Sunday, March 28, 2010

Black Forest Cake Day Mix-Up

Happy National Black Forest Cake Day!!! Remember that auction I went to a couple of weeks ago? You know the one with the 400+ cookbooks. Well, one of the many, many cookbooks I won is titled The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn.

As you probably all know by now, cake baking and I just don't agree. Oh we concur when it comes to the irresistible desire to savor the moment. It's the batter, bowls and beaters that gets us in a whirl. So, self I said, "if you want to be in harmony with baking and sanity, turn to the cake doctor." You see, The Cake Doctor "doctors" cake mixes into luscious desserts with from scratch taste. Or so the book cover states.

My intention was to share the author's many tips and tricks but it seems, not only time slipped on by, but I got a wee bit carried away baking my fool head off. As I skimmed through the book, the first recipe that tugged at my heart was a recipe for Cannoli Cake. The description didn't help matters, "Powerful flavors are at work and a simple white cake mix is once again transformed!" I justified my decision to bake up this quick and easy cake all for the sake of saving waste. I've had this container of Ricotta in the fridge for almost a week now. Every time I think to put it in the freezer for safe keeping, I hesitate and leave it in the fridge. It's almost like I'm playing Chess with the darn thing. I'm forever moving it from back to front, door to shelf, well, you get the idea. "Let's put a stop to this pawning around and use the darn thing up," I said to Marion. She gleefully agreed.

Choosing the recipe for a Black Forest Cake was not as easy. There wasn't one. Uh Oh!!! It just never occurred to me that there wouldn't be a recipe for Black Forest Cake in this "Deluxe Edition" of the Cake Doctor and I wasn't about to take a chance on actually baking it from scratch. Not today, not on National Black Forest Cake Day. What's a girl to do? Improvise! And boy did I improvise. However, I actually kept track of what I did just in case it turned out to be spectacular!!!

For the base of the cake, I chose a recipe called Incredible Melted Ice-Cream Cake. There was a method to my madness. The lack of cherries, or so I thought, but we'll get back to that later. How can a person make a Black Forest Cake without any cherries? The answer; Melted Ice Cream Cake; BECAUSE, this girl almost always has a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia in the freezer. (You see why I had no room for the ricotta:) Okay, the "Cake Doctor" did happen to mention that her family's favorite way to bake this "incredible' cake was with the same ice cream that just happened to be in my freezer.

"With cherry and chocolate pieces and the cream and the eggs in the ice cream, you need little else. Your liquid, your fat, and your flavoring are all in the melted ice cream."

I suppose the deciding factor in choosing this particular recipe was that it specifically suggested using a Bundt pan. I picked up a gently used Pampered Chef Bundt pan at a yard sale last week for $2.00 and I've been "dying" to test it out. Plus, I figured if the cherry flavor in the ice cream wasn't as decadent as I hoped, I could always fill the inside of the Bundt with cherry filling...if I had any. Well, it just so happens that Marion had a can of cherries "stashed" in her bedroom. No, I'm not kidding. It seems, she uses them when her gout is acting up:) When she heard me hemming and hawing about forgetting to pick up cherry pie filling, which is what I thought people used for Black Forest Cake, she came to my rescue with a can of cherries; pitted dark sweet cherries. I'm still not sure what kind of cherries one uses in a "real" Black Forest Cake. A quick check online seemed to mention Morels. Are pitted dark sweet cherries morels. Well, they are in my book!

When I opened the can of cherries, they sure didn't look like they were going to deck out any Black Forest Cake I was baking. The liquid was not as syrupy as I had hoped and the cherries were not as well formed as I had hoped. Since the Incredible Melted Ice-Cream Cake didn't include directions for cherry filling, I skipped around The Cake Doctor for a "prescription." On my way through the pages of the book in search of a recipe I could "doctor" up for cherry pie filling, I ran across an entire page devoted to ganache. Oh, I might as well confess, I've never made ganache on my own but, I sure do fall in love all over again each and every time it's put before me in any way shape or form. So, when I read these words, I mean really, I just had to create a way to include it in my Black Forest Cake.

"Making ganache for the first time is an eye-opening experience. You will wonder what took you so long to savor the simplicity of hot whipping cream and chopped semisweet chocolate stirred together in this mysterious and irresistible chocolate sauce...Begin with whipping (heavy) cream in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then remove it from the heat and pour it over chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl. Stir and add a tablespoon of liqueur, if desired."

How difficult can that be I thought. Turns out, I was stumped right from the beginning. Do you whip the cream before you heat it, I asked Marion? The directions assumed I knew. I didn't. So, I didn't whip it first which thank goodness was right; I think. Chopping chocolate is no easy task either. Of course, when I was down to my last cube, it occurred to both Marion and I that it probably would have been a heck of lot easier had I used the mini food processor John and Kyla let me borrow until I decide what new kitchen tool I want. I still don't know if it would have worked. I'm sure it would have made a heck of a lot less noise though and probably would have saved my tender wrists from excruciating pain. (I have very tender wrists but that's a whole other story:) The chocolate got chopped. But, when I poured the boiled whipping cream on it, it didn't melt. Uh Oh! Thank goodness Marion suggested I try the nuker to complete the melting process. (her words, not mine:) Thirty seconds later, ganache tucked safely in the fridge!

Incredible Melted Ice-Cream Cake
Vegetable oil for spraying the pan (I used Crisco; I was taking any chances:)
Flour for dusting the pan (Wondra here:)
1 package (18.5 ounces) plain white cake mix (I used Devil's Food:)
2 cups melted ice cream, your choice flavor
3 large eggs
Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting (I didn't use this although I was tempted:)
3 tablespoons bittersweet cocoa (my addition)
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour (I used cocoa) Shake out excess flour. Set pan aside
2. Place the cake mix, melted ice cream, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.
3. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 38-42 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a small rack, then invert it again onto a second rack so that the cake is right side up to complete cooling, 30 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting, or another frosting that would go well with the flavor of the ice cream in the cake. Place the cake on a serving platter and frost the top of the cake with clean, smooth strokes.
Note: Store this cake in a plastic cake saver or under a glass dome at room temperature for up to a week. Or freeze it wrapped in foil for up to 6 months. Thaw the cake overnight on the counter before serving.
Ganache & Cherry Filling
Whipped Ganache:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate
Place the cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring. Meanwhile, place the chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Whip on high speed with an electric mixer for a whipped ganache frosting.
Cherry Filling:
1 can (16 ounces) pitted tart red cherries (I used pitted dark sweet cherries.)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (boy was that difficult to measure:)
1 teaspoon almond extract (I omitted extract of any kind)
4 drops red food coloring (optional)
Drain cherries, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Set the cherries and liquid aside. Combine the corn syrup, sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and stir. Add enough water to the reserved cherry liquid and food coloring if desired, to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is smooth and thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the drained cherries and extract. Pour filling into a medium size bowl and place, covered, in the refrigerator to chill.
My Note: The cherry filling recipe was "borrowed" from a recipe for Mount Vernon Cake, also made from a cake mix and included on page 187 in the book.

So, What do you think?

How did it taste? Well, Marion is "scoffing" down her second piece "as we speak." As for me, I thought the cake was a bit dry. I'm thinking I baked it too long. Funny thing about me and Bundt pans, I can never tell when the cake is actually done; toothpick test or not. I baked it for the full time as stated in the recipe. The whipped ganache, was fabulous! I used it to frost the cake and added the dollops of unsweetened whipped cream on top. It worked out just fine because the delicate falvor of the ganache was not overcome by too much sweetness. The cherry filling was, to my surprise, exactly what I had hoped. Not to sweet, and amazingly enough, not to grainy. I was worried:) I also took a bit of the thickened cherry juice and with my turkey baster, poked holes in the top of the cake before I frosted it and filled it with the juice. At the time, I was trying to add a bit of cherry explosition, now, I think it added a bit of moisture, which it needed. As for the melted ice cream in the cake. Except for a tiny hint of chocolate and cherry flavoring, the taste was not as pronounced as i thought it would be. Perhaps, I should have used white cake mix as the directions suggested. All in all, personally, I liked this cake more than the Cannoli Cake. Marion, however, can't decide:)

Now, if one of us could learn how to take a decent picture, we'd be very happy campers:)

Daily Food Celebrations: Last View Days

There's more to the last week of March besides Black Forest Cake, although, I'm not sure that at this particular moment I'm as interested as most days. I have tons of cake to eat!!!

