Caramel Corn

In which I am “pop”arazzi.

Sometimes I make recipes and they sit in my backlog languishing there.  Sometimes it’s because the photos aren’t great.  Sometimes it’s because the recipe wasn’t that great.  Sometimes it’s because it’s so similar to something else that I feel like we all might need a little space.  Sometimes I’m just not inspired, or feel like I should remake it.  Then there are other times where I make a recipe and immediately want to share it because it was so amazing…or in this case because I downloaded the pictures from my camera and realized that my photos are WAY better than the recipe.DSCN3186.JPGThe table runner was one of my Grandma’s.  It seems seasonally appropriate and it makes me smile.DSCN3191.JPGWe air-popped rainbow colored popcorn for the popcorn.DSCN3188.JPGThe teacup is an amazing piece of Wedgwood that I found at Goodwill with 2 saucers for less than $3.  They matched another saucer I found at a different thrift shop for 60 cents.

The caramel color of this is so light because it uses white sugar and light corn syrup.  Despite getting up to temperature, nothing caramelized enough to get to that point of golden we normally see in caramel corn. This recipe was fine.  It was what it was, but seriously, check out those photos.

Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn

1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
1 tsp soda

Boil the first 5 ingredients together until 290 degrees.  Add baking soda and mix well.  Pour over popped corn and stir until well coated.

Cherry Meringue Pie

In which I prove why George Washington would NOT have cut down a cherry tree.

After teasing my family and friends with tantalizing photos of pie for Thanksgiving and because I am in a generous mood, I decided I would share my pie recipes this week.  Some of you will have seen this picture:  Thanksgiving PiesThe cherry meringue pie is the one on the top.  It is one of the best pies I’ve ever put into my mouth.  I feel like there should be some sort of fanfare before I give you the recipe for this fantastic thing.

The first thing you need to do to make this pie is really get in the right frame of mind.  I do this by waking myself up at 2 AM on Tuesday in a panic realizing that if I want pie for Thursday afternoon, I better get to the grocery store when I get home from work and spend Tuesday evening making pie crusts because I need to spend Wednesday evening and Thursday morning making pies if I want to serve pie for dessert on Thanksgiving.

I have a love/hate relationship with making pie crust.  I discussed my flaws in pastry crust with a friend of mine that used to be be a pastry chef.  She suggested that perhaps my issue was that I was trying to roll the dough when it was too cold.  I let it warm up a bit this time and had pretty good luck rolling things out this time.  The edges still cracked more than I liked and I had to do some repair work, but overall, once I talked myself into actually making the pies, the crust turned out beautifully.Pie Crust (2)I just made this pie crust in my food processor.  I didn’t feel like getting my hands in it.  Not that it really mattered because by the time I got everything kneaded and in the fridge, my hands were covered in dough anyway.

For the record, you really can make this pie in one day.  You can even make it in a couple of hours if you use a pre-made crust and your cherries aren’t frozen in a block of 8 cups.  I just do things the hard way. DSCN3345.JPG

I had some issues getting decent pictures of the finished product on a plate.  There were hungry mouths and whiskey slush involved.

Use tart cherries for this.  It provides a nice contrast to the meringue.  The meringue is cooked all the way through.  Think schaumtorte instead of lemon meringue.  It has a slightly sweet delicate crispness.

We ended up having some leftovers, but only because there were 2 other pies and a cake to choose from for dessert.  The boys opted to eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, so when my friends came over after Black Friday shopping, there was still enough for them to try it.  My neighbor also got a small piece.

The pie is so good, it’s totally worth all the self-created drama it took to make it.  Actually, the filling and the meringue are totally simple to make.  If it wasn’t for my pie crust paralysis, I might make this until all my cherries are gone.  Maybe my relationship with pie crust will improve and it will seem like less effort to create this little bit of perfection.

Cherry Meringue Pie

1 cup cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup juice
1 TB cornstarch

Make meringue with whites of 2 eggs, ½ cup sugar.  Put on top to bake with pie.  Bake in a slow oven one hour. (A slow oven is between 300 and 325, I used 325 for the first 45 minutes or so and turned it down to 300 because I didn’t want to give my crust too much color.)

Syrian Coffee Cake

In which I try to get official commentary about the heritage of this recipe, but fail.

Happy Thanksgiving!  On this very busy morning, I thought it might be nice to put something warm in your belly to prep you for the upcoming feast.  Besides, on the days you don’t have to go to work, when you are going to be in the kitchen anyway, how hard is it really to whip up a coffeecake while you sip your coffee?  We turn our heat down at night, so it’s really nice to have the oven on and hot coffee while the house is waking up. DSCN2695I have no idea what makes this coffeecake Syrian as opposed to any other nationality.  I keep meaning to ask my colleague, but never have the recipe with me at work.  I expect it’s got something to do with the cinnamon.  Or perhaps is just called Syrian because someone thought it sounded fancy.  DSCN2699I love this coffeecake. It’s cinnamony and nutty with a sort of firm crust underneath the cake.  The pecans add such a beautiful crunch to it.  It’s simple and basic, but completely wonderful.DSCN2704

I wish I had some sort of great story that went along with this cake.  I think I just made it on an ordinary day when I had time.  It did make that day a little more special.  Syrian Coffee Cake

Syrian Coffee Cake

Blend 2 cups of brown sugar, 2 cups of flour, and 1/2 cup or margarine together until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Put half of the crumbs into a 9″ square pan.

