Friday, May 27, 2016

A Real American Breakfast by C A Jamison & Bill Jamison

Cheryl Alters Jamison & Bill Jamison write the most interesting cookbooks in my collection.  American Home Cooking and Smoke & Spice, they have gone a step higher in this tome on the American Breakfast.  A Real American Breakfast is huge collection of American breakfast recipes travels from region to region and coast to coast.  The recipes are mouth-watering to read and don't skimp on great high-quality ingredients fit for a king and queen.
Authors of the award-winning

But perhaps best of all are the many historical notes, old menus and references to cookbooks that would be in a collector's dream.  (I am a cook book collector)  Background information is included with every recipe and quotes from historic cookbooks, i. e., "Whatever else you may economize in, do not limit your family in respect to eggs.  They are nutritious, and even at four cents each are cheaper than meat."--Mary Lincoln in Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book (1884)

The chapters cover the gamut of breakfast foods:  eggs, dairy, pancakes and waffles, meats, seafood, hashes, stratas, sandwiches, cereals, fruit, potatoes, grits etc., breads, sweet treats and drinks!  Whew!!
Strewn throughout the book on sidebars are ingredient tips, technique tips and the aforementioned excerpts, menus and philosophies from historic cookbooks.  This cookbook has everything.

I have so many favorite recipes from this book that it is almost impossible to limit myself to only one or two to publish, but Cheese Blintzes with Berry Sauce has to be included.  The introduction to this recipes is interesting as a backdrop:
Blintzes and other dairy dishes such as cheesecakes are traditionally served at the Jewish Shavuot, a late spring harvest festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  Today every Jewish-American mother and grandmother seems to have a slightly different way of making the thin crepe-like pancakes with a creamy filling.  Originally stuffed in Russia and Poland with simple farmer, pot or hoop cheese, blintzes began to get richer and more extravagant as immigrants prospered in the United States.  Unfortunately--as with the bagel--the quality of the dish suffered as it gained mainstream popularity, particularly in the frozen versions now featured at breakfast buffets across the country.  Made from scratch, however, with a combination of good cheeses and a luscious fruit sauce, blintzes remain delicately sublime.  The egg in the blintz filling may not cook through entirely in the recipes brief sauteing time.  if this is of concern, you may want to prepare the baked Cheese Blintz Casserole instead.  

     2 8-oz packages farmer or pot cheese
     1/2 pound ricotta cheese (whole milk)
     1/2 pound cream cheese, softened, or sour cream
     3 Tbsp. sugar
     2 eggs
     1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
     1/4 tsp. salt

Berry Sauce:
     3 cups blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries or other berries
     1/2 cup fresh or reconstituted frozen orange juice
     2 to 4 Tbsp. sugar
     1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, optional

Blintz Batter:
     1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
     2 Tbsp. sugar
     Pinch of salt
     3 large eggs
     1 cup milk
     4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
     3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Butter for pan frying

Prepare the filling, the day before if you wish, stirring the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate if not using shortly.

Prepare the berry sauce, also the day before if you wish.  In a small saucepan, combine half the berries with 1/2 cup water, the orange juice, 2 Tbsp sugar, and the vanilla if desire.  Simmer over medium heat briefly, until the berries dissolve into the sauce.  Add the remaining berries and heat through.  Taste and add more sugar if you wish.  Keep warm if using shortly, or cool, cover and refrigerate for later use, reheating before serving.

Prepare the batter, first combining the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.  Process, then add the remaining batter ingredients and process again until smooth.

Heat an 8-inch skillet or omelet or crepe pan, preferably nonstick, until a drop of water bounces and sizzles briefly before evaporating.  Add about 1 tsp. butter and swirl it around to coat the skillet.  Quickly add 2 Tbsp. batter and swirl it around until the skillet is coated.  Cook until the batter dries on the surface, about 30 seconds.  Then flip the blintz and cook the other side for about 15 seconds, until faintly golden. (Blintzes should not brown.)  Repeat for the remaining blintzes, adding more butter as needed to prevent sticking.
We stack them on a plate with paper towels or wax paper between them, to separate them more easily, though many people don't bother with this step.

When all of the blintz batter is cooked, spoon 2 to 3 Tbsp filling on the lower third of the first blintz.  Fold up the bottom, turn in the sides, and then fold over snugly but not tightly.  Repeat with the remaining blintzes.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Arrange several blintzes at a time in the skillet, starting seam side down, and saute until faintly brown and a bit crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes total.  Repeat with the remaining blintzes and serve with the fruit sauce.

