Mom’s Dough Gods

When we kids were at home, Mom made dough gods almost every time she made bread. We devoured them hot from the pan coated with sugar and cinnamon. We thought they were better than doughnuts.

Some people call them dough gobs, but they were dough gods to us. I don’t know how they got that name, but they deserve it. They truly are a heavenly treat, despite the fact that they are one of the simplest foods you can make. Stir up some bread dough, let it rise an hour or so and fry it in any kind of cooking oil you have available. Mom used lard, shortening or vegetable oil, and her dough gods always turned out golden and tasty.

You don’t need a special dough. The recipe below makes a standard nine by five inch loaf of old-fashioned white bread or a batch of dough gods. Double the recipe and you can bake a loaf of bread along with the dough gods. There’s really no extra work to make both at the same time, so you get the loaf of bread as a bonus.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup milk
1 heaping tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 package)
1/2 cup water
1 T sugar
1 T butter
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
Oil to fry dough gods in
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

PROCEDURE:

As with all bread baking, start by scrubbing your hands well.

Put one-half cup warm water (90º to 110º) in a cup with a quarter teaspoon of sugar and stir in the yeast. While the yeast is proofing, warm the milk to about 110º and pour it into a large bowl. Stir in the salt and sugar. Melt the butter and add it to the milk.

Stir in the flour one cup at a time, beating thoroughly between additions. After you have stirred in the first cup, mix in the yeast. Continue adding flour one cup at a time until the dough becomes stiff and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for five minutes, then scrape it out onto a well-floured work surface with a spatula and use the spatula to turn the dough to coat it with flour before starting to knead it. Powder your hands with flour, and knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny, about four to five minutes.

If you have never kneaded dough, you should check out Wikihow.com for an excellent lesson on kneading or go to Thekitchn.com for a good video showing you how to do it. Actually, doing both is a good idea. Just go to the sites and use the search for “knead dough.”

Return the dough to a greased bowl, roll it to cover the surface lightly with grease, and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Put the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen (I use the top of the refrigerator) and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk, usually an hour or a little more. Punch it down and knead it on a lightly floured work surface five or six strokes. Pat it down to about an inch thick and use a knife or baker’s scraper to divide the dough into twelve or fourteen pieces. Roll the pieces into balls about the size of walnuts and cover them with a damp towel.

Put the sugar into a shallow bowl or pie tin and mix in the cinnamon. Put some paper towels in a baking pan or on a plate to absorb any oil from the dough gods after they are fried.

Heat a quarter to half-inch of vegetable oil in a ten or twelve inch skillet over medium high heat. While the oil is heating pat some of the dough balls into circles about a quarter inch thick, then stretch them out even thinner.

Test to determine if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of dough torn off from one of the bigger balls into the oil. It should brown on one side in about thirty seconds and finish in another thirty seconds on the other side.

Put two dough gods into the oil, let them fry for about a minute, then using tongs or a slotted spoon, turn them over to finish cooking. If the first one is not golden brown when you turn it, just turn it back for a few more seconds and raise the heat a little.

When both sides are golden brown, take the dough gods from the oil and let them drain while you put the next pair into the pan. Dredge the two you just cooked in the cinnamon sugar and put them on a plate.

Enjoy!

NOTES: Dough gods are best eaten warm, and a couple of kids can keep up with the pan, at least for the first four or five dough gods. You can omit the cinnamon and even the sugar if you want.

I think that Mom used tongs to handle the dough gods, but I have a faint recollection of her using a cooking fork. Just be careful not to splash any hot oil on eager hands snatching dough gods from the plate.

And finally, I found a couple of recipes on the Web that called for frozen bread dough (thawed and allowed to rise of course). I would never use it, but perhaps I am a Luddite in the kitchen.

Posted in Breads and Pancakes, Desserts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Improved Tomato Juice

As graduate students at the University of Wisconsin, Bob and I had to watch every penny. A couple of quarters wasted on lettuce or potatoes at the regular price meant fewer beers at Glenn and Ann’s.

However, we did entertain friends from time to time, and some of them liked Bloody Marys. As is the case today, Bloody Mary mix was expensive when compared to ordinary tomato juice. Thus, we learned how to turn canned tomato juice into something that our guests liked when mixed with inexpensive vodka and decorated with a pickle and couple of olives.

