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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Abraham Lincoln Deserved a Father's Day Barbecue

Abraham Lincoln with youngest son, Tad.

Abraham Lincoln's children "literally ran over him and he was powerless to withstand their importunities."  That's what the family's Springfield neighbor Joseph Gillespie recalled. He summed it up this way. "He was the most indulgent parent I ever knew." 

Abraham Lincoln was a doting father for his four boys, especially the younger two--Willie and Tad. Scamps in Springfield, they were just the right age to take advantage of the White House experience. They put on a play in the attic and invited the staff members to attend, changing a nickel for the privilege. They pretended the roof of the White House was a battle ship and Tad even fired off a loud toy cannon into one of Lincoln's cabinet meetings. Julia Taft, whose two brothers came to the White House for school and play with the Lincoln boys, described how she walked into the presidential office to see Lincoln being pinned down on the floor with a boy holding down each of his arms and legs. She remembered how heartily he laughed. 

For all his indulgences, Lincoln did instill a strong sense of right and wrong in his sons. 

It seems fitting to consider Lincoln on Father's Day and to share a delicious barbecue recipe from the era of his political campaigns. These recipes are all adapted from period sources and appear in my book-- Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times, published by Smithsonian Books. 

Slow-Cooked Barbecue for Grill or Oven 
 Like the man, this simple-looking recipe ends up being deliciously complex. 

5 pounds chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup mild molasses
additional 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
Wash the thighs and pat dry, removing the skin if desired. Mix salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly over the chicken then brush both sides with a light coating of molasses. Place in a single layer, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. When ready to cook, gently wipe the chicken pieces with a damp cloth. Most of the molasses will come off, leaving just the barest layer and that which has soaked into the meat. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Place a wire cake rack on the sheet to hold the chicken up off the bottom surface. Mix the additional half-teaspoon salt with one cup warm water. Baste the chicken with this salted water and bake, basting and turning about every 20 minutes until chicken is deliciously browned and cooked to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. You may cook these thighs on a grill with a very low fire as well. Basting, turning and watching carefully as molasses has a tendency to burn. 

And what's a barbecue without some delicious sides? 

Cucumber Relish
Don't let the small amount of seasoning fool you, this tasty relish packs a zesty punch.

2 large or 4 medium cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt
10 green onions, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
3/4 cup white or cider vinegar
Juice of one lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Chop into about 1/2-inch dice. Place in a non-reactive bowl and mix with the salt. Let stand for at least an hour. You may keep the cucumbers salted down for about 4 hours at most. Drain off the accumulated juices and rise well under cold water. Add the sliced green onions.  

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne and ginger. Heat to boiling and pour over the vegetalbes. Let stand for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Saleratus [baking soda] Biscuit
Simple to make, and richly chewy, these biscuits round out a Father's Day meal.

2 teaspoons vinegar
2/3 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine vinegar with milk, stir and set aside to sour, about 5 minutes. Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add butter to boiling water to melt and then stir into the flour mixture. Then add the sour milk. Stir with a fork and then knead briefly. You may need to add a bit more milk or flour to make a dough that is firm enough to work and not sticky. Break off pieces about an inch in diameter. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake until browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
What became of the Lincoln sons?
Only one of Abraham and Mary Lincoln's sons lived to raise a family and that was their first born, Robert. Eddy died in Springfield just before his fourth birthday. Willie died at the age of twelve in the White House from what most consider to be typhoid fever. Tad died when he was eighteen just six years after his father's assassination. 

Copyright 2014 Rae Katherine Eighmey, all rights reserved. 

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.