I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Hope It's Great In 2008

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you and in you, may contentment answer all of your wishes.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh and may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day, a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share. May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly upon the many paths that you travel.

May you truly love and be loved.

Author Unknown

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Me at My Absolute "Wurst"

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times, it was the age of mustard, it was the age of pumpernickel rye, it was the epoch of thinly sliced onion……..okay now I’ve just gone way too far. I am sure that Charles Dickens would greatly appreciate me turning “A tale of Two Cities” into a parody about liverwurst. If blame must go to anyone then by all means blame my mother for planting thoughts of liverwurst in my brain.
Each week I bring her something special to eat (of her choosing). During a visit with her yesterday she said that she had a request, she said the next time that I come she would like a liverwurst sandwich on rye with mustard and sliced onions. Then it hit me how long it had been since I had a liverwurst sandwich. I hated liverwurst until I was in my late teens, then later developed a taste for it. So needless to say my mother will not be the only one getting a treat next visit.

I really didn’t think that anyone needed a recipe for a liverwurst sandwich so I perused the web for a nice recipe that has liverwurst as an ingredient, hope it’s good, if not just make the sandwich.

Liverwurst Dip (This actually sounded pretty good)

1 lb. liverwurst (any)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon of beef bouillon granules, diluted in 1 cup of warm water

Mix all ingredients together well.

Serve with bread or crackers

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Woman Bursts Somewhere in NY

Help! Help! I am surrounded by mountains of sugary carbohydrates….. did I mention that they are extremely delicious sugary carbohydrates?
Right now sitting on my kitchen counter I have; "almond paste cookies, oatmeal cranberry cookies, chocolate almond bars filled with sponge cake and almond paste, sour cream chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cookies with white chocolate chunks plus my grandmother’s peanut butter balls”. That does not include the lemon mascarpone Italian cream cake we had at my cousins Christmas Eve or the 7 layer bars and ice box cake we had at my grandmother’s Christmas day. I just felt another pound stick to me just typing their little sugary names. On top of that for the last two days we have been feasting on linguini’s and lasagna’s with seafood and cheeses and meatballs, pork hocks, Italian sausage…….if you see a huge mushroom cloud off in the distance don’t worry, that is just me bursting right out of my skin!
I had better pull myself together so I can be ready to refill over the new years holiday…..
While I am doing that, I just wanted to share one of our holiday cookie recipes with you.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well.
Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Stir in oats, dried cranberries and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

As Paula Deen would say: " Love and Best Dishes, Y'all! (I just love that)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Just Nuts!

What would a holiday be without some good things to nosh on while making merry. This one is quick, easy as well as delicious and addictive. Just don’t forget to save room for dinner!

Nuts Italian Style

4 cups of nuts (any)
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1 envelope Good Seasons mild Italian

Sauté nuts in butter for 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Remove pan form heat and stir in salad dressing mix. Place nuts in single layer to cool.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Feast of How Many Fishes?

One of the things I think we all looked so forward to on Christmas Eve was the seafood table. Everyone would make their contributions to the table. Instead of feast of the seven fishes some times it would end up being more like feast of the twelve fishes. We always had shrimp two ways; cocktail and fried. Then my mother would make two types of calamari, my grandfather and aunt would make their famous clam’s casino. My aunt Lena always made her linguini with red clam sauce. When I was very little and they were more affordable my grandmother would also make lobster dainties with drawn butter. Some dishes would vary from year to year sometimes there would be a seafood chowder or this one here which is so delicious and can encompass a variety of delectable’s from the sea, feel free to make this with the sea foods that you prefer.

Christmas Eve Marinated Seafood Salad

3 pounds of shrimp (30 count size)
3 pounds of large scallops
1 pound of squid
1 small onion diced
10 large cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced, just not too fine
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
Juice of 4 lemons
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 bunch Italian parsley leaves (half will be chopped, the other half will be whole)

Some more delicious but optional suggestions; “olives, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper strips, celery. Some mussels or clams would be lovely as well with or without the shell.

Peel and devein shrimp. Wash and boil in 4 quarts salted water and 10 stems from the parsley. Cook 3-5 minutes. Drain shrimp and shock in cold water, reserve 1 quart of water.
Bring shrimp water to boil. Add scallops. Simmer about 10 minutes. Remove scallops. Cut shrimp lengthwise, cut scallops in half or if large in 4 pieces.
Slice squid into very thin strips or rings. Blanch in boiling shrimp water for 1 minute. Remove, add to shrimp and scallops. Cool boiling liquid a bit, and then pour over seafood - just to cover, in a large shallow pan.
Pick 1/4 cup parsley leaves from stems. Chop up half, keep other half whole. Add olive oil and lemon juice, black pepper, garlic and onions. Mix well and pour evenly over seafood. Shake pan so marinade mixes with seafood and stock. Keep at room temperature 1 hour. Refrigerate 2 days. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before serving, should not be very cold when served.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Red and Green For Christmas

Little bits of red and green make these a perfect cookie for your Christmas table. You can make this cookie dough in advance and have it waiting in your freezer to bake up fresh for the holidays.
I love to make these cookies into little ice cream sandwiches, just put a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or pistachio (my favorite) between two cookies and press gently. You could do up a bunch of these little ice cream sandwiches wrap them with saran and store them in the freezer in a container or freezer bag.

Red and Green Ice Box Cookies

1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 beaten eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 small jar red maraschino cherries, drained
1 small jar of green cherries
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of chopped almonds

Cream shortening, butter add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour, baking powder and salt, cut drained cherries quite fine. Add along with nuts. Make into rolls. Wrap in wax paper or foil. Chill well or freeze and bake later. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Do not over bake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snap, Crackle, Popular

This one is a classic loved by young and old alike and it only takes about 20 minutes to make. Rice Krispie treats are a real crowd pleaser whether presented at your holiday table or given as gifts, this one is sure to make anyone smile.

Rice Krispies for Christmas

1/4 cup butter
4 cups marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

Food Coloring (however many drops it takes to reach your desired color)

Just double this recipe and make one batch red and one batch green. Feel free to add in any type of decorative sprinkle or candy.

Melt butter and marshmallows together; remove from heat (this is when you would stir in your food coloring). Add Rice Krispies (also add candies or sprinkles now, if using) and stir until Rice Krispies are well coated.

