Thursday, September 30, 2010

154. Hot 3-Bean Salad

Potluck meals are usually an amazing conglomeration of ideas, talent and traditions. A few of my favorite recipes came from these shared meals because most cooks willingly include or share their recipes.

There is a certain green, foam salad that frequently shows up at potlucks every now and then...I never think to make it myself even though I love it. If I see that salad, I practically elbow others out of the way just so I can have some. As crazy as it sounds, I do not have that recipe anywhere in my collection, yet!

I love inventive salads. The only time I ever ate a three-bean salad was at a smogasbord or potluck dinners. It was not one that my mother ever made. The fact that the salad was hot made it unusual and the use of beans made it very unusual! 

A wilted spinach salad probably comes the closest in flavor to this tangy bean dish, but it was definitely an inventve person who figured out that bacon and vinegar would make three kinds of beans blend together like old friends. Because of the fat content, I could never, in good conscience, fix this salad more than once or twice a year...but, I think the phrase, "Everything in moderation..." seems to work well here. Happy eating.

Hot Bean Salad

4 slices of bacon
2/3 C cider vinegar
1/2 C sugar
1 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper blend
1(16 oz) can cut green beans
1(16 oz) can cut wax beans
1(16 oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium sweet onion, sliced

Cook bacon in a large pot until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain; reserve drippings. Crumble bacon into a small dish. To the bacon drippings, add next five ingredients and stir well. Cover and over med heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, uncover and cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Add beans and onion slices. Cover and cook over med heat 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir occasionally. Just before serving, sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

153. Banana Pancakes with Pecans,

Bananas are a fruit I have written about before. They can be eaten raw, enjoyed in a salad, included in a smoothie and broiled for an elegant dessert. Even a banana that is overly ripe is not a lost may be baked into breads, (post #6), and cookies. Actually, a really rotten banana can be put in the compost pile to continue on as a plant food.

Bananas are a powerhouse of nutrition for humans as well. They provide energy, help reduce the effects of anemia, diarrhea and depression. They may help keep bones strong, eyesight healthy and kidneys functioning. The potassium in bananas lowers blood pressure and may reduce the risk of strokes by 40%.

There are so many great things bananas can do for our bodies, maybe the phrase, "Eating an apple a day, keeps the doctor away," should be changed to, "Eating a banana a day, keeps a lot of doctors away!"

The banana pancakes I fixed for my children consisted of pancake batter from a mix with thin slices of bananas placed on top of each batter circle and fried as usual. Today's recipe makes use of  ripe bananas that would normally be saved for banana bread...the bananas are mashed and included in the homemade batter. With the addition of chopped pecans, these pancakes become even more flavorful and extraordinary.

Banana Pancakes with Pecans

1 C flour
1 T sugar
½  tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1eggs, unbeaten
1 C milk (I like thinner pancakes and add more milk than called for)
1T oil
1 banana, mashed
Pecans, chopped (optional)

Mix together dry ingredients. Add the eggs one at a time, milk and oil. Stir until just mixed. Stir in the bananas. Pour out desired amount of pancakes and sprinkle tops evenly with chopped pecans, Fry on a griddle over med. Heat until dry around the edges. Turn and briefly brown the second side. Serve with butter and syrup.

Makes 15, 1-inch pancakes. (May be doubled)

Monday, September 27, 2010

152. Ham, Peas and Pasta

As much as I enjoy deeply colored fruit and vegetables, there is something really wonderful about the taste of white potatoes, breads, rice and pastas. Although many of these have been put on the list of things to avoid, I found some satisfaction in reading that carbohydrates are actually necessary for our health...and are the preferred food that our bodies want.

The science of nutrition has given me reason to avoid soft drinks, I seldom binge on cakes and cookies and we limit the amount of bread and sweetened pastries that even make it into our home. While I used to love hot, baked potatoes dripping with butter and topped with a dollop of sour cream...these days, I stick to Smart Balance…no sour cream invited!

White foods have become more of a supplement to those vitamin-rich groups of food that make up the bulk of my diet. However, I feel no guilt when I add rice or noodles to make a soup or casserole dish totally satisfying.

Noodles are sometimes varied with the inclusion of vegetable flours; you may be able to find spinach, carrot, beet and other noodle choices. The colorful noodles add a certain amount of appeal to today's dish. My children loved this colorful meal when they were little.

Ham, Peas and Pasta

1 ½ C egg noodles
1 ½ C medium spinach egg noodles (photo shows a mixed, vegetable pasta substitution)
16 oz pkg frozen peas, thawed
½ C cream
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
2 T butter or margarine, melted
¼ tsp salt
Dash of pepper
¼ lb ham, chopped

Optional: Sprinkle each serving with more Parmesan cheese.

Cook noodles and peas according to directions, omitting salt. Drain. Combine hot, cooked noodles , peas, cream, cheese, butter, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Toss lightly to coat evenly. Stir in chopped ham. Serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

151. Diane's Chicken Pot Pie - Worst and Best

     It was a gray and miserable day; I was sick, sleep deprived and headachy - all very good reasons to stay out of the kitchen! Needing comfort, however, I decided to make chicken pot pie. My fogged brain confused things and, while the chicken mixture tasted fine, the color was ugly.

     For some reason, I thought if I added food coloring to the mixture, it would look better. It didn't. Now it was a ghastly yellow/tan. I hoped my family would not notice or care and went ahead and made the pie crust. My fogged mind messed up and I added too much shortening to the crust mixture. A normal me would have throw the whole mess out and ordered a pizza, but I went ahead and baked the pie. The resulting meal was unbelievably awful - my dear husband ate it anyway which eventually caused him to have a gall bladder attack. It was the worst pot pie!

     Years later, we read about a restaurant in the Ozarks purported to serve the best chicken pot pie in the state. After a two-hour drive on winding, hilly roads, we pulled up an  old, run-down place with  only two or three other cars in the parking lot.

