Monday, January 31, 2011

241. Bacon, Liver and Onions, Easy

Liver was one of the pureed foods that many mothers fed their babies when I was growing up. I am sure that some babies rebelled and spit it out, but I loved it. As I grew older, my love for liver did not diminish. Although we did not have beef liver very often, the roasting hens that were brought home always contained a little package of liver and other unusual things. My mother would fix those parts as a snack for us and we all participated in devouring them.

My dad and I probably enjoyed the organ meats more than anyone else and we did not feel the least bit guilty taking the lion's share. While snacking on chicken livers was fun, real satisfaction came when we actually had Bacon, Liver and Onions for dinner. The smell of the fried bacon mingled with onion was pure olfactory heaven.

Bacon, Liver and Onions is a very easy meal to fix. I like liver well-cooked and I serve the meal with fried potatoes and a green vegetable or a piece of fruit.

(The health benefits of liver are outlined in the following website:  go to the home-page search box and type in the word liver). Because Bacon, Liver and Onions uses the bacon fat as well as the actual bacon, I limit my indulgence of this meal  to two times a year.

Bacon, Liver and Onions

Serves two

2 slices of calves' liver
4 strips of bacon
1 sweet onion, sliced
Salt and Pepper

Heat pan or griddle to med-hot and fry bacon until crisp. Save bacon fat. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Add 1-2 T bacon fat to pan or griddle; add onion slices and cook until slightly translucent and tender. Remove and keep warm. Put flour in a dish or pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix evenly. Dredge both sides of  liver in seasoned flour. Add 1-2 T bacon fat to pan or griddle and when hot, fry liver until well-browned. Turn liver and fry second side. Add more oil if necessary. Check to see if  liver is done by cutting into it. Remove to serving plates and top with onions and bacon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Index for Recipes 1-240

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 #

Appetizer, Oriental Finger Food 155
Apple Cinnamon Loaf 239
Apple Crisp 143
Apple, German Pancake 168
Apples, Maple Nut 180
Apple Roll 213
Apples, Sauteed 142
Apple Scones 238
Apple Squares 138
Apple, Grilled Swiss Cheese Sandwich 218
Apple Tarte Tatin 157
Artichokes 62
Asparagus, Creamed on Toast 87
Asparagus, Sautéed-steamed 42
Avocado Cucumber Salad 209

Bacon-tied Potatoes with Onion 192
Baked Rice with Vegetables 236
Banana Pancakes 153
Banana Whip 115
Barbecued Chicken in the Oven 11
Barbecued Pulled Chicken 95
Bars, Peanut 164
Bars, Pecan Brickle 229
Bars, Praline Cookie 40
Bars, Praline Cookie - Deluxe 148
Beans and Rice Taco 227
Beans, Back-Burner 32
Beans, Butter and Cabbage Soup 139
Beans, Garlic String 177
Beef, Italian 1
Beets, Pickled 112
Birds, Pork 201
Biscuit, (3) Baking Powder Recipes 73
Biscuits, Green Onion 52
Biscuits and Sausage Gravy 234
Blackberry Dessert 199
Blueberry Cake Cups 144
Bread, Banana 8
Bread, Cheese-herb French 109
Bread, Cinnamon Apple Loaf 239
Bread, Danish Potato 5
Bread, Fruitcake 214
Bread, Golden Egg 202
Bread, Oatmeal Whole Wheat 198
Bread, Parmesan Garlic Focaccia 232
Bread, Peasant 228
Bread, Pita 34
Bread, Raisin Cinnamon 163
Bread, Sausage 171
Bread Strips, Parmesan 190
Bread, White, rolls, buns 47
Bread, Zucchini 92
Burgers, Turkey Delicious 71
Butter Lamb 23

Cabbage, Butter Bean Soup 139
Cabbage-Onion Stir Fry 197
Cabbage, Stuffed 147
Cake, Blueberry Cups 144
Cake, Mini Pineapple Upside-down 99
Cake, Lemon Mousse 82
Cake, Pumpkin Date 184
Calzone 166
Carrot Garnish, Little Flowers 150
Carrots in Broth 12
Carrots, Orange Julienne 217
Caramels, Cream 215
Casserole, Zucchini (Italian style) 26
Chicken and Dumplings 76
Chicken Artichoke Festiva 2
Chicken, Barbecued Pulled 95
Chicken Breast Strips 36
Chicken, Golden 46
Chicken/Green Curry Sauce 176
Chicken/Noodles, 161
Chicken, Oven Barbecue 11
Chicken Pot Pie, No Crust 151
Chicken Skewers, Marinated 131
Chicken, Spanish-Style Grilled 106
Chickpea Dip, Hummus 185
Chili, Diane's 211
Chili Meat Cups 51
Chips, Tortilla Cinnamon 128
Chop Suey 231
Chowder, New England Clam 237
Cinnamon, Apple Loaf 239
Clam Chowder, New England 237
Clam Dip 200
Cocktail Sauce 44
Coconut Macaroons 194
Coconut Pancakes, Pineapple 207
Coffee Cake, Easter Nest 24
Coleslaw, Fruit 10
Cookies, Coconut Macaroons 194
Cookies, Malted-Pecan 203
Cookies, White Chocolate 7
Cookies, White Chocolate Oatmeal-Coconut, Deluxe 74
Corn bread, microwaved 55
Cornbread Loaf with Buttermilk 88
Cornbread Quick Loaf #2 193
Cornmeal Pie 158
Corn on the Cob, Grilled 107
Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner 6
Cranberry Apple Crumble 183
Cranberry Relish 178
Cranberry Sauce 179
Cream Caramels 215
Crepes, Chocolate-Orange Banana 113
Crescent Puffs, Chocolate-Pecan 14
Crisp, Fruit Microwaveable 233
Croissants, Cordon Bleu 126
Cucumber, Avocado Salad 209
Cucumber, Marinated Slices 122
Curry Sauce, Green with Chicken 176

Danish Puff 84
Date, Pumpkin Cake184
Dessert, Cranberry-Apple Crumble 183
Dip, Chickpea-Hummus 185
Dip, Clam 200
Diane's Chili 211
Dough, Pizza 188
Dressing, California French 79
Dressing, Ranch - Almost 170
Dressing, Russian 56B
Dressing, Southwestern Salad 91A
Dressing, Thousand Island 85
Dumplings, Fruit 17