Press into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Cool and cut into squares.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Simple Sugar Cookie

Everything has to start somewhere even cookies. Sugar Cookies are the foundation for so many other cookie recipes to build upon. As simple as sugar cookie dough is the number of variations to the recipe over the years is staggering. As a child just gliding that little finger along the inside of the bowl and grabbing some of that sweet gooey batter you knew you were going to cookie heaven.
I have tasted many different sugar cookie recipes over the years (many, many, many different sugar cookies over the years) just ask my waistline! I would have to say this recipe here is my favorite, I really think that the sour cream plays a huge part in the taste and texture of this cookie. It’s a nice combination of crisp and tender, buttery and lightly sweet.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon vanilla or flavoring of choice
5 cups flour

Roll out to about a quarter inch thickness and cut. Bake at 325 to 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly golden. This recipe will make anywhere from 2 to 4 dozen depending on the size you make your cookie.
This recipe will make some great Christmas cut outs with icing, just have fun and enjoy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Peppermint Twist?

Have you been following any of the recent findings stating that the aroma and taste of peppermint can kill our cravings and possibly help us to cut down on our food intake? What about after dinner mints? Are they after dinner mints for a reason is the reason that once you eat the mint you no longer want food or does it suppress our appetites long enough to make it to breakfast without snacking somewhere in between. I guess that explains why there are no “Before Dinner Mints” we’d all starve to death. I was under the assumption that after dinner mints were strictly to refresh our breath after eating………but was there something of much greater significance to human kind lurking just beneath the surface.
So now I am wondering if by adding peppermint to all our chocolate, cheesecakes, cookies, ice creams and even our daily cup of coffee it will enable us to safely consume more because ultimately we’ll consume less…………………..something deep to ponder. Perhaps I better study this further by making and eating things containing peppermint and get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Super Moist Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup self rising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (opt.)
1/2 cup of crushed peppermint candies to decorate the top or to mix in (this would normally be optional but adding more peppermint might just stop us from eating these brownies all together).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and peppermint extract in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with mixer one minute, after each addition. In small mixer bowl, combine flour, cocoa and salt. Add to egg mixture and beat well. Fold in nuts, if desired. Pour into a well greased 9"x9"x2" baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

She's Got A Lot of Balls!

The first time I ever got tipsy I was the ripe old age of four. When I was little we would stop and visit friends and family during the day on Christmas Eve to spread and share some holiday cheer.
Apparently as it has been told to me over and over again throughout my life at one of the houses we went to I got into a batch of rum balls. I did not know that’s what they were; to me they were chocolate candy and very good chocolate candy at that. Everyone was so busy chatting that they did not notice this four year old covered in chocolate swaying and silly in the corner. I guess I had eaten quite a few and she had made them exceptionally strong not intending for a child to eat them. I slept very well that evening and well into early afternoon on Christmas Day. My families lecture about the effects of alcohol and eating so much candy ended in laughter. You see in order to explain why I had eaten so many I innocently said; “Because that lady had a lot of balls”!

Rum Balls

2 boxes (12 oz ea.) vanilla wafers, crushed
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cup light or dark rum (also great with bourbon or other spirit of your choosing)
2 cups light or dark corn syrup

Cocoa powder, powdered sugar, shredded coconut or jimmies for coating
Stir vanilla wafer crumbs, nuts, confectioner’s sugar and unsweetened cocoa. Stir in light or dark rum, corn syrup and citrons (optional) until well blended. Shape into 1 inch balls.
Roll in coating of your choice, makes 8-9 dozen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

That' s The Fastest Turtle I've Ever Seen!

My grandmother has started to do her holiday baking this week she is making her date nut breads, next week it will either be the pizzelles, sesame cookies or some type of candy. My grandmother has to pace herself with her baking these days because she tires more quickly than she use to but still loves it because it keeps her busy.
I think for most of us this time of year can be quite tiring given the quantity of baking, cooking and candy making most of us will be doing. Probably with the economy the way it is it would be in all our best interests to give more gifts from the kitchen.
So over the next few weeks, I thought I would sneak in some really fun, quick and inexpensive holiday treat recipes that you can make a lot of with the least amount of effort and that have a pretty good shelf life. So even if you start making or baking now they’ll still be fresh for the serving, eating and gift giving later.

Easy Turtles Candies

What you will need:

1 bag of Rolo candies
1 bag of Snyder's of Hanover square shaped butter pretzels 1 bag of pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Unwrap Rolo candies and place in bowl for later.
2. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
3. Lay down the pretzels onto the cookie sheet. You can get approx. 50-60 to a cookie sheet.
4. Set a Rolo on each pretzel.
5. Place in oven to soften Rolo’s, approximately 3 minutes. Check occasionally, do not let them melt.
6. Take out of oven.
7. Push a pecan half on top of each Rolo
8. Set in a cool area or fridge to harden.
9. Remove from wax paper and store in bag or container, they stay at their best when kept cold.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sage Advice

I love the color of sage; I actually just painted my kitchen a lovely shade of sage green. But I can’t say that I have always loved some of the foods that I have had that have been made using sage. Prime example; “Stuffing”, this thanksgiving the stuffing mix purchased from the store that was used to fill our holiday bird was actually medicinal. I’m not sure how much sage they put into those bread cubes but I can guarantee you that it was way too much.
My grandmother gave me a little sage advice on the usage of the powerful herb. My grandmother would say; “always use about a quarter less sage than what the recipe calls for and the taste should be perfect”. I have actually taken her advice and she was right. If a particular recipe calls for a teaspoon of sage I will cut that back to 3/4’s of a teaspoon. When it comes to using sage in a recipe less truly is more.

Sage Buttermilk Corn Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of butter, melted
3 tablespoons of minced fresh sage or 1 tablespoon of dried sage or my grandmother’s way….2 -3/4 tablespoons fresh or 3/4 of a tablespoon dried.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Make a hole in center. Mix buttermilk, eggs, butter and sage; add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pans and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Yield 1 1/2 dozen.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Whatever You Call It Soup

This is such a comforting recipe at any time but especially now with the cold weather returning. The hot steamy broth and the soft chewy dumplings are just a match made in heaven. I am not sure how this recipe found its way into our family from what I understand this soup was a staple of Bavaria and a friend of mine said Germany as well.
I cannot pronounce these too well but liver dumpling soup is also called; “Leberklosse or leberknodel”, whatever your family calls it; it still feels good going down.

