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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Party Food: Fruit Salad Trifle

Is the same old Ambrosia Salad getting old?  Have you gotten stale at making the traditional Fruit Salad for your family picnic?

Grandma's Ambrosia Salad
Grandma made her ambrosia salad before they had canned pineapple and she would cut her own from a fresh pineapple.  She would put the cut up fruit and juices over the marshmallows that she had to snip into pieces and put into the refrigerator.  There were no miniature marshmallows in those days.  The next she made her own whipped cream and folded it into the fruit.  If she had some walnuts she would chop them over the mixture.  With the availability of canned pineapple and miniature marshmallows, I use these to make my ambrosia salad.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I use the colored miniature marshmallows.

The traditional fruit salad combines as many different fruits as you like and my favorites are linked to this article.

I have a new and exciting salad that combines all of the above into a fresh idea that is sure to please even the most picky family members.

You start with a large clear serving bowl only to make this colorful and exciting salad more enticing with it's layers of goodies.

2 loaf size prepared pound cakes, cut in 1 to 2 inch cubes
2 packages (3.4 ounces) instant coconut or vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 pint heavy cream whipped with a little sugar or 1 container (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 cups assorted, diced fruits

In a large bowl, beat the milk and pudding mixes together until pudding starts to thicken. Fold about 3/4 of the whipped topping into the pudding mixture. In another bowl gently toss fruits together. Layer half of the cake into the bottom pretty clear glass bowl.  Next, spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the cake. Then, spoon about 1/3 of the fruit on top of the pudding. Then add a layer of your ambrosia salad.  Repeat. Cover trifle, remaining fruit, and whipped cream with plastic and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. Right before serving spoon remaining whipped cream on top.  You can sprinkle coconut over the top of the mixture but I prefer to leave it off.

This was not originally my recipe but I've added to it to use my own recipes and to come up with a different fruit bowl for our picnics.  Add or subtract what you wish from this rendering but always make sure to include the fruit salad in your summer fun.

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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Meatloaf Burgers - Half the time of Meatloaf

Meatloaf is the most popular way to make and eat ground beef because of the goodies that make it a cut above an ordinary hamburger.  My son who hates to wait for anything came up with this originally and I have to admit it takes nothing away from my meatloaf recipe especially since I love my meatloaf on bread.

Using the same recipe as you would for my no frills meatloaf, you can cut your prep to table time in half.

This tasty form of the popular favorite only takes half the time to bake in the oven and can be eaten plain for dinner or as a meatloaf burger.

Just take a handful of your meatloaf mixture to form your patty.  Be sure to press down in the middle so that your burgers cook evenly and then put them onto a foil lined pan to cook at 350° oven for about 30 to 45 minutes.  Once the top is browned you can be remove from the oven.  I use the tool that is used to keep an egg in one spot in the skillet to form my burgers.

Now that you have the recipe and the instructions, it up to you if you want to wait the time it takes to make a full meatloaf or not.  Happy eating.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gnocchi or Stuffed Shells for Dinner

Gnocchi is the Italian form of Dumplings and is normally cooked in a tomato or cheese sauce.  The tomato sauce is basic and is not used for pastas. 

There is a knack for making homemade gnocci and I've linked you to the recipe. But if you aren't that adventurous you can buy the gnocchi at the store or the Italian Store and go from there.

This gnocchi is made from ricotta cheese and the ricotta gnocchi recipe comes from my web surfing.  This recipe sounds simpler to make and only takes an hour to make. 

making crepes

Now for stuffed shells you start with your basic crepe recipe.  Once you have your crepes you stuff them with Ricotta Cheese mixed with eggs and grated cheeses.  Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture onto your crepe and roll the crepe into a shell shape.
Crepes filled with ricotta and baked
  Place the shell into a baking dish and continue until you have your baking dish full.  Cover the crepes with your basic marinara sauce.  Cover your dish with foil and bake for about an hour at 350 deg.

Again, you can be lazy and just buy the large shells at the supermarket but you still have to soften them by boiling them part way before you stuff them.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Just a Spaghetti Kind of Day

In our house as a child Thursday was always Spaghetti Day and my favorite meal of the week.  My Mom never made her own sauce but the taste was superb.  She added her mixtures of sauteed ground beef to one can of Chef Boyardee Mushroom Sauce and one Can of Chef Boyardee Meat Sauce.  The popular Walt Disney song has been a by-word in our house, "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down," or in this case takes the acid out of the spaghetti sauce.

I spent a lot of time in my kitchen getting my homemade spaghetti sauce to taste like my Mom's mostly out of the can recipe but I succeeded. I always buy 73% ground beef because it has more flavor because of the fat content.  I confess I do use a couple of jars of prepared sauce as fillers for my tomato, tomato paste and ground meat recipe.  After I have a base I add one jar of store bought mushroom sauce because I don't put mushrooms in my skillet with the meat and one jar of onion and garlic sauce to add to the content but not the flavor.

