Healthy Date/Apricot Bars

date/apricot bars

Here is a receipt for a great date/apricot bar, sweetened with a monk fruit sweetener; it is complete with information on this great alternative sweetener.  This makes a healthy breakfast bar.  The recipe is another one of my sister’s notes of grandeur, derived by her ingenious cooking skills, which she originally made with sugar.  Today, however, her cooking is inspired by the keto diet (therefore this bar no longer fits in her diet plan).

Recently I have begun investigating this keto way of eating for myself, which promotes a diet of high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carbohydrates.  I am looking to it for its over-all health benefits, rather than for weight loss.  The more I read, the more convinced I am that the avoidance of sugars, as well as a high intake of the right kind of fat calories, is beneficial for our bodies both to maintain health and loose weight, but it is essential that they be the right kind of fats.

Dr. Don Colbert has an excellent plan, the keto-zone diet, in which you bring your bodies into a state of ketosis, burning fat for energy, rather than glucose (sugar), by using premium fats for 70% of your daily caloric intake.  Presently I am exploring in depth his teachings on the multi-health benefits of his diet.  Not needing to loose weight, I don’t restrict my carbohydrates quite as strictly as his diet requires-until I learn otherwise.  Therefore I partake in this bar, which is made with organic whole wheat pastry flour, oats, butter, and monk fruit sweetener.

Indeed, high quality fats (avocado, olive oil, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, krill oil) are important also for those of us who aren’t in need of shedding pounds,.  Rather we have a need to take in enough calories to maintain weight and acquire optimum health.  Consuming lots of rich desserts and empty starch calories to keep weight can lead to diabetes among other serious conditions.  1

The use of good alternative sweeteners is equally important, as eating the right kind of fats; these bars are made with butter and Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener, which is available at Costco.  Monk fruit sweeteners are typically a mixture of monk fruit extract and other natural products such as inulin or erythritol;.  This Costco product is a blend of erythritol-the first ingredient-and monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, or Swingle fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), which is a small round fruit, native to southern China.  2

Costco’s Monkfruit has a sweetness equal to sugar, though other blends may have a sweetness ranging from 100-250 times greater than table sugar.  The intensity of sweetness depends on the amount of mogrosides present.  Mogrosides are the compound-a unique antioxidant-in monk fruit extract, which are separated from the fresh-pressed juice of this Asian monk fruit during processing.  When separated they are free of calories; these sweet-flavored antioxidants-mogrosides-are mainly responsible for the sweetness of this fruit, rather than its other natural sugars, fructose and glucose.  Fructose and glucose are actually totally removed during the processing of this extract.  3

Though more research is needed to verify the health benefits of mogroside extracts from monk fruit, there is some evidence that they may have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, as well as possibly having positive effects on cancer and diabetes.  Current studies, however, use much higher doses of monk fruit extract than that consumed in this sweetening product.  4

We find the satisfying of our need for pleasure is much needed in healthy eating, but how this calls for balance.  Indeed, balance is a key to all that concerns us about food, and it is imperative that we make the effort to discover what works best for us individually.  Our bodies are unique and complex.  Food can work as a medicine, as well as be a rich blessing to our souls, when consumed properly.

Eating with an attitude of reverence is a key to tapping into gastronomic pleasure.  One simple tool in reaching this goal is to focus on that childhood instruction “chew carefully”.  In order to do this, it’s imperative to slow down.

We find the need to slow down and “chew carefully” is present in all of life’s endeavors, in order to reap the maximum goodness promised; as the old adage goes “slow down and smell the roses”.

To achieve this, it is important to give thanks to our Creator for our food, as well as for all the daily blessings and trials that come our way.  Such insures our joy.  We apply this gratitude to the not-so-good, not for the trouble itself, but rather for our resultant growth that develops out of overcoming hardship.  Such a heart bent on thanksgiving pleases our God immensely; it guarantees a prosperous life.  (For more on heightened pleasures of proper eating, see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/04/10.)

Enjoy this delightful recipe!

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/monk-fruit-sweetener
  4. Ibid.

finished product

Healthy Date/Apricot Bars  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 50 min.

2 c pitted dates, packed down firmly, chopped  (I suggest taking a measuring cup to the store, thus pre-measuring fruit, as you buy in bulk).

2/3 c dried apricots, cut small

1 1/3 c butter, softened  (Plus several additional tbsp, as needed for moistening last of crumbs.)

1 c Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner, cane sugar, or coconut sugar  (This Monkfruit is available at Costco.)

1 2/3 c old-fashioned oats (Organic is only slightly more expensive in bulk; available at most grocery stores.)

3 c flour (Organic whole wheat pastry flour is best.)

1 1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.99/5 lbs.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is preferable for quality and taste.)

  1. thickened fruit-sauce

    Beat 1 1/3 c butter in a large bowl; blend in Monkfruit sweetner or sugar, beating until light.  Set aside.

  2. Measure dates in a measuring cup, packing down firmly; with a chef’s knife, chop into small pieces.  Repeat these steps with the apricots.
  3. “sifting” in sealed plastic bag

    Place fruit in a medium saucepan.  Add 2 1/4 c of water, cover, and bring to a boil over med/high heat.