Liver Dumpling Soup

4 to 6 cups of homemade or canned chicken, vegetable or beef broth
Season to taste

Put in pot and set to a medium simmer


1 lb. liver, ground, (may use either chicken or beef liver, the chicken tends to be milder in flavor.
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. minced onion, brown in 1/2 cup of butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp. flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients. Mold in balls the size of walnuts, using flour on the fingers. Drop into simmering broth and let simmer for 25-30 minutes then enjoy.

Add scallions or fresh parsley at the end for a little extra flavor.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Great Gift Find for Those With Noshtalgic Tastebuds

We just found the most amazing cookbook with so many of the comfort foods that we love and remember from our past, it is called “Endangered Recipes Cookbook”. You will not believe some of the recipes in here; “Macaroni and cheese, tomato soup, banana pudding, ginger bread” the list goes on and on and brings with it so many great memories. My grandmother is going to love adding this to her collection.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

May I Please Have Your Turkey Carcass?

When my friend Pamm was little her mother always made turkey carcass soup with the Thanksgiving Day dinner remains. This became one of Pamm’s favorite things and a tradition that she did not take lightly.
One thanksgiving Pamm’s father decided to give his wife a break from cooking and took her and Pamm out for thanksgiving dinner. This did not make Pamm happy, nothing tasted good at the restaurant, it just wasn’t like her mother’s especially when it came to the pumpkin chiffon pie that she was accustom to.
But it wasn’t until they got home that it hit her that because her mother hadn’t cooked a turkey that there was no carcass for her to make Pamm’s favorite turkey soup. Now poor Pamm who is in absolute panic mode did the only thing that a little girl could do in desperate times to keep a tradition alive………she got a brown paper bag and went door to door and asked her neighbors if they had any turkey carcasses and if so could she have them so her mother could make turkey soup. Four of these neighbors took pity on Pamm and gave up their dinners skeletal remains. Now happy and skipping back home with four turkey carcasses in her bag so pleased with her ingenuity all was right with her world again, until..... Apparently while Pamm was out telling her sad story and gathering her carcasses, people were calling her mother asking if they had fallen on hard times and was there anything that they could do. This highly embarrassed her mother and made her a little angry at first and Pamm did get sent to her room. But in the end she got her soup and all these years later Pamm is still getting her turkey carcass soup, the only thing that has changed is the person who prepares it (that would be me).

Turkey Carcass Soup
In Memory of Pamm's Mother

1 turkey carcass
2 onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup of rice or pasta
Salt & pepper to taste

In enough water to cover carcass boil carcass for 2 hours. Pick meat from bones. Strain broth and return broth and meat to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Noshtalgia Turns A Year Old Today!

I cannot believe a whole year has passed since publishing my first post.
I’ve had the best time traveling through this blogosphere and have met some truly wonderful and talented people along the way. I would love to thank each and every one of you who have visited and shared your stories and recipes. But I have to give a special thanks to a few people who at the very beginning believed in what Noshtalgia had to offer and began spreading the word to others. Because of their belief and generosity Noshtalgia has been able to grow into this wonderful keepsake of memories and recipes to be shared by all.

A special thanks to: Glenna from; “A Fridge Full of Food”
Mimi from; “A French Kitchen in America”
& Chef John from; “Foodwishes”

I will always be grateful and look forward to
another year down memory lane.

Sincerely, Julie

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sweet Roots

One thanksgiving many years ago we took a diversion from our traditional thanksgiving celebration and spent it with a group of cousins that we hadn’t seen in years. They had chosen to do a potluck type dinner. Our cousins provided the turkey and ham and a place for all of us to gather. The rest of us were in charge of bringing the sides, desserts and a wide array of family favorites. It was a good time had by all, many of us trying to figure out our connection to each other and what branch of the family tree we dangled from. The food always seemed to provide many of the answers to some of those questions. When those familiar tastes would melt over our tongues and all at once across the table all you could hear was a chorus full of sighs and ummmmmms and I remember this and didn’t aunt so and so or grandma so and so make that when we were children?
Everything was so delicious and each bite brought back the memories of those who had touched our lives so deeply.
I enjoyed the entire experience and one particular side dish that kept me going back for more was a dish that was actually made by a friend of one of my cousins. This was a recipe for a sweet potato casserole that was created by her aunt who had found a delicious use for cornflakes.

Sweet Potato Casserole

8 already baked sweet potatoes with skins removed (Just place whole sweet potatoes on a cookies sheet, prick with fork, lightly rub skins with oil and bake at 400 degrees for one hour).

1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of milk

Lightly smash the sweet potatoes and stir in the next four ingredients. Place all of this into a buttered 3 quart casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sprinkle with topping mixture (below) and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

1 cup of brown sugar1 cup of pecans, chopped2/3 cup of crushed cornflakes
1/2 cup of butter, cut into pieces

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crinkle, Crinkle Little.........Cookie

There was this little cookie shop in one of our local shopping malls that use to make the best chocolate crinkles. They were a really good size cookie, about 4 inches in diameter and about 3/4 of an inch thick. I bring up the size merely to point out the fact that one cookie should have been enough to satisfy me but they were so good I have actually eaten 3 or 4 at a sitting (Just call me El Pork-O). After awhile it was easy to get this cookie monster thing under control, I would just stay away from the shopping mall.
But then one fateful day, while taking a healthful well paced walk through town this wonderful aroma came wafting my way. Well what do you know, someone opened a really cute little bakery and what’s that in the window along side all the other mouth watering goodies? Crinkles! Chocolate Crinkles, Lemon Crinkles, Vanilla Crinkles and my new favorite, Ginger Crinkles. I’m going to have to do a lot more walking and preferably in a different direction.

Ginger Crinkles

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Extra granulated sugar, for rolling

Pre-heat oven to 350

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Blend in molasses and egg. Sift together the dry ingredients; add to butter mixture and beat well. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for at least 3 minutes, until cookies are set, makes about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Relishing the Thought of Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and it’s time to start deciding on which of the family favorites will be gracing the table this year. I was going through my cupboard and noticed a can of the jellied cranberry sauce which I do like but I thought this year I would much rather have my grandmother’s uncooked version of cranberry relish. It has such a nice bite to it. It’s not too tart and not too sweet; it has a wonderful crunchy texture and does a great job at cutting through some of the richness of the other foods and creating a nice balance. What is also great about this relish is that it can last way beyond the thanksgiving fare and grace many different dishes and still be around for Christmas (well maybe if you make a double batch).

Meema’s Uncooked Cranberry Relish

1 lb. cranberries
1 whole orange
2 cups sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon of salt, this is optional but the salt really does heighten the flavor.

