December 20, 2010

A Horse for the Ages

Today finishes our stay in the Great State of Kentucky, but not before a great horse story as promised, and a link for a fun twist on the classic Mint Julep drink. Maker's Mark's Toll Gate Cafe serves Chocolate Mint Julep Cookies with Andres creme de menth candies and tops it with a Bourbon Fudge.

I made the cookies without the fudge for my cookie exchange recently and they still have a good kick, but I can imagine the topping is decadent. Depending on how the rest of the winter goes, I might need to be testing the fudge soon. You can find the recipe HERE.

Perfect Drift will turn 11 this spring. (Photos by Dianne Reed)
So with visions of Bourbon fudge on mint cookies it's time to meet the second richest racehorse in America. Perfect Drift, who is the horse in resident at the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in the spring and summer and winters in Kansas City, Missouri. Perfect Drift won more than $4.7 million from 2002 until his retirement in 2008.

December 13, 2010

A Speedy Hot Brown Becomes Favored

I'm accustomed to having my daughters get surprised by new food dishes, but most of the time I'm not wowed by new dishes. I like trying new things -- thus this blog -- but I usually have an idea how new recipes will turn out. When I talked with my friend Dianne Reed we realized that a feature of Kentucky's famous foods needed to include the Hot Brown recipe, though neither of us were fans. We discussed ways to make it easier and more kid-friendly. Who needs to spend time making the cheesy Mornay sauce when kids will just turn up their noses?

The tasty results surprised me, and this recipe moves up from a Thanksgiving leftovers recipe to my quick weeknight meal recipe file. Keep reading to see our quick makeover. Later this week we'll feature racehorse Perfect Drift, who spends racing season in Kentucky and winters in Kansas City, and a delicious dessert for Chocolate Mint Julep Cookies.

December 7, 2010

A Winning 'n' Easy Kentucky Derby Pie

You'll be in the winner's circle in no time with this quick recipe
Imagine a state's quintessential pie that's like eating cookie dough in a flaky pie crust. It's long on taste but short on time with my grandmother's no roll-out method pie crust. I'd say it's like cheating on making pie crust, but that doesn't quite keep with our winning theme here. And the inside filling is like a pecan pie meets a chocolate bar.

December 1, 2010

Good-Bye to Massachusetts and On to Kentucky

So as we leave Massachusetts (for now, returning later) I leave you with a link for a New England clam chowder recipe. I'd planned to make this for my family but my husband (and myself) find that rich, cream dishes are best to forgo. I still love the thought of a creamy and steamy, thick white clam chowder.

Dave Lieberman's New England Clam Chowder from Food Network web site.

I think soups are perfect for chilly winter evenings, but my family doesn't seem to think dinner surrounded by liquid is their idea of a good meal. I appreciate the ease of throwing a bunch of healthy ingredients in a pot of water and then just letting it simmer over the stove for an hour. So my mission is to find that ideal soup recipe that makes my family likes. It always makes me think of that story about Stone Soup.

Shop Indie Bookstores

So as we cross a new state border, we wander over to Kentucky, a state with rolling green hills and stately white fences and a history of horses. Our friend Dianne Reed of Overland Park, Kansas, says it's a friendly state that despite status everyone talks horses. "The horses are such a great equalizer," Dianne says. "From barn workers to dealing with the richest people in the world, everyone talks about horses. Perfect Drift opened a lot of doors for us."

As a three-year-old gelding in 2002, Perfect Drift placed third at the Kentucky Derby and continued to have a successful racing career for many years after. Since 2009 Perfect Drift has spent the warmer months as the horse in residence at the Kentucky Derby Museum, right beside Churchill Downs. But this week, Perfect Drift will be returning to his annual winter home with his owners, Dr. William and Mary Reed of Stonecrest Farms, south of Kansas City.

We'll share more of Perfect Drift's great story later this week -- you've got to have a great horse story for Kentucky Week, and Perfect Drift's is a Cinderella story.

While we're on soups, here's a link from Simply Recipes for a typical soup/stew called Kentucky Burgoo.

November 24, 2010

The Pie that was really a Cake

Here are the details for our Thanksgiving pie -- that's really a cake and a fabulously easy cake!

November 23, 2010

Park it Right Here for a Better Roll Recipe

So it seems that the same restaurant that created Boston Cream Pie (not a pie but rather a cream-filled cake) also created the Parker House rolls that are creamy inside and toasty, crunchy on the outside -- and not that hard to make if you're BRAVE enough to spend a few hours babysitting some yeast. Need some delish homebaked bread for your Thanksgiving feast? Can't you smell that aroma now? Check out this recipe that started in the great state of Massachusetts, our featured state of the week.

November 22, 2010

The Storm Before the Calm

Hubby is out of the house today working partially because he has a lot of writing and maybe because he's afraid I'll put him to work helping me clean the house. I don't just make a nice "to-do" list like my mother did when I was growing up. I've pondered just e-mailing and texting little reminders or for the girls -- leaving notes in their rooms since they're not yet into texting. (Thank the Technology Gods -- for the moment -- that they're semi-reachable by voice and not hooked to a wired network.)

I yell out instructions, at least the fourth or fifth time I'm having to repeat myself. (Husband may disagree here.) And the girls are learning how to operate the sweeper though they're acting like it's a monster they cannot control. So while they're at school I'm cleaning the oven...

My oven that needs some self-cleaning time.

... so my baking project for the day is getting delayed. I've found Boston's Parker House hotel's recipe for Parker House rolls that I'll be attempting later today. And I'm calling a friend to get her easy Boston Cream Pie (really it's a cake!) recipe, so check back for more cooking excitement.

