Monday, February 15, 2010

Barbecued Pork Spare Ribs


This was one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up. I often requested Barbecued Pork Spare Ribs for my birthday dinner. My birthday is in May, just when the soft spring breezes were blowing and the temperature was perfect for outdoor cooking on the grill. I must warn you that the smell of the pork pre-cooking is not mouth-watering and spring breezes blowing through the house are quite welcome.

Pork Spare Ribs:
2 pounds pork spare ribs cut between the bone into pieces
1 onion, peeled
8 whole cloves
4 peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

Barbecue Sauce:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place the ribs in a large cooking pan. Add the onion, cloves, peppercorns, salt and water. Bring water just to boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain.

For the sauce combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Dip each pre-cooked rib in barbecue sauce and cook over glowing coals about 8 minutes, turning once.

Delicious.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Homemade Rice Pudding


This is a great comfort food that can be prepared while you are making dinner. Cool the pudding while you are eating and serve for dessert. 

1/4 cup rice
1/2 cup boiling water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
Grated peel of 1/2 lemon
1 egg
Cinnamon or nutmeg

Combine rice and boiling water in saucepan. Add salt, cover and bring to a second boil, simmering 10 minutes OR until rice is almost tender. Add milk and butter; heat almost to a boil again and simmer uncovered 10 minutes, stirring often. Stir in sugar and lemon peel. Beat the egg in a small bowl and stir about 1 cup of the rice mixture into the beaten egg. Add this mixture to the saucepan and cook and stir 2 minutes. Place rice pudding in serving dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg, and refrigerate. Serve warm or cold. We liked it warm!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Perfect Angel Biscuits


My perfect angel, on a beautiful spring day, in a sweater set hand knit by her grandmother. Fortunately she wasn't old enough to know that I was still learning to cook. The were times when our dinner was quite literally not edible. It is funny now, but back then we were hungry and did not have the money to spare for a meal out! This is a recipe that requires ingredients usually on hand.

Recipe: Angel Biscuits

1 cake compressed yeast, or 1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons lukewarm water (warmer for dry yeast)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400º F. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender. Add the buttermilk and yeast mixture and stir until soft dough forms. Turn unto a floured board and knead a minute or two. (No rising is required.) Roll out to desired thickness (about 1/2-inch) and cut into rounds. Brush with melted butter and bake on a baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Apple Cobbler


If I could have wheat, this is one of the first recipes I would make. It is warm and homey and delicious. I used it as a coffee cake, but it is a dessert. Our garden is starting to bloom in profusion.

Recipe: Apple Cobbler

5 cups thinly (not paper-thin) sliced, peeled tart apples, such as Cortland, Granny Smith, Jonathan or Rome Beauty
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander or cinnamon
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
Heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325º F. Spread the sliced apples in a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the apples with 1/2 cup nuts, 1/4 cup sugar and the spice. 

In a medium bowl stir together the flour , 1/2 cup sugar and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine the egg, evaporated milk and melted butter. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth and pour evenly over the apples. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick or table knife inserted in center of cobbler comes out clean. Serve the cobbler warm, topped with lightly whipped cream (or, without).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Homemade Pound Cake


This is a recipe I requested from a friend in the early 1980's. It is still a great pound cake, the perfect foundation for fresh berries!

Recipe: Homemade Pound Cake

1-1/2 cups butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3-1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Do not preheat oven. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one (do not be tempted into dumping them all in at once). Add the flour and salt alternately with the milk and blend well. Gently fold in the lemon juice. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan (plain or decorative) and place in cold oven. Bake 1 hour and 45 minutes at 325º F. Do not open oven during baking. When done, cool cake in pan a few minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once inverted, I turn my cake right-side up.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cheese Cake with Sour Cream Topping


This cheese cake makes it mark with a surprise topping.

I feel so provincial today. I actually looked provincial up in the dictionary before using it - that is just how provincial I am! "We're going to buy edible flowers at the Farmers' Market this morning, then out to friends for tea this afternoon, and then maybe we can do a video chat tonight," - a message from my daughter on my cell phone. I have eaten edible flowers, but I have never been for "tea."

Recipe: Cheese Cake with Sour Cream Topping

Crust:
1-2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons melted butter

Mix the crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter in a medium bowl; press the mixture in the bottom and 3/4 inches up the side of a greased 9- or 9-1/2-inch spring form pan.

