1970’s Atomic Muffins

atomic muffins

My heart has always longed for ideal eating habits, though I haven’t always possessed the capacity for their required discipline.  Natural foods first came into my life in the early seventies, in my eccentric college town of Missoula, Montana.  It was there a friend taught me this powerful atomic muffin recipe.

Then I was attempting to nurture my body with the best; I looked great on the outside-118 compact pounds clothed in the best of vestures-but my insides were another story, for I had the hidden disease of bulimia, which was with me for a total of 3 years; half way through this, I briefly became anorexic and was admitted to Calgary, Alberta’s Foothills hospital, weighing 88 pounds on my mother’s scale.  There a rising physician, who was just breaking into this then unknown field, cared for me.

Eating disorders were rare at that time, though now they are commonplace.  My heart breaks for those that suffer thus, for I know firsthand their devastating grip.

During the years that followed this hospitalization, I went from an extreme 88 to a gross 226 pounds, before I surrendered and God brought complete healing to me: I now have a beautiful, healthy physique, and I eat sanely, with an ability to make balanced choices, having an innate strength to neither over- or under-consume.

This privilege grew progressively.  As a direct answer to an earnest cry for help, it initiated with my courageous act to turn from the bulimic darkness, on a crisp November day in 1978.

Back then, my jaws would hurt from daily, nonstop eating and purging; it was during this fiery torment that I sought the help of a Catholic priest, whom by chance I had heard was successfully recovering from alcoholism; thus, I trusted the hope, visible in his mastery of obsession, to spill over into my life.

My plans were to purge one last time before my 1 PM appointment, but I awoke to late to do so; hence, the first ominous hurdle presented itself, with my intense temptation to skip the meeting.  Something bigger than I, however, got me there.

With this glimmer of determination, I arrived at this parish, unknown to me, in a small neighboring town, only to suffer the second attempt to stop my breakthrough: the priest answering my knock informed me that his superior, the recovering alcoholic, was unavailable.  My instinct was to flee, but I blindly accepted his proffered services instead.

This man, whether knowingly or unknowingly, told me my bulimia wasn’t sin, but rather something beyond my control; he suggested that I stop doing it; at the same time he administered grace, saying that IF upon occasion I failed, I was to ask the Father for forgiveness, and immediately return to my new eating.  All this miraculously seemed doable, for the seed of faith had been established.

I will never forget leaving this sanctuary and walking out into the parking lot, where the asphalt seemed to dance with the reflection of God’s light, from Montana’s perpetual Big Sky.  Indeed my soul was dancing along with this lively, beautiful pavement; my new birth had begun!

At about three weeks into this profound freedom, a stark overwhelming urge to purge an excessive meal assailed me, in which there was actual physical weakness, as I staggered going back and forth toward a public bathroom.  This moment became a crucial step in proving my liberty, for it was then I decisively turned from death to life: clarity came with the vivid memories, both of the sweet peace experienced during this abstinence, as well as the subsequent pleasures derived from foods that I was now able to actually taste; there was vital victory as I successfully turned, moving to the place where  life and my friends were waiting.

It got much easier after that.  Only once in all these 50 years did I give into this lie, for I slipped into this old habit for a week, when I was desperately trying to loose a few pounds, before leaving for Paris in 1985; a greater than I brought me back to my senses, and I stopped as suddenly as I had started.  While in Dijon, France, after an exceptionally large meal, I was tested, however, to see if I really meant business.  Only by grace did I stand, not purging my grotesque meal.  Never again have I returned to this inferno; honestly, I am no longer even faintly tempted.

In this same way, though with much less drama, all my food consumption has been refined: first I receive inspiration for better habits, whether it be the exclusion of a given matter, or the addition of something new; next, I weigh and balance the suggestion, getting clear in my heart what is best for me; then, I initiate the change, which often comes with challenges at first.

I find that we are generally tested, when establishing all new behavior; such testing, however, provides proof of the pudding, for it fixes newly-won-rights indelibly.  Now I thank God, not for the attacks themselves (which aren’t of him), but for the rich strength provided in overcoming them, through our partnering with his grace.