  4. Remove lid, lower temperature and boil softly, uncovered, until a thick sauce is formed.  Be sure to stir about every 5 minutes.  Watch fruit carefully as it thickens, so as not to burn (see photo above).
  5. mealy crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  6. In a plastic sealed storage bag, place flour, oats, and salt.  Close the seal and shake vigorously (see above photo).
  7. Blend flour mixture into butter, until mealy; see photo.
  8. Place 3/5 of flour/butter mixture in bottom of a 9” x 13” pan, which has been lightly sprayed with oil.  Pack down evenly with hand, being sure to pat edges and corners really well.
  9. initial baking of crust

    Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes (see photo).

  10. Remove from oven and gently spread thickened fruit-sauce over top of crust.  Then, taking the rest of the flour/butter mixture, firmly pat rounds of dough between your two hands, placing these solid masses on top of date/apricots, until all is covered.  (May add a little additional soft butter to dry crumbs in the bottom of bowl, to moisten them and facilitate the last of the forming.)  See photo below.
  11. forming of top crust

    Return to oven and bake 30 minutes more, or until golden brown; see photo at top of recipe.

  12. Cut into bars, while still warm.  May freeze part of batch to have on hand for a nutritious breakfast bars.

Balsamic Eggs w/ Ghee Recipe

finished ghee

Discover here the health-giving attributes of the right kind of fats, such as grass-fed ghee in this delicious balsamic egg recipe, which is complete with the easy steps for making inexpensive ghee.

Increasingly, our mainstream culture is recognizing that dietary cholesterol is not a cause of heart disease or weight gain.  Mitochondria, the power plants in our bodies, either burn sugar or fat for energy.  A high carbohydrate diet makes the body go into a mode of burning glucose (sugar), while switching to a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, allows the body to use fat for fuel.  This is why many people are achieving great success with the keto diet, which is high in fats.  Of key importance, however, is that one eats the right kind of fats!  1

Many vegetable oils, such as canola and soy oils (those most frequently used in restaurants and found on grocery shelves) are very unstable, oxidize quickly, and are almost always rancid; thus, they can be extremely detrimental to the nervous system and immune health.  They can be indigestible and lead to inflammation and free radical damage; inflammation is among the root causes of major diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis, according to Dr. Don Colbert.  2

In approaching a high fat diet, to either maintain health or loose weight, it is critical that one know the kind of fats that are healthy.  There are seven recommended healthy fats-avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, grass-fed ghee, MCT oil, and krill oil. Among these are three that I frequently use in my recipes: ghee, avocados (and their oil), and the king of oils olive oil, though this latter should not be heated, as it becomes carcinogenic at high temperatures.  3

Ghee made from grass-fed butter is highly health-promoting.  Dr. Axe states that the saturated fat found in butter (and coconut oil) provides the body with much needed fuel, as well as helping with blood sugar stability, when eaten in reasonable amounts.  It has 400 different fatty acids and a good dose of fat-soluble vitamins as well.  It is important that the cream the butter is made from is obtained from grass-fed cows, with their diet rich in beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in plants.)  When eaten in moderation, butter is very beneficial.  4

Butter made into ghee takes these health attributes a step higher.  Ghee is produced by gently heating butter to evaporate the water and milk solids from the fat.  Fat makes up about 80% of the content of butter.  The milk solids contain inflammatory proteins and sugar, which are detrimental to health, but when these are removed, pure butter fat (loaded with fat-soluble nutrients) results, providing a food good for healing and detoxification.  5

Following is a simple recipe for the preparation of inexpensive ghee at home, which I have perfected over time.  Note: my saucepan for making ghee was originally not quite heavy enough; thus, I could only produce clarified butter, when I used the high quality, European, grass-fed Kerrygold butter.  My not-so-heavy saucepan, however, was quite adequate for making ghee, with the lesser-quality, Trader Joe’s, hormone-free, regular butter; this ghee, however, is much lighter in color and isn’t as health-promoting.

The premium, grass-fed, European butter is higher in fat, making it impossible, without burning, to go beyond this first stage of clarifying the butter, while using my not-so-heavy pan.  Clarifying requires cooking only until the first foam arises and subsides; then, there is the removal of the skin of dry, milk solids.  Ghee is easily produced, when cooking continues after this initial stage and, following the subsiding of the first foam, a second foam arises.  Then the milk solids that have sunk to the bottom of the pan brown, leaving a nutty-flavored medicinal substance.

After several failures with Kerrygold butter, I bought a great, heavy, All-Clad saucepan at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  (Go to Laban Bil Bayd-2018/03/26-for more information on the differences between clarified butter and ghee.)  These great balsamic eggs, with ghee, are a steadfast part of my diet now!  Enjoy.

References:

  1. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://draxe.com/grass-fed-butter-nutrition/
  5. https://drcolbert.com/7-healthy-fats-to-help-you-burn-belly-flab/

balsamic eggs beginning to fry

Balsamic Eggs  Yields: one serving.  Total prep time: 5 min.  (or 25 minutes total, if making your own ghee.)  Note: though a thermometer may be helpful, it is not required.

