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by Danica Waters
I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Posted November 18th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine. It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family. Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.
In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter. It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.
On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams. Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.
Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.
He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting. Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley. The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.
Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does. With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow. After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.
The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen. Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert. I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite. Even the kids were quiet. No joke.
Need some magic? Try these. Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD. They have no frosting. Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.
Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes
Taste of Home August/September 1994
1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
¼ C baking cocoa
½ tsp salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
¾ C water
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 C sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
1 C chopped walnuts
In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well. Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups. For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl. Add egg and salt; mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Makes 1-1/2 dozen.
by Danica Waters
Several years ago, I found myself in the waiting room of a doctor’s office… waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. Thankfully, the waiting room was stocked with lots and lots of great magazines, most of which contained great recipes.
One of the magazines contained a wonderful, heartfelt story about a Jewish grandmother fondly referred to as “Gigi”, who would make an incredible apple cake just like clockwork as soon as the long summer days gave way to the shorter, chillier days of autumn. It seems the recipe had been handed down through the family for generations; I was happy I had a pen and an old grocery list buried in my purse.
I don’t remember the name of the publication, nor can I recall the name of the author who shared such a beautiful living memory of her dearly departed grandmother. I can tell you that this is the best apple cake I have ever made or tasted; it is truly an autumn heirloom your family will treasure for generations.
Gigi’s Apple Cake
1 C canola oil, plus more for greasing
2-1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2-1/4 C granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 C orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350?. Grease and flour a 12c Bundt or tube pan. In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Ina large bowl, toss the apples with ¼ cup of sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until just combined. Add the apples and stir to combine. Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.
Posted September 28th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters (image courtesy of www.allrecipes.com)
Several years ago, a coworker of mine introduced me to the best banana bread I have ever, ever tasted. She said the secret ingredient was sour cream. While my mom’s recipe for zucchini bread was already fantastic, I decided to try my hand at adding a bit of sour cream to the recipe. The results were even more fantastic.
Preparing for a school bake sale, I decided to make this sweetbread truly decadent, so I added chocolate chips and dried cranberries and made mini-loaves. I ended up having to make a second batch, as two of the mini loaves “mysteriously” disappeared when the kids came home from school. The loaves sold out fast; they look beautiful studded with ruby-colored cranberries and chocolate chunks, and they taste even better!
Note: if you’re making zucchini bread for a bake sale, be sure to leave out the nuts from half of the recipe and label accordingly! There’s lots of folks with allergies and aversions to nuts out there…
The Ultimate Sour Cream- Zucchini Bread
3 large eggs, beaten
2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C grated zucchini
3 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C dairy sour cream
1 C chocolate chips
1 C dried cranberries
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work well)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 x 3 x 5 loaf pans, mini loaf pans, or line muffin tins with paper liners, set aside.
In medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, soda, and baking powder; mix well using wire whisk and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add grated zucchini and stir well. Add dry ingredients a bit at a time, alternating with the sour cream; add desired nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared baking pans. Larger loaf pans should take approximately 60-65 minutes to bake at 350 degrees F, while baking time for mini loaves and muffins should be scaled down. Bread is done when a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Note: Use up that zucchini! This sweetbread freezes exceptionally well, and is great to share with neighbors, teachers, and friends!
Posted September 2nd, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
After spending a happy, busy weekend experimenting with different variations of stuffed grilled zucchini (so far I’ve done it Italian-style, Asian-style, and with green chiles and Parmesan cheese – yum!), this variation nearly got me a standing ovation. Folks were placing dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day.
The secret ingredient is the tequila in the marinade. It gets ‘em every time; it deepens the flavors and mingles well with all things grilled.
Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style
4 medium-sized Zucchini
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tequila
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 – 15 oz can black beans
½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut to ¼” dice
2-3 diced green onions
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob
½ C cold cooked jasmine rice
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp whole cumin seed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
½ C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 fresh jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced
Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise). Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides. Marinate zucchini in tequila mixture; set aside.
Heat grill to medium.
In a small sauté pan, sauté minced jalapeno with diced red pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add cumin seed, allow to cook for a minute to release the flavor of the cumin, and remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with peppers and cumin and mix well. Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section. Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.
Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.
Posted September 1st, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
For all you pasta salad lovers out there, hold on tight, because this just might be the best pasta salad you’ve ever eaten. My eldest daughter, who is a pasta salad fanatic, claims this as her very favorite. She loves it so much she’s requested it for every single birthday dinner she’s had over the last ten years. Today is no exception. And in honor of her birthday, I am sharing this with all of you.
