Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy 150th Birthday Kansas!

Today, January 29, 2011, Kansas celebrates 150 years of statehood. By the time Kansas entered the Union as the 34th state in 1861, the territory and its people had lived through much calamity. As a matter of fact, the state motto is Ad astra per aspera; "to the stars through difficulty." Throughout the year, the Sunflower State has been celebrating its sesquicentennial with a slew of statewide events. In addition to the planned events, the U.S Postal Service issued a commemorative Kansas 150th stamp. I'll leave a few links below so you can check out the calendar of events.

Before I realized that today was Kansas Day, I had another post all planned. I even baked a cake for the occasion. A Cheesecake! You see, today is also the day a man by the name of William A. Lawrence was born in 1842. Legend has it, Mr. Lawrence "invented" cream cheese. As is usually the case in matters such as these, there's a whole lot more to the story. With your permission:) I'd like to save Mr. Lawrence for National Cheesecake Day and share a few tidbits I didn't know about Kansas. Nibble on this while we explore:)

I appreciate the fact that "The Wheat State" is the Wheat Capital of the World. However, I wasn't aware it was Russian Mennonite immigrants who introduced "turkey red wheat" to the Great Plains in 1874. Turkey Red Wheat or hard red winter wheat, was a milestone in Kansas agriculture. It was appropriately suited to Kansas climate and made Kansas one of the leading wheat producing states in the United States. It is a hardy strain of high protein wheat used for baking bread. Which leads me to my next unknown fact, "In 1990 Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 33 billion loaves of bread."

Children in Russia hand-picked the first seeds of this famous winter wheat for Kansas. They belonged to Mennonite Colonies preparing to emigrate from the steppes to the America prairies. A peace-loving sect, originally from Holland, the Mennonites had gone to the Crimea from Prussia in 1790 when Catherine the Great offered free lands, military exemption and religious freedom. They prospered until these privileges were threatened in 1871. Three years later they emigrated to Kansas, where the Santa Fe R.R. offered thousands of acres on good terms in McPherson, Harvey, Marion & Reno counties, and where the legislature passed a bill which exempted religious objectors from military service. Within a month after landing in New York the Mennonites planted the red~gold grains their children had selected. The harvest was the first of the great crops of hard Turkey Red and its derivatives that have made Kansas the Granary of the Nation. (source)

I knew the Honeybee was the state insect of Kansas and the American Buffalo the state animal. So, why was I surprised to discover that the state song is...yup, you guessed it, Home on the Range.

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam

Where the Deer and the Antelope play;

Where never is heard a discouraging word,

And the sky is not clouded all day.

Dr. Brewster Higley (1876)

People who live in Kansas are called Kansans. Kansans are sometimes referred to as Jayhawkers, Grasshoppers and Sunflowers. Oh goodie, an excuse to share last year's Sunflower with you backwards:)

Okay, let's get to the serious stuff. Did you know, at one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas. Why oh why I wonder?

Kansas Food Trivia

It's not exactly the right time of year for brain freeze, but, I'll give it to you anyway. It was a Kansan by the name of Omar Knedlik who invented the first frozen carbonated drink machine in 1961. In 1965, 7-Eleven bought the machine from its inventor and the Slurpee was born. We'll be celebrating the Slurpee's birthday in July, a more appropriate time of year don't you think? (In PA anyway:)

According to Pam Grout, author of You Know You're in Kansas When...:, ( preview available @ google books) Windom, Kansas has claims on being the Covered Dish Capital of the World. I may just have to question that claim. There sure are a heck of a lot of potlucks around here too.

I was really surprised to discover fast food is right on track in Kansas, especially after that covered dish claim above. Here goes, the very first White Castle was opened in Wichita in 1921 as was the first Pizza Hut in 1958. AND, the first restaurant chain; The Harvey Houses. (You may have heard about them in an old Judy Garland movie:)

  • The first Vegetarian Community was established in Kansas in 1856.
  • Hutchinson is nicknamed the Salt City because it was built above some of the richest salt deposits in the world.
  • Being a former New Yorker, I didn't know there was a Manhattan in Kansas so, imagine my surprise when I also learned The American Institute of Baking is located in Manhattan, Kansas.
  • And, there's a Pittsburg in Kansas also. According to wiki Pittsburg, Kansas is dubbed the Fried Chicken Capital of Kansas.
  • Chetopa, located on the Neosho River in Southeast Kansas, stakes its claim as the Catfish & Pecan Capital" of Kansas
  • MarCon Pies has helped Washington County become the "Pie Capital" of Kansas.
  • I bet Popeye weighed in on this one. Lenexa, Kansas was hailed as the “Spinach Capital of the World” during the 1930’s!
  • Kansas State University is home to a wonderful collection of rare books on cookery.
  • Kansas is cattle country and Barbecue rules!

