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Luck Be A Lady

Jan 1, 2012   //   by marymeals   //   Main course  //  1 Comment

For as many New Year’s as we can remember my mother, her mother, and her mother before her, put on a slow cooking pot of pork roast and sauerkraut. This year as the kraut started smelling up the marymeals kitchen with its comforting aromatics, I began to wonder how this tradition got started. I called up my mom to ask her about it and she seemed surprised as she admitted she didn’t even really know. She just remembered that it was what they did. After some investigation, I uncovered some interesting information. It turns out there is a reason why sauerkraut and pork is a traditional New Year’s food. A Pennsylvania Dutch folklore claims that eating it will bring good luck and prosperity in the new year. It’s good luck to eat pork because pigs forage forward for their food and don’t look back, and in Irish culture cabbage is associated with luck and fortune since it is green and resembles money. Since Pennsylvania is where many of my mother’s family settled when they came to this country from Ireland and England, I can see how they adopted the traditions of the locals. Other foods that different cultures use to help ring in the year include black eyed peas- for luck, long noodles- symbolizing a long life, lentils- as they resemble coins, pomegranates- abundance, and fish for moving forward. However you celebrate the New Year, I hope you can incorporate or start new family traditions. They are the rituals that bind generations of family together and create a sense of unity that nothing else can. If you’d like to follow my family’s tradition of pork and sauerkraut you just need to fire up the crock-pot and let it do all the work.

Slow Cooked Pork and Sauerkraut

4lbs pork loin roast
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp caraway seed
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 apple shredded or diced small
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 lbs sauerkraut

Place pork loin in the slow-cooker. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on caraway seeds, paprika, salt, and pepper. Place apple on and around the pork and cook on low for 4 hours. At the 4 hour mark add the sauerkraut, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly on top, resume cooking another 4 hours. (about 8 hours total.) Stir before serving. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Great Eggspectations

Dec 15, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Starters  //  No Comments

There are the best of noggs… There are the worst of noggs…
My friend Adam got me thinking about eggnog the other day, and the way he was talking, I don’t think he’s ever had the pleasure. Shocking I know! Well, when I introduce something to someone for the first time, it has to be the best version possible. The best eggnog is traditionally made, from scratch. Eggs whipped with sugar, and cream into a frothy and delicious drink. Once you see how easy and amazingly delicious it is to make your own, you’ll never be able to love those commercialized cartons of nogg flavored milk that have ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce. Like many recipes we’ve adopted from over the pond, eggnog started out as a drink that only aristocrats could afford. Since most colonists owned their own chickens and dairy cows it became no big thing for them to whip up a glass of eggnog whenever they got the whim. Replacing the expensive sherry with cheaper rum imports from the Caribbean, also aided in spreading this delicious drink to the American masses. Nogg, in fact was on George Washington’s menu every night! Because of the insane amount of calories associated with a glass of eggnog, I would not recommend more then the occasional indulgence. My Grandma adapted this recipe from a Good House Keeping magazine a million years ago, it brings back so many holiday memories, and I think its a delicious way for you, and Adam, to start your family eggnog traditions. Rum Optional.

Grandma Nancy’s Nogg

3 eggs beaten
1/3 cup sugar
2-1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup rum (optional), or 1 teaspoon rum extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon

Combine beaten eggs and sugar in a saucepan, whisking together. Add milk. Cook mixture over medium heat, do not let oil or simmer and stir constantly, for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Place the saucepan inside a large bowl filled with iced water and stir until mixture is cool. Refrigerate.

Next, use a mixer(or whisk) to combine heavy cream and powdered sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in rum or rum extract, then fold this whipped cream mixture into the cooled custard. Pour eggnog into serving bowl, or ladle into individual glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg,(or cinnamon)