In the meantime, I'm hitting corners of the house that need my attention:
Just soap scum in the guest bathroom

and heaven knows what on my table! Ugh!

November 18, 2010

Plymouth Celebration means Massachusetts

Since it's closing in on Thanksgiving, we've skipping a few states (since we're a virtual tour!) and focusing this week and next on Massachusetts.

For more info for that first Thanksgiving, check the Pilgrim Hall Museum site HERE. More info about the state can be found at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism site.

And even if you and your family aren't necessarily cranberry fans, here are some fun facts on the vivid berry.

I've made homemade cranberry sauce before but my husband prefers the canned version, likely because that's what he grew up eating every Thanksgiving. I could just let those fresh cranberries simmer (anything simmering on the stove top is always so comforting) for a sauce that just sits on the table and looks pretty. But with my mother-in-law's extensive menu (menu to be posted soon!) we'll likely just buy a can of Ocean Spray's finest and just call it good.

Though this Cranberry Festive Sparkler looks good and Grandpa Steven looks his seltzer.

November 12, 2010

Chicken and Rice Casserole, Arkansas Style

If your town is anything like mine today, it's time for some good ol' comfort food. I asked my good friend Jennifer Ingraham for insight into her home state's culinary legacy. 

Here is Jennifer's insight:

"Nationally, Arkansas ranks No. 1 in rice and poultry production. I know this because I learned the rice fact in fifth-grade Arkansas history and I’ve seen some of the rice farms along the Mississippi River. I know the chicken fact because I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and my high school was next to a Tyson chicken plant. So it seems only appropriate that I offer a simple, traditional chicken and rice casserole, loaded with fattening ingredients and topped with butter and Ritz crackers. Mmm, mmm, good!

"This recipe took 3rd-place honors at the 2006 Arkansas State Fair," Jennifer says.

Check out this link at Serious Eats to see the new food items that popped up at this year's Arkansas State Fair. If you like your entrees and desserts deep-fried, you'll be pleased with the deep-fried and battered hard boiled eggs and deep-fried bacon bombs followed by chocolate smooches and chocolate cream cheese bites!

Jennifer Ingraham's 
State Fair Chicken & Rice Casserole
4 chicken breasts, boiled and boned
1 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 10 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 cup sour cream
3 cups chicken broth
2 packages Ritz Crackers, crushed
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter

Chop chicken. Combine chicken, soups, rice, sour cream, and broth. Place in two 2-quart dishes. Crush crackers and add dollops of butter. Sprinkle over dishes. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Thank you, Jennifer. This seems a great dish for a good weekend meal and another dish to freeze for another quick meal for a busy weeknight. What's better than a meal in the freezer?

MORE FUN: Here's a fun kids site with more Arkansas info.

November 8, 2010

The Dessert Loving State of Arkansas

You know a state takes its desserts seriously when the state's First Lady hosts a pie contest at the state fair. (Missouri's First Lady also hosts a pie contest, too.) Click HERE for a previous year's winning chocolate pie recipe from Arkansas.

First Lady of Arkansas Ginger Beebe points out on her website that 38 percent of Arkansas youth are obese compared to the national average of 29 percent. Click HERE for some of the fun and HEALTHY recipes she shares on her site.

So in search of a healthier dessert I found a carrot cake recipe from David and Ruth Glass.

David Glass grew up in Missouri, but is the previous CEO of Wal-Mart based in Bentonville, Arkansas. David has been CEO of the Kansas City Royals since 1993, and I found their family recipe for this dessert in a charity cookbook "From Our Plate to Yours" with recipes from Royals players and management that was a benefit for The Children's Place. The note below the title reads — I'm thinking this if from Ruth — "This is a very old recipe that never fails. Good for new brides and dessert loving husbands."

Grating carrots might be more fun than eating them.

David and Ruth Glass' Carrot Cake
4 eggs
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped (we left this out, but added ½ cup of raisins)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups carrots, grated (about 1½ small packages of regular-sized carrots)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
16 oz package powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat 4 eggs well then stir in oil and sugar. Mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl, then combine with other mixture. Stir in carrots and pecans. Grease and four two 9" cake pans and pour ingredients into pans. (Inspired by Ina Garten's Parties! cookbook carrot cake cupcake recipe, we opted to make cupcakes instead of one big cake. There was enough batter for 24 cupcakes and a mini-bread loaf.)

It can be messy prep, but it's worth the extra work.
Bake at 350 degrees until cake is no longer doughy. (We baked our cupcakes about 35 minutes.) When finished baking, cool in pans for 10 minutes then invert onto wire racks. Cool completely (may refrigerate.)

Icing: Combine cream cheese and butter, beating until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Ice cakes after completely cooled.

In his fun and informative cookbook, United Cakes of America, Warren Brown states that this scrumptious version we know today that's paired with cream cheese was published in a women's club cookbook in Wichita, Kansas, in 1929. (Not sure I'd think of Kansas as being in the vanguard of carrot recipes.) But tossing carrots in cakes goes back even further. T.W. Barritt at his blog 'Culinary Types' shares more about the event where George Washington was served a carrot tea cake in New York City in 1783.

"The Giant Carrot" by Jan Peck, illustrated by Barry Root
"The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson

See the Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny Hopping Carrot Hunt game HERE.
Check out this soundtrack "Bugs Bunny at the Symphony" for some entertaining music from the one and only famous rabbit while cookin' up this tasty carrot recipe.