Alas, I can Pig Out just as much as the next person. On the other hand, what if we were to step back in time for a moment and explore Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. Just last month I sent a series of Laura Ingall's books to my grand daughter Tabitha, who is enjoying them immensely. When she gets a little older, I hope to buy her The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker. I found a recent review online here just in case you have the inkling:)

From what I recall, and mind you, I read these books many years ago, when Charles, Caroline, Mary and Laura hitched their covered wagon and ventured across the frozen Mississippi River to stake their claim on the Kansas prairie, the pioneer tradition of "making do" was a full time job for the entire family. Laura was only three when they arrived in Kansas. Food in Kansas was varied only by season. In essence, one meal was much like the other. Laura spoke a lot about pioneer food in her books and for that we should all be thankful:)

I've chosen a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks for today's post; Prairie Home Cooking by Judith M. Fertig; Harvard Common Press, 1999. From the introduction:

"...For the European immigrants who came here in the nineteenth century, the sea of grass that was the prairie was an alien enviroment. Many of the new arrivals settled, of course, along the banks of the rivers, where trees and brush broke up the monotony of grass. Inland, too, groves of oak and walnut provided more relief, as did wild scrub plants like mulberry, chokecherry, and wild plums, common in low-lying areas...The richly patterned geographical quilt of "fly over country"-the great expanse that you see from the plane window as you fly from one coast to another-is home to enthnic communities of all kinds, where festivals celerating cultures as diverse as Czech, Norse, Russian Mennonite, and Sioux are occasions to remember the past and observe traditions in the present. In the pages of this book, you will meet some of the people who contribute to this region's culinary and cultural melting pot; great home cooks, farmers, speciality food purveyors, experts on regional foods, and even writer's of essays and fiction...Midwestern cooking, in its history and its present forms, goes a long way toward defining what American cooking is all about. Food here is simple and comforting. As Bon Appetit Magazine recently noted, "The cooking rooted in the middle of america has finally been discovered...Not only is the food delicious, but it offers an edible history of the settling of our county as well."... Now imagine an old quilt spread out under a prairie sky. On this quilt an array of sweet and savory dishes form the small towns, farms, and ranches beckon you to taste the best of prairie home cooking."

Now don't these Whole Wheat Pancakes sound simply perfect?

Featherweight Whole Wheat Pancakes
Anyone who grew up in a wheat-farming community in the Great Plains remembers the wonderful flavors of breads and pancakes made with freshly ground grain. With the resurgence of interest in homemade breads, grain mills for the home kitchen are once again popular. At the Thistle Hill Bed-and-Breakfast in Wakeeny, Kansas, fresh wheatberries are gathered after the harvest and ground at the farm shortly before making these pancakes.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup white vinegar
1-3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup canola oil or corn oil
1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vinegar, milk, and oil. Whisk the dry ingredients, a little at a time, into the egg mixture until you have a smooth batter.
2. Lightly oil a griddle or skillet and place it over medium high heat. When it is hot, use a large spoon to transfer the batter onto it. Turn the pancakes when the underside is browned, but before the bubbles break through the upper surface. Remove from the heat when the other side begins to brown, and keep warm until all are done. Serve immediately, with maple syrup. Serves 6

The recipe suggests serving the Featherweight Whole Wheat Pancakes with Midsommersdag Elderberry Syrup and Home Churned Butter. I wasn't sure about the Home Churned Butter but I thought with its Swedish roots, the Midsommersdag Elderberry Syrup was certainly worthy of a scan. I've also scanned two beguiling syrup recipes; Honeysuckle Syrup and Watermelon Syrup, just because:) There's also a beckoning recipe for Fresh Farmhouse Cheese that needs to be shared. I think I'll save that recipe, since it appears fairly simple and has the consistency of cream cheese, for one of the other Cheesecake Days we will be celebrating throughout the year. Enjoy Louise


1. Kansas 150 Commemoration
2. Kansas Dept. of Commerce
3. Kansas Travel & Tourism on Facebook
4. Kansas Facts and Trivia
5. Kansas Facts & Fancies
6. Kansas Historical Society
7. Oysters in Kansas?
8. Cooking In Kansas: Bieroch Recipe

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's National Chocolate Cake Day!

One would think choosing a Chocolate Cake for National Chocolate Cake Day would be easy. Not so...There are just so many different types of chocolate cake.

Finally after paging through countless cookbooks, magazines and advertisements, I happened across exactly what I was craving; Tunnel of Fudge Cake. What? You've never heard of Tunnel of Fudge Cake? Surely you must have. It won second prize in the 17th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off® in 1966. I may have mentioned it a while back for National Bundt Pan Day. It's the cake that brought the Bundt Pan to new heights.

The theme for the 17th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off® in 1966 was "Hurried and Simplified." The idea was to "Bring back baking from scratch...the shortcutted Pillsbury way."
In 1966, Pillsbury's "Busy Lady" theme featured simplified recipes. Convenience products such as refrigerated doughs, cake mixes, canned meats, frozen vegetables and processed cheese recipes.
And that's just what Houston Texas resident Ella Rita Helfrich did. She invented a cake which mysteriously unwrapped a concealed pocket of luscious "tunnel of fudge" filling as it baked." In a 15 minute process of folding nuts and mixing double dutch pre-packaged frosting into a batter of flour, sugar, butter and eggs she created one of the most recognized Pillsbury creations Ever! Below is a copy of the original recipe. Be forewarned, you're in for an avalanche of gooey chocolate goodness.