1 tsp ghee  (May purchase ready-made at Trader Joe’s, or make your own inexpensively, following directions below.)

2 eggs, preferably duck eggs

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. first foam

    For homemade ghee, prepare a strainer, lined with a coffee filter, and place it in a heat-proof dish; set aside.

  2. Over medium heat, shaking pan, melt 8-16 oz of high quality, unsalted butter (Kerrygold is ideal).
  3. breaking of first foam

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo).

  4. Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (see above photo).  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  5. second foam rising

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until a second foam rises.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees; see photo.  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  6. Immediately gently strain golden-colored butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish (see photo below).  Transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  7. straining ghee

    In an egg pan, melt 1 tsp of ghee, over medium heat.

  8. When pan is hot, add eggs and lower heat to med/low.  Pour vinegar over yolks, just as the white is starting to form on the bottom of pan; see photo at top of recipe.  Cover with a splash shield (available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, see photo below).
  9. splash shield

    When whites are nearly cooked, flip eggs over, cooking briefly, then transfer to a bowl, for easy spooning of these delicious juices.

Sprouted Three Bean Dip

sprouted three bean dip w/ organic Que Pasa chips

Let’s examine the beautiful health benefits of sprouting.  This sprouted three bean dip was inspired, by the life-preserving works of my sister Maureen’s prayer partner Jeanette, in the early 2000’s.

This friend was a cancer victim with four months to live, when she chose non-traditional treatment, a juice fast at a health center.  After healing was complete, Jeanette began to teach powerful juice fasting herself, elaborating on its restorative values with raw, sprouted foods.  Together these produce a perfect ph balance in our systems, in which cancer can’t survive.  This woman is now world renown for treating the terminally ill.

Sprouting magnifies the nutritional qualities of grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts.  For instance, almonds soaked for 24 hours increase in food value eleven times.  Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal, which fits nicely between grains and legumes, is also dramatically changed; this complete protein, which grows quickly in one to two days, is high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate, zinc, vitamin E, and antioxidants; my instructions for germinating quinoa can be found in Sprouted Quinoa and Yam Salad (2016/09/05).  Beans, however, take about three days for the enzymes to come alive; live beans are also a good source of protein, as well as B and C vitamins.

Maureen learned much about nutrition from her friend and subsequently passed it on to me.  My sister creatively applied her sprouting method to cooked three-bean dip (Jeanette, however, never cooks anything).  Note that boiling these beans diminishes their life; thus, they are no longer considered a live food, but germination still holds some benefits here even with the heating.

On the other hand, sprouting can encourage bacteria to grow, while high heat kills these microorganisms; boiling also deactivates irritating substances that may be found in raw sprouts; therefore, people with weak immune systems should be careful about eating sprouted foods.  Indulge as your body dictates, always employing sterile conditions while undertaking this technique.

Koreans have long employed stewing in making their common side dish known as kongnamul; in this popular nourishment, the sprouted soybeans have been cooked thoroughly and seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, green onions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and hot pepper flakes.  This refreshing accompaniment is almost always present at every meal in this culture; for an authentic recipe, go to http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kongnamul-muchim

My dip will keep for many weeks in the refrigerator-these instructions provide three and a half quarts of product, two of which I freeze.  For me, this receipt’s importance is found not only in its enzymatic quality-though it decreases some with boiling and freezing-but more so in the ease it provides, of having a dynamite hors d’ouvres on hand always.  It’s good!

finished product

Sprouted Three Bean Dip Yields: 3 1/2 qt (ideal for freezing).  Total prep time: 3-4 days-for soaking beans-plus 1 3/4 hr to prepare/  active prep time: 40 min/  cooking time: 1 1/4 hr.

3 c pinto beans

1 c red beans

1 c black beans

1 tbsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available for $4.95/5 lb at Costco.)

2/3 c garlic cloves, or 2 med/large bulbs  (This produces a moderately pungent garlic flavor; may adjust amount for a weaker/stronger garlic taste.)

1 c cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil

1 c salsa  (Trader Joe’s makes a good and reasonably priced Salsa Authentica.)

2 tsp cumin, or to taste

4-1-qt empty, yogurt or cottage cheese containers, sterilized

  1. black beans after sprouting for 2 days

    Began soaking beans 3-4 days ahead of time: place the pinto and red beans together in a large stock pot; check for stones; then, cover generously with water.  Next place black beans in a 3-qt saucepan, covering well with water, after checking for stones,  (Black beans cook faster; thus, they need to be prepared separately.)  Note: if beans are old, they will not sprout.

  2. Let soak for 12 hours; then, rinse well and drain.  Cover with wet paper towel and begin the sprouting process, which takes 2-3 days.  Be sure to rinse beans extra well every 8-12 hours, always covering with wet paper towel.
  3. red and pinto beans after sprouting for 2 days

    It is important that the paper towel remains wet; thus, keep a spray bottle of water handy and spray intermittently.  Sprouts will be formed in 2 days, but leaving them for 3 days is even better (be sure to rinse frequently the last day to keep water clear).  See both photos.