Grind cranberries. Grind all of orange (skin too) except inner white part, just the colored zest in food processor or blender. After grinding place in bowl add sugar, salt and walnuts then stir together well. Place in covered jars or covered plastic containers, refrigerate and allow to sit 2 days before using.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Here's a "Rarebit" of Nostalgia For All To Enjoy

Here is something that came up in conversation the other day. How many of you remember taking home economics class in high school? Talk about a blast from the past; “sewing, cooking, entertaining, housekeeping even learning proper etiquette”. I remember not minding home economics as long as we were doing something related to the kitchen and cooking. I absolutely hated sewing, I never felt a desire to sew and besides all that I had an aunt who was a seamstress, so I felt that I was already pretty secure in the sewing department. Plus the fact that the blouse we had to make to be graded on required both sleeves to be the same length……unlike mine which was a combination of a long sleeve on one arm and a much, much longer sleeve on the other arm. For some reason I got a very poor grade on that blouse but I always knew I was guaranteed of bringing my grade up when we got to the cooking portion of class. One of the first recipes that we were taught was for “Welsh Rarebit”. Up to that day I had never had Welsh Rarebit before, I had heard of it……granted I could have sworn that it was called; “Welsh Rabbit…….a meat dish”? Imagine my surprise when I realized that it was really toasted bread with a delicious cheese sauce poured over it.
Anyhow, I got an “A” on my Welsh Rarebit technique and discovered a new and delicious food to eat in the process.

Welsh Rarebit

4 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of prepared mustard
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated ( Swiss Cheese also makes for a great rarebit)
1 cup Ginger Ale or beer (During my school days it was ginger ale, now I go straight for the beer).
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt butter, seasonings and cheese in a double boiler until cheese is soft. Add beer and slowly add eggs. Cook until thick. Serve very hot on toast points, will serve 6 people nicely.

Friday, November 9, 2007

They've Turned Me Into a Flan-atic

My family in California taught me their recipe for “California Flan”. I believe that the only reason that it is called this is because the people who are making it are from California. This recipe is similar to a great many flan recipes that are already out there. Don’t get me wrong this is a really good recipe, I have had flan on different occasions and some were better than others. I find some recipes for flan to be overly complicated, this one is not and it is also very smooth and creamy unlike some that are a little gelatinous. I would have to say that my family turned me into a big fan of flan.

California Flan

3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Place sugar in a small heavy skillet. Heat slowly until sugar melts and turns golden brown (watch carefully, it will caramelize quickly). Pour into a warm 1 quart baking dish. Tip and turn the dish quickly to coat the bottom and sides thinly. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until foamy. Stir in the milk and beat it until well blended. Add the water and vanilla. Stir again. Pour into the caramel coated dish. Set the dish in a larger baking pan on the oven shelf. Pour 1 inch of boiling water in the larger pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour at 300 degrees until almost set, but still soft. Do not over bake, as it will set as it cools. Remove at once from the pan of water and cool on a wire rack. Chill. When ready to serve, loosen sides with a knife and invert onto a plate.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

That Doesn't Taste Like A Tomato.....

Yes they do look an awful lot like tomatoes but that is definitely where the similarity ends. I think the flavor varies a little by variety but for the most part they taste like a spicy pumpkin, I mean spicy like cinnamon and clove.
In America we call them Persimmons but in Israel they are known as the Sharon Fruit. Persimmons have been historically labeled as the fruit of the Gods.
They can be eaten like an apple but their skin tends to be a little tough but is quite easy to peel.
I have tried persimmons at different times in my life and haven’t always enjoyed the experience. I think mainly because I may not have always had them at their proper ripeness. But those poor experiences have only been when eating them as is. I have always loved their flavor when used in recipes. I think one of the most common uses is a pudding which tends to be served as holiday fare for some families. But persimmons can be used in just about anything; “Breads, cookies, salads”. As far as the pudding goes I have heard people talk about many variations. One friend said that their family makes their persimmon pudding with corn meal rather than white flour. My family has never made persimmon pudding that I know of so I had to pick the brains of those around me and this is the recipe that I landed on, it is really quite good.

Persimmon Pudding

3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups persimmon pulp
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick butter,melted

Wash persimmons well, removing stem and force pulp through a colander. Beat together first four ingredients. Add persimmon pulp. Sift dry ingredients together and add to persimmon mixture. Stir in vanilla and butter. Bake in greased 9 x 13 inch pan at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Where's The Beef?

Until spending time with an old friend many years ago I had never heard of any other style of stroganoff other than beef stroganoff. While at my friends house her and her mother got to reminiscing about the stroganoff her mother made using ham. They went on and on about how good it was and it made us all so hungry just talking about it we ended up having to run to the store for the ingredients. It took her mother no time at all to put this meal together and let me tell you it was delicious. Now I have another great use for leftover ham.

Ham Stroganoff

1 lb. cooked ham, cut into strips
1/2 chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter
1 small can cream of mushroom soup (do not dilute)
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms, not drained
1 (8 oz.) sour cream
1 pound bag of Extra Wide Egg Noodles

Sauté ham and onion in butter until onion is tender. Stir in soup and mushrooms; cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in sour cream and cook just until thoroughly heated. Serve over Egg Noodles

Friday, November 2, 2007

Empanadas for Dessert

I had the pleasure of meeting a gentlemen who runs a very successful Empanada business along with his family. Luckily for me he sells his delicious empanadas at our public farmers market, so now I know where to stop for a delicious little nosh while shopping. His main focus is savory empanadas; beef, pork and chicken. There are also a few breakfast varieties and meatless versions as well. But what really caught my eye was one of his seasonal dessert empanadas made with apples. Being right in the middle of the farmers market, surrounded by all those fresh picked apples I knew this was going to be good. It came to me still warm with just a light dusting of powdered sugar. A nice crisp day, a warm apple empanada and a steaming hot cup of dark roast coffee……there’s really nothing left to say.

Apple Empanadas

8 cups sliced apples
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons of apple pie spice

2 tablespoons of butter
3 teaspoons of cornstarch plus ½ cup of water

Filling: Bring first four ingredients to a boil for 45 minutes until apples are soft. Add cornstarch to 1/2 cup of water, add cornstarch mixture to filling to thicken, add butter and allow filling to cool before making your empanadas.

