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Whoopie Pies

I have had a yearning to make whoopie pies almost since I first ate one a long time ago when we purchased some at Booth’s Corner Farmers Markets at Boothyn, PA just across the DE border. We lived in Wilmington, DE and went to this market for all the Amish produce, eggs, etc. almost once a week. Many years ago while living in DE I was listening to an interivew on NPR about a book by a couple who traveled around the country eating local foods. Their discussion was so interesting that I promptly ordered the book entitled “The Farmhouse Cookbook.” In this book were little discussions of each area they visited and recipes of some of the foods they enjoyed on their travels. In it I found whoopie recipes, but the book languished on the shelf and the recipe went untried. But as my cooking magazines started arriving I found recipes for whoopie pies in one of them. That prompted me to look at a number of recipes online as well as the old cookbook stashed away in seldom used ones. Just before thanksgiving when I was preparing hubbard and butternut squashes for the holidays I decided to try a pumpkin whoopie pie recipe. The recipe I settled on was one from Martha Stewart’s living which follows. The recipe below will make 12 regualar size whoopie pies, but I halved the recipe and made mini pies and got around two dozen.

For the Pumpkin Whoopie Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. Baking soda

2 T ground cinnamon

1 T ground ginger

1 T ground cloves

2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil or a mix of butter & oil

3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled

2 large eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients and mix in oil (or oil & butter) until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and blend well. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine well until everything is well incorporated.

Using a small cookie scoop (1 T) drop dough onto parchment paper about one inch apart. Flattened each one slightly and then bake until they start to crack on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Note: The first time I made these I put in 2 T applesauce to make them more moist, but didn’t do this the second time and didn’t notice a big difference and found both to be plenty moist. Let cool on a rack completely while you prepare the filling.

Cream Cheese Filling

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer beat butter until smooth, then add cream cheese and beat until well combined/ Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla beating until just smooth. (this can be made up the day before and refrigerated, but let stand to reach room temperature before using).

To assemble the whoopie pies put the filling in a pastry bag  if available or drop a dollop of the filling on the flat side of half of the cookies  and then  top each one with one of the remaining cookie halves pressing down slightly to spread the filling evenly. Place on parchment paper line tray and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. These are good for up to three days after making.

The above picture shows half of the first whoopie pies I made just before Thanksgiving using half of the above recipe. I shared these with my local family members as a taste test and everyone agreed they were really good. I made them again when we went to Delaware for Thanksgiving and again they were a huge success. These pumpkin whoopie pies were very moist and tasted great.

My next plan was to make Chocolate one for the Christmas holidays, however I had seen an idea to roll them in crushed peppermint candy canes. Since I really don’t like hard candy I had the bright idea to try using sugar stick candy. After several shopping trips looking for that type of candy, I went online and located a place that had it. I put in my order by mid-December and eagerly awaited the shipment. Unfortunately by the time we left to spend the holidays in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the candy had not arrived. So I ended up skipping the chocolate whoopie pies but hoped to make them when we returned on Dec. 30th. However, the candy still had not arrived and on checking further it was determined they had been delivered to my closest neighbor ‘by accident and she had taken them to UPS  to be returned to the seller. Eventually my candy was delivered again.

I made chocolate whoopies following the recipe based on Martha Stewart’s that I found online and were filled with the cream cheese filling above and for others I made half the recipe of peanut butter filling I found given below.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies recipe makes about 20 – 22 mini whoopie pies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare two parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

1 3/4 c  Flour                                     1/2 t  baking powder                           1/2 t  salt

1/2 t  baking soda                             3/4 c cocoa

1 c sugar                                               1/2 c butter (1 stick)                           1 egg

1 c buttermilk                                     1 t vanilla

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside.

Cream sugar and butter (a mix of butter and olive oil may be used to cut down on fat) using an electric mixer until well blended.

Then add egg, buttermilk and vanilla mixing well.

Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing them in well with each addition until all is mixed in.