Bless our food, bodies, and hearts always!

grinding flour with an attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer

Atomic Muffins  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 15 min (if you have 2 muffin pans).

1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes

1/2 c oil  (Grape seed or avocado oils are best for heating to high temperatures, without producing carcinogens.)

3/4 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal-see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24, for information on this sugar.)

2 tbsp molasses

2 lg eggs  (Organic free-range eggs are healthiest.)

1 c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 2/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make a cup of fresh-ground flour.)

1/4 c barley or spelt flour

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt, pink salt, is so important for premium health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1/2 c powdered milk

1/2 c nutritional yeast  (Available in bulk at many stores, such as our local Winco.)

3/4 c wheat germ

1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats  (Organic in bulk is only slightly more expensive and much more nutritious.)

1/2 c sesame seeds

1/2 c sunflower seeds

3/4 c pumpkin seeds

1/2 c nuts, chopped

1 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.)

Coconut Spray Oil  (Pam is available at most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. easy mixing of dry ingredients in a sealed storage bag

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now (see photo at top of recipe).
  3. Cover raisins with boiling water; set aside for 15 minutes, for them to plump up.
  4. In a large bowl, blend oil, sugar, and molasses; add eggs; beat well.
  5. In a gallon-size sealed storage bag, shake together all dry ingredients, including seeds and nuts, until well mixed (see photo above).
  6. Alternately blend dry ingredients and milk into oil mixture, using just half of each at a time, until all is incorporated.  (Note: if using fresh-ground flour, preferably let batter rest in bowl for 20 minutes before baking, as it is a coarser grind and doesn’t absorb the moisture as quickly as store-bought flour; see photo below.)
  7. bowl of batter

    Spray muffin pans with oil; spoon batter into cups; bake for 14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It is best to lean on the side of under baking, so muffins remain moist.)

  8. Remove from pan and cool on waxed paper.
  9. Keep muffins in refrigerator; the freezer, however, provides even better storage, if using them over an extended period.
  10. These are indeed atomic in nutrition!

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies

plate of mor monsen’s kaker (my mother’s cake)

 

I took the winter off from college in 1973, to work at Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Montana.  There in my small studio apartment’s kitchen, I first made these incredible bars, which are known for gracing Norwegian Christmases.

Scandinavian baking is in a class all its own.  These people are known to be masters of pastry as well as open-face sandwiches-often incorporating cardamom, rye, and saffron in their creations.   Presently, their culinary genius has reached new heights: numerous times in this past decade, Noma of Copenhagen has been the title winner of The World’s Best Restaurant; it promotes the popular New Nordic cuisine, which is a style of food that has gone beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia.

New Nordic is best known by the terms local and healthy.  In Norway, with a growing season that might last from June until August, it creatively uses the ocean, wild game, root vegetables, and cold-climate berries, such as the native cloudberry, which is highly valued in this country, as it can only be foraged, not cultivated commercially.

My simple, rich recipe exemplifies the culinary excellence of Norway; these lavish bars only call for currants and almonds, amidst the flour, eggs, sugar, and typical pound of butter.

Currants have an interesting history.  Today, these small dried seedless grapes, known as Zante currants, essentially come from the grape cultivar Black Corinth (Vitis vinifera), which is from the genus Ribes.  Related varieties, such as the White and Red Corinth (and other cultivars from the Black Corinth), are used rarely.

There are a total of about 150 categories in Ribes, including the above, as well as golden currants, gooseberries, and ornamental currants.  These various kinds are native to the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America, and within each individual species there are many cultivars-horticulturally derived plants, as distinguished from natural varieties-which have been developed over time.

Currants, which are most commonly dried, are generally referred to as Champagne grapes, when sold fresh, by U.S. specialty grocers.

The study of the origin of the word currant helps identify the history of our tiny fruit.  Written records of it initially date back to Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D.  A millennium later, we see the Middle English term raysons of couraunte, also known as raisins of Corinth (a region in ancient Greece which produced and exported these Ribes).

