Friday, December 31, 2010

Hot Buttered Rum at Home

Since Mom already kicked off the holiday season with some of her own homemade favorites, I thought I'd contribute my own recipe for Hot Buttered Rum batter. I'm not normally a rum drinker, but discovered this particular elixir after a long day spent snowboarding, some years ago.

So here's how you make your own incredibly scrumptious and decadent batter, at home. Then you don't have to worry about driving, afterwards, either...

As always, feel free to experiment with your own variations, add a little extra of whatever you like, or take out whatever you don't.


1 qt good vanilla ice cream, thawed til gooey (For this, I like to use the kind made w/ eggs, and good like Schwan's -- not quite as good as Haagen-Daaz)
1 lb. softened, salted butter
1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb.powdered sugar
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 T ground cinnamon

All amounts are approximate.

Cream the sugar and spices into the soft butter, then cream into the softened ice cream. Generally, I'll warm everything in a double boiler until the mixture is smooth and there's no grainy bits of the brown sugar, because it's completely dissolved. Sometimes, I'll omit the confectioner's sugar, because I don't happen to have any in the cupboard, too, for that matter -- so I just add in a little more brown sugar, instead.

You take a big dollop of the batter (more or less depending on taste) and plop into your favorite mug. Pour a healthy splash of Myers Dark Rum over it (at least an ounce, I prefer two) Fill with boiling water, then stir gently - you want that foamy goodness on top to sip rum through.

Top with a sprinkle of fresh-ground nutmeg, and/or garnish with a cinnamon stick, if you feel a little fancy.

Repeat until you need to put your head down somewhere soft. Store the leftover batter in your fridge—it'll generally keep a lot longer than it will actually last. If you have worries on that score, though, you can store it in the freezer quite easily and almost indefinitely.

Happy New Year, eveyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Smoked Salmon Chowder (local to Boundary Bay Brewpub)

There's a local Brewpub called Boundary Bay that makes the most incredible Smoked Salmon Chowder. And since we did a roasted chicken with cornbread dressing and all the other trimmings just last month, we decided our Christmas meal might be a good bit simpler, leaving us time for a hike this afternoon.

Here's the infamous chowder recipe—slightly modified—since we're not feeding an army, we've scaled the portions down from the original recipe linked above. Measurements are approximate--so feel free to adjust as needed:

2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 T fresh chopped garlic
1 1/2 cup clam juice
1 1/2 cup white wine (we're using SilverLake Sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup smoked salmon (approx) I like VIS Seafoods' traditional smoked salmon

In a large, heavy-bottom Dutch oven, sauce or stock pan (5 quart is the size I use) combine the wine, clam juice, and thyme. Add the diced vegetables and boil until tender. Reduce heat to a simmer.
Warm the cream (you can actually do this in a microwave - but be careful not to boil or scald, and if you're aghast at the calories, you can use whole milk). Melt the stick of butter, whisk the flour into the melted butter to make a roux, (keep your heat low, you're looking for white-to-blond roux, not darker—so be careful not to brown the butter or flour) and add in the warmed cream. 
Making sure the clam juice/wine/veggie mix is not actually boiling, add the cream roux into the soup pot, stirring gently. Add the flaked salmon. Let simmer another 15 minutes or so, then serve. This is marvelous in bread bowls, or with crusty hunks of warmed baguette, and the rest of that bottle of white wine you used in the chowder stock.

Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dessert Again

The weather has warmed back up here in Texas, 72 degrees on the 10th of December, WOW!! So, I'm not thinking hot drinks, today. I do have a wonderful recipe for a cake that is great for the holidays when you're having friends over. Don't want to do this for just a few people. It is super rich and about a thousand calories per bite, but double yummy. it really easy and pretty impressive tasting. Company raves about it. As a matter of fact, the recipe is called "Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake", but I'm not sure about that claim. You be the judge.


One box of German chocolate cake mix (mix & bake according to the package
directions,in a 9"x13" pan.)
1 can of Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 jar of caramel ice cream topping
1 bag toffee chips
1 tub of Cool Chip (can use low fat and sugar free)

When the cake is baked and cooled, poke holes in it over the entire surface about 1 inch apart. You can use a wooden spoon handle or use your fingers. Nobody will know.

Pour the can of Eagle Brand over the entire surface and allow to soak in.

Top that with the caramel topping and sprinkle with toffee bits to your preference.

Frost that with the Cool Whip and sprinkle on more toffee bits.

Chill in refrigerator for a couple of hours before cutting.

Be prepared for it to disappear quickly.

This one is okay for Kids, except for a possible sugar high.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

As promised, here is my Kahlua recipe. Easy, inexpensive, and very good. Also not recommended or suitable for children. Try a little Kahlua and cream over ice. Or my favorite way to use it is as a topping for chocolate ice cream. It's also good in coffee or hot chocolate.

Homemade Kahlua
2 cup water
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 ½ T instant coffee (I use instant espresso powder)
1 ½ T vanilla extract
1 tsp caramel syrup coffee flavoring
1 tsp rum extract (or real rum)
2 cup vodka
· Heat first three ingredients over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved
· Stir vodka and flavorings
· Cover until cooled to room temperature (very important to cover to keep the alcohol from evaropating.)
· Store in dark colored, screw-top 750 ml bottle
· Cure for 30 days(If you can stand it)

Baked Ziti

Gotta love Italian food too. Here's a requested recipe. Love it when you all read the blog and comment.


