Wednesday, June 30, 2010

88. Cornbread-Buttermilk Loaf, Comforting

Food can be comforting...and certain words with food can be even more comforting. If we say something was made by Mom or Grandma...feelings are automatically attached to that item. We want to believe that anything made by someone's grandmother or mother is better, warmer, tastier and all around  more wonderful.

Whole cookbooks carry titles like Grandma's Cookin' or Mother's Home-style Recipes;  they probably sell a lot better just because of the warm-and-fuzzy factor. My interest is captured when I read those folksy-titled cookbooks...for some reason, I am hopeful that a real mother or grandmother somewhere has left her wisdom and experience with food for the rest of us to enjoy. I am just as certain, though, that many family recipes are closely guarded secrets and those great recipes often become lost or just fade away. What a shame...especially when there are so many horrible recipes floating around free for the taking.

Today's recipe contains the word grandmother...and also buttermilk.When I see that buttermilk is in a recipe...I automatically think
 'old-fashioned' because my dad grew up drinking it and said it was wonderful. I have only tasted real buttermilk once and decided it must be an acquired tast.

As far as today's recipe goes, if you do not want to purchase a carton, there are ways to substitute buttermilk in a recipe, *(see directions below). The resulting loaf has a different texture than traditional makes a tender, lovely loaf which can be served with butter and jam or alongside a bowl of chili or a salad. It can also be toasted and companioned with a breakfast egg.

Grandmother's Cornbread-Buttermilk Loaf

1 1/2 C flour
1 C yellow cornmeal
1/3 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C margarine
1 1/3 C buttermilk*
2 eggs

* (A. Use powdered buttermilk according to the pkg. directions with 1 1/3 C water or  B.  put 4 tsp lemon juice in a measuring cup and add enough milk to equal 1 1/3 cups. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes before using).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in margarine with a fork until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Whisk together buttermilk and eggs. Pour into the center of the cornmeal mixture. Stir until a stiff batter is formed...there will be a few lumps. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Tent loaf with foil if it begins to overbrown ). Remove from pan carefully and allow to cool on a wire rack. Slice to serve. Makes 1 loaf.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

87. Creamed Asparagus on Toast, Summer meal

 I always knew my appetite increased in  the fall and winter months, but I blamed it on the drop in temperature. According to research, however, the less light we have in our homes, the more hungry we feel.

If light affects appetite, I believe outdoor or surrounding temperatures affect cravings. Food I want in the fall and winter is usually not the same as the food I want in the spring and summer. Comfort food is a cold-weather must-have while lighter meals with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables say spring and summer to me.

Creamed asparagus on toast is a wonderful spring or summer meal. Not only is the recipe light and  uncomplicated, it can serve one or be increased to serve the whole family.

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

2 C cut asparagus
3 slices of bread , toasted and buttered
White sauce (margarine, flour, milk)
1/2 large lemon, juice (optional)
1 egg, hardboiled and chopped
Real Bacon Bits (optional)

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal. Place in a 1/4 inch of water in a small pot. Steam until tender. Drain and set aside.

White Sauce: In a separate pot, melt 2 T margarine over med heat. Add 2 T flour, stirring constantly until combined well. Cook, while stirring for one minute. Remove pot from heat. Add 1 C milk a little at a time, stirring constantly with a whisk. Place pot back on med-low heat and stir as sauce thickens. Add more *milk if necessary to bring up to desired consistency. Add asparagus to sauce, salt to taste and add lemon juice if desired; remove from heat.

Toast bread; butter and cut slices in half on the diagonal.  Layer 3 halves in a row on plates. Divide and spoon creamed asparagus over toast. Add 1/2 chopped egg to each serving. Sprinkle with paprika and Real Bacon Bits if desired. (I thought the dish was a bit bland without the bacon bits). Serve immediately. 2 servings.

*The pictured white sauce was made with 1% milk which creates a less white-looking sauce. The flavor is the same, however. Smart Balance was used for the margarine. Beefsteak Rye bread with seeds was my bread of choice.

Monday, June 28, 2010

86. Red Beans and Rice -(G)

The first time my husband and I attended a convention in New Orleans, it was spring and something called the Jazz Festival was going on. The sights and sounds and flavors were almost overwhelming. To this day, certain food just takes me right back to that time and place.

We had Eggs Benedict at Brennan's, doughnuts at the Cafe du Monde and ate our way through plates of spicey crawfish. I also remember a wonderful Asian, carry-out restaurant called, Takee-Outee.
Their front display window featured a plate of the most beautiful tempura shrimp and I wanted some!

When my order came, it did not look like the food in the window. After much gesturing, I finally got my message across to the non-English speaking server - I wanted my shrimp to look like those in the display window. The Asian gal laughed, pointed toward the window and said, "Dat Plastic!"

I felt like an idiot, and quickly left with my real tempura shrimp. It was delicious.

Some time later, we attended the actual fesival. While jazz is not my favorite music, I did enjoy the Jazz Festival. Actually what I loved was the food offered at the festival. Large tents were scattered all over the jazz fairground and I visited each and every one. I remember well my first taste of red beans and rice. It was love at first bite - I couldn't get enough of it.

Back at home in the Midwest, I missed those bayou flavors. I could duplicate the Eggs Benedict and the rectangular doughnuts from the Cafe du Monde, but it took me years to produce a red beans and rice recipe to be as wonderful as those with real New Orleans flavor.

 (I added Avocado to my recipe because I love it - not a New Orleans thing).

