1970’s Whole Wheat Banana Bread

cooling bread in pan for 5 minutes

I became a vegetarian during college in the early 1970’s.  When I moved to Tokyo six years later, I gave up this proclaimed role, because of my need to be open to all foods proffered by my Japanese hosts.

While abstaining from meat and fish, I searched for healthy alternatives in an array of natural food cook books.  There I found treasured recipes which I still use today; one was for this powerfully good, whole wheat banana bread.

Bananas have a long history.  Alexander the Great discovered them growing in the Indus Valley in 327 B.C.; they had been cultivated, however, in India since 2000 B.C.  Documentation dated in the 7th century shows that China was using them in abundance also.1

Portuguese explorers reported this same fruit in western Africa in 1482, where it probably had been grown for a long time; these Europeans adopted its local name Musa sapientum, which was originally given this fruit by Alexander the Great.  In 1496, Spanish conquerors found an intense cultivation of bananas in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.2

Nevertheless, the United States didn’t experience this tropical fruit until 1804, and then only in a limited way for the next 50 years; this delectable was imported infrequently, in such relatively small quantities as 300 stems, by sailing ships coming from the Caribbean or Central American ports.3

In 1830, during this early inactive period, Capt. John Pearsall brought the first full cargo of bananas, 1500 stems, to New York.  This man later became a N.Y. commission agent, specializing in the import of this prized fruit.  In the mid-nineteenth century, he went bankrupt when his shipment of 3,000 stems arrived too ripe to sell; big money was tied up in each of these loads, for then a “finger” sold at the exorbitant price of 25 cents wholesale.4   This was at a time when factory workers, consisting of women and children, were making between 25-50 cents per day.5

More and more cargoes from Honduras and Costa Rica were reaching New Orleans, New York, and Boston during the two decades before 1870, the year when large-scale banana traffic really began.  As the 70’s opened, the now more abundant bananas were sold, foil-wrapped, at a fair in Philadelphia for 10 cents a stem; it was the first time many of these fair goers had ever indulged in this delight.6

By 1885, 10,000 stem cargoes were being shipped from Jamaica in 10 to 12 days. Next, just prior to the turn of the century, this exotic fruit spread to inland America by rail express.7

Now, however, bananas are common and cheap; every American has experienced them, along with their familiar sweetbread.  This 45-year-old banana bread recipe is one of the best among thousands.  Here I have included grams, as someone recently requested that most accurate of measurements for my baking receipts; measuring in grams insures foolproof baking.   Nevertheless I can’t express how easy and certain this preparation is, even with cup measurements, for I could make it with my eyes closed.  Receive!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 18, 9, 41.
  2. Ibid., pp. 78, 18, 81.
  3. Ibid., p. 196.
  4. Ibid., pp. 217, 234.
  5. Stanley Lebergott, Chapter: Wage Trends, 1800-1900, The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, The Trends in American Economy in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 449-500.
  6. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 283, 301.
  7. Ibid., pp. 320, 360.

wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid

Whole Wheat Banana Bread  Yields 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 25 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

1 cup (136 grams) whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1/2 cup (64 grams) unbleached white flour  (May grind 1 cup organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make total 1 1/2 cups-204 grams-flour.)

1/4 cup (60 grams) cream* or milk, soured with juice from lemon ball

1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, softened

3/4 cup (165 grams) brown sugar, packed  (Organic brown sugar is preferable, which is available at Trader Joe’s, or may substitute a healthier 3/4 cup-95 grams-coconut sugar.)

1 large egg (51 grams)

1 tsp (7 grams) baking soda

3/4 tsp (4.26 grams) salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

2 large or 3 small ripe bananas (375 grams), 1 1/4 cup  (May ripen these overnight by gently, but firmly, squeezing the whole banana, until meat is mushy under the skin; let sit at least 8 hours.)

1 tsp (4.2 grams) vanilla

1/2 cup (62 grams) nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray is best; our local Winco brand, however, makes this preferred spray for less than half the expense.)

