Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

150 Years after his Assassination Remembering Lincoln with a Delicious Nineteenth-Century Cake

This April 2015 marks the sesquicentennial of the end of the American Civil War. Wednesday, April 15th is the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by actor John Wilkes Booth. As we mark, and perhaps still mourn his death, we have the opportunity to consider his remarkable life.

Nearly every summer evening beginning in 1862, Abraham Lincoln left the White House and rode, either on horseback or in a carriage, up hill out of the city’s miasmal air to the presidential summer cottage. Secretary of War Stanton also occupied a cottage there, on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, about three miles northeast of the center of Washington. The Lincoln family stayed at the peaceful retreat into the fall before moving furniture and household goods back into the White House for the winter.

On his daily round trip, Lincoln passed poet Walt Whitman’s house, and the two men frequently nodded at in greeting. Whitman described Lincoln in his journal and letters. “June 30, 1863. I noticed him last evening about half-past 6 . . . . He looks more careworn than usual, his face with deep cut lines, seams, and his complexion gray through very dark skin – a curious looking man, very sad.”

The Lincolns were in residence at the White House on April 10, 1865, as the news spread throughout the city of General Lee’s April 8 surrender to General Grant bringing with it the end of the war. A great crowd walked through rain and mud from the Navy Yard to the White House lawn, picking up more and more people and even the Quartermaster’s band along the way. Nearly three thousand in number, they called for the president to come out. He spoke briefly and called upon the band to “play ‘Dixie.’ One of the best tunes I’ve ever heard.” He concluded his appearance calling for three cheers for “General Grant and all under his command” and another three cheers for the Navy.

The following evening Abraham Lincoln made his last public address. Speaking again from the upper windows of the White House, he called for reconciliation with the southern states. “Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union.”

Three days later President and Mrs. Lincoln went to a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater. In the middle of the play John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box and shot Abraham Lincoln. He was carried across the street into the home of Mr. William Petersen and laid in a small bedroom on the first floor. At seven thirty-three on the morning of April 15, 1865 Abraham Lincoln’s great heart stopped beating.

Walt Whitman wrote:
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d – and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

People all over the nation mourned Lincoln’s death. Some even hung their homes with black crepe as though a member of their family had died. There were mourning ribbons and badges, portraits, articles and books. Nineteenth century cookbooks brought forth a bakery case full of cakes paying homage to the martyred president. These cakes joined those named for Presidents Washington and Madison, and other political figures on both sides of the Civil War. Many of the published recipes for Lincoln cakes pass along the simple recipe that first appeared in Godey’s Ladies Magazine in 1865: “2 eggs, 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup butter, one of sweet milk, three of flour, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, half teaspoon soda and one of lemon essence.” Others are more like light fruitcakes. This recipe from 1876 is particularly tasty.

Lincoln Cake
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 ounces raisins
4 ounces currants
2 ounces candied citrus peel
4 ounces almonds
1/2 cup flour additional for dredging the fruits
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup brandy
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a large tube pan. Mix the 3 1/2 cups flour, baking soda and spices and set aside. Mix the dried fruits, peel and nuts with 1/2 cup flour and set aside. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add 1/3 of the flour and spice mixture, then the milk, the second third of the flour, the brandy and finally the last third of the flour mixture, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the fruit and nut mixture. Pour batter into pan, filling it about three-quarters full, and bake until a skewer or thin knife stuck in the center comes out clean, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Deviled Eggs with Healthy, Heavenly Flavor

Eggs and Easter have been linked for centuries. 

I remember carefully balancing the hard boiled egg on the thin wire hoop and dipping it into the tea cup filled with dye. Do I leave it in for a dark color, or do I want a dainty and pale egg? Can I balance the egg and only dip in half so I can make a two-toned design?  Those Easter Saturday evenings around the white porcelain kitchen table were lots of fun.  I never quite figured out -- as a four, five or six year old -- how it was that the Easter Bunny's eggs looked remarkable like the ones we had dyed. 

In the sixteenth century the English court forbade the eating of eggs during Lent. This led to the custom of giving  eggs on Easter Sunday. It is said that pyramids of eggs--gilded or painted with beautiful designs--were carried into the King's cabinet and the prince gave them out as gifts to his courtiers. Or so Alexis Soyer wrote in 1853. 

The problem has always been what to do with the decorated eggs and Deviled Eggs are often the easiest solution. People do love them. Take them to a potluck and it's magic! They practically disappear before your eyes. 

