Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesdays with the Texan

Happy Tuesday, Yankee-Belle faithfuls. Well, the Yank and the Belle have gone and done it now. They've given this Texan--aka Mindy Obenhaus--keys to the cafe. Yep, no telling what you might find jalapenos or chipotle in now.

Ah, but we Texans aren't all about Tex-Mex. We like good ol' down home comfort food too. Actually, I'll let you in on a little secret. I grew up a Yankee. However, I got to Texas as fast as I could. I love everything about Texas. The people, the food, the diversity of this great state, and the heat. Okay, I fibbed on that last one.

Once I got here, though, I latched onto a great-mom and grandmama who knew how to cook. That means I learned from the best. Given my dual heritage, though, I'm just glad Ruthy didn't decide to call this Tuesdays with the Tank.

Today we'll continue Ruthy's fowl comfort food theme with Great-mom's chicken and dumplings. I LOVE this stuff. And if chicken soup is good for the soul, chicken and dumplings must be a double blessing.

First we need to make our chicken stock, which will also provide us with the chicken half of our chicken and dumplings. So, in a large dutch oven or stock pot, add one chicken (I leave mine whole, but remove the skin so there's less fat), two or three carrots cut into thirds, a couple stalks of celery (I left the leaves on mine), one onion, quartered, 1 Tbs. salt (I use kosher), and  3/4 tsp. ground black pepper or 1 1/2 tsp. peppercorns. After I took this picture I found some thyme in the fridge, so I added a couple sprigs of that as well.

Now add three quarts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour.

Cool slightly, then remove chicken and vegetables. Strain broth, discarding solids.

Once the bird has cooled, remove the meat from the bone and shred. The veggies don't make it into the soup, however they do make a great snack.

Return broth to stove, add chicken, and bring to boiling. *NOTE* I try to skim as much of the fat as possible from the broth. If there's time, I will put it in the fridge and then skim.

While you're waiting for the broth to boil, prepare your dumplings.

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • Approx. 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups self-rising flour (if the mixture seems too sticky, add more flour in small amounts)
Turn dough onto a floured surface and kneed a handful of times.

From here, it's up to your personal preference. Some like their dumplings big, others like them small. I like a bite of dumpling in every spoonful. My sons want as little dumplings as possible. Personally, I think that's just wrong, but they're brats.

You can roll out the dough and cut it into pieces. That's too much work for me so I flatten a portion of dough on a cutting board, slice into strips, then cut the dumplings into the boiling broth mixture with a scrapper or knife. Remember, you can add as many or as few as you like.

Once you've added all your dumplings, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Then you're ready for a bowlful of pleasure. One sure to warm the cockles of your heart (Does anyone know just where that is?).

Now, if you're intimidated by making the dumplings, here's a secret shortcut--canned biscuits. (Ooo, did y'all hear Ruthy gasp?) Just break or cut them into pieces and drop into boiling broth. Easy-peasy.

Oh, here comes Ruthy again. She's been pacing the kitchen the entire time. She's so protective of the cafe. Missy's at the counter, hiding behind her laptop. Man, her fingers are moving across that keyboard faster than a Texas tornado. Looks like she's got a new story brewing. Speaking of brewing, I think Ruthy's gone through that entire pot of coffee already. Don't worry, gang, I gotcha covered.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roast a Turkey Day!

Talk about coincidence:

I decided to roast a turkey on Sunday. A casual turkey, one of the sale turkeys from Thanksgiving.

No muss. No fuss. And the little ones got sick so it ended up being just Dave and me...

So the first thing we did was send a plate to Mom and Dad. With gravy... and cranberry orange relish that I made in November and froze.

So far, easy-peasy, right?

So I'm working away today, and Holly Jacobs ( I just love this gal) notes to me on facebook that she roasted a turkey too.

Only she brined hers. I've never heard of that so I'm going to bring Holly here and make her talk about it.

And then Tina Radcliffe chimes in that she roasted a turkey, too. For suppers and lunches this week.

Obviously, there's something "fowl" in the air!!!  ;)

So what do you do with leftover turkey and gravy? One of our favorites is turkey biscuit pie.  You thin down the turkey gravy by half, so two cups gravy and two cups water.