My original recipe used dried red beans, (see directions below), but I learned to skip that whole soaking/cooking step and buy canned beans. It shortens the cooking time and the taste is just as delicious.

Diane's Red Beans and Rice

2 Cans (15.5 oz) red beans, drained                                     2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb. smoked ham or hock                                                 2 T margarine
1 large sweet onion, chopped                                               Pepper to taste
3 stalks of celery, chopped                                                   T Worcestershire
1/2 green pepper, chopped                                                  Tobasco, to taste
1 bay leaf                                                                             Salt, to taste
2 tsp cumin, chili powder (to taste)                                        Cooked white rice
                                                                                              Avocado slices

In a large pot, add ham and beans and the next five ingredients and the garlic. Barely cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. * Make sure beans do not stick or become dry. Add more water as needed. When meat is falling apart, add margarine and remaining seasonings. Cook another hour with the lid on, very low heat. Correct the seasonings by tasting. Mash some of the beans by pressing them against the side of the pot with the back of serving spoon. Mix well. Serve over hot rice.

Note: I usually serve this dish over a fluffy, long grain rice, but I tried a sticky rice and it was so is my new favorite with the red beans mixture!

My updated version of Red Beans and Rice features avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced grape tomatoes and a side of pepperocini. Served over fragrant rice.

Dried Red beans directions: use 1/2 lb. dried beans. Soak overnight in a lot of water. Drain water and place soaked beans in a heavy kettle. Add ham and the other column-one ingredients and the garlic. Add water to barely cover. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Follow directions above from *. (Old red beans will not soften unless cooked with a pressure cooker).

Friday, June 25, 2010

85. Thousand Island Dressing, Fresh and Wonderful

Homemade salad dressings are, for the most part, quite easy to make; unless you taste some, however, you might never make your own. I did not even bother to read dressing recipes until I tasted a friend's homemade French dressing...not only did her recipe make a substantial quantity economically, but the flavor was fresh and somehow more real than its bottled, commercial competitors. Even with that knowledge and experience, I cannot say that all of our salads have homemade dressings on them.

Lack of time or energy does play a part in my salad dressing cycle: I make a wonderful dressing and use it up while enjoying every salad bite. Then, I somehow become distracted with too much to do and wind up buying a commercial brand which does not compare to the homemade choices; the half-used bottle is left to languish in the fridge until it becomes rancid...which means that I wind up throwing out the contents and soon after...proceed to make another jar of one of my favorite, amazingly fresh dressings.

Another anomaly is that the picture below shows a cut wedge of iceberg lettuce with the dressing drizzled over it. Cutting lettuce, wedges of lettuce and only iceberg lettuce for a salad are big NO-NOs in the snobby chefs' world, tastes is easy...and I love it!

This thousand island dressing recipe is wonderful, inexpensive and is sure to be eaten up long before it expires.

Thousand Island Dressing

1 egg white, chopped (optional: chop a whole egg)

Stir together:
Chopped egg white
½ C Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
1/3 C catsup
1 T lemon juice
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp Worcestershire
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Add 2 T finely chopped green pepper and 1 T chopped dill pickle or relish.
 Makes 1 ¼ C. Keeps for 1 week.

Note: adding the whole egg imparts a wonderful flavor; for cholesterol concerns, just use the white

Thursday, June 24, 2010

84. Danish Puff Pastry, Breakfast Treat

Pastries often make me think of the stories my parents told about their overseas trip to France shortly after WWII.  Luckily, some of the patisseries had not been bombed out and were still able to sell  their extraordinary baked goods. The descriptions of those wonderful confections had quite an effect on me.
Although I have not travelled to Paris, I know that my love for pastry-making has been enjoyed by my family and has kept alive the memories of my parents' stories.

A simple breakfast treat that I have made for years is called Danish Puff. The recipe came from the old red Betty Crocker cookbook...the bible of basic cooking as far as I am concerned. The newer versions of the cookbook lack so many features and is a pale cousin to the original book; I guard my old red book carefully.

The Danish Puff has a center that is magically appears after the pastry is baked. This breakfast treat is not overly sweet...the bottom is wonderfully is a simple, yet almost elegant pastry. The recipe makes two long strips or individual, round pastries.

(Wrap leftovers in plastic, do not will make the bottom crust soggy).

Danish Puff

½ C Butter
1 C Flour
2 T Water
½ C Butter
1 C Water
1 tsp Almond extract
3 Eggs

Confectioner’s sugar glaze
(1 C powdered sugar combined with 2 T margarine. Add 1 tsp vanilla and

Chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350. Cut ½ C butter into 1 cup flour. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over mixture; Round into ball and divide in half. On ungreased baking sheet, pat each half into strip, 12x3 inches. Strips should be about 3 inches apart.

Heat ½ cup butter and 1 cup water to rolling boil in med. Saucepan. Remove from heat and quickly stir in almond extract and 1 cup of flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs all at once, until smooth and glossy. Divide in half and spread each evenly over strips.

 Bake about 50- 60 minutes or until topping is crisp and brown. Cool.

(Topping will shrink and fall, forming the custardy top of this puff).

Frost with glaze and sprinkle generously with nuts.

Glaze: Mix 1 C powdered sugar with 2 T margarine, 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring and 1-2 T milk. Mix well.

