Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Cookie Dough - Endless Possibilities

From one simple  batch of cookie dough, you can make an endless variety of cookies.  This recipe easily doubles.  For each of the add-ins listed below, use one half of the single recipe or one fourth of the double recipe.

Basic Creamed Dough

(Adapted from The Good Cook)

Makes about 1 ½ pounds, or about 40 cookies)

Single Recipe
14 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt

Double Recipe
28 tablespoons
2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

In bowl of electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the beaten egg.  Sift together the flour, baking powder.  Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until just combined. 

Add in suggested ingredients.  Bake in a preheated 375º oven for about 10 minutes or until firm and golden brown.  Remove from the pan onto cooling rack and cool completely.


(For single batch)
Chocolate Dough: Substitute ½ cup cocoa powder for ¼ cup flour.

Rich dough (suitable for piping): add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 egg yolk.

Swirls: Make one batch plain, one batch chocolate.  Roll flat. Top Plain with chocolate and roll jellyroll fashion. Slice. 

To ½ single batch or ¼ double batch add:

½ cup nuts, candied fruit, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, toffee bits (everyone’s favorite), or dried cranberries.

Roll into balls and make jam thumbprints or add chocolate kiss.

Add 1 tablespoon bourbon or other liquor.

Replace extract with rose water, orange extract, lemon extract, etc.

Glaze cookies with royal icing tinted and flavored (pink color with rose water; green color with mint, etc.)

Add 1 teaspoon spice (apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.)

Pipe in cookie press.

Dip in chocolate.
Roll in nuts.

Let your imagination go!


Make a double batch, set aside. Make second chocolate batch in same mixer, so you won’t dirty it twice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Plans Have Gone Awry

My friends, I promised you a Chocolate Week this week. I've fallen on my word.  My kitchen is filled with all manner of chocolate goodies, waiting to be whipped up, photographed and uploaded.  Unfortunately, a little something got in the way. Was was it called again? Oh, I remember... DIVORCE!!  A very painful and time consuming procedure, I assure you. We're in the final stages and things have gotten a bit busy. So, look for chocolate goodies in the near future, just maybe not this week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Upon perusing my Facebook wall today, I discovered this lovely note from my friend,  Stewart:
This is for my friend Sally. Her oven is kapoot and she can't bake or nothing!
It was followed by this link: No-Bake Cookies

Well, folks, I have no choice do I? All my excuses have been demolished. All that is left is to make some nummy Christmas cookies sans oven.

Ah me!  How I suffer so!  Nummy cookies to create and yummy CHOCOLATE WEEK!! next week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa's Drug of Choice

Ah! The power of Christmas cookies!  Who can resist them?  Not even Santa.

Unfortunately, I cannot bake cookies this year as my oven is not working. Boo hoo!  So, dear friends, I must resort to other Christmas goodies. "What's that?" you query. Chocolate! That's what!  I cannot muck about writing on this blog.  I must needs scurry to the grocer to buy all manner of chocolate. You see, next week is (insert drum roll here) CHOCOLATE WEEK!! Oh yeah. It's chocolate time, babe! I have to come up with several recipes for next week. Sigh. Poor, pitiful me. I guess I'll have to eat all that yummy chocolate all by myself. (If anyone even THINKS about suggesting I invite others over for all that chocolate, just know you're messing up my mojo.)

So, get out your bain maries and get ready for CHOCOLATE WEEK!!!

This cute animation contains four very famous classical works. Can you name them? Answers will be given during CHOCOLATE WEEK!!

Bonus music trivia questions: What note does Santa step on? In what key is Silent Night? Answers will be given during CHOCOLATE WEEK!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fruitcake-free Fruit Crunch

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard all the fruitcake jokes.  The thing is, I like fruitcake! People who don't like fruitcake have never had a good one.

To ease you, my dear readers, into the daring task of trying fruitcake, here's a snack mix.  It has the flavors of fruity goodness, without  the cake.

I double-dog dare you to try it.

Fruitcake-free Fruit Crunch

2 cups wheat cereal squares
2 cups rice cereal squares
2 cups corn cereal squares
2 cups oat cereal squares
1 cup dried golden raisins
1 cup dried, chopped dates
2 cups dried sour cherries
2 cups mixed nuts (may be salted or unsalted)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice

Line two large rimmed baking sheets (15 x 10 x 1 or larger) with parchment paper.  Layer half of dry ingredients in each pan. Mix thoroughly.

In 4-cup (or larger) glass measure, melt butter in microwave.  Add honey, brown sugar,  ginger and spice.  Whisk to combine.  Drizzle half of liquid mixture over each pan of cereal mixture.  Gently stir to coat cereal mixture.

Bake at 325º for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Cool pans of crunch on wire racks.  Break apart any large pieces. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheapy and Easy -- And Beefy!

No, I'm not insulting my friends.  Here's a beef recipe that's cheap and easy.

Chuck, Top Round and Bottom round roasts are some of the cheaper cuts of meat. Prepared properly, they taste like money. Try this for your holiday table!

Penny Pincher's Money Roast

Place raw meat in dish. Salt and pepper roast (Preferably using Koshering salt), turning to season all over.  Let meat sit out on the counter for about 1 hour, to bring to room temperature.  (One hour is well within the FDA's recommended maximum time of two hours.)

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 325º.

Place roast in greased pan.

Cook at 325º for 30 minutes per pound, for medium; 35 minutes for well-done.  For instance, if you have a 3 1/2 pound roast, cook it for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  This cut should not be served rare.

Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes, then serve.

The key here is that you will be using the right temperature for the right cut of meat.  If you cook it too high or too low, the roast will dry out. Different cuts of meat require different cooking times.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cranberry-Chai Tea - Perfect for Holiday Gatherings!

Miss Sally-Page darlin', 

I need a nice hot Christmas tea recipe to be served at a brunch. Ya got one, girl? We used to do a cider/tang thingie in NC. I might do that.......... Mulling (no pun intended) it all over in my little brain. 


Dear Pam,

How spicy do you like it? Let me be clear; I'm talking about TEA. Oops. I beg your pardon. That's none of my business.

Your wish is my command. Just for lil ol' you, an easy to make, easy to double recipe.  You can make this in advance and simply reheat it.  I like to make a big pitcher of it to have on hand.  When friends pop by or winter winds chill my fingers, a quick zap in the microwave and  tea is served.

Cranberry-Chai Tea

4 cups water
1 tablespoon fennel seed
6 green cardamom pods
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger
2 (family-sized) tea bags
¼ cup brown sugar
4 cups cranberry juice cocktail

In a medium saucepan, add fennel seed, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, and peppercorns.  Heat on medium until spices are fragrant, but not burned, about three minutes.

Carefully add water and ginger root.  Add tea bags. Bring water up to 190º or until almost beginning to boil. Do not let it boil.  This should take 15 – 20 minutes.

Set pan off heat and let steep three minutes. Remove tea bags and strain out spices.

Stir in the brown sugar and cranberry juice cocktail. Reheat on medium temperature. Serve warm.  May also be served chilled.  (May be served warm or chilled with a shot of vodka or rum!)

May be made ahead, chilled and reheated. Candied ginger can be added to individual servings, if desired.

