A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Canning Water??

Yep, that's what I'm doing.  Actually, I'm not canning water--I'm storing it.  As I empty out and later wash my quart canning jars, I set them aside.  I then fill with water and, using a medicine dropper, add three drops of chlorine bleach (non-scented) to each quart.  I cap and date the tops and store in my pantry.  It only takes a few extra minutes each time I wash dishes; and I'd rather be safe than sorry during an emergency or disaster.  Besides, the jars I fill now will be clean and ready for canning next season.

New Year's Eve Appetizers

Although we have plans to go out on New Year's Eve, I thought this a good time and place to post my appetizer recipes.  There's quite a few as I've created and collected so many over the years; but these are my timeless favorites.

Marinated Baked Olives  (prepare at least 4 hours ahead)
3-1/2 cups mixed olives
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
2 rosemary sprigs (fresh)
--Combine all in single layer in baking pan.  Bake at 375 for 45-60 min, until most of liquid is absorbed.  Stir occasionally.  Cool, discard rosemary sprigs.
In lidded bowl, combine the following:
4 tsp grated orange peel
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 TBlsp snipped rosemary (fresh)
2 TBlsp snipped parsley (fresh)
1 TBlsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
--Stir together.  Add baked olives.  Refrigerate from 2 hours to 1 week.

Smoked Oyster Spread
8 oz cream cheese
3 Tablespoons diced onion
1 Tablespoon Mayo or Miracle Whip
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon horseradish
2 teaspoons soy sauce
pinch dill weed
pinch cayenne pepper or few drops tobasco sauce
1 can smoked oysters, drained
--Blend all buy oysters.  Chop oysters and add to mixture.  Chill.

Dakon Radish Slices  (other veggie slices may be substituted)
Peel and slice radishes 1/16" thick
Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, then in ice water to cool
Drain and pat dry.
Lightly oil baking and arrange radish slices in a single layer on pan.  Brush radish slices with melted butter.  Season with salt.  Bake at 250 for 45 min. (until lightly browned).  Turn slices over and bake few more minutes.

Hot Chipped Beef Dip
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons red wine
2 Tablespoons diced green onion
2 Tablespoons diced red or green bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon pepper
5 oz of chipped dry beef, diced
--Mix and put in pie dish.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 min, until set.  Serve warm with crackers or pita chips.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
2 pounds of shrimp (diced fine)
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
3.5 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Wash and hollow out cherry tomatoes.  Set caps aside.  Let drain upside down on pan until ready to stuff.  Stuff and chill.

Stuffed Mushrooms 
24 ounces of large, whole button mushrooms
10 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1 cup of finely-diced onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
pinch of dill weed
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (3 slices of bread)
2 cups grated cheese (any choice)
--Pull stems off mushrooms and set aside.  Wipe or rinse mushroom caps and pat dry. Rinse stems, pat dry and dice fine.  Fry diced mushroom stems with onion in butter and wine until mushroom pieces give off juices.  Add remaining ingredients, except for mushroom caps, and heat over low until cheese melts.  Fill mushrooms caps and place on pan to bake at 375 for 20-25 min; or arrange filled caps on microwave-safe plate and microwave on high 3-5 min.

Pheasant or Duck Teriaki  (start day or more ahead of time)
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 Tablespoons red wine
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 slices bacon, partially cooked (8 minutes in microwave--single layer)
16-24 chunks of duck or pheasant meat, 1-2" in size
--Combine all but bacon and meat in blender and blend until smooth.  Put in lidded bowl and add meat.  Marinate in refrigerator several hours or overnight.  Also soak toothpicks or skewers in water overnight.  Next day, cook bacon in microwave on paper towel(s) in single layer for 5-8 minutes (partically cooked but still flexible).  Cut bacon in half or thirds.  Wrap bacon around marinated meat and secure with toothpick, or place several on a skewer.  Place these on a broiler pan lined with tinfoil.  Spoon marinade over bacon wrapped meat. Broil at level farthest from heat for 5-6 minutes.  Turn pieces and spoon rest of marinade over.  Broil 5-6 minutes more.  These may be frozen:  Thaw and warm in a covered microwave-safe dish on high for 3 minutes.

