Daily Archives: February 24, 2014

Bettie’s Fresh Fruit Salad Dressing

Cut up 3-4 kinds of fresh fruit. Include some berries if they are in season, and work for color variety. Over the bowl of fruit, sprinkle at least 1/4 c. of:

powdered sugar

Toss together until the sugar dissolves. Not kidding. That’s it. Keeps the fruit from turning brown, and the sugar thickens the natural juices just enough. Add a squeeze of lime if you want to.

Byron’s Oyster Crackers

Bruce’s dad used to make these whenever we had a party at our house. We would have invited him anyway. Now Bruce makes them to munch on during football games and movies. They also work well for a college student’s care package – pack them into ziplocs and tuck into those hard to fill spaces in the box. A batch never lasts more than 48 hours at our house.

2 tsp. dried dillweed
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 dash garlic powder
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (powdered)
3/4 c. oil
two 10 oz. packages oyster crackers.

Whisk together all the seasonings and the oil, and pour over the oyster crackers in a large bowl. Stir to coat evenly. Let sit one hour to let crackers absorb all the flavors (this is the hard part). Store in tightly covered container. We use a big Ziploc bag.

Byron’s Cock-a-Leekie with Scottish Oatcakes

You really need the oatcakes to make this traditional soup complete. I made this dish again recently, with the bounty from a parishioner’s CSA farm. The box included leeks, celery, and a paper sack of oats.  I couldn’t bear to cut the unprocessed oats with a pastry cutter, so I mixed up the oatcakes with my fingers, barely patting the dough into a circle instead of kneading and cutting. The result was a lovely batch of oat scones that held together much better than the crumbly oat cakes you get from the recipe below…
2 1/2 lb fryer, cut up
4 c. water
1 carrot, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1/2 c barley
2 chicken bouillon cubes
bay leaf
1 1/2 c sliced leeks
Put everything but the leeks into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done – if it falls off the bone, your veggies will be mush, but you should be able to pull meat off the bone easily. Remove chicken pieces to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then remove bones and skin and cut meat into bite-size pieces.
While you cut up the chicken, add the leeks to the pot and continue to simmer. Put the chicken back in the soup for about five minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over Scottish oatcakes.
Scottish Oatcakes
1/2 c shortening
1 c. oats (regular or quick, but not instant)
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 Tbsp cold water
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in the shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add water a tablespoon at a time, until a stiff dough forms. Carefully roll out 1/2 – 3/4″ thick on floured surface and cut into rounds or squares. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms just start to brown. These are fragile and crumbly. Put 2 in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup over them. Put the rest of the oatcakes in a basket on the table, with some butter alongside – but don’t try to cut them open, because they will fall apart!

Mommie Taylor’s German Apple Cake

Bruce’s grandmother had a fool-proof method for desserts: use whatever sugar the recipe calls for, then close your eyes and add some more! This cake, however, called for too much oil, so I’ve adjusted it a bit. Serve warm or cold, with vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip. No frosting necessary, but see note from my sister, below.
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar (see what I mean?!)
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
(1/2 tsp. salt)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. oil (she used a full cup)
2 eggs
4 c. apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 c. raisins
1/2 – 1 c. chopped walnuts
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon. (“Do NOT use the electric mixer!” she said emphatically.) Batter will be quite stiff. Spread into a greased and floured 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
My sister Karen saw this and wrote, “This is German Apple Bread from my ex-step-mother-in-law’s family recipe trove! I got in trouble for posting it in a fundraiser cookbook back in the day – apparently top secret stuff, who knew? Glad that’s not the way YOU feel about recipes! Anyhow, it’s really good topped with a powdered sugar/milk glaze drizzled over the top, coffee cake style. Yum!”   So there you have it.

Chili con Queso

Here’s another recipe adapted from my El Torito days. This is supposed to be an appetizer, but it makes a nice lunch. This is the real deal. Read to the end for the cheap and easy version.

Make a Ranchera Sauce … make a big pot of this and freeze it in quart containers. It’s the backbone of just about every good Mexican dish. This recipe makes about a quart; adjust quantities as desired.