Flour for dusting sprayed pan

  1. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding 1 cup hard red spring wheat berries now (this berry makes a dense nutritious bread, which is extremely high in protein-one serving has the protein of an egg or 7 grams), see photo.
  2. Measure cream* or milk in a medium/large bowl; squeeze several squirts of lemon juice from a ball over surface; let sit until soured, about 10 minutes.
  3. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy; mix in sugar thoroughly; add egg, beating extra well; set aside.
  4. In a medium/ large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  5. When cream/milk is soured (cream will appear curdled more than milk), add bananas to bowl and mash well with a fork; blend in vanilla; set aside.
  6. Add alternately flour and banana mixtures to butter mixture.  When all is incorporated, mix in optional nuts.  Beat well.
  7. Spray a 9 x 5, or 8 x 4, inch loaf pan; lightly dust with flour; pour batter in prepared pan.  (This bread will be denser when made in the smaller pan.)
  8. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread responds, bounces back, when pressed with finger.  May also test with a toothpick; it is done when toothpick comes out, of soft area in crust, clean.  Do not over bake.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; then, remove and finish cooling on rack; see top photo.  Keeps well in refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel, and sealed in gallon size storage bag.
  10. This is a staple in my home!

Portuguese Figos Recheados

figos recheados

When I entertain, I always serve homemade candies along with the dessert.  Usually these are my Peruvian bolitos de chocolat y coco (see 2016/11/28) and the treasured national candy of India barfi; this recipe will follow in the future.  Sometimes, however, Portuguese figos recheados (figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds) are the final inspiration at my dinners.  Such was the recent case with my beloved missionary friends Val and Waffle Lomilo.  I take a tangent today into their world, so we can learn better to eat with reverence.

My relationship with Val goes back 22 years.  Our mutual friend Kelly, who now resides in heaven, introduced us over slides in her basement of Val’s mission work in Uganda.   My heart had just been softened, by my asking Jesus to live in it; thus, my supple emotions were mesmerized by this people and especially their food.

I learned that the meager diet of these poorest of poor, which are in my friends’ arid mission region, consists primarily of foraged herbs and a bitter fruit with its nuts, which are boiled three times to be made palatable; garden vegetables are available only as the frequent droughts allow; maize (cooked corn mush) and beans are also a luxury, which they can’t always afford.

The diet of the wealthier, in Uganda’s more lush areas, has a greater amount of organic garden vegetables, such fruits as mangoes and papayas, and ample beans and maize.  Also, it delightfully includes the ceremonial slaughter of a chicken for honored guests.  This nourishment of these better off is simple and pure, making it healthier than ours with all our fast foods and altered ingredients-added hormones in meat/dairy products, foods with GMO’s, etc.  (Note: in this poor country genetically moderated organisms being added to their crops is just now a controversy; they have already lifted the ban for GMO’s in the banana crop, due to its recent huge failure.)

In America food is so available that obesity is a major problem.  Our countrymen are often thrilled with weight loss when they visit Africa.  I learned, to my delight, that Africans are overjoyed with the compliment ‘you look so fat’; gratitude is expressed after a meal with ‘thank you for increasing my volume’.

At present there is a famine in Uganda’s arid region, which hurts the children and elderly the most.  We in this country can’t comprehend such food shortage and its effect on the human spirit.  According to my friends, it produces a sense of deep community, in those that withstand it, as they share each other’s pain.   These humble people know the true meaning of grace-God’s grace that keeps them alive in stark adversity.

Waffle and Val, who experience a heart for the broken, feed these hungry souls the word of God, which is also known as the bread of life.  This proven substance, in turn, can provide them with answers to their natural needs, for this is what our gracious Father does best.

We are grateful for our vast provision here in America, striving to honor our bodies with healthy eating.  Our faithful prayers move mountains as we intercede for those less-fortunate.

Now, may we take courage to experience moderate, joy-filled pleasure in this incredible dessert: be blessed by these simple figos recheados, the third recipe in my Portuguese series.

shaving chocolate

figs ready for baking

Figos Recheados (dried figs stuffed with almonds and chocolate)  Yields: 12 large stuffed figs.  Total prep time: 1 hr /  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 50 min.

Note: these are best served hot, but they are also great at either room temperature or cold.

1/4 cup almonds, plus 12 extra almonds (18 extra almonds will be needed for topping smaller figs, such as mission figs.)

12 large figs   (Turkish figs are best for size and quality; 18 figs will be needed, if using the smaller mission fig.)

