Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Celebrating Bake Cookies Day.

December 18th is Bake Cookies Day according to Good Housekeeping.  On May 2, 1885, Clark W. Bryan, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, founded Good Housekeeping as a bi-weekly magazine; and became a monthly publication in 1891.  Good Housekeeping has been the go-to magazine for American women, providing information on trends, real-life and fiction stories, advice, recipes and product recommendations.  So, if they say that there is a day dedicated to baking cookies, who is going to argue with that?

Pizzelle, also known as Italian Waffle cookies, can trace their origin back to 9th century Rome.  They are a popular cookie around Christmas time, with a snowflake design on one side; sometimes a second design on the reverse side.  Simple ingredients of sugar, eggs, flour, and butter, or oil, are used; personally, I believe using butter gives the cookies a better flavor and texture.  Flavorings are generally vanilla, anise, lemon, caramel or chocolate.  As with Black and White Cookies (a May 2018 article in the San Juan Record), a pizzella (singular) can have a combination of half vanilla, half chocolate. You can always be daring and add mint extract to the chocolate batter or finely crushed hazelnut meal to the flour. Think of this as using a basic cookie dough, or in this case, batter, recipe and adding your imagination.

Depending on the variations in ingredient amounts, and cooking times on the pizzelle press, the cookies can be either hard and crisp or soft and chewy. They are seen often at Italian weddings, rolled into a cone and filled with cannoli cream (ricotta cheese mixed with sugar). As a sandwich cookie, a filling of cannoli cream or hazelnut spread can be smeared between two cookies. However, the hard and crisp variety is too delicate to withstand a layer of firm ice cream for a sandwich; but is delicious as a crushed topping instead.  Although, a thicker made pizzella is exactly what is used to make those waffle cones you get at the local ice cream shoppes.

The average price, for a pizzelle press, is $50 and can create 2-4 pizzelle, depending on the size in diameter being "baked". There is also a variety of designs that can be pressed upon the batter; the most popular being a snowflake or star.  If you are not inclined to buy a press and make your own pizzelle; the cookies are usually available in the bakery section of major supermarkets; or online stores.

A serving of six (4 inch) cookies is about 140 calories, containing 6 grams of fat and 19 grams of carbohydrates. Pair this with fresh fruit and it makes an excellent meal in itself.  If this does not entice you, then I am clueless as to what will.  Enjoy!

Basic Vanilla Pizzelle


3 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder


In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until fluffy and a yellow color. Make sure the butter has cooled to room temperature before adding into the egg mixture; this will keep the eggs from curdling. Add the vanilla extract; do not over mix.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and gently fold into the wet ingredients until well incorporated.

Follow the instructions on the pizzelle press for batter measurements and proper cooking time. When done, remove to a wire rack for cooling.

Makes 2-3 dozen depending on size made.

Mary Cokenour



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Big Pot of Louisiana Cuisine

Halloween has come and gone, and the dentists’ offices are making appointments by the boatload.  All those sugary treats definitely played tricks on the teeth of many.  The next autumn holiday, sorry, yes, we are still, technically, in the fall season, is Thanksgiving.  Typically, we will begin seeing recipes on turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing/dressing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.  We have our family favorites; we do the traditional Thanksgiving array. So, I am going down the road less traveled once again, and giving you something completely different.

Creole Cuisine originated in Louisiana, primarily in the New Orleans area; it is a melting pot of various cuisines: French, Portuguese, Spanish, Canadian (the Acadians, known for “Cajun” cuisine), Caribbean, Italian, Greek, Southern USA Native American, West Indies and African. These cultures were able to come together due to the various slave trade routes; the enslaved people brought, not just their cultures to the United States, but their cuisines.

A basic ingredient for many Creole dishes is a roux. A roux, French for “brown sauce,” is a base used for gravies and sauces in Creole cuisine.  When making a roux, using a saucepan or a skillet is dependent upon what recipe is being made, and how much is needed. It begins with equal parts of a fat (oil, butter, lard, etc.) and flour; the fat is heated on medium heat. The flour is stirred in until well incorporated and the mixture is smooth. The color of the roux is dependent upon the flavor desired for the recipe, so can be lightly browned to dark brown; this can take 15-30 minutes. The mixture must be continually stirred and watched; if any black flakes appear, it has burned and must be started over. Once the desired color is achieved, additional ingredients can then be added such as broth (stock), milk, cream, herbs, seasonings, etc.