Filling:
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 well beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy; mix in the eggs and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the pan lined with graham cracker crumbs and bake in preheated 350º F. oven for 50 minutes.

Topping:
1 pint sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla and spread carefully over the baked cheese cake. Bake at 500º F. for 5 minutes or less. Cool on wire rack; remove side of pan and refrigerate to chill before serving.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sweet Country Cornbread


Does she not look woebegone? We are preparing to move at the time this photograph was taken. Of course, once moved she was
"happy baby", again!

To commemorate my first move to the South, Sweet Country Cornbread. Cornbread was often eaten with spring vegetables, fresh from the garden, for a simple meal.

Sweet Country Cornbread
Makes 16 servings

1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used stone ground)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter

Preheat over to 425ºF. Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir sifted ingredients with cornmeal. Combine the eggs, milk, and butter and beat with an electric mixer just until smooth. Pour into a buttered 9" x 9" x 2" pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta


For a time we lived in a lovely duplex on the lake. Our daughter was in college and much to my delight she came home every summer. She had two jobs and was working nearly eighty hours a week - not to count the hours (almost all of the rest) she spent with her friends. But some Friday evenings she ate dinner with us. It was a very informal meal we made together while talking; poached shrimp and fresh bruschetta. We ate, sitting on the living room rug, while the sun set over the lake shining through the wide white slats of our wood blinds. It was a beautiful time.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

4 garden ripe tomatoes, very finely diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
8 (1/4 to 1/2-inch thick) slices French or Italian bread
2 cloves garlic, halved

Combine all, except bread and garlic cloves. Grill or toast bread slices and rub one side with garlic. Cover each with tomato mixture. Eat while bread is warm! 

Delaware Crab Casserole


My daughter has a daughter now and I thought she might enjoy some pictures from her childhood. We recently bought a scanner and we are using it and our
"infant" photo editing skills to digitally store our photographs.

We moved to Delaware when my daughter was six weeks old and left when she was six months old - a very brief sojourn on the East Atlantic coast. I grew up in the cornfields of the Midwest, in a town filled with Italianate and Neo-gothic style homes and buildings, split by a mighty river and surrounded by caves and bluffs carved out by great glaciers. The East coast with its Federalist and Cape Cod style homes and sense of history and refinement was a change.  A fishmonger stopped in front of our house with fresh fish daily. We lived thirty minutes from the ocean and one hour from our nation's capitol; we alternated weekends between the two. Fortunately, with one young baby it was easy to live so freely. We frolicked in the ocean and ate crab on those "ocean" weekends. This recipe is from my mother-in-law; she was an excellent cook. I am sorry to say that I only made it once. I had no idea my stay would be so brief and fresh fish daily was not something available inland at that time. I have wonderful memories of eating every sort of crab dish at well-known tourist attractions to small family owned restaurants. Fresh crab meat is a must for this recipe. Substitute and add seasonings as desired, however fresh crab meat, nearly unadorned, is delicious.

Delaware Crab Casserole
Serves 6

1 pound fresh crab meat (all shell and cartilage removed)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Saute celery and green pepper in butter until tender. Blend in flour. Add milk gradually and cook until thick, stirring continuously. Stir a small amount of this hot mixture into the egg yolk. Add the warmed egg yolk mixture to the sauce, stirring constantly. Add lemon juice, seasonings and crab meat. Place the crab meat mixture into a lightly buttered casserole dish. Combine the 1 tablespoon melted butter and bread crumbs; sprinkle over the casserole. Bake at 350º F. for 20 to 25 minutes, until brown.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chocolate Gateau


Another good chocolate cake.

We are a bit worried about the health of our new daisies. Gale force winds blew just two days after we planted them; the wind was relentless. We planted blue balloon flowers, a cottage garden standard, among them and think we may buy more balloon flowers since they withstood the winds so well.

Following is a recipe for another very good chocolate cake. This cake is pretty, it is delicious, and it is easy to make. It is a great cake where looks count and time is short. I could easily prepare this cake the same day I was entertaining guests.