Heat the thinned gravy. 

Make Bisquick biscuit recipe only use a little more milk. Trust me on this, and remember, I'd rather write than cook these days. 

Pour gravy into 13 x 9 pan.

Add turkey to hot gravy. 

Plop spoonfuls of biscuit dough over the top of the gravy-filled pan.

Bake at 400 degrees until top is nicely browned.


You cannot get simpler than that for a crowd-pleasing meal, right????

If you want veggies tucked into it, I steam them lightly before adding them to the gravy. I don't usually do potatoes because we've already got buttzillion carbs in the biscuits and gravy, right? So let's stave off the heart attack for a week or two more.  ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

North Country Allure, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Simply Good Food

This is the family home of Almanzo Wilder. It's tucked up in Malone, New York and if you've read my North Country series, we mention Malone in Winter's End.

Like most North Country settlements, Malone is a sweet, small town.  It's about 40 minutes past Potsdam. Potsdam is where my heroine for Winter's End lived. There's a sweet hospital there that took great care of my son Seth when he got sick his freshman year in college, and I used that hospital setting for Kayla's background. It's not easy to get people to stay in the North Country. Winters are long, cold and windswept. Hockey is a favorite among many people. A very mixed demographic from well-to-do college professors to people struggling to put shoes on their feet makes for a great setting.

I fell in love with the North Country when I took Seth there to visit St. Lawrence University in Canton. Canton is where Rita ended up placing her "Main Street Bakery" in "Made to Order Family".  And Sarah Slocum, the heroine from "Waiting Out the Storm" had a sheep farm on a side road between Canton and Potsdam.

That's a Maremma puppy. Maremma's are great sheep guard dogs. Their pale color lets them blend into the flock. Pretty cool, right?

I love that these books are still available for sale HERE!

It's stark land in many cases. Above Lake Ontario, bordering Canada and with the Adirondack mountains flanking its eastern edge, it's a rugged place to live. Almanzo and his brother left there to try to find more hospitable farmland out west. He ended up in the Ozarks eventually, but he'd lived a very old-fashioned country farm life while on the outskirts of Malone.

You can read all about it in "Farmer Boy" available in most book stores and (of course!) on Amazon.com.

Farmer Boy was one of my favorite Little House books because Laura used Almanzo's memories to script the book, and being a BOY, most of his memories were about food. Doesn't that just figure???

From gathering butternuts to planting corn, to finding berries, to mending harness, I loved everything I learned by reading this book! Unlike the struggling Ingalls family, the Wilders had an established farm, equipment, food, a larder, a system not only for survival but to prosper. And that was on somewhat unhospitable land.

Almanzo loved food, and he loved pancakes. I've put the recipe for Buckwheat Pancakes here:

Dry Ingredients: 
1 cup buckwheat flour
I cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder 

Wet Ingredients:
2 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk
Oil or butter to grease griddle 

Measuring cup and spoons
3 bowls
Large fork or eggbeater
Mixing spoon
Hot griddle

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the egg yolks, oil, and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Pour the egg-yolk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed. Set aside. Beat the egg whites in a third bowl until they are fluffy and form soft peaks. Stir half the egg whites into the pancake batter, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just blended. 

Lightly grease the hot griddle with a little oil or butter. Spoon batter onto the griddle into 5" rounds. When the pancakes begin to bubble and brown around the edges, turn them over and cook the other side for about a minute. 

Don't forget to make a "blanket cake," an extra-large pancake used to cover the pancakes and keep them warm after they're cooked. 

Recipe taken from The Little House Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Erikson.

Now, would Laura have used vegetable oil??? No. And her recipe might be quite different from this one, but I love buckwheat pancakes, so this one is worth a try, right? And in  all honesty, modern ingredients often produce a better outcome, so I'm okay if these aren't totally authentic, as long as they taste good!  According to Laura in The Long Winter, Almanzo liked his pancakes light and fluffy with plenty of molasses...

I agree on the first, but the second?  New York dark amber Maple syrup, all the way!

Hey, coffee's hot. Missy's got her hair in a bun and she's pretending to be Caroline Ingalls. Doesn't she look SWEET????

Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Friday

Missy, here. I'm having breakfast with a friend this morning. A friend I haven't seen in years. We're going to try a restaurant that hasn't been around long. In fact, I haven't eaten their breakfast yet. I'm hoping it's good!

It made me think of favorite breakfast foods on this Friday morning.

If I had to pick a favorite place to drive through, I'd have to choose our Dairy Queen. Yes, ours serves what I think are the best biscuits in town. I love getting the pork tenderloin biscuit with scrambled eggs.

My favorite place to eat breakfast food in the evening (and I did so last night!) is Cracker Barrel. I usually choose the French toast. But I have to tell you about the amazing sweet potato pancakes I had last night! Crispy, yet soft inside with a scoop of some kind of cinnamon-brown sugar-butter mix on top. And of course, real maple syrup. Oh my goodness, I could eat them again this morning with nice, thick-cut bacon. Yum!

What's your favorite breakfast food? I'll have to let you know how the new restaurant goes when I get home. Of course, nothing's better than a meal with an old friend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chicken Salad Days With the Yank

Remember this stuff?

It's called "Snow".

We don't have any this year, so I thought I'd post this pic in fond remembrance of 2010, 09, and 08...

For those of you with snow, feel free to have a hot chocolate on the house today! Or coffee, latte', whatever you'd like. In honor of your shoveling, snowblowing, plowing moments, the Cafe is giving out free drinks to anyone in a 2012 snow belt!  You guys rock!

Okay, on to chicken salad. We have chickens for eggs. I don't eat our chickens. We have in the past, but now life's a little busy to be spending summers putting up chickens... (note how carefully I did not use the word "butchering" so as not to offend anyone. Yes, I'm that sensitive to my friends' delicate needs)

Anyway, I'm fussy about chicken salad, too. I don't use canned chicken because it's got bits of ...stuff in it. I use boneless skinless chicken breasts and I pop them right into the kettle from the freezer, no need to thaw because we'll trim off any of those 'bits' of vein, fat, cartilage once they're cooked. It's way easier then.

Simple ingredients:

2 or 3 quarts Water
Chicken base or bouillon cubes (amount depends on how much water you use, follow label directions)
2 (or more) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Celery, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
Hellman's Mayonnaise

Easy-peasy, right?

Boil the chicken in the broth.  You can use the broth later to make chicken soup or as a base for some other soup stock. Remember that a lot of soup stocks blend chicken and beef to make a heartier broth. Yum!

When chicken is fully cooked (a fork will pierce it easily), remove from broth, rinse in cool water, and set aside to cool. Trim away any bits of fat, vein, cartilage until all you have left is white meat chicken. This is like a fifteen second job when chicken is cooked and you have a decent knife. Or you can borrow one of Missy's new knives. She's dangerous with them.

Chop up chicken. I like mine in small pieces but if you like chunks, that's fine. Add about 1/3-1/2 cup of chopped celery. Feel free to eat some while you chop, I love celery. If a few bits of celery leaf jump into the knife and then the bowl, this is perfectly okay, but not too many.

Add mayonnaise. Do this a little at a time to see how "moist" you want your salad. Tasting for quality control is encouraged.  Add salt and pepper to taste. We go heavy on the pepper (you might not need any salt because you boiled the chicken in a salt-water environment, very eco-friendly) and that flash of  heat brightens up the more bland taste of chicken.

I LOVE chicken salad on a lightly toasted buttered bagel, but if I'm low-carb I eat it on a bed of chopped lettuce and pray that my jeans will zipper the next week.

A side of broccoli/cabbage salad makes a nice "crunch" alongside the chicken chewiness.

I make this for Luke (finance boy in Boston) whenever he comes home. It was a favorite at Bridal Hall, too, the sweet bridal store where I sold wedding gowns for seven years.... Great family business and one of these days I will be doing a series with a bridal industry background, because it's HYSTERICAL...  you have no idea! I'm grinning, just thinking about it. Or maybe because my teeth really are too big for my head.


And I'm living a dual life right now because I'm working on a Christmas book.... While the world is morphing into Valentine's Day.  So I have to keep my head in "O Holy Night" while others are thinking "Lady in Red"...


