Mama’s Favorite Fruit Salad

And now, brought to you by way of tablet and stylus, and just in time for Memorial Day cookouts and events: My mother Celia’s favorite fruit salad. It is quick, easy, and better the next day.  No measuring – one of those add more of this if you like this and less of this if you like something else better.  The pineapple juice adds a nice flavor and keeps the bananas from turning dark.

Simple, naturally sweet, pretty and cool.  In the upcoming heat, cool and simple are the operative words.  I have been known to eat this for my supper as well as my breakfast.  With strawberries at the peak of their season, this is a scrumptious eat.  Let the flavors blend for a couple of hours.  Enjoy!  The picture is from Pin Interest.  It shows one option for serving.  We just put in a bowl and serve, but for Memorial Day or July 4, this is nice.

Mama’s Favorite Fruit Salad
1 qt. strawberries, washed, hulled and halved or quartered
2 – 4 bananas, depending on size
1 large can pineapple chunks or tidbits in their juice
***Optional: pint of washed blueberries. sliced kiwi, watermelon (if eaten the same day)

Depending on size of berries, halve or quarter. Cut bananas into 1/2 inch chunks. Place in large non-reactive bowl and add pineapple chunks and juice. Toss gently to coat bananas well with the pineapple juice. Chill. Eat. Done!

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Oven Roasted Autumn Vegetables

I like oven roasted veggies!  The roasting sweetens them and gives them depth of flavor steaming or boiling cannot.  I grew up with roasted vegetables, before they became stylish. Whether savory or sweet (sweet potatoes, apples, acorn squash, honey, spices…oh my!) we ate them on a regular basis.  Hot out of the oven, room temperature, or even cold, roasted veggies are a delicious and easy way to get your veggies.

The recipe is forgiving and you can use whatever you have on hand.  Just keep in mind some veggies, such as onions, peppers asparagus – are more delicate and break down quicker.  Add them the last 20 minutes of cooking.  If you find the temperature is too high, then lower.  I often loosely cover them with foil for about 20 minutes, remove the foil, and add in the delicate veggies.  You can add a good sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese at the end and use whatever herbal flavorings you prefer.  I also like to line my pan with parchment paper to help with clean up.

I do not use olive oil as do some people.  Olive oil has a lower smoking point and when oil smokes, carcinogens and toxins are released.  I use a good neutral vegetable oil instead.

どうぞめしあがれ  Douzo meshiagare y’all!

INGREDIENTS 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed 2 red bell peppers seeded and diced 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed 3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed (or other potato) 1 large red onion, quartered 2 parsnips, cut into 1 inch slices 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup. vegetable oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 3 tbs. minced fresh herbs: parsey, thyme, rosemary, basil, whatever

DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the (heavier” veggies. Put delicate veggies in a separate bowl. In a small bowl, stir together seasonings, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Divide between the two bowls and toss until well coated. Spread heavier veggies evenly on a large roasting pan. Loosely cover with foil and cook for 30 – 40 minutes. Add delicate veggies and stir in well. Do not replace foil and continue to cook for about 15 minutes more, or until cooked through and browned. If you do not like your veggies as soft, then of course, don’t cook as long.

stock-photo-11060871-roasted-vegetables-in-the-oven[1]

Overnight Oats

English: Bowl of fresh muesli, made from rolle...

English: Bowl of fresh muesli, made from rolled oats, orange juice, blended apple and banana, redcurrants, raisins, cottage cheese, topped with raspberries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In keeping with the weekend, no elaborate recipes. This recipe is so easy, my cat could fix it. The difference between Overnight Oats and regular oatmeal or slow cooker oats is this:  No Cooking.   It takes me awhile to wake up. I am a morning zombie: moving, going about the routine but brainless until being jolted with caffeine. Idiot proof is the word for breakfasts for me. Overnight Oats is an imminently portable food as well. Fix in a container that has a secure top for taking with you.

When visiting in Switzerland years ago, I fell in love with müesli. Raw oats, other grains, fruits, nuts, liquids – I’ve not been a fan of cold cereal but this stuff made me happy. One night, I was getting ready to have a bowl for my supper when an emergency occurred. I had to leave suddenly to see to a friend and I put the bowl of müesli into the fridge for safe keeping. Next morning, I remembered it and pulled it out. Hello gorgeous! All the grains had softened and the flavors blended. I was not the creator of Overnight Oats, but rather, a discoverer of something easy and good. Others have also discovered this wonderful food.