Using a one Tablespoon scoop drop on parchment lined cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake about 10 -12  minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center and when center are starting to crack.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before assembling pies. To assemble them put a dollop of filling on flat side of one cookie half and then top with other half pressing down slightly to spread filling evenly. Then  roll in crushed candy if desired. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving or they may be kept for up to three  days.

Peanut butter filling

1/2 cup soften butter (1 stick), 2/3 cup peanut butter (recipe says creamy, but I like crunchy so used it instead) and 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar.

Beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer smooth and then add confectioners’ sugar little by little mixing in each time using a lower speed until it is all incorporated.

Whoopies in back are ones filled with cream cheese filling and rolled in crushed wintergreen stick candy. Ones in foreground are peanut butter filled except for the light one which is cream cheese filling. These whoopie pies tasted very good, but the cookie is less moist than the pumpkin cookies and more crumbly. I think adding a tablespoon or two of applesauce might make them more moist. I might try that although this recipe certainly tasted good.

I think rolling in crushed candy adds a little different taste and  makes the cookie look more festive so it would be a nice addition around the holidays.

I have seen other recipes calling for bananas and I found that very interesting since I was thinking of making some using paw paw puree that I have frozen for my next wildfoods luncheon.  When I make them I will post a comment about them.


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Latkes

Over last few weeks I’ve been making several variations of potato katkes. As many people know Latkes, or potato pancakes, were eaten by Ashkenazi Jews during the Jewish Hanukkah festival in honor of the miracle of their oil lasting longer than they anticipated.  So for anyone who has eaten the typical version, this post will offer some new ideas and possibly inspire my readers to experiment with the basic recipe creating more recipes. In addition vegetarians might enjoy these recipes since they can be a meal by themselves.

I’ve copied these recipes from the internet which are from the magazine, Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2010 issue, that I receive monthly. The first one is the classic recipe and I usually serve the classic version with applesauce,  sour cream and strawberry jam.  It goes well with eggs and bacon or sausage to round out an omnivore diet if served for breakfast.  For other meals they can be a side dish.

Classic Potato Latkes

  • 3 1/2  cups  shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 1/4  cups  grated onion
  • 6  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided
  • 3/4  cup  unsweetened applesauce
  • Dash of ground cinnamon

1. Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 30 minutes, pressing with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, flour, and next 4 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; toss well.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pour mixture into pan, and flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 latkes. Sauté 3 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove latkes from pan, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and potato mixture to yield 12 latkes total. Combine applesauce and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Serve applesauce with latkes.

My December issue of this  magazine arrived just as I was preparing butternut and hubbard squash for the holidays to make pies, soups or whatever —  which in this case turned out to be this version of latkes.

Curried Butternut Squash and Potato Latkes with Apple Salsa

  • 1 1/2  cups  finely chopped Gala apple
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/4  cup  thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 1  finely chopped seeded serrano chile
  • 5  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 5/8  teaspoon  kosher salt, divided
  • 3  cups  shredded peeled butternut squash (about 3/4 pound)
  • 3  cups  shredded peeled baking potato (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1  cup  grated onion
  • 6  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  curry powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided

Preparation

1. Combine apple and lime juice in a bowl; toss. Add onion, chile, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss. Cover and chill.

2. Combine squash, potato, and onion in a colander; drain 30 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; toss well.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pour mixture into pan; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 4 times to form 5 latkes. Sauté 3 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 14 latkes total. Serve with salsa.

Finally I tried the third recipe from the magazine and luckily since I love to cook, I had all these ingredients on hand.  I must say we enjoyed all these recipes and now I find it difficult to make the classic recipe because when I start to make them I start looking around to see what I might add to perk them up.

Cilantro-Jalapeño Latkes with Chipotle Sour Cream

  • 6  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 3/4  teaspoon  grated lime rind
  • 1  teaspoon  fresh lime juice
  • 6  cups  shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1  cup  grated fresh onion
  • 6  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

2. Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 30 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; toss well.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pour mixture into pan; flatten slightly. Repeat the procedure 5 times to form 6 latkes. Sauté 3 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and potato mixture to yield 12 latkes total. Serve with sour cream mixture.

