Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Fusion Cuisine is Not a Novel Idea.

In 2020, there was a barrage of “Lives Matter” movements occurring across this great nation of the United States of America.  It got me to thinking, about this section of North America, and why the sudden divide.  “Together we stand, divided we fall” is a meaningful quote that is mainly attributed to one of the country’s founding fathers, John Dickinson.  A Pennsylvanian farmer who penned many a letter that would influence the thinking, and opinions, of the colonists.   He opposed British taxation of the colonies, but also opposed the use of force against mother England.  You could say that Dickinson believed that compromise and peace could be achieved via communication, not violent acts.  The American Revolution proved that ideology not to be necessarily true.

By the way, John Dickinson did not come up with the phrase, “Together we stand, divided we fall”, but took it from Aesop (620–564 BCE).  Aesop was a Greek storyteller, and this line appeared in one of his fables, “The Four Oxen and the Lion”.  John Dickinson placed the line in his song, “The Liberty Song”; written in 1770, reflecting on the growing tensions between the colonies and mother country.  “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,

By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall”.  So, and this is my personal take on it all, of course, but, as a nation, should we not be standing together, instead of planning on taking a fall?  We are a nation of various races, religions, cultures, ancestries, beliefs, ages, genders and cuisines which, as a melting pot, should fuse together.  Perhaps we all should read, or reread, the European folk story, “The Stone Soup”?

Now to food, and Fusion Cuisine; what exactly is it? When a fancy restaurant advertises fusion cuisine, you are paying an exorbitant price for a “current fad”.  Guess what?  This type of cuisine has been around for centuries.  Fusion cuisine is not just the merging of food from different cultures, but the cooking techniques as well.  As different countries and cultures, visited, immigrated to, or invaded elsewhere, food items and recipes were either brought along, or discovered; not unusual to also discover that many went well together.  Cooking techniques were also shared, so where a culture had only baked bread over open coals, now they learned about the clay oven.

If you go into a restaurant that offers different cuisines, that is not necessarily fusion.  The dishes may be Greek, Korean and Mexican, but each dish is prepared and served in its traditional form.  An example of fusion would be to take the ingredients of a Greek Gyro (roasted lamb, tzatziki sauce, vegetables), but preparing them as a Mexican Enchilada; adding some of the ingredients usually found in a traditional enchilada, and/or taking away some of the gyro ingredients.  While this might sound simple, care must be taken to ensure that the tastes meld together successfully.

The recipe I am giving to you is my attempt at fusion cuisine; a mixture of Irish with Mexican.  The O’Brien potatoes are cubed potatoes that are fried with diced onions, pimientos (roasted red bell pepper), or diced red and green bell peppers; this is the Irish part.  The other part will be ingredients that would typically go into tacos; the Mexican part.  The technique will include some frying, but finish off baking in an oven.


Taco Beef and Potato Bake

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs. lean ground beef

1 cup diced onion, divided in half

1 envelope taco seasoning, medium

1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, medium

1 (16 oz.) can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (28 oz.) bag frozen O’Brien potatoes, thawed

1 (10 ½ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup

¾ cup 2% milk

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 tsp. ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a skillet, over high heat, brown the beef; add ½ cup of onion halfway through cooking; drain.  Reduce heat to low; add taco seasoning and tomatoes; mix well.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Spray a 3 quart baking dish with non-stick spray; spread meat mixture in dish.  Spread on top of meat mixture the beans and potatoes.

In a large bowl, mix together the soup, milk, bell pepper, remaining ½ cup onion and Worcestershire; pour mixture over the potatoes, spreading evenly to edges of dish.  Sprinkle the paprika and black pepper over the sauce.

Bake for 1 hour covered with foil; bake uncovered for 15 minutes.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Ending Upon a Note of Wishful Thinking.