Overnight Oats do not have to be eaten cold. I’ve taken my container with me to work and nuked for a bit to get warm. Equally good, especially if the morning was cold or rainy and cold. The aroma of cinnamon, apples, maple, bananas, peaches wafting into others’ work areas has caused them to wander in and obtain a printed note from me with the recipe for Overnight Oats.

So enjoy. This is food truly your way and it is good for you. I use whole grains, almond milk, nuts, organic fruits. You don’t have to. It is your way!  Oh, it is good gamer food as well.

I posted a recipe for Slow Cooker Oats in November 2012 and have updated it. I hope you do a search for it and try it. It is truly comfort food.

Overnight Oats

1 part liquid (apple juice, soy mild, almond milk, milk)
1 part rolled oats (non-instant or quick cooking. I like Irish oats)
fruit: apples, peaches, bananas, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, raisins, prunes, etc.
sweetening: sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, stevia, honey, maple syrup,none.
Seasoning: cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, orange zest
Extra: nuts, crumbled muffins, fruit preserves

Method: Mix together and place into a container and cover. Put in fridge. Eat the next morning.

Ethereal Hummus – recipe

Hummus

Hummus (Photo credit: diettogo1)

Ethereal hummus?  Really?  I make my own and it is excellent.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I went to a new restaurant in town and had their hummus.  Oh my oh my.  It tasted great but what blew me away was the texture.  It was so silky smooth and not as grainy as most hummuses (hummi?) I have had or made.  It was….ethereal.  I asked the waitress how it was made.  She was clueless.  She asked the chef in the back.  He said no way was he giving it up.  So, me being me and me being an excellent food sleuth, I determined to reverse engineer his hummus.  Chick peas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, good virgin olive oil….basic.  But the method was what lifted this hummus from ho-hummus to Yum-Yummus.

I used canned chickpeas which is perfectly acceptable and in my various experiments, there was no difference in the long way of cooking your own as opposed to dumping out of the can.  I did however discover there is an expensive organic brand that is bland and tends toward mush.  Regular store brand did just fine.

I mashed the chickpeas and sieved them and mixed with ingredients.  Still grainy and dense.  I put in a blender and then strained the pureed beans and mixed.  Nope.  Not that either.

I put the beans and some extra liquid in my food processor and then mixed.  Smoother, but my tongue said, Girlfriend, you still have work to do.  I continued.  I ate enough hummus in a couple of weeks to mortar a brick wall around our property.  Made my family crazy as well.

Reliving the texture in my mind, I had an epiphany – Eureka!  Emulsion!  Like mayonnaise – mixing together elements that normally do not mix such as an oil and a liquid to make a creamy smooth something else:  Emulsion.  I learned it as a pharmacy tech and I learned it in culinary school.  I was about to make hummus history.

So—-below are the instructions for method.  Add more or less seasonings to your taste, but do the emulsion thing.  After a couple of tries, I hit on the right method.  I dug in with a spoon to test the texture and taste.  Oh be still my heart!  Ethereal Hummus was now available at my house.

RECIPE 

3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

¼ c. water

6 tsp. tahini, well stirred

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, good quality

1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

1 garlic clove, finely minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground cumin

Pinch cayenne

1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

Additional olive oil for garnish.

  1. Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl.  Whisk together tahini and olive oil in another small bowl.
  2. Process chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground.  Scrape down bowl.  Then with machine running, add lemon juice/water in a steady stream through feed tube.  Scrape down bowl again and continue to process for a minute.  With machine running, add oil/tahini mixture in a slow steady stream through feed tube; continue to process tun hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds.
  3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl.  Sprinkle minced herbs over surface and cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand for flavors to meld at least 30 minutes.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and serve.

Quick Pickles – Quickles

I have been promising (and I know you all have just been waiting in deep anticipation) a treatise on quick pickles – quickles I call them. Some factoids: Cucumbers have been around forever and go back as far as Mesopotamia 2030 BC. Quickles are not marinated vegetables. They are brined or salted the same as long process (slowckles) are. The word pickle comes from the Dutch pekel which means salt or brine.

Quickles are a great way to use up some excess summer veggies, brighten up winter veggies, add a quick bit of zing to a dull meal, be a unique appetizer, or in some cases, add an authentic bit to an ethnic meal. Seasonings and vegetables themselves can give a local or ethnic flair. Add daikon to cucumbers and onion. Or add some curry to cucumber, onion, celery, red radish. Crushed mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and sugar make the ubiquitous onion and cucumber mixture quick bread and butter pickles (recipe in a previous Keep It Simple Saturday) post.

