Thursday, December 18, 2008

Latke Recipe - Low Fat

While waiting in the doctors office I grabbed a magazine and noticed a recipe for low fat potato latkes that included 2 egg whites, 4 large potatoes, 1 T lemon juice, 2 T flour and grated onion.

The recipe stated that the batter should be placed on a regular (not thermal) cookie sheet that has been sprayed. The latkes should be baked for about 15 minutes at 475 degrees and then turned over to continue until the desired crispness is reached.

I wonder if this recipe will really works? The lemon juice is a great idea for keeping the latke batter from turning green (I have seen the use of vinegar for this purpose also).

If baking the latkes in the oven would turn out anything close to a fried latke, my husband would love them as per his diet I don't know if he remembers what potato pancakes (latkes) taste like?

He is very excited about our trying this recipe in the near future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Mom to Gain Weight

I have found a recipe that my mom of 91 years loves to eat before she goes to sleep each night. While she is visiting for the winter, I make her a homemade tapioca pudding that never fails. She loves the extra flavor that fills the kitchen. She can smell it cooking while napping too!

Here is the simple recipe for my tapioca pudding:

2 cups whole milk (I need her to gain a bit of weight or at least to stop losing weight)
3 T Minute Tapioca
3T Sugar

Let the above stand for 5 minutes in the saucepan that it will cook in and then add:

One well beaten whole egg to the mixture of the three items above (the pudding works without the addition of the egg but I feel she needs the egg in the pudding and it gives it a richer texture and color).

Next, gently stir well until the egg and milk are mixed. Once mixed, begin cooking over medium heat, watching the pudding until it continues to boil even when stirring.

After it has been at a full boil add:

1 t real Vanilla extract
Nutmeg -- use a nutmeg grater to grate nutmeg and add to mixture

Pour into serving bowls, I use two large or three small bowls.
Garnish with a bit more freshly grated nutmeg (optional).

The freshly grated pudding adds a holiday flavor to the pudding and the smells in the kitchen.
My mother enjoys eating the pudding hot and it continues to solidify if it cools. My mother had never eaten warm pudding until I made this recipe for her. In the winter months, if the pudding has been refrigerated she asks me to microwave it so that it is warm.

For fun I asked my youngest sister who uses canned nutmeg everyday, what spice I was grating and she could not guess. She was surprised at the wonderful aroma of fresh nutmeg that includes many flavors from lemon to spice!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lingering Memories of My Summer Garden

It is winter and it is cold.

I have saved herbs from my summer garden by transplanting, freezing, and drying.

I transferred my outdoor garden Rosemary to a pot that sits on my bay window and smells wonderful in my living room. I hope I remember to water this pot.

I picked sage and parsley for my Thanksgiving herb stuffing. Even the water from the vase holding the sage gives off a wonderful aroma each day when I place fresh water in the vase.

My indoor kitty, Precious, ate some of the dried parsley. Precious especially loves the dried lovage from my mother's herb garden that I planted years ago for my Mom. Mom continues to enjoy the everlasting herb garden that needs little tending.

How I miss my summer garden!

Now that we have had several snowfalls, I will peak under the snow to see what surprise may linger under the wonderful pure white blanket and plan for next spring!

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Tangerine Colored Heirloom Tomatoes are Ripe

I picked my first tangerine colored heirloom tomato. It is a Hillbilly tomato. My husband had left it growing in the garden as he saw the orange color and thought it was a tomato not yet ripe enough to pick. We sliced it and enjoyed each beautiful slice. The tomato had a soft skin compared to the cherry tomatoes in my garden that have a much tougher one. Our first Hillbilly tomato was mild yet full of flavor, as if a touch of lemon had been added to perfect tangerine orange flesh. The seeds within were small and the tomato fit in the palm of my hand.

We have another Hillbilly almost ready for the table and lots of red cherry tomatoes. A rabbit ate a hole in my plastic fence and I am trying to deter him by closing up the plastic chicken wire fence and spread a bit of Vicks on the fence as read it deters rabbits. If it does, I will include in a later item in this blog.

I saw our rabbit that ate all of my squash plant and broke off some of the branches of my heirloom tomato plants. I have never lost all of my summer and winter squash, including leaves and all to a rabbit and have planted squash for many, many years.

