Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nutella



"%$^*ing Nutella", I mutter under my breath at 6:30am every morning.  Declan has to have Nutella on toast, well not just on toast, on anything one can possibly put into the toaster oven: country white bread, English muffins, rolls, biscuits, even everything bagels.
  It all begins with the morning "helplessness".
  "Mama, can you split this, slice this, get this, for me???"
Declan is about to turn eleven years old.  I was making my own lunch to bring to school, cooking my own grilled cheese sandwiches and burning batches of cookies in the oven when I was younger than he is now.  I guess I created this baby monster by not wanting him in my kitchen except when invited by me.  The main reason is that he is a slob.  Not in the usual kid messy kind of way.  It's more like he is Pigpen and the Tasmanian Devil wrapped in one; the mess is so dirty and EVERYWHERE. I find evidence of his Nutella on toast all over the house, long after he has boarded the school bus. Dark brown, pasty chocolate and hazelnut spread on cabinets, drawer pulls and blankets.  I even once noticed a long, dark, trail made by small fingers at just the right height on the pristine white bathroom wall while I was using the toilet one morning.  You can imagine that my blood pressure spiked before I realized that it wasn't actually a poop hand print.   It would make my life far easier if I stopped supplying the Nutella.  However, the chocolate, hazelnut spread makes up approximately 95% of my son's diet.  It would not do to have a malnutrition-ed child in the house. By the way, this Nutella addiction is all my fault for introducing that drug in the first place.
  Once I've sliced, fork split or found the desired bread vehicle for his breakfast, I leave Declan to toast, watch over and retrieve his breakfast.  He then slathers the Nutella on top.  I cannot bear to watch this process.  It's slow and drama filled.  Declan, like myself, is not a morning person.  He is barely functioning at that time of day on top of being horribly messy.  As he manages to get Nutella all over the blades and handles of at least 3 table knives, the smearing takes approximately, 10 minutes with much of the gooey, now heated chocolate spread landing along the edges of the plate, not on the bread and all over his hands soon to touch everything in sight.  Then he takes his sloppy Nutella covered hands, plate and toast over near my couch to watch t.v. and prolong this daily agony we call, "breakfast".


  He is only allowed to sit on the floor-and yet, somehow I find on many mornings, after he has left for school, a shmear of Nutella on a light blue throw pillow, the buttons on the t.v. remote clogged with chocolaty goodness. I never know where I might see evidence of the offending meal as I get ready for my own day, once that kid has left the house.  I curse as I scrub the caked, muddy evidence of my child from every nook and cranny.  I shudder to know that I will find more evidence of this morning's meal throughout the day.  I wipe down the Nutella jar and go to put it away until tomorrow.  But then I stop and pull a large soup spoon out the drawer, unscrew the cap and dig out a glob.  While that slobby kid is at school, I secretly savor the Nutella chocolatey goodness as I lick it off the spoon.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Elegant Food


  We are a few snow days in, shoveled out and partially melted but tomorrow threatens another missed day of school due to predicted high winds and blizzard conditions.  Ugh.  Thankfully, I have a February winter reading arsenal at my disposal.  Among the books I secretly ordered from Amazon, I have two of the Pink Smock Provender cookbooks (Pink Smock Provender, 1980 and More Pink Smock Provender, 1988) put together by the ladies of the Falmouth Hospital Auxillary for fundraising  purposes and bragging rights.  I also scored the Woods Hole Golf Club Centennial cookbook, Simply the Best Course which features an array of favorites from ladies who know how to golf and entertain.
  In this food-focused time of super chefs and cutting edge restaurants, cookbooks, food blogs, competitive cooking shows and internet sensations, it can be hard to believe that some of these featured recipes were sought after secret weapons for these society dames.  Among some of my favorites: "Cheese Things" to be served as an appetizer with cocktails, "Deviled Egg Salad" made with mayonnaise, hard cooked eggs and gelatin to firm it all up, "Hot Dog-A-Cheapie" for lunch and let's not forget, "Tomato Soup Cake"  as dessert.  For dinner guests, "Beef Casserole" that according to my grandmother's good friend, Frances Eastman as she is quoted at the end of her entry, "Easy casserole to make and elegant to taste."  When Mrs. E deemed something to be "elegant", it was of the highest compliment.  If you need something to wash all this food down, you can find in all the books' pages some type of punch like the one Mrs. Eastman often served at bridal showers and luncheons.  It featured Cold Duck, a can of Hawaiian Punch, pineapple juice, ginger ale and 1 pint of vodka. This light and refreshing beverage is called simply, "Summer Punch".  Elegant, indeed.
 Although there are plenty of entries that leave me scratching my head at the list of ingredients and not at all eager to try them, there are a few (only about 3 in total, don't get excited) that I tagged with my trusty post-its.  In particular, "The Famous Faxon Fudge Brownies" are a must try.  A brilliant addition of 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk makes them super fudgy.  However, I did opt to leave out the walnuts and bag of coconut since my people would have frowned upon the use of those ingredients.  They deemed the brownies utterly delicious.  I now have the recipe earmarked as a favorite to be baked numerous times again, in the future.


