Archive for April, 2009

Spring Break: Tropical Fruit Salsa

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


My family members needed something to nibble on with our tropical cocktails! I love the combination of flavors in this salsa, which looks gorgeous to boot. I have made it with only pineapple when I couldn’t find a mango, but the mango adds color as well as taste.


2 cups fresh, chopped pineapple

1 fresh mango, chopped into small pieces (you may omit the mango and use 3 cups of pineapple if you prefer)

1 handful cilantro, chopped as finely as you like (I tend to do it roughly)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 Serrano pepper (or the pepper of your choice), seeded and finely chopped

the juice of 1 lime (or 2 tablespoons key lime juice)

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt




Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill for at least 1/2 hour before serving to let the flavors blend. Serve with tortilla chips. (Homemade chips are best, but store bought are easiest!)


Makes about 3 cups of salsa.


Spring Break: Caipirinhas

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Mother Jan on "Spring Break."

Mother Jan on "Spring Break."


“Aren’t we going to Florida this year?” asked my 90-year-old mother recently in what I can only describe as a tone of recrimination.


We had just heard from yet another family member who was either planning or returning from a vacation in a warm spot. We don’t actually go somewhere warm every year. We aim for a spring break every other year—and we were in Key Largo last year. I guess the extended mud season in western Massachusetts was simply getting to the normally stalwart Jan Weisblat.


Unfortunately, our spring was already pretty heavily scheduled. Instead of taking my mother to the tropics, therefore, our family decided to bring the tropics to her. For one fabulous evening we wore leis and dined on foods that are not native to the northeast.


OF COURSE, we started with a cocktail! I am so old fashioned that I thought the tropical drink of choice was a piña colada or a mango margarita. My more sophisticated brother David and his wife Leigh informed me that the chic crowd now sips a caipirinha. This Brazilian limeade packs a major punch, thanks to a sugarcane-based liquor known as cachaça. My brother actually found cachaça in a liquor store. You may substitute white rum or vodka if you like, however. Non-drinkers like my nephew Michael and me may simply use seltzer.

Feel free to vary the formula below depending on how sweet and/or strong you like your cocktails. My sister-in-law Leigh likes her caipirinha with three teaspoons of sugar instead of two. My mother likes it with three or FOUR teaspoons of sugar (make sure it dissolves if you try this), only a few drops of cachaça, and a lot of seltzer.





1 lime

2 teaspoons sugar

enough crushed ice to fill a cocktail glass

cachaça as needed (probably about 2 ounces for a non-seltzer-using drinker)




Roll your lime along a table- or countertop several times to release the juices. Wash the lime. Cut it in half (saving the second half for another drink!), and cut away and discard the white center strip.


Cut the lime into pieces, and place the pieces (pulp side up) either in a glass or in a mortar bowl. Place the sugar on top. Use a pestle or clean wooden stick to crush the lime and sugar together for a short time.


If you have used a mortar bowl, put the sugar/lime mixture in a glass (otherwise just leave it in the glass!). Fill the glass with crushed ice, pour in cachaça to the top of the glass, and stir well. Pop in a straw or a festive umbrella, or just decorate the glass with a bit of lime.


Makes 1 potent caipirinha. 


One of the advantages of having your tropical spring break at home is that your pets can come along! Truffle was happy to participate in ours.......

One of the advantages of having your tropical spring break at home is that your pets can come along! Truffle was happy to participate in ours.......

More Than Just Mashed Potatoes

Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Jeff proudly shows off his potatoes.

Jeff proudly shows off his potatoes.


My mother and I recently had dinner at the home of our minister, Cara Hochhalter, and her husband Jeff. They live in a little red house in the middle of Charlemont, Massachusetts. The building is cleverly hidden away from the busy road by bushes and a fence; inside you’d never know you were close to traffic! Best of all, its main view is a private vista looking toward a brook at the back of the house.


Cara and Jeff arrived in town last summer. They spent their first few months in a nearby cottage while Jeff engaged in a flurry of construction on the new house. He replaced the heating system, insulated the walls, worked on the roof, paneled and painted the indoors, and generally made a wreck of a house into a cozy home.


He can cook, too! He invented this simple, tasty dish and dared me to discern the secret ingredient. I knew I liked it, but the cinnamon was too subtle for me to identify!






2 large Idaho potatoes

2 sweet potatoes of similar size

salt to taste

a splash of olive oil

1 stick cinnamon

2 to 4 tablespoons (1/4 to 1/2 stick) sweet butter (or butter to taste) at room temperature




Wash the potatoes and cut them into pieces. (Jeff leaves the skins on but trims them if necessary.)


Place the potato pieces in a medium pot of water; add the salt, olive oil, and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender.


Drain and mash or whip with a beater, adding the butter as you mash. Serves 4 to 6.


By the way, for any of you who were wondering about the “up to 48 hours” my blog was supposed to be offline, it lasted about 90 seconds……..

Oh where, oh where, has my little blog gone?

Monday, April 13th, 2009


I don’t want to alarm you, dear readers—but soon this blog may disappear from the internet for a couple of days.


I will be switching it over to a slightly different blogging platform this week. Apparently, while it is in transition In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens could cease to exist for up to 48 hours.


I promise I’ll come back—better than ever! Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of you (and cooking for you)……….



Peanut Butter Easter Eggs

Saturday, April 11th, 2009


My college roommate Kelly Boyd used to call Reese’s peanut butter confections “staples” of our pantry. Unfortunately for my waistline, she had a point.

I don’t know what made Mr. Reese decide in 1928 to put peanut butter together with chocolate, but I have always been glad he did. As a pairing it’s right up there with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, dogs and kids, and friends and cooking. The cups make great Easter eggs as well.

Here is a homemade (and truly delicious) version of this classic treat.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!


3/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

about 1 pound chocolate—milk, semi-sweet, white, or a combination (you may swirl them together as we did in the photo)


In a bowl with an electric mixer combine the peanut butter, graham-cracker crumbs, and sugars. Beat until well blended. Carefully shape this dough into 16 or so small egg-shaped pieces (it will be sticky!). Place the pieces in wax paper and freeze them for at least 1 hour but no more than 2.

When you are ready to complete the process, put the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. Melt it, stirring frequently. Remove it from the heat.

Dip the eggs in the chocolate, and place them on wax paper or a silicone mat to harden (this will take several hours—be patient!).

Makes about 16 irresistible eggs. Keep them from getting too warm, and try to eat them within 48 hours. My family had no trouble doing this!