Southwestern Chicken and Pasta Salad
(from Better Homes & Gardens Hot & Spicy Cooking)
In stockpot, cook per package directions:
4 oz rainbow rotini
Drain; rinse with cold water to stop cooking process and drain again. Place cooked noodles into large bowl; set aside.
¼ C salad oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
Several drops Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
Mix well and pour over pasta in bowl. Add:
3 fresh or canned jalapeno or Serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced finely.
To pasta & pepper mixture, add the following:
1 C chopped cooked chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 ear fresh corn or 1 8-3/4 oz canned whole kernel corn, drained (fresh preferred!)
½ medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite sized chunks
2 oz Pepper Jack cheese, cubed
¼ C sliced pitted ripe black olives
2 Tbsp sliced green onion
1 – 2-oz jar diced pimiento, drained
Toss all ingredients together well. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of www.gardenguides.com
One of the biggest joys of the summer harvest is the eggplant. They are beautiful in the garden, eye-catching on the produce stands, and sumptuous in nearly every type of world cuisine imaginable. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is in this exquisite pasta frittata.
The flavors in this frittata are bold and hearty. Top thick slices with a simple marinara and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; serve with a salad of romaine, thinly sliced purple onion and a generous bunch of cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine.
Vermicelli Frittata with Eggplant
(Gourmet Magazine, April 1994)
A 1-lb eggplant, trimmed
1 Tbsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼” dice
½ c brine-cured pitted black olives, sliced
¼ C thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
½ lb vermicelli
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
Cut eggplant into ¼ inch dice and sprinkle with the salt. Drain eggplant, weighted with a plate topped by several cans, in a colander 45 minutes. Rinse eggplant well and squeeze dry by handfuls. Drain eggplant on paper towels.
In a heavy skillet cook garlic in 3 Tbsp olive oil over moderate heat, stirring until golden. Add bell pepper and cook, covered, until softened. Add eggplant and cook 10 minutes, or until eggplant is tender. Stir in olives and basil.
In a kettle of salted boiling water, cook vermicelli until al dente and drain. In a large bowl boss vermicelli with eggplant mixture and salt and pepper to taste and cool 2 minutes. Add eggs and combine well.
In a 12-inch skillet heat remaining 3 Tbsp oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the pasta mixture and with 2 forks, spread across the pan evenly. Reduce heat to moderate and cook frittata 3 minutes. Shift skillet so that one fourth of frittata is directly over center of burner and cook1-1/2 minutes. Shift skillet 3 more times, cooking remaining fourths in same manner. Put a heatproof platter over skillet and invert frittata onto it. Slide frittata, browned side up, back into skillet and cook other side in same manner. Slide frittata onto platter and cool to room temperature.
Note: This recipe serves 6 – 8 generously, and is great served with a nice marinara over the top. This frittata also freezes exceptionally well, and can be cooked in a smaller skillet so you have another meal ready and waiting in the freezer!
One of the most frequently overlooked, elegant, and wonderfully-transportable addition to any picnic menu is the pasta frittata. Besides being delicious, it is inexpensive, easy to make and can be served hot or cold without losing its flare.
Capellini Frittata with Asparagus is a very mild-flavored, delicate version of the pasta frittata. Perfect for a light lunch, it is wonderful served at room temperature with a light smear of Roasted Garlic Spread and topped with thinly-sliced fresh tomato. Paired with a nice chilled glass of sparkling wine or champagne, you have the makings for a very romantic picnic.
Capellini Frittata with Asparagus
Gourmet Magazine, April 1994
1 lb thin asparagus, trimmed, and if desired, peeled
½ lb capellini
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 Tbsp butter, softened
¾ C finely diced Italian Fontina cheese (about ¼ lb)
¼ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
On a steamer rack set over boiling water, steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Cool asparagus and cut into ¼ inch pieces.
In a kettle of salted boiling water, cook capellini until al dente and drain. In a large bowl toss capellini with oil, 3 Tbsp. butter, asparagus, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste and cool 2 minutes. Add eggs and combine well.
In a 12-inch skillet heat remaining 3 Tbsp butter over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add the pasta mixture and with 2 forks, spread across the pan evenly. Reduce heat to moderate and cook frittata 3 minutes. Shift skillet so that one fourth of frittata is directly over center of burner and cook1-1/2 minutes. Shift skillet 3 more times, cooking remaining fourths in same manner. Put a heatproof platter over skillet and invert frittata onto it. Slide frittata, browned side up, back into skillet and cook other side in same manner. Slide frittata onto platter and cool to room temperature.
