MLK

Today our nation honors one of the greatest public servants the world has ever known, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many people will remember the greatness of this man in different ways.  Some will visit his new memorial in D.C., others will attend special church services.  Since many of you have the day off and are lovers of the kitchen, I am encouraging you to spend the morning baking.  Bake as many cakes, pies and cupcakes as you possibly can.  Then donate everything you have made to a local soup kitchen.  Our soup kitchens in America are in crisis.  The donations are at an all time low and many will go hungry tonight.  Giving something of which you possess a great talent is low in cost and high in reward.  Everyone loves dessert.  It will be your service today and honor the service of Dr. King.  Do for others today.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”–the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

xo–me

 

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Peanut Butter Pie

I have never met a jar of peanut butter that didn’t love me.  I love it with chocolate, with marshmallow, and with a giant spoon.

When I was in college, I worked at a restaurant that was famous for their peanut butter pie.  We sold more slices and complete pies than anything else on the dessert menu.  I have been looking for a peanut butter pie that would remind me of this delicacy of yesteryear and, with this recipe, I just may have.

Ingredients:

2 3-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. creamy peanut butter
2 c. powdered sugar
12-oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Blend cream cheese and peanut butter together until smooth and creamy; set aside.  Mix powdered sugar and whipped topping together; blend into cream cheese mixture.  Spread in pie crust.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.  Before serving, top with whipped cream.

I use Martha Stewart’s recipe for homemade whipped cream (for pie topping):

1 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

In a deep mixing bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle sugar over cream; beat until soft speaks return.  Do not overbeat. 

For the fresh whipped cream, chill the whisk or beaters and bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.  I allowed the pie to sit on the counter for 10 minutes before I added the cream, cut and served.  Next time I may crush some Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and sprinkle over the whipped cream.  Enjoy!

xo–me

 

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Graham Cracker Crust

I have a heavenly pie I am anxious to share with you.  It’s sinful and rich and when you see how small the slices I am serving, you will believe me!  It’s simple,easy and full of flavor, my three favorite criteria for a sweet treat.  But before I can share this pie recipe with you, we need to make the crust.

It’s a simple graham cracker crust we are making today.  Many of you will ask, why not just grab a pre-made one from the baking aisle at the market?  I too love convenience but it is so simple to make, you can honestly tell your family you made the entire pie, not just the filling.  I know you can skip right past those stacks of crusts and into the cookie aisle to get a box of graham crackers.  I know you can.

Ingredients:

12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until combined.  Firmly press mixture into bottom and side of a 9-inch pie dish.  Bake until crust is fragrant and edges are golden, 12 to 14 minutes.  Let cool completely on wire rack.

My BFF, Martha Stewart, shared this recipe with me.  Well, full disclosure, through one of her cookbooks.  Make this crust today and set it aside for tomorrows pie recipe.

xo–me

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The Tip (or lack thereof)

Last night I had a very unusual experience at a restaurant.  I wanted to let it go but of course it’s the first thing I thought of when I awoke so I feel the need to share today.

My roommate from college, Jackie, my guy, Chris, and I went out for sushi at a restaurant Chris and I have frequented several times in the last year.  When we lived in the hell that is Herald Square (hell=tourists, noisy street and fire station down the street), this restaurant was our treat.  After we moved, we found ourselves retuning a few times for the delicious tower of spicy tuna wrapped in fresh avocado.  And as always, I digress.  Last night we enjoyed a lovely meal with our fair share of cocktails.  After 90 minutes of enjoyment, the check came and I wanted to treat.  I looked at the bill, figured out what the bill was without the tax, and determine that a 20% tip would be twice the amount of the first two digits of this bill.  I filled in the tip amount and gave the receipt to the waiter.  We finished up our conversation and then began to gather out things to leave.  It was in that split second that I realized I had mistakenly only left the 10% in my haste and shared my error with the table.  We collectively gathered the remaining 10% in cash and laid it on the table.

As we stood to exit, a man who was not one of our three waiters came to our table and before I could ask him to give the cash to our waiters, he said to me “Your tip was less than 10%.”  I was flabbergasted, shocked and a bit embarrassed with his boldness.  First, it was not less than 10%.  You are not to tip on the tax, just the cost of of your meal and drinks.  So I tipped exactly 10%.  Second, if the waiter had approached the table and paused for a moment, he would have seen the additional money on the table.  Third, I am entitled to tip 10% if I thought the service was worthy of 10%.

I have never experienced anything like this in my life.  I was floored.  I need to consult my Emily Post Guide to Etiquette but I feel confident it is rude to point out to a table what one believes to be an inadequate tip.  A tip is based on service.  I waited tables all throughout college and always knew I had to work hard to get a tip.

