Category Archives: Recipes

FOREMOTHERS (FOREFATHERS – PART 2)

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Yes, in case you’re wondering, foremothers is a word, and my foremothers were strong women and survivors of one of the most devastating periods of our history – the Depression.

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Eva, Coicia and Veronica

My grandmothers had beautiful names. Eva, my Dad’s mom, was a gentle soul with a big heart. She raised nine children in the worst of times, in poverty, with little of the comforts we enjoy. My Dad told me stories about their struggles that would make your heart bleed, along with the fact that my paternal grandfather was not the kindest of men. Still, my grandmother was not hardened by her circumstances. She was described as sweet and loving and protective of her children and friendly to her neighbors. In the midst of poverty, she managed to share her food with her hungry neighbors, providing an open house on Fridays for her delicious plotsky, which are Polish potato pancakes. Potatoes were the mainstay during that time. I don’t know too much about my Grandmom, such as when she came to America or how. But what I heard of her later in my life was only the fondness shared by her family, friends and neighbors. She died at the age of 56 from a heart attack. I was only 2 years old at the time, so, unfortunately, I don’t have any recollection of her and only know of her from the stories that were relayed to me later.

Veronica, my Mom’s mom, is also a vague sketch in my memory, having passed of an aortic aneurism at the age of 62. I was eight years old at the time. She was a woman with a deep faith and unwavering values that she passed along to her eight children. I do have memories of visiting her at her home, sitting down at the old-fashioned, ceramic/wood kitchen table – just me and her. I can still see her looking down at me with her kind smile. I loved this time together, talking with her and answering the many questions she asked. I only later realized as an adult how precious that time was since there were always so many other people milling about the house.  She always gave me her undivided attention and seemed very interested in what I had to say.  Even though the conversations escape me – her attentiveness remains etched in my heart.  She always had Swiss Miss cake rolls when I came over, my favorite.  I would pick off and eat the chocolate, unroll the cake, lick out the cream, roll it back up and eat the cake. (Yes, I was a weird little kid! 🙂 ) Sometimes she made her scrumptious lemon meringue pie with fluffy white meringue layered higher than the pie itself – YUM! She was happiest when she was feeding us, and was all about the food and the comfort it brought. I continue her legacy, since feeding my family and friends remains one of the greatest joys of my life.

My parents' wedding day - November 21, 1948.

My parents’ wedding day – November 21, 1948.

It was a hot summer’s night on June 6 when we got the call that she had passed. I had just finished watching a television show called McHale’s Navy. I recall being so incredibly sad, crying uncontrollably. My Mom’s disconcerting grief continued for a very long time thereafter, and it was upsetting for me to watch her heart-wrenching sadness. As it turned out, I would grieve my Mom’s passing in the same way.

My family members are not noted anywhere in the history books for having done lofty things in their lives.  But to me they are heroes. They were honest, kind and true, and they lived their lives in excellence with a strong faith, doing the best they could with what they had. I am very proud to be the third generation of such strong, loving, family-oriented survivors. And I realize that even though circumstances in life do get tough from time to time, I am ever reminded by these old pictures and memories of my forefathers and foremothers that I, too, can survive when the going gets tough. I am glad and grateful for these stirring memories brought about by a bag of old vintage pictures that unknowingly revived my fledging spirit with hope.

Forefathers and Foremothers

Forefathers and Foremothers

Potato Plotsky

2 cups coarsely grated peeled potatoes

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon grated onions

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture in the skillet, then spread into 3-inch cakes about 1/4 inch thick.  Fry until browned on the bottom, turn and cook the second side until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes each side.  Drain briefly on paper towels.  Service with sour cream or applesauce.

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BEEF STEW WITH CABBAGE AND NOODLES

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The weather outside is frightening, and it’s a good day to hibernate with a bowl of good, hardy comfort food…beef stew.  Now I’m not really a big red meat fan, but sometimes you just get the yen for it, and you just can’t shake it (but you can definitely substitute chicken cubes and white wine in lieu of beef and red). Yesterday, while the thermometer dipped into the teens, I dipped into my refrigerator and pulled out the makings for a wonderful winter’s feast.  I’m more of a “little of this; little of that” person, but I’ve tried to write in weights and measures so you could concoct and enjoy this warm, nourishing, stick-to-your-ribs culinary pleaser.  I serve it over cabbage and noodles, but you can easily add some peeled, cubed potatoes during the last ½ hour of simmering.  Slice up some warm, crusty bread and pour a glass of red wine…nothing better.  Enjoy!