  4. When sprouts have grown, rinse beans well again, and cover amply with fresh water.  Cook black beans over medium heat until soft for about 45 minutes.  Bring pinto/red beans to a boil, over med/high heat, covered; then, uncover and cook until beans are soft (this takes a total of about 1 1/4 hour).  Be sure to stir occasionally, and replenish water if needed.  DO NOT ADD SALT WHILE COOKING, THIS INHIBITS BEANS FROM SOFTENING.
  5. measuring chopped garlic

    Peel garlic while beans are cooking; cut cloves in halves or thirds, filling a 2/3 c measuring cup for a moderately spicy dip (1 c for strong garlic flavor or 1/2 c for weak).  Place in a dry food processor; chop fine, stopping and scraping down sides.  Pack down chopped garlic in a 1/2 c measuring cup; split in half with a knife-see photo-using 1/4 c for each of the two batches you are processing.  Set aside.  (Dip will taste strongly of garlic at first, but this flavor mellows greatly after several days.)

  6. Remove the black beans from heat when they are soft, immediately add 1 tsp salt to hot bean broth.  Let beans soak in broth for 15 minutes, drain extra well, set aside.  (This process salts the bean dip evenly.)
  7. Repeat step 4 with the pinto/red beans when finished cooking; add 2 tsp, however, of salt to this mixture.  Drain well.
  8. When beans are thus prepared, process the first of two batches by placing half the pinto/red beans (approximately 4 1/4 c), half the black beans (approximately 1 1/2 c), half the garlic, 1/2 c oil, 1/2 c salsa, and 1 tsp of cumin in the food processor.  Turn on and puree, mixing thoroughly; press the “dough” button on processor briefly, as it agitates the mass with different motions than those of regular processing.  In this way the bean dip is blended well.  See photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  9. Place in sterilized containers and repeat step 7 with the last of the beans.
  10. This keeps in refrigerator for many weeks and freezes well; thus, it is great for long-term use.

1950s’ Lemon Bars

1950s’ lemon bars

Here I give details concerning the known history of tantalizing lemons-dating back to before Christ-as well as a time-tested receipt for lemon bars.

In the 1950s, my mother often made these great bars, using a then popular recipe probably derived from a magazine, to which I have added my touches to make them simpler, tastier, better!

There are many variations of fruit that grow on trees in the genus Citrus, and these are prone to form hybrids with each other, making it hard for scientists to work out family relationships.  Today it is believed that the common domesticated citrus fruits all derive from just three parents: the citron Citrus medica, the mandarin orange Citrus reticulate, and the pummelo Citrus maxima.  1

Lemons, so valued for their acidity-often 5% of the juice-are widely used in cooking and are highly revered in the making of beverages, pectin, medicines, and beauty products.  This fruit may have originated as a two-step hybrid, in which both steps were citron-crossed with lime.  It is proposed that the first step of this hybrid arose in the area of northwest India and Pakistan, while the second took place in the Middle East, where the citron, crossed with lime, was crossed additionally with pummelo.  2

In Food in History, Reay Tannahill postulates that people may have been eating lemons and limes as early as 2300 BC, when the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Dato, of the great Indus civilizations, were at their peak.  3

Around 100 AD lemons arrived in the Mediterranean via Arab traders; by 400 they were planted in orchards in Moorish Spain.  Presently they are mainly cultivated in subtropical regions, with many varieties of true lemon, as well as a couple of further hybrids, such as the Ponderosa and Meyer lemons; the Ponderosa is large and coarse, probably a lemon-citron cross.  The Meyer, probably a cross between the lemon and either orange or mandarin, however, is thin-skinned, with less acid, and a distinctive flavor due in part to a thyme note (from thymol); this later came to California in the early 20th century.  4

“Curing” promotes longer shelf life of lemons.  Being picked green, they are held in controlled conditions for several weeks, allowing their green skins to yellow, thin, and develop a waxy surface; curing also promotes enlargement of the juice vesicles.  5

Epicures appreciate the preserved lemons of northern Africa as a condiment; they are made by cutting and salting lemons and letting them ferment for several weeks.  (Up to a month may be required, as suggested in the great recipe at https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/.)  This process allows for the growth of bacteria and yeasts, which softens the rind and changes the aroma from bright and sharp to rich and rounded.  6

Often attempts are made to shorten the steps with many in-depth cooking procedures today.  Such has occurred with these preserved lemons-for example they are frozen and thawed to speed salt penetration, then salted for a few hours or days.  This will bring some of the needed chemical changes as the oil glands are disrupted and their contents are mixed with other substances, but without fermentation, full flavor development will not occur.  7

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes that lemon comes via Arabic from a Persian word, reflecting the route these Asian fruits took as they made their way to the West.  8

Enjoy the explosion of great flavor in this proven lemon bar recipe!

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 373.
  2. Ibid., p. 377.
  3. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three River Press, 1973, 1988), pp. 38, 39.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 377.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid. and https://nourishedkitchen.com/morrocan-preserved-lemons/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

finished product

1950s’ Lemon Bars  Yields: 16 small bars.  Total prep time: 55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  inactive prep time: 10 min/ baking time: 25 min.  (There was a note on Mom’s recipe to add more lemon to this original 20th century recipe; thus, I increased both the lemon juice and flour to 3 tbsp each.)

