Sunday, January 31, 2010

Apple Stuffed Pork & "Cheaters" Bear Claws

I know, I know, tomorrow starts a new month and we're all anxious to hear what we'll be cooking to celebrate February's arrival. Under "normal" conditions, you would arrive here and I would have a list of food celebrations listed for the month, along with the "red letter" days. Not today folks. Today, I'd like to give you a taste of what I made for dinner. Oh, this was no ordinary dinner mind you, John & Kyla came for dinner and for them, I wanted to make something extra special!

I don't think you've been "formally introduced to my son John and his sweetheart of a wife Kyla. Oh, and we can't forget my one and only grand-puppy Iggy. Psst...he's the cutie in the middle. (Thank you again Kyla for taking these delicious looking pictures:) Kyla has a "fashionable" blog over at Blue Collar Catwalk. Every once in while she let's John visit too. This picture is from his Ugly Sweater Series.

So what did I make for dinner? A gorgeous apple stuffed pork loin of course with garlic mashed potatoes, pan gravy and carrot raisin salad. (I was hesitant about the carrot raisin salad but surprisingly, it added a nice crunch to the fruitful meal. I only wish the yogurt I made this morning had set in time. It would have added a nicer tang than the mayo)

The pork was carved through the center with a big ol' apple corer and I stuffed it with toasted oatmeal bread, one diced gala apple, teeny tiny diced prunes, fried pork bits from the center of the pork. (I got the idea from the Time Life Foods of the World Series; The Cooking of Scandinavia) I moistened it all with reduced apple and raisin juice. I simply seasoned it with a bit of salt & pepper and a few strips of bacon. Fruitful indeed!

Wait, there's dessert too!!! Bear Claws. Well, sorta, kinda bear claws. I like to think of them as Cheaters' Bear Claws because I adapted a recipe I found over at The Black Cat Kitchen. Jess happens to be having a spice give-away at her new blog on Wordpress too.  She calls them  Easy Bear Claws and boy oh boy, they sure were easy and oh so good!!!

Monthly Food Celebrations

I did a bit of "cheating" with this list also. I just grabbed the post I did last year in the Kettledrum and "seasoned" it up a bit.

I'll be back with the daily celebrations on Carrot Cake Day. I'm gathering up some fabulous Carrot Cake links just for the occasion. See Ya there!!!

1. Pastry Bear Claws

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life Among The Flowers, It's National Carnation Day

Life Among The Flowers is a hidden treasure of mine. It doesn't sit on my bookshelf nor is it tucked in a draw. Life Among The Flowers lies peacefully on its very own pillow on the night stand by my bed side.

Forgive me, I will not be able to share the pictorial content of Life Among The Flowers with you today. You see, it is a very old book first published in 1855. My copy, a gift from my cherished friend Walter, proprietor of The Antiquarian Bookstore in New Hampshire, gave it to me one Christmas many years ago. I find it rather enchanting that the previous owner was also gifted it on Christmas.

I was, however, delighted for you when I found a copy of Life Among The Flowers online at google books. Just like the hardcover edition, the online version has a list of flowers and their meanings right in the table of contents. Navigating the book is as simple as clicking on the page number and you're magically lifted to the prose contents. Why not just take one moment to flit amidst the Language of Flowers.

Why am I introducing you to Life Among The Flowers today? Would you mind if we got back to that explanation a little later? At the moment, I would like to present the Gillyflower in honor of National Carnation Day.

"Hot July brings cooling showers, Apricots and gillyflowers."
~Sara Coleridge~
Gillyflowers are of several kinds, and the stock is one of the number. A gillyflower may be a stock, or a wallflower, or a clove, or a carnation. The word is often regarded as a modification of July flower, or of the French giroflee; but it has deeper and older roots, being a corruption of the Indian caryophyllou, the odor of which resembles that of the clovepink. The illustrative passages cited by Dr. Richardson indicate the probability of its being a vagrant sort of word; for in Douglas's translation of Virgil it is spelt jereflouris; in Holland's "Plinie," gillofre; in Spenser's "Shepherd's Calender," gilliflower; and in Burrow, gillyflower. In Parkinson's "Paradisus" we find descriptions of "gillowflowers" of many kinds, the chief being carnations, dame's violets, and stocks...There is a fine subject for a learned discourse in the word gillyflower, but the pith of it is now before you; all that really remains is amplification...the mention of the flower by Perdita in Shakespeare's "Winter's Tale." (aboutflowers.org)

If you were born in the month of January, chances are you already know the Birth Flower for January is the Carnation. But, did you know, January 29th is National Carnation Day? Did you also know the Carnation is the National Flower of Spain? Some sources say Pliny wrote that the "clove pink" was found in Spain at the time of Augustus Caesar. There, natives used it to give a spicy flavor to beverages. ("soppes in wine")

The national flower of Spain is considered to be the carnation, in Spanish clavel. Essentially it's associated with Spanish folklore, especially from southern Spain, or Andalusia.

It is also a symbol of affection between lovers and especially as a religious symbol related to the Jesus passion that represents the Crown of Thorns (Clavos de Cristo).

It comes from the catalan language word for clove: "clavell" because the carnation also has a nice fragrant aroma, as does the spice.

In Spain and America it symbolizes passion, and it's a very expressive gesture to bite its stem and hold the clavel between one's teeth. In the Spanish language of flowers it represents caprice, passion, wish and desire. wiki

Legend has it that Ohio adopted the Scarlet Carnation as its state flower to memorialize Ohio native William McKinley who was wearing a carnation when he was elected President on November 3, 1896.

The carnation was the favorite flower of President William McKinley, and he always wore one in his coat lapel. After his death, a mr. Lewis G. Reynolds of Dayton, Ohio wrote to The New York Herald Tribune suggesting that on President McKinley's birthday (January 29th) each person wear a carnation in his memory...Mr. Reynold's idea was adopted and a Carnation Day was observed on January 29th. (All About the Months by Maymie R. Krythe pg. 24)

I think it is high time I reveal a little secret about myself. After all, most everyone who knows me is quite aware of my love affair with Carnations. My feeling for Carnations are exactly the same as William Corbett who said he preferred "the plant of a fine carnation to a gold watch set with diamonds."