November 5, 2010

A Polk Recipe from Flippin, Arkansas

My friend Gwen VanAsselt is today's guest to discuss the culinary delights from Arkansas. Gwen's polk shoots recipe is from her grandmother who grew up eating this in Flippin, Arkansas, and brought the recipe with her to Missouri when she moved to Missouri's Lake Ozark in her 30's.

You, like me, may be wondering about polk shoots (also called poke or pokeweed). Here's a good link for more info.

Gwen says: "One of the wonderful things about my grandma is that she doesn't beat around the bush and isn't afraid to speak her mind. She came to stay with us for a week after the birth of our first child. After the first day of my recipes (lots of lentils and tofu) she told me I didn't have the right ingredients to make anything. She couldn't believe that I didn't have a can of bacon grease on my stove. She said, 'all good recipes start with a little bacon grease.'
"At some point during her trip she noticed that we had polk growing in our landscaping.  (We are not the best at yard maintenance.)  She picked a full pot of it out of our landscaped beds and served it to us that night for dinner.
"I called her to get the recipe. 

"In Arkansas you know that poke is up when the Oak trees put out leaves.  It is best in the spring when it is tender.  It grew later in Michigan because the climate is cooler.  It will grow into fall and make berries.  Never eat the berries. They are almost poison.

Polk recipe:
1.  Pick a full pot of polk because it will shrink.
2.  Wash it three times to get the dirt and sand off.
3.  Put it back in the large pot with some water and cook it until it is tender.
4.  Lift the polk out of the water and put it in a frying pan with a few tablespoons of bacon grease. Add salt and pepper.
5.  Go by taste and make sure it is tender.

She reminded me several times not to eat the berries in the fall and never to eat polk raw because it will cause diarrhea.
Enjoy the recipe!
Thanks for sharing, Gwen. I think I'll wait to try this until your grandmother can peruse our landscaping. (See below for a previous year's "garden" that kind of took over. I'm sure there was something edible here!)

November 2, 2010

Ode to Oklahoma and on to Arkansas — Land of Hope

First, it's election day and I hope you've found time to vote. (Continue reading after you've finished voting, we'll still be here waiting for you.)  Trying to teach the students about voting our Kindergarten teacher used the book "The Little Red Hen" to show the students to vote for the animal individual who is the hardest worker. On a recent stop on his road trip through the country Time's Joe Klein mentioned that politicians are some of the hardest working individuals in the country. It's easy to forget that with all the negative campaign material floating around. I wrote about ballot revisions - design revisions at least -- on my Mom2MomKC blog HERE.

So for just a few Presidential items (though it's not a presidential voting year) I thought it would be fun to include:

From the Diamond Bear Brewing Company in Arkansas.

How about a Presidential Pale Ale Beer? (From Arkansas, our next state to explore!)

Click HERE to hear how former President Clinton ate when he was growing up in Hope, Arkansas. (From an interview on Rachel Ray's TV show.)

Try this Presidential food trivia test HERE.

And one of our favorite books with stories and great illustrations of the White House and its families is "Our White House, Looking In, Looking Out."
It has a great collection of short stories and information on all our past presidents and their families. It's a treasury of great authors and illustrators on a topic that should be of interest to all children (and parents) interested in the history of their country.
Presidential illustration by Bob Kolar in "Our White House"

So as we depart Oklahoma (with a pledge to return when we have more recipes and stories), we give you our new-found recipe for Oklahoma Caviar, that features blackeyed peas, of course! I've heard this zesty bean dip for chips referred to as poor man's cavair, too, but the Oklahoma title fits our needs just fine. (I'd happily call it Texan caviar, too.)

Oklahoma Caviar
1 (12 oz) can of black beans
1 (14 oz) can of shoepeg corn (I choose frozen)
1 (15 oz) can blackeyed peas
2 (15 oz) cans chopped tomatoes
2 bunches of green onions, chopped (I used 3 stalks only)
1 (16 oz) bottle of Italian dressing (I didn't use all of the bottle)

Drain and rinse beans and corn from the cans. Add the ingredients in a bowl with the canned tomatoes, green onions and dressing. Mix well. Refrigerate and marinate overnight. (But can be served right after mixing though the flavors are best after marinating.) Serve with corn chips.

My eldest really liked it, though the youngest thought it was a bit too spicy for her taste. I may try to find a less "zesty" Italian dressing, but I love finding new ways to serve up vegetables for the girls.

October 30, 2010

Tis the Season for Pumpkin Bread

We couldn't let Halloween come and go without an easy and delish recipe that's quick to fix and perfect for ghouls and boys of all ages. I was rummaging through my mother's cookbooks and found a fun recipe for pumpkin bread. Although I didn't recognize the cookbook* the recipe was from my cousin Kay Reynolds. Kay is a former Home Economics teacher at Derby High School and known in our family as the accomplished entertainer.

I baked up some loaves and left one in Kay's kitchen in her weekend getaway I'm dubbing The Lodge. (See above.) There's also a chance that Kay baked up some bread this weekend, too.

The recipe is great because it calls for an entire can of pumpkin. I'm always frustrated with recipes that just call for a cup or a half can of pumpkin. I try to think of something to throw the leftover puree into (my friend Kate swears it makes chili great) but I always forget about that small amount in a plastic container hangin' out in the frig. Until three weeks later I open the container and discover I've got a great start for a science project.

