Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have a Gluten Free Thanksgiving!

My brother advised me to go gluten free back in fall 2007, saying that it helps with all manner of things, including depression and anxiety, and he seemed to be correct at the time. I experimented with several gluten free recipes back in November 2007 and I was satisfied enough with two of them to share them on Xanga. I have moved them here to make them easier to find. Keep in mind that gluten free does not mean carb free or sugar free, although most of the recipes I am working on are definitely sugar friendly and carb light.

Here is a delicious berry pudding recipe I've created in November 2007. This seems to be the best version of the several tries:

Kephirra's Berry Blitz Pudding (Gluten Free)

One pound frozen mixed berries
One pint heavy cream or half and half (evaporated milk will also work)
1/2 cup white graulated sugar (Splenda will work if you need a diabetic version of this recipe)
3T local honey
1/4 cup rice flour (for thickener)
1 t vanilla extract
food mill or strainer lined with cheesecloth
large mixing bowl
4 quart saucepan
wooden spoon

Thaw the frozen berries in a microwave using the defrost button, or sit them out the night before. Mix the rice flour into the heavy cream, stirring until smooth. Fold the heavy cream mixture and vanilla into the berries, and mix well. Fold in the sugar and honey. Heat the resulting mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat until the berry mixture bubbles but does not rise up to spill over the pan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for ten minutes until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat.

Pour the berry mixture into a food mill or strainer lined with cheesecloth. Run the mixture through the food mill until all the liquids have gone back into the bowl and only solids are left behind. Discard the solids, unless you like the texture and don't want to give up the fiber they provide. Return the now-smooth berry mixture to your stove top and heat back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and continue boiling for five minutes. Remove from heat and pour into serving dishes.

This pudding makes a great parfait. Pour it into the bottom of a parfait dish and tilt on its side slightly. Let the pudding cool, then add a layer of whipped topping or ice cream, then a second layer of pudding. Return to your fridge. Add a second layer of whipped topping or ice cream. Sprinkle each parfait with chopped pecans and grated dark chocolate. Enjoy! Serves 4 to 6.

Kephirra's Pork and Italian Sausage Scalloped Potato Casserole (Gluten Free)

One pound boneless pork chops (About four to six chops)
One pound Italian Link Sausage, cut into four inch links.(hot tastes best, okay to substitute bratwurst or kielbasa)
Six to eight medium potatoes, scrubbed and sliced, peels on
One large onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 t minced fresh garlic
1 t seasoned salt
1/2 cup rice flour
one cup water
One cup half and half or heavy cream
3T bacon grease
large 9" by 11" oblong glass baking dish

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss together the vegetables, herbs, spices, and sliced potatoes. Let stand for ten minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture into a glass baking dish. Sprinkle rice flour liberally over the entire casserole. Pour half and half over your casserole, making sure to wet the rice flour. Let stand ten minutes. Pour one cup of water over the casserole. Toss the vegetable mixture together until you are sure all the rice flour has been moistened. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measure, place dots of bacon grease all through the casserole, about two inches apart.

Lay the pork chops on top of your casserole, arranging so that they have just enough space to lay sausages between each one. Arrange the sausages on top of the casserole as well. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Line your oven rack with foil or place the glass baking dish on a larger cookie sheet, as this dish will sometimes run over and drip onto your oven.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty to forty minutes, until you can smell the meat roasting. Remove foil and continue baking another ten to fifteen minutes until meat begins to brown. Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Caldo Des Camarones (Shrimp Soup)

Shrimp have always symbolized good times to me, due to their cost, so it made perfect sense to include a shrimp dish in my holiday menu. I served this soup as an appetizer at every holiday meal for fifteen years, after my two daughters and I returned to Ohio from Florida in 1992.

The original version of this recipe used canned salad shrimp, because I got it on sale at the Big Lots store that used to be on Lincoln Way East between Canton and Massillon. This recipe uses fresh, shell-on shrimp instead, because it makes richer-tasting broth.

2 pounds fresh, shell-on shrimp
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Wok or 12-inch saute pan
6 quarts frozen chicken stock (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8-quart stockpot
1 cup red and green bell pepper strips
1 tablespoon chicken soup base
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
Zest from one whole lemon
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced red onion
6 diced Roma tomatoes
1/2 pound diced carrots
12 ounces tomato paste 
Bread bowls
2 pounds cooked tricolor pasta (any shape)
Fresh chives

Defrost 6 quarts of chicken stock in an 8-quart stockpot. While the broth defrosts, preheat a wok for two minutes on medium-high before adding the olive oil. Allow the oil to heat for one additional minute.

Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and place them in a colander to drain. Pat each shrimp dry.

Place 1/2 pound of shrimp at a time in a single layer in the wok. If you do not have a wok, you can use a 12-inch saute pan instead. Stir-fry the shrimp until the flesh turns opaque and the shell changes from blue to a red or reddish-brown color.

Peel the shrimp and place them in a covered container in the refrigerator until later. Add the shells to the defrosted broth and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Bring the soup back to a rolling boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

Pour the broth through a colander to remove the shrimp shells and return the broth to the stockpot. Add the pepper strips, spices, celery, onion, Roma tomatoes and carrots. Stir the tomato paste into the mixture to ensure that it does not stay clumped. Bring the soup back to a rolling boil for 15 minutes.

Add the peeled shrimp. Serve the soup right away. You can serve caldo des camarones in bread bowls or ladle it over cooked tricolor pasta. Garnish with fresh chives and croutons. Serves 12 to 16.  

***Chicken Stock*** 
2 pounds cut-up chicken
8 quarts water
2 tablespoons chicken soup base
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
3 ribs diced celery
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup Italian salad dressing
3 large eggs
2 cups bread crumbs

Boil 2 pounds of cut up chicken in 8 quarts of water. Add 2 tablespoons of chicken soup base or 4 bouillon cubes. Add 1 tablespoon garam masala and stir the broth. Add 1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 3 ribs of diced celery and 1 cup of diced tomato. Boil all the ingredients together for 1 hour.

Remove the chicken from the pot. Strain the broth into 1 quart containers and freeze it. Set the chicken aside in a 9- by 13-inch rectangular baking pan or glass baking dish. Marinate the chicken overnight in 1 cup of Italian salad dressing. Beat 3 eggs to a froth in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Dip the chicken pieces in egg. Shake the chicken in a bag of bread crumbs before you fry it on top of stove or bake it in your oven. Serve the chicken with twice-baked potatoes and garden salad. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Grilled Pepper Jack Meat Loaf Burgers

Safeway had Nature's Pride multi-grain bread on sale this week for $2.50 per 24-ounce loaf and Jennie-O lean ground turkey patties for 99 cents per pound. They also had Lucerne cheese for $5.99 per 2-pound block, prompting me to create this recipe. If you prefer a vegan version, omit the egg and cheese and use a mixture of cooked lentils, chickpeas and black beans to make your burger.

1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 eggs (omit for vegan version)
2-quart mixing bowl
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
8 slices multi-grain bread
Food processor
1 pound ground beef or vegan substitute (see suggestions above)
4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
4 ounces tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
Yellow pepper rings
Hamburger buns

Step 1: Chop the parsley as fine as you can.

Step 2: Use a fork to beat the eggs to an even, light-yellow froth in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Add the parsley, hot sauce, pepper, onion and garlic and stir until well-blended.

Step 3: Pulse the bread in your food processor until you get even-textured bread crumbs. Add the bread crumbs to the egg mixture and stir until well-blended. Omit the eggs when making a vegan version.

Step 4: Add the ground beef or vegan substitute. Mix just enough to distribute the bread crumb mixture throughout the ground beef or vegan substitute.

Step 5: Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions. Flatten four portions to 1/2-inch thickness.

Step 6: Make a slight depression in the center of each portion, using the back of a tablespoon.

Step 7: Fill the depression with 1 ounce of shredded pepper jack cheese, vegan cheese substitute or diced vegetables of your choice.

Step 8: Flatten the remaining four portions of ground beef or vegan substitute. Top each of the first four patties with one of the remaining four patties.

Step 9: Pinch and smooth the patties along the seam.

Step 10: Grill each patty for 4 minutes on each side. Top each grilled patty with 1 ounce of tomato paste and grill for one additional minute.

Step 11: Serve on hamburger buns, topped with grilled red and green bell pepper slices and yellow pepper rings.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cacique: They Liked Me, They Really Liked Me

Every writer lives for the day when they receive professional recognition that what they produce is worth reading. Today was that day for me. I wrote an article in June 2011 called "Soy Chorizo Kitchen Tests" and published it at on its Notecook site. I had kitchen-tested a new product: Cacique soy chorizo, detailing each step and all the results. Yesterday, I left a link to the article on Cacique USA's Facebook page. To my delight, Cacique USA sent me the following email message:

"Wow! Very educational, Jack. And it sounds like the Hawaiian-style sauce really tied it all together... But you left us on a cliffhanger -- how'd it TASTE?!"


Thank you, Cacique USA, for taking time to read my article!
Update, April 5, 2015: Due to page-loading issues at Triond, I have moved the article to Heritage and Home. You can find it here at Soy Chorizo Kitchen Tests.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

B Is for Bread: Safflower Petal Bread Recipe

I made safflower-petal bread a few weeks ago and promised to post the recipe. I bought the dried safflower petals at the Mesa, Arizona Pro's Ranch Market. I found them in the Spanish-language spice section, and I thought that they were saffron strands, but I was incorrect. Safflower petals impart a slight citrus-floral note to the bread. The bright orange strands are easy to spot when you slice the loaf. Serve this bread with orange-blossom honey and homemade butter for a farmhouse treat that beats cake hollow.