Makes ½ gallon.

Double Recipe:

8 cups water
2 tablespoons fennel seed
12 green cardamom pods
24 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
12 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
4 (family-sized) tea bags
½  cup brown sugar
1 (64 ounce) bottle cranberry juice cocktail

Makes one gallon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cracked Pepper – Bacon Biscuits

Cracked Pepper – Bacon  Biscuits

3 cups Heart Smart Bisquik Mix
1 (4.5 ounce) package real crumbled bacon*
½  tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 cup skim milk

Place mix in large bowl.  Add in bacon, being careful to remove moisture-absorbing packet.  Add pepper.  Mix well.

Add milk.  Stir just to combine.

Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake 8 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Makes about 75 small biscuits.

* Alternately, fry one pound of bacon until crisp.  Drain and crumble.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tart Cherry Liquor

Just in time for gift giving or holiday toasting!

Tart Cherry Liquor

2 cups vodka
1 1/4 cups tart cherry juice
1/2 cup sugar
(1 teaspoon almond extract -- optional)

Pour all ingredients into clean quart jar. Screw on lid.  Shake. Set aside in dark location. Shake everyday for a one week. Sugar should be dissolved.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tomato Preserves

After my T-day post, I received this lovely query.

Dear Auntie, 

Yes, my grandmother made [Watermelon Rind Preserves], and I remember them fondly. She also made tomato preserves that were wonderful. Have you ever had those? 


Dear Donna,

Tomato Preserves? Why I won a State Fair of Texas ribbon for them this year!

For the, recipe, click here: Tomato Preserves


Monday, November 30, 2009

NoJoMo, The Last Entry

Today is the last day of NoJoMo: November Journaling month. My blogging buddy, Stove Lady dared me to take the challenge of journaling everyday in the month of November. Well,  I did it!

Had Stove Lady not challenged me, I never would have done it. This was an incredibly difficult month; divorce proceedings have been haunting my every shallow breath.  The paperwork involved was more than I ever could have imagined. My house is a wreck from all the files scattered about the house.

The idea of running a food blog was getting me down. I'd stopped writing in it. It's hard to write a blog about home cooking when there's no one at home; no one to eat my delicious food. It's harder still when my kitchen is full of stacks of legal documents staring back, watching me cook.

However, NoJoMo was a lifesaver.  It gave me something I had to do everyday, no matter how discouraged or sad I might have been.  It forced me out of a funk.

NoJoMo became my walking buddy.  Looking for beautiful fall leaves for the cranberry sauce shoot, I returned to my daily walk. Neglected in my despondency, my daily walk is my companion once again. I'd forgotten how beautiful my neighborhood is. Now, I've taken to bringing along my iPhone.  A leaf or lawn ornament may inspire another story and I'll need that picture.

Cooking for one lonely divorcée seemed horribly sad. Instead, blogging everyday has connected me with old and new friends.

Forcing myself to develop recipes for this blog left me with more food than I could ever possibly eat. The apple fritter story left 40 fritters in need of a good home. I took them to the attorney's office, making delicious the sad task of divorce mediation.

Friends email or Facebook me with culinary questions now.  In real life, (or as my friend, Bucks Burnett, calls it, "Face-to-face book") friends mention a recipe or story from my blog. What do you know? People actually read this!

Patient dining companions are almost used to hearing me exclaim, "Don't eat that yet! I need to take a picture!" They even model for me. ("Now put your hands around the plate as if you can't wait to dig in!")

There were times when desperation made me write about the craziest topics, like frying chocolate chip cookies. That crazy post resulted in a funny reply from a French chef -- now another blogging buddy!  (By the way, you can't fry chocolate chip cookies, but you can microwave them for two minutes on 50% power. They won't be as brown as they would be baked in a conventional oven, but they will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth!)

Even now, with the deadline for this entry approaching, blogging forced me get out of the house to buy batteries for my dying mouse.  I'd been indoors all day, pitying myself for not having anyone with whom to make Christmas cookies.

Blogging forced me to reflect fondly on family memories. It connected me to my precious niece. Photo shoots made me dig out grandmother's silver and polish it.

Constant blogging drove traffic to this site as well as to my music website. In fact, this experience inspired me to set up a blog on the music site as well.

Publications have hired me as a freelance writer.

Blogging during this difficult time gave me a way to say good-bye to my ex in a way both compassionate and delicious.

Will I continue? Yes, but probably not as often. Christmas is upon us. For musicians, that means work! I discovered it's easier to blog everyday than sporadically, but I may take off the weekends. Singing beckons.

So, thank you, Stove Lady. Thank you for bringing old and new friends into my heart and home. Blogging pulled me through during a difficult time. While there is no one to share my home and the fear of losing my home still haunts me, good friends are only a mouse click away.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping

Dear Auntie,

I read about your Thanksgiving dinner with friends on your blog and am sending the recipe below.  If it is not similar to what your friends made, tweak away.  My friend Carole now brings this for every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it replaced my old favorite, candied yams. 

The casserole is absolutely yummy and I have been known to make more of the praline topping than the recipe calls for  ;-)


Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping  

4 cups hot mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup butter or margarine and 2 tablespoons melted 

2 tablespoons granulated sugar 

2 eggs - beaten 

½ cup milk 

1/3 cup chopped pecans 

1/3 cup packed brown sugar                                   
2 tablespoons flour

Mix the sweet potatoes, 1/3 cup of butter and the granulated sugar. Beat in the eggs and milk. Pour into a greased 2 - quart casserole.

Combine the pecans, brown sugar and flour.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potatoes.

Bake at 325º for 1 hour.

Dear Linda,

Thanks for the recipe!!!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

White Sauce, Home & Restaurant Economics

Shuffling through old recipes, I found this chart from a home economics class from years ago. It's a chart to make white sauce. Below, I typed up a much clearer chart for you.

White sauce is one of the mother sauces. That means it's a basic sauce that can be transformed into other sauces. Add 1 cup grated cheese to the finished sauce and Voila! you have cheese sauce.

To make the sauce, melt butter in medium sized pan over low heat.  Add flour and salt. Whisk until combined. Continue whisking and cooking for 3 - 5 minutes. Slowly add the milk which has been scalded (heated).  Turn the heat up to medium. Whisk all together and continue cooking a few minutes or until of a smooth consistency. Take off heat. If there are any lumps, strain before using.

We'll revisit Madame White Sauce again. We'll see what other talents she has to share with us.

White sauce has been a staple in kitchens for generations. That was before some restaurant owner figured out if he called it béchamel he could charge five more dollars for it.

(If the chart is too small, double click on it.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Watermelon Rind Preserves, Great Friends, Great Food

Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, I didn't cook a darn thing. Shocking, isn't it?  I was a guest at the home of Richard and Adelle Toussaint. Adelle is a very dear friend. They had -- Are you ready for this? -- twenty-eight guests! They are some of the kindest and most generous people I know. 

