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I SAY TO-MAY-TOE, YOU SAY TO-MAH-TOE

OR – (I say tomato, you say Tomah to–let’s call the whole thing off (song lyrics from long ago)

It has been some years since we had a glut of tomatoes (still living in Arleta, I think) where I canned quarts and quarts of whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, salsa, tomato puree, and my brother’s recipe for “sketti” sauce.

I haven’t had a good veggie garden for the past five years, being new to the area and having a back yard that was let go for many months and was mostly weeds. We began planting fruit trees a year or two after moving to the Antelope Valley and Kelly has proven that a fantastic veggie garden is do-able here in the dry desert

 My son Kelly has discovered he has a green thumb and has been growing lots of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot chili peppers, and some corn. He brings over plastic tubs of tomatoes and peppers. So far, I have canned 10 quarts of tomato juice, all made from cherry tomatoes that have taken over his garden. I’ve also canned fig jam given to me by a friend’s sister, and 5 pints of salsa.

I love tomatoes and enjoy canning them to have on hand throughout the winter months. Whenever we had a bumper crop of tomatoes, it was a beautiful sight to behold when there were a dozen or more lined up, ripening, on the glass panes of the louver windows in our valley kitchen. This particular window faced west where the bright afternoon sun shined through.  

The tomato is the superstar of the vegetable world (even if it actually is a fruit), the most popular and widely grown plant in our home gardens—and with good reason, when you discover how versatile it is. Here in the USA, more than 100 varieties of tomatoes are grown to suit your every need—whether you want to can tomatoes, use them in sauces and pastes and purees – or eat them raw. There is nothing on earth like walking out to your garden, picking a ripe tomato, brushing it off with your shirtsleeve – and biting into it! The second best way to enjoy a tomato might be to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. One of my favorite recipes is a marinated tomato recipe given to me by an Ohioan childhood friend many years ago when we were visiting relatives in Cincinnati.

Tomatoes are believed to have first been cultivated by the Indians of South America. Most food historians believe that tomatoes were probably first grown in Mexico and Peru (the name is derived from the Aztec xitomate or xtomatle depending on whose translation of Aztec you accept) though the picture is muddied by a 200 A.D. description by the Greek physician, Galen, of an Egyptian fruit which sounds very much like a tomato. However, most food historians concede the tomato’s South American origin.

Tomatoes are believed to have been brought to Europe by way of Mexico, probably by the conquistadors, where the fruit eventually found its way to Italy. The Italians called their early yellow variety of tomato “pomi d’oro”, or “apple of gold”. However, it was regarded by the rest of Europe as an ornamental plant and, perhaps in a distortion of its Italian name, was called “pomme d’amour”, or “love apple”.

Tomatoes were introduced into England in 1596 but were considered to be just ornamental plants. The vines were trained to grow on trellises where their bright colored fruit could be admired, but nobody ate the fruit, which was thought to be poisonous.

Not until the 18th century did the tomato begin to achieve a place in European cuisine, although Elizabethans still thought tomatoes were poisonous. The idea that tomatoes were dangerous is also most likely based on their being listed among the narcotic herbs in the deadly nightshade family by Pierandrea Mattioli, the Italian herbalist, in his herbal book first published in 1544. Mattioli called the tomato the golden apple and associated it with belladonna, henbane and mandrake. 

Early colonists are thought to have brought tomato seeds to Virginia; however, no record of its culture exists before 1781 when Thomas Jefferson mentioned planting a crop. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that the tomato seems to have made it way to market to become a fairly common ingredient in the Creole cooking of Louisiana. However, until after the Civil war most Americans still believed tomatoes were poisonous. Actually, the leaves and stems are toxic so this is probably where this belief originated. (Curiously, the potato also was once thought to be poisonous. Like the tomato, potatoes were first grown in Europe as ornamental plants – some of the Presbyterian clergy in Scotland maintained that potatoes, since they were not mentioned in the bible, were not safe to eat).

According to the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, published in 1949 by Wm. H. Wise & Co (and one of my favorite reference books), the exact origin of the tomato is still in doubt. Various legends say that it comes from Africa, from India, or from China. Some historians say that the tomato was first found in Peru where the Spaniards, searching for Inca treasures, saw it growing in gardens. Somewhere, sometime ago, I remember reading about tomato seeds being found in caves in remote parts of South America.

 If you’ve ever had a compost, you know that tomato seeds are the hardiest of seeds. Our compost, where we lived in Arleta for 19 years, was over 15 years old; Bob dug from the bottom to fertilize our flowers and plants and we were both  constantly surprised by volunteer tomato plants that sprouted up – in the middle of the marigolds, or where ever compost had been spread.

 Got a glut of tomatoes in your garden? To paraphrase Wallace Windsor, the former Duchess of Windsor from the 1930s, you can’t be too rich or too thin…or have too many tomatoes! Here are some recipes to whet your appetite—or fill the pantry shelves.

CANNING TOMATOES

15 lbs tomatoes

boiling water

14 TBSP lemon juice, divided or 3 ½ tsp citric acid, divided

7 tsp canning salt, divided

7 1-quart canning jars and lids, sterilized, kept hot

Dip tomatoes into boiling water until skins split; about 30 to 60 seconds; plunge under cold water and peel. Core; cut into half, if desired. Set aside. Add 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt to each jar; add tomatoes. Cover with hot water leaving ½” headspace. Remove air bubbles; secure lids. Process in a boiling water bath 45 minutes. Set jars on a towel to cool. Check for seals. Makes 7 jars.

 

DRYING TOMATOES

Wash, quarter and blanch for about 5 minutes. Run through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Strain out the juice through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Use a little hand pressure to extract more water, then spread the remaining pulp on glass, cookie sheets or pieces of plastic. Turn the drying pulp frequently until it becomes dry flakes.

I made my dried tomato slices by simply slicing them very thin with a very sharp knife, and spreading them in a single layer on the racks of a dehydrator. I only washed and stemmed the tomatoes; I did not peel or seed them. When they were completely dry, I packed them into quart jars or ground them to a powder using a coffee grinder).

HOME CANNED TOMATO JUICE

20 LARGE RIPE TOMATOES

1 MEDIUM GREEN OR SWEET RED PEPPER, MINCED

2 LARGE ONIONS, MINCED

1 CLOVE GARLIC, CRUSHED (OPTIONAL)

2 STALKS CELERY, DICED

1/3 CUP SUGAR

¼ CUP LEMON JUICE

1 TBSP SALT

Combine tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic, celery, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a large heavy pot. Simmer covered, over medium heat, 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes cook down to juice. Put tomatoes through food mill or fine sieve, forcing out as much juice and solids as possible.

Pour prepared juice into clean, scalded 1-quart jars into which you have added 2 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of canning salt. Put a canning lid (which has been boiled in water and kept warm) and screw on canning rings. Process in boiling water bath 45 minutes. Makes 4 quarts.

 TOMATO BUTTER

2 LBS red tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 LBS green tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 lemons, halves and thinly sliced (including peel) seeds removed

3 cups sugar

½ tsp ground cloves

2 TBSP minced fresh ginger root or crystallized ginger

2 TBSP chopped candied orange peel

 In a large kettle, combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and cook over moderate heat until thick, about 45 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes 3 pints.

 TOMATO SAUCE

 1 oz butter

2 lbs tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped

¼ – ½ tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low head. Add tomatoes and stir to mix with the butter. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the sugar. Partly cover the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until tomatoes have softened and the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cool and then refrigerate or freeze.

 MEXICAN SALSA (CANNED)

 5 POUNDS ripe tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions

1 ¼ cups chopped, seeded chili peppers

1 cup snipped fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup apple cider or apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP minced garlic

1 TBSP canning salt

5 pint jars with lids and rings, sterilized

Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Plunge into ice water and slip off skins. Core and chop tomatoes.

 In a large 6-quart saucepan, combine tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or to desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Immediately fill hot jars with mixture, leaving ½” headspace. Carefully run a non-metallic utensil down the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Wipe jar tops and threads. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. This makes 5 pints of a medium hot salsa.

BILL’S SKETTI SAUCE (WITHOUT MEAT, FOR CANNING)

 

30-40 lbs of tomatoes

1 cup chopped onion

Minced garlic cloves, about 5 or use garlic salt about 4 tsp

1 cup chopped green (bell) peppers

5 tsp salt

1 TBSP red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped hot peppers (Bill uses banana peppers)

2 tsp black pepper

¼ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup brown sugar; dark is best but light brown will work

Little chopped celery is ok, maybe ¼ cup

If spicier is wanted, add another ¼ cup sugar or after it has cooked a few hours, add sugar to taste.

Go through the usual preparation of the tomatoes (He means blanch, peel, and chop them)

Put the tomatoes in a large pot; start with some in the pot at low heat and add all the rest of the stuff to the pot. Keep stirring frequently. Cook until at least half cooked down but Bill says he usually cooks it to about one-third cooked down. Don’t let it burn to the bottom of the pot; sugar will do this if you are not careful. It may take 16 hours or longer to boil down this far at low heat but high heat will burn unless you stir constantly

 (*Sandra’s cooknote- I bet you could cook this down in a large turkey roaster, the kind that is like a giant crockpot – with the lid off so it reduces).

Prep the jars in the usual manner (*this means washing them in hot soapy water and then scalding the jars in boiling water). Bill adds a tablespoon of lemon juice to each of the jars. It won’t affect the taste but helps keep the acid content high enough for canning. Bill uses a 20 quart pot to cook this sauce, and lo and behold (says he) it’s usually full when he starts and then he ends up with about 13 pints of sauce.

This is a lengthy and informal recipe but I have provided it exactly as it was given to me.

Bill’s sketti sauce is also excellent poured over stuffed bell peppers.

**

But, you say, you aren’t interested in CANNING tomatoes and just want to know how to use some of them when your garden produces a glut of tomatoes (along with that glut of zucchini?) -Here are a few recipes you can try:

ABSOLUTE SALSA (FRESH)

4 green onions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

4 ripe plum tomatoes OR  2 regular tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup peeled and diced red onion

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

1/2 cup chopped ripe olives

Salt & pepper to taste

6 dashes Tabasco (hot sauce) or 1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped, with seeds

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

 IN A BOWL, combine all ingredients, except basil. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. Just before serving, add basil. Serve at room temp. Good with chips, grilled fish or chicken, or as an omelet filling or on deli meat sandwiches.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

 

EL TORITO SALSA (FRESH)

2 CUPS DICED TOMATOES

½ CUP DICED ONION

1-2 TBSP FINELY DICED JALAPENO PEPPERS

1 TBSP OIL

1 TSP VINEGAR

1 TSP LIME JUICE

½ TSP MEXICAN DRIED LEAF OREGANO

¼ TSP SALT

¼ CUP FINELY CHOPPED CILANTRO

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Check seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve with tortilla chips. Ole! This is one of my favorite fresh salsa recipes.

 

FRESH TOMATO SAUCE

 6 medium size tomatoes

4 unpeeled cloves or garlic

1 peeled onion, cut in half

Place tomatoes, garlic and onion on a cookie sheet with sides (or jelly roll pan) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. When cooled, peel   tomatoes and garlic and puree in blender with onions. Simmer in saucepan on stovetop to desired consistency. Cool completely and freeze in plastic storage bags. Sauce may also be canned.

 “MAKE YOUR OWN” SALSA

 1 LB RIPE TOMATOES (2 LARGE) SEEDED AND CHOPPED

½ CUP FINELY CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS

1 TSP MINCED FRESH GARLIC

1-2 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED HOT PEPPER (SUCH AS JALAPENO)

¼ C. CHOPPED FRESH CILANTRO

½ TSP SALT

JUICE FROM 1 LIME

Drain off excess juices from tomatoes; combine with other ingredients. The heat of the salsa depends on the type and amount of hot pepper you choose. Serve with tortilla chips.

PAN GRILLED TOMATO SALSA

3 large meaty tomatoes, cored and cut into thick slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 TBSP Sherry vinegar or Balsamic vinegar

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron or non-stick, over medium high heat, for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase the heat to high and cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side, very lightly, about 1 minute. If necessary work in batches to avoid overcrowding the tomatoes. 

Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a large shallow dish and as the tomatoes are done, turn them into the mixture. Season and serve as a side dish or a sauce for grilled or roasted fish or chicken. Salsa can also be refrigerated for a day or two; bring to room temperature before serving. 

One more recipe – this is a simple tomato recipe you can put together an hour before dinner time and it’s always good. My girlfriend Mary, in Cincinnati, gave this recipe to me – back in the 70s.

 MARY’S HERBED TOMATOES

6 LARGE ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 tsp salt

coarse pepper

¼ cup finely chopped chives

¼ cup vinegar

2/3 cup oil

 Sprinkle layers of tomatoes with herbs and spices. Cover with oil and vinegar (mixed) and let marinate an hour or more.

