Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Green Bean Casserole

The holiday feast seasons have long had the tradition that the table must hold a dish of green beans in a thick, mushroomy gravy, usually built from a can of your favorite brand of cream of mushroom soup, undiluted.

Unfortunately for some of us, there's entirely too much sodium in those canned soups -- even the "reduced sodium" varieties. Therefore, we have to make the great sacrifice, and start from scratch. Sigh. (wink, wink)

Scratch is not exactly easy to find, on the shelves around here. I have a friend who admits that, when she was newly married, she had to go to the manager of the neighborhood market to ask where he stocked the scratch.... true story. She's a magnificent cook, today.

But I digress.

So anyway, my green beans this year started in Pop's garden. You don't have to go that far. If you don't have a garden large enough to accommodate a few bean poles, just get a bag or two of frozen green beans cut in your favorite style. The Bat likes julienne, I like mine hearty and thick -- something to do with squeaky teeth if they're slightly undercooked, I think. Anyway, I take what Pop gives us, and he seems to favor the lighter effort of just chopping off their stringy heads, blanching them & freezing them whole (or mostly so).

So, from the fresh green beans from the garden, the next stage is, I suppose, to go to the store and stock up on the rest of the stuff... unless you're an even more ambitious gardener than Pop is.

(Also, if you don't like the sodium content of the pre-fab fried onion stuff in a can, you might opt for making your own onion rings, by slicing a sweet onion thinly and separating the rings, dipping them first into buttermilk or soured milk, then into your favorite bread crumb mix, and last, gently arranging them atop the casserole... I found some unbreaded, crisp onion bits at Aldi last year, & have used them often, since. Those, though, you really only want to sprinkle on top of your dish and pop into the oven for a maximum of ten minutes, or you'll have lumps of coal for the kiddies...)

And from there, it's straight prep and eating.

No Soup Green Bean Casserole

1 Tbs butter
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (if you use button mushrooms, get them as they're slightly darkening, for fuller flavor)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped finely (minced)
1 tsp ground thyme
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs celery leaf (fresh is better... if you're chopping celery for, say, turkey stuffing, hold out half the leaves from there & add them here)
ground pepper to taste
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
your choice of onion topping

Over medium-high heat, spray a large pan (I use a wok) with your preferred non-stick spray,* drop in & melt butter, then stir in mushrooms, onion, thyme, salt, celery, and pepper. Stir regularly until mushrooms produce lots of liquid.

Sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly, cook for about one minute.

Gradually add in milk, stirring constantly until well-mixed with flour. It will begin to thicken.

Add in green beans, bring to simmer. Transfer all this to an oven-safe dish. Top with onions to your heart's delight.

Pop in hot oven (400ºF) for five to ten minutes, until onions are crisped nicely. Serve hot....

* Many cooking supply stores carry empty spray containers designed to be filled with your own supply of oil for just this purpose. The Bat & I use extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pumpkin Pie, Woolworth's style

The Bat's best friend Jackie is married to the son of a long-retired Woolworth's manager. Somehow, in the course of the years, their family acquired what they proudly refer to as "the REAL Woolworth pumpkin pie recipe". It seems that this particular recipe is for the favorite pie served at every top five-and-dime where there was a lunch counter.

For the past few years, when we have had family holiday gatherings (and our families, while not linked by any law known to man, have been joined into one big mob for almost forty years, now), Jackie has made these pies, while others struggled with the double-crust fruit varieties.

Well, this year, Jackie had good reason for being unable to roll out pie crust and lift heavy bowls of liquids, so for Thanksgiving dinner, my seester managed to acquire the recipe and put a couple of them together, just so we'd not be deprived of the greatest pumpkin pie of all time. It worked. The pie was exactly as it needed to be -- light, tasty, and grown-up. Unlike so many others' pumpkin concoctions, this one doesn't overpower one with pounds of ginger and/or cinnamon/nutmeg/mace/what-have-you. I ate more than my fair share of it, and wanted more. I got more, the next morning at breakfast. It was great.

And even better still, I have permission to share this family secret with anybody else who likes a pumpkin pie with a lovely, delicate blend of aromatic seasonings in a not-too-fussy pumpkin-y custard base.
The custard is a dense, not fluffy one, in which the egg white remains somewhat intact. If you find this disturbing, this is not the recipe for you.