Beef StewBEEF STEW

2 lbs. of beef cubes (I usually cut each cube into fourths) (you can sub with chicken)

1 large chopped onion

3 cloves of chopped garlic

¼ cup olive oil

1 chopped green pepper

3 stalks of chopped celery

1 lb. sliced carrots

3 chopped tomatoes or 1 can stewed tomatoes

8 oz. of sliced mushrooms

½ cup red wine (chicken calls for white, of course!)

1 tbsp. Worcester sauce

1 tsp. salt (at least – more to taste)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. paprika

1 tsp. parsley

Two cups of water

2 beef (or chicken if you’re substituting) bouillon cubes

Optional:  6 cubed potatoes which you add ½ hour before serving because they get mushy otherwise.

Sauté beef cubes, onions and garlic in a sauté pan in olive oil until browned. Pour browned ingredients into a large pot. Pour red wine into the sauté pan for a few seconds to caramelize juices and then pour over beef in pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and parsley. Add Worcester sauce. Boil two cups of water in which you dissolve bouillon cubes and add to the mix. Add all other ingredients and stir.  Simmer for two hours, stirring often (every 15 minutes) so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Please taste as you simmer and add a little more of this or that if you feel it’s needed.  I personally don’t usually measure much but instead rely on taste testing.

CABBAGE AND NOODLES

1 head of cabbage chopped

1 large chopped onion

½ stick butter

½ cup of olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 bag of wide noodles (cooked as per directions and drained)

Melt butter in sauté pan and gently mix in olive oil. Sauté chopped cabbage and onion until soft not super wilted (it will only be slightly browned).  Add salt and pepper, stir.  Add noodles and mix.  If mixture is dry, add a little bit more olive oil.

Serve beef stew over cabbage and noodles.

I’d love to hear your post-dinner feedback!

FAVORITE FALL FUN

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Me and Katie at the farm.

The leaves are falling and the Southern-bound geese are cawing – time for my favorite fall fun!  Sounds corny, doesn’t it? But it is time to harvest the corn after all, so why not?! My family has a lot of fall traditions that mean a lot to us. When my kids were small, apple and pumpkin picking were looked forward to with as much excitement as Christmas morning.  Taking that hay-lined wagon ride out into the crisp autumn fields to choose our wares was a fall rite of passage.  Carving pumpkins was our ultimate pleasure.

Katie mixing her cookie brew!

Halloween cooking baking was the most entertaining.  By the end of the day, the table and floor were covered (as were we) with inches thick of flour, sugar and all kinds of assorted, colored jimmies of every shape and kind. It took a lot of patience because it always turned out to be a big mess, but it never bothered me. I realized this was precious, special time with my kids.

Flour-covered Susezit.

We would then settle into watching “The Worst Witch” all together on the couch under a shared blanket in the dark with candles burning eating our Halloween cookies and milk.  My girls loved it, and so did I!  The movie isn’t scary.  It’s a kids’ movie that lasts just a little over an hour about an awkward young girl trying to make it in a young witch’s academy.  It’s more about doing good over evil, and we’ve been watching it annually since my youngest was 4 years old. I’ve always had a thing for the handsome grand wizard/warlock (much to my children’s chagrin!) played by Tim Curry.  When he says “absolutely” my heart melts!My kids are grown now, but these are still revered traditions.  It’s a little harder with Megan living in Florida, but I know she tortures her fiancé Matt into watching the movie with her each year.  I usually send her the Halloween cookies that Katie and I still bake.  Katie is a die-hard for traditions as well and also tortures her beau Blake with the annual watching of “The Worst Witch.”  Blake also enjoys the pumpkin picking/carving. We’re all kids at heart!

So gather your kids, go out to a farm to pick some apples and pumpkins, carve them, bake cookies, cozy up together, watch “The Worst Witch” and have a very Happy Halloween!

