Friday, March 24, 2017

Lenten Dishes made with eggs and eggplant

When My husband was growing up, his favorite Lenten sandwich was an egg and pepper sandwich.

Pepper and Egg Sandwich
Now, you have to remember that his mom always made her own bread and it wasn't just some eggs fried up with peppers on the side thrown onto store-bought bread.  This sandwich was a mountain with two slabs of bread cut off the loaf with green or red or yellow pepper (maybe all 3) sauteed and then mixed into two eggs per sandwich.  This concoction was seasoned to perfection with just a dash of onion powder or salt added to the regular salt and pepper.  During Lent you are supposed to fast from fish and abstain from large meals.  I don't know if this pepper and eggs sandwich adhered to the abstaining part but my hubby sure did enjoy that sandwich.

In our borough there were several luncheonettes that served this sandwich as a part of their breakfast menu.  Of course, the owners were Italian and raised on these hero egg sandwiches.

Eggplant Parmesan
I have two really good recipes that are made with eggplant.  Of course, the Eggplant Parmesan has to be made with marinara sauce and no meat during Lent.  This layered form of Lasagna is a staple for the Lenten Season.
Sicilian Eggplant
The other recipe that I have for eggplant is Sicilian Eggplant.  The instructions for making this dish are kind of sketchy since it was given to me verbally by my Italian neighbor who speaks broken English.  This dish when prepared is normally used as a side dish instead of an entree.

Like I said when I started talking Lenten foods, I'm not fond of fish and you wont find too many recipes for fish on this blog.  I'm going to go surfing the rest of Lent and we will do some neat recipes on Fridays that I find for yours and my experimentation.  The rest of the week will feature some of my favorite recipes and we will continue our shopping savings when we find those specials.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Persian's Transformation

Fat Cat with a very large belly
 Persian came to us in her adult years and we lovingly called her Fat Cat.  She was a beautiful California Spangled with such soft fur.  The only problem with her was that she was so fat that she couldn't keep herself clean.  As a result she would cough up hairballs and had problems digesting her food.

When Persian first arrived at our house she hid on the third floor and it took weeks of coaxing by my son to get her down to the second level.  She finally made it to the first floor but ran for the under side of the beds if someone rang the doorbell.

She loved to play with strings but being so fat she played for a few minutes and then would take a nap.  Since she was so fat and so lazy I thought I would try the much advertised Cat's Meow Toy to get her moving more.

She took to the toy immediately and over the next few months started to lose some of her weight.  The moral of this story is that there is a means for every end.  
Persian on the deck in her harness

This cat has been with us now for almost five years.  When she does her sphinx pose, she looks almost as heavy as she was when she came, but when she is walking around you can see that she has trimmed down.  

She plays more and even though she has always loved to follow and grab at strings.  Now when she plays she leaps in the air after the string that my son tied to an old blind rod and followed it for a longer period of time.

When I sat on the deck she became very vocal inside the storm door and sometimes stood on her back paws to let me know she was there and would like to come out.  I started taking her out on the deck on a harness because I tried letting her out without it and she got through the railings and went under the deck.  I'm sure she couldn't have done that when she first came.  That harness didn't fit her until she trimmed down and is no longer FAT CAT.

Last week our beautiful Persian quit eating and we had to take her to the Vet.  Since she was already 16 years old I felt it was best to let her go peacefully.  The vet said she had a liver disorder and she agreed with us.  We will miss our transformed, friendly and needy to the point of greedy girl.  Rest in peace Persian.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hot Crossed Buns for Lent

ONE A PENNY, TWO A PENNY, HOT CROSSED BUNS.  We used to say that rhyme when we were children.  The only time of the year that you would be able to buy hot crossed buns was during Lent.

The old A&P Supermarket always carried them during Lent and my Mom dearly loved them.  They would be packaged in a tin of six buns.  I could never see what was so special about them other than the sweet icing done piped into a cross on top of them.  I was never one for fruit such as currants and raisins inside my pastry.  I don't know why because I do like to eat raisins by the handful.

Most bakery shops carry them during Lent and I'm sure that their sweet dough is the same as what you can get in the modern day supermarket in their bakery departments.  I saw an ad for them in an email I received from Giant Eagle and that's what reminded me of this annual pastry.  Oakmont Bakery carries them during the season also.

For those of you who still prefer to make your own, Shop N Save offers an easy recipe online for making these.

In looking up the story behind this tiny bun which is almost the size of a biscuit, I find that it is traditionally eaten by people of British descent on Good Friday.  Here in the states you can get them all during Lent and only during Lent.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making Chocolate Easter Candy

Lent has only just begun but if you need to make enough chocolates for more than just one child, it's not too soon to start making and putting away candy for your children or grandchildren.  