Oh, I know what you may be thinking, too often others have thought the same. You think I adore Carnations because they were first grown in this country in my home state of New York; Long Island as a matter of fact.

The first carnations came to the United States in 1852, arriving on Long Island from France. Growers in the Northeast produced carnations until the mid-1900s. Before the 1870s, however, few American gardeners cultivated carnations. Dr. Levi Lamborn of Alliance, Ohio started growing the flowers in his greenhouse in 1866. (source)
"Carnations and streaked gillyflowers,
the fairest flowers of the season."
The Winter's Tale

So wrote the Bard Of Avon about such a dainty flower with an ancient lineage. The same sentiment is felt today of the "Divine Flower" whose genus name is Dianthus"from dios, divine, and anthos, a flower; The old English name was Gillyflower, of which there were numerous quaint spellings. The name 'gillyflowers' comes from the Old English word for clove: "gilofre." In Shakespeare's time, the smaller dianthus were commonly called gillyflowers. The meaning of the word Carnation has been much disputed. The name Carnation first occurs in "The Historic of Plantes," by Rembert Dodoens, translated by Henry Lyte of London, in 1578.

Yes, the often misunderstood Carnation is often underestimated. Some think they are inexpensive flowers and would rather receive cut flowers with a more exotic flare. Not me, I appreciate being able to enjoy their everlasting beauty for days; sometimes weeks if I'm extra careful. I simply call them pinks:) Today, most pinks are called dianthus and take my word for it, this cordial flower fashioned in frills evokes memories of penny store cinnamon candy.

I found John Parkinson's definition of Gillyflowers in the Plants of Shakespeare by Adelma Grenier Simmons.

Gillyflowers grow (don't you just love the soft G sound of the word jĭl'ē-flou'ər) like unto Carnations but not so thick set with joints and leaves, the stalks are more, the leaves are narrower and whiter for the most part, and in some, do as well a little turn. The flowers are smaller, yet very thick and double in most; and the green husks in which they stand are smaller likewise. The ends of the leaves are dented and jagged. Some of them also have two small white threads, crooked at the ends like horns in the middle of the flower; others have none.

Don't you just crave some slips of gillyflowers and frilled edges in your scented garden this year? I know I do!!!

The language flowers speak has changed since 1891 when Home Dissertations ...was first published. Today, in the language of flowers, a red carnation symbolizes pure and ardent love while a pink carnation symbolizes marriage...During the Victorian era, the carnation stood for fascination and devoted love. Here then are the meanings from 1891.

Language of Flowers: Pinks
Pink, carnation, Woman's love
Pink, Indian, double, Always lovely
Pink, Indian, single, Aversion
Pink, red, double, Pure and ardent love
Pink, single, Pure love
Pink, variegated, Refusal
Pink, white, Ingeniousness, Talent

Please don't be too disappointed in the scanned images from Life Among The Flowers. As I said, it is a treasured oldie:)


Like most other flowers of 300 or 400 years ago, Carnations and pinks were regarded as having medicinal value. During the Elizabethan era, the highly fragrant flowers were steeped in wine and ale for a delightful drink. Sops, pieces of toast or stale bread were offered as solid food for dipping in the tasty liquid of "soppes in wine." Carnations were the answer to rejuvenating the body and spirit. The plants were highly regarded by Gerard, "The conserve made of the flowers of the Clove Gilloflower and sugar, is exceeding cordial, and wonderfully above measure doth comfort the heart...It prevaileth against the hot pestilential fevers, expelleth the poison and fury of the disease, and greatly comforteth the sick...." Nicholas Culpeper, "They are gallant, fine, temperate flowers, of the nature and under the dominion of Jupiter...they are great strengtheners both of the brain and heart...." and Dodoens who said, "the conserve of the flowers, made with sugar, comforted the harte, and the use thereof is good against hoate fevers and the pestilence." What these ailments may have been, is any one's guess. I'm not at liberty to uncover their meaning at present. I do however, want to include a few floral culinary uses in celebration of National Carnation Day. I'm not likely to include carnations, pinks or gillyflowers on my kitchen table except perhaps in a vase. For those of you who have extra planting space in your garden, why not sow a few "spicy petals" for culinary use. Gillyflowers are low-growing perennials that bloom in late spring to early summer. They are hardy through USDA Zones 3 and 4, but benefit from some winter protection in the coldest areas. (I've left a link below)

"Bring hither the pink and purple columbine,
With gilliflowers ;
Bring coronations, and sops in wine,
Worn of paramours:
Strew me the ground with daffadowndillies,
And cowslips, and kingcups, and loved lilies:

Edmund Spenser; The Shepherd's Calendar

In Shakespeare's time Gillyflowers, Carnations, and Pinks were so many that English botanist John Gerard, who lived from 1545 until 1607 said, "A great and large volume would not suffice to write of every one at large in particular, considering how infinite they are, and how every yeare, every clymate and countrey, bringeth forth new sorts, and such as have not heretofore bin written of;" and so we may certainly say now—the description of the many kinds of Carnations and Picotees, with directions for their culture, would fill a volume.

First, I would like to include a scanned recipe found in the book titled The Miniature Book of Flowers As Food by Jane Newdick & Mary Lawerence. Since today the culinary focus is on flower cookery, I must include this recipe for Marigold Cauliflower. I must also direct you over to Kate @ Serendipity. She just posted an intriguing "floral" recipe for Hummus. Yes, I said hummus:)

In medieval times, cooks used pinks as food seasoning, sometimes they made conserves, other times they candied them. The flowers were preserved, made into vinegars, syrups, cordials and wines. At times, the flowers were made into a sauce for lamb or mutton while tansy was a sort of sweet omelet colored with pinks. Elizabeth Grey, the Countess of Kent, and Hannah Wooley (scroll down) were two Englishwomen who used carnations in their recipes for food they prepared and also in medicines they concocted.