It's a great recipe that calls for mixing with a spoon, so it's a great baking project for the kids to easily help in the kitchen. While rummaging in my mother's kitchen I spotted part of a Ghirardelli Chocolate baking bar. (How that thing didn't get eaten ages ago I do NOT know, but I broke up the bar and added it to the batter while I was pouring it into the pans. To finish off the tops of the loaves I added pecans and a sprinkling of brown sugar.

Kay Reynold's Pumpkin Bread
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (or cloves or allspice or whatever sounds spicy in the back of the spice rack)
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil (I like Canola or sunflower)
1- 15 oz. - can of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just the pumpkin puree)
4 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water

In a large bowl mix together first six ingredients: flour through sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add last four ingredients: oil, pumpkin, eggs and water. Mix until the dry ingredients are wet. Place in 2 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. 

Times will vary depending on size of pans. The recipe for me made one large loaf, two medium loaves, two baby loaves and a dozen muffins. The muffins took about 15 to 20 minutes but the large loaf baked for more than 50 minutes.

* Recipe published in a custom published cookbook in memory of a father and son and the Kenney and Kent Kraus Vocational Scholarship at Mulvane H.S. in Kansas

October 29, 2010

Oklahoma's State Menu

Oklahoma has an official state meal and it's not for dieters. Click HERE to read more. It reflects a Southern slant and prairie diet with influences from Native Americans.

Barbecued pork
chicken-fried steak
and sausage with biscuits and gravy
fried okra and squash
black-eyed peas
pecan pie.

My friend Sue Wendelbo — who I commend for eating well despite multiple food allergies — writes: "I hate to disappoint you, but Oklahoma "was" known for FRYING EVERYTHING!  Thank goodness the Raw Food Movement has made a great entrance into the Great, Great State of Oklahoma!  105 Degrees is a culinary academy that is shaping the way Southwest foodies are living life to the fullest.  Chris and I regularly frequent 105 Degrees on our visits and when we leave the fine dining establishment our pallets are anxious to return.  Oklahoma really has become the hot bed of culinary arts with several schools and chefs from as far away as London and New York City hired as instructors.  Who would have ever guessed?"

Thanks, Sue, I'm now excited about checking out 105 Degrees though I've less chance to travel through Oklahoma since my sister moved from Austin, Texas. (Oklahoma City was always our stopping point for the night because 12 hours from our home to Austin was just too much for our family to handle in one day's drive.) It's good to know food is getting more sophisticated. When I was in college the only Oklahoma restaurant/establishment that I was familiar with that served food and refreshments was Eskimo Joe's. (I never road tripped there either!) Everyone had their T-shirt from the place, it was like the Midwest's version of the Hard Rock T-shirt.

And I'd be remiss in not linking to the beautiful web site that's the work of Ree Drummond the Pioneer Woman, who cooks, does photography and home schools in Oklahoma. How she does it all, I have NO idea!

Click HERE for more info on Oklahoma restaurants.

And my friend Holly Lawton who grew up in Oklahoma City, writes, "One thing I remember from Oklahoma that other states don't seem to do is to have black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. The quintessential OK food would have to be red meat!"

I'm experimenting with a black-eyed peas salad and if it works I'll share it. (Still not had a chance to make biscuits with vinegar gel yet, but it's on the agenda. Don't forget to vote!) Still seeking noodle recipes, too!

October 27, 2010

Bookin' it in Oklahoma

Welcome back to more of Oklahoma Week

Book of Oklahoma!

The girls and I watched Oklahoma! this past weekend. Well the five-year-old was the most into it while her older sister complained that it was too long and I started dozing off and missed all the dream scenes. And I forgot how brooding Jed is, including his stalking tendencies and finally setting a haystack on fire that held the pair of newlyweds, Curly the cowboy and farm girl Shirley Jones. (Though for a farm girl Shirley wasn't as handy around the farm as you'd think she should have be in frontierland. And I'm not quite sure her new husband Curly knew quite enough about keeping her aunt's farm in tip-top working condition.)

Here is a list of famous Oklahomans that lends itself to checking out many famous authors.
I discovered a Native American poet, Joy Harjo, who's work includes this fun-looking children's book:

Children's book from Oklahoma author

While there have been many writers and actors, I found Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth's salad dressing recipe from her mother (from SELF magazine, April 2003.) (It's got vinegar and sugar in it!) The Chenoweths are from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, though Kristin now spends her time in NYC and LA.

Kristin Chenoweth's memoir

According to a review of Kristin's memoir, "A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages," Kristin enjoys food and she shares recipes for desserts like Butterfinger Pie and Chenolicious White Trash Cookies. I'm tracking down her book right now to try out these recipes.

October 26, 2010


So I just finished my Mom2Mom post for this week and I'm still researching Oklahoma recipes and attractions. Did you know that mistletoe is the state's floral emblem? And Black-eyed peas (the food not the group) seem to be a big New Year's tradition. There's more to come soon and also a post before Halloween on the making of a pop star. (The group kind not the beverage.) Until then, don't forget to vote on the vinegar syrup poll, and I'll keep you posted if I end up making and tasting it!

Oh, do I even have to hint at noodle recipe help?

October 22, 2010

Oklahoma Comfort Food - with Vinegar Gel

Welcome to Oklahoma Week where we highlight two er, one standard comfort food today. These classic made-from-scratch biscuits (as all biscuits should be!) include a rather unique topping. That topping is a family recipe born out of originality and necessity and now a recipe that those BORN in the family seen to have a predisposed craving to enjoy. It still causes much division at the family's gatherings to this day.