March 28

National Black Forest Cake Day (Have you seen this heavenly recipe for Natasha's Black Forest Smoothie? OH MY GOODNESS!!!
Something on a Stick Day (beats me:)

March 29

National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day
Passover is celebrated March 29, 2010* (begins at Sundown) Gefilte fish was does it symbolize?

Pearl Bailey was born today. *Pearl Bailey's Chicken

March 31

Bunsen Burner Day celebrates the birth date of German chemist Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen who invented the Bunsen Burner. 

Enjoy National Black Forest Cake Day!!! I'll "see" you bright and early on Thursday for next month's goodies:)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cooking With The Young and the Restless

"Our day-by-day existence is a serial drama."
Irna Philips

It All Comes Out in the Wash

Wouldn't you know it, just when I thought there would be a crystalline answer to when the first soap opera aired its dirty laundry on television, look what comes out in the wash.

The first soap opera on television was broadcast during the summer of 1946 on WRGB, a General Electric Station in Schenectady, New York. Called WAR BRIDE, this 13-part series was the story of a returning GI and his new wife. Soon to follow was the daytime drama FARAWAY HILL aired on the DuMont Network in 1946. This was the first network soap opera.

Other sources claimed A WOMAN TO REMEMBER on the DuMont network (1947) was the first real television soap broadcast from Dumont's New York studios located in Wanamaker's Department Store.

And still other sources claim that THESE ARE MY CHILDREN by Irna Phillips telecast (from Chicago) Monday through Friday from 5:00-5:15 P.M. on NBC and THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS on CBS network (1950) were the first bona fide network soaps.TV Acres.

Let's polish things up a bit. The first soap opera wasn't on television, at first. It was on radio. You "heard" me, radio.

Soap operas began in the early 1930s as 15-minute radio episodes and continued on television from the early 1950s as 30-minute and later hour-long episodes. Usually broadcast during the day and aimed at housewives, they initially focused on middle-class family life, but by the 1970s their content had expanded to include a wider variety of characters and situations and a greater degree of sexual explicitness. (source)

Clara, Lu & Em, a pioneering radio show created by three Evanston Illinois women, was the first serial to hit the airwaves. (The term soap opera wasn't coined until the late 1930s.) It first aired on June 16, 1930 at WGN radio station in Chicago.

Clara, Lu 'n Em was the nation’s first radio soap opera. It was created by three Northwestern University graduates and Evanston, Illinois residents, Louise Starkey Mead as Clara, Isobel Berolzheimer Lu and Helen King Mitchell as Em. Portraying three gossiping (and funny) housewives concerned with everyday things, the radio show was a huge hit and a breakthrough for women in the business. First broadcast locally on WGN beginning in 1930, then nationally on NBC and CBS until 1945, the show was sponsored by various soap companies and ran for more than 10 years. (source)

In the early years of daytime serial stories or soap operas as we now call them, sponsorship was divvied up amongst soap manufacturing companies who were aiming their products at women. After a year of programming, Clara, Lu 'n Em became a popular five-day-a-week must see. While entertaining housewives across the country, the show pioneered the standards for future soap operas.

On Tuesday, January 27, 1931, the first broadcast of Clara, Lu, 'n Em aired on NBC's Blue Network for Super Suds. There was no real story to this program, but there was a lot of gossip and chatter among 3 women who lived in a small town duplex. The 3 ladies, Clara Roach, Lu Casey, and Emma Krueger, talked about anything and everything from their families to the high prices at the grocery store to politics...When the program debuted, it was on the air Tuesday-Saturday at 10:30 PM.  Since most serial programs of that time usually aired from 6 PM-8 PM, Clara, Lu, 'n Em was misplaced in its late night time slot...On Monday, February 15, 1932, the serial was moved to new territory--- daytime radio.  Heard every weekday morning at 10:15 AM on NBC's Blue Network, Clara, Lu, 'n Em made history as the first daytime serial on network radio.  Of course, Super Suds continued to sponsor the program.  In doing so, Super Suds was the first soap product to sponsor the first network daytime serial program..Super Suds Presents

from wikipedia
...When they emerged in the early 1930s, they were properly called serials since their stories were never completed in one program and, like the romance fiction and movie serials from which they gained much of their inspiration, their plots might be expected to continue for many broadcasts before reaching a full conclusion. Before the end of the decade, however, trade publications sarcastically labeled them "washboard weepers," "sudsers," and "soap operas" because they were melodramatic and usually sponsored by manufacturers of facial soaps or soap powders. Soap Operas As A Social Force

Swell, now we know why a soap is called a soap where does opera fit in?

The term "soap opera" was coined by the American press in the 1930s to denote the extraordinarily popular genre of serialized domestic radio dramas, which, by 1940, represented some 90% of all commercially-sponsored daytime broadcast hours. The "soap" in soap opera alluded to their sponsorship by manufacturers of household cleaning products; while "opera" suggested a high level of emotion and intrigue.

The "Detergent"

Are you immersed in the melodramatic episodes of The Young and the Restless? I'm not. However, Marion bubbles over with delight each day when the show lathers her TV set. She gets whisked away into the tangled interpersonal situations of the cast of characters, big time!

The Young and the Restless first drenched television sets across America on March 26, 1973.

The Young and the Restless was based upon the premise that a soap opera about the sexual intrigues of attractive characters in their twenties would attract an audience of women also in their twenties. Devised for CBS by another of Irna Phillips's students, William Bell, and launched in 1973, The Young and the Restless is what might be called the first "Hollywood" soap. Not only was it shot in Hollywood (as some other soaps already were), it borrowed something of the "look" of a Hollywood film (particularly in its use of elaborate sets and high-key lighting), peopled Genoa City with soap opera's most conspicuously attractive citizens, dressed them in fashion-magazine wardrobes, and kept its plots focused on sex and its attendant problems and complications. The formula was almost immediately successful, and The Young and the Restless has remained one of the most popular soap operas for more than twenty years. It is also the stylistic progenitor of such recent "slick" soaps as Santa Barbara and The Bold and the Beautiful... The Museum of Broadcast Communications

The Soap

Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Rutledge Press in 1997, Cooking with The Young and the Restless, by Robert Waldron and food author Martha Hollis, is gushing with recipes, show history, and color photographs of spruced up cast members. According to the book, "the first restaurant prominently featured on the show was Pierre's, owned by Pierre Roland, who frequently treated his customers to musical numbers. Pierre was in love with Sally Maguire, a troubled waitress. Sally, however, loved Snapper and tried to lure him away from Chris. In a misguided attempt to trap him into marriage, Sally became pregnant. When she realized that Snapper was committed to Chris, she stepped aside. Pierre married Sally so that her baby would have a father. Later Pierre was killed during a robbery at the restaurant, and a widowed Sally left town with her infant son." Something tells me Sally freshened herself up at some point in time and returned with son in tow to Genoa City, Wisconsin. Am I right?

As for the recipes, quite frankly, they are pretty "sterile." William J. Bell, one of the creators of the daytime drama, offers up his recipe for Incredible Pot Roast.

A note about the food scenery:

Whether it's a candlelit dinner for two at the lush Colonnade Room, or an intimate picnic on a tropical Caribbean beach, food has always served as a splendid aphrodisiac to help propel The Young and the Restless' intriguing love stories. The writers add notes to the scripts suggesting what foods they envision for a particular scene that includes a meal, such as a dinner Nikki might be hosting at the Newman ranch...If the scenes continue over more than one episode, such as a wedding or holiday party, the food is set up again to look exactly the same as the episode that was taped previously. Multitiered wedding cakes usually have at least one layer of actual cake; the rest are Styrofoam. While the episode is being taped, the only time actors actually eat the food is when they're supposed to be eating in the scenes. After the last scene is taped, however, the cast and crew are invited to enjoy the food.