This  version updates the classic recipe with a bit of hidden, heart-healthy, finely grated carrot. The result: sunny yellow filling with half the cholesterol of a traditional version. All the flavor and a bit of added texture for interest. Best make extra for the family, because I guarantee you won't have any leftover to tote home.

Super Deviled Eggs

Quantity for 4 eggs ( 8 halves) Can easily be doubled or tripled. 
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced in half
1 large carrot
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon mustard (more or less to taste)
1/8 teaspoon dill weed
a couple grinds fresh black pepper

Peel and grate the carrot on the finest side of a box grater. The strands should look like thread. Put the carrot into a double layer of paper toweling. Wring out to remove excess moisture. You will have about 1/3 cup of dry carrot strands. Remove the yolks from the egg whites and DISCARD half of them. Put the remaining yolks in a shallow bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, and seasonings. Stir in the carrot strands and spoon into the egg whites. Cover lightly and keep refrigerated until serving. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

From a Clear Lake Kitchen


We just picked up another bundle of yard and leaf bags from the helpful stack at the front counter of Woodford Lumber and Home.  Had to pick up a new rake as well. The handle on the old one... from "some other store in Minnesota where we used to live" couldn't stand up to clearing heavy, damp oak leaves. 

Anyhow, I've lost count of how many leaf bags we've filled and taken to the very handy Clear Lake yard waste site.  Lots.... and lots.. But the yard is looking better. Daffodils are blooming. Tulips are up.  AND, after days of unseasonably warm days, the temperature is dropping back down to normal. 

 Lake before the rain.

Around the lake we've all been hungry for the change of seasons. From our deck we can hear the sounds of wooden dock posts being pounded into place along with the quacking of ducks, honking of geese, and occasionally the very welcome sound of the mourning dove. 

There is work still to be done. So to make concentrating on getting those outdoor chores and inside spring cleaning accomplished I've got the crock pot going with this really great squash stew. It tastes great if the weather is warm or cold.  

Nice to have it going as I go out to chase down more leaves last night's inch of rain and wind brought our way...again!

Sensational Squash Stew

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, about 4 cups
2 cups unsalted vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic, more or less to taste
2 green peppers, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut in 1-inch slices
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cans chopped tomatoes 
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine the squash and broth in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat until the squash is slightly cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes, OR put directly into the slow cooker set on high.  Put the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and saute until it is just beginning to turn transparent. Add the garlic and green pepper and saute a few minutes longer.  OR combine the olive oil, butter, onion, pepper and garlic in a microwaveable dish with a cover and microwave about 5 minutes until tender. Either way put the onions and peppers into the slow cooker. Then add the remaining ingredients. Cooking times for slow cookers vary, I have mine at high for about two hours and then turn down to low for another two. Stick a knife into the squash to see how tender it is getting. Serve with brown rice or crusty bread and a salad. 

March 23, 2015            THE "ICE OUT" SHOUT -- TIME FOR ICE CREAM

Clear Lake’s earliest ice out according to the official records kept by the Clear Lake Water Department was on March 5 in 1932.  The latest was April 28 set in 1952.  So this year we’re in the early side of normal.

The near summer-weather days the second week of March turned the surface of Clear Lake ice to slush. A few days earlier the DNR angler posts were reporting 14 inches of ice. But before St. Patrick’s Day the ice was honeycombed and too dangerous for fishing, or anything else. We watched it from the kitchen windows as it turned from white to gray and then black from shore to shore and then began to break up into iceberg bits as winter gave way to spring. On Friday March 20 we went to bed with the lake still at least a third covered in ice. Saturday morning, it was gone. The wind had pushed the last broken floes down to State Park bay.

View from the south shore Saturday, March 21, 2015  Second day of Spring! 

As seesaw as the weather has been this year, chances are we’ll have some more cold and maybe even snow before the docks and boats take the lake back. But it’s never too early to plan and stock up on those dock and deck supplies. Woodford Lumber and Home stands ready if you just need a couple of basic deck plank and posts or if you want to redesign your deck to include the newest in Trex Decking including lighting systems that softly illuminate the stairs.

And whatever the weather, this rich ice cream topping combines the best of the seasons – summer ice cream and a tasty topping made from winter-favorite dried fruits. Don’t tell what’s in it and you’ll fool people into thinking it is chocolate, only better.

Top Secret Ice Cream Topping

The basis for this easy-to-make sauce is simple syrup. The sugar and water combination will keep in the refrigerator for weeks. The topping would keep about as long, until you discover how delicious it tastes poured over vanilla or chocolate ice cream, frozen yogurt, pound cake, or even waffles.

