Culinary Traditions Flavor Three Upcoming Festivities: by Marilyn Ostermiller

The week before New Year’s Day features three celebrations, punctuated by feasting, that embrace religious and cultural heritages.

Hanukkah, one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, begins Dec. 22.

—  Christians celebrate Christmas Dec. 24 and 25.

Kwanza, a cultural unity celebration for African-Americans, follows on Dec. 26 through Dec. 31.

Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration, commemorates the victory of a small group of Jewish rebels, known as the Maccabees, over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Modern celebrations of Hanukkah focus on family and friends, and include the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, one candle for each night, according to reformjudaism.org

According to the legend of the Miracle of the Light, when the Maccabees entered the Temple, they found a single jar of oil, which was sufficient for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, and miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the eight days of Hanukkah to the miracle of this single jar of oil.

Foods prepared in oil, such as potato pancakes. are traditionally served during Hanukkah.  Latkes, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, are often served with applesauce and sour cream. Recipes and a helpful video is available from popular cooking and lifestyle blogger ToriAvey.com at https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/potato-latkes/

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Christians celebrate Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition that grew out of the practice of not eating meat on Christmas Eve. A typical menu includes clams casino, fried calamari, seafood salad, oysters shooters and pasta with clam sauce. according to www.thespruceeats.com/la-vigilia-napoletana-feast-of-seven-fishes-2019493

A newly published book,  Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn-Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family, by Daniel Paterna, features recipes and memories handed down through three generations.        

African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who became a college professor, introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home and counter the deadly Watts riots in Los Angeles the previous year. The seven principles of the custom include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. On New Year’s Eve, participants celebrate with a banquet. Main dishes include African creole, Cajun catfish, jerk chicken, or Groundnut stew from West Africa, which features warm spices, sweet potatoes and peanuts. For a recipe, visit https://www.strongertogether.coop/recipes/african-groundnut-stew

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

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.

 

 

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

Memorial Day Activities

Since Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer, that usually means more time outdoors and lots of outdoor eating. If you’re going to a picnic this weekend, here are a few simple games, activities and food ideas to help win the day.                      patriotic-dove

MAKE PATRIOTIC NECKLACES using red, white, and blue straws cut into one inch sections. String them onto a piece of yarn and everyone looks ready for a parade or backyard barbeque.

Try frozen STRAWBERRY POPS to cool off after a fun day in the sun. Wash and remove the stems from a quart of strawberries. Toss them in a blender and add a splash of orange or grape juice.  Puree until smooth. Pour into small paper cups. Place a popsicle stick in each one and freeze until firm. Peel away the paper and they’re ready to eat.

At the next family reunion, have the kids dress up in red, white, and blue and have a backyard parade. You can decorate wagons and bikes, and play some peppy marching band music to add to the festivities. Adults can join in and everyone can “perform” by doing whatever they’re good at: acrobatics, card tricks, puppet show, singing, dancing, telling corny jokes.  Getting everyone – young and old – involved adds to the fun.

While you are celebrating, remember those brave and selfless men and women in uniform who gave their lives  to keep our country free.

Happy Memorial Day.

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?

Easy Recipe to Boost Immunity This Holiday Season.

I imagine most of us are even busier than usual during the month of December getting ready for holidays, or visits from friends and family. When days offer little free time, we often neglect taking care of ourselves and end up feeling tired, out of sorts, or even sick. And, the temptation to grab something quick to eat doesn’t help in the long run. Instead, why not choose food that boosts your immunity, reduces inflammation, and helps to ward off colds, fatigue, and even dry skin.

Numerous studies have proven that foods rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C and Zinc go a long way toward boosting our body’s immune system, especially during stressful periods like the holidays. These foods include leafy greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, berries, pomegranates, nuts and seeds.

Here is a simple recipe for a CITRUS SALAD I like to eat for breakfast with a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal.

citrus salad

This one has grapefruit, mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds and coconut flakes. You can add sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or a handful of your favorite chopped nuts.

Also try adding nuts and berries to yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. Make a green salad with MIXED GREENS, and sprinkle in sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, mandarin oranges, or grapefruit. salmon salad

This salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, strawberries, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds also has chunk salmon from a packet to make it a main dish for lunch or dinner. Just add your favorite dressing.

The prep time for these is minutes, so there is no excuse not to eat healthy during this busy season. What are some of your favorite Vitamin boosting recipes for this time of year?