Saturday, December 30, 2017

Onion Fritters, Onion Pancakes, Onion Patties - A Rose by Any Other Name

Onion Fritters

Love onions?  Love onion rings?  If you are a fan of onion rings but don't like the bother of slicing, separating, and battering individual onion rings, this recipe may be for you.  If when you bite into a ring, you inadvertently pull the onion from its coating and you have a dangling ring down the front of your chin and a handful of batter in your hand, this recipe may be for you.

With this recipe you have forkfuls of  onion flavor in golden batter with every bite and no embarrassing dangling ring, grins.  These fritters go well with just about any roasted meat of course.  A friend of mine loves these so much he wants to use them in place of hamburger buns.  That's a little much in my mind, but I understand it.  Made smaller, I think they would make a mighty tasty appetizer.


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar ***
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-2 teaspoons salt (according to taste)
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
Oil for frying

Mix together the dry ingredients and then add the milk; the batter will be quite thick.

Add onions and mix thoroughly.

Heat about a half an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil, using a second spoon if necessary to scoop it from the tablespoon.  Flatten slightly.  Brown on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels.  Serve warm.  Best eaten soon after they're made.

COOK'S NOTES:  Be careful!  The oil is hot and you can get a splatter burn (as me how I know this).  After scooping the batter into the hot oil, you can gently reshape the batter if you're quick. Just take a spoon or a spatula and push the batter in the direction you want it to go. 

These do not reheat well but then I can't think of anything fried that does.

***A note about the sugar called for in this recipe.  I happen to think it's a perfect addition.  Someone tried the recipe and said it was too sweet.  So you might want to consider the amount of sugar, reducing it or eliminating it, especially if you're using a sweeter onion like Vidalia or Walla-Walla.  I was using regular plain ole yellow onions, so I think the sugar was a good addition, but then I'm a fan of sweet.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Good Biscuits

My grandmother lived a humble life, ascetic by modern standards.  She didn't have much and she didn't ask for much.  She worked every day of her life until she couldn't, prayed daily until she forgot the words, head reverently bowed, knobby, wrinkled hands clasped in devotion, worn Bible in her lap, dog-eared from years of reading.

Early on in her marriage, my grandfather "took to logging" and settled her down in what she called The Camp.  She never described it in detail to me to me but since it was at the midst of the Great Depression, I'm pretty sure it was stark, no indoor plumbing and no electricity.  It was wood stoves, kerosene lanterns and outhouses.  And wide wood pine plank floors that she said she'd mop every day with bleach until they were white.

While my grandfather was out logging with the men-folk, sweating and swearing all day, heaving and hawing, two-man saws ringing in the dark woods, she'd be preparing supper for them. These were the days when bread of some sort was served at every meal, the days before we were knew that carbohydrates were bad, and white flour even worse.  Sliced bread was still a novelty and a luxury for her threadbare existence, so every day she made some kind of bread or biscuits.

The Great Depression, thankfully, came to an end.  She bought sliced bread, marveled at its convenience, and I thought she was being funny. But on Sundays, when we went to visit her in her little white house that my grandfather built for her, she'd make up a big pot of chicken fricassee, mashed potatoes, peas, and fluffy, tender biscuits that spilled off the platter.

Bless her heart, she tried to teach me how to make biscuits:  a pile of flour on the pastry board, shortening, baking powder, salt, a little milk.  No measuring, just feeling it.  I didn't get the biscuit-making gene I'm afraid.  I'm thinking that more than one of her prayers might've been for me.

Anyway, fast forwarded through years of biscuits in a can and more failed attempts, to the day I found this recipe. I'm not going to kid you, these are not the biscuits of my childhood.  There isn't going to be any biscuit on this earth that's as good as my grandmother's, smiles, but I'm satisfied.  Gosh, these are good with hamburger gravy, chipped beef gravy, chicken fricassee, even good as a base for strawberry shortcake.  The secret is not to overwork the dough; stop mixing when it all comes together and gently roll it out.  You'll be rewarded with nice, tender, flaky biscuits, slightly sweet, and golden deliciousness.