As we end 2020, a year of “Who, What, Where, Why, When and How” questions that are still boggling the minds of many, consider this, “Did we learn, and did we do good?”  Personally, the meaning of life is to learn something new, and do a good deed, on a daily basis.  Learn something new?  Yes, it could be a craft, a talent, book or television series, a way to do something entirely different, etc. etc., and that includes an outlook upon something as well.  A good deed?  Yes, something as simple as smiling at a person who looks absolutely miserable, then seeing a new light in their eyes as they smile back.  Perhaps someone was stranded on the side of the road, and instead of driving by, you made that U-turn, and helped to change a flat tire.  A new learning or good deed does not have to be monumental; also, do not brag about it, as then the meaning actually becomes nothing at all.

“Do you watch Christmas themed movies?” is a question I am often asked, due to the fact that I do not believe in the main stream, religious meaning of this holiday.  Of course I do, as there is more to this holiday than the beliefs of religion.  This is the end of the calendar year, a time to reflect back on what has occurred; the good, the bad, the “what the…?”, and ticking off of items on the bucket list.  Whether you have a written, or mental, list, you know you are ticking items off; we all do it.  The month of December is a month full of numerous holidays around the world, mainly surrounding love, life, laughter, giving, receiving, and most important, togetherness.  2020, of course, is putting a huge strain on togetherness, but should that truly affect all the other aspects?  It should not, but I believe we have been conditioned to allow it to.

One of my very favorite movies is, The Bishop’s Wife, based upon the novella by Robert Nathan, and released December 1947, is a wonderful classic. The cast includes such greats as Loretta Young, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, and Cary Grant…oh, the oh so handsome, charismatic, multi-talented Cary Grant as Dudley, the angel.  David Niven plays the Bishop Brougham, who is determined to have a cathedral built, and must beg for funding from the snobbish wealthy.  Having come from a poor district, he seems to have forgotten, not just where he came from, but what the holiday season is all about.  Praying to God, an angel is sent down to help him, not to build the cathedral, but to find his way back to himself.  Everyone that Dudley encounters has become a lost soul, lost to themselves, to others; or in the case of the members of the children’s choir, potentially losing themselves.

This movie is not full of sadness, but brings out the joy and happiness that once was, and now found again.  Watch the movie, put it up against what you have been encountering in this past year, and I believe you will get the meaning.  Not only will you learn, but those good deeds may just pop into mind.

As the New Year comes knocking upon our doors, open up, smile and say “Welcome, what do you have planned for me now?”  Now here comes the challenge of choices, do we simply live, or do we Live!  Those good deeds that popped into mind, are they forgotten or acted upon? Yes, you do not have to wake up and consciously say to yourself, “Today I will do a good dead.” just do it!  Do not think about it, just do it, keep going, and suddenly you might think about it, and that is when it will click in; what meaning life has.

Of course, being a food blog, how could I not give you a recipe which will bring joy and cheer to your stomachs!?!  Let’s try out a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake to end 2020, and welcome in 2021.  Fresh lemon juice brings out the brightness of this cheesecake; the use of ricotta and cream cheeses, blended together, give a firm, yet smooth texture.  Really do not like the taste of lemon?  Then use orange juice, but make sure, whichever fruit is used, to use the fresh squeezed, or defrosted juice concentrate only.  Bottled juices are full of water, and will ruin the entire cake.  By the way, did you know that cheesecake is not really a cake?  Due to the lack of flour used, and the main ingredients are eggs and cheese, this is actually a custard.  There you go, you just learned something new!

 


Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

 

Ingredients:

 

Crust

1 package (9 crackers) original flavor graham crackers

1/2 cup ground almonds

5 Tbsp. melted butter

 

Filling

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 and ½ cups sugar (yes, a substitute can be used, and I recommend Swerve)

2 Tbsp. lemon peel (if dried, reconstitute with warm water and pat away excess moisture)

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (squeezed or pure concentrate)

1 (16 oz.) container of whole milk ricotta cheese

3 eggs

 

Garnish

Whipped cream

Blackberries

Blueberries

Candied Lemon Slices

Fruit Flavored Marshmallows (bring out the child in us all)

 


Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper; spray paper and sides of pan with nonstick baking spray.  Wrap outside of pan, bottom and sides, with heavy-duty foil. 

