Archive for February, 2010

Corn Waffles

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010


Today is Shrove Tuesday, a.k.a. Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Pancake Tuesday.
Pancakes are a traditional food on the day before Ash Wednesday since they contain several substances Christians traditionally gave up for Lent—milk, eggs, and butter.
My family has rechristened the day Waffle Tuesday so that we can eat our newest breakfast creation, Corn Waffles. We first made them last week to help my nephew Michael study for a test.
Michael lives in Virginia. Recently in school he has been studying Virginia’s past—specifically, the state’s part in the Revolutionary War.
The other day we were quizzing him on material he had been asked to learn.
He did a great job mimicking John Paul Jones and declaring, “I have not yet begun to fight.”
He knew where Thomas Jefferson lived even though we have yet to visit Monticello. (I hope we’ll get there in the spring!)
For some reason, however, he had trouble remembering details about the Battle of Yorktown—specifically, the name of the British General who surrendered at Yorktown to George Washington, Lord Cornwallis.
In order to make Cornwallis’s name more memorable we started calling him Lord Corn Waffles.
Soon we decided to reinforce the lesson by allowing Michael to taste the general’s namesake.
The rest, as they say, is history……
Corn Waffles
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
1-1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
Melt the butter and set it aside to cool slightly while you assemble the other ingredients.
In a medium bowl use a whisk to combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda.
In a larger bowl combine the buttermilk, milk, and egg yolks. Stir in the dry ingredients.
In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in the sugar. Gently fold the sugared egg whites into the milk combination.
Cover the batter and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (You may just let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes, but your waffles will be fluffier if the batter can stand overnight, and the cornmeal will be better blended.)
The next morning take the batter out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Brush your waffle iron with butter and preheat it. Cook the waffles as needed (usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your waffle iron).
Serves 4 to 6.
The Surrender of Cornwallis by John Trumbull (Architect of the Capitol)

The Surrender of Cornwallis by John Trumbull (Photo Credit: Architect of the Capitol)


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A Winner!

Monday, February 15th, 2010
(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Thanks to everyone who left a comment or wrote a Tweet to enter the Hamentaschen drawing from
I loved reading about your favorite holidays–which included Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Passover, and one’s own birthday–and seeing what interested you at (This ranged from bread to arugula!)
I’m pleased to announce that the random drawing has taken place. The winner is Commonweeder, a.k.a. Pat Leuchtman. A gardener, writer, and librarian, Pat lives in Heath, Massachusetts. Her blog, Commonweeder, is well worth a visit.
Pat had a little trouble identifying her favorite holiday. “To choose a favorite holiday or favorite holiday food is impossible,” she wrote in her comment. “All holidays are just great reasons for making a seasonal treat.” You took the words right out of my mouth, Commonweeder!
Pat highlighted the link on about trying to eat moderately (and exercise!) even in the midst of holiday feasts.
Pat, your Hamentaschen should be on their way shortly. Happy almost Purim, everyone, and thank you again to for offering this holiday treat!
(Courtesy of Commonweeder)

(Courtesy of Commonweeder)