So if you hear rumors of Christmas music in Ruthy's house, they're all true!

This gratuitous pic is just to remind me of Christmas and how much I loved this cover on Matt and Callie's story.  Sigh...

And yes, that's a live link to take you straight to Amazon to get your own copy, LOL!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Coffee Chat!

Missy, here. I totally forgot to post our chat topic today. Forgive me for being late.

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and let's chat. Share with us your most embarrassing moment...if you dare! :)

(Oh, and did I mention my new release, A House Full of Hope, is finally available on Amazon and other booksellers! It's even been spotted on the shelf! :))

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Favorite Kettles, Mating Dogs and Other Useful Things

I have favorite kettles.  I have favorite dishes. I have favorite utensils in my kitchen that are old and worn-looking but they do the job better than ANY NEWER FACSIMILE.

I love these things. They're part of how I do things: create. Bake. Cook. And good cooks know that your equipment really shouldn't look Calphalon fancy, but be hold-the-heat-good!

Here's a favorite example. The pastry cutter on the right was my mother's. For years I used two knives, criss crossing the butter or shortening into the dough. But Mom gave me this one before she passed away, and then one of my kids got me the new one to the left... The new one has no spring. It's too tight. The separation of the wires is too narrow. So they meant well, but the old one that hangs on my kitchen wall just plain works better!

And you guys have seen this kettle often:

This is my 4 1/2 quart Cast Aluminum Dutch Oven. It's not pretty. It's not fancy. But Cast Aluminum holds and maintains an even heat better than any other pan I've ever used, including the fancy new layered looks. Many layered pans have cast aluminum on the INSIDE layer, covered by copper or stainless because they're prettier, but when you're making sauces or candies, an even heat is crucial.  With my cast aluminum kettles, I get that and you can find these babies for a SONG at garage sales. Because most people have no clue what a treasure they've got. And cast aluminum is HEAVY. If it looks like this, but it's light, it's not the right thing, so save your .50.

This gratuitous picture is to show how well child-protective locks work on cupboards.  You can see the stripped lock in the back left corner on the old hardwood floor.  Yup. That was Meggie, 18 months old, my Goddaughter. Smart little cookie, right?  In this pic is Mary Ruth (front, seated, facing the action, Megan, Brody (far back) Logan (doing a stomp in orange shirt) and MacKenzie (trying new dance moves on the cereal)...  I've always used bandanas to tie the cupboards shut. It's not pretty, but it works. We've gone through several locking devices and we've come to the agreement:  The bandanas work, tied snug through the two handles into a granny knot. Around here effective is the name of the game.

So mating dogs... You knew I'd get to that, right? Our Golden Retriever Sadie came into 'season' two weeks ago but with Christmas I wasn't sure if I'd messed up because we were busy. So I had Mick (our stud dog, and just a gorgeous fellow) come visit.

This is Hearthside's McDreamy  "Mick"

So Mick comes over and he's obviously interested but she's not... So I send him home 48 hours later, thinking I'd messed up because of the holidays and missed her 'heat' cycle.  I didn't, but this is not an exact science. Sigh... So Mick comes back five days later. Still nothing. We're on day 9 which is usually prime time, but not always. So Mick stays through day 11 and nothing happens so I shrug and figure I'm just totally not on top of this.

Libby-the-Poodle (gorgeous, smart, nice, did I mention smart? dog who has the nicest puppies I've ever met each and every time) goes into heat a week after Sadie.  Which means simultaneous puppies if they both take, but that's another blog.

This was Libby last spring, taking care of Maddie's puppies. And yes, she'd nurse them. She's such a good dog.
We invite Mick back, but he's probably about fed up with us now. As in: You keep stealing me from my cozy fire and my hearthside rug to do NOTHING????? 'Sup wi dat???

Mick thinks Libby's adorable, but he FALLS IN LOVE WITH SADIE...  Because now she's ready.

Sadie with her 2011 litter of little red puppies.
Oh my stars. Day 14.... And this does happen, you can find it in the breeding info blogs, but it has never happened with Sadie...

