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Saturday, April 24, 2010


Oh my.

Thanks to a tip from my good buddy Elizabeth Saloka, I've entered into the world of competitive hotdish, joining the throngs of old ladies across the country who duke it out for top honors at things like State Fairs and, well, State Fairs.

BUT, I am not alone in my quest for victory, I am joined by yet another good buddy—and an excellent Lady of her own kitchen, Beth Kaufman. Thankfully the competition does seem pretty low-key, and it's being held at Grain Belt Studios so really, there's no way this could be less than super fun.

To prepare, I have done some affirmations that the outcome of this competition doesn't impact my self worth. It's gonna be interesting to see if I can pull that off considering my competitive style tends to fall on the side of "hey, I'm super chill about this whole thing and I really don't care if I win, but now that you're all judging my skills in comparison to others I REALLY WANT TO WIN SO GIVE ME THAT RIBBON."

It should be a tasty evening since post judging we get to mow down on the hotdish spread. Oh, and there's Jell-O. Oh, and it can't be any more disheartening than on the last day of my internship at the Iowa State Fair when my friend and fellow intern Larissa and I were awarded the ribbon, pictured here. Neat, no?

Ok, so if you're around tomorrow come out to the event - details below, and if you're not around, stay posted for the results!


Saturday, March 20, 2010


This year Spring fever has struck me with the strength of angry trumpeter swan's wing. If you had Mrs. Sanderson for 5th grade or just know anything about swans, you willl know that's crazy strong—like, aluminum bat swung by an insane estranged ex-lover strong.

The results of this recent blow have included me creating a 'writing nook' in my room and playing around with my blog. Hence, the slightly wonky background. I'm not sold on it, but I'm also too tired to mess with it anymore tonight. So, just be aware if the blog continues to change its image over the next few weeks it's just me tootin' around.

Goodnight and sweet hotdish dreams to all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Mexican! (and probably far too much unrelated rambling)

Hola y Bienvenidos!

Long time no habla.

I supposed it could be seen as some sort of pattern if you have to start nearly every blog by apologizing for how long it has been since your last post, but you know what, I'm not going to analyze it and I would suggest/beg that you don't either. Besides, I have a good excuse for my lack of blog! I've been out of town doing extremely glamorous things in Las Vegas. Like unloading pallets of these:

It was Catersource 2010 - the conference & tradeshow Mintáhoe's sister company, Catersource, hosts each year. This year it was big, busy and successful—and most importantly capped with fun events at night featuring amazing food and signature cocktails. After a loooong week the reward came when my friends Kathryn and Jane and I rented a car and headed westward out to Death Valley's own Tecopa, CA and its famous hot springs.

 Lest you fear that after a week of amazing eats things would go downhill once we hit the desert, allow me to assure you they did not. In fact, they got better. On a visit to the 'China Ranch Date Farm'* we brought an exquisite picnic lunch featuring triple creme brie, Irish cheddar, artisan breads, artichoke spread, Peruvian cucumbers, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and of course - dates. When we busted that spread out we were instantly the envy of every senior citizen that had debarked from their tour bus and were now sucking down date shakes. We smugly enjoyed our fancy fare as they boarded their buses and hopefully prepared for the gastrointestinal adventures those date shakes would be leading them on in but a few hours.

We also had the delightful opportunity to eat at Bistro in Tecopa. Bistro is actually its name, so don't think that I've just started referring to places of business as their actual description. That would be ridiculous and if I started doing that it would likely be the result of a few too many at local Bar. Bistro is run by a burnt-out Las Vegas chef who traded the lights of Sin City for the starry skies of Tecopa. I for one am thrilled about his Vegas exodus since it meant three spectacular meals for the three of us. 

But I digress from the main point of this whole blog entry, which is of course a hotdish. A special one at that! This hotdish was made with not only my TLC, but that of my dear friends Larissa and George Weber. Don't worry, it was mostly Larissa's TLC - I'm not sure George's is safe for consumption...
Regardless, I drove down to their beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright craftsman-style home (I like to provide visual descriptors, plus their place is PIMP - although ironically the one non-craftsman room in their home is the one in the photo...) for a Saturday night visit and convinced them that rather than eating at one of Osage's fine dining establishments we should make something. Specifically, a hotdish for my blog. I'm selfish.

Larissa obliged and welcomed me into her kitchen which as you can see, unlike MY kitchen, has square footing and counter space. Also unlike my kitchen, a toddler.