1/2 ounce (1/2 square) semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

  1. Best if served hot, but room temperature is also good.  (For hot figs, do steps 2-9; then, set aside.  Twenty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake as directed in step 10-11.)
  2. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  3. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes in middle of oven; go to next step.
  4. With a sharp knife, finely grate the chocolate, place in a small bowl, set aside (see photo).
  5. Cut off stems of figs; make a careful, but deep, indentation in the opening of each with the tip of your finger; set aside.
  6. After nuts are toasted, remove from oven, and turn up oven temperature to 350 degrees, unless you are waiting to bake just before serving.
  7. Set aside 12 almonds (18 for smaller figs) and pulverize the other 1/4 cup in a food processor, by repeatedly touching the pulse button.  (May use a blender or Vita Mix.)
  8. Add almond meal to grated chocolate, mix well.
  9. Using a spoon and your finger, press this mixture in the hollow of each of the figs; pinch openings together firmly (see photo).  Place stuffed figs, stem side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake in middle of an oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 5 minutes; then, turn figs upside down and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Gently, but firmly, press a whole toasted almond in top of each hot fig.
  12. May keep leftovers in refrigerator for future use, cold figs are also excellent.

Ensalada Iberica

ensalada Iberica

Ensalada Iberica is the perfect accompaniment to last week’s Portuguese pork, because of its sweet base of oranges and dates, along with an abundance of piquant onions and lemon-vinaigrette.  This quick salad pleases our palettes.  Its strong combination of complimentary foods is additionally enhanced with the spice coriander, which is also a “seasoning match made in heaven” for pork, as noted by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry; thus, these dishes balance each other, resulting in excellent flavors and joy unspeakable.1

During the 1980’s, my extensive cooking classes in Montana included a group of 12 professionals, all of whom were friends.  For years they came monthly for each new theme I presented.  We grew to love each other, as I taught them easy steps in making glorious food.  A grieving took place at our parting, brought on by my decision to move to Portland in February of 1986.

My strongest fan among them Larry organized a going-away party for me.  He chose an upscale Chinese restaurant, since a travel agent in the group had hoped to take me to China, to teach native foods on one of her tours.  At our celebration, they graciously presented me with a restaurant-caliber, 15 ½ x 10 ½ inch cake pan and stock pot, as seen in my photos; how these have blessed my work.

At one of our classes, someone encouraged me to consider the then new concept of computers for my work.  I responded that I will never do that, for it was beyond me.  Technology, however, has enabled the expansion of my endeavors beyond my imagination.

Back then I wrote everything out by hand, as I constantly discovered new themes from various cultures and ages.  All my research came from hard copies of books and publications; I searched for the sources of my inspiration at the local library, in an array of cook books, and in such publications as Montana newspapers, the New York Times, and numerous fashionable magazines.  My existence was marked by creativity, as I developed my faculty for research.  This skill was further honed in my graduate work at Portland State University, 1988-91.

Discovering truths in food history is what I do; it is essential that I know their validity.  As a result, to this day, I prefer to obtain my information from actual books, which possess a soundness that I trust over that of internet.

Both this and its subsequent post, on Portuguese foods, are from that early application of my studies in Montana.  These entries provide exceptional taste treats, enjoy.

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 159, 160, 268.

chopping orange segments

Ensalada Iberica  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

Note: best to make and chill several hours before serving.

2 large oranges  (Organic is best for flavor and quality, as orange skins readily absorb pesticides; these are often available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small/medium red onion, thinly sliced  (May use 2 small, organic cipollini onions; they are expensive, but so good!)

1 small can sliced ripe olives, net dr. wt. 2.25 ounces

1/2 cup pitted dates, packed down, cut in halves lengthwise  (About 1/3 pound is needed.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice  ( 2-3 small lemons are needed.)

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Bed of spinach leaves or lettuce

  1. easy juicing of lemons

    Peel oranges, divide them in half, cut each half cross-wise in half again, so it is easy to separate segments (see photo above).

  2. Peel and slice onions thinly.
  3. In medium bowl, combine oranges, onions, olives, and dates halves.
  4. Juice lemons with a hand-held juicer, watch market for this marvelous tool (see photo).
  5. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and coriander in a small sealed jar; shake vigorously; adjust seasonings.
  6. Pour over fruit, mix well, and refrigerate until serving time-preferably for several hours-so flavors can meld.
  7. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce.
  8. This is a favorite of mine, which I have made since the early 1980’s.