Egg Bread, Golden 202
Egg Foo Young 205
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

Fennel, Shrimp Linguine with Orange 216
Fish, Crispy Fried 225
Fish Fillet with Mushroom Sauce 141
Flower, Tomato Garnish 240
Focaccia, Parmesan Garlic Bread 232
Frosting, German Chocolate - Microwaved 173
Fruitcake Bread 214
Fruit Crisp, microwavable 49
Fruit Flower for Two 45
Fruit Slaw 10

Garlic, Parmesan Focaccia Bread 232
Garlic String Beans 177
Garnish, Carrot Flower 150
Garnish, Tomato Flower 240
German Apple Pancake 168
German Chocolate Frosting 173
Gluten-free Pancakes, Diane's
Granola, Oatmeal Maple 103
Gravy, Biscuits and Sausage 234
Gravy, How to Make Lump-free 160
Green Peppers, Shrimp-Stuffed 72
Green Tomatoes, Fried 137
Grilled Swiss Cheese and Apple Sandwich 219

Ham, Peas and Pasta 152
Ham Roll With Pea and Olive Sauce 81
Ham, Scalloped Potatoes and 222
Ham, Split Pea Soup and 221
Hash browns 50
Horseradish, New England Pot Roast with 226
Hummus, Chickpea Dip 185

Ice Cream, Mango 220
Icing, Quick 145
Italian Wings 230

Jam, Concord Grape 149

Kiwi Smoothie 204

Lasagna Roll-Ups 212
Lemon Mousse Cake 82
Lemon Pecan Muffins 223
Lemon, Peach Frost 210
Lemon-Pepper Sauce, Vermicelli 175
Lemons, Grating Trick 223
Lettuce, Grilled Shrimp and 117
Loaf, Cinnamon Apple 239
Linguine, Shrimp Fennel with Orange 216

Mac and Cheese for Two 130
Macaroons, Coconut 194
Macaroni Shells Florentine 162
Malted-Pecan Cookies 203
Mango Ice Cream 220
Mango-Lime Salsa 127
Maple-Nut Apples, 180
Meatballs, Southwestern 196
Meatballs, Swedish 155
Meatloaf, My Mother's 146
Microwave Fruit Crisp 233
Mincemeat Bars 133
Mincemeat, Green Tomato 132
Mousse, Lemon Cake 82
Muffins, Lemon Pecan 223
Mushrooms, Stuffed 77
Mussels 9

New England Clam Chowder 237
New England Pot Roast with Horseradish 226

Oatmeal , Wholewheat Bread 198
Onion, Bacon-tied Potatoes with 192
Onion, Cabbage Stir-Fry 197
Orange Alaska 159
Orange Carrots Julienne 217
Orange, Chocolate-Striped Slices 60
Orange, Shrimp Linguine with Fennel 216
Oriental Finger Food, Appetizer 155

Pancake, German Apple 168
Pancakes, Banana 153
Pancakes, Pineapple-Coconut 207
Parfait, Chocolate-Mint 124
Parmesan Crisps 123
Parmesan Garlic Focaccia Bread 232
Patties, Bacon Potato 22
Patties, Salmon 206
Patties, Tuna Potato 3
Patties, Zucchini 235
Peach Lemon Frost 210
Peasant Bread 228
Pecan Brickle Bars 229
Pecan, Lemon Muffins 223
Pecan, Pumpkin Waffles 187
Pecans, Cinnamon Sugar 100
Pickles, Bead and Butter 102
Pie, Cornmeal 158
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
Pineapple-Coconut Pancakes 207
Pizza Dough 188
Pizza, Easy 59
Pizza, Fruit 53
Popcorn, Caramel 35
Pork Birds 201
Pork Chops Sorrento 136
Pot Roast, New England with Horseradish 226
Potato Soup, Easy 219
Potatoes and Turnips 167
Potatoes in a Bag (Savory Microwaved) 54
Potatoes, Scalloped with Ham 222
Potatoes, Twice Baked 208
Potatoes, Whipped Sweet 58
Pumpkin Date Cake 184
Pumpkin Mousse Dessert 189
Pumpkin Pecan Waffles 187

Quiche, Mini 118
Quick Corn Bread #2 193

Red Beans and Rice 86
Relish, Cranberry 178
Rice, Basmati, how to cook perfect rice 30
Rice, Baked with Vegetables 236
Rice, Taco, Beans and 227
Roll, Apple 213
Rum-Pineapple Fuff 'n Crunch 89

Salad, 3-Bean 154
Salad, Broccoli 29
Salad, Bunnies on the Lawn 19
Salad, Chicken Pasta 119
Salad, Cucumber Avocado 209
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 Patties 206
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 Bread 171
Sausage Gravy, Biscuits and 234
Sausage, Italian with Tomato and herbs 21
Scalloped Potatoes and Ham 222
Scones, Apple 238
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce 44
Shrimp Linguine with Fennel and Orange 216
Shrimp Scampi 27
Slaw, Fruit 10
Sloppy Joe 34
Smoothie, Fruit 66
Smoothie, Kiwi 204
Soup Au Pistou 4
Soup, Butter Bean and Cabbage 139
Soup, Cream of Asparagus 57
Soup, Potato Easy 219
Soup, Egg Drop 43
Soup, Spaghetti-Lover's 114
Soup, Split Pea with Ham 21
Soup, Squash - Elegant 224
Soup, Tortilla 174
Soup, Turkey (real) 191
Southwestern Meatballs 196
Split Pea Soup with Ham 221
Squares, Spice and Sweet Potato 38
Squash Soup, Elegant 224
Steak Barbecue, Beijing Style 116
Steak Barbecue, Beijing Style 121
Steak Diane 111
Stir-Fry, Cabbage Onion 197
Strawberries, Chocolate Covered 33
Strawberry Cookie Cup 120
Sushi, California Rolls, Made Simple also Seaweed Free Rolls 67
Swiss Cheese and Apple Sandwich, Grilled 219
Syrup, Easy Pancake (2 recipes) 13

Taco, Beans and Rice 227
Taco Seasoning, Homemade 105
Tart, Cream Cheese 165
Tomato Flower Garnish 240
Tortilla Fruit Shells 78
Tuna Salad 101
Turkey Soup (real) 191
Turnips and Potatoes 167
Turnovers, Crunchy Beef 20
Twice-Baked Potatoes 208

Vegetables, Baked Rice with 236
Vermicelli with Lemon-Pepper Sauce 175

Waffle, Chocolate Dessert 63
Waffles, Pumpkin Pecan 187
Wheat, Whole Oatmeal Bread 198
Wings, Italian 230

Zucchini Patties 235
Zucchini Squares 98

Friday, January 28, 2011

240. Tomato Flower Garnish, Stylish

The food I serve has to look colorful and inviting because eye appeal is almost as important as the aromas and flavors. Any extra effort and attention to detail can make the difference between serving a fast-food plate of food or one that is more like fine dining.

