Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Snow Showers Bring Tasty Waffles

It's supposed to be Spring in Minnesota.  But this year, after what some are naming the "worst winter ever," we're having more snow and cold.  The crocus have wisely kept below ground.  The daffodils and tulips have nary a shoot. Mother Nature is about to whollop us with another 4 to 10 inches of snow overnight.

Perfect excuse to get out the ingredients for World War I food conservation Cornmeal and Rice Waffles. The recipe was originally developed to conserve precious wheat to feed our soldiers in training and our Allies overseas by the ladies of the Hoover Club in far north Eveleth, Minnesota.  When I read it in the Eveleth newspaper and then tasted them, I knew the recipe had to go into my WWI book -- Food Will Win the War: Minnesota Crops, Cooks and Conservation During World War I published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

These waffles are wonderfully tasty and are the only ones I ever make for our family. I use brown rice, but any kind of rice will work, except the instant or "converted" kinds.

Extra waffles can be stored in the refrigerator or even frozen for later enjoyment. They are great for breakfast and hearty enough to serve as a base for creamed chicken or ham.

Who says there aren't benefits to late-season blizzards.  UPDATE:  we ended up with about 8.5 inches of pretty heavy snow.  We sure earned our reward!

Cornmeal and Rice Waffles  

1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup salt, optional
1 cup boiled rice, cooled
      Our family prefers brown rice
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 eggs, well beaten

Preheat the waffle iron to medium. Put the vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to make one cup. Stir and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes until the milk sours. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the rice. Add the butter, eggs and soured milk. Stir until well blended and pour batter on waffle iron and cook until golden brown.

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved Rae Katherine Eighmey

Monday, October 28, 2013

Party Like It's the Roaring 1920's with Prohibition-Perfect Non-Alcoholic Drinks!

This is a "Prohibition Sour," featured in 1920s soda fountains as "a drink for men." But anyone who enjoys a tart, tasty drink will love it. 

This was one of the thousands of drinks, ice cream sodas, and sundaes created during the Dry Decade to refresh young and old alike.  Not like the Shirley Temple drinks of my youth, these beverages pack their own flavor punch and are deliciously refreshing.  Mix up a batch of the flavor concentrates and keep in the fridge for a couple of days or for weeks in the freezer. Add to sparkling water, toss in some ice.  Delicious and there won't be any worries about hangovers!

Prohibition Sour
By the drink

1 ounce lemon syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 ounce orange syrup
freshly squeezed juice of one lime
crushed ice
carbonated water, 6 ounces approximately

Put the syrups and lime juice into a 12-ounce glass.  Add a scoop of crushed ice. Fill with carbonated water, stir and serve garnished with a slice of lime.

By the pitcher -- enough concentrate for 12 8-ounce drinks
Will keep in the refrigerator for two or three days, or in the freezer for weeks.

1 1/2 cups lemon syrup
3/4 cup orange syrup
juice from 6 limes

The Minnehaha Maid was created in a Minnesota soda fountain during Prohibition using local cranberry juice and white grape juice from California growers who turned to selling juice now that they could no longer make wine. It is a delightful beverage today.

Minnehaha Maid Concentrate
Makes 16 5-ounce drinks
Will keep in the refrigerator for two or three days, or in the freezer for weeks.

1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup white grape juice
1/2 cup lemon syrup
1/2 cup simple syrup (see recipe below)

Combine syrups. Use one ounce to a 7-ounce glass.  Add a small scoop of crushed ice and about 4 ounces carbonated water. Finish with a twist of lemon.

Simple Syrup

This easy-to-make syrup is the basis for a wide range of beverage flavorings.

1 cup water
1 cup white granulated sugar

Put the water into a medium pot. Gradually add the sugar. Warm over low heat, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves. Do not even bring to a simmer.  Just heat it enough to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Simple syrup keeps for days in the refrigerator.

To Make Flavored Syrups
You can buy bottles of flavoring syrups in grocery stores or on the web. But for basic fruit flavors it is easy to make them using your own simple syrup and frozen juice concentrates.