1960’s Portuguese Pork

Portuguese pork roast

My gift of hospitality was birthed during my youth in the mid-twentieth century, for then I watched my mother host elaborate dinner parties.  As an excellent cook, she prepared glorious feasts, often with international themes; this 1960’s recipe for Portuguese pork blessed guests repeatedly.  While in college, I meticulously copied her treasured receipts and began my own journey, fostering nourishment of body and soul.

In 1982 God converted this inherent gift into my lifetime work; then, I began catering meals and teaching a profusion of cooking classes, utilizing researched historical recipes.  One of these classes was on my mother’s Portuguese foods, on which I expanded, incorporating the salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Slowing down, smelling the roses, feeding ourselves and others are important traits. In doing such, let us choose pleasure in even the simplest of foods, especially when someone else prepares them; thus, their charity reaches our hearts regardless of what is served.  Macaroni and cheese can thrill us, when made with love by a friend.

There is an element of courage, which results in unexpected joy, when we graciously receive ailments we aren’t sure of.  While living in Billings, Montana, a friend invited me to celebrate Easter with her.  Upon arrival I discovered we were partaking of rabbit; I was challenged in eating this, especially on this holiday!  Expressing gratitude, I bravely proceeded and found it palatable, as long as I didn’t concentrate on it being Easter.  Though I have never again experienced this meat, fond memories flood my mind whenever it is mentioned.

Let us be strong in both giving and receiving benevolent fellowship; use my series of proven receipts to host this cultural affair for your loved ones, or better yet invite someone newly acquainted.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page note strong compliments to pork; among the most vibrant are vinegar, garlic, black pepper, oranges and onions-all of which are present in this detailed dinner.1   Enjoy my creative repast!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 159.

chopping jalapeno peppers

Portuguese Pork  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Total prep time: 1 day plus 4 hours/  inactive prep time-for marinating: 1 day/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 1/2 hr.

4 lb pork loin roast

1 1/3 cups water

1 cup cider vinegar  (Trader Joe’s carries an inexpensive raw version, which has great health benefits.)

5 medium/large cloves of garlic, minced

3 tepino peppers  (If desired use jalapeno peppers, which are milder.)

Salt and pepper  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in the health section of local supermarket.)

1 cup sliced green olives  (May serve additional in a bowl at table.)

Baked yams  (Yams and sweet potatoes are different varieties of the same vegetable, they are interchangeable.)

  1. Place water and vinegar in a 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 3 pan (3 quart baking dish).
  2. Mince garlic, add to vinegar mixture.
  3. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, chop fine, and add to vinegar mixture (see photo).  Note: be sure to wash hands thoroughly, as burning will result from touching eyes if you don’t.
  4. Place pork in marinade and marinate in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning roast halfway through, at about 12 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Before placing in oven, turn roast again, salting and peppering the top well.  Bake for 1 3/4 hours; then, turn roast for the last time; once more, salt and pepper the top well.  Bake for another 1 3/4 hours.  Proceed immediately to next step.
  6. Wash yams and pierce several times with a fork.  Cover with foil; place top of foil on potato, where sealed, face-up in the oven while baking; this keeps juices from leaking.  Start baking these at the same time you begin roasting the meat; bake for about 3 hours, as the oven is only set at 300 degrees.
  7. When cooking is complete, remove roast from oven, cool for 15 minutes.  Toward the end of this time, take yams out of oven and place on plates; next, cut pork in thick slices and arrange on dishes; top with sliced olives.  (It is good to serve additional olives in a small bowl at table.)
  8. This pork is superb with the Portuguese salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Serungdeng Kacang

serungdeng kacang

serungdeng kacang

The condiment serungdeng kacang first completed my food in the early 1980’s, when I was catering historical events in Billings, Montana.  In those days, I sought recipes that allowed me to offer thematic meals from diverse cultures and times. To my joy, I discovered a host of receipts from Indonesia; thus, I presented an Indonesian rijsttafel to my eager audiences.

I loved to act in my youth and knew the Billings’ theatrical community well.  As an aside, actors often make a living in the restaurant business; they are adept at waiting tables.  Then my creative dinners needed both excellent service and improvisation.  An incredible fit was made with my Billings’ thespian friends; thus, I frequently employed them in my catered dramas.

