Rosie’s Recipe — Ham and Sweet Potatoes

I once had a friend who loved sweet potatoes. I mean seriously loved them. So much so that she would have done nothing short of grabbing a steak knife and telling you to back off if you get too close to her sweet potatoes. Now that’s a food devotion. However, she wasn’t much of a cook, and when I began testing recipes for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, I passed this one along to her as it’s easy to prepare, even for those who are, “kitchen challenged.” It’s also a nice dish for those who wax nostalgic for “holiday” meals over the course of the year.

Enjoy.

GM

HAM WITH SWEET POTATOES

1 ½ pounds sliced ham or shoulder
3 cups raw, sliced sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon margarine

Cut the ham or shoulder into pieces for serving. If the meat is very salty, parboil it in water and drain. Brown the meat lightly on both sides and arrange the pieces to cover the bottom of a baking dish. Spread the sliced sweet potatoes over the meat, sprinkle with sugar. Add hot water to melted margarine and pour over the sweet potatoes and meat. Cover the dish and bake slowly until the meat and sweet potatoes are tender, basting the sweet potatoes occasionally with the gravy. Toward the last, remove the lid and let the top brown well. Yields 6 servings.

Modern adaptation: Heat oven to 350°. Butter may be used instead of margarine. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for approximately one hour, basting the sweet potatoes occasionally as directed in the original recipe. After baking for one hour remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the sweet potatoes have browned. Turkey ham may also be used, and the sugar can be decreased to one teaspoon.

My Grandmother’s Green Beans

I think every family has favorite recipes that may or may not have ever been actually written down as they were passed down generation to generation. One of ours was my grandmother’s green beans. She prepared it for years, as did my mother, and it was always a family favorite. I’ve played with it a little over the years myself, but not too much. It’s an oldie but a goody, and there are probably a lot of other grandmothers out there who made this dish as well. Here is my interpretation. Please consider this recipe as a guide as I never make it the quite the same way twice. (And I don’t think Grandma ever did either.)

Enjoy,

GM

 

GRANDMA’S HOMEMADE GREEN BEANS

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 3 or 4 red potatoes
  • 3 or 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • water

Wash green beans, snap off ends, snap into two or three bite-sized pieces and drop into a large mixing bowl. Scrub and dice the potatoes and add them to the beans. Cut bacon slices into small pieces and brown in a small stockpot. Once bacon is browned dump in the green beans and potatoes.  Add chicken broth, stir, and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and cooked all the way through. Stir occasionally, and, if necessary, add small amounts of water or chicken broth to prevent the beans from scorching.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a side dish with pork roast, pork chops or fried chicken.

Breaking Free of a Culinary Rut

I don’t know exactly how or when it happened. It was such an insidious thing that crept up on me so slowly that I wasn’t even aware it was happening until it was nearly too late.

I started cooking when I was eight years old. My mother, and her mother before her, were pretty darn good cooks. My mother began passing her cooking skills on to me at a young age, and I found I really enjoyed cooking and baking. By the time I was in high school, I was doing my fair share of the family meal planning and the cooking.

My dad was also a good cook. He could open the refrigerator, grab whatever he’d find, throw it all together, and come up with a pretty good dish. Both of my older brothers have this ability as well. If there’s a gene for good cooking I think my entire family had it.

My mother always insisted that we all sit down at the dinner table together and share a meal as a family. It was a good rule, and I think if more families followed it today the world would be a much better place, but I digress. My mother made a number of delicious dishes which she frequently served–lasagna, beef stroganoff, tacos, and pork chops, just to mention a few. She also searched through the women’s section of the newspaper every Wednesday for new recipes to try. Everything was wonderful, with only one exception. Her fried chicken wasn’t all that great. She would put a light coat of flour on the chicken, lightly brown it in a very small amount of oil, and then bake it in the oven. (Sorry Mom, but that’s not fried chicken!) So, with the exception of the fried chicken, I learned how to create many wonderful meals, all from her. Then I went off to college, and that’s when the bad thing began to happen.