Ingredients and Equipment:

8-quart mixing bowl
8 sifted cups enriched all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons dried safflower petals
2 cups water or pan drippings
1 cup cola
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
11- by 17-inch glass casserole dish or a no-stick baking pan

If you want a fat-free, gluten-free version, substitute 6 cups of besan (chickpea flour) and 2 cups of finely-ground cornmeal for the flour and add 1/2 cup of applesauce instead of using 1/4 cup of canola oil. You will still need a tablespoon of canola oil to grease the glass casserole dish, unless you have no-stick baking pans. Remember to raise the baking temperature by 25 degrees if you use a metal baking pan instead of a glass casserole dish.

Sift the flour into an 8-quart mixing bowl. If you do not have a sifter, simply sprinkle or shake the flour into the bowl rather than dumping it. This will result in lighter, airier loaves with more appealing texture.

Add the baking powder and the baking soda. Although it sounds like a large amount, you are not using eggs or yeast, so the loaf needs all the help it can get.

Stir in the dried safflower petals. Sift the mixture again to ensure even distribution of the two leavening agents throughout your dough.

Add the water or pan drippings. I prefer pan drippings, because I hate waste in the kitchen, and because they flavor the bread, but water works just as well if you need a vegan or vegetarian option. You can use vegetable broth, almond milk or rice milk in place of water for a more full-bodied vegan bread.

Add the cola, which should cause the dough to foam, then add all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix the dough until all the dry ingredients and wet ingredients merge. There should be no leftover flour in the corners or "mushy" portions in the dough. The dough should feel stretchy and should not stick to your hands.

Grease the casserole dish. Divide the dough into two equal portions and place them in the casserole dish, at least two inches apart. Pat each portion of dough into an oval loaf and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F if using the glass casserole dish, or 425 degrees F if using a metal, no-stick baking sheet. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the pans around and bake for another 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

Allow the bread to cool on the counter before slicing it into 1/2-inch thicknesses with a serrated knife.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Orange-Cardamom Pork Chops and Fried Potatoes

We've been buying a lot of pork recently, because we are making bone art for Wasteland Weekend, leaving me scrambling for different ways to prepare the meat. We use pork shoulder bones because they resemble skulls. We posted a few photos of two of the skulls in progress on Facebook. Once they are finished, we will post an article and photos on Tempe Frugal Life.

Once I removed the shoulder bone from the two roasts I bought at Ranch Market last week for 98 cents a pound, I sliced 15 pounds of the shoulder meat into chops. The other 5 pounds got chopped to make pulled pork in the slow cooker. Today I thawed 2 pounds of chops. While they thawed, I grated the zest from one whole navel orange, then squeezed the juice over the chops. I added the orange zest and 3 cloves of finely-minced fresh garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom and about a tablespoon of Cajun seasoning. I rubbed the spices all over the meat, turning it repeatedly in the orange juice to ensure complete coverage. I let the meat marinate in the refrigerator in a 4-quart plastic storage container while I scrubbed three fist-sized potatoes. I trimmed away some bad-looking spots and pierced each potato, then microwaved them together for 6 minutes on high. I turned each potato over and microwaved them for another two minutes, quartered them and sliced them into 1/2-inch thicknesses.

I heated 1/2 cup of canola oil in a 12-inch diameter saute pan on medium-high for three minutes, then used the lid as a shield while I slid each chop into the pan to avoid splashing the hot oil. I pan-fried the chops for three minutes per side, turning them twice on each side, for a total of 6 minutes per side. I pulled the chops from the oil, holding them over the saute pan until the oil stopped dripping before transferring them to a serving platter.

I used the lid as a shield again when I slid the sliced potatoes off the cutting board and into the oil. I pan-fried the potatoes for about 10 minutes, until they were just past golden-brown, then removed them from the pan using a slotted spoon. I pulled the double-layered paper towels over them and patted the excess oil away before sliding the potatoes onto the serving platter with the pork chops.

I boiled the marinade and added it to the shrimp-infused gravy I had made to go with the river-raised catfish we cooked two nights ago. I'll post that recipe another day.

Ingredients and Equipment:

2 pounds sliced pork shoulder roast
4-quart plastic storage container
Juice and zest from 1 navel orange
3 large cloves garlic
Chef's knife
Cutting board
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
3 fist-sized potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil
12-inch saute pan with lid
Serving platter
Slotted spoon
Small glass casserole dish
1 pint shrimp-infused gravy (recipe to come tomorrow)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tell Me About Yourself

I check my audience profile about once a week. I've been fascinated by the fact that people all over the world are reading my recipes. I love it when I see that people from places like Moldova (I had to look that one up) Latvia, Poland, South Africa and the Philippines apparently enjoy this blog.

I would love to hear from each of you. Tell me where you are located, what you enjoy about this blog and the recipes I have posted, and what you would like to see in the future. Post a photo of an ingredient you would like me to include in my next recipe.

Let me know whether you use a desktop or laptop computer, mobile phone or other device to access this page, and let me know what would make this blog more personally useful to you.

o zi bună! (Have a good day, moldoveni!)

ir laba nedēļa! (Have a good week, latvieši!)

mieć dobry tydzień! (Have a good week, Polacy!)

het 'n goeie week! (Have a good week, Suid-Afrikaners!)

Mayroon ang isang magandang linggo (Have a good week, Pilipinas!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Roast Chicken with Apple Stuffing and Ginger-Saffron Rice

Fry's grocery store had whole frying chickens on sale for 77 cents a pound this week, so I bought two of them. I had a few apples, an orange and some celery that needed to be used before they went bad. Since I still had nearly 4 1/2 pounds of rice left from our last trip to Pro's Ranch Market, I decided to go Asian with this chicken. We've been making masala chai every day, so I had ginger, allspice and coriander on hand. I found a jar of saffron strands that I had forgotten in our pantry cabinet. I don't usually use an expensive spice like saffron, but the gentle, slightly floral flavor was perfect when combined with the apple slices and orange juice.

Ingredients and Equipment:
5 1/2-pound whole frying chicken
9 tbsp cooking oil
Dried basil
Roasting pan
3 to 4 stalks celery
Chef's knife
Cutting board
2 Red Delicious apples
1 seedless navel orange
12-inch diameter saute pan with tight-fitting lid
Wok spatula
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 to 8 saffron strands or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric powder
Serving platter
1 cup uncooked rice
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon dried ginger powder
1 teaspoon allspice powder
Chicken giblets (gizzard, heart, liver, neck)

Thaw the chicken overnight in the refrigerator or in a pot of cold water. Rub the entire chicken with oil, working it into all the folds and cavities of the wings and thighs.

Sprinkle the entire chicken with salt, including the neck and main body cavities. Repeat with dried basil. Place the chicken in the roasting pan and allow it to rest while you prepare the apples, rice and giblets.

Chop 1 cup of celery very fine. Quarter, core and thin-slice two Red Delicious apples and cut the orange in half.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch diameter saute pan on medium high. Add 1 teaspoon each of coriander seed and red pepper flakes, plus 6 to 8 saffron strands, or you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder for the saffron.

Stir-fry the spices for 1 minute to release all the flavors. Add the celery to the pan and stir-fry it for 3 minutes. Toss the sliced apples into the pan and stir-fry everything for another 3 minutes. Remove the apples and place them on a serving plate.

Add 1 cup of uncooked rice to the saute pan. Stir-fry the rice constantly until it turns golden-brown. Pour 6 cups of water or chicken stock and stir to ensure that none of the rice grains stick to the bottom of the pan.

Squeeze the juice from the orange halves into the pan. Tear the orange peel into four pieces and float it on top of the rice water. Stir in 1 tablespoon of powdered ginger and 1 teaspoon of allspice powder and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Simmer the rice on medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes.

Slice the gizzard and heart into 1/8-inch thicknesses. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a separate skillet for 1 minute. Carefully slide the sliced giblets into the oil to avoid spatter. Pan-fry them for 3 minutes, until they are browned on all sides.

Add the apple slices and stir-fry everything for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the giblets to a separate plate. Stuff half the stir-fried apple slices into the chicken, followed by the pieces of orange peel.

Stuff the remaining half of the apple slices into the chicken. Spoon the rice around the chicken and over the body cavities. Press the wing tips against the chicken's body and cover them with rice.

Bake covered at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes. Turn the roasting pan around in the oven to ensure even cooking. Remove the cover and bake the chicken for another 20 minutes. Turn the oven to broil for 7 minutes to crisp the skin.

Allow the chicken to rest in the oven for 15 minutes before serving

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pork Chops in Lemon-Cola Marinade

I picked up another 20 pounds of pork shoulder roast at Pro's Ranch Market last week. After I cut the 3-pound arm-bone portions from each roast, I sliced the remainder into 3/4-inch thicknesses, resulting in 15 pork chops. Unlike the roast we bought three weeks ago at Ranch Market, these had the skin and most of the fat removed. I froze the chops in single portions for convenience, since we cook meals on the spur of the moment rather than on a set schedule, especially if we are working on a project.

Today, I marinated 3 of the pork chops in a mixture of 1/4-cup lemon juice; 5 cloves of fresh, minced garlic; 1/2-cup thin-sliced Vidalia onion; 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika; 1 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger; 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; 1 tablespoon of rehydrated, minced ginger root; 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of cola.

Marinated Pork Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 20, 2012

Marinated Pork Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 20, 2012

Garlic, Onion, and Dehydrated Ginger by Jack V. Sage, February 20, 2012

I thawed the pork in the refrigerator by placing it -- still wrapped in plastic -- in an 8-cup plastic storage container with a tight-fitting lid. After the chops thawed, I removed the plastic wrap and rinsed each one under cold running water.