Luckily, when I first noticed that my squash plants were being nibbled down to the root, I planted one in my rose garden and this plant is doing superbly well, does not have any fungus growing on it as many of my squash plants might have in a rainy summer and this lonely squash plant has one small zucchini on it to date. The plant is the healthiest squash plant I have seen in my garden in years.

I hope the garden rabbit does not find my last squash plant. I saw him standing six feet from the garden after I closed up the hole he chewed in my plastic fence.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Found in the Greenbean Patch


I have a bumper crop of parsley, cilantro, arugula, and basil. I have made my first large batch of pesto as a topping for pasta and pizza and have made much parsley salad. I love to watch everything grow and share the produce with members of my family and neighbors.

My cherry tomatoes are starting to turn red. My Mr. Stripey and Hillbilly heirloom tomatoes are still green. My garden was planted late this year and whoever is eating my squash plants and some of the branches of my tomatoes is still in the area. Whoever it is also knocked down some of my large green tomatoes.

I saw a rabbit jump out of my garden. He ate all of the zucchini plants but left me a couple butternut squash plants that are intermingled with the arugula. I think our bunny does not like arugula or the marigolds around the garden but jumps over my low plastic gate that has protected squash plants in the past.

I would love to plant a fall crop of beans. Seven years ago, I found a newborn kitten in my garden patch, exposed to a hot August day with a storm on the way. She is now a house cat and we love our dear Precious most dearly. However, my husband will not let me plant green beans as our Precious allows us to live with her in our house. She is truly a full member of our family and loves to be hugged and sung to by my mother.

Our vet helped us much with suggestions for taking care of our newborn kitten seven years ago and we have become more and more attached to our Precious as the years go by. This August 23 we will celebrate her seventh birthday. Unlike the Cheetahs pictured on my web site at
http://www.raskinfo.com, our Precious was found alone in our garden and I tried to be the best kitty mother I could.

In case you are wondering what is under Garfield, it is a towel with a hot water bottle as the vet said that we had to keep Precious warm. In her earliest days, with little hair, we had to keep the temperature in the house at 90F in August for our dear Precious, who was named by our vet!

Precious does not like anything I grow in my garden but she loves a vase of Lovage (Levisticum officinale) from my mother's garden. Lovage reminds me much of celery but has a much stronger scent that Precious enjoys playing with whether it is green or dried.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gifts from the Garden

The parsley is wonderful, the cilantro is flowering so that I can collect seeds for next year as is the arugula.

My cherry tomatoes are ripe but someone has been munching on my summer squash plants and knocked down large green heirloom tomatoes.

I planted the Italian, flat leaf, parsley this year from seeds, and it is doing wonderfully. The basil I planted from seed is growing as fast as the basil plants I purchased at a local nursery. I planted the basil seed in between my tomato plants as I read they do well growing near each other.

We have been lucky to have some rain almost everyday and my garden includes mulch.

The bush cucumbers are small but very tasty and crunchy. There is nothing like a just picked cucumber from the garden.

In regard to seed germination, the arugula germinates most quickly, followed
by cilantro. About a week later the parsley and basil appeared.

The marigolds around my garden include many bright colors and are doing well.

I have made salads with the parsley, arugula, and cilantro as well as some wonderful egg dishes. Arugula loses the spicy taste when cooked.

I wish I knew who was eating my squash leaves as I never had this problem before.

Help, does anyone out there have any ideas or had any experience with an animal eating squash leaves and/or destroying some of the branches on my tomato plants?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Easiest Baking: Box of Cake Mix and a Can of Pumpkin

My niece in Austin, Texas, who does incredible tailgate parties
associated with football games, emailed me this very easy
recipe. All one needs is one box of cake mix and a
can of pumpkin. Mix the two together in a pan (I added
about one tablespoon of water as rinsed out the pumpkin
can) and place in muffin pans, a loaf pan, or a brownie
pan and bake at 350 F. until done.

Please note that the dough will be stiff. I really did
not believe I would end up with an edible product but my
niece always has wonderful suggestions and creative ideas.

The pumpkin is an excellent substitute for the oil and
anything else the regular cake mix calls for.

I used a chocolate cake mix and one could not taste the
pumpkin. Next I will try it in a brownie pan as my husband
and I believe the brownies will be wonderful with a crisp
crust and moist interior.

