The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

20 Sep

Avocado Pie, oh my!

Posted in General on 20.09.10 by Octopi


I come from a long line of pie-makers.  REALLY GOOD pie makers.  The bar is set high, no doubt about it.  I’ve finally been dipping my toe into the proverbial pie pond within the last couple years.  I was a little intimidated by the whole “make the crust from scratch” thing, so I started with graham cracker crusts.  I also like pies that sound different.  Avocado pie caught me eye last year and it was mighty tasty!  It tastes more like lime than avocado, but I’ll let you be the judge.


2 ripe avocados
small can condensed milk
juice from 2 limes
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
4-5 tbsp melted butter
2-3 tbsp honey
whipped cream

Makin’ it Happen:

  • Make graham cracker crust: Crush crackers, mix in butter and honey, press into pie pan (or whatever pan you may have).
  • Make pie filling: Mix together smooshed avocado, condensed milk, and lime juice (very smooth mix). 
    If you can only find a larger can of condensed milk, only use about half of it (about a cup).
  • Put filling over crust.
  • Refrigerate until set, about an hour
  • Serve with whipped cream on top. Tasty Goodness!



  •  You could bake the crust a bit in the oven if you’d like before dropping the filling in.  Throw it in there on 350 degrees for 10 minutes and see what happens.  I’ve had it both ways, and both are fine.  You’ll probably want to let the crust cool before putting the filling in though.  
  • You could also throw the whole pie in the oven (same temp) for 10 minutes to help it set more.


  •  If you don’t have lime, you can use 1 lemon
  • You think avocado pie is weird?  Why not push the weirdness?  Drizzle a little chocolate sauce or shaved chocolate over the whipped cream as well.  Bet it’ll be equally tasty, if not tastier!
  • If you don’t have graham crackers, try crushing some gingersnaps or similar

Print Recipes here…

Avocado Pie

Avocado Pie Index Card

This is not “nutritionally successful”!  But it sure is tasty.  Go for a run, grab a piece, and share the rest with your friends/fam!  This is a test for “everything in moderation” . View nutritional content here . Or don’t if you want to be in denial.

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15 Sep

Help Me Help You!! What would you like to see more of?

Posted in General on 15.09.10 by Octopi

Hi Mess Hallers:

Please check out the following link to a quick poll.  I’d like to find out what YOU’D like to see more of at The Mess Hall.  Feel free to leave comments below for additional suggestions!


Quizzes by

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15 Sep

High Fructose Corn Syrup: The devil? Or is the devil in the details?

Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 15.09.10 by Octopi

A friend turned me to a New York Times article that I missed in early August.  It focused on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and how it may not be the bad guy many (including me) have portrayed it as.

Essentially the article referred to research indicating that, in contrast to initial publications on the minuses of HFCS, that it is NOT directly related to higher rates of obesity. 

While the way in which our bodies process fructose may be related to weight gain, apparently HFCS doesn’t have that much more fructose than regular sugar.  It just has more fructose relative to regular corn syrup.  Related to this and just in: The Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the FDA to change the name HFCS to “corn sugar”.  NPR’s got a good little blurb on that here.

The latter part of the NYT article makes an interesting observation.  While HFCS may not itself be any worse than other sugar ingredients, the impact of its use may have led to an interesting spiral.  Here’s my quick and dirty breakdown of the thinking here:

Source: The Mess Hall, via NYT article

A cheaper sweetener makes it possible to produce a cheaper product.  So, for example, with soda, super-sized containers gave consumers “more for the buck” while allowing the manufacturers to generate a greater profit since it’s costing them less to produce anyway.  More consumption of such products increased caloric intake.  Without “netting out” this added caloric intake in some way (e.g. exercise), an increase in obesity occurred.

Sounds plausible.  However, when looking at USDA data on caloric intake trends over the last 40 years, it’s not just HFCS or sweeteners categorically that increased substantially.  Fats and oils, for example, increased by a significant amount as well. 

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Huh.  Increase in Sugars AND fats.  Interesting.  What do you wanna bet sodium (salt) consumption has increased as well? 

So in the end, it seems to circle back to the fundamental strategy of  finding your personal point of moderation and developing a strategy to stick to it.  What do you think Mess Hallers?

One comment »

13 Sep

Great Grandma Erl’s Rimoose

Posted in Makin' Food on 13.09.10 by Octopi

Mess Hall: Northwoods edition.  Spending some time up at my Mom’s house, we picked up some fresh raspberries from the local farmer’s market and decided to use them for what has become a family tradition: Great Grandma Erl’s Rimoose (pronounced Rye-moose).  Great Grandma Erl was of German descent, so if anybody can help decipher what “Rimoose” means (this could also be some Americanized version of the name), let me know. 

We have always made this recipe with raspberries but other types of berries would easily work here.  For this reason, the recipe could be considered a Garbage Recipe because it gives you a chance to use those berries that are about to go bad.  Aside from the berries, this recipe also uses “Top 25” ingredients only.

Great Grandma Erl’s Rimoose



Main Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (this version was made with half regular and half whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk



  • 1-2 pints of raspberries
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/8 cup sugar


Making it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Sift dry ingredients together.
  • Beat eggs until light.
  • Add eggs and milk to dry ingredients in bowl. Beat until smooth.
  • Spread into greased jelly roll pan (9X13 is fine)
  • Sprinkle raspberries across top of dough
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Spray top with cooking spray so sugar sticks to top.  Sprinkle sugar over the top.
  • Serve it up. Tasty Goodness!


Nutritional content information is here.