6 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup of Warm water

Dough: Make dough like you would for flour tortillas (just mix ingredients together and knead until dough is smooth). Let it stand for 10 minutes. Make balls (whatever size you wish your empanadas to be, then roll out into a flat round disk) Put filling in center, fold one side over. Press sides with fork to seal. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until done.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy at Halloween

My father was never big on holidays so Halloween is special to me because it was one of the few holidays my father got some pleasure out of. Growing up we lived on the second floor of a double house in the city. At Halloween time my Parents and I always got a pumpkin. My father actually loved picking out the pumpkin; I wouldn’t have to even beg for a big one, on his own he would pick out the biggest one he could possibly carry. One year he picked out a pumpkin that was so big he literally had to roll it up our two flights of stairs. First we would cut off the top and scoop out all the seeds. While my mother cleaned the seeds to get ready for the oven, my father and I would get to carving. It was great fun and we came up with some pretty scary faces for our pumpkin. Then afterwards we would enjoy the warm salty pumpkin seeds fresh from the oven…..good memory.

Seeds from Pumpkin
Buttered cookie sheet (oil is fine)

Wash seeds from Pumpkin. Spread on buttered cookie sheet. Toast at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with salt. Eat crunchy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lazy Babies Get Cooked in Oven.....For More details, Tune into The 11 o'clock news......Yes, I am Kidding!

My great aunt Mimi really enjoyed nibbling on baby back ribs; it was always such a treat for her. Normally my aunt would always get her baby backs at a local restaurant or at someone’s home if invited and baby back ribs just happened to be on their menu. Making them herself was a different story all together, you see and I do say this lovingly; “My aunt was energetically challenged”! If it wasn’t really, really easy to do, make, prepare etc…. then she wasn’t doing it. When any type of recipe was extremely labor intensive to make she would rely on my grandmother (her sister) to make it. Which in itself was fine because my grandmother always enjoyed cooking for the family plus she was and still is the complete opposite of my aunt, my grandmother is loaded with energy. To this day at age 88 she can walk faster than most of us that are much younger than her and still spends all day in the kitchen cooking. So whenever a recipe came along that listed very few ingredients and required very little preparation time, you would actually get to see my aunt make a mad dash for the kitchen.

Lazy Babies (baby back ribs with and oriental twist)

2-4 pounds baby back ribs
1 cup of honey (any)
1 jar hoisin sauce
8 cloves garlic

Chop garlic or press garlic. Place ribs in roaster pan. Pour hoisin sauce and honey over ribs, dot with garlic. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Me getting all "Sappy"!

I just love the taste of maple syrup. We have so many maple producing counties here in New York each tapping into some unique usage for that sweet sticky sap. I tend to enjoy the dark amber grade when I can get it but I’m not fussy, I’ll take any grade as long as it’s pure maple syrup. There are so many uses for maple syrup beyond being a great pancake and waffle topper. Maple syrup is showing up in many recipes featuring meats, cakes, candies, pies and even vegetables.
I just found a place in Vermont that actually makes vodka from distilled maple sap. I have also come across, in my internet travels versions of Mead (honey wine) made with maple syrup rather than honey. I have found some recipes for making your own Maple Mead online but it looks like it can be quite costly. There are several places that make their own versions of maple mead that are far more affordable without all the work.

Maple Syrup Pie

4 eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups whipping or heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds brown sugar
2 tablespoons. butter, softened
3 unbaked pie shells

Beat eggs. Whisk in next 4 ingredients, one at a time. Pour into pie shells and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until knife inserted into middle comes out clean. This is an extremely easy pie to make and you will get three pies from this one recipe.
I know for obvious reasons that this pie sounds incredibly sweet. It is a very rich pie but it is also very light in taste and texture, so it is quite enjoyable and satisfying only having a small slice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Apples in a Blanket of Caramel....Yum!

When I was little my mother and I would always make Kraft Caramel Apples. We always did it one or two days before Halloween (under the guise that we would pass them out when family and friends stopped by for Trick-or-Treat). For some reason we never seemed to have enough to go around (I wonder why)? We had a hard enough time leaving them alone to let the caramel harden. It’s really hard to resist warm buttery caramel especially when mixed with the flavor and texture of a sweet, tart, crisp apple. Other than putting the sticks into the apples and removing the cellophane from all the caramels to put in the saucepan to melt, they really were a very easy treat to make. Well now I guess they are even easier thanks to the microwave oven. I don’t think it really makes much difference the only plus I can see using the microwave instead of the stovetop would be less chance of scorching the caramel.

Microwave Kraft Caramel Apples

4 or 5 medium size apples
Wooden sticks
1 (14 oz.) bag Kraft caramels
2 tbsp. water

Wash and dry apples; insert stick into stem end of each apple. Microwave caramels and water in small, deep glass bowl on high 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes, stirring after each minute until sauce is smooth (if caramel sauce is too thin, let stand about 2 minutes before dipping apples). Dip apples into hot caramel sauce; turn until coated. Scrape excess sauce from bottom of apples. Place on greased wax paper. Store in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving to allow caramel to soften. Increase amounts according to number of caramel apples you wish to make.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"They Did The Mash"

With Halloween approaching what could be more fun than making some homemade candy. Here is a version of candy that has been passed down from generations and from many different cultures. This is candy that is made from mashed potatoes and is surprisingly very rich and delicious. Many of my friends have fond memories of being in the kitchen with their mothers and making this very sweet treat. A lot of times I have heard it referred to as” Irish Potato Candy” but my family and friends seem to know it as “Mashed Potato Candy”. I believe that there is also a version where you can add peppermint extract or oil and turn it into a sort of mint fudge. I’m sure with some experimentation one could probably come up with several unique flavor sensations. The mashed potatoes and powdered sugar could be the backdrop for some really interesting recipes.

Peanut Butter Mashed Potato Pinwheels

2 (1 lb.) boxes powdered sugar
1/2 cup hot mashed potatoes, drained
1 small jar crunchy peanut butter

Mix sifted sugar into potatoes a little at a time by hand. (Don't panic when potatoes liquefy as the first sugar is added. This is what it's supposed to do. Just keep adding sugar until it is pastry consistency.) Sprinkle wax paper with additional powdered sugar. Take baseball-sized ball of mixture and roll out like pastry. Spread with peanut butter and roll like a jelly roll. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap; chill and slice.
Makes 2 rolls.

Here is another version of candy using mashed potatoes, chocolate and coconut that tastes just like a mounds candy bar.