Ah, the wonders of food. I like to think there is something to genetics and eating. We're still grilling which likely started as some caveman's way to relieve stress on the five days after a big hunting project while the wife tossed together a lovely berry salad while carrying for the kids, repainting and sweeping the cave while entertaining the in-laws. And that last point made her remember that the clan's arrows needed sharpening, again.

Fast forward to the present,  as we focus on the states surrounding Kansas for this project, I like to tap my friends who grew up on each state's food fare. For Oklahoma, I talked with a couple our family much admires, Bill and Nicki Hancock. Nicki is a former English teacher (and a Kansas Master Teacher of the Year) and Bill is the Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series. Bill and Nicki live in KC but grew up and met in Oklahoma and have family there. Nicki shares the story of her mother's biscuit recipe and the vinegar gel topping! Enjoy  -- with or withOUT the vinegar gel.

Nicki writes:

"Growing up in Oklahoma, sometimes for breakfast but often with dinner, we had my mother’s made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits. Even though she worked as a teacher, writer, tax preparer and lawyer, she still made biscuits several times a month. We always had them for special occasions. Since my father’s hobby was raising bird dogs and taking them into the fields for hunting on crisp, fall Saturdays, for Christmas breakfast we always had fried quail with biscuits and gravy. Our 1907-vintage farmhouse teemed with activity as we all scurried to help prepare the feast. The aroma filled the steamy kitchen up to its high ceiling, and even the sweaty windows radiated warmth. It was a treat that we four children looked forward to all year.

"Very little changed after we added four spouses, 12 grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren. Mother has moved to an assisted-living center and someone else now lives in our old farmhouse, but we’re still there in our hearts at Christmas time.

"With our biscuits we always had (and still have) a Depression-era treat called vinegar gel. Probably created from a recipe for vinegar pie (a Southern dessert), it consists of flour, sugar, vinegar and water, cooked into a syrup-like topping for biscuits. We mix it with sugar and butter and pour it over the biscuits. My family says only descendents from our Watkins ancestors like it. I do know that at our family get-togethers none of the 'married-ins' will touch it, but the rest of us savor it — even the babies."

Nellie's Biscuits
Recipe from Nicki (Perry) Hancock
2 cups flour
1/3 cup shortening
½ teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ to 1 cup of buttermilk

Cut shortening into dry ingredients to consistency of corn meal. Add buttermilk to make a sticky dough. Roll out on a lightly floured sheet and cut into two-and-a-half-inch rounds. Bake at 400 degrees about 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Watkins Family Vinegar Gel
Recipe from Nicki (Perry) Hancock
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Bring vinegar and first cup of water to a boil. Put flour, sugar and remaining water into a jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix. Add to boiling mixture. Cook over low heat until thickened. To serve, mix individual portions with one pat of butter and sugar to taste. Serve over buttered biscuits or as a dip for pieces of biscuit.

Nicki says the mixture usually thickens in about 10 minutes. I feel I must in good conscience at least TRY all the recipes I post here. But Bill wants to make one thing clear, "A word of caution: Vinegar gel is awful!" Bill writes. "But then I’m one of those 'married-in' people. I’m told it was invented during the Depression when folks didn’t have enough money to buy jelly. I suppose most people canned their own, but others created vinegar jel. With that in their diet, I’m surprised that anyone survived."

And Nicki agrees: "I have to admit I don't expect non-family members to take to the vinegar gel, but Bill loves the biscuits with sorghum or jelly."

At least everyone can agree on the comforts of steaming-hot biscuits, no matter what topping pleases the taste buds.

Got a story and recipe for Oklahoma? Please leave us a note in comments. (We're also still looking for noodle recipes.)

October 21, 2010

Might Mo & Soda Pop Cake Back in Missouri

Country star Sara Evans might enjoy Tennessee, but she sings about missing her mother in Missouri. In her song "Missing Missouri" off her Real Fine Place 2005 album she recalls summers of her youth, driving down backroads with her friends, through tobacco fields and bumblebees. Question of the day: Are bees addicted to tobacco, too?

I don't know Sara, otherwise I'd ask her for a favorite recipe her mom made when she was growing up. Missouri has a distinct flavor in the East with St. Louis style ribs; thin, square-cut pizza; breaded, beef-filled ravioli (not cheese) and gooey butter cake. On the Western side of the state, it's KC Strip Steaks (McConigle's ships), barbecue and povitica bread to name a few. But it's good to remember that Missouri is basically a southern state, and that's reflected in the cooks and their versatility.

Here's what my friend Vana Sweetland recalls about growing up in the middle of Missouri:

"I certainly have some fond memories of my Mother and both my Grandmother’s cooking but frankly, none of them use recipes," Vana says. "I think as 'country girls' it’s just something they grew up with and learned how to do. 

"Basically, I was raised on soul food. My Mother could probably be a chef at 'Papa Lou’s.' Mom and both my Grannies canned, know how to cook wild game and every vegetable imaginable, and they all share Emeril’s love of using lard. My Mother has lard at home in her refrigerator right now. My Granny Meador even made her own butter, butter milk, cottage cheese and milked the cow to get the milk to do it with."

Ah, mentioning Emeril brings back memories. Vana and I stood in line for an hour waiting to have Emeril sign his "Every Day's a Party" cookbook more than a decade ago. Vana stood longer in line and was nice enough to save me a space in line because I got lost driving around trying to find the mall. The cookbook's inscription has "Bam" and Emeril's script in it and that brings up a quick story before I get back to the state at hand -- Missouri!

