Friday, April 30, 2010

45. Fruit flower for Two - Fruit Flower

Spring is a wonderful season and when it arrives, the quantity of fruit choices explodes. Fruit creations are sometimes so pretty and artful, that it hard to destroy the effect by cutting into them. One of those is the fruit pizza which pops up in the spring and continues to be served well into fall. While there is no definitive information concerning the origin, I seem to recall that this dessert made it's entrance in the Midwest during  the late 70s or early 80s....

I can picture the first time I was served Fruit Pizza; the colors and decorative nature of the whole thing was reminded me of a kaleidoscope design. As much as I loved that fruit pizza, I have to confess, I never made one until recently. 

Most recipes use commercial sugar cookie dough for the base. While this is an easy way out, I think that type of dough has a fake flavor.

Today's post version uses an easy sugar cookie recipe which was used to make the base for a smaller version of the pizza...I made little fruit flowers with the most delightful orange-flavored cookie crust...perfect for two people.

The second layer is a light, rum-flavored, sweetened cream is so wonderful combined with the orange flavor in the cookie and the fruit. Last, I added sugared, cinnamon pecan pieces, that give a delightful crunch and richness to the whole dessert.

(I did use the fresh fruit I had on hand to create this dessert flower, but almost any combination of fruit that can sit on a coated cookie would work well. Just remember to start layering from the outside in).

Note: Future post #53 will feature a true fruit pizza with a wonderful, crisp crust and a glazed topping.

Diane's Fruit Flower for Two
Rum-Orange Flavored

No-roll sugar cookie dough (recipe below)
Cream cheese
Powdered sugar
Rum flavoring

Fresh fruit (suggestions below)

Nut Crunch (recipe below)

No-Roll Orange Sugar Cookies

1/2 C margarine
1/2 C powedered sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 C melted margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange peel
2 C + 2 T flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1/2 tsp salt

Cream shortening and sugar; beat in egg until fluffy. Add melted margarine, vanilla, and orange peel. Beat until well blended. Measure and mix flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt. Add this to creamed mixture. Chill several hours.* (Dough will be oily). Divide dough into thirds. Form teaspoon-sized balls and place them on baking sheet. Flatten to about 1/4 inch thick with the bottom of a glass dipped in decorative sugar. Bake 10 minutes. Let rest on sheet 2-3 minutes after removing from oven. Transfer to wire rack. makes 3 1/2 dozen. May be doubled.

*Divide refrigerated cookie dough into thirds. Remove one third and roll 1 1/2 inch balls of dough. (One large cookie is for (2) servings). Roll enough for your needs. Save remaining dough for sugar cookies.

Press dough into three-inch circles and place on cookie sheet*. Bake 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until browned. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
*(Don't use the pizza type pan as shown...the dough presses through the holes).
For each cookie, mix 2 T cream cheese with 2 T powdered sugar, blend well. Add 1-2 tsp rum flavoring and mix in thoroughly. Spread cooled cookie with cream cheese. Slice stem end off of two large strawberries and stand strawberries on flat side. Slice each thinly and decorate the outer edge of cookie with slices. Peel a clementine and place 4 segments around the inner circle of the strawberries. Fill the center with chopped, fresh pineapple. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, sprinkle coated nuts over fruit flower. Serves 2.

Note: Other fresh fruit may be used...blueberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas.

Nut crunch

2 tsp Smart Balance
1 T sugar
1/4 rounded cup chopped pecans

In a skillet, melt margarine over med-lo heat; add sugar and nuts. Cook for 3 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Lightly sprinkle nut mixture with cinnamon. Mix and stir for 1/2 minute more. Remove to a piece of lightly greased aluminum foil until cool. (These nuts are wonderful for many dessert and breakfast recipes. Make a larger batch and store in an airtight container for later use).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

44. Shrimp Cocktail Sauce - Sauced

Many holiday gatherings demand a large serving of chilled, cooked shrimp accompanied by a bowl of tangy, red cocktail sauce. A plate of deep fried shrimp had better be accompanied by a few lemon wedges and that red sauce on the side; and those who enjoy raw oysters will also be in line dip into this familiar sauce.

I do not know why anyone would buy cocktail mother always made her own and so do is beyond simple. If your goal is to make a serious study of the subject though, there is a whole world of cocktail sauce recipes on-line and the following website seems to have it covered:

Their list of recipes, which follows, runs the gamut of simple to complicated:

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Tequila Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Vodka Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Garlic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Shrimp Sauce Recipes-Ketchup Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Habanero Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Wasabi Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Horseradish Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Best Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Easy Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Creole Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Holiday Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Spicy Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Cajun Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Southwestern Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Basic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Mayonnaise Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Low Carb Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Hot Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Chipotle Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Heinz Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Mustard Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Sugar Free Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Japanese Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Shrimp Cocktail Sauce Without Horseradish-
White Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Whiskey Shrimp Cocktail Sauce-Louisiana Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Today's post reveals the recipe for the sauce I only has (2) ingredients...tastes wonderful. Included are two variations...which are acceptable to my taste buds...but, not necessarily preferred!

My Mother's Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

1 C ketchup
2-3 T horseradish

Measure and mix in a container. Cover and chill.
(I never actually measure the is all done by taste).

Cocktail Sauce #2

1 C ketchup
1-2 T horseradish
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced

Measure and mix all the ingredients in a container. Cover and chill. (Nice lemon aftertaste).

Cocktail Sauce #3

1 C ketchup
1/4 C horseradish
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Tabasco

Measure and mix all the ingredients in a container. Cover and chill. (Very tangy).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

43. Egg Drop Soup - Light Start (G)

In 1997, I took a Chinese cooking course and found the food to be quite different from the kind offered by local chop-suey houses. Our instructor broke down the food styles for us by region. We were told that Szechuan and Hunan cuisines are often have hot flavored seasonings, Mandarin is more mild-flavored and Cantonese - familiar.

As part of the class instruction, we were asked to visit a nearby Asian grocery store. The inside of the store was not like anything I had ever seen before. There were dried meats and vegetables, canned and frozen items with exotic names - foods with pungent aromas I did not know how to use and was afraid to taste! I did, however, purchase a jar of Szechuan hot pepper paste which our teacher called Ha-Ha sauce. It is so potent, a speck of it will heat up a dish!

