Friday, September 30, 2016

Biff's Chicken Dunk


Mr.Biff was an extraordinary man....extraordinary because he was real....imperfect.....fallible....Gentle with the aspects of his generation's intense, dogmatic ethos, which contributed to his identity.  I admired him for his ability to share the ethos of his generation without cynicism, and with a directness that was so rare in the 70s when so many were completely self-absorbed, and spent a great amount of time communicating about who they were through their opinions.  Mr. Biff had the fine art of relating with people by sharing who he was just by chatting with people and listening to who they were with his fine tuned instinct.
I met Mr. Biff when I chose my electives my sophomore year, and as it turns out, one of my electives would be his class.  Mr. Biff taught Aviation.  He was sitting at the sign-up table with a small line in front of him.  The small line consisted of all guys.  Hmmm-mm, I wondered what he was teaching?  I was curious because the line was short.  The guys in line were the same guys from freshman year; thick lensed, black framed glasses, short, thin, 18" waists, button-up shirts, with pocket protectors loaded with pencils and pens, no visible muscles, and yet carrying their high IQs well.  I knew this was a class to check out.  Knowing by those already checking it out and signing up, that it would be interesting, would be intellectually stimulating, and definitely edifying.
Mr. Biff was a former Turret Gunner on the B-17 during WWII in the Army Air Corp.  He was well prepared to teach Aviation.  A rare elective for High School.  As a former military brat I know of no other school that offered this elective.
My first semester I received a B+ and Mr. Biff conferenced with me saying because I was a girl I should not expect an A.  Clearly one of the ethos from his generation; women will score lower in certain academics..  The next three semesters I received A+s.  My final grade was A+.  My extra credit project I built an instrument panel for a cockpit, which sort of nullified my B+.
One of our field trips I escorted Mr. Biff and my aviation class to the Navy Base to observe my father pull 10gs in the centrifuge.
Mr. Biff was a much beloved teacher.  He communicated splendidly with young people.  I also served on his environmental restoration and preservation committee by invitation. A tremendous mentor for all us that took his Aviation class.
Dip Sandwiches were all the rage in Pennsylvania.  Mr. Biff was passionate about Dip sandwiches as well.  The Chicken Dip was his favorite.  He loved having special days at school where class teaching was suspended for a day of project sharing activities and he would include food enjoyment as part of the day.  He would make Chicken Dip sandwiches for all of us.  It was an amazing feast, and the sandwiches were so delicious.  I loved his enthusiasm for preparing and sharing and enjoying them.
I have renamed the sandwich in his honor; Biff's Chicken Dunk, and I have thrown in a few extra ingredients.  I did leave the chicken breast thicker as Mr. Biff would, and yet I do cut the breasts thinner when I make them otherwise.

Chicken Breasts, skinless & boneless
Flour Dredge for Chicken Dunk:
flour [amount depends on how many breasts you are preparing/ eyeball it!]
cayenne pepper
black pepper
salt
garlic powder
onion powder
dribbling of milk [to make clumps in flour for extra crunch]
Soak your chicken breast in milk or buttermilk 30 minutes to an hour before dredging in flour.  Use a small amount of milk or buttermilk to dribble in flour dredge to create clumps for extra crispy crunch.  Heat canola oil or vegetable oil to 325 degrees.  Depth of oil should cover your chicken breasts.  Cook until golden and internal temperature is 165-170 degrees.  Drain on paper towels.  Toast your bread on griddle just on one side.  Use butter on your hot griddle. Toast until bread is golden.

Dunk Recipe:

Pour oil off leaving crunchy bits and 2 Tbsp. of oil in pan
1 Tbsp. of flour
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 splashes of white wine

Whisk flour into bits and oil and cook for two minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar, and stir.  Add salt & pepper.  As your dunk starts to thicken add splashes of wine to establish the thick or thinness of your Dunk.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly.  Place chicken breast on toast, cut diagonal, and pour Dunk sauce in a dipping cup.  Serve and enjoy!
One of Rooney's favorite sides with two scoops of dry dog food is a scoop of plain jasmine rice.  No salt, and no butter, just rice.  Unassuming and unpretentious!  Once in a while something uncomplicated with no extras is what we crave; humans and canines.  Mr. Biff's Chicken Dunk is just such a meal.  The natural flavor is so good.  You will continue to make it many times over.