As for Libby?  Well, time will tell. We're KEEPING MICK here for another week, just to cover all the bases. (Note the baseball analogy, spring training is short weeks away)... We've retired Maddie. She'll just stay here and be our dog now.

This is "Maddie"

These are "Golden Doodle" pups.... a cross of a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. And yes, they're just as beautiful when they grow up!
And this is Sadie's last litter because Ruthy sees time disappearing a year in advance and dogs need love and attention especially during pregnancy and nursing... We moms understand that, right?  So it's not fair to keep breeding as my time grows short writing.

But I've learned a lot. And if we end up with two litters this year, a week apart, I'm in for a busy spring but that's okay. Life on a farm should get busy in spring, right? And if Dave caves and puts up fencing for Alpacas, well... :)   Then I'll have some new animal friends to blog about!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pam Hillman's First Choice Dessert!

Over on the Seekerville blog, we've been celebrating a month of firsts. Today, Pam Hillman is sharing her first choice dessert, Triple-Chocolate Oreo Cookie Ball.

Wow. How can you go wrong with triple-chocolate anything?

Triple-Chocolate Oreo Cookie Balls
with Pam Hillman

Thanks to author Ronie Kendig for this recipe. These Oreo Cookie Balls are SO good, but hard to make. I made them twice during Christmas and they were yummy!!

1/2 cup cold milk
1 pkg.  (3.9 oz.) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups)
1-1/2 pkg.  (8 squares each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate (12 squares), melted
1 square BAKER'S White Chocolate, melted (optional)

First thing you need to do is to crush the Oreo cookies as small as you can. If you mix your pudding and milk first, it will start thicken too soon.


Mix ½ cup milk and 1 pkg of instant pudding. Fold the cookie crumbs into the pudding mixture. As you can see from the picture, it will be very crumbly. Don’t add milk. Crumbly is good!

Next, form small balls on a cookie sheet. This can be a little messy. I’m not sure how to do this without making a mess, but do your best. If you have a mini ice cream scoop, try that.

Once you have all your pretty little balls ready, put them in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Then melt the baker’s semi-sweet chocolate and roll the Oreo cookie balls. Place them on a piece of wax paper until they harden.

Melt a square or two of white chocolate and drizzle on top of the chocolate balls if you want to make them just a little more elegant.

Serve with ice cold milk and enjoy!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

OOOPS! Let's Do Snickerdoodle Saturday!

You know, I thought of this yesterday, that I didn't have anything locked and loaded.

And then forgot!  Oh my stars, it's 10:30 and the Cafe was DARK....

No coffee. No pastries.


Beth's making coffee for us right now. I've got the makings of Banana Cream pie for tonight... Umm... you can't eat it yet but feel free to think about eating it. The delicate blend of delicious sweet and fruity flavors balanced by flaky crust.


Coffee's ready. Feel free to jump in and make me feel less stupid.

If that's possible.

Oh, sigh.

So, to make up for my ineptness or ineptitude (your choice/word choice) I'm going to show you a Ruthy-trick.

THIS IS NOT A TRICK I SHARE, SO:  SHHHHH..........................

From one basic batch of Snickerdoodle dough, I make three distinct cookies. So you start with my variation of a simple Snickerdoodle dough which produces a GREAT cookie. No lie.

3 Cups sugar
1 cup stick butter, (softened)
1 cup Crisco
4 large eggs
5 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg

(Betty's recipe calls for cream of tartar. Cream of tartar makes your cookies crisp. We like chewy cookies, so I leave it out. If you want crisp cookies, add in 4 teaspoons cream of tartar. I do not for the life of me know why you would choose to do this, but hey:  it's a free world, right?)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix sugar, butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl on medium speed. Add in flour, baking soda and salt. Cookies should bake only until the edges are slightly golden... 7-9 minutes depending on your oven. Darker cookies will be crisper and not as people-friendly.

Easy, right?  And it stays easy.

Using about 1/3 of the dough:

Shape dough into balls. For traditional snickerdoodles, roll balls in a mix of cinnamon and sugar. (If you don't keep a bowl of cinnamon and sugar in the cupboard for toast and bagels and little children, this is a good time to start. Or, just add teaspoons of cinnamon to a 1/4 cup of sugar and mix. Roll balls in this and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.)

