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.

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.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brussel Sprout Salad

Either love them or hate them but I think Brussel Sprouts are truly delicious. I have actually been known to steam up a batch, sprinkle them with a little salt and eat them like popcorn while watching TV. Another favorite is frying them with a little bacon until the Brussel Sprouts begin to caramelize (yum). My mother would just roast them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and they were just wonderful.
But recently while perusing some of the local farmers markets, I have noticed some of the greenest most gorgeous sprouts I have ever seen. So, I decided to prepare them in a way that would keep them as close to their natural state as possible, this salad is vibrant in color and very fresh tasting. If you already love Brussel Sprouts you will love them even more and if you hate them, this salad may just sway you to change your mind.

15 good sized Brussel sprouts
Cherrytomatoes (a dozen or so)
2 or 3 Tablespoons of Olive oil
1 or 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1 clove finely chopped garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil or steam sprouts until they are tender (approximately 7-10 minutes). Place them under cold water to stop them from any further cooking. Cut in half, placing them in a bowl.
Cut tomatoes in half and add to sprouts. Add garlic, dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, chill before serving.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Post Really Stinks!

I am fortunate enough to have a good many friends of German heritage. Over the years I have grown to have a great fondness for many German dishes. The one thing I did not try until I was 37 years old was Limburger Cheese (a traditionally German product but is also made in the United States). I just could never get past the smell. I remember when I was younger my parents buying dark bread, some red onion and Limburger cheese, they were determined to try it. They sliced the onion nice and thin, lightly spread a little butter on the bread, opened the package of Limburger and proceeded to quickly dispose of it in the garbage. They were so disappointed but they said it just smelled rotten and they couldn’t get it past their noses. I never forgot that smell either and swore that I would never bother trying Limburger Cheese again from that day forward. But many years ago a new friend I had made, both her and her mother absolutely adored Limburger Cheese sandwiches with a cold beer to wash it down. They would beg me to have one but I’d always go that’s okay you both enjoy it. I would wait outside to avoid the smell. On and off for months and months they would beg me to try a Limburger sandwich, they both said once I get it past my nose that I will love it. They said it is one of the purest tasting cheeses around. Well needless to say her and her mother wore me down and I agreed nervously to try it. Well to make a long story short, they were right, it was delicious and I’ve been a fan ever since. Here are a few different ways people traditionally eat these sandwiches.

Found this helpful hint in an article that I had read:
“To control the odor of Limburger, rinse the rind or cut it off altogether, recommends Myron Olson of Chalet Cheese Co-op. And by all means, store Limburger in a glass jar. This will contain the smell without adversely affecting the cheese. "Limburger is a table cheese," says Myron. While you can include in any meal ("at breakfast with toast, in a sandwich for lunch, with potatoes for dinner"), you won't often find it listed as an ingredient in recipes. Myron explains: "It doesn't cook well because when you warm it, the heat intensifies the smell”.

Limburger Cheese Sandwiches

1) Thinly sliced pumpernickel or whole grain bread, Limburger cheese, thinly sliced onions, butter and Pepper to taste.

2) Pumpernickel bread, preferably German, or crusty seeded rye bread, Limburger cheese, Anchovy fillets in olive oil.

3) Sliced pumpernickel or rye bread, Limburger cheese, thinly sliced onions, sliced liverwurst or Braunschweiger, horseradish to taste.

4) Rye bread (dark or light, pumpernickel, sauerkraut rye, etc.), Mustard (sweet-hot, brown, whole grain, etc.), Sliced Limburger (at any age you prefer, washed or not, rind-on or rind-off), Thick slices of sweet onion (Vidalia, Walla-Walla, etc.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Attack of The Killer Zucchini's

It’s that time of year again…. “Attack of the Killer Zucchini’s”. Some of those monsters are the size of baseball bats. You chop them up and put them in bread after bread, quiche after quiche but they just keep coming. Neighbors begin to avoid you, growing more and more afraid of your zucchini hospitality. They begin to retaliate by leaving their monstrous zucchini’s on your doorstep, ringing the bell then running and hiding.
Zucchini’s for breakfast, zucchini’s for snacks, zucchini’s for lunch, zucchini’s for dinner even zucchini's for dessert, when will it all end? I don’t have the answer to that question but will a recipe do? How about a recipe using zucchini? It’s my way of helping lol.