I added the lemon juice to the container and rolled the pork around in it to ensure that the juice covered the entire surface of each chop. After five minutes, I added the ground spices, minced garlic, sliced onion and minced ginger. I turned the chops several times to ensure that the spices were evenly distributed over the meat. I waited another five minutes before adding the olive oil and turning the chops again. Next, I added the cola, turning the pork chops several more times.

After two hours, I pan-seared each pork chop. I heated a 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat for one minute before placing the pork chops in it, spaced 1/2-inch apart and 1 inch away from the sides of the pan.

Lemon-Cola Pork Chops by Jack V. Sage, February 20, 2012

I seared the chops for 5 minutes on each side before checking the internal temperature.The USDA recommends pan-searing for 7 minutes on a side, but here in Arizona, using a stainless steel saute pan, the chops only needed 5 minutes per side. The test chop I cooked was dark brown at 6 minutes and scorched black at 7.

The USDA recommends cooking pork roasts and chops to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, as measured with a meat thermometer. To check the internal temperature, insert a meat thermometer horizontally into the side of the thickest portion of each pork chop without touching any bone or the sides of the pan.

I allowed the chops to rest for 3 minutes before serving. This gave the juices in the meat time to redistribute and resulted in a more tender, juicy pork chop.

Lemon-Cola Pork Chops by Jack V. Sage, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Palate-Pleasing Pork Recipes

Bacon-Wrapped Apple-Raisin Pork Loin

Crisp Virginia bacon keeps your pork loin tender while tart Granny Smith apples and sweet California raisins flavor the meat, providing your taste buds with an avalanche of savory delight. Serve with baked acorn squash, roasted new potatoes, chunks of tender turnip and whole carrots.

Place the pork tenderloin in a plastic zipper bag with the apple cider, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and star anise pods. Marinate it in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.

Remove the pork loin from the bag and pour the marinade into a saucepan, including the cinnamon and star anise. Wash your hands with soap and water.

Add the apple butter, raisins and molasses and bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove the anise pods and cinnamon sticks from the raisin sauce.

Lay the pork loin on a plastic cutting sheet so its length runs left to right. Make a slit from left to right, halfway down the side. Make a second and third slit, if needed, until the pork loin will open like a book.

Cover the pork loin with the second cutting sheet and pound it to 1/4-inch thickness with the meat mallet.

Slice the apples into 12 pieces, from stem end to blossom end without peeling them. Trim away the core and seeds and lay the apple slices on the flattened pork loin.

Drain the raisin sauce through a strainer into a mixing bowl. Spread the drained raisins evenly over the apples on the pork loin. Reserve the raisin sauce for later.

Roll the pork loin into a tube and fold each end closed. Cut two pieces of string twice the length of the pork loin plus three inches. Lay them side by side, one inch apart.

Cut at least four more pieces of string the same length as the circumference of the pork loin, plus three inches. Lay them across the first two strings, one inch apart.

Lay the pork loin on the net pattern you made with the strings. Pull the ends of the short strings together and knot them tight against the pork loin. Repeat for the long strings.

Heat the saute pan on high for three minutes. Rub the pork loin with olive oil and lay it in the saute pan. Pan-sear the pork loin on all sides, including the ends.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pork loin on a broiler pan and cover it with foil. Roast the pork loin for 45 minutes.

Lay half the Virginia bacon on a clean cookie sheet in a single layer, with all the slices running left to right, with their long sides touching, to form a rectangle.

Weave the remaining bacon strips between the strips of the rectangle. Fold every second bacon strip to halfway to the left and lay a bacon strip across the ones you did not fold. Return the folded strips of bacon to their original positions.

Repeat folding every other strip of bacon and laying strips across the ones you did not fold, until all the strips have been woven together.

Remove the partially-cooked, apple-raisin-stuffed pork loin from the oven and lay it on the bacon weave. Fold the left and right sides over the ends of the pork loin. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F.

Roll the pork loin in the bacon weave and place it on a cookie sheet with rolled sides. Bake for 30 minutes at 275 degrees F before inserting a meat thermometer into the roast. Remove the roast from the oven when the internal temperature registers 145 degrees F.

Ingredients and Equipment:
Plastic zipper bag
2-pound pork tenderloin
1 cup apple cider
4 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 star anise pods
2-quart saucepan
2 polyester cutting sheets
Meat mallet
3 Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup apple butter
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons molasses
Small mixing bowl
Kitchen string
Saute pan
Olive oil
Broiler pan
2 pounds Virginia bacon
Cookie sheet with rolled sides
Meat thermometer

Roasting the bacon-wrapped pork loin at 275 degrees for 30 minutes prevents the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines.


USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Fresh Pork From Farm to Table

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: What Are Nitrosamines?


More Palate-Pleasing Pork Recipes:

Roast Pork with Oranges, Apples and Cauliflower

I needed to do something with the 4-pound cauliflower, oranges and cilantro I bought at Pro's Ranch Market this past Friday. This recipe is the tasty result. Cauliflower lacks the zest that I prefer in my food. Cooking it with pork roast for 1.5 hours at 375 degrees F allowed the pork juices to blend with the flavors of the apples, onions, oranges and cilantro. The cauliflower absorbed all the flavors and turned butter-soft. 

Center-Cut Pork Loin Roast with Cilantro and Guacamole

Slow-roast center-cut pork loin stuffed with chorizo, cilantro and guacamole. Serve the tender slices of stuffed roast pork with a generous helping of casamiento, or beans and rice, blended with grated cheese and jalapeno rings. Top the casamiento with strips of roasted red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes.

Luau Pork Roast and Grilled Plantain with Ginger

Taro-wrapped pork tenderloin with citrus, mango, bell pepper and grilled plantain provides 1/4 of your daily vitamin A, over half your daily vitamin C, and almost half your daily thiamine.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Orange O'Brien-Stuffed Roast Chicken

Walmart had whole chickens on sale for 69 cents a pound today, so I got one. I used a $10 Walmart gift card that I earned through MyPoints to buy it, so the chicken, vegetable oil, cocoa powder and cola I bought today were essentially free. I didn't have any stuffing mix or rice, so I decided to create something new. The result was this beautiful chicken, stuffed with orange-infused O'Brien potatoes.

Orange O'Brien-Stuffed Roast Chicken photo by Jack V. Sage, February 13, 2012

For this recipe, you will need one whole, five-pound chicken. You will also need coarse sea salt, olive oil, the juice and peel of one or two whole oranges, one whole onion, about 6 cloves of garlic, some paprika, black pepper and about one cup of finely-chopped fresh parsley.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 13, 2012
I chopped the parsley and minced the onion and garlic, then set them aside for later. I rubbed the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled the body cavities and the skin with coarse sea salt. You can omit the salt if you are on a sodium-restricted diet, but you should double the orange juice to ensure that your chicken remains flavorful and juicy.

The chicken marinated in the salt, oil and juice for about 30 minutes while I made the potatoes. I show it uncovered on the counter, but you should cover it with foil or plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator while it marinates. I turned it over three times while it marinated. Each time I turned the chicken, I rubbed the juices all over the skin, including under the wings and in the folds of the leg.

I grated the zest of one whole orange and set it aside to mix into the O'Brien potatoes later.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 13, 2012

One orange yields about 1/4 cup of orange zest and 1/4 cup of juice. A single orange gives the chicken and potatoes a subtle, pleasant taste and scent. Use two oranges if you like stronger orange flavor, or if you have to omit salt.

Orange Zest, Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 13, 2012

I chopped the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick, 3/4-inch cubes. I deep-fried the potatoes using a blend of vegetable oil, but you can oven-fry them if you are on a low-fat diet.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 13, 2012
I covered the unused burners with metal pot lids, so that the oil would not splash all over the stove. Burner covers would have been nicer, but I'm too much of a tightwad to buy them.

I poured 40 ounces of vegetable oil into my 6-quart stockpot. I heated the oil on medium-high heat for about five minutes, then tested the oil by dropping a small piece of potato into it. The first piece did not sizzle enough, so I waited two more minutes before adding the potatoes. To prevent sogginess, I added the potatoes 1/4-cup at a time, making sure to drop each scoopful in separate places in the pan. I waited a minute, then used my metal serving spoon to loosen the potatoes from the bottom of the pan, which prevents scorching and clumping.

I lined a colander with paper towels and placed it on a ceramic serving plate, so the potatoes could drain between batches. Once all five batches cooled enough to handle, I put the chicken on a clean serving plate and dumped the potatoes, chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped parsley and the orange zest into the glass baking dish and mixed them with the juice, oil and salt from the chicken marinade. I added another teaspoon of coarse sea salt, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of paprika and 2 teaspoons of black pepper, tossing everything by hand until well-blended.

I mounded some of the potatoes in the middle of the glass baking dish and placed the chicken on top, breast-up. I stuffed the main body cavity with some of the potatoes and mounded the rest between the chicken and the sides of the baking dish. Although you should select a baking dish that is two inches longer and wider than the meat you intend to roast for best results, I am too much of a miser to buy additional baking dishes. The one I use is 15 inches by 18 inches, just big enough for a 15 to 16-pound turkey or the five-pound meat loaves I like to make. When I make anything smaller, I just surround it with quartered potatoes, chunks of vegetable or a heap of rice.

I roasted the chicken for an hour and a half at 350 degrees F. The result was juicy, tender and flavorful.

To make a vegan version, substitute tempeh strips or tofu for the chicken. Drain a block of tofu into a mixing bowl, leaving the tofu in the container. Place a folded paper towel on top of the tofu and apply slow, even downward pressure until the tofu is about 1/3 thinner than when you started, without applying so much pressure that it cracks or smashes. Pour off any resulting liquid into the same mixing bowl and reserve it for gravy base. Pour the orange juice into the container with the tofu and press the tofu down again, then release pressure. The juice will draw up into the tofu block. Turn the tofu over and repeat to ensure that the juice infuses all the way through. If you use tempeh strips, just soak them in the orange juice. Pan-fry the potatoes first, then pan-sear the tofu or tempeh for best results.