I will also try this easiest of recipes with a light colored
cake mix and add the spices normally added to pumpkin pies to
make pumpkin muffins that taste like pumpkin.

My younger sister substituted equal parts of applesauce and
water and added it to a cake mix (her son has many allergies)
and she said it also came out terrific!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Most Special Lunch

Last Friday, April 4, Maria Shine Stewart, and I were invited to a most wonderful lunch by my long time mentor and graduate school adviser, Dr. William Rod Sharp, who took us to the Tavern on the Green, located in Central Park in New York City. Last December 9, 2007, Dr. Sharp was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by E. Gordon Gee, President of The Ohio State University.

What an incredible vacation from our usual work and cooking activities for Maria and me! Maria is a writer, editor, blogger and teaches a wide range of courses at several universities. I am an independent information professional involved in research for companies, professionals, and trade associations that do not have an in house technical or business analyst.

I was looking forward to meeting Dr. Sharp for lunch to catch up on his current work and networking opportunities as I am always seeking clients that would benefit by my research and information services. Dr. Sharp, Maria and I, discovered that we have many things in common including places we have lived, academic activities, and interest in the tomato and/or tomato products.

Maria prepared many frozen meals for her son to take along on his bus trip to New York City with his school orchestra (Brush High School of Lyndhurst, Ohio) as he has many food allergies. I did my share of cooking before our trip to see Maria's son age 15, play violin at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. My baking included pizza ( recipe included in an older entry in this blog ) and fun food for my husband and dear mother, 91 years young, who are also on special diets. My husband is a pizza lover as is my mother. I make as many of our foods from scratch as I can and grow much in two gardens. I baked fat-free scones and other foods for my husband and mother while Maria and I made arrangements to attend the concerts, do research at an institute in NYC, and see some special sights.

I wanted Maria to see the Statue of Liberty. Maria was born in the U.S. I arrived in the U.S., after a tough trip including a stay in a displaced persons camp, with my parents as displaced persons. I first saw the Statue of Liberty on a Navy Troop carrier, the General William C. Langfitt, when we entered the Port of New York on September 4, 1951. My father held me up to see her, the Statue of Liberty. Although it was long ago, I remember all as if it were yesterday.

As soon as we came near the Tavern on the Green we noticed outdoor overhead heaters. It was a cool spring and slightly damp afternoon in NYC. The Tavern blends in with Central Park from the outside and is a shiny, colorful heaven of flowers and chandeliers on the inside.

The Tavern on the Green has its own horticulturist and florist. It is also one of the busiest restaurants in the nation. However, our Friday afternoon was a most relaxing lunch. We walked from our hotel, at our leisure, through part of Central Park to get to the Tavern that is closest to the 67th Street entrance.

All three of us selected the fresh fish on the menu and a salad.

While waiting for our salad course, I decided to introduce my adviser to Reiki. Shortly, our wonderfully tender, baby arugula salad with grape tomatoes was served to us, (to my adviser's delight).

Maria mentioned at the table that I grow everything that we ate that day for lunch, which is true. I was taught gardening by my father when I was five years old. The only food item I do not grow that we ate was the fish. I do research that includes the marine sciences and fish.

I have never grown such a tiny and tender arugula but will look for the seeds to plant as soon as possible. I grow the grape tomatoes in my mother's yard as they are one of her favorites. The blackberries and strawberries grow near my rose garden. I planted strawberries as needed a ground cover but the strawberry plants turned out to be heavy producers of fruit, to my surprise. The large blackberries are native to our area. I would prefer berries without thorns and have tried to remove the plants many times but they always return. My mother asks me to plant arugula in her garden and mine every year and never forgets to remind me to find the best seeds.

Our next course was a most tender and delicate fish, sea bass. As I was eating the most tender fish, to my shock, I found a tooth on my plate. I had no idea that it was my own as all felt fine in my mouth. Panicked, I asked Maria to look in my mouth right there at our table, in public. I needed to know if and how, I should save the item next to my fish?

Maria kindly checked my mouth and said I had lost something as she saw my gum from a distance. I am very lucky that she is far-sighted. I saved the item next to the fish on my plate and later noticed that it was not an entire tooth but a white crown. My wonderful dentist, Dr. Steven Marsh, whose office is in Lyndhurst, Ohio, cemented it back on my return, a few days later.

