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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Eat a Peach or some Rice Pudding

      August is National Peach Month, and among the thirty-one days there is a day designated "Eat a Peach Day, on the 22nd, and National Peach Pie Day on the 24th. Now this is a month I can honestly say, "I'm in!"
      Peaches are, by far, my favorite fruit on the planet, with nectarines running a close second. Some people don't like the fuzzy skin on a peach so nectarines are for you, the same wonderful yellow juicy flesh, and identical in taste, if you ask me.  The aroma is wonderfully fresh and uplifting the color is cool and inviting.  Perfect for hot summer days. And in the middle of the winter, there is nothing finer than to pop open a home canned jar of peach preserves or jam. I haven't even picked my peaches yet and I am drooling imagining a warm scone or biscuit slathered with peach jam. But let's move on to the rest of the month's celebrations!
    August is also National Catfish Month, something else I can definitely get thrilled about consuming. Heck, I even enjoy catching a few myself, but I do not like to bait the hook, or gut the fish. Not my cup of tea. I will let the professionals do their stuff, I'll take the fillets, thank you!
   Individual days within the month are very "summer-mode" celebrations, for example the 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich day and the 3rd is National
Watermelon Day; the 6th is National Root Beer Float Day, the 8th is National Frozen Custard Day, the 17th and 18th are National Vanilla Custard Day and National Soft Ice cream Day respectively. The 22nd, as mentioned earlier is National Eat a Peach Day and also National Spumoni Day.
     To remind us that August is a great month for cook-outs, there is also National S'mores Day on the 10th and National Toasted Marshmallow Day on the 30th. Thrown in are a few days and ways to celebrate bananas, also, with 10th also being National Banana Split Day and the 27th being Banana Lovers Day.
     Although I am a huge peach and ice cream fan, one particular celebration caught my eye:  August 9th is National Rice Pudding Day. I have a rice pudding recipe that I found over 30 years ago and have not been able to top it. I so wanted to share it with you. It is a bit labor intensive with all the stirring and maintaining the water bath, but if you have the time to try this you will not be sorry. I also do not recommend this recipe on a 95 degree day. With all the opening the oven your kitchen might heat up too much for a sultry summer day.
               

The Best Damn Rice Pudding I've ever had

1 cup water ½ cup regular long-grain rice (raw)
 2 ½ cups milk
2 egg yolks beaten
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup white sugar
½ cup raisins (optional but worth it)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 egg whites
¼ cup white sugar

Preheat Oven to 350° F. Heat tea kettle full of water for water bath.

In a saucepan mix the rice & 1 cup water ; bring to boil; stir once, cover, reduce heat to LOW, and simmer COVERED (don’t lift the cover) 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Shut off heat at the 15 minute mark and keep covered an additional 5 minutes to make sure all the water is absorbed.
Beat egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the cornstarch and salt. Continue beating and gradually add the milk. Stir in the cooked rice, lemon juice, and raisins. Pour mixture into baking dish. Place baking dish in a roasting pan. Pour the heated water from the kettle in the pan so it comes up the sides of the smaller pan by 1 inch. You need to keep hot water ready to add to the water bath if the level goes down, try to maintain 1 inch of water in roasting pan.
Bake in preheated oven approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
While the pudding is baking prepare the meringue: beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, continue beating gradually adding the ¼ cup sugar until stiff peaks form. When the pudding is done, remove from the oven, but not from the water bath. Raise oven temperature to 400° F. Dollop the meringue on top of the pudding, swirling meringue to make soft peaks.
Bake at 400°F for 8-10 minutes until meringue is golden. Cool slightly, but serve warm.



Baked Rice pudding with meringue Courtesy Betty Crocker Step by

Step Recipes circa 1975
I wanted to try making a crock pot rice pudding so not to heat up the kitchen, so if anyone has a fail proof crock pot recipe, please share, I'd love to try it out and review it here.
   Until next time, eat a peach, toast some marshmallows, enjoy some ice cream or frozen custard. Autumn is coming in about six short weeks, so enjoy whatever time you can spend outdoors. Oh, by the way August 31st is Eat Outdoors Day! Enjoy!                                                       ~Aunt Barbara


Credits:
American Food and Drink Days retrieved 8/9/15 from http://www.tfdutch.com/foodh.htm