We scanned the grocery ads in the newspaper every week. We watched for sale prices on everything. When jars of olives or pickles were on sale, we bought a couple if we were running short. Celery, since it was a fresh vegetable, was more of a problem but we used it in soups, casseroles and even—gasp—ate it fresh. In this way we were able to maintain our reputation as good hosts without tanking the bank account.

One morning we poured glasses of Bloody Mary mix instead of orange juice, which had been consumed by some other guests who enjoyed a sweeter beverage. The enhanced tomato juice was a bit spicy but tasted pretty darned good, and we began making a milder version for breakfast.

The recipe below is the result of over forty-five years of experience in turning ordinary tomato juice into a perfect breakfast drink that is low in carbohydrates but high in flavor. Actually, it will only be perfect when you adjust the recipe to your personal taste, but here is how you start.

INGREDIENTS:

1 can (about a quart and a half) cheap tomato juice
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. lime juice

PROCEDURE:

Mix everything together and chill.

NOTES: If you want to make a pretty good Bloody Mary mix, double or even triple the hot sauce, celery salt and lime juice. Stir in a couple teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, and a little cayenne pepper.

Posted in breakfast Dishes, Gluten free, Vegetables | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hot Beef Sandwiches

Two or three times a year my family went on a shopping trip. Hayward, Wisconsin had a good assortment of retail businesses, but like most families living in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, we also ordered things from Sears and Roebuck, Montgomery Ward and Spiegel catalogs.

But when Mom wanted to get a new dress for church, she wanted to try it on, and if Rivkins or Abramson’s, Hayward’s two department stores, didn’t have one she liked, we headed to Ashland, Wisconsin, or Duluth, Minnesota. Dad felt the same way about boots and shoes. Though he didn’t find out until many years later, he had broken a bone in one foot when he was a boy, and he had a hard time finding footwear that was comfortable.

Ashland was the nearest “big” city. Over 11,000 people lived there, and the wide main street boasted a dozen stores specializing in men’s and women’s clothing. If Mom happened to see an advertisement for a big sale at one of the big department stores in Duluth, we drove the extra twenty-five miles to a really big city with over 100,000 people living on the hill overlooking Lake Superior.

There was always a shopping trip in August. I used to think it was just because we needed to buy “school clothes,” but the hot August weather may have been a factor. Both Ashland and Duluth enjoyed cool breezes from Lake Superior that gave us a day’s relief from the dog days of summer. Supporting that theory was the fact that nearly every summer, Dad would announce some evening, “Let’s go for a drive to Ashland this Saturday. Be a good time to do some shopping or fill a few jugs at the artesian wells.”

It was also a good time to stop at a cafe for lunch.

Dad and I always had hot beef sandwiches: Thinly sliced roast beef on “store bought” white bread and a scoop of mashed potatoes covered with brown beef gravy. One slice of bread was cut diagonally. Most of the meat was stacked on the middle slice of bread. The two triangle-shaped pieces on each side of the middle slice gave an elegant appearance and supported extra meat and the mashed potatoes. It was a heavenly lunch, especially with a bottle of pop to help wash everything down.

If you’re lucky, you can still find places that serve real hot beef sandwiches. On our last trip back from Kansas, Jerri and I stopped in Kearney, Missouri. Jerri asked the clerk at the gas station if she could recommend any restaurants besides the fast food joints that we all know and love. J.J.’s Homestead was the first one out of her mouth. “Turn right after you go under the Interstate,” she told us.

We would have saved a few minutes if she had told us to turn left on the first street after we drove under I-35, but after a short visit to a business development and a U-turn we arrived in front of “J.J.’s Homestead Homestyle Family Restaurant”.

Diets are forgotten when we are traveling. My policy is that we need plenty of nourishment to support us if we slide into a ditch along the Interstate. Chicken Fried Steak, one of my favorites when we are on a trip to Kansas, caught my eye on the sandwich lunch menu. Right below it, however, was a listing for Hot Beef, described as “Slow-roasted beef piled high on traditional white bread, served open-face, and smothered in our savory beef gravy.” I ordered the beef.

When he took our order, our server told us that J.J. referred to Jesse James, the famous outlaw who was born about two miles from where we were seated. It made the meal even more special for me, as I thought of old Grandpa Weingarten who told me he remembered the bank robbery that ended the crime spree of the James and Younger gang in Northfield, Minnesota, when he was a boy.