Zucchini Bars

2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Frosting: (optional, I prefer them without the frosting)
1/2 cup soft butter
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 (3 oz.) pkg. creamed cheese, softened

Beat together sugar, oil, and eggs in large bowl or in food processor. Beat in flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and powder and vanilla. Beat 1 to 2 minutes until well mixed. Fold in zucchini, carrot, oats and nuts; mix well. Pour into 15"x10"x1" pan (jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
If frosting - Make frosting by beating all ingredients together until smooth. Set aside. Cool bars; frost. Cut into bars. Yield: 3 dozen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Slushies for Grown-Ups

In an earlier post I divulged that bourbon is my drink of choice. I have also found bourbon a terrific ingredient to use in cooking especially marinades. When doing marinades bourbon’s flavor pairs really well with honey, molasses and any flavor of vinegar.
I usually prefer to drink bourbon in the winter months because it is a quick way to get warm from the inside out on a freezing cold day. But here is a really cool way to serve bourbon on those hot steamy summer days. This is really refreshing and fun to drink or eat with a spoon.

Bourbon Slush

2 tea bags
1 c. sugar
4 1/2 c. water
1 lg. can frozen orange juice
1 c. bourbon
1/2 can thawed frozen lemonade
7-up to splash over each glass of slush for a little fizz (optional)
Cherry, lemon or orange for garnish

Steep 2 teabags in 1 cup boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove tea bags and add 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 cups water, orange juice, bourbon and lemonade. Mix and freeze until firm. Remove about 30 minutes before serving. Keep unused portion in freezer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Let's Tie The Knot !

Isn’t it sad that we wait for the holidays to enjoy some of our favorite foods? I always loved thanksgiving dinner and couldn’t wait for that one day a year to have it. As I got older I started making turkey and stuffing throughout the year, it’s just a great meal. The same thing with Christmas, I love all the special foods that are served but I especially love some of the Italian Cookie recipes that only seem to show up at Christmas time. Well enough of that, I want some of those cookies now, so what if it is too hot to use the oven that is why there is air conditioning. This way we can stay cool while making cookies.
Italian Knot Cookies

1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
5 teaspoons of baking powder
5 cups of flour

2 cups Powdered sugar
3 to 4 Tablespoons of water or milk
1/2 Teaspoon anisette extract (or whatever flavoring you prefer)
(You are looking for a consistency a little thicker than heavy cream)
food coloring, if desired

Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine cream cheese and butter with mixer. Add sugar and beat until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating until fluffy. Add flour mixture. You will have to stir by hand at the end because it will be too stiff to beat with the mixer.
Form dough into a large ball and let set for a few minutes. If dough is too soft, you can add more flour, a little at a time. Shape small pieces of dough into knot shape by rolling between hands into a rope and twisting into knot shape.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350°F until lightly browned on bottom.

Will make anywhere between 1 to 3 dozen depending on how big or small you make the knots.

DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cookies will not be brown on top when done, only the bottom.
Cool on wire racks and dip into icing. Dust with sprinkles. Let dry on sheets of waxed paper.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Only Their Names Are Quirky.... Deep Down They Are Very Sweet.

Grunt, Crisp, Buckle, Pandowdy, cobbler, slump the list is as long as centuries of human imagination and the need to create satisfying foods that taste good.
Most of these types of desserts were created out of the need to improvise due to lack of certain ingredients and an abundance of others such as fruits and berries.
The grunts which make a grunting sound as they simmer and the slumps are basically cobblers. Crisps have some type of streusel for crunch and buckles have a cake layer that rises to the top. All of these comforting desserts at one time were considered puddings, a far cry from what we consider pudding today. We all seem to have our favorites usually based on the types of fruits that are used. I tend to lean towards the cherries and the blueberries when it comes to my grunts, crisps and cobblers. My mother prefers apple or rhubarb and my aunt (who is a peach) prefers peach.
Whatever kind of fruit you choose, whether you crisp or grunt or buckle, do it with some flair and make it Ala Mode!