I was careful to save my crown in tissue and placed the tissue in a medicine bottle. I feared accidentally throwing out my crown with the tissue. I therefore protected the crown by cushioning it with tissue in my small bottle. We had several more days in NYC in addition to a flight home to Cleveland, Ohio, and did not want the crown to be damaged.

Dessert was served without any major event. I had told my adviser (joke) not to expect to find an engagement ring in his cheesecake when I began his introduction to Reiki. I think that by this time in the course of the lunch, I may have embarrassed him beyond words. I am sure he hoped that no one that he knew saw us but he was kind enough to say that he has lost dental work on out-of-town trips also. It was the first time I had ever lost any dental work in a public place and of all places it had to be with my adviser at a wonderful lunch at Tavern on the Green.

I did not realize how much I needed a break from cooking, although I love to cook. It was a wonderful, memorable, experience to be taken to Tavern on the Green by someone so important to me and my family. After mentoring me for almost forty years, I hope my adviser understands what a truly wonderful experience it was having some time to talk with him. I rarely had time to talk to him when I was in graduate school so many years ago.

I would have enjoyed speaking with him anywhere and appreciate his taking us to a most beautiful and special place. The spring flowers were in bloom, the lily arrangements were fantastic. The shrubs were trimmed in the shape of animals. Many movies were filmed in the area -- glass windows, beautiful flowers, sparkling colors -- all created a wonderful afternoon visit.

Thanks for treating your first graduate student and Maria, who helped in your lab and greenhouse as a young teenager, like royalty. Taking time from your busy schedule to meet with your first graduate student and Maria are forever in my memory and in the picture each of us has of the afternoon (picture taken by the photographer at the restaurant was given to us by Dr. Sharp and is being enjoyed by our families).

As I had lost a crown needed for chewing, the remainder of my days in NYC consisted of the New York Cheesecake diet. It was the only thing I dared to eat and the perfect excuse to eat all the cheesecake one could dream of. I purchased it at the wonderful Fairway grocery store across the street from our Hotel Beacon where I had a large double room with a kitchenette.

The next time I visit NYC, I hope to return the invitation for "a most special lunch".

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gardening - Tomatoes



As the snow begins to melt in Cleveland, Ohio, I am looking forward to selecting plants to include in my garden. Per the information on the importance of cis-lycopene, I plan to include tomatoes that are tangerine in color, as the tangerine colored varieties are known to have cis-lycopene. I like to use plants that breed true and have always been interested in heirloom tomatoes and will continue to plant them. In the past I carried seed from a perfectly round, yellow heirloom from Cincinnati to Cleveland as it was given to me by dear friends who had a greenhouse in Maineville, Ohio.

We eat the yellow tomatoes raw, in sauces and freeze them. I wonder what a sauce made of all tangerine type tomatoes would taste like, assuming they were not all eaten raw when freshly picked from the garden.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vegetable - Purple Cabbage

Pictures of the raw and cooked purple cabbage by my dear friend, Gerhard Schlinke, of Merzhausen near Freiburg, Germany

One of my precious cooking memories involves the color purple when I was about three and a half years old. My maternal grandmother and my aunt, baby sat for me while my Mom took care of my father who was not feeling well. I looked out the window at my parents walking down the steep steps and through a courtyard of green plants and stonework.

As they left, I began to smell the most wonderful aroma and noticed the most brilliant purple colored vegetable, I had ever seen, in my grandmother's kitchen. My grandmother started with an object that looked like the ball (cabbage) above, cut it into the
tiniest of slices by hand and turned the purple cabbage into a product whose color and flavor I will never forget. The chopping seemed so effortless for her yet each slice looked perfect to me. My Aunt Lorle (Hannelore) stood beside my dear grandmother tasting each item and adjusting the spices for the most flavorful dish for her beloved nieces, my sister and me.

It was a wonderful afternoon in a cozy warm kitchen with lots of light coming in from the window above the kitchen table. The purple color was as intense as possible in the most comfortable of kitchens. I remember feeling so happy, warm, cuddled and safe in the presence of my grandmother and aunt whose eyes never left us while they prepared a wonderful Sunday dinner.

