Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Preparing for Shrove Tuesday

Fat Tuesday, the other name for Shrove Tuesday, is more like it with all the sweets that are baked or fried for this occasion before the Lenten Season starts.  Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday is when you gorge yourself with everything and do everything that you need to be forgiven for during Lent.

Let's go to the most famous of the parties, Mardi Gras.  In New Orleans they start out by celebrating usually for the whole weekend before Ash Wednesday.  The streets are lined with party goers who display costumes and the traditional beads of purple, green and gold and eat King Cake.  The entire celebration is themed around these colors.

The biggest parade is on Shrove Tuesday which ends Mardi Gras literally.  As soon as the parade has ended, the police come out and usher everyone off the streets so that the public works department can clean up the multitude of trash that has been dumped on the streets.

In New Orleans they have a French cake doughnut that is called a Beignet.

Another tradition for Shrove Tuesday is the Polish custom of making and eating Paczki.  This is a donut without a hole and can be either filled with custard or fruit fillings and is similar to a jelly donut.  When I was married into a Polish family, they made their Paczki (pronounced:  poonch key) with one special pastry having a cherry in the middle of it.  Whoever got that pastry was considered the lucky one for that year.

Another tradition that I've recently learned is the Pennsylvania Dutch make a pastry called Fastnacht.  It is very similar to the Paczki in appearance.  This donut is fried and sprinkled with confectioners sugar.

The tradition that I never knew about was the tradition of eating pancakes on Fat Tuesday.  The fancier you make the pancake the better.  The more toppings you put on such as strawberries or cherries the better.  I think you need to top the whole stack off with whipped cream but that is just my interpretation of the pancake stack.

However, you choose to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, it is traditionally with sinful foods and partying.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tom Tucker Southern Style Ginger Ale

Mural on Side of Building
I recently got a craving for an old favorite that I was introduced to as a child by a spinster teacher and her mother.  These two ladies lived across the street from me and were almost seclusive which made them the target of the neighborhood children and their pranks.  My brother and I were both outgoing children and curious for knowledge which we got when we visited this house.  To my knowledge, we were the only children that were permitted to visit there.  On these visits we were treated to a small glass of Tom Tucker Southern Style Ginger Ale which means mint ginger ale.  I have tasted other versions of mint ginger ale but they could not compare to the Tom Tucker brand in which the liquid was clear while the substitute had a green shade.

1937 bottle from Glenshaw, PA
I went to the Giant Eagle store and found that they did not have it on the shelf.  To my distress they didn't have a slot on the shelf for it either.  I didn't see anyone in the beverage aisle so I couldn't ask what had happened to it.  My assumption is that they carry it during the holidays.  Since then our local Giant Eagle has been remodeled into a Market District Store and now carries this delightfully original tasting soda for the community on a daily basis.

Tom Tucker Label
I know I had seen it at one of the stores in the area and looked at Sams Club and Walmart.  Neither store carried Tom Tucker.  When I couldn't find it at the Giant Eagle, I had an inspiration and I went to Community Market where I found three bottles on the shelf.  I bought two of them.  When I went back on the weekend I found an empty shelf.  I asked the store manager and he said that the salesman had been in that day and it would be delivered the next day.  I went back last night and joy! Joy!  There is an entire section for Tom Tucker Southern Style Ginger Ale.  Community Market has since closed the store near me but I can travel to Natrona Heights or Lower Burrell to their other stores.

I was on the Internet last night and found several places where people were asking where they could purchase this seemingly Pittsburgh only treat.  One of the places listed was a distributor in Squirrel Hill.  It is called Save-Mor Beer and Beverage and they reportedly will ship anywhere.  They have a website which I have linked for my brother and sister mint ginger ale devotees.

Stock up for the coming holidays because I know I will be.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Soup Feeds the Soul

Let's talk about making soups and putting them up for winter.  By putting them up for winter, I mean freezing portions for later use.  I find that soups from the freezer are just as good and sometimes better than when we first made them.  So let's get started and make some of my favorite soups.

There is nothing better for you in cold weather than a bowl of soup. One of my favorite recipes for soup is Tortellini Soup.

This soup takes some special techniques if you follow the recipe closely but is well worth the effort. This hearty soup is sure to chase away those chills.

You can't make soup from scratch without including Homemade Vegetable Soup. My mom made the best and I've spent a lifetime trying to duplicate her recipe.

There is one rule to making good vegetable soup and that is the more vegetables the better. My personal like is to add butter beans but no lima beans. Since this is Lent, You would make the vegetable soup without any meat base but my Mom usually started her vegetable soup by simmering chuck roast chunks to give it a fuller flavor.

Another one of my favorite soups for this season is Stuffed Pepper Soup.

This is another hearty soup that is very easy to make. The hardest part of the process is sauteing the ground beef.