Enjoy Mr. Biff's Chicken Dunk this week!
V........










Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Chibcha ruana

Creating something warm and inviting from a food dish, to a knitted hat, or blanket and then sharing it, gifting it, is an expression of ourselves.
I added a few ingredients to my Mom's basic chili recipe.  The basic chili recipe is calming, and gentle, and when Mom prepared and served it to the family it made us feel warm and full.  Preparing and serving our family a meal is an expression of our love.
This chili recipe is now being enjoyed by my grandchildren.  That makes four generations being loved by the preparer, and four generations feeling warm and full.
I have named it "Charming Chili".  Here is my recipe;

Charming Chili

3 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, diced {I used Walla Walla Sweet}
2 jalapenos, seeds & membranes removed, diced
2 cans chili beans with juice
2 quarts Tomato Juice
1 32 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/4 c. chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

I made a double batch of Charming Chili yesterday.  I used 2 of my stock pots.  I froze 1/2 of the chili to use another time.  It freezes well.  I loaded two one gallon storage bags half full.  Expelled excess air as I sealed the bags, and laid them in the freezer flat.  When thawing the chili it usually takes 30 minutes to one hour to get the frozen chili soft enough to place in a saucepan for reheating.

Directions: Brown ground beef and saute onions and jalapenos until beef just starts to lose its pink color.  Drain excess grease.  Add 2 cans chili beans, can of crushed tomatoes, and 2 quarts tomato juice.  Stir until blended.  Add 1/4 c. of chili powder.  Stir until blended.  Bring to low boil, turn down heat until chili simmers.  Chili will start to thicken, and it is ready to serve with your favorite toppings.  I simmer Charming Chili for 2 hours on low.  I have also prepped Charming Chili for my slow cooker and set it on low for six hours when my schedule is real busy.
My father brought to me a ruana years ago from Bogota, Columbia.  It is a poncho like garment made from virgin wool with colors  that are natural colors of the wool.  Makes me feel warm when I am out early taking pictures.  The ruana reminds me of Dad bringing it home and gifting it to me and saying, "To keep you warm!"
Rooney is modeling it quite well for her photo shoot this week!  The expression on her face says, " I do not know why I am wearing this, but I love Mom and she loves me....and....and....I will have a snack in a few minutes!"
Rooney's personality is warm.  She makes me feel warm and loved every time she looks at me.  Rooney's brown eyes can look amber in the sunshine, and can intensify her facial expressions.  When she looks at me during these times, I feel understood.  As light is important to photography, light is revealing in Rooney's Doberwoman face and eyes.  Just when I think I have seen all her expressions and feelings the autumn light shows me yet one more; being understood by a sweet, beautiful canine friend.  At that moment, I feel utter bliss!



Enjoy a bowl of Charming Chili this week.....be warm!
V..........




Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monkey Brains



My three children renamed Monkey Bread years ago after seeing it come out of the pan for the first time, and gave it the name Monkey Brains.  It stuck fast and even with the three of them grown and with their own families Pete and I still call it affectionately Monkey Brains.  It is a quick easy recipe.

One cup of sugar with a teaspoon of cinnamon for rolling the balls of dough in, before placing them in a bundt pan.  For the dough I used my favorite roll recipe made for my bread machine.  In 90 minutes I had the dough ready to roll in individual balls of dough about 1 inch in size.  I used a small bundt pan, so one batch was perfect.  Years ago and even now when our children and grandchildren visit, I make two batches and use a standard size bundt pan.  For the dough I have seen recipes that use biscuits from a tube or a bag of frozen rolls from the freezer section at the grocery store, thawed.  I chose to use walnuts this time.  I like to use pecans or cashews as well.  All three kinds of nuts are delicious in this recipe.  For the caramel sauce put 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of butter and a pinch of salt in a saucepan on medium high heat. A rapid simmer is perfect to achieve the thickness for the caramel sauce to pour over the dough and nuts, without becoming runny. After taking caramel sauce off heat add 1 teaspoon vanilla. I make the same amount of caramel sauce every time, but for this small Monkey Brains I did not use all of the caramel sauce.  It is an individual decision on how much you want to use.  If you want extra gooey use the whole batch of caramel sauce.