The Tomato Flower Garnish has easy, step-by-step instructions and the result is a beautiful, colorful garnish sure to impress all who are served.

Note: The tomatoes used were medium-sized, Campari tomato on the vine.

Tomato Flower Garnish

1. Select a firm ripe or almost ripe tomato

2. Using a very sharp, thin-bladed paring knife, slice off a thin layer from the stem end. This will allow the finished garnish to stand up.

3. Stand the tomato. Starting at the top, score the tomato evenly into six sections. This scoring should only penetrate the tomato by 1/8 of an inch or so.  Each score line is cut 3/4 of the way down the side of the tomato.

4. With the tip of the knife, gently lift one of the points at the top of a wedge. Slide the knife under that lifted point close to the skin of that wedge. With a gentle sawing motion, slide the knife along until the skin has been sliced away from the pulp 3/4 of the way down the fruit. Do not cut off the skin.

5. Continue with the remaining 5 wedges. Gently press petals back in place, close to fruit for the next step.

6. On the outside of each wedge, cut an inverted -v- shape into each of the 6 petals. The top of each -v- should be slightly above the middle of the petal. The cuts should be even in placement and size.

7. As the petal is pulled gently downward, carefully push the v-cutout inward with the tip of the knife so that the little skin section stays close to the fruit body. This creates the negative space.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

239. Cinnamon-Apple Loaf, Lovely

Apples are used in so many different recipes they could be named the most versatile of fruits. The familiar aroma of cooking apples is not only wonderful, but it invites all kinds of expectations...pies, crisps, pasteries and other family favorites.

Our winter holidays always included mulled apple cider, spiced with orange, clove and cinnamon. Its heady combination of fragrances filled our home in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas…the only time of the year we made it. Hot, spiced cider was totally comforting and, if the weather was cold and especially rotten, its taste and aroma was appreciated even more.

In the years when we had our own apple tree and an over-abundance of fruit, the fragrance of  cooking apples lost some of its specialness, but today every apple I cook is appreciated and treated with care.  Golden delicious apples are my baking-apple of choice and I know that I can count on them to turn out just right every time.

Cinnamon-Apple Bread is a quick bread where every bite is filled with apple-cinnamon flavor. While it bakes, apple-pie fragrance will fill the house and afterward, this lovely apple bread can be enjoyed at breakfast or with a cup of afternoon herbal tea, tucked into a lunch box; it might even show up as a midnight snack!

Cinnamon-Apple Loaf

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

2 golden delicious apples (peeled, cored and chopped)

Optional fruit additions: raisins, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts.

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream softened margarine and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs and continue to mix thoroughly.

In a smaller bowl, blend flour with remaining dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture; stir until moistened. Add chopped apples and mix until distributed evenly.

Put batter in loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes. Loosely tent with foil half-way through baking. Remove loaf from oven and set pan on a baking rack to cool for 15 minutes.

 Release bread from pan and continue cooling on rack. Slice as desired.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

238. Apple Scones, Moist

More than thirty years ago, my husband and I traveled to London. It was exciting to go to a country that had castles, moats, a queen and romantic, storybook settings. In addition to the guide-book touring suggestions, we had been well informed by other travelers regarding the left-side driving, the rainy weather and the rough toilet paper.

My mother also warned me about the food. She said that cooking was not something the English were known for. Actually, she said their food was horrible. In view of those statements...I tried to order items that were Americanized and easy to prepare.

There are some foods, however, that are truly English and should be tried. So, that first morning as we sat in the hotel restaurant, I could hardly wait to try out something that I had only read about...crumpets. I did not know exactly what they were, but I did think I was in the right place to find out. When I ordered crumpets, the waiter looked at me like I had two heads and said he did not know what they were.

That was definitely a deflating moment and, while I never did get to have crumpets, I was able to choose a common English breakfast scones! Today's recipe would probably not be found in England as it contains apples and is moist and tender...something the scones I had in England were not.

(These scones are so moist and delicious, I actually had to freeze two of the three rounds the recipe makes just so I would stop eating them!)

Note: To only make one large round, divide recipe in half.

Apple Scones

2  golden delicious apple - peeled, cored and chopped
4 C flour
2 T baking powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 C + 2 T margarine
2 tsp brown sugar
1 C + 2 T sugar
1 1/3 C milk

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Cut in the margarine until mixture is crumbly. Add sugars and chopped apple. Next, slowly add milk until a soft but not sticky dough is obtained.

On a lightly floured board knead dough together gently. Divide dough into thirds. On a greased baking sheet, pat the first piece into a  round shape that is about 1/2 inch thick; with a knife, mark lightly on top into 8 equal wedges. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove baked crumpet round to a wire rack to cool slightly. Proceed with remaining dough. Cut or break warm rounds into triangles and serve with butter.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

237. New England Clam Chowder, Easy

Mention 'clam chowder' and some people will  think of a thick, creamy dish that is served in bowl with crackers or crisp breads. Other people know their chowder as an almost clear, tomato-based soup.

The thick, white chowder is known as New England clam chowder while the red version is called Manhattan. No one knows for certain where the Manhattan label came from, but it is, supposedly, the preferred chowder in the environs of New York.

Which ever style is offered, it is sufficient to note that all chowders got their start as peasant food when almost any food remnants were thrown into a pot and simmered down into the soup-of-the day...the only requirement was that the concoctions contained some kind of fish or seafood.

Food time-lines say that in the 1800s  these first chowders were a multi-layered conglomeration of fish, pork, bread or crackers and liquid. Several layers of these ingredients were put in a large pot, seasoned and simmered over the fire for a few hours. I can't imagine how it became popular!