There are a loads reasons why I adore Larissa and enjoy being her friend. One of the many is her undying love for Mexican food. One of the greatest milestones in our friendship occurred the summer we met as fellow Communications department interns at the Iowa State Fair. As "valued members of the team" we were invited to attend the State Fair Superintendent's pre-fair dinner party at his house, located ON the fairgrounds. (I know, weird) When the day came we were called into our bosses office mid-afternoon and told our presence there would be strange as we were merely "Interns" and thus, we were promptly uninvited. At this point we'd developed shockingly thick (yet still dewy and youthful) skins and chose to simply make plans to visit the fairgrounds Margarita Shack after work, located conveniently down the street from the Superintendent's house. We sat outside in the glorious sunshine sucking down margaritas and waving at the party-bound Fair employees as they drove on by. Suckers.

Since I was late to arrive thanks to judging the final round of a high school speech tournament (yes you read that correctly) Larissa went to the effort of not only finding a hotdish recipe but also buying the ingredients for it and beginning the prep work. Not only am I selfish, I am also a slacker. Here's the beautiful Mexican melange I arrived to...

All I had to do was stir, pour into a dish and top with cheese. Friends, if that was all that it required of me to make a hotdish I would have a hell of a lot more blog entries. Plus, when you don't have to all the pre-hotdish labor, you can even make the stirring look fun!

George of course did his part. He bought chives. He also texted my Mom continuing their relationship of texting slightly inappropriate/unintelligible things and then my Mom, because she doesn't have George's name saved in her phone, wonders who the heck is texting her wanting to know what she's wearing or if she likes hamburgers. Then she finds out it's George and laughs for half an hour. I can't say for sure, but I think after this last bout she may have saved his name. Side note, things got a bit heated during this last round of texts when it was revealed that while receiving texts, the Ma & Pa Klaassen were on weekend #2 of their 'Wisconsin Breweries Tour 2010.' And they didn't even invite us. WHAT GIVES. Interesting that the people who taught me to be inclusive of everyone wouldn't invite three of the people they know that love beer the most... VERY interesting. That being said, these are the same folks who raised me and I've already had to openly admit that I'm selfish and sometimes lazy.

I DIGRESS. I realize that this blog has been light on the hotdish coverage and heavy on the blather. So I'll cut to the chase and say that Larissa found a darn good hotdish. It was a Mexican Vegetarian bake that was the perfect complement to her amazing carnitas that she had been slow-cooking all day. Another noteworthy item that Larissa slow-cooked is her son Isaac, who at 18 months is the cutest closest-thing-to-a-nephew I've ever met. He didn't seem as interested in the hotdish as we were (it's kinda obvious on film, Isaac.) It seemed his main interest was robot dancing to Lady Gaga, which I can understand, I mean, she's great.

If you want to make the hotdish, follow the recipe found HERE. If you want to watch Isaac get down with his bad self, go visit the Webers. They're marvelous hosts. You'll have a splendid time.

*Interestingly enough, actor Matthew Modine is the descendant of the ancestors of China Ranch Date Farm. I guess you really do learn new things when you travel.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hotdish in a Hallway hits the Highway!

Oooh - Ooh! I forgot to mention this in my last post, but Hotdish in a Hallway has hit the road! (And subsequently found itself in a much larger, ACTUAL kitchen.)

This past weekend I visited the lovely home of my friends— George, Larissa and Pants* Weber down in Osage, Iowa. It was a superb time and in addition to watching Pants dance like a robot, checking out the latest episode of Teen Mom and enjoying copious amounts of wine, we made a hotdish!

Expect a post soon, but in the meantime enjoy this photo of Pants, who clearly, finds us ridiculous.

* to alleviate any confusion, Pants' real name is Isaac. However, since the day he sprung forth from Larissa's loins he's simply been 'Pants.' And adorable. (Also, what exactly are loins? Can Larissa have them? Can something or someone actually spring forth from them? I'm very confused. Growing up is hard.)

Here's something cheesy and bacon-y for you to make!

Months ago, when the idea for my blog came to me after my third Surly Furious, the potential hotdishes came at me faster than a recalled Toyota cruising down 494. Reuben hotdish! Chicken Noodle Brie Hotdish! Potato Paprika Hot Dog hotdish! I was crafting carbohydrate filled symphonies in my mind for days.

Once I discovered that writing a hotdish blog involves finding/creating recipes, purchasing ingredients to create said recipes, actually making recipes and then telling you all about it takes quite frankly, a lot a of work, the ideas tapered off. One hotdish idea however, persisted.

This flagship recipe began just like a baby–as a mere twinkle in its parent's eye. It is the culmination of two of my favorite foods and if you can forgive my crass language, is just g-dang tasty. I call it:


I know. It's pretty.

I'm comfortable enough with you, my readers, to share that my feelings toward Velveeta Shells & Cheese are probably more intense than they should be for someone of my age. I have what I consider a non-childhood attachment to it because sadly, growing up in the Klaassen household, we were Kraft people. Nothing against Chuck and Liz - I have them to thank for all kinds of things like shelter, morals and a pretty intense addiction to pistachio nuts. Once I hit my early teens and began my rotations on the Buffalo, MN babysitting circuit I began to learn that there were people out there buying Velveeta Shells & Cheese, not that crazy Kraft business that requires butter AND a 1/4 cup of milk. I saw the light. I drank the Velveeta kool-aid and I love it right down to the weird foil bags the proccessed cheese comes in.