The Chinese (Cantonese) food most of us are accustomed to, is actually a peasant-style food. It was modified by the Chinese people who came to America as railroad and laundry workers when the west was being settled. These Asians cooked for locals and had to accommodate their tastes and the limited availability of foods. Vegetables were hard to come by and were virtually eliminated;  meats became more of a focus. This variation has been carried over to the present-day offerings which are often very salty and loaded with MSG.

Meals in a typical Chinese restaurant seem to follow a pattern. They start with egg drop soup and work on down to the expected fortune or almond cookie. Compared to the thick and chunky American soups like split pea or chicken dumpling, egg drop is a pale cousin. Actually, many restaurants don't even bother to put in any egg. They just serve broth and add a few peas and miniscule pieces of green onion.

Done right, however, egg drop soup is delicious and slightly exotic!

Authentic Egg Drop Soup
Jion Liou Yen

1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 T cooked peas
1/2 tsp dry sherry
salt to taste
white pepper to taste (our teacher said that oriental people think black pepper makes the food look dirty)
1/2 T cornstarch paste (cornstarch mixed with cold water)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 scallion, chopped (most vegetables are sliced on the diagonal, looks prettier)
dash of sesame oil

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add peas, wine, salt and pepper. Thicken slightly with 1/2 T cornstarch paste. Slowly drizzle in egg, stir constantly. Sprinkle with green onion and sesame oil, (I used toasted sesame oil). Serves 4.

Option: I also love certain commercial potstickers or dumplings. Add one to the egg drop soup for another taste adventure. (Omit potsticker for gluten-free meal). Trader Joe's sells a wonderful frozen fried rice/vegetable mixture entrée. While it may be microwaved, it is better fried. Add a few of the dumplings,( see photo),  and some fresh fruit or other vegetables on the side and you will have an authentic-tasting meal in a short time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

42. Asparagus, Tender Crisp - Guilty Pleasure

The year I had my first producing asparagus bed coincided with financially hard times for our family. As I fixed asparagus night after night, I actually felt guilty eating me, asparagus was a luxury prices for it were always high and even in good times, we had limited our purchase of asparagus to a few times a year; it was not a vegetable we had to have. Somehow,with the abundance my garden produced, I did not feel like I deserved to have so was a guilty pleasure.

In this phase of my life, I no longer feel guilty eating asparagus, but I am grateful that I have it on my menu.

 Asparagus is a member of the lily family and the oldest known herb to human civilization. However, today most consider it to be a vegetable crop. Healthwise...asparagus is a nutrient-dense food which in high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. Asparagus has no Fat, contains no Cholesterol and is low in Sodium. Asparagus seems to be one of those wonder foods...the Greeks believed the plant could cure everything from toothaches to heart ailments.

 The following is a partial list of what modern scientists have discovered about asparagus:

• Help prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the body.
• Helps control blood sugar levels.
• Helps prevent bladder and urinary tract infections.
• Lowers  blood pressure levels.
• Helps increase milk generation in nursing mothers.

I used to overcook asparagus until I saw it picked fresh and prepared on a gardening program on PBS...The Victory Garden which also happens to be television's longest running gardening show.  The Victory Garden has educated and entertained gardeners and would-be green thumbs since its debut in April 1975. I am thankful for what it did to help me in my asparagus preparation all those many years ago.

The process is quick, which is a benefit to maintaining the vitamin content, and it involves 2 steps.

Diane's Tender-Crisp Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus
Olive oil
Smart Balance Margarine
1/2 fresh lemon (optional)

Clean asparagus just prior to preparing. Dry with a paper towel.

  Hold the top of a spear between your thumb and fingers firmely with one hand, while bending the bottom of the spear with the other hand. The woody, lower portion will snap off, leaving the tender edible section. Collect all of the edible spear pieces and place on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut 1-inch pieces on the diagonal.
Step 1: Saute Asparagus
Meanwhile, heat a pan on med-high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan. Add asparagus pieces all at once when oil is hot and stir fry with a wooden spoon for 4 minutes.

Step 2: Steam Asparagus
Immediately, lower heat to low and add 1/4 C water. Stir; cover pan with a lid to steam pieces. Simmer for 3-5 minutes until asparagus is tender crisp. Pour off water to a for soup. Add Smart Balance magarine and the juice of half a lemon. Stir and keep covered until ready to serve. The asparagus will maintain its vibrant green color and the flavor will be fresh and delicious.

Serving suggestions: Over rice, as a side dish, in soup, with oriental stir fry.

Note: May is National Asparagus Month

Monday, April 26, 2010

41. Spaghetti Pie- Spaghetti Sauce - Family Favorite

My paternal grandparents were immingrants who left their home in Sicily when they were quite young. They worked hard and lived in a close-knit community on Staten Island where family mealtime was an important part of  life; cooking was an expression of heritages and traditions.

After World War II, my parents moved to the Midwest and started their family. I was very fortunate that Mother loved to cook and was exceptionally talented in her ability to take ordinary food and make it special. While my mother was not Italian, she was a master of the Italian cuisine that my father was an education to watch her blend seasonings and proportions to make the taste of her recipes come out just right.

I spent a long time perfecting my own spaghetti sauce. For years, every time I made spaghetti, the sauce had a different flavor...some sauces were good and others were better forgotten. When I finally got the formula down to a perfect blend and a memorable equation, it was a relief to me and my family of taste-testers.

Today's recipe uses my spaghetti sauce and combines it with someone else's great idea. More than 25 years ago I received a piece of junk mail from a company that wanted me to buy their recipe card series. They included a sample card...I kept the sample card, but did not place an order. The recipe was for something I had never heard of...spaghetti pie; the picture on the card looked wonderful and tempting. I used my own sauce, but the rest of the recipe follows their directions. It has become a much loved and requested  family favorite. It is a great dish to take to a potluck dinner or to someone who needs a meal.