Thirty nine of the recipes in the book were contributed by the show's actors. In addition to the recipes, there are sidebars which garnish the ebb and flow of the related story lines.

The book is divided into eight chapters. Since I rarely, if ever, post recipes for us (or is that we:) that are single, I thought I would take this opportunity and select a recipe from the chapter titled Recipes for Singles. May I present, Waffled Swiss Cheese & Mustard Sandwich in its entirety.

As a final rinse, how about these Seven Layer Cookies?

Sabryn Genet's Seven Layer Cookies: Sabryn Genet's (Tricia) advice for this fun cookie is "vary according to personal taste." The greatest effort is to open all the packages. The base is a graham cracker crust mix. Then, going up the layers, are chocolate, butterscotch, walnuts, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. The seventh layer must be the one that might start growing on your hips if you eat all of these glorious sweetnesses.

1 pkg. graham cracker crumb mix with amount of butter and sugar as directed on package.
1 small bag chocolate chips
1 small bag butterscotch chips
1 small bag chopped walnuts
1 small bag flaked coconut
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
Spray 13 x 9-inch metal pan with vegetable oil. Following directions on the graham cracker crumb box, add butter and sugar. Press crust firmly down in pan. Sprinkle on chocolate chips. Cover with butterscotch chips. Top with chopped walnuts. Top with coconut. Lightly cover with condensed milk. Bake at 350 degrees until brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into squares. Note: If using a glass pan, lower heat to 325 degrees. Watch for burning on the bottom. Makes 36 squares.

James Thurber once sized up soap operas and sandwiches. I find this rather ironic considering, one of Thurber's most famous characters was Walter Mitty; Pocketa-Pocketa-Pocketa. Oh that thumping noise of Mitty's. It sounds somewhat like the agitator in a washing machine:)

Between thick slices of advertising, spread twelve minutes of dialogue, add predicament, villainy, and female suffering in equal measure, throw in a dash of nobility, sprinkle with tears, season with organ music, cover with a rich announcer sauce, and serve five times a week.source

Tune in Sunday; National Black Forest Cake Day, for next week's lineup. 

Now a word from our "sponsor" (not really:) Don't forget National Spanish Paella Day tomorrow; follow that link for Emeril's New New Orleans Paellaya.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's National Melba Toast Day!

My first encounter with Melba Toast was not under the most desirable conditions. I had the measles! And, I had them bad. It wasn't until I was preparing this post when I realized how long ago that was:) Let's just put it this way, doctors still made house calls. My grandmother was staying with us at the time and her "prescription," along with filling the bath tub with ice cold water to bring my 104 degree fever down, was Melba Toast and tea. "What is Melba Toast" you ask? In its most basic form, Melba Toast is dry, crisp, thinly sliced toast. It carries the name Melba Toast because it was named after Dame Nellie Melba by one of her biggest fans, Auguste Escoffier. Well, I suppose he could have called it Helen Porter Mitchell Toast, and used her birth name but that wouldn't have sounded so "romantic" ya think?

...Melba toast is said to be derived from the crisp toast that was part of Dame Melba's diet during 1897 when she was strenuously dieting, living largely on toast. It is said that she so enjoyed a piece of toast a young waiter had burnt, while she was staying at the Savoy Hotel. It was bungled and was served to her in a thin dried-up state resembling parchment. Cesar Ritz beheld with horror his celebrated guest crunching this aborted toast, and hastened over to apologize. Before he could say a word supposedly Madame Melba burst out joyfully, "Cesar, how clever of Escoffier. I have never eaten such lovely toast." The hotel proprietor Cesar Ritz supposedly named it in a conversation with chef Escoffier. (What's Cooking America)

More crumbs on Melba Toast from Who Cooked That Up:

Auguste Escoffier has been called the greatest chef of the 20th century and among his many accomplishments is the creation of Melba Toast. Actually, however, according to Escoffier's biographer, it didn't start out as "Melba" toast.  The story goes like this. Escoffier was a great friend of *Cesar Ritz, the renowned Swiss innkeeper, and he was visiting Ritz and his wife in England sometime in the late 1880's while the Paris Ritz Hotel was being planned.  Mrs. Ritz happened to mention that toast never seemed thin enough for her. Not one to neglect a culinary challenge, Escoffier grilled a piece of toast, split it in half and grilled it again.  Marie Ritz was delighted, and Escoffier referred to it as "Toast Marie." A few years later, while Escoffier was employed as Maitre Chef at The Savoy Hotel in London, where Cesar Ritz was now Manager, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba was staying at the hotel. Escoffier, eager to please his famous guest, noticed that her diet included toast. Recalling his recent creation, he prepared the ultra-thin grilled bread and re-named it "Melba Toast" for the opera singer. Since that time many other dieters, most of them neither famous nor spectacularly talented, have used Melba toast as a way to cut calories and as a platform for snacks, hors d'oeuvres and dips...

Lucky for you, and me, I've posted about Dame Nellie Melba before. (we can head right for the good stuff:) I think it was for National Peach Melba Day when I posted heavenly quick link recipes. Just in case you don't have time to pop over now, let me refresh your memory about Dame Nellie.

Dame Nellie Melba
The Australian songbird, Nellie Melba, was noted for two things other than her voice: She habitually broke men's hearts, and she inspired culinary artists to create dishes and drinks that would forever carry her name. Melba was not as beloved in San Francisco as the motherly Tetrazzini, but she appeared so often in the city that it must have seemed like a second home to her. Her constant appearance, both in concerts and in fine restaurants, conspired to make her a real San Franciscan. (Sumptuous Dining in Gas Light San Francisco p. 71)

Cooking With Melba Toast

Melba toast is usually made by lightly toasting bread. Once toasted, the bread is removed from the toaster and then each slice is cut laterally with a bread knife to make two slices that are half the original thickness of the bread. These two thin slices are then toasted again to make Melba toast. You can also make your own Melba Toast by using bread which has been flattened with a rolling pin and had the crust removed. Although commercially available, homemade Melba Toast is actually pretty easy to make once you "master" the thinning of the toast. Cathy @ The Crafty Cattery has easy to follow directions; so easy!!! Here are a few illustrations from The Book of Garnishes by June Budgen.

It may not seem like a simple piece of toast could be deliciously versatile but indeed it is. Did you know that at one time Melba Toast was given to infants during their teething stages? I suppose when you think about it, Melba Toast is twice burnt toast much like Zwieback Toast. Garnished with a simple Pâté, the handy size of Melba toast makes it fun for appetizers. Personally, I would love to try the Nigella's Smoked Trout Pâté I stumbled upon at Kahakai Kitchen. Deb suggests pumpernickel bread which sounds absolutely delightful too!

How about some herb butter spread on lightly toasted Melba Toast? A little dill a bit of thyme; delightful! The possibilities are endless and so elegant in the right sort of setting such as a cocktail party or a simple weekend get-together. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Melba Toast is with a dollop of fig jam. A perfect "marriage" in my book:)

I've often used Melba Toast as a substitute for bread crumbs or panko too. You just put the Melba Toast in the food processor and process it into fine crumbs. For me it's not quite that simple because I'm still deciding whether I want a food processor. It could take a while:) Melba Toast makes a mighty fine addition to this recipe for Melba Toast Chicken, don't you think?

After "bumping" into Joelen's Caramel Pecan Cupcakes the other day, I took a peek around and found the perfect use for Melba Toast in her recipe for Sausage Apple Dressing. Oh, I know, Spring has sprung and we aren't exactly thinking about stuffing any turkeys, however, it sure sounds good and you may just want to tuck it away for future use.

Quite frankly, I never gave much consideration to Melba Toast as a sweet sort of treat but, just take a gander at these delectables I found at Old London Foods. I mean really, wouldn't you just like to crunch into one right now?

