewership.

Now I know the Motherland and the Fatherland have had there differences in the past...

But let me state what an honor, complete honor it is to have peoples from nations so entrenched in baking history spend their lunch breaks reading the musings of a Pollack in America.

And BTW.....Ukraine has recently cracked the top 10...

Mad love to you kids out in the Ukraine.

The U.K., Canada and France have been solid contributors as well.

Anyways....drum roll please..............

United States 33,979

Germany 960

Russia 925

Canada 833

United Kingdom 707

France 259

Netherlands 229

Belgium 195

Australia 177

Ukraine 113

Thanks for the love guys, and keep shouting out. I really value each one of you.

Germany and Russia......you are family. It makes me feel good that baking is a platform that allows us to share joy together.

Keep reading...the baker gets so lonely being by himself.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sue McGleno's Baking Ruse / Kim Ode's Book

During the Summer, on every-every-every Saturday night, Sue McGleno will say something like....

"Let's get up extra early tomorrow and head over to the Saint Paul Farmers Market."

Well....each Sunday I pop up around 5:30 or 6, head to the gym to do my dreadmill time, and then return home to see if my little angel has risen yet.

She means well, she loves the idea of a romantic early morning date, but the demons of slumber clamp down on my baby, and fight me for her attention.

Usually the demons win, and Sue McGleno crawls out around 8:30.

A couple weeks ago, while strolling down aisle #3 @ the S.P.F.M., Sue McGleno noticed that rhubarb was in it's prime.....

"Doesn't that look beautiful?" she said "We should make something rhubarb. Do you have any good recipes that call for it?"

I kinda had to chuckle, sometimes I think my wife pays attention to me...LOL

"Well, maybe you remember....Kim Ode just released a cookbook called RHUBARB RENAISSANCE and within weeks it's gone into a second printing. In fact, she did a book signing at the bakery, and Hennessy paid tribute by baking one of the recipes out of the book. It was the Persian-Rhubarb Snack Cake, and I'm telling ya....I swear on the soul of Tarzan and Cheetah that it was one of the 10 most delicious things that I've ever put in my mouth."

So Sue McGleno urges me to bring the book home, and then we'll look at the recipes and then we can go buy the ingredients at the farmers market, right?

Well we did this.

We decided we were going to make the Rhubarb Crisp (only I was going to swap out 1/2 the rhubarb for strawberries.

Now I know that will make Kim Ode cringe, but I don't know.....maybe its a guy thing, but I don't do well with...in your face tart.

But everyone of the woman in my life love-love tart.

So anyways, everything was purchased, the book was turned to page 68 and all of a sudden....guess who wasn't feeling well?

Now the last thing I want to do is dog my bride in front of the entire world "WINK-WINK", but it is a strong coincidence that during our last 1/2 dozen baking projects, my little Russian-Jew has to rest during the scheduled baking sessions, but Lo and behold.....guess who resurrects themselves when Papi places the baked goods on the proverbial windowsill?

But I really don't mind.

I love to bake for people, but even more so, I love the opportunity to bake for my wife.

Anyways......

The book is called RHUBARB RENAISSANCE by KIM ODE and it was published by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Here's just one wonderful recipe, and FYI....the book doesn't just discuss baking with rhubarb, it covers entree's appetizers, salads, breads and even cocktails.

This book is a must, hop over on Amazon and order it today.

You know Klecko isn't a food pimp, I just love this book.

RHUBARB CRISP

4 CUPS RHUBARB (cut in 1-inch pieces)
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) oats
pinch salt
8 tablespoons of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Toss rhubarb with 2 tablespoons of flour and granulated sugar, then spread evenly in an ungreased 9x9-inch pan.
In a medium bowl, mix remaining 1 cup flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, oats and salt.
Then work the butter with your fingers until the mixture looks crumbled. Spread over the rhubarb and bake for 45 minutes.

*Klecko footnote, remember (and don't tell Kim, but I went 2 cups strawberries and 2 cups rhubarb.

Also....Kim makes no mention of vanilla ice cream...duh!

And Pollacks....you already know what I'm gonna say..LOL, that's right, COOL-WHIP,make sure you have a bucketful.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Man with the Golden Borsht

Attention all Chefs -

Attention all Cooks -

Attention all Bakers, Foodies, Posers and Children of God.........

Let me take just the briefest of moments to intro my newest favorite person that I've met in awhile.

Her name is Lisa Zara.....and this woman flat out knows how to cook.

