Culinary Conversation: This column has reaped many friendships

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am eternally grateful for the kind comments I receive from my readers, regarding the enjoyment they reap and the friendships they have built through this column. It is so heartwarming to realize that something so simple as a food column has benefited the people within the community.

As I have repeatedly told the young homemakers whose initial cooking attempts sometimes have resulted in disaster, you are very fortunate, young ladies, despite the fact that you feel good money was spent on preparing food that turned out scarcely edible. Any young lady who experiences their disappointments early in life, also learns that their youth will allow them another chance at grasping hold of that brass ring before it spins out of reach … an option often denied the older generation.

The ladies I pity are those of middle age who have had kitchen privileges withheld, for this is an opportunity that should not be denied anyone … especially of the female sect. Should your chief cook and bottle washer suffer an early demise, the family members left behind are going to be up the creek without a paddle; for they will be helpless when it comes to meal preparation. Is this fair to those left behind? Once hunger begins to gnaw away and finances become limited … they will have no option and will be destined to live on a continual diet of warmed up canned food or go hungry. The very thought of this is distasteful to say the least, much less would it allow me to rest in peace.

Today’s first recipe brings back a myriad of memories, all of which are pleasant. Years and years ago I was introduced to this dish by my new mother-in-law. I remember feeling absolutely ecstatic when this new woman in my life actually offered to guide me through the recipe as I prepared my first batch. Perhaps that is what sealed the bond between us … who knows?


2 gallons green tomatoes
8 medium sized green peppers
8 medium sized onions
1 medium head cabbage
1 cup coarse salt
3 cups brown sugar
2 quarts vinegar
3 tablespoons mixed spices
1 tablespoon white mustard seed

Mix the chopped tomatoes thoroughly with the salt, then allow them to stand for a good three to four hours. Turn into a colander and proceed to press out and discard the liquid. Combine the pulp along with just the other vegetables, then add the mustard seed, vinegar and sugar and heat up this mixture JUST to the boiling point, then immediately pack into hot sterilized jars and seal with either glass or enamel lined lids.

Food Facts: Sweet peppers are not only an excellent low calorie source of vitamins A and C, they are also related to chilies or hot peppers and are native to the western hemisphere. Their name was given to them by Spanish explorers who confused them with the totally unrelated peppercorn. Depending on the degree of ripeness, bell peppers range in color from green to yellow to red. Those picked while green will not become red, because peppers ripen only on the vine. They tend to grow much sweeter as they ripen, so this is the reason the red are sweeter than the yellow, and the yellow sweeter than the green. A half-cup serving of peppers contains only 12 calories.

Homemaker’s Hint: Many fires actually begin in the kitchen, and a number occur when a sleeve is ignited as someone reaches across a burner. Potholders, aprons and dish towels are especially vulnerable and often act as the kindling for kitchen fires. Special smoke detectors available for use in the kitchen allow a moderate amount of smoke from cooking before they become activated.

I don’t know about the majority of you homemakers, but I happen to have been raised in a generation when money was exceptionally tight and you learned to save every thing from a ball of string to leftover meat, vegetable and poultry broths. You learned to stretch a dollar until it rebelled! As a child, I remember how fortunate the oldest sibling was … for they got to wear new clothing. Perhaps this is why I was so vehement and determined to accompany my sister on shopping sprees, for I knew I was going to end up next in line to wear the same garment and wished to have some say so in the styles and colors she chose. My father was never involved in these girlie choices of clothing, but he did put his foot down when it came to footwear. He didn’t stop for fashion, he shopped purely for quality. Our feet were dutifully viewed in the shoe store’s x-ray machine and fitted accordingly to make certain they would support our feet properly. Oh, how I hated them … but now I realize he spared us of future foot problems.

Broccoli Soup

1 large onion, diced
several garlic cloves, crushed
2 pounds broccoli, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons canola oil
8 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh dill
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In your soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in oil for approximately five minutes or until browned. Add the water, right along with the potatoes, and proceed to boil this mixture for a good 15 minutes until the potatoes test tender. Add the broccoli and continue boiling for an additional 5 minutes. Blend 3/4 of the soup until creamy. Return to the soup pot. Add the spices, heat through and serve.

Food Facts: Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin A and foliate. It contains significant amounts of protein, calcium, iron and other minerals and is rich in bioflavonoid and other plant chemicals that can protect us from cancer … all of this and yet it ranks low in calories and high in fiber.

Homemaker’s Hint: Always endeavor to cook your vegetables at the lowerst temperature possible; for this not only helps to keep the vegetables whole; but maintains a maximum amount of their nutrients.

Believe it or Not: It was the year 1893 when the first completely electric kitchen went on display at the Chicago World’s Fair. It featured a range, broiler and tea kettles.

Fuel your body at regularly scheduled intervals and you won’t be setting yourself up for that ferocious hunger drive you find yourself dealing with at 7 p.m. every night. Good or bad food is not often so much of an issue as about our overloading of the high fat, low fiber, high fat calorie foods that is creating one of the problems that the majority of us face … Obesity!