Place graham crackers into plastic bag and crush, by hand, by rolling a rolling pin over them.  Or use a mixer, pulse setting; add in ground almonds, melted butter and ½ cup of sugar.  Mix until crumbly; press crumb mixture in bottom and 2 inches up sides of springform pan.

Bake at 350F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crust is light golden brown around edges. Remove crust from oven; place on wire rack, cool 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Beat cream cheese in large bowl, medium speed, until fluffy; add 1 cup sugar; beat until very soft and creamy.  Add lemon peel, lemon juice and ricotta cheese; mix thoroughly.  Add eggs one at a time, beating just until combined and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Pour into crust-lined pan.

Bake at 325F for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until sides of cheesecake are set and puffed, but center still moves slightly when pan is tapped. Turn off oven, open door slightly and let cool down for 30 minutes.  Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours (if wanted to serve same day), or overnight before serving.  Run a sharp knife around sides of pan before fully releasing spring.  The parchment paper will allow for easily sliding the cheesecake off the metal pan bottom onto cake platter.

Cheesecake will make 16 servings; decorate with garnish, spacing out fruit used; or add dollop of whipped cream before placing fruit on top.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Chile Peppers Flavor European Cuisine.

Paprika, a savory red spice  used in a variety of dishes such as paprikash, paella, deviled eggs, soups, sauces, and a most popular European dish, goulash.  While it is easy purchase at the local market, or online; what is paprika, and why does it make foods taste so good?

Traveling back to the 15th century, explorers from Spain made their way to, what we now call, Mexico and Brazil.  In these countries were found a variety of chile peppers, from the mildest in heat and flavor, to the hottest that must have come from pits of lava.  Bringing plants back to the Old World, the plants were cultivated, not just for culinary use, but ornamental as well.  Now who were the specialists who cultivated these pepper plants, and discovered their many uses?  Monks, men devoted to religion, highly educated, the scholars of their time.

By the 16th to 17th century, chile pepper plants were making their way throughout Europe.  In Spain, the peppers were placed upon an open grate which was placed over a smoky oak fire.   In Hungary, the peppers were sun dried; but either method dried out the peppers completely.  Then they were ground into a fine powder, ready to be sprinkled onto bread or lard; or measured out into soups and stews.  Sweet, bittersweet and hot are the primary intensities of paprika, and that is dependent upon which types of peppers are used (single type, or a combination of types).

When someone hears the term “goulash”, the mind usually clicks onto Hungarian Goulash.  A simple stew of beef, onions, water and lard, cooked over an open fire, by cattle herdsmen.  Then came paprika, and a new taste was added to the stew. By the 18th century, goulash became a staple at inns, filling the bellies of weary travelers.  The stew itself was changed by adding carrots, sometimes potatoes, from the back gardens.  Add freshly baked, crusty bread plus a tankard of the inn’s best brew, and the travelers went to sleep sated.

As leaner, and more costly, cuts of meat began to be used in restaurants, the wealthy were introduced to a “high class” dish procured from a peasant recipe.  In the 1800s, immigration to the United States allowed Hungarians to, not just bring their cultural traditions, but also their recipes.  As they emigrated across North America, trading and interacting with other cultures, and using “American food sources”, traditional goulash developed into a variety of recipes.

“Mexican Goulash” contains, not only, beef, but chorizo, and those wonderful chile peppers the Spanish explorers discovered back in the 15th century.  So, whomever said, “You can’t go home again.” certainly was not referring to the foods of the world.