1 16oz pkg. ziti
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
28 ounces pasta sauce (okay to use bottle sauce or make your own if you don't mind the extra work)
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (either fresh grated or the other kind)
1 cup ricotta cheese (can substitute cottage cheese if necessary)
6 ounces mozzerella cheese, grated
Non stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make ziti according to directions on the package, be careful not to overcook. [...because nobody likes soggy noodles -- ed. note]
Drain well.
In a bowl, mix pasta and olive oil until pasta is well coated.
Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Pour pasta sauce in the bowl with the pasta and oil and mix well. spread 1/2 the pasta mixture into the baking dish.

Mix the egg, ricotta and Pamesan cheese in a separate bowl. Spoon this mixture over the pasta and top with 1/2 of the mozzerella cheese. Spread the remaining pasta mixture for a second layer. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzerella over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until bubbling hot. Serves about 6.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm Bread Pudding w/Bourbon Sauce

Since I confessed to the world that I like bourbon, I probably should share another favorite recipe. This is a New Orleans Style Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. YUM!!
After typing this out, I'm going to make a batch, just for me, cause I can.


1 pound of French Bread (the firmer,the better)
3-1/4 cups milk
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup raisins (raisins and pecans are optional)

Tear the bread into medium pieces (about 1 inch cubes). Add cinnamon and sugar, toss lightly. Mix milk and lightly beaten eggs and vanilla and add to bread mixture. Place 1/2 of mixture in buttered casserole dish. Layer pecans and raisins, if used. Top with rest of mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes of until lightly browned. Serve warm with warm Bourbon sauce. (If you have leftovers, it microwaves great for re-warming).


1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablspoon Bourbon (I must confess, I find a tablespoon rather insipid. I use a good 1/4 of a cup).
What can I say, I like the taste of Bourbon, Also, I usually double the recipe, because the sauce is wonderful. The bread pudding is good, but, just something to pour the sauce on.

This is also not necessarily recommended or suitable for children. While the alcohol boils away, it still has the wonderful bourbon flavor.

In a sauce pan, mix all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Serve warm over warm bread pudding.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cold Weather Thoughts

With the onset of the Holiday Season and colder weather, I'm thinking fireplace and warm drinks. One of my favorite warm drinks is Irish coffee. There is nothing like sitting by the fireplace, with a warm Irish Coffee, watching 'Miracle on 34Th Street', or 'A Christmas Carol'. Yep, you guessed it, I'm a Christmas junkie. I start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day and watching my collection of Christmas DVD's until my husband threatens to demolish the TV. But, I remind him it's only one season of the year and what a glorious Reason for the season, and pass him another cup.
I want to share my recipe for Irish Creme for those of you who enjoy a warm pick me up on occasion.


14 oz Eagle Brand milk
4 whole eggs
1 cup dark rum OR brandy OR bourbon (I like bourbon)
2 Tablespoons strong, cold coffee (I have used 1 tablespoon of instant coffee powder)
1 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract


Combine all ingredients in blender. Mix 30 seconds on medium. Bottle and refrigerate - keeps up to 3 weeks.

Add for strength desired to cup of hot coffee and enjoy. Also good over ice with a little milk or cream added. This is NOT suitable or recommended for children.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mexican Cornbread, redux

Remember last year, when we talked about Mexican Cornbread? Yep. That's what's for dinner.

I've been out at the barn, trimming horses and giving riding lessons all day. When I got home I was tired, stiff, cold, and it just sounded SO GOOD.

Happy Autumn, everyone. I love this time of year best of all, so I expect I'll be posting rather more than least until the winter rains set in on us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Never Fail Chocolate Cake

Wow! Where did summer go? It's canning season for those of us who do that. I don't do as much as I used to when my children were at home, but there's always something I like home canned. This year, we gathered buffalo berries. They've been in short supply for the last couple of years due to lack of moisture in our area. Buffalo Berry Jelly is always a treat. We did make jelly and will be sending to the girls. I also made Wild Huckleberry Jam, yum, my favorite. Our tomatoes are producing, so I've been canning tomato juice cocktail. Now it 's time for my 30 day friendship cake. Doing all this doesn't leave a lot of energy or time for actual cooking of meals and desserts.

One of my favorite recipes that doesn't take a lot of energy or time, while I'm being productive, is the Never Fail Chocolate Cake. Super easy. Just dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mix and cook. No extra sifting or blending needed.

It truly is never-fail. I remember once in my younger years, I had mixed it up and put it in the oven and about ten minutes later suddenly remembered I had forgotten to put in the soda. I quickly dumped the batter back into a bowl , added the soda and put it back in to bake. It baked just fine with no problems, raised nicely and tasted wonderful. Being chocolate, what more could a chocoholic ask for. Of course, this is not the recommended method for baking. This is also a good recipe to start kids out on for guaranteed success. Try it and enjoy.


1 cup hot water
1 cup sour milk (if you don't have sour milk, add 1 tablespoon vinegar OR lemon juice to sweet milk, stir and let sit a minute)
1cup butter or shortening
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 or 3 eggs (3 if you have them, but 2 will work, so don't run to the store for an egg.)

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a greased, floured 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until tooth pick comes out clean.
If you turn out while hot, onto waxed paper, it makes good brownies, too. I usually just go for cake and frost with the following frosting. (my husband doesn't like brownies, but really goes for cake with frosting.)