Cheese Blintz Casserole

As scrumptious as blintzes can be, they do take a little time to prepare in traditional ways.  Contemporary Jewish cooks have developed quicker casserole alternatives, such as this version modeled on one from Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the New Jewish Holiday Cookbook (1999).  Rather than start from frozen packaged blintzes, as many recipes suggest, she tweaks the batter and cooking process.  You'll use the preceding filling and can crown the casserole with the berry sauce or with fresh strawberries or applesauce.  To make the blintz batter:  combine in a food processor 1-1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and /14 teaspoon salt.  Process, then add 4 large eggs, 1-1/4 cups milk, 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and process again until smooth.  Measure out 1-1/2 cups batter and pour it into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Bake at 350 F. for 9 to 11 minutes, until just set.  Remove from the oven, spoon the filling over it in large dollops, and smooth the surface. Give the remaining batter a quick stir, then pour it evenly over the filling.  Return it to the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes longer, until the top is puffed and lightly colored in spots.  It may crack in a few areas.  Cool for at least 10 minutes (it will deflate), then serve with large spoonfuls of sour cream and the berry sauce.  Leftovers will keep for a couple of days but we prefer them chilled rather than reheated.  


Thursday, April 28, 2016

1969 Betty Crocker Cookbook

My last post was about the Red Plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  That cookbook, as I lay out
in my blog, is a classic, old, stand-by, full of wonderful, nostalgic recipes, illustrations and photos.  It was my go-to cookbook when I was first married and remained an important cookbook to this day--especially for standard, basic recipes for cakes, cookies, bread, pies and tips on cooking rice, pasta, and standard comfort foods like chili, mac and cheese, spaghetti, meatloaf, casseroles, etc.  However, a few years later (1969)  the Betty Crocker Cookbook came out in a new form (formerly Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, which I own but was never very helpful for me).  I was given one for a gift and it soon earned a permanent spot on my handy, use-all-the-time cookbook shelf.

My sister-in-law was actually the person who started my love affair with this cookbook.  She swore it was the best cookbook in the world and, judging by her delicious food, I was sold.  Of course, I still loved my Red Plaid, but this book soon became my favorite.  Why?

First, the photos in this book are better--and there are a lot more of them--maybe not the same as today's great cookbooks, but a turn for the better.  The recipes are not so much nostalgic classics (though those are in there, too) but newer, more innovative ideas that caught on and became the classics of the future; in other words, they had a younger style.  Some of the recipes from the Appetizers Chapter became ubiquitous, even though they were new in 1969:  Rumaki, Olive-Cheese Balls, Oysters Rockefeller, Guacamole.  It was hard to find a party in the '70s where one or more of these appetizers weren't being served.
In the Bread Chapter, Pumpkin Bread (a quick bread) appears and it has become a staple of today.  Previously, pumpkin as an ingredient, was reserved mostly for pie.  The best recipe in this section, however, is one I use at our Bed and Breakfast all the time and it is always received with rave reviews.  Danish Puff is a streamlined version of the famous Danish pastries which are an all-day affair to make.

Under cakes and billed as "a tender, golden cake for small families, "Dinette Cake" is a favorite of mine.  I use it for regular cakes, put Coconut Broiled Frosting on it or use it for Pineapple up-side-down Cake.  It turns out light and feathery and delicious every time.  A yellow and white sponge cake, dubbed "Daffodil Cake" is exactly like it sounds--as light and colorful as Spring itself. Five pages of decorating ideas for cakes are really helpful. And, my family's all-time favorite frosting, Penuche Frosting, is found in this cookbook.

The Cookie chapter is so stained and tattered that no one could think it wasn't well-used.  I have Pillsbury and the Better Homes and Gardens books with their cookie recipes, but none surpasses the cookies in this Betty Crocker classic.  Among our family's favorites are:  Ranger Cookies, Oatmeal cookies, Pecan Fingers (especially the coconut chew variation), Scotch Shortbread, Deluxe Sugar Cookies, Cream Wafers (fussy, but excellent) Spritz, and Rosettes.

Pineapple Upside-Down-Cake uses the aforementioned Dinette Cake batter and is the best version of this dessert I have had.  Mocha Brownie Torte is easy to make and really good as well.  Other dessert treats that I have served to rave reviews from this cookbook are, Indian Pudding, Lemon Pudding Cake, Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, Cream Puffs, Lemon Schaum Torte and Cherry Berries on a Cloud.

Fondue seems to have made something of a comeback --happily, I think. When our group were all young marrieds that was our favorite way to entertain; easy, delicious, and, of course, you could show off your wedding present fondue set.  This cookbook gives step-by-step directions and includes three sauces for "Beef Bourguignonne" fondue that are easy but delicious:  Blue Cheese Sauce, Hot 'N Spicy Sauce and Horseradish Sauce.

Christmas Eve tradition requires the Swedish Meatball recipe on page 261.  I have tried many other recipes for them, but these are the best.

The "Main Dish" Chapter has a lot of ground beef recipes that are comfort foods at their best.  Hamburger Stroganoff leads the list, followed by Texas Hash, Lasagna, and Chili.  Boston Baked Beans are delicious and much better than canned beans, even when doctored up.

Lastly, the pie section has the premium standard for such classics as Apple Pie, Blueberry, Cherry, Pecan, Pumpkin, Lemon Meringue, and (not so standard and hard to find) a recipe for Black Bottom Pie--Yum!

