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Irish Soda Bread

My children’s great great grandparents, Patrick and Katie Fleming, came to America from Ireland during the potato famine, probably passing through Ellis Island with hundreds of other brave people risking it all to find a better life in America. (I wonder what they would think of the state of things in this country now?) One of boys once joked that “I’m more Irish than you are.” That sounded like a great T-shirt slogan to me. At any rate, we all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big family meal, usually roasted corned beef (yes, I like mine roasted) and cabbage and mashed. (I have learned that the Irish themselves don’t think much of corned beef, since it hearkens to the days when beef about to go bad had to be salted and preserved before it was completely rotten.) The kids love soda bread, and there seem to be a lot of different recipes out there. Some call for buttermilk or sour milk, some don’t. Some have raisins or currants, and I have seen at least one that calls for caraway seeds. My daughter Kelsey made a great loaf this year that had eggs, which gave it a very tender crumb. This is the recipe that I gave Amos when he asked for it this year.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 3 cups flour (I usually use 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces (please, no margarine)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raisin, chopped, or currants

Heat oven to 425 degrees. I hope you have a baking stone, otherwise, you can use an iron skillet (and I hope you have one of those, too!) or a baking sheet. Put the flour, sugar, soda, and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter (with a pastry blender — get one; you can’t cook as well without the proper tools) til it looks like crumbs. Stir in the raisins, and then add the buttermilk. Stir until a stiff dough forms (but don’t overmix). On a lightly floured countertop, knead about 6 strokes to form into a large ball. Put it onto the stone, and flatten it out slightly. With a sharp knife, slash a cross into the top. Bake about 35 minutes, until it is nice and brown and sounds slightly hollow when you tap it. It’s really good hot slathered with real butter. If you’ve got the money, go to a gourmet grocer and look for some imported Irish butter.

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger, for faith in world where many walk in fear, for friends in a world where many walk alone, We thank Thee, O Lord.”

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Torta Rustica (or “the big sandwich thing we make at Christmas”)

I’m  not sure, but I think that “torta rustica” means something like “country pie” in Italian.  So let’s all put on our Bob Dylan hats and hum a few bars: “Oh, me, oh my — love that country pie.” He may have been thinking more about apple or cherry, but this is a great “big sandwich thing” to make for a picnic.  I actually think it is as good cold as it is warm. We made it for Christmas one year when I just wanted to make something different.  I always thought, for some reason, that the Italians really knew how to celebrate Christmas.  Trouble was, I had forgotten to get artichoke hearts.  My dear patient husband drove all over Kansas City til we found a little mom and pop store that sold artichoke hearts. Dinner was saved! Don’t be dismayed; this is not nearly as hard to make as it looks. And you can put as much or as little of anything you want into it.  (Just remember to put a lot of love in it.) (awwww….)

TORTA RUSTICA

  • 1 tablespn. chopped oregano (if using dry, you might need only 1 teaspn.)
  • 1 recipe pizza dough (following) (OR, if you must, 1 2# pkg. frozen pizza dough)
  • 1 can or jar (8.5 oz.) artichoke hearts
  • 1 tablespn. olive oil
  • 2 teaspns red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspn. salt
  • 1/8 teaspn black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespns bread crumbs
  • 1 10-oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 4 oz. sliced hard salami
  • 6 oz. provolone, sliced
  • 6 oz shredded mozzerella
  • 2 jars roasted red peppers, drained (pimentoes) (I usually get some peppers, green and/or red, and roast them myself.) (I’ll tell you how at the end of this recipe)

If you are making your own pizza dough, you’d better start  that first, and give it about an hour to raise. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease your springform pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.  (You can often find a springform pan at the thrift store.  They are great for cheesecake, etc.)

Roll your dough out to a 14 ” circle and fit it into the bottom of a 9 or 10″ springform pan. Mix oregano,  oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic and egg.  Sprinkle half of the spinach into the pan.  Top with half of the salami. Mix the cheeses, sprinkle one-third over the salami. Top with 1 jar of peppers, and half of the artichokes.  Top with half of the crumb mixture.  Repeat all these layers.  Then, use whatever dough you have left over to roll out into a circle to put on top.  Crimp the edges like a pie.  Brush with a mixture of egg and water (it makes it look shiny and nice.) Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is brown.  Let it cool, then take off the sides.  It will probably serve 10 people.  Makes a good picnic.

HOW TO ROAST PEPPERS:

Just put them under the broiler.  Watch them and turn them when the skin gets brown or black.  When they are brown (or black) all over, put then in a paper bag (paper lunch bags are handy to have around) and cool them off.  Then just pull the skins off.  Roasted peppers are great to add to pasta, pizza, sandwiches or salads.

PIZZA DOUGH (props to Jeff Smith the Frugal Gourmet)

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespn yeast
  • 1/2 teaspn salt
  • 1 tablespn olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (of course, I use part whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup corn meal

Dissolve the yeast and salt in the warm water. Add the oil and about a cup of the flour, and the cornmeal. Beat hard and then knead in the rest of the flour.  Knead about 8 minutes or more.  (If you are foruanate enough to have a Kitchenaid, let it do the work.  Or use your bread machine.) Let it rise for about an hour.  If you are baking pizza, sprinkle cornmeal on your  baking stone.  And do get a baking stone.