I don't have a recipe, per se, for Sops-in-Wine. I did, however, find a recipe for Gillyflower Sorbet and a tempting spell some may want to initiate in time for Valentine's Day. It's called, Carnations, Nuts, and Ruby Wine and was found in a book, given to me by my son, titled White Magic; Titania's Book of Favorite Spells by Titania Hardie copyright 1997.

And, from historicfood.com a recipe To Make Gilly-flower Wine:

To make Gilly-flower Wine: Take two ounces of dried Gilly-flowers, and put them into a pottle of Sack, and beat three ounces of Sugar-candy, or fine Sugar, and grinde some Ambergreese, and put it in the bottle and shake it oft, then run it through a gelly bag, and give it for a great Cordial after a weeks standing or more. You may make Lavender Wine as you do this.

I mentioned the other day that I had a special post planned for today in honor of Sarah Chauncey Woolsey's (aka Susan Coolidge) birth anniversary. Truth be told, my heart just wasn't in it. If there is one thing I have learned about blogging, it's that it is not a job!!! The great thing about blogging is you can always get to it another day. Perhaps one where the note that strikes is in tune with your surroundings. Today was an unsettling day filled with sun, snow, wind and rain. A perfect day to celebrate National Carnation Day and serve it up tomorrow; which as I look at the clock is today!!!

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Every morn is the world made new.

Sarah Chauncey Woolsey

1. "Select carnations, picotees, & pinks: the history & cultivation of all sections" (1907) (available online @ Biodiversity Heritage Library)
2. Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics: Embracing the Myths, Traditions. (Richard Folkard @ google books (1884)
3. The Story of the Carnation @ The British National Carnations Society
4. The Antiquarian Bookstore (New Hampshire's largest antiquarian book store)
5. Carnation and Poppy Symbols in Art (Rembrandt's “Woman with a Pink”)
6. Carnation, Dianthus, Gillyflower, & Pinks, @ The Dictionary of Botanical Names
7. How to Winterize Gillyflower
8. Rosemary for Remembrance: Adelma Simmons (previous post)
9. Springhill Nursery Carnation Selection

Monday, January 25, 2010

Irish Coffee, Chess Pie & Peanut Brittle?

I hadn't planned on doing a post today. I just returned from a gruesome business weekend. However, I did want to remind everyone that today is Irish Coffee Day, (the link is below) and, I wanted to offer a bit of information about Chess Pie.

When I was preparing to do my post for National Pie Day, one of the pies I considered baking was called Hawksbill Chess Pie as found in the book Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine by Joseph E. Dabney. (1998) Subtitled The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking, this book is absolutely filled to the brim with all kinds of nifty tidbits. I hope to include it in a post in the future but, not today. Anyway, the recipe sparked my interest for its sheer simplicity. The only reason I went for the Lemon Meringue Pie was because, I wanted to challenge myself in the baking arena and since I've been buying lemons by the bags these days, I was hoping to enhance a pie rather than my freezer. (I have tons of lemon ice cubes in the freezer; why, who knows!!!)

When I stopped by Marjies and saw her Lemon Chess Pie, it occurred to me that I could have just as well used up some lemon in Lemon Chess Pie. Perhaps, next time:) It seems, there were a few questions as to why Chess Pie is called Chess Pie as opposed to, oh I don't know, cheese pie for instance. A quick, and I mean quick, run over to the books, and here are just a few explanations that I found. Perhaps, next year for National Pie Day, I'll bake up a Chess Pie and dive right into its history.

From Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine:

Where did the term chess pie originate? Susan Purdy, author of As Easy As Pie, ties it to the wrod chest, pronounced with a Southern drawl, and used to describe pies "baked with so much sugar they could be stored in a pie chest." Such chest-high pie safes with perforated-tin panels doors were common throughout the region before the days of refrigeration. Another speculation is that the name came as a cook's response--jes pie--to what he was cooking...

Although chess pies are definitely Southern, and similar to transparent pies and buttermilk pies, they are relative newcomers to Southern cookbooks, having shown up only since the turn of the century...

According to Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks in North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery (1955 1st edition) "Many folks call chess pies tarts or pies, chess cakes." There is no other reference to Chess Pies in this first edition as far as I can see. I will look further in a future post.

And finally from The Dictionary of American Food and Drink by John Mariani:

Also, "chess-cake pie" and "chess tart." A simple egg, butter, and sugar pie (commonly made with buttermilk) long associated with the South. Meringue is sometimes added as a topping. The origin of the name has escaped a definitive answer. "Some believe it may be a derivation of "cheese pie," although traditional chess pies do not contain cheese of any kind. According to Sarah Belk in Around the Southern Table (1991), old cookbooks often referred to cheesecakes and pies that do not actually contain cheese, using the term more to describe the curd like texture of the confection, citing a selection of cheeseless :cheese pastries in Housekeeping in Old Virginia (1979) made with eggs, sugar, butter, milk and lemon juice--ingredients often used in a chess pie. Belk also cited Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks who said, "chess pie was an old, old tart which may have obtained its name from the town of Chester England.

...Belk noted that chess pies made with white sugar were called "sugar pies," those with brown sugar "brown-sugar-pies," and those with raisins "Osgood pies (an elison of "Oh-So-Good") 

Well, I'm not quite sure what I have accomplished by this post except to say, I need a piece of pie, any kind of pie, NOW!!!

FYI: January 26th is the birth anniversary of the late Paul Newman. I shared recipes from Newman's Own last year. It is also the patent date of what possibly may be the first "meat cutter" or "meat chopper." An interesting contraption, you can see an image of it @ google patents. I would also like to wish my Australian visitors a Happy Australia Day. As Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once exclaims, "Is there a better way to celebrate Australia Day than with that great Australian invention, Pavlova? (another meringue favorite:) According to the National Confectioners Association, tomorrow is also National Peanut Brittle Day and National Pistachio Day @ Slashfood!!!