To handle this crowd, Adelle pulled in Chef Henry Holland. Ladies and Gents, I tried to get his sweet potato recipe for you, I really did.  Nothing could pry it out of him. The best I can do is tell you to close your eyes and imagine. Sweet, earthy yams with brown sugar-pecan praline sauce swirled throughout. Heaven.
Adelle herself made fifty-six deviled eggs. I tried to get that recipe, too. Sigh. Just imagine creamy, smooth filling with hints of dill melting in your mouth.  Not one was left!

I can't blame them for keeping their recipes secret.   Is the world ready for that much deliciousness?

Adelle asked me bring my State Fair of Texas prize winning Watermelon Rind Preserves.

Now, to know about Watermelon Rind Preserves you have to be old, old South.  Made from the rind of the watermelon, they taste nothing like the red flesh.  More of a candy than spreadable jam, Watermelon Rind Preserves take on the spicy, lemony flavorings added to the batch.

Watermelon Rind Preserves are a family favorite for the holidays.  Mother made them. Grandmother made them. Now you can make them.

P.S. (Edited 9-5-2010) If you make this recipe, please let me know in the comments below. 

Watermelon Rind Preserves

Rind of watermelon

For each pound rind:
1 cup water
1 pound sugar
4 thin slices ginger
4 whole cloves
2 lemons, sliced and seeds removed

Remove soft flesh and dark green skin from watermelon.  Chop watermelon rind into cubes. (One-half to one inch. Depending on your preference.)

Weigh rind.  Soak rind in alum water, using 2 teaspoons alum to one-quart water. Make enough alum water to cover rind. Soak one hour. 

Drain, cover in ice water. Soak another hour. Drain.

Place in large pot. Cover with fresh water. Boil 1½ hours. Drain again.

Place required amount of sugar and water in clean pot.  Cook 5 minutes to make a syrup.

Add melon rind, and cook until tender.

Add required amount of ginger, lemon and cloves.  Simmer until all are tender. 

Pack into sterilized jars. Process in hot water bath, 10 minutes for ½ pints, 15 minutes for pints.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yummy Yams from the Jitterbug Queen

Dear Auntie,

Any good recipes for Sweet Potatoes?


Dear Amber,

But of course!

This is a family recipe.  Mom got this from her sister, my Aunt Irma.

I've been blessed with several wonderful aunts and uncles.  Aunt Irma was strong, caring and funny -- an inspiration. Rumor has it she was quite the jitterbugger in her day!  She and Mom kept the boys dancing at the USO in Wilmington, North Carolina.

All that jitterbugging certainly worked off the butter in this dish. Yes, it's heavy on the butter. That's what makes it so yummy! Don't feel guilty, though. After T-day dinner, just get off your rusty-dusty, grab a hep cat and dislocate your dream box. All Reet!

Happy T-day,


Aunt Irma’s Yum Yum Yams

6 cups cooked sweet potatoes (approximately 6 sweet potatoes)
2 cups sugar
¼ pound butter (one stick)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup scalded milk

Mix well in electric mixer. Pour into buttered 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

2 cups broken pecans
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ sticks melted butter
2/3 cup self-rising flour

Mix toppings well and spread over potato mixture. Bake at 325º about 35 – 45 minutes. 

Serves 12 – 14.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pickled Peppers for Jacqueline

Dear Auntie, 

Help!! I have a bunch of peppers that I want to can...I have the time, the recipe, the vineger, the jars and the desire...just don't know how??????


Dear Jacqueline,

Never fear. Auntie's here.

A few notes for your edification: The heat of the peppers determines the heat of the finished product. Only use pickling salt. Any other salt contains additives that will cloud the vinegar brine.  After the peppers have been used, try sprinkling the vinegar brine on cooked greens, for an authentic Southern treat.

As with all canned pickled, these are best after they sit and mellow for a couple of weeks. Then again, aren't we all at our best after a proper mellowing?

Be blessed,


Pickled Peppers

1 ½ pound sliced jalapeno peppers
1 pound yellow onion, cut into 1 inch square chunks
1 pound sliced carrots
9 cups white vinegar
9 cups water
1 cup pickling salt
3 bunches cilantro
2 heads garlic, cloves separated and coarsely chopped

Mix together peppers, onions and carrots. 

In large pot, pour boil vinegar, water and salt.  Add cilantro and garlic. Bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and let simmer 15 minutes. Strain out cilantro and garlic. Return to pot and bring back up to boil.

Put vegetables in sterilized pint jars. Pour strained vinegar brine over vegetable.  A sprig of cilantro may be added to each jar.

Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath.  Makes about  12 pints.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Triple Cranberry Sauce

Just in time for Thanksgiving!

Here's a cranberry sauce recipe that's easy to make, yet complex in flavor. It uses a trick many restaurants use. By including an ingredient in its many forms, the flavor is intensified. This cranberry sauce uses fresh cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice. It packs a lot of flavor and nutrition at only 50 calories per two tablespoon serving. All the ingredients are found easily at any grocery store.

If you can boil water, you can make this dish. You'll never want store bought again.

Triple Cranberry Sauce


1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained
½ cup dried cranberries


Combine juice cocktail and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add both types of cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Wine

What wine to have with the Thanksgiving meal?  Why, Gerwürztraminer, of course. It goes so well with traditional turkey-day dishes that it is often called the Thanksgiving Wine.
The Gerwürztraminer grape grows in Alsace and Germany. 'Gerwürz' means spicy and this wine has a pleasantly lingering spicy finish. It has fruity and flowery overtones. All of which compliment the Thanksgiving meal. It seems sweet, but the spiciness counterbalances the sweetness. Paired with the proper foods, it becomes the perfect compliment.

Gerwürztraminer is pronounced ga-verts-tra-meen-er. Hear it here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The best garlic bread you'll ever eat!!

Oh, you're going to love me for this one!!  Do you roast garlic in the oven? Do you think it's ridiculous to heat an entire oven for one head of garlic? Well, Auntie has come to save the day.

Simply poke a fork all around the garlic head. Then microwave at 50% power for about two minutes or until soft.  Voila! Roasted garlic without the roasting.

While you're at it, you might as well make the very best garlic spread you'll ever eat!

Garlic Spread

1 head garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Paprika (optional)
One Baguette French bread

Poke garlic all around with fork. Microwave at 50% power for two minutes or until soft. Peel off skin and cut off tough root.  Place cloves in bowl of food processor. Add salt, oil, and butter.  Process until smooth.

Slice bread horizontally. Spread with garlic spread. Top with Parmesan cheese and paprika to taste, if desired.

Close bread together, wrap in foil. Bake at 350º until warm and toasty. Serve hot.

You may omit foil, leave it open and place on baking sheet, if you prefer to have it toasted.

The best garlic bread you'll ever eat!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fried Catfish with Hushpuppies

Alexandra helped me make this once, while we were visiting Dad. Dad loved his catfish!!

1  teaspoon salt
1  teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt.)
2 teaspoons onion powder
Paprika pepper to taste

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups yellow cornmeal

3 eggs
1 cup milk
6 (6 to 8-ounce) catfish fillets
2 cups vegetable oil

Combine the seasonings.  Pour flour and ½ of seasoning in shallow dish (A pie plate works well.)  In a second dish, combine the cornmeal with the remaining seasoning. In a third dish or bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Dredge the catfish 1 at a time first in the flour, then the egg wash, then the cornmeal, shaking to remove any excess.