     Not expecting  much, we went inside and placed our order. The pot pie arrived in huge bowls - but, there was no pie crust! Instead, the chicken mixture was smothered with a layer of whipped potatoes. Two crisp triangles of puff pastry were anchored on top like little brown flags. How can this be the best pot pie in the state? I wondered.

     After the first bite, I knew it was better than any pot pie I ever tasted!

     These days, I only make crustless pot pie with whipped potatoes - it is at the top of my comfort-food list.

Diane's Crustless, Chicken Pot Pie

1 C chicken broth
1/2 C milk
3 carrots, pared and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
2 celery stalks, split and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 C frozen peas
2 chicken bouillon cubes
poultry seasoning
4 T margarine
4 T flour (or modified food starch)
1-2 C cooked chicken, diced
Whipped potatoes

Cut carrots, celery and onion. Combine in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 1/4 C water. Cover with waxed paper and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes. Vegetables should be crisp tender. Heat for 1 minute intervals on HIGH if necessary. Remove and drain.

In a large dutch oven, melt margarine over med. heat. Add flour, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to  low and stir while mixture cooks for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add broth while stirring constantly; add milk and continue stirring. Return pot to med. heat. Add cooked vegetables, peas and meat. Sprinkle in bouillon and seasoning. Stir to mix well. Heat and cook until mixture is a good consistency - not too thin and not too thick; add water or milk if necessary. Stir - do not let mixture burn.

Meanwhile, boil desired amount of cut up red potatoes, (peeled or unpeeled), in salted water in a covered pot. When soft, drain and mash with butter and a little milk; whip until smooth. Keep warm until ready to use.

Ladle pot pie servings in bowls and top with a large dollop of whipped potatoes. Serve immediately.
4 Servings.

Note: The pot pie filling may be frozen and vacuum sealed for later use.

Friday, September 24, 2010

150. Carrot Garnish, Not Parsley

Butchers usually added a sprig or two of parsley inside the packages ground meat when I was growing up. Most restaurants added pieces of that same greenery to fill in the gaps between food items and my mother often put it to our plates, especially when the dish needed some color.

While the dark green leaves were a happy contrast, we did not particularly like to eat that parsley. My mother insisited that it cleansed the breath so, if the meal featured garlic or raw onions, we might be seen chewing it. Soon enough, however, the green sprigs disappeared from restaurant plates, meat packages and even our home-cooked meals altogether...I am sure that its absence was a bottom-line decision rather than any other reason.

Even though parsley disappeared as the garnish of choice, other foods flourished in that category and became vegetable and fruit art-forms. Gigantic edible flowers and creatively constructed food creatures are often found on the buffet tables at catered affairs and on cruise ships. I do not remember the islands we visited on a trip, but I will never forget the group of minature penguins made out of eggs and black olives on the ship's luncheon table.

Ever intrigued by food design,  I bought a book of Chinese appetizers and garnishes. Many of the elaborate creations were made by true artisans but, a few ideas, like today’s carrot flower, are easy enough for even those with modest skills.

Carrot Flower Garnish

Clean a large carrot. Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin-slicer, cut five paper-thin slices of carrot.

Next, cut halfway through each round from the center out.

Overlap the cut edges to form a cone and carefully,  press a toothpick through the overlapped edges. Push the carrot cone down about ½ inch.

Continue with each of the four remaining slices…adding each cone to the top of the toothpick. Place a pea, a piece of corn or some other contrasting vegetable piece on the end of the toothpick. Soak the garnish in water until ready for use
Alternate vegetables: cucumber, radish, eggplant

Thursday, September 23, 2010

149. Grape Jam, Old-Fashioned

After college, I rented a room near my first teaching job from a woman and her grown daughter. Their elderly grandmother's home was next door and an arbor, which still produced concord grapes, divided the back yards. One morning, we watched as the grandmother walked outside and examined the ripening fruit. She made jam from them every fall but, for some reason, no one else was at all enthusiastic about the work and they suggested that if I went over to help, she would reward me with a few jars for myself.

How exciting...I didn't even know regular people made, I agreed to be her helper.  A few days later, the grandmother and I met in the backyard and both of us removed large bunches of ripe grapes and put them in a basket. We hauled our harvest up the back stairs and went inside the wonderfully old  was like walking into the past.

I was handed a handmade apron and shown the dozens of  mismatched jars which we were going to use. The first step was to fill a big pot with water and bring it to a boil. We, then, immersed many of the jars and boiled them for five minutes. This was the sterilization process and we repeated it until all the jars were clean. Meanwhile, some of the grapes were put in a second pot, sugar added and then pressed with very old potato mashers. The mixture was put on to simmer and the room quickly filled with the most amazing grape fragrance. While we watched and stirred, the grandmother talked about her life and how she had helped her mother make this same jam in the late 1800s...I felt like I was a part of history!

After the grapes had simmered long enough, we strained out the seeds, poured the dark purple sauce into jars and sealed them with melted wax. That was it. I stood back and looked happily at our three jars of jam. What a perfectly old-fashioned way to spend the morning. The grandmother pointed out, however, that we were not finished...the huge basket of grapes looked as full as it did when we came in. Needless to say, we worked all morning on those grapes and afterward, I went home tired and sticky, carrying my reward of grape jam that tasted better than anything.

*Grapes have a natural pectin and the addition of commercial pectin products is not necessary.

This old recipe only makes small batches and cannot be increased or the jam will never set up, which means it will be runny.

Old-Fashioned Grape Jam

4 C concord grapes, whole
3 C sugar

Mix sugar and grapes in a large pot. With a large spoon or potato masher, crush grapes.

On medium heat, bring crushed mixture to a boil. Boil gently for 25 min.

Pour through a strainer into a bowl. Stir mixture in strainer to push out the most liquid. Scrape the bottom of the strainer to get all of the grape goodness.

Stir grape jam bowl to mix evenly.