As soon as I got my first college apartment I started buying frozen pizza, ramen soup and hamburger helper. And while I would still occasionally make the beef stroganoff, I was fixing the frozen pizza or the hamburger helper far too often. I rationalized it by “being too busy” to really cook, but in hindsight I now realize I was allowing myself to become lazy in the kitchen. One college boyfriend was a bright light in that he too was an excellent cook, and I learned some good cooking tips from him, but alas, he didn’t want to make a long-term commitment.

After college my lazy cooking habits continued, and again I rationalized them by being too busy, or having too many leftovers to deal with. I’ve been married twice, but neither spouse was a food aficionado. (That should have been my first clue.) One could have lived very happily on peanut butter sandwiches and shredded wheat cereal, while the other’s favorite restaurants were McDonald’s and Chinese buffets. There was no real incentive for me to cook for either of them. Neither had any appreciation for a good, home cooked meal made from scratch, and since there were no children from either marriage the laziness continued. Other bad habits emerged, such as eating out far too frequently, and bringing home take-out meals.

Thankfully, it all changed after going through a midlife career change. I started doing historic presentations for schools and associations. One was about the WWII home front, and that was when I published, Anna’s Kitchen: a Compilation of Historic WWII Ration Recipes. I also tried some of the recipes at home, and while tasty, none included french fries, so my husband, as usual, wasn’t impressed. Once again I lost my motivation for cooking or trying new recipes.

I’m not saying I divorced my husband entirely because of his total lack of enthusiasm over my burgeoning writing career. (I was also writing historical children’s novels at the time.) I’ll just say that once he left I flourished as an author, and I eventually started up my own publishing business. I also wanted to do a major revision of Anna’s Kitchen, but first things first. I wanted to test most, if not all, of the recipes. Finally, I had a culinary lifeline. It was the perfect incentive to not only start cooking real food again, but to learn and grow and to create new dishes. It was like being reborn. I also have a completely new circle of supportive friends who genuinely love my cooking, In fact, some of them can’t get enough of it. It’s nice to finally feel appreciated for my culinary efforts.

So I’m now in a much better place. And who knows. Maybe someday I’ll finally learn how to make fried chicken.

GM

Cranberry Surprise Muffins

Who says cranberries are just for the holidays? Cranberries are a healthy food which they say also helps maintain a healthy bladder. This recipe comes from a friend’s mother’s recipe box. It’s easy to prepare and a delicious way to enjoy cranberries year round.

CRANBERRY SURPRISE MUFFINS

  • 1 12 oz package corn muffin mix
  • 1/3 cup canned whole cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin tins or use paper baking cups.  Prepare muffin mix according to the package directions and, in a separate bowl, combine cranberry sauce and orange rind. Fill each cup about halfway, drop a teaspoonful of cranberry mixture, and top with a small amount of batter. Bake 15 minutes or until muffins are brown. Makes approximately 12 muffins.

 

Rosie’s Recipe — Lemon Chiffon Pie

People may have had to cope with food shortages in Rosie’s day, but that didn’t mean they weren’t enjoying delicious desserts that are still tasty today. In fact, this pie turned out so good I would call it decadent, yet it’s also surprisingly easy to prepare. For best results I recommend using your favorite pie crust recipe, or trying the historic Victory Pie Crust referred to in this recipe. Frozen pie crust would also be suitable. Whichever crust you use, be sure to bake it as directed below before adding the lemon filling.

Enjoy,

GM

LEMON CHIFFON PIE

  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package Lemon Jell-O
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • dash of salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • baked pie shell

Combine egg yolks and water in top of double boiler, mixing well. Add 1/4 cup sugar and cook over hot water about 3 minutes, or until well heated, stirring constantly. Remove from fire. Add Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Add lemon juice and rind. Chill until slightly thickened. Add salt to egg whites and beat until foamy; then add remaining sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff. Fold slightly thickened Jell-O into egg whites. Pour into cold pie shell. Chill until firm.