If you don't own this cookbook and you can get your hands on a copy--by all means do.  You won't be sorry.

Dinette Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour square pan, 8x8x2" Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl.  Blend 1/2 minute on low speed,, scraping bowl constantly.  Beat 3 minutes high speed, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour into pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.

Easy Penuche Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in brown sugar.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.   Boil and stir over low heat 2 minutes.  Stir in milk; heat to boiling.  Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.  Gradually stir in powdered sugar.  Place pan of frosting in bowl of ice and water; beat until of spreading consistency.  If frosting becomes too stiff, heat slightly, stirring constantly.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Red Plaid Cookbook

I saw on Face Book a picture of a red plaid, 1953 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with a caption, “Who remembers this?” Many of the replies and comments stated what my own feelings are:  I not only remember it, I use it all the time and have since I was a bride in the 1960s.  I have versions of this cookbook in my collection, starting in the 1930’s and going up to the 2002 12th edition.  Although I enjoy the 1953 version that I own, I actually use the 1962 edition even more—because it was my young homemaking era.

With the huge number of standard cookbooks that are available, what makes this particular cookbook so great?  It begins with the homey, family-centered feel of the book, from the pictures and illustrations to the recipes themselves.  Many of us oldsters remember our own mothers and family mealtimes very much like the depictions in this cookbook.  My own mother used this cookbook religiously when it was the “new, modern” cookbook of her time. Reading through the “Meal Planning” section the menus could have been taken from our family dinners.  

The 1950s were a placid and tranquil time in our history when domesticity was queen.
The illustrations show housewives in the proverbial shirtdresses and high-heeled shoes.  Their cute pageboy haircuts and pin-curl dos harken back to that amazing era of homemakers and, for many, a nostalgic sense of old-fashioned homeliness.    

What are the recipes and tips that all of us who love this book turn to and use over and over?  Begin with the menu planning.  Like my mother taught me, all evening meals or dinners include 6 categories:  meat, starch, vegetable, salad, bread and dessert.  People do not eat like that very often anymore, except perhaps at a celebration meal.  But we weren’t fat!  When you have that much variety at one meal, you don’t over eat one thing—a mental deprivation situation that I think is prevalent today.  When you have two dishes for your whole meal—or even one—you mentally load up on that dish because that’s all you’re having and we don’t like to feel deprived.  The cookbook menu plans even include a category “nice to serve” with foods like relishes, jams and jellies, pickles and olives, fruit juices, appetizer soup cups for a few.  I remember my Grandma always put a dish of jelly or preserves (homemade, of course) on her Sunday table.  It was there for the homemade biscuits, naturally.

In the “Special Helps” chapter of the ’53 version the opening photograph brings waves of nostalgia over me.  The stove is identical to the one my Mom had—the color of the cabinets, the shiny Formica countertops, the electric percolator (makes the best coffee in the world), the canisters—even the dishes are exactly right for the era.  I can see my best friend’s mother frosting a chocolate cake in her red and white kitchen with an apron over her full skirt.  That was real—not just a commercial.  This book is a centerpiece for that era as far as cooking and homemaking go.  The chapter has help for ingredients, measurements, cooking shortcuts, spices, and storage of food.  That’s pretty standard for a utilitarian cookbook—even of today.

The bread chapter is really interesting because so much more bread was baked at home then; although it is true this was the era of Wonder bread—that cottony, fluffy slice of air that we all thought was great—especially for toast or bologna sandwiches.  But that was childhood (look what kids like to eat now!!!)  Does anybody remember coffee cake?  Sunday mornings were reserved for pancakes or waffles or French toast, but an everyday treat that often showed up on our breakfast table was coffee cake.  Not as rich as coffee cakes today, nevertheless, a really delicious treat.  Probably a muffin is the closest thing in today’s cuisine, at least as easy and quick to make—it almost always had a streusel topping where you could vary the ingredients to suit yourself.   Here is a typical and easy version from the 1953 version:

1 beaten egg
½ cup sugar
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp. shortening
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Combine egg, sugar, milk and shortening.  Add flour sifted with baking powder and salt.  Mix well and pour into paper-lined (or sprayed) 8x8x2” baking pan. 
Sprinkle with mixture of ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp flour, 1 Tbsp melted mutter, and ½ cup broken nuts.  Bake in moderate oven (375) 20 to 25 minutes.

The 1962 rendition of this recipe has a few very good revisions:

¼ cup salad oil or melted shortening
1 beaten egg
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking power
½ tsp. salt

1 Recipe topping

Combine salad oil, egg, and milk.  Sift together dry ingredients; add to milk mixture; mix well.  Pour into greased 9x9x2” pan.  

Topping:  Combine ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, and ½ cup broken nuts; sprinkle over batter.  Bake in moderate oven (375) about 25 minutes or till done.  Serve warm.

An updated, healthier version—every bit as good!  Maybe Better!