1/2 cup chicken livers (approx. 6), sliced into approx. 1/2" pieces
1 can whole water chestnuts
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut slices in half
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger
--Drain water chestnuts.  Set bacon aside.  Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger.  Marinate water chestnuts and chicken livers in soy sauce mixture for several hours or overnight.  Soak toothpicks in water overnight.  Place piece of chicken liver on water chestnut, wrap half slice of bacon around and skewer with toothpick.  Place these on a foil-lined pan.  Spoon marinade over each one.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.  Turn pieces over on pan and spoon more marinade over.  Bake 5-10 minutes more until bacon is cooked.

Cheese Stix
Use "Perfect Bun" bread recipe from 12/29/11 post.  After first rise of bread dough, roll out dough into large, thin rectangle, using 1/3 to 1/2 of dough each time.  Cut into strips that are 1/2-1" wide and 6-8" long.  OR  you can use frozen puff pastry and omit the rising process.  Just roll out and cut.
In a shallow pan, beat 2 eggs.  In a separate shallow pan, mix the following herbs and cheese:  2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 2 Tablespoons sesame seed and 1 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese.  Dip cut bread dough into egg and then roll in herb/cheese mixture.  Place on lightly oiled baking pan in single layer.  Bake at 400 for 15 min, until light brown.

Herbed Bread Stix--very tall, pencil thin, tasty and stunning presentation
NOTE:  need to refrigerate dough overnight
1 package yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6-1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely-diced, firmly-packed fresh rosemary and some sage
--Dissolve yeast and sugar in 2 cups warm water.  Let sit 10-15 min.  Sift together flour, salt and pepper; mix and make well in center.  To well add olive oil, yeast mixture and fresh herbs.  Using a fork, mix by drawing the flour into the well mixture.  Continue mixing until a ball can be formed.  Put on a lightly0floured surface and knead 6-10 min, adding flour as needed.  Put in a bowl, oil top, cover and refrigerate overnight.
--Next day:  oil 2-3 baking sheets.  Run golf-ball size dough balls through the pasta machine as if making fettuccine.  Lay out strips on baking sheets and lightly oil top side.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 min, until lightly browned.  Note:  These can also be twisted before baking, or shape the top into a loop or heart.

Red Pepper Hummus
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini or sesame seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
--Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  Serve with vegetable stix or pita chips.

Mom's Chicken Wings
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup sweetened pineapple juice
1/4 cup salad oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Szechuan pepper flakes, if desired
--Combine all above except pepper flakes.  Marinate chicken wings for 12-24 hours.  Put wings on foil-lined bake pan.  Sprinkle with pepper flakes if desired.  Bake 375 for 45 minutes.

Chicken Liver Pate
1# chicken livers
3 strips bacon
1 Tablespoon butter
handful of mushrooms (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 peeled and chopped apple
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dill weed (for top)
--Fry bacon until crisp and crumble.  Add 1 Tablespoon butter to bacon grease.  Fry onion, mushrooms, apple and chicken livers until livers done--approx. 5 min.  Drain.  Add herbs, spices, sugar, cream and brandy.  Put in food processor and process until smooth.  Put in dish and sprinkle dill atop.

Grandpa's Braunsweiger
Grandpa Springer used the turkey liver(s) from the holiday bird to make this.  We looked forward to this contribution to our Christmas food traditions.
8 ounces of liver; cooked and mashed to a paste
3 ounces of cream cheese
1/3 cup mayo dressing
2 Tablespoons pickle relish
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
pinch sugar
--Combine and chill

Glazed Short Ribs
2-3 pounds of meaty pork loin back ribs or spareribs, cut in half
1/2 cup brown sugar (divided into 2 Tablespoons and 6 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 diced onion
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
--Combine 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, paprika, tumeric and salt.  Rub mixture over ribs.  Roast ribs, meaty side up, in a shallow roasting pan in a 350 over for 1 hour.
For sauce:  In a saucepan combine 6 Tablespoons brown sugar, onion, vinegar, mustard, celery seed and garlic powder.  Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves. 
Drain fat from roasting pan.  Brush ribs with sauce.  Roast 30-45 min, or until done, brushing frequently with sauce.