Mounds Mashed Potato Candy

4 cups coconut
3/4 cup cooked, cold mashed potatoes
1 lb. powdered sugar
6 oz. chocolate chips
a small piece of paraffin, optional but does seem to hold up better with that little bit of wax.

Mix the first 3 ingredients together. Shape into balls the size of a walnut. Let dry on wax paper. Melt chips and paraffin on low heat. Dip balls into chocolate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Afternoon Dunks With Peepa

My grandfather (Peepa) was a “Dunker” he loved dunking everything in his cup of coffee, he’d even dunk his morning toast. When I was little I would sit with him while he had his afternoon coffee and cookie and want very much to imitate him. My grandmother (Meema) would bring me a cup of milk with 2 or 3 teaspoons of coffee in it, this way I could be all grown up and have coffee and cookies with my grandfather. Peepa’s favorite cookies to dunk were Meema’s “Italian Sesame Cookies”; he liked them because they were hard and stood up well to being submerged in his hot coffee. Needless to say the seeds would be floating on the top when he was done dunking but that did not stop him from drinking every last drop. I on the other hand developed early on the inability to drink any liquid with “Things” floating in it, to this day I still cannot drink my cereal milk and everyone says that’s the best part. My grandfather would always try to get me to drink what was in my cup telling me how good it is and it would be a shame to waste it. Then my grandfather would completely gross me out by drinking what was left of mine but that never kept me from my afternoon dunks with Peepa.

Meema’s Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
Into bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add egg yolks, milk and vanilla; with fork, mix until dough holds together. Knead several times, or until smooth.
For each cookie, shape rounded tablespoonful of dough into an oval, to resemble little loaf of bread. Roll in sesame seeds, coating completely. Place on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. Let cool on wire rack, this recipe should make around 2 dozen cookies.

These cookies are also good with wine.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Berry, Berry Good Pie

Its blackberry picking time a really fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. Picking your own really is the way to go, you save a huge amount of money. Plus by picking your own you select nothing but the finest, plumpest, juiciest berries so you know there won’t be any bad ones at the bottom of the basket when you get home.
Just check with any of your local farms, most of them have pick your own times for their seasonal crops such as apples, pumpkins, squash and every variety of berry.
The people that run the farm we had gone to had little recipe cards done up for you to take. These were recipes that their family have made and enjoyed for years using the produce picked fresh from their farm. I love this blackberry sour cream pie, it’s so easy to make but it tastes like you either spent all day making it or spent a ton of money purchasing it from some high end bakery….it really tastes that good.

Blackberry Sour Cream Pie

4 cups fresh blackberries
1 unbaked 9" pie shell
1-1/4 cups of Sugar, plus a couple tablespoons to sprinkle on the top.
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream

Place blackberries in pie shell. Sift 1 1/4 cups sugar, flour, salt and sour cream into a bowl; mix well. Pour over blackberries. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes longer. Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Clafouti in Autumn

The cherries had their chance to wade in a pool of clafouti batter, now it is the apples turn to take the plunge. Like I had said in an earlier post on cherry clafouti you can use just about any fruit you can think of, preferably fresh fruit but reconstituted dry fruit works as well.
We just hear cherries mentioned so often in regards to clafouti because cherries are what it was traditionally made with.
But autumn is such a wonderful season rich in its own unique bounty why not use some of it to bring some new flavors to old favorites.

Apple Clafouti

1 1/4 lb. apples, peeled, cored and cut lengthwise in slices about 1/4inch thick (any variety)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark rum (apple brandy is also good, use what you like)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all purpose flour
Confectioners sugar for dusting, optional

Cook and stir apples in butter until lightly browned, then macerate (soak) 1/2 hour with rum, cinnamon and half the sugar.
Heat oven to 350 degrees, butter 10 inch round baking dish, put remaining ingredients except flour and confectioners sugar in blender and blend a few seconds. Add flour and blend until no lumps are left. If doing it by hand, make a hole in center and you add a bit of milk mixture at a time, stirring, until you have a smooth paste. Cover and let rest while the fruit is macerating.
Drain fruit, reserving the liquid and spread prepared fruit evenly over buttered dish. Add reserved liquid to batter and blend until smooth, using a wire whisk. Then pour batter over fruit and bake until puffed and brown; a sharp knife should come clean out of the middle, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle top with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.
This Clafoutis is best served warm or at least at room temperature.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Won't Turnip My Nose At This Recipe

I have to admit that turnips have never been one of my favorite things to eat How they are prepared has a great deal to do with whether or not I will eat them. I do enjoy turnip greens but the roots tend to leave me fussy. I had a friend that preferred boiled mashed turnips and butter over mashed potatoes. When I ate there, I would have a little to be polite but would have much preferred the mashed potatoes. I did enjoy turnips that had been cooked in combination with other roots roasted in duck fat (those were delicious). Maybe I need some strong flavors to mask or add to the taste a bit.
To me turnips taste like a cross between a watery flavorless potato and a radish mixed together, kind of blah.
But now that turnips are at there peak for picking I thought it would be wrong not to come up with a way to enjoy some. This recipe is very easy to make and the simple addition of Dijon mustard and cracked black pepper gives it enough kick to suit my taste buds. I think you will enjoy them this way as well.

Turnips Baked in Dijon Mustard

4 or 5 small to medium turnips peeled and sliced (about ½ inch thick)
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice turnips in half. Mix mustard and butter, spread on turnips. Place turnips in shallow baking dish and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake until tender.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Biscuits Made With Beer

I have always loved using beer batter when I make onion rings or fried fish; it’s always so light and flavorful. Well you should see the wonderful effect beer has on biscuits. The yeast and hops in the beer cause these biscuits to be so tender and fluffy that they just melt in your mouth. I was amazed at the results not to mention the flavor. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Beer Biscuits
4 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
8 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup shortening
12 oz. can beer, room temperature (any)

Sift flour, salt and baking powder; cut in shortening. Add beer and knead 10 times; roll out 1/2 inch thick. Use 2 inch cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

AppleUmpkin Time

Apples, apples, and more apples sure it’s apple season but it is also time for “Pumpkins”.
Sure pumpkin pie is great but there are so many other ways to use it. There is pumpkin soup and pumpkin ravioli, how about just simply roasting some pumpkin and serving it as a side dish. Its fun, healthy and a gorgeous shade of orange. Apples go great with pumpkin. My aunt use to cube up fresh pumpkin and thick slice some granny smith apples and fry them in lots of butter. They were great with just a little salt and pepper or if you prefer cinnamon and nutmeg. The possibilities are endless.