After finishing off a rather large serving of beef, potatoes and gravy on two very good slices of white bread, I complimented the young man on how good the beef was. He told us that on Mondays when they roasted the meat, customers commented on how good it smelled. It was a wonderful lunch that took me back to those days when we sat around an oilcloth-covered table in a comfortable restaurant and enjoyed a meal out. The major difference was that we sat in a booth and were served by a friendly young man with a tattoo on his arm instead of a friendly young woman with pigtails.

Hot roast beef sandwiches are easy to make and wonderful to eat. The recipe is simple:

INGREDIENTS:

Enough roast beef to make the number of servings you need
Two slices of ordinary (or “traditional” if you wish) white bread for each serving
1/2 to 3/4 cup of mashed potatoes for each serving
Plenty of beef gravy

PROCEDURE:

Slice the beef thin. Heat the meat, potatoes and gravy. Cut half the slices of bread diagonally to make triangles. Put a full slice of bread slightly to the left of center on the plate. Place a triangle of bread on each side. Pile beef on the center slice, allowing a little to fall on the triangles. Put a big scoop of mashed potatoes to the right of the beef. Smoother everything with gravy.

What could be simpler? Use leftover beef and gravy from yesterday’s pot roast and use this easy recipe to make the mashed potatoes.

NOTES: If you don’t have enough leftover gravy, you can make more in a few minutes: Make a roux by melting four tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Stir in four tablespoons of all-purpose flour and cook it over moderate heat until it turns medium dark brown. Season the roux with a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, dashes of celery salt and basil. Carefully blend two cups of beef broth into the roux and cook three or four minutes, stirring constantly, until it is smooth and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

If you want a darker gravy, you can stir in a little brown gravy sauce.

Posted in Main Dishes, Meats, Vegetables | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

As I have written elsewhere, my family ate lots of potatoes. If not at every meal, we had them almost every day—in soups, stews, pot roasts, pancakes, bread and salads or by themselves boiled, fried, scalloped or mashed. I like them just about any way they can be prepared, but mashed is probably my favorite.

Mashed potatoes are so easy to make that I wonder why people buy instant mashed potatoes. If you don’t want to take the time to peel them, buy thin-skinned varieties such as Yukon Golds or baby red potatoes and scrub them with a vegetable brush before you cook them.

Some of the finest restaurants I know make a point of explaining that their mashed potatoes are made with the skins on with all the nutrients and fiber that God intended potatoes to have. So if you want to treat your family and guests to a truly elegant dinner, serve them mashed potatoes textured with pieces of peel. Of course, be ready for a puzzled “What’s this?” from a four year old studying something that he thinks fell into the pot before you mashed the potatoes.

Here is how to get creamy mashed potatoes every time.

INGREDIENTS:

Potatoes
Water
Salt
Butter
Half and Half
White pepper

PROCEDURE:

Assuming that you are using russet or Idaho potatoes, two of the best varieties for mashing, peel enough for the number of servings you need—usually one medium potato for each serving. Cut them into quarters and put them into a saucepan. Cover the potatoes with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring them to a boil. Cook them for fifteen to twenty minutes until they are just fork tender, not falling apart, Drain them and leave them in the warm pan. If you are making only two servings, use a half teaspoon of salt.

While the potatoes are cooking, put a tablespoon of butter plus a tablespoon of half and half for each potato into a small pan or microwavable dish. Heat the mixture until the butter is melted.

Working quickly, mash the potatoes in the pan, pour the half and half and butter over them, add dashes of salt and white pepper and stir with the masher until you have a smooth fluffy mixture with no lumps. If necessary add a little extra half and half to the potatoes. You want them creamy, not hard and dry.

NOTES: If you want to be fancy, garnish your bowl of mashed potatoes with a couple sprigs of parsley or a dash of paprika. Parsley resting on hot mashed potatoes does contribute a nice fragrance.

Mom used to finish the bowl with a pat or two of butter on top, but I just mash enough into the potatoes. That way I avoid the lectures about excessive butter consumption from people who tell me that my mashed potatoes are better than theirs.