Individual puffs…pat dough into 3-inch circles and proceed as above. Topping should extend just beyond the edge. Bake 30 min. Makes 2 dozen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

83. Blueberry Sauce, Less is More

 Most sauces that I grew up with involved either tomatoes for pasta and pizza or a brown gravy that had something to do with roast beef or pork. High school home economics classes always taught beginner cooks the ins and outs of white and butter/cream sauces. If we were lucky, we had an occasional treat of chocolate sauce that was poured over ice cream...but, that was about it. I did not learn about fruit sauces until I was quite grown up.

In the modern era in which we now live, almost anything can be made into some kind of sauce thanks, in part, to the invention of blenders and super blenders like the Vita Mix machines.

Today's sauce recipe is a simple variation of pie filling...but as the saying goes...less is more! This blueberry sauce recipe is not thick and gloppy like some pie filling; it is more tasty and berry-flavored than any of the commercial products and takes little effort.

You will enjoy this blueberry sauce served hot, warm or is delightful and very easy to make.

Blueberry Sauce

¼ C sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
½ C water
1 ¼ C fresh or frozen blueberries

Combine dry ingredients in a small saucepan, mixing well; gradually add water, stirring well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Add blueberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Serve warm over ice cream, desssert waffles, mousse cake (post #82), or crepes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

82. Lemon Mousse Cake, Light and Elegant

Mousse. To Americans, this is a very funny-sounding name for such an elegant dessert or main dish. The plural of this French concoction is actually mousses!

Mousse actually means 'foam' in French; all of the recipes for it are highly foamed; this includes the main dish mousses which are made with pureed seafood, meat or cheese. If gelatin is added, these non-dessert mousses are molded and served cold. If they are to be baked or steamed, the foam is provided by beaten egg whites.

Dessert mousses often have a custard base which is chilled. Frozen mousses may contain pureed fruit or juices which are folded with whipped cream. The textures should be velvety and smooth.

There are three key items that make up a mousse. First is the base which is what gives the dish it flavor such as chocolate or salmon. Next is the binder, or gelatin which is soaked in a cool liquid first to soften and swell This is known as "blooming." Chocolate and cheese mousses do not need binders. Last, a mousse is given its airy quality with beaten egg whites or whipped cream which need to be mixed in gently to prevent them from deflating.

Somehow, the meat and seafood mousses do not appeal to me, although I have never tasted one to see if the mental turnoff is real or not. Chocolate, lemon, and raspberry mousses all sound wonderful...I would gladly eat any of them.

When chocolate mousse appeared in magazine recipes sometime in the 70s, cooks all over wanted to try this cutting-edge confection. Companies set out to give the housewife what she wanted, only faster, so they came up with ways to package mousse mixes that were effortless and generally foolproof. Mousse can be as common as pudding, but can be much better.

Today's recipe is a mousse variation. The hardest part of making it is waiting for it to set up! It makes a wonderful dessert for a gathering and the colors just invite thoughts of summertime. I made it for the first time in the late 80s, loved it and promptly forgot about it. What a is elegant and light...a perfect ending to a special could even show up at a potluck and give you the reputation of a gourmet!
(This looks like cheesecake, but is nothing like it in taste or is a real surprise to everyone who takes a first bite).

Lemon Mousse Cake

(Blueberry sauce - see tomorrow's post #83)

½ (16 oz) commercial pound cake, cut into 1/4 –inch slices (I used 1/2 of a Sara Lee pound cake loaf)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¾ C water
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp grated lemon rind
½ C lemon juice
1 (8oz) container frozen whipped topping

Line bottom and sides of 8-inch springform pan with cake slices; set aside. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan; let stand1 minute. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 1 min. or until gelatin dissolves; set aside. Combine milk, lemon rind and lemon juice, stirring well. Fold into whipped topping. Pour mixture into prepared springform pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until set. Remove sides of pan; Place mousse on a serving platter. Serve with a berry or chocolate sauce.

(Tomorrow's Post #83 has a lovely blueberry sauce which is perfect companion for this dessert)

Monday, June 21, 2010

81. Ham Roll With Pea and Olive Sauce, Use it up

 The joy of eating leftover beef or turkey usually wears off after the second day. The more versatile ham does not seem to saturate the taste buds quite as quickly because the meat tastes so great with breakfast eggs or pancakes and in scalloped potatoes and soups...but, when that refrigerator is opened almost a week after the original serving day...and a plate of ham is still there...the temptation to throw it out becomes overwhelming.

I, who have always wanted to use up every bit of food, was quite happy to find a recipe which made use of little pieces of ham. A bonus feature was that ham was not even the primary flavor; the dish also looked very pretty when served.

 I have updated the original recipe's sauce to include chopped olives and more peas and also doubled the sauce quantity from the orginal offering. The procedure for making the biscuit dough includes the technique outlined in post # 73, recipe #3.

This is a great recipe for a luncheon and can be made ahead and warmed prior to serving.
Ham Roll
Diane's Pea and Olive Sauce

2 C flour                                       1 1/2 C cooked ham, chopped
4 T Smart Balance (shortening)      2 T catsup
2 tsp baking powder                      1 tsp salt
1/2 C milk

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Add milk. Mix as biscuit dough. Turn onto lightly floured board. Pat in rectangular shape 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle lightly with flour and fold in half. Sprinkle with flour again and fold. Pat into a rectangular shape 1/4 inch thick again.

 Combine ham and catsup and spread over dough. Roll from long side like a jelly roll. cut in 1 inch thick slices. Place cut side up on greased baking sheet. Bake 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve with Pea and Olive sauce. 6 servings.