Original Tunnel of Fudge Cake
1-1/2 cups soft Land O' Lakes Butter
6 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups Pillsbury's Best Flour
1 pkg. Pillsbury Two Layer Size Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix
2 cups Chopped Diamond Walnuts

Cream butter in large mixer bowl at high speed of mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually add sugar' continue creaming at high speed until light and fluffy. By hand, stir in flour, frosting mix and walnuts until well blended. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool 2 hours; remove from pan. Cool completely before serving.

NOTE: Nuts and Double Dutch Fudge Frosting Mix are essential to success of this unusual recipe. Since cake has a soft fudgy interior, test for doneness after 60 minutes by observing dry, shiny brownie type crust. Ed Note: It appears the nuts are necessary for the tunnel walls to form.
But wait, there's just one teeny tiny problem. Pillsbury discontinued making packaged frosting mix. Uh oh...I read somewhere that packaged frosting is still available in some stores in some parts of the country. Supposedly, Pillsbury got so many complaints from die heart tunnel of fudge cake lovers that they had to head back to the test kitchens and devise a substitute recipe. From most of the comments I've read, it just wasn't the same. Here's the recipe they devised.

New Tunnel of Fudge Cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose or unbleached flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4-6 tsp milk

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan (or a 10-inch tube pan).

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter or margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1& 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate and cool at least 2 hours.

In small bowl, combine glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

Fortunately for all of us, one of the editors of Cook's Country Magazine also had a craving for tunnel of fudge cake. (pictured above) It was her favorite birthday cake since she was eight years old. Thankfully, Bridget Lancaster included her tested revised recipe in the October/November 2007 edition of the magazine.
...To add more chocolate flavor, I switched from natural cocoa powder (which can be sour) to less acidic Dutch processed cocoa. Adding melted chocolate to the batter made the cake more moist and contributed big chocolate punch. As for the tunnel, I knew that slightly under-baking the cake was a big part of it. But even when under-baked, the interior of my cake was still too dry and decidedly nonfudgy.
To add moisture and flavor I swapped out almost half the granulated sugar with brown sugar. But the big key was adjusting the amount of two base ingredients; flour and butter. Cutting back on the flour made the cake much more moist, and using less butter helped the cakey exterior set more quickly; together these changes created the perfect environment for the fudgy interior to form. Finally, after two dozen failed cakes, the "tunnel" was back. And so was my birthday cake.

May I present, the recipe for Cook's Tunnel of Fudge Cake:

Ella won $5,000 and the cover spot of The Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes cookbook as runner up in the contest. The Grand Prize Winner was Mrs. John Petrelli from Las Vegas, Nevada. Her prize was $25,000! Her recipe? Golden Gate Snack Bread.

As for me, I'm feeling much better and, it stopped snowing, for now anyway:)

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Rhyming Recipe for New England Clam Chowder Day!

New England Clam Chowder Day
I discovered this rhyming recipe for New England Clam Chowder many moons ago and thought I would share it with you today for National New England Clam Chowder Day. It's from a recipe book titled The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering by author and chef, Jessup Whitehead. You'll notice, the recipe really hasn't changed very much since 1903.

Jessup Whitehead was an influential food columnist at Chicago's Daily National Hotel Reporter in the 1800s and author of an assortment of cookbooks including; The American Pastry Cook © 1894, Cooking For Profit © 1882, and The Chicago Herald Cooking School Cookbook © 1883. He was also "Chef de Cuisine" at the historic Hotel Monte Sano in Alabama.

New England Clam Chowder: The Steward's Handbook & Guide to Party Catering
Chowder: Fish chowder is an ancient dish which has undergone alleged improvements. It is, originally, a sailors' stew, consisting only of fat salt pork, onions, potatoes, crackers, water, salt and pepper; stewed in a covered pot.
To make a good chowder and have it quite nice,
Dispense with sweet marjoram parsley and spice;
Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.
To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,
Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;
Some say you must turn it, some say you must not;
And when it is brown, take it out of the fat,
And add it again when you add this and that.
A layer of potatoes, sliced quarter inch thick,
Should be placed in the bottom to make it eat slick;
A layer of onions now over this place,
Then season with pepper and salt and some mace.
Split open your crackers and give them a soak.
In eating you'll find this the cream of the joke.
On top of all this, now comply with my wish,
And put, in large chunks, all your pieces of fish;
Then put on the pieces of pork you have fried—
I mean those from which all the fat has been tried.
In seasoning I pray you, don't spare the cayenne; !
'Tis this makes it fit to be eaten by men.
After adding these things in their reg'lar rotation,
You'll have a dish fit for the best of the nation.

