Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Recently I was reading about the Belle Époque period, known for flamboyant lifestyles and elegant dining.  When my BW was a little girl, she went to England for the coronation in 1953.  She saved souvenirs of the journey, and a couple are menus from the Cunard White Star steamship line’s vessel, R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth. 

The 1953 menu is interesting and I noted a dessert that I haven’t enjoyed in many years: Peach Melba.  I suppose Peach Melba is passé nowadays, I very seldom see it anywhere, but like an old song, it is still a wonderful thing to behold, so I served some a couple of weeks ago.  It was splendid.

In 1891, a renowned Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, performed Wagner’s Lohengrin at Covent Garden in London.  An equally renowned chef de cuisine, Auguste Escoffier, was invited to the performance, and afterward prepared a special dinner party in honour of Dame Melba.  The dessert was named for her and became a sensation.

If the only Melba you know is toast, take a look at Peach Melba, it is a darling dessert.

PEACH MELBA    serves 4

Poach the peaches.

4 nice peaches
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Prepare a Raspberry Coulis

1 pint fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Vanilla ice cream

Cut the peaches in half, discarding the pits.
Bring water, sugar and extract to the boil.
Put peach halves in the syrup, reduce the heat and poach for about 7-8 minutes.
Retrieve the peaches from the syrup and remove the skin.
Allow the syrup to cool and then return the peaches to it and chill in the refrigerator.
When you make the dessert, discard the syrup or save for next peach melba excursion.

Prepare the Raspberry Coulis
Put the raspberries, lemon juice and sugar into an electric blender. Blend to a puree, strain out the seeds.

Assemble the Peach Melba
Put two scoops of vanilla ice cream in a serving bowl. Put two peach halves atop the ice cream and drizzle the coulis over it.
You can garnish with a few whole raspberries and fresh mint leaves if you wish
Enjoy a sweet piece of history.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Get readeee! Get set! Starting April 1st (no fooling), I’m going to be writing a blog every day throughout the month about food.  It will be A to Z. On the first day the blog will feature a recipe with the subject being “A” and so on each day until we get to “Z”.

 I hope I don’t have any trouble with any of the letters, but we’ll see. 

But anyway, we’ll be talking about a lot of different foods, so I hope you will check in with us daily.

But I’m not alone, there are 625 writers signed up so far.  It’s a great way to meet new people and get lots of interesting information.

My BW, the education tipster, is participating too, so check out her blog in April.

Thank you.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Them old-time chuck wagon cooks were tenacious people, they found a way to prepare meals every day under very limited conditions.  When I moved down south, I heard about a thing called Chicken Fried Steak and assumed it literally meant what it said, and of course it did.  You could take a nice piece of Roundsteak, pound it thoroughly with your meat mallet and make a mean dish of it, reminiscent of the chuck wagon guys.  It's a separate food group in Texas, like barbecue, for crying out loud.

Nowadays in super market meat display cases, “cube steaks” can be found, the machine-perforated steaks that cook quickly and taste real good.  These are good for Chicken Fried Steak, but look at the meat as close as you can, so it is not tough with sinew.

It’s easy to put a big pot of rice on the boil when you make this, or boiled potatoes.  Steamed green beans go good too. The gravy enhances the vegetables.

Chicken Fried Steak    serves 4

4 cube steaks or mallet pounded ½ inch thick round steaks
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper

Dip the steaks into milk and then flour (work in all the flour) salt and pepper them and put them in hot oil (375F) until golden brown.  You can use a deep fat fryer or a one-inch depth of oil in a saucepan. Peanut oil is good.
When done, remove to drain rack or paper towels.

Pour off all but a tablespoon of oil. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir into the oil to make a roux.

Bring a pint of milk to the boil meanwhile, and then add to the roux, whisking or stirring rapidly to make the gravy. The gravy is good on the steaks and the vegetable accompaniment.