As to a recipe, I will be giving you my own take on the classic Hungarian Goulash, with a bit of influence from my Croatian ancestors.  While it cooks up perfectly in a stove top skillet, I personally find that the Dutch oven method makes the meat more tender, sauce thicker, and overall flavor more savory.  It does take about three hours to cook, and with prep work, the entire meal can take about four hours to complete, but is worth the work and the wait.  Due to the low and slow cooking technique, cheaper cuts of beef, such as a chuck roast, can be used, and the meat comes out so tender, it will taste, well, as Guy Fieri says, “That’s money right there!”.

A huge thank you to Amy Watkins Kensley, and her son Michael, for giving me a beautiful Dutch oven last Christmas.  With it, I have been able to create meals, and breads, that put stovetop, or other baking techniques, to shame.  Thank you, am sad that this Covid-19 is keeping us from our family meal times, and holiday celebrations.  For everyone, let us all feel positive that 2021 will find us healthier, happier and most importantly, wiser.

 


Beef Goulash

 Ingredients:

4 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces (leaner cut of beef can be used)

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup olive oil, divided in half.

1 large white onion, chopped

1 large red onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 and ½ Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. butter

1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half, at an angle

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

4 Tbsp. sweet paprika

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

2 cups beef stock or broth

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup half and half

1 cup sour cream

Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes to serve over.

 


Preparation:

Place the pieces of the beef into a large bowl, add flour and coat meat.  In a large skillet, in two batches, brown the meat in the olive oil (1/2 portion of olive oil for each batch), over medium-high heat.  Drain on paper towels and place meat into large, clean bowl.





At the same time as meat is browning, in the Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat; add onions, bell pepper and garlic, coat with melted butter and cook for 15 minutes to soften vegetables, but do not brown.  Also, in a medium sauce pan, parboil carrots, over medium-high heat, to soften, then strain.




Preheat oven to 275F; lightly spray Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray (manufacturer’s instructions recommend this).

Into the Dutch oven, add the parboiled carrots, softened vegetables, and browned beef.  In a medium size bowl, whisk together paprika, black pepper, tomato paste, beef stock or broth, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine vinegar. Pour liquid oven meat and vegetables, mix thoroughly together, place lid on and cook for 2 and ½ hours in oven.








Carefully remove Dutch oven, and remove lid (careful, it will be very hot!), stir contents.  In a small bowl, stir together half and half with sour cream to form a loose paste, and mix into goulash.  Set lid back on, place back into oven for another ½ hour; cook egg noodles or mashed potatoes during this half hour, and all will be ready to eat at the same time.








For stove top:

Follow instructions except for preheating oven, or coating Dutch oven.  Use a 6-quart cooking pot, or very deep skillet, set on low heat, but cook for 3 and ½ hours, add loose paste, and cook additional ½ hour while preparing noodles or potatoes.  With this method, stir mixture every half hour to keep foods from sticking to bottom and sides of pot or skillet.

Makes 10-12 servings (or 8-10 if you live in my home, with two very hungry men who love my cooking).

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Banger’s Bar and Pizza is all in the Family

Banger’s Bar and Pizza
315 US-491
Dove Creek, CO, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-2465

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Pizza-Place/Bangers-Bar-and-Pizza-104971214619929/

Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday, 11am – 9pm; Closed Sunday


Decades back, Tim Meyer’s father owned a building in Dove Creek, Colorado which housed the Old Frontier Bar, liquor store and the family.  Eventually the building was renovated and became the New Frontier Bar, a much loved local hang out.  There was a time when the building held an antique shop, and then quietly remained closed up.  That is until Tim purchased the property and was determined to bring it back to its focal status.

Tim, and wife, Shelly Poole, attended a Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, in Nevada.  There they learned about pizza making techniques, supplies, equipment, recipes, and, well, if it was pizza related, they learned about it.  Returning to Dove Creek, the inspiration hit, a plan was implemented, and on August 28, 2020, Banger’s Bar and Pizza held its Grand Opening.  August 2020!?!  That is correct, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, this crazy couple opened a new restaurant and bar with high hopes.

