Tuesday, March 31, 2015

36. BAKED BEANS, BAKED SPUDS & BIRTHDAY DINNER

 My husband, Dave, is the child of a good cook.  Not all men have been raised to know much of a difference between hamburger and ground round. He is no culinary snob, lucky for me, but he knows good stuff when he tastes it.

Tonight, for his birthday dinner, when I asked what he wanted to eat, this is what he said:
I did not fight him on this.  It is, after all, the season for these lovely crustaceans, And though we have boiled and steamed our share of lobster in our time, I embraced the idea of someone else preparing, and more importantly, cleaning up.
So here’s the recipe for today. DAVID’S BIRTHDAY DINNER:
Back in the last century, when I was a kid, I don’t recall eating out in restaurants.  It was a big deal…I mean a REALLY big deal… to get to go to McDonald's
Burgers cost a nickel, which was a chunk of dough for us, especially considering the size of our family could fill both the infield and the outfield in a baseball game. Instead there was a hot meal at our table every night, usually consisting of a modest piece of meat, some sort of green vegetable, and a large pile of spuds (otherwise known as potatoes) with a pool of melted butter cradled like  liquid lava ready to flow down a snowy white volcano.  Mom spent many gallons of sweat harvesting spuds in her lifetime, being an Idaho girl from birth. When the workday was done she would join other women at the edges of the field, where the machines would not reach, gleaning leftover potatoes for her family.  There were always plenty of spuds to fill the bellies of hungry Idaho children. The staple of my childhood was potatoes.

For Dave it was beans.  White Navy beans harvested from the fields in Michigan.  When Dave’s parents were married they received two 50 lb bags of Michigan dry beans as a wedding gift from Grandma and Grandpa Roy.  Michigan baked beans in the oven is the aroma of his childhood.  Molasses and brown sugar infused with a little dry mustard, working its way into those hard little beans, softening with a day full of heat and water and onion.  There is seriously little on God’s good earth more comforting than walking in to a nice toasty warm home on a cold wintery day and smelling a pot of beans filling the measure of its creation in the oven.

Tonight there is no residual aroma here in the kitchen, evidence of what was concocted for dinner.  But there are no dishes either, and no mess on the counter or stove top.  Instead there is a single bowl and spoon with a hint of leftover chocolate ice cream from the Birthday boy himself, and an empty popsicle stick from his Honey. We watched an episode of Hawaii 50 on TV.  He is brushing his teeth while I write this, and if I don’t hurry he will be sawing logs on his side of the bed.  This is usually the scenario during the season of Lent.  The day will get away from me and I will moan that I have to do my Lent writing sometime around 11 pm.  Sometime between 1 and 3 am I quietly shuffle into the bedroom and curl up next to him.  There will be a day for one of us, hopefully a long time from now, when this simple routine will be a divine memory.  But not today.  Not today.

I purchased two big old burlap sacks in the last decade; one has MICHIGAN NAVY BEANS stamped on it, and the other has IDAHO POTATOES imprinted.  They are old, and well used, and so lovely.  I plan to frame them one day, and hang them side by side in my basement family room.  Or maybe I'll make some big old pillows. It’s meant to be a reminder of our heritage, of the hard working, humble people who sprouted below us on our family tree.  And on top of that I think it’s really pretty symbolic, because our oven usually has a nice oven rack full of Idaho Russets baking beside a pot of Michigan Baked Beans. Dave and I were meant for each other.
It’s still a relatively rare thing for us to eat out, though not nearly as rare as it used to be.  Truth is, I usually prefer my own cooking. And lucky for me, so does Dave.
GRANDMA ROY’S BAKED BEANS
2 ¼ c dry navy beans
1 ½ quarts water
1 t. salt
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. dry mustard
¼ c molasses
½ lb salt pork, cut in chunks
1 small onion, chopped

Wash beans in cold water and then soak in cold, clean water for at least one hour. (or over night)

Drain water.  Add 1 ½ quarts cold water to beans and bring to a boil on top of the stove.  Skim off foam and lower heat. Simmer about 45 minutes or until bean splits when blown on.