Needless to say, we waon’t be going back. And I am a great tipper!

xo–me

 

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Burning Down the House

So last night I tried to burn down the house.  Not purposefully mind you.  It was just one of those things.

I decided since it was the new year, I should make an egg nog pie.  It seemed like the right time to try this pie that is one of the world’s favorite new year’s beverage.  I am not a huge fan of egg nog but the ingredients imply it’s going to taste like a heavier custard pie with lots of nutmeg.  The man of the house also loves egg nog so I was game.

I rolled out the crust and baked it with no problems.  The challenge and ‘burning down the house moment’ came when I put the filling in the crust and returned it to the oven.  I was delicate when covering the edges of the pie crust for this second round of baking.  I was cautious walking from the counter to the open oven.  And then it happened, I touched the side of the oven door and jerked.  Guess what happened to the liquid egg nog filling of the pie?  It jerked too.  Or rather it jumped, just a bit, but enough to make a small mess on the bottom of the oven.  I did my best to clean it up but clearly the smoke monster from the island found it’s way into my kitchen.

So the house smells like the place was on fire.  But not before I got a lovely pie from the oven.

Ingredients:

9-inch pie crust (Nany says the best recipe is on the back of the Crisco can)
3 eggs
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 c. hot water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.  Bake pie crust for 8 minutes; remove from oven and set aside.  Whisk or whip remaining ingredients together, pour into crust and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake 25 additional minutes or until a knife inserted in the center removes clean.

I had to bake the pie for 10 additional minutes than the recipe called for because, as I say all the time, every oven is different.  The house still smells a little funky this morning but I am hoping once I cut this pie (yes pie for breakfast), it will make it all worth it.  Be good to yourself today!

xo–me

 

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The Other Amy

A few short months ago, my dear GMB had a garage sale.  My mother emailed me as soon as she saw the posting to see if there was anything in particular I would want from her sale.  I, of course, said “Everything.  Mom, just take everything.  I know I would love it all.”  Mother, being the practical and logical one of we two, decided to get me the items she thought I really would enjoy and need.  A few days later, a box of goodies arrived on my stoop brimming with treats from GMB.   The box included a lovely bag, the sweetest sewing kit, a ’round duit’ and many books.  In the stash of cookbooks was the very first printing of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook.  I have read online that this has been out of print for 30 years.  I was delighted to have it because a) GMB had given it to her sister in 1969 (the note inside the front cover says so) and b) it was Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook.

I spent the next weeks reading the recipes and and tips within.  Clearly the dishes are all created with butter, eggs and all the decadence of 50’s and 60’s recipes.  Each time I returned to the book, I found myself rereading the introduction.  It is a fascinating outlook of life in this era.  She speaks of her kids listening to records and of bureau drawers.  I love it and found myself rereading today and I decided to share.  Here it is in it’s entirety for your reading pleasure.

Introduction

I believe that the ability to prepare and serve good and attractive meals is a delightful feminine virtue.  The importance of this and of being a good housekeeper were drilled into me from the time I could walk. 

Like most Americans, I am a mixture.  I am Dutch, French, English, Irish–but in appearance and personality, strongly Dutch and for six generations my Holland heritage has been preserved reasonably intact.  On one hand, I had the influence of my mother, a third generation American of English and Irish descent, who strongly needed around her all of the aspects of gracious living but who found them difficult to achieve without servants.  She loved to entertain and liked cooking if it was part of this entertaining. 

On the other hand, in our household, almost from the time that I was born, was my aunt, brought up in the New York-Dutch-American tradition wherein a woman must know all of the household arts whether or not she has servants to instruct.  My Aunt Louise was the best housekeeper I have ever seen and one of the finest cooks.  Her bureau drawers were always ready for inspection and her closets a delight of organization.  My handsome grandfather, who looked like Charles Evans Hughes and lived to the rip age of ninety-five, was also a part of our household from my very early years.  His very firm opinions and ukases in the matter of food and the running of a household impressed and almost terrified us all.

The men in our family were all quite sure of their roles as men, which in my opinion is the way it should be.  My father and grandfather were never to be found in the kitchen mixing a cake.  They did, however consider it their proper prerogative to purchase and carry home from the Washington Market every bit of meat the household consumed.  The buying of meat, they held, was not a woman’s business, any more than was the carving of it.  I still think the art of carving belongs to the male, but I am willing to agree that women have had to learn how to buy meat, just as many of us have had to learn how to carve, either because the men in the family won’t or because there are no men in the family. 