Ranger Cookies

I have always been a history buff.  Maybe it’s because I come from a family of storytellers, and was fascinated with our family history, the stories my mom and dad and grandparents would tell. First person sources are always the best, but stories passed down through generations ring true also. So I was interested to find out the origin of this recipe; I found that the recipe on my little brown, creased recipe card is the same as the original printed in the April 26, 1935 edition of the Uniontown, PA News Standard, on page 14, in column 4.  (Isn’t Google great?) My story about these cookies goes back to about 1961 or 62.  My brother and I frequently made cookies together, and of course, we ate about as much raw dough as we put into the oven. We were making Ranger cookies on this occasion, and we must have both gone overboard, because when Mom got home froom work, we were both groaning on the couch with major bellyaches.  I don’t think we got a whole lot of sympathy that time……

Cream:

  • 1 c. butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 c. white sugar

Add:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspns vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 teaspn. soda
  • 1/2 teaspn baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 2 c. Rice Krispies (some claim to have made these cookies with corn flakes; okay.)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Stir flour misture into the butter and sugar mixture.  Roll into small balls and flatten slightly with a damp fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Lemon Bars

Every body loves them, although I think one is enough — boy are they rich.  Barb Gertz at Recipeczar.com has a really good recipe for Lavendar Lemon Bars; they raise the elegance bar (pun intended) a few notches.

Mix

  • 1/2 # butter (no substitutes)
  • 2 c. flour (I use at least part ww)
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Press in  a 9×13″ pan.  Bake 10 min. at 325 degrees.

Beat

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 teaspn salt
  • 1  c. flour
  • 1/2 teaspn baking powder (note: not baking soda; learn the difference)
  • 1 c.  Lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Beat this well. Pour over crust. Bake for 25- 30 min (do not overbake) at 325 degrees.

BLT Chicken Salad

This is a much-requested recipe (at least as far as my children are concerned). I have seen it from several different sources (mags, etc.) but it’s pretty much PD now. (I hope.) Enjoy.

Mix:

  • 1/2 c. real mayo
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 1/2 teaspns. vinegar (balsalmic is good)
  • 1 tablespn. BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 teaspn garlic powder

Cook 1 pound chicken breasts; cool, cut in cubes.

Cook 1/2 pound rotini pasta (of course, I prefer ww)

Cook several strips bacon til crisp (how about 1 1/2 strips per person?)

Now, mix pasta and dressing. Toss in chicken, bacon.  Add 3 c. chopped Romaine lettuce and fresh spinach.  Throww in a chopped tomato. Toasted croutons made of good french bread are a good add-in: I toss the cubes with olive oil and bake at a low temp til crisp. This will probably serve 6 people.

Orange Julie Bee and Buttermilk Smoothie

My first trip to California was for my brother’s wedding in 1971 (72?).I thought, and still do, that San Diego was a beautiful city: palm trees and oleanders lining the streets, sunshine and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.  My sister and I would walk to the corner in the mornings and get a drink called “Orange Julius”:  I’m not sure if they had gone national at the time, but I had never heard of it.  It was a free-standing open air counter, with baskets of fresh fruit, waiting to be blended with the secret Julius powder into a delicious smoothie.  And this was back when a raw egg was offered as a protein-packed optional add-in. No one would reveal the recipe, but I figured this was a pretty close imitation.  Good for an afternoon pick-me-up or breakfast in a hurry.

  • 1 cup very cold orange juice
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  • 1/4 c. dry milk powder
  • 2 teaspns vanilla (do not omit this  — I think it is the secret ingredient!)
  • 1 Tablespn either honey or powdered sugar (more or less as you like)

Blend it all together and drink it up.

Note: Some times, I use frozen o.j. out of the can, 2-3 Tablespns. concentrate. For the liquid, you can use water or some other kind of juice, such as mango.

You can throw in frozen strawberries instead of the ice cubes.

Yes, I sometime add a raw egg; do this only at your own risk —- salmonella is a danger.. You’ve been warned.  Don’t sue me. If you like the idea of egg, use dried meringue powder.

I also sometimes add about 1/4 c. of raw rolled oats.  It thickens the whole thing up and adds more protein and fiber.

BUTTERMILK SMOOTHIE

  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, peaches)
  • 1 Tablespn honey
  • 2 teaspns vanilla

Blend and sip.

    Mauk Borscht

    The name is sort of a play on words, since I’m not sure this is true borscht.  It is published at the request of my daughter Kate.

