Thursday, November 24, 2011

Never Stop Having Seconds--and Firsts

As I sit here, staving off the turkey coma, I can't help remembering holidays past.  One of the harbingers of the holidays at my grandmother's was the reappearance of the cookbooks on her counter.  Now, my grandmother seldom used a recipe for everyday cooking, but the holiday recipes were carefully selected, usually from her favorite Southern Cooking . . . Ripley Style.  Published in 1963 by the Business and Professional Women's Club of Ripley, Mississippi, this cookbook is more than a collection of everyday and holiday recipes from middle-class Southern women; it is a slice of Southern life, of my life.

So, despite the fact that we're cutting back this year (whether it be for burgeoning waistlines or flattening wallets), I felt we needed a treat, I needed a treat, and I turned to the "Ripley cookbook" to fill the bill.

My Ripley cookbook was, actually, my mother's book and is well-thumbed and well-used.  I've made stroganoff, Spanish rice, fudge pie, and many other of its recipes.  But I had assiduously avoided two recipes--chocolate meringue pie and divinity.  In the South, meringue (and its cousin divinity) is a tricky thing; the summer humidity makes it both gummy and sticky.  Consequently, meringue pies tend to be fall and winter delights.  After three days of rain, Thanksgiving morning dawned bright after an early morning light fog.  I decided to give the pie a try.  Like my mother, and my grandmother before me, I separated the eggs, mixed and cooked the filling, and poured it into a store-bought crust.  After it baked and cooled, I fired up my 1980s vintage KitchenAid mixer and began whipping the egg whites.  Despite my worry, the soft peaks formed.  Long story made short, it worked!

That got me thinking.  Why should I have been surprised?  There's no reason for me to have been afraid to try this before now.  Why is this the first time I've tried to make meringue?  You're right.  Failure--or the fear of it, in truth.  But it didn't fail, and I felt like I'd accomplished a long-held goal I did not even know I had.

So, before I enjoyed seconds, I accomplished a first.  I should do that more often.  What about you?

Chocolate Pie

1.5 c. sugar
2 T. flour
3 T. cocoa
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1.5 c. evaporated milk
3 eggs, separated
1 unbaked 9" pie shell

Combine sugar, flour, and cocoa in a sauce pan.  Mix well.  Add milk, vanilla, beaten egg yolks, and butter.  Cook over slow hear until very slightly thickened.  Pour in unbaked pie shell.  Bake in oven 350 degrees until done.  Cool.

Cover with meringue made of 3 egg whites, 6 T. sugar, a pinch of salt, and 0.5 t. vanilla.  Slowly bake until brown.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weeknight Lasagna

Some nights you want something special, but don't have time to make sauce from scratch.  Here's a yummy alternative using prepared sauce.  If your garden is in full swing, add sliced or julienned squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and onions.

48-64 oz. prepared spaghetti sauce (I used Hunt's Garlic and Herb)
2 large cans sliced mushrooms
prewashed baby spinach
2 pounds ground meat, browned and drained (I used 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound Jimmy Dean pork sausage)
1 jar alfredo sauce
12 oz. ricotta
1/4 t. garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 1/2 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. salt
1 t. salt (for boiling noodles)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan
9 lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, fill deep pot with water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, cook noodles until al dente.  While waiting for water to boil, brown meat then drain.  Mix together ricotta, garlic powder and parsley.  Prepare an 11x13 baking dish with cooking spray (I really prefer Watkins Cooking Spray).  Ladle about 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce into baking dish and spread to cover.  Spread 3 cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce in the baking dish.  Spread half of meat on noodles, half of ricotta on meat, one can of mushrooms, half jar of alfredo sauce, a layer of spinach, and about one third remaining sauce.  Layer three noodles on top, the repeat previous layer.  Finish with a layer of noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan (in that order).  Bake a 350 degrees for one hour.  Let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.

This makes a huge lasagna which contains eight generous portions.  Serve with salad, a baguette, and your favorite wine!  (It's even better the next day!)