Heat about 1 cup of the oil in a large, deep cast iron skillet. (About 350º.)

Fry the fish in batches and cook until golden brown on 1 side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook until golden on the second side and completely cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add additional oil as needed and cook the remaining fish.

Combine remaining dredging ingredients and fry by tablespoons in hot oil to make hushpuppies.

Note:  When I make this, I add ingredients ‘by sight’. You may have to adjust seasonings.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tuna Mac & I Reveal A Secret

Over the past weeks, I've presented several super-simple recipes. Yes, these are not the stuff of gourmet celebrations and I am very capable of making more elaborate recipes. However, the whole purpose of this blog is to look at life through a culinary lens. What is the story behind the food?

Has culinary expertise become a new prejudice? Do we judge someone based on his or her culinary skills? Do we look down our noses at those who cook recipes we deem declassé?

Southern, Soul, Mexican cuisines: these were all considered low class in times past.  Remember the jokes on Beverly Hillbillies? Now, these cuisines head up menus in the finest restaurants.  Even lobster was considered poor folks' food.  Calcium Chloride, Calcium Lactate Gluconate, Sorbitol -- the ingredients shunned by food purists -- are now the love childen of molecular gastronomists.

When we look beyond our prejudices, we can see a broader vista. We can see another story these foods tell.

The story behind these simple recipes I've kept secret for quite a while. Now, I can tell it, and it is sad.

I'm getting divorced. The pain is like outer space: dark, empty and limitless.

While we were still together, I developed these simple recipes and put them together in a cookbook for my ex-husband, Joe. Joe has very little, if any, cooking skill. With these simple recipes, he could have a home cooked meal while I was out of town. Now, I'm away for life. Never again will I cook for him. Never again will he enjoy his favorite dishes.

So, Joe, if you're reading, this is for you. Eat well. Take care of yourself. Be blessed and walk with God.


1 (7.25 ounce) box of macaroni and cheese dinner
½ cup milk
1 (6 ounce) can tuna fish

In a large pot (not the stock pot) fill half way with water. Bring water to a boil.

Meanwhile, open box of macaroni. Pull out cheese packet and set aside.

When water is boiling, pour macaroni into water. Keep stove set on high. Set timer for 7 minutes. When timer goes off, pull out a noodle with a small spoon. Cool for a second and taste to see if the noodles are done. If not, boil another minute until they are done. No more than 10 minutes. Turn off stove. Remove from stove and drain off water. You may use the mesh strainer for this.

Return noodles to pan. Pour milk, seasoning packet and tuna over noodles. Turn stove on medium low and cook until mixture has thickened and tuna is heated through (about a minute or two).

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This is another in the series of simple, easy recipes. The original instructions read: "This one is a challenge.  I didn’t prepare anything.  You have to look through the cabinets."

I'll reveal the mystery behind these recipes tomorrow.


6 tablespoons cocoa
½ cup sugar

4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves
9 inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 375º.

Stir together cocoa and sugar thoroughly.

Melt butter by microwave for 30 seconds. Add butter to cocoa mixture.

Add syrup, vanilla and eggs.  Stir with whisk thoroughly.

Add nuts.  Pour into pie shell. PUT PIE SHELL ON BAKING SHEET!!

Bake 40 to 50 minutes until set.  Cool thoroughly before cutting.  Save me a piece!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hair in the Kichen

While sorting through old papers, suddenly, these pictures popped up. These are from a few years ago when Alexandra was younger.

I was sitting at the kitchen table when she insisted she do my hair. Of course, I was an easy push-over. Cuteness trumps reason any day, in my book.  See? This is why you go to your aunt's kitchen. She lets you get away with murder.

Alexandra then took a picture of her creation. Sure, the picture is a little blurry. That only adds to its cuteness.

Running across those old photos was a happy diversion from my tedious chore.

A kitchen is not only for making food. It's for making memories.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Apple Crumble

This is an old home ec' recipe. Easy. Never fails. Delicious!

Apple Crumble

2 tart apples
2 tablespoons apple juice or water
1/3 cup (sifted) all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 ½ tablespoons butter

Preheat over to 375º.  Wash and dry apples.  Pare. Cut into fourths and slice fourths.  Placed in greased baking dish.  Sprinkle water on apples.  Blend dry ingredients and butter until crumbly.  Spread mixture over apples.  Bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is brown. Serve warm with cream. Serves four.

These are the original instructions from home ec class.  Apple juice may be substituted for water. Quite tasty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cornmeal Pancakes

Make these for breakfast. Try them with melted jelly instead of syrup. Do not question me on this.

Cornmeal Pancakes

(4 servings)

1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
Pinch salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 eggs - beaten
¾  cup milk (or buttermilk)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil.

Add liquid mixture to dry mixture.

Drop by heaping tablespoons on a greased hot skillet or griddle on medium heat. Cook until edges are brown and bubbles are in the middle. Turn and cook on other side. Serve with butter and maple, sorghum, molasses or other syrup.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Too Easy Jambalaya

Another over-simplified dish for a complex situation.


1 (5 ounce) package Rice-a-roni Red Beans and Rice
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Hunt’s diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery & onion
1 (1 pound) package Hillshire Farms lite sausage
½ cup PictSweet frozen seasoning blend (chopped vegetables)

Spray large skillet with cooking spray until lightly covered.
Open Rice-a-roni box.  Take out seasoning packet and set aside.  Empty rice mixture into pan.  Pour tomatoes on top of rice.  Pour seasoning blend (vegetables) on mixture.  Pour seasoning packet on top. Stir all ingredients together.
Open sausage packet being careful not to spill juices.  Place sausage on cutting board.  Pour any juices on rice mixture.  Cut sausage into ¼ inch slices.  Place sausage on rice mixture.  DO NOT STIR!!

Put pan on burner and turn to high.  Wait until mixture begins to boil.  Place lid on mixture and turn down to medium-low.  Set timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes check inside pan. Check the bottom of the pan by pushing back some of the mixture.  Make sure it is not burning on the bottom. If there is a lot of liquid, let it simmer 5 more minutes, however, some liquid is to be expected. 

NOTE:  This recipe uses a lot of meat.  You could easily double the other ingredients.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

State Fair Secrets & Banana Jam

Friends, I've been keeping a secret. (Actually, I've been keeping several.)

I won seven ribbons at the State Fair of Texas!!

For several years, I've had every intention of entering, only to procrastinate my goals into oblivion. This year, I decided nothing would stop me. 

There will be more to report on the experience, but I must dash out the door to a singing engagement tonight.  For now, enjoy one of my prize winning recipes! (Check out my ghostly reflection in the photo. Boo!)

Blue Ribbon Banana Jam

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about one medium lime) (lemon can be substituted)
3 1/2 cups diced firm ripe bananas
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup water

Place lime juice in a one quart bowl.  Peel bananas and slice directly into lime juice.

Stir and mash bananas.

Split open vanilla bean. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add to banana mixture.

Place sugars, water and remaining vanilla bean pod into 3 quart  pot.  Stir to dissolve sugars. Bring syrup to boil and boil five minutes. 