The word couraunte stands for (raisins of) Corinth, taken from the name Courauntz, which is of the Norman French dialect-a variety of speech used in Normandy and England in the Middle Ages-for this Greek region; this in turn comes from the medieval Old French Corinthe; thus, the dialectal name reysons de corauntz was first used for these grapes, when they were brought to the English market in the 14th century, from which the word currants eventually evolved.

In the 1600’s trade patterns shifted from Corinth to the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos (Zante); thus, this small grape became known as Zante currant.

In 1854, the Zante currant the Black Corinth cultivar came via a trade ship to the United States, which eventually resulted in its commercial production in California; the related varieties the White and Red Corinth were established there in 1861.  (Presently, this state is one of the four major world producers of currants, with Greece covering about 80% of this total generation.)

Actually, trade ships were bringing varieties of Ribes to our soil as early as the 16th and 17th century; natural Corinth raisins, however, were indigenous here as well; the Native Americans had been harvesting them from the wild, long before any Europeans arrived, using them for medicines and dyes.

These Zante currants,  which were initially reported at the time of Christ, are presently hard to find.  In earlier days, I could find boxes of dried currants in many local supermarkets, but recently I can only find them in bulk at such upscale grocers as the national chain New Seasons, which also carries the seasonal, fresh Champagne grapes.

Try adding this dried delight to your next Waldorf salad, a batch of scones (see Scottish Oat Scones, 2016/06/20), or these superb Norwegian Christmas cookies.  Expect wonders!

References:

https://ag.umass.edu/sites/ag.umass.edu/files/fact-sheets/pdf/currants.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zante_currant

https://1historyofgreekfood.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/raisins-currants-sultanas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-scandinavian-cookbooks_us_5756c7e2e4b07823f951302c

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/cookbook-reviews/cookbook-review-scandinavian-baking-by-trine-hahnemann/

cutting bars in triangles

Mor Monsen’s Kaker-Norwegian Christmas Cookies  Yields: 4 dozen bars.  Total prep time: 60 min/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 30 min.   Note: these freeze extra well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.

1 lb plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

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

4 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is ideal; may also grind 1-1/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make 2 c fresh-ground flour.)

distributing currants on dough

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

3/4 c almonds, chopped small (May purchase almond slivers for easy chopping.)

1 c dried currants

A large 11” x 16” cake pan*, or a 12” x 16” jelly roll pan  (May use a 9” x 11” pan, in addition to a 9” x 9” square pan.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease pan-see optional sizes listed above-with 2 tbsp butter; set aside.
  3. Cream pound of butter with sugar, until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; mix in vanilla.
  4. distributing almonds on top of currants

    Blend flour and salt easily, by shaking vigorously in a sealed gallon-size storage bag; then, add this to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated, to keep cookies from toughening; set aside.

  5. Chop almonds fine with a sharp knife, or use a food processor, by repeatedly pressing down on the pulse button, cutting any big chunks in half with a sharp knife.  Set aside.
  6. Spread batter evenly on greased pan; sprinkle surface FIRST with currants; see photo in list of ingredients; then, distribute almond pieces over the top of these; see photo above.  Press nuts and currants down into batter slightly with fingers, so they are embedded; see photo below.  (This keeps them from falling off the baked bars in crumbles.)
  7. Bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown, time varies with pan-size.
  8. While bars are still hot-using an 11” x 16” pan-cut 4 rows across the width and 6 rows across the length; then, cut these squares in half; see photo of cutting technique at top of recipe.  (Amount of rows may vary with differing pan

    pressing almonds and currants into dough, to embed them before baking

    sizes.)

  9. These freeze really well, to have on hand throughout the holidays.  They are a treat!

The Best Zucchini Bread

zucchini loaves

It’s that time of year again for our proliferate zucchini.  Cucurbita pepo, a member of the cucumber/melon family, originated in Mexico; this was not only grown by Central and South Americans, but also by our own  Native Americans, long before the Europeans arrived.  Nonetheless, the version we know in the U.S. today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy.