See 6/21/11 post.

Fruit Dip
For a delicious apple or fruit dip, see "Creamy Caramel Apple Dip" posted 8-23-11.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Perfect Dinner Roll Recipe

I decided to try a new recipe for my weekly bread baking--traditional  "Farmhouse" or "Parker House" rolls.  The recipe has been around forever and it's wonderful!!  It mixes up quick and easy, requires no kneading, can be proofed in the refrigerator overnight and the result is delicious, light and fluffy buns.  I only wish I had tried it sooner!

Parkerhouse Rolls
1 package, or 1 Tablespoon, dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1-1/4 cups boiling water
2/3 cup lard
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5+ cups flour
melted butter
Dissolve yeast in the 1/4 cup warm water, set aside.  In a separate bowl, pour the boiling water over the lard and let sit to melt the lard and cool the mixture to lukewarm.  Beat in the eggs, sugar, salt and 1 cup of the flour until smooth.  Continue adding and kneading in the flour until a not-too-sticky ball can be formed.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Let rise 1-2 hours until double in bulk, or place in the refrigerator to proof overnight.  Punch dough down and form into buns, rolls and/or bread.  OR Roll dough out into thick rectangle.  Cut 3" circles out of dough.  Brush centers of circles with melted butter.  Fold dough over to make semi-circle and pinch edges to seal.  Place rolls, touching each other, in a pan and let rise until double in size.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes (for buns or rolls); or until bread is browned on top.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oyster Stew over the Holidays

Our Holiday season wouldn't be complete without oyster stew.   So popular is this traditional Holiday meal that we have to reserve our oysters early from our favorite oyster vendor (Just Rite Supermarket) just to be sure we get them.  With the Holiday rush and activities over with, and two pints of oysters in the fridge, Dave and I will be settling in this evening with a warm, winter dish of oyster stew.  Here is my own (and favorite) recipe for it:
Don't forget the Oyster Crackers!
Oyster Stew  approx. 4 servings
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon minced onions
1 pint shucked oysters
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch pepper
pinch garlic
pinch dill weed
pinch paprika
3 cups Half and Half  (or 2 cups Half and Half & 1 cup of whole milk)  
1/2 cup sour cream
dash tabasco sauce
--In a saucepan, melt butter and saute minced onoins.  When onions start to soften, add oysters, salt, sugar, lemon pepper, garlic, dill weed and paprika.  Cook until oysters start to curl around edges, approx. 5 minutes.  Stir in milk, cream, sour cream and tabasco sauce.  Heat through.  Season to taste.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Follow-up--Christmas Dinner Gone Awry

My Christmas dinner plans took an unusual twist--the guests prepared their own dinner!  Here's what happened:
Just after getting the turkey stuffed and into the roaster, I noticed my slight headache was getting worse.  With a quick scan of the medicine cabinet, I realized I was out of Anacin, my trusty pain reliever.  Anxious to get back to cooking, I grabbed the Ibuprofen and popped one in my mouth--BIG MISTAKE!!!  I wasn't thinking--anti-inflammatory drugs make me sick.  Sure enough, a short time later my head was throbbing and my stomach wretching.  I meekly called out to Dave, telling him "You're on your own" and I crawled into bed.  I kept hoping for sleep but my anxiety level was too high.  Dave is a fish out of water in the kitchen.  I was too sick to ask his plans:  go it alone, cancel dinner or worse, cancel Christmas?  What seemed like hours later, I smelled the turkey roasting as I heard the guests arriving.  I envisioned shocked guests and a kitchen in crisis, but I was helpless.  Then I heard my daughter, Abby, take charge.  Abby is a chef and catering manager.  Moments later I was in deep slumber.  I awoke as I heard them sitting down to their dinner--small chatter and quiet chuckling.  I sat up smiling-- relieved, refreshed and feeling much better.  Then I had an idea--I quietly stole into the kitchen and threw together a blueberry pie.  After putting it in the oven, I joined them at the table for a small plate of food.  Dinner was followed by exchanging small, homemade gifts and then a hilariously-funny game of Pictionary.  We closed the evening with warm blueberry pie and small talk.  Disaster was avoided and Christmas Day ended on a peaceful note.  Amen!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Traditional Turkey Dinner for Christmas