  • 6  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 3/4  teaspoon  grated lime rind
  • 1  teaspoon  fresh lime juice
  • 6  cups  shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1  cup  grated fresh onion
  • 6  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided

Preparation

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

2. Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 30 minutes, pressing occasionally with the back of a spoon until barely moist. Combine potato mixture, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; toss well.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Spoon 1/4 cup potato mixture loosely into a dry measuring cup. Pour mixture into pan; flatten slightly. Repeat the procedure 5 times to form 6 latkes. Sauté 3 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and potato mixture to yield 12 latkes total. Serve with sour cream mixture. See picture of this recipe below.

I am especially glad to find these recipes in Cooking Light magazine, December issue 2010 and I hope you will try there recipes that I’ve shared on this blog.  All the above recipes make approximately six servings of two latkes per serving. It’s easy to adjust the amounts to serve just two people. I’ve even been guilty of storing uncooked leftovers in the refrigerator and making them the next morning, although I must admit the potatoes don’t look as appealing so I can’t recommend doing that. I believe it would be better to fry them up, refrigerate the cooked leftovers and heat them up the next day.

German Village Visit

The first of November we made our long postponed trip to German Village in Columbus, Ohio.  I say long postponed because we cancelled out the first time in favor of a week-long stay at the Balli Farm near Holly River State Park which I will post later.  We then rescheduled it, but then canceled again when a second opportunity came up to go to the Balli Farm. However, just as we were gearing up for a week in the wild that cratered and so we reverted to our original plan to visit German Village.

Once we decided to go to German Village and we made reservations at a motel on the edge of German Village just off High Street and began planning our activities during our stay.  Columbus, Ohio holds a special place in our hearts because that is where we met almost forty years ago while  graduate students at The Ohio State University. Our first encounter was when we had Population Ecology class together winter quarter, but we didn’t start dating until later near the end of summer.  So of course our visit back to our “old stomping grounds” had to include a visit to the campus area to see if we recognized anything and then look at a couple of  places we lived after we were married. A new site that was of interest to both of us was the Experimental Wetland site along the Olentangy River since the places we lived were along the Olentangy River. The Wetland site is located across the river from our first apartment building. We toured the university wetland research area first where we went up  to an elevated observation site looking out over several boardwalk areas that permits students to conduct research. They seemed narrow from a distance, but once inside the building where students carry out laboratory work related to their research there were big pictures showing classes of 25-30 students out there with professors leading field trips. I’m hoping the next picture will show, but the morning light made getting good pictures difficult.

After visiting the wetland we drove to our old apartment building nearest the wetland. More apartment buildings had been built in the area so that our old building wasn’t as easily found…but it looked pretty much the same and all the newer buildings looked exactly the same as the older ones. From there we went to the first townhouse we rented later once my husband had a full time position with the Ohio Division of Wildlife while he wrote his dissertation.  While this place had not increased in size we discovered it looked much different. The back patio areas had been completely fenced in with a tall chain link fence and the patios were now concrete instead of brick so there was no longer any place along the edges to grow plants. An old footpath down to the bottomland forest along the river had been replaced by wide stone steps that went down to a nice wide paved biking/hiking trail.  Below is a picture of Don on the tail standing by a huge old cottonwood tree along the trail.

We noticed the building steps to the upper townhouses and the railings and other trim around the building had been painted a light color compared to the dark brown they were when we lived there.  We went down to the lower level to look more closely at our old apartment and met one of the current tenants who told us that she now paid almost five times more rent than we did plus a fee to own a pet. When we lived there we did not have to pay extra for pets.

We noticed many other changes in the surrounding area and remembered some of the past as we looked over where an old man everyone called Whitey grew various vegetables which he sold to the people who lived nearby. In addition to vegetables he also grew an astonishing variety of dahlias of different heights and colors. The most miraculous part of Whitey’s gardening was that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and he did much of the planting, harvesting and digging on his hands and knees. Every spring he could be seen digging and planting and of course in the fall he carefully dug out all the dahlias because they were not winter hardy and stored them in a protected place.  Since he sold most of  his vegetables by the pound he struggled to put them up on the scales in his little shed near the garden as we patiently waited for him to tell us how much we owed him. Whitey’s old house was still there, but now the garden is all  grass and his old shed is gone. It’s always sad to see how some things change, but just as often the changes are an improvement and teaches us that things are not static.