Special thanks to my friend and fellow freelance writer Colleen De Koning for reminding me to include the vegan option in this recipe. :)

Check out "Made from Scratch Monday" by Mary Hudak-Collins for more allergy-free recipes.

Monday Meals

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Roast Pork with Oranges, Apples and Cauliflower

I needed to do something with the 4-pound cauliflower, oranges and cilantro I bought at Pro's Ranch Market this past Friday. This recipe is the tasty result. Cauliflower lacks the zest that I prefer in my food. Cooking it with pork roast for 1.5 hours at 375 degrees F allowed the pork juices to blend with the flavors of the apples, onions, oranges and cilantro. The cauliflower absorbed all the flavors and turned butter-soft.

The pork cost 99 cents a pound, and the onions cost less than 50 cents a pound. I got the oranges at 6 pounds for a dollar, and the cauliflower cost me 50 cents a pound. I used about 33 cents worth of fresh chopped cilantro. The entire meal cost $5.25 to make, not including the cost of the electricity. The recipe serves 6 to 8 people, which means I fed everyone for under a dollar a person.

If you want a vegan version of this recipe, substitute pan-seared tofu slices for the pork. Add a cup of orange juice, a teaspoon of ground 5-spice powder and 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil for flavor. If you do not like cilantro, substitute parsley.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the stem and green parts from the bottom of the cauliflower. Slice the cauliflower 2 inches thick and arrange it in a single layer in the bottom of the broiler pan.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2, 2011
Quarter the apples and trim away the core before slicing each piece into 1/4-inch thicknesses. Arrange the apple slices on top of the cauliflower, in the spaces between each orange slice.

Cut the ends off the onion and remove the first layer. Slice the onion into 1/8-inch thicknesses. Scatter the slices over the apples and oranges.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2, 2011

Rinse the cilantro under cold running water. Remove any discolored or withered leaves and stems. Pinch the large ends of the stems and set them aside for later use. Chop the cilantro leaves and scatter them over the cauliflower and sliced fruit. Sprinkle the vegetables and fruit with 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt. 

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2, 2011

Cut the arm end of the roast into 2-inch slices. Arrange the pork skin-side-up on top of the fruit and cauliflower. Sprinkle everything with a light coating of paprika.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2, 2011

Roast the pork uncovered for 1.5 hours at 375 degrees F, or until the meat registers 145 degrees F using a meat thermometer. Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before slicing it into 1-inch thicknesses. Serve 1 slice of pork with 1 cup of the cauliflower and sliced fruit. Serves 6 to 8.

Photo by Jack V. Sage, February 2, 2011

Check out "Made from Scratch Monday" by Mary Hudak-Collins for more allergy-free recipes.

Monday Meals

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken Tonight

Kids Summer Chicken Meal Tips
Getting kids to eat a healthy meal without turning your kitchen into a sweltering sweat box isn’t hard. Save time by making large batches of boneless, skinless chicken and cutting up summer fruits and vegetables.

Chicken Salad with Asian Pear
Pecan-crusted chicken, Asian pear, strawberry slices and other fruits make this chicken salad a delicious summer treat, perfect for potlucks and picnics.

Sesame-Ginger Chicken Salad
Keep your cool on a hot summer day with a delicious salad made with oven-roasted chicken breast, ready-to-eat mixed-green salad, tomatoes, candied ginger, sesame vinaigrette and seasoned mayonnaise. The crisp iceberg, romaine and butter-crunch lettuce, baby spinach and Swiss chard quench thirst and cool your body while the sesame and ginger soothe your stomach.

Tahiti Sunrise Chicken Salad
Pineapple, chicken and cilantro combine in a piquant dish that will wake your taste buds. The bell peppers supply vitamin A and C while the red onion and chive flowers strengthen your immune system. With red and black pepper opening your airways to increase your oxygen flow to the brain, you are ready to tackle anything the day has in store.

Tortilla Soup
If you like nachos, you will love this hearty, southwestern soup. The crunchy tortilla strips and lime-kissed avocado provide the perfect accompaniment to fresh chicken and diced tomatoes. When you want a midwinter change of pace, this soup brings you the flavors of Old Mexico.

Fried Chicken Livers
Although many people avoid eating organ meats, chicken livers provide almost 26 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. They also provide significant amounts of iron, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, choline, betaine, B-12, and more than 14,000 IU of vitamin A, according to the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Their creamy inside texture and crunchy exterior make them a true indulgence, despite their high cholesterol content.

Roast Chicken with Jambalaya Stuffing
Give roast chicken a Cajun twist using jambalaya made with fresh bell peppers, onions and garlic, cayenne pepper sauce, zucchini and yellow summer squash. This chicken travels well in a casserole carrier if you want to take it to a potluck. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Orange O'Brien-Stuffed Roast Chicken
Walmart had whole chickens on sale for 69 cents a pound today, so I got one. I used a $10 Walmart gift card that I earned through MyPoints to buy it, so the chicken, vegetable oil, cocoa powder and cola I bought today were essentially free. I didn't have any stuffing mix or rice, so I decided to create something new. The result was this beautiful chicken, stuffed with orange-infused O'Brien potatoes.

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
Cheesy chicken broccoli rice is a potluck classic that you can take anywhere. This heart-healthy chicken dish is ready in 30 minutes. Serve with fresh spinach or kale, halved grape tomatoes and red and green pepper strips for an even more festive dish.

Creamy Chicken Rice Bake
One of the most comforting casseroles — creamy chicken rice bake — goes from counter to oven to table in under 45 minutes when you keep diced or shredded chicken on hand. Sherry and chicken broth add flavor to a basmati and wild rice mixture that will please your palate any time. Take this casserole to any picnic or potluck and watch it disappear.

Chicken and Brown Rice with Mango-ginger Salsa
Bring the Caribbean into your kitchen with this one-pot chicken and brown rice meal topped with fresh mango salsa. Raw mango provides 25 percent of your day’s vitamin A and 76 percent of your daily vitamin C per 1-cup serving, making it an effective mid-day pick-me-up. One serving of raw mango provides folate, choline, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Mango salsa make a delicious base for lassi drinks. Just add it to one pint of plain or vanilla yogurt and two cups of ice in a blender.

Healthy Chicken Casserole
While chicken is a healthy meat, most chicken casserole recipes feature too much salt, add carbohydrates without any increase in vitamin and mineral content, and result in a dish that does the body more harm than good. This dish is high in vitamins C and A, manganese and potassium.
Serves 10
Serving size 3/4 cup
121 calories per serving
Glycemic index 7
Anti-inflammatory +85

In a large, high-sided casserole dish, mix sliced potatoes, chicken, apricots, black pepper, oregano and no-salt chicken stock. Substituting rosemary or cilantro for oregano changes the vitamin and mineral percentages, but does not decrease the anti-inflammatory property of the dish or increase its glycemic index per serving. Cover with foil and bake in oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Omit the oregano in the casserole if you are going to use fresh cilantro in the pineapple-pepper relish.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup crushed raw pineapple with juice, 1 small chopped red bell pepper, 1 oz. chopped scallions and 4 cloves minced raw garlic. Toss well to make a relish. Serve pineapple-pepper relish raw over chicken casserole. The raw relish retains all the essential vitamins and minerals while adding a sweet and sour kick to the dish.

2 cups homemade chicken stock, no salt
1 cup chopped or diced, roasted chicken breast
2 large red potatoes, sliced, with peels
1 cup dried apricots
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano, dried
1 cup raw pineapple, crushed
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 oz scallions, small, chopped
4 cloves raw, minced garlic
Optional: 1 tsp. lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

Cashew Chicken
Quick and healthy semi-homemade meals give you more time to spend enjoying life. Substitute extra-firm tofu chunks for the chicken and it becomes a vegan treat. Use fresh, local, organically-grown vegetables. This dish travels well if you want to take it to a potluck.

Yellow-Pepper Chicken Leg Quarters with Carrots and Potatoes
Lock flavor into chicken leg quarters. Diced Hungarian waxed yellow peppers, thin-sliced Vidalia onions, chopped celery, minced garlic and fresh-ground black pepper blended into a lime, orange juice, soy sauce and Louisiana hot sauce marinade soak into tender baby carrots and buttery Yukon Gold potato wedges. Top the vegetables with marinated chicken and let the juices drip down while they cook.

How (Not) to Make Beer Can Chicken
Beer can chicken is an interesting idea, but it takes a little extra preparation to make it work over an open camp fire. In theory, the beer can heats the chicken from the inside out, while the beer steams and marinates the meat, resulting in tender, moist chicken.

Delightful Desserts

Chocolate Hazelnut Caramel Bonbons
Gourmet chocolates cost anywhere from $20 a pound or more, but you can make your own caramel-hazelnut cream-cheese bonbon chocolates for about three dollars a pound. These bonbons make excellent gifts for housewarmings, teacher appreciation days and last-minute holiday guests. Make a pyramid of caramel-hazelnut bonbons on a tiered tray lined with gold doilies over snow-white cake boards and use it as a centerpiece.

16 oz. cream cheese
5 C powdered sugar
1/4 C coffee crystals
1 1/2 C cocoa powder
1 lb. caramels
1 lb. whole, shelled hazelnuts
2 lbs. semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Allow the cream cheese to soften to room temperature. Gradually work five cups of powdered sugar into the cream cheese, one cup at a time. Sift the cocoa powder and coffee crystals together and work them into the cream cheese mixture until well-blended.