Since we did not have turkey for Thanksgiving, I decided to have the Thanksgiving dinner at Christmas with all the trimmings and traditional family dishes that accompany it.  I always brine my turkey.  Brining a turkey (or any other poultry) results in a perfectly-seasoned, uniformly-juicy bird.  The brine penetrates poultry rapidly and completely, bringing whatever flavors you've added to the brine (onion, garlic, herbs...).  The basic recipe for a brine is 1/2 to 1 cup of salt and 0-1 cup of sugar per each gallon of water.  It takes about 2 gallons to fully immerse a turkey.  The second gallon of water can be substituted, all or in part, with veggie broths, wine, orange juice...   I will include my brining and cooking instructions, along with my favorite stuffing recipe, below.

Everything on our menu comes from local farms and markets. The Holiday meals are often the first time I open my summer-canned pickles, veggies, pie-fillings and chutneys.  My buns and pies are made from scratch, and loaf-ends of homemade bread have been collected in the freezer for stuffing.  We are so blessed by the availability of this food (and so well-fed).
Some of my "groceries"
(Couldn't fit the rest in the pic!)

Turkey Brine (12-16 pound turkey)
1 gallon ice water
1 quart white wine
3 quarts of veggie broth
  (make your own by adding lots of carrot, celery, onion to 3 quarts of
     water and let it simmer a few hours)
bunch of herbs (I use Italian seasoning or oregano, dill weed, parsley)
1-1/2 cups salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
Heat all but the ice water in large pot, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Remove from stove, add ice water to cool.  Wash turkey and remove giblets, etc. from the cavity.  Immerse bird in the brine and, if necessary, weigh down to be sure entire bird stays immersed.  Brine for 8-24 hours (I usually do night before and brine overnight).  Remove bird from brine, but do not rinse off.

Note:  If you wish to save and freeze the brine for re-use, put the pot of brine on the stove and boil for at least 10 minutes.  Strain, cool, freeze.

If you are stuffing the bird, do so now.  Lightly stuff cavity with stuffing.    Do not overstuff bird.  Any leftover stuffing can be put in a casserole and baked for 40-60 min at 350.

To roast bird:  Pat bird dry and using oil or butter, grease bird all over, being sure to get nooks and crannies.  Put bird breast-side up in a roasting
pan or roaster.  Turn oven or roaster to 450 or 500 (or highest setting on roaster).  Let cook for 30 minutes, then turn down heat to 325 and roast until thermometer in breast reads 155.  Set bird out to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

8 cups bread cubes
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
giblets from turkey, chopped
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon Italian Herbs
pinch fennel seed
pinch dill weed
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch pepper
3/4-1 cup giblet or chicken broth
--Combine all.  Stuffing will become moister as bird roasts and it absorbes juices.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chicken Salad for a Christmas Tea

My mother-in-law, Gen Lutzke, was invited to a Christmas tea and needed to contribute a dish or plate of food.  I came to her rescue with a plate of my homemade tea buns filled with chicken salad on fresh spinach greens.  Following are my favorite recipes for chicken salads.  These salads can be served year-round on buns or a bed of lettuce.  For a macaroni salad, increase the dressing portion of the recipe and add cooked pasta.
Carrot on top for a little "crunch"!

Tarragon Chicken Salad       Makes 4-5 one-cup servings
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 Tablespoon diced onion
1 Tablespoon tarragon leaf
1/2 tesaspoon dill weed
pinch white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup Miracle Whip (or Hellmans Mayo with 1 tsp vinegar)
1/4 cup sour cream
6 oz cream cheese
Mix cream cheese, Miracle Whip and sour cream until smooth.  Add spices and mix well.  Add celery, onion and chicken.  Mix and chill.

Curried Cajun Chicken Salad (not too spicy)        Serves 6
6 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Toss chicken, celery and onion together.  In separate mix dressing ingredients until smooth.  Combine dressing with chicken mixture.  Chill.