While both versions of chowders are available in cans, I find that they all have an off-flavor that is neither desirable nor found in home-made soups. New England clam chowder is so easy to create...the little time it takes to put together is well worth the effort.

This easy recipe is even more time friendly if the potatoes are cooked in a potato bag in the microwave - 5 minutes on HIGH, see posts # 3 and 54).

New England Clam Chowder

2 strips bacon
½ medium sweet onion, chopped
2 russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cubed
2 T flour
Salt and pepper blend, to taste
2 T sherry (optional)
Tabasco sauce
2 cans chopped clams, juice reserved
1% milk (any milk or even heavy cream may be substituted)

Cut bacon strips into small pieces and add to a pot on medium high heat. Stir to brown evenly. When golden, turn heat down to medium and add chopped onion. Stir and cook until onion is slightly translucent. Add flour and stir well. Heat over low heat, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Carefully, whisk in the reserved clam juice. The sauce will thicken and must be stirred while it simmers. Add the potatoes and stir well. Begin to add milk and continue stirring. Add only enough milk to bring the consistency up to that of a thick soup. Add sherry and Worcestershire and Tabasco to taste. Stir in clams. Taste and add salt and pepper blend as desired. Serve.
Recipe may be doubled.

Monday, January 24, 2011

236. Baked Rice with Vegetables, Gourmet

Because potatoes, bread and pasta were the predominant carbs served in our home,  cooking perfect  rice was not high on my mother's list of things to do. She made short-grained rice and it was always slightly sticky.

Even though my introduction to rice was uninspired, I have always loved rice and the kind my family enjoyed over the years was almost always the long-grain variety. As mentioned previously, I love the fragrant rices and have perfected an easy way to steam it so it turns out tender and fluffy every time (post #30).

Many people steam quantities of rice in a pot or in the microwave, but there are other rice-cooking choices. Rice cookers virtually guarantee a fool-proof experience...and, for those who have no time or desire to cook, pre-cooked, packaged rice is readily available on store shelves...although, it is expensive.

I would like to suggest another way to cook rice the oven. This method is more cost-effective if baked alongside something else...multi-use of this appliance is always great for saving energy. I also recommend this baking method if a large quantity of rice is needed; a huge panful is just as easy to bake as a smaller quantity.

The wine in the recipe is optional, but it does impart a wonderful, if not gourmet flavor. Other sautéed vegetables may be added or substituted. This is a moist, fluffy and flavorful rice.

Baked Rice with Vegetables

1/4 C sweet onion, chopped
2T green pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 T Smart Balance (margarine), melted
1 C Basmati rice, uncooked (any long grain rice may be used)
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1/2 C white wine (additional broth may be substituted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper blend

Over medium heat, sauté onion, green pepper, and celery in margarine until tender. Add rice and continue to sauté mixture until rice is lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Remove from heat and pour into a greased 1.5 quart casserole. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Serve immediately. Serves 5-6.

Friday, January 21, 2011

235. Zucchini Patties, Easy

I loved my first home economics class and also kind of hated it. The recipes for beginner cooks used basic ingredients and involved minimal skill and preparation. While I learned things that I craved to learn, I was also constrained by the slow and methodical way the class was taught.

I certainly did not need to be instructed over and over how to measure and how to clean up afterward! In hindsight, however, that repetition was probably a good thing. After those classes, I could be counted on to measure accurately and I always make it a point to clean up as I go along...less mess...less mistakes.

This recipe could have been a part of my first home economics class as it is easy to measure and prepare. The mixing is simple and can be done with a fork and the cooking is done on a griddle or frying pan. Zucchini Patties is a very satisfying and tasty dish and might even bring some vegetable haters to the table.

Diane's Zucchini Patties

1/4 C sweet onion, chopped
1/4 C green pepper, chopped
1 C zucchini, grated
2 med. russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and mashed with a fork
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: chopped celery, real bacon bits, grated carrot

In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Heat griddle and coat with non-stick spray. Divide patty mixture into 7 or 8 portions and spoon onto griddle. Press each portion down to make a pancake shape. Fry until golden and flip over. Remove from griddle when second side is nicely browned. Serve with butter or margarine.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

234. Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Regional

Many parts of the southern United States have biscuits and gravy on their menus. This food combination was something that I had actually never seen until we moved to the Ozarks. Almost every restaurant that serves breakfast has biscuits and gravy on the menu. Even some gas station food marts offer hefty plates of the stuff.

My husband and I all but gagged at the thought of eating such a strange combination. Even though we knew that people who grew up eating biscuits and gravy had an almost rabid love for this meal, we resisted trying it. Still, the thought that it might not be too horrible prompted me to educate myself on the preparation of this regional favorite.

While some people use bacon or chopped egg in their sauce, I went for the pork sausage version. The biscuits were hot and tender and sopped up the flavored white sauce, for that is what this gravy actually is. Biscuits and Gravy is an inexpensive, filling, and easy meal to prepare. I still do not understand the love for this bland dish and would probably have liked it more if it included mushrooms and onion and was served over hot, mashed or baked potatoes instead of biscuits. Of course, wouldn't be biscuits and gravy...Nevertheless, I feel obligated to include this recipe that so many people are just crazy about!

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Pork sausage
Salt and Pepper

Biscuits (Blog posts # 73 and 52)

Heat a frying pan on med-high heat. Use a no-stick cooking spray to coat pan evenly. Add desired amount of pork sausage. Break meat apart as it browns. When evenly cooked, push meat to one side of pan and turn heat down to med-low. Melt  margarine in pan, stir in flour.

*(Margarine and flour is mixed at a ratio of 1-1; 1 T of each per serving)

Blend and heat until mixture is bubbly. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Flour mixture will thicken..stirring will eliminate lumps. Add desired amount of milk and stir until sauce becomes thicker as it gently simmers. (Some people like a very thick sauce, while others like it to be thinner; 1 C milk/ 2 T flour produces a medium-thick sauce).

Add salt and pepper to taste. Pull browned sausage into the sauce and mix evenly. Remove pan from heat.

Place 1-2 biscuits on each plate and spoon sausage gravy generously over them. Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

233. Microwavable Fruit Crisp

I wonder if the first fruit crisp was made by a mother who wanted a  dessert for her family and just did not have the energy to make a pie. Let's picture a tired woman standing with a bowl of apples and the glimmer of an idea of what could be.

