The weather is still playing tricks with Mother Nature here in the South. One day, we are teased with warmer temperatures and small buds appearing from trees, the next is a blast of cold and icy winds ripping the air. My dad always says, “Spring is just around the corner,” and he is always right. Spring will always come after the long days of dark skies and bitter cold. I am impatient though and have already began searching cookbooks for recipes bringing thoughts of warmer weather to mind.
Last week I indulged in another tropical favorite, using sweet pineapple and a twist of salty crackers, and grated cheddar cheese. Pineapple Casserole is a side dish popular in the South. Though many think of it as a dessert, and it certainly is sweet enough for an ending to any meal, but with fish, pork, or especially, chicken dishes, as a side, it works well. Why not have a second helping for dessert?
Pineapple Casserole is a mix of sweet and tart, as well as a hint of saltiness from buttery, crackers. Soup crackers could be used as a substitute, just be sure to mix them well with extra butter. Buttery crackers such as Ritz brand work best though. The addition of cheddar cheese pulls this casserole together and gives it another level of texture and taste. If you have never tried Pineapple Casserole before, I think you will find this particular recipe easy to make, and a joy to serve and enjoy. Even in the dish it looks tempting with it’s cracker crust and bubbly fruit underneath.
2 20 -ounce cans of crushed, unsweetened pineapple, drained well
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use Martha White)
1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350*. Pour the drained pineapple into pan. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and flour, and sprinkle over the pineapple. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the sugar and flour mixture. Mix the crushed crackers and butter together and sprinkle over the top of casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
It’s been a month of non-stop sweets for everyone. After filling my sweet tooth with a heart-shaped box of decadent chocolates from my dad over Valentine’s Day, I needed a break. I was craving something different, and non-chocolate. I kept thinking of the sharp taste of lemon, and with the rain beating outside against my windows and the assuredness of snow overnight, the bright yellow orbs stacked in bins at the local grocery store were calling to me.
While others stock their carts with the staples of bread and containers of milk, I am glad I reached for lemons. I had my mind made up…lemon squares would just hit the spot right now.
There are many recipes for lemon squares in my many recipe books, and I have found they are satisfying. But the addition of lemon zest, brings them to another level. Of course, one doesn’t have to add the zest, but since you already have the lemons, you might as well take advantage of the fruit and get the most for your money and efforts.
I think this recipe will help anyone get over their Valentine’s Day chocolate hangover.
3/4 cup powdered sugar (set aside 1/2 cup for crust)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350*. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, cut butter into 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Continue to use pastry blender or fork ( or your hands) until the flour and butter resemble tiny crumbs and can be squeezed together in your hand and hold their shape. Press the mixture into the bottom of aluminum foil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned.
In a bowl, mix together the sugar, baking powder, remaining flour. Add the eggs and lemon juice along with the lemon zest. Pour the mixture over cooled crust.
Return the pan to the 350* oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The edges should be brown and the mixture set. After removing from oven, allow to cool for at least an hour. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
“The prosperity and happiness of a family depends greatly on the order and regularity established in it.”
Usually, I don’t make resolutions for New Year’s Day since I have a habit of breaking them as soon as January 1 comes around. This year however, I vowed to “get things done.” For me, that meant sitting down, planning my daily activities, writing out my short and long-term goals, and scheduling out time for them. That never happened, in spite of my good intentions. Life, somehow, always gets in the way.
I began to wonder how in days of old, anyone accomplished anything. With no electricity, no phones, no computers, no modern appliances, how did my Appalachian great-grandmothers get it done? I figured it out. Because they had to.
My mother can watch any movie or television program set in the past century and recall how her mother washed clothes by hand, used a coal burning stove, slaughtered chickens for Sunday supper, and hung clothes out on the line. Today we have more items promising a simpler life and all we really own is more frustration and stress.
In my efforts to streamline my recipe collection, I came across a small article about Mary Randolph, the author of, “The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook.” The book is considered America’s first cookbook focused on regional cuisine, and guide to housekeeping. She was the Martha Stewart of her day, though Mary Randolph’s advice is more practical and probably more sound.
Mary Randolph was born to one of the wealthiest and most politically important families in American history. Her father, Thomas Mann Randolph Sr., was raised by Thomas Jefferson’s parents who were distant cousins and the ever growing tensions with England made for social and political stirrings within the Randolph household. From a young age, Mary would have learned the importance of keeping and running an efficient household.
“Management is an art that may be required by every woman of good sense and tolerable memory.”