I doubt very much that there are any amongst us who have not, at one time or another, experienced that feeling of simply wanting to stuff some food into our mouth. It does not have too be because you are late in eating a regular meal or skipped a meal. Perhaps it is just a brief food commercial that flips across the television screen, listening to your neighbor extol the virtues of that new restaurant in town, or simply the undeniable hunger that assails us after a hard day’s work. With all of our modern technology, we can now prepare in minutes what used to take our forefathers hours to prepare. The next time you prepare a hearty casserole, double your ingredients and make two casseroles and then freeze the second one. That frozen casserole can be popped in the oven, timer set and by the time you return home from work; all you have to do is wash your hands, seat yourself at the table and enjoy the rewards of your pre-planned endeavor. It has all of the eloquence of homemade goodness, in less than half the time; and you don’t even have to forfeit the price of a tip. Now that I have hopefully whet your appetite, let’s lead off with some old familiar casseroles.

Potato Casserole

6 potatoes, cooked and grated
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 green onions, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the butter and spoon into a good sized casserole. Pour the butter over the top and bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on the top in a 400 degree oven.

Food Facts: Did you know that potatoes are nutritious, yet amazingly low in calories? If they are eaten with the skin, they run high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. One medium sized potato in its skin provides 25 milligrams; and this is actually more than 40 percent of the adult recommended dietary allowance.

Homemaker’s Hint: Please … Do save your vegetables from drowning in hot water! The less water used, the less flavor and texture that are lost, as well as water soluble vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Steaming your veggies, I feel, is so much more nutritious!

Rhonda, so happy that you find this column beneficial! Here is the recipe you requested for …

Beer Bread

2 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 – 12 ounce beer, chilled or at least at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a  9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Place your flour in the bowl, then add beer and stir it using a rubber spatula. Do not over stir it. Simply stir it enough so that you know it is well mixed and the flour is completely moistened. Place this batter into a prepared pan and bake it for 50-55 minutes or until the top of the loaf is lightly browned. You will notice that by this time the sides have begun to pull away from the pan. Insert a pick, in the center of the loaf and if it comes out clean it is done. Immediately place the pan to cool atop a wire rack and allow a good five minutes before turning the loaf out of the pan and onto a rack to cool.

(Note: The gentleman reader who sent me this recipe said he often mixes the flour in this recipe with a half cup or so of finely sliced onions. When I tried this recipe … I used the beer and a bit of bacon seasoning as well; and it turned out quite tasty! … Lou)

Ella … In response to your question regarding mushrooms, yes I myself dearly love them; especially when I treat myself rarely to broiling a steak. I readily must admit that I chicken out and do NOT pick them out myself! I Do not trust MY expertise to do so, for I feel personally … not speaking for anyone else the differences are so minute I could very easily choose in error and end up six feet under! I have been told but I am not certain why you should avoid picking them after the rain.

** Should some of you mushroom pros out there care to enlighten us on this subject please do not “withhold any of your comments” for I will be happy to include them in this column. Meanwhile, any worthwhile information I can come upon … I will endeavor to enlighten through this column.

From another reader … Daisy M., comes this next recipe. Sounds good Mrs.  M., and you can rest assured … I shall try it!

Apple Filled Stack Cake

1/2  cup Crisco
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine the Crisco, sugar, molasses and eggs and cream together this mixture until it becomes very light and fluffy. Then combine the dry ingredients and add them to the first mixture. Blend them together extremely well, then place under refrigeration to thoroughly chill. Divide into five portions and proceed to place them into 5 well-greased cake pans. Bake for 8-10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Spread the following apple filling over these warm layers … then stack the layers and you will end up with a five layer cake.

Apple Filling

2 – 8 ounce packages dried apples
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
several teaspoons ground cinnamon
1//2 teaspoon ground allspice

Cover your apples with water, then cook them just until tender. This may take up to 20 minutes. Drain the apples well and while they are still hot, add  the remainder of the ingredients until all of the sugar is completely dissolved. (This recipe yields four cups. This is a good recipe to have on hand for autumn.)

Lastly, I am going to embark on a very touchy subject between those with the youthful glow of adolescence and we, with the silvery locks that adorn the lanes of memories. Hold tight to the recipes passed down from your forefathers, for within each memorable bite … bloom all the joys and thoughts you experienced in your childhood; and these are the richest joys that life can give!

From the incoming mail I receive I have deducted that approximately one out of three women, and one out of six men, are frantically endeavoring to follow some type of weight loss diet. Perhaps I am wrong, but I sincerely believe that if you consume less than 1,200 calories daily, there is virtually no chance that you will be reaping sufficient micronutrients from just your food alone. Never lose sight of the fact that fiber is your very best friend for it acts as an appetite suppressant, has few or no calories, makes you feel full because of its pure bulk, stabilizes your blood sugar so that your moods don’t swing too wildly between highs and lows. All of this, and it also slows the absorption of carbohydrates!

Culinary Conversation encourages reader’s recipe contributions and requests, helpful hints and timely trivia. Simply phone them to (269) 683-7266 or mail them to 527 Philip Rd. Thank you!