(I have tasted several commercial sauces sold in jars and find that most run the gamut of horrible to mediocre. One that is an exception though, is Emeril's Marinara sauce. You could brown your own meat and add his sauce if you are pressed for time; follow directions below from **)

Diane's Spaghetti Pie

6 oz Spaghetti
2 T Butter or Margarine
2 Eggs, beaten (Egg Beaters may be substituted)
1/3 C Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 C Cottage Cheese

Spaghetti sauce (my recipe below)
Mozzarella cheese

Grease a 9 inch pie dish. Prepare the spaghetti per the package directions. Drain cooked spaghetti and place in a bowl; stir butter into hot spaghetti. Next add the beaten eggs and parmesan cheese. Mix well until butter is melted.

Form spaghetti mixture into a "crust" in a greased pie plate. Spread ricotta cheese or cottage cheese onto the center of the crust.

**Spoon some of the meat sauce mixture into spaghetti crust covering the cheese but leaving a pasta'crust' edge. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting. Makes great leftover meals and freezes well. I often make two pies and freeze one for another meal.

Microwave directions: Cover the pie with waxed paper and microwave for 7 minutes or so depending on the temperature of the pie prior to heating. Lift off paper, add mozzarella, recover and heat 1 more minute, until cheese is melted.

Diane's Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 C Onion, chopped or 1/4 C (60ml) Dried Minced Onion
2 Garlic cloves crushed
1 can diced Tomatoes, 14.5 oz
1 can Tomato Paste 6 oz
1can Tomato sauce 15 oz
1-2 T Sugar
1 tsp Dried Oregano, crushed
1 tsp dried Basil, crushed
1 tsp dried parsley, crushed
Salt – to taste

3/4 C Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

In skillet, brown ground beef, onion, till meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain off the fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, sauce, sugar, oregano, basil, parsley and garlic. Add salt to taste Continue to stir until heated through.

Note: Some days just call for improvising...I wanted spaghetti pie but, my husband was away on business and I did not want to go to all the work of making a large pie for just myself. So, I cooked a package of Ramen noodles (without the seasoning), stirred in butter, Egg Beaters, and Parmesan...I put the mixture into a glass bowl, added cottage cheese, put some previously frozen sauce on top and nuked the whole thing in the microwave...It was unbelievably delicious...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recipe Index 1-40

1. Italian Beef, Follow Your Nose
2. Chicken Artichoke Festiva, Pot Lucky
3. Tuna Potato Patties, Taste Test
4. Soup Au Pistou, Force Fed
5. Danish Potato Bread, Under Your Nose
6. Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner, Cravings
7. White Chocolate Cookies, Cookies Rule
8. Banana Bread, Vanna's Bananas
9. Mussels, Forks on the Left
10. Fruit Slaw, Slaw Laws
11. Oven Barbecue Chicken, Lick Your Lips
12. Carrots in Broth, Plate Confetti
13, Easy Pancake Syrup (2 recipes), Pass the Syrup
14. Chocolate-Pecan Crescent Puffs, The Culinary Wall
15. Sweet Potato Pie, Pride and the Sweet Potato Pie
16. Pie Crust and Pie Crust Secrets, Melt in Your Mouth
17. Fruit Dumplings, The End of the Day
18. Hard Boiled Eggs and Easter Eggs, easy dye method, Cold Water
19. Bunnies on the Lawn, On the Green
20. Crunchy Beef Turnovers, Not a Taco
21. Italian Sausage with Tomato and herbs, A Happy Moment
22. Bacon Potato Patties, In the Red
23. Butter Lamb, Butter vs Margarine
24. Easter Nest Coffee Cake, Easter Nest
25. Lime Pineapple Salad, It Glows
26. Zucchini Casserole, Over-Abundance
27. Shrimp Scampi, Most Popular
28. English Muffin Loaf, Pied Piper Calling
29. Broccoli Salad, Super Food
30. Basmati Rice, Thrown at Weddings
31. Sloppy Joe, What's In a Name
32. Back-Burner Beans, Is It a Fruit?
33. Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Fun Food
34. Pita Bread, Pied Piper Calling
35. Caramel Popcorn, Young Again
36. Chicken Breast Strips, Alektorophobia - NOT
37. Pita Egg Sandwich, Seasoned and Easy
38. Spice and Sweet Potato Squares, Effortless
39. Napa Cabbage Salad, Memory of Napa
40. Praline Cookie Bars, Sweet and Nutty

40. Praline Cookie Bars - Sweet and Nutty

Pralines just scream New Orleans!  They can be found for sale almost everywhere in that southern city. The origin of this sweet and nutty confection is not clear, but some say that pralines were invented in the 17th century by a French chef who named them after Compte du Plessis-Praslin.

The clever chef combined caramel and almonds to create a confection that became known as "praslin" after the Compte and from which the name praline is derived. Pralines were probably carried to New Orleans by settlers who substituted the available pecans for the almonds used in the original recipe...and so, the distinctive southern praline confection was created.

My family was not from the south, but one summer we took a road trip from our home in the Midwest to was quite an adventure. In addition to the change in scenery, part of the trip was having to endure the long ride in a car that was not air conditioned. The farther south we drove the more we welcomed any reason to stop and get out of our hot, crowded prison-on-wheels. 

Luckily, massive and frequent billboards advertised everything from crocodile gardens to snake pits and beckoned us to deviate from our planned route. Pralines were also advertised...I had never heard of pralines but, someone named Aunt Sally must have cornered the market...she was selling them everywhere.

 We did  make a few unscheduled stops and I even got to see and taste real pralines. While I did not like them, today's recipe is for Praline Cookie Bars...which I think taste great. They are an easy finger food to take to a potluck or family get-to-gether.

Praline Cookie Bars

Graham Crackers (do not use generic)
1 C margarine
1 C brown sugar
1 C chopped pecans
Line a cookie sheet (15x10) with foil. (If your pan is larger, just fold up the edges of the foil to measure 15x10. Line the foil with graham crakers.

In a small pot add margarine and brown sugar. On med. heat, bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add nuts. Mix well. Pour mixture over crackers and carefully push the nuts evenly over crakers.

Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into oblong bars. Store in an air-tight container. Best eaten within 2-3 days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

39. Napa Cabbage Salad - Memory of Napa

Sometimes a recipe is so remarkable it can forever mark the place of its introduction. Today's salad is one of those. More than 20 years ago, I remember having been invited to a dinner with a few other women friends. I can picture the host-home, the time of year and even the dining room...that is how vivid that scene has been etched in my memory.