(P.S. I thought I’d share the cookie recipe with you in case you want to make these cookies with your little ghouls and goblins.  It is a recipe I also use for cut-out cookies on all holidays – Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas bells and stars, Valentine hearts and Easter bunnies.)

HOLIDAY SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. ½ and ½ cream

4 cups flour

2/3 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  Sift flour, soda, salt and baking powder together. Add to butter mixture alternately with cream; chill thoroughly in refrigerator for at least an hour.  Roll very thing.  Use cookie cutters – different shapes.  Bake in 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Icing

1 lb. bag of confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp. of salt

4 tbsp. butter

1 tsp vanilla

Touch of milk to creamy consistently (not too soft but spreadable)

Cream butter; add salt and vanilla and sugar a little at a time with a touch of milk to help in mixing.

Ice cookies and decorate with assorted jimmies.  You can also add a touch of food coloring to the icing if you want different colors.  Place finished cookies on tray and set in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set. Store in air tight container.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MMM, MMM, GOOD!

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When I was a kid and came home from a snowy winter’s day of making snow forts, having snowball fights and building snowmen, there was nothing that brought more warmth and comfort than a bowl of steaming hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mmm, Mmm, good! I’m drooling.

With the abundance of the crop-end of Jersey tomatoes, I’ve been frantically trying to come up with things to make before they spoil.  I’ve made quite a few quarts of spaghetti and pizza sauces.  And then I thought about what it would be like to concoct a tomato soup that would taste just like those many bowls of soup from way back when. I came across a recipe that comes pretty darned close and wanted to share it with you.  I’ve also added a bruschetta (pronounced, I’m told,  “brusketta” in Italy) recipe and another recipe I found from Michael Symon of The Chew for fried green tomatoes.

Enjoy!

 Tomato Soup

4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1 small onion sliced

4 whole cloves

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 teaspoons white sugar, or to taste

In a stockpot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and gently boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors.  Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food processor or blender and then pour into a bowl.

In the now empty stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour to make a roux, cooking until the roux is a medium brown.  Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato mixture so that no lumps form, then stir in the rest.  Season with sugar and salt and adjust to taste.

You can add chopped basil and cream for a creamier taste, or garlic and olive oil for a Mediterranean flavor.  I like just like it plain.

Bruschetta

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes

½ red onion

4 cloves garlic

1 cup fresh basil

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil, mix all ingredients together, salt and pepper to taste.

 

 Michael Symon’s Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

Tomatoes:

3 green tomatoes sliced into 1/3 inch thick slices

½ cup flour

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup cornmeal

Vegetable oil to fry

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet. Arrange flour, buttermilk and cornmeal in three separate bowls.  Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Dip the tomato slices into the flour, then buttermilk, then cornmeal to coat and then put into hot oil and fry for 2 – 3 minutes per side until golden blown.  Do not crowd pan.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Buttermilk Sauce:

¼ cup buttermilk

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon shallot minced

¼ cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon mustard

Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a blender until emulsified.  Season to taste.

Pèach de Résistance

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It’s peach season here in New Jersey, and I can’t seem to get enough of these decadent morsels of fruit. I have seriously been devouring peaches to the disgustingly ridiculous degree of ad nauseam.  But it’s such a fleeting season and shortly thereafter summer also ends. To get your hands on these little gems is like capturing the last chance ranch of summer – although the Jersey tomatoes and white Silver Queen corn linger on. So by ferociously holding onto this nectar of the gods, I am indeed prolonging the essence of summer. There’s nothing like the juice of a sugar-laden peach dripping down my face and onto my hands.  I cherish each sticky drop and lick my fingers thoroughly.

Of course, there are many things you can do with a peach besides peach eating contests.  I’ve just recently had the pleasure of learning how to can them with my friends Kitty and Kathy, but that’s another story for another day. What an experience!  And a lot of work!  But look at the fruits of our labor.  You really want to lick that spoon, don’t you?  Am I right?!?

You can grill them up with a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil as a sweet and sour side dish or bake them sliced on top of chicken breast with a touch of garlic powder, salt, pepper and olive oil.  So many uses – so little time.  This is my all-time FAVORITE peach crumb cake recipe. Get it right, and you’ll be in heaven.  I’m not even kidding – it’s that good (if I do say so myself). Add a blob of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, and you’re good to go.