After lunch we went back to our motel and later we walked to Jurgen’s a bakery and restaurant for dinner. On the way we passed some really neat gardens around the quaint houses that make up German Village. One that really caught our attention was a corner house where many Mandevilla plants, hibiscus and other flowering herbs and plants were interlaced with huge bush size coleus with variegated leaves of many colors and papyrus grasses were growing. The picture below shows a few of the mandevilla plants along one side of the house.

All available space seemed to be covered with plantings and all of them were flourishing. After enjoying wonderful German goulash soup at Jurgen’s we strolled around looking at more gardens. Along the way we met the owner of the house with all the many plants and he told us that none of the planting were winter hardy and that every year he removed all of the plants. He usually moved the hibiscus to his office where they overwintered and the rest of the plants he removed and discarded. He said we could take any plants we wanted as he was beginning the process of removing them. By the next day when we stopped over to collect a couple mandevilla plants and some papyrus he had cleared out many of the huge coleus and mandevillas along his back fenced in yard, but hadn’t yet reached the ones around the outside and on the tree lawn. I was happy I had thought earlier to take some little coleus clippings to root once I was back home.

The next day we shopped around the area, visiting the bookstore and a few other shops that remain in the area. Then we prepared to meet some friends at Schmidt’s sausage house where we enjoyed a nice German dinner and caught up on what’s been happening in each others lives since our last visit with them.

The next morning we packed up all our things along with the plants and headed home.

 

This post is my final attempt this year to make a variety of pickles — this time pickled mixed vegetables from the end of the year vegetables at the Capital Markets. Luckily I purchased them before our trip to German Village (which I will tell about in a later post) because when we returned the outdoor produce sections were gone.

I decided to try making some sweet mixed vegetables so I could give some to my brother-in-law who doesn’t like hot spicy foods, but loves sweet pickles. For my mixed vegetables I included cauliflower, carrots, red bell peppers, sweet Italian banana peppers green beans, cucumbers and onions. I sliced the carrots adjusting thickness to the width. The cucumbers were cut into chunks and  the cauliflower was cut up into pretty small pieces equal as possible determined by the smaller flowerettes.  The pepper were cut into strips about 1/2 inch pieces and the beans were cut into inch long pieces.  Onions were cut into pieces similar to the peppers or small rings. Banana peppers were cut into 1/4 inch slices. I also use this same combination to make sweet hot pickled vegetables for all of us who love them. For that mix I added some hot Italian banana pepper slices and Tabasco peppers. I chopped up all the veggies and put them in salt water (1 cup pickling salt dissolved in a gallon water) in the refrigerator overnight.  I kept the hot peppers out of the mix and put them in salt water separately. The next day the vegetables were rinsed and drained and the pickling juice was prepared. It consisted of 2 cups sugar, 6 1/2 cups cider vinegar, 1/4 cup mustard seeds, 2 tsp. celery seeds and 1/2 tsp. turmeric. I heated the vinegar solution to boiling and then added the rinsed mixed vegetables and simmered them about 4 minutes. Since I was doing sweet and sweet hot I tried to get to solutions going at almost the same time since I wanted to process both types in the same hot water bath…what a challenge. First I did the sweet ones and then if I misjudged the amount I could always add them to the hot ones. I got two wide mouth pints of the sweet ones and then I started working on the sweet hot ones. I added one the sliced hot banana peppers to the mix and then when I put them in tall 12-oz jars I added one tabasco pepper that I had pierced. Once all the mixed veggies were in the sterilized jars the vinegar solution was added to cover them and then sterile lids and rings were put on them. All were process in a boiling water bath for about fifteen minutes. I must say these pickled mixed veggies look pretty no matter how they taste. Below is a picture of the sweet hot ones.