Woolworth's official pumpkin pie
(makes two deep 9 1/2" pies)

1 #2 1/2 can (3 1/2 cups) pumpkin
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
4 eggs, separated
3 cups milk
2 8-inch pie shells, unbaked

In large mixing bowl, place pumpkin. Sift together sugar and spices. Add to pumpkin. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl, mix an additional 1/2 minute.

Separate eggs, stirring yolks together lightly. Do not stir or mix egg whites, but set aside. On low speed, add egg yolks to pumpkin in slow stream over 1/2 minute period. Add milk in slow stream over 1/2 minute period. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl, then mix for three minutes.

Stir in (do NOT beat) unbeaten egg whites.

Allow to stand (refrigerated) at least 3 hours (overnight is preferred).

Preheat oven to 450º F. When ready, place 2 UNBAKED pie shells (in their respective pie dishes) on rack in oven.* Pour filling into shells, bake 10-15 minutes, then reduce oven temp to 350ºF, continue to bake for 45 more minutes, or until the outer edge of the pie filling (about an inch and a half or so) has become firm, and the center is still a little jiggly, but a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Refrigerate (or at least allow to cool thoroughly) before serving. Is great with real whipped cream. 

* It is also possible to put those crusts on the counter, fill them there, then carry the very-full-of-liquid dishes over to the oven and place them on the rack, et cetera, et cetera, but I've found that having the liquid in a container with a pour spout and the crusts on the rack already, to be filled in situ, reduces the likelihood that I, Captain Coordination, might see great pools of uncooked pumpkin custard suddenly appear on Mom's lovely hardwood kitchen floor. And her walls. And shoes. Not that the cats would object.

Update: Photos were taken at Thanksgiving dinner, 2014.

Update 2: This recipe can also be used to make custard without pie crust. for this, you will want to thoroughly butter your custard cups, place them in a walled baking dish, pour water to surround the cups to slightly past the halfway point, and then fill the cups. Bake at 450º F for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350º F for approximately another 25 minutes, or, until a sharp, thin knife inserted into the center of a custard comes out clean. Allow to cool completely – you can garnish with toasted pecans or whipped cream (or both) at the time of serving. 

Asteroidae says that pie cries out for whipped cream and a side of cranberry relish, but even without all that, it's her favorite.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grandma Heitmann's Pfeffernusse

Back-breaking labor. Farm wives and daughters know this in the kitchen, as well as in the out-buildings and fields. Most of the time, that hard work is for the survival of the family farm. But then, holidays happen every year, and with each of those comes a particular variety of hard work for the womenfolks -- particularly satisfying variety of hard work, at that.

One of the favorite results of great physical efforts is this Christmas cookie. It's not particularly an aesthetically pleasing treat, the way, say, gingerbread men and frosted sugar cookies can be. Pfeffernusse, an old German dunking cookie, was one of Mom's favorites, as made by her mother's mother. "Little rocks," Mom labeled them, and they truly did require either dunking in coffee or special steel-rebar-reinforced dental work in order to bite into them.

This recipe has all the flavor, but a little less of the jawbreaker quality, mostly, Mom says, by cutting back on the flour just a little. She also says that, as she's been making these little blighters today, it's just a little easier to stir the large batch of dough, this way.

Personally, I think the dough tasty no matter how dense it gets. But if you are a little more risk-averse than I am, I'd suggest that, if you want to eat dough, you should invest in pasteurized eggs or egg-substitute stuff before you stuff your face with this gooey holiday joy.

Grandma Heitmann's Pfeffernusse

1 qt dark Karo brand syrup
1 lb granulated sugar (approx. 2 cups)
1 lb butter
2 Tbs baking soda dissolved in boiling water or coffee(just enough liquefy the soda -- about 2 Tbs or so
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp allspice
grated rind one lemon
1 1/2 or 2 cups finely chopped pecans
5 lbs all-purpose flour (approx. 20 cups)*

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a very large mixing bowl, cream syrup, granulated sugar, and butter.
Add baking soda solution, eggs, allspice.
Add in flour, a cup or two at a time. Unless you have a heavy-duty industrial-strength mixer, you will need to stir in the last two or three cups gradually, by hand, with a strong spoon.
Form into balls using a 1-inch scoop or a teaspoon, and drop onto cookie sheet.
Bake 10-11 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Cool on a rack, serve with coffee or hot cider.

*You can prepare them for a lighter-density cookie, and Mom often does this for the sake of her "poor aging frame" (it's been aging like this for about... well, forty years, I'd guess). For the tender generations who can't wield a war hammer, use only 16 cups flour.

