Tuesday, March 28, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Signs of Spring and National Book Week Fun

The daffodils are bravely sticking up their heads.

It has been interesting around the lake these past three weeks.  After what sure looked to be ice-out overnight on March 6, we had a spell of cold weather and the lake re-iced-in, if that's a word. Anyhow according to one of the dock installers, there was a new layer of ice at least three-inches thick over the entire lake.  That's gone now. Open water, quacking ducks, honking geese, and the smell of spring in the snow-melting damp soil.

And this is National Book Week. To celebrate you are supposed to reach out and pick up the first book at hand, open it to page 56, and copy the fifth line into your Facebook status without revealing the name of the book.

Here goes: "the Times described two speakeasies, bootleg activity at a pharmacy, and rum-running."


There is a recipe to go with it.

The Prohibition Sour -- was featured in 1920s soda fountains 
and said to be a "Drink favored by Men!"

Prohibition was the law of the land from 1920 to 1933. Its enactment brought about a lot of changes to American society, some of them good. Soda fountains sprang up all over in the place of neighborhood corner saloons. This easy to make drink is tart and refreshing. Just the thing to pick us up when we come in from doing all the spring yard clean-up. 

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 line juice into a 12-ounce glass. Add a scoop of crushed ice. Fill with carbonated water, stir, and garnish 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

To make flavored syrups

Begin by making simple syrup: 
1 cup water
1 cup white granulated sugar

Put the water in a medium pot. Gradually add the sugar, stirring gently. Warm over low heat, stirring 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 the flavored syrups, use frozen concentrated juices and add 1 tablespoon to a 1/4 cup of simple syrup.  Or 1/4 cup of concentrate to 1 cup of simple syrup. 

But Wait.. you say!  Tell.. tell the name of the book. Nope, my lips are sealed.. but if you look to the right, I bet you can figure it out. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen -- Early ICE-OUT after a very short winter and getting the jump on St. Pat's

Waves lapping against some of the remaining "burgy-bits" 
on Clear Lake March 7, 2017 ice-out.

By North Iowa standards this past winter 2016-17 was fairly mild and short. Only one brutally cold night -- 25 below overnight will get your attention -- with some days in the high 50s and low 60s mixed in.  And just three months between ice-in on December 8, 2016 and the overnight ice-out. I wasn't looking out the window at midnight to know if it was clear then. But at dawn it was obvious that yesterday's 71 degree high followed by heavy rain during the evening thunderstorm had made their impact!  The geese are very happy to have a wet place to land! 

So with a spring lake sparkling before our eyes, it's time to turn our attention to traditional seasonal meals. Irish Soda Bread fits the bill. Easy to make from ingredients readily at hand, there's nothing like homemade bread. 

Now the weather predictors are suggesting snow and cold again for the weekend. And it is a bit too soon to see what St. Patrick Day will bring. But whether you'll serve a warm and hearty Irish Stew, tasty Corned Beef and Cabbage, or a hot-weather light chicken salad, this easily made loaf is the perfect go-along. 

The craggy surface of traditional Irish Soda Bread 
is perfect for dunking in gravy or spreading with butter and jam. 

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 until it sours. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt if using, 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. This is a roughly textured dough. If you over knead the dough 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.  

Copyright 2017, Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Cooking and Grilling during "Seasonal Seesaw" Weather

The "view" out our snow-pelted back door to the still frozen, 
but thawing, blue-black ice on Clear Lake, February 25, 2017

All last week I was sure the lake would reach "ice out"  Five days of temperatures officially just below 60, but that read a degree or two above on the bank thermometer. The bright graphics on the cheerful sign at the South Shore Inn exclaimed 63 a couple of the times when I drove past. Still the lake stubbornly remained frozen. At the seawall the aerators encouraged open water all the way to the Outing Club. There are at least 500 yards of bright blue water off shore in some places. Eagles and gulls have been standing on the ice shelf looking for lunch.  The rest of the lake has turned from solid white to sparkling white when the rain revealed some "burgy-bit" edges that had been covered with snow. By week's beginning the ice was the rich blue-black color of deep and treacherous slush.

As Wednesday turned to Thursday hope of this year's ice out breaking the March 6 earliest on record slipped away beneath the now gloomy skies. Then the Blizzard of February 2017 was upon us. An unreal wind began to blow Thursday evening. Overnight into Friday we had consistent 30 to 40 mile per hour winds, hours of "thunder snow," and accumulations of more than six, maybe 10 inches--if you could find an un-drifted place.

Between Tuesday's 60s and Friday's blizzard dinners still needed to get cooked.  Tuesday was easy.  Steak on the grill. Louie's Custom Meats had just the piece I wanted. But. planning for the weather ahead I studied the case.  Ah HA!  beautiful arm roast on sale--just what we'd need to recover from shoveling and it could cook itself right in the slow cooker, leaving plenty of time to attack what the blizzard would deliver.