Cook a chopped or sliced onion and some minced garlic in a little oil. Add 3-4 chopped chile peppers (Serrano are good). Add chopped celery and green pepper if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to. Add 4-6 chopped fresh tomatoes, skins and all, or 2 cans diced tomatoes (with or without added chiles). Throw in a cinnamon stick and about a tablespoon of ground cumin. Cook down over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly – it should be more soupy than spaghetti sauce. Simmer over low heat another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick. Pack into containers, label, and freeze. Thaw as needed.

For the con queso…

In a small saucepan, combine 2 c. Ranchera Sauce and bring to a simmer. Add a large handful grated cheddar/Monterrey Jack cheese. Stir over low heat just until the cheese melts. Do not boil. Pour into a heatproof bowl and sprinkle some chopped green onion and tomato over the top. Serve with warm tortilla chips.

College kid’s quick and easy version. Open a can of diced tomatoes with chiles and pour into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the grated cheese and nuke on high for 2 minutes, stir, then nuke one minute more. Open a bag of chips.

Crockpot party version: you guessed it. Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta. But honestly, once you’ve had the real thing, this will never taste as good.

Biscuits (and Gravy)

Back in Miss Coldwell’s Home Economics class, we learned to add cream of tartar to the dry ingredients – I don’t know what it does, but no one has ever complained about my biscuits. I like to add a little cinnamon – you don’t really taste it, but they brown up prettier with it. Don’t bother trying to find the biscuit cutter. If you want round biscuits, use an old tuna can with both ends cut out (but who wants to do all that cutting, scraping together the bits, and doing it all over again, when you can just make square biscuits?).
Jo Anne’s Best Biscuits
2 c. flour, sifted with…
3 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbps. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Cut in:
4-5 Tbsp. butter and/or shortening
Make a well in the center and add about 1/2 c milk or buttermilk or milk with a little plain yogurt (this is a good way to get rid of the dab at the bottom of the big carton).
Toss the milk into the crumbles until they come together into a ball. Add a little more milk to bring in the rest of the crumbles (you’ll end up using 2/3 to 3/4 c. liquid). Do not over-mix. When all ingredients are moistened, use your fingers to press together into a firm enough ball to turn out onto a floured surface. Barely knead (no more than 12 strokes) enough flour into the dough to make it workable, then roll out to 3/4 – 1 inch thickness. Pat the edges into the dough to form a rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 12 or 16 squares and move to an ungreased cookie sheet, keeping biscuits about 1/2 inch apart. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.Serve immediately with butter, jam, honey, etc. My grandpa used to mix equal parts honey and butter on the edge of his plate, and eat as many biscuits as it took to get rid of the honey butter.
Or make some …
Sausage Cream Gravy:
1 lb sausage
(butter, if you use turkey sausage, since it has no grease of its own)
salt and pepper
Fry the sausage in a large skillet, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle some flour over the cooked meat and stir it in. Repeat until all the grease has been absorbed in the flour. Stir the roux until it starts to “whistle” (my mom’s term – it’s really more like a hiss), then add small amounts of milk at a time, stirring constantly, until the gravy reaches desired thickness. Mom taught me to stir in the milk until the lumps were dissolved, then let it boil again to the whistling point. Three more stirs would tell you if you needed more milk. If it didn’t start to thicken after three stirs, it was done.
This is the same gravy I make after I fry a chicken, pouring off all but about 1/4 c. of the chicken grease to start the roux, scraping up the bits from the frying pan as I go. Sure makes washing the skillet easier.

Lenora’s Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars

If you cut them into 32 small squares, each one has 7 grams of fat and 180 calories (the math whiz in our family figured it out for me a long time ago). I just say that right up front so you can stop reading now if you’re counting those things. I’ve never seen anyone eat “just one.”

With a mixer, beat together:
one package chocolate cake mix
one stick of butter
one egg

Beat until you have a very stiff dough – don’t stop when it gets to the “little pebbles” stage. Press into a greased 9×13 pan. Don’t bother to wash the bowl or beaters.

OPTION: spread a layer of chocolate chips over the dough.

In the same bowl, beat together:
8 oz. cream cheese
3 – 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs

Pour this mixture over the chocolate layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut into small squares while still warm.

Lenora Larson is an amazing woman who lives on a butterfly farm just outside Paola, Kansas. If you google her, you may find articles she has written about butterflies, raising goats (the name of the place is Long Lips Farm, because Nubian goats are a long-lipped variety), and microbiology, as well as medical marketing. She’s a true renaissance woman, and I think fond thoughts of her every time I make these bars.