Chocolate Gateau
Serves 12

For the cake:
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole almonds, blanched
5 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
2/3 cups butter
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the icing and decoration:
5 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a small mixer bowl; reserve the yolks in a separate bowl. Lightly grease a 9" x 2" cake pan and place wax paper on the bottom. Grind the whole almonds in a blender until fine; set aside.

Melt the 5 squares of semi-sweet chocolate over hot (not boiling) water. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter, then gradually beat in the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. When finished, mixture should be light and fluffy.

Beat the reserved egg yolks into the creamed butter until very light. Add the melted chocolate, and continue beating until well combined. At a lower speed, beat in the flour and 1/4 cup milk, alternating between the flour and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in 1/2 cup of ground almonds and vanilla extract.

Beat the egg whites with the 1/2 teaspoon salt at a high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the mixture into the cake batter until just combined. Spread evenly in pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool in the cake pan on a rack for 10 minutes. With a spatula, loosen the edge of the cake from the pan and turn the cake onto the rack and continue to cool.

For the icing, melt the semisweet chocolate with the milk and butter in the top of a double boiler. Stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup ground almonds. Decorate edge with overlapping almond slices. Place on a cake plate.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


Western boots for sale at a sidewalk sale. I am always amused by the vanity of the rugged, Western man. It is touching.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake is one of my favorite recipes. I used zucchini that I picked from my own garden when I first started making this cake. The recipe was from a friend; I may have changed it a bit over the years.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 cups finely diced fresh zucchini (I leave the skin on, if home grown)
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325º F. Combine lemon juice and milk. Cream the butter, oil, and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, and soured milk; beat until thoroughly combined. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture. Beat well. Stir in the diced zucchini. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured 9" x 13" x 2" cake pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips. Bake at 325º F. for 40 to 45 minutes, or until done. Cool before eating.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Perfect Chocolate Cake


Cobbled stones and an herb garden, 

She read one day.

The room so spare.

from "The Essay"


So much to do in so little time. Our sweet Stella is coming for her first visit and we want everything to be perfect so she will want to come back. Albeit, she will only be six month's old, but one can never be too prepared! We've polled for food, sleeping arrangement, and toy preferences, and have begun work on our back yard in hopes of impressing her! Following is an extra-delicious chocolate cake recipe from my own childhood.  


Perfect Chocolate Cake
McCalls Cooking School recipe
Serves 10 - 12

Cake:
1 cup unsifted unsweetened cocoa
2 cups boiling water
2 3/4 cups
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting:
1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup light cream
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups unsifted powdered sugar

Filling:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup unsifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake:
In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa with the boiling water, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Cool completely! Sift the flour, with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease and then lightly flour three 9x1-1/2-inch layer cake pans.

With a mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light; about 5 minutes. At low speed, beat in flour mixture, in fourths, alternately with the cocoa mixture, in thirds (beginning and ending with the flour mixture.) Don’t over beat the batter!

Divide evenly into the pans, smoothing the tops. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the surface springs back when gently touched. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the layers from the pans with a spatula, remove from pans, and cool on racks.

Frosting:
In a medium saucepan, combine the semisweet chocolate pieces, cream, and butter, stirring over medium heat until smooth. Remove from heat, and with a whisk, blend in 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar. In a bowl set over ice (especially in August!), beat until it holds its shape.

Filling:
Whip cream with sugar and vanilla. Refrigerate.

Assembling the cake:
On a pretty plate, place a layer, top down. Spread with half the filling. Place second layer atop, top down, again, and spread with remaining filling. Top with third layer, topside up!

Finish:
Frost with spatula, sides first, covering the filling first. Swirl rest of frosting on top. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving (I find a minimum of 3-4 better). Use a thin-edged sharp knife to cut.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Almond Chocolate Pie


This pie is rich, smooth, and especially scrumptious! I served this pie, along with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (see an earlier post) for a graduation party. The recipe is from my mother-in-law, Jean.

Jean's Chocolate Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

6 small chocolate almond bars, or 6.3 ounces of chocolate, plus some whole almonds
16 large marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
A 9-inch pie crust, baked and cooled

Heat the chocolate, marshmallows, and milk in a double-boiler until the chocolate and marshmallows are melted. Mix in the almonds, if separate. Cool thoroughly.