Traditional Snickerdoodles
Grab another 1/3 of the dough:

Do the exact same thing only no cinnamon. When cookies come out of oven, poke 6 or 7 M&M's into the soft surface of the cookies. Baked M&M's aren't as pretty as freshly poked M&M's. Really. Trust me on this. You M&M's stay perky if you poke them into the really warm cookie.

These are M&M version. The kids wanted these "glazed" too, but it isn't necessary. Really. But it didn't hurt anything, either.  I'm just sayin'...
Grab the last 1/3 of your dough:

Repeat, using no cinnamon. Roll the cookies into balls and bake. THEN:

Using a pastry brush, glaze still warm cookies with a thin glaze. Glaze is made with 1 cup powdered sugar (also known as confectioner's sugar and 10X sugar) and enough milk to make a thin frosting, the consistency of paint. Swab the cookies with a quick sweep of frosting, then sprinkle them with jimmies or sprinkles or non-pareils or something festive.

These little babies are a favorite around here. The hint of nutmeg in the cookie is a great balance to the thin frosting and sprinkles. And this frosting dries firm so you can pack and ship these, but only if you REALLY, REALLY like the person. Like A LOT.

So, okay, I messed up, but you guys are kinda getting used to that, right?  I love hangin' with forgivin' folk.  ;)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Easy-peasy Pumpkin Muffins

Missy, here. And, yes, I stole Ruthy's word. Easy-peasy. :) But honestly, this is the absolute easiest recipe you'll ever find.

It has...get this...

Two ingredients. I'm not kidding.

1 box yellow cake mix (the dry mix, nothing else)
1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)

Mix them together. Don't add a thing unless you just want to (like pumpkin pie spice). Bake at 350 degrees in mini-muffin tins.

Now, I have to tell you I don't own mini-muffin tins. I have regular size. And since this makes a very heavy, moist muffin, I was afraid putting it in the regular size cups would make them ridiculously heavy (I pictured my kids throwing them at each other as weapons). :)

So I added an egg or two (can't remember for sure) to lighten them up a bit. And some oil since I like really moist muffins. I also added pumpkin pie spice.

Then I baked them in these really cute silicone muffin "tins" shaped like snowflakes.

The recipe made more than a dozen, made about 18 muffins.

They turned out beautifully. I had sprayed the silicone pans with cooking spray just to be sure. And they popped right out. They were a hit at church!

Keep these ingredients on hand in case you ever need something quickly from the pantry. Enjoy!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blast from the Past with Ruthy!

Little known fact:

I love old cookbooks. And new cookbooks. So I'm an eclectic collector, but some of my old cookbooks...

Really old!!!!  ;)

Are a hoot. 

So today we're going to play with Americana recipes from America Cooks, the 1940 edition by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown


Here is the famous pic of our resident possum's son or daughter. I did not attempt to get close enough to discern gender:

Skin possum, remove glands called "musk" from small of back and beneath front legs, slit down the breast, remove entrails, scald in boiling water and scrape clean. Rub inside and out with salt and pepper and hang in a cool spot.

(Okay, right here I realize how stinkin' spoiled we are because the majority of us grab skinless, boneless chicken breasts and call it a day... Already this is NOT BODING WELL.)

When ready for the pan, stuff with equal parts boiled chinquapins (or chestnuts), applesauce and bread crumbs. Sew up, (Get those needles ready, gals...) surround with small peeled sweet potatoes, cover with 1 cup boiling water, 1/2 cup vinegar (or juice of 2 lemons), dot with 1 tablespoon butter, and baste often, until tender and golden.

The sweet potatoes absorb a good deal of the fat, which improves their own flavor,. Some people remove excess outside fat before dressing.  (Of course they do. Because why wouldn't they????)

I found a couple of baked possum pics on the World Wide Web... But couldn't bring myself to post them. The head , well... it's still attached. I can't do that with anything.... Oh, ugh... Fish. Suckling pig.... I'm a no-head kind of gal. It must be the Yank in me.  So I posted Granny because I love her and she cooked possum regularly. God love her.