Her Grandma Heitmann used to roll out some of the dough and cut shapes -- mostly reindeer -- for the kids on the farm. Those got sprinkled with a trace of extra sugar before they were baked.

These are not the usual kiddie cookies to be slathered with icing and candy decorations. Yes, most kids will like them, but they're aimed for adult tastes.

My own memories are of Mom once -- and only once -- rolling the dense balls of dough in sugar before baking them into glittery, yummy hockey pucks... it was a case of gilding fine gold. And then, there was the year that she used this dough to make a "gingerbread" house with a fondant-style frosting as cement. It took some doing to Hänsel-and-Gretel it to death.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mice in the Kitchen!


Oh. it's just candy mices.

KittyMaus won't be allowed to nibble these mousies...

Still hot from the pot!

Dark chocolate kisses for the head. Sliced almonds for the ears. Holding it by the stem, dip a maraschino cherry into melted chocolate, & you have the body. It's all held together by that melted chocolate.

And they won't be stirring, on the night before Christmas. They'll have vanished entirely.

(HT: an old friend who sent me one of these years ago... and helped me discover that plenty of dark chocolate makes the sickeningly-sweet cherries more palatable. The sincerest form of flattery in the kitchen is theft of recipe. **Kisses**)

What a Maroon's Macaroons

Dark chocolate bottoms, dried cherries or pecans on top... the best of all worlds!

Bugs Bunny gave us the label. I reckon it fits, most days. I'm too often the slow, dim one when I set to work (I like to believe it's the result of medications, but, then, when everybody else in the family is comfortably qualified to join Mensa, and I just barely scraped by on the exams -- due to neglect of math -- it's probably not just the drugs speaking).

So, when I bake, I don't want to have to pretend I'm a Ph.D. in chemistry. Keep It Simple, Stupid, is the motto I've tried to live by as mush as possible. So, to the macaroons.

A few things to consider: we don't have a really good baking supplier in our region -- the nearest one is more than an hour's drive away. So, when I want finely shredded coconut, instead of those long, pretty strands that make such nice birds' nests for Easter, I have to toss my long shreds into a blender or food processor & turn them to near-dust. It's not an onerous task, but it does add an extra step to the otherwise brainless activity. And, of course, if you like chocolate, you may want to melt a pound or two in a double-boiler, so you can dip these puppies. I prefer semi-sweet or dark chocolate on my own, but I know a lot of milk choccie lovers, so go there if you must.

The Macaroons
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 bag (14 oz.) finely shredded sweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably powdered, but any good variety will do)
Your preferred toppings (I have chosen tart dried cherries and pecan halves)

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In a medium or large mixing bowl, combine condensed milk, coconut, and vanilla.

Using a small cookie scoop or a nice, rounded teaspoon, drop onto parchment-covered cookie sheet. (I usually spray the cookie sheet with a little oil to prevent slippage as I'm setting up.) Try to keep them as neat as possible.

If you want to go all fancy, top each one with a bit of your favorite not-too-sweet fruit or nut.

Pop those babies in the oven for about ten minutes, or, until they start turning golden-brown.

Allow to cool.
At this point, you can also dip them in chocolate, if you so desire. I found that, when one makes the cookies larger, they tend to go all floppy in your hands, so, to make them more manageable, I "painted" some chocolate onto their bottoms using a small spoon, and then let them completely cool on parchment before serving.

Then, if you want to keep a few to send out for Christmas, you'd probably be wise to hide them from Pop.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boiled Dressing for salads

Okay, so I have allergies. Family and friends know the list of these is long enough to rival the best-known work by Lee Groban (to whom I blow a friendly kiss). At the top of my list is anything made of grape. Oh, sure, I can take a half a bottle of diphenhydramine HCl and be just dandy downing a dram or two of "naturally sweetened" something-or-other, but, by and large, I like to avoid the need for added chemicals. Therefore, when I want a potato salad, a chicken salad, cole slaw, or some other thing which might call for that grapey criminal store-boughten mayonnaise, I can, I suppose, dig out a blender and try to make my own, using rice vinegar.

Nah. I like this option better. It's more work, but...

For starters, there's a little bit of history to it, in its own way. When Mom was growing up on the farm, the farmhouse accommodated three generations. Traditional foods were served at holidays, standard fare was served in large quantities for the field hands and family alike, and a lot of what was most enjoyed was, as one might expect, made from scratch.