Those hopes have panned out into a success story.  Tourists, truckers, just-passing-through, and locals are enjoying a unique food array not seen in Dove Creek before.  The menu is not just pizza, but Italian specialties found in any respectable pizzeria.  Pizzas (pan or cracker thin crust), Calzones, Subs, Caprese, Salads, Appetizers and Desserts to please anyone hankering for Italian geared grub.


Our waitress/bartender for the evening was Breea Mykel Meyer, daughter of Tim Meyer and Shelley Poole.  She related to us the story of her grandfather owning and running Old Frontier, the liquor store, and the small living quarters in the back of the building.  The name, Banger’s, refers to her childhood, and much beloved, pet bulldog; his photograph is prominently featured at the bar.  Breea is no novice to the restaurant business, having also worked at Stateline Bar and Grill, also owned by Tim and Shelley.  As is the Sinclair, so you can say that bar/restaurant/food entrepreneurism runs rampant in this family line.


While we waited for our selections to arrive, take-out orders had a steady stream of pickups.  Several tables were taken up as well, with everyone respecting social distancing.  Conversations and laughter flowed, the atmosphere definitely welcoming, and comforting.  Wall television screens displayed, this evening, either a video related game show, or Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, or Dives”; I am very sure you know which one I was watching.  On nights that feature local or state sporting events, the screens are tuned onto them.

 

Then the food began to arrive and all attention was on that.  Appetizer was Bangy Wangy Wings; six meaty wings served with Ranch dressing and celery sticks.  The wings are presmoked, deep fried and then finished off in Banger’s amazing brick pizza oven.  We choose BBQ flavor, and the sauce, due to the cooking technique, was infused all the way through the meat.  While the skin was still soft, it was not greasy or gummy, so gave a good mouth feel.

 


Next was the Chicken Parmigiana Sub; an entire chicken breast coated in a light and crispy breading (similar to Panko), deep fried, topped with sauce and melted cheese.  Absolutely amazing flavor and texture, and definitely getting this when they have it on the weekly special for the day!  Served with the sub was potato chips that are made in house.  Thinly sliced potatoes, deep fried to a rich brown color, crunchy and addictive.  These should be sold by the bag full, and I suggested it to Breea.  They are reminiscent of kettle cooked potato chips often sold at farmers’ markets, and much craved by potato chip lovers.



 

Third was the Calzone; we choose Banger’s sauce (rich marinara), Italian cheese blend and meatballs.  The dough was baked to perfection, the combination of sauce, cheese and meatball was so delicious!  A side serving of sauce comes with the calzone, but we dipped our chicken sub in it instead.  Alright, yes, I admit it, I licked the sauce off the plate when it dripped off my half of the sub.

 

Last, and definitely not least, was the Bangy Boo Pizza; we chose the cracker crust which was ultrathin, crispy, but did not fall apart with the generous layers of sauce, cheese and pepperoni on top.  Good flavor all throughout, and a nicely browned crust; this also passed the “cold pizza for breakfast” test the next morning.


Dessert?  After all the sampling we just pigged out on, there was no room at the inn for dessert!  However, I have promised myself that next time, yes, there will be a next time, and we will be trying out S’mores Pie, large enough for two.,

Most of the ingredients used to create these excellent dishes, are locally sourced in.  Tim and Shelley made sure to pick high quality items.  It certainly shows in the delicious flavors, tastes, and textures that come through while enjoying the various dining choices.

Oh, and how did we end up at Banger’s Bar and Pizza?  Date night of course, and the food, atmosphere and service made it a wonderful evening out.  So, whether eating in, or taking out, give Banger’s Bar and Pizza a try; or be like us and give each section of the menu a try.