If you use unsalted butter, you may need a little more salt. As usual, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Posted in Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ginger Marmalade

Our friend Chris joins my hunting partners and me at the cabin every deer season. He doesn’t hunt himself but he has chased a few deer past our stands and he is always ready to help drag one back to the cabin. He also happens to be the camp cook who makes a mean chili and great buttermilk corn bread.

A few years ago, as we were on our way to the cabin, Chris told me about the ginger marmalade his parents used to buy. I had never even heard of ginger marmalade, but Chris said it was a popular jam in Massachusetts where he grew up. He also told me that it was one of his favorites.

This year I decided to try making some. It turns out that there are a lot of ginger marmalade recipes on the web. Several looked interesting, but none seemed likely to make the kind of ginger marmalade Chris remembered.. Since Jerri and I began making jellies and jams shortly after we were married, and I have been making orange marmalade for four years, I decided to try creating a recipe for ginger marmalade that would approximate the marmalade Chris described to me.

It turned out to be remarkably easy. I started with online recipes that ranged from orange marmalade flavored with powdered ginger to some that were simply shredded ginger with a little sugar and pectin. The recipe I created uses lemon and orange juice along with quite a lot of ginger. The result is a marmalade that has a warm ginger flavor with just a hint of citrus.

Here is how to make it.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups diced/shredded ginger
3 cups water
1/8 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice
8 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. butter
2 pouches (6 oz.) Certo liquid pectin

PROCEDURE:

Peel about a pound of fresh ginger root. Chop about half of it into a quarter inch dice. You should have about one and one-half cups of chopped ginger. Using a box grater, shred the remainder. Discard any fibrous material generated during shredding.

Put the ginger into a saucepan with three cups of water, add a dash of salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for one and a half to two hours, stirring occasionally. Add water if necessary to keep the ginger covered with liquid.

Drain the ginger in a fine mesh colander and reserve a cup of the ginger water. Put the ginger and the cup of water into a bowl and set it aside to cool.

After about four hours, when it is completely cool, put the ginger, lemon juice, and orange juice into a Dutch oven or soup pot. Measure eight cups of sugar into a bowl. Stir in the sugar, another dash of salt and the butter. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. A rolling boil is one that can not be stopped by stirring.

Add the Certo and stir while the marmalade comes back to a boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, boil for sixty seconds, then remove the pan from the heat. Stir every half minute or so while the marmalade cools slightly for two or three minutes.

Ladle the marmalade into jars and seal them with paraffin or lids and rings and process in a hot bath.

NOTES: The younger roots are pinkish and work better. Older roots have a fibrous inner core. When you begin dicing the roots, if the root feels tough, cut off and dice the outer layer. Grate the inner part but discard the stringy fibers. Some of the lobes on large tough roots will be tender, so pay attention while you prepare the roots.

If you find young, pink ginger, purchase a generous pound of the roots. If what you find is the older roots, buy about one and a half pounds. You can simply scrape the skin off the young ginger, but a potato peeler works best with the older roots.

If you want a more delicate ginger flavor in your marmalade, you can replace some of the ginger water with orange juice.

Posted in Gluten free, Jams and Jellies, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Harvard Beets

Jerri’s Aunt Lydia thought that she was complimenting her young nephews when she told their mother, “Oh, Esther, you are so lucky! Your boys eat everything.”

Jerri’s mother was not very appreciative of the comment. Years later she told her daughter, “Luck had nothing to do with it! We taught them to eat their food.”

She also taught her husband to eat his food. Jerri recalls a conversation her mother told her about that went something like this:

Knip (Jerri’s Dad): “I don’t like peas.”

Esther (her Mom): “Well, you’re going to eat them anyway. We have to set good examples for the boys.”

And so they all ate peas. My mother-in-law could be pretty firm. When it came to food, she was even firm with herself. I can’t remember a single time she refused to at least try a dish offered to her. She would take a serving spoonful and eat it. If she liked it, she would take a second serving. If not she would say, “It’s not my favorite.”

Jerri and her brothers learned to do the same.

Researchers have demonstrated that the food pregnant women or nursing mothers eat influences how their children respond to various foods. Mothers who eat a well-balanced diet of vegetables, fruits and cereal grains are more likely to have children who will have the same healthy diet preferences.

But as many other studies have shown, parents and other caregivers have a powerful influence on the eating habits of children. We teach by example. Jerri’s mother did not drink alcohol, cook with alcohol or have any in her home, except for vanilla and some other flavor extracts. No beef bourguignon or beer-battered fish came from her kitchen.