Possum skins have a market value of 6 bits or more, so you can eat your possum and have a profit too.

So there you have it, a meal in a pan, a true one-dish celebration listed in the "Arkansas" section of the regional cookbook.

But wait....

What about dessert, you ask?



2 Tablespoons Arkansas Rice
1 quart milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 inch length of vanilla bean
2 ouces blanched chopped almonds
3 cups whipped cream
2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Boil rice with sugar and vanilla bean in milk for two hours. (Simmer, maybe? I would vote yes on simmer as opposed to boiling because two hours of boiling milk will result in some heavy duty pan scrubbing. I think.) Cool, then stir in almonds, whipped cream, beaten egg and more sugar if necessary. Freeze lightly and serve in punch glasses with a tablespoon of Cointreau or your favorite liqueur poured over. Or cover slices of mulberry pie with it.

Author's note: "Arkansas stands second to Loouisiana in the production of rice, and whre there is such close rivalry each state claims the best. We've tried both, however, and can't find a grain of difference."

Get it? A GRAIN of difference????? Cook book humor!!! :)

Note the eggs are raw... I'm proud of them already! I use Basmati rice for everything, with no insult to Arkansas or Louisiana intended. You are BOTH GREAT STATES. Really. I mean that.

But what a lovely way to finish off your meal of fresh-baked possum and sweet taters with a little boiled and frozen rice cream.

The "Rice Cream" I would try....

The possum? In all honesty???  I'd probably stop by Chick fil A first. And for this Yankee, Chick Fil A is a treat.  ;)

Interestingly, I found various forms of Rice Ice Cream with multiple ethnic derivations. Here's a link to a Jewish website in Tel Aviv and her recipe and explanation sound lovely:

I love rice pudding and I love ice cream, but I'm going to have to play to see if I like the two together...

Even if I'm not from Arkansas!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Coffee Chat (New Feature!)

Missy, here. Ruthy and I talked and decided to do something new. Each week on Wednesday, we'll have what we call a Coffee Chat, a time to catch up mid-week. For those who drink tea or Cokes (we call EVERYTHING Coke here in the South) ;), please know we're not excluding you. We simply didn't want to call it a Coffee/Tea/Cocoa/Coke/Water Chat. The name wasn't quite as catchy. :)

So grab your favorite beverage and pull up a cozy seat in the corner. I'll pick topics most weeks, but feel free to make suggestions or jump right in with your own questions any time.

For fun, I went to a Conversation Starters website and picked a question to use. But I also wanted to add my own.

1. Do you believe in love at first sight?
2. If you could only eat one food the rest of your life, what would it be?

Okay, let's chat!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This is a photo of Dave, 'Lijah and Grandpa in April...

We had such a lovely night together. I made fish fries, deep-fried breaded haddock, a favorite up here in the Rochester, New York area. I keep a fryer in the garage and on fish fry nights I take fresh haddock filets and dredge them in flour....

then dip them in beaten eggs thinned with water, about a 3-to-1 ratio, eggs to water.

And then I dip them into fresh bread crumbs I make on my Cuisinart. I used to have a DEATH MACHINE... I don't think that was the brand name, but it came free with the blender Mandy bought us. The blender is awesome, just what I wanted, but Lacey took one look at how the blade on that food processor was actually striving to free itself from the cheap plastic assembly and bought me a Cuisinart for Christmas that year.

The Death Machine is now gone. Thank you, Lacey.

I learned years ago from Julia Child that fresh bread crumbs make all the difference. She was right. And she made more money than I did. How could I argue? So I never throw away scraps of bread, rolls, etc. I turn crusts and pieces into bread crumbs and then throw the big gallon zip-loc bag into the freezer. Instant bread crumbs as I need them. Perfect!

Then I fry the fish at 375-400 degrees until deep golden brown. Easy peasy. Totally.

And then I eat the fish with tartar sauce.... Now, I never measure for tartar sauce and I never buy it because it's that simple. Figure about a 2-1 ratio of Hellman's mayonnaise to sweet pickle relish. Then add a tablespoon (and by tablespoon, of course I mean a scant handful) of parsley flakes and stir. Done!

