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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Swinging Doors on New Year's Eve

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.
Longfellow; The Poet's Calendar

Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors; beginnings and endings, always looking in two directions. The beginnings of each day, month and year were sacred to Janus. The Romans believed that each morning at dawn Janus opened the gates of heaven to welcome the morning only to close them at dusk. For this, he was worshipped as the god of all doors, gates, and entrances. Under his protection was the beginnings of all new journeys. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of inaugural events. As the doorkeeper of the future, Janus was depicted with a staff in his left hand and a key in the other. On early Roman coins, "the god's god" was portrayed with two faces, originally one face was bearded while the other was not. The consecration of the month of January took place with offerings of meal, salt, frankincense, and wine, each as a new offering to its namesake; Janus.

Hark, the cock crows, and you bright star
Tell us the day, himself not far...
With him oft Janus doth appear,
Peeping into the future year.

A calendar is an arranged tracking of time. Divided into days of the weeks, months of the year and future years, a calendar measures the time with calculations involving the sun, moon, stars, and tides. It is a journalized almanac sometimes masquerading as a blog...A blog of Monthly Celebrations which could not exist were it not for chronicles of the past, the forecasts of the future and people who remind us of the past and inspire the future.

1934 Dinner MenuOn this day, the last day of a year of many highs and lows, I would like to share with you a tender piece of the past illustrated in the following New Year Dinner menu. In a way, I suppose, an old menu also gives us a glimpse of the bill of fare for years gone by. In this case, I have chosen a menu from 1934. You see, 1934 was 75 years ago; also a time of turmoil yet greeted with much anticipation. Through-out the year, I will be sharing tidbits of 1934 as written in the issues of American Cookery Magazine. I am quite lucky to have a complete set of issues for 1934 and I thought it would be interesting to measure the months in 1934 to the months ahead in 2009. Although this contrast will not be the complete focus of this blog, (there's oh so many fun and bizarre food days to explore) a recipe here or a notation there I think will enhance the journey.

In many cultures before the predictions of the "Hottest Food Trends" are anticipated for the coming year, new year greeters traditionally clear their plates with an assortment of old standbys which involve New Year's Eve superstitions. In our house, lentils were always on the menu. Eating twelve grapes at midnight is a Spanish custom also said to bring good luck as are eating Black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Yes, there are many New Year's Day Superstitions as well. But food superstitions don't only live on in the realms of New Year's Eve, no, they lurk in the cupboards of many cultures at different times of the year. What New Year's food will you indulge in for prosperity and luck? Here are a few suggestions from TheStar.com.

Lucky New Year's foods
Hoppin' John: U.S. Southerners eat this dish made with pork and black-eyed peas. Both of the main ingredients have lucky connotations: pork because of a pig's tendency to root forward, and peas for their resemblance to coins.
Pork and sauerkraut: Germans and some Eastern Europeans serve sauerkraut with their lucky pork because cabbage resembles money and seems to increase its yield when cooked.
Mochi: Japanese eat these sticky rice cakes topped with a bitter orange called daidai. The orange makes the dish lucky because daidai also means "several generations."
Lentils: Italians often prepare a meal of pork sausage and lentils on New Year's Day because of their coinlike appearance.
Lettuce: People in some parts of China eat foods wrapped in lettuce during the Chinese New Year because the word for lettuce is similar to the word for "rising fortune."
Noodles: Long noodles served uncut also are common fare during Chinese New Year. Noodles, which are also served in Japan on Jan. 1, symbolize a long life.
Apples and honey: During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, apples and honey symbolize the wish for a sweet new year.

While many will be eating ham to welcome the New Year, "it is said that pigs cannot go backward while they root, therefore, consuming ham will keep you moving forward", what are the "food experts" predicting we will be eating in the coming year? Some say we will be eating out less. Others say the trend toward local and organic will continue. Health foods and health awareness will still be rooted in our minds but convenience may have to simmer on the back burner for quite some time. I'm going to refer to the recent Flavor Forecast issued by McCormick® the spice people but, there's a slew of 2009 food predictions flying around everywhere. There's the one from Bon Appétit which pretty much reiterates "All The Things You're Already Eating." Peanut Butter will be big! especially when it comes to desserts. Also according to Bon Appétit, the Ingredient of the Year is Ricotta, the Cuisine of the Year is New Southern and the dish of the year is anything topped with an egg!

A familiar and flavorful plant has been chosen by the International Herb Association (IHA) as the 2009 Herb of the Year. Bay (Laurus nobilis) is a staple in most kitchens as a flavoring for soups, stews, stuffing and marinades, as well as a multitude of other culinary uses. Its glossy green leaves are aromatic when crushed. source
To achieve Herb of the Year status, an herb must fit within at least two of the three following categories: (1) Medicinal, (2) Culinary, (3) Craft or Decorative. Bay is primarily a culinary plant but does have a few, limited uses as a craft herb, mostly for wreathes and decorative items. source

Both Time Magazine and the Food Channel have a list of their 'top 10 food trends' for 2009. The Food Channel forecasts a return to home cooking (Yeah!) and both buying and eating locally (YEAH, YEAH!) I was especially drawn to the McCormick® Flavor Forecast™ 2009 top 10 flavor pairings. I've always found it stimulating to experiment with "surprise" ingredients. I'm also a huge fan of McCormick products. Here is a list of a few of their flavor pairings for 2009. You can find the complete list here.

1. Toasted Sesame and Root Beer: An iconic soda is rediscovered for its versatility as a cooking ingredient, paired with the bold nuttiness of toasted sesame seed. Sesame Root Beer Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potatoes.
2. Cayenne and Tart Cherry: The flavors of two superfoods – the heat of cayenne and sweet-sour tang of tart cherry – pack a multi-layered punch. Spicy Pulled Pork in Tart Cherry Sauce with Vanilla Slaw.
3. Tarragon and Beetroot: This hip pair creates a sensory feast that is anything other than predictable or restrained. Goat Cheese Beet Ravioli with Tarragon-Orange Sauce.

Before I leave you with a few recipes to contemplate for the new year, I would like to take a moment to thank some of my treasured visitors. It somehow doesn't feel right to think of "invisible visitors" as a duck in her pond does. Yet, I feel a welcome kinship to so many of you out there. Manuela at Baking History who was the very first un-anonomous blogger to leave me an encouraging comment. T. W. always finds an encouraging word to share whether he is leaving a comment or taking us on a culinary journey at Culinary Types. How can I ever thank Jesse head Cakespy for my adorable, sweet clutching banner. What about the infinite chuckles and my very first blog award from Lidian over at Kitchen Retro? How special was that? Very! The Food Company Cookbooks blog authored by Kathy in Texas was the place where I left my very first ever comment. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was quite shy when first started blogging in October of 2007 and it just so happen to be Cookbook Month. You can imagine my excitement at the thought of posting for cookbook month, being a collector and all but I really spun out of control when I discovered someone who probably has more cookbooks then me! Jenn The Leftover Queen was especially patient with me when I enrolled in The Food Blog Roll as was Anna at Cookie Madness when I left my first comment at her blog. My blogging experiences have taken me to all corners of the world. How wonderful is that? I get to read the eyes of the people when I visit photo journalist and educator Dennis Villegas at his blog and share in the trials and tribulations of acey who lives in the Philippines and has a blog called tralalalala. She also loves anything chocolate and food in general:) I not only find traditional Malaysian recipes at the Happyhomemaker's blog, choesf also shares her knowledge of Feng Shui and herbal remedies. I suppose I could go on and on (which I have resolved to try and control in 2009) but for now, I am going to leave you with a recipe from for Chocolate Brownie Pie from the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook and posted by Rochelle over at Rochelle's Vintage and Frugal Recipes and a tidbit of 1934 Heinz 57 trivia. There are so many bloggers out there that I would personally like to thank for visiting, encouraging and for their endearing comments. Courtney comes to mind over at Coco Cooks. The best that I can do for now is to include them in my updated search engine (on the left) and to wish everyone out there in blog land a very Happy, Healthy New Year!