  While relaxing and perusing this tome late one night, I leaped out of bed in joy when I discovered Marty Patrick's recipe for her famous "Key Lime Pie", a dessert that I had tasted but one time in my life, but it still haunted me.  The taste of sour lime perfectly blended with smooth, sweetened condensed milk, nestled into a graham cracker crust. Marty had mixed in fresh blueberries that popped when bitten and added something for your teeth to sink into amidst all that creamy filling. I had felt that I may never get the recipe as sadly, Marty is no longer with us.  You better believe I tagged that one with a post-it.
  Many of these featured recipes may not stand the test of time but I enjoy reading what people ate in the past .  Val and I had a laugh when she texted me this photo of Mrs. E's "Summer Punch".

  I then I had to google Cold Duck...I was not surprised at its slip from popularity when I read the beverage's ingredients.
  Who knows?  Maybe someday, there will be someone just like me reading this blog and laughing out loud at my go-to recipes and concoctions.  Time and recipe ideas march forward for all of us. Until then, I will continue to create recipes and menus, trying out and tweaking some of the old ones and hoping that Mrs. E would think they are as "elegant" as I do.



I opted to make a graham cracker crust instead of the regular pie crust used in Marty's recipe in "Simply the Best Course".  Also, she does not mention adding fresh blueberries they way I remember her pie.  Like many talented cooks, I am sure she often played with her own recipes depending on ingredients on hand.
Key Lime Pie
(adapted from Marty Patrick, Simply the Best Course)
makes one pie

graham cracker pie crust
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup Key lime juice or fresh lime or ReaLime
1 teaspoon  salt
grated rind of 1 lime

Mix sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and salt.  Fill pie crust and chill until firm.  Garnish with grated lime rind.

To make a homemade graham cracker crust:
1 3/4 cup crushed graham crackers (regular or gluten free)
6 tablespoons melted butter
4 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a standard 9"pie plate.  Mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar.  Press into bottom and up sides of pie plate.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely before adding filling.



The Famous Faxon Fudge Brownies
(Sandy Faxon, Simply the Best Course)
makes one 8x8 pan

4 squares (ounces) unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1/3-1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 can walnuts (optional)
1 small bag coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 pan.  
Melt chocolate and butter on low in a heavy bottom saucepan.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix again.  Add flour and salt; mix until just blended.  Pour batter into greased pan and top with condensed milk.  Swirl and mix in the milk a little bit.  Bake approximately 30 minutes.  (slightly under cooked)
 
  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

TBT February 7, 2008 "Cookies, cocoa, straight from the heart" Lessons from Val's Kitchen, Falmouth Bulletin



Another TBT from the Falmouth Bulletin.  "Lessons from Val's Kitchen" appeared once a month on a Thursday (whenever I could manage to get the story to the editor!...thanks for your patience!)  This one features my all time favorite Valentine's Day/holiday cookie recipe.