The hostess had a special meal planned and was very particular about dishing up an unusual salad she had prepared. I had never seen one quite like it...and, I was not familiar with the main ingredient. As I tasted the first mind said, "Wow!"

Everything about the salad was delicious...the taste, textures and the overall composition, which was attractive and inviting. I went back for a second helping and then, a third...and did not feel the least bit guilty. The next time I saw the hostess, I begged for her salad recipe...and told her it could remain her signature contribution at future took a few more days of pleading before she finally gave me the formula...

There are similar recipes floating around the internet, but this is the one I love...

Kaye's Napa Cabbage Salad

2 heads of nappa cabbage, finely sliced in quarter-inch increments, crosswise
6-8 green onions chopped into small pieces

2 pkg. Ramen noodles (noodles only), crushed
½ stick butter (use real butter)

1 C oil
½ C Cider vinegar
1 C sugar
2 tsp soy sauce

½ C sesame seeds
2 ½ oz sliced almonds

Brown crushed Ramen noodles and sauté in butter until lightly browned. Remove to a paper towel. Mix dressing. Set aside. Just prior to serving, toss cabbage and onions. Stir dressing well with a spoon, and pour on enough to coat cabbage, (there will be leftover dressing). 

 Just prior to serving, mix in Ramen noodles, seeds and almonds; toss together…serve immediately.

(Top individual salads with a few more almonds and crushed noodles, if desired).

(Browned crushed noodles and dressing)

Note: This salad does not keep well after the dressing is mixed into it and should be used within an hour or two.

*To serve 2 people: Cut the dressing recipe in half. Slice only enough cabbage to fill two individual salad bowls and refrigerate the rest. Drizzle on enough dressing and toss to coat the cut cabbage well...mix in other ingredients to taste. (There will be leftover dressing). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

38. Sweet Potato Spice Squares - Effortless

Everyone has a favorite cake, but hardly anyone wants to go to all the effort to make one. The over-priced store cakes, on the other hand, are ususally coated with sickeningly sweet icing made with vegetable shortening and chemicals. You might find a better grade of cake at a bakery, but many bakeries have gone out of  business due to the competition from the grocery chains. So, if you want that special cake, it might be time to find someone who will do the work...maybe that someone is YOU.

There is a wonderful website which features the timeline of also gives recipes for most kinds of cakes, and it answers almost every question one might have in regard to cakes like the following: Why are cakes round? Who invented Duncan Hines brand cake mixes? Is there soap in cake mixes? When did oil become a standard ingredient? Who was Duncan Hines...and so forth.

Wanting  to know the orgin of dump cakes, I found that certain versions of them were developed as far back as 1912...They were also called Wacky Cakes and Crazy Cakes...but, they were not exactly what I consider a dump cake. In 1979 cake recipes popped up for campers to use with their Dutch Ovens. These camper-cakes used a can of fruit on the bottom of the Dutch Oven with a box of white cake mix sprinkled over the fruit. The lid was put on the oven and the whole thing was placed on the hot coals with more coals on top...I think a person would have to be very, very hungry to enjoy such a concoction!

Today's recipe, which is a dump cake,  is so much more than the camper's delight...It is very easy; there is relatively little fact, it probably takes more work to eat it than it does to put the cake together...I have cut the calories, sugar and fat by using Egg Beaters, Splenda and Smart Balance margarine. The sweet potatoes, spice cake and nuts are terrific flavors together.

Diane's Sweet Potato Spice Squares

1 can (29 oz) sweet potatoes, drained
1/2 C Egg Beaters
1 T Splenda
1 spice cake mix
1 C chopped pecans
1/2 C Smart Balance, melted

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Combine potatoes, Egg Beaters, and Splenda in a blender or Vita Mix. Puree. Using a rubber scraper, remove mixture to a greased 13x9 pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly, crushing any clumps of mix between your fingers. Next, sprinkle chopped pecans over crumbs. Last, drizzle melted margarine evenly over nuts and cake mix. Bake 45 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Serve with whipped topping. Makes 16 servings. Freezes well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

37. Egg Sandwich - Seasoned and Easy

Egg sandwiches were a part of my childhood because my dad used to make them for us on an occasional Saturday morning. His sweet nature and willingness to cook made those scrambled eggs a special memory. I can picture my dad breaking the eggs into a big dish and adding milk before he scrambled the mixture. My home economics' teachers, on the other hand, told us that milk should not be added to scrambled eggs. In pursuing the subject, I found that most modern recipes are back to adding milk.

To find a complete overview of what works and does not work with scrambled eggs go to the following site:

It is a very informative website by someone calling himself Mr. Breakfast.

When I  make scrambled eggs, I tend to be in a hurry...and usually spray a little bowl with Pam, beat an egg in it and nuke it in the microwave! This has to be done carefully, however, or the egg will be rubbery.
Today's recipe is for a quick meal. After scrambling and cooking the egg, sprinkle it with McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning and place egg between two pieces of buttered bread (don't use is too crisp).

I discovered this wonderful egg-companion by accident 30 years ago because I grabbed the wrong seasoning and sprinkled it on my egg before I realized what I was doing...voila...a family favorite.

If you are on the go, put the egg in a warmed and buttered pita pocket and head out the door...nothing falls out. I sometimes add cut up vegetables, fresh or sauteed...delicious and simple. (Pita bread recipe - post #34)

Monday, April 19, 2010

36. Chicken Breast Strips - Alektorophobia...NOT

If you were a fan of the television program, Monk, you had to know that Mr. Monk was afraid of almost everything. Alektorophobia was probably on his is the fear of chickens!  Most people do not suffer from that phobia which is a good thing because there are actually more chickens on earth than there are humans. In fact, in China, alone there are over 3 billion of them at any given time.

While a chicken could live up to 20 years, laying hens are usually only around between 5-11 years...I suppose their life span is determined by their egg-laying capability. Chickens meant for the table, on the other hand, live to the ripe old age of 6 weeks, while free-range meat chickens are allowed to grow for 14 weeks.

Not long ago, I was invited to a chicken butchering day held by some Mennonite friends. The chickens were grown on one of the farms as a source of food for their community. On the big day, I was, surprisingly, not put off by the event. I do not think I could have whacked off the heads, though...a chore in which the little boys seemed to take great delight.