She pares and slices the apples and places them in a baking pan. Next, our mystery mother uses her intuition and creates a sweet topping which comes together easily. The topping includes items commonly found in her kitchen - cinnamon, brown sugar and butter.

As the first crisp bakes, its fragrance fills the house and, when she takes it out of the oven our mother marvels at its beautiful, crisp crust.  She smiles and knows that this is a recipe to remember and she not only makes it again and again, she lovingly shares it with her family and friends.

My little segway into the probable past reminds me how grateful I am for all the cooks who try new ideas and pass them on. I am happy to share this recipe for fruit crisp made in the microwave; it sacrifices nothing in the flavor or texture category - all busy cooks will love this easy-to-make treat.

Microwavable Fruit Crisp

2 golden delicious apples, pared, cored and thinly sliced (peaches or pears may be substituted)*
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C oats, quick cooking
2 T flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 T margarine

Put sliced fruit in a microwavable dish. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle sugar mixture over fruit. Microwave, uncovered 6-7 minutes on HIGH, or until fruit is tender. Remove and serve. *(Peaches and pears will take less time to cook. Start out with 3-4 minutes on HIGH and test for tenderness. Microwave in 30 second intervals if necessary to cook longer)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

232. Parmesan-Garlic Focaccia Bread

Back in the day when I was raising my family, most pizza places only sold regular-crust pizza in large, medium and small sizes with a few standard choices of toppings, one or two salads and maybe some pasta dishes. That was the sum total of their repertoire. Today, because of consumer demand and fierce competition, the variety of Italian-style fast food is almost endless. Pizza can be stuffed or layered and thin, regular and thick crust choices are expected. It can be purchased by the slice, in a personal-size or as large as a giant rectangle.

Along with dozens of topping combinations for the adventurous pizza lover, calzone and panini may be on the menu as well as salads, dessert breads, bread sticks, dipping sauces and pastas. I love the fact that the Italian food has become mainstream enough to make terms like calzone and focaccia very familiar. I hope that someday, consumers will  even pronounce the word calzone correctly. If asked, all Italians will tell you that the ‘e’ in calzone is not silent, but  sounds like ...eee!

Focaccia is a wonderful, flavored bread and is often served in squares; it may accompany a crisp salad or be dipped into marinara sauce. I like to slice this bread and use it for sandwiches. Focaccia is easy to make and the flavor is amazing,

(I reheat left-over focaccia bread, (wrapped), in the microwave for 10 seconds before eating).

Parmesan-Garlic Focaccia Bread

1 pkg dry yeast (1 3/4 tsp yeast)
9 oz  warm water
3 C bread flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
(1/2 tsp basil, oregano or Italian seasoning blend may be added)

1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 C sundried tomatoes, optional
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, shredded

Measure all the bread ingredients into bread machine pan. Select dough cycle. When cycle has finished, remove dough from pan. Pat dough into a greased 9x13 pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Make indentations in the dough with the end of a wooden spoon handle, 1-inch apart. Brush dough with the olive oil and sprinkle with cheese and optional tomatoes. Bake in a 400 degree, preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack and cut into squares. Serve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

231. Chop Suey, Peasant Food

Chop suey was the Chinese-style food fixed most often in my childhood home and certainly pre-dated the stir-fry-wok craze. I don't know if my mother developed her own version of this meal or if it was a dish passed down from her mother. There was nothing very inspiring about its overall look or texture...but it tasted wonderful to me.

I remember that most of the vegetables were slightly over-cooked...except for those amazing things called water chestnuts. They were always crunchy and because I loved them, my mother usually put a few extra on  my plate. As the meal came together and the sauce began to thicken, we fairly drooled over the delicious plates of food that would soon be carried to the table.

Mother would place steaming rice in the middle of each plate and then the chop suey was spooned on top until only the edges of rice could be seen. A generous handful of dry, oriental noodles was sprinkled on our servings...and that completed the meal. It was a feast of sorts and very satisfying. We loved this simple, peasant food and felt lucky to be enjoying it.

The vegetables are more crisp in this version of chop suey, but it still has the flavor of that old-fashioned dish my mother served.

Chop Suey

2 T oil
1 ½ pounds pork, beef, or chicken

1 T butter

2 C celery cut in 1-inc pieces on the diagonal
1-2 carrots, cleaned and sliced in 1/2-inch chunks
2 C sweet onions, sliced into wedges
1 ¼ lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1-2  cloves garlic, chopped

Optional vegetables: sliced green or red peppers, sliced zucchini

1 1/2 C broth, heated
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
½ tsp salt

1/4 C cornstarch combined with 1/4 C cold water
Gravy master
Soy sauce

Hot rice
Peanuts (optional)
Chow Mein noodles (optional)

Cut meat into short strips and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put oil in large frying pan over moderate-high heat. Only braise the amount of meat that will fit into the pan without causing it to steam;  brown meat well while stir-frying. Remove cooked meat and keep warm;  brown remaining pieces and remove from pan.

Melt 1 T butter in pan and add cut celery, carrots, onions, musrooms and garlic and stir fry until vegetables are tender crisp. Do not burn garlic. Add broth and water chestnuts; and season with salt to taste. Add meat to the pan of vegetables.

Mix cornstarch and the cold water in a cup. Add to meat mixture and stir until combined. Add soy sauce to taste and Gravy Master 1 tsp at a time to add color to dish. Cook until sauce is thick and glazy, about 5 minutes, then turn down heat let simmer about 5 more minutes.

Serve over hot rice and have crunchy, dry oriental noodles on the side. Sprinkle with peanuts if desired.

A chop suey dinner with a more creative selection of vegetables and the addition of peanuts.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

230. Wings Italian, Baked

Buffalo wings are a relatively young dish as far as the food timeline is concerned.The creation of this famous wing recipe is sometimes attributed to a woman who supposedly made them in her restaurant in Buffalo, New York in the mid 1960s. The actual reason for the cooking procedure, sauce and method of serving is not exactly clear, but the cheap-to-make appetizers became an instant hit.

The original recipe called for deep frying the divided wings and then baking on a sauce comprised of margarine and hot sauce. The ratio of hot sauce to margarine determined the 'heat' factor of this dish which was typically served with blue cheese dressing on the side along with celery sticks. To me, this sounds like a recipe concocted by someone who did no have much to work with and who also did not care about cholesterol!

