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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Taste of Lebanon

My mother worked as a dispatcher for a trucking company for 34 years and became quite good friends with the family that owned it. I remember when I was younger going with her to her company picnics. The owners were Lebanese and introduced my mother and I to a whole new culture and a new array of foods that would fill our senses and leave us wanting more for years to come. Here is an example of one of the many dishes we grew to love and start preparing in our own kitchens. Kibbee is a grain and meat dish very aromatically spiced, enjoy.

Baked Kibbee (Lebanese)

2 lbs. very lean top round steak, ground twice
1 cup of bulgur (cracked wheat), soak in warm water until soft then drain about1 to 2 hours.
1/2 green pepper
2 med. Onions
1 handful mint (dried or fresh)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. basil

In blender blend green pepper, onions, mint and all spices (Do not completely liquefy, leave some fine pieces). Add this mixture to meat and mix all together with drained wheat. Add ice water as needed to soften the mixture lightly. Grease a dripping pan with oil; lay in the meat mixture evenly. Cut into squares then cover lightly with oil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweets For A Sourpuss

My mother who for the most part is quite easy to get along with really pushed my buttons this past Saturday while visiting her at the nursing home. I innocently said that she had not sipped any of her water during the time we had been there and how important it was for her to get plenty of fluids. Well, you would have thought I threw the water in her face rather than ask her to drink it. Her face got that childish snotty look and she glared at me saying; “My health problems have nothing to do with not drinking water and I am sick of people telling me what to do”! There was a whole bunch more but I will spare all of you the details, let us just say it was not the most pleasant visit. It did end on a more pleasant note when she opened the container of dessert that we had brought her which was angel food cake with lemon pudding and whipped cream. I find it ironic that the tartness and the bit of sour from the lemon pudding mixed with the angel food cake and whipped cream can combine to form a relatively sweet dessert. I find it even more ironic that the tartness and bit of sour in the lemon pudding when combined with my mother the sourpuss……. was able to create a relatively sweeter mother!

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Pudding

1 angel food cake (round or square)
1 can of lemon pie filling or lemon curd works very well
whipped cream

Slice angel food cake into thirds, spread lemon pudding between layers Top off with whipped cream.

Serve chilled.

Photo chocolatemonstermel/flickr

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pulling Together As A Family

I’m sure most of us would agree that when it comes to families getting along it is usually easier said than done. It’s far easier to love but sometimes much more difficult to like those that are the closest to us. The other night while sitting out on the deck sharing a couple beers with my friend Chrissy we each shared some of our family get together stories. Chrissy remembered a special time when everyone in her family all got along beautifully. The time was when her grandmother got everybody together to make pulled taffy. For whatever the reason all the ugly baggage that had a tendency to show up didn’t at this particular time……….
Maybe it was the use of all that sugar, it just gave everybody a much sweeter disposition.
For whatever the reason, those are the memories that help carry us through the less than perfect times.

Old Fashioned Pulled Taffy

3 cups of sugar
1 cup of white corn syrup
1 cup of water
1/4 cup of butter
1/3 cup of vinegar
1 tbsp. vanilla or flavor of your choosing
A drop of food coloring, optional

Mix sugar, syrup and water in a 4 quart sauce pan and place over medium heat. DO NOT STIR. Cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (234 to 240 degrees). Add butter, vinegar and vanilla. Cook again until mixture reaches hard ball stage (250 to 268 degrees). Again, DO NOT STIR. Pour out onto a greased platter let cool enough to touch and begin to pull. Keep hands lubricated with butter and pull the taffy with a partner. The more taffy is pulled the better when you see it looking the way you would like cut into pieces and wrap in saran or waxed paper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Smiling From Heaven

It has been almost 30 years since my grandparents decided to leave Rochester and retire to Florida. At that time my grandmother decided to give each of us some of the things that she had of our great great grandmothers. One of the items was an antique waffle iron whose grids were obviously quite seasoned from many years of use. My grandmother said that Mama Rose (our great, great grandmother) made the entire family waffles every weekend. My grandmother who has been blessed with many more years on this earth than her own mother thought that she would like to see if the waffle iron still worked and make all of us waffles over the weekend.
My father was the one who had ended up with the waffle iron, so he brought it to her for her to try. My poor grandmother was a nervous wreck about making the waffles she kept telling us that in case they don’t turn out its bacon and eggs instead. This past Saturday the waffle iron got plugged in for the first time in over fifty years and that little waffle iron began to sizzle with heat just as it had done decades ago for Mama Rose. The batter was made and ready to be poured onto the grid. My grandmother closed the lid and we waited for the waffle iron to do its magic when she opened it the waffle was shaped perfectly but it was a little burnt (the first waffle or pancake is always the worst one). The second pour of batter was the charm and so was the third and so on and so on. My grandmother just watched us with anticipation as we all caressed those tender steamy waffles with butter and syrup. We all just sat there and moaned in ecstasy, they were so good my grandmother just smiled watching her family eat, just as her mother had done so many years before her. You could just feel Mama Rose smiling at all of us from heaven and for that moment in time all was right with our world.

Mama Rose’s Waffle Batter

2 cups of flour
4 tsp. of baking powder
1 tbsp. of sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
3 eggs
5 tbsp. of melted shortening or butter
1 1/2 cups of milk

Mix first 4 ingredients together, beat eggs then add milk and shortening. Add flour mixture and mix until batter is smooth, heat waffle iron, pour batter and bake until done.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ooh La La

My cousin Pat was born and raised in Paris, France. Pat and her mother moved back up here about 20 years ago. This is one of the dishes that Pat and her mother ate quite often back in Paris. Since moving back to the states they have been making it for us whenever there is a family function, they could triple the recipe and it wouldn’t be enough (it is that good)!

Fingerling Potato and Lox Salad

2 pounds fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 pound of lox or other type of smoked salmon (flaked or shredded)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise, as needed

First, cook the fingerling potatoes in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water until they can be pierced with a thin paring knife. Drain well, return to the pan and let cool to room temperature.
Peel the cooled potatoes and slice into 1/2 inch coins and put into a glass or stainless mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Once chilled toss the potatoes with the celery, dill, green onions, mustard and lox. Fold in the sour cream and then add in enough of the mayonnaise to bind the salad together.
Tastes better at room temperature

Monday, August 4, 2008

Neat Joes

This post is dedicated to someone very near and dear to me, her name is Christine. Chrissy as I more lovingly call her who has been a part of my family for many years now.
Chrissy helps me to unlock some of the many memories that I have stored deep inside of me. One day when we were having one of our infamous conversations she had brought up my grandfather whose name is Joe “Peepa” as I lovingly call him. As we talked about my grandfather for awhile I was remembering what a neat man that he was and Chrissy said that’s too bad cause then you could have written a post about Sloppy Joes. Then I remembered that he actually did like Sloppy Joes. So I thought even neat Joe’s eat Sloppy Joe’s we both had a good laugh.
So here is to all the neat Joe’s out there, my Peepa who is watching me from up above and to Christine my earth bound angel.

Sloppy Joes For The Not So Sloppy

1 lb. hamburger
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon mustard
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1/4 tsp. of onion powder
1/4 cup brown sugar (add more or less to taste)
1/4 cup ketchup
Salt and Pepper to taste

Brown your hamburger add onions and green peppers. Drain off grease and add remaining ingredients and simmer slowly to desired thickness and flavor.

FYI- The thicker you make them, the neater they are to eat!