Heart-y Cookies

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

heart cookiesweb

Happy Valentine’s Day!
Naturally, I have something chocolaty for this month’s installment in my Twelve Cookies of Christmas series.
Today’s chocolate sugar cookies were cut into hearts (although they could certainly be trees or stars or reindeer in December) and iced with a basic butter icing.
They tasted wonderful.
Royal icing would have been prettier and easier to transport than the butter version we used on the cookies—but royal is harder to make and harder to keep. It has to be used right away or it dries out.
I wanted my icing simple and foolproof to use because I had a vision of a bunch of children happily decorating and eating cookies—a vision that came true.
cookie joyweb
My nephew Michael and his friends in Virginia have been snow crazy this week. No one has been to school. Sleds and snowballs have replaced electronic games (well, almost).
We called around the neighborhood a couple of days ago and asked whether anyone would like to take a break from the snow and come decorate cookies.
We ended up with eleven joyful children gathered around the kitchen table slathering icing and tossing sprinkles around.
The resulting cookies were heavily decorated. (We actually ended up making a double batch of icing to make sure there was enough.)
And they were VERY popular. The pictures above and below were taken with a cell phone (my battery ran out of steam at the critical moment) so they’re a little fuzzy, but you can see that our gang had a really good time. One of them was camera shy so we have only ten in the group photo.
If you enjoy these cookies half as much as the kids did, you’ll be happy indeed………
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
for the cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
for decoration:
1 recipe (2 if you MUST) butter icing (see below)
lots of festive sprinkles
Cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the baking powder, salt, and cocoa, followed by the vanilla. Stir in the flour.
Chill the resulting dough, covered, for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
On a nonstick surface (a silicone mat or a marble board) pat the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut it into the desired shapes.
Bake the cookies on parchment- or silicone-lined cookie sheets for 10 to 12 minutes. They should be solid but not rock hard.
Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before removing them to a rack to cool. Let them cool completely before frosting them with butter frosting (see below) and sprinkling the heck out of them.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Butter Icing
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
confectioner’s sugar to taste (probably between 1 and 2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla
milk if necessary to stir
a couple of drops of food coloring (optional—I used my sister-in-law’s Wilton food coloring, which was excellent; I’ll have to get some!)
Beat the butter until it is fluffy; then add confectioner’s sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Add milk and/or more confectioner’s sugar until the icing is spreadable.
Truffle wasn't allowed to eat any cookies, but she loved being with the kids anyway. They are all her Valentines.

Truffle wasn't allowed to eat any cookies, but she loved being with the kids anyway. They are all her Valentines.


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A Little More Moo Goo Gai Pan

Friday, February 12th, 2010
Bob Newhart (Courtesy of the William Morris Agency)

Bob Newhart (Courtesy of the William Morris Agency)