Pour hot grape mixture into sterile glasses or jars. Seal with paraffin as directed by package or refrigerate covered with a lid. You do not have to seal the jars if jam is to be refrigerated. Do not double recipe.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

148. Praline Cookie Bars Deluxe, Treat

Long ago, graham crackers were often the first type of cookie given to young children. They were not overly sweet and softened up easily as the child gummed them into a swallowable mush. The graham flavor I seem to remember, however, was different than today's squares and rectangles.

My guess is that the ingredients back then were more whole and less altered by scientific substitutions. The Reverend Graham, who supposedly invented this namesake cracker, might not even recognize today's boxed treat. His cracker contained whole graham flour and eating them was his answer to curing the lusting tendencies of humans.

While I doubt that there was any science behind Graham's eccentric idea, the cracker remains a staple in many households because it is versatile and inexpensive. When crushed, graham crackers are the main ingredient for cheesecake crust well as some pie crusts. They are used for homemade ice cream sandwiches and what would a campfire be without s'mores? .

Today's recipe is a variation of post # 40 with the addition of coconut and milk chocolate. It must be refrigerated after baking to keep the bars from becoming soggy. When I first came up with this version of Praline Bars, my husband was out of town. I ate more than half the bars before he returned. I couldn't stop eating them!

Praline Cookie Bars Deluxe

Graham Crackers (do not use generic)
1 C margarine
1 C brown sugar
1 C chopped pecans
1 C flaked coconut
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips

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 and coconut. Mix well. Pour mixture over crackers and carefully push the nuts and coconut evenly over crakers.

Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and sprinkle evenly with milk chocolate chips. When melted, spread evenly but lightly with a fork. Put pan in refrigerator. When chocolate is firm, cut crackers into oblong bars. Place bars in an air-tight container with waxed paper between layers; store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

147. Stuffed Cabbage, 1975

As a child, I could hardly wait for the mailman to deliver the many magazines my parents had ordered. Reader's Digest was a huge favorite with its short stories, high interest pieces and funny jokes. They also subscribed to National Geographic, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Better Homes and Gardens, Look, Ladies' Home Journal, Women's Day, Redbook, McCall's and others which I can no longer remember.

I was especially drawn to the women's magazines because they featured the latest clothing, make-up and hair styles and included recipes and decorating suggestions. Most issues rounded things out with high-interest articles and short stories. I don't think I ever changed my looks because of a magazine, but I definitely took notice of the recipes. It wasn't long before I had a large pile of cooking ideas in the box under my bed and dreamed of the day when I would be in charge of my own kitchen and able to plan one great meal after another.

McCall's magazine had a section for beginner cooks and it featured a montly recipe with a step-by-step pictoral guide. Today's recipe is one of those from a 1975 issue. This stuffed cabbage recipe is different from many other standard methods because the meat is cooked first and drained of excess fat; a much healthier alternative in my opinion.

My recipe updates from the original: liquid changed from 2 cups to 3; more seasoning in the sauce; microwave cooking directions.

 Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

1 large head of cabbage

1 tsp salt

Bring 6 C salted water to a boil. Add 12 large cabbage leaves. Simmer 3 minutes. (Cook longer if leaves are not pliable). Drain. Reserve 3 C liquid. Trim rib (take out a triangle-shaped piece). Put ½ C meat mixture in each leaf. Fold sides and ends to form little pouches. Arrange seam-side down in single layer in a greased casserole.

*Note – if your cabbage head does not have 12 large leaves, use two smaller leaves to form a little pouch. Soften leaves as indicated above and trim the rib. Overlap the rib ends of two smaller leaves, fill and fold the top and bottom inward and then the sides and place in a baking dish.
Stuffing ingredients:

½ C margarine                       1 lb ground beef
1 C chopped onion                1 ½ C cooked rice
1 crushed garlic clove             3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
½ lb sliced mushrooms           1 tsp salt, pepper to taste

Brown ground beef on med. high heat in a heavy pan. Drain fat and remove meat to a dish. Wipe out pan with a paper towel. Melt ¼ C margarine add onion, sauté 3 min. Add ¼ C margarine garlic, mushrooms – sauté 4 min. Add browned meat, rice, eggs, salt, pepper…sauté 5 min. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Sauce ingredients:

¼ C margarine
¼ C flour
1 can tomato paste
½ tsp salt, pepper blend

Sauce: melt ¼ C margarine in a covered microwave safe bowl. Remove and add flour stir until smooth. Add paste and 2 C liquid from cabbage leaves. Cover and place in microwave. Bring to boil - 1 ½ minutes. Add salt, pepper to taste. Remove from microwave. Stir. Add more cabbage liquid to make a nice sauce that is easily poured.

Pour sauce over all. Cover and place in microwave. Bake at 50% power for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes covered prior to serving.

Serving suggestion:
Serve on a buttered layer of rice.

*Conventional oven baking: place the assembled rolls in a greased dish, bake covered at 350 degrees for 50 minutes; uncover for the last 10 minutes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

146. Meatloaf, My Mother's

I can still picture my mother in the kitchen with her small, hand-operated meat grinder. The grinder would be clamped to the countertop and I would watch as she pushed the meat chunks into the funnel-shape at the top. Occasionally, I was allowed to turn the wooden-handle; the meat came out perfectly ground and fell into a large bowl. I loved the old-fashioned atmosphere the grinder gave to the motors or sound other than that produced by the actual grinding process...we could have been pioneers!

With that meat, my mother sometimes made her wonderful meatloaf which, in my estimation, tasted the way meatloaf was supposed to taste. I thought all meatloaf tasted that way until I went to college. Dorm food, while filling, lacked a lot...and meatloaf was not one of their better selections.

Ground beef and ground pork were both used in Mother's meatloaf. Her loaf had to be two parts beef and one part pork and it was always mixed by hand...the meat and all the other ingredients were blended together and then shaped to fit into the loaf pan by my mother's experienced hands. Ketchup was drizzled decoratively across the loaf and two or three strips of bacon would be placed on top of the loaf. Sometimes she put the bacon on first and then the ketchup. No matter, it always tasted wonderful.