Recently I can into her Blog Site, and how often do I promote other sites....like once every 100-200 posts?

Well the wait is over.

For the last couple of days I've been musing over her concepts concerning green chili, and after smashing my head on a brick wall, I think I almost caught up to her.

But just when I was ready to take a breather.....this diamond in the rough starts preaching the gospel of (Get This......)

GOLDEN BORSCHT!

At first I thought she was toying with me, there is no Big Foot, there is no Loch Ness Monster,and the certainly is no such thing as Golden Borscht...right?

Well, Lisa ended up sending a link over to me, I ended up sending it over to StarTribune "TASTE" columnist Kim Ode, and the 2 of us giggled and marveled at Zara's project.

So you know I love borscht as the Polish Lord loves Warsaw kittens, so I pretty much groveled and begged Lisa Zarra to write something up for you L.A.B. Rats.

She was kind enough to put the following together, so if you trust my judgment....check out her Blog.

It's called.......................

"YOU EAT LIKE THAT EVERY DAY?"

Let's see what Lisa Zara has to say.

"Danny Klecko,I would love to share with your audience, thanks for having me as a guest blogger.

So the story is, our friend Stephanie is from a Ukrainian family, so this is her recipe, but she would generally make this with red beets. You need to cover your kitchen with garbage bags, and wear gloves, and you would still look like you worked in a slaughterhouse by the time you finished ! I came up with the idea to use the golden beets. So, while they still stain somewhat, it isn't that bad. You just look a bit jaundiced.

As for the golden beets, I call them the "Holy Grail" at the Farmers Market. They are usually tucked in with the red ones, at a ratio of about 10 to 1. I do know you can get them at Linden Hills Co-op for a pretty steep price, but they are worth it. They are a little less earthy tasting, and well, less "beet-y".

You can add a beef soup bone or cannellini beans if you like, but apparently the all vegetarian version is more traditional. And I personally like this better after it sits a day. Get some crusty bread, a little Dr. Zhivago, you are all set !

10 cups chicken stock
5-6 large golden beets, boiled, peeled and shredded (wear gloves!)
1 large onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced finely
2 stalks celery, diced finely
2 large potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Sour cream and fresh dill

In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer. Add onion, beets and garlic, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add carrots, celery and potatoes, and simmer an additional 15 minutes. Add cabbage, and simmer just until tender, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with sour cream and dill.

Thanks again Klecko for having me, and don't forget my mantra....

We really do eat fast, easy, made from scratch meals almost every day. It just takes a little planning, having ingredients on hand, and some creativity. Don't be afraid to try new things ! And, of course, read my blog !"

The End

Don't forget L.A.B. RATS...we are in Zara's debt, take a second out and check out her Blog, or be smart like me and subscribe to it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Nebraska Files (Your Death Row Meal)

So there I am, sitting by the Missourri River with my son in law J.R. watching the paddleboat he got married on glide past us.

We are sampling different salsas from the contestants at the Nebraska Chili Cook Off, and somehow, somebody, maybe J.R. or one of the cooks throws out the question that asks what would be your last meal if you were on death row?

I think we've Blogged about this in the past right?

Mine, w/o question would be BBQ pork ribs, cottage cheese and canned green peas, with a pepper shaker, bottle of Johnny Walker Red and one Lucky Strike.

But now J.R. interupts the peeps engaged in this conversation and says.....

"Down in Texas, they just passed a law where you no longer get a last meal. Some skinhead guy ruined it for everybody by ordering tons, and tons of food, and then the part that pissed people off, was after they cooked it. He wouldn't eat a bite."

When I returned home several days later, I was curious to find out more about this so I Googled the topic and found an interesting version of this story in the L.A. Times. The following is an excerpt.....

Texas ends 'last meals' for death row inmates

September 23, 2011

Texas stopped serving so-called last meals to death row inmates this week after a state lawmaker complained about an inmate request he considered excessive.

The furor arose after Lawrence Brewer, 44, a convicted murderer and self-described white supremacist, requested a last meal that included: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapeños; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.

Brewer had been condemned to die for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in the East Texas town of Jasper; the slaying drew international attention and led to state and federal hate-crimes legislation.

The meal was prepared at the prison kitchen at the Huntsville Unit where Brewer was being held and served shortly before he was executed Wednesday. Brewer chose not to eat it, prison officials said.