BAKED PIE SHELL

Prepare Victory Pie Crust as directed above. Place dough on lightly floured board, shape round and pat flat with rolling pin. Then roll into 1½ -inch circle. Fold in half and place on bottom of inverted 9-inch pie plate. Open out folded half of pastry and fit snugly to plate. Trim off pastry to outer edge of plate and mark around rim with table fork dipped in flour. Prick crust well. Bake in hot oven (450º F) 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Rosie’s Recipe — Pigs in a Blanket

Some dishes are destined to become classics, and this is certainly one of them. I loved pigs in a blanket when I was a kid, and I still enjoy them as an adult. This historic recipe from Rosie’s Riveting Recipes is easy, timeless, and delicious. Try it with your favorite fixings, or top it with chili, cheese and chopped onions.

Enjoy.

GM

PIGS IN BLANKETS

8 – 10 wieners or frankfurters

Bisquick

Simmer wieners in hot water for 10 minutes. Make Bisquick biscuit dough from package. Roll thin—cut in squares. Wrap wieners or franks (having ends show). Seal side edge by pinching together. Bake 15 minutes in hot oven. (450º) Serves 8 – 10.

Rosie’s Recipe — Victory Pie Crust

One of my earliest childhood memories is of standing on a stool, in front of the kitchen counter, watching my mother make pie crust. She could sculpt the crust on the rim of the pie plate like Picasso, and, in my child eyes, I must have perceived this as the grown-up equivalent version of playing with Play-dough. She’d always break off little pieces and let me taste it. The raw dough was delicious. (It still is.)

Sadly, for whatever reason, my mother soon stopped baking pies from scratch. I never knew exactly why. She always said her mother could whip up a pie crust with virtually no effort at all, so perhaps my mother felt that she simply couldn’t compete with Grandma’s pies. Or maybe she simply didn’t like making pie crust. Whatever the reason, her homemade pies virtually disappeared from the family menu, and, on those rare occasions when she did bake a pie, she used the frozen pie shells from the grocer’s freezer.

Since I had no one to teach me how to make a pie crust from scratch I never learned how. I just assumed that it was too difficult, causing me to develop an affection I’ll call, Pie Crust Phobia. After I became an adult and left home I too bought the frozen pie shells. They’re not bad, but they just don’t have the flavor, or the flakiness, of a pie crust made from scratch.

Fast forward a few years. I’m testing recipes for, Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, and the time had come to conquer my Pie Crust Phobia by going for broke and making my own pie crust from scratch.

They say that certain genes skip a generation as I discovered that making pie crust from scratch isn’t rocket science after all. All you need is some flour, baking powder, shortening, and a little water. Having the right tools helps too. I bought a pastry cutter at Walmart, and that investment of a few dollars really paid off because it makes blending in the shortening a snap.

Victory Pie Crust is used in many of the historic recipes in Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. And one other historic note. The word, “victory,” was a significant par of the lexicon during World War Two. It was a moral booster that was used everywhere.

GM

VICTORY PIE CRUST

  • 1¼ cups sifted flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons cold shortening
  • 3 or 3½ tablespoons ice water*

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut shortening into small pieces; add to flour and cut in until mixture is almost as fine as meal. Make small well in flour mixture. Turn 1 tablespoon ice water in this and mix quickly and lightly with surrounding flour only until a small ball of dough is formed. Do not over mix. Repeat this way, mixing all of the flour in separate portions. Then press portions together lightly but firmly into one dough. Makes enough pastry for 9-inch pie shell. Double recipe for pastry for two-crust pie.

*Use only 3 tablespoons ice water with 4 tablespoons shortening; use 3½ tablespoons ice water with 3 tablespoons shortening.

Note: If the crust should come out too dry and crumbly simply add small amounts of water until the mixture has a more doughy consistency.

Rosie’s Recipe–Crown Roast of Back Ribs

The back rib. It’s the ugly cousin of the short rib, but with a little creativity you can make them delicious. I’ll admit this recipe seemed daunting at first, but then a friend told me you can attach the ribs together with wooden toothpicks or skewers instead of sewing them together. This made the dish much easier to prepare, and the results were positively yummy. This recipe is included in Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. Enjoy.