Drain, but save water.  Mix ingredients and pour into bean pot.  Add enough of the saved water to cover.  Bake at 325 for 6 hours.  Add water as needed but not after last hour of baking time. (Beans should be covered with liquid.  Do not let them dry out). 

Baked beans are really good for you.  They are high in protein and low in fat. And inexpensive.


Tasty, hot or cold.

Tips: 
1. Do not…I repeat, DO NOT wrap a beautiful russet potato in foil to bake it.  This makes a steamed potato.  Wash it, stab it a couple times with a fork so steam can release, and set directly on the rack in the oven.  Bake at 400 for 1 hour, depending on the size of the spud.  Squeeze it to check for doneness.  If it resists, give it more time. Or you can cook it at 350 or 375 for a longer time, maybe an hour and a half.  You may also smear a thin layer of shortening on the skin before cooking, for a crispy skin.  Real Idahoan's eat the skin when they are done with the flaky meat inside.  

2. Grandma Roy always wrapped foil round the lid of her bean pot, gathering it at the top so it is easy to lift off to check the beans during the cooking process.  I do the same. Place beans on a cookie sheet while cooking to catch overflow.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

35. PIE! (APPLE & OTHERS)

Bake juicy pies, like apple, on a cookie sheet lined with foil to catch the overflow.
I sat in church beside David, staring at his feet.  Being that I come from a gene pool which includes men who are substantially taller than 6’, whose shoe sizes are always in the double digits (and I’m talking males and females), I have always been rather impressed with the relative normalcy of my husband’s family. We Parrish’s are Jolly Green Giants and the Connors’ are more like Petite Peas. Dave’s nice normal size 9.5 feet fit without any bulging into his soft Italian leather shoes.  Mine are lucky to squeeze into a 10 extra wide.  Such is life.
I was fortunate enough to know each of David’s four grandparents. Not one of them stood over 5 feet tall.  While the name Connors evolved from John O’Connor of Ireland, most of David’s bloodline is French Canadian.  His Grandma and Grandpa Roy both spoke with thick French accents.  I can still hear the glottal tones in my mind when I think of them. My fingers cannot find the correct keys to write the way Grandma Roy said my name.  I loved hearing her say it, in that romantic musical way of hers.
 
The Mackinac Cottage
Grandma Roy was a fabulous cook.  I knew it the first time I walked into the kitchen on Mackinac Island, on our honeymoon.  She and Grandpa had left the Mackinac Home and travelled to their Tawas Cottage on Lake Huron, so Dave and I could have the grand old place to ourselves. We entered the cottage from the back door, so the first room I entered was the kitchen.  All crisp and white and clean, but infused with warmth and aromas that said love lived here.
It was Grandma Roy who taught me to make tender beef stew.  Michigan Baked Beans, and Apple Pie (the French way, with apples sliced so thin you could see sunlight through them.)

Apple pie begins with quality crust, and that begins with my own mother, who combined good cold butter with cold hard lard and shortening if you were short on lard.

One important aspect of pie making, that some people fail to recognize, is the pie pan.  Thin aluminum just won’t do it.  Even thin tin is going to weaken the result.  Use a good quality glass pan, or a heavy metal one, or if you are very, very lucky, use a piece of Bennion pottery, thrown by the divinely inspired hands of Joe Bennion (Horseshoe Mountain Pottery).  The weight of these pie plates ensures a good even heat for the pie. I love to press my thumbs in the places where Joe had pressed his thumbs in the clay.  It creates a very easy and pretty pie edge.

My thumb is about the size
of Joe Bennion's,
the pie pan potter.
At Thanksgiving around here, this place becomes a pie factory.  Wednesday night is pie night.  Whoever is in town for the holiday joins in, peeling apples, mixing ingredients, telling jokes and stealing bits of dough from the mixing bowl.  We generally make about 12 pies.  We are blessed with two ovens in our house, and two ovens in my sister Libby’s place, one house away. Annie is our Pumpkin Pie queen.  And Kate handles the cream pies.  Chocolate, and banana cream, and sometimes coconut, though people usually opt for more chocolate.  The cream pies use the same base, so you can make a variety with one triple batch on the stove.
The Dave’s, my husband and our son-in-law Dave Petersen (we call them Dave the Elder and Dave the Younger) are skilled apple handlers.  They know how to not be wasteful, but to be efficient with their time.  And they both know how to slice those apples like Grandma Roy taught me.