State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, was outraged at the meal request, which he considered outlandish. On Thursday, he shot off a letter to Brad Livingston, executive director of the state prison agency, demanding that prison workers stop preparing special last meals.

“He is a bad person who I don’t believe the state should be giving special conditions,” Whitmire said of Brewer in a Friday interview with The Times.

Whitmire said he has long disapproved of Texas' special “death row menu." The fact that Brewer didn't eat it “compounded everything,” Whitmire added, showing that the condemned man had “manipulated the system” by ordering “more food than a family of four can eat in a week.”

“The only regret that I have is that I should have done this sooner,” Whitmire said. “I think someone should be disciplined, quite frankly. Why didn’t somebody stop the nonsense?”

End of excerpt -

About a year ago, another occurence took place that drew some attention to "Famous Last Meals" on death row.

There was this cat named Eddie Duval Powell (ever notice when listing criminals, they always post 3 names) who was 41 years old.

Eddie was executed by lethal injection in Alabama for the raping and murdering a 70-year-old woman in 1995 (as reportered by Reuters.)

His "Last Supper" was sandwiches,Frito's and pop from the vending machine down the hall.

How lame is that?

Then what about that guy James Edwards Smith,dude was "put down" on June 26,1990 for a robbery and murder. This was another Texas crime BTW.

However.....Smith didn't want a meal, instead he whined for a lump of dirt for a Voodoo ritual, but dirt was not an approved list of prison foods, so his request was denied.

He scarfed down a tiny yogurt cup instead LOL.

Remeber Timothy McVeigh?

The guy who was responsible for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1996 that killed 168 people.

They shut his window via lethal injection in Indiana on June 11 / 2001.

His final request was a little unusual, but Sue McGleno most certainly endorse his choice... two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Remember what's his head? Philip Workman...... he was that guy convicted of killing a police officer after bungling a robbery at a Wendy's restaurant in Tennessee.

Workman got the kabosh on his last meal request when he asked for a large vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person in Nashville.

Prison admin denied this request, but homeless shelters across the state received pizzas from all over the country honoring his last request.

None of these stories should "crack me up" but I'd be a "Nose as long as a telephone wire" if I didn't confess i giggled when reading about Ronnie Lee Gardner.

Gardner was already on trial for snuffing one guy, but then he fatally shot an attorney in an failed attempt to escape.

On June 18 2010, dude got taken out by a firing squad in Utah.

You don't see alot of firing squad executions anymore.

But the intresting thing about Gardners story is not just his meal request...steak, lobster tail,apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7-Up, but the guy got to spend his last hours of life watching the Lord of thr Rings trilogy.

Really?

You want to go out of this world with Hobbits on your mind?

Not me...I would so watch old Project Runway episodes so I could get one last fix of Heidi Klum, but that's me.

I think that if I had to get killed publicly,the firing squad is the way to go. It might be more romantic to smoke a cig, refuse the blindfold, and then have a bunch of French Foreign Legion guys unload caps into me, however it would hurt more than the needle huh.

Just the other night Sue McGleno and I were rifling through TV stations, and when I passed by Turner Classic Network, they were just finishing up "Bonnie & Clyde", the version with Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway....OMG she was smoking hot huh?

Remember how the sherrif and his boys camped out in the shrubs with maching runs and they put about 1000 holes into America's favorite boy-girl bank robbing tandem.

They just kept flopping, and flopping around.

They went out looking like fish on the bottom of the boat, or puppets held by some clod with greasy hands.

Then last but not least, on my list....

John Wayne Gacy.

That freak got a lethal injection from the State of Illinois on May 10, 1994 for the rape and murders of 33 young men and boys from 1972 to 1978.

Remeber how the media used to call him "Killer Clown"?

His last meal included: a dozen deep-fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe chicken from KFC, French fries, and a pound of strawberries.

As much of a sick puppy as that guy was, you gotta give props when props are due.

Dude went out with "Original Recipe" instead of shedding his mortal coil with "Extra Crispy" in his bowels.

(MEANWHILE...BACK AT THE MARINA)

So now somebody in our conversation concerning food and death throws out the question......

"Does anybody know what meal is actually the most popular for a final death row meal?

I mean does anybody keep statistics on stuff like that?"

That's when my son in law impressed me.

J.R. responded by informing us that it wasn't even close, hamburgers and french fries topped the list.

For a mechanic, the kid knows alot about booze and food, maybe too much..LOL, but then again, none of us verified his claim, but then I began to think that if he just bullsh****** his answer to be cool, well maybe I'd even like him better.

