Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

In Cooking/Baking on April 30, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski

TXK may not have posted for a while, but it hasn’t been closed. I’ve continued down my culinary path but for one reason or another haven’t had the time or wherewithal to post. TXK lives! And I’m posting today in honor of a very special occasion. To celebrate the last day of chemotherapy treatment for my most amazing husband and partner!

TXK came into being while he was recovering from surgery and beginning chemotherapy. My life seemed to be at the whim of the fickle fates and as I began cooking for us (a job that was traditionally his–because he is excellent at it), that time in the kitchen mixing ingredients and affection into dinner or desserts became a relaxing and enjoyable time that I began to look forward to and plan for. It became “zen time”. Alone-time, but working for a result that would please not just me, but another as well made the experience just a little more sublime.

I took no greater pleasure in celebrating the end of his chemotherapy. In just six short months, we went from diagnosis to surgery to chemotherapy. It was a whirlwind–though at times it did seem like time was arthritic and crawling. And throughout this experience one comforting through-line has been unparalleled and caring medical care he has received from the very beginning. From our primary care physician where this all started to the oncologist and oncological surgeon to the most important players on the team: our nurses. They constant faces of compassion who took care of for 3 days every 3 weeks during his chemotherapy. Magnificent Marie (left) and Beautiful Blanca (right) were Kenny’s constant caregivers as well as his ever willing audience during his treatment. We couldn’t have designed or hand-picked better choices than these two. They were amazing!

By the way, Ken made a T-shirt to wear for the day that read “I went to the Creticos Cancer Center and all I got was this lousy T-shirt…(oh, yeah, and I got CANCER FREE too!)

The occasion was marked with–what else?–CUPCAKES! I found a recipe for “homemade” hostess cupcakes and it didn’t disappoint. I made 2 dozen and they went like hotcakes…wait…cupcakes. Anyway, I highly recommend.


Click image to view recipe



Country Sausage and Cheese Muffins

In Cooking/Baking, Creative Writing, Humor, Life & Stuff on April 7, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski

I have been remiss in reporting from txk so I need to get back into the swing of things with a short narrative and a delicious recipe! I have been cooking, and had a few misfires that I’ll report on later. Life has been busy but good. kenan successfully completed cycle 2 of chemo and is currently undergoing cycle 3 of what we hope are 4 treatments. As I planned for what we’d take for foodstuffs and snacks for each of the three days we are at the Cancer Center, I also started thinking about foods that would be appealing to him–to eat there as well as have for dinners. As I made my grocery list using Things (which I love and is why I’m plugging it) the one thing that stood out–for me, anyway–was that once we have arrived there by 8 AM I’m always hungry for something “substantial” to keep me from entering a caffeine frenzy after too many cups of coffee and, more importantly, something with protein for kenan. So I focused on breakfast and found a few recipes which didn’t quite do it for me. With some improvisation, I created this recipe and it rocks (as long as you’re into all the ingredients, but that’s something you can play with yourself). Don’t make it weird.


Click on the image for recipe


Beer Bread with Cheese

In Cooking/Baking, Creative Writing, Humor, Life & Stuff on March 12, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski Tagged: ,

I used to love when my mom made beer bread. Not only because I liked the taste of it, but because it was nice to see something different being done with beer in our house rather than the usual: dad pounding them. It felt somehow European that we used an item found in every house in town in a DIFFERENT way. We were fancy. Then we’d finish the bread and go back to being “normal”–which is pretty funny considering I’m talking about MY family. Hold on…laughing….

Okay, obviously you can tell how sophisticated I was since a loaf of bread made me feel rich. Oddly enough I don’t like the taste of beer–on its own anyway–even as a 6-year-old. Yes, there is a picture of that somewhere, family court judges reading this. 6-year-old me, wearing my dad’s chunky black 70’s glasses and drinking a beer. Well, I didn’t actually drink it because I didn’t LOVE it. I liked it enough to sip it since everyone seemed to be getting such a kick out of it. And since there were no digital cameras back then, I’m sure I had to pose for several takes because inevitably most of them wouldn’t turn out. This back in a purer time when you didn’t have to bribe the film developers at the Fotomat not to report underaged, coerced drinking to the proper authorities.

I found a recipe that added cheese, which I found interesting. I changed the cheese to Gruyère–one of my faves–and it turned out beautifully! Cheers!

Click on the image for recipe


Blog Bling?

In Cooking/Baking, Creative Writing, Humor, Life & Stuff on March 9, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski

I received some a gift from a friend of mine who–like me–is a neophyte blogger. It’s sort of chain mail sitch, but not really. It doesn’t promise great wealth or threaten eternal damnation so I figure I’m game. It’s a little different for me in that it’s not technically food-related and it isn’t accompanied by a recipe, but since I’m still figuring out txk, what the hell…

Here are The Official Rules:
1. Copy the award image into a post.
2. List 10 things that make you happy.
3. Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day.
4. Link to their blogs.
5. Notify the award recipients.
6. Award recipients link back to sender’s blog.

So, here goes…

Ah, nevermind.


Sweet Sunday Morning (Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze)

In Cooking/Baking, Humor on March 7, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski Tagged: ,

The first glimmers of spring are just beginning to show here in Chicago. Those “balmy” days of 40-degree weather are approaching; the days when you typically see hearty Chicagoans in shorts and T-shirts, living like it’s summertime; like their spirit is living a little further into the season than they are as if that hope and these acts of bravado will bring spring sooner.

