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.

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!

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.

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.