1/2 cup shortening or oil
1/3 c milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift dry ingredients into moist ingredients and mix well. Add more powdered sugar or milk, if needed, to make spreading consistency.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Salad

It's been a while, but I have a fun recipe for a salad that is perfect for a cookout, picnic or at the table. Before Summer is over, I wanted to share this easy recipe. Especially good with hot dogs or burgers. It is easy and very tasty and usually kids love it because it is full of fritos.


1 can kidney beans-do not drain
1/4 of an onion shopped
1/4 of a green pepper chopped
1/2 tomato chopped
1/2 small bottle Catalina dressing

Mix all ingredients together and leave to marinate for a couple of hours or more.
About 1/2 to 1 hour before serving, add 1/2 bag of Frito Corn Chips.

You can adjust the vegies in the salad if you prefer more than are called for.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summertime Slaw!

Let's talk about cool summer dishes. I grew up with coleslaw, and always liked it. These days, I'm more likely to swing by KFC and pick up a quart of their slaw than to make it at home, though, and I recently realized that just wasn't working for me. In part, because I really like to know what's in the food I'm eating.

Lucky for me, coleslaw is one of those dead-easy dishes that will forgive you while you practice. In fact, the toughest part of slaw is the dressing. Once you've added a yummy, zesty slaw dressing to your recipe repertoire.

Let's talk first about a couple of decisions you'll need to make. I'm a huge fan of shredding my own cabbage, and shredding it with a knife. I'll happily use the grater for the carrots, jicama, or anything else I decide to add to my slaw, but I hand-shred the cabbage. I do this for a couple of reasons:
  • It pleases me, that repetition, rhythm, and fine degree of control that I get from using a sharp knife to yield exactly the desired consistency and texture of the shredded cabbage.
  • The slaw-mix you can buy, pre-shredded in the plastic bag? Dried-out, tasteless, expensive.
  • That high-end Cuisanart food processor collecting dust in the back of the high cupboard-you-never-use, over the fridge? Reduces lovely crisp cabbage to eensy-weensy shreds, and it's a pain to clean up.

So you're essentially going to fill a big bowl with assorted shredded veggies. I like to use cabbage, maybe a little purple cabbage for color, carrots, some fresh green onion, and maybe some jicama or kohlrabi, if it's available. You might find this especially pleasing if you think about the combination of colors and textures, as well as thinking about the combination of flavors. You can vary the textures by varying the sizes of shreds, and consider tossing in a handful of toasted almond slivers, pecans, or hazelnut crumbles. (The bowl of slaw pictured above is topped with a sprinkle of toasted pecan crumbles and fresh basil leaves.) If you're looking for ways to cut sugar and fat in your diet, consider adding an apple to sweeten your slaw, peeled and cored and shredded.

Another set of options to consider is how do you want to serve your slaw? If you have a little leftover steak, some salad shrimp, or maybe a nice piece of smoked salmon, consider adding that in, too, chopped or shredded as needed. You'll have a delicious and robust slaw to serve as a sandwich on crusty rolls, or in a wrap.

Now, let's talk about dressings. I grew up with traditional mayonnaise and vinegar-based slaw dressings. Neither of those is particularly difficult. The following options will dress between two and three quarts of shredded veggies waiting naked in a big bowl.

  • Use about a cup and a half of good quality mayo 
  • Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice (somewhere between two tablespoons and a quarter of a cup),
  • Add a tablespoon or so of sugar, if you like your slaw a little sweeter 
  • Add coarse-ground pepper, according to taste.  

You can experiment by adding other flavors, as well. Try experimenting with adding horseradish or coarse-ground mustard; perhaps even try some fennel, roasted garlic, or olives.

If a vinegar dressing is more to your taste, consider the kind of vinegar you'd like to use; perhaps you have a lovely balsamic or wine vinegar? Plain old cider vinegar can make a tangy and delicious dressing, too, though.

Whisk together in a bowl:

  • A half cup of good vinegar
  • A generous dollop of honey (a couple of tablespoons to a quarter of a cup)
  • A couple of spoons of stone-ground mustard
  • A pinch of celery seed
  • A little coarse pepper 
  • A couple of tablespoons of good-quality olive oil

As with the mayonnaise-based dressing, consider experimenting with other flavors you love and appreciate, like roasted garlic, red pepper, fennel, or a pinch of fresh-ground nutmeg.

Finally, the yogurt slaw dressing I've been promising people I'd post:
  • Toss your shredded veggies in about a quarter cup of fresh lemon juice
  • In another bowl, start with a cup or so of Greek-style yogurt—if this isn't readily available, it's pretty simple to make your own: simply pour a container of ordinary plain yogurt into a very fine mesh strainer over a bowl. If you con't have a chinois or cheesecloth, simply line your colander with a coffee filter. Let it drain overnight (in the refrigerator), discard the moisture that drains off and use the remaining yogurt.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of honey, if you like a sweeter slaw. (I usually skip this, since I don't have much of a sweet tooth.)
  • A couple of tablespoons of coarse-ground mustard
  • A tablespoon or two of good-quality olive-oil (helps the dressing cling and it's actually good for you) 
  • Coarse-ground pepper and a little salt, to taste.
  • Whisk smooth, then add to your shredded veggies and mix it all together with a big wooden spoon

It's that simple. Cook with stuff that's fresh. Experiment. Taste as you go. And don't be afraid.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hurray for Summer, and Happy 4th of July Potluck!