And you thought I made this stuff up:) I try to post a food celebration on twitter each day. You can always visit me if you like:) For those of you who never saw this previously posted Peanut Brittle Recipe Poem, here it is as I found it in the Polish Town Fair & Festival Cookbook, (1984)

When it is Christmas candy time,
Or any time of year,
This peanut brittle recipe
Becomes especially dear.

You add to One large cooking pan
A cup of each of these
White syrup, sugar, water too
And blend with gentle ease.

A teaspoonful of table salt,
When it is added too,
Will mean that you have reached the point
When you must cook the brew.
So cook it to the soft ball stage
And then itis time to add
A tablespoon of butter
And the peanuts to your pan.

It takes one pound of peanuts
That you've purchased in the shell,
And shucked yourself ahead of time
To make this turn out well.

With all ingredients in the pan
You cook until it's brown,
And take your pan from off the stove
Your candy's almost done.

Stir in one teaspoon soda,
Pour on a buttered sheet,
And let it harden as it will,
Then break in chunks your treat
The rest comes very naturally
Just eat to suit your will,
And have a happy holiday
That's peanut brittle filled.

P.S. I'm working on a special post for Friday. If all goes well, I'll be back with it then. I'll give you a hint, January 29th is the birthdate of Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, editor, poet and children's writer who wrote under the pseudonym "Susan Coolidge."

1. Irish Coffee Day (previous post)
2. Irish Coffee Pie from Land O'Lakes
3. Irish Coffee Pie made with gelatin from the Food Channel
4. Easy Irish Pie
5. Chess Pie @ wiki
6. Chess Pie @ What's Cooking America
7. North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery (A New and Revised Edition is available @ The University of North Carolina Press)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's National Pie Day! My First Lemon Meringue Pie

Happy Pie Day!!! Okay, I admit it, this is my third National Pie Day here at Months of Edible Celebrations. On my very first National Pie Day, I shared one of my favorite die-cut recipe booklets titled Fairy Pie. Although it is a charming little booklet, in the shape of a mince pie, there aren't any recipes in it. Instead, it is composed like a Mother Goose Tale. The children in the story share their desire for "a goody in the whole wide world in a single bite."

Fairy Pie

With visions of childhood come those luscious mince pies
so tender, so juicy, so sweet!
When brought from the oven what aroma would rise
Our tantalized nostrils to greet!

In 2009 I discovered January 23rd is not only National Pie Day, it is also National Rhubarb Pie Day!!! I also learned at the American Pie Council, that "English tradition credits the first cherry pie to Queen Elizabeth I."

Since Michigan celebrates Statehood in the month of January (26th) and because they have IMHO the best cherries EVER, I am including a recipe for Traverse City Cherry Berry Pie from the cookbook the Best of the Best from Michigan Selected Recipes from Michigan's Favorite Cookbooks. (1996, Quail Ridge Press) From the Preface:

Michigan, the Great Lakes State, is a cornucopia of wonderful things...Traverse City, the Cherry Capital of the World, offers everything from cherry pie to cherry hamburgers...

National Pie Day is sponsored by the American Pie Council. It is "dedicated to the celebration of pie."  The American Pie Celebration began in 1986 to commemorate Crisco's 75th anniversary of "serving foods to families everywhere." According to a Favorite Brand Name Recipes soft cover booklet I have titled American Pie Celebration, copyright 1991, "Crisco pie baking contests are held at major state or country fairs in each of the fifty states." then, the winner of each contest represents his or her state at a national competition for the title of "Baker of the American Pie."

My First Lemon Meringue Pie

As many of you know, I'm not a baker. That said, I started my preparation for this post a few days ago. I wanted to serve up a savory pie for National Pie Day. Actually, I had a savory pie in mind called, Impossibly Easy Breakfast Pie. As it turns out, it didn't!!! Oh, it "turned" out okay however, it just didn't knock me off my socks!!! However, I can't really blame it on the recipe. I swapped out a few ingredients and added a few of my own. Truth be told, I was never one for those impossible pies touted by Bisquick decades ago. (did I just write decades eeeeeee.....)

In an attempt to challenge my baking skills, and put to work the food processor my son and Kyla let me borrow, I chose a recipe out of American Pie Celebration, to bake for you today. It was a difficult choice. I finally decided on Classic Lemon Meringue Pie for a few reasons. First, I've never baked Lemon Meringue Pie before. Second because, I crave a bit of sunshine. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled it hasn't snowed in a while but boy oh boy, I've about had it with gloomy days. Lemons remind me of sunshine. I bet they do the same for you too!!! I'll begin with the crust.

Single Crust Food Processor Method
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco® Shortening
3 tablespoons cold water
1. Place Crisco, water, and flour in processor blow. sprinkle salt over flour.
2. Process 3 to 5 seconds until dough just forms. Shape into ball. Note: For flakier crust, freeze Crisco in tablespoons-size chunks before processing. I did
3. Press dough between hands to form 5-to-6-inch "pancake." Flour rolling surface and rolling pin lightly. Roll dough into circle. Ed Note: (I don't have a rolling pin anymore. I sent it off to Michele a few years ago thinking I would never need it:) The only thing I could find that resembled a rolling pin was part of a napkin holder my neighbor in Bellefonte made for me quite a few years ago.
4. Turn your pie plate upside-down and trim dough 1-inch larger around the pie plate. Loosen dough carefully.
5. Fold dough into quarters. Unfold and press into pie plate. Fold edge under and flute. (there was no fluting in my kitchen. I had a bit of a problem with this step.)
6. For recipes using a baked pie crust, heat oven to 425 degrees. Prick bottom and sides thoroughly with fork 50 times to prevent shrinkage. Bake at 425 for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

The recipe for the Lemon Meringue Pie was submitted to the Crisco booklet by Jennifer Bernbaum, of  Inglewood California. I hope I did it justice:)

Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
9-inch Classic Crisco Single Crust
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tbs. plus 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-1/2 cups water
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbs. butter or margarine
2 tbs. grated lemon peel
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1. For crust: prepare and bake as above. Cool. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. For filling: combine 1-1/2 cups sugar and cornstarch in medium saucepan. Stir in water gradually. Cook and stir on medium heat until mixture thickens and boils. (difficult for me on an electric stove) Add about one-third of hot mixture to egg yolks. (I really thought I was going to wind up with scrambled eggs at this point) Mix well. Return to saucepan. Cook and stir about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, butter and lemon peel. Spoon into cooled baked crust.
3. For meringue: beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed of electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Spread over filling covering completely and sealing to edge of pie. (surprisingly, I didn't have a problem with this step. It was fun watching the meringue peak. I was so tempted to dip my finger. It looked like whipped cream:)
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned. Cool to room temperature before serving.
Chances are, I won't be baking Classic Lemon Meringue Pie again, anytime soon. Oh, don't get me wrong, it tasted delicious!!! The crust didn't sog up. I dislike soggy crust immensely!!! The filling tasted just as I had hoped. I would suggest chilling the pie before serving. Room temperature didn't seem to highlight the pucker I was seeking from the lemon. Chilling the filling gave the flavors a chance to settle; pudding like:) I will be seeking additional meringue type pies. I had a ball making the meringue. It tasted like a toasted cloud midst the lemony pudding. If you look very closely at the teapot, you will notice the cherub lady has a knitting ball in front of her. I included her just for YOU, Channon:) That funny looking object on the top of the pie slice is suppose to be a lemon butterfly. Let's not get crazy here. My garnishing skills need honing and my photography skills, nil!!!
Did you make a pie for National Pie Day??? I'd love to hear about it!!! Have a wonderful day. I'll be visiting later. Now, what can I conger up for dinner???

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Shall I Cook Today?

Well, today I'm not actually cooking. Although, I must say, I did cook my first Pot Roast Dinner in the new house this past weekend. Nope, today, I'm celebrating the debut of Aunt Jenny on national radio. Not my Aunt Jenny, sillies, America's Aunt Jenny, played by Spry radio spokesperson, Edith Spencer.

Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories

Picture it. It's a cold Monday morning in Littleton, USA. The year; 1937, the date; January 18th. The scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming and laundry have been tended to. All is nice and tidy. The ironing board is dragged out; heated and the time has come to tune in the Philco. It's 11:45 AM and Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories is just about to debut on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio broadcast.

What sudsy gossip will we hear today. Is there a young housewife out in radio land who needs a problem solved? Don't fret, the perfect hostess, Aunt Jenny will come to your aid.

In appearance, Aunt Jenny was a slightly plump, grandmotherly woman with bright white hair, thin spectacles, and an ever-present baking apron. Her demeanor was sweet, kind, helpful and almost bizarrely enthusiastic, especially regarding her home cooking and Spry Vegetable Shortening in particular. She spoke in a plain and homely manner, often dropping the ending g of words like cooking. Aunt Jenny’s best-remembered aspect was the long-running radio show, Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, which made its debut on CBS on January 18, 1937. The show took the format of a dramatic serial or soap opera, presenting a different story weekly, and running for 15 minutes from 10:45am to 11:00am each weekday morning. The stories featured typical soap opera plots involving the people of a small American town called Littleton. Aunt Jenny herself was not the focus of these stories but served as host and narrator. She also offered cooking instruction, generally in the form of easy recipes which included Spry Vegetable Shortening as an ingredient. (source)

We won't know the answer to any of these soap opera questions until we hear from our sponsor.

Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories featured the people who lived in the town of Littleton. These people had their share of happiness, sadness, romance, and the other good emotional stuff radio soap operas were famous for.  The stories were usually completed in 5 episodes, and a new one would begin the following Monday with different characters.  On the program, Aunt Jenny served as hostess and narrator. 

When the story for the broadcast was completed, Aunt Jenny and program announcer Dan Seymour briefly talked about the latest events in the story; then turned their attention to the recipe of the day.  Of course, the recipes varied from main dish to dessert, but they all had one common denominator--- the services of Spry Shortening.  Aunt Jenny wasn't bashful in the least for mentioning Spry when it came to using shortening.  She stated that no other shortening or baking fat came close in bringing out the flavor of the ingredients as Spry could.  Since Spry was mentioned and talked about frequently between Aunt Jenny and Seymour, the recipe of the day also served as Spry's closing commercial. (excellent resource for show info)

I couldn't find any documentation as to where Littleton, USA might be. I'm assuming since, The Lever Brothers Company was in Cambridge, MA at the time, Littleton must have been on the outskirts.

Procter & Gamble was enjoying great success with its Crisco shortening; that product brought in nearly half of the company's profits in the early 1930s. Lever Brothers thought they could take advantage of the lard substitute market. Delaying direct sales to consumers, Lever Brothers entered the market with artificial lard sold to bakeries. When the Depression brought low prices for lard and butter, the market for lard substitutes dropped. It was not until 1936, when the country was in the midst of a serious shortage of real lard, that Lever Brothers brought out its Spry shortening in the United States. By 1939, after a massive cross-country campaign to demonstrate uses of Spry, the new product had reached sales of 50,000 tons. In three years, Spry sales had reached about 75 percent of the sales of Crisco, which had been on the market since 1910. (Does that mean Crisco celebrates its Centennial this year?) (source)

Aunt Jenny's Favorite Recipes

Aunt Jenny's down home character was played by a woman by the name of Edith Spencer. Her door was always opened to lend a helping hand. According to the Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas By Jim Cox, Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. appealed to the audience of Aunt Jenny's and encouraged them to unite behind the troops during WWII. Actor Richard Widmark was cast in his first role when he joined Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories in 1938.