**

People often ask me about my favorite cookbooks. I have three favorite tomato cookbooks.   One is “TOMATOES! 365 Healthy Recipes for Year-Round Enjoyment” by the editors of Garden Way Publishing. This is a nice spiral bound cookbook from Storey Communications, published in 1991. Another favorite is “THE TOMATO FESTIVAL COOKBOOK” by Lawrence Davis-Hollander, also published by Storey Publishing in 2004, and it’s packed with recipes and historical tomato lore. The Third is an older book (1976) “THE TOMATO BOOK” by Yvonne Young Tarr but along with recipes there is a wealth of information on growing and preserving tomatoes.

Happy Cooking!

 Sandy

 

FREE COOKBOOKLETS WITH YOUR NEW REFRIGERATOR OR STOVE (BACK IN THE DAY)

Out of all the cook booklets in my collection – and there are hundreds – a good percent of them are the booklets that came with your new refrigerator or stove. I thought I would go through some of these and share some of the recipes I think would still be good today—for instance, the Westinghouse Refrigerator recipe booklet published in 1947 came with one hundred recipes—along with instructions for defrosting your 1947 Westinghouse refrigerator (you’ve come a long way baby!) and how to remove ice from the Select-O-Cube tray (that has come a long way baby, as well—who doesn’t have an automatic ice maker nowadays?)

My favorite recipes in the 1947 Westinghouse cookbooklet are what used to be called “ice box cookies” but are referred to as the updated (in 1947) “refrigerator cookies” – these were the forerunners of “slice and bake cookies” that flour companies came along with some years later. Only Pillsbury can claim the title of Bake-Off recipes and the Bake-Off Books that came along in the late 1940s.   I still like the title of “ice box cookies” even though not many of today’s cooks may know where the name originated. An “ice box” cookie recipe was dough that had been rolled into one or two rolls, depending on the  recipe, then wrapped in WAX paper because we didn’t have plastic wrap yet. When the cookie dough had been chilled long enough to be very firm, the lady of the house sliced the cookies, generally in 1-inch slices and baked them in a preheated oven however long the cookbooklet told you to bake them.

My best friend whose house was across the street and down next to a little white church, brought me a little bag of still warm ice box cookies after her mother chastised me over something over which I had no control; the cookies Carol Sue brought to me were a peace offering from her mother.  Her mother had been baking them when we walked in the back door. It had to have been a warm summer night. I don’t know what kind of ice box cookies her mother, Mrs. Wheeler*, made—only that they were delicious and I wanted to make cookies like them. (*we never referred to any of our friends’ parents—or any of the other neighbor ladies or men – as anything other than Mrs. or Mr.)

An interesting example of a booklet that came with a new stove is “recipes and instructions for HOT POINT Electric Ranges,  copyrighted 1926 and published by the Edison Electric Appliance Co., inc, in Chicago. The booklet was prepared by Bernice Lowen, Home Economist and comes with some charming 1920s illustrations, This cookbooklet is old and worn and the cover looks like it might have gotten too close to the stove, a time or two. It even comes with instructions for canning in the Hotpoint Automatic Oven (I don’t think this method lasted very long). It appears that the Hotpoint Electric Range pre-dated electric refrigerators because the cookie (ice box) recipes in the Hotpoint recipe booklet  instruct the cook to place the unbaked dough “on ice” to chill.

Inside an undated booklet titled “Your New Hotpoint Refrigerator” I found a lot of instructions for care and use—and some recipes, although only TWO for making icebox (now refrigerator) cookies.  Is it just me or is “Hotpoint” to describe a refrigerator an oxymoron?

“Coldspot” is the brand name given to the refrigerator sold by Sears Roebuck and Company—back in the day. I can’t find a copyright date on the booklet titled “Modern Menu Magic Coldspot Recipes” which is replete with recipes for ices and sherbets, ice creams, parfaits, mousses and something calls Marlows—which I had never heard of….turns out Marows are dainty little desserts made with marshmallows. There are other chilled desserts but only one recipe for refrigerator cookies.

One of my unusual finds—isn’t something that I actually found. A subscriber to Sandychatter read my article about the Mystery Chef and his famous and popular cookbook “The Mystery Chef’s Own Cookbook” published in the 1930s, and wrote to tell me she had acquired a cookbooklet titled “Be An Artist at the Gas Range/successful Recipes by the Mystery Chef” which was presented “with the compliments of your Gas Company” and would I like to have it?  I said absolutely—I had no other information about the Mystery Chef writing cookbooklets in much the same way as Ida Bailey Allen did for manufacturing companies. “Be an Artist…” is a great little treasure trove of recipes that even included a black and white photograph of the Mystery Chef’s “Drawing Room in New York City”  Alas, the Mystery Chef didn’t devote very much time on cookies and out of the few featured in “Be An Artist” there is only one icebox/refrigerator cookie recipe which is for Butterscotch cookies and similar to another butterscotch cookie recipe I have already provided.  Even so, this is a good little cookbooklet to have in your collection—especially if you are pressed for space in your home and don’t have a lot of bookshelf space for cookbooks. Cookbooklets are a good collection to have—I have a lot  of them on shelves in my kitchen where they are handy but doesn’t take up TOO much space.  **

My best find so far is a 1954 Westinghouse Refrigerator booklet—what enchants me is the “conditional Sales Contract for a Westinghouse Refrigerator ($479.95) and one Whirlpool Washer ($223.07) purchased by someone in Downey, California on June 18, 1954. (I had just graduated from 8th grade). No icebox/refrigerator cookie recipes to share – this booklet was all business—with possibly the first “frost-free Refrigerator”.

I could go on and on –along with some baker’s rack shelves and some of my bookshelves in the garage library are stuffed with recipe booklets that span decades and every food topic or kitchen appliance imaginable—you may remember when Microwave ovens first appeared in department stores, they too came with booklets to help the kitchen cook deal with this new appliance.  But WHAT kitchen appliance was synonymous with refrigerator?  Why, the “Frigidaire” of course.  “Your Frigidaire Recipes and Other Helpful Information”, copyrighted 1934, may have been the crème de la crème of kitchen appliance booklets, with recipes from soups to nuts, ranging from Entrees to 101  suggestions for using leftovers (bearing in mind this was during the Great Depression), many salad and salad dressing recipes—and frozen salads.  There are recipes for “frozen creams”—and something I haven’t seen in booklets before, “how to use evaporated milk in place of whipping cream”.  There are recipes for parfaits and sherbets, ices – and the mysterious “Marlows”. Other recipe categories are included – but only two recipes for refrigerator/ice box cookies – this time one renamed “Frigidaire Cookies.”  Most seniors my age – or older – often referred to the refrigerator—regardless of the name brand – as the Frigidaire.

Here, then, is the recipe for Frigidaire Cookies:

1 ½ cups shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

4 cups flour

Cream shortening, Add sugar and beat well. Then add eggs one at a time beating meanwhile. Sift dry ingredients and stir into first mixture.

It is nice to divide this dough into three portions, adding melted chocolate and vanilla to one; grated coconut to one; nuts and raisins or chopped dates to one. These portions may be made into sausage-like rolls, wrapped in waxed paperand placed in Frigidaire overnight or until wanted. Before baking, slice very thin and bake in hot oven (450 degrees) on baking sheet. Part of the chocolate dough may be rolled to one-fourth thickness (square); a portion of the light dough rolled similarly and placed on the chocolate dough. The two slices should then be “scrolled” in jelly-roll fashion, wrapped in waxed paper, and left in Frigidaire a few hours before slicing. This will give a pinwheel effect.

(Sandy’s cooknote: Bearing in mind this is from a 1934 cookbooklet—no mention is giving for baking time. Personally, if I make up the cookie dough, I would bake them around 350 degrees for 8 or 9 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool on baking racks.  I have no idea what is meant by “scrolled” in jelly roll fashion so if anyone out there can explain this term, I’d be happy to hear from you).

Your new Hotpoint Refrigerator offers the following icebox/refrigerator recipe for Butterscotch Cookies without any reference to icebox or refrigerator. They are simply

BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

2 eggs

3 cups sifted flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream the sugar and butter or margarine. Add the whole eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients together and add . stir in nus. Chill the dough, then form into 2-inch rolls. Wrap rolls of dough in waxed paper and store in the refrigerator until needed. Cut in very thin slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 80 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote: – again, I urge you to watch the baking time and temperature on these cookies. I would do a tray of test cookies at 400 degrees and if the cookies get too crisp or start burning, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees).

The 1947 Westinghouse Refrigerator cookbooklet boasting of over 100 delicious recipes provides the most cookie recipes along with a photograph (albeit black and white) of baked cookies.  Here is their recipe for Oatmeal Refrigerator Cookies:

2 cups uncooked rolled oats

1 cup sifted cake flour*

1 cup coconut

1 cup granulated sugar

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup shortening

1 egg

¼ cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Cream shortening (butter) and sugar until creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with evaporated milk. Mix well. Chill. Then form into rolls. Wrap in waxed paper. Chill until firm. Slice, place on greased cookie sheet* and bake in preheated 400 degree oven.  In baking 2 sheets of cookies  at one time, reverse baking sheets halfway between baking.  Bake 12 minutes. Makes 80 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote- I don’t know of anyone who has cake flour on hand nowadays. I looked this up on Google for you:

1. Measure out the flour that you’ll need for your recipe.
2
2. For every cup of flour you use, take out two tablespoons of flour and return it to the flour bin. Put the cup of flour (minus the two tablespoons) into a sifter set over a bowl.
3
3. Replace the two tablespoons of flour that you removed with two tablespoons of cornstarch.
4
4. Sift the flour and cornstarch together. Sift it again, and again and again. The cornstarch and flour need to be well incorporated and the flour aerated. Sift the flour and cornstarch mixture about five times.
5
And now you have cake flour!

(Sandy’s cooknote #2 – Again, I find the baking temperature and time sounds high to me. Test a few cookies at 400 degrees and if it’s too hot, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and watch how they bake. And I have mentioned many times that I don’t “grease” baking sheets anymore – I use only parchment paper when baking cookies. Works very well).

Some of the refrigerator cookie recipes are kind of repetitive in the various cookbooklets so I have tried to find some that are unusual or that I haven’t found elsewhere. These also come from the Westinghouse Refrigerator Over 100 Delicious Recipes from 1947:

RAISIN REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

¾ cup shortening

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup seedless raisins

3 cups cake flour (*See description above)

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp nutmeg

Wash raisins (wash raisins??)  and cut into tiny pieces with scissors. Cream sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and raisins and beat well. Sift flour, measure and sift with salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.  Add to creamed mixture; mix thoroughly. Chill in refrigerator. When stiff enough to handle, form into rolls 2” in diameter, wrap in waxed paper and store in refrigerator.  When ready to bake, cut into ¼” slices. Place on oiled baking sheet*, 1½ inches apart. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Make about 60 cookies.

(Sandy’s cooknote* Or line your baking sheets with parchment paper. No other greasing, oiling, etc needed. You can re-use the parchment paper many times – until it gets too “old” to use anymore.

GINGERSNAPS

1 cup molasses

½ cup shortening

3¼ cups flour

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsps ground ginger

1½ tsp salt

Heat molasses to boiling point and add shortening. Sift together flour, baking soda, ground ginger and salt. Add to the molasses mixture. Shape into a roll about 2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper and store in refrigerator until wanted. Slice and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. **

I could go on and on with this topic. If I could figure out how to download photographs of cookbooklets (or any other cookbooks) and upload them onto articles in Sandychatter,  I would happily do so—there was a time when I COULD do it and then wordpress changed some of their instructions and I was left out in the dark. So until then, you will have to make do with text only blog posts. J

–Sandy@sandychatter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

MY FATHER (on Father’s Day)

Remembering my father, on this special day,
Remembering how he looked and talked
And what he’d have to say,
Remembering how he loved to bowl,
Or watch a baseball game,
Remembering what his values were,
But it’s not the same.
I have the many photographs,
And letters that he wrote
I have a sweater that he wore,
And a threadbare coat.
Inside my head I hear his voice,
Calling out my name,
But it’s been so long ago,
And it’s not the same.
I have so many questions that
I should have asked him then,
I’ll have to wait until the time
I see him once again.

–Sandra Lee Smith
Originally posted APRIL 26, 2012

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

My earliest recollections of my father aren’t actually my memories—but I have dozens of black and white photographs in which my father is seen—I have collected for years those photographs in which I am in the picture with my father.