Don't forget, National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day tomorrow!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Food Celebrations: Week Four

Happy Spring Everyone!!! First, Marion wants me to thank everyone for their kind birthday wishes. "You guys" are just great! Marion really gets a kick out of reading the comments you leave. I baked a cake for her birthday, albeit from a box, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. As you could see in the pictures yesterday, we've set up a nice comfy living room out of one of the three bedrooms in the house and right across the hall she has a lovely bedroom and bath. Although the house is one level, which in "our" aging years we are elated about, there's more than enough room. Unfortunately, I just haven't had the time to tell you more about Marion but hopefully, things will calm down around here this week and I'll get to tell you more about this remarkable woman. In the mean time, let's get to this week's foodie days. (a red * denotes a previous post)

Daily Food Celebrations: Week Four

March 21

Happy Twitter Day! The first tweets were published on March 21, 2006. Happy Birthday, Twitter!

Born today on March 21, 1904, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. inventor of everyones favorite; M&Ms® Did you know, M&M's started as K-rations during World War II.
Chocolate lovers around the world have none other than Forrest E. Mars, Sr. to thank for the milk chocolate candies that “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” The candy, of course, is M&Ms®, and not only did Mars invent, patent, and market the creation but he also built a chocolate candy empire via the multinational conglomerate that would become M&M®/Mars, Inc. (source)
Here are a few quick recipes I harvested from my google search engine.
Sour Cream M&M Cookies @ Gluten Free Mommy
Peanut Butter M&M Cookies @ Cooking During Stolen Moments
Quick, Easy-N-Fast M&M Cheesecake Squares @ Razzle Dazzle Recipes
M&M's Cookie Mix (Gifts in a Jar)

March 21st is California Strawberry Day. Hooray for Strawberries!!! According to the California Strawberry Commission, "if you lined up all the strawberries grown in California in one straight line, they would wrap around the whole Earth 15 times!!!

National French Bread Day

March 22

Bacon Connoisseurs’ Week begins today in the UK.

According to foodreference.com, not only is March 22, National Bavarian Crepes Day, it is also the day Englishman Orlando Jones patented cornstarch in 1841. *Clearly, Cornstarch has a taste of patent fogginess. Do you remember this cute little die-cut booklet? 

It's National World Water Day.

March 23

Often credited as "the mother of level measurements" or, "the pioneer of the modern recipe", Fannie Merritt Farmer, author of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, was born on March 23, 1857 in Boston Massachusetts. *Fannie Farmer Tales

Today is National Melba Toast Day. I hope to be posting today:)

For those of us who missed National Potato Chip Day, March 14, reprieve, It's National Chip & Dip Day today! Good thing too because Shaz from Test with a Skewer was a tad upset when National Potato Chip Day breezed on by.

March 24

National Chocolate-Covered Raisins Day @ Candy USA

March 25

April may be National Pecan Month but, March 25 is *National Pecan Day!!! It is said we celebrate March 25th as Pecan Day because on this day in 1775, George Washington planted pecan trees which were given to him by Thomas Jefferson.

International Waffle Day is another one of those "food holidays" that gets tossed around for one reason or another. International Waffle Day, March 25th, is not to be confused with just plain 'ole Waffle Day which is August 24 (that's the day the first patent for a Waffle maker was issued to Cornelius Swartwout) or,* International Chicken And Waffles Day which is October 3, 2008, *International Waffle Day is a Swedish tradition which has been adopted world wide. Whew!

Lobster Newburg Day

Birth date of Arturo Toscanini.
"I cannot understand why people eat so much, I? I do not like to eat. No. For me, sometimes a little soup and bread. This morning at five o'clock I drink a cup of minestrone and eat a grisini [Italian bread stick]. That is all. I would like to eat never!" Toscanini: An Intimate Portrait (1956)
Toscanini's Rice and Celery Soup @ soupsong.com

March 26

National Spinach Day not to be confused with Fresh Spinach Day in July. Hey, I just find them, I don't make them up:) Did you know,
When Popeye made his debut on January 17, 1929, spinach became the third most popular children's food after turkey and ice cream. It wasn't long before states and cities began to claim they were "the Spinach Capital of the world." Popeye became the "patron saint" of Crystal City, Texas. In a years time, a statue of Popeye was erected across from city hall and the yearly spinach festival bolted. Crystal City isn't the only place to claim to be "Spinach Capital of the World." Kansas and Arkansas also have their share of spinach festivals and claims.
What rock have I been hiding under? I just discovered that March 26th is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. Any ideas?

I'm not what I would call a Soap Opera kinda gal but, it just so happens that I have a copy of Cooking With The Young and the Restless by Robert Waldron and Martha Hollis. Since March 26, 1973 is the day the Young and the Restless made its US premier, today is touted as The Young and the Restless Day. Yes, I hope to be sharing...

March 26th is also the birth date of *Benjamin Thompson; Count von Rumford. Count Rumford invented the percolator, a pressure cooker and a kitchen stove. He is frequently encased in the History of Baked Alaska.

Duncan Hines was also born today in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Duncan Hines, yes, a real live person at one time, did not begin his career as a name on a box of cake mix.
It was those years as a salesman that led him to his success. He spent so much time on the road that he became very familiar with restaurants and lodging across America. Hines decided to take note of the best places to eat and sleep while traveling, and he then began to tell others about it. His recommendations became so popular that in 1935 he published a list of his top 167 restaurants and sent them along with his Christmas cards.

The response was overwhelming. In 1936 he self-published Adventures in Good Eating, an expanded list of excellent restaurants.

*Esther Bradford Aresty was born March 26, 1908. You may have heard me mention her once or twice. Here's a hint, one of my favorite cookbook reference books is The Delectable Past.

For the past twenty years, it has been my rewarding hobby to collect old and rare cookbooks. This book is the result of my adventuring through their pages. The more I wandered around in those precious volumes, the more I wanted to share them with others, and so, The Delectable Past came about. (Esther B. Aresty)

March 27

National Nougat Day @ Home Baked Memories

On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The event celebrated the Japanese government's gift of 3,000 trees to the United States. The Cherry Blossom and the History of the Cherry Trees. I also found some Cherry Blossom recipes @ Smithsonian Magazine. Foodycat shared her Cherry Blossom Dinner. It sounds heavenly:)

National Spanish Paella Day @ emerils.com

1. Looking Back at Newark Origins of World-Famous M&M Chocolates

Saturday, March 20, 2010


When Marion moved to Pennsylvania with me, we had been friends for nearly ten years. When I lived in New York, I did a bit of volunteer work. One of my favorite "jobs" was to take a senior citizen food shopping each week. I was Marion's designated driver:) When I was deciding the appropriate time of year to make the final move to Pennsylvania, I worried about Marion. Not only had we become very close over the years, at 89 years young, there are very few people she is in contact with on a frequent basis. As time went by, I grew more and more concerned with her well being, so each day at exactly 8 o'clock in the morning we spoke on the phone, except of course for the days I took her shopping. We've continued those "talks" since my move until one day, in jest, I said to Marion, "You should move to PA with me." She said, "Come and get me" and I did!

Since arriving, she has managed to dress quite a few fashion dolls with her crocheted creations. Tuesday is our day to donate them to the local Women's Shelter:)

See ya tomorrow with next weeks foodies days. Enjoy this glorious day AND,

Happy Spring!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March Food Celebrations: Week Three

Beat me with a wet noodle, I didn't get up until 10AM this morning. (Daylight savings time:) I've had a terrible cold all week and I'm just getting my sense of smell back. Oh, don't worry, Marion, may be the culprit behind my germs, but she is just duckie!!! I'll be celebrating St. Patrick's Day here with Marion on Wednesday.

Daily Food Celebrations: Week Three

March 14

*Happy National Potato Chip Day!!! (a red * denotes a previous post)

Albert Einstein was born today in 1789.

Einstein once declared that his second greatest idea after the theory of relativity was to add an egg while cooking soup in order to produce a soft-boiled egg without having an extra pot to wash.
Do you celebrate National Pi Day? My Math skills are just terrible! "Pi Day honors pi, the revered mathematical constant of 3.14 and a trillion more digits." (3.141414) If you have ever gone through the same dilemma as I did yesterday when trying to find an appropriate size pan to make brownies in, you should hop on over to Mae's Food Blog where she has broken it all down mathematically; something I would never dream of attempting. Thanks Mae, I'll be keeping that post for Pi in the Kitchen handy!!! It seems Pi Day is a pretty popular baking day. Amy, from Playing House, is celebrating with Maple Apple Pecan Crumb Pie! 