Add bananas and cook until thick, about 20 minutes.  Remove vanilla bean.

Spoon into sterilized ½ pint jars. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Special Auntie Messages

For when you’re feeling sad, lonely, discouraged, confused or anytime you need a little Auntie love.

Sure you can borrow my car. Do you need some money?

Wear that sweater your mom gave you just until we turn the corner. Then, you can take it off.

You have far too much talent to let it go to waste.

Sure, I believe in you!

Buy low. Sell high.

A farmer won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.

That outfit is so cute!

Of course you’ll find someone to love you – IF – you become the person you seek to attract and – IF – you project that image.

I made some brownies, just for you.

Don’t you dare tell your parents I let you do that.

Here’s some money.

Show me how you decorated your room.

Yeah. Your dad was like that in high school, too.

And a special message to my niece, Alexandra:

I love you because you’re my niece.
I like you because you’re my friend.
I miss you because you’re my joy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can you fry chocolate chip cookies?

No. However, it didn’t stop me from trying.

My curiosity gets the best of me sometimes. A crazy idea pops into my head. Curiosity, like a little fiend on my shoulder, whispers “Don’t you wonder what will happen if you do that?”

This is my blog of thrill seeking – cooking without an oven. I’m curious to see where this adventure will lead; what questions will arise. How else can one cook? Can we live without modern conveniences, or are we chained to them? If we deprive ourselves of them, what lessons will we learn? What will we learn about ourselves?

Can we fry chocolate chip cookies?

On one hand, the answer seems too imponderable. On the other hand, why not? They will either turn to burnt, molten mush or become a new tradition. After all, that’s how chocolate chip cookies were developed. Ruth Graves Wakefield forgot to mix baking chocolate into her cookie batter. Spying some semi-sweet chocolate, she pondered “I wonder what would happen if I chop up the chocolate and stir it into the cookie dough?” She thought the chocolate would melt into the cookie dough, thereby saving the batch. It didn’t turn out the way she wanted. It turned out better. So much better, in fact, chocolate chip cookies are now America’s favorite cookies. (I could give you the recipe, but there’s none better than the original. Just follow the link.)

So, not having an oven, yet craving warm cookies, I wondered if they would cook up in an iron skillet. Save yourself the effort of experimenting. The cookies melt and burn before they get done.

I’ll bet you’re not used to seeing an ugly picture of ugly food on a culinary blog. Life is like that. It’s not always pretty. Life cannot be Photoshopped.

No, chocolate chip cookies cannot be fried, but there is a lesson in the experiment. It’s a lesson I hope my niece learns from my example. Don’t be afraid to try. Sometimes the things we think are the sweetest turn bitter and burnt. Learn from these experiences and try again. Sooner or later, something miraculous will occur.  This is the lesson I want to teach Alexandra.

Maybe this time, I’m the one who needs the lesson.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Percolator Cider -- Apple, Apricot and/or Cherry!

1 (12 ounce) can frozen apple juice (or cider)
3 can-fuls (36 ounces water )
1 (11.5 ounce) apricot nectar
¼ cup Whole Foods Cider Mate (or similar mulling spice blend)

Pour all liquid ingredients into carafe of percolator.  There is no need to stir.

Install percolator basket.  Place spices in basket. Put on lid. Turn on percolator and let percolate 20 minutes before serving.

Note:  If you do not have a percolator, pour liquid ingredients into large pot.  Tie spices in cheesecloth or tea basket. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The recipe can be doubled easily.

Cherry Cider

Make as above, substituting cherry cider for other juices. (One half gallon cherry cider to ¼ cup spice blend.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is an easy way to get that greens-in-fat-back flavor without getting a fatback on yourself.
If you don’t drink the pot liquor, you ain’t from around these here parts, are ya’ huh-nee?

4-5 smoked ham hocks
1 cup onion, chopped
3 pounds collard, turnip, cabbage or mustard greens (or combination
(Creole Seasoning -- optional)

The day before serving, place ham hocks in crock pot and cover with water.  Simmer overnight on low.

The next morning, remove ham hocks from water and reserve.  Pour broth into bowl.  Allow both to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place in refrigerator for several hours.

After several hours, the fat will have solidified on top.  Skim it off and discard.  Broth will be gelatinous.  Remove meat from ham hocks and chop finely.  Discard bones and fat of ham hocks. Pour broth into large pot.  Add onions and ham. Place on stove burner.  Simmer on medium low until onions are translucent.

Clean and chop greens, discarding stems.  Simmer in broth about 15 minutes to one hour,  until done to your liking.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  You may serve these with apple cider vinegar. 

Note:  Some ham hocks are saltier than others, so don’t season until the end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Simple Tuna Salad, Stewart and Mystery

Knowing my penchant for fine dining, my friend Stewart was shocked to see so many simple recipes on this blog lately.  Perhaps you, too, are baffled.  Remember, kind friends, the focus of this blog is not on recipes, no matter how delicious they may be. The focus is on the story these foods tell us. These simple recipes tell a story, which I will reveal at month's end....


1 (6 ounce) can tuna fish
1 large spoonful of mayonnaise (the spoons we use to eat soup)
1 small spoonful of relish (the spoons we use to stir our tea)

Drain tuna:  Open top of can.  Keep top on.  Take can to sink.  Hold the can in both hands, your thumbs on the bottom and your fingers on top. Point the can away from you. Press gently but firmly to squeeze out liquid.  Turn can upright and remove lid.

Pour all ingredients into mixing bowl. Stir together.  You may use this to make tuna fish salad sandwiches for lunch.  Be sure to keep refrigerated.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


1 refrigerated piecrust
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 can chicken
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables.

Defrost piecrust according to package directions.

Spray deep pie plate with cooking spray.

Pour chicken soup into bowl. Do not dilute. Sprinkle poultry seasoning and cornstarch over soup.  Using whisk, incorporate thoroughly.

Pour chicken and vegetables over soup mixture.  Stir well. 

Place mixture into pie plate and top with crust.

Moisten edge of pie plate with water. (Do this by running water over your finger, then running your finger on the pie plate.  This helps the crust stick to the plate.) Lightly pinch crust to edges of pie plate. Press a fork lightly all around the edge of the piecrust. Prick crust on top several times.  Place pie on baking sheet and bake 1 hour at 350º.  Check it every 15 minutes to see if it has browned.  Once the crust is brown, place a sheet of aluminum foil on top to prevent it from burning.

Remove from oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Another easy, simple recipe. These ultra-simple recipes are a bit out of the ordinary for me. I prefer instead the challenge of complicated cuisine.  The recipe is simple, but the story behind it is quite complicated. I'll tell you the story later...


1 (5 ounce) packet chicken & mushroom rice-a-roni
1 (10 ½ ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
 2 (5 ounce) cans chicken
1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms
¼ cup milk

Spray large skillet with cooking spray until lightly covered (or add 1 tablespoon oil in pan).

Open Rice-a-roni box.  Take out seasoning packet and set aside.  Empty rice mixture into pan.