Cakes are an enticin' dessert--the happy endin' that sends folks from the table smilin' an' satisfied. They furnish quick energy too--lots of it--to help keep goin' an' workin' to win.Be sure to put some cake or cookies in the lunch box every day.

You can do it even with rationin'.

Keep high point expensive butter for table use. Spry gives the finest cakes anybody could ask for--tender, velvety, light as a feather an' so good tastin'.If you have always been a butter-user up to now, I think you'll get the surprise of your life at how wonderful Spry cakes are!

Early in the show, there was an Uncle Calvin. Aunt Jenny's husband who worked for the local newspaper. Naturally, Uncle Calvin always had an endearing word to say about Aunt Jenny's creations.

The following recipe for doughnuts is from yet another undated Spry booklet titled What Shall I Cook Today. It was a toss-up between the donuts and a recipe for Cranberry Apple Pie. I've decided to post the pie recipe for National Pie Day on January 23rd. Enjoy:)

The final episode of Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories aired on Friday, September 28, 1956.

Note: click on any image to enlarge in new window.Psst... Today is also Winnie the Pooh Day! (previous post)

1. Spry! The Smoothest Sizzling Shortening Ever!
2. Aunt Jenny & Spry @ Ghosttraveller
3. Home Economists Heard On Radio
4. Betty Crocker Hits the Radio Waves (previous post)
5. What is Shortening? (Mae's Food Blog has the answer.)
6. Historical dictionary of American radio soap operas By Jim Cox (available @ google books)
7. Spry Christmas Cookies @ Food Company Cookbooks
8. Spry Marble Cake with Lemon Frosting @ Food for the Hungry Soul

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quick Links: National Peach Melba Day

My intention is to delve into the many dishes inspired by Dame Nellie Melba on her birthday in May. However, I would be remiss if I didn't offer up a selection of Peach Melba recipes to celebrate National Peach Melba Day!!! Oh, I know what you're thinking, Peach Melba Day in the middle of January? I questioned it myself so I took a quick hop over to the Food Reference website and lo and behold, indeed, not only is today Peach Melba Day, it is also the day Chef Pierre Franey was born.

Quick Links: Peach Melba

Peach Melba is a classic French dessert created by Escoffier for Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. It combines poached peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.

image from Cookbook of the Stars (1941)

I took a quick look around and found some really delicious versions of Peach Melba nestled around the blogosphere. With their permission, which I am very grateful for, I offer the following delectable delights.

Peach Melba Cupcakes @ Kathy's A Good Appetite

Peach Melba Dessert Muffins @ the Equal Opportunity Kitchen

Grilled Peach Melba in Raspberry and Chocolate Sauce @ Dhanggit's Kitchen

Grilled Peach Melba w/Mascarpone @ Joelen's What's Cooking in Chicago 

Peach  Melba & Vanilla Cardamom Ice Cream @ the Fun & Food Blog

If you have a Peach Melba recipe hidden in your archives, leave the link below in the comment section or send it on over to me and I'll add it. You can never have enough versions of Peach Melba you know...

1. National Peach Melba Day @ Food Reference
2. Reductions a la Pierre Franey (previous post)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Leah Chase: Down Home Healthy

It seems many of us have diets on our minds these days. The desire to begin the new year resolving to eat less junk food, nibble more fiber, increase HDL (good cholesterol) and lower the "bad" cholesterol (LDL) overwhelms our balance. Is it any surprise that January is Diet Month???

Oh, I've made diet resolutions before. When I think back though I don't ever remember "going on a diet" for health reasons. The deeper I dig into whatever bit of memory I have left, dieting to me was usually a fad or a phase. Fact is, I'm a pretty healthy eater although, I can't say the same for my cooking. How can that be you may ask. Well, I'm not one to substitute anything for butter! I'm very unhappy about the lack of fat left on showcase meat. Bacon has become my buddy! I cover most large pieces with some sort of bacon before roasting, sometimes I use plain old butter. (I think they call this barding:) I use whole milk, eggs and cheese! Oh I'm sure I could go on. My key seems to be eating very little. (minus the mallomars and Hershey's kisses and...and...and...:) Bottom line? A clean bill of health! (as I sit here munching on my miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups:) Somethings gotta give before my heart does.

Cooking shows don't help you know. I'm yet to find a "healthy" cooking show that has more to offer in benefits of diet awareness than some of the "healthy" blogs I visit. Off the top of my head, I just read a hilarious post over at Jim's titled Nutritional Value of Baked Stuffed Post. Another  interesting post I happened upon was over at Coco Cooks. Not only is her review most interesting, she's giving away a copy of The Mayo Clinic Diet Book (hurry you have until January 10th)

As a matter of fact, the other night I was so exhausted from unpacking, that I decided to quit early and catch a glimpse of the Iron Chef America: Super Chef Battle episode. All those beautiful vegetables from the White House Garden doused in calories!!! As tempting as that Cauliflower au Gratin oozed try me, I would have preferred a "kicked up" roasted version.

Down Home Healthy

Today is the day the acclaimed "Queen of Creole Cuisine," Leah Chase was born in 1923. (follow that link if you want to see a video of Leah Chase "expertly" frying chicken and cooking up other goodies.) They're from the show In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs which aired on PBS. Leah Chase was also interviewed by The History Makers in 2002.

Does the Dooky Chase Cookbook ring a bell? Leah Chase is Dooky Chase's Star Chef. Down Home Healthy: Family Recipes of Black American Chefs Leah Chase and Johnny Rivers is a gathering of recipes which focuses on enjoyable foods that are "lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium; higher in fiber; and promote good health."

I make my bread pudding without butter and with evaporated skim milk and egg whites now. (Ed Note: 2 egg whites equal 1 whole egg yolk in recipes. Don't laugh, but I've been know to use the egg yolks as a shampoo.) Same rich taste, fewer calories and next to no fat. For a delicious sauce, mix cornstarch with a little water and stir it into the hot milk, sugar and seasoning mixture. You don't have to use the traditional butter and flour. ~Leah Chase~

First, an extract about this extraordinary woman from wiki:

Leah Chase is the author of The Dooky Chase Cookbook. Her restaurant, Dooky Chase, was known as a gathering place during the 1960s among many who participated in the Civil Rights movement.