We could hardly wait for the smell of the meatloaf to start wafting through the house. Mother's meatloaf dinner was always accompanied by baked potatoes and baked beans. The potatoes were placed on the rack next to the loaf pan to bake; the beans simmered on the cooktop. All of the fragrances blended together like friends holding was heavenly.

 Although I buy my beef and pork already ground up, my meatloaf is almost exactly like my mother's.  A trick I learned along the way, however, is to partially cook the loaf in the microwave. This cuts down the baking time in half. I usually serve meatloaf with ketchup on the side or, if I am really ambitious, I make a simple mushroom gravy to spoon across each serving.

Note: Depending on size, you may need to partially bake the potatoes in the microwave using a potato bag as the reduced baking time will probably not cook them completely.


My Mother's Meatloaf

1 lb  ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork (if you cannot find ground pork, buy cubed is shredded, just pull it apart)
1eggs depending on how much meat is used
½ -3/4 C fresh bread crumbs

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a bowl with hands. All seasoning is ‘to taste’. Put meat into a loaf pan. Form sides and top to resemble a loaf. Put half-slices of bacon on the diagonal across the loaf top and squirt ketchup decoratively across the bacon and meat.

Cover with wax paper and cook in the microwave 7 min on HIGH; Uncover, place in regular oven 45 min. in 350. Otherwise, cook uncovered in regular oven 1 ½ hours at 350.

Lift meat out of loaf pan and place on a cutting board. Let is stand for a few minutes before slicing.

*Note: Meatloaf is also wonderful served with Mushroom Gravy instead of ketchup. See post #160.

Side dishes: Baked potatoes and baked beans.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

145. Quick Buttercream Icing, Basic

Years ago, a friend showed me how easy it was to make a rose out of frosting and it inspired me to want to learn more about the art of using frosting. I enrolled in two Wilton cake-decorating classes and learned many things inclucing the uses of all of those metal frosting tips and also how to turn out a balanced and crumb-free frosted cake.

The Wilton teacher demonstrated eight different types of icing and made sure we knew how to use them properly. We learned the right way to store frostings and how long they could be kept. Other  demonstrations detailed which types of icings were good for decorative borders and writing as well as general frosting purposes. We learned that some types of the icings will tolerate deep color enhancement while others can only be tinted a light pastel. The classes were well planned and the hands-on lessons were terrific.

I have only used premade frosting found in stores a few times when I was too busy or pressed for time to make my own, however, except for the coconut-pecan flavor, I think that they taste very artificial and detract from the cake flavors. I have decided I would rather eat cake without frosting than to ever use them again.

Today's post is easy and versatile and lends itself to basic frosting purposes. Make some a few days ahead and refrigerate if time is a concern. Bring to room temperature prior to spreading.

Quick Buttercream Icing

¼ C  margarine and ¼ C shortening, cold and firm.
½ tsp vanilla (or other flavoring)
2 ½ C confectioner’s sugar
About 2 T cold milk or water, if needed

With mixer or a whisk, beat margarine and shortening until creamy but not runny. Add confectioner’s sugar about ½ C at a time and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla. Now add 2 T of cold milk or water, a little at a time. It may be necessary to add a little more or less milk or water, depending on temperature of ingredients. (Frosting may be tinted).

For chocolate icing, add 1 oz or less of melted baking or semisweet chocolate.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

144. Mini Blueberry Cakes, Blue Tongues

Because they are readily available in our stores year round, fresh fruit and vegetables make up a big part of my diet; it is something for which I am very grateful. The deep-colored and cheerful blueberries are one of my favorites in the fruit category. Every summer we pick farm-raised blueberries and for one day, at least, I get to eat my fill of this vitamin-packed-antioxidant rich fruit, (see link below). Any blueberries that are not eaten within a few days are easily frozen and vacuum sealed for later use.

Blueberries, fresh or thawed, are delightful sprinkled in and on our lazy-morning pancakes, on top of hot oatmeal or vanilla ice cream. In the dessert category, my favorite pie just happens to be blueberry; I love its natural sweetness and distinct flavor...and who hasn't stood in front of a mirror to examine one's blue tongue!

Blueberry cobbler is a comforting and family-friendly dish...with four children in the house, there were no leftovers. Now that the kids are grown and gone, I find myself wanting my favorite flavors and food like cobbler, but in less quantity. With today's recipe, I can have my hot blueberries with a little sweetened cake and easily limit the quantity. These cakes are served in the cups in which they are baked; blue tongues optional!

The blueberry cake recipe can easily be halved to just make two servings if desired.

Mini Blueberry Cakes

1/2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 dashes of salt
1/2 C milk or soy milk
2 T margarine, melted
1-2 C blueberries ( divide among cups evenly and, if frozen, partially thaw before baking)

4 custard cups

Preheat ovent to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except berries. Mix until just moist. Top divide blueberries with batter, evenly. Place filled cups on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until tops are golden. Serve warm. (tops will fall slightly after baking)
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

143. Apple Crisp, Mom's (V)

A long time ago, I had my own apple tree and the fall crop produced more apples than I could possibly use. Apple recipes were examined and tried out; the good ones treasured.

Apple crisp was and is a well known dessert and after I tried out and sampled several recipes, one in particular stood out. Not only did it taste like apple crisp should taste, it was very easy to put together and it used up apples! This perfectly balanced dessert quickly became a family favorite.

Even a large double-batch of apple crisp, however, never seemed to be enough to satisfy my family; they would sneak spoonful after spoonful of the leftovers until the dessert was gone. With our children grown and on their own, I find that the apple crisp still disappears when I am not looking - it is a sad, sad thing to know my husband is the dessert-thief!

Note: As it bakes, the *apples, which are flavored with butter, sugar and cinnamon, become tender and fill the whole house with that amazing apple-pie fragrance.

*Golden delicious apples are wonderful for baking. They become tender but not mushy when sautéed or baked. Their flavor is not too sweet nor too tart.