Midnight Mascarpone

Nov 14, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  1 Comment

These weeks leading up to the holidays always seem to go by in a blur. Jam packed with volunteer activities, appointments, parties, meetings, work, work, and more work its a wonder how we manage to squeeze in any fun at all. Its the time of year when the most fun you have are those peaceful fleeting minutes out of your hectic day when you can relax. When you slip away and do something just for you. Even if its just those minutes in the car on your commute to enjoy a great coffee, or the few moments you have to watch grown up TV after the kids get tucked in.
I’m especially tired this month. I’d like to blame it on my MS, but I’m pretty sure its the fact that I just got done hosting a VIP party that lasted 4 days. It sounds like a crazy good time, but 4 days spent making sure everything is perfectly perfect for everybody else can drain the life right out of a person. I was definitely looking forward to a day off of doing absolutely nothing. And I mean NOTHING.
So ask me why-when I was reading my twitter feed, and spotted a cooking photo contest, hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, that had a deadline of the next morning, that had already been going on for a month- did I think it was something that I just had to participate in?! Out of the 50 recipes, I chose Tiramisu, because I wanted to eat it. because I had a good idea of how I wanted to set up the pic. I should have known it was going to be a bigger challenge then whipping up a late night tiramisu ought to be when I couldn’t find an espresso cup for sale with in a 50 mile radius. Damn we Americans like our coffee’s BIG. So I went to my last resort. One of my dearest friends Marina. She collects candles. Like, hundreds of them. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain I recall that she has a little baby espresso cup candle on her kitchen counter. I call. “Oh I used that candle all up she says”, my heart races, “but I think I still have that cute little cup around here somewhere. Oh! Here it is!” I’ll be right over to get it. So I got my cup, and its now 10:30 pm the night before the contest deadline of 12 pm the next day.
I steal a moment to relax before I dive into whipping the mascarpone, eggs, and sugar. A precious stolen moment after a 12 hour day. I’m trying to decide if I have time for a tea, when my numero uno kitchen assistant makes a loud and somewhat painful exclamation. Followed by “I don’t want to tell you what I’ve done.” In any circumstance these are never good words to hear, so I brace myself for the dramatic confession. “Well I got everything on the list that you asked for, except the cheese.” When you say cheese I scream ask, do you mean the mascarpone? The main ingredient that tiramisu’s have been made from since the fall of the holy roman empire? “Yes.” OK, I state calmly, I guess I will have to go find cheese somewhere. Never mind that its clearly 11:30pm on a Sunday and every store that could possible carry mascarpone cheese has long since locked its gourmet door. The tiramisu needs to set for only 8 hours to cut a decent slice out of it, so I calculate that I still have time to get my hands on some cheese.
We get to the first store. Closed 10 minutes ago. Please I’m having a cheese emergency! ” You know,” my assistant states matter of factually, “a normal person would give up on the tiramisu thing at this point, and just make something else, we have spaghetti! I’m sure that’s one of the 50 choices, come on its Giada.” I know one more place I tell him with determination. Lets try it. They were open! Til one am, but they only had one 8 oz package of mascarpone- I need 16oz. I grab a cream cheese and figure I will make it work when I mix them together.
I’m not sure if its the cream cheese, or the up hill battle I faced in its production, but its the best Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. Because I had to use the ingredients I could find, my finished recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Giada’s book Everyday Italian. For that recipe please visit Giada De Laurentiis and also if you’d please take a moment to vote for my finished photo I would love ya for it.


5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese
8 oz softened cream cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 ½ cups strong espresso, cooled
2 teaspoons dark rum
24 packaged ladyfingers
1 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings
Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Longer if by hand. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add vanilla paste, cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream and beat until mixture is thickening. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.

In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso mixture very quickly soaking them too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, breaking them, if necessary in order to fit the bottom.

Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 8 hours will give the best slices.

sprinkle with chocolate shavings and serve. Coco powder works as well.

Matzo Matzo Man

Sep 28, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Soups and salads  //  2 Comments

Matzo Balls are tasty Jewish dumplings traditionally made from matzo meal and served in a light chicken broth. They are usually eaten for the Passover Holiday, but honestly in my book any Holiday gives me the excuse to dust off the soup pot and make some matzo. In celebration of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, I developed this particular “matzo” recipe for a special dinner guest who is not only a vegetarian, but cannot eat gluten. Imagine! Her world without matzo? Well not any more…Shana Tova!

“Matzo” Ball Veggie Soup

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted margarine
1 cup almond flour plus 1/4 cup reserved
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash white pepper
1 tsp water (more or less depending on desired consistency)
2 qts vegetable broth
1 med carrot quartered
1 small onion halved (peel on)
3 gloves garlic smashed with knife (peels on)
1 handful of baby carrots
1 tbsp better then bullion veggie stock (you can use any but this brand is just concentrated stock nothing else)
more parsley for garnish

In a small bowl, mix eggs with the melted margarine. Stir in 1 cup almond flour, the parsley, salt, and pepper, to form a dough. At this point you may need to add water for a softer dough or more almond flour for a stiffer dough. My family likes a dense chewy texture so I mix in flour until my mixing spoon can stand up in the dough with out falling. A softer dough will produce airy dumpling like balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting bring broth, carrot, onion and garlic to a boil in a large pot. Your will strain the broth so the peels and all will bring great flavor to the vegetable broth. Reduce heat to a simmer for 1 hour. Shape the matzo dough into 12 balls. (For easier shaping, dip hands in cold water from time to time). Set aside. Now it is time to strain the vegetable broth. Discard the boiled vegetables and place the strained broth back into the soup pan, adding baby carrots and the bullion. Bring to a simmer and then drop the matzo balls into the simmering broth. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Garnish each bowl with a handful of chopped parsley.