As the owner and chef extraordinaire of the popular Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans, Leah Chase has distinguished herself as a community and civic leader through her dedicated involvement with numerous charities and organizations. The preeminent chef in the Dooky Chase kitchen, Mrs. Chase has established a reputation as one of the best purveyors of Creole cuisine in the nation.

Leah Chase was born in rural Madisonville, Louisiana and moved to New Orleans at the age of 18. After working briefly in a laundry in the French Quarter, she found a job at the Colonial Restaurant on Charter street. It was the first time she had ever seen the inside of a restaurant. In 1946, she married Dooky Chase, Jr., and shortly after entered his family’s restaurant business, which would grow into the present day Dooky Chase. Her husband’s mother was running the restaurant, and as Leah says, “Black people had no other place to go, so she had a captive audience.” Over the years, as Leah’s expertise and popularity grew, she was able to exert more influence upon the cuisine and atmosphere at Dooky Chase. She successfully grafted her country roots, both in ethics and food, to the black Creole tradition of the city, and soon the restaurant became a reflection of Leah herself, and of the black community as a whole.

The Dooky Chase Restaurant was not spared by Hurricane Katrina.

Mrs. Chase (everybody calls her Leah but a real queen deserves more respect) joined her husband in his family restaurant in the 1940s, determined to serve the kind of food she learned to cook at home.  Although it is located in an African American neighborhood and originally catered to blacks, the restaurant now serves African Americans, white Orleanians and tourists, American presidents and other celebrities. The restaurant was wrecked by the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and was closed for over two years while Mrs. Chase lived in a nearby FEMA trailer. (source)

There's a wonderful interview with Leah Chase about rebuilding the restaurant and its historic significance over at the Creole Folks blog.

"...We played a big part in that Civil Rights movement. We owe that to come back. What we try to tell people is just realize you can go anywhere you want to now. Years ago Duke Ellington came and the only place he could sit down and eat was Dooky Chase. Nat King Cole. Sarah Vaughan. All those people. Now you have many places. I'm so glad. You know what? People remember..."

The Recipes

There are so many recipes to savor in this delightful booklet. It may only be forty-four pages but it is just jammed packed with deliciousness, healthy tips and personal commentary. It was a difficult choice to choose a recipe. I was leaning toward the recipe for Catfish Stew and Rice but when I read Ms. Chase's introduction to New Orleans Red Beans, I just had to include it.

"Monday was laundry day in our house. Laundry day meant red beans and rice to us because we let them cook all day as we washed and starched and dried and ironed the family's clothes. We had plenty of thyme in the garden, so we used lots of that. What we didn't know then was just how Healthy our Monday dinners were. Today's version made without fat, is even healthier. It's just what the doctor ordered."

New Orleans Red Beans

FYI: Elvis Presley would be celebrating birthday #75 on January 8th. See my Quick Links post from last year:) It has his favorite foods:)

1. Creole Queen: Leah Chase (rebuilding Dooky Chase’s Restaurant)
2. Dedication of Leah Chase Louisiana Gallery
3. In the kitchen with Mme Early: black women in restaurants
4. Eating for a Healthy Heart

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oh Boy it's Spaghetti Day!

No man is lonely eating spaghetti
It requires to much attention.

Christopher Morely

Now, didn't I just pick the perfect day to wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year; It's National Spaghetti Day!!! Well, don't quote me on that. There seems to be some discrepancy as to whether Spaghetti Day is twirled in October; National Pasta Month or January 4th!!! I realize it can all be so confusing. I mean I'm sure there are some of you out there from my generation that may think today is Wednesday (which of course it is not:) Why? Well in those days, Wednesday was Prince ® spaghetti day!

The Origins of Macaroni...

...is veiled by many romantic legends. The Ancient Greeks had a word for it; in their language "macaroni" meant "The Divine Food," a gift from the gods of Olympus.

But it took the glinting eye of a love-smitten Italian sailor and an exotic Chinese maiden to discover the most popular dish ever to grace an Italian table.

According to the fabulous legend, one of Marco Polo's sailors was charmed by the Oriental beauty of the Chinese maiden and while romancing her as she was busily mixed bread dough; the leaves from a nearby tree drifted into the mixture. When the maiden realized what happened she became upset but the clever Italian sailor saved the day. The resourceful sailor forced the dough through a wicker basket and let it dry in the sun. As a parting gesture, the Chinese maiden presented some of the strands to the Italian.

En route to Italy, the sailor decided to cook the strands and everyone liked it, including Marco Polo and named the strands after his crewman Spaghetti. That's the romantic yarn behind this relishing dish.

Whether fact or fiction, it remains that Spaghetti is today one of America's most popular dishes.

Charming story courtesy of the folks at Prince®, isn't it? Although there is much debate about the origin of pasta, one theory we can finally put to rest is the macaroni legacy of Marco Polo and the treasures of spaghetti goodies he supposedly introduced to Italy on his return trip from China. As luck would have it, the Marco Polo story lost total credibility when the will of a Genoan soldier was discovered.

While noted food historian Massimo Alberini was collecting material for the Museo Storico degli Spaghetti (Historical Spaghetti Museum), he discovered a will in the city archives in Genoa. In the document, witnessed and signed by a public notary, Ugolino Scarpa, on February 2nd, 1279, Ponzio Bastone, a soldier, mentions among his belongings una bariscella plena di macaronis, or, a barrel full of macaroni (maccheroni). The document is important for two reasons: first, it dates long before the return of Marco Polo from China; secondly, the word macaroni appears for the first time...

I'm not too keen on beginning the new year dunking into the history of spaghetti. Maybe next year. I had a rough weekend with the move and all. As a matter of fact, the weather was so treacherous, I had to spend New Year's Eve in a hotel:( All is well now though. Sure there are boxes everywhere and it is once again snowing in PA but, I made it back to the truck rental place just in the nick of time, had time to gather my composure yesterday and today, well today is National Spaghetti Day!!! Let's just get to the recipes.