Quickles give much satisfaction with little effort.  They are great with sandwiches, sides for meat, rice….on their own.

Equipment is as simple or exotic as you choose: a colander, plate, weight or a specialized pickle press. I bought a dandy one at a local Japanese food store for $4.99. Ingredients are the same way: salt (uniodized or sea salt), spices, herbs, veggies. The process may take a few hours but you don’t have to babysit and can do other things. Once made, they will last for several weeks in the refrigerator. I do hope you all will experiment with quickles. They’ve been a part of my life since I was born. On a hot summer day, cucumber quickles from the fridge cooled and refreshed a hot little girl. Other kids could have a Koolaid freezer pop – I wanted quickles!! They are a regular feature now in my bento.

QUICKLE BASICS

Cucumbers (English, Kirby, Persian, Japanese) Peeled (if waxed) and very thinly sliced
Onion red or white, thinly sliced
Carrot thinly sliced
Radish red or daikon, thinly sliced
Cabbage – thinly shredded

Seasoning: bay leaf, mustard seed, turmeric, srirachi pepper, split Thai pepper, cilantro, garlic, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, fresh cayenne, fresh jalapeno pepper, sesame seeds, toasted seaweed bits, ginger
Vinegar: cider, white, rice
Extra vegetables: turnip, celery, napa cabbage, zucchini, cauliflower

One Method: The above is my go to veggies for quickles. Add or subtract. It’s up to you to determine how many you want to make. I usually use a standard size cuke, a small or medium onion, a rib of celery, a carrot, several red radishes, about ½ c. sliced daikon, about ½ cup shredded cabbage. In a colander, toss well with several tablespoons of uniodized salt. Place sauce or plate, depending on size of colander and add weight to the plate. A half gallon empty clean milk jug or gallon jug of water works well. Place in sink or on another plate to catch liquid from vegetables. Vegetables will end up being limp but still crispy due to this process. Use a mandolin or sharp knife to thinly slice vegetables. Add seasonings of choice. ALWAYS use non-reactive pots, pans, bowls for vinegar/acid based foods.

Obviously, the vinegar and seasonings will determine the “flavor” of the pickle. I like a Japanese quickle to use with everything.

Recipe – Japanese Sunomono (sweet)

english cucumber

½ small onion

1 cup water

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tbsp kosher salt

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp minced ginger

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the cucumber. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Wash the cucumber and slice it very thin using a mandoline. Add it to the bowl of liquid, give it a good stir, and then take care to submerge all the cucumber slices. Refrigerate for at least half an hour (but no more than a couple hours) before eating. Drain before serving. Garnish with toasted seaweed and sesame seeds. To add another layer of flavor to this simple pickle, add about ¼ – ½ tsp. dashi soup granules and/or seeded and slivered chili pepper (not much for this amount of cucumber).
Japanese Sour Pickles
1/2 cucumber
1/6 carrots
7 oz. water
1 1/3 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 oz. (dried bonito)
5 oz. daikon radish
2 2/3 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
Sliced ginger
Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar and soy sauce. Add bonito and sliced ginger and stir slowly until sugar is dissolved. Cut cucumber, daikon and carrot into strips. Put vegetables in a jar and pour the mixture over them. Let sit in refrigerator for a couple of days for flavors to blend. Keeps about 10 days.

Thai Quickles a friend gave me this recipe and she uses pounds for measurement
2 ¼ rice vinegar
½ pound onion sliced
1 pound carrots, sliced
1 pound cucumbers, sliced
4 green chilies sliced
2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. sugar
Put the vinegar in a non-reactive pan and heat. Add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Let cool. Put vegetables in a bowl and cover with vinegar mixture. Let sit for one half hour. Keeps in fridge for several days.

Quick Indian Carrot Pickle
5 medium carrots
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground mustard seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mustard oil or olive oil
sliced green chili, sliced the long way

Peel the carrots and thinly slice them about 2 inches long (should be about two cups). Wrap the sliced carrots in a dry towel, ensuring the carrots don’t have any excess water. Mix all the ingredients together with the carrots and put in a glass jar. Keep the jar in the sun for a day. Pickle is ready the next day. Pickle can be refrigerated for about two weeks.