National Agriculture Week begins.

On March 14, 1938, Sylvan Nathan Goldman applied for a patent titled, Folding Basket Carriage for Self Service Stores. So what you say? Think again the next time you go grocery shopping and begin *Scoping Shopping Carts.

It's Mothering Sunday in the UK. Mothering Sunday is the equivalent of Mothers' Day in other countries. Another name for Mothering Sunday was Refreshment Sundaywhen, for just one day, delicacies given up for the rest of Lent, could be enjoyed! *Simnel Cakes for Mothering Sunday

March 15

"Beware the Ides of March" (sorry, I couldn't resist, I played the character of Cassius in my youth:)

Maine became a state today in 1820 (I keep including state anniversaries in hopes of someday actually posting state recipes, not this day I'm afraid:)

National Pears Helene Day

Here's one for ya! Coenraad Johannes van Houten was born on March 15, 1801. Yes indeed, as in Van Houten's Cocoa. I celebrated with him on *Chocolate Milk Powder Day in April of 2008.

National Peanut Lovers Day

March 16

James Madison was born March 16, 1751.

According to the California Artichoke Advisory Board, today is National Artichoke Hearts Day!

Happy St. Urho's Day! Saint Urho's Day Mojakka Cook-Off

March 16, 1942, is the day Cross Creek was published by Pulitzer Prize winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I've celebrated Cross Creek Cookery *here and *here.

March 17

Corned Beef and Cabbage Day

Bottoms Up it's Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sugar chemist and inventor
Norbert Rillieux was born on this date in New Orleans, Louisiana. He invented a sugar refining process that reduced the time, cost and safety risks involved in producing sugar from cane and beets.

March 18

Oatmeal Cookie Day

National Biodiesel Day

In the past, March 18th has been celebrated as the
Pillsbury Doughboy's birthday. However, according to what I could uncover, the company does not have a firm date for his creation other than the year 1965. Doesn't mean we can't still celebrate, now does it! According to the Pillsbury Corporation, the Doughboy is 8 3/4 inches tall, including his hat:)

March 19

National Chocolate Caramel Day @ CandyUSA Just a Note: The Milky Way bar was created in 1923 by Frank C. Mars. His son Forrest E. Mars inventor of M&Ms® has a birth anniversary this month on the 21st. Feast your eyes on these gorgeous Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes @ Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice. 

National Poultry Day *
Befuddled by a Muddle of Stew

Today is St. Joseph's Day. A wonderful day to bake up some Zeppole di San Giuseppe;
St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs.

March 20

Yeah! It's the first Day of Spring! Why do eggs balance on the equinox? Or do they? The legend of Persephone is a fascinating post by Natahsa @ the 5 Star Foodie and, When is the Real First Day of Spring? @ The Farmer's Almanac.

National Agriculture Day occurs every year on the first day of Spring.

National Ravioli Day!

It's Bock Beer Day. I had no idea Samuel Adams made
Chocolate Bock? (are you reading this Janet:)

Sneak Preview: The first tweets were published on March 21, 2006. Happy Birthday Twitter! Are you following me on Twitter?

1. March Food Celebrations: Week Two
2. March Food Celebrations: Week One (Includes monthly celebrations too:)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's Exciting About Celery?

At the beginning of the month, when I posted the food days for March, I received a comment from one of my favorite bloggers, Miranda, from A Duck in Her Pond. Her question was,

Why would you celebrate celery for a month? What is exciting about celery?

I relish questions like this. After all, inquiring minds want to know. And now, I want to know, and not only because March is National Celery Month!!!

Let's Crunch the Facts

1. All parts of the celery plant are edible; roots, stalks, leaves and seeds, which can be used as a flavoring or spice. Celery is packed with so goodness. Pretty incredible considering it is almost 90 percent water.
2. Celery helps the body get rid of excess fluid and uric acid, which can aggravate joint pain. Research suggests that celery be used as an alternative therapy for arthritis, rheumatism and gout
3. Researchers have discovered a number of compounds in celery that act as antioxidants.
4. Prior to the sixteenth century, celery was primarily used as a medicinal herb. Celery has been used for centuries as a remedy for lowering high blood pressure.
5. If you have high cholesterol eat more celery!
The use of celery seed in pills for relieving pain was described by Aulus Cornelius Celsus ca. 30 AD. Celery seeds contain a compound called 3-N-butyl-phthalide that has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in rats. (source)
6. Hippocrates used celery to treat nervous patients. Here is the recipe for Hippocrates' Broth.
7. Celery is thought to promote a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that essential oils extracted from celery seed have a tranquilizing effect on the central nervous system.
8. King Tut's tomb contained a shroud adorned with garlands of wild celery, olive leaves, willow, lotus petals, and cornflowers.
...After months of carefully recording the pharaoh's funerary treasures, Carter began investigating his three nested coffins. Opening the first, he found a shroud adorned with garlands of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals, and cornflowers, the faded evidence of a burial in March or April...(National Geographic)
9. Celery is considered an aphrodisiac. Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, swore by celery and truffle soup. Rather odd I thought considering Madame is an inventor in her own right. It is said, she invented Asparagus a la Pompadour. Psst...Casanova also included celery in his diet:)
10. Medieval magicians used to place celery seeds inside of  their shoes because they believed that doing this would help them to fly.

Snack Break! Buffalo Wings are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2014, I think we need some celery curls to celebrate! Here are directions from The Book of Garnishes by June Budgen.

1. A recipe uncovered in Pompeii for a celery dessert called for roasting chopped celery in an oven and serving it with honey and ground pepper. Archaeology News; May 25, 2005

2. The name "celery" is from the French word "celeri".

3. Celery was first introduced to America in 1856 by George Taylor, an emigrant from Scotland. He is commemorated in Kalamazoo as being one of those responsible for introducing the cultivation of celery to Michigan. At one time, Kalamazoo was known as "Celery City."

4. The town of Celeryville, Ohio was settled by celery farmers from Kalamazoo.

5. The two main types of celery are Pascal and Golden Heart. However, only several varieties of Pascal are still grown commercially.

6. Unlike many vegetables that lose some of their nutrients when cooked, celery retains its nutrients. In How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman a recipe for Braised Celery is garnished with these words; "Cooking celery mellows its flavor and improves its texture."

7. Celery is one of the ingredients in the "holy trinity," in Creole and Cajun cuisines and the "mirepoix," in classical French cuisine.
Miripoix- pronounced meer-pwaha is mixture of coarsely chopped onions, carrots, and celery used to flavor stocks, stews, and other foods; generally the mixture is 50% onions, 25% carrots, and 25% celery, by weight.
8. The Bloody Mary cocktail got stuck with a celery stalk when a patron who did not have a stirrer on hand grabbed for a stalk of celery to stir his drink. Whew! so they say...

9. Don't throw out leftover celery leaves. Instead, dry them and grind them. Mix them with salt and use as a seasoning.

10. Celery oil, distilled from celery seeds, is used in the manufacturing of perfumes, soaps, lotions and other cosmetic products.

11. There are two months to celebrate celery "National Celery Month" in March and "National Fresh Celery Month in April.

12. "In 1869, Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic went on sale.  The drink consisted of soda water and crushed celery seed.  This started a celery craze in the late 19th century that included celery flavored soft drinks, celery gum, celery soup and elixir of celery." (Heirloom Seeds Garden Trivia)

And now for my personal exciting factoid!Waldorf Salad!You tell me, how exciting would Waldorf Salad be without celery?