It's easy to just buy what you need and there is not doubt that there is a large selection of all sorts of chocolates to be purchased.  I have a candy maker, Pollak Candy, in Etna, Pennsylvania who has been the source of my candy wants for many years.  They have the best blend of chocolate and my second love the nougat filled easter eggs that are wrapped in foil.  Their page can be found on Facebook.

In the end the only reason to make your own is for the personal satisfaction and to save the expense of high pricing.  If you are just starting out I suggest making the simple pieces such as the crosses and wafer bunnies, chicks and hens.  As you get more experience you can move up to the larger solid standing bunnies and baskets.

In our house, my husband was the candy maker.  We had 7 children and it was just more economical to make his own chocolate and he always made his candy from the purest chocolate he could find.  It is important to get good chocolate or you wont achieve the flavor that you are looking for.  If you price the solid pieces of chocolate available, you will find that in the long run, this is the most economical way to go for Easter Candy.

My husband always started out with a 20# block of Peter's Ultra Chocolate which he bought from Stover & Co., Inc.  I did some searching on the Internet and you can purchase that 10 pound block of chocolate for under $40. 

Since he had been doing this for years, he had all kinds of molds to make the candy but the most popular one with our children were the crosses.  I again went looking for you on the Internet and there are very affordable molds on sale and it's not too soon to purchase them.  I also know that The Party Store has a nice variety of molds.

OK, you have your molds and you have your chocolate.  Let's get started.  I have a large doubled handled cheese block cutter and I use that to separate the chocolate into smaller pieces and to shave it down.  It was originally a pizza cutter from a pizza shop where my girls were employed.  I'm sure you can find one in any of the restaurant supply stores.  The chocolate bar is solid so you will at least need a very heavy butcher knife to shave it down.

My husband used all kinds of methods to melt the chocolate.  He started out using a heating tray to keep foods warm at the table and corning ware dishes.  One thing you don't want to do is melt more chocolate than you are going to use at one time because it sets again if you don't have enough molds to hold all that you have melted down.

The best method my husband found for melting the chocolate is using the microwave at 50%.  You have to watch your chocolate while it is melting because you don't want to cook it all the way down.  Once it is almost all the way melted you use a whisk to get the mixture smooth.

Pour your chocolate into your molds making sure to not create any air pockets.  On the smaller molds we would use ice tea spoons to dip out the melted chocolate and fill each section on the mold.  Once you have your molds filled set them aside for a few minutes or you can put them into the refrigerator long enough to set up.

After they are set you can pop them out of the mold and wrap each piece in saran wrap.  You can purchase candy bags at the local party store if you prefer.  Start early to make your candy depending on how many pieces you need for your family.  The candy will keep in the refrigerator but be sure to hide it because we once lost half our candy to the candy monsters in our house who couldn't wait for Easter

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pasta Dishes for Lent

As I've stated over the years, I hate fish and Lent has always been a bit of a quandary for me to find something to eat.

There are several pasta dishes that can be served for Lent.  Not all of them are Italian but quite a few come from our fine Italian descents.

Cheese Ravioli is one, Stuffed Shells another.  These fine substitutes for fish on Fridays in Lent come from one basic recipe the Crepe Dough.  The dough for the Ravioli and the Gnocchi or Tortellini comes from the same recipe but is rolled out differently and stuffed with or without Ricotta Cheese before cooking in a Tomato Sauce.  For Stuffed Shells you start with a basic Crepe Recipe and then stuff them with Ricotta Cheese and roll the crepe around the Cheese before baking in a tomato sauce.

Tortellini can be used in many varieties but I prefer Tortellini Soup.  During Lent you shouldn't make tortellini soup because one of the main ingredients is chicken broth unless you can figure out a way to get around this using water.  I'm guessing the tomato sauce could be bolstered up by adding some watered down retail tomato soup.

Two dishes that call for spaghetti are Pasta N Eggi (spaghetti with eggs) and Anchovy Pasta.  Pasta N Eggi, pronounced as one word "pastaneggi," was a favorite of my youngest step-daughter and we made it year round but it is a good substitute for the Lenten Season.

Anchovy Pasta was originally just made on Christmas Eve to make up one of the seven fishes for the Italian table.  In our house, the only one who actually liked it was PupPup, my father-in-law.  Needless to say, I don't make this dish anymore but it is a staple for the Italian table.

That is all I have for the basic pasta recipes but we will continue this vein of thought with some recipes that take a little more time and energy on Friday.  Since this blog was posted on Ash Wednesday, tomorrow we will delve into another vein of thought for our cooking enthusiasts.