When the chocolate mixture is completely cool, beat the heavy cream until stiff and fold into the chocolate mixture. Gently spoon into the pie crust. Refrigerate. Serve in thin slivers.
 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Prime Rib


I am so thankful to my husband for helping me find ways to live wheat-free.  He has never complained about the change in our diet. He is always eager to find new ways to carry food with us on little trips, and he is always looking for new foods I might try in the grocery store. He also took this picture, and most others, for me. Fortunately living wheat-free does NOT mean living without prime rib! 

Prime Rib Roast

1 prime rib roast, room temperature (it will take one to two hours for roast to reach room temperature)
Sea salt

Remove one rack from the oven and move the remaining rack to the lowest level. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place the roast in a roasting pan with low sides. A rack in the roasting pan is not necessary; the ribs will act as a natural rack. Place the ribs in the roasting pan, fat-side up. Rub the entire roast with salt. Cook 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 325º F. Roast until a quick-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, not touching any bone, reads 115º F. This should be about 1-1/2 hours for an average size roast (3-ribs.) Place the roast on a platter and allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes. This will allow the meat juices to settle throughout the roast. The temperature of the roast should reach 125ºF. Serve. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Asparagus Quiche


A little preview of our yard "to be" - a white, rose-like, Double Impatiens flower. After getting my hair cut at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we went by
one of our favorite nurseries and bought a few flowers for our yard.

It is Spring here, and the following recipe always reminded me of Spring. For an Autumn dish, use broccoli in place of the asparagus.

Asparagus Quiche
Serves 4

One 9-inch pastry shell, partially baked
1 strip bacon
2 tablespoons onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash nutmeg
Dash pepper
1/2 cup cottage cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Swiss cheese, shredded (shred your own!)
1 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, cooked and well drained

Cook the bacon in a skillet and crumble when cool. Set aside. Wipe skillet clean and saute onion in butter. Add the asparagus to the onion and butter and stir over moderate heat to evaporate any excess water from the asparagus. Add the salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cottage cheese to the asparagus mixture. Beat the eggs and cream until mixed, but not frothy; stir in the Swiss cheese and combine with the asparagus mixture. Stir in the crumbled bacon. Pour all into the pastry shell and bake at 375º F for 25 to 30 minutes.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Corn Chip Pie


I think of this as a Southern recipe, though I do not know where it originated.

Corn Chip Pie

2 slices bacon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground round
2 tablespoons (yes, tablespoons) chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup tomato paste
1-1/2 cups water, plus additional, if needed
1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
4 to 5 cups corn chips
1/2 pound Monterey Jack, or Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a heavy skillet cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove the bacon strips and crumble, once cool. Add the garlic and onion to the rendered bacon fat and cook over low heat until the onion is soft.

In a separate skillet, brown the beef. Pour off excess fat. Stir in salt, chili powder, cumin, and tomato paste. Add the beef mixture to the skillet with the onions; slowly add the water. Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes, adding additional water for desired thickness. Add the beans and simmer just until heated through.

Divide the corn chips into four shallow bowls. Spoon the chili on top and sprinkle with cheese.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sweet Easter Bunny Buns


Frilly cacti flowers are pictured.

A wheat-free diet can be life changing. Especially if you love cakes, and cookies, and bread. Sweet rolls, croissants, and pies all obviously contain wheat. Even main dishes and vegetables contain wheat; pasta dishes, such as lasagna, and breaded vegetables, such as onion rings. This is just to name a few foods, some of my favorites. Some grains are related to wheat to varying degrees. Rye is related to wheat, as is barley, oat, millet, and rice. The lesser-known grains, such as spelt, an ancient wheat, and teff, an Ethiopian grain, are also related to wheat. 

Grains unrelated to wheat are buckwheat flour, amaranth flour, and quinoa flour, to name just a few that I am going to try soon. I will purchase them prepackaged from a dedicated facility. Buckwheat is related to rhubarb. Nut flours, such as almond and chestnut, are options, also. So much too learn, so late in life! I am learning to needlepoint, which seems easy in comparison. Following is a fun recipe, whether you have children, or not.

Yeast bread is like pie crust; it just takes practice. Even your attempts are worth eating, so do not feel that it is not worth your time. And how fun to be the one who can make the Angel Biscuits, the Dinner Rolls, or even the Cinnamon Rolls for a gathering.