13. Did you know, Waldorf Salad made its first live appearance on March 13, 1893.

I am grateful to have two copies of The Waldorf Astoria Cookbook in my collection. The first edition published in 1969 and the above Golden Anniversary edition published in 1981. (the anniversary edition is inscribed by Eugene Scanlan, then vice-president and manager) It may sound like the dates are out of whack, but they aren't. You see, the original home of the Waldorf Astoria, in 1893, was where the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building now sits. On October 1, 1931, in the midst of the depression, the present building was opened on Park Avenue.

From the book:

Witness the opening, March 13, 1893. It was damp, raw, wet. Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt had booked the brilliant young conductor Walter Damrosch and all the boys from the New York Symphony for the evening...The sumptuous new hotel was an item of curiosity...Some 1,500 super society celebrities traipsed through the downpour to view the new Hotel Waldorf...They saw the five-million dollar hotel with 450 rooms and 350 baths. They saw eight private dining rooms all arranged to serve the côtelettes de ris de veau, oysters, terrapin, glacé à l'orange' and glace fantaise.

Now, here's the exiting part, "Oscar Michel Tschirky" ("Oscar of the Waldorf") first created Waldorf Salad for the opening of The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel today. Happy "Birthday" Waldorf Salad!!! (there was a bit of a mix-up online about the opening day, some say the 8th. However, I must go with what is stated in the book:)

The year was 1893 and an ambitious and enterprising  Swiss had left his job as head waiter at the fashionable Delmonico's Restaurant in New York to join the staff of a new hotel being built by William Waldorf Astor on ground he inherited from his father, John Jacob Astor, Jr., at the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street.  The new job would lead to a career more successful than he dreamed, and he would be credited for the invention of at least three foods Americans would enjoy throughout the 20th Century, although he never was, and never claimed to be, a chef.  His name was Oscar Tschirky, and he is famous for presenting to the world Eggs Benedict, Thousand Island Dressing, and the Waldorf Salad.  He was also the man who defined to Americans the job of "maitre d'hotel" or "maitre d'," the one in charge of a grand restaurant catering to the great and near-great among fashionable diners. (Who Cooked That Up)

Or did he?

Oscar is not and never was a chef. He never did any cooking for a hotel and his position always was administrative or managerial. Popular fancy made him a sublime cook when all he ever pretended to be was an overseer of public comfort. In this capacity, it is true, he supervised the appetites and gastronomic tastes of the Waldorf's patrons. That, of course, is the job of a maitre d'hotel. But prepare salads! No, his job was too big for such a detail. Oscar The Epicure

In 1896, Oscar Tschirky compiled a cookbook called The Cook Book by "Oscar of the Waldorf" and gave his recipe for the salad using only apples, celery, and a "good mayonnaise dressing." At some point, walnuts were added. In both The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbooks on my shelf, walnuts are included. Here's the original recipe from Oscar himself.

Peel two whole apples and cut them into small pieces, say about a half inch square, also cut some celery the same way and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise.

And here is an excerpt about the history of Waldorf Salad from Evan Jones in American Food; The Gastronomic Story.

Oscar Tschirky, who became famous as Oscar of the Waldorf and was maître d'hôtel from the hotel's opening until his death, created this salad for a "society supper" to which 1,500 persons came from Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia; these social lights were invited to preview of the Waldorf when it opened in March 1893. For Sheila Hibben, food editor of The New Yorker, his creation was a mixed blessing. She thought his combination of apples and mayonnaise headed American housewives in the wrong direction and "bred the sorry mixture of sweet salad" that remain very much on the gastronomical scene. Someone else seems to have added nuts to Oscar's Salad, which, truth be told, can be a happy addition when homemade mayonnaise is used (particularly with some walnut oil added) rather than the more common sweet salad dressing.

What's Exciting About Celery? I'm delighted Miranda asked. Truth be told, I never really gave celery much thought. It's the kind of thing you search for in the bottom of the vegetable bin because you know you have it in there somewhere and you're simply lost without it. As for Waldorf Salad, it sure is fun to "play" with isn't it?

Here's a recipe for Frozen Individual Waldorf Salads from the Southern Living Do-Ahead Cookbook. (1991)

Frozen Individual Waldorf Salads
1 (8-1/4 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2-1/2 cups chopped apple
1/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Drain pineapple, reserving liquid. Set pineapple aside. Combine reserved pineapple juice, eggs, and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Combine chopped apple and lemon juice in a small bowl; add to thickened mixture. Add reserved pineapple, celery, and next 3 ingredients, stirring well. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon salad into paper line muffin pans, filling each three-fourths full.
To Store: Cover and freeze until firm. Remove salads from muffin pans, and place in large zip top [freezer] heavy duty plastic bag. Freeze up to one month.
To Serve: Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes before serving. Serve immediately. Yield: 18 servings.

revised Feb. 2014

1. Michigan Celery
2. Blue Cheese Waldorf with Jacket Potato (the UK loves celery too!)
3. C Is For Celery
4. Alexanders: a clarification (a member of the celery family)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March Food Celebrations: Week Two

Well, it's been a week since I returned from my adventure in New York. And, let me tell you, what a week it has been!!! You see, I got a new roommate and her name is Marion. You may have "heard" me speak of Marion in a post or two.

I've been friends with Marion for nearly ten years. When I lived in New York, I did a bit of volunteer work. One of my favorite "jobs" was to take a senior citizen food shopping each week. I was Marion's designated driver:) When I was deciding the appropriate time of year to make the final move to Pennsylvania, I worried about Marion. Not only had we become very close over the years, at 89 years young, there are very few people she is in contact with on a frequent basis. As time went by, I grew more and more concerned with her well being, so each day at exactly 8 o'clock in the morning we spoke on the phone, except of course for the days I took her shopping. We've continued those "talks" since my move until one day, in jest, I said to Marion, "You should move to PA with me." She said, "Come and get me" and I did! I plan on properly introducing you to Marion in the near future. In the mean time, trust me when I say, she is quite a woman!!!

Harried as I was with the second move, I feel like I have been neglecting my blogging friends. I suppose by now, we all realize that blogging is only a heartbeat of life. Frankly, I don't know how you guys do it!!! I already know I have tons of projects lined up for the changing of the seasons, what with a new shed coming any day now, I may never make it back into the house. No, I will not put my other tiny IMAC in the shed:) It almost seems like blog organization is not something we food bloggers "talk" about. I for one would sure love to hear how you manage to keep your blogs up to date, visit other bloggers and really enjoy their posts, and still twitter, facebook, cook, photograph, and hold down jobs while spending time with friends and family? How?

Before I left for New York, I was also honored with an award from Chaya and the delectable blog Sweet and Savory. Check the date while you're reading this post. If it isn't March 10th yet, drop me like a hot potato and jump right over to Chaya's blog. (follow that link) She is having one heck of a give-away!!! Hint, hint, think Paula Deen:)

Are you still with me? The instructions for the Beautiful Blogger Award go something like this: (Actually, I copied them from Chaya's rules)

Thank the person who gave you the award. Thank you so much Chaya. I'm so bad at receiving awards but I do appreciate each and every one:)

Paste the award on your blog

Link the person who nominated you for the award done:)

Tell 7 interesting things about yourself
1. I'm actually a very boring person. Perhaps, I should say shy.
2. I drive a 2004 Black Cherry Scion and I absolutely LOVE it!!!
3. My very best favorite snack is tiny stars of Pastina covered with lots of butter, lots of freshly ground pepper all topped with grated Locatelli Cheese. Uh Oh!
4. At last count, and I'm still counting, I have nearly 2,000 cooking related, books, magazines, recipe leaflets and who knows what else.
5. I don't have a favorite hard cover cookbook. My favorite magazines are my collection of American Cookery Magazines which spans from 1899 to 1944. My favorite advertising leaflets are those that are in the shape of the product they are advertising. You may have heard me mention my die-cuts. I think they are just so cool:)
6. I don't like spaghetti sauce with oregano in it.
7. I believe in angels:)

Nominate 7 bloggers or less
When it comes to receiving an award, this is the part I like the least; nominations. In my world of blogging, I do a lot of linking. I suppose, we all do. When we link, we nominate. When I was first introduced to the internet, there were two things that I took to heart. The internet is the internet because of links. The other thing was to avoid clutter and large picture images. It was the 80s, and speed was horrid! So, I'm not nominating anyone. Only kidding:)

Daily Food Celebrations: Week Two

I'm a bit confused as to whether National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week is the second week of March or the third week of March. There are those that claim Chocolate Chip Cookie Week is the second week of the month, and American Chocolate Week is the third week. Does it really matter when it comes to Chocolate Chip Cookies? I think not. So, look what I dug out of the bookshelf archives; the Original Recipe for Toll House Chocolate Cookies. Go ahead check that package you recently bought at the grocer and see if there's any difference. (red * stars equal a previous post of mine)

March 7

National Crown Roast of Pork Day

Academy Awards presentations. What Star Recipes will you be creating? Here's a suggestion from 1981.