Mary Cokenour

 


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Welcome to December 2020

In Roman mythology, a pair of twin boys were placed into a basket, set upon the Tiber River, found by a she-wolf and eventually raised by a shepherd and his wife.  The two adult brothers could not agree upon which hill to build their city, held a bird watching contest to decide, and yet still remained at a standstill.  Romulus began building his city on Palatine Hill, and Remus, who was quite the brat, would mock Romulus’ efforts.  One day, Remus decided to jump over a wall his brother had built, and fell to his death.  Now was this punishment from the Gods, or did Romulus, having run out of patience, simply murder his own brother?  In reading the variations of the tale of Romulus and Remus, one will find very many similarities to stories within the Old Testament.

 

Rome was the city that Romulus built, and named after himself; he was king of course.  Around 750 BCE, the Romulus calendar was created, having only ten months, running from March to December.  December has its root beginning from the Latin “decem” which means ten; all the days of winter resided in this month as well.   Now hold on a moment, take into consideration that the Covid-19 pandemic did not officially escalate until March 2020.  Here we are in December 2020, and it is as if the virus is following the Romulus calendar itself. 

 

Anyway, in 45 BCE, Julius Caesar ordered a calendar consisting of twelve months and based upon a solar year. This calendar utilized a cycle of three years of 365 days; followed by a fourth of 366 days, aka Leap Year.  Naming it the “Julian Calendar”, Caesar moved the beginning from March 1st to January 1st.

 

Now I know there has been many a debate of when Jesus Christ was actually born.  However, Roman Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, using the Romulus calendar, dated Jesus' conception to March 25th (the same date he believed God created the world), which, after nine months in his mother's womb, would result in a December 25th birth.  Using the Julian calendar though, presuming the conception was January 25th, that would push Jesus’ birthday up to September 25th.

 

That’s it, I have had enough of 2020 and its nonsense…Jumanji, Jumanji, Jumanji!!!

 

December is a month full of holidays (Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day and Omisoka; just to name a few) which have a main focus upon peace and love.  Two facets that this entire world needs a whole lot of, especially after the debacle of the previous eleven months.  Let’s make a deal, instead of focusing on which holiday is the “correct” one for the month of December; let’s just focus on peace and love.  Anyone have an issue with that?  Please be quiet, no one really wants to know what a meanie you truly are.

 

Now, since I started off talking about Roman mythology, how about I continue with some Italian cuisine.  In November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving with the traditional feast consisting of a cooked turkey.  Now leftovers are also a tradition of this holiday feast, so what to do with them?

 

New story.  Tetrazzini is strictly Italian, that is if you are the opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini who had a recipe created for her back in the early 1900's.  While Tetrazzini enjoyed a lavish career from 1890 to 1920; her life ended in poor health and poverty.  Now two sources claim to be the creators of this recipe named after the famous opera star, the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA and the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, NY.  Just another version of the West coast versus the East coast; but whoever invented it, I bet, did not foresee the casserole becoming such a hit with the home cook.

 

Basically, Tetrazzini is a casserole made with some type of cooked poultry, canned tuna or raw shrimp which is mixed with diced vegetables, cooked spaghetti and baked together in a luscious, buttery cream sauce.  It is one of those recipes that can incorporate all the food groups in one sitting; if you add diced tomatoes, well there is your fruit group right there.  One thing I know for certain, there will be no leftovers for this casserole.

 


Tetrazzini

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. dry sherry

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained

½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced

3 cups turkey breast, cooked and cut into ½ inch cubes

3/4 cup dry, unseasoned bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. melted butter

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

Make a roux by melting 3 Tbsp. butter, on high heat in a large saucepan; whisk in flour until smooth. It is important to keep whisking, or roux will burn; and the process will have to be started over. Continue whisking while adding chicken broth; sauce will thicken. Whisk in cream, sherry, cheese and black pepper; remove from heat when mixture is smooth.

In a small nonstick skillet, on high heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter; sauté mushrooms and onions until softened; about three minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the spaghetti, roasted peppers, turkey, sautéed vegetables and sauce; spread evenly into the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the baking dish. Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Redo a “Holiday” Classic

Holiday time is coming upon us and soon we will be seeing the television commercials that try and define the season for us. Unfortunately the holiday season has become very commercialized, so the original true messages of the season may not get through to many.   No lecturing this time from me, as I believe the dramatics of 2020 are bringing back much of the true meanings.