I am not a wing expert, but I have made Wings Italian  for my family and friends and they ate them with gusto. This easy recipe is simply baked, needs no deep frying and is very tasty without the added calories and fat content of blue cheese dressing.

Wings Italian makes an irresistible dish for a buffet or potluck table. The recipe may be increased.

(If desired, trim away some of the skin prior to marinating...pictured at end of the recipe).

Wings Italian

24 wing pieces
1 C Italian salad dressing
1 tsp oregano
3 T freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the wings in the dressing for 30 minutes. Drain, and place wings on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the wings with oregano (to taste), the cheese and salt and pepper. Bake 375 degrees for 35-40 min. or until lightly browned and tender. Serves 3 or 4.

Some of the skin was removed from the batch of wings above with no noticeable change in flavor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

229. Pecan-Brickle Bars, Family Dessert

After WWII homemakers wanted to keep their families happy and well-fed, but they wanted to do it with a   lot less effort. To satisfy this desire for more free time, Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines and Dromedary Brand cake mixes proliferated. As odd as it seems today, the first mixes were only used for making cakes or cupcakes with little or no variation from the basic box directions.

Although today we seem to have endless varieties, the early years for cake mixes were limited to white, chocolate, marble, yellow and pound cake. I can remember that the first angel food mixes were not very good, but quickly improved as fewer women wanted to risk failure and the loss of a dozen eggs with the somewhat temperamental scratch recipes. I also remember that when confetti cake mix came out, almost all of my classmates showed up with a piece of it in their lunch was the new, best thing.

As cake mixes proliferated so did their uses. The manufacturers had to be overjoyed that cooks experimented and found more ways to use those mixes. Today's recipe not only makes use of a cake mix, but also pre-crushed candy. Pecan-Brickle Bars are a foolproof  family dessert and can be shared easily at potlucks or other gatherings.

These bars taste best refrigerated or frozen.

Pecan-Brickle Bars

1 (18.5 oz) extra moist yellow cake mix
1/3 C margarine, softened
2 large eggs
1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C pecans, chopped
1/2 C English toffee bits

Combine cake mix, butter and 1 egg in a mixing bowl; mix well until crumbly. Press mixture evenly into a greased 13x9 baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine milk, second egg and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in pecans and toffee bits. Spread mixture over mix layer in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in
airtight container and refrigerate or freeze. Makes about 36 bars.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

228. Peasant Bread, Rustic

Some bread recipes are so simple it almost seems like they couldn't possibly produce an edible loaf. In truth...a little flour, salt and water is all that is needed for a package of yeast to do its job. Anyone who can measure, mix and knead should be able to make a beautiful loaf of Peasant Bread.

This little loaf, besides being so simple, has a rustic-looking shape that invites compliments. The fragrance as it bakes is as good as any other bread. Its moist texture goes well with soup and salads, Italian dishes and stews. Many gloomy days and nights have been brightened significantly by the appearance of this attractive, Peasant is better than just about anything you can buy in a store...especially if it is made with love!

Peasant Bread

1 pkg dry yeast, about 2 1/4 tsp
1 C warm water
3 C bread flour
1 tsp salt

Follow bread machine manufacturer's directions for dough-cycle. (Hand directions below).
Remove raised dough when cycle ends.

*Punch down dough and place on a floured surface. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Shape dough into a evenly-shaped round loaf. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Using Pam, spray the dough as well as a piece of waxed paper and use it to loosely cover surface of dough. Allow covered dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Uncover dough. Make (3)1/4 inch deep cuts across the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Bake loaf for 20 minutes or until bread is browned on the bottom. Cover bread loosely with foil after the first10 minutes of baking if the top browns too quickly.

Test for doneness by tapping the top of the bread. If it sounds hollow, it is done. Remove loaf to a cooling rack. Brush with butter if desired. Cool and serve. Most homemade bread is best served the day it is baked although day-old bread makes wonderful French toast.

By hand directions: Put yeast in warm water, stir and let rest for 5 minutes. Add yeast mixture to a large bowl. Measure flour 1 cup at a time and the salt. Stir until a sof dough forms. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add flour as needed to keep it from sticking to hands.Place dough in a large greased bowl, Cover and let rise in a warm , draft-free place until doubled in size (45 minutes). Follow directions from *.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

227. Beans and Rice Taco with Beef, Tasty

For years, the tacos I served my family followed a tasty, but uninspired recipe...browned ground beef  mixed with a package of taco seasoning was tucked into a taco shell and topped with refried beans, lettuce, tomato and cheese. Taco sauce on the side, please!

Happily, my tacos evolved...a variety of meats was introduced like grilled chicken, pork or steak. Sauteed onions and green peppers, avocado, olives, mild to hot taco sauce, sour cream and rice also became tasty options. Even the shells became more fun and choice-worthy...corn, flour, soft, crisp, flavored and pre-formed; all of this creativity changed the simple little taco into a much loved, two-handed meal.

My Beans and Rice Taco recipe was an experiment with flavors and textures that turned out to be wonderful. Expensive meat became a secondary ingredient and altogether, this recipe made a satisfying cost-cutting meal. Also, the homemade taco seasoning is so much better than will love it!

Diane's Beans and Rice Taco with Beef

1 can red beans, drained  (black beans may be substituted)
1 can  tomato and okra (drained slightly)
2 C cooked rice
1-2 tsp cumin
3-4 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 lb ground beef (ground turkey may be substituted)
4 T taco seasoning, post #105

1 box corn taco shells, pre-formed and crispy

Optional: shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped avocado, sour cream,
                 grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Mix beans and tomato/okra together in a sauce pan. Heat on med/high until hot. Add cumin and Tabasco, mix well. Lower heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Turn off heat.

 In a frying pan, brown ground beef on med/high; drain. Lower heat and add taco seasoning and 1/2 C water. Mix well. Add more water if needed.

Add bean mixture to meat mixture. Mix well and heat through.

Spoon 2-3 T of meat mixture into each taco shell. Serve with additional filling options listed above if desired.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

226. New England Pot Roast with Horseradish, Family Dinner

Pot roast is a well-loved dish which, in past generations, was often served for Sunday dinner after the family returned from church. If friends or relatives stopped over, the meal would be stretched with the addition of more vegetables. 