Tropical Chicken Salad           Makes 4-5 one-cup servings
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 cup banana chips
1.5 cups mandarin oranges, drained
1 20-oz can pineapple chunks, drained
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 Tablespoon poppyseed
1 teaspoon curry powder
salted peanuts or cashew pieces for sprinkling on top when serving
Toss together chicken, banana chips, oranges, pineapple and coconut.  In separate bowl, mix dressing ingredients until well-blended.  Combine both and chill.

Chicken Waldorf Salad        Serves 4-6
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
2 large apples, 1 red and 1 green, peeled and diced
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mayonnaise (part sour cream, if desired)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Toss together chicken, apples, celery and walnut pieces.  In separate bowl, mix dressing ingredients.  Combine both and chill.

Holiday Pies

An "Angel of the Hearth" with pie sits atop my stove--
a gift from a former employee.

The warmth of the oven and the smell of bubbling pies add homespun memories to our holiday season.  At Thanksgiving, one of the two pies I always make is a "Deluxe" Pecan Pie with brandy and whipping cream added to the filling--for extra goodness!  For Christmas dinner I make a fruit pie (or two) of local fruit preserved for this purpose--which brings harvest-time color and taste to our Winter table.  This year I made two pies for Christmas--blueberry from our annual berry-picking trip to Rush River Produce Farm and pears from the Fairview Farm (Timm family).
My never-fail pie crust recipe for a 8-9" two-crust pie
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard
4-6 Tablespoons of cold water
Toss flour and salt together.  Cut in lard with pastry blender until mixture size of tiny peas.  Sprinkle in water one Tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork after each addition, until dough cleans side of bowl and comes together.  Gather dough together with hands and press firmly into a ball.  Roll out on lightly-floured surface.

Deluxe Pecan Pie
Prepare pastry using one half of crust recipe and put pastry into 9" pie pan.  Mix together following ingredients for filling and pour into pastry-lined pan:
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup brandy
1 cup pecan halves
Bake 40-50 minutes at 375 degrees until filling is set and pastry is brown.

Pear Pie
Prepare crust from recipe above and line 8" pie pan with half of rolled out pastry.  Toss together following ingredients for filling:
4 cups sliced pears (peeled and cored)
1/2 cup sugar (use 1/3 cup if using pears canned in sweet syrup)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ginger
1/3 cup flour
Put filling in pastry-lined pan and top with following:
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
Put top piece of pastry on pie, seal and flute.  Cut slits in top.  Wrap edges of pie crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, and remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking.

Blueberry Pie
Prepare crust from recipe above and line 8" pie pan with half of rolled out pastry. Toss together following ingredients for filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup flour
Put filling in pastry-lined pan and top with following:
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
Put top piece of pastry on pie, seal and flute. Cut slits in top. Wrap edges of pie crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, and remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking.

Scalloped Corn

The Springer Family loves scalloped corn, so that's what I brought to the family Christmas potluck.  It was so well-received, I think I will bring it every year. 
  Getting a thumbs-up from daugher Abby, a chef, = good recipe!

Scalloped Corn          8-10 servings
4 cups corn (partially thaw if frozen)
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed (1-1/2 cups) may use bread crumbs
1/2 cup cracker crumbs for top
1/2 cup butter, melted
1-3/4 cups Half and Half or whole milk
2 small eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
pinch of pepper
Melt butter in Half and Half over low heat in pan on stove.  Add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve.  Let cool a bit, then beat in eggs.  Mix with corn, pepper and cracker crumbs.  Put in casserole dish, top with crumbs and bake at 350 until knife inserted in center comes out clean (approx 1 hr).

Christmas Tablecloths

I have quite a supply of Christmas Tableclothes and dish sets; so every week during December we enjoy a new holiday look to the supper table. 

Week One with my white china.
Week Two-my Spode set:
A Christmas gift from Mom & Dad

Week 3:  I love vintage stamped tablecloths--
Brings back lots of childhood memories!