Herewith, are a number of pie recipes, so you too can have a Wednesday pie making party next Thanksgiving. If you want a hands-on lesson, come on over.
Anna Bella, the pie maker.
That's Kate behind us, stirring the cream pie filling.
PIE CRUST – Afton Hansen
Makes 3-4 two crust pies or 5-6 one crust pies
6 c flour,
2 t. Salt
3 c shortening (you can use lard or butter.  My favorite incorporates all three)
1 ½ c ice cold water.

If you’re making two pies, use 3 c flour, 1 t salt, 1.5 c fat  and ½ - ¾ c cold water.  In my opinion you have to make at least two pies to justify the mess and the effort.  Otherwise use a frozen pie crust and call it OK (you can’t call it good…seriously!) There is something earthy and generationally connecting when you make home made pie, don’t you think?

Basically, crust is two parts salted flour to one part fat. Put the flour in a large bowl and mix in salt. Add your fat in chunks.  Cold fat works best, by the way. Use a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers to mix the fat into the flour until the meal is pea sized or smaller.  You may press the flour between the palms of your hands, forcing the fat into the dry flour, but be careful that the warmth of your hands does not make the mixture too warm.  If so, chill the meal outside if its winter, or in the fridge in summer.  To this mixture add cold water (icy cold) and stir till it binds in a ball.
Cover a pastry board or countertop with flour, spread with your fingers till it has a nice even dusting.
What I did last night.
That crust there is ready to be
trimmed, folded under, and crimped.

Take a piece of dough and press it in your hand so it’s about the size of a softball.  Press it flat, then roll out with a rolling pin which has been dusted with flour.  You’ll have to repeatedly dust the rolling pin and the counter top so the dough does not stick.  Do not overwork the dough, it will make it tough. Hold your pie pan over the rolled out dough and then cut a circle larger than pie pan. If your dough sticks to the counter you may not have enough flour under it. Scoop it up, shake off excess flour, work it into a ball and try again.  Hopefully it will work the second time. 
Fold rolled dough in half, lift it to your pan, and gently press into pan without stretching. Trim with a knife to the edge of the pan, putting the excess you trimmed off in a separate pile. Use these trimmings for your last crust, or for a pan of plain old crust baked on a cookie sheet with sugar sprinkled on top (bake for 20 minutes and feed it to your helpers)

If you’re making a precooked single pie crust, look in the cream pie directions below.

Add apple mix,(recipe below) piling apples all the way to the depth of the pan or a little higher.  The fruit will shrink as it cooks. (This would be the same for blueberry pie, or rhubarb.)
Roll out a top layer of crust, cutting it larger than the circumference of the pan again. Lay it over the apples. Tuck the top crust under the edge of the lower crust.  This will make a little excess thickness around the border of the pan.  Using your thumb and the upper knuckle of your forefinger, pinch the crust together.  You can also use a fork to pinch the crusts together.
Whip one egg white with a fork and spread a thin layer over the top pastry with a pastry brush or your fingers.
Cut vents in the top crust, so steam can escape. (I use scissors for this)
Sprinkle with white sugar, and bake as directed.

Apple Filling – Helene Roy:
Grandma Connors Apple Pie
  • 8-12 tart apples
  • Lemon juice
  • ½ to ¾ c sugar
  • 2 T flour
  • ½ - 1 t cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg and salt
  • Butter (around 2 T in slices or chunks)
  • Pastry for crust
Pare apples and slice VERY THIN. Sprinkle with lemon juice as you work with apples; keeps from browning and enhances flavor.
Combine sugar, flour and spices.  Mix with apples. Place in crust, jiggle down the layers with your fingers till its pretty even. Dot with butter. Add top crust.  Brush with egg whites or milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut steam vents.  Bake 400 for 55-60 minutes.  Bake on cookie sheet in case it bubbles over.

I use a variety of apples.  Never use Delicious.  Always include some Granny Smith or similar crisp tart apple.  Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Mackintosh, Braeburn and Gala-  I’ve used all of them.  I figure about 20 apples per two pies. (This is a guess, I can’t remember for sure.  More often than not I am peeling a couple more apples to add after I’ve filled the shell.) Bake the full hour, if not more.  Because this is a heavy filling with thick layers of thinly sliced apples, it takes a good 60-75 minutes to cook.  Bake at 400. 
You may want to put strips of bent aluminum foil over the edges of the crust so they won’t burn.  You would add these about halfway through the cooking.  Lately I just let the pies cook…what will be will be. You can turn down the heat in the oven to 375 half way through as well, and lengthen the time by 10 minutes.

CREAM PIES:
Lion House Recipe

ALL OF THESE CREAMS ARE POURED INTO PRE-BAKED SINGLE PIE CRUSTS:

SINGLE PIE CRUST:
Roll out dough, gently lay into pie plate, ease down into the pan, roll edge of crust under at the rim, crimp edges, prick crust all over with a fork and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Ovens will vary. You prick it to let the crust expand when it cooks without creating big bubbles. Let cool before you add cream filling.

BASIC CREAM FILLING:
  • 5 T cornstarch
  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 ½ c milk
  • ¾ c half & half
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 9 inch pie shell
In a 3 qt sauce pan Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add milk and cream and cook over med heat until smooth and thick stirring constantly. Pour small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; blend thoroughly, then pour back into sauce pan. Cook another 2-3 min. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Coconut Cream Pie - Lion House
Add ½ cup coconut (toasted, if desired) to pie
filling. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill 3-4
hours. When ready to serve, whip cream and
spread over pie. Top with another ½ c coconut.

Banana Cream Pie - Lion House
Slice 2-3 bananas into baked pie shell. Pour
filling over bananas. Chill 3-4 hours. When
ready to serve, whip cream and spread over pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie - Lion House
Add ½- ¾ c semisweet chocolate chips to hot
pudding. Stir until melted. Pour into baked
pie shell. Chill 3-4 hours. When ready to
serve, whip cream and spread over pie.

PUMPKIN PIE:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can Evaporated Milk



DIRECTIONS:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in small bowl.  Beat eggs lightly in another large bowl.  Add pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture.  Gradually add evaporated milk as you stir. Pour in pie shell. I put my pie shell on a cookie sheet on the oven rack then pour in my filling.  It is very liquid and sloshes around easily.
- Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower oven temp to 350.  Bake and additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

TOLL HOUSE PIE (chocolate chip cookie dough pie)
:
INGREDIENTS:
·       2 eggs
·       1/2 cup white sugar
·       1/2 cup all-purpose flour
·       1/2 cup packed brown sugar
·       1 cup butter, melted and cooled
·       1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
·       1 cup chopped walnuts
·       1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie


DIRECTIONS:

   1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
   2.    In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the flour, white sugar and brown sugar; beat until well blended. Blend in the melted butter. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into one unbaked 9 inch pie shell.
   3.    Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice    cream, if desired.
(Holy Toledo, if you have read this far you get an award!  It’s nearly 2 am and I realize this is a lot of info in a lot of words. Sorry. Really, it might be easiest to find someone you know who makes a good pie and ask them to teach you.  A generous suggestion would be to buy the ingredients, ask them to show you how to do it, then let them keep half and you keep half.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

34. ROB’S OATMEAL COOKIES (My Sister, Sue)

Sisterhood.  The word evokes powerful feelings, warm and nurturing.  We humans of the feminine gender feel a sisterhood with the other women in our church, in our clubs and our neighborhoods.  If someone has suffered our same kind of suffering, we are sisters.  But actual sisterhood, the kind where we share the same parent and the same genetic or environmental history…there is something divinely sacred about that.
I have 4 sisters.  We all share the same mother.  There are 16 years from start to finish, so our early histories vary.  But the love? That is eternal.
My sister Sue, the second of my mother’s children, was just enough older than me that I could revere her and yet have access to her.  She moved to Pittsburgh with us, from Idaho, when I was in kindergarten and she was in high school.  We shared a bedroom, and a full size bed, in our house on Old Clairton Road.  She regularly read to us three little girls, Illustrated Stories from the Bible. And I recall with great tenderness hearing her come in late at night, after a long days work as a housekeeper at a local motel.  She would drop her tips on the top of the dresser, the coins softly tinkling like church bells.  Soon she was in her flannels and lifting the covers on the bed.  That was my indicator to scoot over and let her in.  Her presence was the comfort I needed to sleep well. 


Before computers were household items, my sister Sue worked with them.  I think she was a computer key punch operator.  This was when information was programmed into a machine the size of K Mart, one tidbit at a time.  She brought home stacks of manila colored cards into which holes were punched. Libby, Ann Marie and I took a large refrigerator box and created a computer out of it, in the basement. We cut slats in the front through which the computer card could be passed.  One of us would be inside the box, take the card that was fed into the computer and make obnoxious electronic sounds like the robot on Lost in Space.  Then we would push the card back out of the computer.  Not many people my age would have pretended with computers when they were little.  Sue made us privy to these things, the same way she exposed us to Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego walking through fire in the Bible.  Who’da thunk that in a few short decades we would all be sitting at our own personal computers, on our laps no less, writing and reading information instantaneously?
Sue studied Recreation Management at BYU, then eventually moved to California where she worked for Pacific Bell, using that computer knowledge.  One of her co-workers was a fellow named Rob. He brought some delicious oatmeal cookies to work one day, and Sue asked for the recipe.  Instead of just handing her the recipe he had her over to make some at his house. Thanks for that, Rob!
Sue says she doesn’t know where the recipe originated, or what the real name was.  We just call them Rob’s Oatmeal Cookies, and they are a family favorite.  Ann Marie makes triple batches and rolls the dough into balls then freezes the balls in plastic bags, to be baked at a later date.  Some of us have been known to zip those freezer bags open and steal one or two of those frozen dough balls. We also tend to enjoy baked cookies which have been frozen.  Sue says she broke a tooth once on the frozen morsel of a chocolate chip cookie.  It reminded me of when our mom used to break her teeth (yes, more than once) on those giant Lemon Taffy suckers the Nut Tree used to sell.  I say if you’re gonna break a tooth, this is a good way to do it.
My sister Sue is a woman of many gifts. She has taught us folk dances she had learned in her Recreation classes.  She is the filter through which all of us select good books to read and movies to watch.  And she is an artist beyond compare with her fingers, creating stunningly beautiful, meticulously crafted quilts.   We piece fabric together, which is artistry in itself. But we let machines do the quilting.  Not Sue.  Her fingers work her sharp needles as precisely as she used to enter computer data in those massive machines in Pittsburgh.  Look at the closeness, and evenness of these stitches! 

Her patience and perseverance are indicative of her character.  Her works are heirlooms, created and bestowed with great love.
Sue is a serious quilt master!
Lucky us, who are blessed to call Sue, “sister”.  I love it when she makes her way to Utah from the Bay area of California. Our tribe doest feel complete without her. But when we don’t have her, we always have Rob’s Oatmeal Cookies ;-)
Sherry and Sue, back in the day.
Yup, that's a more current portrait of
our tribe of Seven Lovely Injuns.
Gram's Fam Reunion.
Rob’s Oatmeal Cookies
½ c vegetable oil
½ c butter, room temp
1 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar
2 beaten eggs
1.5 t. vanilla

1 ½ c flour
1 ½ t soda
1 t salt
3 c. old fashioned oats
nuts if desired (pecans or walnuts)

Cream oil, butter and sugars.  Add beaten egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients, then add to creamed mixture.  Add oats and nuts.  Scoop into balls.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.


Wouldn’t it be grand if I could have all the people I love and all the people I like, which is mostly all people, over to make Rob’s Oatmeal Cookies, which are sort of Sue’s Oatmeal Cookies? Some of us could eat the dough out of the bowl, some could bake them up nice and soft, and then we could burn the last batch for Kate and the others in our clan who prefer extra crispy.   (I’m seriously gaining weight with this Lent writing!!!!)