Pumpkin Dip

4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 (8 oz. each) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 small to medium pumpkin peeled and cubed then boiled or roasted or 1 (30 oz.) can pumpkin pie filling mix (easy version) still tastes great.
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
just a pinch of salt for added taste (also optional)
clove, optional
nutmeg, optional

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and cream cheese, beating until well blended. Beat in remaining ingredients. Store in airtight container in refrigerator (stays fresh for 7-10 days). Serve with vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, animal crackers, pretzels…..believe it or not it even tastes good with celery sticks. Have fun and experiment with different things to dip, you never know what will be delicious until you try.

This dip is really pretty served in a small hollowed out pumpkin.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's Chili-Mac To The Rescue!

When the day seems to get away from you and you want a hearty hot dinner without all the fuss. Think chili and macaroni, it’s an easy to make comforting meal that the whole family can enjoy. This was always a favorite with the kids and the adults when I was growing up and still is all these years later..... and really great the next day reheated.

Chili Mac

8 oz. elbow macaroni
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 can kidney beans
1 pound ground beef
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook macaroni. Brush large skillet with oil, add ground beef and onion, brown. Add macaroni, water, chili powder, salt and kidney beans. Cover, simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Top with cheese, heat until cheese melts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Red-Hot Memories

Boy did this bring back memories. Do you remember eating applesauce as a kid made with Red-Hot candies? That use to be my favorite kind of applesauce. I haven’t had applesauce this way in years but low and behold they had it in the hospital cafeteria of all places. I brought some up to my mother; she got a real kick out of it. Brought back some good memories for her as well, left her with a smile on her face.

Red-Hot Applesauce

3/4 cup water
12 medium apples (any variety)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red- hot candies

Wash, peel and core apples; cut into quarters. Slice into two or three pieces and place in saucepan. Add water; cover. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; add red- hot candies and sugar. Stir until red- hot candies dissolve.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Feeling "Souper"

My mother is still battling some very serious health problems. We’ve been at the hospital for the best part of the last three weeks. After several trial and error procedures they finally hit upon something that actually gave my mother some relief. My mother’s appetite has returned and her first moment of happiness came in the form of a steamy hot bowl of broccoli cheese soup. As her sense of well being improved she dabbled with great gusto into a hamburger on a grilled bun with a slice of tomato, a sprinkling of black pepper and an extra douse of ketchup (my mother loves ketchup). My mother as with most of us has always taken great pleasure and delight in all areas of food. Whether it is looking, buying, preparing, sharing or the best part of all….Eating! I too share her same passion for all that is edible but in this instance my greatest joy came from a little bowl of broccoli cheese soup and the joy on my mother’s face while eating it.

Broccoli Cheese Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup diced celery (optional)
1 cup diced onion
20 oz. bag frozen broccoli
2 cans cream of chicken soup (cream of mushroom also works well)
1 pound cubed Velveeta cheese (or a mix of different cheeses)

Cook covered, the broth, celery, and onion for 20 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until tender. Add chicken soup and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted and soup is hot.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Apple Of My Eye

Its apple time… just one of the great things about fall. The air is crisp; we get to bring out our favorite cozy sweaters. The apple cider is flowing; our kitchens are warm from the heat of some glorious apple dessert baking in the oven while the scent of cinnamon fills our lungs. Fall is also a pleasant reminder of my Aunt Jay’s Apple Cake. We always knew at this time of year when we got to Aunt Jay’s house there would be one resting on a beautiful plate just waiting to be sliced. I realize that there is nothing unique about an apple cake to speak of, with so many versions out there, most of which are absolutely delicious. But there is something really special about this one. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the love and memories associated with it or……..this cake just really tastes awfully good. I’ll let you be the judge!

Aunt Jay’s Apple Cake

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 egg whites
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup apple juice
2 cups flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups peeled and chopped apples (any variety will do but granny smiths seem to work best).
1/2 cup chopped nuts (she always used walnuts)

Beat sugar and oil; add eggs and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Stir in juice. Mix dry ingredients together. Add to egg mixture. Gently stir in apples and nuts. Pour batter into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan (may also use Bundt pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm. May be sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Monday, September 17, 2007

When my mother received her dinner tray the other night her dessert was one I hadn’t had in such a long time. They gave my mother a little parfait cup with Banana Pudding made with the traditional vanilla wafers. The only thing the hospital did that was different from what I remembered was add a sprinkling of nutmeg to the top. I have to say that the nutmeg was a nice touch and really added something special to the pudding.

Old-Time Banana Pudding

3 1/2 Tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups of sugar
Dash of salt
3 eggs, separated
3 cups of milk
1 Teaspoon of vanilla
1 (12 oz.) pkg. vanilla wafers
6 medium bananas
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons of sugar
A Sprinkle of Nutmeg for the top of each serving (optional)

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan. Beat egg yolks. Combine egg yolks and milk, mixing well. Stir into dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Layer one third of wafers in a 1 quart baking dish. Slice 2 bananas. Layer over wafers. Repeat twice. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add vanilla. Spread on filling and bake at 250 degrees until light brown.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Okra is Okay

Okra is one of those things I learned to love as I got older. My first impression of okra was not a good one. My mother had purchased some frozen okra (you know the ones in those little square boxes); she decided to serve it as something different to have with dinner. It was different all right, it looked like it was floating in raw egg whites (which I later learned was called okra slime); “Boy, doesn’t that sound appetizing”. Needless to say none of us ate it and for years to come I just assumed that okra was something that I would prefer not to eat. Until a friend of mine asked me to try okra fried in cornmeal, I hesitated a little but clearly it had no slime attached, to my surprise it was quite tasty. I did not realize what good flavor okra had. So now I am a big fan of okra and use it often in a variety of dishes.

Okra, Corn and Tomato Skillet

3 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 lb. okra, sliced
4 to 5 ears white corn (could use canned or frozen if you prefer)
3 medium tomatoes, diced (canned diced would be fine)
1/2 stick butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Fry bacon, remove from pan. Sauté onions until limp but not brown; remove from pan. Add okra, which has been washed and sliced; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add corn which has been cut from cobs, butter, tomatoes and cooked onion and bacon. Toss lightly; cook about 5 minutes. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Do not over cook! Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Has Your Garden Grown?