I am making Moo Goo Gai Pan for the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Tiger starts this Sunday, February 14 (maybe the tiger will wear pink hearts?).
Moo Goo Gai Pan, a Cantonese chicken-and-mushroom dish, isn’t necessarily classic new-year fare. It isn’t even my favorite Chinese recipe. Although I like its gentle balance of flavors I tend to prefer spicy Chinese food.
I’m serving Moo Goo Gai Pan because I’ve been watching The Bob Newhart Show lately.
I have never been a fan of physical humor. Much of it is based on pain or at the very least embarrassment. I cringe at my nephew Michael’s most recent passion, the Three Stooges. To a nine-year-old boy hitting someone over the head with a giant mallet ranks as the epitome of funny, but it leaves me cold.
Verbal humor, on the other hand, I have appreciated since I began understanding language. A clever pun or a flight of wordful whimsy tickles my fancy more than all the slipped-upon banana peels in the world.
As a result I’m fond of Bob Newhart. An early stand-up (and recording) comedy star who went on to play the lead in two successful televised situation comedies, Newhart doesn’t launch his humor with his body or his facial expressions. His face tends to be blank no matter what he’s saying or reacting to.
He just stands there and delivers deadpan lines. And we laugh.
Newhart’s characters tend to be everymen, folks with whom any of us can identify. In one of his earliest routines he portrayed a hapless security guard at the Empire State Building trying to deal with the arrival of King Kong.
On The Bob Newhart Show his character, Bob Hartley, is a psychologist but not a know-it-all. Bob listens patiently to his slightly neurotic patients, to his wife, to his friends, and to anonymous bureaucrats on the other side of a telephone line.
He doesn’t always understand them, and they don’t always understand him, but the conversation continues. It’s always worth listening to.
One of the best remembered episodes of this series is “Over the River and Through the Woods,” which aired in November 1975, during the show’s fourth season.
We are now used to television programs that have multiple, intertwined plots. “Over the River,” like most episodes of its era, revolves around only one basic plot. Bob Hartley’s wife Emily decides to go to a family reunion for Thanksgiving, and Bob elects to stay home.
He and his lonely buddies (all regular characters) gather at the Hartley apartment to spend the day together watching football on television. They can’t cook, but they can drink from the jug of vodka and cider Jerry the Orthodontist has brought to the party.
Jerry is a graduate of William and Mary, and his alma mater’s team has an important football game scheduled on Thanksgiving. He shares with his friends the William and Mary tradition of taking a swig from the jug every time the opposition scores. The opposition scores a lot in this particular game.
The men gathered in the Hartleys’ apartment finish the day drunk, with a small frozen turkey still stowed away in the dishwasher (yes, the dishwasher).
In order to counterbalance the abundance of alcohol in their system they order Chinese food. Bob calls the House of Hu and places multiple orders for Moo Goo Gai Pan. At the end of the program the bill comes to almost $100, a sizeable sum for take-out in 1975.
The plot doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. What works in this episode, as it does in so many of the programs put out by the MTM production company in the 1970s, is the careful combination of writing and acting that makes the characters at once funny and very real.
One feels as though one knows them. I’ve never gotten drunk on Thanksgiving (although I’ve often had a hankering for Chinese food!). I empathize with the endearing characters sitting around Bob’s living room watching football and trading bad jokes, however. We’ve all had holidays that didn’t quite work out as planned—and we’ve all shared strange as well as happy days with our friends.
If you’d like to see Bob Newhart, director James Burrows, and other colleagues reminisce about the “Moo Goo Gai Pan” episode of the The Bob Newhart Show, visit TV Land’s clip from the Archive of American Television’s tribute to the show’s 35h anniversary.
And this Chinese New Year please join me in a little Moo Goo Gai Pan.
At eighty Bob Newhart, bless him, is still touring the country doing comedy and answering his own fan mail.
Let’s raise a glass of cider and vodka—well, maybe just cider–to him, to his writers, to his fellow actors, and to the little MTM kitten that (in homage to Leo the MGM Lion) meowed at the end of every MTM production.
Moo Goo Gai Pan web
Moo Goo Gai Pan
for the marinade:
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
2 egg whites
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons peanut oil
for the sauce:
6 green onions, chopped (the white part plus a little of the green)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1-1/2 cups strong chicken broth (you may want to add a bouillon cube to your broth to make it stronger)
3-1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch paste (cornstarch dissolved in JUST enough water to make a paste)
for assembly:
2 boned, skinned chicken breasts, sliced as thinly as possible
peanut oil as needed for frying
6 ounces mushrooms (oriental mushrooms such as shitakes work best), sliced
1/2 pound snow peas, ends trimmed
a few pieces baby corn if you have them
In 2 different medium-sized bowls combine the marinade and the sauce. Place the chicken pieces in the marinade and leave them for at least 1/2 hour.
In a wok or similar wide frying pan pour enough peanut oil to make a little pool—probably at least a cup. Heat the oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken a few pieces at a time. Blanch the pieces—that is cook them on the outside, but don’t worry about browning them.
Remove the chicken, turn off the heat, and put the mushrooms, snow peas, and baby corn pieces into the oil. Blanch for about 15 seconds; then remove and drain.
If you have more than 2 of tablespoons oil left in your wok, pour all but 2 tablespoons out. If you need more to make 2 tablespoons, add it.
Turn the heat on again to high and pour the sauce into the pan. Cook it until it thickens. Add the chicken and vegetables, and cook, tossing, until the chicken is cooked through and everything is moistened—a minute or two.
Serve with rice. Serves 6.
This statue in downtown Chicago honors the character of Bob Hartley. It comes complete with a couch on which passersby can recline. (Courtesy of TV Land)

This statue in downtown Chicago honors the character of Bob Hartley. It comes complete with a couch on which passersby can recline. (Courtesy of TV Land)