Pea and Olive Sauce

2C milk                                                   4T Smart Balance (or butter)
4T flour                                                    1 C peas
*1/4-1/2 C chopped stuffed green olives
Pepper to taste

Melt Smart Balance and add flour over med. heat. Stir until bubbly. Add milk slowly...stirring constantly with wire whisk. Stir until thick and smooth. (If you add the milk too quickly, the sauce will be lumpy). Add peas and chopped olives. Heat. Season to taste.

Place roll on plate and spoon sauce over it. Serve immediately.

*(If you do not like olives, just put a T of chopped pimento in the sauce and add a little salt, to taste)

Note: I tested further to see if cheddar cheese would add anything to the flavors, but it was horrible...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Recipe Index 1-80

  Daily recipes are pulled from the following 5 groups. Each group is only used once/week.

(meat/fish)  (pasta/veg/fruit)  (bread/pastry)  (soup/salad/dessert)  (eggs/easy)

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
41. Spaghetti Pie and Spaghetti sauce, Family Favorite
42. Sauteed-steamed Asparagus, Guilty Pleasure
43. Egg Drop Soup, Light Start
44. Cocktail Sauce, Sauced
45. Fruit Flower for Two, Fruit Flower
46. Golden Chicken, Always an Adventure
47. White bread, rolls, buns, Soft and White
48. Strawberry spinach salad, Red and Green
49. Fruit Crisp, microwavable, No Leftovers
50. Hash browns, Sore Subject
51. Chili Meat Cups, Canned
52. Green Onion Biscuits, Sign Me UP
53. Fruit Pizza, Crisp Crust
54. Potatoes in a Bag (Savory Microwaved), Often on Sale
55. Corn bread, microwaved, Poor Man's Grain
56. Ruben sandwich, Could be Good
56-B. Russian Dressing
57. Cream of Asparagus Soup, No Stone Soup
58. Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Hidden Crop
59. Easy Pizza, Easy to Love
60. Chocolate-Striped Orange Slices, Clones
61. Mile-High Lasagna Pie, Mama Mia!
62. Artichokes, The Globe
63. Chocolate Dessert Waffle, Limit Servings
64. Ruby Whipped Cream Cheese Pie, Junket Memories
65. Eggs Benedictive, Not Duck Eggs
66. Fruit Smoothie, No Added Sugar
67. California Rolls, Sushi Made Simple also Seaweed Free Rolls
68. Breakfast Sandwich, Healthy Combination
69. Frosty Pineapple Juice Pie, No-Bake
70. Huevos Rancheros, Interesting Eggs
71. Delicious Turkey Burgers, The Ultimate
72. Shrimp-Stuffed Green Peppers, Green Goodness
73. (3) Baking Powder Biscuit Recipes, Real Flaky
74. Deluxe White Chocolate Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies
75. Deviled Eggs, Everyone Eats Them
76. Chicken and Dumplings, A Thousand Words
77. Stuffed Mushrooms, Not a Turkey
78. Tortilla Fruit Shells, Filled Treats
79. California French Dressing, American Red Dressing
80. Peanutty Ice cream Pie, Good Humor

80. California French Dressing, American Red Dressing

80. Peanutty Ice Cream Pie, Good Humor

We always loved it when our mother's grocery shopping trips revealed that she had bought cones for ice cream. Mother was quite generous in letting us have a daily ice cream treat during the hot, Midwest summers. We did not have air conditioning and ice cream was a sweet way to cool off.

We also enjoyed listening for the Good Humor truck as it slowly inched its way down the streets of our neighborhood many early summer evenings. As we raced out with our father's loose change, we could hardly wait for our  turn to carefully pick some wonderful frozen confection. It was pure heaven from the first to the last bite.

Those times were simpler; the only other place to get ice cream treats in our small town was the Dairy Queen. While the soft serve cones were tasty, I always ordered a chocolate Dilly Bar...I loved the dark chocolate and the less drippy ice cream underneath it. For a time, there were jokes printed on the sticks...a bonus that was impossible to duplicate with a cone.

Today's post is a great summer ice cream treat that requires limited effort, yet it is more special than a dish or cone of ice cream. Children can easily help to combine the ingredients and will feel like real cooks as they help serve frozen slices of this tasty dessert to the family.

Peanutty Ice Cream Pie

1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 C frozen whipped topping, thawed
2/3 C Smart Balance crunchy peanut butter
1 6 oz prepared graham cracker pie crust (or make your own crust for a more special flavor). Freeze overnight before filling.

Optional toppings: Chopped peanuts, chocolate sauce, additional whipped topping

Combine softened ice cream and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Folld in 1 C whipped topping. Stir until well-blended. Spoon mixture into frozen graham crust. Cover and freeze for 3 hours until set.

Remove from freezer 10 min. before serving. Garnish with additional topping and crushed nuts if desired and  drizzle with chocolate sauce for a more festive treat.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

79. California French Dressing, American Red Dressing

French dressing is a common and  taste-friendly dressing...not too heavy, kind of tangy and a little sweet. It has a pretty color and its slightly thick consistency helps it cling to salad greens; an all around tasty addition to many meals. Everyone in my family has always liked it.

 French dressing, just like the common French fry, did not exactly get its start in France. The French fry, for instance became known to Americans throughThomas Jefferson who spent years in France as the Minister for our fledgling government. Jefferson loved his experiences there and, upon his return to America, brought the recipe for potatoes that he said were fried in the French manner. While it is not clear if he meant  the cooking method or the julienned style of cutting them, Jefferson clearly failed to mention was that this type of potato had been invented in Belgium.