Stir 1 egg, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp baking soda into the remaining crumbs and pour into pan.  Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of nuts.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

Food media

I was listening to the Milk Street Radio Podcast about Thanksgiving where Christopher Kimball was discussing Food media with Dan Pashman of The Sporkful. Dan says as a member of the food media he feels pressured to constantly come up with new and innovative ideas in food. I had a couple of revelations:

  • If I felt like being pretentious, I could claim that I am now a member of the food media (a very insignificant member of the global scale of food media, but…)
  • I currently have no pressure to do anything new, except in the case of everything old is new again.
  • Sheryl of A Hundred Years Ago is on my wavelength as far as this goes.

So what’s my point? Eat what you want. Try new things. Just be you and don’t worry about it.

Sauerkraut In A Hurry

In which I mention that friend that wanted to be mentioned…

I have this friend that has an amazing German heritage.  Her family speaks German and sometimes when trying to talk “secretly” in front of people they will speak in German.  Her grandma forgets that I understand German also, which is why I found out that her grandma lost her teeth on the way to the birthday party.  “Ich habe meine Zahne verloren!” She exclaimed upon entering.  I tried to stifle my giggle, but tend to have a very expressive face.

I wish I had made this dish when she was coming over, but instead I made it when my brother was here.  We also have amazing German heritage, but our celebration of the culture has a lot more to do with sausages and beer than it does language.  (That might also be the Wisconsin background.  It’s pretty indistinguishable, really.)  Regardless, it’s an excuse we didn’t even need to eat brats and sauerkraut.

You are going to have to excuse these terrible pictures.  They are from the time where I was still learning how to use the basics of my camera.

DSCN2627

The sauerkraut here is not something you do in a hurry, regardless of what the recipe says.  To get it to the point where I felt it was done, it took at least a half hour, maybe longer.  Maybe their idea of a hurry was different than mine?  I mean, they are making Jell-O salads that take all day.  These are not things that a working mom can do on a limited schedule.

Ok, so taste.  Have you had a French choucroute garnie? Because it’s like that.  I’m sure that doesn’t help a lot of you.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about it.  If you don’t feel like clicking over, it’s sauerkraut, sausages, potatoes, onions, and beer all cooked together for a nice long time and best served with mustard (not the yellow stuff, the good stuff).  The long cooking time mellows the bite of the sauerkraut and everything sort of melts into each other.  This has amazing similarities to that dish, but much quicker.  It’s kind of like sauerkraut for beginners.

When you have time to make this “in a hurry” dish, you may want to put on your leiderhosen, put on some polka, make some spaetzle, and indulge.  Even if it wasn’t my brother’s favorite, I thought it was pretty darn good.Sauerkraut in A Hurry

Found on the Back: Mini Pages

There were so many great things about going to Grandma and Grandpa’s when I was a child.  I would sit at the table in their eat-in kitchen while grandma was cooking something.  The rainbows from the prisms she had in her window would dance across the walls.  I could look out the window and see the tree that I loved to climb.  Grandma would keep a stack of Mini Pages there for us to do.  When we moved Grandma and Grandpa into assisted living last fall, I found the crayon box with my name on it from when I was a child.  There were fewer colors then.  But regardless of what my kids think, the world was not black and white.

The Mini Pages were, though. I found some things from the Mini Pages on the back of some of the recipes.  Because I am unsure about copyright laws and all the stuff that goes along with it, I am providing a link to the the archived Mini Pages from 1981 about Thanksgiving.  The Mini Pages were this amazing educational tool.  There was information, puzzles, and recipes.  (I’ve made some of those recipes, the feature hot dogs pretty heavily).

This is my quick version of the sketches:img_2905

Hot Chicken Salad

In which we have a game night with some very important people.

We had friends over for games the other night. I made great-grandma’s recipe for whiskey slush (recipe to come later).  This led into a conversation about this blog and why I started it.  I commented about making my children try all of the recipes (not whiskey slush) and how sad it is that we don’t continue to make some of the recipes, but some of the recipes, like egg foo yung, should just be left in the past.  “Why doesn’t anyone eat Hot Chicken Salad any more?”  John lamented.  Our friends turned to look at him.  “What is that? I mean, I know all of those words and what they mean, but what is hot chicken salad?”  “Is there macaroni in it?” another friend asked.  “Nope.  It’s all chicken and mayo and celery and onions and peppers all cooked up together with stuff on top.  Well, one recipe is.  I have something like 4 of them and I’ve only made two at this point.”  So in honor of my friends, old and new and a long, complicated story of friendship beginning in 1986, I present to you the first of 4 recipes of hot chicken salad.DSCN2952This hot chicken salad is nostalgic in flavor and presentation.  The potato chips and swiss cheese on top screams “your grandma made this.”  She probably did, depending on the age of your grandma.  This is the sort of food that would’ve been served in elementary school cafeterias while I was growing up.  It probably made its way onto the buffet table at church potlucks in towns all over America.  Diners would put this on their menu as as a daily special.  It’s like the chicken equivalent of a tuna melt.  DSCN2954This is the innocent food of a time we think of as simpler than the times we have now.  In some ways, maybe it was.  When life gets complicated and you want to go back to grandma’s house and just forget that you have to deal with the real world, go grab a rotisserie chicken and make some hot chicken salad.  It isn’t going to help you get that promotion at work.  It won’t do your housekeeping.  It won’t pay a single one of your bills.  But it might remind you of a time when you didn’t need to worry about any of those things, either.  Hot Chicken Salad (2)