1 beaten egg
¼ cup melted lard or coconut oil
½ cup milk
1 cup unbleached white flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 recipe topping

Mix egg, oil and milk; set aside.  Sift together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Make well in dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; mix until just blended.  Pour into sprayed 8x8x2” square baking pan.  Mix topping and sprinkle over batter.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until testing done.


Combine ¼ cup (packed) brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. melted butter and ½ cup broken nuts (walnuts have the most omega-3); sprinkle over batter.

The best waffles I have ever tasted come from this cookbook—and you won’t find a recipe with these ingredients in a modern cookbook because the amount of fat in this recipe is higher than we seem to use now.  Yes, that makes them more caloric but what is the use of eating inferior food and feeling deprived or still wanting something more?  My philosophy is to eat the food that tastes the best and if it’s fattening, eat less.  A case in point is milk.  I was raised on whole milk and, although I drank it for years in my dieting days, I never really learned to like skim or low fat milk.  Whole milk has twice the calories per ounce as skim milk.  So—I drink 4 ounces of whole milk instead of 8 ounces of skim and I really feel satisfied and happy.  This waffle recipe is an example of the same theory.  One or even one half of a waffle that is this delicious is superior to two of the low-fat kind.  Try it yourself.

“Oh Boy” Waffles

2 ½ cups sifted enriched flour
4 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
2 beaten eggs
2 ¼ cups milk
¾ cup shortening (melted) or oil

Sift dry ingredients.  Combine eggs, milk and shortening.  Combine liquid and dry ingredients just before baking; beat till smooth.  This is a thin batter.  Bake in hot waffle iron.  Makes 8 waffles. 

In the “Raised Rolls” chapter, is my standard go-to recipe for caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls and all the variations of these.  I do up-date this recipe by doing a few different things which I learned as I baked frequently for the Bed and Breakfast.  I have several bread machines in my house. Most of these I purchased at a thrift store for between $5.00 and $10.00.  They all work for what I use them—which is to mix the dough, knead it and let it rise at the right temperature so that I can shape it and let it rise again and bake it in the shape and pan that I choose.  I am writing the original recipe from the 1953 cookbook, and then my changes:

Plain Roll dough

1 pkg. active dry or 1 cake compressed yeast
¼ cup water
1 cup milk, scalded
2 Tbsp. shortening
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 well-beaten egg
3 ½ cups sifted enriched flour

Soften compressed yeast in lukewarm water (85 deg), active dry yeast in warm water (110deg).  Combine milk, shortening, sugar, salt; cool to lukewarm.  Add softened yeast, egg.  Gradually stir in flour to form soft dough.  Beat vigorously; cover and let rise in warm place (82 deg) till double in bulk, about 2 hours.  Turn out on lightly floured surface and proceed as desired under variations.  Either the shortening or sugar or both man be increased to ¼ cup to make richer rolls. 

My Cinnamon Rolls

1 ¼ cups water
1 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar
1/3 cup powdered instant non-fat milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, optional (I don’t use it)
3 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 heaping Tbsp vital gluten flour
1 scant Tbsp dry yeast

2 Tbsp. soft butter
¼ cup cinnamon sugar

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp hot water, or more to make spreading or glazing consistency

Fill sprayed container of bread maker with water, lemon juice, instant milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and egg, if using—in that order.  Put flour in next and top with vital gluten flour and yeast.  Put container in bread maker and set on “dough” setting.  Start machine.  When machine beeps, dump dough out on floured board and flatten to a rectangle 9x12"  Spread softened butter evenly over dough.  Sprinkle entire surface with cinnamon sugar.  Roll up tightly, jelly-roll style, from long edge.  Cut into twelve even slices and put into sprayed 9x13 pan.  Cover and let rise until double.  Bake at 375 degrees for 23 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Mix frosting or glaze and frost rolls or pour as glaze.  Delicious!

The Casseroles and One-Dish Chapter reads like the menu of a comfort food restaurant—but there’s a reason why most of these dishes are classics—they’re good!  There is a very noticeable omission: slow-cooker recipes, because, of course, slow cookers were unheard of in the 50’s. The closest thing to it was a delay oven mechanism which was brand new.  Many ranges still have this feature wherein you can set your oven to turn on at a certain time when you are not home.  Problem:  food has to be safe to sit in your oven until time to turn on or risk illness.