Jambalaya is a Louisiana classic which can be claimed by the Creoles when it has tomatoes in it, or the Cajuns when it does not. Either way, jambalaya consists of rice that has been cooked with shrimp, oysters, spicy sausage, ham, or chicken; seasoned with spices and herbs.  It is similar to Spanish paella, popular at fairs and social events, and can be easily made in large quantities. It can be also equated to the children's story, "Stone Soup" where a little bit of this and that added to a large pot makes a wonderful meal for all. Any way you want to look at jambalaya, it is a classic feast that pleases everyone.




4 Tbsp. peanut oil

½ lb. spicy sausage (Chorizo, Andouille or hot Italian), cut into ½ pieces

½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½” pieces

½ cup each of diced celery, onion, red bell pepper

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. each minced fresh leaves of sage, thyme and parsley

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

2 diced jalapeno peppers

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup long grain rice

½ lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined

¼ cup diced green onion


In a large, deep skillet; heat oil on medium-high heat; brown sausage and chicken pieces; about 7 minutes. Mix in celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic and herbs; let cook for 5 minutes.

Mix in tomatoes, paste, jalapenos, broth and rice; bring to a boil. Stir together, cover and reduce heat to low; let cook for 30 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook additional 5 minutes. Garnish with diced green onion.

Makes 6 servings.

Now, since jambalaya can be either Creole or Cajun influenced, here is something simply Creole, again, easy to create, and so very delicious in texture and flavor.  First things first, the seasoning mixture to make it all come together.

Creole Seasoning Mix

While salt is usually part of this mix; it is up to the person making it to decide how much to put in. If you like it salty, start with two tablespoons and add more if desired; or add less, or leave it out altogether; the cook is the boss.


2 Tbsp. each of onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried basil

1 Tbsp. each of dried thyme, black and white peppercorns, dried cayenne pepper and celery seed

5 Tbsp. paprika


Using a blender, food processor, mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (labelled for herbs and spices only); grind all the ingredients together till well blended. Store in an air tight container. Makes 1 cup.


Shrimp Creole

This dish is often served over rice, but can be served over grits, polenta or mashed potatoes.


3 Tbsp. olive oil

½ cup each of diced green bell peppers, onions and celery

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

3 Tbsp. flour

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp. hot sauce (add more if more heat desired)

1 Tbsp. Creole Seasoning Mix (add more if more spice desired)

2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (Yes!  Chicken can be used instead)


In a large skillet, on medium heat, heat oil; add in peppers, onions, celery and garlic; sauté for 10 minutes. Add in flour and stir till well incorporated.

Add in tomatoes and hot sauce; reduce heat to low and cover; cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in seasoning mix and shrimp; cook an additional 5 minutes (shrimp will turn pink and be opaque inside).

Makes 8 servings.

The other cuisine, that is a staple of Louisiana, is Cajun. While Creole is a hodgepodge of different backgrounds, Cajuns hail from their Canadian ancestors, the Acadians.

I was introduced to Cajun cuisine by a former neighbor of mine, David Prudhomme, who happens to be a nephew of the famous chef, Paul Prudhomme. David, and his wife Sharon, owned The Lost Cajun Kitchen, once located in Columbia, PA. They have since retired, sold the restaurant, but still cook up homemade Cajun dishes.  Their restaurant is where I first tried a dish that I never thought I would ever have, alligator. Alligator, if cooked properly, is tender, and I believe it tastes like shrimp.  

Here is my take on a Cajun dish, Etouffee, which means "smothered. Normally is it made with crawfish, but good luck finding them, so I used shrimp instead.



(A Cajun dish normally done with crawfish, but works well with shrimp, scallops, langoustines or lobster; only one type of shellfish or scallops should be used for this dish.)


8 Tbsp. butter

½ cup each diced green bell pepper and onion

¼ cup diced green onions, including tops

5 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (add more if more heat desired)

¼ tsp. each salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano and thyme

2 cups hot water

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 lb. of shellfish (peeled and deveined) or scallops (foot removed)


Melt butter, over medium-high heat, in a large skillet; sauté bell pepper and onions until peppers are soft and onions translucent, about 10 minutes.

While vegetables are sautéing, in a small bowl mix together flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, black pepper, oregano and thyme. Stir this mixture into the skillet and continue to stir as it bubbles to keep from clumping or burning.

Add one cup of water and mix thoroughly; repeat with 2nd cup of water. Stir in parsley and garlic; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, add in seafood, cover and let cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on seafood used.  Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour




Sunday, November 13, 2022

French Toast and Onion Rings - A Love Story.