Note: Fish-broth and milk are to be added.
ConGress Chowder: "Every spring these parties of Congressmen and officials used to go down the Potomac on the old steamer Salem to the fishing grounds and enjoy freshly caught shad, opened, nailed to oaken boards, and cooked before large wood fires. On one of these occasions Mr. Webster had obtained from Boston some rock cod, crackers and salt pork, and he made a chowder. (ed note: Daniel Webster also had a favorite punch.) He had a large kettle, and having fried his scraps, he deposited the successive layers of fish, crackers and potatoes and onions over and over until there was no more room. Then pouring in a half gallon of milk he rubbed his hands, exclaiming: "Now for the fire. As Mrs. Macbeth said: If 'tis to be done when 'tis done, then 'tis well 'twere done quickly. I quote from memory, but I shall never forget his joyous expression of countenance and the merry twinkle of his deep-set, burning black eyes. The chowder was a success, and so was a medicinal preparation of Santa Cruz rum, brandy, a dash of arrack, loaf sugar, lemons and strong iced tea. No one who ever drank Marshfield Punch forgot its seductive excellence, but some found to their sorrow that it had a fearful kick."
1. The Steward's Handbook and Guide to Party Catering
2. The American Pastry Cook
3. Cooking For Profit
4. The Chicago Herald Cooking School
5. Image from wiki

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Fig Newton Day!

It's Fig Newton Day! If you popped on in because you have this uncontrollable urge to know every crumb about the history of "the Fig Newton", stroll on over to the food time line. Lynne has you covered. Figure it this way, Fig Newtons have been around for at least 120 years, urban legends are bound to mount.

Fig Newton Day | January 16th

As soon as I realized it was National Fig Newton Day, I knew exactly what I wanted to post about. (that, doesn't happen often:) What is it that brings such glee to this frigid day in central Pennsylvania? Italian Fig Cookies, that's what. Now, don't get to jovial, I have no intention of actually baking them. I just want to share a few crumbs and be on my way.

Baking cucidati, as my grandmother use to say, was a tradition in our family when I was but a youngster. If we were really lucky, we were treated to these scrumptious Sicilian fig-filled pastries twice a year; Christmas and St. Joseph's Day; March 19th. (We also had Sfringes on St. Joseph's Day (St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs) but that's a post for March. I haven't enjoyed the soft fig mixture concealed in a delicate covering of rich sugared pastry sprinkled with a shimmering glaze of anise flavored icing, in more years than I care to remember. I do however, tremble in delight at the thought of those tender crisp cookies as I write this post. Oh goodness:)

As is the case in many recipes passed down from generation to generation, everyone has a different take on the ingredients that embody the makings of classic Italian Fig Cookies. The preparation can be rather labor intensive, there's lots of rolling and cutting, but using a food processor certainly makes the combining of the fig paste much easier. My grandmother used a meat grinder to blend the fig paste. I don't think a blender would work. Marie, The Proud Italian Cook has a delectable recipe over at her place where she shares her family tradition.

Now just because I mentioned these fig cookies were holiday treats that doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed all year round. They make great snacks for school and office and since the concentration of sweetness is all bundled up in mouth size bites, you can almost always expect a welcome burst of energy. Toss the energy drinks, pot the tea and try one of these tempting recipes.

Italian Fig Cookies

Italian Fig Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 recipe Fig Filling (below)
1 recipe Lemon Glaze or powdered sugar (below)

1. Beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugars and soda. Beat until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat or stir in flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill 3 hours or until easy to handle. Meanwhile, prepare Fig Filling. (see below)

2. On a floured pastry cloth, roll a dough portion at a time into a 10x8 inch rectangle. Cut each rectangle lengthwise in half. Spread Fig Filling lengthwise down the middle of each strip. Using the cloth, lift up one long side of dough; fold it over the filling. Lift up opposite side, fold it to enclose filling. Seal edges. Place seam side down on an ugreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately slice strips diagonally into 1-inch pieces. Transfer pieces to a wire rack, let cool. Drizzle with Lemon Glaze (see below) or sift with powdered sugar. Makes about 36 cookies

Fig Filling: In a medium heavy saucepan combine 1 cup dried and chopped figs, stems removed; 2/3 cup raisins, finely chopped, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup diced candied fruits and peels, finely chopped; 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel; and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 to 8 minutes or until fruit is softened and mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/3 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped. Cool to room temperature.

Lemon Glaze: In a small bowl combine 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar and enough lemon juice (2 to 3 teaspoons) to make of drizzling consistency.

To Store: Place in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days or freeze unglazed cookies up to 3 months. Thaw cookies; glaze. (image & recipe)
Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies © 2003

Cucidati | Fig Cookies

In case you didn't make it over to Lynn's Fig Newton History, here's what John Mariani has to say on the subject in his book The Dictionary of American Food and Drink. (revised ed. 1994) This, of course, is one take on the legend. There are quite a few with assorted facts, inventors and inventions.

...Figs were introduced into America on the island of Hispaniola in 1520 by the Spaniards, and the Mission fig owes its name to the Spanish missions set up in California in the 1700s...Most of the fig crop goes into making a sweet filling for "Fig Newtons..." The cookie was first produced after Philadelphian James Henry Mitchell developed a machine in 1892 to combine a hollow cookie crust with a jam filling. This machine he brought to the Kennedy Biscuit Works, which tried it out in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, and the resulting cookie was christened "Newton Cakes," after the nearby Boston suburb of Newton. In 1898 the company combined with others to form the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco Brands). The most frequently used jam in the cookie was fig, and soon the name became "Fig Newton."

