Each year when Halloween rolls around my thoughts go to pumpkins. Not to decorating them, but to thinking of creative ways to use them in cooking. Over the last few years I’ve made pumpkin and peanut butter soup, added pumpkin to steel cut oats, made many loaves of pumpkin bread, and tried making pumpkin stews. But as Thanksgiving draws closer I generally pull out a trusty old recipe for pumpkin flan.
The staff at AAR so enjoyed sharing our Christmas sweets that we decided to do it again, but in celebration of the yummy summer months. Who knew there was more to summer than Salad and 72 Variations? We started with Amy’s Fried Green Tomatoes on Tuesday, and now every Thursday we’ll be publishing a new summer recipe from one of our staff. Enjoy! – Jean AAR
I should say right up front that this is not a recipe I created. Years ago I was out for lunch with a friend in Chicago and she ordered gazpacho. Curious, I decided to order a cup of it myself and was instantly in love. Chock full of veggies, refreshing, cool (it was a hot day), with a bit of spice, it hit the spot. When I commented that I would love to be able to make it at home she shared the recipe she’d been using for years.
Since that time, gazpacho has become one of my go-to recipes in the summer. I tend to make it the most in July and August when local tomatoes are available in abundant quantities at the market. But with “tomatoes on the vine” available at other times, I will often give in to my craving and make it at other times.
I continue to try gazpacho at local restaurants, but have been less than satisfied in recent years. Everyone seems to be adding “extras” that I find unnecessary. One local restaurant has made a “southwestern” version adding in black beans, corn, avocado, and tortilla chips. While I like all those ingredients I find them less than satisfying in gazpacho. Another local seafood restaurant adds large shrimp and crab pieces to the gazpacho. Now I love both of those as well, but find they completely overwhelm the gazpacho.
So for now I’m sticking with my friend’s recipe listed below. Continue reading
With tomorrow St. Patrick’s Day, I fully intended to post about my preparations for a lovely Irish meal tomorrow. I wrote a similar post last year, and had a few wonderful meals. Those plans were set until I began struggling with a late winter cold yesterday afternoon. When I woke up this morning coughing and sneezing, the only food on my mind, in fact one of the only things on my mind, is chicken soup.
I should start off by saying this isn’t a recipe I created. The basic recipe is straight from the Hershey’s site.Yes, my favorite Christmas cookie is a chewy peanut butter cookie topped by a Hershey’s milk chocolate kiss, labelled the Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies by Hershey’s. While I enjoy the taste (reminiscent of a warm, gooey peanut butter cup), it’s the memories these cookies evoke that has me craving them at Christmas time.
When I was in graduate school the fall semester always seemed worse than the spring or summer sessions. As fall semester rolled along the weather turned colder, snow appeared, and I inevitably picked up a cold. To make matters worse, the semester ended just over a week before Christmas, leaving almost no time to get ready for the holidays.
One of my fellow graduate students got the idea to host a Christmas cookie baking party the Friday after finals ended, and honestly, this kept me going through the studying and paper-writing. About four of us went to her apartment that first year. We each picked out a cookie recipe before-hand, and she — wonderful woman that she is — bought all the supplies for our recipes. My cookie recipe was actually Paul Prudhomme’s coffee cookies. One of my friends made peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s kisses and I honestly couldn’t get enough of them. Of course we ate lots of the cookies fresh out of the oven when they were warm and gooey. And being graduate students, we downed the cookies with liberal doses of alcohol.
Growing up one of my mother’s favorite snacks was pimento cheese. Perhaps it’s because we lived in the north (I’ve since learned it’s a longtime southern favorite), but she never made her own. Instead, she bought this small jarred version of pimento cheese. For a special treat for all of us, she’d put tiny squares of rye bread topped with pimento cheese on a plate. I thought they were okay, but as a girl, would have preferred another snack.
What can I say about the pomegranate? The seeds (the part we eat) are a dark, beautiful shade of red that seems particularly appropriate at this time of year. It’s supposedly one of the “super foods,” rich in antioxidants. And it can be quite tasty. But just what do you do with a pomegranate?
Ah, comfort foods. We all have them. When it suddenly turns cold. When it’s raining. When we’re sick or stressed, comfort foods can bring immense relief. For some of us all it takes is some good chocolate. For others it’s ice cream. I do have my moments when the supreme comfort food is sweet, generally in the form of rice pudding or tapioca pudding. But most of the time my ultimate comfort food is savory. And for me, nothing quite says comfort like tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
And what’s not to love about the combination (well, aside from the calories). They’re creamy and warm, particularly nice for the suddenly cold weather. And they harken back to my childhood when my mother would make me tomato soup (Campbell’s, of course, made with milk) and a grilled cheese sandwich (white bread with Velveeta cheese).
I’ve definitely moved beyond my childhood grilled cheese sandwiches, preferring them now on whole wheat or bakery bread of some kind. I also like to experiment with various combinations of cheeses, and usually add something to the mix, be it sliced green olives, or diced sun dried tomatoes, or even some slices of fruit (apples and pears are particularly nice). But I haven’t strayed very far from the Campbell’s cream of tomato soup. Once in awhile I’ll buy some fancy tomato soup in the deli, but that’s about it. Until today.
After dealing with a lot of stress the past few weeks I decided I really wanted some comfort food this weekend. But instead of Campbell’s, I’m going to try a recipe my friend posted on her blog for making your own tomato soup. With ingredients like Worcestershire sauce (huge fan), white wine, basil, and a variety of tomato products, it sounds like a hit. So this afternoon I’m going to give the recipe a try. Along with it I’ll be making a grilled cheese sandwich (on some whole wheat flat-type bread) made with a mix of cheddar and mozzarella, with sliced green olives and a bit of whole grain mustard. Sounds like the perfect thing for a chilly afternoon.
What about you? Do you have any go-to comfort foods? Do you ever experiment with them, or do you stick with the tried-and-true?
This year, for the first time ever I have made plum jam according to my mother’s recipe. It worked out beautifully, I now don’t understand why I never made it before, and it’s so easy! Here’s how you make it:
The main ingredient is 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of common plums (prunus domestica domestica) or zwetschges – the names for this sort of plum may vary regionally, but they are dark blueish purple and oval (see below; these are from our garden) – with the stones removed. Continue reading
When I was a Girl Scout my very favorite thing to make at cookouts was a foil dinner. Our 10-year old version of this gourmet delight started, quite obviously, with a square of foil. On top of the foil we’d put a bit of ground beef, some canned, sliced potatoes, and a few slices of carrots (also from a can). That’s it. No seasoning, no more veggies. We’d seal the packet up, place it on top of the coals from our campfire, and later (it always seemed to take much longer than expected) we’d have what we thought of as a real yummy dinner.
My mother loved to make three-bean salad. The minute it turned warm this dish began appearing on our dinner table as a regular side dish. Now don’t get me wrong; my mother was a wonderful cook. But there was just nothing about her three-bean salad that I liked. Her version consisted of a can of green beans, a can of kidney beans, and a can of yellow waxed beans combined together. I’m not convinced she drained the cans. To this mixture of beans she’d add some oil and vinegar. That was it. Absolutely no seasoning. No garlic. No onions. Nothing. The stuff seemed to last for days, mainly because she was the only one who would eat it. But beans? We all loved beans.