Apple Crisp ala Mode

(Recipe may be doubled and baked in a 13x9 pan)

6 Large golden delicious apples
2 T lemon juice
¼ C water

1/2 C Sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

 ¾ C flour
¾ C sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 T butter

1/2 C rolled oats (optional)
few dashes of cinnamon (optional)
1/4 C sugar (optional)

Pare and slice apples into a deep 8” casserole. Add lemon juice and water and mix well. Blend cinnamon with ½ C sugar and sprinkle over apples. Combine remaining sugar with flour and salt and work in butter until mixture resembles coarse corn meal and sprinkle over apples. (I wanted a more hearty topping, so I added oats, a 1/4 C more sugar and a few sprinkles of cinnamon to the topping mixture).

Bake in 375 degree oven for about 40 min or until crust is light brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool. Serve with ice cream if desired.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

142. Sautéed Apples, Sweet and Soothing

A cool fall or winter morning is the perfect kind of day for a breakfast of bacon and eggs or hot cakes...but, for those wanting a healthy, quick meal, a bowl of steaming oatmeal is more than  comforting.

Unfortunately, I have actually had oatmeal that was not at all comforting. Many years ago we took an unexpected trip to Staten Island because we had been told that my Italian grandfather was very ill. My father had to borrowed an older model station wagon from the company where he worked in order to haul our family of five, all of our luggage and our new, but large, six-month old apricot standard poodle, named Penuche. In bleak and snowy weather conditions, we started on our road trip from the Chicago suburbs to New York City.

What we did not know was that the vehicle's gas gauge was faulty and we ran out of gas on the interstate in Pennsylvania. I can still picture my dad climbing over a wire fence and up the steep, slippery hillside to beg for gas at a farm while we all waited petrified and shivering in that old car. The farm people, while not exactly friendly, finally sold my dad a gallon or two of gas in an old can which they wanted back; of course my poor dad had to make a round trip up that hill and back again to return the can.

Tired and cranky, we finally arrived at the grandparents' home only to find out that my grandfather was not ill at all. While good health is something to appreciate, my parents seemed quite tense. The next day, they decided to take us to the Statue of Liberty to at least make some sense out of this horrible trip. Unfortunately, I was not feeling well and it was decided that I should remain behind with my grandparents. They spoke little English and I only knew a handful of Italian words. I felt like I was an eleven year old who had been left alone in a foreign land.

My grandmother made oatmeal and as she set a bowl in front of me, I didn't know what to say. There it sat...a plain bowl of milk and no sugar...just a thick glob of stuff. I did not want to hurt Grandmother's feelings but, I did not know what to, I just sat there and picked at it until she mercifully removed the bowl from the table.

We left for home the next day. Back at school, my classmates would not believe me when I told them we had driven all the way to New York and back again in such a short time, so I did not even get the satisfaction of telling about that trip. Parts of the adventure are long forgotten, but I will always remember that oatmeal.

While a flavored package of instant oatmeal could have saved that long-ago breakfast, I actually prefer to measure out and cook my the microwave. It is quick and very inexpensive. With the addition of today's sautéed  apples, plain oatmeal can become gourmet.

 Note: The apples can also be served as side dish or as a topping for pancakes or ice cream. Golden delicious apples cook down well and are not mushy. You will love this inexpensive and easy recipe.

Sautéed Apples

Oatmeal with Sautéed Apples for One
(this recipe may be increased)

1 golden delicious apple
1 T margarine or butter
1 T brown Sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Optional: raisins, chopped pecans or walnuts

Core and peel apple. Slice into ¼ inch sections. Heat margarine or butter in a small saucepan over med heat. Add apple slices and stir. Turn heat down to low, cover pot and cook apples stirring occasionally.

When apples are almost tender, add sugar and cinnamon to taste. Stir and replace lid and simmer mixture until the apples are tender.  Remove the lid and continue cooking gently until some of the liquid evaporates and the apple mixture is the desired consistency. Remove from heat, add raisins and combine gently. Serve.

Place 1/4-1/3 cup oatmeal in a small dish. Add water to cover oatmeal, stir. Cook in microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove bowl and stir. Add more water if necessary and stir. Spoon hot apple mixture onto cooked oatmeal and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Serves 1.

Monday, September 13, 2010

141. Fish Fillets with Mushroom Sauce, Sophistcated

Seafood was frequently on the menu in my childhood home. Many kinds of fish were eaten and thoroughly enjoyed. I do remember, though, that some varieties were riddled with tiny bones. Eating those kinds of fish was rather tortuous. Try as I might, there were always a few little bones that did not get picked out prior to eating. Discovery of them usually happened at the exact moment the swallowing process began. The swallow could be halted as the bone stabbed the eater in the throat. What to do next was a difficult decision. I can remember thinking when I was in such a bone-stabbing situation, that if I continued to swallow, I would choke to death...

Undeterred, fresh or frozen fish continues to be a favorite, but I loved the chunkier, boneless varieties a lot more than the other kind. I also love canned sardines and kippers, two fish that neither my husband nor children will eat. As I have said before with favorite food that no one else likes, "Yippee...more for me."

Grocery stores that sell fish are handy, but one has to be careful to select fresh should never smell 'fishy'. Flash frozen fish is usually a safe way to buy and enjoy fish if you do not live near a fish market. There are usually recipe cards at the fish sales counters and some of them have really great ideas. Today's post was adapted from a recipe flyer I picked up at such a counter many years ago. I love the sophisticated flavors.

Fish Fillets with  Mushroom Sauce

2 T olive oil
1 T margarine
¼ lbs mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 ½ pounds cod, bass or other lean fish
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 C water
¼ C white wine

3-4 C cooked rice

Heat 1 T of oil and the margarine in a wide frying pan over med. Heat. When oil is hot, add chopped onion and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until mushrooms are lightly browned and onions are translucent(about 8 minutes). Halfway through the browning process add minced garlic. Lift out vegetables and set aside.

