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, 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.