Today may also be International Hot & Spicy Food Day @ Southern Grace. (some say the 20th) And, tomorrow is the birthday of first Lady Michelle Obama!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Simmering Slow Cookery

Hi Everyone! Boy oh boy, do we have snow!!! A great day to celebrate National Slow Cooker Month! That's Slow Cooker not Snow Cooker:)

If you were to ask a quick question on google such as, "who invented the crock pot", nine out of ten times, the names Robert J. Scott and Rival Manufacturing will surface. To expand on such a query by adding say, date, invariably 1970 will be included. Every now and again, you might happen across the words Beanery and the Naxon Company of Chicago.

Crock Pot® is the registered trade mark of Rival. However it has become so well known that it has become the generic name for all cookers of this type. (Just like 'Kleenex®' for tissue and 'Band-aid®' for adhesive plaster.)...In late 1970, Rival acquired the assets of the Naxon Company of Chicago. Along with this acquisition was a little appliance called the 'Beanery'. It was a basic bean cooker. It was of white steel, with a glazed brown crock liner, and aluminium lid...Cooks and chefs started to experiment with this little bean cooker. Soon they discovered that it cooked meat even better than beans. And the birth of the Rival Crock Pot® took place. (source)

If you were to make your first stop @ wiki, here's what you might find:

A slow cooker, Crock-Pot (a US trademark that is often used generically), or Slo-Cooker (a UK trade mark that is often used generically) is a countertop electrical cooking appliance that maintains a relatively low temperature compared to other cooking methods (such as baking, boiling, and frying), for many hours allowing unattended cooking of pot roast, stew, and other suitable dishes...The Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago developed the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. The Rival Company bought Naxon in 1970, and reintroduced it under the Crock-Pot name in 1971...The brand now belongs to Sunbeam Products.

One step further @ Sunbeam, and the plot thickens.

It all started in August of 1970 with a simple bean-cooker: a glazed brown crock liner, white steel housing and aluminum lid. What the Crock-Pot® brand did first was expand the cookbook to offer a real practical variety of dishes for the bean-cooker. The brand then redesigned the product’s outer wrapper and added handles and a glass lid. By associating the crockery liner with its pot-like shape, out came the name Crock-Pot® slow cooker...

Well, with me being me and you being you and January being National Slow Cooker Month, further investigation was necessary. Who invented the slow cooker?

History of the Slow Cooker
The innovator of the slow cooker was a company called Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago. They came up with what they called the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. This was a metal container that was 12" tall x 8" round and had three different slow cooking temperatures. It was a simple devise yet very effective and efficient.

I didn't find the original patent for our Mr. Scott. Admittedly, I didn't dig very deep especially since I happened upon an article about "Mr. Crock Pot" written by someone who knew him personally. (the link is below) And, fortunately for arguments sake, I didn't extract the identity of the Beanery or the Naxon Company of Chicago easily. Else, I would never have stumbled upon Irving Nachumsohn's patent for a Cooking Apparatus patented January 23, 1940, #2187888. (Scott didn't start fiddling with the design until the 70s)

Apparently, Irving Nachumsohn [Naxon] (I'm thinking he altered his name for ease of use) was a prolific inventor. He invented the Naxon Telesign which transmits messages on the telephone to electronic signs on buildings. Some say this telecommunication device was the precursor to the fax machine and telephone modems of today. It must have been quite innovating for its time because I stumbled upon a court case and was indeed surprised to learn who the defendants were. (I'll leave the link below if you're interested.) He also invented several other electrical appliances and worked during World War II to help develop an oxygen flow indicator for use in aircraft. In one article I read, his daughter is quoted as saying, "Mr. Naxon was a self-made man who earned his electrical engineering license and patent licenses through the mail."

I must take a moment to thank the author Heather Houck Reseck for the "lead" to Irving Naxon. Her book Fix-It-Fast: Vegetarian Cookbook is available @ google books for limited viewing. It's jam packed with innovating recipes and terrific tips and advice for getting the most out of your crock-pot. I for one have added it to my want list!!!

Mr. Naxon died in 1989. An obituary from the Chicago Tribune reads:

September 25, 1989:
Services for Irving Naxon, 87, inventor of the electric Crockpot, will be held at 1 p.m. Monday in the chapel at 9200 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Mr. Naxon died Friday in an Evanston nursing home. He was a longtime resident of the West Rogers Park neighborhood. The Crockpot slow cooker was one of several electric appliances that Mr. Naxon invented. He also worked during World War II to help develop an oxygen flow indicator for use in aircraft.

The Recipes

Have we come full circle? I think not. Is it time to haul out those crocks? Absolutely!!! What's your favorite meal to cook in the slow cooker? Do you have a favorite time of year to crank it up? Did you know you can whip up an Orange Soufflé in a Crock-Pot? Heaven forbid, do you have a crock-pot still hidden in the cupboard of obscurity? Get up right now and drag it out!!! Don't worry, we'll wait.