The final product of my grandmother's efforts was a side dish of sweet and sour purple cabbage whose intense color and flavor I have never again experienced. That Sunday afternoon in Karlsruhe, Germany, was the last meal I remember having with my grandmother and Aunt Lorle before my mother, father, sister, and I departed for D.P. Camp Vegesack, near the port city of Bremen, in anticipation of a trip to the U.S.A. Our parents told us the purpose of the trip was to meet our paternal uncle's kittens. We ate little on the voyage over the ocean in the Navy troop carrier, the General William C. Langfitt. I was seasick and perhaps a bit spoiled by my grandmother and aunt who made the art of cooking colorful and appealing.

The purple cabbage, kohlrabi, and meat was a heavenly meal made with the love of a devoted maternal grandmother and my dear Aunt Lorle. I remember the loving care of my grandmother and the meal she prepared with her youngest daughter, my aunt, as one of my most precious
memories. Whenever I see a purple cabbage, I think of that happy sunny day that I spent "cooking" with my grandmother and aunt. I longed for my grandmother, aunt, and their warm and cozy kitchen on the six week voyage to the U.S.A.

Fifty years later, when my grandmother's buffet and dish cabinet had no where to go, they too went on an incredible voyage by ship over the Atlantic Ocean. After serving as a small part of the cargo on a ship, my grandmother's furniture continued by truck to find a resting place in my home. At my house my mother enjoys her mother's furniture and it has taken me many years to truly understand how courageous and wonderful my mother was and continues to be at almost 91 years young on March 23, 2008.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Rally for Hillary

I had the great privilege of hearing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speak at Brush High School last night. I was in the "overflow" room full of people who could not get into Welser Gym and thus were treated to her speech initially on wide screen TV. Feeling rather rejected and invisible--this is, after all, my fate in life--and grumbling over the irony, since I have paid taxes into this district since the early 1980s, my son was part of a featured music group performing, and I could not even have my way begged in with the help of a campaign member--I was surprised to hear Sen. Clinton indicate that she intended to visit the group of 900 plus that was at the overflow location. Wow. Few things in life impress me more than flexibility. So, I could hear firsthand her message and her goals. To this day, I cannot understand why people heap so much negativity upon her. Is it because she is smart? Female? Straightforward? Is it because she was perceived as a victim in her marriage, and heaven knows that people "blame the victim"? I have no clue.

I do not know whether Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton will get the nomination.

But I suspect that if Hillary had the power and support to become President, we would see a transformation in our nation--despite the snide, crude, and sexist remarks of local talk shows and other commentators.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Traditional Family Favorites - Linzer Torte

Precious Linzer TorteThis is a traditional all time favorite treat in our family. First, thanks to my dear friend, Gerhard Schlinke, of Merzhausen near Freiburg, Germany, for sending me this wonderful picture of our family favorite. The Linzer Torte has a crust made of ground hazelnuts and includes a filling of rasberry jam. When my sister or I see anything like it in a store, we must purchase it . It rarely tastes like the original baked by my mother, aunt or maternal grandmother but brings back precious memories.

My mother once baked two for a school bake sale, shortly after we immigrated to the U.S.A. She cut the dough into leaf shapes to make the top. Her masterpiece was beautiful and added much profit to the bake sale. I remember that I wanted to purchase my mother's baked goods, but they were already gone.

I love the crust that can also be made into a Linzer cake. The entire cake is ground hazelnuts and holds up for a very long time when covered in chocolate that hardens on cooling. I never made the cake but when I would visit my aunt in Freiburg, Germany, she would make a huge loaf and cut it in half for a piece for my husband and a piece for my brother-in-law as they both loved the cake as much as my sisters and I.

The Linzer Torte and the Linzer cake bring back the most precious memories of our family celebrating precious moments together. The Linzer cake was a specialty of my late Tante (Aunt) Hanelore, my mother's dearest and youngest sister.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cakes - Decorating for Everyone

Birthday cake for three year old Megan, now expecting her own baby
Soccer Birthday Cake for my 10 year old nephew having 30 major food allergies
Tennis Cake for my husband's brother's 40th birthday








Notice that the decorated football themed birthday cake looks like any other decorated cake sitting next to two conventional decorated cakes. Decorating birthday cakes was a hobby until my nephew was born. When my nephew entered school he asked me if he could have a decorated birthday cake like the other kids. Until this time we used a dusting of confectioners sugar on his cakes per his allergies. I said of course you will have a decorated cake and we searched for alternatives to food coloring using natural jams or jellies. The cake on the far left, a football cake, is made with frosting using natural ingredients he could tolerate. The top cake and the one to the right are cakes made with the usual food coloring for others in our family.