Chocolate Bitter Mints
Melt three squares of chocolate; add 1/2 half cup of shortening and 1 cup of sugar and beat thoroughly; add 1 egg and beat until mixture is well blended. Add 1 cup of flour, 2 teaspoonfuls of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of slat, 4 tablespoons of milk, and finally an additional cup of flour, making a soft cooky (cookie) dough. Chill the dough thoroughly, roll thin on a floured board, and cut with a floured cooky cutter. Place each cookie upon a greased baking sheet and bake about 8 minnutes at 425 degrees. (The exact time depends on the thickness of the cookie) With a broad spatula, lift the cookies from the baking sheet and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
Mix together 1/3 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of peppermint flavoring, and about 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar, making a soft mixture which may be spread thickly without running off the cookies, pressing the top cooky very lightly in place. American Cookery Magazine; January 1934

"The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

National Bicarbonate of Soda Day!

Hark, the cock crows, and yon bright star
Tells us the day himself's not far...
With him oft Janus doth appear,
Peeping into the future year.
'Tis he! the two-faced Janus comes in view...
But smiles upon the new
Emerging year with pride;
And now unlocks with agate key
The ruby gates of orient day...
William Hone

You are not going to believe what day today is...It's National Bicarbonate of Soda Day! "Baking Soda Day, celebrates the numerous benefits and usages of Bicarbonate of Soda." What is Baking Soda, actually? How does it work? These are only a two of the questions I asked myself while preparing for this post. Although there were quite a few resources abounding on the internet, I thought it best to Hit the books! I digress...It's a Helpful "Friend in Need" which also aids in the preparation of "Good Things to Eat."


In 1791, a French chemist produced sodium bicarbonate as we know it today. But it was only in 1846 that two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, developed the process of making baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Each started a company, and the two companies later merged to form Church & Dwight, the makers of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
Baking soda is a very versatile natural substance that can be seen used throughout history and was first recognized by bakers to make breads. Baking soda trapped carbon dioxide in the ingredients of the bread causing it to rise. Bakers have used sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, through out our history to make cakes, breads and to bake other types of dough that rise. The use of baking soda in baking continues today...all about baking soda

Helpful Health Hints

Church & Dwight Co., Inc., founded in 1846, claims to be the leading U.S. producer of sodium bicarbonate; baking soda. The pictured booklet of Helpful Health Hints was published by them in 1949.

"Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings."
Publius Syrus

From the foreword:

This book is not designed to tell how to treat or diagnose disease. Diagnose of disease and medical treatment require painstaking examination, judgement, and observation of the patient...In 1846 John Dwight and Dr. Austin Church founded the Baking Soda business in the Western Hemisphere. For many years our products, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and Cow Brand Baking Soda have served the public well both in the kitchen and as a home remedy. They have constantly grown in favor with the housewife and medical profession and today one or the other of these famous brands can be found in almost every community in the country. Both are pure Bicarbonate of Soda and, because of universal demand and wide distribution, are available everywhere at low cost...Bicarbonate of soda (Baking Soda) probably has more uses in medicine than any other remedy, but it is for use in the great many cases which do not require the personal services of a physician that these pages are written.

The booklet offers many of the common uses we now associate with baking soda. It touts the benefits of baking soda as a stomach neutralizer, or as an aid to indigestion. It also suggests its use as an aid for itching, body odor, sunburn, "wax in the ear", gargle, and as a way to make castor oil more palatable.

Insect Bites: Baking soda, either in solution or paste, is a soothing application for insect bites, superficial burns, and itching of hives.
Castor Oil Sandwich: Castor Oil may be made palatable with orange juice and Arm & Hammer, or Cw Brand, Baking Soda. Put the juice from half an orange in a glass, add the prescribed dose of castor oil, stir in one-fourth to one-half teaspoonful of Arm & Hammer, or Cow Brand, Baking Soda. Drink while effervescing.

Oh my, doesn't that sound inviting? Perhaps, it would be better to discuss another booklet titled Good Things to Eat also published by Arm & Hammer (Church & Dwight) in 1933. From the introduction:

Do you know the secret of Chocolate Cake, rich and delicate in flavor, soft and silky in texture? do you know the secret of Gingerbread that has the penetrating aroma, the true deep, rich, golden color? If you know these things, you know Baking Soda and the part it plays in making baking day a pleasure with a promise of sure success.

Sour Milk, Buttermilk, & Baking Soda

Sour Milk is best for baking purposes when it has reached the clabbered stage. The curd is thick and heavy, and the whey has not separated to any great extent. It should be kept in a clean, covered container. If milk is placed in the refrigerator as soon as it reaches the clabbered stage, it will remain in this condition for three or four days and it can be used as needed.

  1. 1/2 tsp. baking soda with 1 cup clabbered milk will leaven 2 cups flour.
  2. Buttermilk, if allowed to ripen for two days can be substituted for clabbered milk.
  3. 1 cup heavy sour cream can be substituted for 1/3 cup butter and 2/3 cup milk in any sour milk recipe.
  4. 1 cup thin sour cream can be substituted for 3 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup milk in any sour milk recipe.
  5. Baking soda should not be mixed with the sour milk because in this way a good share of the gas, that should go to leaven the product, is lost. Baking soda should be sifted with the flour. This is an important factor in the success of these baking soda recipes. Treat Baking Soda as a dry ingredient.

Most of the recipes enclosed in the booklet we are all familiar with in one way or another. I did find one recipe which wasn't available in a google search. It is called, Shubert Tea bread. I'm also including a recipe for Mahogany Cake and Orange Sponge Cake. They are all scanned. Just click to make them bigger! If you're looking for another recipe published by Arm & Hammer, check out the New England Cruller recipe over at The Food Company Cookbooks blog. Yum!

I'm not going to be back in time to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I'm in the process of getting the monthly celebrations and food days ready for next year and let me tell you, January is FULL of GREAT things to eat. A comforting array of food celebrations which include, National Soup Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Hot Tea Month, Slow Cooking Month and National Wheat Bread Month are just a few celebrations greeting us in January 2009. 2009 also has its share of edible anniversaries. Rumford Baking Powder (1859) celebrates its 150 year anniversary, Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cookbook (1884) 125 year anniversary, and Rutgers Tomatoes were introduced in 1934. 75 years ago! I hope to explore these anniversaries and much more in the coming year...

Happy New Year!

Resources

  • 1. A little about baking soda
  • 2. Baking soda, bicarb soda, baking powder - what's the difference?
  • 3. Bicarbonate of Soda: The Magic Ingredient?
  • 4. "Green" uses for Baking Soda
  • 5. Church & Dwight Co., Inc.,

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Candy Cane Day!

Yep! the day after Christmas is National Candy Cane Day! How apropos. Have you ever given thought to the history ensnared in the beginnings of the first ever candy cane? Well, you may be surprised to discover there's an everlasting candy cane controversy (long but well researched link:)) that I'm not about to tackle this Candy Cane Day. I mean really, candy canes are sheer delights of minty sweetness why would I want to explore their questionable history today? I'd much rather share an assortment of candy cane recipes. Oh, I don't just mean the sweet itself, there's all sorts of things you can create by either using the candy cane motif or even those broken bits of candy canes still stuck in their wrappers.

Candy Cane Baking

The first recipe that I came across which deliciously uses the form of the candy cane was found at the Recipe Girl blog. Lori has produced an incredible looking Candy Cane Coffee Cake. She also posted a recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Icing which uses crushed candy canes. Now, there's a good use for all those broken candy canes! At Rah Cha Chow, I found a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting. This recipe is more up my alley, although, I will probably never actually try it because as you know, I'm not much of a baker. But, it is a good beginning recipe since it is made using a box cake mix and instant vanilla pudding.  I got the biggest kick out of these Candy Cane Cookies and this Leftover Candy Cake.  Oh, I mustn't forget the Peppermint Bark I found at the Good Eats & Sweet Treats blog and The Hungry Housewife blog. They both look so incredibly good. Mary Ann over at Meet Me in the Kitchen  combines a triple cookie recipe which includes Candy Cane Twists.  Where oh where is a girl to begin?