Everyone has their own favorite steak and pot roast recipes.  BUT, I got to thinking. Could I combine them? What if instead of searing the pot roast on the stove before I put it in the pot, I grilled it. instead Would I have the best of both worlds?  The answer is "Oh my, yes!"

The delicious (and no dirty pot to clean) result is 
Grilled and Slow-Cooked Pot Roast. 
Smokey grilled char brings the taste of summer to this winter meal.

Grilled and Slow-Cooked Pot Roast

3- to 4-pound pot roast
1 small onion, sliced thin-- if you sliced and grilled this as well, even better!
1 carrot, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bottle red wine
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in 1/4 up water

Carrots glazed in butter and sugar

Grill the pot roast until it has cooked just beyond raw inside. Cool and store in the refrigerator for one or two days.  When ready to cook the pot roast, put the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in your slow cooker. Add the roast and pour over the wine and tomatoes. Stir in the seasonings, cover, and cook several hours until done. Time will depend on the size of your piece of meat and the temperature of your slow cooker.  Remove the meat and set aside. Ladle the cooking liquid into a large frying pan. Blend in the honey and corn starch. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the gravy is thickened.

Glazed Carrots

1 pound carrots
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
optional seasonings 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon--ground ginger, or dill weed, or ground cumin

Peel the carrots and cut into chunks. Melt the butter in a large frying pan that has a lid. Add the carrots, lower the heat, cover, and cook until the carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with sugar and any optional seasonings. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved and glazed the carrots with a rich, almost golden, syrup.

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey, All rights reserved.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Treat with Abe and Mary Lincoln


Abraham and Mary Lincoln 
in photographs taken in Springfield in the late 1850s

One of my favorite parts of doing the research for my book Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen was the discovery that the successful lawyer would come home and put on "his blue apron" and help his wife Mary prepare dinner for their three boys. He also stopped by Springfield's community pasture to bring home the family cow for milking.

There are so many ways to learn about our nation's sixteenth president. And as Valentine's Day is upon us I am delighted to think again of their love story. Mary was a headstrong, vivacious young woman. Abraham was a busy lawyer. They met at the Springfield home of her older sister who was married to the son of the former governor of Illinois. Soon they were seen as a couple and dances. He said, "I wanted to dance with her in the worst way." She responded, commenting on his dancing experience, "and he certainly did!"

For the next twenty-six years Abraham and Mary worked together through successes and family tragedies including the death from illness of two of their four sons. I think Mary was Abraham's intellectual equal. She was smart and politically savvy. She had a strong temper which he calmed with humor and kindness, or tried to anyway.

Food is another avenue to studying Lincoln's life and the life of his family. I found dozens of great recipes in my study, tested them, and then settled on just more than fifty for the book.

This easy ice cream is one of my favorites. It is more than half berries and their juices. So the eating experience is uniquely delicious--a mixture of the crystalline texture of Italian ice and creamy ice cream. You can make it even if you don't have an ice cream freezer. Mary may have had the use of one for their June strawberry parties. The grocery store ledger of their account lists "salt for ice cream" as one of the purchases.

Like many in Springfield, Abe and Mary had "strawberry parties" 
to delight in the fresh berries of the season. 
This recipe from that era is made with half crushed berries and half cream 
for a delightful and delicious eating experience. 

1850s Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups fresh strawberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups full-fat cream
1 cup milk

Wash the berries and remove the green stems. Crush them, or chop finely. Mix with sugar and set aside for an hour, stirring, so that the berries will release their juice. Combine with the cream and put in the refrigerator freezer to chill. You can then churn following the directions for your ice cream freezer, or continue to freeze in the refrigerator until frozen, stirring every hour or so. Whichever method you use, you will need to thaw this slightly to enjoy. 

Makes about 2 quarts of churned ice cream 

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Simple Treats to Celebrate Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Abraham Lincoln with his youngest son Tad 1864

I love cooking from old recipes. I started tinkering with them when I received my grandmother's wooden recipe box from the 1900s. It was filled with cards written by her hand and by several of her friends. The dishes carried the names of those who added to this collection for her bridal shower gift. Lerry's fruitcake. Mother's bread starter, Helen's cookies... you get the idea.

Over the past three decades I've continued my exploration into recipes of the past and have studied how those foods can help us understand the lives of people and the times in which they lived. I've written a two-book series exploring 100 years of midwestern farm cooking and life, another on WWI food conservation, the book on Prohibition has some super ice cream recipes, and explored changes in women's during the dynamic the 1950s Potluck Paradise. But I think my favorite may be my book about Lincoln.

In Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen I wrote about Lincoln's life from his Kentucky birth, Indiana boyhood, beginnings of his political life in Illinois, and his service in the White House. By reading about and then replicating his favorite foods, I discovered his progress from a self-sufficient farming lad to the statesman who fought to save the nation.