My mother's pot roast recipe called for seasoned beef to be browned first and then simmered in water or broth until tender. When the meat was almost-tender, vegetables were added and the mixture was simmered until beef and vegetables were very tender. At this point, the beef and vegetables were removed and set aside and the broth thickenend into a smooth, rich gravy. All of this 'deliciousness' made a great meal to be thankful for and enjoyed.

Years ago, I discovered two heavenly, pot roast recipes with very different flavors than my mother's traditional pot roast. One recipe has a tomato/basil flavoring so wonderful-tasting, it is hard to describe. The other one is also fabulous - the New England Pot Roast with Horseradish; this superb recipe makes a hearty meal  my whole family loves.

*(The recipe calls for a chuck roast with bone-in; this cut of meat is almost impossible to find as bone-in beef has all but disappeared in most meat markets. The pot roast can be made without the bone, but if you can find a soup bone to add to the pot, it will add a special, rich flavoring ).

New England Pot Roast with Horseradish

¼ C flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 small  red potatoes,halved (skins on -optional)
8 med. carrots, pared and halved crosswise and lengthwise
4 small onions cut into wedges
4-pound beef chuck pot roast (with bone)*
2 T shortening or oil
1 jar, 5oz horseradish
1 C water

Mix flour and salt and the pepper; rub mixture on meat. Heat oil in large skillet or Dutch oven; brown meat on both sides over med. heat, about 15 min. Do not burn flour coating.

Reduce heat; spread horseradish on both sides of meat and place back in pot. Add water; cover and simmer on burner or place in a 325 degree oven for 3-4 hours until meat is tender. About 1 hour before end of cooking time, add vegetables and salt to taste. Place meat and vegetables on warm platter; keep warm while making gravy. Serve pot roast meal with gravy.

Pour drippings, fat and juices, into a bowl, leaving brown particles in pan. Let any fat rise to the top of the drippings; skim off fat, reserving ¼ C. Place reserved fat in pan. Blend in ¼ C flour. Cook over low heat stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly and blending in the browned particles. Remove pot from heat. Measure meat juice; add water to measure 2 Cups liquid. Stir into flour mixture slowly and stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Boil and stir 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, January 7, 2011

225. Crispy Fish, Pan-fried

Whether it is from a lake or the sea...what matters most is that fish for the table has to be fresh or fresh frozen. Most of us who do not live next to a real  fish market, are lucky to be able to buy fish that is flash-frozen and vacuum sealed...two procedures that usually eliminate freezer burn and off-flavors.

Although I like baked, deep friend and grilled fish, my favorite fish is coated and pan-fried. I love the crispy outside texture and seasonings that many restaurant chefs serve. At home I always wanted to recreate that same wonderful, crisp crust. For years though, all the recipes I tried turned out substandard crust... it was never crisp or light enough. Then, I discovered a recipe that makes perfect, crispy fish every time.

This easy coating procedure involves four quick steps and includes Panko crumbs. Panko are an oriental-style crumb and are extremely crisp and light. With the addition of a few other ingredients, the simple coating procedure turns even an ordinary piece of fish into something heavenly.

Crispy Fish

4 fish fillets
Egg, beaten
Panko bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper (or desired seasoning)

Heat a large pan on med-high heat and add oil to lightly coat the pan bottom. Meanwhile, prepare 4 bowls in the following order: milk, flour, beaten egg, Panko crumbs. Rinse fish and pat dry. Dip each fish piece in the milk, dredge both sides in flour; dip into the egg and finish by coating both sides with the Panko crumbs. Set fish aside to complete process with other pieces. Place fish pieces in hot oil. As fish cooks, turn the pieces to brown evenly. Salt and pepper each side to taste. Add 1-2 tablespoons of margarine to pan as fish cooks to add flavor and to keep the fish pieces from burning. When fish is flaky and cooked through, remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

224. Elegant Squash Soup, Artistic

Television chefs often bring less common foods to the attention of their viewers and it was only a matter of time before squash soup moved from wherever it had been hiding to a dish with cachet. Today, you can find it the soup-of-the-day in restaurants, attractively packaged in gourmet food stores and even lined up in the canned-soup section of neighborhood groceries.

Squash soup is tasty and goes surprisingly well with other flavors. Many recipes suggest the addition of various meats, seafood and vegetables to this beautiful, gold-colored liquid to make it more than just pureed squash.

Today's recipe adds something quite surprising and simple, yet from the first sip to the is a tantalizing combination of flavors. The presentation is beautiful and artistically easy. The first time I served  this soup to my husband, he did not know what had been used to create the beautiful white swirls until he put that first delicious spoonful into his mouth! All could say was, "Wow!"

Elegant Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash
1 large sweet onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry
4 C chicken broth

Coconut cream
(this product can be found in Asian grocery stores or in the oriental section of some mainstream grocery stores; coconut milk may be substituted, but it won't be as thick and lovely)

Chopped cilantro

Coarsely chop onion and garlic and set aside. Peel squash and cut flesh into 1-inch cubes. In a pot over medium heat, add ¼ C broth and simmer onion until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir occasionally. (Add more broth if necessary to keep vegetables from scorching). Add garlic, ginger, turmeric and curry and mix well. Add squash and remaining broth and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer partly covered until squash is tender (about 15 minutes).

Spoon 1/3 of the cooked vegetables into a blender or Vita Mix with enough broth to make a smooth, pourable mixture. Put blended squash into a bowl and continue with remaining batches of squash. Include as much of  the onion and garlic as possible when spooning the squash into the blender.  There will be some broth left in the pot that you may or may not use depending on how thick you want your soup.

Spoon pureed squash soup into bowls and add three to four ½ tsp of coconut cream in little puddles on top of the soup. Drag a spoon through each puddle to create a decorative swirl effect. Add chopped cilantro to the center of the bowl of soup. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

223. Lemon-Pecan Muffins, Grating Trick

A lemon has a certain special aromatic freshness we all seem to love and its recognizable flavor lends itself to  many of our favorite recipes. As wonderful as it is, the lemon has given me a few problems over the years. I have learned the hard way that if I buy large bags of lemons, I have to squeeze the juice out of most of them right away and immediately freeze that juice in tablespoon-sized cubes for later use.