How many of these dishes do you make for your family?:  Chinese fried Rice, Shrimp Creole, Chow Mein, Spanish Rice, Macaroni and Cheese, Italian meatballs and spaghetti, Chicken Pot Pie, Hamburger Pie, Beef Stroganoff, Tamale Pie, Chili, Lasagna, Pizza (yes, pizza was in the 62 version), Chicken Divan, Chicken Strata, Tuna Noodle Casserole.  Tamale Pie was one of our favorites:

Tamale Pie

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
¾ pound ground beef
1 8-oz cans seasoned tomato sauce
1 12-oz can whole-kernel corn, drained
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 to 3 tsp. chili powder
Dash pepper
1 ½ cups shredded sharp American cheese

Corn-meal topper:

¾ cup yellow corn meal
½ tsp. salt
2 cups cold water
1 Tbsp butter

Cook onion and green pepper in a little hot fat till just tender.  Add meat; brown lightly.  Add next 8 ingredients.  Simmer 20 to 25 minutes, until thick.  Add cheese; stir till melted. Pour into greased 10x6x1 ½-inch baking dish
Make Corn-meal topper:  Stir corn meal and salt into cold water.  Cook and stir till thick.  Add butter; mix well. Spoon over hot meat mixture in 3 lengthwise strips.  Bake casserole in moderate oven 375 about 40 minutes Makes 6 servings.  (I always put some extra shredded cheese on top of casserole before baking). 


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

100% Natural Lard

I have always made the best pie crust around, learned from my mother and my grandmother--who both
swore by Crisco--not butter, not lard.  Then comes the news that Crisco (and all vegetable shortenings that are solid) contains trans-fats that are really deadly for your heart.  What to do?

I knew that old-time cooks swore by lard, so I decided to buy some from the store and try it. I didn't like the taste and I was appalled when I learned that the brand the stores offered also had trans fats in it ( partial hydrogenation used to stabilize the product).  Since we don't eat a tremendous amount of pie, I sighed and went ahead using Crisco.  Then I came upon a fantastic book entitled Real Food by Nina Planck. Opening chapter 6, "Real Fats" are these words:
     The Bad For You Cookbook, published in 1992, in the midst of the frenzy for "light" cooking, extolled lard, eggs, butter, and cream--for pleasure if not health. Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller presented their favorite recipes for shirred eggs, lard pie crust, and trout with bacon with unguarded enthusiasm--and this disclaimer:  "As for heart attacks. . . we are not going to make any hard-and-fast recommendations here because we are not doctors and--far more important--we are not lawyers."

I decided to buy this book, 100% Natural LARD,  and tried many of the recipes--wonderful!

Naturally rendered lard (as in buy it at artisanal websites or render your own), is a superior and delicious and healthy fat.  I bought some at our small-town meat locker and butcher shop, at a very reasonable price, brought it home and rendered it and have been using it ever since.  It's easy to do, cheap (when you buy it locally) and delicious!!!

Here is how to render lard as it is written in the cookbook 100% Natural Lard by the publishers of "Grit" Magazine.

How To Render Lard 
by Karen Keb
 Creating edible lard from pig fat at home involves harvesting the leaf fat (deposited in the kidney area) and back fat from the hog, grinding or dicing it, and processing. 
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 deg. F. 
  2. Fill a large roasting pan with the chopped fat. 
  3. Roast slowly for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the fat has melted and you have protein particles and connective tissue floating on top. 
  4. Skim off the solid particles and set them aside for the chickens.
  5. pour the liquid fat through a mesh colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Store in a glass canning jar in the refrigerator or freezer.  It will keep for months.  
Use the lard in place of oil when frying, in pastry such as pie crusts, sauteing vegetables, or roasting potatoes.  You'll be delighted with the texture and flavor (or lack of pork flavor) that real lard--not the hydrogenated kind sold on supermarket shelves--provides. 
I was a bit skeptical at first, since I had never had lard on any regular basis, and certainly had not used it for all my frying and baking.  But I started--and now my mouth waters when I smell and taste the foods cooked in and with lard.  
This pastry recipe is fantastic; however, all the pie-crust recipes I tried with lard are a little crisper and a little less tender than with Crisco.  I have tweaked them and the answer seems to be to add more lard than the recipe calls for--but not a lot more.  I will give the recipe as it is in the book, Lard, and then show my change in parentheses.  
 Pie Crust 
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. salt 
1 1/4 (1 1/2) cups lard, cold and coarsely chopped 1/2 tsp vanilla ex
1 egg 
5 1/2 Tbsp. water 
1 tsp. vinegar 
In large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the lad until the mixture is very fine.  In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, water and vinegar.  Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the liquid; mix just until the dough comes together in a ball.  Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten into disks; wrap individually in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. 
With Spring right around the corner (okay, I'm an optimist), why not try this fantastic dessert? 
Rhubarb Surprise 
1/3 cup lard, softened, plus more for greasing the pan 
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup sugar 
1/2 cup orange juice 
1/4 cup water 
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder 
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour 
1/ tsp. salt 
2/3 cup milk 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving 
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Grease an 8-inch baking pan with lard; set aside

In a saucepan combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the orange juice, and water.  Heat to boiling, add the rhubarb, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender.  Stir only once or twice to prevent the rhubarb from becoming mushy.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, cream together the lard and the remaining 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy.  Beat in the egg, baking powder, flour and salt.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat until well mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover with the rhubarb mixture.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Keep It Simple by Marian Burros

In the last half of the twentieth century, the quest for safe, simple, quickly prepared food that is not highly processed was spear-headed by an Emmy award-winning NBC TV food journalist named Marian Burros.  Written in 1981 as an adjunct to her book, Pure and Simple, Keep It Simple is ahead of its time with 30-minute menus using simple, real food.