I took cake decorating as a hobby but never expected it to bring such happiness to someone that would not otherwise have a decorated cake. The cake itself is eggless, dairyfree, and modified from the recipe used when eggs and milk were rationed, thus one may think of it as a patriotic cake instead of an "allergic cake" as the kids would call it. The "special" birthday cake tastes the same as any decorated cake and can be made in flavors and any types of jams or jellies, that are permitted per the person's allergies, mixed into the frosting.

It takes me over 20 hours to prepare the "special" birthday cake but it is much fun. Variations of the football theme will be appropriate for many years.

Vacation - Foods

Precious Memories relating to fresh foods and the sea from our trip to Hawaii

Collage of Pictures from Hawaii

One of our favorite places is Hawaii. Of the islands we visited, the Big Island of Hawaii, is most precious to us. With the city of Hilo on one side and Kona on the other, one enters a world including every climate one could imagine from tropical, to snow, to volcanoes, as if the four seasons all agree it is their favorite place to stop and rest.

We love the small bananas used in many items including pancakes and purchased papaya from a local market. The ocean scenes were fantastic as was the food. We enjoyed driving around the entire Island meeting those selling Macadamia nuts from the trees on their farms and enjoyed the unique features of each island. We found a small shop selling coffee and sandwiches, the avocado given to us was from the huge tree in the backyard overlooking the ocean. The coffee was from the beans in front of the small store. The Macadamia nut farmer suggested this unique place, high on a hill overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, when we asked him if he could direct us to a nearby coffee shop.



Saturday, January 19, 2008

Gadgets - Zester

One of my useful gadgets is a zester. My mother told me she loved the cookies that I made for her, the ones having a lingering aroma of citrus. I call my recipe:

Andrew David's Orchestra Cookies: a Zesty Dough


Zest from two tangerines/oranges/lemon (optional)
Cream 2 sticks of butter (I soften it slightly in the microwave if necessary)
Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and continue creaming the butter and sugar (important step)
Add 3 whole eggs to the mixture
Add 1 tsp vanilla
Add 1/8 cup milk (an alternative is about 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice + Zest)
Add 3 1/2 - scant 4 cups of flour to make a stiff dough remembering to
Include 2 teaspoons of baking powder in the flour (I use unbleached flour)
Mix and place the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, be sure the dough is covered so that it does not dry out in the refrigerator.

After refrigeration for at least three hours, I take out some of the dough and hand roll it into one inch balls. I slightly dampen my hands as the dough becomes sticky. I place the one inch cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet (I use the silicone covers on my cookie sheets and nothing sticks to the pans).

As the dough is not overly sweet, one can add jams, nuts or a chocolate kiss to each cookie by pressing the kiss into the round ball or making a thumb print in the cookie ball and filling it with a jam. We like rasberry and apricot preserves in our cookies as the flavors and colors are appealing. One can also press a favorite nut, such as a pecan into the round cookie balls.

The cookie balls will spread out so leave two inches between the cookies and bake for about 15-18 minutes in a preheated 350 F oven until the bottom of the cookie becomes slightly brown. Do not over bake, the cookie will remain very light.

The recipe makes from 80-96 cookies depending upon the size of the small ball one hand rolls. The dough may also be rolled in larger long rolls and cut. The nice thing about this dough is one need not use a rolling pin or cookie cutters.

I usually make one tray with chocolate kisses, one with nuts, one with apricot jam and a tray with rasberry jam. This cookie dough does not crack when a chocolate candy kiss or nut is pressed into the raw cookie dough before baking or if the cookie is indented with a thumb print, something that might appeal to children helping to place their thumb prints in the cookie before adding jam or preserves.
At our house, when we eat a piece of citrus fruit, I wash the peel vigorously and collect the zest before peeling the fruit. I have the zest on hand for baking and find that it replaces the need for salt in many recipes. I am trying to get my 90 year young Mom to gain weight and decrease her need for salting everything by substituting a citrus flavor. She often says "I will eat it if you do, as it is more fun to eat with someone than eating alone". Thus, I gain weight and Mom does not gain a single pound.