Welcome, and I hope everyone's having a lovely weekend, filled with love, good food, family, and fun. Here's hoping the weekend finds everyone well and happy! Welcome to our first ever blog potluck, and thanks so much for sharing your favorite summer celebration recipes and memories of loved ones.

We have another dish to share, this one from Haggis, over on What do you mean, I should start a blog? Haggis brings us a recipe for 1-2-3 Lemon Sherbet:
Strictly speaking, this should be called Momma and Poppa Haggis' Homemade 3-2-1 Lemon Sherbet because my sainted mother always got the ingredients ready, while my father always took care of freezing the mixture using the old hand-cranked ice cream maker. He'd pack it with ice, rock salt and a little water, then he'd burn off about a bizillion calories cranking away until it became sherbet.
Haggis says to enjoy his recipe for homemade sherbet with relish, but with people relish not pickle relish. I'm pretty sure he doesn't intend you should actually make relish out of people, because he didn't include a recipe for that part . . . But he does write horror, and with Haggis, it never pays to take these things for granted.

I got a very funny link to add, from Jamie Mason: Picnic: Or Why The Hell Are We Eating Outside?
There are a number of sturdy and standard plans we entertain that don’t hold up nearly as well once they’re launched into reality.  It’s one of the amusing things about being human.  And summer is particularly prone to showing up our big ideas for being wobbly-at-best.  For instance, the belly-flop.  Drenching the coals with lighter fluid just to get things going.  The Slip n’ Slide.  The keg stand.  The Slip n’ Slide after a keg stand.  The Speedo. 

Maria Zannini shares memories and techniques for Mexican barbacoa, over on her blog, Tales of Otherworlds:
Mexican barbeque is called barbacoa, and it's not your typical Texan fare.
Barbacoa is basically slow cooked beef. Traditionally, it is cooked in a pit, wrapped in maguey or banana leaves where the smoke and steam seal in the juices and imbue it with a flavor that's out of this world.

Marguerite Butler shares a wonderful recipe and memories of her grandmother, Fresh From the Garden, on Marguerite Says:
My grandmother was a fantastic gardener, but she didn't eat fresh vegetables.  Nana was a product of the great depression and all things were to be hoarded, even food.  Some of my earliest memories are of summer harvests and the inevitable canning process.  With only a tiny icebox, she didn't freeze things.  She canned them.  For days on end, the pressure canner and pots of boiling water roiled nonstop.  I'm talking about a Texas summer with only a little swamp cooler unit to take the sting out of the heat.

My own mom posted about Summers and Picnics, celebrating Independence Day, watermelon-rind pickles, and growing up in Texas in the 1940s:
Mom would pack up a scrumptious lunch with Southern fried chicken, roasting ears of corn to cook on the grill, potato salad, coconut cake (my Dad's favorite), and a huge watermelon. Usually we'd head for the Brazos river to spend the day, or sometimes two. Dad and the boys would fish or put out set lines for catfish. When we stayed for a couple of days, Mom would cook up the catfish and fry potatoes on the campfire. It just didn't get any better than that.
Lisa Spangenberg shares memories of her father, and the recipe for his coleslaw, on A Digital Medievalist's Commonplace Blog. I cannot help but observe again the joy and sweetness we carry around the associations we all have between food, memory, and the people beloved to us:
I loved his coleslaw. There were two things that made his coleslaw different; one, he didn't overuse mayonnaise, and two, he added nuts. At first, it was slivered almonds, or pecans, but later, after he retired, he started using macadamia nuts. I can remember him standing over the cutting board with half a head of green cabbage, and shredding it with a knife. He didn't like to use the food processor. He'd add grated carrots, a little high quality mayo, salt and pepper to taste, and last of all, the nuts.

From Trish Stewart, back from a shared camping vacation with a bunch of friends:
Jamie asked for my green bean recipe. I sent this to her, but I figured I'd forward it/share it with you guys too, and Mac, since you thought it sounded evilly delicious, I'm copying you. (try it out and feel free to share it on your cooking blog if you approve of it) (minus the extra jibberish, of course)

The runamuck version.
Get fresh green beans. I don't know how many you're feeding so all of this is going to be guessing on my end.
snip the ends (drinking all the while). soak them for a bit. (continue drinking). 
wash your hands, damn it!
put some chicken broth in the water you're boiling the beans in. I used 3 cups with way too much water at Runamuck. you could probably go half water half broth for the best result. you don't need to salt the water.
get a good boil before you put them in. while you're waiting for the water to boil fry some bacon (in a really big skillet because all the beans are going in there). 