The opening part I of the book deals with the politics of food and sounds eerily familiar to the  food scene of today.  Topics range from labeling misnomers ("sugar-free", "natural", ) to chemicals and additives in our food and the high price (nutritionally) of highly processed foods.  Although she gets some things "wrong" as in damning coconut oil, most of her conclusions about food safety and nutrition concur with today's findings.  But then, that all could change.

In Burro's own words, "The next chapter, sixty-one 30-minute meals from scratch, . . . is the main reason for the book's existence." All the menus are given in the beginning of Part 2 and include the number of people served and if they are best for spring, fall, winter or summer.  The menus are simple but delicious and are, in most cases, planned with an eye for weight watchers.  I've tried several of them and they have been very delicious and have lived up to the 30-minute promise.  Each menu gives a game plan, a list of staples you will use and a shopping list, as well as tips and suggestions.   

Here is a menu that we tried and really enjoyed:

A Chinese-American Menu for Three

Deviled chicken thighs
Marinated tomatoes and onion rings
Nectarines, plums or apples

Deviled Chicken Thighs

1 large clove garlic
1 large slice ginger or 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
9 chicken thighs

Put garlic through press.  Mince fresh ginger.  Combine garlic and ginger with soy sauce, sherry, hot pepper, and water and bring to boil in heavy pot, large enough to hold chicken.  Add chicken; reduce heat and simmer in covered pot 10 minutes.  Remove cover, turn chicken pieces over and raise heat so liquid boils briskly.  Boil chicken 10 to 12 minutes, until liquid evaporates and chicken takes on golden coloring.

Marinated Tomatoes and Onion Rings

1 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1 1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
3/4 tsp dried tarragon or 2 1/4 tap. minced fresh tarragon
1/8 tsp dried oregano or 1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
6 Tbsp good quality olive oil
3 tomatoes
1 red onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mince fresh herbs if using them.  Combine fresh or dried herbs with vinegar and olive oil and whisk or shake in tightly covered bottle.  Slice tomatoes and onion.  Separate onion slices into rings.  Alternate slices of tomato and onion on salad plates and pour on dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  If time allows, refrigerate.

In Part 3 Desserts and Hors d'oeuvres to dress up the menus, but they do add time.  She intends them to be added to basic 30-minutes menus and make them for company.  But the best chapter of all as far as I am concerned is the last one that gives a great many homemade mixes.  The convenience of mixes cannot be denied, but most of the ones in the supermarket are full of preservatives and additives, artificial flavors and colors, etc.  It is not only cheaper and healthier to make your own--but they taste much better.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Corn Bread or Corn Muffin Mix

4 cups unbleached flour
4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable shortening (I use lard)

Combine dry ingredients; stir well.  Cut in shortening with pastry blender. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place or refrigerate.  Keeps 6 months.

Cheese Onion Cornbread

1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
2 1/3 cups Corn Bread or Corn Muffin Mix

Beat egg and milk together.  Lightly stir into mix.  Do not beat out lumps.  Stir in onion and cheese.  Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan.  Pour in batter and bake in preheated 425 degree oven 15  minutes.  Cut into squares and serve warm.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

From Nika Hazelton's Kitchen

Nika Hazelton is one of a group of innovative classic cooks and food writers of an earlier era that included the likes of M.F.K. Fisher, Craig Claiborne and James Beard.  Her 20 plus books are excellent reading as well as full of great recipes and techniques that are described as "straightforward, personal and unpretentious." Any serious cookbook collector has a couple of Hazelton's book in his collection and this is one of her later books which is a collection of her favorite recipes that she says, "I have cooked over the years because the people I cook them for, and I myself, like them.  It is not a standard cookbook nor a teaching manual, but a very personal assembly of dishes that I make in my way... I like simple food, made with the best ingredients available, cooked with care and as quickly as possible to taste as fresh as possible..."  And the book lives up to her promises. 
It also showcases her forthrightness and sense of humor.  She gives helpful commentary on menu-planning, entertaining, stocking the larder and children's table manners!  But the simplicity and great taste of her recipes is what makes this a must-have book in my collection.   Take Russian Hors D'oeuvre Casserole, for instance.
2 Tbsp butter 
1/4 cup minced onion 
1/2 to 1 cup chopped mushrooms 
1 cup any diced leftover cooked meat 
1 cup diced cooked ham 
1 cup diced chicken 
1 cup diced boiled potatoes 
1 dill pickle, diced 
1/2 cup olives (either green or black), pitted and diced 
Freshly ground pepper 
1 to 1-1/2 cups sour cream 
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped 
2 to 3 tomatoes, sliced 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, cheddar, or Swiss cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.  Heat the butter and cook the onion.  Add the mushrooms and cook until just tender.  Combine with the meat, ham, chicken, potatoes, pickle and olives.  Add salt ad pepper to taste.  Mix with the sour cream.  Turn mixture into a 2-1/2 to 3-quart buttered baking dish and cover with the hard-boiled eggs.  Surround with tomato slices.  Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and bake until thoroughly heated and brown. 
This would make a very nice luncheon or supper main dish.
I love to read my cookbooks.  Every evening I have a stack at my side to peruse and this is one of those that is fun to read--apart from recipes.  Hazelton has a wry wit and a keen mind that is interesting, but she also seems to have a soft, homey side to her that makes you feel like making her homey dishes.  
In the chapter entitled, "Eggs, Cheese, and Cereals" she writes, "Besides, when you are at wit's end as to what to cook, think of the three steady faithfuls:  eggs, cheese, and cereals.  I do hope you have them always on hand. As you will see, mankind has long relied on this trio of foods."   
We have some dear friends who have always welcomed us to their lake cabin; sometimes including our children, their friends, then their spouses and now their children as well.  The time-honored breakfast is made by Royce and he has made giant amounts every year; Farmer's Breakfast, he calls it.  Hazelton's recipe, with the same title is very, very close:
Farmer's Breakfast (serves 2) 