Jerri’s father would never have dared to bring a beer home, but he once told me that he enjoyed a cold beer after a hard day’s work with the crew combining wheat or haying. Boys being boys, her brothers may well have sneaked a peek of the men enjoying a refreshing bottle behind the barn before washing up for dinner. With such an example, what farm boy would not begin wondering what was so good about that stuff in the brown bottles? Maybe this explains why Jerri’s oldest brother developed an appreciation of Foster’s beer.

Leading by example is the way to help people enjoy different foods. Many if not most of us have heard the dreaded phrase, “Eat your vegetables,” or even worse, “You’re not the table until you finish your brussels sprouts.” Or beets.

Beets show up fairly regularly on lists of least favorite foods. I take that to mean that a lot of parents have been failing in their duty to help their children develop healthy eating habits, because beets are one of the “superfoods.” They contain lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and just enough sugar to make them a good source of energy.

Recently I learned that beets have been used as an aphrodisiac since Roman times and are now known to contain boron, which is necessary for the production of human sex hormones. If my father had told me that eating beets would improve my (nonexistent) thirteen-year-old sex life, I would have asked Mom to serve them every day.

Actually, I have liked beets since I was a child. Like most root vegetables, they grow well in cool climates, so we grew and ate them often. We not only had them at home, but school lunches occasionally featured beets. And most kids ate them. If we didn’t teachers gave us notes to take home so Mom and Dad could have a talk with us. When the horrible canned spinach was being dished out, I was told to ask “for just a little bit.” School cooks didn’t want food to go to waste, so they usually honored such requests.

Harvard beets were pretty popular when I was growing up. No one knows for sure where the name came from, but it sounds elegant, and the sweet and sour sauce complements the vegetable perfectly. Though they do color potatoes a rather unpleasant pink, Harvard beets are a welcome addition to dining tables from the formal dining rooms of New England to the farm kitchens of Kansas and Wisconsin.

This recipe is adapted from The Mennonite Community Cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups cooked diced beets
1/2 cup sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 whole cloves
2 T butter

PROCEDURE:

Start by preparing the beets. Scrub the beets and cut the stems about two inches above the beets. Save the good leaves. If you are not going to use them right away, freeze them to use in borscht or as a green vegetable.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Put the beets into the boiling water and cook them until they are fork tender. The time needed will depend on the size of the beets, but plan on boiling them for thirty minutes or even more. When the beets are nearly done, fill a large bowl or pan with ice water.

Using a slotted spoon, put the beets into the cold water. When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off. You can use a knife to help or use just your fingers. Trim the stems and roots off the beets and chop them into a half-inch dice.

Mix the sugar, salt and cornstarch together in a two quart saucepan. Stir in the vinegar and water. Add the two cloves and put the pan over moderate heat. Keep stirring to make a smooth sauce and cook it for about five minutes.

Stir the beets into the hot sauce, remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let it stand for at least a half hour. When you are ready to serve the beets, bring the pan back to a boil, remove from the heat and stir in two tablespoons of butter. Harvard beets can be served at room temperature, but they are best served warm.

NOTES: Instead of chopping the beets, you can cut them into eighth-inch slices. If you don’t have any whole cloves in your cabinet, you can use a dash of ground cloves or you can omit the cloves entirely.

borscht

Posted in Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Oven-barbecued Country Ribs

Sometime in the late 1950’s our family acquired its first charcoal grill. Before then we had cooked over open fires, mostly on the shores of lakes near Hayward. The meat was skin-on wieners from one of the local butcher shops or grocery stores and dessert was marshmallows toasted over the coals. Cooking utensils were a can opener and sticks of hazel brush for roasting the wieners and marshmallows and stirring the can of beans.

If we didn’t forget them, there would be spoons for serving Mom’s potato salad and eating the beans and salad off paper plates. Over the years I learned that you could open a can with a jack knife, carve sticks into substitute spoons and eat off birch bark plates. I also learned the truly valuable skill of how to build a fire, even if it had rained just a few minutes before we got to our picnic place.