When I was very young, about six, cooking was presented to me as a privilege.  You had to be responsible and orderly to be allowed to proceed in the kitchen.  I was permitted to prepare my own breakfast on Saturday mornings–but I had to clean up afterward. 

My own three sons are given the same privilege, although they are not held to the rigorous cleaning up that I was held to–if they stack their dishes and put the post in the sink, I’m satisfied.  They lend me their masculine talents in many ways–by changing fuses, by running the tape recorder for my writing, by taking out the garbage.  I taught them how to feed themselves well, but I don’t want them to become unduly taken with their culinary skills to the neglect of such masculine ones as wood chopping, for which they are better adapted than am I. 

Many people have said since the publication of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette in 1952, that it should be followed by a complete cookbook.  For, of course, I can cook.  I enjoy preparing any kind of meal, but I prefer meals that have a special meaning–meals for guests.  I even manage to feel a little guilty if I don’t have some part in the preparation of every meal for guests.  No matter how tired or how busy I may be, I always rise to the occasion when a party is in the offing. 

Like my Dutch ancestors who daily went to market as European women do today, I, too, like to see the food I am buying for my household.  Not for me, except in an emergency, is the telephoned order.  I plan, of course, to use fruits and other foods in season to keep my food budget always at the proper point.  When entertaining runs a little heavy, I counterbalance it with economy meals for the family.  I am careful to see that leftovers are used, and perhaps because I have such a dislike of waste, I allow my considerable  family of pets to consume the scraps which otherwise might go into the garbage pail in another family. 

My children and I, despite my career, have a warm and loving relationship.  This comes partly, I believe, because they know that their mother, when necessity arises–and it certainly does–is able to run the household and feed them good meals under cheerful, happy circumstances no matter what happens.  Children get a great feeling of security knowing just this: that despite her necessary and often greatly enjoyed outside activities, a mother considers her children’s welfare first and is willing to contribute to it with her own domestic talents. 

The running of a home and preparation of food is creative.  This is something that too often is missed entirely in the education of our American girls.  In our increasingly intellectualized society, there is too little stress on the sound satisfactions there are in being able to put on the table an attractive, nutritious meal without strain.  Perhaps, however it is encouraging to see that the kitchen, at one time compressed to a mere cubby hole, is now expanding warmly into the “family room” where the mother and family are together in the preparation of meals.  The mother is no longer isolated. 

I have such a kitchen myself, where my children sit and do their homework, look at television, listen to records, read by the fire in an atmosphere free of “don’ts.”  Part of one wall is solid with cookbooks of every kind including some meant just for boys and girls. 

My training in cooking began at about the age of six, but in my early teens, I was sent to school in Europe to the Institute Heubi in Lausanne Switzerland.  There at the graduate school, the Villa, I studied home economics under expert tutelage before going on to college preparation at the secondary school, the Chateau. 

This was doing it the very hard way indeed, for in the graduate school all of the girls spoke excellent French.  In fact we were not permitted to speak any other language.  I began my culinary notebook in French not knowing what I was writing.  My cooking classes thus greatly depended on my home-trained ability in the kitchen, for I was there for a good three months without being able to talk with my instructors or with my fellow pupils.  It was the only three months in my whole life in which I knew what it must be like to be both deaf and dumb. 

In my school I learned not only haute cuisine, but all the arts of housekeeping, even to the pleating of nightgowns with a pleating iron.  For us there were not shortcut, no scouring powder (we used brickdust), no canned, dehydrated, or frozen foods.  Perhaps because of this training, I was once able to make a perfect zabaglione on a kerosene stove by the light of an oil lamp in a Virginia cabin! 

We sometimes hear complaints that women spend too much time in the exchange of recipes, that this is a very trifling activity indeed.  If this is so, then I am very guilty.  Many of the recipes in this book came to me in exchange from friends all over the world and, have become part of my own cookery repertoire.  When the routine of running house and office becomes irksome, I get out my recipe file and pull out one or more of these recipes that I have collected.  As I knead my Irish soda bread (I often use the mix that is available–imported form Dunloaghaire now), I recall the morning that I literally hung by my heels to kiss the Blarney Stone in Cork.  When I serve our fresh sweet corn, I fill the little individual butter dishes that I bought at the Vista Alegre porcelain plant in Portugal. When we prepare Swedish smorgasbord, my sons and I remember the lesson we learned in Stockholm–eat first the fish (herrings and seafoods), then the hot delicacies and meat, and finally the salads and cheese. 