Old time Chuck Wagon cooks would marinate the steaks in a mixture of water salt and vinegar, but today’s steaks don’t need that, unless the grade is very tough meat.

Try it you’ll like it. As big as Texas is, Chicken Fried Steak is never far away. For good reason.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Now I am reading this book called: Dancing With The Pen, an anthology of today’s youth writing, edited by Dallas Woodburn. I do this with joyful delight, because my granddaughter Victoria’s poem, “Feast” is published therein. This is it:

They sit within the darkness, waiting for the time to strike.
Hunger gnawing at their innards
They know what lies ahead.
Pawing at the soft ground, they watch the events unfold:
The demons and angels fight overhead
One after another they fall.
Angels turned malicious and demons all the same
They fight not for honor but for the sake of fighting untamed.
This roar of battle is tainted not with bravery but with greed:
The greed of power and the lust of victory fill the air.
Slowly, the roar lulls into a hush
When all is quiet, they come out for their feast.
Rotting flesh and snapping bones the only noise now
What a feast, what a feast
Full of feathers not from fowl.

by Victoria Hutchinson

 Dancing With the Pen, edited by Dallas Woodburn, features the work of more than 60 young writers. She created a great organization: Write On!  to give kids an outlet for expression, and to inspire youths to write and read more often.

 Everything in this book, mostly by junior high school students, is truly wonderful, but one other particular poem piqued my interest because waffle cones were involved. 

When I was a kid, two kinds of cones were available down at the corner candy store, the regular cone and the dark waffle cone, which was much better. The regular cone was a tasteless and airy nothing, just a delivery system for the ice cream; but you could eat the waffle cone alone they were so delicious.

Most people ask for their choice of ice cream and get it served with the regular cone.  If you want a waffle cone, you must specifically request it. I never know about the waffle cone until I hear someone saying “…on a waffle cone please”. Sorry that you can’t make a waffle cone on a regular waffle iron because the crevices are too deep, but if you have one designed for cones, you will probably use it often.

I want to give you a recipe for waffle cones in case you have a special maker, and also an ice cream recipe that does NOT require an ice cream machine. Even if you cannot make the waffle cones, you can easily make the ice cream.

An electric hand mixer can be used to break up the ice crystals during the freezing process. The mixture can also be hand beaten using a fork, whisk or a food processor. Using a non-custard recipe makes it very easy to make a delicious homemade ice cream. Following is a recipe for Cookies 'N' Cream ice cream that children and adults love.

·        1 cup milk
·        1 cup sugar
·        1/4 teaspoon salt
·        1 cup half and half
·        1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
·        2 cups chilled whipping cream
·        2 cups chocolate crème filled cookie pieces
Crush cookies into small bite size pieces. Don’t pulverize them. Place the pieces in a bowl or measuring cup and set aside until needed.

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat bring the milk to a gentle simmer (approximately 175°F) or until it begins to bubble around the edges. Then remove from the heat.

After removing from the heat, add the sugar and salt to the scalded milk. Stir the scalded milk until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Caution, the liquid is hot.

Add half and half, vanilla, and whipping cream. Stir until well blended.

Pour into a bowl and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

Speed the cooling process by placing the bowl in an ice water bath.

Chill the ice cream mixture. When the mixture has cooled, cover it with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. This aging process will give the mixture better whip-ability and produce an ice cream with more body and a smoother texture. A kitchen timer is useful here.

After chilling, remove from the refrigerator and stir the mixture. The ice cream is now ready for the freezing process.

Transfer the ice cream mixture to a freezer safe bowl or container if not already in one. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, foil or an airtight cover and place the container in the freezer and allow the mixture to freeze for 2 hours. Use the timer so you can attend to other things meantime.
Remove from the freezer and beat with an electric hand mixer to break up ice crystals that are beginning to form.
Cover and place back in the freezer. Freeze for 2 more hours.
Then remove from the freezer and beat once again with the hand mixer. The ice cream should be thick but too soft to scoop. If it is still not quite thick-ish, return it to the freezer for additional freezing time. Beat again before adding cookie chunks.
When ice cream has thickened properly, stir in the cookie chunks until well distributed throughout the ice cream. Do not beat with the hand mixer after the cookie chunks have been added, because that would break the cookies into crumbs and tiny pieces, which is not visually appealing.

