Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snicker Salad

If you were to attend a family gathering with my husband's family, you would find Snicker salad being served. Until I met my husband, I had never heard of this recipe. Everytime I make this, I question my husband on whether or not it really is a salad.

Snicker Salad
2 snickers candy bars
2 apples
8 ounces Cool Whip

Chop apples and snickers bars and put into serving bowl. Add cool whip. Stir.
This quantity serves 4. For family gatherings, the recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hamburger Casserole

As I thumb through recipes and cookbooks contemplating what to blog about, I find myself drawn to recipes that remind me of someone or something special. This is a recipe I remember making in high school. I don't know it's origin. My father is one of those people that likes his meat, potatoes and veggies to be in their separate place on his dinner plate. He's not much for casseroles. This Hamburger Casserole is the one casserole that my Dad eats and actually loves. My Dad turns 90 in a few weeks, I think I will make this for his birthday dinner.

Hamburger Casserole
Into a well buttered casserole dish, place layers in order . Season each layer with salt and pepper.
2 -3 medium potatoes, sliced
2 -3 carrots, sliced
Can of peas (drained, saving liquid)
1 onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
Over top of vegetables, placed 1 pound of ground beef, browned and drained.
Combine liquid from peas with can of tomato soup and pour over the top of ground beef.
Cover. Bake at 325 for 2 hours.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Commericials Aren't Just on TV

A few months ago my husband, his family and I had dinner at The Lamplighter in New Ulm, MN. The waitress announced the Friday night special as the Pork Commercial. Everyone else at the table was quite excited. I seemed to be the only one who only knew a commercial as something you watched on T.V. I inquired as to what was a commercial. As a non Minnesota native, it seemed I'd run across another term that was indicative of this area. Just like the hot dish, the commercial is a well known term in the Gopher state. After getting the definition of a commercial, I realized I had eaten one before. In my case it was a beef commercial and we called it an open faced roast beef sandwich.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Foods We Can't Live Without #3

Have you ever had the discussion about the foods you would want if you were stranded on a desert island or if you could only have one or two foods what foods would it be? For me one of them would be pizza. Is there a pattern here in "Foods We Can't Live Without"? Potatoes, Chocolate, items from the four food groups here. Although, they are now saying dark chocolate is good for you, especially as you age. Thank goodness there's something I really love that is good for me. Okay, I know, in moderation!

Pizza made it's first appearance in the United States in the late 19th Century. Pizza, as we know it today, originated in the Midwest. In 1943, Pizzaria Uno originated in Chicago and the original pizza delivery company Dominos, in Detroit in 1960.

My first memory of eating pizza out was at one of the early pizza chains, Shakey's. It was an occasional Friday night treat to go to Shakey's. I remember watching them make the pizzas and singing along with the player piano.

Everyone has their favorite type of pizza, deep dish, thin crust, thick crust, lots of sauce, a little sauce , lots of cheese and so on. Crust, it's all about the crust for me, no thin crust pizza for me.

What's your favorite kind of pizza?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foods We Can't Live Without #2

I should have made this Foods We Can't Live Without #1 because Chocolate is the number one food I could NOT live without.

My very best friends, Karen and Larry, came to visit us last weekend. We went to the Durham Heritage Museum to see the Chocolate The Exhibition. This exhibtion was created by Chicago's Field Museum. After closing at the Field Museum this exhibit began a 10 city tour .

Did you know chocolate originated 2000 years ago on trees that only grew in Central and South America? Today the Ivory Coast region exports the most chocolate and the Netherlands imports the most. The first chocolate bar was produced in 1847.

In the 1600 and 1700's, long before Starbucks, there were Chocolate Houses. The first Chocolate House was in London in 1657. Many admitted only men. Others admitted anyone who could afford the entrance fee.

If this exhibition comes to a city near you, take the time to go see it, chances are you will learn some things about chocolate, besides how delicious it is.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nana's Quick Chocolate Cake

The quick chocolate cake we often enjoy is a recipe passed down from my best friends mother and my son's grandmother. Cancer took Nana from us too soon, as it sometimes does with our loved ones. This is one of those recipes you pass on and everyone loves. It's easy to make...hence the title...and oh so delicious.