The familiar tomato-based mixture we call  French dressing, on the other hand,  actually became popular in England and the US during the 20th century...there is nothing French about it. People in France do have a French dressing, but it is a vinaigrette...oil and vinegar...enhanced with herbs and spices. They have been making it that way since the 1880s.

Today's post, is a wonderful, easy to make and inexpensive dressing. Its flavor surpasses commercial bottled varieties and should make your next salad extra special. Maybe it should be called American Red Dressing

Note: as there are no preservatives in the dressing, use within a week or two.

California French Dressing

½ C  canola oil
1 tsp salt
¼ C cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
Juice of ½ lemon
1/4 sweet onion
½ C sugar
1 clove garlic
1/3 C catsup

Measure all ingredients into a food processor or Vita Mix. Pulse until well blended and use immediately or refrigerate. For fruit salad, use more lemon and less vinegar.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

78. Tortilla Fruit Shells, Filled Treats

We are so lucky to live in an era that gives most of us access to modern grocery stores, farmers' markets and sometimes fruit growers who are often willing to let people pick-their-own. With the arrival of strawberry season, even those who don't like to cook are often enticed to concoct something!

Long ago, I had a wonderful garden that included a large bed of strawberries. Growing them took planning, patience and work; the ripening berries became a source of satsifaction and excitement.  As the saying goes, thought, sometimes you get more than you bargain for. The first year my strawberries produced, I picked one hundred pints of red beauties. We had fresh strawberries on and in everything. I also made jars of jam, froze bags of sliced berries, and gave a lot away. It was too much.

Even when I did not grow my own, I felt obligated to make strawberry shortcake when srawberres were at their the shortcake baked, it was a fragrant promise of what was to come but, to tell the truth,  I never actually liked shortcake. I must have tried seven or eight different shortcake recipes over the years but, nothing ever satisfied me...the finished product always tasted like a big  rather soggy, strawberry drenched biscuit. My family did not seem to share my critical taste buds and gobbled down that dessert like it was their favorite...

Today's lo-cal recipe is one that I have revised to make use of fruit no matter the time of year...the little shells are easy to construct...and the rum flavor is delightful and slightly out of the norm. I think the shells would be great filled with strawberries and icecream or strawberries and whipped topping and drizzeld with chocolate...yum.

*Optional fruit selections at end of recipe.

** Two methods for creating the little shells are shown. I actually like method #2 the is easier to fill, and is more crisp...

Diane's Crispy Fruit Shells

2 ripe bananas, sliced
2 clementines, peeled and sectioned
8 strawberries, cut up
2 T water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp rum flavoring
1 T Splenda

6 flour tortillas
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 T margarine, melted
Whipped topping

Combine fruit and Splenda. Add water, juice and rum flavoring. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for
1- 2 hours.

Wrap tortillas, 2 at a time, in a towel and microwave 10 seconds. While still warm, brush each side of the tortillas with melted margarine and also sprinkle each side with cinnamon/sugar. Pleat each tortilla on two sides and slip into a custard cup. Place a second custard cup gently in the center of each nested tortilla. Place on baking sheet and bake at 475 degrees for 5 minutes; remove tortillas from cups and place on a baking sheet.

Bake an additional 5 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. Remove tortillas to a wire rack and cool completely.

Place shells on serving plates. Drain fruit and discard liquid. Spoon fruit into shells and add whipped topping. Serve immediately. Yield 6 servings.

Option 2: (Below) Instead of placing shells inside custard cups, turn the cups upside down onto a baking sheet and drape a coated tortilla over each cup. Bake as above. Remove tortilla from cup and let stand for a few minutes until firm. Place shells on baking sheet and return to over for 5 more minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.
Fill as above.

Optional fruit choices: Peaches, honeydew melon, cantelope, pineapple, pears, or plums.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

77. Stuffed Mushrooms, Not a Turkey

My mother made the best sage dressing I have ever tasted. For years it only appeared with the Thanksgiving turkey; that is until the day she read a recipe for wrapping round steak around dressing and calling the finished product, beef birds.

We ate them, but the birds were not our favorite...actually, it seemed like a waste of good stuffing . As time went on, she tried stuffing thick pork chops which had been partially split to form a little pocket. Like the beef birds, the expectation was greater than the end result.

I never gave much thought to stuffing anything except the big November bird until I planned a microwave cooking class. As I searched and tested recipes, I  found an interesting one for stuffed mushrooms. The good news was that I knew that if the mushrooms did not turn out well, I would not have wasted much time, money or effort.

The surprise was on me, the stuffed mushrooms were so wonderful, I could hardly stop eating them. My class of participants also thought the same thing. Although the original recipe was meant to be an appetizer, I have often served them as a side dish...if I was home alone, I could make a meal of them without any problem.

Stuffed Mushrooms

12 Large, fresh mushrooms (1 1/2 -2 inches in diameter)
3 T butter or Smart Balance margarine, melted and divided
¼ C fine dry bread crumbs
1 T chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp dried Italian seasoning or Parmesan blend dipping spice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1 T lemon juice

Clean mushrooms with damp paper towels.

Remove stems; set caps aside and chop stems.