Mom spent quite a bit of her adult life trying to recreate some of her favorites family secrets. In a few cases, the recipes had finally been handed down to her by her aunt, Helen. In a few more, the recipes were in cookbooks published approximately the same time Grandma was around in her kitchen. And, in a few cases, something gets into print in a magazine or newspaper, and Mom stumbles upon it and does a little happy dance as she tries it, finds it matches her memories, and shares it with her offspring.

This particular gem was in the second category, with minor variations. Worth the extra time and effort, it is, as Mom says, "just like Grandma's."*

Boiled Dressing

Makes 1 1/4 cups

2 Tbs all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp ground mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1/2 c. cold water
1/4 c. cider vinegar (fresh, strained lemon juice may be used as a substitute, or in a blend with the vinegar, just for a kick)
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 Tbs butter
1/2 c. light cream or whole milk (Mom occasionally uses whipping cream for the potato salad version, just for decadence)

Combine flour, mustard, salt and sugar in top of a double boiler. Stir in water , vinegar, and egg yolks.
Cook over hot – not boiling – water, until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter and cream.
Chilll in screw-top jar or plastic container. If necessary, thin with cream or milk when mixing it into salads. It will store, covered, in refrigerator for up to three weeks. (It does not freeze well at all.)

* Since our family has had geeks and tech fans since the days of the first offset printer, Grandma probably would have liked knowing that one can reproduce this using a microwave oven. One simply needs to heat for a minute or so at a time, taking it out to stir frequently, until it has thickened, then add the dairy products.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Tonight, it's leftovers. Slop together a casserole from old table scraps and... what? Doesn't that sound mouth-watering enough? Well, fine. Let's see what we can do about that. But what we're messing with is, literally, a batch of leftovers, with a little bit of a boost. It starts with the remaining crust from those tasty Apple Slices, of which Mom made enough to feed several armies, and only one army came, so she popped two balls of dough (approximately a single batch) in the freezer. Now is the time to take them out to thaw so she can roll them out all purty-like.

Next, because I don't like to let a sale go to waste, I roasted up a few big ol' chicken breasts last week, and used the skins, the bones, the drippings (don't forget those!) and whatever wasn't necessarily good sandwich stuffings to start a batch of broth. If you don't have a quart or two of broth in your fridge or freezer, you can cheat, and use store-boughten ;-) but it's not really the same. When I roast chicken, I slather it in butter, then cook it at a high-ish temp (375º-400º F), until the skin turns quite dark -- not that golden-brown everybody touts, but something on the border of mahogany in shade.

The broth usually starts with a couple pints of water, all those remnants from the bird, a half a medium sweet onion, chopped (it doesn't matter how finely. It's going to cook down & get removed from the broth, anyway), a generous dose of celery flakes or a stalk of fresh celery (leaves and all), a scant handful of dried mushroom, pulverized, a little salt, pepper, and patience (Mom also adds parsley flakes, but I'm ambivalent, there. I haven't noticed that it added much to the finished flavor). It simmers at least overnight, then gets strained and tossed into containers in a very cold, dark place, to await future use.

So, now, to the next stage. Turning it into something greater than the sum of the parts. Or, so we hope. We usually toss our favorite biscuits on the top of the chicken stew, but today, we have a rolled crust, instead. What could go wrong? Okay, don't answer that. But we're ambitious, today.*

Just remember, because it's leftovers, measurements are inexact -- to say the least. Play with them, until you find the proportions which make you happiest.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 batch crust from Apple Slices , divided, made at least a day in advance.
1 quart rich chicken broth
1 Tbs butter (or, if you have it, the schmaltz from the top of chilled chicken broth)
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1 cm. bits
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced into bite-sized chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
2-3 Tbs corn starch
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 cups chunked chicken meat
1 cup fresh peas (or, if you use frozen, thaw them in advance of using them here)
Salt & pepper to taste


In medium saucepan, heat broth to simmer.

In separate pan, sauté chopped onions in butter until they are transparent. Remove from butter, add into broth. In same pan, with same butter, stir-fry (at high temp) sliced mushrooms, until golden and edges begin to faintly crisp. Add half to broth, set aside remainder.

Add carrots, celery, and potatoes to broth. Allow to simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Spoon out a half-cup or so of the broth, mix with corn starch, slowly adding back into the stew, stirring constantly, until broth thickens.

Preheat oven to 375º F.