I had the notion for years that my mother was “the family photographer” – after all, it was she who pasted hundreds of old photographs in large catalogs of men wearing suits of every description; it was during WW2 that she pasted the photographs into the suit catalogs (for want of a better description) . Quite possibly, photo albums with black pages weren’t available during the war years and my mother improvised with old suit catalogs that would have been discarded. I think a new catalog was published every year – and my paternal grandfather was a tailor. (Writing about my paternal grandfather would also make a great article—he had traveled throughout many European countries looking for men who wanted a new suit of clothing and spoke seven languages fluently).

At some point in time, after the War was over, my mother tore the photographs out of the suit catalogs and began putting them into “real” photo albums. Oh, how I wish my mother would have left the family photographs in the suit catalogs. For one thing, the family photos took a beating being pasted into the suit albums, then torn out. And I think the photographs, pasted in the suit catalogs—would be quite collectible today.

And, for some reason, I believed for many years that my mother was the family photographer. And to some degree, this was true—but as I went through hundreds of photographs that ended up in my possession, I realized that my father was actually the family photographer—my mother is IN most of the photographs (and she loved having her picture taken—she took great delight in being the center of attention). And it was my father who bought a Nikon camera—I don’t think he had the opportunity to use it as when it came into my possession, it was in like-new condition with instructions and the receipt for the purchase of the camera.

And here’s what amazes me to this day—the camera that produced all the large black and white photographs for many years—was simply a Brownie camera. I had it in my possession in the first years of my marriage and from there always had an inexpensive “point and shoot” camera. (I have no idea what happened to that Brownie camera. I think it was lost in the shuffle when we first moved to Californian). The negatives to the Brownie camera were large and easily reproduced; I made dozens of 8×10 reprints from the negatives I had managed to save.

From early childhood on, I wanted to be a photographer—I would take books about photography out of the public library and read/study them even though I didn’t understand most of what I was trying to read. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I began taking black and white photography classes with a girlfriend from work. By then my father had passed away, and I inherited dad’s Nikon camera. Everyone else in the family also had their own cameras, much better models than anything I ever owned.

It was shortly after this, in 1984, that the girlfriend and I began taking classes one night a week at Glendale Community College; after six weeks of listening to the instructor, we “graduated” to the dark room. But, I digress – and this is another topic about which I could write about.

Let me get back to my father and the early years of my life. Earlier this year, because I was still recuperating from a kidney-related illness, I began putting the loose photographs into some semblance of order—I had “inherited” my mother’s collection of photographs, what she hadn’t given away; I also received an old album plus dozens, if not hundreds, of old ‘loose’ photographs that had been in my older brother’s possession and which he no longer wanted.

When my older sister Becky began fighting breast cancer and I was flying to Nashville to spend time with her–she told me to take whatever old black and white photographs I wanted;—she said none of her children would want them, so I began going through her photo albums. I was flying to Nashville once or twice a year from the time of her first surgery in 2000, until she passed away in 2004) … and there is a short story about HER oldest photographs—they had originally been in albums with black pages; her ex-husband’s second wife tore the photographs out of the albums to save on postage and mailed them to her.

Some of her oldest class photographs from Saint Leo’s were amongst her photo collection— group class pictures of all eight grades, a practice that was discontinued by the time I was a student at St Leo’s. I have a large group photo taken in front of St Leo’s church taken at the time we made our first communions – and an 8th grade graduation photograph also taken in front of the church. (I have my father’s 8th grade graduation photograph taken alongside a side entrance to St. Leo’s School and another large group photograph taken in front of the church that we think was taken when my father was in the 4th or 5th grade. (My father, uncle, and aunt all went to St. Leo’s – as did my sister, brothers and I. My cousin Renee was at St Leo’s until 3rd grade so that means her brother, Pete, would have been at St. Leo’s until 2nd grade.

Becky wrote the names of every student on her group photos. So, all of those old photographs from St. Leo’s, as well as Becky’s teenage pictures taken of her friends down on Queen City Avenue in South Fairmount, have come into my possession.

I didn’t think I would ever get this project completed. I began sorting hundreds of old photographs, putting them into categories – siblings, my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles and so on. I have two large albums filled with these photographs. Then I went back to my own album collection which I had stopped working on in 2012. I had the rest of 2012 and all of 2013 to get into albums. (I converted a linen closet into a photo album closet–I have more albums than linens, starting with an album I started when I was about 14 or 15 years old).

I guess this is when it occurred to me that my parents were often photographed together – or one or the other. I found lots of photographs of myself—either in the arms of my mother or my father—sometimes taken at Le Sourdsville Lake where everyone could swim or enjoy picnic lunches.

By the time my brothers Biff and Bill were born, I don’t think my father went on many of these summer excursions (in retrospect, I think he was busy almost all the time with his bowling. He was also league secretary on many, if not most, of his leagues).

I remember my mother taking all of us and my grandmother to Cincinnati’s version of Coney Island—usually on Findlay Market day, when ride tickets were being sold in advance at Findlay Market and I think my mother took advantage of these ride tickets being sold, something like 20 for a dollar. I have no memory of my father going to Coney Island with us.

We went to the Policemen’s annual picnic, and my father went to that. I have old photographs taken in the early 1940s when I was a toddler, when the family went to LeSourdsville Lake. I think this was more of a Beckman annual family outing than a Schmidt one—all of the photographs I’ve gone through show my mother and father, my mother’s sisters and their husbands (when they were home on leave, I presume) as well as Grandma Beckman.

In other photographs in which my mother’s sisters and their husbands were photographed during the War years, my uncles are wearing their uniforms. All of my uncles who served in World War II survived the war and made it home to their families.

My father was born April 20, 1915; I am fairly certain my father was born at home and delivered by a midwife in the downtown Cincinnati area near Findlay Market. (Both of my parents had been born in Cincinnati.) I had grown up believing my father was the oldest of three children – his brother John (Hans) was born two years later and Annie a few years after Uncle Hans…but we have learned that there were three other children born before my father, children that had died. None of us know much more than that. I think one boy child died on the ship coming to the United States—but the other two may have died in one of the horrific influenza epidemics that swept through cities and states throughout the United States in the early 1900s. My grandmother kept one photograph of a young child in a coffin—a photograph that disappeared when her health began to fail.

I sent some emails to my brother Jim, now my oldest sibling, to ask him about Dad’s work at Formica. Jim wrote, “Dad did get a military exemption since he had 3 children but mainly because he was in a critical career field at Formica. The British developed a process of inlaying gold on Formica but the tool and die department perfected it. Only Dad, Bud Hudson, and George Foreman were knowledgeable on how to do this. Formica kept it a trade secret until they could get the process patterned. This was the advent of micro – chips. Georget Helfridge was his boss in the tool and die department at Formica back in 1941.

I think my father was also exempt from being drafted because his only brother was already in the navy and during the War, Formica—for whom my father began working when I was a baby—stopped making decorative materials and instead produced “Pregwood” – plastic-impregnated wood use for propellers and “bomb burster tubes”. (I checked bomb burster tubes on Google but the explanation was too complicated for me to even attempt to repeat).

After the war, the housing boom boosted the market for decorative Formica. By 1953, one-third of the 6 million new homes had streamlined Formica kitchen surfaces, easy to wipe clean and cigarette proof.

When I was a very young child, I thought my father worked for someone named “Mica” – when he went bowling, he was bowling for mica. His team bowled in the 1947 ABC Bowling Tournament in Los Angeles; my mother accompanied him while we children stayed at Grandma Schmidt’s. I think it was my parents first flight on an airplane and the trip to Los Angeles entailed more than a few changes of flights—one of which I know was in Las Vegas since I have photographs taken of them at McCarran Airport. Only one other wife made the trip to L.A. besides my mother.

A few years ago, when my father’s scrapbooks came into my possession, I put together an album of his life and bowling career. Bowling was the favorite pastime and sport of both my parents; they had his, hers, and their bowling leagues. My parents had dozens of bowling trophies—many ended up stored in boxes and trunks in the basement—so it goes without saying that my mother was never a bowling “widow”.

I texted my brother and asked him to provide some of dad’s bowling history for me. I think you would have grown up and lived in the Midwest to really understand the attraction for bowling in Ohio and a lot of other Midwestern cities. During the wintertime, there was always bowling, regardless of the weather.

Jim wrote “I initially did not bowl with dad except in tournaments like ABC, etc. However, around 1962, we did join teams and bowled in the Knights of Columbus league on Sunday afternoon in a traveling league and we bowled in 35 different houses (bowling establishments) over the season. I was bowling with Mergards (a big bowling establishment in Northside) on Saturday night and Wednesday night at the same time. We bowled for Northside’s Knights of Columbus after transferring. We bowled with Bob Lintz and Steve Petko. After winning the league, dad asked me to join him on Tuesdays at Sanker’s (a well known bowling establishment in Mount Healthy).We had Don Mechlem, Yotz Purtell and another bowler. We also started up a 2 man Classic at Sanker’s. Dad and I bowled together. I averaged 205 and Dad 191. Again winners, we would bowl in the state, city, ABC (American Bowling Congress, now USBC) and Knights of Columbus tournaments. I was still going to school at University of Cincinnati…” (*Jim spent 4 years in the Air Force, then resumed his education while also working full time and supporting his family).

Jim writes, “Somewhere during this time frame, Dick Tabler joined us. We then bowled Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights. I continued to bowl with Stone’s Palace in Norwood on Mondays and on Wednesdays in the Hudepohl traveling league. Dad bowled at Brentwood with Vince Laehr at Colerain’s (Our uncle Vince– was a boyhood friend of dad’s who married our mother’s younger sister, our Aunt Rainy—so he and Dad were brothers in law) Many times I bowled on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. Dad continued to bowl almost exclusively at Sankers…”

(Sandy’s note: I learned from our cousin Renee—who asked her father—how our fathers became childhood friends when they lived in different neighborhoods. Uncle Vince replied “when a bunch of boys were sled-riding down a steep street in the wintertime—no one would go down the hill with Pete—until Vince volunteered. They became buddies and when they were teenagers, the two took dancing lessons at Arthur Murray’s Dancing School to “impress those pretty Beckman sisters”. (My father was always a good dancer—I never knew about the dancing lessons. After my father passed away, my mother took up dancing. My brother Jim asked her what she wanted to do and she replied “I always wanted to dance”. And so she did.)

Jim continues, “After I received my MBA in 1973, I did bowl with Dad on Thursdays at Sanker’s when I decided to go for a Ph.D in psychology. I quit bowling and, of course, Julie was born in 1976.

This was when mom and dad went down to Florida to live (in Largo, Florida, at the Four Seasons Mobile Park. Largo is near Tampa, close to the ocean.) I eventually went to Michigan to work and live and gave up bowling for 20+ years. Dad continued to bowl in Florida and went to annual ABC bowling tournament until 1984…”

Sandy’s note “**the ABC’s were in Reno in 1984. Dad sent me a plane ticket to join them and it was the only time in my memory that I had both parents entirely to myself for 4 days). Dad had at least 25 years in league participation. The ABC tournament in Reno would be his last. I had such a wonderful time with them in Reno…”

Jim continues to write: “They moved to Florida in 1976. Mom said she was going down alone if he didn’t retire. He was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. And he was bowling 4 nights a week. Scott and Susie were left in the house on Mulberry to fend for themselves. I had my own problems since Bunny took off with Julie 3 weeks after she was born. I found out she went to visit a (friend or relative?) in Melbourne, Florida. I have no idea why they (our parents) didn’t ask me to look after Susie…”

(Good question. and did anyone ever learn why Bunny took off for Florida just after Julie was born?)

Jim writes, “That winter, they came up to Cincinnati to visit. Scott and Dad went out shopping in a snow storm and got stuck in a parking lot. Dad was pushing (Scott behind the wheel) when he fell and shattered his knee cap. That eventually developed a blood clot in leg. (*Dad was put on blood thinners which caused him to get an ulcer. It was one thing after another. His leg was in a cast which was too tight – by the time they removed the cast, he already had a blood clot. He even had the last rites – he believed he WAS dying—but he recovered).

To return to Jim’s notes – “the blood clot in his leg in 1984 went to his heart and killed him” (*Dad had an initial heart attack—while bowling, what else?)

Sandy writes “In 1984 I flew to Florida –a girlfriend got plane tickets for me to fly to Florida on a Sunday and delivered them to my house on Saturday night. It was the only time I can remember that I had ‘rat-holed’ four hundred dollars, planning to go with a girlfriend to Carmel. I went, over husband Jim’s objections—he was rude and unkind—I had to pack my bags in the dark; I couldn’t understand why—I said to him “if it was your mother, I would be supportive”. I didn’t know at the time that he had a girlfriend—which makes his objections to my going to Florida even more mysterious. My brother Jim was already in Florida; he and mom met my flight. We went up to the hospital to see Dad and the last thing I said to my father was “I love you, Daddy” to which he replied, “I love you too. I’m glad you’re here”.

