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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farmer's Market



Three times a week, we have local farmers markets not too far from my home. I went for the first time last Saturday morning. I arrived at 9:30, which is early during the summer months, yet "late" for attending a farmer's market! I was talking with the vendors and was told that many had sold out already and left the premises! I guess it is true that the early bird does get the worm, or in my case, the blueberries! Yes, everyone had sold out of blueberries, but that didn't stop me from shopping! Friendly people with their tables set up with their home grown veggies, flowers, jams and relishes. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, so I tried to have a little restraint. I settled for red potatoes, and 6 stems of sunflowers. My hopes for watermelon were also dashed as I was told it's a little early for them. July 4th seems to be the time that they are most available by local farmers.

I also read in the local paper that a elementary school parking lot was the site of a farmer's market on Friday afternoons. Perfect for those driving home from work. I contacted a friend and decided to meet her and her daughters at the place. This farmer's market was quite similar, yet very different than the one on Saturday. It was similar with booths of fruits and veggies, yet different with Hawaiian ices, vendors selling homemade soap, and a local restaurant selling fresh tamales and the salsas to accompany them.

Luckily for me, I found a vendor with blueberries!! I was so excited. It brought back memories of picking blueberries at my former in-laws garden. The perfect breakfast for summer is homemade blueberry muffins and hot tea! When I make blueberry muffins, I always add a tsp. of fresh lemon zest and juice to the batter. It just gives it a little hint of citrus with the blueberries. I also purchased some apples called "transparent". Now, I'm an apple lover from way back and I must say, I've never heard of them. The gentleman was older and said that they were an old variety he remembered from his grandmama. "Way before your time, young lady!" he said while telling me about the characteristics of this green gem. Not as tart as a granny smith, but it's on the tart side. I have tried just about every kind of apple, so I had to purchase some of these. The apples did have a slightly tart taste and the texture that I prefer. If you've ever eaten a Fuji, that is the texture I like in an apple. Plus, Fuji, is the apple I prefer to eat as a snack too.

The lady that sold me the sunflowers the past Saturday was at the Friday market shucking the corn and selling her garden's bounty. I was spoiled by my in-laws who grew the most delicious silver queen corn. Again, since it was just me, I tried my best to purchase only items that I would use until the next market day. Cucumbers and apples filled my shopping bag.

I can't wait to go back on Wednesday morning with hope that someone will have a fresh watermelon for sale! I'm curbing my watermelon craving with store bought, which is sweet and delicious, but awaiting the taste of one that is fresh from the garden! I'm sure that with the 4th of July just around the corner, the corn on the cob will be the first items to go! Grilled burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and a few salads are the perfect meal for July 4th!

More market adventures to follow as they are open until mid September! Yes, there are advantages to living in the south. Our gardens supply us with fresh veggies through then.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Apple Stack Cake


I have three special recipes from my former mother in law, Myrtle. I was telling her granddaughters that I had the peanut brittle, pecan pie, and apple stack cake recipes. One of them wanted the apple cake recipe.

Myrtle and her husband lived on many acres of land complete with pecan trees, a huge garden, blueberry bushes lining the fence, rose bushes, flowers galore, and a "witches forest"! Oh, how I remember those days picking fruit or veggies from the garden, walking in the woods, or just sitting on the porch, or around the kitchen table talking for hours. What fun times.

My ex husband isn't much of a sweet eater. Two cookies would be "dessert" for him. For me, two cookies is just getting started!!! This is one cake that he did enjoy. When we first started dating, of course, I wanted to impress him with my cooking skills and his mother's recipe!

Being that my family is of Greek heritage, we used to have huge Easter celebrations with about 40 or so people inside cooking, outside grilling, and just having an all day affair. It was one of those days that I had made the cake the previous day and it was in a cake taker ready to go.... Well, we don't have many shy friends and nor did my parents. Our home was their home, and everyone felt at ease in the kitchen. One of my dad's friends remarked: "That was the best apple cake I've ever had!" to which my dad replied: "oh, no! You didn't cut that cake did you?". The answer was: "sure I did! How else could I have told you that was the best apple cake I've ever had?". We all laughed about it, and I took the cake down and told the story. I doubt that they remember though as there were so many stories over the years that brought tons of laughter.

Myrtle would dry her sliced apples in the hot summer sun! I did it the easy way and purchased the apples already dried. I wrote the recipe in a non-traditional way. I left it this way because this is how she said the directions to me. Give yourself a few days to make this cake as it needs to sit 24 hours before slicing. Also, you need to plan time to rehydrate the apples.

Old Fashioned Apple Stack Cake

In a small bowl put 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder Stir lightly

Cream together 1 cup shortening, 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar until well mixed

Add 2 eggs (probably large) and 2 tsp vanilla to shortening and sugar mixture

Add buttermilk mixture to the above mix

Sift together and stir into mixture: 4 cups all purpose flour and 1 tsp. salt. Add enough flour to make the dough easy to handle (like a cookie dough). Divide into 5 portions. Pat mixture into 5 round 9 inch cake pans lined with wax paper. It's a thin cake layer when baked. Bake 10 minutes at 425F. Let layers cool.

For the filling: 1 pound dried apples, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ground clove, 2 cups sugar.

Soak apples overnight in water and they will become soft. Drain off excess water. Add spices to apples and mash until an applesauce texture. Put the apples between the layers and let stand 24 hours before cutting.