6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into small strips 
1 small sweet green pepper, cored, seeded, and diced 
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion 
3 large boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed (2 to 3 cups) 
Freshly ground pepper 
1/2 cup of any grated cheese 
6 eggs 

Fry the bacon over low heat until slightly browned and crisp.  Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of fat.  Add the green pepper, onion, potatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until potatoes are golden, stirring frequently.  Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables and stir.  Break the eggs into pan over mixture and cook over low heat until eggs are set, stirring constantly.  Do not beat the eggs beforehand. 
This is a great book for just perusing and reading, but it has many, many wonderful recipes as well; directions are straightforward and ingredients are not unusual or expensive, in most cases.  I have tried several and they have all been delicious and turned out exactly as advertised.  That's saying a lot about a cookbook. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Savoring the Seasons Of The Northern Heartland

One of the great things about having a large cookbook collection is that you “re-discover” a book that you haven't looked at for a long time and realize that you really have a gem.  Savoring The Seasons Of The Northern Heartland is such a book. It’s written by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson, two women who have made a name for themselves in the food and cooking world.  Lucia Watson owns and operates Lucia’s Restaurant in Minneapolis—a popular spot since 1985.  Beth Dooley is a transplanted Easterner to the Midwest and has a special interest and knowledge of the history of pioneer cooking.  As always, I am drawn to the wonderful and informative narrative on Northern Heartland traditions—especially the diverse group of immigrants that settled this area and the dishes that they brought and are still visible on our tables today.

The introduction opens with a quote from Papers of George Nelson, Minnesota Trapper, 1803:
The land is of beautiful lakes all communicating with each other by equally beautiful streams full of excellent fish and ducks of twenty Species, Swans & geese with abundance of rice for you & them.  The boarders well furnished with grapes, plums, thorn apples and butternut.  The Woods Swarming with Deers & Bears & beavers…Whenever this country becomes settled how delightfully will the inhabitants pass their time.

The geographic area of the Northern Heartland encompasses Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and eastern North Dakota.  Soups and stews abound to stem the piercing cold of this region and there is an ethnic version of all of them from Scandinavia, Germany, Eastern Europe, Scotland and Wales.  The Native Americans from the Ojibway and Sioux tribes taught many of these early settlers how to live off the land and to dry fish, harvest cranberries and cook wild rice.

The chapter headings tell the story of our Northern Heartland food traditions:

            Milling and Baking—Bread, Muffins and Griddle Cakes
            Henhouse and Dairy—Chicken, Eggs, and Cheese
            Barnyard and Smokehouse—Farmhouse Meats
            Seasonal Kettle—Hot and Cold Soups
            The Communal Pot—One-Dish Meals
            North Woods and Prairies—Large and Small Game
            Deep Lakes and Swift Streams—Freshwater Fish
            Backyard Gardens and Sacred Paddies—Vegetables and Wild Rice
            Preserves and Pickles—Sweet and Savory Embellishments
            Come For Coffee—Cakes, Cookies, and Bars
            Pride of the Heartland—Pies, Puddings and Sweets

Each chapter is complete with wonderful information about the subject i.e. “Milling and Baking” chapter gives the history of the milling industry in Minnesota, especially General Mills and Pillsbury.  In addition to the history lesson, several exceptional recipes for breads are included; Café Latte’s Dakota Bread is one of them.  The cafeteria and bakery of that name is tucked into one of St. Paul’s oldest neighborhoods near Summit Avenue where F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up.  