For the amount I made at Runamuck I used 6 or 8 slices of thick-cut bacon. (drink while the bacon is cooking and you're waiting for your water to boil)
wash your hands!
Take the bacon out, and set it aside, leave the grease. 
Chop an onion put it in the bacon grease on low about 5 minutes before your half-cooked beans are ready to go in. 
wash your hands again, and take another drink. (be sure you wash your hands before you take a drink because you don't want onion bacon beverage, do you?)
Chop your cashews while you wait. ( many? many look like enough? And really, is there ever enough?)
Use tongs to get the beans outta the water. Put the beans in the pan with the bacon drippings and onion.
add about a cup (depending on how many, maybe 2) of broth/water, salt and pepper.
Again, depending on how many beans, add a couple tablespoons of butter. (at runamuck I probably added 3 tablespoons of butter, and I took another drink) 
let them cook until they are tender.
When they are done and the broth/butter/bacon drippings has reduced to a thick sauce add chopped cashews. I usually just throw in a few handfuls maybe 1/4 cup? ah....probably more than that. how's it look?
they'll get coated and toasty.
drink for the toasty cashews!
crumble up the cooked bacon.
wash your hands!
take a drink.
add the crumbled bacon (it stays crispy if you wait until the end to put it in) -->and truly this genius requires you to drink again.
top it with crumbled bleu cheese.(however much you want)
the longer it stays in the pan the gooey-er (is that a word? drink!) it'll be. 
and it does reheat well but the bleu cheese will melt entirely when you reheat it.
if you're taking it somewhere for a cookout maybe get it all done except for the bacon, bleu cheese and cashews.
if you do it that way, take the cooked beans and saucy-ness put it back in the skillet, get it hot, add the crumbled bacon, cashews and bleu cheese while you're there so you don't have to try to keep it warm and let the bacon get soggy).
drink su'more!
let me know if you have any questions about it. I just do it by taste and visual. (does that look like enough?) :)

The "extra gibberish" is far too much fun to leave off, Trish. It sounds like you all had an indecent amount of fun and amazing food at Camp Runumuck.

I'll continue posting links for everyone to enjoy as they continue trickling in. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and thank you so much for sharing your memories and recipes with us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summertime and picnics

I grew up in the 1940's during the post depression, WWII era. Even with the turmoil our nation was in, my parents always took time to make sure my 3 brothers and I appreciated the 4th of July holiday and what it stood for.

There was always a picnic with all the goodies. Mom would pack up a scrumptious lunch with Southern fried chicken, roasting ears of corn to cook on the grill, potato salad, coconut cake (my Dad's favorite), and a huge watermelon. Usually we'd head for the Brazos river to spend the day, or sometimes two. Dad and the boys would fish or put out set lines for catfish. When we stayed for a couple of days, Mom would cook up the catfish and fry potatoes on the campfire. It just didn't get any better than that.

One thing I especially remember is, when we ate the watermelon, Mom would always collect the rind and put it in the cooler to take home. We were taught to use everything that was provided and not to waste. After we got home, Mom would use the rind of the watermelon to make Watermelon Pickles. We enjoyed our 4th of July bounty into the winter.

Watermelon Pickles
The rind of one large watermelon.
Peel and remove all green and pink portions from the rind.
Cut into one inch cubes and soak overnight in salt water (4 tablespoons of salt to 1 quart of water)
Drain and cover with fresh water aand cook until almost tender

Drain the watermelon and make a syrup of:
8 Cups sugar
4 cups vinegar
8 teaspoons whole cloves
16 sticks of cinnamon
1teaspoon mustard seed
(Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag)

Heat the syrup and spices to boiling and allow to set for 15 minutes.
Add the drained rind and cook until rind is transparent.
A few minutes befor boiling time is up, you may add enough red or green food coloring to give the desired color to the pickles. This is optional, Mom never did, so I never do. Pack into hot sterilized canning jars to within 1/2" of top. Put on cap and screw band firmly tight. Process in Boiling Water Bath for 5 minutes. Should yield 6 pints.

Adding the red or green food color could make a festive touch to serve at Christmastime. You would still be enjoying the 4th of July holiday in December.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Family Traditions, Celebrations, and a Blog Potluck Invitation!

Holidays were huge fun, growing up, and the 4th of July was no exception. Not only because we got to blow things up in the driveway, but the fried chicken and potato salad, the chilled watermelon, and the fun of setting aside most of a day specifically to play—whether that meant taking the horses out,  having a water-balloon fight in the front yard, or the whole family packing a cooler and driving out to picnic under the shade of the cottonwoods in the coulee behind the house.

Part of learning to create home around myself, as an adult, was learning to honor that need to take a day off and just play. One of my favorite ways to spend any holiday is to gather up friends and acquaintances without plans, and incorporate them into the celebration. Since I don't have a big yard this year, I won't be doing a 4th of July barbecue, but I'm definitely thinking about gathering up friends and packing a cooler full of that aforementioned fried chicken and potato salad.

In that spirit, you are cordially invited to a virtual potluck celebration of family and friends and good food in time for the 4th of July weekend. If you'd like to post a link to this invitation for your own readers, please do! The more the merrier! I'll post a blog carnival round-up of everyone's posts, here, on July 2nd. 

You don't need to be a USian. Just share a favorite memory, a favorite summer recipe, or anything else summer-nostalgia-cooking related that you feel like posting about and sharing with everyone.  If you'll post a link in the comments, or email or PM your link to me in time to post the whole round-up on July 2nd, in time for the weekend. If you don't have a blog of your own, but you'd like to participate, just contact me and I'll put your piece up as a guest-post here on Creating Home.

Heh. Then someone else can volunteer to host the next one!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Unbelievable Peanut Butter Cookies

When I was a young mother raising my children, I was concerned about nutrition and being sure they ate properly and stayed healthy. Which meant not too many sweets and hold down the junk food and carbonated sodas; being sure they learned to eat a variety of vegetables and nutritious foods. But, at the same time, Moms want their kids to have reasonably healthy treats. I liked this recipe because it uses a minimum of ingredients and is simple to make and is sure better than store-bought. Of course, you're out of luck if your little ones don't like peanut butter. But, there again, I was in luck. Peanut butter was a staple at our house. My husband even learned to eat it.