Before doing this, I would often find sunken, moldy lemons in the bag because I did not use them up when they were at their peak. At other times, I would discover hard, shriveled lemons that had been forgotten in the bottom of a refrigerator drawer. Either way, I was not making good use of those lemons that I had originally purchased in bulk to save money.

Another problem had to do with the concept of grating the lemon rind. No matter which grater I used, I had problems…the rind got stuck in the blade holes, the lemon slipped across the blades and did not grate well and some of the white, bitter pith would always become part of the mix.

I found out a neat trick, however, that solved all of those grating problems. If the grater is covered with plastic wrap, the rind will grate easily and if the wrap has been folded across the back of the grater, it creates a little pouch that catches the grated lemon rind neatly. (see pix at end of recipe). For some reason, the plastic keeps the white pith from mixing in with the zest. (Pith is not wanted as it is bitter).

Today’s recipe makes a family-friendly muffin that has wonderful lemon flavor combined with crunchy pecans. These muffins are dense and more like a quick bread; they store well and are great a great addition to lunchboxes.

Lemon-Pecan  Muffins

½ C margarine (Smart Balance), melted
1 ½ C sugar
2 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 ¼ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ C chopped pecans
½ C milk or soy milk with vanilla

Grease or line muffin tins with paper. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat eggs well and combine with creamed mixture. Add lemon zest, milk and juice. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt an nuts. Add to butter mixture and mix until just blended.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with sugar (optional). Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until muffins are slightly browned. Place muffins on a wire rack to cool. Makes a baker’s dozen (13).


Back of plastic-wrapped grater, lemon peel collected in wrap.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

222. Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, Winter Recipe

Scalloped potatoese are also known as potatoes au gratin, which sounds a lot fancier than it really is...thinly sliced potatoes with a sauce and baked to form a crusty top. Some people add things to their scalloped potatoes like squash, spinach, cauliflower, anchovies, eggplant, mushrooms, fish, crab, cheese or breadcrumbs.

My mother always made scalloped potatoes a few days after we had had a baked ham for dinner. She would add pieces of wonderful ham to the layers of potatoes. Because of this, I grew up thinking that scalloped potatoes were always served with ham. The vegetables and other foods listed above sound interesting, but I doubt that I will be putting anchovies in my scalloped potatoes any time soon!

Besides being a great comfort food, scalloped potatoes can be made ahead of time, held in the refrigerator and baked when needed. I would invite anyone who loves potatoes and ham to try this lovely winter recipe.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

6-8 medium  potatoes
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
5 T flour
Salt and Pepper, to taste
5 T butter or margarine
3 1/2 C milk
2 C cubed, cooked ham
Optional : 1/2 C diced green pepper, shredded cheddar cheese
Melt 5 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a pot over low heat. Blend in flour and salt and pepper. Stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in milk a little at a time. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Set aside.

Wash potatoes and remove skin. Cut potatoes into thin slices. In a greased 2-quart casserole or 13x9 pan, arrange potatoes in layers, topping each with onion, ham, (green pepper), and sauce. Top last layer with just potatoes and sauce. Dot with butter or margarine. (At this point, casserole may be covered and refrigerated until ready to bake).

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 80 minutes or until potatoes tested with a fork are tender. Remove foil and sprinkle potatoes with shredded cheese. Return pan to oven and continue baking until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove pan from oven and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: if you are not topping with cheese, remove foil as above and allow potatoes to brown slightly on top. Remove pan from oven and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: To shorten cooking time, cover casserole with microwave safe plastic and cook on HIGH for 6 minutes. Remove and loosely cover casserole with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. If  potatoes are almost tender, remove foil completely the last 20 minutes and continue baking. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Side dishes: tossed green salad, pepperocini, steamed broccoli

Monday, January 3, 2011

221. Split Pea Soup, Soup to Love

Well-loved meals, like scalloped potatoes with ham (post #222), ham and eggs, ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches, fried ham with pancakes and split pea soup were expected to follow every ham we baked. My mother's split pea soup with ham was so wonderful - we usually ate it until we could eat no more. The taste soothed and comforted; it was almost like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night.
My formula for total thick-soup enjoyment, like split pea,  is to eat it when the day is cold and the stomach is quite empty. It may be eaten with crackers or rolls, but the best companion is a freshly baked loaf of bread. We never ate this hearty soup delicately...we ate with gusto and we were not afraid to dunk our bread in it...peasant food and peasant-style eating just seem to go together!

There is nothing complicated about making split pea soup, but there is more to it than the regimented combining of ingredients. Soup is an expression of of cooking and love of family. Follow the directions, use the listed ingredients, wait for the right kind of day and surprise your family with a soup to love.

Note: Sometimes there is too much liquid in the pot because the ham bone has to be covered in the initial cooking process. If the finished soup is too thin, this liquid may be A. simmered off,  or B. the pot of finished soup may be refrigerated overnight...any fat skimmed off and the thin broth at the top spooned off and discarded. I prefer method B. as it also allows for the removal of any excess fat. If you choose A., and  simmer off the excess liquid, stir often and  be careful to not burn the bottom layer of soup.

Bread pictured below is Rustic White , post #228.

Mother's Split Pea Soup

1 package dried green split peas, do not use old peas
1 ham bone with some meat attached
3-4 ribs celery, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
4-5carrots, cleaned and cut up
4-5  potatoes, peeled and cut up in bite-sized chunks

Empty peas into a strainer, rinse and check for and remove any foreign matter. (For more than 30 years I have looked for and never found any foreign matter...but, this is what the package says to do so, I do it). There are at least two varieties of split peas sold in most and yellow. Their flavors are almost identical, but I like the look of the green ones.

Place rinsed peas in a large soup pot. Add ham bone and cover with water. Bring to a boil and skim off foam that rises to the top. Cover pot and remove from heat for one hour. Return pot to heat and add all the other ingredients; simmer soup partly covered for 3 hours. Remove bone and pull off meat. Discard bone and any fat. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and add back to soup. Stir and simmer until broth is slightly thickened. Taste. You should not have to add any salt. Serves 10.

Note: Store leftover soup in the refrigerator. It is normal for this soup to thicken and become very dense as it chills.The soup will return to its normal consistency when reheated. Only add more water if reheated soup is still too thick. Split pea soup is even more wonderful the second day. If you need to freeze this soup, remove the cooked potatoes; thawed potatoes have a strange texture and flavor.