Later I learned to toast sandwiches over an open fire when I began going deer hunting and ice fishing with my father. By that time I had my own jack knife and the patience to find the perfect stick with two twigs branching off the central stem to make a toasting tool. Besides learning to read a fire properly so my sandwich did not turn black or get too smoky, I also learned how close I could put my wet gloves to the fire without setting them ablaze.

Thus, when we got our first charcoal grill, I became the outdoor chef. The grill was a shallow flat tray on a tripod base. There was no cover; the kettle grill was not yet on the market. But it worked and in addition to wieners, we were soon enjoying hamburgers, bratwursts, chicken legs and pork ribs from the grill.

One year I even tried to grill some meat from a bear we had shot. My mother had given up trying to cook it. She explained, “It’s just too fat. When I fry steaks, they’re floating in fat. I tried making a roast, and the pan was half full of grease. Even Dad said it was too fat for him.”

I had what seemed like a logical suggestion. “Pick out a nice roast. We’ll cut it into two-inch cubes, and I’ll grill them for dinner. The fat will drip out and the meat should be delicious. We can brush on some barbecue sauce when it’s close to done.”

The incident is stamped indelibly in my memory. It was a cold New Year’s Day. I set the grill up on the front porch. I carefully arranged a big pile of charcoal briquets in the grill, lit them and waited until the coals were an even gray. Heaven help me, but I think I may have wiped the grate with some lard or bacon grease before I put the chunks of meat on the fire.

Everything looked promising for the first three or four minutes. When I turned the meat, the bottom sides looked perfect. A couple of coals flared up as fat dripped off the meat, but as this often happened I was ready to sprinkle a few drops of water on the hot spot. However, more flare-ups occurred and rapidly grew into a conflagration. The remaining water seemed to fan the flames when I tossed it on the grill. Have you ever seen four pounds of flaming bear meat sending black smoke into the sky?

My father came out the door and told me that we had to put the fire out. “If we don’t do something quick, someone will call the fire department and we’ll have a fine for a false alarm. If it is a false alarm,” he added, looking at the flames rising above the eaves on the porch.

My mother rescued us. She came out with her big tea kettle and bravely doused the flames.

I don’t remember what we had for dinner that day, but I do remember that we gave the bear meat to Uncle Ruel and his family. He said that it was some of the best bear meat he had ever tasted.

Today I don’t do much grilling outside in the winter. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like standing out in the cold while the meat cooks, but it might be that I have learned how to make tasty country back ribs in the comfort of the kitchen. Once you put them in the oven, they cook for at least two hours, so you have plenty of time to read a book, watch TV or even take a nap if you have a good timer to wake you after an hour or so to check that the liquid in the pan has not boiled away.

INGREDIENTS:

Non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 – 3 lbs. country pork ribs
1/4 cup water
1 T liquid smoke seasoning
1/4 – 1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
About 3/4 cup barbecue sauce

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 325º and grease a nine by thirteen-inch covered baking pan or casserole.

If necessary cut the ribs into serving-size pieces and place them in a single layer in the pan. Pour a quarter cup of water around the meat and add a tablespoon of liquid smoke seasoning. If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the salt and spices together or just stir them together in cup and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the meat. Dribble your preferred barbecue sauce over and around the meat. I use from two-thirds to three-fourth cup of sauce, depending on how much meat is in the pan.

Cover the pan and put it on a center shelf in the oven. After an hour, check to make sure that there is still adequate liquid in the pan. Add a little water if necessary. Check the pan every thirty minutes or so after the first hour.

Serve with more barbecue sauce and your choice of bread, potatoes and salad.

NOTES: Feel free to adjust the seasonings, but start with at least a teaspoon of liquid smoke seasoning. Make sure your oven is at or slightly below 325º when you start cooking the ribs. If you worry about the pan going dry, feel free to check the amount of liquid after forty-five minutes or so. You don’t want to boil the meat, so be careful not to add too much water.

Cole slaw goes really well with ribs.

Posted in Main Dishes, Meats | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

French Toast

When the four daughters of Jerri’s oldest brother compiled The Krehbiel Family Cookbook to preserve some of the recipes their mother used to feed her family, they included a final section titled “Other Great Recipes.”

Some are clearly recipes devised by the girls. For instance, they prefaced their instructions for making “Plain Macaroni” by noting that it was “A favorite main dish when Daddy and Mother had bridge club and we got to cook supper.”

