Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing

Mom, my siblings, my great nephew, and me at Mom's 93rd birthday

my siblings, mother, great nephew, and me at Mom’s 93rd birthday

My heavenly Father bestowed the best parents in the whole world on me!   Many gifts have been mine through  them: the biggest from my earthly father was his grand heart, while Mom’s was her beautiful faith.

My 93-year old mother always responds to my gratitude for these holy blessings: “Your most treasured present to me was bringing my husband to the Lord.” This took place in a Starbucks two years before Dad passed.

My parents visited me in Portland every October starting in 1986, until age prohibited their travels.  The momentous day of my father’s salvation took place on their last trip here in 2004.  Note: the jubilance of my family’s holy reunion will reverberate throughout heaven one day soon.

My father and I hung out during their blessed visits, while Mom shopped ‘til she dropped.  My beloved papa always did one thing: he stocked my larder to the brim every year.  I hopefully anticipated this godsend long before their arrival, as times were lean back then.

Dad taught me how to make his famous blue cheese dressing during one of our hallowed, shared days.  It has graced my refrigerator ever since; there is nothing like it; even people who don’t like blue cheese love this!

Buzz’s recipe has a history. My parents purchased our family restaurant in 1954. Traveling salesmen often stopped at our business in the little tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is on Highway 2.  I was just approaching puberty in the early sixties, when one of these self-promoters sold Dad a mammoth cookbook for restaurant owners.  This huge culinary account was about 10 inches thick.  It contained all that was needed to train my father to flawlessly run his eatery, which grew exceedingly in fame over the years.  Thus a lone man’s fervid cold call brought a lifetime’s bounty to me and many others.

I share this magnificent recipe for blue cheese dressing with great joy!

easy juicing of lemons

Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing  Yields: about 1¾ quarts.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.

.5-.7 lb. blue cheese, frozen and thawed for easy crumbling  (For quality, do not use precrumbled cheese; Cave Age Blue Cheese from Trader Joe’s is ideal; keep thawed cheese refrigerated until ready to use.)

5 extra large cloves of garlic, or more if smaller, to taste

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut in large chunks

36 ounces Best Foods mayonnaise  (Use 1-30 ounce jar plus 1/5 of another jar.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best; available in health section of local supermarket.)

3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce, or to taste

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, or to taste

  1. Freeze blue cheese ahead of time; thaw in refrigerator before using; this makes crumbling very easy; keep refrigerated until ready to use.
  2. In a dry food processor, puree garlic and onions; stop processor and scrap down sides twice; set aside.
  3. Place mayonnaise in a large bowl.  (Keep empty mayonnaise jar.)  Slowly add onion/garlic mixture to mayonnaise to taste-this should taste REALLY strong as the flavor mellows much after several days.
  4. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with palm of hand; this loosens the juices in the meat.  Juice fruit, straining seeds, and add to mayonnaise mixture.  (Handheld lemon juicers, such as the one in the above photo work really well.  Watch the marketplace to acquire this and a small strainer for bowl.)
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire.
  6. Crumble blue cheese into mayonnaise mixture and stir gently, mixing only until blended.
  7. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Fill a sterilized, quart-size, wide-mouth canning jar with dressing.  Place the rest in the empty mayonnaise jar.
  9. Refrigerate. Keeps well.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

Teaching my balsamic vinaigrette recipe

I acquired my beloved vinaigrette recipe in enchanting Paris. There I learned the secrets to this simple receipt in the fall of 1985.

At that time I cooked many historical meals at a French friend’s apartment, close to the Louvre. Mornings found me seeking needed ingredients at a profusion of quaint Parisian shops. There was much mercy for my broken French among the shop owners, who grew to know me.

A flurry of grand entertainment resulted from the hosting of these elaborate meals. Our varied guests returned warm hospitality in their abodes on alternate nights. My passion for art galleries quickened during the days when they reciprocated our harmonious feasting.

Indeed, Paris charmed me during that September in the mid-1980s!

My balsamic vinaigrette is extremely simple. (We used raspberry vinegar for this same recipe in Paris.) I always dress my famous salads with this and my father’s blue cheese dressing, which is next week’s tantalizing post.

Peggy’s Balsamic Vinaigrette  May repeat these easy steps to make a double batch. Keeps well when refrigerated. Any kind of vinegar may be substituted for the balsamic. (Yields: about 2 cups per recipe.)