 Crust

3 cups flour

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup shortening

1 egg

Dash salt.

Mix with pastry cutter until crumbly (don’t over mix).  Divide in half and pat ½ the dough into a 9 x 13 greased pan. (I use a round Pampered Chef pan I’ve had for years.)

Filling

4 cups fresh peaches

(Boil for five minutes, run cold water over them and peel immediately. Skin will come off like a charm, then you just pit and slice.)

1 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh squeezed is awesome)

1 cup sugar

3 tsp. cornstarch

(You can also mix in a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg for a little spicy flavor if you want, but I like it plain.)

Spoon peach mixture over dough in pan. Crumble remaining dough on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes until lightly browned.

Voilà!

I’ve also made this recipe with fresh blueberries, apples and strawberries.  Or you can do a fruit mix like blueberries and peaches.  YUM!  Nothing like it! I can see you drooling!

Whichever way you choose, get out to your local farm markets and buy a bushel of peaches before they’re gone.  Be creative in their many uses and just enjoy the gifts of God’s summer bounty!

Bon appétit!

STUPENDOUS SUPER BOWL SENSATIONS

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I’m not really much of a football fan, but I will watch the Super Bowl.  It’s mainly to see the half time show and mostly for the food, fun and snacks! These are my favorite recipes for two awesome appetizers. I’m not really sure how or where I acquired them, but they do the tantalizing taste bud trick every time.

So play ball!  Or is it fore?!  Strike?! Game on?!  One thing I do know is that you will surely score a touchdown at your gathering with these tasty treats.

 BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken drained (or two pieces cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I usually use the breasts and boil them until cooked but the canned stuff works, too)

¼ cup pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot) – if you like it hotter, add more to taste

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup Ranch salad dressing

1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 bunch celery, cleaned and cut into 4 inch pieces

Taco chips

Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat until heated through.  Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing.  Cook, stirring until well blended and warm.  Mix in half of the shredded cheese and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover and cook on low setting until hot and bubbly.  Serve with celery sticks and taco chips.

CRABSTERS

8 ounces lump crabmeat

1 (5 Ounce) jar Kraft Old English cheese spread (usually in refrigerator section of store)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

½ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

½ teaspoon garlic powder

5 English muffins split in half

In a large bowl combine cheese spread, mayonnaise, butter, Old Bay Seasoning and garlic powder.  Gently fold crab meat into mixture.  Spread mixture evenly over the English muffin halves.  Bake in a 425 degree oven until topping is golden brown, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Cut into quarters and serve.

These freeze great if you want to make them ahead.  Place them on a cookie sheet before baking and put in the freezer until frozen.  Pull out, quarter them and place in a freezer bag. You can bake them directly from the freezer.  Takes about 15 minutes if frozen.

Holy Guacamole!

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Megan at Rocco’s with the ultimate guacamole!

I had the undisputable pleasure of visiting Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, during a recent visit.  If you’re ever in the area, you’ve got to check it out.  The food was estupendo, and the guacamole, prepared fresh at your table, was mucho magnífico!!!  Add a pitcher of prickly pear margaritas and you’re good to go!

I’ve been experimenting with guacamole ingredients ever since my return and have concocted one I think is pretty close.  Give it a shot and let me know.  Until I get back to Rocco’s again, this will have to do – in the meantime, all I can say is olé!

 ½ cup finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes diced

1 lime freshly squeezed

(Mix the above ingredients together and set aside.)

4 ripe Hass avocados peeled and seeded (cut in half – take out seed – scoop out flesh)

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. ground pepper

¼ cup firmly-packed chopped fresh cilantro

8 dashes hot sauce (Texas Pete)

(Mash avocados and add salt, pepper and cilantro and hot sauce.)

Mix chopped mixture into mashed mixture.  Add more salt if needed to your taste. Also, if you like it hotter, add more sauce or you can chop up a chili pepper (I didn’t use a chili pepper because I’m not a hotty :))

Let set a few minutes then serve with fresh chips. Store tightly covered but not for too long – it turns brown quickly.

Recipe by:  Mamasita Susezit