Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pickled Franks!

My Father was a hearty eater. He was a tall and big man and it took a lot of food to fill him up! He was adventurous as well, as a family we had interesting things on our table. I was not as adventurous as He, and did not see the value of eating frogs legs or squid or calves brains with scrambled eggs. But the experience taught me the value of seeking out foods to enjoy.

My Mother canned and made jam. She baked bread sometimes, and was a good baker. With 5 children and a hungry husband, she cooked a lot! I believe She wanted to be more creative, yet the amount of food needed to be cooked, took up a lot of time and there was not much left for creativity. But cakes were always frosted and cookies presented on a plate. I came to believe that is how you cook, and that is what you do for your family.

When I married and was new a making a home for my husband and family, I followed the ways that I had been shown. I found that I enjoyed many of the things that my Mother had taught me and I would like to believe that I have passed the best of those on to my children.

This recipe is something my Father would make, leave to "age" and enjoy later. He was a fan of pickled meats and these are tasty as well as, at the ready.

My Dad's garlic pickled franks

1 pkg good quality franks
1 c water
1/2 c vinegar
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 bay leaf

Cut franks diagonally into 2 inch chunks, place in a quart jar, shake lightly to settle the franks into place.

Bring remaining ingredients to a boil, carefully pour over franks, let cool on counter until warm, cover with a lid and set into the fridge to "age".

To serve, remove frank pieces with a wooden spoon and dry gently with a towel. Eat as is or serve with cheese and vegetables as part of a snack tray.


Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Apple and Beet Salad

I try very hard to keep a variety of food types in the pantry so that a meal can be made without a trip to the store. I have reached that point in life, where once I am home, I want to stay home. I currently work a 9 hour day, and have a 30 minute commute each way. I prefer to shop on the weekends and get it done, so that the time off can be used for fun, long term projects or just doing nothing!

I have never been a "whim" eater, asking myself what I want. I have instead developed an appreciation for what I have, and worked from there to create something tasty. That same way of thinking has taken care of the other areas of my life as well.

I have learned that happiness is not having what you want, it is wanting what you have.

When the kids were small, we lived on a small budget, one of our new years traditions was the picking of a vegetable. The one vegetable that they DID NOT HAVE TO EAT THAT YEAR! All other vegetables were fair game. For my daughter it was the same vegetable each year, my son a different one usually. They never picked beets.

Here is a salad that is tasty, it is unusual and can be made with ingredients on hand.

Apple and Beet Salad

1 16 oz can diced beets, drained
2 small or 1 large apple, peeled and diced about the same size as the beets
1/4 c diced dill pickle (or you could use sweet, depending upon family preferences)
1/4 c sliced onion (use green onions if you have them)
1 T pickle juice
1/4 c mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients, chill until serving time, or serve immediately.

Serves 4-6



Saturday, April 26, 2008

Family Favorite Macaroni Salad

It has been cold, longer than usual. Actually I do not remember a winter lasting through spring before, but maybe we won't have as many mosquitoes this summer. Lets hope! I know warmer weather is coming, soon. The rhubarb is about 8" tall and the blueberries are about to break out with blossoms. My back yard is a bit shady, so my blueberries are a little behind in the process. I had noticed blossoms on other blueberry plants, at the kids house and at the daycare where I pickup my granddaughter for our Monday evening time together.

But back to summer, or at least weather that is warm enough to BBQ or enjoy your meal outside. This is old fashioned macaroni salad. You can use salad macaroni (short tubes of macaroni, just like commercial prepared salads in the grocery case), but I like the small shell macaroni. The little hollows will catch small bits, and they are fun to eat! Make the salad in the morning, keep it in the fridge and it will be ready when you need it to be. No last minute fussing.

Family Favorite macaroni salad

3/4 c small shell macaroni
2/3 c frozen peas
2 stalks celery (I prefer the inner stalks for this salad, they are tender and sweet)
4 eggs, hard cooked, peeled and diced
4 green onions, sliced thinly
1/3 c diced "bread and butter" style pickles
1 tomato, diced (baseball size is nice amount)
1/4 c sliced black olives

3/4 c mayonnaise (use light or full fat)
3 T pickle liquid
1/4 tsp garlic salt
pepper to taste (1/8 tsp is good)
2 T Dijon style mustard
2 T milk

Cook macaroni as package directs, at the last minute before draining, add the peas to thaw, drain well. Transfer to a large bowl, add remaining salad ingredients.

In small bowl, combine dressing ingredients, beat well. Pour over macaroni and fold dressing into the macaroni salad gently. Transfer to a clean serving bowl, cover and place in fridge until serving time. Serves 8.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Cooked Caramel And Butter Filling

I am a pie person, generally. I say generally because when asked, pie or cake?, I choose pie. However I have never turned down a piece of cake offered to me. Never!