Herbed Lentils and Rice

It’s a cool and cloudy day in Minnesota – time to fire up the oven (or the Crock Pot!) for this Taylor household favorite, adapted from Meatless Main Dishes. I always make a bigger batch so we can have leftovers, which can be eaten cold for lunch the next day, or packed into bell peppers or acorn squash halves and baked (add a little more Swiss cheese to the top)… possibilities abound. Cut everything in half if you are cooking for just one or two.

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 c dry lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 c brown rice
1/2 dry white wine (or some other flavorful liquid – sometimes I just add more broth with maybe a touch of cider vinegar or wine vinegar)
8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded or just chopped into small cubes – I mean, you already have the knife dirty from the onions, right? Who wants to wash a grater if you don’t have to?
at least a tsp of each of the following dried herbs, crushed with a mortar and pestle:
cracked pepper (and a pinch of salt)
4 oz Swiss cheese cut into strips for garnish

Combine everything except the cheese garnish strips in a large casserole. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove lid and give a little stir after about an hour. If it’s still pretty runny, leave the lid off. Otherwise, keep baking for up to two hours, until all the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender. Uncover for the last 5 minutes, and arrange the cheese strips over the top to melt in a lovely pattern. If you have any fresh herbs to sprinkle over the top, that’s nice too. Serve with your favorite green salad.

This travels well to potlucks, and we always get asked for the recipe.  It works in a slow cooker, and doubles easily.

Linda’s Leek Pizza

This is the perfect al fresco meal to serve friends – just add a salad and some good wine. Linda finished off the meal with Bosc pears poached in wine, but fresh fruit or a little sorbet would work just as nicely.

Butter Bread Dough (for the crust)

2 c flour
2/3 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp salt

Mix the salt into the flour in a medium bowl, and make a well in the flour. Add the warm water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let stand until the yeast bubbles the dough. Stir together with a fork, adding in the melted butter, until a dough forms. Knead for a few minutes and immediately roll out (approximately 12 x 9 inches) to fit easily onto a cookie sheet, pinching the edges up a bit.


4 Tbsp butter
8 small to medium (or 4-5 large) leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and cut into chunks (NOTE: I think Linda got this recipe from a friend in France. They apparently grow smaller leeks over there. Two-three large leeks from an American grocery store are enough.)
1 c heavy cream
Salt and pepper
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Heat the butter in a large skillet, add the leeks and saute until soft. Add the cream and cook until well reduced, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the leek mixture over the bread dough and dot with the goat cheese and chopped nuts. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven until golden (about 20 minutes) and serve sprinkled with coarsely cracked pepper.

Honestly, just reading through this recipe again made me want to go preheat the oven and run to the store for some heavy cream and leeks, so this is what I made for Valentine’s dinner this year.  It’s good cold, too, if you can manage to have any left over for lunch the next day.

Taylor’s Tuna Glop

Named for the sound it makes when you slap a big spoonful on your plate, this is the perfect one-pan meal for a college student who’s tired of eating Ramen noodles every night. If you aren’t a college student, you can add a salad.

One box macaroni and cheese dinner
Milk and butter, per package directions
One can tuna (water-packed)
1-2 c. frozen mixed vegetables

Cook the macaroni in a pan of boiling water, and throw the veggies into the cooking water with the macaroni. When the pasta is al dente, drain into a colander in the sink (clean out the sink, first, duh). Melt 1/2 stick butter or margarine, and stir in the cheese packet from the mac’n’cheese box to make a nice roux. Slowly stir in some milk to make the sauce. Add the can of tuna (you don’t have to drain it unless you want to), and stir in the macaroni and veggies. If it seems a little thick, splash in a little more milk, and stir until all ingredients are well blended and the sauce is bubbly – about 30 seconds. Add pepper to taste. Eat.

True story: MONTHS after returning home from college, our son got a text message from his former roommate. “Dude. When do you add the tuna to the glop?” Our son replied with the necessary information, to which his roommate responded, “Lovely.” That kid now works for Ernst and Young. Our son now works for Wells Fargo.  They both still eat tuna glop, I’m pretty sure.