The whole process was very systematic and went quickly in spite of more than a hundred chickens being processed. These free-range chickens were much larger than those sold in grocery stores and, when cooked, the meat was juicy and I thought the flavor was exceptionally fresh. My husband, on the other hand, could barely choke it down...he just could not get the picture of the processing out of his mind!

Most people in the world enjoy chickens for the following two reasons:  egg production and as the source for relatively inexpensive meat. Due to the popularity of this meat, chicken recipes proliferate on the site alone, has over four thousand.

We all have our favorite recipes and, if your mother cooked chicken a certain way, chances are, you probably fix it the same way, too. I used to cook boneless chicken breasts the way my mother did until I read a recipe on the back of one of the frozen-chicken breast packages. I suppose if I had thought about the chemistry involved, I could have figured out how to cook more tasty and juicy pieces of breast meat, but tradition prevailed and, for years, I just cooked it as I had been taught.

Today's recipe uses the method I learned by reading the suggestion on the chicken bag. It is quick and easy and produces wonderful tender, juicy pieces of meat that can be used in hundreds of ways...use your imagination! *See note at end of recipe.

Diane's  Chicken Breast Strips

Heat a large pan on med-high. When hot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place frozen chicken breasts in pan and cook for five minutes. Do not crowd the breasts or they will steam-cook instead of  browning. Use tongs to turn the breasts over and heat the second side for five minutes. Sprinkle seasoning on the chicken. I use pepper blends and basil. Turn breasts a second time and season that second side.

After (2) 5-minute browing segments on each side, take the pan off the burner and remove the breasts to a cutting board. With a sharp knife slice breasts on the diagonal into 1/2 inch wide strips. The center of the chicken will still be slightly frozen and pink. Add chicken strips back to pan and return pan to the burner. 

Add more olive oil to pan to keep the meat from burning and saute slices until all sides are golden and the pink color is no longer present. Other seasonings, like garlic and onion, may be introduced during this part of the browing process. Serve immediately or chill for use in a salad.

These tender, juicy chicken strips can be used in many types of recipes including oriental stir-fry and Italian pasta dishes. They may also be served, as is, along with vegetables of your choice.

*Note: You may choose to leave the breasts unsliced; just continue to cook each side, turning at 5 minute intervals. Check for doneness by making a slit in the meat. When it is no longer pink, it will be ready to eat. Very large breasts may be butterflied after the browning process described above. Continue to brown meat after slicing the breast carefully. Be sure to season cut side. Add olive oil as needed to keep meat from burning.

Friday, April 16, 2010

35. Caramel Popcorn (Microwave) - Young Again

With no money for big vacations, my parents would drag us around to museums, galleries, parks and zoos, the arboretum, and any number of events within a few hours drive of our home. Some of the outings were more work than fun, but one that we always loved was the summer drives to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We would walk around in the warm summertime weather and enjoy the lake view. Lake Geneva bustled with boaters, sun bathers, tourists and locals - it was always a trip I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Lake Geneva trip was not complete unless we stopped at the caramel-corn store on the main drag. The smell of the popcorn and sweet caramel surrounded the whole front of the building and spilled out onto the street and pulled us inside. There was only one kind of caramel corn to purchase and my dad would buy each of us our own warm bagful.

Years later, I was a hard-working college student and had a job at a campus snack bar. I always volunteered to make the caramel corn  - even though it was hot, sticky work and my arms sometimes  sustained burns, it did not matter -  I was able to eat as much caramel corn as I wanted!

Recently, a friend shared a delicious microwave, caramel corn recipe. It tastes very similar to the treat we bought on our trips to Lake Geneva. Maybe I will make a batch and go out to sit by a different lake, close my eyes and make believe I am young again!

**How-to-pop popcorn directions at the end of the recipe.

Caramel Popcorn - Microwave
(Recipe from Rae E.)

Combine in a saucepan:
1 C brown sugar
1 C butter
1/3 C Karo syrup - light
 1 tsp salt
*Bring to a boil for 2 1/2 minutes...stir occasionally with wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Add 1/2  tsp baking soda. Stir and immediately pour over (20) cups of popcorn in a paper sack. Stir with wooden spoon until all of the popcorn has been coated well. Fold top of bag over and put it in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

Pour caramel corn out onto 2 large baking sheets and separate pieces. Cool and store in sealed container.

*Note: Hot sugar can cause serious burns. Please be careful while handling the caramel. If it lands on your skin, it will stick and the burn will be deep. Children should not help prepare this recipe.

**After I read negative health reports regarding the oil and flavor products in packaged microwave popcorn, I have thrown it all out and now only make popcorn in a pot! My adult children, who grew up with air-poppers and  mircrowaved popcorn, were dumbfounded that I could pop corn on the cooktop; it is easy and inexpensive.

Popcorn by the Pot

Heat a large pot on med-high heat. Add 1/8 inch oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Place 2 kernels of popcorn in the pot and cover with a lid. When the kernels pop it indicates that the oil is hot enough; add kernels...(start with 1/2 cup if you are not sure how much your pot will hold). When the kernels start popping, shake the pot around...use potholders to help hold the pot for the shaking process. When the popping sound slows down or stops, remove pot from burner and set on a trivet or another pot holder. Carefully remove the lid, allowing the steam to rise away from your face. Pour popcorn into a bowl and add any seasonings you desire.

(There is a fine line between timing the popping for perfect popcorn and leaving it on the heat source too long and burning the takes practice, so take it off sooner than later...burned popcorn is horrible). 

Note: The unpopped kernels are called 'old maids'.
Reason for old maids: 
Adding too much popcorn to the pot
Popcorn is old
Not shaking the pot vigorously during the popping process
Temperature too low
Pot type ( we have a cheap pot which does the best job of popping the popcorn...our enamel coated pot leaves a lot of old maids)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

34. Armenian Pita Bread - Pied Piper Calling

The fragrance of  bread being baked is unmistakable and might even coax sleepy heads out of their beds in the early morning...fresh bread is the Pied Piper of the kitchen. It is also a great comfort food that can make a hard day seem better, a sad day happier and a cold day cozy.