Do you know how to make candy canes? It wasn't difficult to find a candy cane recipe at Candy Cane Facts which is a site devoted to yes, candy canes. 

Candy Cane Sips

Since this post is a celebration of candy canes, why not include a few more links. One site I came across called Coffee Fun, had two recipes which I thought I would include. The one for home made candy canes is quite similar to the ones above but, I like the twist on the Chocolate Candy Cane Stirrers. However, I'm really intrigued by beverages which are touted with candy cane flavor. Especially, those which include, alcohol. Emeril's Candy Cane drink which includes vodka and Grand Marnier sounds too good to be true.  I happen to be quite fond of chocolate so the recipe for Chocolate Covered Candy Cane which includes Godiva® chocolate liqueur sounds well, "divine:)" Today, as I write this post, I really wouldn't mind a simple cup of Candy Cane Cocoa by my side even if it doesn't include alcohol.

So, you see, just because candy canes have a questionable legacy, maybe that's why they resemble a question mark, there are lots of creative uses and enjoyments sticking to their legend. There are various things that can be done with leftover candy canes and Over 3 Dozen Creative Uses. For example, this year, Kathy over at The Food Company Cookbooks blog shared a recipe leaflet called Gift Box Butter Cookies In it, there's a crafty idea which uses candy canes as decorations on The Scotchy-Chocolate Shop. Cute:) I also came across this Candy Cane Mouse which looks like a pretty simple crafting project.

In 2001, the Guinness Book of World Records bestowed the record for the longest handmade candy cane on Paul Ghinelli, who created a 58-foot, 2 1/4-inch cane at a restaurant in Leslie, Mich. He broke his own 1998 record (16 feet) and 2000 record (36 feet). He planned to chop it up and auction it off, but the restaurant burned down a couple of weeks later. source

If you plied your way through the history of the candy cane, you probably discovered that their beginnings were in the shape of pencil thin sticks with an added crook:) A while back, during National Candy Month, I included a few scanned recipes from Hood's Book of Home Made Candies published in 1883. There was a recipe in that book called Vanilla Cream Sticks. I thought I would revisit that recipe in a candy cane state of mind. This time, I will type it out with some explanation.

Vanilla Cream Sticks
Boil three pounds of granulated sugar with a pint of water; let it dissolve slowly on a cool part of the range; then add a large tablespoonful of vinegar and a teaspoonful of gum arabic dissolved in a very little water. Boil till it is brittle, then remove from the fire, and flavor with vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, or whatever you wish, only remembering that all work must be quick. Rub the hands with sweet oil or butter, and pull vigorously till the candy is white; then twist or braid it, or pull it out into long thin strips, and cut it off. Ed Note: Sounds like a candy cane recipe to me or, a candy cane taffy pull, don't you think?

Gum Arabic

I'll admit, when I posted this recipe in June, I should have tried to find out a bit more about gum arabic. I don't know about you, but it isn't one of those things I just happen to have in my pantry. It seems, it is found in some pantries though. For instance, look at this recipe for Tree Sap Fudge found over at the Treat A Week Recipes blog. That's where I learned that gum arabic is also a common ingredient in processed foods. As soon as I read that, my days of label reading flashed before my eyes. I don't read as many labels as I use to when the kids were younger. Perhaps, I should. I do wish they would print them larger though, These ol' brown eyes ain't what they use to be:) Gum Arabic is also like an "edible" glue. It's great to use as a "glue" to repair broken pieces of fondant and sometimes used as an ingredient in Royal Icing. The role of gum arabic in confectionery products is usually either to prevent crystallization of sugar or to act as an emulsifier. It's also used as a thickner in candy, ice cream, and yogurt.  Anyway, here's what I found out about Gum Arabic.

A natural additive obtained from the bark of the acacia tree, gum arabic (acacia powder) is colorless, tasteless, and odorless and is used in commercial food processing to thicken, emulsify, and stabilize foods such as candy, ice cream, and sweet syrups. Gum arabic is also used in cake decorating to make gum paste more elastic.
Candy jellies such as jujubes, fruit bums, fruit pastilles, gum drops, and cough drops have been made with gum arabic for many years. These depositors or moguls may have been invented by Venetian candy markers in the beginning of the 19th century. The process involves crushing and sifting the gum, followed by dissolving it in water to 50% concentration, skimming and decanting the solution, and mixing it with sucrose and corn syrup. The cooled mixture is then mixed with required acid, color, and flavor, deposited in starch-coated molds, and dried at a selected temperature. After several days, the gum candies are unmounted, depowdered on screens, brushed to remove starch, and glazed with wax or oil and, if desired, sugared. Such candies are soft but firm and long-lasting in the mouth. They contain 50% less sugar than hard candies. The gum gives a cleaner, finer taste. Pectins, gelatin-gum arabic mixtures, and thin-boiling starches can be used as replacements for gum arabic. source

Happy Candy Cane Day!

Resources
1. Candy Cane Day
2. The origins of the candy cane
3. Candy Canes and their history
4. Candy Cane Making Tour Online
5. Organic Gum Arabic (Acacia) (a place to purchase)
Recipes
1. Candy Cane Fudge
2. Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies by The Pioneer Woman Cooks
3. Adorable Candy Cane Reindeer from Taste of Home
4. Candy Cane Blossoms from Hershey's
7. Peppermint Mousse
8. Peppermint Mousse (another recipe)
9. Candy Cane Cocoa Gift In A Jar Recipe

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Cheers!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Winter

Now days are short, nights long and raw,
With pinching frost, and slabby rain and snow;
But let good rousing fires, and Christmas cheer,
Still mix'd with charity, conclude the year...
John Nathan Hutchins

The shortest day of the year may just have the longest list of celebratory events. Let's see...

December 21 is known in New England as Forefathers' Day. Forefathers Day commemorates the day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth on December 11, 1620. Forefather's Day was first celebrated by descendants of the original colonists in 1769 who shared a meal with many Native American delicacies, including baked whortleberry pudding, succotash, seafood, and roasted venison, as well as apple "pye," cranberry tarts, and cheese. "The Pilgrim Society has been celebrating Forefathers Day since 1820, when their honored guest and speaker was Daniel Webster." Plymouth Succotash or “sauquetash”, is traditionally served on Forefathers Day. When prepared in the spirit of the Plymouth colonists, the stew like succotash symbolizes true American food. It is a unification of brined meat, a boiling hen, salt pork, dried white beans, hulled dried corn, and turnips. I found this wonderful article and recipe @ edible traditions by Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely (PDF)

Our word “succotash,” from the Narragansett msicquatash (cooked whole kernels of corn) has meant many things over time, the constant being corn and beans. To the Native Americans it was a catchall meal of those vegetables, fresh or dried according to the season, cooked with bear fat, squirrel, wild birds, fish—whatever game might be handy. Brunswick stew and Kentucky burgoo, from other regions, are in the same vein. Plymouth colonists held their first Forefathers’ Day on December 22, 1769, to mark the anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in 1620. Holidays were discouraged at that time, and Thanksgiving as we know it not yet established. During the Revolution, Forefathers’ Day took on patriotic colors as it spread to other parts of the country. The Plymouth succotash that accompanied the yearly commemoration was gray corned beef cooked with fowl, salt pork, navy beans, potatoes, hulled corn (hominy) and turnips. This boiled dinner was often served in two parts meat and solids first, the rest later as a thick soup. It took time and care to prepare properly.