Rinse fish and pat dry. Heat remaining oil in pan over med/high heat. When oil is hot, add fish in a single layer. Cover and cook until the first side is cooked, carefully turn fish pieces over with a spatula. Cover and continue cooking until fish is just done. With a wide spatula, lift out fish and transfer to a warm platter and keep warm.

Stir together cornstarch, water and wine. Pour into pan and stir quickly; add mushroom mixture and stir to loosen brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook over med-high heat stirring, until mixture comes to a boil.Turn down heat, stir continually and add more water if necessary to keep sauce from becoming too thick. It should be pourable. Taste and season with salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.  4-5 servings.

Place warm rice portions on serving plates and carefully place pieces of fish on top of rice. Spoon mushroom sauce over fish. Serve immediately.  4 servings.

Side dish suggestions: broccoli, peas, green beans.

Friday, September 10, 2010

140. Creole Eggs, A Blast

When I hear the word 'Creole' I immediately think of New Orleans. To me it means a combining of sights, sounds and flavors. The Creole-style food I have sampled over the years has been wonderfully creative and satisfying.

Cajun cooking is also from Louisiana, however it is distinctly different from the Creole-style dishes. The following website explains the differences very well:

Historically, Cajun and Creole recipes were passed down verbally with little regard to exact or recorded measurements. One's taste was the only judge for the correctness of ingredients and the seasoning of a particular dish. There is, however, a certain formula called the "Holy Trinity" of Louisiana cuisine: bell peppers, celery and onion. Rice is also an important accompaniment to Creole and Cajun dishes.The recipes are comforting and satisfying, flavorful and, at times, not particularly healthful with the addition of sausages, pork, ham and rich butter. Moderation is the key.

Today's recipe has two of the 'trinity' ingredients and is served with English muffins instead of rice. The delightful combination of Creole flavors makes for the out-of-the ordinary breakfast that is actually diet-friendly.

Recipe may be divided.
Creole Eggs

Olive oil

¼ pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 small sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
1 (10 oz) can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
Emeril's Bayou Blast seasoning

4 eggs
4 English muffins, split and toasted

On medium-high heat, coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and a T or so of margarine (Smart Balance). When the oil is hot, add onion slices and green pepper and sauté until almost tender. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender. Next, add the can of Rotel tomatoes, mix well and heat through. Sprinkle lightly with Bayou Blast and mix. Remove vegetable mixture from heat and set aside; keep warm.

Fry or poach eggs. Toast and butter English muffins.

To serve, using a slotted spoon, place 2 T of tomato mixture on a plate. Place an egg on top of this mixture. Sprinkle a dash of Bayou Blast on egg. Add a tsp of tomato mixture on top of egg. Serve with English muffin.

Serves 4

*Note: if you are only making 1 or 2 servings, the leftover tomato mixture can be combined with chicken broth and red beans and rice to make a wonderful soup.

Recipe Index, Alphabetical 1-140

Daily recipes are pulled from the following 5 groups. Each group is only used once/week.
1. meat/fish 2. pasta/veg/fruit 3. bread/pastry 4. soup/salad/dessert 5. eggs/easy

Recipe               Post #

Apple Squares 138
Artichokes 62
Asparagus, Creamed on Toast 87
Asparagus, Sautéed-steamed 42
Banana Whip 115
Bars, Praline Cookie 40
Beans, Back-Burner 32
Beef, Italian 1
Beets, Pickled 112
Biscuit, (3) Baking Powder Recipes 73
Biscuits, Green Onion 52
Bread, Banana 8
Bread, Cheese-herb French 109
Bread, Danish Potato 5
Bread, Pita 34
Bread, White, rolls, buns 47
Bread, Zucchini 92
Burgers, Turkey Delicious 71
Butter Lamb 23
Cake, Mini Pineapple Upside-down 99
Cake, Lemon Mousse 82
Carrots in Broth 12
Casserole, Zucchini (Italian style) 26
Chicken and Dumplings 76
Chicken Artichoke Festiva 2
Chicken Breast Strips 36
Chicken Skewers, Marinated 131
Chicken, Barbecued Pulled 95
Chicken, Golden 46
Chicken, Oven Barbecue 11
Chicken, Spanish-Style Grilled 106
Chili Meat Cups 51
Chips, Tortilla Cinnamon 128
Coffee Cake, Easter Nest 24
Cookies, White Chocolate 7
Cookies, White Chocolate Oatmeal-Coconut, Deluxe 74
Corn bread, microwaved 55
Corn on the Cob, Grilled 107
Cornbread Loaf with Buttermilk 88
Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner 6
Crepes, Chocolate-Orange Banana 113
Crescent Puffs, Chocolate-Pecan 14
Croissants, Cordon Bleu 126
Cucumber, Marinated Slices 122
Danish Puff 84
Dressing, California French 79
Dressing, Russian 56B
Dressing, Southwestern Salad 91A
Dressing, Thousand Island 85
Dumplings, Fruit 17
Eggs Benedictive 65
Eggs, Bulls-Eye 90
Eggs, Creole 140
Eggs, Deviled 75
Eggs, Hard Boiled and Easter Eggs, easy dye method, Cold Water 18
Eggs, Huevos Rancheros 70
English Muffin Loaf 28
English Muffin, Apple-topped 125
Fruit Crisp, microwavable 49
Fruit Flower for Two 45
Granola, Oatmeal Maple 103.
Green Peppers, Shrimp-Stuffed 72
Green Tomatoes, Fried 137
Ham Roll With Pea and Olive Sauce 81
Hash browns 50
Lettuce, Grilled Shrimp and 117
Mac and Cheese for Two 130
Mincemeat Bars 133
Mincemeat, Green Tomato
Mushrooms, Stuffed 77
Mussels 9
Orange, Chocolate-Striped Slices 60
Parfait, Chocolate-Mint 124
Parmesan Crisps 123
Patties, Bacon Potato 22
Patties, Tuna Potato 3
Pecans, Cinnamon Sugar 100
Pickles, Bead and Butter 102.
Pie Crust and Pie Crust Secrets 16
Pie, Easy Fresh Peach 104.
Pie, Frosty Pineapple Juice No-Bake 69
Pie, Mile-High Lasagna 61
Pie, Peanutty Ice cream 80
Pie, Plum 110
Pie, Ruby Whipped Cream Cheese 64
Pie, Spaghetti 41
Pie, Sweet Potato 15
Pimentos, Mock 93
Pizza, Easy 59
Pizza, Fruit 53
Popcorn, Caramel 35
Pork Chops Sorrento 136
Potatoes in a Bag (Savory Microwaved) 54
Potatoes, Whipped Sweet 58
Quiche, Mini 118
Red Beans and Rice 86
Rice, Basmati, how to cook perfect rice 30
Rum-Pineapple Fuff 'n Crunch 89
Salad, Broccoli 29
Salad, Bunnies on the Lawn 19
Salad, Chicken Pasta 119
Salad, Hot German Potato, microwaved 97
Salad, Layered 129
Salad, Lime Pineapple 25
Salad, Napa Cabbage 39
Salad, Potato with Radish 94
Salad, Southwestern Chicken 91
Salad, Strawberry spinach 48
Salad, Waldorf 134
Salmon with Cilantro and Lime 96
Salsa, Mango-Lime 127
Sandwich, Breakfast 68
Sandwich, Open-Faced Vegetable 108
Sandwich, Pita Egg 37
Sandwich, Ruben 56
Sauce, Blueberry Fruit 83
Sauce, Cocktail 44
Sauce, Spaghetti 41
Sauce, Tomato 135
Sausage, Italian with Tomato and herbs 21
Shrimp Scampi 27
Slaw, Fruit 10
Sloppy Joe 34
Smoothie, Fruit 66
Soup Au Pistou 4
Soup, Butter Bean and Cabbage 139
Soup, Cream of Asparagus 57
Soup, Egg Drop 43
Soup, Spaghetti-Lover's 114
Squares, Spice and Sweet Potato 38
Steak Barbecue, Beijing Style 116
Steak Barbecue, Beijing Style 121
Steak Diane 111
Strawberries, Chocolate Covered 33
Strawberry Cookie Cup 120
Sushi, California Rolls, Made Simple also Seaweed Free Rolls 67
Syrup, Easy Pancake (2 recipes) 13
Taco Seasoning, Homemade 105
Tortilla Fruit Shells 78
Tuna Salad 101
Turnovers, Crunchy Beef 20
Waffle, Chocolate Dessert 63
Zucchini Squares 98