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Wacky Cake

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Michael with cake web

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it hosts a disproportionate number of holidays.
This month we are celebrating Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, the Chinese New Year, and Purim. (I’ve probably left out a few!)
We commemorate the birthdays of quite a few historical figures, from Charles Dickens on February 7 to Handel on February 23, not to mention Gypsy Rose Lee on February 9 and Susan B. Anthony on February 15.
And as a food writer I always love the nutty food holidays to be found in this month. These include National Indian Pudding Day on February 17, Cream-Cheese Brownie Day on February 10, National Tortilla Chip Day on February 24, and Surf & Turf Day on February 29.
(I guess most of us can afford that last holiday only once every four years.)
Clearly, despite the chill in the air there is much to celebrate this month.
In today’s post, looking forward to Valentine’s Day, I offer an amazingly simple chocolate-cake recipe sent in by Mattenylou, the blogger responsible for the charming On Larch Lane.
This “Wacky Cake” dates back to the early 20th century. It’s considered wacky because it includes a little vinegar and because all of the ingredients get dumped together in one bowl and mixed simply with a wooden spoon.
It includes neither eggs nor butter so you don’t have to wait for any ingredients to come to room temperature. (It’s dairy free, too—until you frost it!)
Reference librarian Lynne Olver, who runs the wonderful Food Timeline web site, suggests that Wacky Cake (a close relative of Dump Cake and Crazy Cake) first saw the light of day in its present form in the 1940s.
Olver adds that similar cakes first appeared during World War I, when (as in the Depression and during World War II) fresh ingredients were scarce.
Mattenylou originally sent the recipe to my nephew Michael to make for my birthday in December. She told him that she used to bake it every year for her mother, whose birthday was December 23 like mine, using Christmas-tree shaped pans.
Things got a little frantic this past December, as they so often do at that time of year, so Michael and I decided to save the recipe for February.
We tossed a little pink icing on top and threw a bunch of red and pink sprinkles on the cake (Michael is a whiz with sprinkles!)–and a Valentine cake was born.
Mattenylou points out that her recipe can be halved to put in a 9-by-9-inch pan (or a round single-layer pan). She adds that if one mixes up the dry ingredients and stores them in a bag one has a quick, easy cake mix to use when needed.
My family loved the cake, which was terrifically moist and rose beautifully. We certainly couldn’t taste the vinegar! NOTE: You may halve this recipe and bake it in an 8-by-8-inch-square pan for 25 to 35 minutes.
Wacky Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons vinegar (I used cider vinegar, but white distilled would do as well)
2/3 cup canola oil
2 cups water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.
Make three wells in the combined dry ingredients. Pour the vanilla into one, the vinegar into the second, and the oil into the third. Pour the water over everything and stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are wet and everything is thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake the layers until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 30 to 35 minutes).
Frost as desired and decorate with festive sprinkles. Serves 12 to 16.
Mattenylou’s Cooked Frosting
Here is the recipe for the fluffy frosting Mattenylou puts on her Crazy Cake. We liked it but would probably use a standard buttercream or cream-cheese frosting another time; this one takes a LONG time to mix!
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cook the milk and flour until the milk bubbles and is thick and smooth, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or whisk. Set the mixture aside and let it cool.
Beat the shortening, butter, sugar, and vanilla until they are blended.
Add the cooled milk/flour mixture and beat well, for 10 minutes.
Add a few drops of green (for Christmas) or red (for Valentine’s Day) food coloring and beat until fluffy. This may take up to 15 minutes, depending on your mixer. The frosting should be fluffy and hold peaks.
Ices 1 layer cake.
Don’t forget: You have until Friday night to enter the drawing for a tin of gourmet hamentaschen from
Just leave a comment on this post (or post a tweet on Twitter) that mentions YOUR favorite food holiday and provides a link to the web site.
Good luck….

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