Café Latte’s Dakota Bread

Makes 2 large or 3 small round loaves

2 cups warm water (105 to 115 F)
2 scant Tbsp. active dry yeast
¼ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup cracked wheat
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 Tbsp. raw sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable spray

In large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey, oil, and cracked wheat and allow to proof about 5 to 10 minutes, or until the yeast is light and bubbly.  Add the salt, whole wheat and white flours and stir to combine.  Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and begin to knead, adding enough flour to make a nice soft dough.  Knead about 10 to 15 minutes, sprinkling with more flour as necessary, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You may want to use more flour depending on the dryness of the cracked wheat and the flours, as well as the general humidity.  Mix the seeds together and sprinkle them over the dough, reserving a few tablespoons to sprinkle over the loaves before baking.  Then knead the seeds into the dough.  Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a dish towel, and set it in a warm place.  Allow the dough to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.  Punch the dough down.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.  Divide the dough and shape it into 2 large or 3 small round loaves, and place them on lightly greased baking sheets.  Let rise 25 to 30 minutes.  Brush the loaves with a beaten egg and sprinkle on any remaining seeds.  Bake the loaves in a preheated 375 deg. F oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove the loaves from the oven and cool on wire racks.

Pork played a very important part in the lives of the Heartland immigrants.  The rich farmland supported livestock of all types but the frugal Germans, Swedes and Norwegians especially loved hogs.  “They took up little space and were cheap to feed with leftovers, scraps, and garbage.  The meat—fresh, smoked, salted, and in sausages—provided meals of great variety, plus lard for baking and frying, and tallow for candles.  Nothing was wasted in the immigrant kitchen, where people prided themselves on using ‘everything but the squeal.’” 
Pork Tenderloin with Dried Cherries

½ cup dried cherries
¾ cup Madeira or Port
1 whole pork tenderloin (1 ¼-1 ½ pounds)
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. crushed juniper berries
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Salt and Pepper
½ stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
¾ cup white wine
1 cup homemade Chicken Stock
¾ cup heavy cream

In small saucepan, combine the dried cherries with the Madeira and bring to just under a boil; then remove from heat and let cherries steep until they are plump.  Cut the pork into thin slices (about ½ inch thick) and lightly pound between parchment paper or plastic wrap until not quite flat.  Sprinkle the slices with thyme and juniper and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Dip each slice of pork into the flour, shaking off the excess.  Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauté the pork (about 30 seconds per side) until it is browned and cooked through.  Remove the slices from the pan, set them on a warm plate, and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Pour out excess butter and immediately return the skillet to high heat.  Deglaze the pan by pouring the white wine into it and scraping with a fork or spatula to loosen any of the browned bits of meat.  Continue cooking over medium-high heat and reduce the wine to a syrupy consistency.  (It should be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon.)  Then add the Madeira and cherries and the chicken stock, and reduce again.  Add he cream and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens.

The soup kettle is probably the true melting pot of cooking.  Every ethnic group has full-bodied and distinctive soups even as they are similar.  Soups have been credited with healing powers: we all know the power of chicken soup for colds or almost any ailment.  The Indians made a thin wild rice soup for the stomach; the Germans thought cream soup could cure anything.  Scandinavians brought fruit soups to new mothers to give them strength while nursing.

Pumpkin Soup

3-4 pounds pumpkin
½ stick butter
2-4 Tbsp brown sugar,
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
Salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 apple peeled, cored, and finely diced
1 cup apple cider
1-2 cups milk
Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
Chopped toasted chopped pecans for garnish or toasted pumpkin seeds

Cut the unpeeled pumpkin into large chunks and place on a baking sheet.  Dot with butter and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper, then cover with aluminum foil.  Bake in a 350 deg. Oven for about 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until tender.  After you remove it from the oven, keep it covered with the aluminum foil so that the pumpkin will steam and become very soft.  Scoop out he flesh of the pumpkin—you should have about 6 cups—and put it into a large pot.  Add the onion, diced apple, apple cider and enough milk just to cover.  Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Put the soup into a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade and blend, in batches, adding milk to bring it to the consistency you like.  Season with nutmeg and more salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with pecans or pumpkin seeds.

The book is rich with anecdotes of pioneer immigrant descendents and their remembrances:  bringing in the sheaves at harvest time in Dane County Wisconsin in 1875; boiling potatoes for potato bread; Iowa cinnamon rolls half the size of your head; St. Lucia Day (December 13) celebrations starring sweet bread; and making lefse.

I can add my own recollection of gathering black walnuts with my father at the old Methodist camp at Frontenac.  We had to take off the thick yellow/green outer covering and then attempt to shell them.  The shells were so thick that a hammer was the only way to open them.  Once open, the nutmeats were stubborn and had to be picked out with a nutpick (unlike the easy English walnut nutmeats that literally fall out of their shells.)  The black, oily substance that gives the black walnut its distinctive odor and taste also stained everything near it—most especially your hands. Sadly, I think just because of this experience, although black walnuts are considered a delicacy by most people, I can’t stand them.

For anyone who descended from immigrants to the Northern Heartland, this book is bound to be fascinating.  It’s full of old photographs, reminiscences and, of course, wonderful recipes.