My favorite memory, using this partnership, was a fundraiser for the Billings’ Children’s Theatre: I presented an authentic Moroccan dinner, for a staged “Night at Rick’s Place”.  The five winning tickets from those auctioned off-each with their three guests-were transported back to World War II in the theatre’s upstairs; this large room had been converted into Rick’s Place, from the movie Casablanca.  It was furnished with a bar off to one side of the restaurant, which consisted of five tables of four, clothed with white linen.  The city’s leading actors peopled the bar scene.  More of these, dressed in tuxedos, served the unsuspecting partakers in this suspense.

Broadway arts resulted!  Numerous brawls took place in the bar; the Gestapo arrived; guests were pick-pocketed, and on and on…Talk about fun.

My part was the researched Moroccan meal.  That afternoon, after weeks of cooking, I showed up for the final preparations in the theatre’s limited kitchen. Behold, the limits escalated upon my arrival-the stove wasn’t working!  The true test of my creativity came.  However, God’s grace broke through: makeshift occurred as a call went out and citizens brought in hot plates.  The meal came off triumphantly: I, in a Moroccan dress, told the innocent company the colorful history as each dish was served.

I repeated this dinner numerous times in my career, but this show never again reached the thrill of its original occurrence.  That night in Casablanca best exemplified what I did with my work then.  Now my food history presentations entertain larger audiences.  Still guests participate in dinner-theatre-type-events. They engage by eating authentic foods; I, dressed in period costume, narrate their careful story.

Today my grand affairs mostly involve Northwest history, for which I was trained in graduate school.  However back in the 80’s and 90’s, I presented other cultures and times in my gala occasions.  Among these many thematic experiences was an Indonesian rijsttafel, which is a banquet of delicacies from this southeast Asian republic, formerly known at the Dutch East Indies.

Serungdeng kacang is a condiment for rice dishes in these ethnic feasts. My particular recipe comes from Java, one of the many islands in Indonesia. These coconut crumbs, spiced with onion and garlic, are spread liberally over the rice portions, in addition to a variety of other garnishes.

Serungdeng kacang has multiple, inventive benefits: it is also compatible with Indian curries; acts as a delicious hors d’oeuvre; and, my favorite, it provides the crowning touch to salads!  Keep this enhancement to tossed greens on hand. Make a double batch and keep it in a sealed storage bag.  The beauty of this topping lasts indefinitely.

simple mincing of onion

simple mincing of onion

Serungdeng Kacang  Yields: 3 cups.  Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 min/ cooking time: 30 min.

6 tbsp yellow onion, minced  (You will need a medium/large onion; follow directions below for simple mincing-see photo.)

6 medium/large garlic cloves, chopped fine

2 tbsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important; available in the health section of local supermarkets.)

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is the best for flavor and quality.)

2 cups unsweetened coconut chips  (Available in bulk at our local Winco, or in a 12-ounce Bob’s Red Mill package at local supermarkets.)

1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

  1. An easy way to mince onion is to peel it, leaving the root on; next, score it by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the other direction (see photo).  When onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end of it with a sharp knife.
  2. Start by measuring 6 tbsp of minced onion; save rest of onion for other cooking.  With a mortar and pestle mash onions, garlic, sugar, and salt.  When this is a thick puree, set aside.  (See mortar and pestle in photo.)
  3. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium/low heat.  Place a piece of the coconut in oil; when it turns brown, oil is ready for cooking.
  4. Meantime mix together coconut and onion mixture in a large bowl.  Make sure coconut is completely coated.
  5. When oil is hot, add coconut mixture; stir well to coat coconut with oil; cook 20 minutes, or until golden brown in color and slightly wet.  Stir every 5 minutes, so as not to burn.  (Let it cook for full 5-minute increments, however; this allows for the coconut to brown.)
  6. When coconut is light golden brown, add the peanuts and cook for another 5 minutes; stir twice now.  Note: it will get a darker brown and drier, as it cooks more with the peanuts and then cools in the pan.
  7. Remove from heat and be sure to cool in skillet; this completes the drying process.  (See top photo for finished product.)
  8. Keep in a sealed storage bag, lasts for months.