I'm pretty sure Gram is smiling down on me from Heaven, nodding approvingly, praising God for prayers answered.

Never Fail Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced (not margarine)
3/4 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using two knives, cut the cold, diced butter into the dry ingredients.  (You're looking to cover the flour with butter, which is a different thought than covering the butter with flour.)  Anyway, cut the butter in until you get something about the size of coarse oatmeal.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk.  Stir until mixture just begins to pull together and dump out onto a floured surface.

Press dough together until about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out about 8 biscuits, gently gathering up scraps of dough to shape into biscuits.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

COOK'S NOTES:  The cream of tartar in this is important to this recipe;  it's what makes the biscuit tender.  People have said they omit it, but I'm suggesting you don't.  It may seem like an extravagance to have it, but once you have it, you'll find it as an ingredient in beautiful soft sugar cookies, for example, as well as other recipes.

You can use a glass to cut the biscuits out, but a good biscuit cutter made for that purpose is a better choice.  A glass can compress the edges, making the biscuits less light and flaky, but go with what you have.  No judgment from me.  When I've been in a hurry (or couldn't find my biscuit cutter!) I've patted this out into a rectangle and just used a sharp knife to cut them into squares.  Works a charm.

Lastly, I saw this hint in an old Fanny Farmer or Farmer's Journal cookbook years ago, and I think it bears sharing.  Instead of rolling or patting the dough out to the 3/4 inch thickness, go a little thinner and fold the dough over in half on itself and then cut the biscuits out and bake.  This will make it easier to split the biscuit in half at the table.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

No Knead, Easy and Delicious, Overnight Refrigerator Rolls

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls

Do you want hot rolls for a special meal but don't have the time to measure and wait and roll?  I have an easy solution for you:  overnight refrigerator rolls.  Mix, let rise in the refrigerator, and the dough is good for up to four days (I find a maximum of three days is best for the best rise).  Take your dough out about 90 minutes before you are planning to serve, roll quickly into little balls and let rise and bake.  Easy peasy lemon squeezey.  I kid you not.

Some good years back, too many to recount, I received a solicitation from a recipe club or a book company or some such organization to receive laminated recipe cards in the mail every month, along with a handsome box and separator cards identifying each section.  Along with this amazing offer I also received some sample recipe cards with drool-worthy photos of the recipe.  And among those, was this recipe for overnight refrigerator rolls.

I never did sign up for the recipe cards (I was skeptical that these were the best of the lot--kind of like a movie trailer where they show you the best two minutes of the movie and the rest of the movie is a yawner).  Anyway, never mind all that.  What's important is that I tried the recipe and I've made it numerous times through the years.  Numerous.  Almost every holiday.  Almost every family gathering.  I've made this a lot of times.

They are fluffy and warm and golden brown goodness.  And they can be timed to pop into your oven when you take out your roast or casserole (if you happen to be making one) if the oven temperature is different, to let the other food rest while these are baking and then bringing everything to the table all hot and perfect at the same time.  Now that's a feat!

Overnight Refrigerator Rolls
(makes 2 dozen rolls)

1 cup of warm water (105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 packages active dry yeast (not instant yeast) (4 1/2 teaspoons if going by volume)
1/2 cup butter melted
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4 4/1 cups all-purpose flour (may need more less depending upon humidity)
additional butter for brushing on top of finished rolls - optional

In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast, proofing the yeast for about five minutes until it's foamy.  If it doesn't become foamy, you need to start over; the yeast isn't any good or your water was too hot.

Stir in butter, sugar, eggs, and salt.

Beat in the flour, one cup at a time, until the batter is too stiff to mix, but it will still be kind of goopy, if you know what I mean.

Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours, up to 4 days.

Grease a 13"x9" baking pan.

Turn the chilled dough out onto a slightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each into a smooth ball.  Place balls in even rows in the pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, until double in bulk, about one hour.  (Allow consideration for the temperature of your room, may take more or less time.)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place rolls in oven and bake until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Brush with melted butter if desired.  Break apart rolls to serve.