National Cereal Day
Did you see the darling cereal book I shared for National Cereal Day back in 2007? Here's a "taste" and the link. (It's really special:)

March 7, 1849, Luther Burbank was born. "During a lifetime devoted to plant breeding, Luther Burbank developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants, including 113 varieties of plums and prunes, 10 varieties of berries, 50 varieties of lilies and the Freestone peach. He also developed new species of pineapples, walnuts, and almonds.

March 8

National Peanut Cluster Day

March 9

On this day in 1959, the first Barbie doll went on display at the American Toy Fair in NYC. source

America's namesake, Amerigo Vespucci, was born on March 9, 1451. Did you know, Amerigo Vespucci was a pickle dealer in Seville. While there, he peddled pickles to sea captains to prevent scurvy among the crew.

National Crabmeat Day 

March 10

National Blueberry Popover Day

March 11

Oatmeal-Nut Waffles Day

International Women's Day; Bread and Roses @ Green Gourmet Giraffe

* There seems to be a discrepancy when it comes to celebrating Johnny Appleseed Day. There are those who celebrate on the anniversary of his death, March 11, 1845. And, there are those, like me, who celebrate on September 26th the anniversary of his birth. (previous post full of apples:) Mae celebrates Johnny Appleseed Day with a real live John Chapman. Go see!!!

March 12

National Baked Scallops Day! Take a look at these beautiful scallops @ Taste of Beirut. Gorgeous I tell ya, gorgeous!!!

* Isabella Mary Mayson [Mrs. Beeton] was born on March 12, 1836. Isabella Beeton Wife & Fellow Worker

Happy Birthday Girl Scouts! March 12, commemorates the day in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the Girl Scout's first 18 members in Savannah, Georgia. March 6th kicked off Girl Scout Week in 2010. Thin Mints, please:)

March 13

National Coconut Torte Day

Joseph Priestley, the reputed "father of soda pop," was born in England, on March 13, 1733.

Oscar Michel Tschirky ("Oscar at the Waldorf") created his infamous Waldorf Salad for the opening of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on March 13, 1893.

March 13th is also the birthday of Charles Grey, the 2nd, as in Earl Grey Tea.

British cookery writer, Jane Grigson, was born on March 13, 1928. Here's a recipe for Asparagus Soldiers from Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book. I just couldn't wait until Asparagus Day to share. (May 24th:)
Asparagus Soldiers Asperges A La Fontenelle
An attractive way of economizing on asparagus comes from Belgium. Fontenelle is in Hainault, to the south of Charleroi, and close to the French border.
Serve everybody with a boiled egg and a small bundle of cold or barely warm asparagus. Put on the table a large pat of butter and a half loaf of brown bread, with salt and the pepper mill. Each person removes the top of his egg, seasons the nicely runny yolk with salt, pepper and a little knob of butter and dips the asparagus into it, nursery style. More bits of butter, more seasoning, may be added as the yolk goes down. Finish off the egg in the usual way with a spoon, eating it with bread and butter.
Note: If the asparagus is cold, it will be easier to manage; if it is tepid, it will taste even better. Provide napkins of cloth, not paper. 

1. March Food Days: Week One

Friday, March 5, 2010

Let's Talk Chuckwagon Cookin'

The Chuck Wagon
     Cowpuncher's cafay,

It is that-o-way,

An' we strike it kerslam 'bout three times

a day;

When the cook yells, "Come get it!"

He don't have to please,

"Hi yip! all you logies, come gather your feed." 
Robert V. Carr
Cowboy Lyrics, (1908)

Legend has it that in 1866 a Texas cattleman by the name of Charles Goodnight invented the Chuck Wagon while blazing the rugged west. Since today is the day the "father of the Texas Panhandle" was born, (March 5, 1836) I figured it was just the day to share the Chuck Wagon Cookbook (1960) by Beth McElfresh, a trail cook from the early 1900s. But first, a bit of chuck wagon history.

Charles Goodnight is credited with inventing the chuck wagon. In 1866 he and his partner, Oliver Loving, made preparations to take a herd of 2,000 longhorn cattle from northern Texas, to Denver. Goodnight purchased an army surplus Studebaker wagon and had it completely rebuilt according to his specifications...The distinguishing feature of the wagon was the sloping box on the rear with hinged lid that lowered to become a cook's worktable. The box was fitted to the width of the wagon and contained shelves and drawers for holding food and utensils. To the cowboys, "chuck" was food, so the box was called a chuck box and the wagon became known as a chuck wagon. (excellent source)

According to some resources, the term "chuck" is from 17th Century England. It was used by meat merchants who referred to the lower priced part of the beef carcass as the "chuck." By the 18th Century, "chuck" was colloquial for good, heart-warming food. Goodnight's chuck wagon revolutionized the cattle industry and in 2005 it became the official vehicle of Texas.


Before Charles Goodnight constructed the first chuck wagon, cowboys carried food in sacks and saddlebags. They cooked the food themselves over open campfires. On longer journeys, supplies were packed in a wood cabinet, known as a chuck box, that was strapped to a mule or an ox.

Most all westward journeys began in the spring, when there was sufficient grass on the trail to support grazing, and ample time to cross the mountainous areas before the winter snows began. Homesteaders would hit the trail carrying about 2,500 pounds of freight in their ox-drawn prairie schooners. Because, once on the trail, the wagons were so full, they traveled at the rate of about two miles per hour. Wagon trains could only expect to travel 12 to 20 miles a day, under the best conditions. In the immense open spaces of the Great Plains, this frequently meant that settlers stopped for the night within sight of their previous day's campsite, and in poor conditions, such as when the ground was muddy or when there were rivers to cross, they might toil all day to progress less than a few miles. (On the Trail)

Like a ship's galley, the chuck wagon was a compact vehicle that formed part of a wagon train. Goodnight's wagon had a canvas over the bow in front so supplies such as jugs of water and the cowboy's bedrolls could be stored. The chuck box, at the rear of the wagon, was a honeycombed cupboard filled with draws and compartments for holding various things needed for cooking, as well as a fold-down door that served as the cook's work table. Underneath there was a storage place the cook used for firewood. Staples in the chuck wagon included salted pork, beans, canned tomatoes, salt, molasses, vinegar sugar, pepper and lard. There was also a place for flour, cornmeal and coffee, and a large keg for sourdough. Sometimes, these basics were supplemented by dried apples, cheese, onions, and potatoes. The chuck wagon was rugged enough to endure life on the plains for as long as five months, making trips as far as Canada. No easy feat in the days of the open range.

On the trail, the chuck wagon went first, drawn by horses or oxen. Then came the lead steer, and then the herd of sometimes two or three thousand head of cattle. The trail boss and up to twenty cowhands rode ahead...They pushed hard for the first three or four days, covering up to 30 miles between dawn and late afternoon, in order to tire the rambunctious longhorns. After that, ten or fifteen miles was considered a good day's travel. Stampedes were the greatest hazard and Indians were a constant concern. They rarely attacked the camp but were always ready to make off with stray stock. The chuck wagon was guarded as if it were carrying bullion; and the cook was an honored citizen, even though his nicknames were hardly complimentary with names such as "gut robber" or "old lady." (Better Homes & Gardens Heritage Cookbook p. 179)

The chuck wagon cook, known as cookie to the "fleet," was second in command on the cattle drive. In his domain, which was the wagon and a 60-foot radius around it, he was the boss. The cookie would not only act as cook, he also served as barber, dentist, gravedigger, equipment repairman, clergyman, psychiatrist and letter writer. He could shoe a horse just as well as he could darn up an old pair of ripped cowboy jeans. The cook was so important to the success of the trail drive that he was paid more than the regular cowboys.