Ingredient two is bacon. I don't think I need to elaborate on this...if you're a loyal blog reader, and I know five of you are, you know my thoughts on bacon—thick and applewood smoked, please.

Essentially, the hotdish just involves frying bacon, adding to shells & cheese and then baking it in a Pyrex pan. BUT - there are tricky and critical factors to consider while making this dish:

1. Potential drying out of the hotdish while baking. Normally I'd advocate adding a can of undiluted cream of something soup. But I didn't have any in the house. I improvised a solution and added half a bag of shredded cheese. I'm not sure this prevented drying out, but it was nice.

2. The notoriously poor temperament of leftover shells & cheese. I eat a lot of shells & cheese so if you're looking for an expert to talk to you about how crap they are as leftovers, please, feel free to respond to this blog or call me. Sometimes it's easier to talk it out. I tend to put a lot of value on a hotdish's ability to serve as my next 5-7 meals so I was nervous. However...and this is exciting...there seems to be something in the bacon/shredded cheese combo that preserves this dish well. I enjoyed it for my next three lunches, and hope you do the same.

So yeah, no real recipe here. Just make some pasta and put some bacon in it. Now. Really, stop reading this and start frying bacon. Also, if you're going to fry some bacon, be sure to keep an empty can handy to pour the bacon grease in and then keep it in your freezer. I don't know what this accomplishes, but it's what my Mom did growing up so it seems like something one should do. Even if this is the woman that always bought Kraft.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hotdish: A Dish Served Best with other Hotdishes

Are we sitting in the trust tree my friends? Have we all gathered here in a judgment-free zone? Should I feel safe being open and honest??? SHOULD I?!?! (oh lord - I've gone and done it again. Sorry - I swore 2010 was going to be a 'Year Sans Melt-Downs' and now I've gone and blown that resolution to heck. That's just great Andrea, just great.)

I ask you these questions before beginning this blog because I must fess up... I have fallen behind on my blogging.

When I began this blog I was pretty confident in my plan to make one hotdish a week. Cute, right? As it turns out, I seem to possess a little bit of that lethal combo of Overpromiser/Underdeliverer.  If I may attempt to argue on my own behalf though, I would say that this particular blog entry has taken so terribly long because quite frankly, I have found it daunting. This is no ordinary entry. This is an entry chockablock full of photos, hotdishes and friends. That's a lot to cram into an entry, and this could get lengthy. Lengthy, bis of course the word I choose to use in lieu of 'rambly.'

About a year ago I joined forces with four of the funniest ladies I know—Danielle Olson, Stephanie Watson, Elizabeth Saloka and Beth Kauffman to become our own little improv/comedy quintet. While we had—and still have may I add, all the best intentions of doing great funny things, it seems that all of our shared interests in eating, drinking, chatting and laughing at each other is our Achille's heel. We make a heck of a Ladies' Social Club. We're still working on the 'organized comedic activity part.'

I invite you to get to know each of us more deeply by checking out this wacky little videos we made last summer. They were a bit thrown together and also the by-product of a few bottles of wine. Enjoy. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thisisladybusiness&search_type=&aq=f
(Oh, and don't feel like you have to watch these videos now, you can wait and watch them at the end of the entry, so as not to disturb the flow of the blog, kind of like I just did right now.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting the ladies over at the hallway for some hotdish. It's been a goal of mine to get some guests up in the halldizzle for some hotdish and right away I thought of these gals. They can cook. Like, really, really well. This evening, proved no exception.

Everyone was charged with bringing a hotdish. Except for Stephanie who was at her company holiday party beforehand—and let's face it, nothing says "I'm not really here to get tipsy and make bad choices" like showing up to a holiday party with a foil-covered Le Creuset pan. In lieu of a hotdish, Stephanie wowed us all with homemade chocolate pistachio bark. Turns out that gifting chocolate pistachio bark turns Stephanie into a bit of a photo vixen. Little did we know. This melt-in-your-mouth treat was divine and came in a cute little tin, which was handy later in the holiday season when I had to bring my own homemade candy to the Klaassen family Christmas. Score! and thank you Stephanie.

Without any prior coordination we wound up with an excellent array of hotdishes covering all gamuts from vegetarian to down-home deliciousness. I told you invited these ladies over for a reason. The collection of cuisine and cooks included:

Beth Kauffman with a savory wild rice, prosciutto, brussel sprout bake:

Elizabeth Saloka showed off some comfort-food cookin' skills with a chicken, cheesy, almond, tangy, veggie macaroni hotdish: (p.s. This hotdish is awesome as a leftover. I would know, I ate it for the next seven consecutive meals after our gathering.)

