Archive for the ‘Holiday Foods’ Category

A Thanksgiving Wish

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”

Or maybe not this year.

Thanksgiving will feel a little different for many of us in 2020. I apologize if I seem like a Pollyanna, but I’m going to do my darndest to be thankful anyway.

Abraham Lincoln mandated the first official national Thanksgiving in 1863, during the Civil War. His official proclamation setting aside the fourth Thursday in November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise” was written by Secretary of State William Seward.

It urged Americans not just to give thanks but also to use the day to ask God to “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

If Americans could find time to spread thanks in the middle of our nation’s bloodiest and most divisive war, we can do it now.

It may not be easy. We have just come off an election that highlighted rifts in our society. We are beset by a disease that has sickened and killed thousands and that will keep many of us from celebrating Thanksgiving together in person this year.

Since March many of us have become accustomed to physical isolation. Nevertheless, solitude may be a bit harder to bear over this holiday. After all, the most familiar Thanksgiving hymn is “We Gather Together.”

In contrast, others long for a little isolation after spending months stuck in the house and sharing work and living space with partners, children, dogs, and cats.

Many of us are beset by worries about health and finances.

In short, we may have a little trouble feeling thankful this Thanksgiving.

Even so, we need to try to give thanks more than ever. Here’s my advice for the big day.

If you are used to preparing a large Thanksgiving meal, cut down your recipes … and give whatever additional funds you would have spent on the meal to a food pantry or to another group working to nourish our community, literally and figuratively.

Keep your eyes open for neighbors who are feeling overset by the current times. We can’t invite them to share our tables. We can reach out by telephone to share our lives and our thanks.

Despite COVID, despite political divisions, we have much to be thankful for: the love of our friends and relatives; the bounty of the harvest; the beauties of the area in which we live; and the stories we tell to inspire ourselves and each other to be just, thankful, and kind.

Recently, I saw a late-night interview with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. I have adored Booker since he was the mayor of Newark; I still stand ready to marry him as soon as he sees the light and dumps his movie-star girlfriend.

My future fiancé told host James Corden, “I’m always going to be a prisoner of hope.”

My Thanksgiving wish is that we can all find ourselves in that prison.

Below I share a simple recipe that doesn’t feed a crowd but will make you feel well nourished on Thursday. If you have leftovers, share them with anyone you know who is feeling isolated this week! Happy Thanksgiving from my kitchen to yours.

Corn Casserole

This simple, nourishing pudding-like dish is in my “Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and came originally from my college roommate Kelly Boyd. It may be as hot or as mild as you like, depending on the number of hot peppers you add. Feel free to double the recipe if you’re serving more people.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste OR (for more spice) 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 green, yellow, or red bell pepper, diced
fresh or pickled peppers to taste
1/2 of a 4-ounce jar of pimientos, drained and diced
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 11-to-15-ounce can whole kernel corn, undrained

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs together. Stir in the flour, the salt and pepper, the pepper pieces, the pimientos, the cheese, and the butter. Add the corn, along with its liquid.

Bake in a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish for 45 minutes. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Here is my corn-casserole video from Mass Appeal. I also reached into the archives of this blog and made my beloved cranberry upside-down cake.

Witch’s Hat Cookies

Friday, October 30th, 2020

This isn’t really a recipe, just a general formula. My Halloween isn’t going to be very different from my usual October 31. I live too deep in the country to get trick or treaters. I still decorate the house for the occasion, however, and try to make something fun to prepare on TV.

This year I decided to make some simple cookies that children (or even adults) could decorate for fun. I ALWAYS wear my witch hat for Halloween so the cookies, loosely based on a recipe from Hershey, take the shape of a witch’s hat.

They are fun, easy to make, and extremely sweet.

I should warn you (as you’ll see if you watch the video) that piping frosting isn’t one of my strong suits. Who cares? I make up for my lack of skill with enthusiasm … and of course sprinkles.

Happy Halloween!

I have no idea whether I’m scared here because Halloween is coming or because I have such lousy decorating skills. Or maybe it’s my grey hair!