Pour soup, mushrooms and chicken in pan.  Sprinkle seasoning packet over all.  Stir.  Cover and simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes.  Add milk.  Enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Easy Yeast Dinner Rolls

You need this recipe. Even if you never bake bread, you can make these rolls. They don't require kneading. A quick mix is all that's needed. A word of caution -- don't over bake. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

Easy Yeast Dinner Rolls

1¼ cup water or milk
¼ cup butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pkg dry yeast
1 egg beaten
3½ cups flour

Combine water, butter sugar and salt in small saucepan. Cook stirring constantly until butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm (105º to 115º). Dissolve yeast in mixture. Add egg; mix well. Stir in flour.

Spoon dough into greased muffin pans, filling half full. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled. Bake at 425º for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

P.S. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the liquid mixture. If it's too hot, it will kill the yeastie-beasties.  If it's nice and cozy warm, they will do their thing and make the rolls nice and fluffy. :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goodness and Apricot-Brie Melt

If you knew what I'm doing today, you'd know why I'm being so brief.  I'll tell you later... Meanwhile, enjoy some ooey-gooey fruity nutty creamy cheesy goodness.

Apricot-Brie Melt

1 (8-ounce) round Brie cheese
1/3 cup apricot jam (or cherry or mayhaw jelly)
¼ cup almond slices
Apple and pear slices

Trim rind from top of brie, and place on a microwave-safe serving plate. Microwave at MEDIUM for 5 minutes. Top with 1/3 cup apricot jam and sprinkle with almond slices. Serve warm with apple and pear slices. Yield: 6 to 8 appetizer servings.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Apple Fritters, Loretta and Giggling Girls

You think it's easy being a food blogger? Not on your nelly, honey.  Stove Lady challenged me to participate in NoJoMo - November Journaling Month.  I've got to write something everyday in November.

Last night, after I finally pried myself away from the computer (sometime around 1:32 am), I realized I had two problems. There was nothing to write about and nothing for breakfast.

Scrounging around the kitchen produced a bowl of granny smith apples.   Have you ever wondered who was Granny Smith?  She must have been one heck of a cook.  No matter the recipe, her apples retain their firm texture and sweet-tart taste.

Seeing that bowl of granny smiths took me right back to my college days.  Apple fritters were a regular treat for my roommate Loretta and me.  Apple fritters must have been invented at a slumber party.   They seem happiest among giggling girls.

Problem solved. I mixed up the batter and let it rest overnight.

The next morning, the fritters were a snap to make.  Good thing, too. A food blogger must also photograph every thing she cooks.  Today was one of those diamond days - a day when everything sparkles.  The fritters deserved a chance to go outside. So there I was, ladies and gents, outside in my jammies taking pictures of fritters on my iPhone.

I had to endure the ridicule of the neighbors to bring you this recipe, so you'd better darn well make 'em.

Apple Fritters

Wet ingredients:
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon oil or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dry ingredients:
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour

2 cups chopped apples
2 egg whites

Combine wet ingredients. 

Sift together dry ingredients.

Combine liquid and dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least two hours.  Remove from refrigerator and stir batter. Stir in apples.

Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into batter.

Have a pot of deep oil heated to 375º.  Carefully drop batter by spoonfuls into hot oil, making sure not to splash oil. Do not crowd pan. Cook until brown on one side. Turn and cook on other side. Total cooking time should be around 3 – 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Dust with powdered sugar.


This is too easy not to cook.


1 (8 ounce) container of sour cream
1 (7 oz) can salsa verde
12 corn tortillas
2 (10 oz) cans chunk chicken in water
8 ounces shredded low fat Colby/Monterey Jack blend (or cheddar)

Preheat oven to 350º.   Coat a 9 x 14 inch baking pan with cooking spray. 

Empty sour cream and salsa verde into mixing bowl. Using spatula, blend together cream and salsa. Set aside.

Line pan with 6 tortillas. Don’t worry if they do not cover pan completely.  It is ok to overlap tortillas. It is ok if they break or tear, just try to make it as even as possible.

Empty a can of chicken (including broth) onto tortilla layer. With fingers, crumble chicken until it is shredded and distribute evenly over tortillas

Pour half of sour cream/salsa mixture over chicken, distributing it in dollops evenly across the chicken. Spread smooth with spatula.  Sprinkle half of cheese over top.  Repeat layers.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  During last 10 minutes, remove foil to let cheese brown.  Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before cutting.  Top with more salsa and cilantro, if desired.

Hint:  add corn, chopped tomatoes

Monday, November 2, 2009

My! How you've changed!

You’re looking at a photo that has not been altered. Nope. Not in the teensiest-tiniest, ittiest-bittiest way.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a clove of very, very green garlic. Don’t look at me. I didn’t do it.  When I first started shooting the garlic, it was blue.  Dawn Dishwashing Liquid blue. 

It mellowed.

I was making a batch of Pickled Jalapeno Peppers, with the hopes of entering them in the State Fair of Texas.  I popped a clove of garlic into each canning jar.  After processing, the garlic was bright blue.

What, pray say, caused this?  I love a good mystery and this is one. I decided to research. 

According to late-night googling, garlic, like all alliums, contains high amounts of sulfur. Sulfur can react with itsy-bitsy traces of copper -- the tiny amounts found in tap water -- to turn blue-green.  I wonder if that’s the same reaction copper has when in contact with air or acid?

Anyhoo – It doesn’t affect the taste or safety of food. It just looks weird.  Maybe that’s why the pickles returned from the State Fair ribbonless.

They taste fantastic, though.  Time to rethink the recipe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Prize Winning Salmon Soufflé and NoJoMo

My friend and fellow blogger, Stove Lady, reminded me it's NoJoMo -- November Journaling Month. To participate, you're supposed to write something, anything on your blog every day in the month of November. The idea is to get you in the habit of journaling consistently.

Great. What a thing to see on my Facebook wall before coffee.

I admit, I've been sporadic.  I had every intention to blog regularly, but events in the ol' private life have thrown me off kilter. Ironically, I cannot divulge the details until the end of NoJoMo, but that just builds anticipation, doesn't it? I'm such a tease.

So how should I start? Well, by golly, it's high time for a recipe, and not just any recipe.  With this, I won the Grand Prize in a Victoria Magazine cooking contest! So, ladies and gents, get your soufflé on.

Salmon Soufflé with Fresh Tomato Basil Coulis

3 tablespoons butter   
½ cup onion, chopped   
1 pound salmon   
1 ¼ cups skim milk   
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch   
1 teaspoon salt   
¼ teaspoon pepper   
5 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons lemon juice   

½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon butter   
2 cups seeded and chopped tomato   
½ lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup sour cream   
¼ cup fresh basil, fresh sliced 1/8" thick

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter soufflé dish, making sure to coat all sides.  Melt butter in pan over medium heat.  Add fish.  Cook until fish just turns opaque.  Remove fish, draining well, and set aside. Add onion to same pan.   Cook on medium heart until onion is translucent.  Mix milk and cornstarch.  Add to onion, with salt and pepper.  Heat gently until mixture boils.  Add a small amount of mixture to beaten egg yolks to warm.  Add a bit more mixture to warn further.  Add yolks to onion-milk mixture.  Cook gently until it coats the back of a spoon.  Let cool.  (Up to this point, soufflé can be made in advance and refrigerated.) Whip egg whites with lemon juice.  Fold in a little of the whites into the onion-milk mixture to lighten it.   Fold whites into onion-milk mixture.   Crumble salmon and gently fold in.  Gently pour into soufflé dish and bake for thirty minutes. 