All of these soups use a tomato base but what could be better than home made chicken dumpling soup.

When you start out with a good chicken broth and add the goodness of chopped chicken and vegetables.  Topping it all off with those wonderful doughy dumplings to give it a hearty flavor.

There are so many other soups we can make for the coming blustery Winter season.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Oakmont Elks Host Veteran's Luncheon

Oakmont Elks hosts a group of local veterans for a luncheon once a month.  Each month Lodge No. 1668 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks hosts veterans from the Pennsylvania Southwest Center or the H.J. Heinz Campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.  This project is funded by an Elks National Foundation Grant which the Lodge applies for each year.  The only stipulation for the grant is that it be an ongoing community project that is staffed or performed by the membership of the Lodge.

One month the veterans ate stuffed shells with garlic bread, salads and cheesecake topped with strawberries.  The menu can be as simple as this or as elaborate as a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, stuffing and all the sides.  The veterans who attend are always most grateful for the meal and often ask for and are served second portions.

In November of 2013 the Lodge expanded the guest list to include 21 children from St Irenaeus School who performed their Veteran's Day Program for the veterans.  At the conclusion of the performance which lasted about 25 minutes and included the singing of patriotic songs by the children, each child presented an American Flag to a veteran and thanked them personally for their service.

Each month a different type of entertainment is included for the veterans enjoyment.  The veterans arrive just before noon and usually stay for about 2-3 hours.

Plans are always in the works to host both Southwest and Aspinwall groups for the December luncheon which is a Christmas party for these deserving men and women.  The veterans all receive a small tin of homemade cookies and a token of our appreciation for their service to our country.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Coke or Pepsi?

When I was growing up, our household got a delivery of a case of little green bottles of coca cola about once a month from the local beer distributor.  My brother and I were not permitted to drink it except on special occasions such as holidays.  I now know that my grandfather purchased it for my mother's favorite drink, rum and coke.
little green coca cola bottles
My mother wasn't a boozer but as my father put it, she was a cheap date drinking draft beer until they got married.  I'm sure if you did the math a case of coke would not last an entire month.  As I said my father, would allow us children a drink of ginger ale or root beer but we were not as fortunate as our friends next door who were fed coca cola and pretzels when they had the trots or some other such ailment.
Mr. Fehrman at the soda fountain
When we were old enough to walk down street to the commercial district to Fehrmann's Pharmacy that had a soda fountain and he served coca cola products.  It was there that I learned to mix coca cola with a squirt of cherry or vanilla flavoring from the fountain to get a different taste.  My friend liked chocolate in hers but I never did like that one.  We spent many happy hours at that soda fountain in our teenage years.

When I married my husband was a Pepsi drinker.  He relished his Pepsi over Coke but would switch if it weren't available.  I on the other hand have been known to drink ice water at any restaurant that only offered Pepsi products.

As a member of the house committee for our local club, we had Coke products on the gun system, but we did purchase cans of Pepsi for those members who preferred the other.  I have been to clubs that only use one or the other and I find that does not serve your membership well because there are strong preferences between cola drinkers.

Whatever your preference, I'm sure you have stories to tell from your childhood about the different brands of soda that were and are still available.  In the root beer line there were Hires and Dad's.  In our house we preferred Dad's.  There is no ginger ale that can compare with Canada Dry and is the one that we were fed as children for feverish ailments.

In any case, which is your preference in the cola line?  Coke or Pepsi!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chocolate Covered Candy Pieces for Valentine's Day

If you really want to impress your Valentine, make some chocolate covered nuts and fruits.  My husband and I always bought Peters Ultra chocolate in a 10 lb. slab and we got that from Stover & Company here in Pittsburgh.

Even though we are talking about Valentine's Day, we recommend that you start your Easter candy now in order to have enough for the Easter Bunny but today's blog is geared more at Valentines Day.  If you need a review, go back and print our blog "How to Make Easter Candy." 
Chocolate covered Dates

My favorite chocolate piece is a chocolate covered date.  In order to make these, you need to purchase pitted dates.  Dates are normally sticky when you bring them out of the package but you still want to roll them in confectioners sugar before coating them with the chocolate.  Stick a toothpick into one side of the date and then dip it into the chocolate.  Roll it around until the chocolate sticks to the date.  Lay you piece of candy onto a piece of waxed paper which is lining a cookie sheet.  Once you have all of the pieces made you put the pan into the refrigerator to set up.

Chocolate covered Cherries

To make chocolate covered cherries, you buy maraschino cherries in a jar and drain the juice.  The cherries are coated with the confectioners sugar.  For this candy you may want to purchase a candy mold in the shape of individual candy pieces.  My mother-in-law was inventive and saved the little medicine cups from the hospital to make her individual candy pieces.  Either way you fill the cups enough to coat the bottom of the cup about 1/3 full.  Then you drop your piece of fruit into the cups.  Pour your melted chocolate over them until each cup is full.  Put your candy into the refrigerator to set up you pieces of chocolate.