On a heavily-floured surface, roll out half the dough to make bottom crust. Place in bottom of large casserole or spaghetti bowl, pierce with fork a few times (or weigh it down under foil, using rice, beans, or those spiffy ceramic baking weights, if you have them) & bake 10 - 15 minutes, until golden brown. Don't worry if it slouches in the dish as it cooks -- this is a rustic dish, and this is a very soft, short dough.

Crank up the oven temp to 400º F.

Roll out second portion of dough, then cut or tear into decorative shapes (you're never going to get your top crust to stick to a cooked bottom crust, so go crazy with ornamentation, if you wish to hide this reality from the un-initiated in the ways of kitchen. Or, just have a little fun). Set aside.

Add sour cream to stew, allow to reheat. Melt in cheddar cheese. Add in peas, chicken chunks, and remaining mushrooms.

Ladle stew into bottom crust until dish is nearly full (don't overfill -- it will tend to boil over). Top with pretty bits of dough. If you like a more finished appearance, brush dough with well-beaten egg and poppy seed, or with butter, before putting in oven. Bake until top is golden-brown (about 25 minutes).

Allow to stand & cool 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

*The verdict is in: conservative eater Pop ate two helpings.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Squash cups

I love most varieties of winter squash. Actually, I love most squash, in general, but I have allergies, and the reactions are stronger, for some reason, from summer squash than from the winter varieties. Therefore, when I seek squash, I seek a nice, firm, tasty, sweet... dang it, I'm all hungry again...

Going to get cooking, again.

Squash Cups

Oven Temp 400ºF

1 large acorn squash or butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed*
3 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbs grated coconut**
3 Tbs chopped glazed pecans (we buy ours from Aldi. They're AWESOME!)

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.
2. Place squash halves cut-side down on foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast until soft to the touch (about 30 minutes). Remove from oven, allow to cool enough for you to handle.†
3. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice in a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix coconut & chopped pecans.
4. Separate the skins from the squash meat in chunks, scoop 1/2 cup at a time to put into custard cups or other small oven-safe bowls. Make a small well in top of squash mound. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top, then sprinkle coconut-pecan mix over that.
5. Heat in oven until brown sugar is mostly melted (about 10-15 minutes).
6. Serves 4-6.

* if you wish, you can save the seeds for later to roast them up. They do make tasty snacks.

**I often use toasted coconut. It gives an added bit of interest, but usually requires a cooler oven if you don't want blackened tops.

†You can pre-cook the squash in the microwave oven, if you'd rather not attempt to halve the squash while it's still fresh and hard. For that, poke the squash a few times with a fork or sharp knife, put on microwave-safe plate, cook on high 4 minutes, turn over, cook another 4 minutes, then cool until handle-able, cut in half, discard seeds and skin. It will have a slightly different flavor from the oven-roasted, but if you can live with that, I can.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese faux-Florentine

I have limits to my tolerance for mac & cheese. While I was living in the city on what amounted to minimum wage, I ate a lot of the boxed stuff -- seldom just plain -- and reached saturation point somewhere in the mid- to late-1990s. Still, every once in a great while, I decide it's time to try again, as long as I don't have to see another packet of powdered cheese-type substance.

Therefore, when I stumbled across a recipe in my mailbox, I was intrigued enough to try it. It was bland, but I saw potential in it, so I played with the recipe until I reached what I think is worthy of repeating in our house... and our guest, Jackie, agrees.

The best part is, it's relatively low-fat and high in nutrition, but don't ask me for counts or whatever.

Macaroni and Cheese, faux-Florentine

Oven temp: 450º F.

3-6 Tbs dry breadcrumbs
4 Tbs parmesan cheese (divided)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
16 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed
1 medium onion, finely chopped (divided)
1 3/4 cups lowfat or 2% milk (divided)
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 c. extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 c. lowfat cottage cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
8 oz. elbow macaroni

1. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with oil.
2. In a large saucepan, bring water to full boil.
3. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, oil, and 1-2 Tbs parmesan cheese. Set aside.
4. Squeeze out extra moisture from spinach, mix with half of chopped onion and remaining parmesan cheese. Set aside.
5. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of milk and remaining half of onion until steaming. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup milk with flour, whisk until smooth. Add this to the hot milk and then cook, whisking constantly until it simmers & thickens. Remove from heat, add in cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
6. Cook pasta in boiling water 4 minutes, or until not quite tender (noodles will continue to cook in oven). Drain, add to cheese sauce, mix well.
7. Spread half the macaroni in the bottom of baking dish. Spoon spinach mixture on top. Pour remaining macaroni on top of that. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumb mixture.
8. Bake in 450º oven until golden & bubbly (about 25- 30 minutes).