I know many people so frightened of entertaining that they have one or two standard company meals and these they serve forth every time they have guests.  This sad poverty of cuisine is not for me.  I like to adventure in the realm of food.  I want my children to be able to accept a new dish, try it and, if possible, enjoy it as much as I do the serving of it. 

Although I find the actual preparation of food–from scratch–interesting, creative and challenging, I by no means, as you will see in the pages of this cookbook, spurn the use of quick methods.  The commercial cake mixes are wonderful and in most cases can be enjoyed even by the calorie-watcher.  I love the idea of being able to pick up from the freezer department of the supermarket find sauces from Maxim’s in Paris, baby brussels sprouts quick-frozen in Holland, or pastry quick-frozen in wonderful Copenhagen. 

The United States is a fine place for gourmets–for anyone who likes good food with or without having the technical knowledge of preparing it.  Or for anyone with a penchant for the exotic.  I was pleased when my then twelve-year-old spent some of his allowance on a jar of chocolate covered bees!

I hope that as you work from these pages with me, you will travel to many of the places I have been and enjoy the specialties of some of the fine restaurants where I have been a guest.  Often where there is a very personal reason for my including a recipe in this collection, I have told you why in a footnote to the recipe. 

My own training as a cook has been technical in a different way than is the technical training of a home economist in this country.  I was, however, for many years a food editor and am very familiar with American cookery methods and the developments of food preparations in this country.  However, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Miss Florence Brobeck who has tested these recipes in her capacity as a trained American home economist.  A tyro in the kitchen can produce any recipe here successfully.  The cooking time is exact and the number of portions are indicated.  Possible difficulties in the more complex recipes are carefully described. 

No cookbook fills all needs.  If there were such a book I would have it and not the 300-odd books now in my collection.  I have tried, however, in my own cookbook to compile one that will help the beginning cook and be a constant inspiration to the woman who must plan and produce three or more meals a day and meals for entertaining.  There are things here that will challenge the very good cook indeed, but on the other hand there are many, many easy recipes for the cook who must hurry.  The technical discussion on the purchase and preparations of certain foods are Miss Brobeck’s, the result of her own fine professional background and experience.  I have learned much from this contribution of hers. 

Like my etiquette book, this book has taken years of preparation.  Its production as given me much pleasure.  I hope that you will enjoy it, too. 

Amy Vanderbilt

I know it’s a good bit to read but I hope you enjoyed the journey back in time.  I really enjoyed the vision in the kitchen as a space where family would gather while the meals were being prepared.  Oh how Ms. Vanderbilt would have loved our modern spaces.

xo–me

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Pizza for Kids

Last summer in one of my many yard/garage/tag sale jaunts through PA, I found a cookbook for kids that was printed in 1973.  A sweet young man was helping his grandmother in the sale and he was in charge of the books.  I wanted this cookbook simply for the 70’s feel of the artwork as I knew it would be a nice addition to my collection.  He was trying to make some money (Grandmother had told him anything he sold, he could keep the profits!) and wanted me to buy more of his grandmother’s children’s books.  I explained that I was interested in cookbooks and he said “Well Grandmother doesn’t cook anymore so you won’t find any of those!”  I howled, she scolded him and we all had a laugh.

The cookbook got me to thinking of my nephew, young William, who I fondly call the ‘Holy Terror’.  He is three and, well, he is three!  Into everything with his mind growing faster than a speeding bullet.  I love watching him learn and discover.  He is interested in everything.  Anyway, the cookbook got me thinking about recipes I could share here that he and Tricia could make together as well as other parents, babysitters, teachers and older siblings with their young ones.

Today’s recipe speaks to that group.  It’s one of the easiest recipes I have ever tried.  You can make this with your children or have it be the treat for the kids at the slumber party to make their own!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/3 cup very hot water
1 packet of yeast (Add only if you prefer thick crust.  If you like regular, omit this ingredient)
sauce
mozzarella
Italian seasonings
toppings of choice

Move oven rack to lowest position.  Heat oven to 450.  Grease 12-inch pizza pan. 

Mix Bisquick and very hot water until soft dough forms.  Press dough into pizza pan, using fingers dipped in Bisquick to push to edges.  Pinch circumference to form rim. Bake 8-10 minutes and remove.  Spread pizza sauce, cheese, seasonings of choice and toppings of choice over dough.  Put back into oven and bake an additional 5-7 minutes until cheese is bubbling and melted.  

I have used it to make several types of pizza and just love it.  Remember, it’s not NY style nor Chicago deep dish.  Pizza crust love is in the eye of the beholder.  Enjoy!

xo–me

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