 Today we have more baked-goods choices than those I remember from my childhood. Back then, bread came in loaf or roll form of one sort or another. There were crusty Italian and French loaves, cinnamon, kaiser and onion rolls...tender white, dense wheat cakes...raised and filled doughnuts...rye and dark breads...but, that was about it. In Midwest towns and villages, bread that spoke of exotic cultures and foreign lands was just not available.

 People, in general, were exposed to more things as the age of television grew up and, almost overnight, the world became a lot smaller. Interest in food also began to broaden. Cooking programs drew wide audiences and celebrity cooks and chefs had to compete by coming up with interesting and often exotic formulas. Sometimes they got a little carried away with recipes that no one in their right mind would make, but other times we were given the gift of a recipe that I called a keeper...something I would try and love and keep.

The first time I saw a television chef shape little, flat circles of dough and then, magically pull them out of the oven as puffed-up pillows, I couldn't wait to make some for myself. Of course, they were loaves of pita bread. Throughout the years, I have tried several pita recipes and the one shared below, has been the most successful.

Armenian Pita Bread

2.5 t yeast
2 C flour
1.5 t salt
1.5 t sugar
1 C water

Add all ingredients in the order suggested by bread machine. Process on dough cycle. Remove dough from machine. The dough will be sticky. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll each to form a 5 inch circle.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

*Preheat lightly greased baking sheet. Turn sheet upside down...for some reason, this was the direction given and this is how I bake these. Place circles on pan. Bake 6-8 min. By preheating the baking sheet, the pitas are almost guaranteed to puff up.

This recipe may be doubled. Pita bread freezes well.

If you don't have a bread machine...just follow the general directions for mixing, kneading, raising bread.

Any pita loaves that do not puff up can be eaten at least 2 ways.
A. Pile sandwich food on top of pita and fold the bread slightly and eat. B. Tear pieces off the round and use them as food scoops for stews or soups...delicious.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

33. Chocolate Covered Strawberries - Fun Food

Something happens to people when the word chocolate is mentioned...usually it garners a big smile and maybe even a far-off look of remembrance...the last candy bar or box of chocolates, a dish of ice cream and maybe a piece of chocolate cake...definitely sweet memories. I would like to feel sorry for people who don't like or cannot eat chocolate, but deep down all I am really thinking is,"Yippee...more for me!"

One of the most fun classes I ever taught was all about chocolate. I spent weeks preparing recipes to share and teach. On class night, we tested and tasted and by the end of the evening...we were almost chocolate coated...and felt slightly ill...but, what a way to go!

The funniest chocolate recipe I ever read was for chocolate covered ants. It follows:

Chocolate Covered Ants
1500 ants
3 C melted chocolate

Catch ants and keep them in a glass jar. Add a little will help to keep them occupied and add to their sweetness.  Carefully lift lid and, using tweezers, pick up ants one at a time and replace lid. Quickly dip the ant in melted chocolate. Hold the coated ant up to drain away any excess chocolate and place ant on waxed paper. This process should take about 350 hours. If an ant happens to survive and crawls off of the him out the door...he has earned  his freedom!

The addition of chocolate makes some food a lot more hot fudge on ice cream, chocolate syrup in milk, a rich glaze for fruit and frosting or cream on cake. According to an internet source, chocolate covered strawberries were introduced by Lorraine Lorusso in the 1960's at a store named "Stop n Shop" located in Chicago. I have not been able to verify this claim, but whoever figured out that fruit could be dipped in chocolate and eaten like a giant, juicy confection, should be given special recognition in the chocolate hall of fame. * see note below

For me, chocolate covered strawberries are the ultimate treat in the dipped-fruit category. While quite priecy to purchase, this delightful dessert is easy and inexpensive to make at home.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (use real chocolate)
1 T solid shortening
Large strawberries, washed lightly and dried (do not cut the stem or leaf end)
(Use only unbruised fruit)

Put chocolate and shortening in a small pot. Place over a second pot which has water simmering in it. Melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring to combine. When chocolate is melted, take off of the heat and tilt pot to keep the mixture at one end of the pot. Pick up the strawberries by the stem end and roll in the chocolate to coat 3/4 of the way up the sides. Place coated strawberry on waxed paper. When chocolate is hard, put berries on a plate, cover and refrigerate. These should be eaten within a day.

Excess chocolate may be saved by spooning it onto a piece of waxed paper. When hardened, fold paper over and put in a plastic bag. Store in a cool, dry place. To use, melt as above or add it to another batch.

Caution: Do not let any water from the bottom pot splash into the chocolate, it will ruin the mixture.

*Note: While there is no official chocolate hall of fame, there are individual websites that give personal recognition to different kinds of chocolates and chocolate makers.

 One well-maintained site and gives honors of mention to special chocolate professionals on a yearly basis

The above site has mentioned Shawn Askinosie, from Springfield, MO as his first chocolate hall of fame inductee

For 2010,  the honor went to Art Pollard of Orem, UT

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

32. Back Burner Beans - Is it a Fruit?

Sometimes when I served bean for dinner, my children would sing a little song that began, "Beans, beans the magical fruit..."

I did not know they learned this little rhyme from a Bart Simpson episode! Apparently, Bart was sent to a Catholic school after being expelled from his regular elementary school. Bart's new teacher asked him to sing a hymn but, not knowing what a hymn was, the little character was allowed to sing a song of his choice - the bean song. After he sang the rather colorful words, he was chased away by the teachers and other students. (Version of song at end of post).

No matter how many times my children tormented me with the bean song, I never actually heard or internalized the word fruit at the end of the first line. I think of beans as vegetables and to paraphrase an 1828 version of the Webster's Dictionary,...vegetables are such plants used for culinary purposes and cultivated in gardens...they are of a more soft and fleshy substance than trees and shrubs and include cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, peas, beans, etc...

Obviously, Webster thought they were vegetables and to bolster my case, cuisine terminology tells us plant parts which are sweet and fleshy are fruit. A bean is hardly sweet and fleshy and it would seem at this point that it is safe to say it is a vegetable...on the other hand, a bean is also classified as a legume...and the definition for legume is, the fruit produced by members of that family.

Maybe a bean is a fruit, after all.