Unbelievable Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (either creamy or crunchy)
1 cup sugar (I cut this to 3/4 cup and it works fine, less sweet)
1 egg

Mix peanut butter and sugar. Add egg and mix well. Roll into walnut size balls (or bigger). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with fork (dip fork in granulated sugar to help prevent sticking to cookie). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. This recipe will double very well. You may want to start out with double as the cookies disappear fast.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Eggplant!

Just a quick heads-up for any of you veggie-lovers: Over on Marguerite Says you'll find Marguerite Butler's recipe for eggplant casserole. She took mercy on us, after much pleading in the comment thread, here. I remember Mom making something similar to this casserole, with cheddar cheese, saltine crackers, onion, and yellow summer squash. This one is definitely going on my list of eggplant dishes to try.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hooray for Veggies!

One of the things I remember most fondly about my mother's kitchen is that us kids always tried at least one bite of something new. That thing where kids wrinkle up their faces and say "I don't like that!" when you know full well they've never tasted it before? There was no getting away with that, with my mom.

For example, let's talk about eggplant. (You'll also sometimes see it called aubergine, melongene or brinjal, depending on where in the great big world you're located.)

Now, eggplant is a gorgeous creation, plump and purple and slightly alien-looking, with a flavor that's delicately reminiscent of fried green tomatoes but sweeter. I love eggplant. I love it grilled, baked, on pizza, tossed in pasta, roasted, or in salads. I love eggplant.

That said, if you're feeding someone suspicious of hitherto unexperienced fruits and vegetables, here's a sure-fire way to get 'em to eat eggplant and ask for more.

To begin with, pick out a lovely specimen; the skin should readily indent under the pressure of a fingernail and retain the mark. Eggplant is primarily fresh locally in the late summer and fall in more northern climates, but you can usually find eggplant from southern California or Mexico most of the year.

This is fast and dead-easy. First, whip up a little seasoned flour. I usually take a couple of cups of flour, add some lemon pepper, seasoned salt, garlic and onion powder, and a healthy dash or three of cayenne pepper (you could use something like smoked paprika, though, and that would be yummy, too.) How much of each, you ask? I have no real idea, honestly, a couple of healthy tablespoons of everything but the salt. I'm in my forties, now, so I'm making a concerted effort to cut down on how much salt I eat; hence, the lemon pepper and cayenne. Save this recipe. I use it to cook almost anything I'm even a little suspicious of, and most meats. If it's edible, it's gonna be yummier chicken-fried.

Mix it all up in a bowl (I usually just use my fingers, but if you're fussy or don't feel like washing your hands, a fork works just fine, too.) Here's the thing that takes a little experience, though: You need to taste it, to judge the level of salt and spices. You don't have to taste a lot, because, hello...dry flour. But you can simply lick the light coating of seasoned flour from the tines of your fork. If it just tastes bland and floury, add some more seasoning.

Next, beat a couple of eggs in a bowl and add a big splash of milk. Maybe a quarter of a cup. If it's a really big eggplant and you're planning to cook the whole thing, use another egg or two.

Wash your lovely purple eggplant, peel it, and chop it into one-inch cubes or thereabout. You don't actually have to peel it, but you might want to acclimate your picky eater to the idea of eggplant before asking them to eat something that nature serves inside a deep purple skin. All washed and peeled now? Great! Toss the cubes in the bowl of eggy-milk, making sure they're thoroughly wet but not gunky. Then toss the cubes of eggplant in the seasoned flour, just lightly coating them.

Take your favorite cast iron skillet and put about a quarter of an inch of olive oil in the bottom, over medium to medium-high heat. You don't want the oil to smoke, but it should be hot enough to sizzle up if you flick dry a little flour off your fingertips into the hot oil. When your oil is hot enough, lay your pieces of eggplant into the oil. Give them a few moments to brown, then turn them and let the other side brown thoroughly. Leave enough space between the pieces of eggplant for them to brown thoroughly. If you think you need to brown the sides a little bit, go for it.

The succulent little cubes should feel quite tender when you spear 'em with fork tines to turn over, in spite of the toothsome and alluring crunch of the breading. Yep. You've just made chicken-fried eggplant.

Yay for you! Drain on a couple of layers of clean paper towels on a plate, and serve hot. Or serve warm. Or eat 'em cold out of the fridge the next morning when you're rummaging for milk to put in your coffee. I'm still not sure how I like 'em best. I do recommend not letting anyone dip them in ketchup...but if you're feeding little kids and that's how they want to do it, then hey. There are worse culinary sins.

Shall we pretend this was healthy? We shall not. Although eggplant is awfully healthy and even the olive oil is good for you, it's still basically chicken-fried. If you're curious about how healthy eggplant really is, the nutritional breakdown looks like this:

Nutritional Values
Serving Size
Fiber (g)
Fat (g)
Energy (kj)
Eggplant - raw
Baby Eggplant
4 (65g)
Eggplant - grilled
3 slices (90g)
Eggplant - fried

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mary's Bread

When my children were growing up, we lived 30 miles from a town. Needless to say, we did not run to the corner grocery to pick up a loaf of bread if we ran out. Even trying to plan ahead, there were times we ran out of things before shopping day. Fresh bread was always hard to keep on hand. Keep in mind, this is before bread machines, so we did it the old-fashioned way. Fortunately, my next door neighbors, about 3 miles away, were a colony of very friendly Hutterites. One of the ladies who worked in the bakery shared this easy recipe with me.