I had better than a half a bag of ravioli in my freezer, so I made my spaghetti sauce with the ground meat and the ravioli.  I just didn't layer it into the lasagna style that you see above.  We ate ravioli the old fashioned way with meat sauce over it.

As much as I enjoyed the ravioli, it just didn't quench the urge I had for my Mom's Thursday Night Spaghetti.  So last night we ate spaghetti with the meat sauce that was left over from the ravioli.  Good spaghetti sauce never goes to waste in my house because I love so.  I always have at least a half pound of thin spaghetti pasta on the shelf so that I can enjoy the best of the best.

So when you see that butcher's special of ground chuck, think about making what I called as a child, "bisgetti."   As always, "Try it -- You'll like it."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Apples Fresh or Baked in Your Favorite Recipe

There are so many delicious apple varieties.  My Mom preferred Macintosh.  I like Northern Spy and Gala.  I find the apples with the best taste are the ones that are white spotted reds.  Just cut up and eaten by themselves is the healthiest way to enjoy an apple.

Apple juice is okay but I never acquired a taste for it and apple cider is way too pungent for my taste.  A glass of apple juice is also healthy.

Waldorf Salad is a fresh fruit salad that uses chunks of fresh cut apples. My Mom always kept apples in the house and loved this salad.   She would make this salad any time she had extra apples that were starting to go soft.

Jarred Apple Slices

When apples are plentiful, I would buy three bushels and then put up my own apples for the winter season so that I could make my favorite recipes.  Yes, the supermarkets now stock all your favorite brands of apples year round but I preferred to just make my own when they were falling off the trees.

Baked Apple
My Mom made baked apples but not the traditional way wrapped in pie crust like apple dumplings.  She would take the whole apple and core it.  Then she would place the apple on a pie pan and drizzle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon into the cored out space.  The house smelled so wonderful as she baked these in the oven. 

Apple Dumpling
Over the years, I have come to like the apple dumpling style that you can buy in most bake shops or at fine restaurants.  These apples are cored, wrapped in a pie shell dough and then baked.  These are served with a dollop of whipped cream or in a bowl with cream poured over them.  Again , being a plain Jane, I like these served by themselves so that I can enjoy the pie crust flavor and the apple.

Apple Fritters
My mom also made apple fritters,  These delightful little crisps were so delicious after a beef stew dinner or as a breakfast treat.

Glazed Apple Turnover
From my childhood, I remember the Duquesne Bakery Truck that would come around once a week.  apple turnovers.  These delightful apple pastries were also filled with a whipped cream to give it that extra flavor.  The quick recipe for these that I use from time to time is to make them using frozen puff pastry dough from the supermarket.
My favorite from their baked goods was

Making Apple Strudel
At Christmas time, I would pull out a jar of my apples I had preserved and make an apple strudel using either my sweet bread dough or puff pastry dough from the supermarket.  Admittedly, the puff pastry dough made a much better tasting strudel that had vanilla glaze drizzled over it.

There are so many different ways to use apples and so many different tastes.

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!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pork For Dinner (The Other White Meat)

From the time I was a small child, I have had an aversion to beef and chicken.  My favorite dinner was roast pork.  When I was working in the strip district Nevros Restaurant served a fresh ham dinner every Wednesday and I ate lunch there ritualistically.  Fresh ham is the whitest and sweetest meat on the pig as far as I'm concerned.
Fresh Ham and Stuffing Dinner
I was never partial to stuffed pork chops but Nevros always served stuffing with their Wednesday lunch special.  If you like them stuffed pork chops are a great way to serve pork.
Stuffed Pork Chop
You can stuff the pork chops individually as your entree for the day or you can buy them at the butcher counter in your supermarket.  For economy you can buy a large package of chops and put two together in the oven with stuffing in between.  Hold them together with skewers.

Baked Pork Chops
Another way to serve pork chops is to bake them in the oven to be served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable.

Breaded Pork Chops
Some prefer to bread their pork chop before baking it in the oven.

Pork Roast in Crock Pot
My newest way to make pork is to cook it in the slow cooker.  I buy a shoulder roast and put it in the crock pot with a mixture of onions, mushrooms, a package of mushroom and onion gravy mixed in enough water to just let the top of the roast peak out at the top.  I let this cook for several hours before serving with a side of applesauce and stuffing.

Pulled Pork with Slaw on a Bun

You can also take the meat done in the crock pot and when it's done you can pull it for pulled pork sandwiches that are served on buns with cole slaw on the sandwich.

Again, pork is my favorite meat and I love it served in any way.  So as Nunny used to say, "try it -- you'll like it."

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.