The cookies with a chocolate candy kiss in the middle of each cookie, sold at a recent bake sale benefiting my nephew's school orchestra. Next year I will make a tray including all four types of cookies by cutting a long roll of cookie dough into 1/3 inch rounds and including all four cookies on one tray of cookies. One dough recipe makes four unique tasting cookies that also look appealing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Homemade Foods - Pizza

I make my pizza similar to a graphics program, in layers. I am a self taught techie. My pizza recipe is modified from a recipe included on page 104 of the cookbook entitled Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish, M.D.: 150 Easy, Low-Fat, High-Flavor Recipes published in New York by HarperCollins in 1996.

This is not a political blog. I noticed today that Dr. Ornish dedicates the cookbook to President William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton with this statement, a direct quote:

"May G-d grant you the wisdom, courage, and compassion needed to lead our country during these transformative times."

I honestly did not notice the quote in the book until I decided to include my favorite homemade pizza recipe in this blog. I am not making a political statement. I seem to remember that perhaps Hillary brought Dr. Dean Ornish to the White House kitchen. The Clintons were reported to be eating pizza for dinner during the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night. I wonder if they were eating a modification of this recipe?

The pizza recipe I use for my family is as follows, one recipe makes one large round pizza, I double or quadruple the recipe depending upon the number of pizzas I need.

Please note: if you are interest in studies on pizza you might wish to look at an article from the American Chemical Society (2007, March 27). Chemists Create Healthier Pizza By Boosting Antioxidants In Dough. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070326181611.htm that mentions nutrient advantages of high heat and a long fermentation process (related to the yeast)in making the most nutritious pizza.

I let the pizza dough rise in separate plastic bowls in a turned off stove, overnight in plastic bags for individual pizzas the next day in the refrigerator or for a party of "make your own individual pizza". I have never made more than 4 times the recipe in my largest green Tupperware bowl as the dough raises more than twice the size in the first rise.

After the first rise, I punch it down, smooth it out in a pizza pan and let it rise for a second time, again until about double the height. I use flour over the dough and around the bowl when it rises the first time and cover the bowl with a clean cloth. For the second rise, I place the pizza pan with dough in a turned off oven without covering the dough on the pizza pan. I always tap the dough to the edges, should it stick too much to my fingers, I add a bit of flour on top of the dough or to my fingers. Wetting the hands also works (some use a bit of oil in their hands but I may not do this per the dietary restrictions in our family).

I pre-bake the dough at 425 F until I have a light brown color on the bottom of the crust (about 10-15 minutes) and if I want to be able to remove the crust from the pan I must always spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray. The cooking spray step seems to be important no matter what type of pan I use. I spray the pizza pans lightly before placing any dough on them and then proceed to fit the dough to the pan. If I do not lightly spray the pizza pan, the dough will stick to the pan!

After pre-baking the dough I cover it with ingredients that individual members of the family tolerate. I always microwave the vegetable toppings in the microwave and let them cool a bit before placing them on the pre-baked pizza dough. Cheese is not added in the oven but added later in the microwave for those who may eat it. Cheese can be added to the pizza during the last few minutes of the baking process if cheese is permitted in the household.

Many toppings may be added to the baked dough. I often use a can of tomato paste mixed with a bit of water and ketchup but if tomato is not permitted, I add the permitted item directly to the pre-baked dough. Red or green pepper, cooked chicken, hot dogs, or the usual pizza toppings used on a commercial pizza may be added to the pre-baked crust.

To make one large pizza crust I mix the following:

1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon cane sugar
1 cup luke warm water

(Reserve about 2 cups of flour total and don't forget a nonstick baking spray)

Let the mixture of yeast, sugar and lukewarm water rest for about 3 minutes. I never use anything metal with my yeast dough. I use cold water from the faucet that I place in the microwave for a few seconds to bring it to lukewarm, if too hot, I add cold water to the microwaved water.

After resting for a few minutes, I notice if bubbles are forming. If I see bubbles, I gently stir the mixture and add half of the new light wheat flour and half unbleached flour, totaling about 1 1/2 cups of flour or a bit more if the mixture is two sticky to handle.

I knead the dough until it is smooth in the bowl, for just a few minutes. After brief kneading, I sprinkle flour under, on top and around the dough in the bowl for easy removal after the first rising. I cover the dough with a cloth. Flouring the areas that the dough will touch during the raising process is an alternative to using oil in my family, as one family member is on as low a fat diet as possible and is a pizza lover.