After marrying her cousin, David Meade Randolph, they moved from Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Richmond. Their home, called Moldavia, a combination of their names, became a central gathering place for the Federalist Party and Mary would have been required to meet the demands of a heavy social scene. It has been suggested by some in the articles I have read about her, that Mary would not have been very “hands-on,” in her duties, as the actual physical labor would have been delegated to the slaves in the household. However, I am sure, if she needed to, Mary Randolph would have been more than capable of getting her hands dirty in order to “get it done,” as the Randolph’s financial status changed considerably after Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in 1801. The Randolphs and Jeffersons may have been family, but blood was definitely not thicker than water when it came to their opposing political views. David Randolph was removed from his office as United States Marshall, and as tobacco prices fell, the Randolphs were forced to sell their beloved home. They rented a house and Mary turned it into a boarding house to make ends meet. This was a risky venture and had Mary not the training and determination, the family would have floundered even further.
“The government of a family bears a Lilliputian resemblance to the government of a nation. The contents of the Treasury must be know, and great care taken to keep the expenditures from being equal to the receipts.”
It was around this time when Mary began compiling the various items of recipes and household hints handed down to her from family, and organizing them into book form. It was in hopes of publishing her cookbook that would support more income to the family. Mary’s cookbook included uses for various vegetables and quickly became a staple for the Southern housewife. Turnips, roasted ham, bacon and cornbread along with batter breads and advice for making soap and cleaning silverware and making starch and blacking were just samples of the many recipes used in the cookbook. She emphasized the importance of making good use of the household resources and making due with what one had. As always, order in the home was of the utmost importance.
“Let everything be done at the proper time, keep everything in its proper place, and put everything to its proper use.”
It must have been a revelation for many women as they left the comforts of their family and friends and began making families of their own, to find a guide in running their own households. I can’t imagine marrying in my teen years and being expected to keep a house and run the daily activities of a family at a time when many children were orphaned at a young age and had often no proper guidance in managing a home.
The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook, was published in 1824 and reprinted 19 times before the outbreak of The Civil War.
In her declining years, Mary nursed her son who had been injured while in the Navy. She was much loved and was the first person to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Her epitaph reads:
“In the memory of Mrs. Mary Randolph,
Her intrinsic worth needs no eulogium.
The deceased was born
The 9th of August, 1762
at Amphill near Richmond, Virginia
And died the 23rd of January 1828
In Washington City a victim to maternal love and duty.”
We owe much to this great lady who worked so diligently in the face of such changing fortunes, who never gave up and believed in the value of home and the family. God Bless.
I am still trying to recover from the holidays. Family gatherings are always special but with worries about colds and flu, such celebrations make me uneasy. I know my kin wouldn’t impose illness upon me knowingly, it’s those hundreds of others rushing to and fro, coughing, sneezing, and bumping into us in the hustle that make me pause.
As I was chatting with my sister-in-law during Christmas, she brought up how she had been experimenting with bone broth and had heard much of its curative properties. I have been equally curious as I am susceptible to colds and various ailments and constantly wringing my hands this time of year over every sniffle.
But is bone broth able to live up to its recent celebrated status of wonder cure? I thought I would dig into the facts before turning my kitchen upside down with pots of simmering water and animal carcasses. What I discovered was intresting. Let’s begin with the same questions I had about bone broth.
What is bone broth?
Essentially, bone broth is acheived by simmering animal bones in water for a long period of time, usually 24 hours. Many use a pressure cooker to speed up this process. Simmering allows for the collagen and gelatin deep within the bones to be released along with any amino acids and minerals stored in the bones.
What are some of the claims of bone broth’s benefits?
People who drink bone broth claim doing so will make your skin glow, as well as protecting joints, help the body to detox, and that it is good for gut health, among others claims.
Will drinking bone broth give me better health?
As of right now, research hasn’t proven bone broth will help your overall health. The claims of bone broth and its benefits are not supported by clinical research. It is important to note none of the claims about bone broth’s benefits have been proven by research or clinical studies.
Is drinking bone broth bad for me?
No. It isn’t bad for you, but it isn’t a cure all. In fact, research shows you will receive better health benefits from eating from a diet chocked full of fruits and vegetables. Obtaining protein from meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, and beans are a better way to obtain the protein your body needs. Fruits and vegetables actually provide more minerals and nutrients than bone broth. Some examples:
1 cup of collards= 150 mg of calcium
1 cup of baked beans= 14 grams of protein
2 tablespoons of peanut butter= 7 grams of protein
Compare that with an average cup of bone broth that was found to have zero to 19 mg of calcium and six to nine grams of protein.
A study conducted in 2017, published in “Food and Nutrition Research,” analyzed bone broth and discovered it was, “not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.” Furthermore, most of the nutrients found in bone broth come from the vegetables often cooked with the bones. It has been observed that vegetables, not animal bones, are the richest source for the vitamins, minerals and daily nutrients your body needs.