1 c plus 3 tbsp unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is high quality.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs

1 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal, in place of the white; may also use turbinado, raw cane sugar.)

Zest of 2 small lemons  (Organic is very important, in order to avoid the taste of pesticides; available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed

1/2 tsp of salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. golden crust

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Spray lemons with a safe, effective, inexpensive produce spray (combine 97% white distilled vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  3. With a fork in a medium bowl, blend 1 c flour, butter, and 1/4 c powdered sugar, until mealy like a pie crust.  Pat mixture firmly into an ungreased 8” x 8” pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown (see above photo).  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
  4. frothy filling mixture

    Meanwhile zest lemons, then juice them.

  5. Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer; blend in your choice of 1 c white, coconut, or turbindo sugar.  (For info on coconut and cane sugars, see Zucchini Bread-2017/07/24-and Pear Pie-2016/10/31-respectively.)
  6. Mix in remaining 3 tbsp flour, salt, and baking powder; add lemon zest and juice, beating until frothy (see photo above).  Set aside.
  7. bars at end of baking

    Spread lemon mixture evenly on top of slightly cooled crust.  Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes more, or until golden brown.  Note: this will firm up more with cooling.  See photo.

  8. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 16 pieces, while bars are warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Disguised Ham, c. 1857

disguised ham

Here is the fascinating history of the making of ham, with the differences between traditional and modern day industrial processing, as well as an early American receipt for holiday leftovers of this meat.

Eliza Leslie devised the perfect solution for the remains of our Easter dinners, in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (c. 1857), with her disguised ham recipe.  There she recommended to bake seasoned ground ham, mixed with mustard and egg yolk, on toasted bread, and crown it with a golden meringue.  1

Leslie started her prolific career in 1828, with her humble Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats.  Her writing had developed greatly by the time she published the above cook book, with her disguised ham; now the New Cookery Book included a thousand recipes.  Her cook books evidenced that Leslie was following the lead of the influential Amelia Simmons in her writing of American recipes for an American audience.  2

Prior to the influence of Simmons, the heritage of our national cuisine can be attributed greatly to African American cooks on colonial plantations.  Here, due to great rivalry, the colonial dames jealously guarded their well-provisioned tables; thus, the great recipes of their Native African American cooks were strictly handed down by mouth from generation to generation.  All the cook books published this side of the Atlantic-there were only a few-were really English cook books, which were merely printed in the States.  3

Simmons changed all this, when she ushered in the beginnings of our nation’s writings on American cuisine with American Cookery in 1796.  She introduced the publication of receipts using New World foods, such as cranberries, clams, shad, and terrapin, as well as cornmeal in puddings, corn cakes, etc.  She included Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake or journey cake-called thus because these flat corn cakes were frequently carried on journeys.  4

Meanwhile, a number of American ladies followed Simmons’ lead with the writing of American recipes for an American audience; the most prolific of these writers was Eliza Leslie, from whom we have this inspiration for using leftover ham.

Back then cured meats were made by either dry-salting (dry-curing) or brining (wet-curing) large cuts for several days, giving them about 60% moisture and 5-7% salt by weight.  This process preserved them and they could be kept uncooked for long periods without refrigeration.  5

Today salted meats-ham, bacon, corned beef-are still popular, because of their great taste, even though salting is no longer essential for preservation.  The curing process has gone from several days for traditional, wet-cured meats to just hours for their modern, industrial counterparts-in the case of some bacon processing, the pork is cut into slices, immersed in brine for 10-15 minutes, and packed the same day.  With their milder cures, industrial meats generally must be refrigerated and/or cooked.  6

Now wet-cured hams are injected with brine.  The pork pieces are then “tumbled” in large rotating drums for a day to massage the brine evenly throughout the meat, making it supple.  Finally they are pressed into shape, partly or fully cooked, and are sold chilled, with no maturing period.  7

Modern corned beef is also injected with brine, and actually doesn’t touch any salt grains, as its name indicates-corn comes from the English word for grains, which includes salt grains.  (For the detailed beginnings of corned beef in Ireland, see 2018/03/05.)  8

With dry-curing, salt is used to transform pig into sublime hams, a process that goes back at least to classical times.  Among our modern versions of dry-cured ham are: Italian prosciutto di Parma, Spanish serrano, French Bayonne, and American country hams.  Though it is possible to cook these delicacies, which are comparable to long-aged cheese, they are best when eaten raw in paper-thin slices.  With a vivid, translucent rose color, their texture is silken and their flavor at once meaty and fruity.  9

In the process of dry-curing, the raw meat is cleaned, and then covered with salt, while being gradually pressed to draw out the blood.  (Specific herbs and spices may be added for flavor at this point.)  Next the hams are washed and hung to dry in a temperature-controlled atmosphere; finally, they are hung to air for a period of time.  This period may greatly vary: in the case of Serrano hams the time may be as little as 9 months, while 12 months are required for the Parma; the Iberian ham may take up to 2 years.  10

Though comparatively rare, dry-cured hams may use salt only in curing, such as with the Parma.  Most modern dry-cured ham, however, employs both salt and nitrites (either sodium nitrite or potassium nitrate), which prevents bacterial growth and gives the meat a desirable dark red color.  11

