Using gloomy days to study recipes

As this is written, it is another gloomy day (AGAIN!) and makes one wonder whatever did we do to cause Mother Nature to be so mean! Now, I know “April showers make May flowers” but enough is enough. The flowers now blooming are having a hard time staying alive. I have faith that we will see warmer weather soon though.

Since we can’t do anything about it, we might as well just smile — and read a good book, bake a cake or eat our way to tomorrow — or maybe do something that would be more constructive. For me, it was to research some old written recipes from Mom and both Grandmas. They often just assumed everyone knew what “a good dough” looked and felt like, all oven temperatures for everything baked, and how big “a pinch” actually was. It ended up being somewhat of a guessing game. This is when a straight telephone line to Heaven would be so nice. If your older cooks are still around, do go over the family recipes and fill in the missing answers in those recipes that have been left open to question. It will save you a lot of extra guessing.

As those old “receipts” were studied, the image of that old kitchen stove appeared. It burned both wood and coal and the heat was determined by what the cook added to the fire box. There was a large water tank on the side that furnished warmth, (both winter and summer!) and hot water for cooking and baths. If you remember blankets hung behind the stove and around a wash tub for your bath, you are as old as I am!

The stove had a large oven whose door was left open to thaw out frozen toes when one came into the house from sleigh-riding during the snowy winter. It warmed a brick that was wrapped with a towel for a “heater” when you went with Daddy to get coal in his old truck with the wooden cab. Those warmed bricks were used when Grandpa hitched the horses to the farm sled for a winter sleigh ride, too.

After electricity was brought through our community, so many things changed. Grandma had pushed a chair up to the window so I could watch the men string the electric lines; I must have been about three or four at the time. The ice box was exchanged for a refrigerator and the old stove was replaced by an electric one. No coal or wood to chop and bring in or ashes to carry out for the kitchen stove. The washing machine got an electric motor that replaced the old “Maytag motor” that had to be started with a foot pedal (and was loud). The indoor plumbing had been completed; we were just like “town folks!”

Grandma Semon had a Friday route taking farm-raised fruits, vegetables, baked goods, eggs, butter and fresh butchered chicken to her customers. I often joked that I had been in the back doors of some of the finest homes in Marietta! As young kids, my brother and I were included in helping Mom and Grandma with the preparation of the items for which she had orders to take to town — her own version of a farmers’ Market. My brother was almost four years old when he didn’t stay in the car as he had been told to do while Grandma delivered an order, but grabbed a bag of green beans and went up to a house, rang the bell, and when the lady answered the door, he said, “Wanna buy some beans?”. Grandma was so embarrassed! It became a family story for years. There weren’t any restraining “child labor laws” around our house. When there was work to be done, everyone did it — no exceptions. It was a great childhood. We worked and played — no TV, digital games or cell phones — and had fun and enjoyed life.

Grandma imposed quality (and quantity) control when we picked berries. No eating while picking and any imperfect berries went into a separate basket to be used for jam. Nothing was wasted in her household! That jam surely tasted good on a hot biscuit though. Great memories of a good childhood.

I wish I could have given my grandchildren a taste of the childhood my brothers and I had, but life interfered and times changed. The lesson is to enjoy what we have at any given moment, as it, too, will pass into the past of each life, never to be found again.

So, love your kids and be generous with hugs and happy smiles. They will remember and be thankful for you all their lives. Thank those who protect us and our country and lend a helping hand to those in need. Keep them, and our leaders, in your prayers. Smile and relax with a cup of good tea. God Bless!

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HONEY CHICKEN

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup prepared mustard

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

2 1/2 lbs. skinless, boned chicken

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Combine butter, honey, mustard, lemon juice and paprika, stirring well. Lightly sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and place chicken, meaty side down, in a lightly greased 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 3 or 4 hours. Remove from refrigerator and bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cover and turn chicken pieces over and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until done, basting once in a while with the pan drippings. This will serve four.

NOTE: Do not put a GLASS baking dish directly in a hot oven — it could break.

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CHICKEN W/ORANGE SAUCE

6 skinless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 cup orange juice, divided

1/2 cup chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon dried whole tarragon, crushed

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

Brown chicken in butter. Add orange rind, ¢ cup orange juice, onion and seasonings. Turn heat to low and cook about 50 minutes, or until tender. Remove to serving dish and keep warm. Combine remaining orange juice and cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Add to pan drippings. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Arrange the orange and avocado slices around the chicken, and pour the sauce over all before serving.

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POACHED GINGER CHICKEN

4 skinned, boned chicken breast halves

2 cups water

Vegetable cooking spray

1 teaspoon peanut oil

3/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup peeled, grated gingerroot

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Lettuce leaves and green onions for garnish and to line salad plates

Combine chicken and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken from broth and discard broth (or use for something else). Slice chicken into thin slices and place in a shallow baking dish. Coat a skillet with the vegetable spray and add oil. Saute the chopped green onions and gingerroot for 30 seconds to a minute over medium heat, then spoon over the chicken. Add sugar, sherry and soy sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, and then pour over chicken. Cover and chill completely. To serve, line salad plates with lettuce, place chicken on top and garnish with green onions. This makes four luncheon servings.

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BEAN SALAD

1 can kidney beans, drained and washed

1 can green beans, drained

1 can yellow wax beans, drained

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 medium red onion, sliced and separated into rings

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 cup oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar

Use the 1 pound cans of beans (15- to 15 1/2 -oz.). Toss all vegetables together and sprinkle with the sugar and celery seed. Mix oil and mustard in a separate bowl. Blend this mixture with vinegar and pour this mixture over the vegetables. Add more vinegar if needed to cover the salad. Refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. This is a good keeper, and handy to have on hand for a quick lunch.

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HONEY-MUSTARD DRESSING

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

Dash of paprika

Dash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and eat with a wire whisk until blended. Serve over salad greens.

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McT’s HONEY

MUSTARD HOUSE DRESSING

(Memories from Sanibel Island, FL)

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup pureed onion

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup honey

1 small jar (6-oz.) Goulden’s Mustard (med. Brown)

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mix all ingredients together and chill at least fifteen minutes. Keep refrigerated.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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