Someone once said that the invention of the slow cooker was the next best thing to sliced bread. I whole heartily agree. No longer is there a reason not to arrive home to a house engulfed in aromas only a family can love. Unless of course, you live in a small family like Marion and I. Quite honestly, we use the crock pot quite often, summer and winter. I adore brewing stock in the crock. I'm a saver. Vegetable peelings, scrapes of leftovers, bones, yes bones, I pack them all into a freezer bag until the bag is just about ready to burst then everything goes into the slow cooker. Sometimes, I freeze the stock "as is" for a future stew or a soup, made in the crockpot of course or, I simply strain it and save the liquid essence for someday. You can never have enough stock you know. (much more flavorful than those boxes and cans, and less salt too:)

Unfortunately, the first of the crock pot books to be published, mostly by Rival, really didn't get to the heart of slow cookery. It took a woman by the name of Mable Hoffman author of "Crockery Cookery and many other small appliance cookbooks, to truly realize the ease of deliciousness that can be obtained from "throwing all kinds of goodies into the pot." It was her encouragement that led novices to experiment with their own recipes once they learned how a crock pot works.

Unlike a pressure cooker, which needs a certain amount of tending, albeit a minium amount of time in most cases, a slow cooker offers the advantage of supplying its ravaging goodness over the course of hours. Just think of things that can be done while dinner is ever so slowly simmering. And, like a pressure cooker, the health benefits and vitamin content stays in tact. Oh goodness, I could go on and on about the virtues of slow cookery. Let's get to the recipes.

I no longer have a copy of "Crockery Cookery. I shipped it off to my daughter in Idaho. For today's post, I relied on recipes found in both Betty Crocker and Pillsbury supermarket cookbooks. If you're willing to try, you might be able to print this recipe. I'm not sure if it will work:)

Garlic Pork Roast & Sweet Potatoes
3-1/2 pound pork boneless loin roast
1 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled sweet potatoes
1 medium onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup chicken broth (see what I mean about stock:)
1. Remove fat from pork. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper over pork. Cook pork in oil about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides.
2. Place sweet potatoes, onion and garlic in 3-1/2 to 6 quart slow cooker. Place pork on vegetables. Pour broth over pork.
3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8-10 hours or until pork and vegetables are tender. Makes 8 servings.
Betty's Tips:
1. If you like, you can substitute apple juice for the chicken broth.
2. After browning the roast, use a small amount of chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Pour over the pork with the remainder of the stock.
My 2 Cents:
1. I brine the pork the night before. I suppose it isn't necessary since the crock pot usually provides tenderness even to the least tender cut of meat but, I do anyway:)
2. There are those who would disagree but, I've been known to include a bit of pineapple juice in my brining liquid. And, sage is a nice touch:)
Casserole & Slow Cooker Meals Betty Crocker; February 2002 #181
Here's a recipe submitted by Annmarie, a Long Islander from Bellmore, New York.

Mom's Lentil Soup
1 pound smoked ham shanks
8 cups chicken broth
1 pkg. (16 oz) dried lentils (2-1/4 cups), sorted and rinsed
4 medium stalks celery, chopped (2 cups)
4 medium carrots, chopped (2 cups)
3 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups shredded fresh spinach
1. Mix all ingredients except spinach in 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until lentils are tender.
2. Remove ham shanks from slow cooker. Remove meat, discard bones and skin. Set ham and spinach into soup. Stir well before serving. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Chopped fresh tomato may be stirred in with the ham and spinach if desired.
New Slow Cooker Meals Betty Crocker; September 2001; #176

I just couldn't resist.

Chicken with Creamy Paprika Sauce
10 chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tbs. chicken broth
2 tbs. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. cornstarch
3 tbs. cold water
1 container (8 oz) sour cream with chives
hot cooked pasta or spaetzle, if desired.
1. Place chicken and onion in 3-1/2 to 6 quart slow cooker. Mix broth and paprika; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Cover and cook on low setting 7 to 8 hours or until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut.
3. Remove chicken and onion from cooker, using slotted spoon. Place on serving platter, keep warm.
4. Mix cornstarch and water, pour into slow cooker. Cook on high heat setting about 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sour cream. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve over pasta. Makes 5 servings.
Betty's Tip: If you can't find sour cream with chives, use an 8 ounce container of sour cream and add 1 tbs. chopped fresh or dried chives.
Casserole & Slow Cooker Meals Betty Crocker; February 2002 #181

1. 8 reasons why you should give your Crock-Pot a second chance
2. Which slow cooker is best?
3. Results for all Irving Naxon patents
4. Irving Naxon obit
5. Mr. Crock Pot: The Origin of an American Appliance Icon
6. Court Case
Recipe Links
1. Crockpot Stew Recipes
2. Dress up your Crock Pot to suit any occasion!
3. Crock Pot Refried Beans for a Crowd @ Coleen's Recipes
4. Overnight Crock Pot Oatmeal (seriously, how cool is this and yummy too. I know, Marion & I have a favorite recipe similar to this one. Go with steel cut oats though otherwise you'll get real mush:)
5. Crock Pot Hoagies (Don't these look scrumptious?)
6. Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Cuisine

Today, dear reader, is the day, dear reader, that the proclaimed King of Rock 'n' Roll was born.
Who hasn't heard of Elvis Presley? No one. Groovy! Oh, I know, we've discussed Elvis Presley's favorite foods previously on this blog, however, did you know, there is also a person touted as the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll? His name is drum roll... Alan Freed.
But Hey, you're not here to learn about the Birth of Rock and Roll Music. I'm thinking you're here for some jammin' food; quick.

How's that for starters? Or perhaps this:
Not your style? Need tasty bits of funk? Well, have I got the book for you!!!

No, I didn't create that warning sign all by myself. It came enclosed in this:
Let's get legal...Rock 'n' Roll Cuisine was published by Billboard Publications in 1988. The foreword:
...The generous souls who have contributed their favorite recipes to this collection agree. We have feasted on their musical delights--now here is the chance to sample some tasty culinary morsels from the world of Rock 'n' Roll. These stars are sharing their ultimate dishes with us to support the efforts of Phoenix House, which runs drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers worldwide, and a portion of the royalties generated by sales of the book will be given to this deserving charity...
As the responses came in, it became obvious that some contributors had a greater sense of humor than culinary expertise, and that they should continue to do their cooking on the stage or in the studio! So we have designed a warning symbol for those recipes whose results tended toward the dubious or the inedible...
Thankfully, the recipe contributed by my personal favorite; Don Henley, is considered safe to eat, albeit a bit lengthy. If you want to really see the recipe, you're going to have to click on the image. Let me give you a taste of Don Henley's interpretation of the brief history of chili.
Don Henley's Texas Chili
"The word chili (pronounced "chee-lee"), is an Aztec word, but the spanish version commonly used now is chile (pronounced "chee-lay). Both words refer to the fruit of the "Capsium annuum" plant, which was, because of its piquancy, misnamed "pepper" (after the black pepper-corn of the East Indies), by the spanish explorers. This practice of mislabeling things because they are "like" other things has been going on for centuries and is something that musicians, particularly, have come to know and abhor. The labelers have given us such gems as "county rock" "jazz fusion" (melted jazz?), "Dylanesque", "adult contemporary", "pop rock", "dance music", "punk", "post punk", and my latest favorite, "New Age" music. Who does this stuff? I don't know, but then I don't know who names streets either. At any rate, there are roughly 200 different types of chilies in the world and nobody knows the names of all of them. so, when we refer to a dish as "chili", what we really mean is "chili (or chile), con carne"--chili peppers with meat. Somewhere along the line, the "con carne" was dropped, additional spices were added and the chili that we know today evolved. Unfortunately, this evolutionary process also produced several aberrations which cannot be called anything but hogslop. In fact, let's get one thing straight right now: True, authentic "chili" does not--I repeat, NOT--have beans in it. Beans are in a separate dish to be relished and revered in their own right. When you put beans in chili, you insult both the beans and the chili."

Next up we have a "recipe" from Jim Cregan. Heed the Warning.

And, last but not least, House of Schock Crab Cakes contributed by Gina Schock.

Don't get me wrong, there are a host of other recipes in Rock 'n' Roll Cuisine but, to be perfectly honest, many of them are simply illegible. I must admit though, it sure is a unique book!!! (or is that an unique book?)

...It all started back in the mid-fifties. A strange new synergy of rhythm & blues, soul, jazz, harmony, black & white gospel, and country & western music took hold of the younger North American generation. This music snared their senses with a rhythm, back beat, energy and tribal passion they had never before encountered. It's initial appeal was to middle class white teenagers who soon came to feel it was their own. Perhaps it was -- their parents hated it. In this era, so called "race music" was largely censured by America's white establishment as being too rebellious, sexual and anti-social to be acceptable. To the ears and eyes of the elder generation, this new music style or "rock 'n' roll" as it came to be known, was nothing less than evil incarnate. (The term "rock 'n' roll was first coined by disc jockey Alan Freed who featured the music on his radio programs in the early fifties)...(source)
Alan Freed's career began to plummet by the time I was a teenager in the 60s so I don't recall much about him. I do however remember American Bandstand with Dick Clark. Okay, confession time. We weren't permitted to watch American Bandstand at our house when I was a kid. My father was adamantly against the style of "rock and roll" dancing.

Whether it's a Rock n' Roll BBQ or Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake, Rock 'n' Roll Cuisine is here to stay. enjoy:)

1. The Man Who Named "Rock'n'Roll"
2. In the Museum: Disc Jockey Alan Freed @ YouTube
3. Most Influential Rock 'n' Roll Artists
4. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
5. "Nifty Fifties" Rice Pudding Recipe
6. Nifty '50s Ice-Cream Cone Cakes from Betty Crocker
7. Quick Links Elvis Presley (previous unchecked post:)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Trivia Day; Currying Favor with the "King of Curry"

A couple of months ago, I spied a book titled; David Wade's Kitchen Classics, (© 1969) resting precariously on the top shelf of one of my book cases. "How did this get here?" I thought to myself. "Perhaps, the answer is on the page with the make-shift bookmark glowing from within. (I often use neon post it note labels as bookmarks.) Let's see..." Sure enough there it was Sahib Eight Boy Chicken Curry.