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball

curry/chicken/cheese ball

curried chicken/cheese ball

My mother’s best friend, in our small Rocky Mountain village, became my treasured ally. She and her husband moved to East Glacier Park, when he retired as a screenplay writer.  Talbot Jennings was so famous that a prominent New York City television station featured his movies, such as The King and I, for a whole week, before he died.

This illustrious couple traveled the world during the production of these films; thus, Betsy schooled me in her prodigious cosmopolitan ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting under her tutelage, as she prepared me for the lions at Trafalgar Square and exceeding more, prior to my moving to London.  I believe she was even more excited than I, about my valiant relocation to Tokyo half a decade later.

The voluminous New York Times brought the vast outside world to Betsy every weekend.  She was forever clipping articles to prepare me for my numerous sojourns.

With this same spirit, starting in 1982, she helped me to grow as a historical caterer.  My creative mentor was always sending me gifts, which she ordered from the New York Times.  Ingenious gadgets were among a wide array of superlative food items.  Many of these imaginative tools still grace my kitchen today.

While I was doing my early work in Billings, Montana, I journeyed to my hometown each year, where I catered multiple theme dinners per visit. The eight-hour drive across the wide expanse of the Big Sky Country thrilled my tender soul. How I delighted in approaching the backdrop of my beloved mountains, as I gazed across those colossal open prairies.

Once there, I spent many hours drinking in wisdom at Betsy’s feet.  During one of these relished trips, she offered this  delectable cheese ball to me.  I was enamored with it then and still am today.  Then it was a frequent hors d’oeuvre at my gala catered events;  today it is still my constant contribution to every holiday meal, at which I am a guest.

May you make this blessed appetizer a family tradition as well!

Curried Chicken/Cheese Ball  Yields: 2 ½ cups.  Total prep time: 1 hr/ active prep time: 30 minutes/ inactive prep time: 30 min.  Note: you may make this a day ahead.

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup raw whole almonds, chopped in a food processor  (May use slivered almonds and chop with a sharp knife.)

½ cup unsweetened coconut, finely grated  (Available in bulk, at Winco and other stores.)

2 tbsp mayonnaise  (Best Foods excels all other mayonnaise.)

2-3 tbsp Major Grey’s Mango Chutney  (Choose 3 tbsp if you want a full-bodied sweetness.)

1 tbsp curry powder, or to taste

½ tsp salt  (Real Salt is important; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 chicken breast or 4 frozen tenderloins  (Natural chicken is best; Trader Joe’s works well for quality and cost.)

1-9 oz box Original Wheat Thins

  1. If you are using frozen tenderloins, thaw in cool water.  Cook chicken in salted boiling water. When center is just faintly pink, after inserting a knife, remove chicken from water and cool in refrigerator.
  2. Chop almonds in a food processor, by repeatedly pressing the pulse button. Pulse until nuts are in small chunks.  Some finely ground almond “dust” will be present; you will use this as well.  There will also be some big chunks; cut them, by hand, with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  3. Mix all the above ingredients except the chicken.  Note: it works best to insert a regular teaspoon in the narrow jar of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, when measuring it.  Be sure to use well-rounded teaspoons, as each approximates a tablespoon, for which the recipe calls.
  4. Leave this cream cheese mixture out at room temperature, while waiting for the chicken to cool.  When meat is cool, cut it into small pieces. Mix chicken into cream cheese gently, as not to shred it.
  5. Criss-cross two large pieces of plastic wrap.  Place chicken ball in the center of wrap.  Surround ball with this plastic covering.  Refrigerate on a small plate.
  6. Soften ball at room temperature for two hours before serving, to facilitate the spreading.
  7. Surround with crackers on a decorative serving plate.
  8. This is a winner!

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco

Bolitos de chocolat y coco

bolitos de chocolat y coco

1985 was a big year for me.  I traveled to Peru that summer to study food.  Later in September I went to Paris, with the intent of moving my business there. (Read more about France in Balsamic Vinaigrette, 8/22/16.)

My jocund days in Peru were filled with the warm blazing sun, but nights were very cold; I experienced the southern hemisphere’s winter that July. Machu Picchu met my love for mountains in a grand way.  The ancient trail leading to these ruins made for an arduous climb.  We got off the train and labored, with copious sweat, for hours to complete its last leg. The day was memorable.