The week of Christmas--Christmas Dinner:
My "Merry Christmas" china with crystal and silver

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Spaetzle--for the German in you!
A request for my spaetzle at the family Christmas potluck came from my niece Chelsey Springer.  Appropriately, Chelsey is of German descent on her mother's side.   This is a German side dish of tiny dumplings, which are first boiled, then fried in butter.  I add applesauce to the butter for extra flavor.  It's a delicious side-dish alternative to potatoes or rice.  Spaetzle can also be tossed into soups or stews for a filling one-dish meal.
Spaetzle        makes about 6 cups
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pnich white pepper (optional)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Half & Half, cream or whole milk
3-4 quarts chicken broth
2-3 Tablespoons butter
2-3 Tablespoons applesauce
--Mix salt, nutmeg, pepper, eggs and H&H in order.  Mix well, batter will be thick and sticky.  Force batter through large-hole (large-pea-size holes) colander or grater into boiling broth.  When pieces come to top, remove with slotted spoon.  Melt butter in large frypan.  Add applesauce, stir together, then add spaetzle in single layer.  Fry until lightly browned.  You will need to do at least a couple of  batches, so you may need to add more butter and applesauce for another batch.
Note: I use a large steamer-type fry pan, purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It is not technically a "spaetzle pan", but it works great for this. Here is what it looks like:


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Cookies, Bars and Candy

Norwegian tradition has it that one must make at least seven different kinds of cookies for a proper Christmas.  So, being of Norwegian descent, here are at least seven favorite recipes for Christmas Cookies.  Without the frosting and decor on the cookies and brownie recipe, these are good year-round cookies and bars.  All of my favorite cookie, candy and bar recipes are included.
Spritz, Mom always made several kinds.
I loved putting the decorations on them.
Spritz                                  400   8-10 min
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/4 cups flour
--Mix in order.  Put through cookie press.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until set.

Sand Bakkels 375 10-12 min
(These are my favorite--kids love them too!)
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups flour
--Mix in order. Pinch off a small ball of dough and place in center of sand bakkel tin. Using thumb, spread dough to coat inside of tin as thin as possible. Place filled tins on cookie sheet and bake until top edges starting to turn golden brown. Cool. Remove from tin by inverting the tin and gently squeezing. Before baking, you can sprinkle a little bit of colored sugar or other decor on the bottom (flat part) of the cookie--not too much or it will spoil the taste. Clean tins with a dry cloth only or they'll rust.

Rolled or Drop Sugar Cookies 350 10-12 min
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
--Mix in order. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour; or roll into balls and flatten with glass dipped in colored sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet, bake until light brown. Frost rolled cookies.
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk or Half and Half
--Mix butter, vanilla and salt.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk and beat until good spreading consistency.
Ginger Cookies       375     10-12 min
(only for Christmas, I frost these and sprinkle with little colored balls.)
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
--Mix in order.  Shape into balls and press down with glass dipped in sugar.  Frost when cool. 
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk or Half and Half
--Mix butter, vanilla and salt.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating until smooth spreading consistency.

Russian Teacakes          400     10-12 min
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-14 cups flour
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
--Mix in order.  Chll dough.  Roll into 1" balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until set, but not brown.  While cookies are still warm*, roll in sifted powdered sugar.  (*not hot or the powdered sugar will melt)  Cool, roll in powdered sugar again.

M&M Christmas Cookies     350   10-12 min
(My chocolate chip cookie recipe with Red & Green M&Ms substituted)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups flour (enough so dough not too stickey)
Red and Green M&Ms
--Mix in order.  Drop onto greased cookie sheet and bake.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies                350      10 min
One of daughter Abby's favorites--she make them often
1-1/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
--Mix in order.  Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 min, until set.  Cookies will puff during baking, then flatten when cool.  Cool 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet.

Lemon Bars 350 25 min (don't overbake)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
--Mix crust ingredients and pressed into greased 8x8 pan. Bake 20 min.
Mix topping ingredients and pour over hot crust. Bake 20-25 min more. Topping will puff during baking, but flatten when cool. Warning: sticky!