Soften the caramels in the microwave for 20 seconds on high power, just enough to make them pliable. Push a hazelnut into the center of each caramel. Mold a teaspoon or so of the cream cheese mixture around each caramel-covered hazelnut. Place each cream-cheese-coated, caramel-covered hazelnut in a bonbon paper on a cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight.

Melt the semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a double boiler or in a bowl in the microwave. Pour the chocolate over each cream-cheese fondant center one tablespoon at a time until covered at least 1/8-inch thick. Allow the caramel-hazelnut chocolate bonbons to harden to room temperature. Place them in a 9-inch cookie tin or serve them on a gold scalloped cake board.

Buckeye Candy: Inside Out
If you enjoy making traditional, chocolate-coated buckeyes with peanut butter centers, try this last-minute Christmas gift idea: make them inside-out. Adults and older teens melt the chocolate and butterscotch morsels for the fudge centers and the candy coating. Younger children roll the fudge squares into balls and push skewers into each buckeye center and adults or teens can swirl the centers in a mixture of melted butterscotch and peanut butter.

3 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 oz. each
3 C smooth peanut butter
Double boiler
1/2 stick real butter
Small glass baking dish
Microwave oven
Wooden spoon
2 jars marshmallows cream, 7 oz. each
2 cans sweetened, condensed milk
9-by-12-inch glass baking dish
2 bags butterscotch chips, 12 oz. each
Package of bamboo skewers
Package of bonbon papers
Gift boxes, candy trays or fancy dishes
Squares of gold foil

This simple recipe makes nearly five pounds of butterscotch-coated, chocolate-fudge buckeyes. First, melt the bags of semi-sweet chocolate morsels over a double boiler. Melt the butter in a separate glass dish in the microwave. Drizzle the butter into the melted chocolate morsels while stirring the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until well-blended. Stir in the marshmallow cream and the sweetened, condensed milk until well-blended.

Butter a 9-by-12-inch glass baking dish. Spread the chocolate fudge mixture evenly in the dish and allow it to cool overnight, then cut the fudge into 1-inch squares. Roll each fudge square into a ball to make the inside-out buckeye centers. Refrigerate them until each center is firm.

Melt the butterscotch chips over a double boiler. Stir in three cups of smooth peanut butter. Push a bamboo skewer into each chocolate fudge buckeye center. Dip each fudge center in the melted butterscotch chips, swirling it around to ensure that all but a 3/4-inch circle around the skewer gets an even coat of candy. Place each finished inside-out buckeye candy in a bonbon paper to cool.

Plunge the double boiler, glass bowl and the glass baking dish into hot water and allow them to soak for five minutes before rinsing them clean. Remove the bamboo skewers from each buckeye, using gentle, even pressure to avoid squashing them. Place the buckeye candies in a gift box, candy tray or fancy dish. Display your inside-out buckeye candy in their bonbon wrappers or wrap each one in gold foil.

Fill a candy box with these delicious inside-out treats, along with a batch of regular buckeyes and some homemade hardtack candy. Take it a step further: wrap each inside-out buckeye in gold, red or green foil, pile them in a Christmas tree shape, and top them with a gold bow to make an edible centerpiece.

Pumpkin Yogurt Fluff
Serve a dollop of pumpkin yogurt fluff with peaches and pears for a healthy, delicious appetizer. It also makes a delicious, creamy dip for ginger snaps. Creamy, yogurt-based pumpkin fluff has all the flavor of pumpkin pie with far less cholesterol.

3 pie pumpkins
Carving knife
2 cookie sheets
Coarse sea salt
32 oz. vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp. ground mace
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. granulated ginger
3 Tbsp. apple cider
1 C powdered sugar
Coffee grinder
3 dried vanilla beans
3 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise pods
White chocolate curls
Candied ginger slices
Holiday serving platter
1 pound ginger snaps
Two cans peach halves, 30 oz. each
Two cans pear halves, 30 oz. each
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
Decorative serving bowl

Remove the top of each pumpkin and scrape out the seeds and innards. Rinse the innards from the pumpkin seeds. Toss the pumpkin seeds with coarse sea salt, spread them on a cookie sheet and set them aside to bake later.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the scooped-out pie pumpkins on a cookie sheet and bake until the flesh is soft, about 45 to 90 minutes. Test the softness of the pumpkin flesh with a fork after 45 minutes, and again every 20 minutes until done. Cut the pumpkin flesh into 2-inch chunks and puree it in a food processor.

Pour the pureed pumpkin, vanilla yogurt, nutmeg, granulated ginger, apple cider, and powdered sugar into the food processor. Pulse everything in the food processor until the pumpkin and the vanilla yogurt blend to a uniform color.
Break the vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks into the coffee grinder. Add the star anise pods and pulse for two seconds at a time until everything grinds into fine powder. Add the spices to the pumpkin and vanilla yogurt fluff.

Drain the peaches and pears, reserving the juice for your holiday punch. Pat them dry on paper towels. Place a dollop of pumpkin yogurt fluff in each peach or pear half. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate morsels in the top half of a double boiler. Drizzle melted chocolate over the pumpkin yogurt fluff topping on each peach or pear half. Arrange the peach and pear halves on a holiday serving platter.

Scrape the remaining pumpkin yogurt fluff into a decorative serving bowl. Top it with curls of white chocolate and slices of candied ginger. Place the serving bowl full of pumpkin yogurt fluff in the center of a holiday serving platter and surround it with ginger snaps.

Cranberry Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
The first Thanksgiving dinner would certainly have featured fresh or dried cranberries. This light, fluffy cranberry cream cheese fruit dip is the perfect accompaniment to sliced apples, whole strawberries and vanilla wafers. Cranberries supplied the colonists with potassium, vitamins A and C, lutein and zeaxanthin. The cream cheese supplies calcium, phosphorus, folate and choline.

Food processor
1 lb. whole cranberries
3 Tbsp. orange juice
2 packages cream cheese
1 C powdered sugar
2-qt. serving bowl
Lemon peel curls
Orange peel curls
1 lb. sliced Granny Smith, Jonagold or Gala apples
2-quart mixing bowl
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. raw sugar
1 pint whole fresh strawberries
1 box red and green cocktail toothpicks 1 pound vanilla wafers
Holiday serving platter

Pulse 1 pound of whole cranberries for two seconds at a time in a 2-quart food processor until coarsely chopped. Pulsing in short bursts ensures that the cranberries will not liquefy. Add the orange juice, cream cheese and powdered sugar. Pulse the mixture in 3-second bursts until the ground cranberries are marbled throughout the cream cheese. Stop while some of the cream cheese still remains white. Scrape the cranberry cream cheese mixture into a 2-quart serving bowl and top it with curls of orange peel and lemon peel.

Place the sliced Granny Smith, Jonagold or Gala apples in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Sprinkle them with the lemon juice and raw sugar. Toss the sliced apples until they are coated all over with the sweetened lemon juice. Rinse the strawberries and pat them dry on paper towels. Stick a red or green cocktail toothpick into the stem end of each strawberry.

Place the bowl of cranberry cream cheese fruit dip in the center of a divided serving platter. Fill the spaces in the divided platter with vanilla wafers, sliced apples and whole fresh strawberries.

Teach Preschool Reading: Gingerbread Letter Cookies
Preschool children learn best when they can manipulate objects. Making gingerbread letters helps your child master letter recognition while having fun in the kitchen. Make several batches, so that you have three to four of each letter. Use the letters to spell the names of family members, favorite toys and other items your child interacts with daily. Have your child dictate stories and use the letters to spell each word.

1 C vegetable shortening
1 C granulated sugar 
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 C molasses
2 Tbsp. vinegar
5 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

Cream the shortening, sugar and salt together until smooth and evenly mixed. Stir in the egg, molasses and vinegar. Beat well. Add the baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated into the mixture. Work the flour into the molasses mixture until all the flour is incorporated, resulting in stiff, sticky dough.

Roll the dough into a log and chill for two hours. On a lightly floured surface, roll your gingerbread dough to 1/8-inch thicknesses, and then into 1/2-inch wide strips. Help your child shape each strip into an alphabet letter.

Place all of the alphabet cookies 1-inch apart on a greased or nonstick cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 6 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from oven. Allow your alphabet gingerbread cookies to finish cooling on wire racks. Store in a tightly covered tin. Keeps well for 3-4 weeks.

Gingerbread People
Fill your cookie jar or tea tray with these delicious, traditional gingerbread people. Blackstrap molasses provides the traditional gingerbread-cookie flavor that is missing in store-bought cookies. Dried cranberries replace raisins as buttons and eyes for a tasty twist.

1 C vegetable shortening
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 C blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
5 C all-purpose flour
1 C dried cranberries

Cream together the shortening, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Stir the egg, blackstrap molasses and vinegar into the sugar mixture and beat until well-blended. Stir the flour into the molasses mixture one cup at a time until it is all incorporated into stiff gingerbread cookie dough. Chill the dough for two hours.

Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a gingerbread person cutter to cut the dough to shape. Space gingerbread cookies 1-inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Press dried cranberries into the face for eyes and into the belly area for buttons, or use raisins for a more traditional gingerbread cookie.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool lightly before you transfer the cookies to wire racks to finish cooling. Store your gingerbread people in a cookie tin with a tight cover. These cookies keep well for three to four weeks.

No-bake Cheesecake with Strawberry Jam
For a quick, cold, sweet summer treat, mix up some creamy, no-bake cheesecake. Top it with strawberry jam and serve it fresh or frozen for maximum enjoyment. From start to finish, this velvet-textured cheesecake is ready to eat in as little as 15 minutes.