 In October, Roy and I celebrated 19 years of togetherness, and that anniversary day began in an interesting way.  In desperation, a coworker had texted him about not understanding some duties of the third shift.  After coming home, from helping his coworker, well the dogs had to make the huge announcement, and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, out of a lovely dream.  6am, on a Saturday morning, but it was our anniversary, and the Fates had a plan.

We suddenly began to reminisce about the third shift jobs we had back in Pennsylvania.  While we enjoyed working by ourselves, or we only another coworker present, it was a difficult life at times.  While the world outside was in full swing during the daylight hours, we were sleeping it all away.  Our next-door neighbor, retired, would wake us at 2pm daily, using a leaf blower to clean his driveway which was across from our bedroom. Oh yes, we spoke to him about it, but even though he, himself, had been a third shift worker, he was retired, and, “no one can tell me what to do anymore”. 

There was one thing though, that made our lives a bit special, every Saturday morning, between the hours of 2am-4am, a meal at Jennie’s Diner.  It was located on Highway 30, open 24/7, considered a dive by tourists, but loved by all locals.  The waitresses were sassy, yet sweet; the food was comforting and better than any a five-star restaurant could serve.  Some dinner items were still available, and the breakfast menu was full of the most delicious choices and combos.  Lancaster County was still farming country, at that time, so a full, hearty, yet heart stopping meal, was still looked forward to.

Saturday mornings, at these ungodly hours, were the time for the third shifters, long haul truckers, and Friday night (oh, so drunk party goers) to get together.  Each booth had a small jukebox, songs were a quarter each, or 5 for a buck; and the Saturday morning crowd had favorites.  Everyone, and I mean even the police that came in for their meal breaks, sang along!  “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” was a personal favorite, but when Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” came on, oh, the place erupted loudly in song.  It was not unusual to see someone get up, walk up and down the aisle, leading us like a symphony conductor.  Surprisingly, we were all in tune, and cheered when the song ended.  Talk about, “it was the best of times”! (Please, someone get the A Tale of Two Cities reference)


So, while reminiscing, Roy remembered that once, he had ordered French toast and onion rings; and a man sitting at another booth exclaimed, “Hey, just hearing that order is giving me a heart attack”.  Technically, it was our dinner time, but, again, only a few dinner items were available, the rest was from the breakfast menu.  Then it dawned on both of us, didn’t we have a bag of frozen onion rings in the freezer?  Oh yes, we did, and I had just purchased a loaf of Sara Lee’s Artesano Brioche bread, eggs and milk from the local market the day before.  It was our anniversary, and we were going to recreate that French toast and onion rings meal.  I guess this is where, those previous references to French toast, were all leading towards.

After cooking, eating and cleanup, and yes, we sang “Sweet Caroline” in tune, we both agreed that this was the start of the best anniversary day ever!  Later on, we took the drive up, the only paved road, up into the mountains, down Harts Draw Road, along Route 211.  Of course, many stops were made for photography, or to just take in the most beautiful scenery.  That night, pizza, chips and onion dip were enjoyed during our usual Saturday night anime marathon.  Yeppers, best anniversary day ever!


Being together, for 19 years now, we have realized that memories, making wonderful memories together, is what keeps our togetherness alive.  Of course, there have been bad times, no relationship is 100% perfect; well, maybe except for Barbie and Ken’s, but they’re an inanimate couple anyway.  We are grateful for each other; we cherish each day we were given, to be together; and now we wake up each day, and wonder what year number 20 will throw at us.

French Toast


2 cups milk

4 eggs

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract (not needed if brioche or challah bread is being used)

6 slices thick style bread





In a wide, one-inch deep, bowl, whisk together milk and eggs (and vanilla if needed).  Place two slices of bread into bowl.  At this time, place stove top griddle pan on medium-high heat; or turn on electric flat top griddle to 350F.

Flip over bread in bowl, sprinkle cinnamon on top; place bread on griddle, cinnamon side down, and sprinkle more cinnamon on top side.  Griddles are usually non-stick, but if not, melt two teaspoons of butter, and spread across griddle before placing bread on top.  Cook for 5 minutes, flip, and cook another 5 minutes.  While doing the 2nd-5 minutes, I usually place a half teaspoon, of butter, on top, and just let it melt into the browned side of the French toast.

Also, begin prepping the next two slices of bread; remove finished slices, add more butter to griddle, if needed, and begin cooking the new slices.  Repeat instructions for first two slices till done with all. Pour syrup over, and enjoy!

Makes 2 or 3 servings, depending on how many slices you consider a serving to be.

Mary Cokenour