There has also been concern about lead levels in animal bones as the bones, in animals as well as humans, is where our bodies store lead and other heavy metals. In a study published by “Medical Hypotheses,” a peer-reviewed journal, researchers examined the levels of lead found in broth made from organic chicken bones, and found the “broth had concentrations that were a up to a 10-fold increase compared to the water before the bones were added to it.”
Are there any alternatives?
If you would like to try your own broth, researchers suggest a vegetable based alternative, one with mushrooms, miso, seaweed, and other vegetables. Mushrooms are high in selenium, B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Seaweed contains essential iodine which is key for a healthy thyroid. And fermented foods such as miso, along with spices like ginger or turmeric can help as they contain ant-inflammatory agents.
So, if you are wanting a broth to warm you on a chilly day, or need a little pick-me-up as you nurse a cold, try a broth base of vegetables and spices. Bone broth with vegetables is fine if you prefer a meaty taste to your broth. Just remember, when the next celebrity touts a health claim, check it out first. And keep yourself hydrated and healthy this year.
It has been 60 years since my mother last tasted Persimmon Pudding, and things have changed quite a bit. For one, today’s persimmons do not resemble the small, knotty like fruit her mother used to gather off the ground in their yard this time of year. The seed in the middle is gone. The persimmon of today looks more like a pale, smashed- in tomato, than the bright, orange, golf ball sized delicacies my mother remembers. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to bake a persimmon pudding this Christmas, though, it almost didn’t come into being.
Persimmons are native to my home state of North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to come by. Unless you have a friend with a persimmon tree, or know a local farmer who knows someone, who might know someone else, chances are you will have to search the supermarkets for the genetically-modified, supersized pieces of tart fruit, picked before they were ready for harvest so they could be ordered by a conglomerate, from parts hither and yon, and stocked in a warehouse ready to ship for the holidays. These heavyweight persimmons are far from what my mother knows well.
Everyone who has enjoyed a Persimmon Pudding knows persimmons are best once they have fell to the ground. This is when they are at their ripest. Picking them anytime sooner will give you nothing but hard fruit that will never be as good as when they are left alone to ripen beyond the ability of the skinny branches to hold them any longer. I can only hope the taste of the pudding will be close enough to what she remembers her mother baking up into a delicious, spiced dessert for Christmas. Topped with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg…it just whispers all the comforts of Christmas and home.
Since I am without a yard of my own, I will have to make due with the supermarket variety and hope next year I can find a local vendor. If you are lucky enough to find persimmons in your area, then please give Persimmon Pudding a try. They are a Southern favorite and since persimmons have such a short harvest time, from November through December, this recipe is special.
Old South Persimmon Pudding
2 cups of persimmon pulp
3 eggs, well beaten
1 3/4 cups of whole milk
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup of sugar
3 tbsp. butter
Whipped Cream for topping
Mix persimmon pulp, eggs, and milk together.
In a seperate bowl, sift together, flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.
Pour the persimmon mixture into the flour mixture and blend well. Add the melted butter and beat again.
Pour into a buttered 14x8x3″ pan.
Bake for 1 hour at 300*. Chill and cut into squares. Serve with a topping of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg.
It’s a good thing I like sweet potatoes. Living in the heart of the biggest sweet potato producing state in the country, I can enjoy sweet potatoes year-round. I usually like sweet potatoes baked, then split down the middle with a pat of salted butter melting into the creamy, orange flesh. Add some green beans, a tall, glass of sweet tea, and you have one filling meal very inexpensively.
North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the U.S. There are over 400 sweet potato growers in NC.
This Thanksgiving, I baked both the familiar sweet potato casserole many mistakenly refer to as yams, from a recipe found in a cookbook I have had for years. The addition of orange juice, sets this recipe apart from the traditional casserole topped with marshmallows. Of, course, I always add the marshmallows, my family would have a fit if I deviated too far from the original recipe.
Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same. Yams are a starchy, root vegetable belonging to the Dioscorea genus, and are often imported from the Carribean region. Sweet Potatoes are not acually potatoes either, they belong to the morning glory family; Irish potatoes belong to the nightshade family.
The holidays wouldn’t be the same without a side dish of marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole or a sweet potato pie for dessert. And though pumpkin pie holds the top spot for favorite Thanksgiving desserts, many never consider sweet potato pie for their holiday table. Well, I am not a fan of pumpkin, there is something in the texture that makes it unpalatable for me, sweet potatoes are firmer and have a taste that is much smoother in my opinion, and with just a hint of spice, unlike pumpkin pie that holds an aftertaste from to much added spice.