When I first made the cake, I did not mash the apples. I had the slices between the layers and the cake was so tall it was almost impossible to cut!! It was so funny. The family endured my error with the chunky apples, but enjoyed the cake nonetheless.

I wrote the recipe just as she told me. I can hear her saying all of the steps. What a wonderful woman she was! I miss her and her joy of living!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pie a la mode or not?


That is the question. I guess it depends on the type of pie. I think the only pie I like a la mode would be apple pie. It's always vanilla ice cream on fruit pies. My dad prefers chocolate ice cream with his apple pie. I'm such a "vanillaholic"! Vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream with vanilla is the perfect topper. I'm a dessert lover since childhood. I inherited the sweet tooth from my dad. My mom rarely ate sweets except on occasion. I have such a sweet tooth. I enjoy making pies as they are a lot more forgiving with errors than cakes. That's an entirely different story. I will share some of my cake catastrophes with you at another time.

I've had a few disasters at making pie. My family loves lemon!! We always have lemon in the house. I made a lemon meringue pie and doubled the lemon since we were lemon lovers. Guess what? The pie was so tart that all of our lips puckered, eyes grew wide, followed by "this is the best lemon pie I've ever eaten!!" Tons of laughter followed that episode.

My friend's husband enjoys baking pies. He's know for "Bob's Pies"! Anytime I am invited to an event where he will attend, I know that there will be pie....lots of pies; blueberry, raspberry, apple, and pecan all in one evening. How can I ever eat a slice of all of them? Where there is pie, there is a way! Bob is such a nice guy and he knows I enjoy his pies. There usually is some pie leftover, but not much, and I can usually have at least one piece to take home for breakfast the next day, that is unless it turns into a midnight snack first!

Back to the pies. My sister in law, Debbie made a delicious pecan pie just like her grandmother.... strictly southern style with a sweetness that just melted in your mouth. It was just a terrific variation on the pecan pie taste test of my life. I will admit, I have been known to purchase a slice or two of the frozen variety when I just had to have "one slice"! Living alone most of the time, I could easily eat an entire pie in a few days! My former mother in law, Myrtle, made the most unusual pecan pie! It doesn't use as much syrup as many and has almost a pudding base constancy. There are as many variations on pecan pie as there are southerners!! She used box pudding mix incorporated into the corn syrup. They even grew the pecan trees on their property. You can't get a better tasting pie than with home grown pecans! The trees were huge! I remember sitting and chatting with her and my sisters in law while cracking the pecans. What fun times. My brother in law, Bill and I were the ones that would get all "weak-kneed" when we found out she was making that pie! I used to joke and say the pie served two: Bill and I. I was never one to say: "just a small sliver" to her offering of pie! I would always take the slice that was "too big" for someone else.

Always hoping for leftover pie, I would take my slice home carefully wrapped in aluminum foil. "This is going to make a great breakfast" I would think on the way home. The next day, after the children and husband had left for school and work, I would place the pie in the oven to warm, coffee or hot tea at the ready, and the aroma of pecan, vanilla, and butterscotch filling the house. The pie will be savored soon. That is one of my all time favorite desserts for breakfast. Any kind of pie really.... or German chocolate cake, coconut cake, apple pie, etc.... I do eat typical breakfast foods too!!

Myrtle's Pecan Pie
8 inch pie shell-unbaked
1 cup light corn syrup
1 small Jell-O brand butterscotch or caramel pudding (I don't know if they make caramel any more)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan
1 large egg

Mix all of the above ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake at 376 for 35 to 40 minutes.

my variation: 1/2 box vanilla pudding and 1/2 box butterscotch pudding
1 tsp vanilla extract





Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tangy Potato Salad


It's summertime and the perfect time for grilling over charcoal, sitting on the deck and enjoying cool foods. I certainly have my summer menu and winter menus. Summer meals tend to be light, refreshing, and cooler. I have hundreds of cookbooks which I use during different times of the year. Spring and summer bring out my Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, and Mediterranean cookbooks. I found a recipe in one of my Lebanese cookbooks for a potato salad. Being the lemon lover that I am, I had to give it a try. After trying the recipe as is, I decided to change it up. Basically, I left the huge lemony flavoring but changed up the spices and herbs to suit my tastes. I have a tendency to do that with all of my cooking. I rarely leave a recipe "as is" except when baking. Baking is my least favorite part of cooking, but one of my favorites in eating!!! Where would I be without my crusty breads?

1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh lemons of course)
1/4 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
2 green onions, minced
2 or 3 chives, minced
1 tsp. lemon thyme
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp Greek oregano
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes

This recipe is VERY LEMONY.... just the way I like it. You may want to cut the amount of lemon juice in half and see if you want to add more.

You can either boil the potatoes whole, or cut them into chunks prior to boiling. I always add salt to the water to give the potatoes a little flavor as they cook. Cook just until tender. You want them to hold their shape when stirring in the remaining ingredients.

Add the remaining ingredients to a medium bowl and stir until incorporated. Add the mixture to the potatoes after they have been drained, yet still warm. The delicious flavors will be incorporated more into the potato. This is delicious warm with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, or served at room temperature or cold. Delicious for a picnic. It is light and very refreshing with grilled hamburgers, chicken, or fish!

Labels

Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
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