5 large cloves of garlic, peeled (or more to taste if smaller)

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar (for special occasions use that aged for 10 years-obtainable cheaply at Trader Joe’s)

1 tsp high quality mustard

3/4 tsp dried oregano leaves (a wonderful, inexpensive, organic dried oregano is available at Trader’s)

1 tsp dried basil leaves (also a bargain at Trader’s)

1/4 tsp sugar, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt (Real Salt is best, at hand in natural foods at local supermarket)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 cup Bel’Olio Extra Light Olive Oil (purchasable at Costco-other olive oils are too strong in taste)

  1. Peel and cut garlic cloves in half. Place in a dry 11-cup, or larger, food processor. Chop garlic, stopping machine twice to scrape down sides. IF you are making two recipes, chop the garlic for both at once; set half aside. (Or chop cloves fine with a sharp knife, if you don’t have a food processor and are using a blender or Vitamix.)
  2. Add vinegar, mustard, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper to the garlic.
  3. Turn on processor. Leave running.
  4. Fill the feeder with oil. (The feeder is the plunger that fits in the top of the food processor-it has a small whole in the bottom of it. This allows the oil to drip down into vinegar mixture slowly, thus emulsifying the dressing.) Use all the oil in this manner. If you are using a blender, be sure to add oil very slowly-blending as you go, to emulsify dressing.
  5. Adjust seasonings to taste. Note: the garlic should taste really strong, as it mellows dramatically after a couple of days.
  6. Pour into bottles, using a funnel. Save used glass jars for this purpose. Be sure to sterilize.
  7. Keeps in the refrigerator for months, or at room temperature for several weeks. It’s often necessary to leave dressing out at room temperature for at least an hour before using, when stored in the refrigerator.  This is because the cold oil sometimes solidifies. Hot tap water will melt the solid oil, also.

Healthy Green Salads

building a healthy salad

building a healthy salad

Strength-giving salads have been the mainstay of my evening meals for many years; they delight me. Recently I taught a class on how to maintain robust bodies by building wholesome salads. This next series spells pleasure in hearty recipes for glorious greens and more.  Here I begin with the basic steps for creating these leafy dishes.

Healthy Salads

A variety of vibrant greens are good for the body. Spinach is high in iron, but too much of this raw vegetable is not wise.  So balance raw and cooked spinach.  A little vitamin C (tomatoes, citrus, pineapple, etc.) helps the absorption of the iron.

Beef or chicken can be added.  These meats are high in iron and protein.  Good quality eggs, beans, tuna, and cheese are also excellent protein sources.

Dried fruit (dates, cranberries, apricots, figs, raisins…organic is best) add a beautiful contrast of sweetness.  Avocados are dynamite!

Choose an assortment of fresh vegetables, such as carrots, celery, radishes, bell peppers, etc.  It’s important to use organic peppers, as this vegetable really absorb pesticides.   Organic carrots are really inexpensive.

Roasted agave nuts (see recipe below) and homemade croutons (see recipe below) add texture and protein.  Note: organic bread is a good protein source.

Nourishing homemade dressings save lots of money and explode with good flavor. (Recipes to follow in upcoming posts.)

Roasted Agave Nuts  Yields: 1 lb.  Total prep time: 50 min/  active prep time: 10 min/  baking time: 40 min.

  1. Buy 1 lb of an assortment of whole raw pecans, almonds, walnuts, and cashews in the bulk food section.  (Cashew pieces work well and are cheaper.)  I like to weigh out ¼ lb packages of each at the store.
  2. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, pour 1/4 cup Organic Raw Blue Agave Sweetener.  (Available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)  Blend in 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste) and 2 tsp cinnamon.
  4. Add 1 lb of mixed raw nuts.  Stir well, until all the nuts are coated.
  5. Cover an 11 ½ x 17 ½ cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Spray parchment really well with spray oil (Pam Coconut Spray Oil is best.)  This is essential, or nuts stick to the paper.
  6. Spread nuts evenly on oiled parchment.  Bake for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven.  Sprinkle generously with salt WHILE HOT.  (Real Salt is best, available in the nutrition center of your local supermarket.)
  8. Nuts must be hot for salt to stick.  IF you forget to salt while hot, place them in hot oven again, until they are reheated.  Then salt and cool.  Break apart and store in sealed container at room temperature. Keeps well.

Homemade Croutons  Yields: 1/2 gallon bag.  Total prep time: about 90 min/ active prep time: 15 min/  baking time: about 75 min.  Note: may dry bread out for 8 hr ahead of time.