The flesh of sweet potatoes come in many colors that vary from white to orange, and even a deep purple!
Although I have never ventured furter than baking my sweet potatoes for supper, they can be cut, cubed and roasted, baked, sauteed, and served in a variety of ways. And since sweet potatoes are considered diabetic friendly, many people can enjoy them without worrying about spikes in their blood sugar as with the tradtional Irish potato. I feel so much better when I choose sweet potatoes for supper than a white potato covered in salt, butter and sour cream.
Sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, vitamins A and C. They are also high in minerals iron, potassium, and vitamin B6. A medium sized sweet potato has only 100 calories.
I have included two of my favorite sweet potato recipes here. I hope you will enjoy them as much as my family and I have.
Never store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator! They will become hard and produce an unpleasant taste. Keep them in a cool, dry, airtight container for best results. Keep them away from sources of heat. Sweet potaoes can be stored up to 2 weeks.
Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, orange juice, milk, vanilla, sugar, salt, 3 tbps. melted butter, and cinnamon. Beat until fluffy, and pour into prepared baking dish.
If topping is desired, in a seperate bowl, add 3 tbps. melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Mix together. Sprinkle mixture over potatoes and bake at 350* for 35 minutes. Remove from oven.
Add marshmallows if desired after casserole is baked. Return to oven for 2 minutes, maximum. Keep an eye on it as they can catch and burn quickly!
February is National Sweet Potato Month!
North Carolina Sweet Potato Pie
1 & 1/2 cups sweet potatoes
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 light brown sugar
4 tbps. sofened butter
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg
5 tbps. instant vanilla pudding
Peel sweet potatoes, cook until soft and easily mashed with a fork. Beat with mixer untl free of lumps. Add remaining ingredients and beat well. Pour into unbaked 9 inch pie crust. Bake at 450* for 10 minutes; lower baking temperature and continue to bake at 350* for 30 minutes.
Recipe from NC Department of Agriculture.
Facts about sweet potatoes from North Carolina Sweet Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes.com
It always happens during the holiday season. In the frenzied activity surrounding that need to return to our roots, we begin the yearly ritual of baking from scratch. In the process we usually end up “baking as we go,” resulting in the realization that we are missing one ingredient or another. Panic sets in and we are off in a flash to the local grocery store in the hopes one is open, and they will have that one ingredient you so desperately need for baking success.
In anticipation of the approaching holiday baking season, I have prepared a list of most common ingredients used in baking and substitutions that can be used in a pinch.
Allspice: 1 tsp.= ground cloves cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste.
Anise: fennel can be used instead.
Apples: 1 cup, chopped, = 1 cup of firm pears. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice for acidity.
Baking powder: for 1 tsp., mix together 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda. You can also substitute 4 tsp. quick-cooking tapioca.
Baking chocolate: 1 ounce, (1 square unsweetened), use 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa and 1 tbsp. shortening.
Bread crumbs: use 1/4 cup cracker crumbs to equal 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, or, 1/2 slice of bread, cut into cubes and toasted.
Brown sugar: for 1/2 cup of firmly-packed brown sugar, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tbsp. molasses.
Butter: in baking, use margarine, shortening. You can also use up to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Applesauce and prune puree can also be used as a replacement for butter, up to 1/2 cup.
Buttermilk: for 1 cup, add 1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of whole milk, let stand for five minutes.
Cake flour: for every 1 cup; use 1cup flour minus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour.
Cardamom: cinnamon can be used a substitute.
Heavy cream; 1 cup: 3/4 cup of whole milk plus 1/4 cup of melted butter.
Honey; 1 cup: 1/4 cups sugar with 1/4 cup of water.
Light corn syrup; 1/2 cup: 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. of liquid.
Lemon peel; 1tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.
Orange peel; 1 tsp.: 1/2 tsp. dried peel.
Pumpkin Pie spice; 1 tsp.: mix together 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. allspice, and 1/8 tsp. cardamom.
I hope these emergency substitutions will get you through your holiday baking without tears. Just remember, these are not exact substitutions, rather they are the closest in similarity. Your results may vary when using alternative ingredients. Make sure your spices are fresh. Outdated spices will not give you desired results whatever you decide to bake this holiday.
Of, course the practice is to check your spice shelf and throw out the old, and bring in the new. Check local markets and sales circulars for best prices. Many stores prominently display their baking items this time of year, so watch for specials.
Sign up for emails from your favorite brands as they sometimes send coupons and you are the first to be made aware of new products and recipes.
Thanks for reading and good luck with all your baking.