The Cookies

Ingredients:

for the icing:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (plus a little more if neee4ed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 little milk or cream (if needed)
orange food coloring (or a little red and a little yellow to make orange)

for the chocolate layer:

3 chocolate kisses for each cookie on which you want to spread chocolate

for assembly:

12 2-inch-round cookies (sugar cookies, shortbread, whatever you like)
1 chocolate kiss per cookie
icing and melted chocolate
candy corn and/or Indian corn
festive sprinkles

Instructions:

Begin by making the icing. Cream the butter; then stir in the sugar and the vanilla. Add more sugar and/or a little milk or cream to make the icing taste right for you and easy to spread or pipe. Beat in the food coloring.

Using a double boiler or your microwave, carefully melt the kisses for the chocolate layer.

Spread melted chocolate on as many cookies as you wish to, and place a kiss in the middle of each of these cookies to make the crown of the hat. Let the chocolate cool and harden.

When the chocolate has cooled, pipe or spread orange icing as desired. Use candy and sprinkles to make your hats more colorful. Makes 12 cookies.

And now the video:

Art Week at Home: A Divine Dip

Sunday, May 10th, 2020
I’m not really cross-eyed, but this was a selfie, and I was trying to keep both eyes on the camera. Sigh….

I was scheduled to teach a hands-on cooking workshop today for Art Week, a culture-filled annual event here in Massachusetts. Obviously, no one will be coming to my home to cook and tell stories this afternoon, but I’m sharing one of the recipes we were planning to make as part of Art Week at Home.

I wish I could do the cooking online, but the internet here is weak. So please just pretend that you’re with me, singing and cooking and telling stories around my great-grandmother’s old oval table. I’m going to walk you through one of the recipes I planned to make today.

In this crazy time, I am grateful every day for the natural beauty around me. Each time my dog Cocoa and I walk down the road, it seems to me that we observe a new sign of spring … another flower in bloom, another tree starting to bud, another tuft of grass springing up greener than the one before it.

We actually had a little snow yesterday, but it has fortunately departed, leaving everything even greener than before.

The color green is my theme these days. It’s a color of hope and renewal. It’s a theme indoors as well as out. Spinach is coming into season, bringing with it vitamins and minerals and that gorgeous deep color.

I eat spinach and cook with it a lot … in quiches, in quick sautés, in salads, in scrambled eggs. Like the cartoon character Popeye, I feel “strong to da finich ‘cause I eats me spinach.”

A few years back, I devised an onion-dip recipe loosely based on my mother’s formula for French onion soup. I love commercial dips and dip mixes, but I feel a little queasy when I read some of the ingredients on their labels. I don’t like to put foods in my body that I can’t pronounce.

My dip contained only normal foods. And caramelizing the onions for it made my house smell delicious.

With spinach on my mind, I recently decided to add a little spinach to the onion dip. The addition was a success. The spinach adds vitamins, a hint of flavor, and a lovely green color.

The recipe takes a while, between caramelizing the onions and letting the dip’s flavors meld in the refrigerator. Most of this time isn’t hands on, however, so you’ll have plenty of leisure to do other things while you’re cooking. Just make sure to keep your nose active while you’re caramelizing the onions.

Make the dip early in the day, and honor your mother with it by evening. My mother isn’t with me anymore, but I love to remember her on Mother’s Day. Making a dip inspired by one of her recipes gives my family a delicious way in which to enjoy the memories.

My Mother in 1968


Spinach and Sweet Onion Dip

If you happen to have fresh parsley and/or dill in the house, you may add sprigs of them before blending the dip at the end.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices, with each slice cut in half (sweet onions are best, but any onion will do in a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 generous splash dry sherry
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier, and if your onions are really huge you may increase the amount to 2 cups)

Instructions:

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly over low to medium-low heat, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour; they will be ready when they are ready. Add a little water from time to time if burning seems likely.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least 5 minutes. Add the sherry and the spinach and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears and the spinach wilts.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the vegetables and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature.

Place the vegetables in a food processor and combine them briskly; then add the sour cream and mix well. If you don’t have a food processor, an electric mixer will do, but you will have bigger chunks of onion and spinach. My food processor is broken so I used my mini-chopper. I had to chop the vegetables a little at a time, they were chopped.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors meld for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with raw vegetable strips or chips. Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Cut into wedges or slices. Serves 6 to 8.

