Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Hoopla! Potluck Paradise Style

Tasty beverages and appetizers quickly and economically made are the perfect Potluck answer to drop-in guests or holiday entertaining. This Cranberry Sipper is a refreshing change-up for cranberry juice. Mix the cloves and pineapple juice ahead of time and keep in the freezer.

Pineapple-Cranberry Sipper
Yield: 8 (½-cup) servings
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups sweetened cranberry juice
¼ teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients. Chill for at least one hour. When ready to serve, strain and serve over ice.

Fancy olives are a hit at any holiday party, or to spiff up a leftover turkey sandwich. But why pay "olive bar" prices when you can easily transform the cheapest "pickle aisle" can or jar into this delicious version. The recipe makes lots. They keep for weeks in the refrigerator. And make a handy homemade gift for neighbors and friends.

Potluck Paradise Italian Olives
Yield: about 2 quart jars filled with olives and marinade
2 cups vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1½ tablespoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2½ tablespoons sugar
3 cloves garlic, mashed
36 ounces green and black olives, drained
Celery ribs, sliced into 1/4-inch thick crescents
Green pepper slices, 1/4-inch thick

Mix vinegar, oil, salt, parsley, oregano, thyme, sugar and garlic. Pour marinade over olives. Put in a covered jar, refrigerate and shake from time to time. Olives keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving. The day before using, add celery and green pepper.

These shrimp were a bit camera shy, but they hold nothing back in the flavor department. Once again, in true Potluck style, small inexpensive frozen or canned shrimp stretch with a few pantry basics into an amazingly tasty appetizer.

Shrimp and Cucumber Spread
Yield: about 1 1/4 cups
1/2 cup finely diced cucumbers
1 (5-ounce) can shrimp or 1/2 cup diced frozen shrimp
½ cup mayonnaise
toasted bread or crackers
Peel and seed the cucumber before dicing. Cut in 1/8-inch dice then wrap in a sturdy paper towel and squeeze out the excess juice. Drain the shrimp and remove any shells or veins. Cut the shrimp into small pieces the same size as the cucumber dice. Mix with mayonnaise and chill until ready to serve. Spread on hot buttered toast or crackers.

Finally what's a party without dessert? Not much, we think. So pull the ingredients for Magic Chocolate Cake from the cupboard and fridge and mix it up in the baking pan.

What could be easier? Not much. AND this cake is so magic, it can even beguile antsy children or grandchildren into helping. It looks like a science experiment in a pan and tastes delicious. Made with skim milk it is cholesterol-free, too.

Crazy Chocolate Cake
Serves 8
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose vegetable oil such as Wesson
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt into an ungreased 8x8-inch pan. Make three depressions in the dry ingredients. Put oil in one, vinegar in another and vanilla in the third. Gently pour milk over the entire pan and carefully stir with a fork until ingredients are well blended into a slightly lumpy batter. Bake until cake is firm in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes

We wish you fun-filled days and peaceful evenings with family and friends for this season and all others. May the potluck of life bring you joy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day and World War I

At eleven in the morning on November 11, 1918 the guns fell silent on the battlefields of Europe. When I was in school we stood at our desks for a minute of silence on that day at that hour in honor of all who contributed to making America safe and secure.

Today I will remember those valiant soldiers, homemakers, and soldiers of the soil as I make WWI wheat-saving bread. "Food Will Win the War" was the watchword. People grew war gardens, put up enough food to last for two years, skimped on sugar and fats and had wheatless and meatless days. The result -- a 250% increase in the export of vital foods to our Allies from savings in every kitchen in the country.

This picture from the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Database shows farm girls demonstrating the proper way to make War Bread at the Minnesota State Fair. The recipe, like the one below, was created by the University of Minnesota home economics department as a way to cut the amount of wheat used in bread so this important grain could be shipped overseas.

In the end, this was not the "war to end all wars." The nation's WWI experiences propelled America to world leadership. It is worth pausing to remember that dedication to peace and goodwill to all

During World War I bread was, indeed, the staff of life. Bread was an important part of every meal before the war. A hearty loaf, spread with a bit of butter or other fat formed a key “whole food” for soldiers and citizens in the European war zone. Getting the most from our wheat crop was an important part of Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration nationwide and voluntary food conservation measures.
In this recipe the addition of cornmeal and oatmeal stretched precious war-restricted wheat flour. The resulting bread is firm-textured and moist with a complex flavor. It makes wonderful toast.

Yeast War Bread
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup Old Fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, optional
1 package dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups white flour

Scald the milk by heating it in a 2-quart pot until bubbles appear around the side and then remove from heat and add the hot water. Stir in the cornmeal, oatmeal, brown sugar, and optional salt. Set aside to cool until just warm, about 100 degrees. Stir in the dry yeast and let stand until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the flour and knead until the dough is firm and somewhat elastic. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and form into three loaves. Place in lightly greased bread pan or on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let rise until doubled and then bake in a preheated 350 F. degree oven until well browned. Loaves will sound hollow when tapped. Cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife. Note: this bread dough has less flour-gluten than typical bread dough. It may take a very long time to rise until doubled. The test batch I made for these pictures took nearly 5 hours from scalding milk to fully-baked loaves. Time will vary depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the oomph of your yeast.

Recipe makes three loaves about 1 1/4 pounds each. Bake in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan for a finished loaf approximately 8 x 4 x 3 1/2 inches. Make free-form baguettes that rise and bake to a finished loaf approximately 12 x 4 x 2 inches.
Copyright 2010 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.