Sunday, March 2, 2014

International Pancake Day -Mardi Gras-Shrove Tuesday

   
     March is a month in transition being the end of winter, and the beginning of spring, it sometimes hosts Mardi Gras and sometimes Easter. It always hosts St. Patrick's Day, and Dr Seuss' birthday (March 2). This year Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday and Fat Tuesday,  is on Tuesday, March 4th with Ash Wednesday on the 5th. Shrove Tuesday is also International Pancake Day, oh, yeah, and do I love pancakes.
     Pancakes are by no means a gourmet item, however, I have seen some concoctions that just make me wonder if the people who come up with some of these recipes really like pancakes because when you add a bunch of other stuff you are missing out on the pancake.
     Personally, I am a pancake snob. I am a Bisquick pancake snob, however, I do not completely follow the box instructions--and once you get to know me, you will realize I cannot leave well-enough alone. Not me. Not ever.
    The original Bisquick pancake recipe, as it appears on the box, calls for 2 eggs, however, I only use 1 for the 2-1/4 cups of baking mix. My batter is very thick and I have to add more milk to get it to the right consistency however, my batter still is on the thick side, and please remember not to overwork the batter, lumps are a good thing in pancake batter. What I love about the pancake recipe is that when you flip them (only once) you watch them rise to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Oh, man, and then after they come out of the pan I slather soft butter on them. Most of the time I do not bother with syrup, and I prefer the real stuff, but mostly I just want lots of butter. Yes, I know about the cholesterol, and my doctor is on my case about cutting back, so I eat whole grain and use a drinkable fiber trying to wash it out of my system. I also don't eat pancakes very often, only once or twice a month, everything in  moderation, I guess.
     Another little trick I have picked up with cooking pancakes is that I use an 18/10 stainless steel skillet that I do not wash in a dishwasher, and grease it lightly with real Crisco shortening. (Oopps, there's that cholesterol again). When I say lightly, I mean it, though. I take a paper towel and pick up about a tablespoon of the shortening on the paper towel and wipe the skillet with it. I continue to use the same piece of paper towel and the shortening stuck to it for each of the subsequent batches. Also, be sure you skillet is hot enough. How do you tell if it is hot enough? Well walk over to the kitchen sink and turn on the faucet. Wet your index and middle fingers. Walk back over to the stove and "flick" a few drops of the water onto the pan. If they dance across the surface of the skillet with a sizzle, the skillet is ready. If they immediately evaporate, it is too hot; take the skillet off the heat and let it cool a bit, then try again. If the drops just sit there in a small puddle, that skillet is not ready. You almost never cook pancakes on a high flame, and I usually have the heat at 2-3.
    Do not peak to see if the pancake is cooked. The top of the batter will tell you when its time to flip. The edges of the pancake look dry. Really. Stop and look at them sometime. And there  could be some popped bubbles on the surface. I use a marvelous spatula that I got from Pampered Chef. The spatula is so marvelous I own two of them.
   I also have a pancake server that looks like a stack of pancakes with a big wad of butter on top. The cover has holes in it so the steam will escape so the pancakes will not get soggy. Yeah, just another gadget I picked up over the years.
     If you want to add things to your pancakes, I won't mind, I have only tried wild strawberries myself, and they were pretty good, but I would rather have the extras on top or on the side as opposed to inside the pancake, but that's me. If you want to add stuff, go ahead, and if you find something that really complements the humble pancake, please share.
     All this talk of pancakes has just made me decide I am going to make pancakes and sausage for breakfast tomorrow morning. Don't tell my doctor, though, okay?
    Til next time--enjoy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't know where to start

     I have, at long last, completed my Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a Concentration in Communications. Howdy do! So now what?
     I've been advised to just start writing about anything or everything. Just write every day, and to keep reading. My last few semesters had me reading books on the frugality of immigrants that came to this country in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth. And the struggles they faced, and how hard it was to keep your family fed, and a roof over your head. In my continued pursuit of information on that topic I also discovered that there are very few words from women's point of view. That disturbs me.
       My continued research has lead me also to the difficulties of living through World War II, also from a women's point of view, and now I am beginning to realize that with so little written works that focus on the women's struggles, and time moving so fast, there is not much time to continue to collect first hand accounts of the struggles. Luckily there are a few women, besides myself who have recognized the loss of their words if they are not documented, and quickly.
     In the writings I have found I am getting to understand the stresses women were under trying to keep the home fires burning, trying to feed their children, themselves, and in many cases, extended families and whole communities through rationing and all kinds of shortages: not just of food, but of material for clothing, fuel for heat, and just about every other basic necessity of life.
     My newest search, now, is to locate as much writings as I can that describe the home front's struggles to keep some kind of normalcy during those stressful years, with adapting to all of the regulations and lack of supplies, the many losses of family members, community members, and in the case of Londoners, the constant bombardment during the Blitz, something this country did not experience, although blackouts were the norm, the bombings never materialized, to our good fortune. Reading how the English women dealt daily with the bombings just shows how important women's roles were in keeping a way of life preserved, to continue and grow after the war.
     Being very interested in food, I also find myself very interested in how families were fed with foods being rationed, and having to grow one's own, to help both yourself and the war effort.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May, she will stay.....