  1. May use gluten-free, homemade, or Dave’s Killer Bread. (I grind my own organic wheat berries for my bread.  However, I prefer Dave’s Killer Bread for my croutons.  This organic bread makes an excellent crouton, which is also high in nutrients and protein.  Be sure to get “regular cut”, not “thin cut”.)
  2. Make sure bread is stale.  May partially dry by leaving it exposed to the air for up to 8 hours.  If not ready to bake immediately, you may store stale bread in a sealed plastic bag after drying.  Don’t get bread super stale, or the butter won’t distribute evenly.  Expose slices for about 8 hours in the humid Northwest.  Adjust time for a drier climate.  Bread should be somewhat dried out, firm to the touch, but not hard.
  3. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  4. Cut bread in cubes.  Use 1/2 of 1 lb loaf of bread for one large cookie sheet.
  5. Melt 6 ounces of butter in a large frying pan.
  6. Add 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more if you like spice.  Stir in 1 tsp salt, or to taste.  (Real Salt is best.)  Mix seasoning well in melted butter.
  7. Add bread cubes.  Stir thoroughly, until bread is fairly evenly coated.
  8. Place bread cubes on an 11 ½ x 17 ½ inch cookie sheet, distributing evenly so heat can reach all.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.  Check for dryness; if not crunchy, bake for 15 more minutes.  Repeat this last step until croutons are completely dried.
  10. Cool and store at room temperature in a sealed gallon-size storage bag.  They keep indefinitely.

1950’s Banana Cake

1950's banana cake

1950’s banana cake

My mother let each child choose his own birthday cake while we were growing up.  My little heart worked overtime each year to decide between banana cake and fresh pear pie.  Both are awe-inspiring!

I spell out the wonders of my mother’s banana cake here. The delectable pie will follow this fall, in a series of recipes extolling my family’s favorite meal since the 1950’s.  You will be pleased until then with this memorable confection.

I grew up in the small tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana.  It is the east entrance to the spectacular display of Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park.  I have seen mountain ranges all over the world; none compare with that of my home.

There my young mother was mentored by several “older” women as I was maturing; one was Leone Brown.  She was all of 50 at the time, but she seemed very old to me.  This knowledgeable woman taught Mom much about cooking; she created many beautiful crafts for her as well.  My 93 year old mother still has her handmade Easter eggs, made out of delicate egg shells.

This beloved cake is a fruit of Leone’s bountiful wisdom; I have made it with joy since the early ’70’s.  Believe me: it will knock your socks off!

Banana Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch layer or 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Total prep time: 2 hr & 20 min/  active prep time: 50 min/  baking time: 30 min/  inactive prep time-for freezing cakes to facilitate easy frosting: 1 hr or longer.

Note:  1 1/2 recipes will be needed for 3-8 inch layers; may make two loaf cakes and freeze them separately on paper plates; after freezing frosted cakes, seal them in gallon size freezer bags, for cutting off frozen slices as needed; dessert is always on hand for unexpected guests!

¼ cup milk  (Soured with few drops of lemon juice from a squeeze ball.)

¾ cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar  (I prefer coconut sugar or sucanat, evaporated cane juice.)

2 large eggs

2 ½ cups flour  (Bob’s Red Mill unbleached flour is best, or 1  2/3 cups organic, soft white winter wheat berries freshly ground to make 2 ½ cups flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt  (Real Salt is best, available in the health section of local supermarket.)

3 ripe medium bananas  (About 1 ½ cups, mashed.)

1 tsp vanilla

Spray oil  (PAM coconut spray oil is best.)

Flour for dusting the sprayed pans

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sour milk in a medium/large bowl with a few drops of lemon juice.  Set aside.
  3. Cream butter in a large bowl, add sugar, beat until light.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with each addition.  Set aside.
  4. Shake together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a sealed gallon-size storage bag, or stir all together in a large bowl with a fork.
  5. Add bananas and vanilla to sour milk, mash bananas with a fork, and blend well.  Set aside.
  6. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well; then, add ½ the banana mixture to this, beating well.  Repeat steps, using remaining flour and bananas.  Beat extra well.
  7. Spray cake pans; dust with flour.
  8. Pour batter in prepared pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until cake lightly springs bake when you press with finger.  You may also test with a toothpick, if it has wet dough on it, the cake is not done.  Do not over bake!
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Slide a knife around the edges, gently remove cakes, and cool thoroughly on a wire rack, or better yet freeze these for at least 1 hour to facilitate frosting (this inhibits the crumbling of cake as you frost).

Cream Nut Frosting  (Note: make 1 ½ recipes for a three layer cake.)

2 ½ tbsp flour

½ cup cream  (May use milk, but whipping cream is better.)

½ cup butter, softened

½ cup sugar  (Preferably organic cane sugar, available at Costco, or in a 2 pound bag at Trader Joe’s.)

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar (Trader’s has organic powdered cane sugar.)

1 cup pecan pieces (Cheapest when bought in bulk at local supermarket.)

  1. Blend flour and cream in a small saucepan with a wire whisk.  Cook over medium/low heat, stirring constantly, until a thick paste is formed.  Set aside, cool to room temperature.
  2. Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer, add sugar, beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in salt and vanilla.
  4. Add cooled cream paste, beat well.
  5. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add more powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating with each addition until all is incorporated.
  6. Frost the frozen layer or loaf cakes.  Cover top and sides with pecans.  (If freezing cakes for future use, be sure to freeze frosting on cakes before sealing in gallon size freezer bags.)