Blueberry Grunt

1 lb. blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup half & half

Drain blueberries, measure and reserve 3/4 cup juice. Combine sugar, cornstarch, butter and reserved juice in large skillet. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add berries and simmer 1 minute longer. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium size bowl.
Beat egg and cream in small bowl. Stir into flour mixture. Drop mixture onto hot berries in 6 evenly spaced mounds. Cover skillet, simmer 25 minutes. Serve at once with yogurt or heavy cream.
You can also use peaches, apples, mangos, cherries, pineapple, rhubarb even grapes in the above recipe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Just Stuffed

I’ve always enjoyed stuffed shells but don’t make them very often, I really don’t know why. I remember a girlfriend’s mother making stuffed shells with chicken, spinach and swiss cheese in a cream sauce it was so good. I don’t have her recipe but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, it was so rich and delicious. My aunt and grandmother always made theirs with ricotta and some type of meat. I pretty much follow their way of making them with an occasional tweak here and there. With a nice tossed salad and some bread you have a hearty comforting dinner. They are even better the next day reheated.

1 large box of stuffing shells, cooked
1 lb. Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup diced Prosciutto (may also use hamburger, sausage, chicken or veal)
1/4 cup chopped spinach
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and a little grated cheese to season filling (fresh or dried basil optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese when serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat Ricotta, Prosciutto, spinach, seasoning and egg together in a large bowl. Stuff approximately 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into each shell and place in a baking pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Arrange shells on serving plates and pour hot sauce over.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Yes, I agree that this is not the most attractive pie in the world but if you cover the top with a thin icing of sour cream and a sprinkling of chunky salsa it is gorgeous. Seriously if you happen to love Haas Avocados (which I do) this is another terrific use for them. Avocados need to spread their wings beyond the ever popular “Guacamole”.
I believe that Kermit the Frog said it best; “It’s not easy being Green”!

Avocado Pie

1 Haas avocado
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. lemon juice
9"pie crust (ready made)
Sour Cream, optional
Salsa, optional

Beat avocado and cream cheese. Add milk and lemon juice. Bake 20 minutes at 250 degrees.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Apple Pita Pie

Pita bread is just another one of those very versatile food products to have on hand.
I love toasted pita triangles with hummus or pita pizzas. But here’s a clever and easy way to use pitas to make a delicious dessert without all the muss and fuss. You are all going to love this one. Gives your house that warm, wonderful baked apple pie aroma.

1 apple, peeled, cored and quartered
1 med.-sized pita (white or whole wheat)
1 Teaspoon of butter
1 Tablespoon of Sugar or Splenda
Cinnamon to taste
Nuts (optional)
May use other fruits and dried fruits as well
Whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping

Stuff pita bread with apple quarters; add butter, sugar/substitute and cinnamon. Wrap in foil; place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
For microwave - wrap in a paper towel and heat on HIGH for 5 minutes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Snickering over Snickerdoodles

My Mother was always an excellent cook but she herself will tell you that she was a lousy baker. All her attempts to bake cookies, cakes and such when I was young were never fit for human consumption. Whenever it was my mothers turn to bring bake goods for the PTA meetings and bake sales we always got store bought or if we were lucky my grandmother would bake something for her to bring. My mother and I had this funny little joke between us where I would tell people; “I had to rely on the kindness of strangers or go door to door if I wanted homemade cookies”. My mother and I would always laugh. About ten years ago my mother decided to take a stab at making snickerdoodles. A bunch of the family was going over to her house for dinner and she thought the snickerdoodles would be a nice treat to have with coffee. Well after dinner was over my mother served coffee and placed the cookies on the table. They looked and smelled delicious. My Uncle took one, tried to bite it and it didn’t even crumble, so he decided to dunk it in his coffee to soften it up. He still couldn’t bite it, now all of us are laughing. We started hitting them on the table and these things wouldn't even break. My Uncle says; “Harriet what did you make these with? Plaster of Paris”! We all howled and had ice cream instead. Snickerdoodles put my mother into permanent baking retirement!

Easy to make Snickerdoodles (as long as you are not my Mother)!

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of sugar

Cream the shortening, sugar and egg with electric mixer until smooth.
Sift flour, onto a wax paper, about 1 1/2 cup.
Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into sifter and sift over a small bowl.
Add the sifted ingredients into the sugar and shortening and egg mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Add vanilla and stir again.
Dough should be soft and easy to handle. Add a little more flour (about a tablespoon or so) if dough sticks to your hands.
Preheat oven to 400F. Set out cookies sheets lined with foil 8 combine sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl and set out side
Roll pieces of dough into the size of a small jawbreaker. Roll the ball into the sugar cinnamon mixture. Place on a foil line cookie sheet, three across and five down. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly brown. Cookies will puff up and then will flatten down and have a crispy top.
Let the cookies cool on the rack.