Joe and I were dining at Emeril's restaurant near Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and it was at the end of a very delicious and promptly served meal. The waiter is bringing out dessert and I ask him about Emeril in the kitchen when he's there at the restaurant.

"Does he say 'Bam' when he's kicking it up a notch?" I ask. The waiter arches his eyebrows every so slightly (as if I've just asked for store-bought ice cream) and says: "That's just TV shtick." So there, now I know better than to ask about famous chefs in the kitchen.

View of the Mighty Mississippi, from the Arch

Close family friend Mechelle Voepel is a big Cards fan and one of the preeminent women's sportswriters in the country. Mechelle shares her recipe for a fun dessert made with soda/pop/cola. (Did you know that 7-up was created in Missouri?) This cake reminds me of a multi-colored birthday cake a friend's mother once served when I was in grade school.

A Western view from the Arch. Can you spot Cardinals Stadium?

Mechelle says: "When I was growing up just north of St. Louis, this is a dessert that my mom made during the summer. (If you're interested, I also have a recipe for something else my parents made ... lye soap! Not to eat, of course.)
We used Fitz's Strawberry Pop, bottled in St. Louis
Mechelle Voepel's Soda Pop Cake
One yellow cake mix
2 small boxes of strawberry Jello
1 bottle of strawberry soda
(You can vary flavors of Jello/soda. We used one strawberry and one mixed berry)

Mix cake according to box and bake in a 9" x 13" pan. While it's cooking, mix Jello, making it with the strawberry soda, not water.

The mixed berry Jello hits the strawberry Jello and soda in a cool fizzy effect

Put in refrigerator until partially set. Let cake cool for 15 minutes ...

... then put holes in cake with a fork and pour Jello mix on cake

Put in refrigerator until Jello sets, about three hours. (It kind of looks like the Missouri Delta — or the Gulf of Mexico — right now, but trust us, it tastes better than it looks!)

One small package of Instant Jello Vanilla pudding mix
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 small tub of Cool Whip

Mix pudding with milk, then add in Cool Whip. Put topping on cake and refrigerate.

It is indeed a great summer treat, no matter which side of the Mississippi you reside.

Remember, we're still searching for NOODLE recipes! Got one to put in comments for a chance to win the enjoyable "Swimming in Noodles" CD?

October 20, 2010

Hop Along for a Western Tall Tale that Starts in Missouri

Shootin' fire! We've got a pure-D, right fine day back in Missouri today and tomorrow that's perfect to engage the children in some history, we hope. We return to Missouri naturally 'cause it's the gateway to the West. Wahoo, as I'm sure they still don't say somewhere in America.

Here's a view from right under the arch taken this spring .

We just previewed a new children's picture book from one of our favorite illustrators, who just happens to live in town. Laura Huliska-Beith (who grew up in Nebraska and now lives in Missouri) illustrated a beautiful and fun TALL tale adventure of family travel back when stagecoaches, gold and the Pony Express were the rage.
A small pouch on the right included peanut brittle with the book.
 "The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is written by Kimberly Willis Holt,  who won a National Book Award for "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town."

The book charmed my 9 and 5 year old. It's a great playful tale with even better characters and captivating illustrations. It's a tale of a happy-go-maybe-not-so-lucky family traveling out West. A hole on the trail sends Granny and the littlest family member shooting out of the wagon and roughing it on a memorable journey into the great unknown where they meet a stagecoach robber and ride on the Pony Express and pan for Gold. And you thought you had a rough time on your last family road trip?

Granny is as eager  — but much more pleasant than the Clampetts Granny — who relies on her family's ingenuity. Speaking of gold, you must munch peanut brittle while reading the book.

Here's a Peanut Brittle recipe from one of my favorite Kansas City cookbooks.* I like the directions with the lump of butter, rounded teaspoon of baking soda (that secret and magical ingredient) and a fun way to test it in water to see if it's ready. Why it's purdy near like Granny pans for gold! If this sounds like a test of wits you'll need to holler for Granny Clearwater or your own Granny! (Laura says she burned several batches of peanut brittle before she got a batch worthy of making it's way into the picture book.)

Peanut Brittle
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups raw peanuts (or other nuts)
1 'lump' of butter (the size of an egg)
1 teaspoon of baking soda, rounded
1 Tablespoon of vanilla

Boil sugar, water and syrup for 7 minutes or until it spins a long thread. Add peanuts, stirring constantly until amber colored and it makes a cracking noise when dropped in cold water. Remove from heat. Quickly add butter and soda. Stir quickly until foam goes down. Add vanilla. Stir. Spread quickly on 2 heavily buttered cookie sheets. Spread out with spatulas and fingers, pulling batter thin. When completely cooled, break into pieces and store in a covered wagon container.

* from Dining In In Kansas City, A Collection of recipes from the Greater Kansas City Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, recipe credited from the Cookbook Committee

"The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is a great book to introduce children to other classic American tales like Paul Bunyan. 
Did you know 20 states have Bunyan statues? I just learned that from the link above.

Or Johnny Appleseed 
Johnny Chapman, the real man, was born in Massachusetts but moved out West, planting trees in Indiana. So it's now Fort Wayne, Indiana, who puts on the Johnny Appleseed Festival every September.

Don't forget to leave your comments and give us a NOODLE RECIPE for a chance to get that new "Swimming in Noodles" CD from Jim Cosgrove!