Options: (a) sprinkle crispy onion flakes -- an unbreaded variety -- on top as it comes out of the oven (not before, as they will likely burn). (b) add in chopped sweet peppers to the spinach layer.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Creme Fraiche

1 c. heavy or whipping cream
2 Tbs. buttermilk

Combine ingredients very well in a glass jar and cover.

Let stand at room temperature (about 70º F) for 8 or more hours, until thickened.

Stir well, then refrigerate.

Use within a week to ten days.

Apple Slices

Mom tells the story that, when she was young, she and her family (aunt, uncle and cousin) would take summer trips to Northern Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During the course of the season, the adults would come back to the sumer cabin having stopped at the local bakery for the favorite treat: apple slices.

For long years after they stopped going north, Mom wondered if she would ever taste those treats again. Then, in 1964, while we were living in Madison, WI, ourselves, she stumbled across this recipe in -- of all places -- the Chicago Tribune. At first glance, she wasn't convinced the recipe was anything even remotely like what she remembered, but after baking it once, she was transported to her own youth. It has been a favorite for our family ever since.

One warning -- a single batch may not be enough. Mom usually triples this (with a little extra fruit to give it a boost), and fills a jelly roll pan, to keep Pop happy.

Apple Slices

2 c. sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. lard
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 c. ice water

1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. corn starch
1 1/4 c. water
3 lbs. apples, pared, cored, and cut into 16 equal pieces

Preheat over to 450ºF.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt for crust. Cut in lard until coarse crumbs. Mix lemon juice, egg yolks & ice water. Add to flour mixture. Blend gently with a fork or pastry blender. Mixture is very moist. Turn out onto waxed paper or plastic, wrap tightly & securely. Chill for at least six (6) hours or overnight.

To prepare filling: mix sugar, cinnamon, salt & corn starch in a medium to large saucepan. Add water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add apples, cook 10 minutes more on low heat.

Divide dough in half. Roll first half on a generously-floured pastry cloth, into a rectangle about 11"x 15" using cloth-covered rolling pin. Roll dough up on rolling pin gently, turn out onto a 13"x 9"x 2" pan. Bring dough up against the sides of the pan about 1 inch. Scoop apple mixture and ladle into pan [note: Mom usually drains most of the liquid away from the spoon & puts just the tasty apples in the crust, saving the syrupy solution for other uses, such as an ice cream topping or pancake syrup]. Roll remaining dough to fit top of pan. Cut steam vents, then lay crust over apples. Pinch edges together to seal well. (If you like, at this time you should sprinkle sugar over the top, for a glistening, glittery, crispy crust.)

Bake in oven at 450º for 20 minutes, reduce to 350ºF, continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Cool in pan on cooling rack. You may wish to drizzle a light confectioner's sugar icing over the top [note: Mom has used a little of the syrup from the apples as a substitute for milk or water, mixing it with the confectioner's sugar for a tasty, cinnamony, thicker drizzled icing. Our favorite topping, though, is large-crystal decorative sugar she knows as "hagelzucker", but is available via any Wilton's cake decoration supplier, if you don't have an Amish/German community nearby from whom to buy baking goods. Of course, they really need no embellishment].

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hello, I must be cooking...

On a fine rainy Sunday afternoon, one's first thoughts are usually for comfort. Naturally, for a woman whose roots are deep in the black soil of Illinois, comfort comes from a working kitchen and a good crowd to enjoy the fruits of one's labor.

Also naturally, our family has accumulated a wide variety of recipes and cookbooks (my own collection is modest -- perhaps a hundred cookbooks, and about the same number of index cards/ pages in notebooks. Mom's is a bit more extensive, especially when one counts the 30-page -- or so -- brand name paperback editions). I've set this page up primarily so that Mom & I can toss out our favorites, as well as recipes we've stumbled across which tempt us beyond reason. If other family members have their faves, we'll be happy to post them, as well. This is intended as a simple outlet and easy-access site for gustatory pleasures, guilty and otherwise.

If, as you wander our site, you have a particular recipe you want to share, please feel free to send one of us an e-mail, & we'll be on it as soon as possible. If you know we have a special recipe you have a sudden need for, let us know, & we'll do our best to post that, as well.

We will post as we see fit -- and not as clothes fit. So. There.