Cut frittata into wedges. Serves 6 – 8.
by Danica Waters
While the word “dirigible” usually refers to a blimp, in this case it refers to a giant stuffed baked potato. The stuffed baked potato just so happens to be one of the heartiest – and easiest – make-ahead camping meals ever. Besides being incredibly tasty, this recipe also happily meets my Number One Priority: No Dishes At The Campsite.
Produced from within my tattered book of wonders: Favorite Restaurant Recipes – 500 Unforgettable Dishes From The RSVP Column of Bon Appetit, this particular recipe is from Clawson’s in the charming town of Beaufort, North Carolina. While I’m publishing the original recipe in entirety, vegetarians need simply to omit the meat.
I should also note that anything that works well for camping will work beautifully on a buffet/ appetizer table. Just use smaller potatoes (and smaller dice when preparing the ingredients) for easier handling. These are also GREAT to make ahead for lunchboxes – they freeze beautifully, and all you have to do is pop them in the oven in the morning. They’ll still be warm when you (or your kids) are ready to eat them. Enjoy!
The Original Dirigible
Clawson’s, Beaufort, NC
8 – 14-16 oz baking potatoes
1/2 lb. cooked turkey, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb. ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or turkey ham)
1/2 lb. medium-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb. provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 green peppers, seeded and chopped (I substitute red pepper)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 C butter, melted
Sour cream and chives (garnish)
Chopped crisply cooked bacon (garnish)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Scrub potatoes under cold running water. Place wet on baking sheet and bake until potatoes test done, about 75 minutes. Let potatoes cool until warm.
Combine turkey, ham, cheeses, peppers, and onion in a bowl and toss to mix. Cut potatoes lengthwise not quite in 1/2-inch. Loosen pulp and remove 1/4. Divide butter among potatoes and mix well. Mound with meat/cheese mixture. (At this point, potatoes can be wrapped and refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen before serving.)
Bake in 375 degree F oven until heated through and cheese is melted, or microwave on high about 5 minutes. Serve topped with heaping scoop of sour cream and chives and a generous sprinkling of bacon.
Be sure to wrap the “dirigibles” in foil ONLY – you want to be able to place them directly on the fire grate or even nestle them in the coals without any muss and fuss. When transporting, remember that potatoes “squish”, so it’s best to keep the foil-wrapped potatoes in a hard-shell container so they maintain their shape. In order to reduce the amount of “stuff” you have to carry, pre-add any garnish ingredients you care to include.
by Danica Waters
Out of everything I’ve learned over years’ of camping with kids in tow, when it comes to cooking in the great outdoors, there are two rules that should be made into giant neon signs:
1) Keep it simple. Doing a million dishes in the wild does not make for happy times.
2) Simple doesn’t mean processed, high-sugar anything. Yep. You actually have to live with your kids. Happily.
In an effort to dodge the “Mom-We-Want-Donuts” requests prior to one of our camping excursions, I brought along some croissants and an assortment of yogurt. The kids were happy enough with it – but then my youngest daughter (the foodie) asked me to split her croissant down the middle so she could smear all of her yogurt on the inside. We all looked at her like she was crazy, but she insisted it tasted like a cream filled donut and made each of us take a bite. She was right. It was like a cream-filled bite of heaven - with no sugar crash afterwards. An instant family favorite.
Since then we have had loads of fun “perfecting” the filled croissant:
Take your croissant and hold it so that it looks like a smile (two ends facing up). Create a “pocket”; carefully split the croissant from one end to the other, being sure not to cut all the way through. Spoon in your favorite flavored yogurt and spread evenly inside the pocket. Then, add slices of your favorite fruit or berries. Grab a napkin - and enjoy!
If you like your croissants warm and crispy on those chilly mountain mornings, simply skewer your croissant lengthwise and hold over your campfire or camp stove for a minute or two to toast it.
Please note that the only dishes required for this early-morning deliciousness are a knife to split the croissants (and maybe to slice the fruit, if you didn’t pre-slice it at home) and a spoon to spread your yogurt. Now that’s a great way to start the day!
Here’s some great flavor combinations:
* Vanilla yogurt with any kind of fruit
* Peach yogurt with fresh blueberries
* Strawberry yogurt with sliced banana
* Banana yogurt with fresh sliced pineapple and shredded coconut
* Strawberry yogurt with fresh sliced mango
* Greek-style plain yogurt drizzled with honey, stuffed with fresh blueberries and walnuts
I should note that the filled croissant works beautifully for other occasions, as well. Miniature filled croissants make an unusual and very decadent add to a breakfast buffet – they’re easy to eat and never fail to wow everyone who wraps their mouth around them.
Here’s to happy camping and little foodies everywhere! Enjoy!