Combine chopped stems with 2 T butter and all other ingredients except lemon. Stir well. Combine remaining 1 T butter and lemon juice. Brush mushroom caps with this butter mixture. Spoon stuffing mixture into caps. Place mushrooms in a circular pattern on a platter. Microwave on HIGH for 2-3 minutes. Be sure to turn plate after 1.5 minutes if your microwave does not have a rotation feature. 12 appetizers.

Note: Mushrooms will be very hot, wait, (if you can), for them to cool before eating!

Monday, June 14, 2010

76. Chicken and Dumplings, A Thousand Words

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words...the detail of a photograph can enchant, uplift and when it comes to a picture of food...actually cause one to salivate. At the other end of the enticement spectrum, however, I have seen pictures of food on television and highway billboards that often promote extreme burgers...or fried chicken, stacked together with cheese and bacon inserted here and there. I don't know whose palates are tempted by those ads, but they make me cringe. All I can think of is artery-clogging fat and cholesterol.

I like pictures of food that are at least somewhat healthful and not geared toward a glutinous appetite. I like wonderful pictures of food even more when they are accompanied by a recipe. I found such a picture one day while waiting in a doctor's office...the magazines on hand were a pitiful collection geared toward hunting, fishing, and other sports. At the bottom of the stack was an old copy of some women's magazine. As I flipped through its worn pages, a picture of chicken and dumplings stopped me. I loved everything about it. I read the ingredients in the recipe and they sounded like something I would love to eat on after a really tough day; I wanted to rip out the page and take it home.

As I looked around the room at the other patients, I somehow thought that they could tell I was thinking about becoming a page-thief. Burdened by my conscience, I rushed to copy down the recipe and finished just as my name was called by the receptionist. I pushed the piece of paper into my bag and, as life got in the way, completely forgot about it.

Months later, I found that piece of  paper again...what a happy day! I have altered the recipe here and there to fit my is lighter than a winter pot pie...but, just as comforting...

Diane's Chicken and Dumplings

1 ¼ lb chicken
4 large carrots, sliced
3 large celery stalks, sliced
1 med. sweet onion chopped
1 qt. free range chicken broth
Poultry Seasoning
1 C peas

1/8 tsp salt
½ C flour
½ tsp baking soda
2 T oil  or 2 T Smart Balance margarine
¼ C milk

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and brown in 1 T oil (med-high heat), salt and pepper to taste. Remove to another plate. Add 1 T more oil to pan. Add carrots, celery and onion and saute for 5-7 min. Add broth and poultry seasoning to taste and stir. Turn down heat to simmer. Add chicken to broth mixture. Cook 2 min. Add peas and cook 1 min. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables and chicken to a bowl and keep warm. Taste and adjust seasonings in broth mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, soda, 1/8 tsp salt together. Cut in margarine until crumbly. Stir in milk to make a dough. Drop dough into broth by tsp. Cover and simmer 3-5 min. Some of the dumpling mixture will separate and this will thicken the broth slightly.

Put chicken and vegetables in serving bowls and divide broth and dumplings to the top of each portion.

The vegetables will be tender-crisp and flavorful. This wonderful, comforting dish is not heavy...perfect for even warm weather enjoyment. Store the leftover sauce separately from the chicken mixture.


Leftovers:  Melt 1 T of margarine in a pot and add chicken mixture. Stir well as mixture heats. To the sauce, add 1/2 can chicken broth seasoned with poultry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Make a second batch of dumplings if necessary. Pour hot sauce and dumplings over servings of the hot chicken and vegetables.The leftover meal will be as tasty as the original.

Friday, June 11, 2010

75. Deviled Eggs - Everyone Eats Them

"You can always bring deviled eggs."

That statement is one I have used off an on over the years when one of my time-strapped kids has asked what food they should bring to a family gathering. Not only are deviled eggs inexpensive and easy to make, they look pretty and everyone eats them.

I never gave much thought to the recipe for deviled eggs as I only make them like my mother did and for some reason, I thought everyone else did, too. After doing some research, however, I find that people have been putting all kinds of stuff in the mashed egg yolk for their version of deviled eggs for centuries!

Deviled egg directions in the 15th century might have said to pound the yolks with raisins and good cheese and also add a little finely cut parsley, marjoram, and mint.

In more current trends, cooks pull from a variety of ingredients, in different proportions, to make their deviled eggs. Among those are the following: mayonnaise, Miracle Whip (ugh), onion, celery, green pepper, olives, pimento, crab, shrimp, relish, prepared mustard, dry mustard, pepper sauce, sour cream, cream cheese, cream, ranch get the picture...almost anything!

Sometimes the filling is spooned carefully back into the egg white, sometimes it is piped mother always sprinkled paprika on top for the visual effect...I do, too. Her recipe is so simple, I love it.

My Mother's Deviled Eggs

6 large hard cooked eggs (see post #18 for a fool-poof method for hard cooked eggs)
1 T Prepared mustard (the yellow kind used for hot dogs)
1 T Sweet pickle relish
Hellmann's Mayonnaise

Peel the shell off of the eggs and slice eggs lengthwise. Gently release the yolk from each half and place yolks in a small bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork until well broken up. Add mustard and pickle relish and mix well. Add mayonnaise by the teaspoonful and mix well after each addition. The mixture should be thick and not soupy and amount of mayonnaise will vary depending on yolk sizes. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. Adjust the mixture for taste and texture; gently spoon mixture into egg whites. Place filled egg halves on serving platter. Sprinkle each egg with paprika.