After layering dough in alternate rows with nuts and caramel sauce allow the Monkey Brains to rest for 30 minutes before putting in the oven.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Delicious and fun to make.  Great to eat for breakfast with a glass of milk, or for dessert with coffee or tea, or as a snack after school with a glass of juice.  We have enjoyed Monkey Brains many times in all the ways I listed, over the years.  It was made extra fun because of the children renaming it.  A recipe to keep and use always.
Rooney has been a helpful assistant in cleaning and reorganizing closets these past two weeks.  She helped me discover some knitting garments I had made and stowed away for safe keeping, or just in case our children wanted them when they come to visit and look through the cedar chest.  A kind of walk down memory lane in knitting garments.  It was fun remembering with Rooney by my side the scarves and hats I had knitted over the years to keep family members warm and stylish.  Is there anything better than a handmade knitted garment?!  It is heartwarming to remember fun recipes that brought the family together with fun and happiness.  It is great to go over the memories with our food and our handmade knitted garments or other handmade clothes or handmade furniture, etc., because there is a great blessing by doing so.  It gives the brain and heart a delightful sensation. Our positive memories bless us with the desire to make more positive memories, and in turn it blesses us with a healthy attitude and in turn blesses us with good health.
Rooney volunteered to model a red scarf I had made about twenty years ago.  It was so fun seeing it again. One of many projects I knitted while watching my children in sports games!  Seeing this scarf was like seeing an old friend.  Pete and I did a lot of bench warming and cheering!  And afterwards a lot of feeding of very hungry children.  Rooney buried her nose in the scarf when I pulled it out of the cedar chest, and I think that is when I decided it was time to make a batch of Monkey Brains!




Enjoy a batch of Monkey Brains & Sweet Memories from something handmade,
V......

















Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feel the heat

The father of my children, the grandfather of my grandchildren, and my main squeeze has taken quite a bit of good natured ribbing over the years from family and friends for not being able to take the heat.
With it being football season and hence and therefore big finger food season, I spent this week experimenting in my kitchen, until I came up with "Pete's Hotstuffs".  My husband no longer needs to endure seeing handmade surrender flags made from triangular white paper and toothpicks stuck in his small platter of bites.  No longer does our guy need to hear " No, no! those are grandpa's; eat these instead!"  NO longer does our favorite QB need to see small platters next to big platters on the munchie table and feel the jokes coming or hearing the giggles as he places "his bites" on his plate.
Everyone saddles up to the ample, large platter of Pete's Hotstuffs and loads their plates and then chooses a dollop of dip depending on their heat preference.  My dips range from smooth & easy to screaming.  My hottest dip I have dubbed "Run for the horse trough", and I serve it in the smallest dip bowl I have!  Everyone takes a moment to reflect before choosing a dip discerning how courageous they feel for the day....

Pete's Hotstuffs Recipe
a batch of your favorite roll dough made in bread machine or
frozen bread dough bought in freezer section of your grocery store [thawed]
1 c. sharp cheddar grated
1 c. pepper jack grated
8 oz. room temperature cream cheese
1 c. room temperature butter
2 diced jalapenos [seeded, membranes removed, diced]
8-10 slices cooked bacon strips [crumbled]
1 Tbsp. chives [fresh if you have it]
pinch of salt
pepper to taste
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Directions: Mix with a spatula, sit aside.  Roll out dough in rectangle approximately 7x12 inches.  Spread Hotstuff mix on dough.  Leave a 1/2 inch border, mix free all around dough.  Roll up snug but not too tight.  Pinch off seam.  Roll up snug in saran wrap.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  After the hour slice in 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices, and place on parchment lined baking tray.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 12- 20 minutes or until golden and toothpick comes out of dough edge clean. Serve with your favorite dip or my favorite herb dips [recipes next] and celery and carrot sticks.





Herb Dip Recipe

1 c. sour cream
1 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. Basil
1 tsp. dill
1 Tbsp. Chives
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Directions: Mix and chill.  I used fresh herbs.  Yum! Serve with Pete's Hotstuffs and carrot & celery sticks.

Run to the horse trough dip Recipe

a batch of my herb dip above
8 drops of hot sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 diced jalapenos with seeds
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce chopped and 1 Tbsp. of the adobe sauce
Mix, chill, and enjoy!