Meanwhile, make sauce.  Cook onion in 1 teaspoon butter on medium low setting, until translucent.  Place onion and next four ingredients in blender or processor. Process until smooth. (Up to this point, sauce can be made in advance.) Return sauce to pot on lowest setting just until heated.  Do not let sauce boil.  Add basil.

When soufflé is done, split open gently, using two spoons back to back.  Pour sauce in center.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fletcher Corny Dogs, Julia Child and Sunshine

Once mid-September hits, Dallasites change their usual greeting. We go from saying, “How are you?” to “Have you had your corny dog yet?”  It’s State Fair season and no one goes without eating a genuine Fletcher’s corny dog. After all, it’s only once per year.

Fletcher Corny Dogs are like no other corny dogs in the world.

It’s a chilly, rainy Sunday;  I get my State Fair coupons and look for a Fletchers stand.  You can always tell – they are the stands with the lines.  Inside the stands, cooks prepare the dogs, dipping once, turning up to make the batter cover the dog, and then dipping again. They slowly release the dogs into the boiling oil. Steam escapes, clouding the small kitchen.

I order my dog; the overcast skies blanket the fair in chilly darkness. The attendant pulls out a freshly fried dog, wraps it in parchment.  The parchment absorbs the last few drops of hot grease. With a warm smile and a wink, he says, “It’s hot. It’s a hand warmer!!” Unwrapping the parchment, the dog warms and relaxes my cold stiff fingers.  Large pump bottles of ketchup and mustard stand waiting. These are your only two options.  You don’t need any others.  I choose mustard.

Biting into a corny dog, the crust doesn’t simply crunch; it shatters. Slightly sweet cornmeal accents the meatiness of the dog.  The yellow mustard tastes bright and hot. This must be what it’s like to eat sunshine. 

The clouds begin to part.

The story goes that one year, in her old age, Julia Child came to be the celebrity judge for the cake contest.  She was terribly late. People began to worry and wonder if anything  had happened to the aging icon.   By and by, she walked in briskly, carrying a corny dog in each hand.

Even culinary giants bow to corny dog greatness.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finding Purpose in the Leaves

How often do we discard something simply because we cannot find a use for it?

Case in point: celery leaves.  They end up in your compost heap at best, your garbage at worst. Right?  You're throwing away flavor, my friend.

When life gives me celery leaves, I make celery soup! This is nice and comforting on a rainy day.  Add a teaspoon of curry powder to give additional kick.

Celery Soup

3 tablespoons butter or cholesterol-lowering margarine
2 cups finely chopped celery leaves and stems
½ cup finely chopped onion (I prefer yellow onion.)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons flour (preferably a quick-mixing flour such as Wondra)
 (1 teaspoon curry powder – optional)
4 cups milk
Pepper to taste (optional)

In medium sized pot, heat butter or margarine over  medium heat.   Add celery and onions.  Cook until celery is no longer crispy, but still firm and onions are translucent. Do not brown.

Add salt and flour (and curry powder if using).  Stir thoroughly and cook about one minute, but do not brown.  Add milk.  Gently bring to boil over medium heat, be mindful to not let soup burn on the bottom.  If soup begins to stick to bottom, take off heat for five minutes, stir and continue cooking.    Let boil gently for one minute and serve. Season to taste with pepper, if using.

Note: Using quick-mixing flour assures no lumps.  The temperature of the milk does not matter when using this flour.

Poetry, Food and Sex

Well, my friends, I must confess; I've been busy all day. It is 11:59 and I have but one minute to blog. So instead of waxing poetic, I'll leave that to you.  Here's a little something for you to ponder:

Food is more intimate that sex. When food enters our bodies, it actually becomes our body -- every cell of our bodies.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wine, Abraham and Sin

My friend, Julia, has been asking me for wine suggestions.  This one's for you, girl.

Here's a few wines I've tried recently and really like. They are all very reasonably priced.

Hubert Veneau Pouilly Fume (nice complex flavor)
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (love those New Zealand whites!)
Peter Brum Bacchus Rheinhessen (sweeter, but flavorful)
Las Rochas Garnacha (yummy red, complex, Parker 90)

But my new found love is Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc! Refreshingly bright with a distinctive grapefruit taste.  It has a Robert Parker rating of 90; not too shabby for a wine under $20.

I discovered this gem while dining at Salum, the restaurant owned by my friend, Abraham Salum.  His food is so sexy,  you'll probably commit at least three mortal sins every time you go there.  Book a table for tonight and a priest for tomorrow. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Have you tried the fried butter?

Culinarily speaking, it seems the question on everyone’s lips this year is “Have you tried the fried butter?” It’s been covered by every major news source. Shoot. Even David Letterman has a top ten list for it.

They’re asking about the Winner of Most Creative in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition. Every year, the State Fair of Texas holds a contest among its vendors.  This year, Abel Gonzales' fried butter is getting all the buzz.  Mr. Gonzales is the creator of fried coke and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. His booth is lined with Big Tex award statues. The man is held in high State Fair reverence, second only to Big Tex himself.

But what does fried butter taste like? Your Auntie will tell you.  Firstly, it is not at all as one would expect. You were expecting a big lump of grease weren’t you? Nope. Not going to get it. That will relieve some; disappoint others.

Dough is wrapped around a piece of frozen whipped butter. The dough is then fried. The butter melts into the dough, giving it a rich flavor, but hardly noticeable. The fried dough balls are dusted with powdered sugar. The dough itself is rather plain, with a pleasant slight saltiness. The saltiness compliments the sweetness of the toppings.

The toppings, in fact, give most of the flavor.  They come in original (dusted with powdered sugar), cherry, grape or garlic. “Garlic?!” you say. Yes, garlic. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Standing in line, I noticed the sauce seemed a lot like cherry or grape jelly.  I had feared it would be some sort of neon fruit-like substance. However, it looked quite tasty and I decided to go for the cherry. I was glad I did. The slight saltiness of the dough underscored the tart sweetness of the cherry sauce.

I expected a little puddle of butter to ooze out of the center. However, the butter melted into the dough. As you can see in the picture, there is no hole where the butter once resided.

After tasting them, garlic seemed like a very good idea. I imagine it will taste much like garlic bread.  I’ll have to try that the next time I go to the State Fair.

All in all, they remind me of buttery beignets, but with a slightly firmer dough.  They come four to a basket at a cost of four dollars. Mr. Gonzales’ stand is located on Nimitz Drive and open only during the duration of the fair.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jury Rig My Life

Well, my friends, I’ve been amiss.  I have neglected this blog as a result of personal obligations. The plan was to post regularly every Wednesday. Now, it seems, there is more to blog about than I could have imagined. People keep asking me culinary questions and the pressure is mounting to answer. So, for a few days, weeks, months, (who knows?) I’ll be posting like a mad woman.