Potassium nitrate was first discovered in the Middle Ages; then, it was named saltpeter because it was found as a salt-like crystalline outgrowth on rocks.  Later in the 16th or 17th century, it was being used to brighten meat color and improve its safety and storage life, as well as enhance its flavor.  Around 1900, nitrite (a derivative of nitrate, due to chemical reactions during the curing process), began to replace saltpeter in the cure, except in traditional dry cured hams and bacons, where potassium nitrate has remained preferable.  Both nitrate and nitrite can react with other food components to form nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic; thus, today we tend to read labels carefully to avoid both.  12

If you are celebrating this holiday with ham, utilize the historical Eliza Leslie’s disguised ham receipt for any leftovers.  Happy Resurrection Sunday!

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964) pp. 190, 192.
  2. Ibid., pp. 183, 187.
  3. Ibid., p. 183.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 173.
  6. Ibid., p. 175.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 173, 175.
  9. Ibid., p. 174.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ham
  11. Ibid.
  12. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p173, 174.

finished sandwich

Disguised Ham (c. 1857)  Adapted from Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964) p. 192.  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 35 minutes/  active prep time: 18 min/  baking time: 17 min.

1/3 lb or 1 c ham, chopped to a coarse grind  (May use leftover baked ham or 8 slices of Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Ham, which is nitrite-free.)

2 tsp of mustard, or to taste  (Trader’s Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce is ideal.)

Salt and pepper to taste

4 lg eggs, 3 of them separated

4-5 slices of bread  (I use homemade Struan bread, see 2018/12/17.)

Spray oil, preferably coconut spray oil

  1. grinding of ham in food processor

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. With a food processor or Vita Mix, chop ham to a coarse grind, see photo.  Measure and place 1 c ground meat in a bowl.
  3. Season ham with mustard, salt, and pepper to taste (may not need salt, if ham is salty).  May refrigerate at this point and finish just before serving.
  4. ham/egg mixture

    Separate 3 eggs.  (If you are anticipating leftovers, when separating eggs, save 1 or 2 whites in a small container, in the refrigerator, to be used later.)  With a fork, beat yokes and 1 whole egg in a small bowl; mix beaten yokes/egg into ham.  See photo.

  5. Toast bread in toaster; spread ham mixture on top; place in a baking dish lightly sprayed with oil; bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until brown on top (see photo below).
  6. after baking ham mixture on toast for 12 minutes

    With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.

  7. Cover browned ham with 3/4” beaten egg white.  Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes more, or until whites are just beginning to turn golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Serve immediately.  Great way to use leftover ham!

1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds

wild rice laced with mushrooms, almonds, and onions

The history of wild rice is intriguing!  From the 1950s forward, my mother frequently blessed our family and her many guests with this buttered wild rice, laced with mushrooms and roasted almonds.  It usually accompanied her pheasant casserole, which was Mom’s favorite dish.  (I will post the pheasant recipe the next time I am offered this wild fowl; both of these recipes came from Maude Benson, an “older” woman-to my young mind-in my village of 250 people in Montana’s Glacier National Park.)

In 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary-explorer, described this grain as a fausse avoine, or false oat, when he discovered the Mississippi River and the rivers near its headwaters.  This annual plant which he encountered was Zizania palustris, or what we call northern wild rice today.  1

Wild rice-not a species of the true tropical rice genus Oryza-is the whole grain of a cool-climate North American water grass. Its unusually long grains are up to three-quarters of an inch, having a complex, distinctive flavor, with a greenish-black seedcoat.  What you find on the market today is primarily cultivated in artificially flooded paddies, and harvested mechanically after the fields are drained; relatively small amounts come from uncultivated, naturally occurring stands.  It is necessary to read labels carefully, if you want to taste truly wild rice from its native region and savor the differences among small producers.  2

Originally it was gathered in canoes by the Ojibway and other native peoples in shallow lakes and marshes of the Great Lakes region of North America; it is the only cereal to have become important as a human food in this northern continent of the Americas.  3

This wild crop was first cultivated in the early 1950s by James and Gerald Godward, who were meeting the rising demand for this delicacy in the U.S.  4

This grain is unusual among other cereals in that it contains double the amount of moisture at maturity, around 40% of the kernel weight.  The result is it requires more elaborate processing than true rice in order to be stored.  This process includes maturing it in moist piles for one to two weeks; next, parching dries it,  enhances flavor, and makes the husk brittle; and finally it is threshed to remove the husk.  5

The parching process contributes to its firm, chewy texture, but also makes its cooking time longer, because its starch has been precooked into a glassy, hard mass.  Another factor giving it a relatively lengthy cooking time is its intact bran layers are resistant to water absorption, as they are impregnated with cutins and waxes.  This later quality protects the grains that fall into the natural lakes, allowing them to lie dormant for months or even years before germinating.  6

To improve water absorption and lessen cooking time, some producers will slightly abrade the grains, while cooks may choose to soak them in warm water for several hours, which isn’t all that effective.  7

Raw wild rice has flowery, green, earthy, tea-like notes.  The technique of curing amplifies the tea notes, but may also bring an undesirable mustiness.  Parching generates browning reactions, lending toasted, nutty characteristics.  Producers use different methods of both parching and curing, which brings variations in the flavor of wild rice.  These methods of curing range from none to brief to extended, while parching may utilize low to high temperatures, be over open fires, or performed in indirectly heated metal drums.  8

It has been said that how the rice was cured, as well as how old it is, dictates the timing required to prepare it.  Regardless of this actual cause, to insure readiness, it is best to prepare this dish before dinnertime, and then reheat it in a well-buttered casserole in the oven for 30 minutes.