A Wok on the Wild Side

Sep 23, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Blog, Main course  //  2 Comments

More then 40,000 Chinese restaurants have popped up across the United States. That’s more then the number of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings combined. Even my hometown with a population barely pushing 2,000 has a Chinese takeout. In the 19th century Cantonese cooks modified their traditional foods to suit a more western palate and created one of the most popular cuisines in America. Skillfully adapting recipes to local ingredients led to the creation of dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, and the ever popular Orange Chicken. You would never find dishes like this in China. Here we treat the vegetables in our Chinese food like garnish, and we salivate over battered Orange Chicken that is deep fried before its stir fried and gets almost half of its calories from fat. In this marymeals version the sweetness comes through with not much more then fresh orange juice, soy sauce, and a quick stir fry in a hot wok.

Fresh Orange Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas

1 small onion diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp veg oil
1 lb cubed chicken
2 thinly sliced green onions
8 oz of sugar snap peas
zest and juice from 4 oranges
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch

Heat oil in wok or other large frying pan over high heat. Add onion, red pepper, and garlic. Stir fry 30 seconds. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the wok. While the chicken is working mix together juice, zest, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Continue to stir fry the meat another 5 minutes. Add snap peas and sauce mixture and continue frying until peas are tender but still have crunch and the sauce has thickened. Approx 4 minutes. Toss with green onions and serve over steamed rice.

A Piece of Cake!

Sep 17, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Blog, Dessert  //  2 Comments

Sometime in the late 1700’s Miss Amelia Sims made mention of cake to be “baked in small cups” in her book American Cookery and history was made. The cupcake was born! We’ve come a long way from the heavy pottery cups Amelia was baking in. Fancy paper lined muffin tins, silicone cups, sturdy foil–nowadays cupcakes have endless, and many times designer ways to be baked off. These mini mavens even have their own shops popping up all the time. Shops like Sprinkles and Magnolia have made cupcakes gourmet. The latest craze adds the sparkling effervescence of champagne into the mix. With a bit of the bubbly, the texture of these fairy cakes is a tad more delicate, and nothing short of delicious! If only Amelia could see us now!

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup champagne
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
2 drops red food color(optional)

Combine first four dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then mix in remaining ingredients till just combined. Divide into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 17-19 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Butter cream Pink Champagne Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter (room temp)
2 tbsp champagne
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 drop red food color

Beat together all ingredients in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and let chill in the fridge to set frosting for 1 hour. Enjoy!

Just Eat It!

Sep 5, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Look where I've been  //  No Comments

I’ve never seen so many sausages.
Danish. German. Irish. Polish. Italian. Sausage. As far as the eye can see.
I also have to admit, if it wasn’t for such a good cause, I might have been a smidge disappointed in the Orange International Street Fair. But, since every dime of profits from those colossal bangers goes directly to fund more then fifty non-profits dedicated to serving our local communities, I’ll take two please with extra kraut.

Even though the history of The Fair can be traced back to the original event in 1910, it wasn’t until the centennial celebration in 1973 that the tradition was revived. The event proved so popular that it has been held every Labor Day weekend since, for the past three decades. There’s more to see then just sausage. Local crafters and artists, live entertainment, unique shops that grace the circle are open for business, beer tasting from each country, and there’s plenty of traditional sweets to go around.

One that intrigued me: Dansk Aebleskiver. Danish Donuts. These globe shaped delights are a cross between an American pancake and a light airy French popover. They get a cute round shape as they cook in a special cast iron griddle that I can’t wait to get for the marymeals kitchen. The friendly Danes let me watch as they prepared these delicious pastries.

Pouring the batter

Flipping the Aebleskiver

Dusting with sugar and pouring on jam! Ready to EAT!

All in all, not a bad way to spend part of my Labor Day weekend. With its picturesque location, the historic circle in downtown Orange is the perfect setting to step back in time, stroll the closed-off streets, and sample some delicious food traditions from all over the world.

The British are Coming!

Sep 2, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  3 Comments

A trifle, as defined, is an article or thing of very little value. Leave it to the Brits to give such a depressing name to something as delicious and brilliant looking as a trifle. This cold dessert of cake, spread with jam, fruit, and covered with cream, was originally invented to make yesterdays stale old sponge taste fresh and delicious again. Traditionally the cake was soaked in liquor to revive its moist texture. Then it was pressed in a bowl to absorb all the yummy delicious flavor from the jam and cream layers. So it was cheap, easy to make, and a great way to use up leftovers. In this marymeals version I’ve taken the trifle out of the bowl and turned it into an elegant layer cake. A trifle indeed!