This recipe is one of my favorites from that collection. I found the original recipe as I read the microfilmed issues of the Springfield newspaper he would have read while serving as postmaster in New Salem. He read everything he could get his hands on... even his neighbor's newspapers as he walked out to their cabins to deliver them. Or while he waited for them to come in and pick up the mail.

So on February 12, celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 208th birthday. Make up a quick batch of these tasty treats. You can serve them with a mild cheese, a bit of preserves, or even ham. Or just have them plain with a glass of wine or milk. 

Apees--a delightful crisp treat 
flavored with cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds. 
Easy to make and a "good keeper" if you can keep people out of the cookie jar


2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting rolling surface
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon mace
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 cup (one stick) cold salted butter
1/3 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and caraway seeds in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like uncooked oatmeal. Stir in the white wine with a fork and then knead the dough with your hands. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 1-inch squares, place on ungreased baking sheet and prick two or three times with a fork. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
Apees shrink as they bake.  
Makes about 7 dozen small cookies. 

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Treats from the 1950s for the Winter Dance Party Celebration

It's Winter Dance Party Week here in Clear Lake. This annual event at the Historic Surf Ballroom celebrates the cultural contributions of the three rock and roll musicians--J.P. Richardson, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly-- with concerts, dances, and a memorial trip to the nearby field where the plane carrying the artists crashed on February 2, 1959.

There are events Wednesday through Sunday. You can find more information about the Dance Party history and events at this site: https://www.surfballroom.com/winterdanceparty/event-history/

Music wasn't the only thing that changed during this exciting decade. Foods became fun, too. Chips leapt out of a sack, cheesy slices in flat cardboard boxes emerged from newly built pizzerias, and paper-wrapped steaming burgers in soft buns were bought by the bag full at fifteen cents a piece.

While grown-ups may not have been exactly enamored of the sock-hop boppers dancing to 45s in basement rec rooms, they did enjoy whipping up tasty refreshments quickly from their pantry basics.

So to celebrate this party weekend, I opened up my copy of Potluck Paradise which features recipes adapted from community cookbooks of that decade, tuned into the oldies, and made a couple of my favorite treats.

 Shrimp and Cucumber Salad 
1950s homemakers would have pulled the pimento and a can of shrimp from the pantry. 
Today we can use canned, frozen, or even fresh shrimp. 

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
2 tablespoons non-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons non-fat mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cumin, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 cup small salad shrimp
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced dill gherkin pickle, low sodium version
1 Haas avocado

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise and seasonings in a small mixing bowl. Reserve a couple of shrimp for garnish and chop the rest into three or four pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and carefully mix until shrimp and vegetables are coated with the dressing mixture. Cut the avocado in half. Remove pit. With a small spoon, scoop out about half of the avocado flesh, chop and mix with shrimp. Make it a little easier to eat by scoring the remaining avocado in a criss-cross pattern Mound shrimp mixture into avocado shell, garnish, and serve with crackers or your favorite chips. Refrigerate any leftover filling and eat within two days.


Cranberry Pineapple Sipper  
This non-alcoholic cocktail is a refreshing way to stay awake 
just to be sure those teenagers made it home safely before curfew!

Cranberry Pineapple Sipper

2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients. Chill for at least one hours. When ready to serve, strain to remove the cloves and serve over ice, or in a wine glass.

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day with this Magic Chocolate Cake!

 From a Clear Lake kitchen window---Yup! that's snow all right!

After looking through my kitchen window at the winter wonderland, I was delighted to learn through the magic of the Web that today Friday, January 27, 2017 is National Chocolate Cake Day.    Well, that's just what the doctor ordered to help get over the exercise from shoveling and show throwing 15 inches of heavy snow the past two days.

Ah but what kind of cake to make? "Easy does it" ruled the day as I leafed through my copy of Potluck Paradise and landed on an old time favorite. Magic Chocolate Cake! This rich cake has a wonderful texture that stands up to chocolate frosting or ice cream. It freezes well... if any is left over.

It couldn't be easier to make. No mixer, no mixing bowl. Just an eight- or nine-inch square pan,  a handful of ingredients you probably have in your pantry. and a fork to mix it all up with. Oh! and the oven, of course.

Magic Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder--not instant cocoa mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose vegetable oil, such as Wesson
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into an ungreased 8x8- or 9x9-inch pan. Make three depressions in these ingredients. Pour the oil into one, the vinegar in another and vanilla in the third. Gently pour the milk over the entire pan and stir carefully with a fork until all ingredients are well blended into a slightly lumpy batter. Bake until cake is firm in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost with ready made frosting or this chocolate cream frosting. 

Chocolate Cream Frosting

3 tablespoons butter
3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 cups sifted powdered sugar.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar and water, increase heat to medium and bring to the boiling point, stirring from time to time. Boil for three minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm Add enough sifted powdered sugar to make a spreading consistency. This makes enough frosting for two cakes. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or frozen.for two months. 

Happy National Chocolate Cake Day!

Copyright 2017  Rae Katherine Eighmey, all rights reserved.