Three hours later, he had another heart attack which was fatal. We, in the family, believe that the blood clot he had had in his leg (from the previous injury to his knee) broke loose and went to his heart. He was rubbing his leg while we were there and a nurse came in. She asked him why he was rubbing his leg and he said “because it aches” to which SHE replied “well, don’t rub it”. All the signs were there – we just weren’t reading them right. And Dad’s cardiologist was in Cincinnati.

Sandy writes “The hospital called to tell us that my father had passed away. Jim woke mom up and the three of us went back to the hospital—to see for ourselves, I guess. We said some prayers and then returned to my parents’ mobile home at the Four Seasons.

The entire time we—mom, Jim and I-were driving back to my parents’ mobile home, I kept looking over my shoulder as Jim was driving & mom up in front with him so I had the back seat. I felt like we were being followed. Later I concluded that Dad was following us. We got mom to go back to bed and Jim began calling all the family. Around 3 am I went to take a shower, to stay awake – and I heard my father calling my name. He said my name three times—I tried to ignore the voice but finally said “I hear you dad. What do you want?” He replied “Take care of your mother”.

Well, Jim did take care of her; I was so involved with my own problems—a failing marriage and a lot of anger and towards a man who, I discovered, had been cheating our entire marriage. I have always felt Jim (Smith) wouldn’t have confessed about the girlfriend if my father was still alive.

“REMEMBERING MY FATHER” (written July 16, 2009)
It was twenty five years ago today
that my father passed away
And many of the events leading up to
And following his death
Are etched forever in my mind
Never to be forgotten.
I, who will be 69 on my next birthday Have a greater appreciation that he was Only sixty nine when he was taken from us.
I have often wondered
if the medical care had been better in Florida,
Or if he had still been in Ohio
Under the care of his own doctor,
If things might have turned out differently.
1984 was a horrific year
For all of us, my family and
Some of my friends
And it was a year to be gotten through Day by day And month by month.
—Sandra Lee Smith

LETTERS MY FATHER WROTE TO MY MOTHER IN 1978

I typed the letters, which my brother Jim had in his possession (Bunny’s handwriting was on the envelope) and which Jim gave to Susie—presumably when we were in Florida in April, 2013. Oddly enough, the memorial mass for Bunny, who died August 29, 2012—was held on April 20, 2013– dad’s birthday.

To put these letters into a better perspective, the following is from my journal memoirs, which I have been converting from notebooks into my computer. I wrote the following letter to my penpal Bev, who had kept all my letters over the years and gave stacks of them to me when I began working on my memoirs in 2011.
I wrote this to Bev: “March 15, 1978 – has been one disaster after another. We have had 2 months of rain (no more drought!) and floods and terrible mudslides. Back east they’ve had incredible blizzards and snow storms with unheard of sub-zero temperatures. Mom & Dad drove back to Ohio in January, just missing blizzards along the way, only to be in a big one in Cincinnati, and two days after the blizzard, Dad’s car got stuck in the snow and when he tried to push it out, he fell on his right knee, and tore the cartilage. The next day they operated on him; that was bad enough – it’s such a painful operation and he suffered terribly. Mom said later that for two days she prayed while he swore. Well a few days after he was released from the hospital, his leg under the cast began swelling. Mom got him back into the hospital, this time with phlebitis. They put him on anticoagulants and a week later he was in terrible pain and spitting blood and had developed a bleeding ulcer from the anticoagulants. He was taken to intensive care. He was so seriously ill that a priest came and administered the last rites. It drove me crazy to be so helpless. I wanted to go home. They said no, don’t come, if you come he’ll believe he is dying. He reached a crisis on Feb 18 – which was, oddly, the anniversary of HIS father’s death. He was convinced he would never leave the hospital alive. I just couldn’t cope with it. I guess no one ever really is. My parents always seemed so strong to me. Anyway, Dad is recuperating at home now and doing better, and perhaps everything will be ok, especially when they can return to Florida”.

The following letters were written by my father, to my mother, in 1978. Two are dated – one February, 24, 1978 and one February, 1978. A third is undated.
“Vi Darling
You know I don’t like to write notes but for you I’d do anything so here goes:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
You are so sweet
That’s why I love you.
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx There’s your kiss. Now will you be so kind as to mail that letter for me and wake me about 12:00
Peter (and I still say I love you.”

“February 1978:
Dear Vi,
It’s been so long since we really cared about each other. The only thing that hurts is my concern about your beer drinking. I love you and always will no matter what I may say or do. When you are at the end of the ropes and find out later how many people cared, you feel both good & bad. Maybe we could have done more but my love for you will be forever. Love, Pete”

“2-14-78
Dear Vi,

It isn’t easy laying here and not knowing what, where and when it will happen. They all put on a good show. But once that clot breaks loose it could be the end. But whatever happens always remember that I loved you all the years we were together. God gave me a reprieve last Saturday and Sunday so have a mass said for my mother & father and your mother & father. You might say I just have this down feeling but for some reason I have this feeling and can’t shake it. I love you. Pete”

*These notes were each written on a single sheet of paper, which had been folded and refolded dozens (if not hundreds) of times. I think Bunny found them when she & Jim began going through mom’s things. There were a couple of personal telephone books in my mother’s handwriting that Bunny sent to me—I have one but an older second telephone book disappeared. I had started that phone book when the family moved to NCH in 1955 or 56 and I began typing names & addresses into it for mom.

Dad recovered from the knee injury and they returned to Florida to live. In 1984 he had a first heart attack followed by a second one 3 days later that took his life. He was 69 years old.

My mother displayed symptoms of Alheimers years before it was actually diagnosed. Her “best friend” Ron took her to Michigan to drop her off at Jim & Bunny’s and then he stole anything not nailed down in my parents’ mobile home. She didn’t know either of my sisters or me when we visited her at the nursing home. She was 83 years old when she passed away on September 29, 2000. I was thankful she didn’t die on my birthday.

I think there are other letters my father wrote to my mother. We have no way of knowing what happened to them. My mother may have burned them when she was busy burning the things her children collected – baseball cards and old comic books—all the negatives from years of photography—many things when they were making plans to move to Florida permanently. I could delve deeply into my mother’s psyche without ever coming close to knowing or understanding what was going on in her mind. I’ve tried to tell her story from an open unbiased point of view but it’s a hard thing to do, being one of her children who was subject to her whims and episodes of anger and her frequent accusations that no one loved her and/or that we loved grandma Schmidt more than her and/or that we loved our father more than her. There are no answers to many questions we are left with years later. My brother Jim & I visited the cemetery when we were in Florida in April 2013; unbeknownst to me, Susie & her family visited the cemetery too. Both parents are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Clearwater Florida, a long way from their birthplace of Cincinnati, Ohio.

–SANDRA LEE (SCHMIDT) SMITH

Reflections:
Jim wrote “Normally your first thoughts are the most accurate and meaningful. I’d go with what you have written. Our lives are near an end but it may make a difference, especially to Scott. You are disclosing a lot of information that our siblings don’t know. I know that my life could have been different if only someone had told me how important it was to continue my education. I felt always sorry for Becky. She got the shaft. Her only recourse was to run away and get married. This was going from bad to worse.

Many times I think of Renee. (Uncle Vince & Aunt Rainy’s oldest child). What are her perceptions? There were only four [children] in the Laehr family. Hopefully our younger brothers and sister can gain some insight into our background and benefit from it.” (June 27, 2014)

We – at least Becky, Jim and I, – have often looked back on our lives and wished we had done things differently. Becky took classes at UC around the same time Aunt Dolly began taking art classes there. Becky could accomplish anything that challenged her – she began working with pottery and her husband Bill put a kiln in their basement; she told Bill she wanted to learn how to fly; he told her to go for it. She got a private pilot’s license. I think the only thing that ever hampered her were her husbands (#1 and #2) who both, I think, were male chauvinists—quite like our father, when you think about it.

Becky was the most mistreated of all of us but you would never guess it from things she wrote—I think she wrote about personal things the way she wished it had been. I know my mother mistreated her; I think mom blamed Becky for an unwanted pregnancy that none of mom’s in-laws would ever let her forget.

And I think Becky yearned for approval and acceptance from both of our parents. I have forgotten many things from my childhood but have never forgotten how Becky was treated—not just when we were children but when she was a young adult as well. I think that’s what motivated and challenged Becky more than the rest of us – she was trying to prove to our parents that she was a good person, that she was smart and could accomplish whatever she set out to do. Becky got married at 15 to get out of the house. Jim went into the Air Force after he graduated from Elder High School. I got married at 18 because I felt trapped—I had taken care of Scott from the time he was born and throughout the summer after graduation; I was hired by Western Southern in September (and the pay was a pittance) – and mom said to me “now that you have a job, you have to pay room and board”. I was furious; it seemed so unfair—no one ever paid ME for taking care of my brothers (not that I expected or wanted it) – it just seemed unfair and so I cried telling im (Smith) about it and he said “Well, we could get married.” I had no idea what I was letting myself in for—but it was one of the few ways a “good” girl could leave her parents home – if I wasn’t going to college—a nice girl didn’t have her own apartment. I’ve often wondered—if I had rented rooms from Grandma, and she had kept her house and not sold it to Aunt Annie – then when Jim came home the two of us would have had an apartment in Grandma’s house—I would have continued working downtown and Jim would have been able to continue his education—and Grandma wouldn’t have lost her will to live by giving up her house.

Maybe we really don’t have a choice in how our lives are mapped out. Jim Smith & I moved to California where Chris & Kelly were born, and began divorce proceedings in 1985. I was fortunate that I had a great job by then and was able to support myself. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I would have been able to buy another house on my own. You have to believe that you are where you are supposed to be as you go through life – otherwise what would have been the purpose to your life?

FOUR DAYS IN RENO
Four days in Reno,
We laughed and talked
And had ourselves a time;
Four days in Reno,
A year ago those days
Were yours and mine..
Little did we realize
The sands of time
Were quickly running past;
Four days in Reno–
I should have known
It couldn’t last.

And now when it’s late at night
And I am in my bed alone,
I remember Reno
And all the happy times we’ve known;
I still can see us smiling
Silhouettes against a snowy mountain sky
And memories I’ll cherish–
Four days that I’ll remember
Til I die.

(In memory of my parents and the last ABC Tournament held in Reno, where I joined my parents in March, 1984 to spend a few days with them – Sandra Lee Smith

THE INVISIBLE MOM

I don’t know who wrote this, but I appreciate the sentiments–Sandy

THE INVISIBLE MOTHER

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock?, Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature — but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:

‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book.
And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.

2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

‘No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN but isn’t this a wonderful tribute for mothers everywhere?

–Sandy

MAKING REALLY GREAT COOKIES – EVERY TIME! (Part 2)

MAKING REALLY GREAT COOKIES – EVERY TIME!

I originally wrote the following blog post in 2012 about making good (or even really great) cookies every time you get the urge to make some homemade cookies.

My new issue of a magazine came in today’s mail & the cover advertised hints for making great cookies – but the teaser turned out to be just a very small block on a page with only a few suggestions for making really great cookies, every time.  I thought to myself “huh! I can come up with a lot more ideas than this!” – and so here I am.

Tip #1 – buy yourself some good cookie sheets. Blackened cookie sheets, even if you cover them with aluminum foil, will not bake as well as nice shiny new cookie sheets. Girlfriends, cookie sheets don’t need to be expensive (I’ve priced them–they CAN be expensive but they don’t need to be. And if you don’t spend a lot on them, you can afford to replace them every few years). And while you are at it, buy some cooling racks. Not expensive! And if you buy parchment paper to line your cookie sheets – and don’t use them for anything else – they will stay nice. You want to invest in about 6 cookie sheets (to be able to have 2 in the oven at one time, one set cooling, one set being covered with cookie dough while the first batch is in the oven). Another thing I treasure is about 6 restaurant-size Bake-lite trays that Kelly’s godfather bought for me many years ago at a restaurant supply house. I put the cooling racks on these trays and it eliminates mess from crumbs. When the kids are doing their cookie-and-craft projects, they each have one of these trays to work on – when sprinkles spill (and they usually do), it’s an easy clean up if you have all the mess contained on a plastic tray.  Roger bought these trays for me back in the day (1970s!) when we made shishkabobs almost every weekend—the prepared shishkabobs would be piled up on one of these restaurant size trays, ready to go to the grill. Probably one of my all-time-all-favorite kitchen utensils.

