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, 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.