For my 90 year young mother, I add the richest ingredients to the pizza. Pizza is one food my mother loves to eat. She is a true pizza lover and enjoys all toppings such as vegetables, meats and cheese (I usually use mozzarella cheese).

After the toppings are added to the pre-baked crust, I bake the pizza at 425 F for about 15-20 minutes. When adding cheese to the pizza in the oven, I add it during the last few minutes.

My sister Maria, a contributor to this blog, taught us how to store leftover pieces of pizza. She cuts the pizza in slices and places them faces together on a plate to keep the toppings together, thus keeping them from drying out. Next she covers the entire cooled pizza with plastic wrap and stores it in the refrigerator. Her husband likes to eat it cold as do I sometimes in the summer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homemade Foods - Russicher Zupfkuchen

Russicher Zupfkuchen is a popular European cheesecake
Russicher Zupfkuchen is a popular European cheesecake within a chocolate shortbread dough. This cake was made by my friend, Gerhard Schlinke, of Merzhausen, near Freiburg, Germany who is also an accomplished photographer.

Homemade Foods - Cheesecake

Homebaked Cheesecake form my friend, Gerd, in Germany
In German, a cheesecake is called a Kasekuchen (with an umlaut (two dots) over the "a" in Kase) This is not for those dairy or egg intolerant but is an example of a beautiful and professional looking, international dessert. Many thanks to my friend Gerhard Schlinke of Merzhausen, near Freiburg, Germany, for baking the cheesecake and sending this picture.

Snacks for Special Diets

For over 16 years, I have been working on a line of snacks and meals for those on special diets or having allergies. I am wondering if there is a need for a not too sweet snack that I call Andrew David's Twist Cookies.

The twisted cookie does not contain eggs, dairy products, nuts, or soy and is cholesterol free. The cookie twist can be made with plain sugar or a variety of natural flavors. The cookie twists include unbleached wheat flour. I have not tried making the cookie with alternate flours, but it could also be gluten-free if a gluten-free flour product, not containing wheat, were used.

Would there be any interest in such a product for those with allergies or dairy intolerance were it available? I am still perfecting Andrew David's Twist Cookies per a group of selected taste testers with allergies or on low cholesterol diets.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Cookies - Butterless, anise cookies

I made four batches of anise cookies, the kind one has to dry overnight so that a top or cap forms on them. I used four different recipes that varied by the number of eggs and the use of baking powder. I dried them per the directions overnight or up to 18 hours. None of the cookies developed the traditional tops that remind me of white mushroom caps.

Winter scene in Cleveland's snowbelt


As you can see it is winter in Cleveland and the house could not be too humid for the caps to form. I have no idea why the recipe did not work for me as it has for my mother and my grandmother. Does anyone know the secret to making this self topping cookie? I tried baking on cookie sheets with and without aluminum foil, liners, etc. The cookies were good but capless!

My grandmother would send us these cookies and many of her precious cookies each year in a package that took four weeks to arrive via a voyage over the Atlantic Ocean by ship. I will never forget the wonderful smell when we opened the box. My maternal grandmother lived in the Black Forest and the box had a heavenly smell on opening it. My mother would form perfect little circles and let the dough dry upstairs. I watched with awe as the caps appeared. I would love to recreate this magical cookie, any and all suggestions are most welcome.

I was born in the northern Black Forest.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cookbooks - Travel

When I travel, one item I purchase for my collection is a regional cookbook. My Mom has accompanied me on vacations and loves to review the trip by looking at the cookbook. I generally have to modify cooking recipes but having purchased the cookbook in the area somehow makes the recipe and the book precious.

Friends visiting cities such as New Orleans or Dallas have borrowed my cookbooks when preparing for their trips. I also love the cookbooks purchased in smaller towns, those detailing local events and international books. These cookbooks make cooking fun and bring back wonderful memories of our vacations.

Cookbooks - Secrets

I read secrets to making pie crusts in an older cousin's cookbook when I was in grade school. The secret mentioned was to roll the crust on wax paper that is made to adhere to the counter by wetting the underside of the paper slightly. After the crust is on the paper, remove the paper from the counter and hold the paper over the pie pan to transfer the crust to the pan.

Although I did not bake a real pie for many years, I committed the secret to memory and have used this method for over 40 years. I wish I knew the name of that cookbook.