So tip #2 is, don’t ever put cookie dough on hot (or even warm) cookie sheets. Let them cool down completely. If you are in a big hurry and only have two cookie sheets – run cold water over the ones you want to cool down fast. And I have made a curious discovery–Some cookie dough (like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisins) works BEST at room temperature. Lots of times I like making up cookie dough in the evening & then refrigerating it to start baking the next day. Sometimes you need to let it come back up to room temperature. And when there were just two of us in the house, I often made up the dough and baked them maybe a dozen at a time. Most cookie dough will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Label it something like “turnip puree” so the kids don’t get into it and eat raw cookie dough.

Tip #3 is – buy a TIMER and USE it for every single batch. I have been notorious for burning the last batch of cookies over the years – because I would get distracted, start cleaning up the kitchen, answer the telephone & whoops, when I could smell them I knew they would be burnt. Now I use a timer. Actually I have three timers. I could use one of those I could wear around my neck.

Tip #4 Most cookies can be removed from the oven before they are really brown. Most sugar cookies only need to be a little brown around the edges. I once asked a friend at work why her chocolate chip cookies were so soft and chewy, just perfect – she said she always took them out of the oven in less time than recommended by the cookie recipe. So I began doing that too. You can let them cool a bit on the cookie sheets–they’ll still be just right–and they’ll be easier to remove from the cookie sheets if you let them stand for a minute or two. Meantime you can be putting the next batch into the oven and setting the timer.

Tip #5 – this is my most important tip, in my opinion. When the cookies are half way through baking – if you are using two racks – switch the cookie sheets, top to bottom, bottom to top – AND turn them around the other way. If your oven (like mine) is a little off this will make the cookies all bake evenly at the same time. Wear long mitts so you don’t burn your arms (I burn myself a lot. Ok. I need new mitts). And while I am thinking of it – get yourself a couple of those handy-dandy cookie scoops. This way you can be sure to have all the cookies exactly the same size so they will bake evenly.

Tip #6 If you are making roll out sugar cookies – you want to keep the dough chilled. Take some out of the frig only what you need to roll out some of the dough, keep the rest in the frig in a plastic bag. If the dough gets too soft/warm – put it back into the refrigerator to chill some more. (or stick it into the freezer to cool down faster).

Tip #7 – also about rolled out cookies – it will be so much easier to roll out the dough and handle it – if you sprinkle wax paper with flour and then roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. Less messy, too. Roll out the dough and remove the top sheet of wax paper, then cut out as many cookies as you can (cut them close together–have you ever seen those magazine illustrations showing cut out cookies being made with one or two cut out way apart from one another? What are they thinking?) – you want to handle the dough as little as possible, so cut OUT as many as you can each time you roll out the dough — tossing the bits of dough back into the bowl to mash back together and re-roll (re-chilling if necessary). If I am baking something like all hearts (Valentine’s Day) – I will cut out as many heart-shaped cookies with one size cutter, and then use a smaller heart-shaped cookie cutter on some of the remaining dough-space…but use different cookie sheets for the different sized hearts. (You want to bake same-size cookies together, too. Don’t put small cutout cookies with large ones – the little ones will be burnt before the large ones are finished baking.

Tip #8 BUTTER. If you are going to all the work of making butter/sugar cookies – girlfriends, don’t waste your time with margarine. Buy butter when it’s on sale and keep it in the freezer. You can keep it for a year in the freezer (OK, I have been known to keep it longer than that but I doubt the butter manufacturers recommend it). And you should also consider buying unsalted butter when you find it on sale. Most cookie recipes have salt as an ingredient anyway. Since I first wrote this article, I have switched almost entirely to unsalted butter.

Tip #9 – GOOD UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE – that’s another item I stock up on when I find it on sale. I keep it in a tight fitting plastic container (like Tupperware). And when making chocolate chip cookies – well, I guess there could be a debate over which chocolate chips are the best buy, but for my money, nothing beats Nestle’s semi sweet morsels. I watch for it to be on sale and then USE COUPONS. A few months ago, Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate was on sale at my 99c store—for 99 cents!  I bought several boxes every time I was  in the 99c store and  have it all packed in tight fitting plastic tubs.

Tip #10 – OTHER INGREDIENTS – if you are going to all the work of making homemade cookies, with all the little rug rats underfoot trying to help and people invading your kitchen eating them up as fast as you can bake them – invest in good ingredients. If you buy walnuts or pecans, store them in the freezer in plastic bags. They will last for months (ok, possibly years) in the freezer. They won’t get rancid. Buy large or extra large eggs just to use for baking. Keep flour in a tight fitting plastic container – and oh yes, if you don’t know about BAY LEAVES – let me be the first to tell you.

You can put some BAY LEAVES in any kind of flour or cornmeal or Bisquick or Pancake mix – and you will NOT get any pantry bugs. Put the flour or cornmeal into plastic containers as soon as you bring it home from the supermarket and then stick a couple of bay leaves in with it. (Remember to remove the bay leaves when you scoop out cups of flour-ok, I have found bay leaves in my cookie dough a few times). It always amazes me the number of times I have seen inquiries in magazines – what to do about pantry bugs – and no one tells them BAY LEAVES. I learned this trick from my mother years ago. It works. Bay leaves are cheap (or do as my brother Jim does and grow your own). I have taught my bay leaf trick to two of my daughters in law who have expressed surprise that it WORKS. Also under other ingredients – buy real vanilla extract. It’s worth it.

Ok, those were my ten tips.  Happy Cooking!

Well, while sifting through my fat files of clippings, I found an article by cookie cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum and thought I could share some of her tips with you.   She writes, “One of the nicest things about cookies is that even if they aren’t perfect, they’re still appreciated. At a book signing a few weeks ago, a pastry chef prepared my spritz cookies to give out as sample. She called me the night before, puzzling and upset that they weren’t coming out like mine and the dough seemed very soft.

The next day,” Rose continues, “I realized what the problem had been. Instead of sliced almonds she had used whole almonds. When processed without grating them first, they become very oily, softening the dough. They were still delicious but not the same.”  Rose says if you want your cookies to look like the ones in her cookbook, you may need to pay closer attention to the instructions.

Rose then provided a list of tips, starting with:

  • Use the ingredients called for in the recipe.  Substitutions may present problems.    
  • Measure or weigh carefully. If you add too much flour the cookies will be dry and crumbly. Too little and they will spread and be thin.
  • Bleached all-purpose flour contains eight to 14 grams of protein per four ounces of flour. This is listed on the side of the bag. Lower protein flour will result in more fragile, paler, higher cookies. Unbleached or higher protein flour will result in tougher, browner, flatter cookies (I didn’t know this!)
  • For best flavor, use unsalted butter and unsalted nuts (I only buy unsalted butter to bake with nowadays. I keep Imperial margarine on hand for my youngest son who is unable to digest butter—but when it comes to baking, I stock up on unsalted butter whenever I find it on sale!)
  • Make cookies in the same batch, the same size, shape and thickness arranged in even intervals on the baking sheet for even baking. (I do this – most of the time I have only six cookies to a cookie sheet).
  • Preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes before baking the cookies.
  • Rotate the baking sheets in the oven for even baking (if you have two cookie sheets in the oven, switch the sheets and turn them front to back).
  • Use flat baking sheets with very low sheets so that the air can circulate over the cookies and make them crisp. If you only have a jellyroll pan, simply invert it and place the cookies on the back.
  • Only grease the pans if specified in the recipe. Many cookie doughs have enough butter to keep the cookies from sticking. If the pans are greased, it will cause the cookies to spread too much (*I take exception to this suggestion—I use only parchment paper on all my cookie sheets-sls).
  • Allow baking sheets to cool completely before placing the next batch of dough on them. The cookies will spread too much if placed on hot or warm sheets before being set by the oven’s heat.(*My suggestion to you is to have six or eight cookie sheets on hand. That way you will always have a couple of cool cookie sheets to work with—watch for sales  on household items after Christmas.
  • Don’t overbake cokies. Remove them from the baking sheets as soon as they are rigid enough to transfer and cool them on racks so they remain crisp and do not continue cooking from the heat of the sheets.
  • Cool cookies completely before storing them airtight to maintain the best possible  texture.
  • Store soft cookies together—not with crisp ones. To preserve each cookie’s special flavor, it is best to store each variety in its own container. ** I have bought, over time, about twenty or more Rubbermaid Take-Along containers (available at Walmart). These are the perfect size to layer the baked cookies with sheets of wax paper. When I am baking Christmas cookies, each type of cookie has its own container!
  • Separate layers of cookies with wax paper to keep cookies crisp and to separate those that are sticky.

(How to bake a better cookie from  a newspaper article by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

COOKIES FOR JANUARY, 2014–OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

We spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing cookies from October (Halloween cookies) through November (Thanksgiving themed cookies) to December (Christmas cookies). Then by January, most of the Christmas cookies have been eaten – or all that is left in the tin are broken cookies and some crumbs). The one exception to this was Bob’s hoarding his tin of Springerle that I’d break down and bake every few years—knowing full well he would let them get stale and rock-hard but he’d dunk them in coffee anyway.

Springerle, for the uninitiated are cookies with designs imprinted on the dough with a Springerle rolling pin or board, and then left to dry out overnight. When baked the next day, they will look frosted, like a two-tier cookie. This is a German cookie that goes back probably several hundred years. I used to have a penpal who collected the Springerle boards and rolling pins. I have one small rolling pin and a board with the designs which can be very simple or elaborate.

I thought I’d check with Google and see what else I can tell you about Springerle , from “What’s Cooking in America”

BRIEF HISTORY OF SPRINGERLE
“Springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) – These have been and still are traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries. Springerle are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. Usually rectangular or circular in shape, they have a picture or design stamped on the top. The images are imprinted with specially carved rolling pins or flat molds (Springerle presses, or boards). After the cookies are baked, the designs are sometimes enhanced with edible food colors–or with tempera or acrylic paints, if the cookies are to be used as decorations. Hartshorn is the traditional leavening (it is an ammonia compound).

History: The name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means “little knight” or “jumping horse.” Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest ceremonies included the sacrificing of animals to the gods, in hope that such offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Vestiges of these pagan practices survive in the baking of shaped-and-stamped German Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Frankfurter Brenten, and Springerle.”
This is a good example of how I can easily get off track or digressing—what I want to write about today are cookies you might want to make for January. The most favorite cookie of my youngest son and his family are chocolate chip cookies – a lot of chips can go into the batter but no nuts! (This cramps my style occasionally because I love nuts, especially pecans, in my chocolate chip dough—sometimes when there is just enough dough left for half a dozen cookies, I add walnuts or pecans and keep those aside for me to eat).

I began making Toll House chocolate chip cookies when I was a teenager. When I was 12 or 13, my brother Jim was working part-time with Durkee foods which had a warehouse in Camp Washington; Jim often brought home foodstuffs that were going to be thrown out—canned biscuits was a family favorite; they would often pop open as soon as you began to open the tin; we didn’t care. I often made doughnuts with the canned biscuits. The only other thing I have a vivid memory of making were some packaged chocolate chip cookie mixes; I think all you had to add was water—possibly an egg or two. I imagine these were also outdated products and the mix must have been taken off the market because I don’t remember our getting boxes of outdated mix very long. Or it may have happened that Jim stopped working at the Durkee warehouse where one of our uncles worked as a salesman—when Jim graduated from high school, he immediately enlisted in the Air Force. Then I had to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch—but I also remember making peanut butter cookies, old-fashioned raisin cookies or oatmeal raisin cookies—recipes that were in my mother’s Service Cook Book by Ida Bailey Allen. Inexplicably, that was my mother’s only cookbook, kept in a kitchen drawer—but it was published exclusively for Woolworth’s which may explain why it was there at all. I don’t remember ever being in a 5-and-10 cent store with my mother—if I was with her shopping downtown at all, we visited department stores, such as Lerner’s. When I was old enough to go downtown by myself, my mother would have me make the trips for her. I began going downtown to make payments at Lerner’s for a coat my mother had in layaway—and although I remember making those trips—I was perhaps ten at the time—I don’t remember making the final trip to pick up her coat. She must have done that without my assistance.

In order to make any cookies, I had to find a recipe for which we had all of the ingredients on hand. We almost always had oatmeal, raisins, Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa and basic ingredients such as flour, baking powder or baking soda, eggs and sugar on hand in the pantry.
All of this may explain my love for making cookies—it brings back many memories of my childhood. My two younger brothers, Biff (aka George) and Bill sat on the back steps outside the kitchen door and waited for anything—over baked cookies, for instance.

So, maybe Oatmeal Raisin cookies should be MY choice for January, 2014. When all the special holiday cookies have been eaten or too stale to eat and therefore given to the birds, oatmeal raisin cookies are a good cookie to refill the cookie jar with.