Cake can be bold and flavorful or a bit boring. I prefer bold and flavorful. Combine the desire for bold and flavorful and my own personal cooking style and you have layers of flavor, but not layered cakes. I know layer cakes are a beautiful presentation, tall and proud. But they are also taller than the tines on a fork, and therefore you must eat them in sections. My usual way is the bottom layer and the center frosting as a section, saving the top for last (it has the most frosting and well that speaks for itself).

I prefer to bake a cake in a 9X13 pan, it is easier to cut, but more importantly the depth of the finished cake is not taller (well, not usually) than the tines of a fork. So each forkful of cake contains all the flavor elements. Cake, flavor layer, frosting.

The following recipe is for a layer of flavor. It is great on a chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting atop. It is butterscotch/caramel in flavor. It is easy, and a simple way to dress up plain ole chocolate cake.

Cooked Caramel and Butter Filling

1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 t salt
1/2 c water
2 T butter

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size saucepan. Whisk to combine, add water, whisk again. Add butter. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens.

Take care this will happen very quickly.

Remove from heat and spread over top of cooled 9X13 cake layer. Cool slightly, then frost cake.

You cannot fail with a recipe like this, because it does not dictate what you do with it. Here are some ideas:

Yellow cake, caramel butter filling, sliced fresh bananas, cream cheese frosting.
Oatmeal cake with cinnamon streuesel, caramel butter filling, vanilla butter cream frosting.
Chocolate cake, caramel butter filling, mini marshmallow browned over the top, chocolate frosting.

Let your imagination guide you, who is going to say no to a piece of cake?



Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fresh rolls are a must for the Sunday Cafe

I love fresh rolls or bread with dinner. I have a (bad) habit of making too much food and everyone must decide what will fit, on your plate and in your tummy! I grew up with parents from the depression era, and my Father in particular had many hungry days as a child. Sunday dinner was always special at our house, we ate early around 2 pm and then a Sunday drive to the zoo or feed ducks at the pond. I honor that past with my Sunday Cafe.

These dinner rolls are not rolls, they are buns. The dough is soft and sticky. It is easier to drop the dough into prepared muffin tins, that way there is not too much flour involved in the final steps and the finished product will remain soft and ready to butter!

Sunday Cafe cottage cheese dinner buns

1/4 c warm water
1 package yeast (1 T from bulk yeast)
1/4 c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 c small curd cottage cheese
approximately 2 3/4 c flour

In a large bowl, place the water and yeast. Let the yeast soften and stir to disolve. Add sugar, egg and salt, whisk to combine. Warm the cottage cheese in the microwave (not too hot, warm only). Add to the mixing bowl along with 2 c of the flour. Beat the dough well, you may use a wooden spoon or your mixer. Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add another 1/2 c flour and beat until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too wet to take shape and leave sides of the bowl, beat in an additional 1/4 c flour.

Cover bowl and let rise until doubled, stir the dough down and let rest 15 minutes. Spoon into a prepared 12 cup muffin tin. Cover and let rise again, until doubled. If not ready to bake, slip muffin tin into the fridge.

When ready to bake, bake buns in a preheated 350 F oven for 20 minutes, or until golden. Let rest in muffin tins for 3-5 minutes then turn out into a towel lined bowl or basket to serve.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 27, 2008 the start of my Sunday Cafe

It has take a few years to get to the Sunday Cafe. The kids had to grown up, get married, hold jobs, have schedule changes, start families and now here we are at a time in our lives where the Sunday Cafe can open and everyone can come to enjoy. Either one (or more) had to work, or I had to work, or life just had a way of not making it easy for the Sunday Cafe to open.

I like to make a nice meal, set an attractive table, enjoy conversation along the way and maybe even play a family game or two after the meal. The "kids" enjoy time together and sometimes it is more fun for me to step back and observe the interactions as I clean up. I have a fairly small kitchen, so cleaning up solo is no problem. I then just jump in where ever the game/conversation/fun is, going back and forth between joining in, serving dessert or playing with the granddaughter. It is always a happy time.

I must confess however, the first dinner won't be at Mom's Sunday Cafe, we are actually going out to eat! Goofy I know, but I won gift cards at work. That gives me time to plan the May Sunday Cafe menu.

Here is a great cornbread, I made this a couple of days ago to go with a pot of pinto beans and smoked pork.

Sunday Cafe Cornbread - Oven 425 F

1 c cornmeal
1 c flour (spoon lightly into cup, sweep off the top to level)
1/2 c sugar
3 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp salt

Place in a large bowl, stir together until well mixed, make a "well" in the center for the wet ingredients.

1 c milk
1/4 c oil
2 eggs

Place wet ingredients in the "well", whisk the center of the wet ingredients to beat the eggs with the milk and oil. Bring all ingredients together and whisk until no lumps are left.

Pour into a prepared 9X9 inch pan, bake 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.