One comment »

09 Sep

Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya…for Entertaining Space.

Posted in General on 09.09.10 by Octopi

Shake what your Mama gave ya….for entertaining space. Whether renting or owning, while living in Chicago I have struggled for years on choosing appropriate events to host in my various abodes. I’ve always wanted to force my small, oddly configured spaces to do things they’re not meant to do….entertain large groups of peeps.

I suppose I could take a cue from Holly Golightly, who packed about 150 people and a cat in a 4oo sf space, but I think I’m past the point of no return to host raucous, random parties. 

That said, I have become a bit more lazy (well, as lazy as party hosting can be, I guess) so still want the party to come to me.  I’ve come to peace though with the size and configuration of The Mess Hall. Instead of focusing on the, um, “closed” (as opposed to open) layout or small living room/no dining room realities, I’ve identified what it IS good for:

Intimate, informal gatherings.

  • Small parties of four to six max. Larger groups need not apply.
  • Food is served from the kitchen counter.
  • Guests are often asked to jump in with last minute cooking tasks, which I think is fun anyway.
  • I’ve maximized seating options and created an expandable tablet top for porch summer entertaining (for relaxing brunch and dinner parties!)
  • A small living room means cozy conversations over coffee/tea (single malt whiskey?) and cookies.
  • Despite the small size, I try to make the space FEEL welcoming: warmth through color, texture, and comfy furniture = invitation to curl up and stay awhile.


We do have alternatives for larger parties. An epic joint-birthday pub crawl for A and I resulted in 25 friends bundled up in January and trudging to our neighborhood bars – with a first pub stop allowing us to bring in our own homemade chili to serve up to the masses.

How about YOUR space? Consider how many people you can comfortably entertain and how you want to entertain them;

  • What is your largest room for entertaining? How much seating and standing room is in that space? If you can hide some furniture away for the event does that open up more space?
  • What is the flow of your house? Will guests feel too far away from the main action if they’re forced to hang in the living room instead of the kitchen?
  • How much standing room do you have in the kitchen? Cuz you know everybody gravitates to the kitchen.
  • Do you have good outdoor space? If so, plan on hosting your larger shindigs in fair weather seasons.
  • What kind of hosting tools do you have? Do you have a nice china tea set from Grandma? Why not put it to use? A blender and old fashioned malt glasses? Hello, ice cream party! Not a big kitchen for massive meal prep? Become the master of hors d’œuvre or host a potluck. Nice tv/speaker setup?  How’s about a movie marathon or Saturday football?


Mess Hallers: What kind of entertaining is your home good for? Any good hosting tips?

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07 Sep

Beam Me up Some Biscuits

Posted in Garbage Recipes, Makin' Food, Substitutes on 07.09.10 by Octopi

I found a good blog that tried out Mark Bittman’s recipe for (yogurt or buttermilk) biscuits from his book, How to Cook Everything. This is a recipe using only “Top 25” ingredients!  This is also a Garbage Recipe; meaning, a recipe for which you can easily take a gander around your kitchen and jazz the recipe up with some additional optional ingredients.

“Wait a minute!” you say.  Buttermilk is NOT in the Top 25 Must Haves!!  OK, it’s not.  But ingredients to make buttermilk substitute is, so there!  There are multiple ways to use substitutes for buttermilk, which is summarized well at this site.  Today we’re using Option #1, milk with lemon juice.

Buttermilk Substitute

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Alrighty, armed with a substitute for buttermilk: on to the recipe!!

Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe
From How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman


Base Ingredients (All from the Top 25 Must Haves!)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons cold butter (I used about 2.5)
  • 7/8 cups plain yogurt or buttermilk (buttermilk substitute used here was 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. I only used about 7/8 of the combined mixture, as per the recipe)


Garbage Ingredients

  • 6 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons of rosemary 


Making it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • In the bowl of a food processor (if you’ve got one), add dry ingredients and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until butter resembles coarse meal.  I used a hand mixer to mix ‘er up and it was fine.
  • Stir in yogurt or buttermilk (substitute) until dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and add cheese, if desired. Dough will be sticky. Knead dough 10 times and shape into a rectangle, 3/4-inch thick.
  • Drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. You could use biscuit cutters, but I personally think they look cool as drop biscuits.  Some things don’t look good homemade.  Like a couch.  Biscuits do, so dare to drop!  Dough should yield about 10 to 14 biscuits.
  • Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. 



  • Most people eat home-made biscuits as a stand-alone item.  How about using some of the extra biscuits for breakfast in the morning?  Scramble up an egg, heat up a biscuit, and voila: egg biscuit!!  Kudos if you eliminate a Fat Layer by not including cheese on it or cutting down on the amount of cheese you put on it (instead of putting a whole slice of cheese on it, try putting just a bit of shredded cheese on top for flavor).


Nutritional content information is here.

tags: , , ,

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02 Sep

The “Other E” in F…FEVER: Expensive to Buy

Posted in Growin' F...FEVER, Urban Farming / Gardening on 02.09.10 by Octopi

I’ve grown herbs for years now out on the porch. They satisfy the “Other E” in Growin’ F…FEVER too: because they can be Expensive to buy. The ability to just pop out to the porch to grab a bunch of thyme or mint is great! It doesn’t hurt to also think “ha HA! I just saved $4!”

What’s our inventory this summer?

  • Thyme
  • Lavendar
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Dill


When the days grow short and snow starts to fly, I think we’re going to find some window sill real estate in our home for some of our herbs and maybe even try to grow spinach indoors for some year-round tasty goodness! We’ll update you on how that goes.

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