8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
3-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix
2-quart mixing bowl
Pastry whisk
1 C whole milk
1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
Rubber scraper
1 graham cracker crust
1/4 C strawberry jam
1 tsp. lemon juice

Optional: sliced strawberries, peaches, mango, kiwi fruit or star fruit
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 whole lemon, lime or orange
Lemon zester

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and lemon pudding mix in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Use a fork or a pastry whisk to mix everything together into a smooth paste. Add the milk, lemon or lime juice and the vanilla flavoring. Mix everything together until the mixture is creamy and well-blended.

Pour the cheesecake mixture into a graham cracker crust. Use a rubber scraper to get all the mixture from the bowl and to smooth the top of the cheesecake to an even depth, with a slight dip in the center.

Mix the jam and lemon juice together and pour it onto the center of the cheesecake, smoothing it evenly without making it touch the edges of the graham cracker crust. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of the jam sauce if desired, along with curls of lemon or lime zest. Whip 1/2 pint of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar together to make whipped topping if desired.

Cover the cheesecake with the plastic insert from the graham cracker crust. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 15 minutes, or place it in the freezer for 5 to 15 minutes. Place your no-bake cheesecake on a bed of ice if you take it to picnics or potlucks, to keep it from becoming runny. Substitute orange juice, orange zest and orange marmalade for the lemon juice, lemon zest and strawberry jam of desired. Nearly any type of jam makes good topping for cheesecake. Just substitute a corresponding fruit that matches its flavor profile.

Carrot Cake Topped With Caramel Apples
Sweet grated carrot, crisp chopped apples, cinnamon and ginger combine in a moist fall cake topped with caramel sauce and sliced apples. Serve each slice of carrot cake warm with a cup of mulled cider while you watch a fall sunrise, for a relaxing recharge. This cake travels well to potlucks and complements a cup of chai or a mocha latte.

3 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup amaretto coffee creamer powder
1 lb. grated carrots
2 C chopped apples
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 C caramel or hazelnut syrup
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C cola
4 sliced apples
9-by-9-inch glass casserole dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
Clean kitchen cloth
12 oz. caramels
1/4 C evaporated milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together until the mixture feels light and fluffy. Repeat at least three times. Fold the amaretto coffee creamer powder, grated carrots, chopped apples and sugar into the flour mixture.

Whisk the eggs together in a small mixing bowl while adding the spices. Pour the eggs into the flour mixture. Add the caramel or hazelnut syrup and the cola to the carrot cake batter. Mix the batter by hand until well-blended.

Rub olive oil all over the inside of the glass casserole dish, including up the sides. Pour the carrot cake batter into the casserole dish. Arrange the apple slices in a daisy-like pattern on top of the cake batter. Wipe any spillovers from the edges and sides of the dish with a clean cloth. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a glass baking dish for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Melt the caramel in a double boiler. Stir in the evaporated milk until the sauce is a uniform smoothness. Pour the caramel sauce over the cake. Cut the caramel apple-topped carrot cake into 3-inch squares. Serve warm.

Victorian Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies are a must-have item for your Easter basket, tea tray or cookie jar. They make an excellent housewarming or hostess gift at any time of year. By cutting and positioning disks of dough, you can make rabbits, angels, cats or other shapes as well as the traditional 2-inch diameter tea cookies.

Large mixing bowl
Waxed paper
3-inch diameter, flat-bottomed drinking glass
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
2 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour

Optional: candied violets, lemon or orange zest curls
1/2 tsp. lemon or orange juice, 1 additional cup powdered sugar

Cream together the eggs, sugars, butter, vanilla, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the flour one cup at a time until all ingredients are well-blended. Lay the sugar cookie dough on a doubled sheet of waxed paper and form it into a 2-inch diameter roll. Chill the rolled dough for two hours or until it is firm.

Slice the chilled sugar cookie dough into 1/4-inch thick disks. Cut arcs from the right and left sides of each disk to create one triangle and two wing shapes to make angels. You can also cut a small arc from the top and pull it to a 45-degree angle to resemble a bunny ear. Reshape the remainder of the disk to more of an oval to make the rabbit's body.

Roll the remaining dough into 1-inch diameter balls. Dip the bottom of a chilled drinking glass in white granulated sugar and press each ball of dough flat to make traditional sugar cookies.

Sprinkle the rabbit cookies with pink, blue or yellow sugar. Sprinkle the angels and the traditional sugar cookies with white granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.

Optional: Mix 1/2 tsp. lemon or orange juice with 1 cup powdered sugar to make confectioner's glaze. Brush the glaze onto candied violets and orange or lemon zest curls and place them on your cookies for added eye appeal.

Heavenly Rainbow Ambrosia Fruit Salad
Celebrate the holiday season with this colorful twist on classic ambrosia fruit salad. Bursting with fluffy, rainbow-colored marshmallows, chopped apple, cranberries and golden raisins, this trifle topped with cherry pie filling will have everyone's taste buds singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Serve this ambrosia trifle on its own or make it the crowning moment of your holiday meal of baked honey-glazed ham, green bean casserole, clouds of mashed potatoes with red-eye gravy, fluffy southern biscuits and mandarin yam casserole.

6 quart mixing bowl
3 large cans crushed drained pineapple
3 pints heavy whipping cream
2 quart mixing bowl
Electric hand mixer
3 pints plain or vanilla yogurt
3 packages instant lemon pudding mix
8 cups mini rainbow marshmallows
2 cups chopped apples
12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups golden raisins
9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish
2 ounces real butter
1 pound coarsely crumbled vanilla wafer cookies
3 cans cherry pie filling
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups chopped pecans

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a 6-quart mixing bowl. Pour the crushed pineapple into the lined colander and allow it to drain for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze it for later use in another recipe.

Pour all three pints of heavy whipping cream into a 2-quart mixing bowl. Whip the cream into soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. Pour the crushed pineapple from the colander into the 6-quart mixing bowl. Add the yogurt and the instant lemon pudding mix. Stir everything together until well blended.

Fold the mini rainbow marshmallows, chopped apples, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dried cranberries and golden raisins into the pudding mixture. Refrigerate the ambrosia fruit salad for 30 minutes until the pudding sets.

Butter the entire inside of a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish. Line it with the coarsely-crumbled vanilla wafers. Spread the ambrosia fruit salad mixture into the casserole dish and top it with cherry pie filling. Sprinkle the shredded coconut and chopped pecans over the cherry-topped ambrosia fruit salad and serve immediately.

June Bug's Orange Drop Cookies
My grandmother called my mother "June Bug," in honor of her birth month. June Bug grew up playing house with real dishes she bought at thrift shops with her allowance. She held elaborate tea parties for her friends, her brother, David, who was ten years younger, and her toddler-age niece, Deborah. Orange drop cookies slathered in orange glaze were one of mom's favorite tea cookies.

4-sided grater
3 oranges
Sharp utility knife
Orange juicer
5-qt. covered bowl
6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 sticks butter One cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Cookie sheets
4 cups confectioner's sugar
Storage containers
Waxed paper

Mom started my baking career off early, between ages two and three. She allowed me to press scraps of pie dough into little mini muffin tins from an Easy Bake oven and showed me how to make what she called "pie-dough" cookies, or as most people called them, thumbprint cookies. But it was her orange drop cookies that I loved most. Mom used a Pyrex orange juicer to squeeze three or four oranges, carefully straining out the seeds but leaving the pulp. She taught my brother and I to grate the oranges on the four-sided grater, using the side with all the tiny holes. We used a clean, dry basting brush to get every bit of that grated orange peel off the grater and into the orange drop cookie batter.

Mom used what she called "basic cookie mix," a recipe that everyone who had ever owned the light aqua five-quart sealed bowl that Tupperware carried back then shared. The recipe called for five to six cups of flour, two eggs, two sticks of butter and one cup of sugar, plus about 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, minus 1 tablespoon. She added all but two tablespoons of the grated orange peel and stirred until the dough was creamy.

Mom used a teaspoon to drop the dough onto cookie sheets, then baked the cookies at 350 degrees until the bottoms began to turn golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. She took them out of the oven and placed each cookie on the counter to cool.

The glaze consisted of four cups of confectioner's sugar plus one teaspoon of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of grated orange peel. Mom drizzled the glaze over each cookie until it was covered. She stored her orange drop cookies in plastic peanut butter pails between sheets of waxed paper.

June Bug's Bread Pudding

My grandmother gave my Dad an old chest freezer when she closed her candy store in Brewster, Ohio. Dad drove the whole family to the Schwebel and Nickles Bakery thrift stores and load up the trunk of our family's 1968 Dodge Dart GT with loaves of day-old bread at 10 to 20 cents a loaf. For weeks afterward, we'd have toasted cheese sandwiches with homemade tomato soup, French toast and bread pudding.

Mom's bread pudding was simple: eggs, stale bread cut into strips, Carnation evaporated milk, a little sugar and a lot of cinnamon, with a hint of nutmeg and a stick of real butter. It was soft, sweet and filling, and it tasted great with a glass of cold, reconstituted nonfat dry milk.

Mom's bread pudding recipe may have come from my Aunt Ressie, a four-foot-nothing-much, feisty woman who didn't take any crap, especially from menfolk. Ressie was a Depression-era baby, oldest of 11 children, and she could make a turkey carcass feed a family for a month. Mom drew the line at the turkey carcass after the second appearance on the table, but she definitely absorbed Ressie's lessons in frugal cooking.

Mom cut the bread for her pudding into strips and filled her glass casserole dish to the top, sometimes even mounding the bread. Then she'd whip 3 or 4 large eggs into a froth, along with the milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, pouring it over the bread. She'd cut the butter into chunks and distribute them as evenly as possible throughout the casserole dish, then shake more cinnamon and sugar over everything. She baked the bread pudding at 375 degrees until the top browned, then served it piping hot with a glass of milk.