Well, it looks like next year my permanent move to Pennsylvania will finally happen. I've decided I should try to participate in the legend of The Nittany Lions, Penn States college football team. I know nothing about football but since both my kids graduated from Penn State and because my son is a huge fan, I'll add Joe Paterno's birthday to my list of celebrations for today. Heck, I might as well include a recipe from Happy Valley Saturdays A Recipe Guide to Nittany Lion Tailgating. I'll use the excuse that head coach Joseph Vincent Paterno turns 82 today. Boy oh boy, I bet they're really celebrating in PA, they just extended his contract. Oh, I almost forgot, The Nittany Lions are going to The Rose Bowl! Here's a recipe for New Years Day Black-Eyed Pea Dip.

Black-Eyed Pea Dip

Hanukkah begins today at sundown. Here's a recipe for Chanukah Jelly Doughnuts

On Sunday, December 21, 2008, Chinese and other East Asian people all over the world will be celebrating the Winter Solstice Festival. The Happy Homemaker is celebrating over at her blog. She has a tray of multi coloured Tong Yuen freshly rolled which look so colorful and appetizing it almost seems a shame to feast on them. Other dishes associated with the Winter Solstice Festival include, Tangyuan which are balls of glutinous flour simmered in boiling water. The balls of glutinous flour symbolize reunion and can be made filled or unfilled. Sometimes, tong yuen are served with a syrup of ginger. I found a recipe for Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Water while researching the Dongzhi Festival.

...In some parts of Northern China, people eat dumpling soup on this day; while residents of some other places eat dumplings, saying doing so will keep them from frost in the upcoming winter. But in parts of South China, the whole family will get together to have a meal made of red-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. In other places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour. The Winter Solstice rice dumplings could be used as sacrifices to ancestors, or gifts for friends and relatives. The Taiwan people even keep the custom of offering nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. They make cakes in the shape of chicken, duck, tortoise, pig, cow or sheep with glutinous rice flour and steam them on different layers of a pot. These animals all signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition. source

December 21st is also the anniversary of the birth of cookbook author Mary Virginia Terhune. (pen name Marion Harland) I posted for her birthday last year. I'm not sure if I included this link for her autobiography so, just in case, here it is.

Jet Chef says yesterday was National Fried Shrimp Day and today is National Hamburger Day. Can you tell I'm more interested in the Fried Shrimp recipes than hamburgers?

St. Thomas day, St. Thomas gray, 
The longest night and shortest day.

There are many legends surrounding St. Thomas' Day. Don't be a "doubting Thomas" here are a few to bring you along.

In the Tyrolean region meat pie was a tradition for St. Thomas' Day. A huge pie made for the whole family to enjoy, it was marked with a cross and sprinkled with holy water before baking. Actually, it was not eaten on St. Thomas' Day but just baked then. Frozen and held until the feast of the Epiphany, it was then heated and devoured by eager diners. The pie was always baked in an oblong pan to resemble the manger and cut with great ceremony by the head of the household. The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle was traditionally on December 21. Although the feast is now moved the July 3rd, this day still marks in Europe many customs, and also marks the final countdown for baking and cleaning for Christmas. recipe source
Another typical southern German, pre-Christmas delectable is Kletzenbrot. Kletzen is an antiquated Bavarian term for “pears.” Because only a few pear varieties can be stored over the winter months, the fruit is often dried. The whole pear shrivels, or, in German, becomes “hutzelig”—the sweet bread is, therefore, called “Hutzelbrot” in some areas. The bread was formerly a sign of a bountiful harvest and played an important role in popular belief. In Baden it was baked every December 21, on St. Thomas’ Day, which was not only known as the day of “doubting Thomas,” but was also the winter solstice. The bread was not served, however, until December 26, St. Stephen’s Day, or, it was said, the premature server would grow jackass ears. source
Austrian Fruit Bread This was traditionally the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle; his feast is now celebrated on July 3rd. December 21 is usually the shortest day of the year, yet this day usually commenced the Christmas preparation of cleaning and baking. Although we no longer honor St. Thomas on this day, we can still use this day as a reminder to put in exerted efforts and start finishing our external preparations for Christmas. All the weeks before should have been more of spiritual preparation.Throughout the Alps in Austria, baking Kletzenbrot and other Christmas treats begins on December 21, originally the feast of St. Thomas. Kletzenbrot is named after the Tyrolian word for dried pears, but the Christmas bread contains a variety of nuts and fruits. The bread keeps for weeks, and improves with age. Usually a large loaf is baked for the Christmas breakfast, and individual loaves for each member of the family. recipe source
and from the Old Foodie; Pig with Onions
St. Thomas’ Day is “good for brewing, baking and killing fat swine” – in other words, household activities entirely suitable for the official beginning of winter. In Bavaria the tradition is particularly strong, and the swine is even called the “St Thomas Pig”. It is believed that if you eat well on this day you will eat well all year. This shortest day of the year is also the traditional day to plant onions and broad beans – on the basis that they will grow with the days and be ready to pick at the summer solstice.
St. Thomas’s day is past and gone,

And Christmas is a-most a-come,

Maidens arise

And make your pies,

And save poor tailor Bobby one.

St. Thomas' Day celebrates the Apostle Thomas who was the last to believe in Jesus' resurrection. In the German tradition, St. Thomas Day is the baking day of Thomasplitzchen; iced currant buns. These buns are the reward after a day of gentle daunting for waking up late on St. Thomas Day. A "Thomas Donkey" made from cardboard is awarded to that "sleeping beauty" and jokes are played all day. When the joking is done by the end of the day the buns are awarded to "make things sweet again." (source)

Before I go, I want to tell you about Jenn The Leftover Queen she's having a Winter Solstice Cocktail Party over at her place, go check it our, she's cooking with lemons!

Resources

  • 1. The Winter Solstice
  • 2. Celebrating Pilgrim Plymouth 1769 — 1995
  • 3. Plymouth Succotash (By Frances Lowe Smith, Author Of "Recipes And Menus For Fifty")
  • 4. Colonial Drinks and Recipes
  • 5. Sheila Luskins Summer Succotash Salad @ recipezaar

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Christmas Truce

Gather round everyone I want to tell you a story. It's the story of The Finest Christmas Dinner in the World by Francis Schroeder.

...About ten o'clock on Christmas Eve, some five or six middle aged men, one or two of whom walked with canes, would cross the court and climb the narrow oak stairs to the green door with the brass knocker that marked Mr. Cockburn's flat. (pronounced Coburn) In later years they generally brought a few younger men with them...

There would be a clean cloth and a miniature Christmas tree on the gate-leg table. A decanter of sherry and some biscuits on the sideboard, and some sprigs of holly tucked behind the framed engraving of Lord Blackstone. There was always a coal fire in the grate and the brass work gleemed like gold. Mr. Cockburn's dinner jacket was a bit greenish at the elbows, but he bustled about hospitably.

The young men warmed their tails at the fire, sipped the sherry, and generally longed acutely for a really dry martini, ice cold, at the Savoy. The older men talked about the weather, and good old Stanley Baldwin, until Mr. Cockburn produced a chafing dish, polished as brightly as the fender, and some rounds of toasted French bread, and served the following dish:

3 cups boiled rice
1-8oz. can American salmon
4 med. onions, chopped
2 small German cervelat sausages, sliced thin
1/2 wineglass brandy
1 tbs. butter
1 cup water
salt, pepper, dry mustard to taste

Mr. Cockburn dressed the chafing dish carefully, then simmered the whole thing until it was the consistency of a thick stew, and served it to his guests on the toasted bread.

The young men approached this mess manfully, and as they ate, they heard a story. It was always the same story, and it came in snatches first from one, and then from another of the older men. It was the story of the Christmas Truce of 1916

That story has since been told and printed many times. It happened along the Somme, scene of some of the bitterest trench warfare of the entire war. The week before Christmas the interminable rains seemed to stop. The weather was cold, but clear. The wind, as usual was from the East, blowing from Germany toward France.

Nobody knows just how it started. Some say it was the sound of some Bavarian troops singing Christmas carols on the fire step. Others say it was a single foolhardy soldier who climbed on the parapet with his arms full of cigarettes. At all events, suddenly like wildfire it spread up and down the lines.