At this time of year many people are reaping the rewards of the gardens they have sown. Usually it’s the overload of zucchini’s that gets people desperate for recipes. But I have noticed that this year a lot of people have had great success with their eggplant crop. A friend of my cousin’s garden produced some of the most beautiful eggplant I have ever seen and a lot of it. Instead of the usual eggplant preparations (you know the ones; “fried, sauced, melted mozzarella”). Hey, I’d be the last one to put that version down; I’ve eaten eggplant that way every week of my life since childhood. But I just thought it would be nice to do something different…..well if you call using Bisquick again different.
I am calling this one a Beignet only because it sounds fancier than a Fritter. But in actuality Beignet is French for Fritter. Anyhow no matter what you choose to call them; “Beignets', Fritters or Doughnuts, one thing's for sure…. You will always call them good.

Eggplant Beignets’

3 med. size eggplant
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1 1/2 cups Bisquick
Oil for frying

Peel eggplants; boil until tender. Mash well. Add sugar; let cool. Add egg and Bisquick until stiff enough to drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fry until golden brown; drain on brown paper or paper towel, serve hot.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tangy Broccoli Salad

I’ve been spending a good part of the last couple weeks at the hospital with my mother. My mother’s health took a pretty bad turn but with a battery of tests and a variety of treatments she seems to be stable. Her mood is good and her appetite is even better (always a good sign)! The meals that she receives are extraordinary, the portions are generous and the food is actually delicious. Hospital food and delicious are words you rarely hear together in the same sentence. My mother has taken great joy in sharing some of her food with me and even with that there is still food left on the tray when they come to pick it up. Well today while she was having a procedure done my family and I decided to hit the cafeteria while we waited. As soon as you walk into the cafeteria the first thing that you see is the salad bar. On the salad bar today they had something that caught my eye. It was a beautiful broccoli salad with lots of crisp fresh bacon, red onion, cheddar cheese and a sweet and sour type dressing. My uncle and I each got a bowl of this. I was going crazy; this salad was one of the best things I had ever tasted. My uncle said it tasted just like the broccoli salad that his sister-in-law Cathy makes, so I told him that I must get the recipe. I could eat a big bowl of this everyday and be quite content. Turns out Cathy got her recipe from a jar of “Kraft Miracle Whip Salad Dressing”. Cathy said she also adds a little shredded cheddar but that is optional. The broccoli salad at the hospital cafeteria had some chopped pecans scattered in the mix, which added a nice taste and texture.

3/4 cup MIRACLE WHIP or MIRACLE WHIP Light Dressing
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 medium bunch broccoli, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
6 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped red onion

Mix dressing, sugar and vinegar in large bowl.
Add remaining ingredients; mix lightly.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Nuts About Sweets

My great aunt’s good friend Evelyn use to have us over quite often. Evelyn shared an apartment with her mother Marion. Marion who had been retired for many years loved to cook. But her true calling was candy making. Whenever we would play cards at their house Marion always put out the best goodies to munch on. Even though we liked just about everything, this particular recipe was one of our favorites.

Coffee Walnuts

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1 Tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups walnut halves

In saucepan, combine sugars, sour cream and coffee powder. Cook and stir until mixture reaches soft ball stage (236 degrees). Remove from heat and add vanilla and walnuts. Gently stir until all nuts are coated. Pour mixture onto buttered shallow pan or platter. With two forks, separate nuts. Cool until set.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Take A Dip

With so many family and friend get togethers it’s great to have a couple of tried and true foods that travel well and are always a hit with family and friends. This “Traveling Taco Dip” finds its way to almost every gathering that we have and it is so popular we have to make more than one batch.

Traveling Taco Dip

1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1 envelope taco mix (any brand)
4 oz. cheddar cheese, finely shredded
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped and drained
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 small can chopped ripe olives

Spread refried beans in bottom of large serving bowl. Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, and taco mix; spread mixture over beans. Top with Guacamole Mix.

4 medium or 2 large avocados, mashed
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. Tabasco; optional

Combine all ingredients and chill until ready to assemble traveling taco. Mix shredded cheeses together and sprinkle over guacamole. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, green onions, and olives. Serve at room temperature. Use corn or tortilla chips to scoop out the dip.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not Seeing Red, Not To Worry

Now that summer’s end is near, many of us are faced with an abundance of tomatoes that may not turn red before the cooler weather hits. I usually plant cherry tomatoes and either beefsteak or a Heinz variety. If I end up with a good amount of cherry tomatoes that are still green I like to turn those little ones into pickles. But when it comes to the bigger green tomatoes, I’ve just got to fry them.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes
1 egg
Sprinkle of black pepper
1 cup buttermilk (may use regular milk)
1 cup corn meal (may use flour or a mixture of both)
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Select mature green tomatoes that are just beginning to ripen. Remove the blossom end, stem and core. Slice crosswise about 1/4 inch thick. Dip slices in egg and buttermilk mixture. Batter in corn meal and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Do not stack on platter or
they will become soggy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Divinity is Divine

Sweet little fluffy clouds, that’s what Divinity Candy looks like and feels like in your mouth. I can remember a time when Divinity Candy was made almost on a regular basis as a family treat. It was a common sight on most holiday tables. I rarely see or hear about Divinity anymore. It only crossed my mind again when I happened to notice it in the window of a candy store that I happened to be passing by the other day. I bet you are wondering if I ended up going in the candy store to get some? Could it have been a sampling of that Divine Divinity that became the muse for this post? I'll never tell!

Divinity Candy - a meringue-type confection also known as “White Divinity Fudge"

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup Corn Syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. butter flavoring
1/2 tsp. salt
3 (large) egg whites room temperature
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped – If you are a purist leave the nuts out or merely place a nut on the top of each one.

Separate eggs and place egg whites in mixer bowl. Combine sugar, Corn Syrup and water in heavy deep pan over low heat. Stir constantly so crystals do not have a chance to form. When bubbles begin forming in syrup and syrup is thickening, begin testing by dropping a small amount of hot syrup off side of spoon into a cup of cold water, until you can feel little brittle strings in test mixture or when a candy thermometer reaches between 260- 270 degrees. Remove from heat. Pour hot syrup slowly into “Already Beaten” egg whites; add extract and salt. Continue to beat candy, increasing mixer speed. When divinity is thick and heavy turn off mixer and finish beating by hand. Adds nuts and beat in. Drop candy by spoonfuls on buttered waxed paper.

FYI - Divinity can be tricky. You really should use candy thermometer to get it right (unless you are a seasoned candy maker) but most candy makers use a candy thermometer. You will also need a dry day - a humid day will ruin your divinity.