Mom's bread pudding travels well to potlucks and picnics. Bread pudding tastes best hot, but it can also be served cold. It makes a filling snack or a fast breakfast, especially when served with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, hot apple cider or milk, covered in fresh berries or apple slices or topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

All these ingredients are approximate. Feel free to adjust them after you taste your first batch of bread pudding.

2 to 3 loaves stale bread
9- by 12-inch glass casserole dish
6 large eggs
2 cans Carnation evaporated milk, 12-oz or larger
1/2 C white granulated sugar
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 stick real butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the bread into 1-inch wide strips and fill the casserole dish. Whip the eggs, evaporated milk, sugar and spices together until frothy and pour the mixture over the bread. Bake at 375 degrees until the top of the bread pudding is golden brown.

Keep any leftover bread pudding covered with foil for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you do not eat milk or eggs, substitute a 26-ounce jar of applesauce for the eggs and use soy, rice or almond milk to replace the evaporated milk. Replace the butter with olive oil or omit it altogether if desired.

Heritage Meals

Taste of Australia: Roasted Kangaroo Tail
Kangaroo is a traditional aboriginal favorite in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. The meat was a prized protein source during Australia’s colonial period. With a similar flavor and texture to venison, kangaroo tail is usually roasted or steamed and the meat is often used to make soup.
8 ears unshucked sweet corn

2 zucchini squash
2 yellow squash
2 small eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. grapefruit juice
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp. red sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 whole kangaroo tail, unskinned

Soak the unshucked corn in salted water for 30 minutes. Cut 1-inch slices of squash and eggplant and lay them in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Mix the oil, juice, sugar and spices together and pour it over the vegetable slices. Toss the vegetables to ensure that all the slices are coated in juice and oil. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Rinse the kangaroo tail and wrap it in foil. Lay the wrapped tail and the soaked corn on the cob in the coals in the grill, once the coals have turned white. Turn the tail once after 15 to 20 minutes and allow it to roast for another 15 minutes. Remove the kangaroo tail and the corn from coals and allow them to stand while you grill the vegetables.

Shuck the corn. Unwrap the foil from the kangaroo tail and peel away the skin to expose the meat. Cut the tail into 1-inch thick pieces and serve with roasted corn and grilled vegetables.

Tip: Substitute top sirloin roast or venison tenderloin for the kangaroo tail if desired.

Brett Harris; cook; Perth, Western Australia
"The Oxford Companion to Food"; Alan Davidson; 2006; p. 429

Taste of Italy: Abruzzo
There is not just one Italian-style cuisine, there are many. Each represents one of the 21 distinct regions of Italy, with its own preferences in techniques and ingredients. Maccheroni alla chitarra is a fresh pasta dish made with boiled noodles, roasted lamb or pork and a slow-simmered red sauce. Italian cuisine uses fresh garden ingredients still warm from the sun, bursting with flavor. Seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads all play a part in Italian cooking.

Showcase Abruzzi cuisine by making a batch of maccheroni alla chitarra. A chitarra has one or two layers of closely spaced wires, making it look like the neck of a guitar.

Rolling pin
Large stock pot
12-inch skillet
Pastry mat or cutting board
Spray bottle of water
Pastry/basting brush
3 C flour
4 eggs
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 C olive oil
1 whole onion, sliced
1 lb. quartered Roma tomatoes
1 lb. lamb or pork chunks
1 C broda (broth) (recipe below)
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 lb. grated pecorino cheese

 For the broda:
6 C water
1 lb. each beef, pork, and lamb bones
1 whole onion, diced
3 carrots, finely diced
2 or 3 ribs diced celery
2 generous pinches of sea salt
1 Tbsp. white pepper

Chitarra by Jack V. Sage, June 21, 2009
Pour 3 cups of flour in a mound on your cutting board. Poke a hole in the mound; add 4 eggs and a pinch of sea salt. Work the eggs into the flour until you have sticky dough.

Sprinkle more flour on the board and roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness, the width of your chitarra. Cut the thin dough by laying it on your chitarra, using your rolling pin to force it through the wires. Allow your maccheroni to dry slightly before tossing it into boiling water to cook.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sweat the sliced onions in the olive oil until they become clear and barely start to brown. Toss the fresh quartered tomatoes in the pan and stir. Add one cup of broda, which is a broth made from beef, lamb and pork bones.

To make broda, simmer beef bones, pork bones, and lamb bones in 6 cups of water until any meat that may still be on them falls off. Add the diced onion, carrots, celery and a generous double pinch of sea salt. Sprinkle in the white pepper and bring to a full, rolling boil for 10 minutes. Strain the broda through a piece of cheesecloth and store in your freezer until needed.

To make vegetarian broda, eliminate the meat bones, triple the vegetables and add 2 pounds mashed pinto bean paste or 2 pounds mashed tofu to the mixture. Use a food processor, blender or food mill to puree all the solids and don't strain the broda this time.

In a separate pan, brown the lamb or pork chunks in olive oil, then place them in a deep baking dish to roast at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the meat chunks every ten minutes and baste them with olive oil. Spritz them with water with water before each turn, to prevent drying out the meat.

Add the roast lamb or pork chunks to your sauce after it has simmered for at least 20 minutes on low heat. If using the vegetarian version of this dish, substitute extra firm tofu cut in 1-inch chunks. Brown the tofu chunks in olive oil with a splash of soy sauce and several sprigs of rosemary.

Serve a large handful of maccheroni alla chitarra twisted into a bird's nest shape. Cover the pasta with a large dipper of sauce and roast lamb or pork chunks. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary. Sprinkle the entire dish with grated pecorino cheese. Serve hot.

Tastes of Italy: Regional Favorites
Each of the 21 distinct regions of Italy has its own preferences in cooking techniques and ingredients. Italian cuisine consists of far more than spaghetti with ground beef sauce, square ravioli filled with beef and covered with a thin, nearly flavorless red broth, and pizza made with a thick layer of canned spaghetti sauce, topped with pepperoni and grated mozzarella. None of these dishes appear on a typical Italian table.

Italian cuisine uses fresh garden ingredients still warm from the sun, bursting with flavor. Seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads all play a part in Italian cooking. It is easy to prepare Abruzzo, Tuscan, Lombard, Calabrian and Sardinian specialties once you master the necessary tips and techniques.

Use meat from free-roaming hogs, mountain goats, sheep and fish in your Abruzzi recipes. Abruzzo is a region in east central Italy that borders the Adriatic Sea to the east. Flavor Abruzzi dishes with wine, garlic, olive oil, saffron and rosemary. Cheeses made from sheep's milk, such as pecorino, are a mainstay of the Abruzzo table, according to Micol Negrin and Dino De Angelis at Rustico Cooking. Maccherone alla chitarra, a local specialty, is made with fresh egg pasta cut thin with a rolling pin over two layers of wires, then covered with a generous dip of red sauce and roast lamb chunks.

Marinate your steak in olive oil from the local press, and add fresh minced garlic to make the signature dish of the Tuscans. Bistecca Fiorenta is a 3-inch thick charcoal-grilled Porterhouse steak served with arugula and other grilled vegetables. Tuscany, with Italy's Tyrhennian seacoast off to the west, produces award-winning grapes and olives. It is also a source of white truffles, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.

Other Tuscan specialty ingredients include wild asparagus, wild hare, artichokes, cauliflower and mushrooms. All are used to make fritto misto, which are mixed fried foods. Cut your vegetables, chicken and wild hare into chunks, dredge them in flour and fry everything just enough to turn golden brown.

When in Lombardy, grate fontina Val d’Aosta into a cold rice salad made with artichoke hearts, eggplant, mushrooms and fresh albacore tuna flakes. Lombardy is on Italy’s north central border, opposite Switzerland. Lombards favor risottos, made from rice, and polenta, made from cornmeal. Flavor your Lombard dishes with plenty of basil, sage, celery and onion.

Mix candied fruit and raisins into a light, buttery sweet bread to make Lombardy's holiday specialty, Panettone, a possible forebear of Christmas fruitcake. Serve your panettone sliced with a glass of sweet Moscato d’Asti wine.

Cook with chili peppers, lemon, chives and honey in Calabria, on Italy’s southwest coast, in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula. Serve littleneck clams poached in white wine and flavored with with garlic and parsley. Make focaccia, which is thick, flat yeast bread. Top it with anchovy fillets, sliced tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Dip roasted figs in melted chocolate for a rich Calabrian dessert.

Lamb, wild fennel, and pecorino sardo make frequent appearances on Sardinian dinner tables. Sardinia is in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tyrhennian coast, just west of Tuscany. Mix pecorino -- a cheese made with sheep’s milk -- with ricotta, black pepper and sausage and serve it over malloredus, which as a mini gnocchi pasta. Quarter a rabbit and cover it with fennel chunks, whole garlic cloves and black olives. Sprinkle with chili pepper flakes, crushed fennel seeds and salt. Poach everything in white wine and olive oil in a covered dish.

Anna Maria Volpi: What Is Italian Cooking?
Rustico Cooking
Tuscan Cuisine


Not-So-Evil Stepmother’s Macaroni Bake, Venison Ribs and Harvard Beets
When my father remarried, I opted to spend that day at a flea market with a friend, selling junk, rather than attend his wedding. I was angry that the wedding was announced a mere 30 days after he and Mom divorced. In my then-13-year-old mind, he had betrayed all of us. So I did what any rational teenager would do: I blamed my step-mother.

But it wasn't that simple. My stepmother, Dorothy, had a lot of skills and talents, not the least of which were doll-making, macrame and old-fashioned cooking. She used old Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks, plus word-of-mouth recipes from her own mother, Twila Houghton. 