Cookies, cocoa, straight from the heart
February 7, 2008 
  
 

I never did like Valentine’s day, that is until I began dating my husband.  Finally, (it took until I was almost 30) I had found someone thoughtful and romantic who brings flowers, gifts in small boxes and remembers to make the dinner reservations.
The teenage years were the worst: full of unrequited love and hormonally charged crushes on fellows who did not even know of my existence let alone my name. A long tradition at FHS always magnified my feelings of lovelessness and teen angst.  The kind illustrated so well in all of those John Hughs movies of the 1980’s.  Take your pick: Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, Say Anything…you get the picture.  I think it was called, “Flower Day”-the Honor Society raised money by selling flowers during the week before “black (fill in the day of the week here) day” as my friend Ted put it, so pained by this event that he actually remembers that it was on a Friday in 1986.  You could choose a red carnation for love, pink for like and yellow/white for friendship.  According to my sister Karyn, there was some unwritten rule that red was reserved for official boyfriends/girlfriends but I don’t remember that.  Anyway, back to the flowers.  They would be distributed during home room on Valentines  day so that you would end up in a cold sweat as the smug delivery geek called out the worthy people’s names in the front of the class room. All the world would be a twitter as no one “knew” who sent the flowers until they got an opportunity between classes to visit the 6 foot table manned by the Honor Society and payed a dollar (double dipping??) to receive the message attached to the flower order.  Scandals were abundant as they always are during the high school years.  My friend Debbie recalls a fight between two suitors who both sent her red carnations (ignoring Karyn’s rule mentioned above) that ended in the much smaller of the two being thrown down the stairs into House B cafeteria.  Her boyfriend at the time was not bothered by the suitors at all and seems to have won in the end as he is now her husband.
If flower day caused stress, there was always something that made it better.  My mother, Val would  have a funny card at each of our places at the dinner table.  (At least my parents loved me during those awkward years!) She also would have made her traditional heart cookies.  She had sent us to school during all of our elementary years with the yummy heart cut out sugar cookies covered in light pink frosting with a single red hot in the middle for an extra flair.  As the years went on, she made two sizes of hearts, some small and some large to fit any appetite and always leaving a few unfrosted for my father, Dick who never liked things to be too sweet. I could always count on those melt in your mouth cookies stored in the large square Tupperware on the kitchen counter to make me feel the world was still o.k. after a long day of teenage drama.
I remember Valentines day in 1987 (my senior year of high school) was on a Saturday. (Don’t worry, Flower Day still happened on Friday the 13th!)  It was icy, cold and snowy as lovely February can often be. Earlier that evening, I had been to a party with my best girlfriends: Jen and Jenny.  It was pretty uneventful. The only thing I recall about the soiree was the family dog: it had 3 legs and we called him,“Tripod”. Around midnight I was home and standing in the kitchen with Val who was always awake to make sure we arrived home safely and in the proper state.  As I talked about the night, the last week, whatever (it didn’t really matter), I savored those divine heart cookies out of the square Tupperware and drank a large glass of cold milk while Val listened and drank her usual: specially made hot cocoa with real chocolate and milk. The comforts of home trump a wilted carnation any day.

Val's Special Hot Cocoa
(Serves One)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa
1/2 teaspoon sugar

In a small saucepan, heat milk slowly over medium high heat.  (Do not let milk boil!)  In a mug, combine cocoa and sugar until well mixed.  Pour hot milk over cocoa mixture and stir until all cocoa and sugar dissolve.  Enjoy immediately with your favorite "sweet".  (Sweet= cookies, cake, etc.)



Valentine's Day Heart Cookies
(makes 5-6 dozen)
Cookies:
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling

Frosting:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5-7 tablespoons milk
red food coloring, red hots, sprinkles, etc

To make cookies:
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.  In another bowl, combine baking powder and flour.  Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine until smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or freeze until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment or grease pans.
Roll out a small portion  of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  (Leave the rest of the dough in the refrigerator until ready to use.)  Cut out dough using floured cookie cutters.  Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are just golden on edges.  Remove from baking sheet and cool cookies on wire racks.  Once cookies are completely cooled (about 45 minutes), frost and decorate as desired.

To make frosting:
In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.  Add 1 cup of sugar, and blend together.  Add vanilla and remaining sugar alternating with a tablespoon at a time of milk until desired consistency is met.  (The frosting should not be runny, but also not quite as thick as cake frosting.) Stir in 2-3 drops red food coloring for pink frosting.  Combine until all food coloring is incorporated.  Frost cookies and add red hots and/or sprinkles while frosting is still wet.  Let frosted cookies air dry for at least 4 hours before storing them in an airtight container.