References:

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), p. 137.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  pp. 476, 477.
  3. Ibid., p. 476.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_rice
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004),  p. 476.
  6. Ibid., p. 476.
  7. Ibid., p. 476.
  8. Ibid., p. 476.

wild rice with cranberries, orange, and onion

1950’s Wild Rice with Almonds  Yields: 6 servings.  Total prep time: 1-1 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 30-75 min.

Note: may make this ahead of serving to insure readiness, as cooking time will vary.  For poultry, substitute dried cranberries and orange with zest, in place of mushrooms and garlic.  For pork, substitute tart apple and celery.

1/2 c slivered almonds

1/2 c butter

1 c wild rice

3 c chicken broth  (Organic, free range broth can be purchased inexpensively at Trader Joe’s; better yet use bone broth for high nutrition, see Tortellini Sausage Soup and Bone Broth, 2016/10/10.)

1 bunch green onions, including green stems, chopped  (Organic is only slightly more expensive and so much healthier.)

1-1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (I like this well-seasoned.  Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 c sliced mushrooms  (For poultry, substitute: 1 c dried cranberries, plus 1 chopped orange with zest.  For pork, substitute: 2 c chopped tart apple, plus 1 c diced celery.)

2 lg cloves garlic, minced-only use this with the mushrooms  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube of frozen garlic; available at Trader’s.)

  1. rice about 15 minutes before being finished

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for 10 minutes; set aside on a plate to cool.

  2. In a 3-qt sauce pan, melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; add rice and sauté for 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth, raise heat to med/high, and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer until chewy, or soft-test for desired tenderness.  Timing will vary from 30 to 60 minutes, or longer.  Stir occasionally and WATCH WATER LEVEL CAREFULLY WHILE COOKING.  (See photos.)
  5. Meanwhile in a sauté pan, melt remaining 1/4 c butter over medium heat.
  6. Lower heat to med/low, add onions, salt, pepper, and mushrooms (substituting cranberries and orange with zest-instead of mushrooms-to accompany poultry,  or apple and celery for pork).
  7. rice completed to a chewy texture

    Sauté produce until desired tenderness is reached, stirring frequently.  At this point, add garlic-only if using mushrooms-and cook until aroma arises; set aside.

  8. Blend sautéed onion mixture and almonds into finished rice, adjust seasonings.  To insure readiness, may set aside at this point to reheat just before serving.  If doing this, place rice medley in a well-buttered 2-qt casserole and bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Serve with confidence!

Chocolate Mint Pie, Another Variation of Blum’s Famous Pie

chocolate mint pie

Let’s journey back to the mid-nineteen hundreds, with another variation of Blum’s coffee toffee pie.  My sister Maureen, who is a kitchen genius, created countless desserts, with this famous pie’s receipt as a basis; we served these in our family restaurant high in the Rocky Mountains, at the east entrance to Montana’s Glacier National Park, during its 50-plus years of operation.

While in San Francisco for my rare eye operation in the late 1960s, my bold mother asked Blum’s for their coffee toffee pie receipt (see 2017/08/21), which my sister expanded on over and over again; this exceptional mint pie is just one of the exquisite results of her ingenuity.  She made it with crème de menthe for the extensive dessert bar in our dining room; I, however, employ peppermint essential oil, which is healthier and more economical.

Many visitors arrive at my blog in search of information pertaining to Blum’s, which left its indelible mark on the history of San Francisco and American cuisine.  Before it closed in the 1970s, it was an upscale restaurant, serving exquisite desserts, candies, and lunch items.  I recall being fascinated with a pin-wheel sandwich there, which I saw with my one unbandaged, post-operative eye.  The swirling of white and dark bread was new and stunning to me back then.

The early ‘60s saw the ushering in of high-end cuisine for the growing middle class; this was introduced by Julia Child, teaching French cooking techniques; she became established in the kitchens of America, due to Jacqueline Kennedy’s placing a French chef in the White House.  This decade’s middle class had the money, as well as the developed acumen, to learn involved French cooking from Child, with all its vast richness-butter and more butter, cream, eggs, cognac.  1

My mother, however, was busy following Time-Life Books Foods of This World, creating foods of France and many other countries (see my 1960s French dinner, 2016/05/30).  This extensive sequel came out in 1968, as a result of the changes that Child had produced in the American palette.