Twila never failed to treat my siblings and I as lovingly as if we were her own grandchildren. Twila served us Diet 7-Up and homemade snickerdoodle cookies every time we visited her home in Canton, Ohio's southwest end, just a stone's throw from the Trinity Gospel Temple Food Store and Fisher's grocery, whose empty parking lot was often our playground. 

Dorothy's father -- whose first name I am ashamed to say I had trouble remembering just now -- used to make lamps from inch-thick sections of maple wood and old coffee cans, and had a collection of decorative Toby Jugs and Jim Beam bottles that he loved to show me. Hugh was a gentle, quiet man who spent most of his time in a brown tweed-covered easy chair with an old-fashioned curved post-lamp with a Tiffany shade over it for reading. Hugh showed me how to wire a clay pot to make the start of a hanging lamp. Dorothy taught me how to macrame it.

Twila had every single school paper and art project Dorothy had ever made and every piece of outgrown clothing she had ever worn packed neatly away in the attic, like time capsules. Dorothy took me to the attic and pulled out boxes full of clothes she had made and nearly-new shoes and just gave them to me outright. Something like 30 pairs of Earth Shoes and Bass, Grasshoppers, Keds and Buster Browns, with nary a mark or a torn strap among them. We dug through box after box of hook rug kits, plaster and candy molds and other craft supplies, a treasure trove that took me years to explore and even longer to fully appreciate.

But it was things like making oven-baked deer ribs, Harvard beets and baked macaroni that I have to thank Dorothy for the most. Dad insisted on using every part of the deer, even though deer ribs are incredibly fatty unless you grill them or cook them on a rack. We made a double slab that covered both oven racks. Along with them came the Harvard beets and the macaroni bake. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did back then,  and I hope that, now that Dad has passed on, Dorothy finds this article and realizes that she is not forgotten. This meal serves 10 to 15 people.

Venison Ribs:
2 full slabs of venison ribs
2 lbs. maple-cured slab-bacon slices
Broiler pan
Paper towels
Black pepper
Whole nutmeg
Nutmeg grater
1 tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp. coffee crystals
2 C chicken stock

Harvard Beets:
3 cans whole beets, 15-oz. each
4-qt. saucepan with lid
Small mixing bowl
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. white sugar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Covered glass or ceramic serving bowl
Wooden spoon

Baked Macaroni:
2 lbs. cooked macaroni
8-oz. block of cream cheese
1 lb. longhorn cheese
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1 can evaporated milk
1 crushed chicken bouillon cube
Large stockpot
9- by 12-inch glass baking dish
Fresh grated Parmesan
2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
30-oz. can crushed tomatoes

Venison Rib Bake
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the bottom half of the broiler pan with foil. Place the venison ribs on the top part of the rack and season them generously with black pepper.

Grate 1 tsp. of nutmeg into a small mixing bowl and add the Chinese five-spice powder and coffee crystals. Rub the resulting spice blend onto the venison rib slabs.

Cover the venison slabs with bacon slices across the short side without overlapping them. Broil the venison ribs for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Turn them over and broil again for another 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake the venison ribs for 30 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer stuck in the meat without touching any bone registers 160 degrees.

Rinse the ribs under hot running water to remove excess grease, pat them dry with paper towels and put them back in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Eat the deer ribs immediately. If you wait, the fat congeals, leaving a greasy coating in your mouth. Pour a little chicken stock over the deer ribs and reheat them as needed if you find the greasiness offensive.

Harvard Beets
Pour three 15-ounce cans of whole beets, with their liquid,  into a 4-qt. saucepan. Stir the cornstarch, white sugar and apple cider vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid from the beets and stir again until evenly blended.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the beets in the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until evenly blended. Bring the beets to a rolling boil for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer the beets for 20 minutes, stirring often to ensure that the sauce does not scorch. Remove from heat and pour the beets into a covered glass or ceramic serving bowl.

Macaroni Bake
Mix the block of cream cheese, the grated longhorn cheese and the cubed Velveeta cheese in a large stockpot over low heat. 

Pour the evaporated milk into the melted cheese and sprinkle a crushed chicken bouillon cube over everything. Stir gently until all ingredients become a thick cheese sauce. Add the macaroni and stir until well-blended. Pour everything into a 9- by 12-inch glass baking dish and top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed Ritz crackers.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the top layer of macaroni is golden-brown. Serve hot, topped with a ladle-full of crushed tomatoes.

Succulent Venison Sausage
Venison has very little fat and can be made into delicious sausage. Venison sausage, combined with jerk mix, berries, and a little additional fat, can be made into jerky strips, and will keep for up to six months. Venison sausage can be made into patties, stuffed into casings to make links, or molded into mini meat loaves. Serve venison sausage with quail eggs on a bed of fresh-picked spring greens, with honey-drizzled, home made biscuits and venison gravy.

30 lbs. venison
1 C Morton Tender Quick
½ C rubbed sage
½ C black pepper
4 C soy sauce
2 C vinegar
2 C Louisiana hot sauce
½ C garlic powder
½ C onion powder
1/8 C ground red pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
Meat grinder
Sausage casings
Stuffing machine
Large, metal mixing bowl

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the spices, vinegar and hot sauce together. Pour equal amounts of sauce into four separate large bowls.

Grind the venison. Divide the ground venison into four equal amounts. Place one fourth of the ground venison in the large mixing bowl. Add one of the small bowls of spice sauce. Mix the spiced sauce thoroughly into the venison. Continue mixing meat until all four piles of venison have been spiced.

Thread the sausage casings onto your stuffing machine. Thrust venison sausage mix into the machine using a thrusting block. Do not use your hands, especially if you are wearing rubber gloves. Stuff the casings until all the venison has been used. Every six inches, give the casing two or three tight twists. Keep them refrigerated, dry them, or smoke them.

Hang lengths of venison sausage links by wrapping them around a broomstick placed inside a smokehouse. Use hickory, mesquite or apple wood to smoke your sausages at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. Raise the temperature to 160 degrees and smoke your sausages for another four hours. Raise the temperature to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue smoking until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches 165F. Continue smoking the sausages for another 48 hours. Wrap your sausages in waxed paper, twisted at the ends.

Venison Meat Loaf
Ground, pan-broiled venison provides 22.48 grams of protein, almost 8 mg of niacin and 83 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Venison meat loaf has excellent flavor and texture. This dish travels well to potlucks. Serve slices of this delicious venison meat loaf on toasted ciabatta bread or baguettes, with a side salad of mixed spring greens, sliced strawberries and pecan halves.

8-quart mixing bowl
2 lbs. ground venison
1 egg
1 C bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. red sea salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
6-quart mixing bowl
1 lb, cooked, drained chickpeas
1 oz. olive oil
2 oz. jalapeno or banana peppers
Slow cooker
1 C sliced Bermuda onion
28 oz. can tomato puree
1 C sliced red, yellow and green bell peppers

Combine the ground venison, egg, bread crumbs, chopped onion, sea salt and red pepper flakes in an 8-quart mixing bowl. Mix together until all ingredients are incorporated. In a separate 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas, olive oil, and the jalapeno or banana peppers. Allow this mixture to sit for an hour so the flavors mingle.

Mix the seasoned, mashed chickpeas into the ground venison until well-blended. Toss the Bermuda onion slices into the slow cooker in a single layer. Form the venison mixture into a large, round loaf in the bottom of your slow cooker. Pour tomato puree over the venison meat loaf. Cook on low heat for 3 hours, then switch to high for 1 more hour. Top your venison meat loaf with red, yellow and green bell pepper slices.

Ratatouille with Squash and Zucchini
Whether you call them aubergines and courgettes or eggplants and summer squash, these vegetables form the foundation of a comforting peasant dish from Provence, France. Whether you prefer them sliced, layered and baked or cut into chunks and simmered, ratatouille recipes include tomato paste, onions, garlic, herbes de Provence and slices or chunks of colorful bell pepper. Leave out the anchovies for a vegan, low-sodium version or add chunks of chicken, pork or beef for potlucks.

A mandoline makes it easier to cut even-thickness slices for a layered, baked ratatouille. The guard prevents you from cutting your fingers when you remember to keep your fingers flat, not curled under, according to chef Eve Felder from the Culinary Institute of America. If you use the ruffled blade and rotate the vegetables a quarter-turn each time you run them across the mandolin, you get a waffle effect known as "gaufrette." This slicing method creates the familiar waffle fries seen at festivals and fairs.

If you slice the courgettes and aubergines in half lengthwise, toss them in fresh herbs and oil and grill them, it decreases the moisture content and caramelizes the surface, allowing you to omit salt. Grilled vegetables cut into cubes or chunks hold their shapes longer than raw ones, in simmered ratatouille.

The saute pan should already be hot when you add the sesame or olive oil. Peeled, smashed garlic cloves should saute until their scent permeates the room, followed by any herbs or spices in the recipe. This pulls the essence of each spice to the surface and magnifies their effects on the flavor of the dish. Once you stir a can of tomato paste into the spices, you can add the white wine and chicken stock to make a thin red sauce.

The layered casserole version of ratatouille has more eye appeal if you alternate the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper slices. The most eye-appealing ratatouille begins at the center of the casserole dish and works outward in a spiral, with the vegetables overlapped and tilted in a single layer.

As long as the casserole does not contain any meat, you do not have to cook it any longer once the sauce begins to bubble. Cook ratatouille that contains poultry to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Strips or cubes of pork or beef need to cook to 145 degrees, while ratatouille containing wild game should cook to 160 degrees.

Kitchen Daily; How to Use a Mandoline; Eve Felder, Culinary Institute of America; 2011

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