But once again, when I got home...I just had to know, so I asked Google and Google said he was correct.

And as you know....Google never lies.

Good work J.R.





























Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Nebraska Files (Green Chili Recipe & Son in Laws))

If you are a guy, and you have a daughter, I am hoping you will agree with what I am about to say.

A father looks for qualities in a the husband of his daughter that are different than the qualities that the daughter might desire.

The last thing I am going to do is speak for my daughter.....she was smarter than me by the time she was 11, and truth be told...she scares me...LOL, since she has in fact taken over as "Family Leader."

With that said, a dad wants to make sure that the guy who takes his little girl away will be man enough to stand up for her when things gets tough.

Thanks to the Polish Christ.....I have that son in law.

The first thing fathers want to know is... will the guy who is going to marry his baby girl be willing to put their nose to the grindstone and make a living that will help support their family?

Mine does......and he's a mechanic.

A father is filled with joy & rapture when a blue collar, working thug joins the clan.

And btw.......my son in law is somewhere around 6 foot 200ish pounds, and if you talk any smack to my posse.....he'll take a wrench to ya.

So anyway, this last weekend I road tripped to Omaha to watch my 3 year old granddaughter dance at her year end recital.

The event took place at the Omaha Music Hall, and the place was packed to the rafters.

The price I had to pay to watch my little M-Rose dance in her 2 numbers was that I also had to sit through 25 other songs played in their entirety.

By the evenings end....I can say with confidence that I pretty much watched 72% of Omaha girls under the age of 12 Swan Laking across the stage.

The following day my son in law, and I guess I'll take this opportunity to introduce him....he goes by "J.R.", LOL....I mean what dad doesn't want his daughter to marry a 200# Mechanic named.....J.R.?

So the following afternoon J.R. bought tickets to take me to the Benson Brew Fest. We were on the slate to go check out a micro brew show that would be sampling 160 different beers.

But early that morning.....when the girls were busy doing things that girls do while boys watch TV, J.R. had the wisdom to say...."Let's find something to do, before we end up having to do something we don't wanna do."

The kid is learning.

Then he flipped through his I-Phone with a furrowed brow, but just for a second until he discovered.....

"I got it. The Nebraska Chili Festival is taking place down at the marina, where me and KiKi got married."

Even the girls liked this option.

Within moments the entire brood was out the door and on the river bank.

The chili festival was broken into 3 different divisions.

#1 - Salsa

#2 - Green

#3 - Red

I had my sight set on the green chili division, because that is what I have been playing with over the last year.

When dealing with the green (or verde) chili there seem to be 2 camps.....

Chicken or pork.

Polish Christ will tell you Klecko loves chicken.....but not 1/2 as much as pork. You get so much more flavor from it.

Anyways, I didn't count, but I'll bet their was 26 or 28 different green contestants (but 50 something for red).

J.R. and I swilled down Carona and sampled most of the green entries.

As this took place, I remembered back to the day I stood at this marina to give away my daughter.

That was one of the best days our family has had, but in another way...... for a father, it was the easily one of the worst.

J.R. will understand what I'm talking about if he ever has to hand over his little M-Rose to some other thug.

The following is a rough draft of what I have been playing with for my green chili. It is not perfected, and I am totally open to suggestions.

Good Night Omaha........

GREEN CHILI with PORK

3 lbs. pork butt, cubed small
2 lg. white onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp cilantro
1 c. green chilies
1 jalapenos - chopped
flour
water
Salt & pepper
Dash of Green Tabasco
Olive Oil to saute

Cut away as much fat as possible from the pork and cut into cubes. Brown meat in olive oil. Remove from pan and sprinkle meat with the flour. Saute onions and garlic in frying pan. Add meat, oregano, cilantro and chilies to onion mixture and add water to cover. Simmer 2 to 3 hours. Add salt and pepper and Green Tabasco during last 1/2 hour.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Nebraska Files (the Queen @ Joe's Cafe)

Dateline - Sunday morning on Maple Street:

The northern part of Omaha is always a fun place for me to visit.

The neighborhood is kinda progressive, kinda seedy, I'm not sure its the place to be if you write grants for a living.

The people who live here are clever....but rough around the edges.

They simply don't go for "Who-Haw" around this neighborhood.

These folks make me feel at home.

So like the heading said....it's Sunday morning and I am amidst a pile of people, 1/2 of whom spent the previous evening at the Benson Beer Fest.