80. California French Dressing, American Red Dressing

Thursday, September 9, 2010

139. Butter Bean and Cabbage Soup, Hearty (G)

Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages. Those words from the tale of  Peter Rabbit preceded the big chase scene where McGregor ran, hoe in hand, after the terrified Peter.

When I planted cabbage plants in my own garden, I often thought of Peter Rabbit and his love of vegetables. I, however, installed rabbit-proof fence around my plants and my cabbages were able to grow into large, weighty heads with beautiful, waxy leaves without interference from rabbits or other hungry creatures.

Cabbage is  versatile - steamed and buttered cabbage is a wonderful side dish any time of the year; stir fried cabbage has a delightful texture and flavor. Shredded cabbage turned into cole-slaw adds just the right tang to a great fish dinner and stuffed cabbage is like serving little wrapped packages filled with amazing flavors. And, what would a Rueben sandwich be without sauerkraut, (pickled cabbage)?

Yes, cabbage is a mighty vegetable. Today's recipe for Butter Beans and Cabbage Soup illustrates another great companionship - beans and cabbage. This hearty soup does not take long to make and is also very economical. I hope you like what I did with the second can of beans!

Diane's Butter Bean and Cabbage Soup

2 cans butter beans, divided
3 C chicken broth
2 C shredded cabbage
4-5 large mushrooms, sliced
2 med carrots, shredded
1/2 med sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp  salt
 pepper to taste
1/4 C green pepper, diced (optional)
1/2 C diced canned tomatoes (optional)
2 C linguini, cooked
Parmesan cheese, shredded (optional)

Add first can of beans and next eight (ten if using optional) ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Remove any foamy residue with a spoon. Lower the heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Empty second can of beans into a food processor or Vita Mix and pulse until evenly blended. Pour into soup mixture and stir. Heat through. Cut cooked linguini into 4-inch pieces and add to soup. Stir and heat through.  Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired. Serves 6.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

138. Apple Squares, Travel Easily

Fall apples are an anticipated reward after we wait all summer for them to ripen...they bring back memories of the most amazing apple tree that we had in our yard when my children were little. I assumed that it had grown wild on the piece of property where we lived as there were no other fruit trees nearby to suggest that it had been part of an orchard and it had never been part of someone's else's back yard.

Maybe it started out as a long forgotten apple buried by a squirrel and had grown from that...the tree looked like it might have been three little trees that had grown into one big one. It had obviously never been pruned and I was not expecting much from it. To my surprise, after taking care of it for a few years, I found out that the old apple tree was a diamond-in-the-rough. Every other year, it produced about 1,000 pounds of the most wonderful apples. Their skin was light green with some red and each apple was medium to large in size; the flesh...crisp and sweet. I searched for a long time, but could never identify the type of apple in my yard.

So, my anonymous garden friend produced bushels fruit for me to use and from the apples I made...sauce, butter, pies, pancakes, fritters, dumplings and more. Even with their long shelf life, I eventually needed to find more ideas and recipes to deal with the apple-overload.

The day I found a recipe for apple squares, I felt like I had discovered a long lost friend or the missing mate to a pair of was such a friendly and familiar taste delight...yet, it was a completely new recipe to me. I have since shared this recipe with many people and have taken this lovely pastry to potlucks dozens of times. The squares travel easily and look so delicious; there are never any leftovers. Apple squares freeze well and are great to pack in lunches.