Rooney loves football game day.  She finds her humans upbeat and energetic, and talking to the T.V., and sometimes shouting at the T.V. screen.  Rooney is fascinated by the howls her humans make after tasting certain things on the munchie table.  Sometimes she howls too, because she loves joining in with all the hullabaloo.  Rooney's philosophy is when in game day mode, join the flow.  She even passes out her football squeaky toys to her human receivers.  Rooney melds into the groove and when she hears her humans groan, because something not good happened on the T.V. she growls to show her support.  When her humans jump up and down, and laugh, and move their knees outside, inside she bows and low jumps, and yips to show she is happy too.
Without a doubt if Rooney was writing a PhD thesis, I think her theme would be on human tribal behavior on game day.  I am sure she would write about the fascinating ritual body movements humans make when they are elated.  Let's hope she does not learn how to use the digital camera or camcorder, because she would be out the door headed to Cali to make her billions.
Rooney is the best canine FB enthusiast on the planet!




Enjoy Pete's Hotstuffs!  Choose your dip with courage!
V......








Saturday, September 10, 2016

Zeppole much?!

Laura and Tony T. were neighbors in Warminster, Pennsylvania.  They were adorable, and smart, and had an amazing desire to stay active creating, and making, and always sharing.  Laura and Tony were Italian.  Beautiful people, they were.  Laura and Tony set the standard for all whom I wanted to be acquainted with for the rest of my days.  I was sixteen years young when I met them.  Laura and Tony were interesting and interested.
Both were extraordinary cooks.  They grew fresh herbs for the pasta and other dishes they would create.  In any given day you could walk into their kitchen and view so many fresh foods, fruits, vegetables, cloves of garlic, fresh loaves of bread on their kitchen work surfaces ready for their next creation, something so delicious, so beautiful that I wanted to never eat another thing, because I wanted that taste to stay in my mouth forever.  On many occasions I could see chicken feet sticking out of the top of a stock pot on the stove, as Laura loved to make her own chicken stock.  Very.fresh.chicken.stock!
In remembering Laura and Tony I made Zeppole today, just like the two of them all those years ago.

Zeppole Recipe
[Italian Donut Holes]

1 stick butter [1/2 cup] room temperature
1/8 c. fresh orange juice
1/8 c. orange liqueur
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. flour
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. orange zest
vegetable oil for frying

Directions: Cut butter in 1/2 inch pieces. Place butter along with sugar, orange juice, and Orange liqueur in saucepan.  When butter is melted over medium heat, add flour and salt all at once.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Dough will come together.  Cook 2-3 more minutes.  Take off heat, and place dough in bowl of stand mixer.  Add orange zest.  Mix until steam stops coming off of dough.  Add eggs one at a time and mix each egg thoroughly into dough.  Add egg yolk and blend well.  Place Zeppole dough in storage bag, and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Bring 2 inch deep vegetable oil to 350 degrees. Remove Zeppole dough from fridge after 30 minutes.  Cut corner off of bottom of storage bag.  Drop enough dough from opening in bag into vegetable oil to form 4 inch donut holes.  Fry 3-5 minutes, turning over any Zeppole that do not turn over themselves.  Drain on paper towels.  Mix Zeppole Glaze and toss each Zeppole in glaze until coated and drain on rack until glaze is set.

Zeppole Orange Glaze Recipe

2 c. confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
3 Tbsp. Orange Liqueur
1 tsp. orange zest




















Rooney enjoys a fresh subtle breeze and a medium warmth of sunshine on her face as if she is enjoying a favorite memory.  How I wish she could tell me about the memory she is enjoying.  How great would that be?  Rooney could share as I share some of my favorite memories through food, photography, and people on this blog.  I think she is pondering how delicious her snack is going to be after helping Mom with this photo shoot for this blog.  I think we can see on her face how she understands the importance of looking her best for all of us.  Memories and anticipation of new memories provide us with hope and happiness like warm sunshine on our faces and a subtle breeze blowing over us!





Enjoy Zeppole and new memories this week!
V....





















Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Galette a lot?!



