Mincemeat Enjoys a Storied Past, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

“Would you like a mincemeat cookie?”

When I offer holiday guests a platter of fresh baked mincemeat cookies, I’ve come to expect one of two responses, happy or sorta queasy.

It’s understandable. Minced meat and cookies aren’t a famous pairing, like peanut butter and jelly, or cheese and crackers.

 

Mincemeat can be traced back to Medieval Times in Europe. Back then, it was a way to preserve food without refrigeration. Finely chopped lamb was mixed with dried fruits, sugar and vinegar to keep it from spoiling.

 

A tradition evolved that tied mincemeat pie to Christmas. The pie crust was rectangular, like the manger in Bethlehem. It was filled with mincemeat and a small replica of baby Jesus rested on the filling. A sprinkling of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg symbolized the gifts of the Magi. 

 

Over the years, the meat — finely chopped beef became popular — gradually began to be supplanted with preserved fruits, and sweeteners.

Crosse & Blackwell Rum & Brady Mincemeat Filling & Topping ~ 1 count ~ 29 oz jar

Today’s mincemeat is made mostly from preserved fruits. The brand I prefer doesn’t have a trace of meat or suet. Instead, it’s made with apples, raisins, and orange peel, mixed with corn syrup, vinegar, cornstarch, spices and salt. Some other brands still include beef and suet. Some are spiked with brandy or rum.

While I take the shortcut of prepared mincemeat, two of the cookbooks that will guide more adventurous cooks through the steps to make theirs from scratch include:

  • The Forgotten Arts: Making Old-Fashioned Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys, Sauces and Catsups, Mincemeats, Beverages and Syrups (Yesterday’s Skills Adapted to keywords=Mincemeat+recipes&qid=1571846370&s=books&sr=1-1
  • Preserve & Pickle Recipes (Preserve & Pickle Recipes : With these Fruit Cheeses, Curds, Mincemeat, Conserves, Chutneys And Relishes Book 2) Written by Ana Bridge.

Like pumpkin pie and fruit cake, mincemeat pies, tarts and cookies have their season. It begins at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas, although leftovers are fair game until New Year’s Eve.

My family favors this recipe:

mincemeat

Mincemeat Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups unsifted flour

1tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cups mincemeat (I use Crosse & Blackwell brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add eggs, one at a time. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add gradually to the creamed mixture. Stir in mincemeat. Drop tablespoon-sized rounds of batter on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.

Marilyn Ostermiller      Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys baking for family and friends.

 

 

What Did The White Pumpkin Say to the Orange Pumpkin?

It’s pumpkin time again…that once a year phenomenon that turns ordinary people into a frenzy of decorating for autumn. Pumpkins spring up everywhere and in everything we eat. Pumpkin latte, muffins, soup, pies, cakes, cookies, pancakes, even beer. So, in honor of the season here are a few fun facts about this popular fruit.   Pumpkins

All facts are taken from the websites listed below:

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/food/pumpkins.html

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a22544/facts-about-pumpkins/

 

  • Pumpkins are usually orange but can sometimes be yellow, white, green or red.

  • The name pumpkin comes from the Greek word ‘pepon’, meaning ‘large melon’.

  • The word “pumpkin” showed up for the first time in the fairy tale Cinderella.

  • Scientifically speaking, pumpkins are a fruit (they contain seeds) but when it comes to cooking, they are often referred to as vegetables.

  • Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

  • They vary in weight but an average sized pumpkin might weigh around 13 pounds (6 kilograms).

  • Giant pumpkins can be grown for competitions, with some weighing over 1000 pounds! (450 kilograms). In 2010, the world record was 1810 pounds! That’s huge!!

  • Pumpkin plants feature both male and female flowers, with bees typically being involved in pollination (the transfer of pollen).

  • Over 1 billion pounds (450 million kgs) of pumpkin are produced in the US every year.

  • 80% of the U.S.’s pumpkin crop is available during October.

  • Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, and Omega-3 fats.
  • Pumpkin pie is a sweet dessert that originates in North America and is traditionally eaten during harvest time and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Every single part of a pumpkin is edible.

    Yep, you can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stem!

