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