1/4 cup simple syrup
1 tablespoon concentrated juice mix such as lemonade, limeade, orange juice

Stir the concentrate into the syrup. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for two or three days.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Free Soup for Cold and Colds

Cold temperatures and a family full of runny noses took me to the store in search of chicken soup. I wanted low sodium or salt-free broth. Horrors! Other shoppers had purchased all the broth except for one carton. I put that in my cart and pondered my possibilities. Was it worth a trip to any of the other grocery stores in my neighborhood? I had gone to the store that I knew had the largest supply of low salt products in the first place.

Bingo!  I remembered the bag of leftover roast chicken bones sitting in my freezer. I had tossed them in a couple of weeks ago when I didn't have time to make stock. Frozen chicken bones to the rescue! I put the bones with their clinging shards of meat into a 3-quart pot. Tossed in a couple of chopped carrots, a bit of onion, some celery and covered the ingredients with cold water.

A couple of slow-simmering hours later I drained off the broth. I'll pick the remaining bit of chicken off the bones.I may make it into a small bit of chicken salad, or put it back into the stock. Given the health of the family, I'm pretty sure this quart of soup won't last long.

But it is worth remembering that at the end of every meal we have an opportunity to look over what is left and consider how we can make the best use of our food resources. You never know when you might just need it to keep yourself healthy!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Backyard Chicken

This summer our pear tree finally produced enough pears so that we got many more than the squirrels. Tim, the bee-keeper neighbor up the street, installed a new hive. His bees feasted on our garden blooms all summer long.

The pears ripened all at once, as pears usually do. I had plenty to make a few pints of my favorite Pear Salsa. Tim shared a couple of pints of neighborhood honey.

 Looking out at the snow-covered backyard this morning, I thought about making a dish to bring those "remembering summer" ingredients together. I marinated the chicken for about four hours in the salsa, baked it, and then finished it off with a light summer honey glaze. Even if you don't have a pear tree or a bee-keeper neighbor you could enjoy this dish. There are winter pears in the stores now. It wouldn't take too long to make a half batch of the salsa. It is delightful on chips, too.

Backyard Chicken

2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken parts, breasts and thighs
3/4 cup pear salsa (recipe follows)
1/4 cup honey

 Wash the chicken and combine with the pear salsa in a plastic freezer bag. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or overnight. Shake the bag every hour or so for the first three hours to distribute the marinade evenly. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Pick one large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer without touching and with at least half-inch sides so the baking juices won't run into the oven. Put the chicken on the baking sheet. Bake until done, turning once. The amount of time will vary with the size of the pieces of chicken. Tenders will take about 15 minutes, full breasts much longer. When chicken is done remove pieces to a plate, put a baking rack on the foil and the put the chicken on the rack. Turn the oven to broil. Drizzle the chicken pieces lightly with honey and broil until golden, about five minutes.

Pear Salsa 

10 pears (good-sized and ripe, but still hard)
1 red pepper 1 green pepper
1 red onion
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper (minced)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1/4 cup white vinegar

Peel and core the pears, core the peppers, and peel the onion. Process in a food processor until chopped, do not over process. Put the mixture into a large pot, add the liquid ingredients and ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, add the jalapeno. Cook for ten minutes or until pears just begin to turn transparent. Put into sterilized jars and store in refrigerator for about a month. Or you may seal in pint or half-pint canning jars by processing in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, following USDA recommendations.

Copyright 2013 Rae Katherine Eighmey All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Best Meatloaf Ever

I'm calling this the Best Meatloaf Ever!" for several reasons, not the least of which is how tasty it is. And for its "Make Ahead Magic."

I hadn't intended to make meatloaf, but the weekend forecast for chilly and damp weather put the idea of warm and cozy dinners at the lake cottage in mind. I wandered about peering at the grocery meat cases. Nothing much inspired until I saw the grass-fed ground beef -- On Special!!! I picked up three pounds of 85% lean and another pound of regular ground beef at 95% lean. As long as I was making meatloaf, may as well make three to have a couple stocked away in the freezer for more cool summer nights.