Mary's Bread

1/2cup warm water (approx 110 degrees)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon yeast
Mix together to activate yeast

Mix 2-1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tsp sugar
Add 1 cup flour to make batter.
Add yeast mixture and a little more flour and 3 tablespoons melted lard (I use oil or shortening)
Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (approximately 3 cups)
Knead on floured board until dough is elastic.
Place in a greased bowl and grease top and cover and let rise 1 hour - punching down every 15 minutes.
Regrease top and cover and let rise 2 hours
Cut into 3 equal parts and let rest for 20 minutes Shape to fit greased pans.
Let rise another 2 hours
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Crust will be brown and sound hollow when tapped. Recipe will double well and produce 6 loaves, using just under 5 pounds of flour. I always doubled it; because, especially in the summer, we had extra kids staying with us and the first two loaves were inhaled with fresh homemade butter.

And speaking of homemade butter, I'd like to share a poem that brings back some of my childhood memories. This is written by Rachel Friend Capehart, Neosho MO., 1908-1991

When Mama Used To Churn

Sometimes a fresh baked loaf of bread
Can cause my heart to yearn,
Because it takes me back to days
When Mama used to churn.

I loved to watch her as she sat
Holding the Dazey churn;
Turning the gears paddled the cream...
Sometimes I'd take a turn.

It did not take so very long
To make the butter come
But I could scarcely wait for it
Because I wanted some

To spread on thickly sliced fresh bread,
Oh, what a treat was mine!
Nothing tastes half so good these days,
No matter where I dine.

Doing the wash-up seemed like fun--
All offered help I spurned--
Because I washed between the bites
After Mama had churned.

Since we were in the country and had milk cows, I was able to share the experience with Mac and my other daughters. I discovered it is a lot more fun in memories than in the actual doing, but nothing equals the taste.

For those of you who have never experienced the taste of fresh homemade butter, you can do it with whipping cream and the electric mixer, although the fresh farm cream is better. Just whip the cream past the whipped stage until it makes butter. Drain the milk off (it is okay to drink), rinse the butter in cold water, kneading it, until all the milk is rinsed out; salt lightly. Spread on your fresh bread as soon as you cut the loaf and enjoy!!

I grant you, buying a block of butter and making the loaf with a bread machine is easier and less time consuming, but not nearly as satisfying as doing it the old fashiond way and sharing the experience with your children and, in my case, the grandson. Every mom should try it at least once.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Turtle cookies

Now that I have reached my "Golden Years", I look back on the years of raising my three children and one of the things I remember as being very special is being in the kitchen with my girls. They were always in the kitchen with me when I made meals or did dishes or churned butter of made special things, like cookies and breads and desserts. They were my helpers from the time they were tall enough to stand on a chair and reach the cupboards. They learned their fractions and to read from recipes. One of my favorite things was cooking with the girls. It was just fun, but they were learning life skills.

I'd like to share this recipe with Moms with young children. It is quick and easy and fun for the kids. My grandson even got into the act after he came along. They all love doing it and love the results.

Turtle Cookies

Preheat your waffle iron.

6 tablespoons cocoa OR 2 squares baking chocolate
(If you use cocoa add 2 tblsp. butter)
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tblsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Melt chocolate and butter. (If you use cocoa instead of chocolate squares, blend it into the sugar and just add the melted butter to the eggs vanilla and sugar). Beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar, add chocolate and butter. Fold in the flour. When well blended, drop by teaspoonfuls onto heated waffle iron and cook approiximately one minute.
These are great plain or dusted with powdered sugar, or if you really want a chocolate fix, frost them with the Never Fail Chocolate Icing.

1/2 cup shortening or oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (adjust for spreading consistency, if necessary.)
Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until moistened then beat with beater to proper consistency.

Moms, be patient and be prepared for a little mess and a LOT of fun with the little ones. My girls were operating the waffle iron from the start and felt like they were cooking, long before they were old enough to use the stove. If they burned a batch of cookies, no big deal, it's only four cookies. The memories are priceless.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled Salmon!

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I could not eat enough salmon to suit me, and at the time, salmon was extraordinarily reasonably-priced, in-season.

Salmon cooked outside, in the fresh Northwest air, on a charcoal grill has to be one of the finest culinary experiences available, anytime, anywhere. If you've been in the Pacific Northwest for any amount of time, you'll already be familiar with the popularity of good local fresh "salmon bbq"—it took me a little while to realize that doesn't actually mean salmon smothered in a tangy catsup-based sauce; rather, barbecued salmon is simply salmon cooked on a barbecue grill. The best part of that, of course, is that there's no need to wait for a special occasion. Salmon is healthy, delicious, and remarkably easy to prepare.

First, of course, you need a nice piece of fish. I like to plan for 6-8 ounces of fresh fish (uncooked weight) per person served. If you're serving particularly hearty eaters, though, figure 10-12 ounces. Before you decide exactly how much fish you might, you may also want to plan ahead and think about how nice it would be to have cold grilled salmon tomorrow, to top a salad or to mix with a little mayo and some capers.