What I would like to address though is a holiday classic recipe, the Green Bean Casserole.   With my family, or most people I knew, this was not ever served for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day.   Why is it considered a “holiday classic”?  We never really see any commercials for it from Campbell's or French's until the holiday season, so it is, to me, a classic recipe because these companies say so.


The origin of the recipe came from the Campbell’s Soup Company, located in Camden, New Jersey, in 1955.  Home economist, Dorcas Reilly worked in the test kitchen, and Campbell’s needed a new idea to promote their Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Now this product had been around since 1934, but was mainly used as a filler.  It was so popular with Minnesota potluck casseroles, it was nicknamed “Lutheran Binder”.


During an interview, Ms. Reilly stated that she did not truly know how she came up with the recipe; it was mostly trial and error.  However, adding green beans to the soup mixture created an unappetizing color.   Reilly determined that fried onions on top were an easy way to add texture and color to the grey-green dish.  The fried onions also added a touch of “festive flair”, and festive meant the holiday season.


My hubby and his family, along with the Watkins family, like this dish, so I make it for them whenever I feel like it, not just because a holiday dictates it.  I was a good girl and prepared the dish using the Campbell's recipe verbatim.  Nope, did not play with it at all, the first time I made it.


Here is the original recipe from the Campbell's Kitchen website: 

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

Directions:


Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Ser
ves 6

 By now, my readers know I often do not stick to recipes; I need to play!

Here is my version of the recipe and my hubby says it is better than the original by far.  It has a headier flavor from the Worcestershire, is creamier and just has an overall better flavor.  The French fried onions are crispier, since they are entirely on top of the casserole, not mixed inside and getting soggy.  Seconds are always gone after, and leftovers are slim to none.  Try my version and judge for yourself, but it is perfectly fine if you still prefer the original.

 

Green Bean Casserole
(An old classic redone)

Ingredients: 

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion diced
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms
3 (14.5 oz) cans French style green beans, drained
2 (10.75 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. each ground black pepper and paprika
2 cups French fried onions

Preparation: 

On medium heat, melt butter in small skillet; sauté onion and mushrooms till the onions just begin to soften; do not brown. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sautéed onions and mushrooms with all other ingredients, except the fried onions. Spoon into the casserole dish and spread the fried onions evenly over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes; remove from oven and let settle for 5 minutes before serving.


Makes 6-8 servings.

Halloween/Samhain has passed, and I hope you enjoyed making those apple cider donuts I wrote about last time.  Here comes Thanksgiving; hey, those donuts would go well with this holiday as well!  Be grateful for what you have, love those closest to you, be kind to acquaintances and strangers alike; and this too shall pass.

Mary Cokenour

 

 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Time to Make the Donuts.

Dear Diary, This is month ten of Jumanji.  Just as the Covid monster seemed to be going into hiding, it suddenly reared its massive head.  It tricked us, just as we were beginning to have fun, and life was going back to normal, once again.  What the worst of it is, having the children home, and they are missing out on all the fun.  What will November bring?  Signed, Feeling Doomed.

Dear Feeling Doomed, stop complaining!  You and your family have each other.  That’s more than many others, in this overpopulated world, have.  Would you rather the outbreak of much deadlier diseases, so you can lose each other?  Your children are home, and not having fun; well why is that?  This is the time that family should come together, not just to “make time”, but now having the time to do fun things…together!  Signed, Diary.

Wow, even someone’s diary is getting tired of all the “whoa-is-me” going round.  Yes, it has been ten months of Covid-19 turning our lives upside down.  It has also been ten months of political, civil, and social unrest as well.  However, this is where choice comes into play; the choice of “Will I allow it to deflate and destroy me?”, or “Will I stand tall, grab that negativity bull by its fiery horns, and ride it down into the ground?”