Back in the kitchen I pulled ideas from several family traditions and some healthy-food concepts. I wanted to keep this lean, low salt and satisfying. I began with the binder -- crackers soaked in milk, from my great-grandmother's beef loaf recipe. I added several coarse grinds of black pepper in honor of my grandfather who could never have too much pepper. And a liberal dash of Worcestershire sauce for my dad, who loved it. Mixed in a couple of eggs, although in retrospect I would have used 2 egg whites and one yolk to keep it leaner, and dumped in the beef.

As I started to mix with my hands, I quickly realized this needed some texture. Into the fridge. Out came the jar of medium chunky salsa for a kid-friendly kick. I formed the mixture into three oval loaves and put them in the large baking dish, so they would have room to cook all the way around. I heated the oven to 350 degrees and stirred up the last magic -- the topping. This is straight out of the 1950s and Potluck Paradise -- ketchup, yellow mustard, and brown sugar. I ladled half of it on top of the loaves before baking and the second half midway through. After an hour the loaves were cooked through to a food-safe 160 degrees. I pulled them from the pan juices and let them cool. The next day, I reheated the meatloaf in the oven. YUM! Almost as "beefy" as a perfectly cooked sirloin steak.

A word about the grass-fed beef. It is simply wonderful. Regular hamburger doesn't stand a chance next to the rich flavor of this meat, which is becoming more and more easily available I think the meatloaf would be tasty made with regular beef, but it is so much better giving this taste of our grandparents, or great grandparents, the starring role.

Best Ever Make Ahead Meatloaf

3 pounds 80% to 85% lean grass-fed beef
1 pound 90% lean hamburger
1/2 sleeve unsalted soda crackers, finely crushed with a rolling pin
1/2 to 3/4 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon -- or more -- freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs or 2 egg whites and one yolk
1 cup chunky salsa

For the topping:
1 cup salt-free ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup brown sugar

Mix and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put the crushed crackers in a large mixing bowl. Add half cup milk and stir. Add more milk if need to have a nice cracker slurry. Stir in the pepper, Worcestershire sauce. and eggs. Add the beef and dump the salsa on top. Then begin mixing with your hands, making sure to bring up the cracker mixture from the bottom of the bowl. Form into three loaves and place in a large baking pan so there is at least an inch between the loaves. Make the topping mixture and spoon half of it over the loaves. Bake for about a half hour and then spoon the rest of the ketchup topping over them. Continue baking until the center of the loaf reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from pan to drain away the excess fat and juices. Cool and refrigerate. Reheat in oven with about 3/4 of an inch of water in the pan. Or microwave.

Copyright 2012 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Visions of Summer Harvest

Our plum tree is blooming to beat the band. Only problem . . it is weeks ahead of schedule due to unusually warm weather. Alas, the bees in the neighbor's hive seem to be still sleeping. I suspect we will be fortunate to harvest a handful of fruit.

Stalwart rhubarb has started to burst forth as well. At lest I can toss a towel over the plants should the weather take a sudden frosty snap in the days to come. It will be ready for picking by the end of May. In addition to the crisps, strawberry rhubarb pies, and sauces, I think I'll put up some of this World War I-era jam. I haven't made it in a couple of years. It is mighty tasty and will be dandy poured warm over ice cream when we get our June cold spells to "balance out" this amazing early spring.

World War I Rhubarb Raisin Jam

4 cups rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
2 cups orange juice

Mix the rhubarb and sugar in a three- or four-quart pot and let stand for 4 to 5 hours. Stir the mixture every once and a while to help the sugar dissolve. Then add the raisins and bring to a boil over medium heat, lower and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is quite thick. Stir from time to time. Add the orange juice, bring back just to the boil and pour mixture into sterilized jars. Keep in the refrigerator for a month, or freeze, You may also process in boiling water bath according to USDA guidelines

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Birthday Cake for Charles Dickens

February 7, 2012 is Charles Dickens 200th birthday. As I was looking for a period-appropriate cake to bake to celebrate, I stumbled on the menu for the dinner held in his honor by the New York City press on April 18, 1868.