Sweet Bunny Buns

Your favorite sweet bread recipe, or:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk, scalded
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
5-1/2 cups flour, sifted
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup orange juice

Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon butter
Red food coloring of choice, optional

Soften the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Beat the scalded milk, sugar, butter and salt together and cool until lukewarm. Stir in approximately 2 cups of flour and beat well. Mix in eggs and stir in the softened yeast. Stir in the orange juice and then the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Let the dough stand for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough with the heel of your hand on a lightly floured surface, until smooth and elastic, between 5 and 10 minutes. Place in a lightly buttered bowl, turning once to butter surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, or about 2 hours. Deflate by pressing down. Cover, and let stand for 10 minutes more.

To form the bunnies (in profile), roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into strips about 1/2-inch wide and roll between your hands to make smooth strips. Cut a 10-inch strip of the rolled dough for the bunny body; coiling loosely on a lightly buttered cookie sheet. Cut a 5-inch strip for the bunny head and coil loosely, touching the upper right corner of the body. For the ears, cut two 1-1/2-inch strips of dough, shaping ends to a curved point, and attach to the top of the head at a cute angle. Finally, make a small ball of dough and attach to the center left side of the bunny for the tail.

Cover the bunnies and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. Bake at 375º F for 12 to 15 minutes. Frost while warm with the glaze.

Glaze: Mix the glaze ingredients until well blended and brush over the warm bunny rolls. Tint a small amount pink for the ears, if desired.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


It is spring here. The days have been in the seventies and even eighties, though tonight it will go as low as 35 degrees. Both flowers and trees are blooming. We are discussing and planning our annual flower selection this year. I am considering Bee Balm, which is a perennial. It is available in white, pink and purple, and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. We already have several bushes that attract hummingbirds and we would like to continue this trend. Bee Balm grows from two to four feet tall, so it will not work in the area we need to fill, but sounds so interesting that I will find a place for it, if recommended by our local nursery. It is said to have a citrus-mint fragrance. I think I have decided on Dusty Miller as a backdrop to a mass planting of purple Salvia with some violet and white Salvia mixed in. Salvia attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, also. So we will have quite the fragrant and busy backyard, if all goes as planned!

The following recipe was always one of my favorite quick dessert recipes. It can be made at the last minute for unexpected guests, almost everyone enjoys it, and it does not require a separate frosting.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Serves 9

1 8-1/2 ounce can crushed pineapple
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon rum, optional

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Drain the pineapple reserving the syrup. Melt the butter in a 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan. Add the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of the reserved syrup. Arrange the pineapple evenly in the bottom of the pan. 

Add water, and 1 tablespoon rum, if desired, to the remaining syrup to make 1/2 cup and reserve. 

Cream together the 1/3 cup butter and granulated sugar until light. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the reserved syrup mixture, beating after each addition. Spread the batter over the pineapple. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm. If there is any leftover cake, refrigerate and serve cold. It will keep for about 1 day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Potato Salads


A city picnic. So carefree, climbing into the car for a short trip to town. Food from a favorite cafe and a picnic table with a view. Watching the water and relaxing under the gentle northern sun and balmy breezes of early summer.

I try to eat outside as much as possible.

My Mother's German Potato Salad
Serves 8

Most often the picnics of my childhood were much planned for events, awaited with great anticipation. Friends and family were invited and special dishes prepared. My mother's German Potato Salad was always made.

1-1/2 pounds potatoes
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 cup celery, chopped fine
8 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Cook potatoes in their jackets (skins) in a covered pot until tender. Slice the potatoes while hot. Combine hot potatoes, onion, parsley and celery, gently, in a bowl.

Dice bacon and fry in a skillet. Remove the bacon pieces and add to the potatoes, reserving the bacon drippings in the skillet. Add the flour, salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar, and water to the bacon drippings and heat just to boiling; remove from the heat. Pour over the potatoes and combine well.

Serve this salad warm with chopped parsley sprinkled over the top. Any leftovers are good cold.

Southern-style Cold Mashed Potato Salad
Serves 8

The first time I had a cold mashed potato salad was when I lived in the South. I do not know the history of cold mashed potato salads, but this one is a change from traditional potato salad. It must be made in the spring with early new potatoes.