Favorite oatmeal raisin cookies

2 cups sifted flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 2/3 cup packed brown sugar or half brown & half white granulated
4 eggs
1 ½ c. Crisco shortening (original recipe) or 1 ½ c. butter spread
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
2 c raisins or a combination of raisins and dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Sift flour with soda and spices. Now add shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat till smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in oatmeal, nuts and raisins. Bake by heaping tsp onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 12-15m minutes makes about 7 dozen cookies depending on the size. ***
I had been baking batch after batch of oatmeal cookies trying to find the recipe in which the cookies spread very thin and turn out crispy and crunchy—voila! I found it one night in one of my notebooks. I was pretty sure this was the recipe and immediately started putting the ingredients out on the counter. I was so pleased when they came out of the oven – crispy and crunchy and very thin. I think I made these cookies last Christmas, dipping half of each cookie into melted chocolate to make Florentines. I was eating them all by myself .

Towards the end of my baking, I wondered if I chopped walnuts and dried cranberries into very small pieces, would the cookies still spread thin? They DID!

So if a crispy crunchy thin oatmeal cookie is something you would like to try, here it is:

1 ½ cups old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
8 TBSP (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
6 TBSP apple butter*
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend butter, apple butter, and sugars until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend. Add the oat mixture and mix until blended. Drop batter, about 2 tbsp at a time (I use a cookie scoop) onto parchment-paper lined baking sheets. Bake 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; cool slightly on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

*I didn’t have any apple butter. But I do have jars of homemade apple sauce on hand (any kind of apple sauce should do) – I dumped a quart of apple sauce into a crockpot and added some brown sugar and molasses. I let it cook down on medium, with the lid off, until it was thick.
To make a fancier holiday cookie, melt chocolate and dip the baked and cooled cookies halfway in. I have a Wilton Melting Chocolate pot and it’s wonderful for keeping melted chocolate at the right temperature. (Pick one up when you have a 40 or 50 percent off coupon—it’s the best time to get yourself one. My daughter in law loved mine so much that she bought chocolate pots for herself and her sisters last year, after using mine.

*One more note: this recipe says bake 18 minutes. Well, by trial and error, I have learned that what may be 18 minutes at sea-level will burn to a crisp in the high desert. These cookies baked completely in 12-13 minutes where we are (3000 ft altitude) – I can’t tell you how many sheets of cookies or batches of candy I burned the first couple of years living in the Antelope Valley. When I was making pralines, 234 degrees on a candy thermometer is too much at this altitude—I had to get the candy off the stove a lot sooner. I couldn’t believe that our mere “3000 ft elevation” could make that much difference—but it does. Just sharing that with you.

There are many recipes for oatmeal raisin cookies but the two above shared with you are my absolute favorites. Chocolate Chip cookies are next, for February!

–Sandra Lee Smith

THE SOUP BIBLE

“Beautiful soup so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen
Who for dainties would not stoop
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”
–the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland

THE SOUP BIBLE FROM PUBLICATIONS INTERNATIONAL, published in 2010, appears to be a group effort with no one person receiving top accolades; the CEO of the company, Louis Weber, is listed on the copyright.

This was a Christmas present from Auntie Sara and Nana, my daughter in law’s sister and mother—it always amazes me when someone gifts me with a cookbook I don’t have! I love soup cookbooks—but then, I really love making different kinds of soup. I tend to go overboard and end up with too much soup but freeze the excess in one of those two-quart Glad plastic containers that are perfect size when frozen. If you pop the frozen sop out of the container and re-store it in a plastic freezer bag, then you can write on the bag with a Sharpee pen as to the contents. I give “bricks” like these to my girlfriend Mary Jaynne, who lives in Pine Mountain (about an hour and a half north of me) – MJ no longer cares if she cooks or not so they welcome the soups. And in return, she does all my mending. It’s a great barter system.

Over the New Year’s Eve and Day, I made two pots of soup – partly to use up some leftovers from company dinners and partly because it feels like soup weather. One pot contains Beef Taco Tortilla Soup and the other is Vegetable Beef & Barley.

Yesterday, though, I put all the leftover meat and the bones from a prime rib roast into my pressure cooker and let the contents cook for about an hour. When I was finished, and had removed the bones—I had over a quart, maybe two, of well cooked beef as well as about 3 quarts of beef stock. Once it was chilled, I could easily remove the fat.

I love homemade soup stocks – it has so much potential. And what can be more satisfying than a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter day or night? With a few Saltine crackers and a couple slices of some Tillamook cheese, I’m ready to settle down for dinner while watching Jeopardy! Or Wheel of Fortune. I also make my own dried tortilla strips from flour tortillas, a few stacked together and cut into strips, they dry out in no time on a cookie sheet in my oven, which has a pilot light always lit. There are some advantages to having an old stove.

One thing I really like about the new Soup Bible is that the recipes are generally not too long or convoluted and each is accompanied by a photograph of the connecting recipe.

(I have another Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew—it may interest you to know that a book title cannot be copyrighted so oftentimes you will find several, albeit different, cookbooks with the same title). My other Soup Bible is a large book and not always the handiest to work with in the kitchen. The new Soup Bible cookbook was a compilation by the editors of Favorite Brand Name Recipes).

Since I did make a pot of beef taco tortilla soup the other day, I turned to recipes for Turkey Taco Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup and Tortilla Soup with Grouper. (Grouper is a nice white fish available in Florida but not California, so I would suggest using any kind of mild white fish with this recipe).

There are many quick and easy recipes in The Soup Bible—catching my attention is CHEESY MEXICAN SOUP, SWEET POTATO BISQUE WITH GINGER. And BLACK & WHITE MEXICAN BEAN SOUP and ALBONDIGAS SOUP! Oh, and POTATO SPINACH SOUP WITH GOUDA! What fun it will be to try all these new and different recipes.

Years ago, my girlfriend, Mandy, and I frequently made up a pot of soup over the weekend and then would bring jars of it to work to reheat (to the chagrin of other employees in the kitchen at the same time). We often experimented with new or different recipes. Oftentimes, when I brought a jar of soup to work with us, she’d show up with something different but invariably something that complimented the soup. We frequently speculated that we could have gone into business at the office (or some of the other offices nearby) selling soup and a sandwich to other employees.

The Soup Bible by the Editors of Favorite Brand Name Recipes is available on Amazon.com. The Soup Bible by Editors of Favorite Brand Name Recipes (Sep 8, 2010) can be yours for $7.35 new, or starting at 6.43 pre-owned.

My thanks to Auntie Sara and Nana for the inspiration to write this review on the 2nd day of January, 2014.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith

Counting down to New Year’s Eve 2013

In California at almost 9 a.m., it’s a sunny morning on December 31st. I think of my Australian friends and penpals who are twelve hours ahead of us (I hope I got that right) – and in Great Britain, I believe they are six hours ahead of California (or maybe it’s nine hours) where I have a penpal in England, —I tried googling this information but am getting different answers. Per Google, we can be 12 to 17 hours behind Australia.

Well, I am on the west coast in California, and my Aussie penpals are in western Australia, near Perth. (I will have to send out some emails to penpals before I post this!) – Time zones have always perplexed me—although I am well aware of the three hours ahead the east coast and my relatives and friends are in Florida. My son in South Dakota is 2 hours ahead of us – and here in California we are 3 hours behind New York—where I have another penpal in Ithaca, New York.

Speaking of penpals, my penpal Bev and her husband Leroy are on their way here from mid-Oregon. Bev and I became penpals in 1974; together we’ve watched our children grow up, marry, and become parents, making us grandparents. We will have a prime rib roast for dinner and then play some Scrabble.

Two other long-time penpals have been with me through thick and thin—and me with them; along with Bev, my penpal, Betsy, lives in Michigan and the other, Eileen, is in Western Australia in a retirement community. Those two penpals became my correspondence friends in 1965.

That isn’t really what I intended to write about when I sat down to wish my Sandychatter friends a Happy New Year where ever you are. Last year my Oregon friends and I celebrated with a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner of sauerkraut and sausages.

Let me share some thoughts about traditional New Year’s eve/day foods for good luck and prosperity:

NEW YEAR’S EVE & NEW YEAR’S DAY MEALS FOR GOOD LUCK
Throughout most of written history, we know that people have eaten certain foods on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, hoping for riches, love, or other good fortune. For people of some nationalities, ham or pork has long been considered the luckiest thing to eat on New Year’s Day. You might wonder how the pig became associated with the concept of good luck but in Europe during medieval times, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Since pigs are associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat, it might be one explanation for having pork on New Year’s Day.

Austrians, Swedes, and Germans frequently chose pork or ham for their New Year’s meal and brought this tradition with them when they came to America. Germans and Swedes often picked cabbage as a lucky side dish and in my parents’ home, pork and sauerkraut was served at midnight on New Years Eve, along with mashed potatoes and creamed peas. (It might not have been so lucky, going to bed after eating such a hearty meal as after midnight!)

Turkey is considered lucky in some countries; Bolivians and residents in New Orleans follow this custom. Fish is considered lucky food by people in the northwestern part of the United States who may eat salmon. Some Germans and Poles eat herring, which may be served in a cream sauce or pickled. Other Germans eat carp.

Sometimes sweets or pastries are eaten for luck. In the colony of New Amsterdam, now New York, the Dutch settlers still enjoy these treats. Germans often ate doughnuts while the French have traditionally celebrated with pancakes. In some places, a special cake is made with a coin baked inside. (Curiously, my German grandmother fried doughnuts with a coin inside each – on the Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany, celebrated January 6th). Such cakes are traditional in Greece, which celebrates Saint Basil’s Day and New Year’s at the same time. The Saint Basil’s Day cake is made of yeast dough and flavored with lemon. The person who gets the slice with the silver or gold coin is considered very lucky!

Many of the luck-bringing foods are round or ring-shaped, because this signifies that the old year has been completed. Black-eyed peas are an example of this, and they are part of one of New Year’s most colorful dishes, Hoppin’ John, which is eaten in many southern states. Hoppin’ John is made with black-eyed peas or dried red peas, combined with hog jowls, bacon, or salt pork. Rice or other vegetables may be added. The children in the family might even hop around the table before the family sits down to eat this lucky dish.

In Brazil, lentils are a symbol of prosperity, so lentil soup or lentils with rice is traditional for the first meal of the New Year.

Thousands of miles away, the Japanese observe their New Year’s tradition of eating a noodle called toshikoshi soba. (This means “sending out the old year.”) This buckwheat noodle is quite long, and those who can swallow at least one of them without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life. (Or maybe the luck might be not choking on the long noodle!)

In Portugal and Spain people have an interesting custom. When the clock strikes midnight, people in these countries eat twelve grapes or raisins to bring them luck for all twelve months of the coming year.

The ancient Romans gave gifts of nuts, dates, figs, and round cakes. Northern Italians began the new year eating lentils to symbolize coins. In the Piedmont region of Italy, the New Year’s Day meal of risotto signified wealth with its abundance of small grains. Another Italian custom is to eat sweets for a year of good luck. It can be as simple as a raisin or a more elaborate, almond-filled cake in the shape of a snake. As a snake sheds its old skin and leaves it behind, this cake symbolizes leaving the past behind as a new year begins.

In Spain, you are promised good luck in the New Year if, at midnight, you eat one grape with each stroke of the clock.

Dumplings are a traditional New Year’s food in northern China. Because they look like nuggets of gold, they are thought to signal good fortune.

The Vietnamese celebrate their new year in late January and eat carp – a round-bodied fish thought to carry the god of good luck on its back.

Cambodians celebrate their new year in April by eating sticky rice cakes made with sweet beans.

In Iran, the New Year is celebrated in March, when grains of wheat and barley are sprouted in water to symbolize new life. Coins and colored eggs are placed on the table, which is set for a special meal of seven foods that begin with the letter “s”.

Last year, I posed this question – special foods to welcome in the New Year – to some friends. Lorraine wrote that at her mother’s they always had Menudo on New Years; she says her friend Geri always has Black Eyed Peas. My friend Patti who lives in Cincinnati wrote “Sauerkraut, Limburger cheese & Pickled Pigs Feet…I did not partake”.
Penpal Penny who lives in Oklahoma wrote “Here on New Year’s Day ……black-eyed peas and hog jowl……for good luck, greens…..for financial good luck then of course you have to have cornbread and fried potatoes. I always fix slaw though any kind of greens will do. You just want to make sure you eat PLENTY of both of the peas and greens!! Good ole poke salad ( or as the old timers would say…. poke salit ) would be wonderful with it….some years I’ve lucked out and found plenty in the spring and had a bag or two in the freezer.”