I know I have promised to tell about our German Village visit soon, but first I must tell about making pumpkin    whoopie pies which was a test of the recipe before I plan to make them to take to Delaware for part of our Thanksgiving celebration with my daughter and her in-laws. So I hope to add the whoopie pie experience before we leave for our Thanksgiving holiday and then add the German Village plant rescue trip next. Hope someone out there is enjoying this and soon I will get to some wild food adventures too.

My additions to this blog tend to be sporadic since we travel now and again. I’ll write this about my latest kitchen experiences and do another one on our last trip out of town.

I noticed the Capital Markets had lots of winter squash and all the end of summer vegetables so I decided to load up on some of the vegetables and give hubbard squash another try. I mention this because I was told hubbard squash was my great-grandparents favorite winter squash to grow. Since I was fortunate enough to know both of them, every once in a while I try to prepare something in memory of them. Since I don’t remember them growing or using hubbards; I don’t know much about them. The last time I tried this, I bought a big blue hubbard and was disappointed since I found it to be very watery. So this time on the recommendation of the seller I chose a green hubbard because he said they were sweeter than other hubbards.

Again I went with a relatively big one weighing in at 12 pounds. And again I found it to be watery. This time I cooked it down to remove some of the water and froze it for use at Thanksgiving. After we try it, I will report on taste. But what I think I learned from these two experiences is that it is better to buy smaller hubbards. After much reading I found that the smaller ones are supposed to be denser and less watery. So perhaps next year I’ll try smaller ones and see if I find that to be true. Below is this years green hubbard that I cut in two, removed the seeds and stringy part and roasted cut side up sitting in about 1/3 inch of water. I had to roast each half separately because it was so big. After noting the first one was watery, I covered the second one with foil and it took twice as long to roast…bummer to spend three hours just roasting winter squash.

After it was roasted I scooped it out of the shell and pureed it in the food processor, then added one cup of sugar to two 3 cup batches and then vacuum sealed three 3 cup bags to freeze for later use.

We also bought or were given a few acorn and butternut winter squashes  so the next part will relate to how we have used them. The first acorn squash we had I pre-cooked it a bit in the microwave after cutting it in half and removing the seeds. Then I fried some hot pork sausage and sauteed some pared sliced apples, onions and raisins in butter in another skillet. I  then combined everything with some chopped up bread and the sausage and stuffed the pre-cooked acorn squash halves. You may need to add a little vegetable or chicken stock to get the stuffing to hold together. I then baked them in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees or until the tops started to brown and they were hot through.

On another day I decided to roast the butternut squashes and one acorn in a manner similar to how I prepared the green hubbard.  I brushed them with olive oil and roasted them for about an hour. When their skins could be easily pricked with a fork and their flesh had just began to brown they were done. I scooped the roasted flesh out of the shells and pureed it in the food processor. I then cooked both down about 7 – 10 minutes to remove any excess liquids. I vacuumed packed sealed two bags of butternut squash and one of the acorn squash for the freezer. Now I need to decide if I want to mix butternut with the hubbard for a better pie. After Thanksgiving I’ll let you know what I decided to do and how it came out.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

For the part of the prepared butternut squash I didn’t freeze, I made butternut squash gnocchi from a recipe I found online at:  http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/10/butternut_squash_gnocci_with_sage_brown_butter.  I made one half the recipe and still had enough for two meals for two people. The first dinner we had lamb sausage, the gnocchi and green beans. See picture below:

Remember for a larger picture to click on the picture. The green beans were the mini green beans from the grocery that are microwaved in the bag. I then add some butter to them with some dried dill weed and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar which makes them very tastey. Now after this dinner we still had half of the gnocchi in the refrigerator. I rolled it into four long rolls and wrapped them in plastic wrap. We also had more lamb sausages.