Others are commentaries on remembered dishes. Someone contributed this note: “Heart, Tongue, Rabbit, Goat Meat and other delicacies: Remember all these special meals we had?? Kids today don’t know how easy their life is.”

Still others recognize the kitchen skills of their father. There is one for pancakes “(From Daddy, Carrie and Erica think Grandpa is famous for his pancakes)” which begins “Mix pancake batter according to package directions. Be sure to add an egg or two and use milk instead of water. Stir in any additions. Cook on griddle.” Suggested additions included applesauce, bananas and canned fruits.

Following this entry which helps explain why grandfathers love their grandchildren is a recipe for French Toast with an important piece of wisdom that was probably imparted by Grandpa to his idolators as they watched him cook their breakfast. The recipe is worth quoting in its entirety.

“French Toast: (From Daddy, another breakfast favorite!!) Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon and sugar. Dip in bread (stale is best, be sure to tear off any moldy parts). Cook on griddle. Serve with butter and syrup. Yummy!!”

My recipe for French toast is an upscale version, but I also watch to make sure that no moldy parts end up on the griddle. Incidentally, our grandson thinks my French toast is the best ever.

Here is how to make enough French toast for one hungry grandson and two adults or four hungry adults.

INGREDIENTS:

5 large eggs
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Slices of stale bread

PROCEDURE:

Start heating the griddle to about 350º or put a skillet over moderate heat while you make the batter.

Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored. Beat in the sugar, salt and cinnamon followed by the milk.

Grease the griddle or skillet lightly with cooking spray or shortening. Test that the cooking surface is the right temperature with a drop or two of water. If it sizzles and bounces, you are ready to cook your French toast.

Dip slices of bread in the batter so all surfaces of the bread are moist. If you are using stale bread, you can turn each slice a couple of times to allow the batter to penetrate the bread. Fry the slices for about two minutes, then turn them over to cook the top side. Both sides should be lightly browned.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.

NOTES: Whole milk works best for French toast, but reduced-fat milk is okay. A couple of times while camping I have made French toast with powdered milk, and it all got eaten.

Fresh strawberries, raspberries or blueberries are tasty additions to the topping.

Stale bread really is best for making French toast. Thick-sliced French or Italian bread is especially good and whole wheat bread works well too. Just let it sit for three or four days, then get up twenty minutes earlier than usual and treat your family to a fantastic breakfast.

I like bacon or sausage with my French toast. Protein, I need some protein!

Posted in breakfast Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Cranberry Banana Bowl

I did it again. Another bag of bananas on sale at a local convenience store, another impulse buy. This time I asked the clerk to weigh the bag to support my argument for the purchase when I got home. “Five point seven pounds,” I explained as I walked in the door before Jerri could roll her eyes in disbelief. “We can share some bananas with the neighbors and still enjoy a bargain dessert or two.”

Problem solved. Our neighbors got a few bananas, Jerri was more understanding of my enthusiasm than I expected, and she invented a new dessert that is also a wonderful breakfast side dish: Sliced bananas in cranberry sauce. She made it with cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. For some reason, the sauce did not jell as much as usual. The cranberries in what was basically a heavy syrup went beautifully with the bananas.

My guess is that she used a little too much water when she made the cranberry sauce. If you follow her recipe but use an extra quarter cup of water, you should have about the right consistency.

I decided to see if commercial canned cranberry sauce would work. I started by spooning some cranberries from the can over the sliced banana. The sauce was too thick, so I added a tablespoon of water to a half cup of sauce and heated the mixture enough so I could stir it together. It was very sweet, so I added a teaspoon of lemon juice.

The result was pretty good but not as tasty as the combination made with the homemade sauce. A little more lemon juice might help.

Now, the recipe for two servings:

1 large banana
1/2 cup juicy cranberry sauce

PROCEDURE:

Cut the banana into one-eighth-inch slices. Gently mix the cranberry sauce with the banana slices. Enjoy.

NOTE: One of the most important things I learned from this experiment was that Jerri’s cranberry sauce has more flavor and is not as sweet as the commercial version. Maybe this is because commercial cranberry sauce is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar or possibly it’s just sweeter than I prefer.

Sometime you might want to arrange a taste test. Make a batch of cranberry sauce using Jerri’s recipe, cool it and then compare the flavor with the commercial sauce. The one you prefer really doesn’t matter, but you should be able to distinguish the difference.