Nana's Quick Chocolate Cake

4.6 oz box cook and serve chocolate pudding - cook as directed
1 box chocolate cake mix (any kind, do not make as directed)

After pudding comes to a boil, add box of cake mixture. Mix well, it will be a little lumpy.
Spread into 9 x 13 pan (grease and flour pan first) - sprinkle with 10 oz bag chocolate chips(nuts optional)

Bake according to time and temperature on cake mix box.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spices of Life...Need to Be Replaced

A few months ago I had the opportunity to replace all of my spices at a very reasonable price. My local "bargain" store had received a truck load of spices. I was curious, just how long do dried spices last? I was fairly certain they didn't last as long as some had been in my spice collection. I googled the McCormick Spice Company website to find out. Let's just say many of my spices were WAY past their prime. When my son was home at Christmas, I was telling him my spice story and he recounted the number of houses that some of the spices had residency.

I feel like some of my spices are what could be called "single use spices". They are used in one recipe and tossed in the drawer and forgotten.

Remember those clippings I mentioned in my first post? One of those clippings, "Spice Advice" from the February 2002 issue of Better Homes and Gardens gives some spice substitutions, an alternative to buying a spice you might only use once.

Instead of.... Use...

Ground allspice... Ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves
Ground anise... Crushed fennel seed or a few drops of
anise extract
Ground cardamom... Ground ginger
Chili Powder... Dash hot pepper sauce, plus equal
measures ground oregano and cumin
Ground Cloves... Ground allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg
Ground cumin... Chili Powder
Ground ginger... Ground allspice, cinnamon, mace or
Ground mace... Ground allspice, cinnamon, ginger or
Dash ground saffron...1/4 tsp. ground tumeric

"Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go." Erma Bombeck

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Champagne Risotto with Leeks and Asparagus

Nine years ago, along with several of my girlfriends, I took a cooking class on Risotto. I'd always wanted to learn to make risotto but was reluctant because all I ever heard was how difficult it was to make.

If someone were to ask me if risotto is difficult to make, I would say it is not. However, I do feel it is one of those dishes that takes time and TLC. For me, risotto is total comfort food. In traditional Italian restaurants, risotto is served prior to the main course. I prefer to serve it as the main course. This particular risotto recipe is meatless which for some, like my husband, disqualifies it as a main dish.

The key to great risotto is the rice. Superfino Arborio is what is used most often to make excellent risotto. It has the longest, fattest grain, the characteristic white kernel in the centerand a capacity to absorb liquid.

Choose a heavy pot with a stainless steel interior. The pot should have sides at least 4" high with a surface area that is not too wide, which would cause the liquid to evaporate too quickly. Assemble all of your ingredients ahead of time so you can tend to the pot as the risotto cooks. Your liquid should be heated to a simmer prior to starting your risotto.

Champagne Risotto with Leeks and Asparagus

1 pound asparagus. Trim ends. Cut into thirds.
(I prefer to cut the aspargus into smaller pices)
2 leeks.
(Cut the leeks just below the dark green part. A leek has a lot of layers on the inside. These layers have sandy grit and dirt between them. You have to wash a leek well. If you are going to cut the leaks into rings or small strips, do that first, and then put them in a bowl of cool water.)
1 shallot, peeled and chopped.
6 Tablespoons butter, olive oil can be substituted but butter is preferred.
1 quart of Chicken Stock
1/2 bottle of Champagne
2 cups arborio rice
Salt, Pepper
1/2 cup - 1 cup parmesano reggiano, freshly grated

1. Heat stock and 1/2 bottle of champagne in a separate pot. When simmering, begin the risotto.
2. In the saucepan you are using for the risotto, saute shallots and leeks in 3 Tablespoons butter until opaque and bright green. Approximately 3 minutes.
3. Add rice and continue to saute for 3 minutes. Stirring frequently.
4. Begin adding stock, 1 ladle at a time. Stirring frequently. When liquid is almost all absorbed, add the next ladle of stock. (Correct heat is very important in making risotto. It should be very lively but if it is too hot the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the rice won't cook evenly.)
5. Continue this process until the rice is al dente and most of the stock is incorporated. This will take about 20 - 25 minutes. Stir when adding each ladle of sauce.
6. Add asparagus pieces. Taste. Adjust seasonings and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Asparagus should be just tender and bright green.
(I always feel that it needs salt)
7. Rice should be creamy and soft in texture and al dente.
8. Finish with remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and parmesano.
9. Stir and serve immediately.