Here's a picture of Grandpa and part of my crew this fall... He'd been in hospice care all summer, and then regained some strength, but you can see the difference, God love him.

Logan, Seth, MacKenzie, 'Lijah, Dave, Beth holding newborn Xavier with Grandpa in the middle!

We're REALLY NAUGHTY on fish fry nights. French fries, too. And cole slaw. Very traditional meal around here. And Grandma and Grandpa loved to go out every Friday to the local eateries and grab a fish fry. That's not possible now, so we make the fish come to them. With a dessert, of course.

Grandpa loves cookies. Me, too. And my little friends love making cookies, so it's a win/win, right?

Grandpa loved to work with wood when he retired from Kodak thirty years ago. Imagine that: Thirty years of retirement. Are any of us prepared for thirty years of retirement, financially or otherwise? Mind-boggling.

Here are some pics of the amazing train he built that's in their back yard now:

Logan, on top of the caboose... Seth LOOKS calm, but I can guarantee you he suspected imminent death and destruction. Obviously 'Lijah is prepared to run for help if such occurs, LOL!

Isn't it wonderful? Here's another picture from Easter, two years ago:

Okay, this one is gratuitous eye candy... this is my oldest son, Matt...  Celtic gorgeous, right?

Fish fries have become a symbol of "casual family night".... I man the fryer and everyone gathers. No holiday... no agenda.... no time frame except as set by tired kids.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Mary Curry with British Cheese and Onion Potato Pie

British Cheese and Onion Potato Pie

Guest Blogger Mary Curry

I know it’s January and we’re supposed to be being good and eating low-carb and all, but potatoes are good for you. Really. They’re a good source of potassium, so think of this recipe as good for your blood pressure. Besides, it’s the perfect warm up your insides food for a cold January day.

Whew! Now that I’ve gotten the rationalizing out of the way, let me tell you about this recipe.

My youngest daughter is a vegetarian which is fine most of the year but it makes holiday meals difficult for her. This year I was trying to find a recipe to entice her while everyone else was savoring the Christmas ham.

I stumbled across a recipe on BBC for a Cheese and Onion Pie. Since my daughter spent a wonderful month in London this summer and was still longing to go back, I figured this would be a hit.

This is the basic BBC recipe:

For the pastry
·       450g/1lb plain flour, plus extra for dusting
·       2 tsp baking powder
·       ½ tsp salt
·       120g/4½oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
·       1 free-range egg yolk
·       50g/2oz parmesan cheese, grated
·       120ml/4fl oz water
·       1 free-range egg, beaten, for glazing
For the filling
·       1 medium potato, peeled and cut into cubes
·       2 onions, finely sliced
·       1 tbsp plain flour
·       50ml/2oz whole milk
·       50ml/2oz double cream
·       150g/5½oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
·       ½ tsp English mustard
·       ½ tsp cayenne pepper
·       salt and freshly ground black pepper

I’m going to be honest with you – I didn’t follow the recipe much at all.

First, I didn’t make the pastry crust. I used the Oronoco Farms frozen crust I had in the freezer. My daughter loves that crust so why mess with it?

Second, I basically used the ingredient list and then adapted it to what I had on hand. I used about 8 large potatoes, peeled them and set them to boil.


While the potatoes boiled, I diced 1 sweet onion and 1 red onion and sautéed them in Irish butter until they were translucent.

Then I mixed the potatoes, the onion mix, some milk and lots of cheese and layered it into the pre-baked pie crust, topped it with an extra layer of cheese, and set it to bake about half an hour at about 350 degrees.

The result was delicious. Both my daughter and I ate way too much of it and then we enjoyed leftovers for a few days. It was that good!

So this is what the BBC pie looks like.

I didn’t put the top crust on mine because I liked the bubbling cheese on top. I’m sure either way is delicious. (And the BBC one looks a whole lot prettier.)
I did a variation another night with artichoke hearts but that wasn’t as delicious as I’d imagined it would be. The artichokes just got mushy. I’d like to try it with salmon baked in but I’ll have to do that separate from my daughter’s portion.

Have you ever made something like this? Do you have any suggestions of things to add in for variety?

And here’s a link to the original recipe. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/cheeseandonionpie_89625