1 cup simple syrup (made from 1 cup water and 1 cup granulated sugar)
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped raisins
1/2 cup chopped citron, found with fruitcake ingredients at holiday season
1/2 cup chopped prunes

To make simple syrup, put one cup water in a medium-sized saucepan. Gradually add the sugar and cook over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Measure out one cup and set the remainder aside for another use. Combine the one cup syrup with the dried fruits. Simmer over low heat until the fruits have combined into a smooth sauce. Makes about 2 cups of sauce. Store unused sauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


St. Patrick's Day is upon us and that, coupled with the almost arrival of spring here in north Iowa, brings us to thoughts of green. There's the "wearing of the green," "the eating of the green," and from the great selection of wonderful Benjamin Moore products at Woodford Lumber and Home--the "painting of the green."

I picked up a few tempting and refreshing color samples to use as background for Soda Bread--a traditional Irish delight. The paint chip colors are just a small selection of the many shades of green on display from soft and barely there to intense and Leprechaun "notice-me" hues.

But back to the Soda Bread. The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (http://www.sodabread.info/) has all kinds of information about this wonderful and easy-to-make bread. One important point from this and other traditional recipes is that real Irish Soda Bread does not have any dried fruit in it. Flour, buttermilk, soda. That's it. 

I found a recipe in an 1884 American cookbook that uses cream of tartar as an extra leavening ingredient. It is a bit more forgiving to make than versions using just baking soda. I've also used home-soured milk instead of buttermilk as it is easy to make if you don't have buttermilk on hand and would rather get the bread in the oven than make a trip to the store. 

The bread makes a great addition to corned beef and cabbage as do the Minted Green Beans, recipe below.

Rae's Irish Soda Bread

1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to make one cup. Set aside for a couple of minutes to sour. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Pour in about 3/4 cup of the soured milk and mix quickly with a fork. Then begin to knead gently to form a rough, slightly damp dough.  You may need to add a bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time. DO NOT OVER KNEAD. You don't want a smooth and elastic dough as you have for yeast bread. This is a roughly textured dough. If you over knead the bread will be tough. Form the dough into a circle about 6-inches in diameter. Flatten to about an inch and a half thick. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. With a serrated knife make an "x" cut almost halfway through the dough. Bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when you tap it.  Cool before slicing. 

Adapted from Every-Day Cookery, Table Talk, and Hints for the Laundry by Juliet Corson

Minted Green Beans

1 pound cooked fresh green beans or frozen and thawed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon -- Yes, teaspoon! mint jelly

In a medium frying pan with a lid, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar and stir until they are combined. Add the green beans and cook for about five minutes with the cover on, lifting the lid to stir from time to time. When the beans are all coated with the butter and sugar glaze add the mint jelly. A little is all you need. Stir until the jelly melts and glazes the beans. 

This dish is also perfect with lamb or ham.

Copyright 2015 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Beet Economics Fill a Dinner Plate with Goodness

We've always loved beets. And most of the time I buy them without the tops attached.  Yesterday, at Target, I found the most beautiful firm red beets with their healthy green tops still attached. So I bought two bunches of three-beets each at $2.99.  Such a bargain!

Really, it was. You can see from our dinner plate picture above that we do love our veggies. The beets were largish-so I figured that for the two of us that was enough for three dinners' worth of beets. And for last night's dinner I served the beets three ways--almost sounds like some swishy restaurant sampling menu.  I ended up with eight servings of vegetables plus a pint of tasty beet stem pickles. You can see them garnishing the salad.

Here's what I did.

First I made

Oven Steamed Beets

After trimming the leaves from the beets, I lined a baking pan with generous sheet of aluminum foil, put the beets in it with a bit of water, sealed it up and put them in the oven to steam/roast/bake at 325 degrees F. for a couple of hours.

Then I thoroughly washed what was left and cut the green tops from the rosy stems.

I cooked the stems first and made them into

Pickled Beet Stems

I cut the stems into inch-long pieces. I ended up with about 2 cups of beet stems.

I put them in a 2-quart glass casserole with a cup of water and microwaved on medium for about 10 minutes, until they were tender.

I drained the and made my favorite quick pickle solution.

1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Combine in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When boiling pour over beet stems, or other cooked vegetables.  Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed, dill seeds, or celery seeds.  Will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.  

Cooked Beet Greens 

Well washed leaves from 6 beets coarsely chopped to make about 8 cups
1/4 cup water

I put the water in a large frying pan and brought it to the boil over medium heat. Then I carefully lifted the beet greens into the pan. They still had a bit of the rinse water clinging to them.  I put on the lid and let them cook for just a couple of minutes, turning them over with a pair of tongs as the leaves at the bottom of the pan quickly wilted.