Risotto cannot be prepared ahead of time. It cannot be reheated. I make risotto cakes out of my leftovers. I flour my hands and make small risotto cakes. I dip the cakes in an egg wash and then flour. Heat olive oil in a skillet, cook the cakes until golden brown and hot.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dried Beans Grown in Nebraska

Until reading an article in the Omaha World Herald last week, I had no idea that Nebraska harvests more Great Northern white beans than any other state, 140 million pounds. Nebraska is among the top three states for pinto beans, harvesting 108 million pounds in 2008. These beans are primarily grown in Western Nebraska. Other varieties grown in Nebraska are black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pink beans and garbanzo beans.

I am familiar with and have cooked with all of these types of beans, except pink beans. Curious about the uses for pink beans, I checked out the Nebraska Dry Bean Association website. Pink Beans: "Small, pale, pink-colored; rich, meaty flavor with a slightly powdery texture. Related to the kidney bean; turns reddish brown when cooked. Often used in chili; a favorite in Old West recipes. "

Beans are a good source of protien, high in fiber, low in fat and packed full of vitamins and minerals. Dried beans can be the main source of protien in a meal or served as a vegetable. One fourth cup of cooked beans is equivalent to one once of meat. As a vegetable, a serving is one half cup. A meatless main dish made with beans is a good change for a Friday during the Lenten season.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Foods We Can't Live Without #1

Everyone has those foods that they can't imagine life without...chocolate, pizza, for my husband it would be red meat.

Costco often has a great assortment of potatoes, including these fun Purple Peruvians.

What is the best potato for salads, sauteing, boiling and roasting?

Round Red, Long Whites, Blues, Purples, Fingerlings. If you want a potato that holds it's shape, you want a low-starch variety.

Which potatoes are high in flavor and lower in fat?

Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds, Maine Whites. These are potatoes with medium starch and can be used for many types of recipes.

What is the best potato for mashing and baking?>

Idaho, also known as Russet or baking potatoes. These potatoes have high starch. Russets make a great thickener for soups.

How to store potatoes?

Ideal storage is in a dark cabinet where the temperature is between 45 and 50 degrees. Do not store in the refrigerator, this turns the starch to sugar.

Well Known Potato Dishes From Around the World

Au gratin - French term for potatoes topped with breadcrumbs and/or cheese.

Gnocci - Italian dumpling that is made with potatoes.

Knishes - Jewish pastries filled with mashed potatoes and other fillings.

O'Brien - Irish dish of diced potatoes cooked with onions and pimientos.

"If you don't love mashed potatoes, you're probably from another planet."

Ethan Becker

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Memories of Girl Scout Cookie Time

Who doesn't love Girl Scout cookies? I am always thrilled when a neighbor or someone at work has a daughter who is selling Girl Scout cookies. This year did not disapoint me, a neighbor and someone at Tim's work sold cookies.

Besides being a yummy treat, Girl Scout cookies take me back to my childhood. I was a Girl Scout and do have fond memories of putting on that uniform and going door to door selling them. Do Girl Scouts even wear uniforms today? I know there are a lot more varieties of cookies today then back in the 60's when I sold them.

I always buy at least a couple of boxes of Thin Mints, the best selling cookie. Also reminiscent of my childhood is a recipe for Mint Brownie Pie, using Thin Mints. After rifling through my accordion file under Pies for the recipe and coming up empty, I felt that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you lose or break something important to you. The last time I remembered making the recipe was at the lake a few years ago. One more slot to look in, could it be in Frozen Pies? Even though it's not a frozen pie, refrigerated yes, frozen no. Yes, there it was, filed in Frozen Pies by mistake.

I am not sure of the origin of this recipe. It dates back to the early 70's. The recipe card was part of what must have been one of my first recipe books. My accordion files contain several of these handwritten recipe cards. This week, I was trying to remember the name of the little girl on the recipe card. You know that feeling when you know you should know the name and just can't come up with it? I did the Alphabet memory trick...A? No B? No, nothing was jogging my memory. I tried googling dolls from the 70's, although I wasn't really sure she was a doll. Today I reached for my husbands reading glasses, hoping it would really magnify the small print just under her image. Just as I was holding the glasses over the print, it came to me...Betsey Clark. Betsey Clark was an artist for Hallmark cards who created this little girl.

Mint Brownie Pie

19 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup whipped cream

Chill cookies in refrigerator several minutes. Break or cut into even crumbs. Beat egg whites and salt together until peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in cookie crumbs, nuts and vanilla. Spread into buttered 9" pan.

Bake 35 minutes at 325. Once pie has cooled, spread on whipped cream. Chill in refrigerator 3 -4 hours before serving.