12 medium baby red potatoes, cooked and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, seeds removed and cut in half
2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
Salt, to taste
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

Combine mayonnaise, mustard, cilantro, oregano, olives and salt, while the potatoes are cooking. Drain the potatoes and toss, perhaps a little roughly, with dressing while still warm. Potatoes will "crumble" and become slightly "mashed." Gently fold in the chopped eggs and chill. Garnish. 

I like this just chilled, not cold.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Caramelized Onions


Why an entire post on caramelized onions? I can eat them, and good caramelized onions are so good.

There are two types of onions - storage onions, available from August through April, and sweet onions, available May through July. Of the storage onions, Red onions, Spanish onions and Bermuda onions, caramelize well. Spring onions caramelize well, but more care must be taken in storage due to their higher moisture content. Keep both types where it is cool and dry, but take extra care not to bruise Sweet onions. Once cut, keep neither longer than two or three days in the refrigerator, wrapped securely in plastic. Do not store in a metal container. 

Serve over baked, broiled or grilled meat or seafood, or vegetables.

Caramelized Onions

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large Sweet onions, if in season, or Red, Spanish or Bermuda onions
1 pinch of brown sugar, optional

Thinly slice onions. Heat oil in large skillet over low heat. Add onions and stir often. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or more. The onions will brown slowly. Don't burn them by trying to hasten the process. Add the pinch of brown sugar once they start browning, if you desire.  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Traveling


I am out of town at a family function as I write this. I am staying at a bed and breakfast which has a refrigerator, sink and microwave. The night before I left town, I went to the grocery store and cooked some food in preparation for this trip. Have food, will travel, is my motto! For this trip with lodging that does not include an oven, I purchased avocados, fresh blueberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, fresh salmon, organic, natural deli ham, all-natural smoked salmon, whole dates and my only packaged treat, cassava chips (a treat because they are already cooked).  On this food, and non-corn-sweetened grape juice, I will survive for a long weekend. The night before I travelled I baked the sweet potatoes and salmon. The rest of the food does not require cooking to eat. 

I have always loved the outdoors, and always packed picnic lunches for long trips during the spring and summer months to avoid fast food restaurants, so this is not a terrible inconvenience. Other than the fact that I was exhausted beyond belief and probably would have resorted to fast food in favor of an early night in bed!

Following is the best I can do without notes - my recipe for Basic Baked Salmon. My favorite salmon is mild tasting, while others prefer a stronger tasting salmon. In particular, I favor wild Pacific salmon for its lack of additives.

Basic Baked Salmon

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Arrange the salmon filet(s) in a single layer in a baking dish, I use a heavy ceramic baking dish. Place the filet skin side down. Turn the tale end under the body so that both ends of the filet are the same thickness. Turn the thinner side edge under for the length of the filet until both sides of the filet are the same thickness. Place in the preheated oven for 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the filet and desired doneness. I bake the filet just until it flakes, but is thoroughly cooked throughout. Finding your desired doneness and recognizing when the filet has reached that state may take some practice. I have a sensitive nose and go by smell!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Simple cakes


This, and many of my recipes, are "out-of-date." They require very basic ingredients and only a beginning knowledge of cooking. They go back to a time when "homemade" was being rediscovered, so they are indeed, very old! For me, they bring back memories. I first had this coffee cake shortly after my second child was born and he was still a tiny baby. Of all my recipes, it reminds me the most of his first few weeks. It is a quiet and gentle recipe, not very sweet, or rich, but just right. 

Aunt Nellie's Coffee Cake
Serves 16

Coffee cake:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Streusel (something strewn, in old German):
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons firm butter
1/3 cup pecans (or walnuts), chopped, optional

To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter, until crumbly. Mix in nuts, if desired.

To make the cake, beat the sugar into the butter with a mixer until thoroughly incorporated and mixture is light and fluffy. Blend in flour and baking powder alternately with milk. (I always combine my dry ingredients first, but I am a bit of a perfectionist when baking.)

Pour half the batter into a well-buttered and lightly floured 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sprinkle evenly, (or strew!), with half the streusel. Add the remaining batter and spread gently to the edges with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the remaining streusel to top the coffee cake. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350º F. for 25 to 30 minutes. Check the cake for doneness by inserting a table knife into the center. Crumbs should cling to the knife, but all should be cooked. Cool on a rack and serve from pan. Best served freshly baked and cooled to just warmer than room temperature. It is not good, if too hot. And, make the pan a pretty one for guests. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zen Thoughts In An English Garden


The title of my next book. 