(I often use my handy apple-peeler with the crank handle, pictured below. It peels, cores and slices an apple very quickly).
Apple Squares

Double crust pie dough (see post #16 for pie crust and pie cruts secrets)

¼ C dry bread crumbs

5-6 Golden delicious apples, pared, cored and sliced
½ C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon,
Nutmeg, (optional)

(icing – 1 C powdered sugar, 2 T milk, ½ tsp vanilla)

Make dough for a double crust pie. Divide into 2 equal parts.  Cover one part and roll the other into a 12x16 rectangle. Place rolling pin on near edge and carefully roll the dough around the pin. Lift up the rolling pin and place on the far side of a cookie sheet. Unroll the pin and dough toward you. Sprinkle the dough with ¼ C dry bread crumbs. Layer apples over crumbs to within ½ inch of the edges. Mix sugar,  cinnamon, and optional nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over apples.

 Roll second crust and roll up as before. Unroll it gently over the top of the apples. Fold bottom crust upward and pinch decoratively around all sides. Shape does not matter. Prick top of dough with fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. (Cover loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning of crust and edges). Lower temperature to 325 degrees for 30 minutes more until apples are tender and crust is golden. Remove pastry to a wire rack carefully and cool. Make a thin icing and drizzle over top of cooled crust. After icing hardens, cut pastry into squares.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

137. Fried Green Tomatoes, Movie Food

Whether you think of them as a fruit or a vegetable is of no real importance...tomatoes are a wonderful food. They are beautiful to see growing and when the first one of the season slowly changes from green to a vibrant red, the wait for the perfect picking moment is almost like torture.
A short time later, however, the bulk of everyone's tomato crop ripens. People who have planted enough for canning are very busy in their summer kitchens and sometimes neighbors will share their over-abundance with those who have none.

In the last twenty years or so, heirloom plants, including tomatoes, have regained popularity. While some say the heirloom flavors are more varied and true, the real key for tomato flavor, at least in all my years of gardening experience, is the type of soil in which they are grown. A loose, soil with the right nutrients, strategic watering and a keen eye for garden pests and possible molds will definitely increase the likelyhood of a great tomato crop.

If you grow your own tomatoes, there will probably be an abundance of green ones toward the end of the season that are actually more tasty fried than if you try to ripen them indoors. I knew nothing about frying tomatoes until the movie Fried Green Tomatoes aired and piqued my interest.

While there are many recipes for fried green tomatoes, I have found  that the more simple they are, the better. Today's post is not only easy, it tastes wonderful. Make sure your green tomatoes are firm.
The Panko bread crumbs are a wonderful addition to this dish. They fry up light and crisp and their flavor is not heavy. I bought the crumbs at an oriental grocery store or look for them in the oriental food section of most larger grocery or specialty stores.

Fried Green Tomatoes

1 large green tomato (makes 5 slices)
Olive Oil
Four small containers or bowls
1/4 C Flour
Egg, slightly beaten
Panko bread crumbs
Weber Roasted Garlic seasoning (you may use a seasoning of your choice)

Slice tomato in 1/4-inch rounds. Salt lightly. Put the following in the four containers:

1. Milk (1/2-inch), 2. Flour, 3. beaten egg, 4. Panko crumbs sprinkled with Weber Roasted Garlic seasoning, (or another seasoning of your choice).

Dip each tomato slice in milk, next dredge in flour, then dip in egg and finally, coat both sides with Panko crumbs; set slice aside and continue with remaining slices.

Heat a large pan med-high. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (this is not deep frying). When oil is hot, place tomato rounds in pan. Fry tomatoes on each side until golden. Remove browned slices to a paper towel to drain slightly. Serve immediately.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

136. Pork Chops Sorrento, Simmered Perfectly

Pork chops are an interesting cut of meat; there are so many that I shudder to think how difficult my explanation would be if I sent my husband to the store to purchase a package for me. Not only are the types of chops confusing, but the way the butcher prepares them is just as perpexing. Some chops are so thin, they look rather pathetic, while others are almost too thick to eat; some have bones and some do not. There are loin, top loin, loin sirloin and loin rib to name a few. A pork chop is definitely not just a pork chop!

For those who would like to be more clear about why pork is labeled the way it is, be sure to visit the following website :  Not only are all of the cuts for pork described, but also included are pictures of each piece of meat as well as a list of common cooking procedures.

 My mother made wonderful pork chops, but she did not especially like to clean all the meat off of the bones while she ate...however, my dad and I loved that part. Like civilized people, we would cut off the bulk of the meat with our knife and fork and consume that first, but the real treat was to pick up the bones and gnaw off all the tender morsels of meat still clinging to them. When we finished eating, our plates probably looked like a flock of vultures had been at work!

Cooking pork chops can be tricky. I did mention in post in post #121, Pork Madeira, that if fried too long, the meat will be tough and almost impossible to shoe leather. This recipe, however, is fool-proof as the  meat is simmered long enough in the sauce that the chops are perfectly tender and flavorful. The herbs in the marinara sauce make this a true Italian treat.

Pork Chops Sorrento

1 sweet onion, sliced
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 Jar Emeril Marinara sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced (optional)
4 1/2 inch thick pork chops
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat a large pan on med-high and add olive oil to coat the bottom. Add pork chops and brown both sides of meat until golden. Half-way through the browning process, add sliced onion and green pepper  to one side of the pan and saute until tender.
Turn heat to med-low  and remove meat to a plate; add jar of sauce and 1/3 jar of water mix well with vegetables. Add garlic slices.  Place chops on top of the sauce and cover pan with a lid. Simmer for 45 minutes until meat is fork tender. Turn off heat. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of chops and replace lid for 5 minutes  or until cheese is melted. Carefully lift chops to plates and spoon extra sauce over meat or other side vegetables.

Side suggestions: Mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, steamed broccoli-cauliflower-carrots.