Hint: To keep eggs from sliding around, place a damp paper towel on serving plate prior to egg placement.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

74. Deluxe White Chocolate Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies, Not Dark, Not Milk

Chocolate...makes me happy! Actually...dark chocolate is what I love. My husband, on the other hand, likes milk chocolate; this disparity reminds me of the following nursery rhyme:

  Jack Sprat
Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean.

 As easy as it is to accept my husband's chocolate preference, somehow, I just cannot get it into my head that my wonderful daughter-in-law, Holly, does not like dark or milk chocolate. That dear girl has had to put up with my offering her some kind of chocolate dessert for years...and I am grateful that she has not made me feel like a complete idiot each time I do it!

Today's post recipe is an effort to apologize for all the times I forgot that my love for chocolate was not hers!

Diane's Deluxe White Chocolate Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies

1 C  Smart Balance, softened slightly
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1/4 C Egg substitute
1 T vanilla extract
1 tsp grated orange rind ** (optional)
1 tsp orange flavored water (optional)
1 1/2 C oats, quick cook type
1 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 C flaked coconut, toasted (see hint below)*
1 C white chocolate chips
1/ tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 C chopped pecans (optional)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add the egg, rind and extract; mix well. Combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in cooled, toasted coconut, chocolate and chopped nuts.

Drop by tablespoonsful, 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until golden. Cool for 1 minute and remove to a wire rack. Yield: 4 dozen

*Coconut can be toasted in the microwave very easily: Divide measured coconut into two parts. Put one part in a small bowl. Heat on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir after every 20 seconds. Watch carefully to keep from burning. Heat and stir at 10 second intervals as needed after the first minute. Set toasted coconut aside and brown remaining half following the same procedure.

** When possible, I remove, air dry and save the orange zest from any oranges we use. Pieces were soaked in water to soften, and chopped for this recipe to measure 1 tsp. I also used 1 tsp of the water I soaked the zest in for this recipe.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

73. (3) Baking Powder Biscuit recipes, Real Flaky

Total failure is not an option when it comes to are expected and necessary. With the advent of the internet, help is almost endless. I had mentioned in post # 52 that biscuits were not my forte...they had certainly brought me much disappointment. The green onion biscuits featured in that post are delicious, tender and wonderful, but they are not the flaky kind most people expect.

So, once again...I challenged myself to find that great biscuit recipe. What I discovered is that the method of handling the dough is as much a part of the process as are the ingredients...which are not all that much, anyway...basically just a little grease and flour.

I did handle the dough as little as possible which helped to keep the shortening cold. I also experimented with different cutting tools; some directions indicate that the sharper the biscuit cutter, the flakier the biscuit.

Recipe #1: Basic biscuit recipe (pictured above),

This dough was rolled gently.  Cut with (a) plastic cup, (b) plastic biscuit cutter and (c) sharp pizza wheel. The results were surprising...they all turned out about the same. They were delicate, fluffy and tender. I can only say that each of the cutting tools worked well, sharp or not.

(Recipe #1, rolled dough, margarine, milk)

2 C flour
1 T baking powder (make sure your baking powder is not too old)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C margarine (I used Smart Balance Margarine)
3/4 C milk (1%)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Measure and mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in cold shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles crumbs.

Pour milk into flour mixture and stir with a fork. The dough will be soft and moist and will pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Put dough onto a lightly floured board. Add as little flour as possible to make it possible to roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured biscuit or cookie cutter. Press together dough scraps and cut. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and serve.

Recipe #2: Basic biscuit recipe (below)

This dough was patted out and folded. I cut the dough with the biscuit cutter and the sharp pizza wheel. The results, again were surprising. The round biscuits in the middle were cut with the biscuit cutter and the ones on the right were cut with the wheel. The patting and folding process gave these biscuits a very flaky, raised look that the rolled biscuits in recipe #1 did not have. There was no real texture difference.

If you look closely, you will see the little biscuit on the left in the picture above. It is actually a mistake. I had cut the recipe in half and forgot to add 2 T of the milk to one, this little flaky fellow got short-changed...but, sometimes there is a silver lining...I made two of the chili meat cups featured in post # 51 with the less moist dough and it made a more crisp and real-tasting biscuit cup than the refrigerated tube biscuits used in that recipe.

(Recipe #2 patted and folded dough, margarine, milk)

2 C flour
1 T baking powder (make sure your baking powder is not too old)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening (I used Smart Balance Margarine)
3/4 C milk (1%)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Measure and mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in cold shortening with a fork or pastry bleder until mixture resembles crumbs.

Pour milk into flour mixture and stir with a fork. The dough will be soft and moist and will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. *Pat dough to 1/2 inch flat. Sprinkle lightly with flour and fold in half. Sprinkle with flour again, fold. Repeat from * once or twice. Use a sharp biscuit or cookie cutter to make biscuit shapes. If you want a deeper color, brush with a little milk prior to baking. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Remove and serve.

Not wanting to leave any stones unturned, I made a third biscuit recipe which used buttermilk and shortening instead of Smart Balance. The same folding  and patting procedure was used and I, again, handled the dough as little as possible. I wanted bigger biscuits, so I cut them with a thin-edged plastic cup. The end product put a smile on my face...perfect large fluffy, flaky, tender biscuits!

Big and Flaky Biscuits

(Recipe #3, patted and folded dough, shortening, buttermilk powder)
2 C flour
1 T baking powder (make sure your baking powder is not too old)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
3/4 C buttermilk or (3 T dried buttermilk solids and 3/4 cup water)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Measure and mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in cold shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles crumbs.

