Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Have fun with recipe variations!

Back in my high school years, I would sometimes go with my dad to the grocery store supplier food fairs. The middleman supplier, at that time for us was Fleming Foods out of Lincoln, NE. They would put on these food fairs for the IGA grocery stores. Food company representatives would have booths with giveaways, price reductions on purchases, etc. etc. I would pick up recipe brochures. One I got from Land O' Lakes had a recipe for Heavenly Chocolate Squares. This quickly became a favorite with my family and the pretty tattered recipe is still in my file box. It called for Bakers unsweetened chocolate squares. After I was married, I tended to substitute cocoa as the chocolate source. Anyway, last week my daughter asked me to e-mail her the recipe. Just out of curiosity, I decided to check out the Land O'Lakes website. It took a little looking but sure enough, I found the recipe. It was renamed and it now called for cocoa, but the preparation method and rest of the ingredients were identical. Check it out: Dairy Country Chocolate Sheet Cake. I like this frosting but often I made an easy fudge frosting recipe from a great-aunt. By the way, I've never put nuts in the frosting but it sounds great! I'll include the fudge forsting recipe in my next post.

Ok, so what does this have to do with recipe variations? When I was browsing the Land O'Lakes website, I found a variation for the Mississippi Cornbread Salad recipe that I had in an earlier post. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds delicious. Check it out: Southwest Layered Cornbread Salad. Take out the bacon, make the dressing from sour cream and salsa and add cilantro (I'm not fond of fresh cilantro so I'd skip this).

In 1991, I helped put the Hershey, Nebraska Centennial cookbook together. We had a good sized cookbook with a nice variety of recipes. When we were just ready to send it off for publication, a centennial committee member brought us a large number of additional recipes that she hadn't remembered to give us before. All of a sudden, we had more recipes than the cookbook would hold. We wanted to include the additional people so we had to go back through all of the recipes to see if we had identical or at least similar recipes that could be printed as one recipe with more than one contributor name. We found quite a few with just one or two changed ingredients so we added "variations" to recipes. Ginger cookies was an interesting example. The amount of soda was essentially the variation-more soda seemed to make more of a gingersnap while less soda made a softer cookie.

Ok, I'm stopping before I really get hungry. Enjoy

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cherry Picking Time means Cherry Turnovers

Our cherries are ripe and it looks like a pretty good crop. As always, we have to watch for bug damage and this year we had some early hail. The first few years, I would pick the cherries and then freeze them but I was never happy with the end result. The cherries didn't keep their pretty color and I had a terrible time guessing how much cornstarch to add to the juicy frozen cherries. I was a newbie to processing our produce. Then my son took a Master Canner's class that was offered free to 4-Hers and he brought home a Ball Blue book. That year, he picked the cherries and made a frozen cherry pie filling. I was sold. It looks beautiful from the start and is ready for pies, cobblers and cherry turnovers right after thawing. Cherry turnovers are our favorite so today I'll share the pie filling recipe and turnover recipe.

Frozen Cherry Pie filling

8 cups tart cherries
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 Tablespoons cornstarch

Wash and pit cherries. Drain. combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in cherries; let stand until juices begin to flow, about 30 minutes. cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. (It doesn't need to come to a boil since you will be cooking the mixture when you bake your pie or turnovers.) I let the mixture cool at this point, not to exceed 2 hours and ladle it into freezer containers or heavy freeze bags-1 quart for a pie or cobbler ( I fill it pretty full.) Label and freeze. Yields about 4 pints.

Now, since I end up discarding some bad cherries after I've measured my cherries, I try and add a few extra at the start. If you go ahead and measure the cherries after you pit them, plan to use about 3 1/2 cups pitted cherries for each 4 cups in the recipe. Don't pack them in when you measure them.

Easy Cherry Turnovers
You can buy filo dough and make very puffy turnovers but we like a biscuit style turnover. These are best made fresh and served that day. I recommend thawing your filling so you don't have to microwave and add hot filling into the turnovers.

2 cups of your cherry pie filling

Biscuit Dough

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. milk (approximately)

Mix dry ingredients and then cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the consistency of coarse crumbs. Stir in enough milk for the dough to stick together. If it is too sticky you may need to add a little more flour. Knead the dough about 12 turns on a floured board. I usually divide the dough into four pieces and roll each piece out to about a 8 X 8 square or a little larger. Cut into 4 squares. Place on a large ungreased baking sheet ( I like to line this with parchment paper to ease clean-up.) Place a generous tablespoon of filling on each square. Fold the dough over to form a triangle or a rectangle, press the edges together -I use the tines of a fork- and prick the top of each turnover to release steam-same fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and you should have 16 turnovers. Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes until they are just starting to show a little light brown on the top. After they are baked, I like to ice them lightly with almond icing.

Almond Icing-this is approximate- I don't measure

1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 - 2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp. almond flavoring
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Cup powdered sugar

I usually start with one Tablespoon of milk or half and half add the flavoring and powdered sugar and then add more milk as needed until the icing is the right consistency. Since I like to make my turnovers right before eating, I keep my icing a little thicker since it melts on the hot turnovers.

Confessions and Tips
I usually don't strive for perfection when making my turnovers so they aren't always uniform in size. I roll my dough out until I know I can cut 4 pieces out so they aren't always square but the taste is what counts, right? I do like to eat these warm but they still taste good later and on the second day warmed up. After that the biscuit part tends to be a little drier. I will make a half-recipe if I have less to serve.

In a hurry-make it in a cake pan
If I am in a big hurry, I don't make individual turnovers. Instead, I roll out 2 pieces of dough and press together into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Spread the pie filling over the dough and then roll out the remaining pieces of dough and carefully place on top of the filling. Prick the top a few times and bake as usual. It might take a little longer. Again drizzle icing on the top. Cut into serving pieces and serve for breakfast, brunch or dessert.

And yes, you could use a can of pie filling since not everyone has a cherry tree. I have made apple turnovers, peach turnovers, as well as my favorite cherry turnovers. Enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cajun Caviar

I actually have to give my niece credit for this one. It's as much a salad as a dip. I saw a variation of this salad that added some fresh green pepper for some more crunch and color. I think I will add that next time I make it. Erica made this for a family party and it was such a winner. I've shared the recipe at work so it has made its way to several other family gatherings. I've also made it using the Good Seasons Italian dressing mix prepared with canola or olive oil. I like to use Tostitos or Fritos scoops when I serve this. Enjoy!

Cajun Caviar
1 can black eyed peas
1 can black beans
Rinse and combine and then add:
1 small can green chiles, diced
1 small Can black olives, chopped
1 can shoe peg corn
5 green onions, chopped
1 sm. Kraft Italian dressing

Mix and chill for at least overnight so the flavors can marry. Serve with tortilla chips.