Chocolate covered Peanut Clusters

Chocolate covered nuts take a little more patience and skill.  Since you can't stick the nuts with a toothpick you need to use tongs to dip the nuts and place them onto your waxed paper to set up.  You can chop the nuts, premix them with your chocolate and fill your medicine cups.  Since I don't have the patience of Jobe, I prefer the second method.

Chocolate covered Raisins

While we are making clusters in our medicine cups, you can also use this method to make chocolate covered raisin clusters.  You can make individual chocolate covered raisins but again this take time and patiences since you need to stick each raisin with a tooth pick and lay them on waxed paper to dry.

White Chocolate covered Strawberries

If you are a fan of white chocolate, then you will need to buy white chocolate wafers in the supermarket and melt those down as you would the shaved chocolate to make your white chocolate covered strawberries or white chocolate cherries.

White Chocolate covered Cherries

Another great treat for Valentine's Day and something to send to school with your little ones is a batch of chocolate covered pretzel rods.  In order to make them special you can sprinkle them with red candies while they are drying on the wax paper.

Chocolate Pretzel Rods

Or how about a batch of chocolate covered mini pretzels.  These can also be sprinkled with candy colors for any holiday.

Chocolate covered Mini Pretzels
You have all seen my Christmas Pretzel made with candy kisses and an M&M on top.  These can be done very easily using Valentine colors or the mini pretzels to give it a heart shape.

Pretty M&M Flowers on Pretzel and Candy Kiss

Another version of this favorite is a mini turtle using Rolo Mini's and Pecans.

That's all I have for today.  If you have other candies you can make give me a comment so that I can try your methods.

Monday, February 13, 2017

To My Valentine

For so many years I took for granted the wonderful things that my valentine did for me.  Not that I wasn't just as attentive to him and didn't do things just for him that I knew he would like.  But, he was a true romantic and did things just because instead of when it was expected for those days like Valentine's Days.

After he retired, he started a part time job driving for a florist.  Not one holiday passed that I didn't get something special.  At Christmas, it was the latest Thomas Kincaid arrangement with such things as a glass Madonna or small nativity embedded among the flowers.

It didn't need to be a special day.  There were those ordinary days when nothing was going on and there was no birthday or anniversary.  He would come home and behind his back he would be carrying long stem roses, my favorite flower because I am devoted to St. Therese, the little flower.  Sometimes they were red for true love, sometimes they were yellow, but mostly they were a mixture of pinks, whites and reds that were perfect for any occasion.

He was a gem and one that I dearly loved for many reasons.  When we would go out for the evening to the Club, he would sit and listen to the music and sing the romantic songs to me with his gravely voice.  It didn't matter that he was off pitch because his eyes told the story that I was his true love.

I no longer have those wonderful events that he made out of ordinary days to look forward to.  What I have are my memories of the most wonderfully romantic man in the universe, my Bear.  He was the Bear part of bearnmom, which was the original logon we shared when we started enjoying the wild and wonderful world of the internet.  That is because we shared our happiness, our sadness, our everything with each other.  Happy Valentine's Day, Bear.  You still hold the best part of what is my romantic heart.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday in the 1950's and 60's

Has it been that long since we lived our lives in such a manner that God and Country were just that.  On Sunday the world relaxed and started the day in worship in whatever religion they chose.  The rest of the day was spent in quiet family life.  Boring?  It may seem that way but actually it was only boring to the energetic youth who spent their time seeking their own pleasures.

Let's be logical about it though.  The family consisted of a father, mother and whatever number of children.  Daddy worked and sometimes that work was at odd hours or even six days a week.  Mommy stayed home and tended to the home bound duties such as cleaning the house, shopping and cooking.  Yes, I said cooking.  Mothers in those days didn't have microwaves or crock pots.  They tended to the dinner with painstaking watchfulness.

Like I said the children didn't have a care in the world except to go to school, which in those days were the childrens' jobs.  Children were reminded of it daily because the family unit was just that a unit where the Dad and Mother took care to instill values into their childrens' lives.

bar hours:  Sunday closed, Mon - Sat 5 00 pm til 2

Not only did the religious community stress the need to keep the Sabbath holy so did the business community.  In the 1950's, the Blue Laws were still in effect.  There were no supermarkets that would stay open on Sundays.  In some communities, there were Mom and Pop grocery stores that opened their doors for the odd forgotten bottle of milk or loaf of bread (if Mom didn't bake her own).  Of yes, and Dad didn't spend his day watching football games on TV (there wasn't any TV) or in the local pub for the sports event.  That's right, the bars were closed on Sundays.  The only place anyone could purchase a drink on Sunday was if they belonged to a fraternal organization that opened their clubs on Sunday.