  • Pumpkins are popular decorations during Halloween. A carved pumpkin illuminated by candles is known as a ‘jack-o-lantern’. The tradition is believed to have come from Ireland, where they used to carve faces into turnips, beet and other root vegetables as part of the Gaelic festival of Samhain.

  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 3,699 pounds.

People taste 13 October 2007, the bigges

So…what did the white pumpkin say to the orange pumpkin?

ans: I’m looking a little pale, think I should eat some carrots?

Hey, if you’ve got a better PUMPKIN JOKE, bring it on!

 

Celebrate National Macaroni and Cheese Day With Phil, Jim, and Harry.

Did you know that Sunday, July 14th is NATIONAL MACARONI AND CHEESE DAY? I think it’s fitting to have a special day for such an iconic food. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love some form of this dish? Many of us grew up with that orange-staple-in-a-box and survived college eating it. Just about every restaurant has some kind of mac & cheese on its menu. And, I’m sure we all have our favorites.

To celebrate the day, I am giving away a copy of the delightful PB by Robin Newman titled NO PEACOCKS, where peacocks Phil, Jim, and Harry set out to sample the local school’s world famous mac & cheese.

No Peacocks!: A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies

To enter for a chance to win, please share what you think is the best macaroni and cheese ingredient ever. The one special thing you add to your recipe that elevates it to new heights. I will put your name in my hat and draw one random entry for the give-away.

Enjoy the day, and may all your macaroni and cheese be DELICIOUS!

2016

Marilyn Ostermiller Presents: Recipes That Stood the Test of Time Part 2.

When my Great Grandma Caroline learned to bake as a child in Denmark during the 1860s, her specialty was Danish Cookies. She’d grab a couple handfuls of sugar, add heaping scoops of lard, an egg and cream it all together with a wooden spoon, before she tossed in a several handfuls of flour, pinches of baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and a few drops of vanilla.

I never met Great Grandma Caroline — she passed away before I was born — but every December, I roll her sweet, rich dough into balls the size of shooter marbles for a Christmas Eve treat.

I love following in her culinary footsteps, something I couldn’t do without my aunt’s foresight.
Aunt Helen sat down with Great Grandma and a set of measuring cups and spoons, pen and paper. When Caroline grabbed just enough lard, Helen asked her put it in a measuring cup. She repeated that with each ingredient to capture the recipe for posterity.

***
Danish Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar    2 cups flour                1 cup butter            1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg                1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla            1/2 tsp. salt    

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into small balls, flatten with a fork and sprinkle with nonpareils. Bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes.

recipe-box
Handing down favored family recipes is a time-honored tradition around the world. Some families gather every Sunday night to feast on Nonna’s tomato sauce and meatballs. For other families, a bowl of Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup is guaranteed to chase away a cold or sore throat. And, in another time-honored tradition, some cooks add a different ingredient or leave out one when someone asks for their recipe. I substitute butter for lard, when I make Great Grandma’s cookies.

Another factor that brought more recipes into our homes over the years was the popularity of packaged foods imprinted with a recipe on the back of the box.

cookbook

“The Back of the Box Gourmet,” written by Michael McLaughlin, is a compendium of dozens of recipes from packaged foods, ranging from “Lipton California Onion Dip” to the “Classic Green Bean Bake,” starring Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s a recipe I’m quite familiar with because my husband gets nostalgic for it every year around Thanksgiving. I bought that cookbook years ago because it has page after page of favorite foods from my childhood. My all-time favorite is the recipe on the back of Marshmallow Fluff jars for “Never-Fail Fudge.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1933069.Back_of_the_Box_Gourmet. How sweet it is!

What “Back of the Box” recipes are your favorite?

Marilyn Ostermiller
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Sandwiches That Stood the Test of Time, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

Here’s another post in my ongoing series about the various aspects and methods of conducting historical research when we write. This one, from my friend and frequent contributor to this blog, MARILYN OSTERMILLER, has a wonderfully unique twist: it’s about sandwiches of yesteryear.