    1 large onion, chopped                                      2 cloves garlic, minced                    4-6 slices bacon, chopped

    1 28-oz can tomatoes                                         2 stalks celery, sliced                        2   med. carrots, jullienned

    1 small cabbage, sliced very thinly                  1 med rutabaga, cubed                      4 c. chicken broth

    3/4 lb. smoked kielbasa, sliced                        1 16-oz can sauerkraut                      2 tablespn lemon juice

    2 bay leaves                                                          salt, pepper                                          1 tablespn fresh dill, chopped or 1 teaspn dried

    1 tablespn sugar

    Saute onion and garlic with bacon pieces.  Add tomatoes, veggies, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer covered 30 minutes.  Stir in sausage, kraut, juice, sugar, bay leaves and simmer another 20 minutes or so.  Sprinkle in dill.  Serve with sour cream and hot homemade rolls. it’s really good for you.

    Hello! Welcome to my kitchen!

    My mom was a great seamstress.  She sewed all the time and all my clothes. Cooking? Not so good; at least I didn’t think so.  I was very happy to let her do all the sewing while I learned to cook with the help of our trusty red plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Even better were the many country church cookbooks, some mimeographed and hand stapled. The first thing I remember cooking was what we called goulash: macaroni, hamburger and tomato sauce.  (My kids started calling it “disaster meal” when we helped at a tornado drill and found that this was the recipe for mass-produced meals at the disaster shelter.) Of course. my brother, sister and I made cookies — a lot.  Steve and I still laugh about the Ranger cookies. (Don’t eat too much of that dough.) And I found that cooking was a fun way to spend time with my friends.  (especially Ruth) I learned a lot along the way; I found that cooking could be simple or or elegant, but the best advice I ever got was from a woman who was helping me cook for a dinner theater.  She said, “Always use the best ingredients you can find.” So I never use cheap shortening, or margarine, and I try to find the freshest vegetables I can, although frozen is okay.  And when there have been times that we had to feed the family on a shoestring, I learned that quality really counts.  I mean, if your meals are short on cost, they must be the best they can be.  I eventually learned to sew, although never as well as mom, and no one leaves my table hungry.

    Hot Chocolate: Efficiency or Luxury

    On cold winter mornings, my children often breakfasted on cinnamon toast and hot cocoa.  (It was whole wheat toast.) I figured it was probably more nutritious than Count Chocula, and almost as easy, since we used a homemade mix.

    We always called it cocoa in the Mauk house, although when I was little we called it hot chocolate.  I discovered the difference when I read about Thomas Jefferson’s favorite recipe for chocolate; apparently, he was something of a gourmet. Or maybe, like me, he just like good food to be the best it can be.  Anyway, after I saw his recipe (source? I don’t remember.), I found that the recipe in my mom’s old Better Homes and Gardens Coookbook (1941) was almost the same.  It’s a little time-consuming and expensive, but if you want to serve and enjoy a luxurious cup of real chocolate, this is it.  ( And if you’re like me and concerned about healthy eating habits, just use a smaller cup.  And sip slowly.)

    When we were raising eight kids, however, we used the mix recipe. It uses cocoa, and the milk and sugar are already there — just add hot water. It makes a very good cocoa for kids who aren’t picky.  My dad used to say, “You can have a thing fast, cheap, or good, but you can’t have all three at the same time.”

    First, the Hot Chocolate:

    Grate:  3 1-oz. squares of unsweetened chocolate into a pan.Add 1/2 c. water and cook over low heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 teaspn. salt and 3/4 c. sugar. Continue to cook and stir for 4 minutes.  Let cool for a little bit. Whip 1/2 c. heavy cream, and fold it into the chocolate.  (You might notice that this is close to the method for making truffles. )Store this in a jar in the refrigerator.  When you want a cup of hot chocolate, place 1 heaping Tablespoon into each cup and fill with hot milk; stir. I think this would probably make 8 cups if you keep your spoon out of it in between servings.

    And now, the Hot Cocoa Mix:

    We made a big batch.

    Mix:

    • 3 c. powdered sugar
    • 1 1/2 c. cocoa
    • 6 c. dry milk
    • 1/2 teaspn. salt
    • 1 2/3 c. powdered coffee creamer

    Stir it all up and store in a jar.  Use 1/3 c. for each serving and add hot water.

    You know how to make cinnamon toast, don’t you? just butter the bread, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, and broil til bubbly.

    Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

    First, get a loaf of white bread; we’re going old school. Pull out a couple of slices, but NOT THE HEEL!  Grape jelly is preferred, but strawberry is okay — it’s just a little too healthy for our purposes today.  Make sure that you use creamy peanut butter, it’s easier to spread.  And MAKE SURE that you spread from edge to edge — VERY IMPORTANT! No bread must show through! on the other piece of bread, spread some margarine — Mom always said that would keep us from choking.  The margarine should be spread thick enough to show teeth marks when you bite it. Slap it together and there you are! (you can cut it into triangles –“houses”, or rectangles, but when you cut it, the flavor runs out.)Raisins can be sprinkled on top of the p.b. but skip the jelly.   Find a book and enjoy with your nutritious snack!

    I do not eat peanut butter this way anymore, but this might explain why I am still trying to lose 10 lbs. of baby fat.