Quick Bread and Butter Pickle
(recipe posted in Keep it Simple Saturday Recipe post)

quick bread and butter pickles

Fried Tofu – For Beni

I really love fried tofu.  Sometimes, I dust with my special fried chicken seasoning and fry.  Mostly, I fix this simply.  I serve it with several dipping sauces, such as a sweet garlic chili sauce or soy flavored with slivers of ginger, sesame oil, and sliced scallion.  I personally just like it plain – hot and crispy on the outside, hot and almost custardy on the inside.  A member of the 11/16 Society shared this with me years ago.  It was one of our favorite appetizers to serve to visitors to our home.  Some may say this isn’t authentic Japanese, but since he is authentic Japanese, I beg to differ.

This is not the Japanese agedashi dofu, which is usually served with a dashi broth or a soya dipping sauce.  I suppose you could use these cubes in agedashi dofu.  My friend enjoys this but like me, he just liked the fried tofu – neat!

Servings: 4 appetizer portions

1 block extra firm or firm tofu

cornstarch for dusting

peanut or other high temperature oil for frying.

Press the tofu down, leaving something heavy (such as a cutting board stacked with your heaviest cookbooks) on top to squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and dust lightly with cornstarch before frying.

Pan-fry the cubes of tofu in a wok or medium, deep, heavy-bottom saucepan: Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the wok or pan or, come halfway up the side of a tofu cube and heat over medium-high heat until hot – about 375 degrees. Test the oil with one cube of tofu, adjusting the heat as necessary so the cube fries quickly but does not burn. Fry the cubes in a single layer, making sure the pieces do not touch, until crisp on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Repeat until all of the tofu pieces are cooked; this may need to be done in 2 batches. I use chopsticks to turn and remove cubes.  Drain the pieces on a paper towel lined plate.

Snow Day Cooking – Recipes

It snowed last night – great gouts of clustered snow flakes rapidly covering the ground and everything else it       would stick to.  A wet snow, in some areas it will be gone by late afternoon and in some protected areas, sometime tomorrow.  The snow covers our lawn in a smooth sheet until it gets to the woods and then it decorates the leaves, bare tree branches, and sides of downed trees.  The line of azaleas in front of our house and the ones that separate the woods from our lawn, blossom with huge clusters of pure white snow.

Still…today is one of those days I am going to pretend the roads are impassable and we are snowed in.  That means – a whole day of cooking!  This morning started off with my husband begging for sausage, eggs, and silver dollar pancakes.  Usually our breakfast is what we grab in passing – yogurt or oatmeal for me and Danish for him.  The pancakes are from a standard recipe of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, and milk – standard, fluffy and satisfying.  I’ve been making these since I was five and had to stand on a chair by the stove to reach the pan.  The sausage is homemade – lean bits of pork left over from the killing and butchering and then ground with a bit of suet and spiced with salt, black pepper, some sugar, red pepper flakes, and lots of sage – in the south, in farm co-op stores, you can buy bags of sausage seasoning for batches from 2 – 100 pounds.  Beats bought sausage all to pieces and you know what is in it.

My husband’s uncle has a massive farm – every year they kill hogs and butcher and sell the meat or give away.  His sausage is made from trimmed pieces of tenderloin and hams and seasoned with co-op seasoning – hot or mild.   This same sausage will be used later in the day when I make sausage and cheese balls – some for munching on now and the rest to be pulled out of the freezer and cooked for the rest of the football season and on to March Madness basketball (Go Duke!).

Snow day cooking can be done on a cold rainy day or just a day you want to hide from everything and everyone and be in your own kitchen world.  On the counter great northern beans are soaking.  I am going to make a big pot of white bean (navy or great northern) and ham (leftover from Christmas and portioned out and put in the freezer) with cornbread.  This will be for dinner tonight.  I am also going to make quickles – quick pickles with a bread and butter taste to go with the beans to add a bit of sparkles.  I am in the process of writing a most learned and riveting two part article about quickles…snow day came up though and took precedence.    Sliced cucumbers and onions are on the kitchen table in a colander over a dish with a smaller saucer on top with a large heavy can of tomatoes on top to help press out excess liquid.  Bread and butter style quickles are also on the menu for tonight.

Sticks of unsalted butter are on also  the counter softening.  On the  for dessert are Mexican wedding cookies.  The pecans in them came from Georgia.  Every Thanksgiving, I go to Charlotte Courthouse where Mr. Claxton comes up from his home in Thomasville, GA and brings a huge truck loaded with this season shelled or unshelled pecans.  I buy both – enough to take me through to next Thanksgiving.  For about two miles on either direction of him along 360, you’ll see hand-lettered signs:  Pecans Ahead!  The Pecan Man  – 1 mi. Awa!!!  Your Close!!!  (big arrow) Right there – PECANS!!!!   I’ve done this for a long time but I always eagerly look for the first sign. The excitement builds.   Only in the South, folks.