The crowd is quiet as they make their way up the sidewalk to Joe's Cafe, where you are advised to "Bring Your Appetite."

While my companions file into the restaurant, I decided to take a couple extra seconds to stay outside and look down the street.

In many ways Nebraska reminds me of my childhood summers spent in Texas.

The smaller towns have Main Streets that stretch for blocks, and almost none of the buildings have a second story.

The ground, well it's flat and maybe it's just me, but this seems to make the sky look so much bigger than the sky I view on a daily basis in Saint Paul.

It's gotta be around 10 or 11 and the sun is already blazing.

Before I finally ducked in....I thought to myself that this place reminded me of that town in "The Last Picture Show"....I think that was Jeff Bridges right?

So now I pop into Joe's, and my group has camped out at the largest table in the backroom of the cafe.

It's been over a year since I've last been here, but I asked the 16...17 year old waitress if they've rearranged the booths.

"Yeah, Hun.....yeah we did, and we also added that.".....

She points directly over our table and there's a big plasma TV.

The clicker is on the table, and as she gushes over how excited the staff and patrons are, now that they've been hooked up to Direct TV...she informs us that the "unwritten rule" is that whoever fills the "Big Table"....the one we are sitting at, they get to control what's gonna be watched at Joe's.

There was already a room full of peeps watching some mindless dribble, and typically I'd just let it go, and let the mob continue in their ways, but the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth was being broadcast on CNN and I really wanted to check it out for a bit.

If you ever make it to Joe's Cafe, C.N.N. is channel 200.

So I flicked it now, and they are showing us pictures of all the celebs the Queen has kicked it with over the last 6+ decades....Elizabeth and Nixon, Elisabeth and Tutu, Elizabeth and Lady Gaga....it was really quite interesting.

But then they cut back live and broadcast the Queen trolling down the Thames on her Royal barge.....Holy Polish Christ...those Brits really go in for all the bells and whistles huh?

It was spectacular, her entire barge was adorned in red and gold......it was so regal.

One of the TV announcers informed us that there was over 14 miles of Union Jack bunting lining the river.

I'll bet there was at least...at least 1000 boats total.

And they all floated quietly through a dark - wet - misty morning.

Everywhere you looked....people were 5-6-8 deep on the river banks.

The coolest part however was this "Belfry Boat" that they made.

It followed along the barge, and this little boat (by comparison) had like 8 bells on it, and I think each one of them weighed 1/2 a ton.

So as this aquatic parade drifted through London, whenever they passed a church, the churches tower would ring its bells, and then this Belfry Boat would echo the same melody.

As C.N.N. pulled into a tight close up of this most unusual Bell Boat.....our waitress stepped over to our table to take our order.

Although the place was pretty busy, this young woman set order order pad down for a moment, rested her chin in the palm of her hand and watched the color and pageantry in amazement.

Finally when C.N.N. broke for a commercial, she kinda got this innocent smirk on her face and informed me......

"You're never gonna see that in Omaha!"

LOL, not in a million years kid.

For those of you passing through......Joe's Cafe is top notch and earns 5 out of 5 Klecko Cafe Stars.

Does it Pay to be Honest?

OK L.A.B. Rats,

Its is that time of the month where I get to unleash my newest piece that I wrote for Food Service News.

If you are new to this reality show...F.S.N. is the Hospitality newspaper that goes out to all the Food Industry pro's in the state of Minnesota.

If you ever get a chance....check them out online and read some of the stuff that their diverse writing staff toses out each month.

Better yet....compare my posts here to what shows up on their official website.

My editor is Mike Mitchelson, and he is such a pro.

90% of the time, the guy cleans up my thoughts and actually makes me look 10 times brighter than I really am.

I am lucky to be plugged into him.

I'll shut up now and 4-3-2-1..........

Does It Pay To Be Honest?

Submitted by Klecko

DATELINE – Snap Fitness / December 2011 –

I think it was a week before Christmas when the boys and I held another one of our informal “Feats of Strength” contests. There were four of us rotating around the leg press machine, each one of us doing our best to lift weights that would impress legendary louts like Paul Bunyan.

Then just as the grunting and testosterone were about to hit levels high enough that they’d irritate the other 50 people who weren’t engaged in our competition, the front door came crashing open.
A huge box did its best to squeeze through the front door, but this cardboard cube was even bigger than one of those Amana refrigerator boxes that you’d use for a fort when you were a kid.