Blarney Stones              350
Dad used to buy these at Christmastime from Arbuckles Bakery and we loved them!  They were named differently, but I finally found the recipe.
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups flour
--Mix cake ingredients well in order.  Pour into greased 13x9 pan (or fill mini-muffin tins 2/3 full)  Bake 30-35 min, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.  Cut into squares.  Cover and freeze overnight  (no need to freeze if using mini-muffin tins). 
Frosting and Topping
2 pounds powdered sugar (7-1/2 cups)
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups finely chopped peanuts (not salted)
--Mix all together except for peanuts and beat until smooth.  Frost top and sides of frozen cakes or muffins.  Frost top and sides of little cakes and roll in finely-chopped peanuts.  Place on wire racks to dry.

Dream Cream Bars                350
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
8 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter
4 teaspoons H&H or whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
--Mix crust ingredients and press into 9x13 greased pan.  Bake 20-25 min until set and light golden brown.  Mix filling ingredients.  Beat for a few minutes until well mixed.  Pour over hot crust.  Bake 15-20 min, until set.
Cool.  Mix frosting ingredients and spread over bars.

Chocolate Meltaway Bars --these really do melt in your mouth!
Bottom Layer
1 cup butter
2  1-oz squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 beaten eggs
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons Cream (or Half and Half or whole milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

Chocolate Brownies with Creme de Menthe Frosting
4 1-oz bars unsweetened chocolate (I like Hersheys)
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
--Put chocolate and butter into bowl and microwave on high 1-2 min.  Stir until chocolate melted.  Mix in rest of ingredients in order and spread into 13x9 greased pan.  Bake approx. 30 min, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool and frost with recipe below.
Creme de Menthe Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft butter
2 Tablespoon creme de menthe

Microwave Carmels
1 cup butter
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
dash of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
--Melt butter in the microwave in a 4-quart casserole dish.  Add rest of ingredients except vanilla.  Cook on high 18-20 min, stirring and turning every 2 minutes with a wooden spoon.  Take out of microwave and add vanilla.  Pour into 9x13 buttered pan.  Cool, cut and wrap in plastic wrap.

Mom's Butterscotch Caramel Wafers
As kids, we could hardly wait for these to set and would start sneaking them as soon as Mom put them in the garage to cool. By the time she went to retrieve them, the wax paper had many empty circles where the wafers had been.

1/2 cup butter
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
--Put all ingredients in deep cooking pot on stove.  Cook over med-high heat to hard crack stage; or as follows in large casserole dish in microwave: med. setting for 5 min, stir; then med-high for 3-5 min.  Check for hard crack stage by dropping a little from a spoon into a cup of cold water.  It should come together in a firm glob.  Working fast, pour 3" wafer size circles onto a long sheet of wax paper.  Put in cool place to set.  Peel and eat.

Family Fudge Recipe
Note:  For a delicious ice cream topping, cook only to the soft ball stage.
2 1-oz squares unsweetened chocolate (We like Hersheys brand)
2 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
Any chopped nuts as desired (Dad loved black walnuts.)
Put all ingredients, except nuts, in deep cooking pot on stove.  Cook over med-high heat to hard ball stage.  Hard ball stage is reached when a half spoonful of fudge dropped in a cup of cold water comes together in a firm glob.  Remove from heat and set pan in sink or pan of ice-cold water which comes up to at least one-third the height of the cooking pot.  Beat until fudge looses its gloss and starts to come together in one large glob.  Working quickly, mix in nuts, then pour and press with spoon onto large, buttered plate or pie tin.  Let set and cut into squares.  Our plates of fudge were eaten as soon as it set; but to store them, wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Apple Cider Caramels
These received such rave reviews on the net, I had to include it.