"Only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook."
Chuckwagon Etiquette: On the old time cattle drives and roundups, the cook was sometimes an aging cowboy hired for his ability to drive a wagon more than his cooking skills. He was in charge of the wagon and everything related to it.  The cook was paid more than the other hands because the success of the camp and the drive depended greatly on him and the cook's job was arguably the hardest.  A cowhand earned about a dollar a day and the cook made twice that...Cowboys were forbidden to eat at the chuck wagon table-that was where the cook prepared the food.  A cowboy never rode their horse through the "kitchen."  The cowboys always rode downwind of the wagon, so the dust they stirred up wouldn't blow into the food.

At mealtime, cowboys got their own plate, fork, knife, and cup.  The cook would pour the coffee and the cowboys helped themselves to staples like hot biscuits, beef steak, and beans.  When they were done, they stacked their dishes for the cook to wash. (source)

Rough-and-Ready Cookin'

Using a basic cast iron pan, Dutch Oven and a spider of colonial times, the cookie could "concoct" a considerable variety of grub from the chuck wagon ingredients, especially with the addition of beef, game or fish. He could whip up fried meat, cornmeal dishes, molasses or apple pie, hot potato salad, hashed brown potatoes, chili and beans and any number of cowboy meals. (No cook would begin the journey without beans. In fact, mealtime was often referred to as bean time:)

Here's a Sample List of Food Supplies courtesy of a fun, informative site called Kids N Cowboys.
600 lbs flour
300 lbs meat
50 lbs beans
100 lbs rice
2 barrels crackers
300 lbs bacon
200 lbs ham
50 lbs dry beef
50 lbs cheese
50 lbs butter,
400 lbs sugar
20 gal syrup,
50 lbs black tea
100 lbs coffee
400 lbs dried apples
100 lbs dried peaches
20 lbs salt
40 lbs dried raisens
pepper spices, vinegar, cod fish

Chuck wagons, of course, always had plenty of beef, which the cook would fry, stew, or braise in a pot roast. “Son of a gun” stew (there are other colorful names) was made just after slaughtering an animal and contained beef tongue, tripe, liver, kidneys, hearts and other innards. Some theorists believed that chili con carne began as a range food, yet it seems unlikely that a busy cook would go to the trouble of dicing meat into pecan-sized chunks when normal stew-sized pieces would do perfectly well. Chuck wagon cooks might or might not have used dried chile peppers as a spicing if they were available...Beans, which could be transported in dry form and soaked before cooking, provided the main side dish. The cook would begin the cattle drive with a sourdough starter that, when perpetuated by setting aside a small amount each baking, would form the basis for a cattle drive’s worth of bread for the men. Cornmeal would also be used to make cornbread and grits. Fresh vegetables were a rarity, but canned fruits were available to make special treats for the men (provided they behaved) source

Sourdough; Sourdough belongs in a post all it's own. According to author Sourdough Jack Mabee in his book titled Sourdough Jack's Cookery and Other Things, "wilderness yeast" had as much fame and lore contributed to it on the back of a kitchen range as it did in the chuck box of a cowboy cook. Cattle range cooks were notorious for sourdough biscuits baked in a Dutch Oven beneath glowing coals. These "pinch-offs" as they were called were a hearty accompaniment to the stews of the Cowboy Cook. So important was this keg of sourdough, that if it was too cold at night the cook would wrap the keg in a blanket and bring it to bed with him."

I no longer have the above sourdough cookbook. However, I have another rather interesting book filled with sourdough recipes by the Herters; George & Berthe. It's titled, Professional Sourdough Cooking and Recipes (1974) If I take a moment to tell you about the wealth of information and curious facts held in this book, chances are, I may just run out of time to finally finish this post. Don't worry, I'll be sharing a few more recipes in the near future. In the mean time, you better get that starter started!!! Look what you're missing:

I chose a pretty basic sourdough recipe to share. Supposedly, according to the book anyway, Nicolas Chauvin, of "chauvinism" notoriety was quite the sourdough "cooker." His apple fritters were very popular and he fed all the children in his neighborhood apple fritters twice a week when apples were in season. Here is his Apple Fritter recipe based on "modern" provisions.

In a bowl put 4-1/2 cups of bubbling sourdough starter that you have removed from storage the night before and covered with a damp, warm towel and left in a warm place, preferably a covered box.

Add 1/4 cup of whole milk or evaporated milk, (the evaporated milk actually works the best.) 4 tablespoons of cooking oil and 1 egg. Mix these ingredients thoroughly into the sourdough batter.

In another bowl mix 1 level teaspoon of salt, 1 level teaspoon baking soda and 2 level teaspoons of sugar. Sprinkle these ingredients over the top of the batter and gently work it in. Quickly dip pieces of apple into the batter and into a pot of fat or cooking oil at 370 to 390 degrees. (he used rendered beef suet. If the batter is quite heavy enough to stay on the pieces of apple, work in a little more flour.

Fry until the fritters are delicate brown. Remove and drain on paper then sprinkle powdered sugar on them.

You may have stumbled upon the following recipe for Salt Pork with Gravy in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. This recipe is from the Chuck Wagon Cookbook and notes; It makes a good meal when on a camping trip.

Salt Pork with Gravy
1-1/4 lbs. salt pork
2 tbs. flour
3/4 cup corn meal
2 cups canned milk
Have salt pork cut in slices 1/4 inch thick. Cover with hot water for a few minutes, then drain and dip each piece in corn meal and brown slowly in fat in skillet. Drain off all but 2 tbs. of fat, mix in flour. Brown for two minutes, stirring well; then add milk and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Served with slices of sweet onions and potatoes cooked in their jackets.

Now, we mustn't forget coffee. What would a wagon train be without a big ol' pot of Joe? Sourdough, salt pork and plenty of coffee were what cowboys ate for breakfast.

The first trail coffee came as green coffee beans that had to be roasted before they could be ground and made into coffee. In 1865, John and Charles Arbuckle, who were grocers in Pittsburgh, patented a process for roasting coffee beans and treating the roasted beans with a mix of egg white and sugar to preserve freshness. The coffee made from these pre-roasted beans was an immediate success and is still available today. The usual coffee formula on the trail was one handful of ground coffee per cup of water. It was often called "six shooter coffee", as it was strong enough to float a six shooter. (source)

Once again, a recipe for dessert from Chuck Wagon Cooking (Here is something old-time ranch cooks made often. It makes a lovely dessert served with good cream.)

Vinegar Drop Dumplings
To 1 pint of hot water and 1/2 cup vinegar, add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tbs. butter, 1 tsp. nutmeg. Put the above on the stove to boil. Then drop in the dumplings. Place a tight lid on the pan and boil for 10 minutes.
To Make Dumplings: 1 egg, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tbs. sugar, 1 heaping tsp. good baking powder: add flour and mix well to a very stiff batter. Drop by spoonfuls into the boiling water and vinegar. This will make 6 helpings.

Don't forget to "partake" in an Oreo cookie tomorrow, It's Oreo's Birthday! (previous post)

1. The Goodnight-Loving Trail
2. Skillet Potato Bread
3. Cowboy Recipes
4. Spotted Pup (Cowboy Pudding)
5. Dutch Oven Cooking-Dump Cake
6. Sonofabitch Stew
7. Cowboy Coffee Cake @ The Food Librarian (or Buttermilk Coffee Cake)
8. Chuck-Wagon Style-By A Cowboy's Wife @ My Wooden Spoon
9. Corn Bread, Some Good Grub
10. Chuck Wagon Cooking @ Saveur
11. Cookbook Review: "Cooking The Cowboy Way" @ Kahakai Kitchen
12. Chuckwagon poems
13. Davy Crockett (previous post)

Revised February 2015