Aspinwall loop on Llawnipsa St. where trolley returned to Downtown.

Again, let's talk about those bored children.  On Sundays at our home, we ate an early dinner and my Dad would take the family out for the day.  We either went to visit my Aunt and Uncle or if we were really lucky, Dad would take us to a movie theater for the matinee.  We didn't have a car, so we traveled by buses or trolley to wherever we went.  Those were special days and we would come home tired and ready to go to bed in readiness for another week of school or fun filled days in the summer.

Chutes and Ladders gameboard

In the evening, the whole family or at least the children would play board games and interacted with each other.  A simple game of Clue or Chutes and Ladders for the smaller children was a fun way to spend an evening.

I'm not saying we were better off but we did have different values in those days.  We didn't look to be entertained.  We found our own entertainment and it normally included the family or extended family on a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Gruel or Porridge for Breakfast

Definition:  Gruel is a thin food made by boiling some grain in water or milk.  A thin porridge.

When I was growing up, the winters were taken to the extremes.  We would get one or two bearable days and then some bone freezing snow and ice.  It's Pittsburgh for God's sake.  What do you expect?  Certainly not 40 and 50 degree weather through the ending and beginning months of the year.

What was different when my brother and I went to school was that there was no bus service to school.  You bundled up and walked in whatever weather there was that day.  Sometimes in the middle of a cold snap you would walk the four blocks to school only to find that the boiler wasn't working and had to trudge back home.  At lunch time you walked both ways to get your lunch.

Cream of Wheat

My point is that most mornings in the winter our Mom made either Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat.  Ours wasn't a pampered household so there was no such thing as Chocolate Cream of Wheat until we were well past school age and our Mom, being a chocoholic, could buy it for her breakfasts which she shared with my children.  In fact my youngest son, Bobby, practically lived with my Mom.  He would beg from her continually and normally shared her meals.

What made our cooked cereal more palatable is that my Mom always put a dab of margarine into the bowl with our portion.  Being a frugal household, we had margarine instead of butter.  Then we added our sugar and milk.  I always like my hot cereal very thin and I added enough milk to drink my Cream of Wheat, which was my favorite.

I remember as a Girl Scout I was away at summer camp and they served us Oatmeal for breakfast.  I sat at the table with my bowl waiting for the butter because they served it with sugar and milk only.  Only after the counselor asked me what I was waiting for did I find out that it was not normal to serve margarine with your cooked cereal and that it was a luxury that my mother gave to us.

my Bear n Mom mug that I gave bear as a present.

With all of the shortcuts in today's world, I still love my breakfast porridge.  For the past couple of winters I have been trying to watch my cholesterol and eating mainly Oatmeal made in the same way, always thin enough to drink out of a large mug.  Over last winter, I treated myself to my first love, Cream of Wheat, made in the microwave.  I'm not fond of chocolate in my cereal and coffee like my mother was so I stick to the original with lots of melted butter, sugar and milk.

If you can manage the microwave you can make perfect porridge.  Add 3 tablespoons of your grain to 3/4 cups of water, stir and microwave for 1 minute.  Take the bowl from the microwave and whisk the mixture.  Return the bowl to the microwave for another minute and your cereal is ready to add your condiments and eat.  Of course, I pour mine into a large mug and drink it instead of coffee.

I'm sure you can find a warm cereal to your liking and it so gets you ready for that cold winter day.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pretzel Kisses for fun party treats!

I saw these on Pinterest and saved the link so that I could make them at a later date.  Like they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."  I forgot all about them for two years.

Last year, I was reviewing old pins and found these again.  They were originally made on the mini-pretzels with milk chocolate kisses and garnished with M&Ms.  They tasted good and the children lapped them up and took some home with them.
Second batch was better looking
My second try was a bit better.  I decided to try them my way and made them with the waffle pretzels instead.  I was able to line an entire cookie sheet that had been lined with parchment paper.  I decided on the white and chocolate swirled candy kisses instead of plain chocolate.  I only purchased red and green M&Ms to get the Christmas feel.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  Line the pan with your pretzels.  Top the pretzels with Kisses.  (I'm sure you could use any other type of chocolate squares.)  Put in the oven for about 5 minutes.

When you take out the pan, immediately push an M&M into the center of the Kiss or chocolate piece.

Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes to set the chocolate.  These were a real hit at our family Christmas party.

Spring Flower Pretzels
In the spring you can make flower pretzels using pastel M&Ms.  I have seen shamrock candies using 3 green M&Ms for St. Patrick's Day.

Turtle Pretzels
A variation of the recipe is to use rolo candy and pecans to make Turtle Candies on the pretzels.

Mini Kisses on pretzels
or you can use mini kisses to make another variation.

Whatever variation you make -- Happy party baking.