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       Spring has  sprung here in Central New York! Halleluiah! Classes are O-V-E-R! Yippee quay-aye!  Although I do have a few more classes to complete my degree, and I am toying with the idea of a Masters as well. But for now, I am free to cook!
     First on the menu is my famous macaroni salad. Nothing fancy-schmancy, nothing crazy just good ole macaroni salad. Period.
    To start with macaroni salad, regular macaroni salad is made with elbow macaroni. You can use any other short pasta you like, but in my mind real, regular, comfort food macaroni salad is plain and simple elbow macaroni. I do, however occasionally use mini-penne, or ziti, or penne and while the taste is the same, the mouth feel is quite different. To me, that makes it not regular old fashioned macaroni salad. Have I whined enough?
      Due to the nature of pasta, that it will continue to absorb liquids it is mixed with, I make extra dressing to add to the mix right before I serve it, but no so much that the pasta is swimming in it like you sometimes get if you take a chance and buy it from a deli. While some delicatessens certainly make good macaroni salad--there's a place in Stony Brook that I love their macaroni salad, most are not that good--too runny or too vinegar-y, or mushy pasta. Ugh! No thank you!

For one pound of pasta you need a dressing that consists of two cups of mayonnaise- extra heavy if you can find it, but that is becoming more and more difficult to find in my little corner of the world; 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 to 3/4 cups of either cider or white wine vinegar, okay you can use white distilled vinegar if that is your staple. Added to the pasta is also 1/2 of a green pepper diced small; 1/2 of a red pepper diced small; and if you want you can also add 1 seeded and chopped tomato. The tomato is totally optional, the peppers, however are not. The difference in the taste of the pasta without the peppers is so remarkable and downright bland, that if you want to truly experience good--check that--great macaroni salad you simply MUST include the peppers. Even if you only have one color--use it. That's one more of those "trust me" deals.
     Cook the macaroni just until al dente--no matter what you make pasta should be slightly resistant to the tooth; drain it well, and while still hot mix in 1/2 of the dressing mixture and the peppers. Toss to coat. The heat of the pasta releases the flavor of the peppers and big things will start to happen. Wait 10 minutes and add 1/2 of the remaining dressing, mix well. Hold the balance of the dressing until serving time--if the salad is too dry for your taste, add more, if not, you can refrigerate the dressing for a day or two, use it to continue to freshen up the salad before serving. But I do not keep it beyond two days, not because it goes bad--the vinegar does preserve it a bit, is just looks nasty. I usually do not have anything left to dump--the macaroni salad is usually long gone before the two days are up. I have a mac-salad hound around here. 
     STOP the presses! I have recently tried another method! I admit I am usually totally against rinsing pasta, however,  I started rinsing the pasta for mac salad, and I must report satisfactory results. I should know there is no "never". 

I did it...

     I did it, I did it, I did it!, What did I "did", you ask?
     I went an got myself a pasta roller, and now I don't know why I waited so long. My new love is my hand crank pasta roller--bought under the guise of a "modeling clay" roller in the craft section of Ebay. This thing is the bomb--no understatement here. the Pasta rolls out into beautiful thin elastic strips that cook up tender in minutes and hold onto the---okay, I confess, homemade Alfredo sauce in a way I have NEVER had Alfredo sauce hold up.
     I used my usual recipe: 3 cup of flour to 3 eggs, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, 3 teaspoons of olive oil, and up to 6 Tablespoons of water mixed to a tight dough consistency in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. That makes plenty of pasta for a family of 5-6 big eaters, especially if you pair the meal with homemade fresh Italian bread and a salad of lettuces tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, grated parmesan cheese and olives, with fresh mixed Italian dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and a good red wine or balsamic vinegar, a bit of salt, some parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.
      Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then working with 1/8th of the dough at a time, press it into a flatish piece that will fit into the widest setting of the roller machine. Roll it out, turn the dough, and reduce the thickness of the roller, and pass it through the roller =several times skipping a thickness or two every successive pas through. i went down to #2. then with a sharp pizza cutter, cut the fettuccine noodles as wide as you like--I do about 5/8 th's of an inch--we like them wide. Remove the strands to a drying rack---I use my cake cooling racks propped up and use as many rungs as I can and let the strands dry for anywhere from 1/2 hour to several hours.  They never dry out like the ones you buy in a box in the pasta aisle, and if you are not going to use them on the same day they do need to be refrigerated.
     To cook the noodles, boil 8 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of salt. YOU MUST USE AT LEAST THE 1 TEASPOON OF SALT in order to get any taste out of that pasta--all pasta for that matter. So use the 1 teaspoon--go ahead-measure it- and trust me.
     Fresh pasta does not take as long as the dried box pastas, and when it starts floating to the top of the water it is generally done. Always test it, however, and you are going for an ''al dente" slight bite to it--you do not want this mushy.
     The number 3 son helped with the rolling of the dough. It can get pretty long, and you need to feed the dough, and catch it to guide it out to the counter top all while turning the crank. You really need three hands, so having a partner in crime works wonderfully. It is also a great way to have a child assist in the preparation. Sometimes little helping jobs like that can spawn an interest in cooking, and then, who knows, maybe the next generation will begin to get interested in cooking and preserving family traditions and their heritage? It cold happen. I am attempting to plant the seeds in my boys--just don't tell them, okay?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Awesome Stuffed Quahogs