October 18, 2010

A Quick Stopover in Kansas

We're heading back south for a day in Kansas and then tomorrow's itinerary is Missouri and then a week devoted to the Great State of Oklahoma. SO, you know what that means, if you're in Oklahoma and you're reading this or you have family in Oklahoma, leave a comment. I hope you're finding recipes of particular states and their accompanying stories to be of value or at least a bit interesting. Again, thanks for stopping by. In a fast paced world where EVERYONE wants our attention, I appreciate your time!

And again, see yesterday's post for more details, but leaving a NOODLE recipe in comments will get you ever closer for a chance to WIN a BRAND-NEW FREE CD from award-winning kid rocker Jim Cosgrove!
A sunflower (Kansas state flower) from my Missouri garden.
So here are two recipes for sides courtesy of Bill James and Susan McCarthy. Bill does amazing stuff with baseball statistics and consults the Red Sox. I quoted him about his love of cinnamon rolls that many fellow Midwesterners share. But Bill detests chicken fried steak. Bill says: "I loathe chicken fried steak, which I regard as an effort to disguise the cheapest cuts of meat with lard and flour."

The first side is a potato recipe Susan has made for Bill for 30 years. In addition to the potatoes, it has both green beans and carrots. I'll post a picture after I have a chance to make it. My newly organized pantry wasn't smelling too good this morning. My youngest with the sensitive nose nearly gagged and I realized a fairly new bag of red potatoes was spoiling and emitting a putrid odor. I've been lighting quite a few candles today. So once I get new FRESH Idaho potatoes I'm making ....

Susan McCarthy's and Bill James' 
Herbed Garden Vegetable Salad
(recipe from Susan's mother)
½ cup salad oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
In a small covered jar, combine oil, vinegar, parsley flakes, salt, basil, onion and garlic
powders and ground black pepper; shake well.

In a large bowl combine the following:
6 cups warm, peeled and sliced, cooked potatoes
3 cups warm, cut green beans
2 cups warm, sliced cooked carrots
Freeze-dried chives
Toss the vegetables gently and pour in enough dressing to coat vegetables thoroughly.
Cover; chill several hours tossing occasionally.

Reunion Scalloped Potatoes
(Susan got this recipe from “ The Free Spirit,” July 20, 1989, published in Oskaloosa, Kan. Thelma Farris is credited with this recipe.)
5 lbs potatoes, boiled in jackets, peeled and sliced
1 small can pimentoes, finely cut
¼ pound butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 ½ oz size)
1 cup milk
1 lb. cheese, shredded
Arrange potatoes in buttered baking pan. Combine ingredients in small pan. Stir over low heat
until blended and cheese is melted. Pour over potatoes. Bake in 300 degree oven for 1 and a half hours.

October 17, 2010

Nebraska Runza and Win a Great CD with YOUR Noodle Recipe!

We're finishing up our Nebraska meals today and after a quick retreat back to Missouri (we've got a great new picture book to preview and a dessert) and then Kansas to pick up some more sides, we'll zero in on Oklahoma. Friends have lined up some, shall we say, rather unique recipes for southern-stylin' Oklahoma and it's neighboring Arkansas. I'm excited to get your input on these recipes.

It's never too late to share your recipes from your favorite state(s). In fact, I'm requesting you quickly leave in comments your BEST noodle dish. Why, noodles, you ask? Come on, what kid (and adult) doesn't eat noodles? So what does the chef of the best recipe receive? Well, Bob Drew, in honor of our friend, singer/songwriter, kid rocker and all-around-good-guy Jim Cosgrove (a.k.a. Mr. Stinky Feet) and his new CD titled "Swimming in Noodles" the best noodle recipe of the week gets a FREE "Swimming in Noodles" CD!

We hope to get oodles of noodle recipes. We'll award points for creativity, ease in making and representation of your state. Wisconsin Mac & Cheese? New York Penicillin? American Macaroni Salad? Bring forth those noodle recipes! (Also, I'm curious to know why Yankee Doodle Dandy called his feather in his hat 'macaroni.' Had he just spent too much time hanging out with Samuel Adams? Anyone know?)


My Nebraska consultant, friend and fellow mom, Nicci Ericksen, convinced me that the essence of the Runza was the filling and that to make this fit a family friendly meal I shouldn't have to spend all day baking bread. (I do plan to double my grandmother's sweet dough recipe and use a quarter of the dough for Runzas the next time I want to spend all day babysitting dough.)

For simplicity sake, I relied on the ever-versatile crescent roll dough to work as the covering for a fairly easy filling of ground beef, onion and cabbage all tossed in a skillet and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I may experiment with seasonings next time because it seemed a bit bland to my tastebuds. I cooked the onions first, added the hamburger until it was cooked through and then added the cabbage, making the meal prep a bit longer, but not as long bread dough from scratch. We added poppy seeds to the top of the crescent packages for a little texture -- in honor of the Czech rolichs which always had poppy seeds on top, but I don't think this is an official approved topping!

If you have the time and want to be authentic check this homemade Nebraska Runza recipe here. Also, fellow Kansans can refer to bierock recipes, which are basically the same sandwich.

And if you need a side, perhaps your table guests aren't into that cabbage in the filling, here's a corn casserole from our friend, Mick Ratzlaff, who grew up in Nebraska. Mick likes to cook for his family and has a collection of his grandmothers' recipes.

1 large onion, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups frozen or canned corn
2 cups long grain wild rice, cooked
1 can diced tomatoes
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Saute onions and peppers in large skillet with butter until tender. Mix with flour and remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup cheese. Pour into a well-greased 2-1/2 quart baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and let stand 6 to 8 minutes.