I guess in the end, it doesn't really matter; beans are good for you, whatever they are - so, eat them!

We did have a variety of legumes when I was a child - navy beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, lima, and red beans. Many of them were featured in my mother's soups or stews. Baked beans, however, came from a can and they were a family favorite because Mother always added chopped onion and sometimes other things to the canned mixture.

Today's recipe has a baked bean consistency and it has been modified to make a tastier and lower-fat version of one I used to cook. It has such a wonderful flavor, it could be a main dish.

Diane's Back-Burner Beans

1 large onion, diced
1 T bacon bits (you may used 4 slices of bacon, drained if you wish)
4 cans navy beans, drained
1 can chicken broth
7 T real bacon bits
3/4 C sorghum molasses
1 can tomato paste
1/2-3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a pot on med-high heat, add 1-2 T oil. When oil is hot, add diced onions and cook until soft and golden. Stir frequently and make sure they do not burn. Halfway through cooking process, add 1 T bacon bits. (Or fry the onions in a little bacon fat).
Next, add remaining ingredients except for 7 Tbacon bits and stir until well mixed. Turn down heat to low and simmer with pot partially covered for 45 minutes. Add remaining bacon bits and taste.

Adjust sugar or salt. Serve or refrigerate. Makes 2 quart.

Serving suggestions: as a side with baked Ham, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried fish, sandwiches, meat loaf.

*Bean song: Beans, Beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

31. Sloppy Joe - What's in a Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a Sloppy Joe, By any other word would taste as good...

As strange as it seems, Sloppy Joe's go by a lot of names. In Nebraska they are called Yum Yums and are known as Taverns in parts of Iowa and Minnesota. If you are from Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland you might refer to them as Steamers. Slushburgers is their label in eastern Montana and, if made extra hot, Rhode Islanders call them  Dynamites.

Whatever the name, this popular loose-meat sandwich's origin remains a mystery. Some say it was invented at the Sloppy Joe Bar in Key West, FL in the early 1930s, while others say Iowa is the state of origin and put its beginning in the 1920s.

 I never heard of or ate a sloppy Joe until my teen years. Apparently, my mother was unfamiliar with them or maybe she thought they were more of a junk food item and did not put them on our menu. I don't know what prompted my mother to 'give in' and make them, but one day she made her own sloppy Joe meat mixture - no packaged additives were available yet - and her recipe was delicious but next-to impossible to duplicate.

My sloppy Joe recipe did not happen by accident and was a long time in the making.  My goal - to have the right balance of flavors - not too sweet and not too tart - not too salty and not too bland. Memories of my mother's sloppy Joe flavors kept me on track and the result was my family-friendly, food memory recipe!

Diane's Sloppy Joe's

1 lb. ground beef (I like to use an 85%  mixture)
1 pkg. Sloppy Joe mix
1 can tomato paste
1 C catsup
1 C water
1-2 T minced onion
2 T Worcestershire
2 tsp brown sugar
S/P to taste

Heat a large pan on med-high temperature. (If the pan is too small, the meat will tend to boil and won't brown well). Add oil to coat bottom of pan. Add ground beef and break it up into small pieces...move the meat around with a spoon as it browns to break up the meat further. (Browning does not mean burned nor does it mean means brown!). Add onion half-way through the browning process. After browning meat, turn down heat to low.

Pull meat to one side of the pan and tip the pan to let the fat collect at opposite side by tilting the pan. Remove fat with a spoon to a dish or cup. Allow fat to harden and then, discard. Do not pour fat down the sink or the garbage disposal. Do not pour hot grease into the plastic trash bag...the bag will melt).

Add sloppy Joe mix to meat and blend well. Add water slowly and stir. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer uncovered until meat mixture is heated through and is the correct consistency for
sandwiches. Recipe may be doubled.

Note: This recipe freezes well; be sure to double-wrap it or vacuum seal.

Friday, April 9, 2010

30. Basmati Rice - Thrown at Weddings

A certain grain is grown on every continent except Antarctica and it is the major source of food for almost half of the world's population. It is known for its mild taste and comfort-food qualities and can be a wonderful addition to almost any type of meal. When combined with vegetables or meat, it becomes an economical main dish. This grain is, of course, rice.

Rice-based societies exist in China, India and Indonesia; rice is such an important crop in these countries that it has influenced many beliefs. In Japan and Indonesia, for instance, rice has its own god while the Chinese devote a whole day during their new year to rice. Some Asians feel that rice is a link between heaven and earth and in India people believe that fertility and rice are linked. That belief has led to the tradition of throwing rice at weddings.

There are over 40,000 varieties of rice in the world but only a few are grown commercially. Most of us are familiar with rice types like long, medium and short grain, but there are also sweet, aromatics and arborios. The most common rice forms are rough, brown, regular milled white, parboiled and pre-cooked. Brown rice will stay fresher if refrigerated, but other rice does fine if kept sealed and dry in the pantry.

 The following rules will help guarantee success in cooking perfect rice regardless of the kind:

-Measure rice carefully and cover the cooking container tightly and do not peek.
 (The steam actually cooks the rice and if the lid is lifted too soon, it stops the process).
-Timing is important...make sure the rice is not over or undercooked.
-Fluff up the rice when it is finished being cooked to separate the grains.
-If the rice is too sticky, too much liquid was used. (exception, sticky rice)
-If a more separated grain is desired, sauté the rice in a small amount of margarine before     
   cooking, and then add water and continue as directed.
-Most rice does not need washing or rinsing (exception aromatics like Basmati)

While some people will actually eat raw rice mixed in with other ingredients, most cook it first. The easiest and most common way to prepare rice is to simply boil it in water. Broth, vegetable stock and even diluted fruit and vegetable juices may be substituted.

Basmati Rice is a fragrant or aromatic rice and one of my favorites. I have fixed this rice for years and it turns out light and fluffy every time. I discovered the correct timing for cooking it because I broke one of the rice rules...I peeked! If I had followed the printed directions, the rice would have been burned. All of the recipes given for Basmati rice indicate that it should be cooked for 5 to 10 minutes longer than my recipe; however, the picture below shows the rice perfectly cooked and tender.

*When this rice cooks, it will fill the room with the most amazing fragrance.