One of my favorite televised series is Good Witch, a Hallmark original that is about to air its seventh season.  Previously, there were yearly movies about main character, Cassie Nightingale, a descendant of the Merriwick clan.  This is what many would call, a “clean, goody two shoes” show, as there is no blood, gore, foul language, or really nasty stuff that would make one cover the eyes and ears at the same time.  This is, however, one of those shows that tugs at heart strings, makes one feel all lovey and comforting inside, and teaches many, many lessons.

Cassie Nightingale has traveled the world, and believes in, and practices, holistic “medicine”.  Natural remedies using plants, essential oils, crystals; what is usually referred to as “New Age”.   While these practices stem from ancient cultures such as Greece, Egypt, India, Japan and China; well it goes to show, “everything old is new again”.

The main focus, in my opinion, is that this show teaches good life lessons, and that any adversity can be overcome.  Just what we all need to keep focusing on, not just for 2020, but for life in general.  So, as we go into month eleven of Jumanji, focus more on overcoming the negative, reach for the fun, whether alone or with others, and cherish the moments.

Oh, Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for what we had, have or will have in the future; like fun.   Think about this, how can anyone, for 10 months, be complaining, arguing, harassing, just be plain old nasty to others, and then suddenly be thankful?  If we have, then now is the time for a total turnaround in thinking and behavior.

Enough preaching, let’s practice.


My new toy for 2020 is donut pans; available in silicone (not a personal favorite), or non-stick metal (a best buy, in my opinion).
  Donuts are often fried, giving a light, airy texture to them.  Baked donuts are denser which means longer time to eat, longer time to savor the flavor.  I became fascinated with apple cider donuts, and the uses of cardamom (also spelled cardamon) while watching, what else,
Good Witch.  Oh yes, I have used cardamom in recipes from India, but have not really tried it in baking.

Cardamom is from the ginger family, and can be used whole or ground.  That chai tea or latte you enjoy so much, it contains cardamom.  The flavor is savory, smoky, lemony and minty; the aroma earthy; a complex herb.  Yes, herb, but once it is ground up, it becomes referred to as a spice.  One aspect you might appreciate, for health reasons, is cardamom is an antioxidant.

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, and apple cider often served to drink, why not eat it too!   This recipe is as close, considering the many I have found, to the donuts seen on Good Witch – Curse from a Rose.  It takes place during the last week of October, ending with a Halloween festival.  The lesson learned is, “Take ownership for the choices you make, even if you do not voice them out to others.  If the choice goes wrong, do not blame someone, who could not know your heart’s true intention.”

Now go, bake up some donuts, and HAVE FUN!!!

 

Apple Cider Donuts

(https://www.livinginsugar.com/2018/10/apple-cider-donuts-for-your-basic-witch/)

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups apple cider

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Cardamom

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted

1 large egg at room temperature

1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Topping:

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground Cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Reduce the apple cider: Stirring occasionally, simmer the apple cider in a small saucepan over low heat until you're left with about 1/2 cup. Start checking at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. until you have 1/2 cup. Mine takes about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray donut pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Make the donuts: Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, and vanilla extract together. Pour into the dry ingredients, add the reduced apple cider, and whisk everything together until smooth and combined. Batter will be slightly thick.

Spoon the batter into the donut cavities—for ease, I highly recommend using a large pastry bag with a round tip -- a zipped-top bag with a corner cut works as well. Pipe the batter into each donut cup, filling about halfway.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges and tops are lightly browned. To test, poke your finger into the top of the donut. If the donut bounces back, they're done. Cool donuts for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Re-grease the pan and bake the remaining donut batter.

Coat the donuts: Combine the granulated sugar and spices together in a medium bowl. Once cool enough to handle, dunk both sides of each donut in the melted butter, then generously in the apple spice topping.

Donuts are best served immediately. Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Makes 12 donuts.

Mary Cokenour