“The greatest thing since sliced bread” is a saying that doesn’t make much sense these days, when sliced bread is in every supermarket. But, in the 1920s it marked a turning point in the average kitchen when a machine was invented that could slice and wrap bread. It meant children could safely make their own sandwiches. There was no longer any concern they would cut themselves trying to slice a whole loaf of bread with a sharp knife for the newly popular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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Another classic sandwich introduced in1920s is The Hot Brown, a toasted, open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato and a delicate cheesy cream sauce. In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel  in Louisville, Ky. often drew crowds of more than 1,000 people, who kicked up their heels dancing until dawn, then wandered into the restaurant for something to eat. The chef set out to create something new to tickle their taste buds.

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Here’s the recipe https://www.brownhotel.com/dining/hot-brown

It remains popular: The Food Network’s show, Throwdown featured the Hot Brown as a food challenge for Bobby Flay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJben7ZTHh8

The Philadelphia Cheese Steak, made its debut in the 1930s. The way the story goes, an Italian hot dog vendor in South Philly got tired of grilling hot dogs every day, so he cooked up some chopped meat, put it on  an Italian roll, dressed it with onions. In the 1940s, melted cheese was added to change it up.  https://www.patskingofsteaks.com/

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If you want to make it yourself, here’s how: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/philly-steak-sandwiches-recipe-1941027

Lobster Rolls also can be traced to that era. A Milford, Ct. restaurant named Perry’s served the first documented lobster roll in 1929. Despite this, Maine also claims bragging rights to the origin of the  lobster roll.

lobster roll sandwich

New England’s eateries still sell lots of lobster rolls, but their recipes are different. Order one in Maine, and you’re likely to get chunks of lobster meat soaked in melted butter served in a hot dog bun. However, in some parts of New England, lobster rolls are served cold, the chunks of lobster mixed with celery, lemon and mayonnaise. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/massachusetts/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-lobster-roll/

These classic sandwiches are vastly different, but each has a loyal following passed down from generation to generation.

Next: This is the first of a two-part discussion on Classic Foods. The next installment will feature home made treats. Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Darlene here: I don’t know about you, but a Lobster Roll sure would taste good right about now. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH FROM CHILDHOOD?

Almost Spring Banana Muffins.

After the dog days of winter, I am anxious to get outside and participate in the rebirth that is SPRING. Despite the calendar saying it is officially spring on 3-21, we all know it usually comes of its own accord. There are signs already, here in NJ.

spring

But, we all know March is a month where anything can happen. So, while you and your kids await the days when we can go outside with just a jacket on, why not gather them together for an easy baking session? Instead of throwing out those over-ripe bananas, make up a batch of BANANA MUFFINS or BANANA BREAD.Just mash three bananas with a fork as shown below:

muff 1

The follow my well-worn and foolproof recipe. I used chopped walnuts, but you can try almonds also. You can even throw in some mini chocolate morsels.

muff2

The recipe makes 2 loaves or 18 muffins. Serve them up with your favorite beverage and the wait for spring will be a delicious one.

muff3

 

November is Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

I have to admit I was surprised to learn November is Peanut Butter Lover’s month. Pumpkin lovers? Certainly. Cranberry lovers, or even apple lovers? Sure. Who knew peanut butter was something to celebrate this time of year.

In honor of the easy, versatile and kid-friendly food, here is a simple dip that you can proudly serve for the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. Makes a perfect appetizer to keep kids of all ages from asking “When do we eat?”. It’s easy for kids to make as well.

PEANUT BUTTER DIP:1/4 C creamy peanut butter, 3 oz. low fat cream cheese, 1-2 T. apple or orange juice, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce.

1. Combine the PB, cream cheese, juice and cinnamon in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Add applesauce, a little at a time, until it is the right consistency for a dip. Chill before serving with the following:

sliced bananas, carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets, apple slices, graham cracker sticks, pretzel rods, or any assortment of fruits and veggies you choose.  It’s amazing how many things taste great with peanut butter. 

Feel free to try it with non-traditional dippers such as pickles, pepper slices, sausage pieces or whatever. Refrigerated, it will be good for 2-3 days.  If you have allergies to peanuts, try substituting another butter in the recipe.

peanut-butter

Anyone out there adventurous enough to try a peanut butter and turkey sandwich? Who knows, it may be a new way to enjoy all those leftovers.