Laughing, shouting, men went over the top barehanded, to meet at the wire and help each other through. For mile after mile the flicker of lighting matches gleamed like fireflies the length of No Man's Land. There was considerable clinking of canteen cups. For a little while it seemed as though the High Commands would have to give up the war.

Gerald Cockburn was 40 even then, a messenger attached to the Royal Engineers. He happened to be in the front lines on Christmas Eve delivering some sealed orders to a company commander, when the Christmas Truce caught up with him.

"What's all the bloody row?" said the young Captain looking up from his dugout table, and the next thing they were both in the thick of it. Gerald Cockburn found himself squatting on the edge of a shell hole with his back against a willow stump. A morose Irish corporal was scouring the inside of a trench helmet carefully balancing it on a fire built on a tin can. A pimply faced German boy was excitedly waving a string of sausages. Somebody had a bottle of brandy, somebody else had a handful of rice. Cockburn remembered four onions in his greatcoat pocket, and there was plenty of bread. When the stew was half ready, a passer-by proffered a tin of plum and apple jam, but the German objected to this violently and he was supported.

The Christmas Truce didn't last long, of course. In two or three hours word got back that the war was getting out of hand, and from miles back, on both sides, the heavy howitzers opened up. It never happened again, and we're fighting a very different kind of German today. Still Mr. Cockburn and his friends continued to hold their Christmas party, and tell the story of the Christmas Truce over again, remaining heavily humorous about the manufacture of their special stew. The young men generally finished their plates and enjoyed it. For there was another spirit beside the brandy in Mr. Cockburn's dinner, the spirit of Christmas.

This article was found in the December 1943 issue of American Cookery Magazine; editor Imogene Wolcott. The year stated in the article is 1916 but I have to wonder whether this was a typo as the year cited in most internet articles is 1914. 

Resources
  • 1. The Christmas Truce
  • 2. Operation Plum Puddings
  • 3. Christmas Truce @ The History Channel
  • 4. World War II Timeline - 1943
  • Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Rosemary for Remembrance: Adelma Simmons

    "Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled."

    For as long as I can remember, I have been enticed by the fragrant mystery of herbs. Today I would like to introduce you to The World of Rosemary (1983) authored by Adelma Grenier Simmons. I thought today would be the perfect day to peek inside this bundle of herbal lore since December 16, 1903 was the day Adelma Grenier [Simmons] was born. Herbalist Adelma Simmons cultivated a fairyland of herb gardens at her home, Caprilands Herb Farm, in Coventry Connecticut. During the mid 1980s, I was a frequent visitor to Caprilands where Mrs. Simmons offered tours, lectures, luncheons, and boundless knowledge about the history and folk lore embracing herbs.

    Just like the bees, I love the pretty little blue flowers of rosemary. I think it's a shame that we sometimes forget what an ornamental plant a shrub of rosemary can be. I even had temporary success creating a topiary with a rosemary plant given to me from a "fellow" herb gardener. Ah...those were the days. I haven't had a garden now in about ten years but I'm hoping to plant the seeds of change this spring in my new home in Pennsylvania. We'll see.

    You might be surprised to learn that though I don't have a garden and travel back and forth from New York to PA almost every other week, I have favorite plants in each place, which by some miracle I manage to keep alive. My secret? The bath tub. In Westhampton I only have a few kitchen herbs but in PA, I have a variety of scented geraniums, (my very best favorites) three varieties of lavender, which as we speak are in the bath tub, a thriving eucalyptus tree, and parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. No, we're not going to Scarborough Fair rather, we're off to  The World of Rosemary...

    From the introduction by Adelma Simmons:

    One would wonder what there is about this modest unspectacular plant that has attracted thru the centuries. It is not the size of the blossoms or their frequency, for they are small, exquisite, but minute; and seldom is the shape of the plant beautiful, more often straggley. Old plants become very woody, some have gnarled trunks that speak of age and endurance. I'm sure that it is the odor most of all that attracts us, for no matter the age of the plant, young or old, dry or green, the odor is unmistakably Rosemary. It is gingery, spicy, sweet, and faintly medicinal, all in one. It is the same, yet always different so that you are tempted to go back again and again to brush its leaves...
    "Twas pennyroyal bloomed that night
    The angels came to earth,
    And o'er the stall at Bethlehem
    Proclaimed our Saviour's birth.

    And thyme was on sweet Mary's bed,
    To bring her courage rare,
    While shepherds lifted up their hearts
    In silent, joyful prayer.

    And now in fond remembrance of
    That night so long ago,
    I add this sprig of rosemary
    To keep his love aglow."
    (author unknown)

    The trail of rosemary's ventures is wrinkled with legend and lore, especially during the season of Christmas. It is often said that Rosemary will never grow taller than the height of Christ when he was on Earth. This notion may stem from another charming legend associated with the Virgin Mary. It is written the flowers of Rosemary were white before they were blue. It was only when the Virgin draped her damp cloak over the plants to dry that the flowers remained blue from that day forward.

    Once again from the book:

    ...Soon we had, besides the tall woody moderately fine needled dark green variety with the deep blue flowers which we have since called Tuscan or officinalis, another-soft grayish leafed type which grew much more quickly and, in one season, attained good size...We sometimes use this on our tables at Christmas time. If the watering is not forgotten, it will last and grow indoors in small pots for at least two weeks. (It should then be repotted) The white flowered Rosemary is intriguing to everyone, though it refutes the lovely legend that the Rosemarys all changed their flowers to blue in the Virgin Mary's honor. This we discovered to our embarrassment. It was our Christmas custom to bring in the big Rosemaries at the beginning of Christmas. They surrounded our punch bowl and screened the usually brown landscape with their branches against the large window that looks out across the fields. It was also a part of our Christmas lecture to tell our guests about the transforming of the white flowers to blue flowers when the Virgin's cloak was withdrawn from the bush that had sheltered the Holy Family. I had just finished my story when a ripple of laughter from the audience caused me to give the Rosemary group more than a casual glance and I saw what prompted the merriment--one large plant that was in bud, had, in the heat of the room, burst into bloom and it was pure white!

    This post is a mere glimpse into The World of Rosemary. It is only one gem in the list of numerous books authored by Adelma Simmons. I have gathered a few resources below for further exploration into the wonderful world of herbs and The First Lady of Herbs, Adelma Simmons. 

    Resources
    1. Adelma Simmons @ wiki
    2. A Woman For Our Thymes
    3. International Herb Association
    4. Rosemary Varieties
    5. Herbs for All Seasons And Reasons
    6. Herbal Plants of the Christmas Season
    7. New York Times (interview with Ms. Simmons)
    8. New York Times (obit)

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    It's Gingerbread House Day

    It's that time of year again for gingerbread and guess what, today is Gingerbread House Day. (it's also Poinsettia Day.) Have you ever engineered a Gingerbread House? I haven't. Gingerbread houses are a lot of work, there's planning, drafting, and construction much like building a family dwelling. And, like a house, the brick and mortar must also be considered. There's the making of the dough, cutting out pattern pieces, rolling, baking, assembling, and decorating. Whew! A person almost has to have a degree as a master builder to develop a gingerbread house. That leaves me out. Although, I'm pretty good at simple carpentry tasks, I've held myself back from creating a gingerbread house because, quite frankly, it just seems so intimidating. I'm mean really, I haven't even honed my baking skills yet.

    I've wanted to build a gingerbread house for as long as I can remember. I can't say I've ever gotten very far though. It isn't like I have a pile of gingerbread house kits stashed away with the Christmas decorations. Nope. The most effort I ever expended on my Gingerbread House fantasy has been as an armchair browser glancing through magazines and books. The covers of Good Housekeeping magazine have always been one of my favorites. In recent years, I've taken my chair to the internet. There are so many sites to visit for inspiration. Aren't they simply amazing! Did you see Santa's Castle and the Wizard of Oz? Oh my goodness, such talent, such patience, such creativity. Did I read that the Wizard of Oz house was that woman's first attempt at fabricating a gingerbread house? Perhaps, there is hope for me in the realm of Cockaigne.