My far-reaching, historical catering business was three years old during my time in South America.  My mind was a sponge for details about food.  While there, very morsel that went into my mouth came out as a comment in my journal.  Most of this keen eating took place in inexpensive cafes, where chickens were always roasting on open hearths.  The better of these humble restaurants had guinea pig and Cebiche, raw white fish “cooked” in lemon juice.  Street vendors’ food also provided me with rich information. However, my greatest joy was the private dinner invitations I received to both rich and poor homes.  Note: there are only these two classes there.

Karen, my then neighbor in Billings, Montana, and her Peruvian boyfriend inspired me to make this colorful sojourn.  Indeed Chino’s family blessed my trip: I may not be alive today, but for them, as great trauma occurred for me in this country. Fortunately his family was extremely influential.  For instance, his second cousin was president during my visit.  (This man was ousted a number of days after I left; my friend’s brother-in-law was murdered by terrorists several months later.)

My trouble came when I and my traveling companion, a longtime friend from Paris, let down our guards.  We always covered each other’s backs in the marketplace, as robbery is ever present in this poor nation.  We went our separate ways one day in Cusco.  On my own, I was mesmerized by the wide array of vendor’s goods: blankets on the ground displayed raw meats; brightly dressed women loudly announced their vibrant vegetables; modest pots and pans were set up elsewhere.  Stopping I indulged in a delicious, doughnut-like pastry.  Next I reached for my funds to buy freshly squeezed orange juice.  My wallet was gone!

Absolutely everything of importance was in it: my passport, money, travelers’ checks, credit cards, and return ticket home.  This unseasoned traveler was without identity and provision in a volatile place.

God’s grace got me to my homeland safely through a multitude of miracles! The last of these happened just hours before my plane’s departure-the president of Aero Peru, a friend of Chino’s family, reinstated my plane ticket at this critical moment.

My repertoire of catered meals included a Peruvian dinner, even before I experienced this culture. The background for this authentic repast came from a cook book shared by Chino’s girlfriend; however this account was strictly for the upper class.  For hors d’ouvres at these events, I used the youth’s favored dish Ocopa-chunks of boiled, bland purple potatoes, topped with cheese, walnuts, mild chiles, and eggs. The main course boasted of Aji de Gallina, an incredible walnut chicken. Dessert was Suspiro Limeno, a light, airy custard.  The feast ended with Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco.  To this day, these chocolate/coconut balls are the finishing touch at ever meal I host.

Chocolate has an interesting history.  Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes introduced cocao beans to Europe in 1528, when he returned from “New Spain”.  There the Aztecs mixed cocao paste with spices to make a thick drink.  In their convent at Oaxaca, creative Spanish nuns added sugar, which made this chocolate beverage even more palatable. 1

Chocolate was highly prized then and still is today.  These superb, truffle-like candies are a rich man’s food in Peru.  This recipe is simple and foolproof-don’t miss this delectable treat!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 89.
Making bolitos de chocolat y coco

making bolitos de chocolat y coco

Bolitos de Chocolat y Coco (Peruvian chocolate/coconut balls)  Yields: about 6 dozen balls. Total prep time: 45 min.

12 ounces unsweetened chocolate (Baker’s is best.)

1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk  (It’s important to use Borden’s Eagle Brand.)

2 tsp butter

2 cups unsweetened fine-flake coconut  (Available in bulk at our local Winco and other supermarkets.)

  1. Break chocolate into pieces in a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan.
  2. Add butter.  Melt slowly over low heat.  Watch carefully, as not to burn.
  3. Meanwhile open the can of milk and place ½ cup of coconut in a measuring cup.  Set aside.
  4. When chocolate is completely melted, quickly add condensed milk.
  5. Stir over low heat for about 30 seconds.  It will start forming a soft ball. Toward the end of the 30 seconds, stir in the coconut.  (Do not overcook, or chocolate will be dry.)
  6. Remove from heat after about 30 seconds; continue to stir vigorously until soft ball is formed all the way.  Cool just enough for handling.
  7. Place ½ cup of coconut in a small bowl.  (You will add more coconut to the dish as needed.)
  8. Form small balls of chocolate and roll in coconut.  Place in an 8×8 inch pan.
  9. Chill chocolate for several hours; then place in a freezer-storage bag.  Double the bag for long-term freezing; these will keep for a very long time in freezer.
  10. Excellent chocolate, so easy, absolutely foolproof!