And girlfriend Sylvia wrote, “We eat black eyed peas!! I think that is a southern thing…”

From my penpal Bev, in Oregon, I received this email, “My family had no New Years Eve or day traditions…When I was 40 became acquainted with a shy, soft spoken…gal when I went to Chemeketa Community College. She was taking classes as background for writing. and had in her mind a book she wanted to write…To my surprise, she was a member of MENSA. That was probably the first time I had ever heard of that elite society. Anyway, she and her husband invited us to their home for New Years Day, and served some type of beans. Seems to me it was limas. Have you heard of that before? This couple had lived in Japan but I can’t imagine beans being a good luck dish from that part of the world…” (In a subsequent email Bev decided it might have been black-eyed peas they were served).

Email penpal, Marge, wrote “My grandmother was a first generation American born of German immigrants in Nebraska. While that was not our usual New Year’s fare, we ate sauerkraut often especially in the winter time, and she used pork tails in hers often and often pork ribs while she cooked the kraut. I rarely make sauerkraut though Dorman likes it. I know some people make (sauerkraut) with bratwurst sausage…”

Chris, a member of a support email group I belong to, wrote “As far as New Year’s Eve, I remember my grandpa always bringing home herring. It came in a squat jar in kind of a vinegar sauce. I don’t buy it anymore but it’s pretty popular in the grocery stores around here during the holidays.”

Rosie, a penpal who leads a prayer group, wrote “I never had anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day but Bernie always used to eat pickled herring on New Year’s Day before we were married. It meant a prosperous year or something. He’s German and Belgium so I’m assuming it’s one of those traditions”

And in my household, we returned to the custom of pork and sauerkraut, reflecting the German heritage of both Bob and myself. But this year, we are celebrating with a Prime Rib Roast dinner.

May 2014 bring us all good luck and happiness. Thank you for being such loyal subscribers to the Sandychatter blog.
Sandy@sandychatter

CONFESSIONS OF A JUNK MAIL JUNKIE

When I was perhaps seven or eight years old—old enough to read my brother’s comic books—I discovered “ADS”. These ads were for free stamps – with approvals. Now, I certainly didn’t know what approvals were—nor did I know much about stamps (other than it took a 3 cent stamp to mail a letter or one cent to mail a postcard) – but I was captivated by the word “FREE”.  Now pre-paid postcards, from the post office, were one cent each and for ten cents (which was often the most I ever had) you could mail ten one cent postcards (hard to believe, isn’t it?)  I was constantly earning pennies running errands or selling greeting cards for my mother, which she bought and then sold from Cardinal Craftsman card company. I began using the penny postcards to send for the “FREE” stamps and when they came, on sheets of onionskin paper, with accompanying letters and literature, I blithely threw away anything that wasn’t a stamp, which I kept in a large dress box with my paper dolls. (In hindsight, I am baffled that my father never opened these packets of stamps—he opened all the other mail—the first time I submitted an article, printed in pencil, to My Weekly Reader—when I was in the second or third grade—my father opened that and read it before giving it to me—without any comment.  Why didn’t he open the envelopes containing the stamps?  I’ll never know.

At some point in time, when my cousin Margie and her siblings were visiting us, I showed the stamps to her. She expressed an interest in them, so I gave all of them to her and that was the end of my stamp collecting. By then, the stamp company began sending me threatening letters about my unpaid account. I confessed to my mother, who wrote to the stamp company explaining that their customer was eight years old and didn’t know any better and I learned what “with approvals” meant.

Now, you would think that this experience would have cured me but from early on, I was enchanted with the idea of receiving mail and even more thrilling was receiving things in the mail, free of change. In the 1940s, magazines such as Life and Look were filled with ads for things you could get FREE. One day I found a stack of old LIFE magazines in my grandmother’s basement. With never a thought that the magazines might someday become valuable, I began cutting out all the little coupons advertising FREE things. Along the way, I made another discovery. I wrote to the Cuticura people one day telling them how much I loved their soap and what do you know! They began sending me free gift packages with shampoo and big bars of cuticura soap. I also discovered that most food companies, at that time, offered free recipe booklets. These usually advertised not only in women’s magazines, but also on the backs of cans and boxes—such as baking powder, baking soda, Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa. I began searching through all the containers in the pantry, reading the labels, searching for free booklet offers. The only limitation to this enterprise was acquiring enough pennies to buy more postcards. (one source was empty soda pop bottles, which were good for 2 cents each in the grocery stores. Everyone I knew—myself included—searched for pop bottles to redeem at the grocery store on the corner (Finke’s was on the corner of Pulte and Beekman while Mary’s was farther up on Pulte—there were numerous little mom-and-pop grocery stores and saloons all over Fairmount. Fred’s Cafe was on the other corner of Pulte and Beekman Streets.)

Before long, I had acquired a good size stack of free recipe booklets. With my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen Service Cookbook and my stack of free recipe booklets, I began to learn how to cook. (My original collection of recipe booklets was lost, probably when my husband Jim and I made so many moves. When we first came to California—with what could be packed inside the car (or tied to the roof, like a baby bed) was mostly what we needed for our one year old child—many personal things were packed in my mother in law’s shed. The floor to that shed caved in one winter and my belongings were mostly trashed by the elements. My in-laws retrieved what they could but my scrapbooks, childhood dolls & other things were all lost. [and the concept of storage units was years away).

Throughout most of my adult life, I had been a “refunder”—saving proofs of purchases or box tops—to redeem for cash or premium offers…in 1970-1971, I saved all the money from refunding to pay for a trip to Ohio for entire family—by then my husband, myself, and four children. Back then, you could travel with a young child on your lap; I held one child and Jim held the other. We had two young children only 15 months apart.

One year I acquired half a dozen basketballs, free – for my sons and for my friends’ sons. Another time I acquired dolls for the girls. (I would use my own address as well as the addresses of close friends or neighbors.

One summer when I was in Ohio with three of the children –our oldest son stayed home with his father – the two of them opened all my refunding mail and kept the cash for themselves. That may have spelled the end of refunding for cash unless it was a check.  And I really don’t remember all the things I acquired free, so I asked my penpal, Penny, who became a penpal in the 1960s and with whom I frequently exchanged refund forms and occasionally the POPs (proof of purchases needed to fulfill a refund offer). She wrote this back to me:

There were, she writes, basket and baseballs, baseball bats, all sorts of T-shirts (I particularly remember the Smuckers and Reeses shirts) Fisher Price Snoopy Sniffer, stuffed toys, snuggle bear, mama, papa, and baby panda bears, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, a few Tonka trucks, Hot Wheel cars, Del Monte veggie pillows, Libby’s red wagons, baby clothes from Dreft.

There were also band aid wall sconces, Tide set of Melmac dishes, Kellogg’s silverware (which she still has), the glasses and cup sets from laundry detergents, free socks and boys/men’s underwear from Hanes, Hanes sports shorts and sweats, Duncan Hines cake pans (which Penny still has).

She thinks the following are from the 1980s..Camel/Salem free basketballs, baseballs, VHS recorder/player, sony camcorder, 19” tvs, boom boxes—this was a military form that failed to say so..and there were NO limits on the items you could get. Penny says “we picked up packages [from cigarettes] from the side of the road, bought them for 5 cents each, had the guys in the Tulsa county jail saving them for us…I got MANY duplicate things, mainly the basketballs, boom boxes, TVs and VHS recorder/players. Most cigarette brands were offering premiums and I got sooooo many. Sold the Marlboro setuff on Ebay and made over $500.00..”  (Penny did a lot more refunding than I did!).

Back when I was a young child, my mother saved the labels from Wilson’s Evaporated milk – which were redeemable at a small store in downtown Cincinnati – I know that I turned in batches of the labels, stapled together in groups of ten (for dish towels or other small kitchen items) and we all saved S&H green stamps to get free items.

I think it goes hand in hand with all the refunding Penny & I did when our sons were young boys—me with four sons, her with three.  Free was good – not so different from the free samples of Cuticura soap and recipe booklets that I acquired in the mail when I was a child!

And now you know the rest of the story!

–Sandra Lee Smith

THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT

THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT PROVIDES ENCHANTING COOKBOOKS!

What is it about cookbooks from New Mexico?  There’s those delectable southwestern recipes, of course—but we have delectable southwestern recipes in California, too—and a few years ago when I was in Albuquerque for a few days with my brother Jim, (for a bowling tournament – I flew, he drove) we had the opportunity to drive up into the mountains and have a fantastic dinner with a group of other bowlers and their wives or adult children. The house they had rented for a week was fairly new and decidedly southwestern in décor. The cover on a cookbook titled A TASTE OF ENCHANTMENT and the living room featured on the cover reminded me quite a bit of that house we visited in the mountains. But what IS it about New Mexico’s club-and-church cookbooks that beckon me? 

The city of Albuquerque, though, reminded me of the Antelope Valley in California, where I now live. It has that same high desert look and feel about it, right down to the cacti and lavender bushes which we saw growing wild on some streets. Albuquerque’s Old Town reminds me somewhat of Los Angeles’ “old town” – Olvera Street, the oldest street in Los Angeles (across the street from our train station), is crowded on both sides and down the middle with every imaginable Mexican souvenir, shoes, purses, clothing, candy, snacks—it’s a tourist haven. I wish we could have spent more time in Albuquerque but we were there for the bowling tournament and everything else we did was extra. I vowed to return—meantime, I will visit Albuquerque vicariously through a cookbook or two!

Albuquerque is the most populous city in New Mexico. It is the county seat of Bernalillo County, and it is situated in the central part of the state, straddling the Rio Grande. The city population was 555,417 as of the July 1st, 2012 population estimate from the United States Census Bureau and ranks as the 32nd-largest city in the U.S. It has a 2012 estimated metropolitan population of 901,700 according to the US Census.

Albuquerque is home to the University of New Mexico (UNM), Presbyterian Health ServicesKirtland Air Force BaseSandia National Laboratories, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and Petroglyph National Monument (I would like to visit the latter). The Sandia Mountains run along the eastern side of Albuquerque, and the Rio Grande flows through the city, north to south

Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as the Spanish colonial outpost of Ranchos de Albuquerque. Present-day Albuquerque retains much of its historical Spanish cultural heritage.

Albuquerque was a farming community and strategically located military outpost along the Camino Real. The town was also the sheep-herding center of the West. Spain established a presidio (military garrison) in Albuquerque in 1706. After 1821, Mexico also had a military garrison there. The town of Albuquerque was built in the traditional Spanish village pattern: a central plaza surrounded by government buildings, homes, and a church. This central plaza area has been preserved and is open to the public as a museum, cultural area, and center of commerce. It is referred to as “Old Town Albuquerque” or simply “Old Town.” Historically it was sometimes referred to as “La Placita” (little plaza in Spanish). On the north side of Old Town Plaza is San Felipe de Neri Church. Built in 1793, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city. (My brother and his bowling buddy, John, and I visited old town and had a wonderful dinner at one of the old southwestern restaurants in Old Town. A band was playing in the Gazebo when we were there. We were unable to visit the church as a wedding was underway inside.

If you have a sense of what Albuquerque looks like, then let me present you with A  TASTE OF ENCHANTMENT/Treasured Recipes from the Junior League of Albuquerque. Not surprisingly, it was published by Favorite Recipes Press, which I have mentioned to you several times in the past. One of the first things I do anymore is check to see who published a cookbook, especially if I find it extremely well done. The photographer was Peter Vitale. My copy is a 2001 first printing that is in like-new condition.

In the Introduction, the Junior League of Albuquerque tells us, “New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment. For centuries, New Mexico has captivated the hearts of residents and visitors alike. We have a society that is muy simpatico, a gentle blending of Native American, Hispano, Anglo and other cultures that provide a lifestyle unlike any other.

Experiencing New Mexico,” they continue, “is a feast for the senses. Landscapes of majestic mountains, expansive sand dunes, and open space as far as the eye can see produce a quality of light that results in turquoise skies by day and opalescent sunsets of vivid reds, pinks, purples, and orange.”

Their tastes and attitudes, they tell us, are varied and plentiful; they can be formal with a southwestern flair or casual, yet sophisticated. They are unique n the manner in which they entertain and in the way each cook infuses into her dishes her own personal taste of enchantment.

“Our cultures, topography, attitudes and cuisine,” write the Junior Leaguers, “are ingredients for a delicious recipe for living…As we gather at our tables, each of these influences is present; none overpowers the other…”

“Within these pages” they proudly offer, “you will find treasured recipes for both cooking and living. We offer our highly esteemed traditional fare alongside new and inventive dishes that reflect modern-day southwestern lifestyles. Our favorite restaurants have graciously provided their perennial pleasures to enhance your enchanted journey into New Mexico’s cuisine and culture.”   

Following the Introduction is a page titled “Is it Chile or Chili?”  Either one is actually correct (I’ve always been curious.)  Instructions follow for roasting the exterior of your chilies and then putting them into a plastic bag for about 15 minutes – the skins will peel right off after you do this—for, you will discover, chiles are an intricate part of all Mexican and southwestern cuisines.