Diane's Basmati Rice

Measure 2 cups of rice into a strainer with small holes. Run cold water over the rice to remove all of the excess starch off of the grains. Use your hands to help move the rice around as it is being washed.Wash the rice three times. Put washed rice in a large pot and add enough cold water so that there is 1/2 inch of water above the rice level. Add 1 T oil, salt is optional. Turn heat on med-high  heat and boil until the water level is almost even with the rice level. Turn heat down to low, cover pot with lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Take pot off heat, and fluff up rice. It should have nice, separate grains and be tender.

Rice may be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container for a week. It freezes well. I often make extra rice to have on hand to add to a soup or another main dish. Rice is very low in fiber and is digested in about an hour.

Sticky Rice

Follow package directions. It may be used for sushi, side dishes and dessert recipes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

29. Broccoli Salad - Super Food

If it was a manufactured compound in pill form, it would be high-priced and called a wonder-drug. Eating it helps to protect against breast cancer, leukemia, colon cancer, prostate and liver cancers, and also lung and bladder cancers. It has cardiovascular benefits, lowers the risk of cataracts, helps maintain strong bones and helps to prevent certain birth defects such as spina bifida.This super food, which originated in Italy and evolved from wild cabbage, is broccoli!

 When I was growing up...broccoli was always served cooked...sometimes too long and then, this mighty vegetable would become limp and yellowish. Most of us can tell when broccoli is being cooked...the the sulfur compounds within the plant break down and permeate the air...and it stinks!

Someone, however, came up with the bright idea that finger food and all sorts of dips and cut up vegetables should be featured in women's magazines. Everyone who wanted to be considered modern loaded their buffet tables with colorful plates of raw food. The first time I saw raw broccoli served as an appetizer with dip, I thought it was a joke...but, I tried it anyway. I doubt anyone at that time, knew how great this vegetable served in its raw form was for the human body.
I have learned to love broccoli in spite of its stinky presence. It is such a versatile can be eaten raw or steamed, buttered or drizzled with lemon, in a casserole or an omelet with cheese or without, as a side dish or the main event...the recipes are endless.

 A word of caution, however, to get the most food value and to preserve the antioxidants in broccoli...less is more. Microwaving is a big will zap away almost 100% of the three major cancer-fighting properties...steaming takes away almost none of them. If a recipe calls for the broccoli to be sauteed or steamed, it should be done for no longer than five minutes. Another interesting fact is that many of the cancer-fighting compounds form after the broccoli has been cut up...and it should sit after being chopped or cut for five minutes prior to cooking.

Just 3-5 (one cup) servings of  broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower per week have been shown to be sufficient protection...and, on one final note, cooked tomatoes with broccoli increase the benefits significantly.

My dad did not spend much time in the kitchen, but I do remember something he showed all of us...he took a broccoli stem and cut away the tough outer skin, leaving the tender inner core. We would salt and pepper these tasty, crisp (raw)snacks.

Today's recipe(s) use raw broccoli disguised as a salad. The flavors blend together in wonderful harmony and the crunchy textures of everything in the salads makes every bite interesting and satisfying. My son-in-law introduced the broccoli salad recipe to our family and we all count it as a favorite. The second recipe was generously shared after someone's mother brought the salad to a grade school luncheon when my kids were little. It is also wonderful.

 (For a complete overview of the scientific studies involving broccoli go to the following site:

Michael's Broccoli Salad

2 broccoli heads, chopped                        1/8 cup sunflower seeds
Golden raisins, handful                               Real bacon bits
Red onion, chopped (optional)                   Hellmann's mayonnaise

Chop broccoli, including stems. Add mayonnaise to make a nice blend. Add sugar by teaspoonful to make mixture barely sweet. Stir in a layer of seeds and a few raisins. Add real bacon bits and a T of chopped red onion (more if desired). Stir well and refrigerate.  (I cut the recipe in half for just 2 people to enjoy).

Broccoli Salad Deluxe

2 heads of broccoli, chopped                             Dressing:
1 lb. bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled        1/2 C sugar
(or substitute real bacon bits)                              1/4 C white vinegar
1 bunch red grapes                                             1 C Hellmann's mayonnaise
1/2 C red onions, chopped
1 C walnuts, chopped

Mix all the ingredients well, but gently. Refrigerate. Serve.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

28. English Muffin Loaf, Two Loaves

 The day I bought my first bread machine was very exciting. I would be able to put ingredients in the machine, set it to mix and time it to bake...why, it was a dream come true.  I could even awaken to a fresh, tender loaf of homemade bread for my breakfast...what a beautiful picture!

Reality painted a different picture, however. That fragrance of baking bread woke me out of a sound sleep at 4 a.m. and the loaf that came out of the bread machine was not the picture of perfection...the crust was hard and thick and the bottom of the loaf had a big hole in it after the mixing blade was removed. To add insult to injury, the bread was an ugly, vertical shape,

I did bake a few more loaves in my bread machine...all with the same disappointing results. Since then, I  only use the dough cycle on my bread machine...I love the 'dough' will mix, knead and raise the dough and that is a wonderful work and time saver. Bread machines can cost $200+ or can be purchased for under $60. For reviews, pricing and sources go to

A very delightful loaf to bake is called English Muffin Loaf. I made it the first time for a group of women friends who came to  my home to share bread recipes. English Muffin Loaf is easy to make; it only has to rise once and does not require kneading or the use of a bread machine. The fact that it makes two loaves is also a plus. (You can cut the recipe in half if you only want one loaf). This loaf produces a bread that has a coarse texture with plenty of nooks and crannies to capture melted butter and sweet honey.

English Muffin Loaf 
(Mix by hand - requires no kneading)

2 pkgs. yeast                   2 tsp salt
6 C flour                         2 C milk
1 T sugar                        1/2 C water
1 T sugar                        cornmeal
1/4 tsp soda

Combine 3 C flour and all other dry ingredients except cornmeal in a large bowl. Heat liquids until very warm. Add to dry mixture; beat well. Stir in the rest of the flour and mix well. Divide mixture evenly  into 2 bread pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover pans with a towel or plastic. Let dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove loaves from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. Each loaf makes 16 slices. This bread freezes well.