GM

CROWN ROAST OF BACK RIBS

1½ lbs. back ribs
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups soft bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasonings

Rub back ribs with salt. Mix remaining ingredients to form dressing. Sew ends of ribs together to resemble a crown. Place stuffing inside of ribs and bake in 350º F oven for 2-3 hours or until tender. Makes 4 servings.

Modern adaptation: Ribs can be tacked together with wooden toothpicks or toothpicks or skewers. (Do not use plastic.) After cooking, allow the ribs to rest before removing the toothpicks. Three slices of bread, with crusts removed and cut into cubes, can be also be used to make the dressing. You can also add chopped celery, nuts, or mushrooms.

Rosie’s Recipe–Buttermilk Biscuits

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my mom or dad baking homemade biscuits on Sunday mornings. Biscuits and gravy were a Sunday morning breakfast staple, and, over time, my older brothers also starting baking homemade biscuits. However, I don’t remember any of them ever reading a recipe, so it must have been a technique that they learn from our parents. Or perhaps some secret family recipe. You never know.

Sadly, for whatever the reason, the recipe was never handed down to me. So, after I moved out, I made my biscuits from the Bisquick box. Don’t get me wrong, Bisquick is a very good product, and the biscuits you make with it are far better than the pre-made biscuits found in the refrigerated section at the grocer. But they were never quite the same as those homemade biscuits mom and dad made from scratch.

So fast forward a few years, (well, maybe more than a few years.) I’m testing recipes for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, the updated version of Anna’s Kitchen, a historic cookbook I self-published back in 2005. There are about a half-dozen biscuit recipes in Anna’s Kitchen, so what better reason was could there possibly be to recreate those happy childhood memories than by baking a batch of homemade biscuits from scratch. And you know what? They were exactly the same as the ones I grew up with. Aha! The secret family recipe finally revealed.

GM

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½  teaspoon soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • ¾  cup sour milk or buttermilk

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Work in margarine with a fork, add the sour milk gradually to make soft dough. Roll to ½ inch thick, cut, place on baking sheet; bake in moderately hot oven, (400 F) until done and brown. Yields 16 biscuits.

Modern adaptation: To turn plain milk into buttermilk simply place a scant tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill with milk until it reaches the ¾ mark. Let it sit for 5 minutes before using. Prepare as directed above. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Yield will vary, depending on the size of the biscuit cutter used.

It’s All About Baby Steps

If you’ve ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It’s so obvious that they lack both the skills and the self-confidence to prepare the dishes they’re being challenged to make. I’ve been cooking for most of my life, and some of the dishes I’ve seen on that show would be a bit challenging for me as well. What’s even worse is they take away their recipes and the notes they take from the chef’s demos. I know, it’s just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but that said, this is not how you should teach people to cook.

Cooking, like any other skill, takes time to master, and if you’re teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the very basics. When I first started learning how to cook no one expected me to prepare chicken cordon bleu. They expected me to make french toast.

I started out learning how to cook bacon, and to make scrambled eggs and the aforementioned french toast. Then I learned how to make hash browns. Yes, there is a pattern here. Traditional American breakfast foods are some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them the good place to start teaching a novice how to cook. And since it’s hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence starts to build. Beginners can start learning basic knife skills by learning how to prepare salads. I’m no Hamburger Helper fan, but it’s a good place to start teaching a beginner how to follow a recipe, and since it’s a prepackaged kit it too is hard to go wrong, so the novice’s self confidence keeps building. From there they can start to learn more complex recipes–beef stew, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, and so on.

The same approach applies when teaching someone how to bake. My mother started me with cake mixes and canned icing. From there I worked my way up to the cookie recipes on the back of the chocolate chip packages. Then I learned how to make casseroles.

It’s all about baby steps. Some will have more of a natural talent than others, and those who demonstrate a particularly strong talent or desire for cooking or baking may end up becoming professional chefs, although most won’t take it that far. This is true of most things in life. Cooking, however, is a life skill, so we all need to be taught the basics, such as learning how to make scrambled eggs or beef stew.

My thought for the day.

GM