Other food movements were rising along with this adoption of the gourmandise; one was the growth of fast food.  While we were spending three winters in Tucson in the early part of this decade, my parents took us kids out for hamburgers on their nights out with friends; we always preferred the burger at JB Big Boy-founded in 1961-over that of McDonald’s.  2

McDonald’s first opened its simple hamburger restaurant in 1948; nevertheless, it was with a building renovation in 1952 that they created the concept of fast food.  3  Likewise in 1962, their openness to change brought about fast seafood; this transpired when franchise owner Lou Groen creatively placed a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich on his Cincinnati menu.  He had a desperate need to increase his dwindling business, due to the meatless practices during the 40-day Lenten period, of the this Catholic-heavy population in southwest Ohio.  With this innovative addition being accepted by headquarters, a new era of experimentation and menu expansion took place for McDonald’s, as well as fast food as a whole.  4

Yet another trend in food was birthed in the 1960s; social unrest was on the rise, which my family was highly aware as we walked the streets of San Francisco, during my eye operation.  This brought about a generation devoted to Birkenstocks and bean sprouts that popularized vegetarianism and cooked-from-scratch foods.  (I, myself, produced much homemade granola in the late ’70s, during my personal reliving of the hippie movement.)  5

There seemed to be an apparent schism take place with the birthing of both gourmet and hippie food in America-while fast food was also growing ever predominant during these tumultuous years.  Nevertheless, all three of these food trends are still found to be thriving in our present day society, which has witnessed even greater diversity and imagination in its ever expanding movement of food, in the years leading to 2019.  American ailment, which was previously boring, is extremely exciting presently!  6

References:

  1. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JB%27s_Restaurants
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald%27
  4. https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/most-important-dishes-food-that-changed-america#slide24
  5. https://leitesculinaria.com/10348/writings-100-years-american-food.html
  6. Ibid.

Chocolate Mint Pie, a variation of Blum’s Coffe Toffee Pie  Yields: 1-10″ pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr, plus 1/2 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 1 1/4 hr/ baking time 15 min.

Note: this is best kept in the freezer for long-term use, cutting off pieces as needed; serve partially thawed for a favored ice cream-like texture.

1 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is high quality.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt can be purchased at Costco.)

3/4 c butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar, packed down  (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)

3/4 c walnuts, chopped fine

2 oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, plus extra for garnish

1 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c cane sugar  (Organic is ideal, best buy is at Costco, also available in a smaller quantity at Trader Joe’s.)

2 lg eggs, at room temperature  (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety, which are available at some grocery stores.)

Peppermint essential oil, or mint flavoring of your choice

2 c heavy whipping cream  (Must be heavy, to whip properly.)

1/2 c powdered sugar  (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops of green food coloring

Ganache

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Organic is important for health; available for $3.29/pint at Trader’s.)

8 oz (1 1/3 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips  (Trader’s carries some of high quality.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. baked pie crust

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Combine flour and salt; blend in a scant 1/4 c butter well with a fork until mealy in texture.
  3. Mix in brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 oz chocolate, grated with a sharp knife.  Add water and vanilla; blend well.
  4. Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in a well-greased pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 18 minutes, or until light brown; begin cooling on a rack, for about 10 minutes, finish cooling in freezer (see photo above).
  5. Chill a bowl in the freezer for whipping the cream (the whipping of cream is greatly facilitated when utensils are ice-cold).
  6. Melt remaining 1 oz of chocolate over med/low heat, watching carefully as not to burn. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
  7. ganache

    Make ganache, by bringing 1 c heavy cream to a very low simmer, over med/low heat (should be very hot-steaming-not boiling).  Add 8 oz chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, set aside.  See photo.

  8. Check to make sure 1 oz melted chocolate (above) is still in liquid form; if hardened, gently add a little heat, being careful to melt it only, but not get it very warm. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each small addition.
  9. Add 1 egg-must be room temperature-mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.  (The following makes this preparation foolproof: it is important to have ingredients at room temperature, for if your kitchen is either really hot or cold, this mixture may curdle.  You can easily correct this: if it curdles or breaks because it is too hot, make the addition of the second egg a cold one, directly out of the refrigerator, to bring the filling back to its full volume.  If the

    filling

    butter/sugar/egg combination is too cold and curdles, warm the chocolate a little and mix this in before adding the second egg; then, follow the directions for beating.  Ideally when done, this should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream, providing ingredients are room temperature, in a moderate kitchen.  In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)

  10. Add second egg and beat for 5 more minutes, see above photo.
  11. Blend in cooled chocolate and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste.
  12. Clean and place beaters in freezer for ease in whipping the cream.
  13. Fill the bottom of the cold pie crust with a layer of ganache, freeze ganache in shell for 10 minutes, see photo above. (May have to slightly warm ganache at this point, for easy pouring.)
  14. Meantime using frozen bowl and beaters, beat cream until it starts to thicken; add powdered sugar and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste, and few drops of green food coloring.  Continue beating until stiff; set aside.
  15. Place filling on top of chilled ganache in pie shell; return to freezer for 30 minutes; see photo.
  16. Cover pie with whipped cream and garnish with drizzled ganache-may have to warm slightly for easy drizzling.  Top with chocolate curls, made with a sharp knife.
  17. May serve now, or freeze for future use.  When frozen, cover well with plastic wrap for storing; cut pieces as needed.  Serve partially thawed for optimum pleasure.