A Passover Story

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Israel. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I’m not EXACTLY comparing myself to the ancient Jews. But I did have an experience on Monday that made me appreciate their need to eat matzo (unleavened bread) because they were in a hurry to get out of Egypt. They went with what they had, baking their bread before it was able to rise. I, too, ended up going with what I had—and part of what I had was matzo.

I was scheduled to appear on Mass Appeal on Tuesday, making matzo crunch in one segment and sharing the other segment with JD Fairman, the co-owner of Pioneer Valley Charcuterie.  JD was planning to make the ultimate BLT with homemade tomato jam and his own lovely bacon.h

Unfortunately, JD emailed me Monday evening to let me know that he was feeling horribly ill. I was stuck with an extra segment to fill at the last minute.

My general store had already closed for the night, and I am not the sort of person who gets up early in the morning to shop. I thus had to plan a dish that would use ingredients I had in the house. I decided to continue the matzo theme (it was still Passover, after all) and make matzo brei. For those of you not in the know, this egg dish is a cross between scrambled eggs and French toast.

I hadn’t ever made matzo brei before; my Jewish grandmother didn’t prepare it as far as I can recall. Happily, I HAD previously cooked eggs, its main ingredient, and I happened to have quote a few of those in the house. So I adapted a recipe I found online (thank you, Emily) and added matzo to eggs, onions, cheese, and homemade salsa. (Your salsa does not have to be homemade.)

The result was ideal comfort food, and a wonderful way to use up some of the matzo I had in the house. I recommend it highly. If you feel obliged to finish up your meal with a little matzo crunch, feel free to make that as well.

Happy Passover/Happy Spring….

Matzo Brei with Salsah

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 pieces matzo, broken into small pieces

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1/2 cup salsa

chopped fresh chives to taste (optional, but I saw them coming up in my yard and couldn’t resist!)

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Sauté the onion pieces over medium-low heat until they turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.

While the onion is sautéing, place the matzo pieces in a colander, and place the colander in the sink. Pour boiling water over the matzo until all the pieces are damp. Drain the matzo pieces in the colander.

Set aside about 1/4 cup of the cheese. Stir together the eggs and the remaining cheese in a large bowl. Add the drained matzo pieces and combine well.

Add this mixture to the onions, adding a little more butter/fat if needed to keep the eggs from sticking. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as needed, until the eggs set.

Spoon the egg mixture onto a serving plate. Pour the salsa on top, and garnish with the remaining cheese and the chives. Serve with extra salsa. Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.

And now for the videos:

Tinky Makes Matzo Brei

Tinky Makes Matzo Crunch

Holiday Greetings

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

Happy everything to all who read this! I hope you, like me, are surrounded by family and friends and looking forward to a positive, healthy new year.

Things are a bit hectic on my end at present; my holiday retail job is going full speed! So here is a quick recipe and not much more to help you celebrate Christmas.

I should note that the recipe—and indeed, some of the ingredients—came to me courtesy of King Arthur Flour. I have made turtles from scratch; there’s a great recipe for them in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I have to admit, however, that I love the idea of making them as quickly and simply as one can with this recipe.

I made them last week on Mass Appeal, along with a family favorite: my mother’s fruitcake! Here is a link to the fruitcake video, and here is the one for the turtles.

Please note that you do have to store the turtles on parchment; they stick to just about any other surface. You won’t have to store them long; they disappear quickly!

Merry Christmas to all…

Snappy Turtles

Ingredients:

16 pecan halves
1 4-ounce block of caramel, cut into 16 pieces, or 16 caramel candies
16 milk chocolate disks or small pieces of chocolate
1 pinch fleur de sel or other sea salt for each candy

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment or silicone.

Spread the pecans around the sheet, keeping them as far apart from each other as possible. Flatten each caramel piece into a round about the size of a half dollar, and place the caramel pieces on top of the pecans.

Heat the candies in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the caramel starts to melt. Remove them from the oven, and press a piece of chocolate on top of each candy. Sprinkle a little of the salt on top.

Allow the candies to cool before removing them from the pan and placing them on parchment paper. Makes 16 candies.