Pour into a plastic airtight freezer container. Pack the ice cream in the container. Be sure to leave at least 1/2-inch headspace for freeze expansion.

Cover and place the container in the freezer and allow the ice cream to freeze until firm.

After the ice cream has hardened sufficiently, take the ice cream container out of the freezer, remove the cover and scoop ice cream into bowls or those fabulous waffle cones. Eat with pride my friend, a pride shared through the years by ice cream makers everywhere.

Waffle Cones    Makes 8
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly

  1. Preheat the waffle cone iron according to directions.
  2. Beat the egg, egg white and salt in a small bowl with a fork until well blended.
  3. Beat in the sugar and beat until the sugar is incorporated and the egg has lightened in color slightly, about 1 minute. Add flour and beat another 15 seconds or until incorporated and all lumps are gone. Add the melted butter and stir until well blended.
  4. Spoon a little batter in the center of the iron. Bake for 1 minute then check for proper colour. Cook a few more seconds if necessary.
  5. Quickly remove the waffle from the waffle maker onto a clean cloth towel. Work rapidly, but if the waffle is too hot to handle with your bare hands, use the cloth to help lift and roll the waffle around the cone form. Hold the cone a few seconds to set its shape then place on a wire rack to cool.

Your own ice cream will always taste better, because you are controlling the groceries, and if you remember those waffle cones from days of yore, the nostalgia will add to the fun. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I don’t often eat desserts, but when I do, I really enjoy them.  I’m not interested in low-fat or sugar-free desserts; I want the full flavour and superb taste that makes many classic desserts so special; not adulterated or diluted by trying to make them “healthier” which usually has the opposite effect.

Recently, the Tipster and I are at my daughter’s house, helping pack items for her imminent move to Florida. We want to get stuff packed up that is not necessary in the daily scheme of things.  In the one kitchen cabinet are several bottles of spirits and cocktail mixers.  So we wrap and pack them up.  I find this pamphlet with Kahlua recipes in it—different drinks and puddings and such.  I no longer drink alcohol, but remember really liking Kahlua.  There was a recipe for Kahlua Kugel in the booklet, so I got to thinking the next day about it.

I’ve already mentioned Kugels, but another dessert I love is bread pudding, of which there are many types. I always loved the bread pudding and sauce that chef Paul Prudhomme made. Bread puddings appeal to me because they are a great way to use up stale bread. 

I don’t want to make the usual pudding because I recall a dessert that actually employs Kahlua and pound cake and fruit and ice cream.  I’m down with it, because it has everything good in it.

I find this exciting recipe and video on Show Me the Curry, it tastes fabulous, and if you don’t want alcohol, they give a recipe for faux Kahlua, either with or without alcohol.


Pound Cake – 2 slices
Kahlua Coffee Liqueur – 1/4 cup
Brown Sugar – 1 tsp
Juice of ½ orange
Banana – 1firm, medium, sliced
Ice Cream – 2 scoops

1. Heat a medium non-stick skillet and add Kahlua.
2. Add Brown Sugar and mix well — cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the orange juice into the Kahlua mixture and continue to cook for 1 minute more.
4. Add sliced Bananas and cook until Bananas are slightly softened but not mushy — turn off stove.
5. Warm Pound Cake slices in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, or lightly toast.
6. Place one slice of Pound Cake at the bottom of each dessert dish/cup.
7. Divide evenly the warm Kahlua/Banana mixture over each Pound Cake.
8. Top with 1 scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream to each dessert and serve immediately.

Try this lovely dessert; it is a wonderful ending to any meal.