To my utter delight, there was an explanation as to the origin of the dish tucked right beside it. But first, from the introduction to the recipe:
The culinary authority in India for the British was a man with the pen name of Wyvern, who was in reality Arthur Kenney-Robert. He had not been in India long when he spoke out with authority in a book entitled Culinary Jottings from Madras,published in 1882. At the time this journal was published, Madras was the center of British activity there.
My first reaction evoked all things negative that come to mind when I think of Americanized curry. (You know, that yellow powder you might find on a grocery store shelf a most distasteful interpretation in the history of curry.) I'm sure the title of the dish was the bookmark grabber. I have a tendency to gravitate toward recipe names I'm not familiar with. I want to know about them. However, first, I was curious as to who this Wyvern guy was and what provoked his publication?
Biographical sketches about the "King of Curry," another nickname attributed to Wyvern, were easy enough to unmask in the numerous reviews I encountered about his books. However, locating a specific date of birth just wasn't possible, although, I spent countless hours trying. Here's a portion of one book which includes a chapter from his book; The Road to Vindaloo: Curry Books and Curry Cooks found @ In Mamma's Kitchen.
...Progressing through time in a gentle amble, the authors glimpse the clubs "for officers and gentlemen," many of which became most famous for their curries. Here we discover the division in Indian cooking between "Mussulmans and Hindoos."  Not only does knowledge deepen, but the recipes grow more authentic, though still not as nuanced as a true Indian cook would have it.   They peer into the Officers' Mess where curry was the standard lunch, and introduce us to the "Escoffier of the Raj," Arthur Kenney-Herbert (aka 'Wyvern') who wrote a column for a local Indian newspaper and was the most influential contributor to curry literature by an English writer. Here we must smile, for Wyvern, writing in 1878  was struggling to find authenticity while complaining that many of his contemporaries were not taking as much care in preparation as the preceding generation.  Like many of today's cooks who will buy a prepared ragu and doctor it to their own tastes, he reluctantly allows a 'stock' powder as it may be doctored to taste and glory.
With supporters such as Elizabeth David, the Colonel marched into Victorian homes with his publication of Jottings for Madras which by the way is available online for free. There's also a quick review @ Prospect Books

Sahib Eight Boy Chicken Curry

Back to Mr. Wade and the boys:
In Wyvern's day, succulent curries were conjured up with great canning, and curries-eight or nine-were served at one dinner. A different servant would bring in a different choice of curry-one would serve fish, one rice, one chicken, and so on.This custom came to be known as Seven Boy Chicken Dinner, or Nine Boy Chicken Dinner and it meant literally that seven or nine boys would serve seven or nine curries. If you especially enjoyed a curry and wanted a second helping, then you'd call that boy back to serve you again. An assortment of chutneys also accompanied such dinners and little vituals of fishes, or meats.
Do I hear the makings of a Curry Blog Party in the atmosphere? Mr. Wade continues:
The most precious ingredient of the curry is, of course, the curry powder or paste. Wyvern gave his favorite as the curry powder of the Sahib in India. The recipe is in pounds which obviously will make quite a lot. His formula--
turmeric, four pounds;
coriander, seven pounds;
cumin, two pounds;
poppy, one-half pound;
fenugreek, two pounds;
dry ginger, one pound;
mustard seed, one-third pound;
dried chilies, one pound;
black pepper, one pound.
This, he emphasized, was the basic curry powder. The flavor could be changed by the addition of of other spices of clove, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. Or by adding seasoning leaves such as bay leaf or fennel. As the curry is prepared, other ingredients are added, such as coconut milk and onions and the leaves mentioned before, but these were to be fresh and the cook added them before serving. A modest spoonful of this basic curry powder would suffice for a quantity of curried rice, for instance.
Mr. Wade's notes on rice:
For many thousands of years rice has kept the large population of the world alive. They have done ingenious things with it though, and what the Indians did with it was curry it. The Sahib, back in his native country and dining at his club in London, remembers most his tour of duty and probably "curry and rice." There are clubs in England which serve curry and rice a day every week for those who have cultivated the taste in the service of Her Majesty. And Memsahib herself bought some of the curry reipes home with her, and no doubt the journal. Culinary Jottings from Madras, the ultimate curry authority for the British.

One of my favorite curry powder blends comes from the distinguished food editor and restaurant critic of the New York Times; Craig Claiborne. From the The New York Times International Cookbook. In his words:
Curry Powder
Whenever a recipe for a curry appears, if curry powder is not listed among the ingredients there are always letters and telephone calls protesting the supposed omission. It may be laboring the point, but we will say again that the best curries have never known the commercial mixture called curry powder. There is no such thing as a curry bush or curry tree; curry powder is a blend of spices, as you will see in the recipe below.
1 pound coriander
1/4 pound small cumin seed
1 tbs. sweet cumin seed
1 tbs. black mustard seed
1 1-inch piece cinnamon
2 cardamon seeds
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

1. Preheat oven 250 degrees.
2. Put all ingredients in a baking pan and bake about 15 minutes. Grind while hot in an electric blender or mortar with pestle.
Note: This curry powder will keep six months in an airtight jar.

1. David Wade: Rembrandt of the Kitchen (a blog review)
2. Who's Who, Volume 59 (1907) @ google books
3. How did the word Curry evolve or originate?
4. The Origins of Curry
5. Seven Boy Chicken Curry Recipe @ Taste of Home
6. The Return of Culinary Jottings for Madras
7. The Colonel's Curry may be available @ a shop near you or online @ Chiman's
8. Chiman's purveyor of Indian Spice Blends