Fun with Spaghetti

Macaroni Frankfurter Casserole

The next recipe for Ready Spaghetti comes from Kids Cooking; A Very slightly Messy Manual published by the editors of Klutz Press and illustrated by Jim M'Guinness. (1987) It's such a fun book for kids. If you ever happen upon it, give it a good look over and I'm sure you will agree. I hope to devote a post to this book eventually however, for now, Ready Spaghetti?

Ready Spaghetti

1. Spaghetti & Meatballs-Crockpot Style (@ Coleen's Recipes) Coleen is celebrating her FIRST blogoversary today!!! 
2. Spaghetti Ring (@ Tried & True Cooking with Heidi)
3. Spaghetti Impossible (@ Marilyn's Simmer Till Done)
4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Spaghetti (@ Tiger & Strawberries)
5. Spaghetti Meat Loaf? (@ Rochelle's Vintage Recipes)
6. Lemon Spaghetti? (by Chef Tom)
7. Chocolate Spaghetti??? (@ Dying for Chocolate)
8. Spaghetti Casserole (@ Moveable Feasts)
There are more "adult" like spaghetti links below:)

Pasta is a versatile, nutritious, economical, thus democratic, and increasingly international food. In past times, it was fried and sweetened with honey, or tossed with garum (fish paste) by the ancient Romans. Or it might have been boiled, or baked in rich pies, called timballi, that defied Renaissance sumptuary laws. Today, pasta is usually boiled to a slightly chewy, resistant consistency (al dente), and dressed with a variety of sauces, eaten in soup, or baked. The oldest, most traditional Italian condiment from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries consisted of butter and cheese (and sugar, cinnamon, and other spices); pasta was also boiled in meat broths. Only since the 1830s was it combined with the now familiar tomato sauce. In the course of its history, pasta has been both a luxury, and only recently (in the nineteenth century), a popular food. (Encyclopedia of Food & Culture)

Types of Spaghetti

Buctani-Thick Spaghetti shaped pasta that is hollow in the center, similar to a thin straw. Bucatini is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be used to make casseroles or stir-fry dishes. Go beyond tomato sauce and see what your favorite becomes.
Fusilli-(Twisted Spaghetti) This long, spiraled shape can be topped with any sauce, broken in half and added to soups, or turned into a beautiful salad. Fusilli also bakes well in casseroles.
Spaghetti–(A length of Cord) America’s favorite shape, Spaghetti is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be used to make casseroles or stir-fry dishes. Go beyond tomato sauce and see what your favorite becomes.
Thin Spaghetti–Thin Spaghetti is very similar to Vermicelli. Each one is slightly thinner than Spaghetti. Thin Spaghetti is perfect topped with any sauce, or as a salad or stir-fry ingredient.
Vermicelli–(Little Worms) Slightly thinner than Spaghetti, Vermicelli is good topped with any sauce, or as a salad or stir-fry ingredient.
It cannot be stressed enough; cook pasta until it is al dente, firm to the teeth yet tender. Many Americans cook pasta until it is too soft, a minute or two less of cooking time will give you authentic Italian pasta. Fresh pasta will take even less time to be cooked to perfection. Another key to perfect pasta is to use a large cooking pot and plenty of water; this will stop the pasta from sticking and will also ensure every inch of pasta will be cooked though. Don't forget to add plenty of salt to the cooking water before adding the pasta, good pasta is almost never has salt in it so this is the only time it can be seasoned. Some people add a little olive oil to the cooking water to stop the pasta from sticking and while that works for larger pasta like lasagna it is not necessary if you use a large pot, plenty of water and remember to stir the pasta. When draining the pasta remember to save about a cup of the water in the pot, this starchy water will add a little body to whatever sauce you choose. Never, ever rinse off the pasta after cooking unless you're making pasta salad. Washing off all that starch and salt will kill any flavor your pasta once had. (source)
1. Spaghetti & Meatballs-Crockpot Style (@ Coleen's Recipes) Coleen is celebrating her FIRST blogoversary today!!!
2. Spaghetti Ring (@ Tried & True Cooking with Heidi)
3. Spaghetti Impossible (@ Simmer Till Done)
4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Spaghetti (@ Tiger & Strawberries)
5. Spaghetti Meat Loaf? (@ Rochelle's Vintage Recipes)
6. Lemon Spaghetti? (by Chef Tom)

Here's a question for you. Do you have a day of the week you associate with a beloved (or not so beloved:) food? Is Monday Rice and Beans night at your house? Fish or Pizza on Fridays? When's your Taco Night?
FYI: On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. Was it a Hoax???

1. Italian Pasta Through the Ages
2. Was Spaghetti Invented in Sicily?
3. Pasta Shapes & Uses
More Recipes
1. Spanish Spaghetti (adapted from Cooking Light) (@ A Good Appetite)
2. Greek-Style Shrimp Scampi W/Whole Wheat Spaghetti (adapted from Cooking Light) (@ The Recipe Girl)
3. Spaghetti de pollo de la abuela or Grandma’s Chicken Spaghetti (@ Laylita's Recipes)
4. Heirloom Tomato and Spaghetti Strata (@ Coconut & Lime)
5. Beans, Greens, and Broken Spaghetti Soup (@ Proud Italian Cook)
6. Three-Cheese Baked Spaghetti (@ Tammy's Recipes)
7. Slow-Simmered Calamari with Spaghetti & Spinach (@ A Mingling of Tastes)
8. Spaghetti with Fennel & Salami (@ What's for Lunch Honey)
9. Basic fare: spaghetti (Restauranting through History)
10. Spaghetti Bolognaise, not the “real thing” but it can be good
11. Homemade Bread Sticks (all this pasta begs for Homemade Bread Sticks @ For the Love of Cooking)