Then there are the recipes—along with some of Peter Vitale’s exquisite photographs. (I confess, I didn’t know who Peter Vitale is so I began Googling his name and got a crash course in Peter Vitale’s photography—I only wished there had been more of his photographs in A Taste of Enchantment!, which he generously donated to the Junior Leaguers

Each chapter is prefaced with short essays about New Mexico. Under the chapter for Adobe Aperitivo, (Appetizers), you will find a short essay about the Art of Albuquerque and how it can be seen everywhere you turn throughout this enchanting city. Recipes under Appetizers range from Asparagus (which grows wild in some places in and around New Mexico) and Prosciutto Bundles and Aztec Artichoke Squares to Spiced Carrots With Dill (which I will have to make) to Southwestern Stuffed Mushrooms which includes a couple of tablespoons of BUENO frozen green chile….I simply had to Google BUENO and discovered BUENO Foods is a southwestern family enterprise that has been in business for over 60 years. Californians may be able to find their products at Albertson’s supermarkets but if you Google BUENO Foods, you will find them listed in over ten states. (I was pleased to find a BUENO FOODS mail order at the back of the book as well as a website address).  Sorry, I digressed. Also under appetizers find recipes for Mushroom-Stuffed French Bread and Tailgater Brie, Kalamata Tapenade, and Hot Rueben Spread—this and much more.

Very Verde, a chapter of Salads, also contains a short essay on the Mystery of the Anasazi.  Anasazi is Navajo for “The Ancient Ones”. The Anasazi formed communities in the southwest around 400 A.D. and despite their extensive thriving communities, around n 1300 A.D. the Anasazi sites were mysteriously abandoned, leaving few clues to their departure. In the Salad chapter, I was charmed to find Kumquat Winter Salad (we had a dwarf kumquat tree when I lived in Arleta), and Margarita Coleslaw that I look forward to trying! There is also a Roasted Pecan Slaw and a Napa Slaw with Snow Peas, Jicama Salad with Oranges and Marinated Asparagus, to name a few.  I look forward to trying many of these recipes; Southwestern Cobb Salad provides an interesting twist on traditional Cobb Salad and a  Cilantro Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing that begs to be tried. Ditto Wild Rice Chicken Salad.

Other chapters are Fireside Fiestas (Soups and Stews), Sandia Sunrises (Breads and Brunch), Simpatico Sides (Vegetables and Side Dishes), Comidas by Candlelight (Entrees) and Enchanted Endings (Desserts). Not to be overlooked is MI CASA ES SU CASA (translates to my house/castle is your house/castle) which contains recipes sure to become favorites—Chili con Queso from Jane Butel (whom I have written about before), Gringo Red Chile Sauce, Red Chile Sauce (for the not-so-faint-hearted), Spicy Green Chile Sauce, Salsa Supreme, Stuffed Green Chiles, Tortilla Soup and many more.

A TASTE OF ENCHANTMENT stays true, throughout, to its southwestern roots—something I appreciate enormously. Not all regional cookbooks do.  

It is available at Amazon.com, new, for $25.00 or pre-owned starting at 48c. I found it also listed on Alibris.com also new for $25.00 or pre-owned starting at 99c. (Alibris has quite a few pre-owned copies).  **

Next, I’d like to introduce you to SIMPLY SIMPATICO, also from the Junior League of Albuquerque, but this one was compiled in 1981 and has gone through numerous printings—all the way up to ninth printing in July, 1999 and it was apparently shortly after the ninth printing that the Junior Leaguers decided to compile a new cookbook which resulted in THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT in 2001.

SIMPLY SIMPATICO is spiral bound with a gorgeous turquoise and red cover. It was also a Tabasco Hall of Fame award winner. This no-nonsense thick cookbook is packed with recipes that will delight everyone who loves southwestern cuisine and/or collects cookbooks. This is sure to become a favorite for everyone enamored of southwestern cuisine.

Simply Simpatico is dedicated to New Mexico’s heritage and to the congenial style of living that has emerged from its unique cultural matrix. It focuses on the cornucopia of foods which so vividly reflect the lifestyles and culinary traits of modern-day New Mexicans – foods that have roots in New Mexico’s past, but which are a contemporary expression of today’s gracious, casual simpatico living.

One of the features I most appreciate about SIMPLY SIMPATICO are the numerous Mexican/Southwestern recipes that are presented with straight forward directions—recipes for tacos, enchiladas, chile Rellenos, tamales, burritos and arroz con pollo—just to name a few—are presented under Comida Simpatica—Native dishes—right in the front of the cookbook, where they will be easily found whenever the mood hits you. In my household –as well as that of my youngest son—a southwestern dinner is generally presented at least once a week. We both keep flour tortillas on hand in the frig for the grandkids who live closest to me to make their own cheese quesadillas when they get home from school and both households are fairly well stocked with other ingredients to make a good tasting snack. My daughter in law and I don’t follow the same recipe for making taco meat but either recipe works well for taco salads. Simply Simpatico translates, in case you are curious, to “simply handsome”, a term, that embraces, say the Junior Leagues of Albuquerque, their cultures and their lifestyles.

I’m looking forward to trying many of the recipes featured in SIMPLY SIMPATICO.

All the recipes sound delish; you may want to try all of them—for openers, do a southwestern dinner for your next dinner party. I also like the Glossary of food terms which will please a southwestern cuisine novice. It is followed by  a couple pages on chiles and burritos, offered as part of the introduction, before you dive into Comida Simpatica—a generous presentation of everyday southwestern favorites which even includes Mexican Chocolate Sauce and Mexican Wedding Cookies. There isn’t much that I’m not familiar with, which makes me smile, thinking how—back in 1965—when a coworker became a friend, I didn’t even know what a TACO tasted like. My coworker set out to change all that.

Recipes found under Appetizers include Guacamole Dip, Harlequin Dip (which I’ve never heard of before), Frijole Dip (j is silent), Green Chile Dip—and many others. There are many different recipes for spreads, such as Almond Cheese Spread or Beef-and-Cheese Spread, Cheese in a Bread Bowl, Tuna And Pistachio Pate or Salmon Party Ball, Taquitas (rolled taco appetizers)—and many others. The most difficult part of planning a southwestern party theme might be trying to limit yourself to just a few of the many appetizer recipes; you might want to consider making one of these appetizers each week for your family so you can plan ahead for a future party.

Some years ago, Bob & I held at least a few large parties a year…after decades of indecision regarding party food, I began serving just appetizers. You can’t go wrong –guests can help themselves and are able to walk around talking to other guests while nibbling on some appetizers—if they find something they don’t like, they can go back and get something else. (and if someone asks what can they bring, you can say “a favorite appetizer” or “a bottle of your favorite wine”.)  One of the best Christmas parties we ever hosted was with a southwestern theme; four of our guests were from Mexico City, here visiting friends—they took over making a huge amount of guacamole—and then taught some of our other guests how to dance the salsa, which was popular that year. I had hardwood floors and a big living room. It was one of our best and most popular holiday parties.    

There is a chapter in SIMPLY SIMPATICO called BEVERAGES which offers some sangria recipes, Champagne Sipper which makes 25 servings, Rum Punch, which serves 30, or Ripsnortin Punch which makes 40-50 servings. There IS a recipe for making margaritas but the recipe given only makes 4 servings – you might want to double or triple the ingredients if it’s for a party. Or—choose from one of the many other recipes.

Other chapters include Soups and Sandwiches. Breads, Vegetables, Salads, Meats, Poultry, Cakes, Pies & Cookies…one of my favorites is  “Accompaniments” with its assortment of sauce recipes (How about Mandarin Orange-Grape Sauce for poultry? Or perhaps a simple Orange Basting Sauce? There is a recipe for Mild Homemade Taco Sauce you will want to mix when you have some spare time & keep it on hand and one I can’t wait to make – New Mexican Seasoning Mix, or how about Sangria Jelly or Jalapeno Jelly? These are just a few of the recipes found in Accompaniments and just a sampling of the many different recipes to be found in SIMPLY SIMPATICO.

You’ll be pleased to know that Amazon.com has many copies of SIMPLY SIMPATICO available new it can be yours for $5.50 and pre-owned starting at 33c. Alibris.com cannot compete with the Amazon.com prices this cookbook; when I checked, there was only one copy available and it was priced at $9.99.    ***

The third cookbook in this grouping isn’t from Albuquerque – but it’s still New Mexico and this time the focus is on Santa Fe. The title is THE CUISINE OF SANTA FE, LA CASA SENA.  Published n 1994 by Ten Speed Press—La Casa Sena isn’t a junior league cookbook, either!  Co-authors Gordon Heiss and John Harrisson have compiled this unique cookbook. Heiss, who grew up in his father’s hotels in St. Louis Missouri and has a lifelong commitment to the restaurant and hotel business.  Harrisson grew u p in England, where he helped establish the Sigmund Freud Museum. After moving to the United States, Harrisson has worked with many chefs in the world of cooking.

I wondered what “Sena” meant, knowing that Casa means home, or castle. I was bemused with myself when I did some Googling, to learn that  “Sena” was the name of one of the oldest and most notable families in Santa Fe. Built in 1868, Sena Plaza is one of the oldest surviving houses in Santa Fe. It is located just one block from the city’s plaza and just across the street from the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis Assissi.  La Casa Sena, which means “The Sena House” occupies an old hacienda style adobe. The Sena family was one of the oldest and most notable in Santa Fe.

What makes La Casa Sena particularly unique is that a premier collection of Southwestern and Native American art adorns the walls, but not to be overlooked are the meals served for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.  La Casa Sena, the cookbook, offers over 150 recipes served at the restaurant. And, in addition to recipes, there is a list of the artwork adorning the restaurant’s walls, along with a chapter explaining the history of Santa Fe, but especially the history of La Casa Sena.

Unique recipes begin (Breakfast or Brunch) with Blue Corn Crepes, Blue Corn and Cheese Blintzes, Roast Beef Burritos—or if you prefer, a Vegetable Burrito, Catalina Enchiladas or Turkey Enchiladas. Bread recipes include Whole Wheat Tortillas (yes, from scratch!) to Blue Corn Muffins and Galletas (Galletas, we learn, is the name for a small Southwestern loaf of bread and at La Casa Sena, it is used as an edible bowl for Black Bean Soup. I, for one, want to try making the Pumpernickel Rye Bread – I come from a European background that had us all growing up with rye bread. But don’t overlook a recipe for making your own Sourdough Starter – and then you can use it making Sourdough Rye Bread (which I have never before seen on a  menu!)

Under Appetizers you will find a recipe for Red Onion Salsa, Cantina Nachos, Corn Tamales and Black Bean Tamales—and surely distinctive, Shrimp and Smoked Cheddar Flautas. But there are other appetizers to salivate over.

In SOUPS & STEWS, I found a recipe for Vegetarian Black Bean Soup (I immediately thought of a girlfriend of mine who was a vegetarian who loved black beans). Also for vegetarians is Black Bean Soup en galleta which simply means with tomato salsa. Santa Fe Vegetable Soup is also tempting for vegetarians although it contains chicken stock. If you prefer, you could use vegetarian bouillon instead but I think I would prefer this with homemade chicken stock. Yum!

Other soup recipes include Roasted Corn and Chipotle Soup, Tomato Garlic Soup, Yellow Split Pea Soup and—my favorite—Sopa de Albondigas (which means meatballs) but it can be made, say the authors, with chicken or beef, with meatballs or dumplings—a most versatile recipe.

Other chapters feature Salads & Dressings, Fish & Seafood, Poultry & Fowl, Meat & game—and my favorite! An entire chapter devoted to sauces, basics & marinades. Included are recipes for Red Chile Sauce, Green Chile Sauce—even Croutons—as well as marinades for salmon, other fish, shrimp, chicken breasts, pork and beef.

Desserts offered include Chocolate Truffles, Mexican Brownies, Lemon Custard Tart—and many other recipes.

What I have left for last is a special mention of all the art work adorning the walls at La Casa Sena – the cookbook is decorated throughout with some of the special American Native art work. Impressive? Very!

La Casa Sena, which explores the cuisine AND the art of New Mexico, is available on Amazon.com for $20.00. I found a number of copies starting at one cent. Of course, shipping when you make purchases from private vendors, is $3.99 – still, not a bad price for a hardbound cookbook with a dust jacket – that is literally packed with historical information about this southwestern region.  **

New Mexico truly is the Land of Enchantment—with a cuisine that is sumptuous, sights to see and things to do—from taking in the balloon festival to doing walking tours in the Petroglyph National Monument. I wish I knew more about it and will rectify this by visiting Triple A to see what they can share with me. Meantime, I can read these cookbooks and try some of the recipes. You will want all three of these southwestern cookbooks to add to your collection.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith