“Happy Birthday” Cooking Class

What fun it was to celebrate Jean’s birthday with her and her two adult daughters on Saturday. The girls planned it as a birthday surprise: a cooking class in my kitchen, just for them, followed by a special lunch for the four of us.

They snacked on Heirloom Brown Bread with Raisins & Dates and sipped Sun Tea as we got acquainted. The menu included Apricot Chicken, Fruited Rice, Almost Caesar Salad w/Homemade Dressing, Rosemary Bread and for dessert, “They Won’t Believe You Made It” Lemon Ice Cream with Gingersnap Cookies. Cooking from scratch is so much fun!

We talked food, cooking and the novelty of a private party cooking class. A good time was had by all.

Thank you, ladies. It was a special treat to celebrate with you!

Love and Tomato Paste

Years ago we moved to southern Oregon, bought an old farmhouse on ten acres of wooded land and embarked on a three year adventure of living a 1980′s pioneer lifestyle, reminiscent of a much earlier time.

Grocery bills were low because so many friends had gardens and were glad to load up our car with produce they couldn’t possibly consume. One friend raised a couple of beef a year and we filled our freezer with grass-fed, no steroids steaks, roasts and hamburger. We ate eggs from free-range chickens.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen - learning to become a food processor. I needed to cook, can, freeze and take full advantage of the wondrous bounty of living in the country where things grow almost effortlessly.

My friend Betty called one day, saying she had a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes and asked if we would like to have half of them. Of course.

We decided to get together and spend a day  preparing them for the pantry/freezer. We had the larger kitchen, so she and her husband came to our house early the next morning.

The four of us spent the entire day canning dozens of quarts of tomatoes, making gallons of tomato sauce and slicing tomatoes for the food dryer. Near the end of the day, someone (who shall remain nameless) suggested that for storage space purposes, we cook down the last few batches of sauce into tomato paste. What a great idea!

We put it on simmer and ate dinner. We stirred and played cards. We simmered some more and reflected on our day. We felt like marathon runners who were nearing the finish line and needed just one more big push, on simmer.

But at ten o’clock, with the sauce still sauce and not paste, Betty and I couldn’t hold our eyes open any more and retreated to the living room to nap, leaving the guys in charge.

When the smoke alarm (the brain’s panic button) went off, I ran to the kitchen. “It’s okay,” Roger said, fanning the alarm. “The kitchen is hot from having the stove on all day.” (Old farmhouses don’t have air conditioners and most Oregonians don’t know anything about swamp coolers!) ”We’ll bring the fan in here and move the air around.”

Still no tomato paste, so I went back to the recliner. A few minutes later, there it went again. I plugged my ears and stayed put.

The third time, I was wrapped in sleep like a baby in a blanket. I wasn’t worried about the house burning down, but I was highly annoyed (as in VERY ANGRY) at being awakened by that horrible noise. Two grown men in the kitchen and they couldn’t figure out how to keep the darn thing from going off! What’s wrong with them?

I charged into the kitchen like a bull in a china shop, ready to do battle. The first thing I saw when I got there was a banner hanging on the wall with these words written in large letters:

“No greater love hath any man than to can whilst his wife sleeps.”

What’s a girl to do?  I don’t know about you, but I smiled and went back to bed.


Pepperoni Sandwiches – Weird But Wonderful

Last night was the 4th time these sandwiches have been on my menu and again, they were a big hit. Just 4 ingredients and simple enough that my 8 year old grandson put them together for me when we visited in May.

The recipe is from another food blogger and I apologize that I don’t remember who, but I’m so glad I found it. Thanks to all my friends who have trusted me on this one!

Cinnamon bread – Yep, it comes with raisins.
Pepperoni slices – regular or turkey – I put 9 slices per sandwich
Swiss cheese slices – 2 per sandwich

Original recipe called for spicy mustard on one slice of the bread. I made them that way the first time and then tried my tomato jam instead and liked it better.

Make the sandwiches, spread with butter and grill as for grilled cheese. Use medium-low heat or the bread will brown too quickly and the cheese won’t be melted.

Let me know how you like it!







Dress Up Your Tamale Pie

My friend Jeannette made tamale pie for us and the sauce she put on the cornbread topping after it was baked made me want to eat the whole pan. Summer in Tucson may not be the time to try this out, but keep it in mind – it is really good! Different than salsa and a little on the sweet side.

While your tamale pie is baking in the oven, mix together in a 2 cup glass dish:

3/4 cup catsup
up to 1/4 cup diced onion
3 1/2 tablespoons French salad dressing
1 teaspoon sugar
a sprinkle of chili or cayenne pepper – to taste

Cook in microwave 2 -3 minutes on low until onions are cooked and sauce is hot.

When casserole comes out of the oven, pour on the sauce. Another addition you can make to tamale pie is to pile on shredded lettuce, then chopped tomatoes and finish it off with a squiggle of sour cream.  Makes it into a one-pot dinner and turns it into something special.