Raspberry Trifle Cake

For the Sponge:

1½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 stick melted butter
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the first four dry ingredients in bowl of standing mixer. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; beat until completely smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, and divide batter into two greased 9inch round cake pans. Bake about 35 min. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool at least 45 min.

For the Cream:

1 cup cold milk
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1 package of instant vanilla pudding

Whip together all ingredients in a standing mixer, until it starts to resemble whipped cream, you don’t need to continue whipping past this stage because it will continue to set while chilling in the fridge.

For the Fruit layers:

1 jar good quality raspberry jam
1/4 cup of ginger ale
16 oz of fresh raspberries(any fruit will work-even frozen but make sure it is as drained as possible)

Empty the jam into a small microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds add in ginger ale and stir to thin the jam.

For assembly:

Place one layer on cake plate and spread with the thinned down jam. Place about half of the cream filling over this layer of jam and spread evenly. Place half of the raspberries on the filling and press them into the cream. Drizzle with a little more jam. Place the second layer over this. Spread another layer of jam followed by the remaining cream. Top with fresh berries. Place in refrigerator to set for at least one hour. After the cake is cut into it will need to be covered at all times to stay moist! But, you might not even have to worry about leftovers!

Tea for Two

May 16, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  No Comments

I grew up believing tea was much more then a mere drink. All of my worldly problems would evaporate into that cup of piping hot tea, fresh out of the kettle. Tea was a part of every morning meal, afternoon snack, and every single family gathering. Black tea, herbal tea, sweet tea, or my daddy’s personal favorite cambric tea was the life-blood of my family. My oldest brother would probably tell you otherwise but he doesn’t like tea and therefore can’t be trusted. A strong brewed Tetley helped us process the unexpected loss of Grandma Nancy. I remember the drive, me and mom, up and down the Pennsylvania countryside in search of the Amish store carrying the only “tea fit to drink” in those parts. This was a testament to the influence of tea in our lives. A good cup of tea can get you through anything.
Today, research can prove what my family already knows. Tea can be extremely beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Filled with antioxidants, beneficial phytochemicals, anti-aging and cancer fighting properties, a daily cup of tea can have you looking and feeling better then ever. So put the kettle on, and while your at it, fire up the oven because nothing goes better with your daily dose then a bite sized sweet and airy teacake.

Sweet Orange Teacakes

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix eggs into the butter and sugar one at a time. Once incorporated add the yogurt, juice, vanilla, and orange extract. Stir in salt, baking soda, and flour until just combined. Lumps are okay and make lighter cakes. Grease a mini muffin pan or tea cake pan with a non stick spray. Spoon batter into each tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. A tooth pick will come out clean when they are ready to come out of the oven. You can also make this in a loaf pan that you will slice to serve.

Orange Glaze Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp orange extract

Combine all ingredients and beat together until combined, the texture of the glaze should be similar to a corn syrup. If it is too thick add a bit more milk. Drizzle lightly over the top of the teacakes.

Life is like a box of chocolates

Feb 13, 2011   //   by marymeals   //   Dessert  //  5 Comments

Pastry chefs all over the world use it to cover and fill cakes, or they bake it into the filling of an endless number of treats. Marzipan still tastes the most delicious to me on its own. Well, maybe not entirely on its own, but definitely after it’s dipped in a little Swiss chocolate. With its distinct amaretto flavor and chewy texture you will be sure to impress when you offer your Valentine this divine little truffle shaped treat. Almond flour mixed with sugar seems so simple but it is an amazingly delicious combination. Though I always make my own almond paste, for time’s sake I will post about that later. For now the store bought paste will do and is a bit easier for your first attempt at this decadent dessert. Nothing says “I love You,” more simply then producing a homemade treat for your special someone.

Chocolate Dipped Marzipan Balls

1 cup almond paste
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup rice syrup

Knead almond paste to soften and then pinch into little pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add in 1 cup of sugar and knead together until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add in rice syrup and vanilla. Knead together to form dough and add in the rest of the powdered sugar. Keep kneading until marzipan feels like a heavy pie dough. Wrap in plastic and place in sealed container in the fridge. After dough rests about 1 hour remove and begin rolling 1/2 inch pieces into little balls. Set on parchment paper and begin to melt chocolate for dipping.


Break apart and melt 3 4oz Swiss chocolate bars in a glass bowl in the microwave. I use 30 second intervals and stir in between until the chocolate bars are just melted. You need to be careful that you do not overcook the delicate chocolate and cause them to burn. Place the marzipan balls in the chocolate and roll to cover. Place on a parchment lined drying rack to cool and harden.