In actuality this is a fruit, not a vegetable, as it contains seeds.  While usually the male and female counterparts are present  in one plant, these components in this fruit exist in separate plants.  In the biological world, the female produces ovules, the equivalent of eggs, while the male produces pollen, which is like sperm in the animal kingdom.  Birds and especially bees transfer this pollen from the individual male to the female zucchini plants, producing abundant fruit, providing both these individual organisms reside together in any given garden.

I have a proven recipe to make use of this fertile squash, in which I suggest utilizing the health-promoting ingredients grapeseed oil and coconut sugar.

Grapeseed, along with coconut and avocado oils, can be heated to high temperatures without producing carcinogens; it is mild in flavor; thus, it is ideal for baking.

Comparing refined with coconut sugar, we see very little difference in their nutritional profiles on the surface; their caloric and carbohydrate content is very similar.  Such figures, however, don’t tell the hidden benefits of this healthier coconut sweetener which is barely processed; it is obtained by heating the sap of the coconut flower until most of the liquid is evaporated.  This alternative has a little more nutrition, as it contains small amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium, where the refined version holds empty calories.  More importantly, coconut sugar possesses a much lower glycemic index; this greatly reduces any tendency to spike the blood sugar, making it a possible substitute for those dealing with milder forms of blood sugar problems.  Always be sure to check with your healthcare specialist concerning your own personal diet!

I use this “healthy” substitute in both my zucchini and banana breads; see Banana Bread (2017/05/29).

My larder perpetually boast of one or the other of these, both of which I make with fresh ground, organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  These specific berries contain a variety of nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, B vitamins, folate, and potassium; one serving also provides 20% of the daily value of dietary fiber, 8% of needed iron, and the same amount of protein as found in an egg, or 6 grams. Breads last for lengthy periods of time, when made with this fresh ground flour.

To easily bake these perfect loaves in the off-season months, I encourage you to freeze plenty of this grated “fruit/vegetable” in 1-cup packages, while the abundance lasts.

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-zucchini-1807689

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/all-about-zucchini-zbcz1405

biologicalthinking.blogspot.com/2011/07/birds-do-it-bees-do-iteven-zucchinis-do-it.html

grinding flour with attachment for Kitchen Aid mixer

Zucchini Bread  Yields: 2 loaves.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

3 cups flour  (Fresh-ground provides the highest quality; use 2 cups organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make 3 cups fresh ground flour; see photo.)

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups sugar  (Coconut sugar is best; always available at Trader’s and at times Costco.)

1 cup oil  (Grapeseed  or avocado oil is important here; these may be heated to high temperatures without damage.)

3 tsp vanilla extract  (Ask vacationers to bring a liter bottle back from Mexico; this is the highest quality and dirt cheap.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

4 tsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer’s has an excellent, organic Korintje cinnamon in bulk inexpensively.)

thawing individual frozen zucchini packages

2 cups of zucchini  (If using frozen zucchini, remove 1 tbsp of liquid from each thawed 1-cup package; be sure to thaw in a dish to catch juices; it is best to freeze these ahead, while zucchini is available; see photo.)

1 cup nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco-brand, however, is far less expensive.)

Flour for dusting pans

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now; see above photo.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl, add sugar, blend until creamy.  Beat in oil and vanilla well.
  4. Place flour in a large bowl; stir in salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon with a fork vigorously, or shake all well in a sealed gallon-size storage bag.
  5. Mix flour mixture into egg/sugar/oil; when adding flour, do not over-beat, as this toughens the bread.
  6. Fold in zucchini and optional nuts.
  7. Spray and lightly flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans (coconut spray oil is important for flavor); pour batter into prepared pans.
  8. cooling zucchini loaves in pans

    Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the loaf responds when pressed with finger; may also test with a toothpick, which will come out clean when done.  Do not over-bake, as this will continue to cook some, while cooling for 15 minutes in the pan set on a rack; see photo.

  9. This is magnificent, health-giving bread!

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!

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!