Posted in breakfast Dishes, Desserts, Gluten free | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Fried Parsnips

My father loved fried parsnips, so we planted them every year. The sandy soil of our garden plot meant that we had to dress it with composted manure from my grandfather’s farm, and I suspect that Dad spread extra on that part of the garden where the parsnip seeds would be planted. Parsnips do well in sandy soil with plenty of compost to hold moisture and provide nutrients.

When October arrived, Mom or Dad would dig a couple of parsnips “to see if they were ready.” If they were sweet, fried parsnips would begin appearing on the table a couple of times a week. If they still tasted more like carrots, we would wait for harder frosts to turn more parsnip starch into sugar. I don’t remember that we left the parsnips in the ground through the winter, but Dad and I dug some after the top inch or two of soil was frozen. Parsnips need frost to ripen properly and are often left to overwinter in the ground where winter is less severe than in northern Wisconsin.

Though many people are unfamiliar with them today, parsnips were one of the premier root vegetables in Europe and the United States until the middle of the nineteenth century. The wild ancestor of the parsnip is found in many parts of Europe and Asia and was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans over 2,000 years ago.

The parsnip has a long and distinguished history. It was a vegetable enjoyed by commoners and royalty alike. According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the emperor Tiberius Caesar loved parsnips and imported loads of them from farmers who grew them along the Rhine river in northern Germany. He reportedly even accepted parsnips as part of the tribute (taxes) paid by the province.

In northern Europe where parsnips grew especially well, they were a staple. They went into the soup pot, were fried or roasted and were even eaten as a sweet dessert. Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare both probably enjoyed parsnip pie, and even the playwright might occasionally have been able to afford a luxurious dish of parsnips with an orange and marigold sauce garnished with slices of that exotic fruit.

I have never eaten a parsnip pie or any other parsnip dessert, but I was forced to eat my share of fried parsnips. For that I am thankful. We learn to enjoy the foods that our parents and friends introduce us to. Some food writers say that parsnips are an acquired taste. This is true. However, all foods are acquired tastes. Hunger helps too.

Many years ago, my youngest sister, Pam, told me that her son, Ben, would like to go trout fishing with me. He was about twelve years old at the time. We arranged for me to take him to the cabin for a couple of days. As he was packing his fishing gear and clothes in the car, she was giving me advice: “Ben loves pizza. He doesn’t eat…blah…blah…blah.”

I tuned her out. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get by,” I told her as we pulled out of the driveway.

Ben was a growing boy who wanted to fish trout. We walked a mile through the woods, waded the river two or three times, caught lots of fish, drank the celebratory root beer and Leinenkugel while sitting on rocks, then walked out and drove thirty miles back to the cabin after a long day along a beautiful river.

I cooked what I liked, and we devoured it all. Once or twice, Ben asked, “What’s this?” as he replenished the calories spent pushing through ferns and standing in rushing water. I don’t remember if he told me he liked the food, but he ate it with seconds.

Recently I served Jerri fried parsnips. My sisters in Hayward confirmed that my memory of how Mom made fried parsnips was right. She just peeled and parboiled them, floured the slices seasoned with salt and pepper and fried them until they were golden brown.

Here is how to make two servings of your own fried parsnips.

INGREDIENTS:

4 or 5 parsnips (each about 5 to 7 inches long)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 T vegetable oil
Water

PROCEDURE:

Peel the parsnips, cut them lengthwise into slices about a quarter inch thick. Some of the slices from the edges will be thinner, but don’t worry about it.

Put the slices into a saucepan and cover them with water. Add a dash of salt and bring them to a boil. Simmer the parsnips for five to seven minutes until they are just fork tender, “not,” as my sister said, “until they get mushy.”

While the parsnips are cooking, mix a scant half teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper with the flour. You can stir it together on a plate or shake it up in a bag. Cover the bottom of a skillet with oil and set the pan over moderate heat.

Drain and flour the slices and fry them until they are light brown. Turn them often to keep them from burning. If you have too many slices to fit in a single layer in your skillet, fry them in batches, adding a little oil if necessary. Remove the slices from the pan, drain them on a paper towel and serve them warm.

NOTES: Though she had never tasted fried parsnips before, Jerri liked them. I had, however, delayed dinner an hour.

Posted in Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | Tagged , , | 2 Comments