On this lovely day we had several visitors in the forms of friends Rebecca L. and Pam stopping by for visits with kenan and me. It had been a long while since we’d seen either of them, so it was nice to catch up, and particularly nice for kenan to see some new faces rather than my same old face. Because of the aforementioned weather, we decided to go for a walk in spite of a little drizzle in order to get out and get some fresh air. Thanks to kenan’s eagle eye, the trip netted us 12 cents! We decided to walk down to Trader Joe’s. Though it was nice to get out of the rain for a bit, we didn’t take into consideration that everyone in the Chicago metro area would be there stocking up for their Oscar party. So, it was a short visit, then back home.

Now on to the xanax kitchen! I have been craving a scone! I remember first finding them in a Starbucks 100 years ago. I loved the crisp-on-the-outside/soft-on-the-inside scenario (hey! just like me!) Also, the hint of sweetness and the weighty consistency of them I find very appealing. So, I set out to find a recipe that fulfill my requirements. And I think I found it. The hint of sweetness with bursts of blueberry plus the zing of the lemon glaze make this treat a regular occurrence in the xanax kitchen.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Click image for recipe


There’s No Place Like Home (except Stars Hollow)

In Cooking/Baking, Creative Writing, Humor, Life & Stuff on March 5, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski Tagged: ,

If you know me, odds are you know I loved the CW TV series “Gilmore Girls” from early on when my friend Mark called me up and suggested I watch this new show shortly after its premiere in 2000. Once I did, I was hooked. I looked forward to watching it every week–even politely declining invitations from friends and my significant other so I could hunker down for a 60-minute visit to quaint Stars Hollow, the fictional Connecticut hamlet that served as the main setting for the show, chock full of odd characters and small-town charm. Having grown up in a similar setting–where I was probably the oddest character–there is something about small town life that is appealing to my now-big-city sensibilities.

Stars Hollow also holds a special place in my heart for another reason: I have actually BEEN there three times. I’ll give you a moment to stew in your own jealous, tenderizing juices. Okay. Back to me. Circa 2005, thanks to the auspices of close family member (totally within his or her job responsibilities and not breaking any rules whatsoever) a time or two I was able to meander aimlessly and without restriction around the Warner Bros. lot where GG (among others) was filmed where I saw sights such as the set of the “E/R” emergency room under the “L” in “Chicago”, the “New York City Street”, and finally the town square and surrounding businesses that radiate out from the gazebo (in the background of the photo below) in the center of my beloved Stars Hollow.

Though the show ended in 2007, my obsession continues; or rather my nostalgia. It’s the only series I own every season of on DVD, but not until recently have I started watching the show from beginning to end (I’m currently just beginning season 3). As I watch the town scenes I remember walking those same streets and it fills me full with fahrvergnügen. The acting was good and the writing of the show was excellent–unusually fast-paced and quippy. I even wrote a spec script episode to enter a competition. Didn’t win, but it was good. Remind me to show it to you sometime.

While prepping dinner the other night in the xanax kitchen, I was watching GG on my laptop and I felt a kinship with Luke, the crotchety proprietor of the town’s diner, and felt like this would be a dinner he’d serve: Turkey Loaf and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.

Turkey Loaf

Click image for recipe


Cinnamon Bread

In Cooking/Baking, Creative Writing, Humor, Life & Stuff on March 4, 2010 by Ron Stempkowski Tagged: , ,

Here in Chicago we have grocery delivery service called Peapod. It’s a useful service used by many non-car-owning Chicagoans. I used it regularly about 10 years ago when I lived on the top floor of a 3-story walk-up and had no car. Since getting a car, I haven’t used the service but have seen the delivery trucks all around the city at all times of day and night while I have been darting to Jewel, Dominick’s or CVS to pick the forgotten “something” and fondly recalled my days of undertipping the poor delivery bastard who hauled 40 pounds of groceries up 3 full flights of stairs (sometimes forgetting something, resulting in another trip.) Ah….good times.

Two friends at work very generously send me a Peopod delivery of gift certificates. So after handwriting two heartfelt thank you cards, I found myself in use of Peapod’s services again. You are able to schedule a morning delivery the following day if you submit your order by 8 PM the night before; and for the afternoon the following day if you submit by midnight. Since it was “free money” I found it a perfect opportunity to buy the extras that we don’t normally buy ourselves as well as to stock up the cupboards with forgotten spices, baking accoutrements and staples.

In my pursuit of “destination” I worked on my order all day and placed it well before 8 PM. All the time slots for the following day were wide open–except the one I wanted: 7 AM – 9 AM. The rest of the day had longer windows of time, which would have resulted in me stopping whatever I was doing every 5 minutes to check to see if the truck was parked outside which would cut severely into my work productivity time. So I opted for the early bird special: 6 AM – 8 AM. Since I was ordering some breakfast items (eggs, English muffins) I figured it was a smart move. That feeling had packed up and left by the time it was 12:30 AM and I was still awake after cleaning out he refrigerator and unwinding from the day. However, I still managed to get out of bed before 6 and have a cup of coffee before the Peapod delivery arrived at 6:25 AM. As the delivery guy put the groceries on the kitchen counter, I groggily signed the delivery form, amply tipping him even though he doesn’t have to go up one stair whatsoever and in fact gets to walk down a ramp.

With groceries put away I made ken some breakfast, had a bite myself, then felt the need to make some cinnamon bread–if only to serve as the vehicle to use the left over cream cheese frosting from the red velvet cupcakes I made a week and a half ago. But even without icing, it’s super good and super easy!!

Cinnamon Bread

Click image for recipe