    The Gingerbread Lady, aka Patti Hudson, has a website called Gingerbread Land. She also has a Gingerbread Art Gallery. I wish her pictures were a bit larger though.

    "The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who favored important visitors...with charming gingerbread likenesses of themselves...After the Grimm Brothers' tale of Hansel and Gretel described a house "made of bread," with a roof of cake and windows of barley, German bakeries began offering elaborate gingerbread houses with icing snow on the roofs, along with edible gingerbread Christmas cards and finely detailed molded cookies. Tinsmiths fashioned cookie cutters into all imaginable forms, and every woman wanted one shape that was different from anybody else's...Most of the cookies that hung on nineteenth-century Christmas trees were at least half an inch thick and cut into animal shapes or gingerbread men..."Gingerbread," Karen S. Edwards & Sharon Antle, Americana [magazine], December 1988 (source)

    When I make up my mind to attempt my first constructive house of candy, there are a slew of resources available online. I'm fortunate enough to have a gingerbread book by the Gingerbread Lady. Its title is Gingerbread Ideas copyright 1987. Wow! She's been at it a while. The book is chock full of recipes, patterns, and step by step directions.

    The recipes and patterns enclosed in this book were prepared with the idea of inspiring more novice gingerbread creators. Through her many workshops and appearances, Patti has learned the questions most frequently asked and has attempted to make this guide readable, workable and understandable.

    The Gingerbread Lady's motto is "Gingerbread houses don't have to be perfect;" I also read somewhere they don't have to taste good either. I suppose if the adorable little house is destined to be eaten after New Years Day, as is the custom in some cultures, staying focused on the recipe is most important. (not a good thing for moi) Reinforcing the mixture with extra flour is probably more up my alley. I tend to be a bit clumsy. I can just imagine me putting the last gum drop (I'm thinking a gum drop smoke stack:) on the gingerbread train and having the caboose fall apart.

    First, carefully read the directions to become familiar with the procedures and materials involved in constructing a gingerbread house. Novices may wish to consider making cookie cottages (pages 25-29) Constructing these small house with graham crackers is an excellent way to develop skills and learn techniques required in gingerbread house making. (Gingerbread Lady)

    A Make Your Own No Bake Gingerbread House recipe sounds rather childish but it just may be the ideal remedy should I not make my first gingerbread house before Tabi & Noah get old enough to help. They would have a ball. 

    Mrs. Gingerbread says:

    The history of gingerbread begins first by understanding the colorful past of gingerbread's most unique and differentiating ingredient: ginger. The search for spices such as ginger was so important that it stimulated exploration around the world.  The famous explorers Marco Polo and Vasco de Gama documented the cultivation of ginger carefully in their travels, providing justification for financing future explorations. The trade of spices like ginger became the measure of an empire’s wealth and power, and this lasted for thousands of years.  The economics of the cultivation of ginger stimulated further exploration and colonialism. Without question, the quest for ginger has had a tremendous impact on the world as we know it today...

    The choice of what to construct weighs heavy on my mind when I'm in "gingerbread mode." This might be a good time to share what I've learned about the different types of gingerbread I discovered in my travels. As much as I have this burning desire to build a gingerbread house, I don't relish the thought of gingerbread. Quite frankly, first thought, it doesn't appeal to me. How unfair am I? I've forked gingerbread into the corner of hard and steadfast when gingerbread can be quite "gingerly." As a matter of fact, there's a lot more to gingerbread then what meets the lips. Some gingerbread recipes flourish as soft delicate spice cake. Some are crisp flat snap cookies. What about warm, dark gingerbread "bread" with a tangy lemon sauce or a dollop of whipped cream? Now, doesn't that sound inviting?

    The popularity of gingerbread cookies and houses spread to colonial America. Recipes varied from region to region, according to the national origin of the immigrants who had settled there. Most recipes had fewer spices than in European recipes, and often settlers included local ingredients. Maple syrup molasses was included in many recipes in northern areas of the country, while sorghum molasses was used in the South. Gingerbread houses were also extremely popular in early America, more popular than in England. Furthermore, the hard style American gingerbread more closely resembled traditional German recipes than the softer English gingerbread. This similarity was even stronger in areas like Pennsylvania with a large German immigrant population. In these areas cookie boards were also commonly used. source

    The Gingerbread Lady says to "choose the house pattern that best suits your needs." Hmm...that dear friends may take a while. Truthfully, that just may be the problem in my Gingerbread Journey. There are, oh so many choices.

    • Eating gingerbread on muster or training day when volunteer soldiers were drilled on the village green, was a tradition that endured well into the nineteenth century in New England."
      Muster Day, or Training Day, Gingerbread is named for a New England tradition. Before the Civil War the first Tuesday of every June was set aside as Training Day for all men from ages eighteen to forty-five.  This military training began at nine o’clock in the morning, and the men were usually accompanied by wives, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters, grandfathers, and friends.  It became, of course, an occasion for festivity, and this Gingerbread was one of the indispensable ingredients of the day. source
    • Swedish settlers made gingersnaps called pepparkakor, the Pennsylvania Germans added Lebkuchen to our gingerbread repertoire, and their Moravian brethren in North Carolina rolled gingerbread dough paper-thin for crisp, thin wafers that are still sold today.
    • Soft, cake-like gingerbread was a favorite in 18th-century America, the kind that George Washington's mother served to General Lafayette when the French hero came to visit after the American Revolution. A recipe for Lafayette Gingerbread can be found in Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book by Eliza Leslie (1857) A modern version can be found here.
    • New Englanders were great gingerbread enthusiasts. At Orchard House, the Alcott family home in Concord, Massachusetts, Louisa May Alcott's mother made both gingersnaps and "soft" gingerbread, as did Emily Dickinson at her home in Amherst. One of Dickinson's neighbors, MacGregor Jenkins, recalled the "long, oval cakes, crisp and brown or yellow and delicately sweet and gummy. The flat tops were hard and shiny and on these a bit of decoration was often added in the way of a pansy or other small flower." Here's Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe. 

    After selecting a base to display the gingerbread creation, one then gets to pick a gingerbread recipe. The Gingerbread Lady offers a variety of recipes in her book. Apparently, the recipe depends upon the type of gingerbread art that is chosen. Choices include, gingerbread favors, gingerbread tree or sleigh centerpieces, cottages, ornaments, and no bake gingerbread recipes. I like the idea of a Gingerbread House Decorating Party. Some have gingerbread house parties with themes such as a Sugar Cube “Gingerbread” House Party or a Pretzel Log Cabin Party. Everyone brings a different edible decoration and they share. Necco Wafers make great decorations for gingerbread houses as do candy canes, cinnamon red hots, licorice, almonds, coconut, Mini-Wheats, and Gummy Bears, Trees can be made with an ice cream cones, pretzels for fences and hard candy for stained glass windows or frozen ponds. Snacks, beverages and holiday music also add to the festivities.

    I may not contrive the World's Largest Gingerbread House, or participate in a "A Red, White and Blue Christmas" at the gala held at the White House, (Gingerbread Houses are a tradition at the White House) nor will, I fabricate a Gingerbread Castle like Pastry Chef Jean-Francois Houdre, however, I will one day fashion the house of my gingerbread dreams even if I have to improvise. Perhaps, I will build a traditional German Gingerbread House (Lebkuchenhaus) and bake a winner! If not, there's always these tempting Gingersnap Pancakes to see me through...

    Whoops! Looks like my six year old my grand daughter Tabi is the Gingerbread House Maker in our family. Below is her first creation. Now, I understand the use of the milk cartons! BTW, Did you see the Fairy Gingerbread Poem I posted for Gingerbread Day in November. It's quite enchanting...