There are a couple of things you need to know to buy good fish. You can find pretty reasonably-priced salmon at your local supermarket—but chances are it's going to be previously frozen. Now, that's not a deal-breaker by any means, but you want to be certain the flesh is firm and the odor isn't fishy or strong, the color should be bright and your piece of fish should smell like ocean. Whether you prefer the tail-end or the head end will depend partly on how well-done you like your salmon cooked, and whether you like your fish ever-so-slightly fattier. (Salmon fat, by the way, contains an enormous amount of extraordinarily healthy substances, so don't be worrying about the fat content, okay?) The tail-end, for example, is a good deal thinner, so will cook much more quickly. I prefer a nice thick fillet for grilling, because you can cook a single piece of fish big enough to serve everyone. If you happen to be serving a sizable group, you can most certainly grill salmon whole, as well. This is preferable, as far as I'm concerned, because cooking the fish in a single large piece gives you a little more leeway in terms of heat and cooking time.

I like to use a good natural lump charcoal, rather than briquets; again, though, you've got quite a lot of room to use your own favorite grilling technique. You can even use your propane grill and no one will give you any funny looks. If you've not grilled fish before, here's one sure-fire method that will please any salmon-lover, even that picky aunt who always tells you your marinade is a little too strong:
  • Start your charcoal about a half-hour or forty minutes before you plan to begin cooking. You want a nice, hot grill; hot enough to cook a steak, and your charcoal should be evenly and steadily glowing white on the edges.
  • Take your piece of fish out of the refrigerator and let it warm on the counter for ten or fifteen minutes. Squeeze a lemon and chop some fresh dill into a bowl, and save about half your lemon/dill mixture to use on the grill, when you turn the fish.
  • Just before you're ready to pop it onto the grill, rub the fish all over with a little olive oil, lemon, and fresh chopped dill. This is important: OIL THE FISH, NOT THE GRILL. Do I need to say that louder, or did you get it the first time? If you oil the grill, your fish will stick. Also? Don't use any salt on your raw fish. It only draws out the yummy juices before your fish ever gets to the grill.
  • No matter if you're cooking steaks or a fillet, you only want to turn the fish once, so you don't dry it out. Lay the fillet flesh-side to the grill, which should be hot enough to sear grill-marks into the yummy pink of the salmon. Don't poke at it. You only need to leave the fish flesh-side down long enough to get a good sear, then turn the fillet so the skin-side is on the grill, and baste your fish with a bit of your lemon and dill mixture.
  • Don't overcook your fish. As soon as the thickest part of your fillet begins to separate into flakes when you pull gently with a fork, your fish is done. Serve immediately, with a nice bearnaise sauce if you're feeling fancy, or wedges of lemon if you like to keep it simple.
Most of all, have fun; drink good beer or a fresh, crisp wine, and enjoy your grilled salmon with people you like spending time with. Happy spring, everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I spent about eighteen months in the late 1990s researching scone recipes. My approach to baking scones is practical rather than fussy, which means I don't use a glass or cookie cutter to shape the scones, and I don't form a circle either, because they're awkward to cut. The basic recipe can be enhanced by adding dried fruit, lemon or orange zest, or candied ginger—use your imagination. You can substitute milk for the cream, use a mixture of milk and cream, or in a pinch, use canned evaporated milk, as long as the quantity remains the same.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour with a pastry blender or fork. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
  3. If you wish to add raisins, or dried fruit, add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup now, and stir them in.
  4. In a small measuring cup combine the whipping cream (or a mixture of cream and milk), beaten egg and vanilla.
  5. Add combined liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir just until the mixture becomes a dough you can easily handle. You want to mix and handle the dough as little as possible since the more you handle it, the tougher the scones will be.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl; most of it should adhere into a single lump.
  7. Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface to mix in any odd crumbs or dry flour left in the bowl.
  8. Roll or pat out the dough into a rectangle that's about an inch to an inch and a half thick (depending on how many scones you wish to make).
  9. If you want to make the scones sparkle, lightly sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the rectangle. Cut the rectangle into six to twelve scones.
  10. Transfer the scones to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  11. Bake 375 F. for about 15 minutes, or until the scones are lightly browned.
These freeze well; I suggest removing them from the oven just as soon as they are cooked through though not quite done, cooling them, then freezing them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Basics Nostalgia

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook was my mom's go-to resource whenever she was making something new or experimental. (She just called it "the red and white checkered cookbook, and I was a teenager before I realized that wasn't actually it's official title.) It's the cookbook that taught me to cook, laboriously working my way through from Baked Alaska to Zucchini Parmesan, while my long-suffering family was obliged to consume whatever I'd attempted.

If I could only have one cookbook on my shelf, I'd want it to be this one. But I'd want one of the older editions, not any of the post 1980s editions.

The recipes have changed subtly, I suspect to make them simpler and more accessible for cooks who don't grow up with a mother who once taught Home Ec (when they still had Home Ec in high schools)—but simpler to make doesn't necessarily translate to better cooking. In fact, sometimes those two goals are diametrically opposed. I discovered this completely by accident, after buying a new copy to replace my trusty old graduation-present cookbook that went missing during a house move. I've bemoaned its loss for years, now. So imagine my utter joy when I received a trusty older edition for Christmas, this year.

Thumbing through the indexed sections, seeing the well-loved recipes I haven't made in years, was like returning to a much-loved childhood home.