It was quite an event. Dickens had been touring the northeastern part of America giving dramatic readings from his books since November, 1867. In all he gave 76 readings over five months and earned the equivalent of more than three million dollars.

The New York City press invited Dickens to a celebratory dinner. As reported in an article in the March 1919 issue of The Bookman, “Dining with Dickens at Delmonico’s” by Kate Dickenson Sweetser, the event was a huge success. The gathering of 200 of the city’s leading writers, reporters, and editors rose to their feet and applauded when Dickens arrived in the room. He was ill and escorted to the head table by Horace Greeley.

Dickens spoke briefly before dinner and made a sort of apology for his critical comments and writing about America based on his experiences on his first tour 25 years earlier. This night he promised upon his return to England to “bear such testimony to the gigantic changes in this country. Also to record that wherever I have been I have been received with unsurpassed politeness, delicacy. Sweet tempter, hospitality, consideration and respect for the privacy daily forced on my by the nature of my avocation here and the state of my health.”

Members of the committee spoke as well and a fine meal was enjoyed by all. The menu was printed in French, but is easy enough to understand. Lorenzo Delmonico, the leading restaurateur of the day paid homage to literature as he named many of his dishes for the evening: cream of asparagus soup a la Dumas, small hors d’oeuvres a la Dickens. stuffed lamb a la Walter Scott, chops a la Fenimore Cooper. The vegetables included small peas, tomatoes, artichokes and braised lettuce. And for dessert fruits, orange ice and two cakes. The “Viennoise” cake I take to be a version of what we now call a “Sachre torte” chocolate cake with apricot jam in between the layers. The Savarin is a yeast-raised cake with syrup poured over it.

This was the cake to make and it sure gave me the dickens. And will give me many stories to tell. The hardest part is getting the cake out of the baking pan. But not to worry, if your cake looks like this one below, or worse, just pour the syrup over and then put pieces of the cake in a decorative bowl or glass, top with berries and cream and serve individually. No one need to know the fiction you are passing off as a glamorous cake. It will taste just as good.

Although there are many modern recipes, I wanted to find one from the era. I found one using Google Books in an 1867 cookbook -- Handbook of Practical Cookery for Ladies and Professional Cooks by Pierre Blot who was a professor of gastronomy and founder of the New York Cooking Academy.

This is a classic cake and the recipe is very similar, if not identical, to modern ones. I have adapted it for modern ingredients. However, there are two important differences. The period recipe calls for buttering the baking pan and sprinkling with finely ground almonds and the syrup you make to pour over the cooled cake is much less sweet than modern ones. It is a nice light taste, not heavy and lets the flavors of the brandy or rum fill the cake.

Savarin Cake a la Charles Dickens

1 package instant yeast – quick rise
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100 degrees F.
2 eggs
6 tablespoons very soft butter, not melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour

To prepare the baking pan:
1/2 to 1 cup very, very finely ground almonds
soft butter

For the sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup rum or brandy

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, water and tablespoon sugar. Let stand until the yeast is “proofed” and slightly foamy. Put the eggs into the warm milk and stir until well mixed. Stir the milk mixture into the yeast and then the softened butter. Add the sugar and half the flour. Mix well until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the rest of the flour. If the batter isn’t perfectly smooth, beat for a minute or so with an electric mixer. Set the batter aside and prepare the baking pans. Savarin is traditionally baked in a tube or ring pan. Pick one that will hold at least 8 cups of batter, or divide between two pans. Butter the pan very well and sprinkle with the ground almonds, or regular flour. Spoon batter into the pan, no more than half full. Set aside in a warm place to rise until not quite doubled. Put into a preheated 350 degree F. oven. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and firm in the center. Cool in the pans on a rack and the gently insert a knife around the outside edges and push cake away from side of the pan, turn upside down, cross your fingers that it comes out.

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook for about five minutes until the syrup thickens slightly. Allow to cool and add the rum of brandy.

Spoon the syrup over the cooled cake gradually so that it is absorbed into the cake. Serve with whipped cream and berries. Or as they did at the Dickens’ dinner – with orange sherbet.