So as you can imagine, our contest stopped and most of us in the gym waited in anticipation to see, not only what was in the box, but who was on the other side, pushing it.
As expected, the guy hauling this load was none other than Josh Malaske.

In addition to being the General Manager of our club, he also runs 4 other Snap Fitness Centers across the Twin Cities and surrounding metro.

Within minutes Josh began unpeeling layers of packaging, and to everybody’s relief, we saw that our gym had just adopted its first commercial cooler.

Then just minutes after plugging it in, Josh darted back to the parking lot and used a two wheeler to bring in a small tower of boxes.

There were crates of bottled water, an entire rainbow of Gatorade flavors, protein bars, muscle milk, 5-Hour Energy shots and a dozen other pre and post work out options.

As Josh began to load the cooler with these items, the rest of us felt like the show was over and went back to work.
Twenty minutes later, my buddy Ian taps me on the shoulder and pointed in the direction of what was now a fully stocked cooler.

There stood Josh holding a black metal box, but he looked befuddled.

“Now what are you doing?” somebody asked from the treadmills.
Josh explained that he needed to try to figure how he was going to attach this cash box to the cooler.

“Why would you need to do that? Won’t we just give our money to the on duty attendant?”
That’s when Mr. Malaske reminded us that we had the privilege of working out in a 24 hour facility, and during some of those hours there wouldn’t be a gym representative on hand.
I was confused so I chimed in…

“So why do you need to attach a cash box? Won’t your counter staff just lock the cooler when they go home?”
Josh smiled and then explained…

“No, it’s not going to work that way. The cooler will remain open at all times. I’m not going to start locking stuff up around here. I trust you guys. I’m just going to attach this box to the cooler and then I’ll put a sheet with the prices on the front of the door. Club members can just toss the cash in there and take what they need.”
Me and my muscle-bound buddies started to chuckle. Surely he had to be joking, there had to be a thousand dollars worth of inventory in the cooler. Did Josh really believe that our membership wouldn’t abuse this system?
Half a year has passed since then, and recently I caught up with Josh and asked him how this experiment was working out.

“Yes, the experiment is working well, and we plan to continue to offer the honor system to our members. Of course we do have some knuckleheads that think they don’t have to pay for the items they take, but overall members are very honest and things are working in our favor. We have also installed the same Honor System Café at our Cottage Grove location and things are going well. It would be great to have them at all of my locations, but trying to find extra space for coolers is challenging.”

Next I asked if it was just the company’s goal to break even, but Joshed really seemed to believe that you can make a profit in a business arena that is founded on trust.

“We are estimating additional revenue between $5000 to $7000 annually, but another interesting point is that since this program was put into place, we have had a 25% increase from our 2011 membership sales. Actually we started our year off at a 40% increase, but our momentum slowed down a bit when warm weather came earlier than expected."

As you can imagine, this marketing strategy made for interesting conversation at the gym. Even if Josh was just breaking even, this was still a win-win because whether the people in his gym realized this or not, they no longer were viewing themselves as clients, but more like family.

After experiencing this curious trust, I did a Google search to see if any other companies were employing similar campaigns. One interesting piece I ran across was written by Paul Ballew for a publication called Shopper Culture. He wrote a story called Panera Bread Honor System Paying Off.

The article talks about how the Panera Cares non-profit feeds close to 4000 people every day. The bakery suggests a set price for each item, but customers pay whatever they think is fair, or in some cases…whatever they can.
Statistics provided indicate that 65% of the customers pay the recommended price, while the balance pays more, or less.

To date, the restaurant has almost broken even.
According to the New York Daily News, “Panera hopes to open a similar location in every community where it operates.”
A few days after reading this, I stumbled across another internet article that claimed businesses didn’t need to worry about customers ripping them off, because their employees would steal $8’s for every buck a shopper would steal.

So according to bakers math, out of the estimated 36 billion dollars that are swiped from American retail businesses each year, only 4.5 will be taken by customers while 31.5 billion will be pocketed by the people who are working for these concepts.

In closing, I asked Josh if his client base had thanked him for extending his trust.
His response “We have many comments from members from both locations about the Honor System Café. Members really appreciate the convenience of the cooler and the different options available.”
With that said, I stand corrected, but who would have thought…the majority of people are actually decent.
With that said, don’t get any funny ideas, when Klecko drops off your bread order tomorrow morning, he’s going to want to see cash on the barrel head.

Talk to you next month.