This is a photograph taken today of a budding White Chocolate Crepe Myrtle.

This next recipe can easily be divided by half. Leave out the vinegar and mustard and I can very happily eat this dish! (Gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free.)

This recipe will only be as good as each individual ingredient. 

Asparagus with Sauce Vinaigrette 
Serves 8

Serve hot or chilled.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic or red wine are basics)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
4 pounds fresh asparagus
Hard cooked egg, sliced or chopped, or walnuts, chopped, for garnish

Combine extra virgin olive oil, vinegar of choice and pepper and salt, to taste. Blend in mustard. Whisk until well blended. Refrigerate if prepared in advance, bringing to room temperature before using.

Choose crisp, firm asparagus with closed tips. Break tough ends off each piece of asparagus. Wash thoroughly and place in boiling water to cover. Cook just until tender. Drop quickly in ice water to stop cooking and remove. Drain thoroughly.

Hot asparagus: Whisk sauce a second time, if prepared in advance. Pour room temperature sauce over hot asparagus and garnish.

Cold asparagus: Refrigerate asparagus until thoroughly chilled. Pour sauce (room temperature) over asparagus and garnish. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Matching palominos and pizza


My husband's grandparents opened the rodeo every Friday night, riding into the arena on matching palominos. That was a daunting thing for a young boy to live up to in West Texas.

This is the dish my husband misses the most since our diet changed. It was inspired by a ready made pizza we bought on a regular basis at our local grocer until the store ceased to carry it.

For me: Scrambled Eggs with Sauteed Onions (Gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free, tomato-free, etc.)

Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olive Pizza
Makes two pizzas

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 to 4 tablespoons additional flour
3/4-ounce fresh yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
6-ounces Feta cheese
12 Kalamata olives, remove seeds if necessary, and cut in half
Sea salt

Dissolve the yeast in a bowl with 3/4 cup warm water.  Make a well in the center of the flour in a large bowl. Place the yeast mixture, salt and olive oil in the well and combine with flour using a wooden spoon. Add more warm water if necessary to make a nice smooth dough.  Place dough in another large, floured bowl and cover. Set bowl in a warm place and leave until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. Knead the dough on a floured surface until very smooth with the heel, not palm, of your hand. Divide dough in two equal parts and roll each separately to fit pans, about 1/4-inch thick. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on each pizza and spread evenly. The layer of tomato sauce will be thin. Sprinkle each pizza with Feta cheese and Kalamata olive halves. Bake in oven until browned and crusty, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven and season with sea salt. Serve hot. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Good Strawberry Pies


Photo used with permission.

The best fresh strawberries I have ever had were handpicked in Arkansas. A friend invited me. I was intrigued. I had never gone somewhere to pick fruit before. Even more intriguing was her suggestion that we select a long branch before commencing. We were to use the branch to "swish" through the berry plants surrounding us to scare away the snakes. 

The berries were delicious.

For me: Fresh or frozen cherries. (Gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free.)

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Makes one 8-inch pie

Strawberry sauce:
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Filling:
3 cups fresh strawberries

8-inch pastry shell, baked and cooled

For the sauce: Crush washed and hulled berries with the back of a wooden spoon.  Cook over medium heat with water just to a simmer for 3 minutes. Sieve the sauce to remove seeds. Combine the sugar and cornstarch and add to the sauce. Cook over moderately high heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes.

For the filling: Rinse and hull strawberries. Slice to desired thickness, or quarter.  Place one-half of the berries in the pastry shell. Pour half the sauce over. Repeat and chill.

Baked Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Makes one 8-inch pie

4 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, sliced
1 pound fresh rhubarb, rinsed and sliced (do not use tough ends) to the same thickness
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter, (chop while cold and keep chilled)
Pastry for a double pie crust, bottom partially pre-baked with egg yolk glaze

Proceed as above for the sauce.

Filling: Combine the berries and the rhubarb. Place one-half of the fruit in the pre-baked pastry shell; pour the sauce over and repeat. Sprinkle with the chopped butter. Cover with a lattice top, or a cut a free-hand design in top crust for a steam vent. Bake at 350º F. for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool and refrigerate before serving.