    Resources

    • 1. What is the History of Gingerbread?
    • 2. Gingerbread Journeys (article by food journalist Meryle Evans)
    • 3. Winning Gingerbread House Contests
    • 4. Ginny's Gingerbread House Photo Gallery
    • 5. Make a Graham Cracker House! (detailed, easy instructions)
    • 6. Kids Make Your Own Gingerbread House
    • 7. Kids can make their Own Gingerbread Houses using single serving milk cartons as a frame for their houses.
    • 8. Gingerbread House 101
    • 9. Muster Day at Old Sturbridge Village (Saturday, May 16 (2009)
    • 10. Gingerbread muffins
    • 11. Through the Ages with Gingerbread
    • 12. Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread (@ the smitten kitchen)

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    A Raisin Birthday

    Who's that girl? Doesn't she look familiar? Here's a hint. Are you baking a batch of raisin oatmeal cookies for the holidays? What about Raisin Gingerbread? Well, take a nibble for the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl, today is her birthday! Not really. Well, really. You see, the California Raisin Sun-Maid Girl was an actual person. Yes, unlike Betty Crocker and a host of other food icons and trademark figures of their creator's imaginations, Lorraine Collett Petersen, the girl pictured on boxes of Sunmaid raisins, was born on December 9, 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri. She was a mere eighteen years old when she originally posed for the portrait by artist Fanny Scafford of San Francisco. She has been adored ever since. Lucky for us, the complete story of the Sun Maid Raisin Girl is available at the Sun Maid website. Take a look at it. It's a feel good story, easy to read and it isn't long.

    Through the years, the Sun-Maid Girl has gone through a few changes. This booklet published in 1922 by the California Associated Raisin Company is titled Sun Maid Raisins; Their Food Value and 92 Selected Recipes. I'm guessing the portrait is the one of Lorraine Collett that became the company's logo in 1916. It's my understanding she was once again updated in 1970 and recently has been digitized:( for the 21st-century. The story of the California Associated Raisin Company is quite interesting and I hope to celebrate its cooperative next year.

    As for the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl, well, her portrayal of a red bonnet farm girl toting a tray of grapes afforded her a small part in a movie called Trail of the Lonesome Pine directed by Cecil B. De Mille and based on a novel of the same name. Although it was a minor part, it paid more than the $15 a week she got paid as a part-time seeder/packer and trademark poser. Unfortunately, her father disapproved of his daughter's "stardom" and made her come home. According to an article published in the New York Times, in 1983, "she later ran a Fresno California restaurant for two years, converted a former hospital into a nursing home and retired as a nurse." She died of natural causes at the age of 90.

    Blazing in the Sun

    There's a touch of mystique encircling the sun's effect on the sweetness of the grapes and the characterization of the California Raisin Girl, don't you think. It was the scorching heat of the Fresno sun that forced Francis T. Eisen to market his dried grapes as "Peruvian delicacies" and, it was the glow of the sun which sparked a company executive to select Lorraine Collett as the raisin sun girl. By 1923, the wrinkled raisin is a leading specialty representing about one-tenth of the county's income, while Raisin Day on April 30th became an annual celebration.

    We all know how incredibly versatile raisins are. Ancient physicians prescribed raisins as potions that could cure everything from mushroom poisoning to old age. Raisins are also instilled in the history and legends of Panettone.

    A gin soaked raisin recipe may be used as a folk cure for arthritis, or simply for snacks or baking in cookies. Many who suffer from arthritis attribute symptom relief to eating gin soaked raisins, as suggested by Paul Harvey. Arthritis is hard to cure completely, but there are alternative approaches that can address the underlying causes as well as provide pain relief. This is a very simple gin soaked raisin recipe. (get the recipe)

    Soft, sweet, and bite-sized, raisins make a delicious healthy treat. They can be added to granola and trail mix, or used to add color and sweetness to salads and cereals. Plump soaked raisins can be added to cookies, muffins, and breads. (plump them by soaking them in liquid for 15 minutes or simmer them for several minutes.) Raisins store well especially if stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed plastic bag. For longer storage, you can always freeze them. They thaw quickly! An easy way to hand chop raisins is to lightly coat them with about a teaspoon of oil.

    For his 1962 flight, Pillsbury supplied Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter with amazing new high-protein cereal snacks and Nestle sent along "bone-bones" of cereals with raisins and almonds. Today we call these granola bars. (source)

    Did you know it takes about four pounds of fresh grapes to make one pound of raisins. Naturally, I would like to share a recipe from the enclosed raisin booklet. I've chosen to scan a page that includes a raisin sauce recipe, marguerites, raisin cocktail and green pepper pickle. I also wanted to include a few additional raisin sauce recipes from The Roman Cookery of Apicius (translated & adapted for the modern kitchens by John Edwards) and published in 1988. The recipes include raisin sauce for poached fish and raisin thyme sauce for braised meats. I didn't find similar recipes online but I must admit, I didn't look very far:)

    Raisin Sauces
    for poached fish
    2 lbs. poached fish fillets
    1/2 tsp. ground pepper
    1 tsp. celery seed (or lovage)
    1/2 tsp. oregano
    1 tbs. chopped onion
    1/4 c. dark raisins
    1/4 c. white wine
    1 tsp. honey
    1 tsp. white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
    1/2 c. fish stock
    1 tbs. olive oil or butter
    In a mortar, grind pepper, celery seed and oregano. Combine with onion and raisins and blend with wine , honey, vinegar, fish stock and olive oil or butter. Poach the fish fillets with the sauce for 10 minutes and serve in sauce.
    for braised meats
    1/4 tsp. ground pepper
    1/2 tsp. thyme
    1/4 tsp. cumin
    1 tsp. celery seed
    pinch of fennel
    sprig of fresh mint
    4-5 peppercorns (or juniper or myrtle berries)
    1/4 c. raisins
    1/4 c. mead or 1 tbs. honey
    1 c. beef, pork, or other meat stock
    savory to taste
    In a mortar, first grind together pepper, thyme, cumin, celery seed, fennel and fresh mint. Add to peppercorns and raisins. Combine with mead or honey and stock. Heat and stir in savory, to taste. A 1/2 hour before meat is done, drain meat and pour sauce into pan with it. Finish cooking the meat in the sauce.

    If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you know I don't usually endorse any of the books I might mention in my posts. I don't because this blog is a personal endeavor and a labor of love not money. However, every now and again, I come across a book that sparks my interest and today I would like to share it with you. I'm not going to discuss it, I'm just going to give you a link where you can review its contents. I will tell you, I am going to look into it for my grand children. The title of the book is How Do You Raise a Raisin? The author is Pam Muñoz Ryan; illustrator Craig Brown (cute) It received an award from the Science Books & Films Best Books List and is for children from ages 5-8.

    Booklist - August 31, 2003
    Sticky and sweet, raisins are such a universally popular snack that they come in boxes sized to fit a child's hand and have traveled to outer space with astronauts. In lighthearted, four-line rhyming queries, Ryan wonders where and how raisins grow and how they get from grape vines to grocery stores. Her questions are answered in no-nonsense text, with raisins' nutritional benefits, product development, and "a little raisin history" spelled out at the book's end. Brown's robustly colored art, with bold black lines and stippled details, energizes the text, depicting rows of grape vines stretching to the California horizon as well as the cutting, drying, and collecting processes. His whimsical pictures often play with the humorous rhymes, as when a contented raisin soaks in a tub of purple bubble bath with a yellow rubber duck. The no-bake recipes for raisin treats are a bonus to this delectable book, which, like its subject, packs a lot of value into a small package.-- Booklist, August 2003

    One more thing:) Have you heard about Drop In & Decorate? It's a nonprofit organization founded by food writer Lydia Walshin over @ the Perfect Pantry. I learned about Lydia's efforts over @ Culinary Types and I just had to mention it to you cookie bakers out there. Perhaps your extra cookies have found a new home. So, check out Drop In & Decorate! and if you have a raisin recipe you would like to share, drop a link below.