I'm intrigued with the wild rice and Worcestershire sauce in this version, but I think I'll opt to leave out the eggs. My youngest shies away from food that contains identifiable eggs. (NOTE: She will not approve of noodle recipes that LOOK like they have egg in them.)

October 14, 2010

The Road to Kolache Heaven


I didn't really think about featuring the Kolache as Nebraska's dessert until I was browsing my newest cookbook: "United Cakes of America" by Warren Brown. This wonderful cookbook is mandatory reading for our journey. Warren, who has bake shops on the East Coast, has put together a national treasury of desserts that's also an entertaining history of baking in America. Plus, it's one of the very few cookbooks that organizes recipes by state. (So if any publishing houses want to explore this idea of more regional/state cooking themes, feel free to contact me.)

Cherry Kolaches I made on the first try after years of not making them.
For Nebraska, Warren presented a kolache recipe, but I thought it would be a crime not to feature MY OWN GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE. She lived and baked 13 miles from the southern border of Nebraska, in the small town of Cuba, Kansas.

Cuba's got a strong Czech heritage and I remember once singing a happy Czech song in a skit with two other little preschool friends in front of lots of people laughing. I cannot remember WHAT we were singing, but it was probably about food. I think the older lady on stage with us had a bucket of lard. But maybe I'm getting mixed up. It was a long, long time ago. But the Senior Citizen's Community Center had  a stage backdrop that was a painting of a Czech street scene. I'm not sure what condition it's in now all these years later, but there's a great photo of that backdrop if you go to Jim Richardson's Web site, click "Documentary: Our Heartland" and then click on "Cuba, Kansas."

Did you know my hometown was exotic enough to be featured in the May 2004 National Geographic? A subsequent issue printed my letter to the editor thanking photographer Jim Richardson. I'm wondering if I can technically count "National Geographic" as one of the places my work has appeared?

So to all my Cuba homies who have the "Blue" 1978 Cuba Presbyterian Guild Cook Book with my grandmother Margaret Lesovsky's recipe on page 118, it's been updated -- by my grandmother, who was always noting the total amount of flour and other alchemy while baking. Here's the latest version of her "basic" dough that she called her "smaller amount" that also included less kneading. My grandmother didn't think I was the world's best at kneading, but I'd not had her decades of experience either.

The inscription in my cookbook from my grandmother. 


2 packages of yeast (3 teaspoons equal a package) = 6 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (water that is warm and comfortable on the wrist)
1/3 cup of powdered milk (Can you tell my Grandmother grew up in the Depression?)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of oil (1/2 cup of oil if making kolaches)

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of instant potatoes (Depression inspired? Saves time from boiling real potatoes)
2 eggs
5 cups of flour (approximately)

Put first 5 ingredients (through oil) into mixer. Let yeast work about 10 minutes. 

Then start with other ingredients, making sure you have enough flour. I of course ran out of flour and had to run to the store, hoping the yeast wouldn't expand too much. I noticed later my grandmother's wheat roll recipe calls for this "sponge" action of adding two cups of flour and waiting before adding more flour, so 20 minutes between the cups of flour didn't seem to effect the outcome. Whew!

So once you have nearly five cups of flour (preferably Hudson Cream) use the mixer's dough hook to knead. I love this part of the recipe, though  I still made a mess.

Here's where I zoned off (all those years ago) when I was writing down Grandma's recipe, perhaps because it was ALWAYS pretty warm in her kitchen. My next step says "Bake at 400 degrees" so I know I skipped a few vital instructions. Yes, I can see my grandmother shaking her head now. 
According to her published recipe in the "blue" cookbook here are the rest of the dough directions:

Continue beating in flour until dough is smooth and can be lifted in a mass on the spoon, leaving the bowl clean. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and satiny. (I did this for three minutes and called it good.) Keep as soft as can be handled. (I think that means not to add too much more flour.) Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Set in a warm place until doubled* then punch down. Let rest for 10 minutes and shape as desired. (For plain rolls, rohliks with poppy seeds, bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.)

For the actual kolaches recipe, I've referred to the blue cookbook's Czech kolache notes from Mrs Ed Fisher, and used raising times from Warren Brown's kolache recipe. *Brown lets dough in bowl initially rise for 90 minutes.)

I divided the dough and started forming small rolls about the size of a small egg (thinking small because they'll continue raising with that massive amount of yeast!), placing them two inches apart.

I flattened them slightly and let them rise when they're doubled in size. (Brown specifies 30 minutes, Fisher says Kolaches can be tested by pressing in the center. If an indention remains they're ready to spread out, leaving a 1/2 inch edge. Sort of like this, I am by no means a Kolache Queen:

Fill with filling of choice — I used canned ready cherry and apricot pie fillings - puree apricot filling before using - or I make my own plum or what we used to call prune filling. I added canned pineapple to the apricot because my Grandmother always liked to make pineapple kolaches because that was her favorite fruit. There's also a poppy seed and cottage cheese option, but, yuck! I don't even attempt to make that disgusting kind.

Debbie's Plum Filling
1 orange (you'll need the zest)
1 package pitted plums (12 oz.)
1 1/2 cups raisins
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Soak prunes and raisins overnight in water. Cook until soft with the zest of the orange and the sugar. Drain. Add lemon juice. Puree and ready to go.

After carefully filling the centers, an egg wash is optional. They'll need to raise one last time for about 5 to 10 minutes and then can bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Mine took about 15 minutes. Don't forget to go light on the filling:

But my first batch turned out well enough I think my Grandmother would have been proud. The total recipe made four dozen. And if you're within driving distance of my house, I've still got some to share.