Friday, March 4, 2011


So I go to a birthday party for me held at my daughter’s house.  My BW loves Italian food, and daughter Stephanie is a vegetarian, so I prepared a version of Stuffed Shells.  I use Tofu with the cheese to boost the protein but you’d never know it, it tastes that good.  We don’t have any pasta shells in the cupboard so we use Manicotti instead.  It is a little harder to stuff, but delicious nonetheless. 

After dinner, Stephie reveals the birthday cake and it is incredible.  It looks like a pizza.  Really.  The crust is a yellow cake, with red “sauce”, “pepperoni”, sliced “green and yellow peppers” and white shredded “mozzarella “´cheese, all made from fondant. Stephie, a friend and daughter Victoria spend several hours making it; it cannot be more perfect if made by a professional baker.

We played electronic games like bowling which uses the TV screen.  I think it was Wii or X-Box or something.  The most fun I had was playing Bocce, the Italian court game using 4 balls per player plus a smaller “jack” ball.  I liked it so much I’m planning to build a Bocce court in my yard.  We put away the Manicotti and watched a movie: “REDS” with Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, John Malkovitch and Helen Mirren.  We all thought it was a great story.

When I was making the Manicotti, the tipster had me make extra so we could have some the next day.  Even though it is meatless, we love it.  Of course, sausage or chopped beef could be added to the sauce if you prefer, but once in awhile this dish is longed for.  My other daughter hates the idea of Tofu, but loves this because you don’t notice any Tofu.


12 jumbo pasta shells
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1/3 cup shredded carrot
2 shallots (green onions) sliced thinly or minced onion
8 ounces fresh tofu, drained
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded asiago, provolone or mozzarella cheese
1 egg white
A pinch of salt and pepper
A 16 ounce can of tomatoes, crushed
Half a teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
One teaspoon of minced garlic
One half of a six-ounce can of tomato paste
Two teaspoons each of basil and oregano
½ teaspoon of honey or granulated sugar
Grated Romano cheese

  1. Put the pasta on to boil. When done, rinse with cold water and drain.  Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a small pan, cook the carrot and onion in a little water and a dash of olive oil for a couple of minutes, just until softened.
  3. Make the filling: Mash the tofu in a medium size mixing bowl.  Stir in the carrot and onion, ricotta cheese, ½ cup of shredded cheese, egg white and the salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  4. Make the sauce:  In a medium saucepan combine the remaining ingredients, except Romano cheese.  Bring to boiling, and then simmer ten minutes uncovered.
  5. Stuff each shell with one rounded tablespoon of the filling.  Put the stuffed shells in an 8”x8” ungreased dish.
  6. Pour the sauce over the shells, cover the dish and bake 20-30 minutes until hot. Uncover and sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over shells, put back in oven a couple minutes to melt cheese.
  7. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Romano and serve.

Everybody likes this; and vegetarians get plenty of protein without an overabundance of fat.  But regardless, stuffed shells are a toothsome delight, especially made this way.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


When I was a young child, people used to bake Apple Pie all the time. Many people would put the just baked pies onto an open window ledge to cool off and you could sniff the aroma when you got close. The fragrance of the still-warm dough was lovely, and the scent of the cinnamon and nutmeg spice was heavenly. I still can remember that wonderful bracing bouquet. I don’t know anyone who bakes pies anymore, except for those store-bought frozen prefabricated pies that all you do is put in a hot oven. I guess they are a reasonable substitute, but people like me would want to duplicate that pie at home from scratch.

When I think of all the modern advances (convection and microwave ovens, food processors, pressure cookers, slow cookers etc. etc.) now available to everyone, it’s hard to understand why people eschew cooking so often. But I know that times change and peoples’ interests do too. When my mom did the laundry on Mondays it took all morning. When the wash cycle was complete, she would put all the laundry through rollers at the top of the tub. These originally were hand cranked, but my mom’s was electric. She still had to boil the water on the stove first for the wash, then after wringing could use cool water for the rinse and then run them through the wringer again, and then put them on a pulley wash-line with wooden clothespins to dry.