    Resources
    1. The Sun-Maid Girl
    2. History of Fresno County, California (1919)
    3. The Valley's Legends & Legacies III(By Catherine Morison Rehart @ google books)
    4. Raisin Timeline
    5. Raisins - Natural Benefits & Curative Properties
    Recipes
    1. Raisin Selection & Storage
    2. Seasonal Recipes (California Raisin Board)
    3. Eggplant and green beans in raisin tamarind curry sauce (@ Vegalicious)
    4. Raisin Cinnamon Loaf (@ A Spoonful of Sugar)
    5. Bonner Organic Raisin Company (one of the largest independent raisin processors)

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    What are you doing for Cotton Candy Day?


    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Fooling Around with Mother Nature

    I'm breaking ground today. I'm embedding my first you tube video. Why? I just couldn't help myself. I found it, I reminisced about it and I decided to share it. How could I not. Mother Nature and Goldilocks all on the same screen. Who knows if that will ever happen again. Oh Okay, you're probably saying, "and who cares:) I do. I could use a bit of Mother Nature smiling on me today. There's a storm a brewing here in New York. The sky is getting dark, the wind is churning so much I expect a tennis ball to come flying through my front window at any moment. (I have a tenniscourt right out my front window:) Did I mention its going to pour? And, what about Goldilocks? Porridge is sounding good about now. It's chilly in the house and all in the name of shedding my carbon footprint, I've lowered the thermostat two degrees. I'll admit, I don't like it one tiny bit. I'm a Baby Boomer. I remember this commercial and, I chill easily. There, I admit it. So why a post with Mother Nature and Goldilocks embedded with a You Tube "commercial." Because, today is the day Mother Nature was born. Oh you know, I know, Mother Nature wasn't actually born today but, the actress who portrayed her in the following Chiffon Margarine commercial was and, I just happen to have a Chiffon Margarine cookbook. Oh no, not any ol' cookbook; The Chiffon Margarine Tailgate Party Cookbook. First, the commercial. Gee, I hope this works.

    Now the words. (just in case it doesn't:)
    Mother Nature: Then Goldilocks said, "Who's been eating my porridge?"
    A male voiceover, cheery and affectionate, interrupts her.
    Voiceover: Mother Nature, was this on the porridge?
    Mother Nature:Yes, lots of my delicious butter.
    Voiceover: That's Chiffon margarine, not butter.
    Mother Nature: Margarine! Oh, no! It's too sweet, too creamy!
    Voiceover: Chiffon's so delicious, it fooled even you, Mother Nature.
    Mother Nature: Oh, it's not nice to fool Mother Nature! (Thundering clap of what else, Thunder:)

    In 1948 Betty Crocker introduced the chiffon cake, hailed as "the cake discovery of the century!" With the help of a mystery ingredient, chiffon cakes combined the lightness of angel food with the richness of butter cake. How was it done--with the addition of salad or vegetable oil. The recipe was the brainchild of Harry Baker, a California insurance salesman, who invented the cake in 1927. He became famous for his cakes in the Los Angeles area and baked them for famous Hollywood restaurants, but would give the recipe to no one.
    Harry had listened to Betty Crocker's radio program over the years and decided that she should be the one to share his special cake recipe with other cooks. He traveled to Minneapolis and revealed his secret to Betty Crocker home economists. With his help they added other flavor variations, introducing a new cake idea across the country. recipe circus:Lemon Chiffon Cake

    Now that you enjoyed your nibble of chiffon cake, I would really like to get back to the heavenly Dena Dietrich. It seems the matriarch of those successful Chiffon Margarine commercials had an illustrious career. I'm assuming she buttered (or in this case margarinized) her very first English Muffin where she was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (mother nature is definitely smiling on me, I hear it's snowing in PA:) Of course it wasn't on the day she was born which was December 4, 1928. Oh, that's today's date she writes, as if she didn't know:) In fact, she was quite the celebrity in her day. If you don't want to scroll down, this is what Celebrity Almanac writes.

    Most of us will probably remember Dena by this familiar line ";It's not nice to fool Mother Nature". She was born on December 4, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her first career break was playing Juno in Cole Porter's play"; "Out of This World" in New York City in 1962. Dena agrees that playing"; "Mother Nature" for 10 years and appearing in 5 different TV series at the same time in the 70's was her most memorable career event. "Children of Paradise" is her favorite movie and Jean-Louis Barrault is her favorite actor. Her favorite music is listening to any Jacques Brel song and Star Trek is her favorite TV series. Dena loves sushi and her favorite sporting activity is watching ice-skating championships. In her leisure time she enjoys going to the movies and her hobby is the stock market. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is her most respected historical figure. She borrows a phrase from Ruth Gordon as her legacy quote: "Never, Never, Never face the facts."source

    How's this gem of a tidbit? Dena Dietrich made a couple of guest appearances playing Dorothy's sister Gloria on The Golden Girls. (I still watch that show once in a while, usually when I'm not feeling well:) Now that you're all buttered up for some Chiffon Margarine recipes, the journey has ended. It still isn't raining outside, the wind is still howling, yes, Virginia, there's a storm a brewing.

    Chiffon Margarine Recipes

    The first recipe I would like to share with you is for Shredded Wheat Bread. Oh, don't make faces. I wanted to include this recipe because December also happens to be the birth month of Henry Drushel Perky. Perky invented Shredded Wheat! Yes, Shredded Wheat is an invention and although Perky's birthdate is December 7, 1843, I posted about him and his invention in August, on the anniversary of his patent. The name of the post is Perky Shredded Wheat. It's a bit long (and you thought I wrote a lot here:) It has colorful vintage Shredded Wheat booklets and recipes. (pretty good info too:)

    BTW, the Culinary Cafe also offers a version of Shredded Wheat Bread that uses butter rather than Chiffon Margarine. There's also a bread machine version included. This is what they have to say about Shredded Wheat Bread.

    Shredded Wheat cereal gives this rich, brown, molasses-scented bread just a hint of whole wheat flavor and texture. We think it originated in the '50s, because many of us Baby Boomers remember our moms making it, but our moms don't recall having it when they were young. At any rate, it's a staple of every New England community cookbook.

    Shredded Wheat Bread
    3 large shredded wheat biscuits, crumbled
    2 cups boiling water
    1/2 cup molasses
    1-1/2 tsp. salt
    5 cups all purpose flour
    1 pkg. dry yeast
    1/4 cup Chiffon Margarine
    Pour boiling water over shredded wheat. Add molasses and salt. Let cool to lukewarm (120-130 degrees). In a large mixer bowl mix 1-1/2 cups flour and undissolved yeast. Add Chiffon and shredded wheat mixture. Beat until mixed, then beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Add 1 cup flour and beat 1 minute longer on high speed. Stir in remaining flour to make stiff dough. Knead for a few minutes. Place in a bowl brushed with Chiffon. Turn dough to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk about 1 hour. Punch dough down. divide in half. Shape into two loaves. Place each in greased 8-1/2x4-1/2 inch loaf pan. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Makes 2 loaves.

    The next scanned recipe for Apple 'N Spice Cake is a recipe post tribute to Moses Coates. I picked out this recipe so you get the full appreciation of Moses Coates and his invention of the apple parer on his birth anniversary which is also today. BTW, he was born December 4, 1756 and he received his patent in 1803. Wow! apple peelers sure have been around a while. They say the basic design is pretty much the same now as is was then. Amazing!

    Just because, I'm also including the following scanned recipe for Corn Muffins Plus. I'm sure butter or your favorite margarine can be substitued for the Chiffon.

    Nature, the gentlest mother,
    Impatient of no child,
    The feeblest or the waywardest,
    Her admonition mild...
    Emily Dickinson
    Nature-the Gentlest Mother is,
    Resources
    • 1. TV.com
    • 2. When Harry Met Betty (an interesting magazine article)
    • 3. All-American Desserts By Judith M. Fertig @ google books
    • 4. Chiffon cakes made their mark By Newsday's Sylvia Carter
    • 5. Fresh Lime Chiffon Cake
    • 6. Margarita Chiffon Cake @ epicurious
    • 7. Database of slogans. Margarine & Spreads.