There is something wonderful about Galette.  It is a lovely and delicious pastry stuffed marvel.  Elegant and scrumptious.  Stuffed with fruit, or vegetables, or potatoes, or meat and potatoes.  The choices are endless!  My French teacher in high school Madame Durand introduced me to Galette. Madame Durand believed eating French food while learning the language heightened one's learning ability.  Madame Durand was Italian.  Maiden name Ricci.  Her husband was French.  Madame Durand was tri-lingual and a marvelous cook.  The galettes she would bring to class were fruit filled, or meat and potato filled, savory flat pies filled with flavor and texture.  One bite and my only ethnic group was French.  I felt French for the entire 55 minutes of class, and many times for the whole day!
The crust I have tweaked.  I used canola oil, 1% milk, salt, & flour, and because of this, the dough is fragile.  Taking a few extra seconds to use freezer paper, saran, or wax paper will set you up for success.  The rolling pin must not touch the dough.  Otherwise the dough will just stick to the rolling pin.
                                                              Galette Crust Recipe
                                                               2 c. flour
                                                               1/2 tsp. salt
                                                               1/2 c. milk
                                                               1/2 c. canola oil
Directions: Sift flour and salt together in a bowl.  Pour milk to 1/2 c. mark on measuring cup and pour canola oil until the combined milk and canola oil measures at the 1 c. mark.
Pour the canola oil and milk all at once in the flour salt mixture and mix with a spatula.  Divide dough in half and form into balls and place in storage bags. Take rolling pin and roll dough in storage bags in a flat circle.  Place in fridge for thirty minutes.
After the thirty minutes take the dough out and put on freezer paper or waxed paper and use saran or wax paper on top of dough and begin rolling out to desired thickness.  Replace top layer of wax paper with parchment paper and flip the whole works so that parchment paper is on the bottom and freezer paper or wax paper is on the top.  Peel back freezer paper or wax paper and pick up parchment paper with pie dough and place on cooking sheet.  You can continue to build your Galette directly on the cooking sheet.
Do the same with the other half of pie dough, and use for decorative cut outs, that I placed around the outside of my galettes to enhance the look. 
                                                        Cherry Filling Recipe
                                                3 c. cherries [whole or chopped]
                                                           1/8 c. sugar
                                                       1/8 c. brown sugar
                                                         3 Tbsp. flour
                                                       1/2 tsp. cinnamon
                                                     1/8 tsp. almond extract
                                                     1 Tbsp. Cherry Liqueur
                                                     1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Directions: Toss all ingredients together, add to cherries and toss.  Let sit until cherries start to release their juices.  You may need to pour off some of the juice before placing the cherry filling into crust.  It is an individual preference and judgement thing.
                                                     Potato Onion Filling Recipe
       2-3 potatoes [your choice of potatoes/ sliced] [peeled or unpeeled, your choice]
                                    1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced [I used Walla-Walla Sweet]
                                                                 3 Tbsp. butter
                                                                 3 Tbsp. flour
                                                            salt & pepper to taste
                                                                1/8 tsp. cayenne
                                                                1/4 tsp. turmeric
                                                                 1-2 c. milk
Directions: Saute onions in two tablespoons canola oil over medium heat. Remove and sit aside.  Saute potatoes until slightly tender and a little golden. Remove and sit aside.  Add butter to same pan and when butter is melted whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in milk.  Keep stirring until it starts to thicken.  Add cayenne and turmeric, salt and pepper. Add onions and potatoes, and simmer for twenty minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit for twenty minutes.  Add to your galette pie crust and decorate to your preference.

Both galettes cook in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Let galettes sit for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.  I used non-stick spray with canola oil on outside of pie crust.  You can brush with a beaten egg with a tablespoon of water whisked in.

Being enthusiastic is one of Rooney's endearing qualities.  As with Madame Durand, as with Rooney.  Life is marvelous and to be enjoyed full speed ahead, in between naps, that is, and yet sleep and rest is to be enjoyed with as much zeal as how we enjoy life when we are awake.  Comfort during naps or rest is essential.  Blankets help us get to the drowsy comfort level desired.  Rooney always remembers to grab a blanket for nap times.  Rooney has much enthusiasm for blankets.  If she sees a blanket lying on an arm of the furniture, and the previous enjoyer was a grandchild who has moved on to some other activity, Rooney will commandeer the blanket, wrap it around her neck and chest, and enjoy a blissful nap full of chase-me-chase-you dreams.  Rooney enjoys her blankets as much as I enjoy a fabulous galette.
Blanket...Galette....Galette....Blanket......FAN-tas-TIC!






Enjoy a galette & a blanket cuddle this week,
V......