COOK'S NOTES:   A couple of thoughts on this recipe.  This dough will RISE in the refrigerator, and if you used a bowl that's too small, it will overtake your shelf.  No kidding.  I have a huge Jadeite mixing bowl I use and it's just about right.  It may need to be punched down to keep it in control, grins.

You don't have to bake all two dozen at the same time.  Only want or need 8 rolls, then that's all you need to bake.  Just use a pan small enough to accommodate them and bake fresh rolls daily.  Muffin tins work great, one ball in each muffin cavity and you're good, or if you're feeling fancy, you can make cloverleaf rolls.

And a caveat:  The original recipe as I've posted it, says to bake in a 9"x13" pan.  Well, I've tried that on a couple of occasions, and for the life of me I cannot get the middle row of buns to thoroughly bake without the outside row of buns being overdone.  What I've found to be a much better solution is to do what my grandmother did and that was to use a cake pan, 8 or 10 in a cake pan.  I baked 8 in a pan this last time, and I probably should've gone smaller and made 9 or 10.  There's no wrong in any of this, just preference.

And a bonus:  A friend asked if cinnamon rolls could be made out of this.  Well, I hadn't thought of that.  I had the other half of the dough left over from this batch, and I thought, why not.  Next morning, I rolled out the dough, spread butter on it, sprinkled generously with sugar and cinnamon, rolled dough into a cylinder, cut into 8 gorgeous slices, let rise, baked, and voila!  Cinnamon rolls. A little glaze and we were enjoying nice hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Oh, boy, this is sweet, sweet, sweet but good, good, good.  If you want something a little extra special to go with your morning coffee, this is a good choice. This looks like a lot of work, but really with an electric mixer and a couple of quick washes in between, it goes pretty quickly. And I'll think you'll note several of the ingredients are used are used in each layer, so the ingredient list really isn't as long as it might appear.  Simple pantry items combine to make a company and holiday worthy treat.


Grease and flour a 9"x 13" baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the cake:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt  (I use salted butter so added only a pinch of salt)

Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add remaining dry ingredients gradually to wet mixture and mix well.
Batter is thick and heavy, almost like a sugar-cookie dough consistency.
Spread a little more than half the batter into a 9"x13" baking pan and reserve remaining batter to the side.

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and spread upon the bottom crust.
Spoon reserved batter over filling, just dropping it over the filling.

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick butter

Combine sugar and flour and cut in butter until crumbly, either using two knives in a scissor motion, a pastry blender, or rubbing between the fingers of your impeccably clean hands.  Scatter the topping over the coffee cake.

Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick tests done.

When slightly cooled, top with a little simple glaze.

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combined all ingredients and stir until smooth.

COOK'S NOTES: The batter for the bottom crust is pretty thick and doesn't like to spread with a knife or spatula. I spooned several gobs of batter evenly about the bottom of the pan and then used my fingers to spread it evenly to form a bottom crust.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Amish Ham Salad with Boiled Egg

Amish Ham Salad
Now here was something was a little different for us, and only because of the addition of one simple  ingredient:  boiled eggs.  Did you ever hear of such a thing?  I hadn't and of course couldn't resist trying it at the first opportunity.  And of course I'm thinking way ahead to Easter when there's an abundance of both ham and boiled eggs, grins.  And in between, what a great way to extend a recipe.  Frugal and delicious.

'Tis good!


3 cups cooked ham, diced
2-6 hard boiled eggs (depending on how much you like eggs)
1/2 cup celery, peeled and finely diced
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup pickle relish
2 tablespoons prepared mustard

In a large bowl, combine the ham, eggs and diced celery.

Blend the mayonnaise, relish and mustard and add to the ham mixture.  Blend well.  Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Refrigerate for two or three hours to allow the flavors to meld.

COOK'S NOTE:  This is always how I've made my ham salad, sans the boiled eggs, which good.  The original recipe doesn't state what kind of pickle relish to use, and I've always just used sweet hot dog relish, nothing fancy, and I use the simple yellow mustard, again nothing fancy.  I use my food processor to dice the ham.  Fast and easy.