    Stuffed Quahogs--Okay hard shelled clams--but I want to introduce you to the proper name. For this particular recipe large clams are better-- I used cherry stone, chowder clams might just be too tough, but I am not exactly sure, but I rarely, if ever, use chowder clams anyway. Just find the largest cherry-stones you can. Soak them in cold water with about 2 tablespoons of cornmeal, changing the water and cornmeal at least 3 times in 24 hours. I also do not keep them longer than 24 hours, either. I buy the clams the day before I am going to use them, do the soaking w/cornmeal and rinse routine 3 times, then the last time I scrub the little beasties well. The cornmeal acts like sand, and the clams filter the sand or cornmeal out to cleanse themselves. Better to have cornmeal in there, than sand, as sand it not food,right? I guess that is the reasoning. Anyway, it works, the clams flush themselves out, and you end up with no sand or grit. Perfect.


    Boil 4 cups of water with the juice of half a lemon. Add the quahogs, cover and steam for 10-13 minutes until the clams open. I pluck them out as they open so not to overcook them. If after 15 minutes some clams do not open toss them, they are deader than a doornail and you will ruin your day if you attempt to open and eat them. Trust me.
    Set the clams aside to cool. Strain the clam broth into a clean vessel--whatever you want--you will be using some of this broth, but you can store (read freeze) the rest of it for a future use.
     Once the cooked clams are cool enough to handle remove the meats, including the muscle that sticks to the shell, and toss them into a food processor. You are going to pulse them a bit, but you want them chunky, not pasty. I have found, however, that with the larger clams you do need to make them on the smaller size otherwise they are a bit too chewy, which is normal for large clams.
   Dice up half a large Vidalia onion and sweat it in a mix of 50/50 olive oil and butter, when the onions begin to sweeten add 2 chorizo removed from their casings and cook until the chorizo is cooked through. Meanwhile put a 5 oz bag of flavored croutons in a separate bowl. add some of the reserved broth to soften the croutons. I'd say about 1-2 cups of liquid. Then add the clams and 6 oz of Harry and David™ Pepper and Onion relish (original) to the skillet and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (okay, use the dried stuff if you must but only 1 tablespoon); the dampened croutons, 4 slices of diced potato bread, and toss until combined. Add enough dry bread crumbs to make the mix stiff. Scoop large portions into the reserved clam shells. Drizzle with melted butter and slip into a hot (400 degree) oven for about 15 minutes,  until the tops are nicely browned. OMG! 


    The ones I made today were slightly sweet, and yet had a kick from the chorizo and the pepper and onion relish. Harry and David™ have quite the line of pepper and onion relishes and I plan on trying each one of them. You can visit their website by clicking here. My men, liking things spicier than I do will probably add some hot sauce at the table--go right ahead, but these clams came out so awesome I cannot believe it! Both the Big E and #2 son said I can repeat that recipe ANY time I want! # 3  will be home in just under 2 weeks, and he loves stuffed clams so I think these will be making another appearance before very long.
     I have a few photos that I am patiently awaiting to arrive in my mailbox so I can get them posted. Some days technology just does not work well. Today seems to be one of those special days.
   Classes are over until Fall, so I am hoping to get caught up on my housework, and foray into the cooking experiments once again. Yay!
   Okay, it's time for some feedback, please. Have you tried any of my recipes, tips or shortcuts? Have I inspired you to cook anything unusual or out of your comfort zone? I'd love to hear about it. Maybe you can teach me something, too?   
    Til next time!