Pour milk into flour mixture and stir with a fork. The dough will be soft and moist and will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. *Pat dough to 1/2 inch flat. Sprinkle lightly with flour and fold in half. Sprinkle with flour again, fold. Repeat from * once or twice. Use a sharp biscuit or cookie cutter to make biscuit shapes. If you want a deeper color, brush with a little milk prior to baking. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Remove and serve.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

72. Shrimp-Stuffed Green Peppers - Green Goodness

 My mother often hid green peppers in meatloaf, salads, oriental dishes, casseroles...and other  things. The flavor was something that I could not appreciate nor tolerate. If I found pieces of green pepper in my food, I picked them out.

I can, however, picture the day we all went out for pizza and the restaurant had more topping choices than the traditional sausage and dad actually ordered a pizza with everything...which included green peppers. I don't know why I even tasted those horrid green specks, but I suspect that it probably would have taken too much effort to pick them out of the cheese. That day, was a turning point, I suddenly loved green least on pizza.

Decades of my life have passed and my flavor palate has expaned; as an adult, I can eat foods that I used to despise. These days, I love to find green peppers on sale or hanging heavily from garden plants...then next step, however, is to figure out what to do with all that green goodness. The recipe for today helps with that problem and is a variation of one of my favorites, a beef/tomato/rice stuffed pepper. 

This recipe, however, uses shrimp instead of beef and there are no tomatoes. While testing this recipe,  I found the stuffing mixture to be bland and uninspired. I did not want to overpower the delicate shrimp flavor and chose to season the stuffing with an unusual choice which you will find below. This tasty, light recipe utilizes microwave cooking...perfect for a summer day.

Shrimp Stuffed Green Peppers for Two

2 large green peppers
7 Large cooked shrimp, chopped
1 C short grain rice, cooked (you may use any kind of cooked rice)
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
2 green onions chopped (2 T chopped sweet onion may be substituted)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 C bread crumbs
1/4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 T Parmesan cheese, shredded
Pepper, to taste

White cheddar popcorn seasoning, to taste

Cut slice from top of each peppers and remove stem end and seeds. Submerge peppers in large pot of boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a skillet on med-high; coat with cooking spray and a scant tsp of margarine. Add celery, onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until not burn the garlic. Remove from heat and add the chopped shrimp, bread crumbs, Parmesan, mozzarella, rice and pepper. Mix well. Spoon half of the mixture into each pepper shell. Put filled peppers into a microwaveable safe glass casserole dish. Cover. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove to plates. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. Cut peppers in half and put 2 halves on each plate, filling side up.

                                                                                                  Sprinkle with white cheddar popcorn seasoning. Serves 2.

(The lid top, says this seasoning may be used on vegetables. Something I had never noticed when I used it on our popcorn!) It is available in most stores near the popcorn in the snack aisle.

Monday, June 7, 2010

71. Delicious Turkey Burgers - The Ultimate

 Information on just about everything and anything can be found on the internet.  Like all sources, however, you cannot believe everything you read. Many pro-turkey sites expound on the  nutritional value, taste and low cost of ground turkey expecially in comparison to beef. Not all of it is true. Some sites want to convince readers that all turkey has less fat than beef. The comparison below of the same quantity of turkey and beef shows the error in that thinking:           

90/10 ground beef = 197 calories, 22.4 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat

Butterball ground turkey = 230 calories, 17 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat

I say, eat meat in moderation, skim off as much fat as possible and enjoy good food when you can.

On the subject of ground turkey, I have tasted several sources and discovered that the quality varies so widely that some is actually horrible. Because of the inconsistent value, I had virtually ignored ground turkey for many years until one of my sons decided he would create the ultimate turkey burger...which he did...and it was delicious.

When he told me how and what he mixed in with the meat, I realized that he had really created miniature versions of my meatloaf...with ground turkey meat. Not to be outdone, I bought my own ground turkey and mixed a batch of burgers...they, too were wonderful. There was an added bonus, after eating the burgers, I did not have that heavy feeling which often accompanies the digestion of beef.

I hope you will try these wonderful, low fat burgers the best, freshly ground turkey you can find...(not in those frozen bullet packages).

Note: Foreman Grill used for pictured buger.

Delicious Turkey Burgers

1/4 C green pepper, chopped
1/4 C sweet onion, chopped


1 lb. ground turkey
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T ketchup
1 egg
1/2 C fresh bread crumbs (optional, 1/2 C cooked rice)
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt/pepper to taste
Weber, Grill Creations seasoning, (optional)

In a small pan add 1-2 T margarine; melt over medium heat. Add green pepper and onions and sauté until onion is soft. Set aside. In a bowl mix ground turkey and all the other ingredients, (I use my hands for this process). Mix well. Add sautéed vegetables. Cover bowl with plastic and refrigerated for 30 minutes or until cold. Make burgers desired size. Grill until meat is no longer pink in the center. Makes 4-5.

Bun-less Burger: serve your grilled turkey-rice burger on a bed of lettuce accompanied by fruit or vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, Worchestershire sauce, or mustard. (pictured burger grilled on a Foreman Grill)
Burger with bun: Make your own buns (post # 5) or just buy good quality buns. Split buns, toast them if desired. Spread each half with Hellmann's mayonnaise, add shredded lettuce, burger, tomato, sliced onion and mustard. Enjoy!

Optional toppings: pickles, sauteed mushrooms, turkey bacon.