So, be on the look out for oodles of interesting topics. There will be recipes, ‘natch. Also, you’ll be seeing posts on a restaurant or two or three.  I’ll be giving you the heads up on wines I discover in my escapades. My wonderful niece, to whom this site is dedicated, will figure in future pieces.  Culinary exploits have brought wonderfully interesting people into my life. There’s lots of exciting news from the State Fair of Texas. I’ve been asked to write a piece for another blog on how to cook in the fireplace. That should be an interesting adventure.

Speaking of interesting adventures, my oven is downright busted. The heating coil is broken. The replacement part cannot be found, since the oven company is no longer in business. Yes, I checked eBay. No luck. Sigh. So, the entire range needs to be replaced over one silly part. My old apartment had a gas range from the 1940’s. It still worked like a gem. They really don’t make them like they did, do they?  What a waste. Such a shame to add to another landfill just because of one silly part.

The oven plot thickens. It seems the previous owner who remodeled the kitchen did so by jury-rigging the cabinets to fit around that particular range. (Did I mention the cabinets are a risk to life and limb as well?) The floor tiles have been jury-rigged to fit around the cabinets. There’s a short in the electrical system that supplies the overhead lighting. It all boils down to this: I’ve got to remodel the entire kitchen just to cook a pizza.

This brings me to a question of my own I must ask myself. How can one run a food blog without a kitchen?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My towels are famous!

Scrolling down my Facebook home page, I was delighted to see the above photo. Those are my towels drying on the clothesline in my back yard.  Weeks earlier, I’d posted said photo on the fan page of Project Laundry List. To quote it’s website, “Project Laundry List is making air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy.”

Make It and Mend It, a blog dedicated to “making small changes to our lives that have a ripple effect and influence the world we live in,” then wrote an article about Project Laundry List, using the photo of my towels.  

Isn’t it wonderful something so simple has become so heralded? In an age of economic concerns and energy conservation, clotheslines have become chic again.

Growing up, everyone hung laundry out to dry.  I remember playing hide and seek with Mom as she hung out the wash. My brother joined in, running after me. The two of us would peek in and out among the sheets.  As the sheets dried, they would billow out. I’d imagine them to be great sails on ancient ships, ready to carry me to brave adventures. 

After sufficient time, Mom would proclaim, “I’ve got to bring in the sheets.” She would go to the line, returning with white sails perfumed with sunshine. 

It was a simple kind of magic.

In my five-year old soprano voice, I’d sing “Bringing in the sheets! Bringing in the sheets! We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheets!”  Suppressing overwhelming desire to burst out laughing, Mom told me “No, it’s ‘Bringing in the sheaves!’”  My young mind could not grasp the idea of gleeful wheat gathering, but there was something wonderful and romantic about bringing in the sheets. Something worth singing about.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cherries Jubilee, Worry and Kissing Girls

Dear Auntie,

I’m going to have friends over on Wednesday for dinner. I’m not sure what to serve yet.

Would you be kind to give me some ideas? I would love to try something new.


Dear Angel,

To impress guests, the thrill of a harrowing near death experience will get ‘em every time. Don’t worry. It’s only a teeny-tiny blazing inferno.

You do know I’m referring to Cherries Jubilee, don’t you? The threat of certain death is part of the appeal of this classic dessert.

You don’t believe me? Oh, come on. Who hasn’t worried about the nice pastry chef catching afire on a leisurely Sunday brunch? (OK. His ex-wife may not have worried too much, but that’s a little TMI.)

You too, can bring this thrill to your dinner table. A chafing dish or hot plate at the ready and you’re good to go.

But don’t worry. The flames are only for show. You control the flames. They do not control you. Think of it as a magic show.

As the flames soar upward, your guests will ponder in silent terror:

“I never wrote my will!”
“I never finished my novel!”
“I never kissed a real girl!”

After that climax and denouement, it wouldn’t matter what you served earlier. The thrill of living to see another day would dim any thought of earlier courses. Heck, you could have slapped down Frito pie and they would think you’re a star.

Very Cherries Jubilee

This recipe calls for four – count ‘em FOUR – different cherry-centric ingredients! How nummers is that?

2 tablespoons butter
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup cherry juice

1 pound frozen cherries
½ cup dried cherries

¼ cup cherry brandy
2 tablespoons almond liquor

In a large skillet set on medium heat, melt butter. Add sugar and stir to combine. Add juice. Raise heat to high and stir until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium. Add cherries. Simmer three minutes, then raise to high heat. (Heating frozen cherries too quickly will cause them to release too much liquid.)

Bring to boil. Push cherries to one side. Pour brandy into pan in side opposite cherries. Heat brandy and ignite. (Use a long match.) Let flames die down but do not stir. After flame dies down remove from heat and add almond liquor.

Serve over ice cream or pound cake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Picnic Along the Backroads

Scrolling through some old pictures, I ran across this lovely shot somewhere off the main highway in Louisiana. I was driving the back roads to New Orleans to meet up with friends.

This spot, deep within a national park, seemed the perfect place to stop. When you take the highway, you stop in a truck stop for lunch. Your view is pavement and 18 wheelers. Bleech! This was my view when I stopped for my picnic.

And here's the recipe!

Green Chile Cheese Spread

1 (8 ounce) package 2% milk shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2cups)
1 (4 ounce) can peeled & chopped green chilies, drained (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon onion granules
2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts
¾ cup low-fat mayonnaise (I prefer Smart Balance)

Mix all together. Makes 2 cups

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hey Y'all -- I'm a star-ish. Dallas Morning News asked be to a guest blogger. No autographs, please.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Greeting the Future

It’s New Year’s Eve and I really don’t feel like going out. Mind you, I enjoy being with people, but not this time. In the last few years, many precious family members have passed. Going out and seeing other families is making me a little sad this season.

I feel like sitting beside a roaring fire and consuming black-eyed peas and cornbread: the grainy, barely sweet cornbread soaking up the meaty, earthy juices of the black-eyed peas.

The black-eyed peas could benefit from the extra large batch of smoky turkey stock simmering on my stove at present. The Christmas bird was smoked over a combination of apple, cherry, cabernet and rosemary chips. The savory scent makes my house feel cozy and welcoming.

The fireplace has been set for a few days now, waiting for a chilly Texas evening. Stacked are branches of oak, pecan, elm and whatever other fallen branches were scavenged during my morning walks. The combination of who-knows-what firewood will fill the house with a complex smoky fragrance.

Throughout the neighborhood, construction companies are tearing down old quaint houses for MacMansions. When it’s dark, and no one can see me, I dig through the construction garbage and collect bits of untreated oak for the fireplace. Perhaps I have a wicked desire to consume the consumers of our vintage Leave-It-To-Beaver neighborhood. How dare the builders destroy the remnant traces of our departed neighbors?

So, it seems I’m in the mood to burn and consume. Or, maybe I want to turn back the clock to a less mechanized time, so I can move forward.

Tonight, I’ll surround myself with the family portraits hanging in the living room. I eat a long held family tradition: black eyed peas and cornbread. The warmth of this simple repast will heat the bowl given to me by Uncle Goodloe and Aunt Martha. The bowl will warm my hands as the fire crackles.

The future arrives tonight. A taste of home and my dearly departed are here to help me welcome it.