Recipes are below.   As usual, I do not take pictures of ingredients and step-by-steps as most folks seem to do on their cooking blogs.  I’ve said it before:  you all are grownups and know how to cook.  A chopped carrot is a chopped carrot, a pound of great northern beans are great northern beans, confectioners sugar is……you all get my drift.  Enjoy my day with me!  I’ll glady share recipes but you can’t have my happy shoes.  Y’all stay for or come by for supper.  The cornbread is in the oven and the golden crust is liberally smeared with butter.  Sweet tea, the table wine of the South, will be your beverage to complement our meal.  Plenty of napkins are on hand to catch the powdered sugar from the cookies.

 

 WHITE BEAN AND HAM SOUP 

  • 1 lb of white beans -navy or Great Northern, picked over and washed
  • 2 quarts of water HOT water – soak beans in this for about three hours and drain
  • Ham chunks, ham bone, ham hocks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of diced onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots
  • Salt and pepper

Fill a pot or bowl large enough to hold the beans with water, soak and drain. some folks soak the beans in cold water for 8 hours.  others bring the beans in water to a boil and soak the beans for about 2 hours. Your choice.

Meanwhile, put the ham hocks, ham chunks, or ham bone and cover with 2 quarts of water.  For frugality, I am using leftover frozen Christmas ham and the hambone.  I am not using a huge amount of ham, maybe about a 3/4 pound.  I will simmer the ham bone and add the bay and sautéed veggies, bring to a simmer and simmer for about an hour.  When I add the beans, I will add the ham chunks, bits, shreds…whatever. Cook for another couple of hours or so, until the beans are tender.  Cook longer to thicken.  Check and stir mixture in pot to ensure no sticking.   Add more water if necessary.

Serve with hot cornbread and butter or other bread of your choice.  When serving, put  a good sprinkle of chopped onion, parsley, Crystal or Franks hot sauce on top – any or all is good.  Let the individual season their beans or not.  Remove bay leaves before serving.

FOR VEGETARIAN/VEGAN VERSION:  omit ham (duh).  Saute veggies along with several cloves of garlic.  You may want to add more veggies to the sauté mixture to flavor and hearten up the taste and texture.  I use regular vegetable oil to sauté veggies but you can use fancy olive oils if you choose.

ANTI-FART (haha) TIP:  When cooking dried beans, take a nice stringy large rib of celery and cut in half.  Add to the cooking beans at the beginning.  At the end of cooking, remove the two pieces of celery.  The cellulose in the celery absorb the sulfur dioxide from the cooking liquid and help cut down/prevent stomach gas.  Be careful to remove the fart-absorbing celery ribs from the soup.

MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES (or SNOWBALL COOKIES)

1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup  powdered sugar, divided
2 tsp.  vanilla
2 cups  flour – all purpose
1 cup  finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Beat butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually add flour and pecans, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended.  Shape into 1 inch balls (I use a 1 inch cookie scoop).   Place, 1-1/2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets.  I use cooking parchment.

Bake 14 to 16 min. or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned.  Roll warm cookies in about 1 cup of powdered sugar until evenly coated; place on wire racks to cool.  The sugar will coat the cookies and give a happy white coating guaranteed to “snow” on your black sweater and stick to your fingers.   Cool completely.  Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.  They really don’t last long because they are such a good, short cookie – not too sweet but rich and yummy with cold milk, hot tea or coffee. makes about 28 balls of yumminess.

QUICK BREAD AND BUTTER STYLE PICKLES

1    pound pickling cucumbers , sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch  rounds OR equivalent in standard or English cucumber. Peel, cut cukes in            half  and scoop out seeds if necessary

1     medium onion, halved and sliced thin

1   tablespoon kosher or non-iodized salt

1    cup cider vinegar

1/2  cup sugar

1/2   teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/4    teaspoon celery seeds

1/4    teaspoon corriander seeds

1/8    teaspoon ground tumeric

Toss cucumbers, onion, and salt in colander set over bowl.  Let stand 1 hour.  hour.  Discard any liquid collected in the bowl. Rinse and press out excess water and put in large non-reactive bowl.  Bring vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, corriander seeds and turmeric to boil in large saucepan.  Pour over cucumbers and onion onion, and press to submerge in liquid.  Let cool.  Put into smaller glass container or quart jar and allow to chill at least two hours before serving.   Pickles can be refrigerated in a clean jar or covered container for 2 weeks.

snowball cookies            quick bread and butter pickles         white bean and ham soup with cornbread

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