The point being, with all that activity, and before permanent press, a lot of ironing, she still prepared meals from scratch, including occasional cakes and pies.

Talking with a French immigrant a while back, he said his mom didn’t have it as easy as mine. His mom used a washboard and unheated creek water, and the toil was endured because all the other women in the area worked together and exchanged talk, not having any other way to launder at that time. But he agreed that apple pie was a favourite at his house too, although different than my mom’s.

Apple pies always have two crusts, use fragrant spices, and employ lard or vegetable shortening in the dough. The typical French apple pie is called Tarte aux pommes, has only a bottom crust and is made with butter. Personally, I like both pies, each a variation of the other.

When I first made a French apple pie it didn’t come out perfect. There is a certain technique to making the dough, assembling the tart and all, but it is not difficult. The first Tarte aux pommes I made tasted fine; the second one did too, but also looked perfect.

Please try the French apple pie, your guests will appreciate your effort and once you achieve success with the tart concept, there are a lot of tarts you can make, including a savory quiche.


Start by making the dough, called Pate Brisee:
2 cups of all-purpose flour
6 ounces (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small dice (1/4”). You should put the diced butter in your freezer to keep it cold.
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1/3-cup ice-water (approximately)

1. Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the ingredients so that all the butter dice are coated with flour, as if making a biscuit dough. You can use a biscuit dough blender, two dinner knives or your own hands.
2. Pour most of the water in and start kneading the ingredients to gather into a ball. You may or may not need the entire 1/3-cup of water. It should not be “wet”. You should see tiny pieces of bare butter throughout the dough and this is good because it will ultimately produce a desired flakiness. You don’t want to over-work the dough, for that would make it too elastic. If so, let rest in the refrigerator for about one hour. A simple kneading will make it malleable and able to be shaped without breaking.
3. Put the dough on a floured board, pat down and roll it uniformly, turning it a quarter of a turn while rolling until it forms a circular disk. Check that you have flour on the underside of the disk and roll it about 1/8” thick (a little thicker is perfectly ok, as long as it fits the pan you will use.)
4. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin.
5. Lift it up carefully and unroll onto a flan ring, mold or pie plate.
6. Using your fingertips, push dough into the sides. You don’t want to stretch the dough, which could make it shrink while it is baking.
7. With your thumb and forefinger, squeeze a lip gently all around the inside of the of the ridge.
8. Use a knife and rolling pin on top of the ring to trim the dough. Remove and freeze for later or discard.
9. Crimp the edge so it looks good, using once again your finger and thumb. You can also mark the edges with the tines of a fork for a nice appearance.

Now make the apple tart (Tarte aux Pommes)
If you don’t have a flan ring or removable bottom mold or pie plate, you could make it on a cookie sheet and roll up the edges to hold in the filling.
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Have your dough ready. Get 5 apples such as golden delicious or granny smith and trim both ends by carving out with the tip of a paring knife. Peel the apples.
3. Cut each apple in half, and then cut out seeded area.
4. Cut into ¼” slices. Chop the end slices coarsely, and set aside the lovely uniform center slices.
5. Place the chopped apples on the pie shell bottom.
6. Arrange the center slices atop the chopped apples at the rim going inward.
7. For the pie center, arrange the apple slices almost vertically so they look almost like a flower.
8. Now sprinkle evenly 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, on top of the apples.
9. Bake the tart about 75 minutes. Check it from time to time; the tart should be well browned with a beautiful golden crust. Remove the flan ring if used. If a cookie sheet was used, use a metal spatula and remove the tart.
10. You may apply a glaze to the tart using apricot or apple jam if you like. Strain the jam through a sieve and dilute with brandy or water.
11. Do not refrigerate the tart, it is best kept and served at room temperature.

You can get eight servings of this delightful tart, depending how you slice it. Please try it, because no matter how you slice it, it’s a wonderful dessert.
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