When they were cooked they looked thoroughly limp and had decreased in mass to about 2 cups.

I served them as the bed for the chicken.  I put them on the plate, sprinkled with a bit of Parmesan cheese and then put the sliced quarter of a chicken breast on top.

All in all a very tasty dinner.  It would be "hard to beet!"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Home Show Friday... Saturday... and Sunday at the North Iowa Events Center

Great to see and talk to so many people at the Woodford Lumber and Home Booth in the All Seasons Building Saturday at our "Taste of History" cooking demonstration with samples of tasty dishes from World War I, the Roaring 20s, and our grandmother's favorites we may have forgotten.

We served five time-honored recipes including a fabulous and amazingly easy Two Ingredient and All Natural Apple Preserve and an even quicker Pickle that is No-Salt and super tasty!

Copies of the recipes were available at the booth, but if you missed them, here they are.

No-Salt Pickles
1 large cucumber  (or use 2 cucumbers and leave out the onion)
2 medium onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
Optional seasonings: dill weed or seeds, celery seeds, mustard seeds, or a dash of cayenne pepper, cumin, or even ginger

Select a cucumber that has not been coated with wax and scrub it well. Slice the cucumber and onion as thinly as possible into a heatproof bowl. Add optional ingredients if desired. Combine the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar as you bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the boiling mixture over the cucumber and onions. Let stand until it reaches room temperature, stirring from time to time. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator.

World War I Red Cabbage 
(see photo above)

4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced onion, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
pinch nutmeg ( about 1/16th of a teaspoon)
pinch cayenne (about 1/16th of a teaspoon)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Put the sliced cabbage into a bowl of cold water. Melt the butter in a large frying pan with a lid. Lift the cabbage out of the bowl and place it in the frying pan. Be careful as the water remaining on the leaves may spatter. Cover and cook until just tender, turing it with a tongs from time to time. Add the nutmeg and cayenne. Stir to mix. Then add the vinegar and sugar.

Amazing Apple Preserves
(see photo above)

2 cups grated McIntosh apples, or other cooking apple
  grated on the large side of a box grater
2 cups sugar

Mix the apples and sugar in a ziplock bag. Set aside for at least two hours. Pour the mixture into a large pot, about 3 quarts. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring from time to time for 10 minutes.

Prohibition Beverages
Note: the proportions of syrup to carbonated water are appropriate to the Prohibition era. You can increase or decrease to your own taste.

Minnihaha Maid
(Makes 16 5-ounce drinks)

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

Combine juices and syrups. This mix will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you may freeze it. Use one ounce of this mix to a 7-ounce glass. Add a small scoop of crushed ice and about 4 ounces of carbonated water. Finish with a twist of lemon.

Prohibition Sour
(Makes 16 5-ounce drinks)
1 1/2 cups lemon syrup (see recipe below)
3/4 cup orange syrup (see recipe below)
juice from 6 limes.

Combine the syrups and lime juice. This mix will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you may freeze it. Put one ounce of this mix in a 7-ounce glass. Add a small scoop of crushed ice and about 4 ounces of carbonated water.

World War I Rice and Cornmeal Waffles

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

Put the vinegar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make one cup, stir and set aside to sour. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cornmeal, flour and baking soda. Stir in the rice and mix well, Add the butter, eggs, and soured milk. Bake following the directions of your waffle iron.  Baked waffles freeze well and can be reheated in a toaster just like commercially frozen waffles.

Copyright 2015 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Almond Pound Cake -- A Delightful Recipe for Lincoln's Birthday

Mary Todd was said to have made an Almond Cake to tempt young lawyer Abraham Lincoln when he came calling on her in Springfield, Illinois. There are several versions of that cake.  I have two authentic period recipes in my book Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of his Life and Times.  This version is tasty and easy to make.  It is a "good keeper" and is particularly served with fruit, a simple sauce, or ice cream.

You can read more about how I came to write the book in the February 2015 issue of Guideposts magazine.

Abraham Lincoln was reported to have said that this kind of white almond cake was the best cake he had ever eaten. That he favored it may have had something to do with the remarkable woman who baked it for him.

Almond Pound Cake 

1/2 cup (one stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 ounces blanched, slivered almonds, finely crushed, or chopped into 1/16-inch pieces
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Cream the butter and sugar. Add teh eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the mace, almond extract, lemon zest and juice, and almonds. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour, followed by the wine and then the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, mixing well after each addition. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Photo by Tom Thulin Photography
Copyright 2015, Rae Katherine Eighmey  All rights reserved