2 c. high-quality apple cider
1 c. heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp. ground cinnamon*
Pinch nutmeg*
1/4 tsp. allspice*
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 c.) real butter, cubed

*If you’d rather, you can use 1 tsp. apple pie or pumpkin pie spice + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon instead of the full teaspoon of cinnamon plus the nutmeg and allspice.
--Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. (keep a glass or silicone measuring cup handy so you can pour it out and back in again if you need to). Set aside to cool.  Line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.
Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.  Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cut the caramels into 1/2″ squares and wrap each caramel in wax paper. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fruitcake at Christmastime

The tradition of giving and getting (lots) of fruitcake over Christmas seems to have quietly passed from Christmastime traditions.  When I was a kid.... .  
If you're ever in the mood to make fruitcake, this is the recipe to use.  It was given to me by a woman I knew to be a fabulous cook.  She said nobody could make fruitcake like her mother, and she hesitantly gave me the "secret recipe" for her mothers delicious fruitcake.
Rich, Dark Fruitcake
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of the following: ground cloves, cinnamon, all spice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups each of light and dark raisins
1/2 cup of the following:  candied cheeries, pineapple, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, cut up dates, citron(optional)
1 cup currants
1-1/2 cups walnuts
1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup molasses
--Sift flour with spices.  Mix fruit and nuts with 3 Tablespoons of the sifted dry ingredients and set aside.  Cream butter and brown sugar.  Add beaten egg yolks and orange juice.  Warm molasses slightly and add soda.  Pour warmed molasses and soda into the cream mixture.  Add dry ingredients and beat just to blend.  Add fruits and nuts.  Fold in stiffly-beaten egg whites.  Bake at 300 for 2-1/2 hours.  Give to someone for Christmas--preferably an senior citizen.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Fruits (and vegetables) of my Labor

With most of my preserving season now officially over, I can settle back to enjoy the bountiful harvest of my farmers and the subsequent fruits of my labor.  I am dazzled by color and texture everytime I open my canning pantry, freezer and dried foods cupboard.  A wonderful way to settle in for Winter.
Applesauce, Peaches, Tomatoes and Pears--
Canning jars filled by a woman who cares!

Dried Grains, Beans, Herbs and Spice,
Nuts and Fruit and Everything Nice!

Two Freezers full--fowl, soup broth and meat,
veggies and leftovers ready to heat!

No need to go shopping, my work is done;
With a passion for cooking, it's time for my fun!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sauerkraut's Ready to Can

The sauerkraut has been fermenting almost six weeks now, so I did a taste-test this morning----delicious!  Perfect tartness, I couldn't be more pleased with its taste.  I canned it this morning and now wish I had twice the amount (note for next year!)  Canning kraut is simple.  Just pack it into hot jars and waterbath it in boiling water for 20 min.
Only six pints--
guess we won't be having this with brats next summer.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Golden Harvest Soup

During the Fall and up through Thanksgiving, I decorate with baskets of Indian corn, squash and pumpkins.  That always leaves me with plenty of squash and pumpkin going into the Winter, so Golden Harvest Soup is always one of the first Winter soups we enjoy.  It combines squash, pumpkin and potatoes for a rich and creamy lunch soup or side soup for supper.  The recipe follows the picture.
This was a favorite at my coffeehouse restaurant.

Golden Harvest Soup       Serves 4-6
1 cup cooked squash
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup cooked sweet potato or yams
1 large potato, boiled to soft
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup chicken broth with 1 chicken bouillon cube
2 cups Half and Half (add slowly to desired consistency)
--Puree squash, pumpkins, yams and potatoes with chicken broth in blender until smooth. Return to pan and add butter, brown sugar and nutmeg. Turn heat to medium low and slowly add Half and Half, stirring. Heat until soup begins to simmer; do not let it boil.

A "Chili" Night

Our cold weather is finally settling in.  A bowl of hot chili always seems perfect for a late lunch on a cold Saturday.  I came up with my own recipe and doctored it over the years until I finally have what I think is a "keeper" for a good, old-fashioned chili recipe.  Since I can my own chili beans, tomatoes and juice; this is one I can make mostly with local products.
A Winter Tradition!

Chili      Serves 4-6 
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
¼ cup diced green pepper (can use mix with yellow and red too)
2 Tablespoons diced celery
1 quart or 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 quart tomato juice
1 pint or large can Chili Beans (more or less to taste)
1 beef bouillon cube (or 1 tsp granules)
1 TB Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
pinch garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
--Brown ground beef with onion, celery and green peppers. Add rest and simmer