Danielle Olson added her gourmand touch to hotdish with a Swiss chard, gruyere (? I hope I wrote that down right - correct me if I'm wrong Olson) Yukon gold and cranberry offering:

My contribution to this foodfest was a hotdish that as of now, is my favorite of the ones I've made, to date. I'm calling it 'Ricey Lasagna Hotdish.' Its technical name is 'Pizza Hotdish' - a name with which I take issue. With the exception of marinara sauce, there is nothing pizza-esque about this dish. What I do not take issue with, is the cookbook from which I got (well, and then edited) the recipe; More With Less. 

This is an exceptional cookbook. Along with its sister publication, Simply In Season, these two books could be my entire cookbook collection and I would be happy.  'More With Less' was way ahead of its time, featuring recipes that champion good, healthy, delicious food produced in a manner where we aren't be gluttonous bad world citizens. Sounds intense, I know, but it is teeming with wonderful recipes. I don't often get on my soap box about things of this nature, but this is just an A+ cookbook that everyone should own. BOTH cookbooks actually. Plus, I've noticed that they've now both become staples of any eco-friendly store or co-op so you can buy them and look trendy at the same time.

Now that I've wrapped up that tangent, I'll tell you more about 'Ricey Lasagna.' I won't bother giving you the original recipe since my revised version is better. Here's the recipe:
2 cups cooked rice (I used white, but I'm sure brown is good as well)
3/4 lb. Italian Sausagae
1 onion, chopped
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. Italian seasonings
2 cups Ricotta cheese

Combine ricotta and rice, set aside. Brown the Italian sausage and sauté the onion. Add sauce and seasonings to meat & onion mixture.  Put 1/2 the rice/ricotta mixture in a greased 2 Quart dish. (just layer it in there - this is your base layer) Top with a layer of meat sauce & repeat ricotta/rice, then meat sauce. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. Feel free to get fancy and melt some mozzarella on the top. (I would think this dish would only be made all the better with the addition of any of the following: olives, mushrooms or peppers - so maybe throw those in there if you like...)

I do apologize that I don't have the recipes for the other ladies' hotdishes, but you'll just have to deal with that. I had no desire to spend the evening writing down recipes as I was far too busy eating and wearing the cute apron Nicole made me for my birthday. If however you wake up tomorrow and still feel cheated about the whole thing, then I suggest you contact them yourself and bribe/purchase the recipes from them accordingly. From what I know of these ladies, you could probably snag the recipes pretty easily with the offer of a glass of wine. (unless you're Beth Kaufman, then you're a sucker for cow tongue.)

Once the first course had wrapped up it was time to PAR-TAY. And when we party we party HARD. With made-from-scratch rosemary lemon cupcakes with personalized flags in them!!! These tasty little confections came from the kitchen of Danielle Olson, and also from her skilled culinary hands. And seriously, personalized flags?!?! She's good. Also, here's your opportunity for audience participation - we struggled to come up with a cool word that our initials could spell. If you've got anything better, feel free to let me know and I'll give you a shout-out or something in my next blog. It's like Word Twist in a blog! Ooh!!!

There may be a lot of things you're wondering. I'll keep it simple and skip the questions about life, love and eternity and get to the query at hand - "Why did you have cupcakes at this occasion?" Clearly, the answer is that cupcakes mean celebration, and though I haven't mentioned it yet, this evening also doubled as a bit of a celebration. The day before our gathering I had turned the big 2-7, a few days later Danielle would turn Twenty-Great and in less exciting news, we were sharing a 'last supper' if you will with Elizabeth who is now, as I blog this, a Brooklyn resident. Sigh.

So, to wrap it up, have a hotdish party. It's fun and you will be amazed at how your friends rise to the occasion. Also, Elizabeth - move back, we miss you. Ok, thanks great.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not a Hotdish, but ADORABLE.

I turned the big 2-7 a few weeks ago and on that oh-so special day I came home from work to be greeted by this:

My favorite dessert, key lime pie, in miniature form. MINIATURE FORM! Sorry - miniature form. From scratch, at that!

This is reason #237 why my roommate Ana is one excellent lady. For inquiring minds, reason #236 is because she is a pharmacist and brings us home things like free pens and tape dispensers with drug names on them, and #238 is because she once made cupcakes that looked like penguins. (Incidentally, I've spent the last 30+ minutes trying to locate a photo of said penguin cupcakes. I know one is out there, and when I find it, it will be posted...)

Anyways, short story short, two takeaways:
1. Food gifts are awesome, in particular in miniature form, and on a birthday
2. My roomie is one good Banana.