Over the weekend we attended a Cuban dinner at our friends house and I prepared a Cuban Tropical fruit salad. Since we were out of town until the day before the dinner, I had to take my chances on getting  fruit that would be ripe enough and I must report that some of it wasn’t. I had one big green papaya and one mango that weren’t ready for the salad. So my next dinner with the lamb and gnocchi had to include them in some manner. Luckily at the dinner when I told the hostess my dilemma with the unripe fruit, she suggested I try Thai green papaya salad which is one of her favorites.  That joggled my brain to recall, that I had tried that once and found it tasty. Now I went online to hunt a recipe for which I had all the ingredients and by combining a few I came up with one that also incorporated the firm still not quite ripe mango. The recipe is as follows:

Green Papaya Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup of green papaya cut into thin strips — I used the fine blade  mandoline to cut them

1/2 cup of firm not quite ripe mango cut into strips

2 green onions cut in 1 inch strips

1/4 cup chopped cilantro & peppermint leaves

Combine all the salad ingredients and then make the dressing below.

Dressing: Blend together 1/2 T fish sauce, 1 chopped seeded thai green chili, 3 T. fresh lime juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 inch of minced ginger and about 2 T. olive oil.  Pour this over the salad and mix well.  Roast about 1/4 cup cashews and garnish salad when serving.

To the right is the green mango salad ungarnished and to the right is a picture of our dinner showing the it with the garnish. It was very tasty, but I would had one more Thai chiles to make it a little hotter.

I know people either love fruit cakes or hate them.  So bear with me and read this because this cake changed my mind although it took years before I actually tried it. I used to despise fruit cakes since I couldn’t stand the candied fruits in them. But as I grew older, I longed for some of the things that were always part of the holidays when I was growing up. My family didn’t have many traditions outside of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And my Mother always made what I considered traditional fruit cakes because my Father loved them. I can’t say whether any of the rest of the family liked them or not . However, I ask my Mother for her recipe and tried making one. She told me how my Dad always wanted her to make extra ones for him to give away to his buddies at work and she made other extras which she gave  to neighbors who loved them too. I must say that after I made one, I had a new and greater appreciation for my Mother since stirring all those fruits and nuts up into the batter took lots of muscles to get it mixed up well. I’m going to share that special recipe since I have to admit that my husband and I really loved the cake so much that second year  I even made little ones to give away to friends and neighbors who also loved the…so the tradition continues and making the cakes bring back some very pleasant memories of my Father too.  Below is Mom’s recipe with her directions; you might have a nonstick pan or other method you prefer instead of her method of preparing the cake pan.

Mom’s Light Fruit Cake

1 1/4 cups Light Raisins

1 cup Currants or Dark Raisins

1 1/4 cups cubed Candied Pineapple

2/3 cup coarsely chopped Dates

1 1/4 cups chopped Candied Cherries

1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped Walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Almonds

1 – 4 oz can Coconut or an equivalent amount from a package

1/2 cup Orange Juice                     2 1/4 cups Flour

3/4 cup Margarine or Butter               1 cup Sugar

1/4 tsp. salt                                                5 Eggs

Some whole Candied Cherries and whole Nuts to decorate top of cake

Preheat Oven to 275 degrees F. Prepare cake pan before making cake.  Oil pan lightly and line with brown paper and then oil paper. Mom used a tube pan with a hole in the center and she oiled and lined it the same way as the sides and bottom of the pan. I use old springform pans lined with oiled parchment paper.  (I think she used brown paper bags.)

Mix fruits and nuts together with 1/4 cup flour to coat them well so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.

Cream 3/4 cup margarine (butter) and gradually add 1 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.

Beat five eggs one at a time until light and fluffy. Measure 2 1/2 cups flour (sift or fluff with a whisk) and add flour to egg mixture alternating with the 1/2 cup orange juice until all the flour and juice are mixed in.

Using a spatula mix in Coconut,  Fruit and Nuts — this is where muscles are needed especially if you increase the recipe to make more than one cake.

Pour or scrape into prepared cake pan and smooth  out evenly. Now add decorative whole fruits and nuts in a design of your own creation. Bake 3 hours (if making small cakes you’ll have to adjust baking time somewhat). Cool on rack 15 minutes and then remove cake from pan. At this point you might want to wrap your cake in cheesecloth once it cooled completely and spritz it with your favorite fruit brandy — I used apricot. My Mom used orange juice since she didn’t drink alcohol.  This should be stored in an airtight non-metal container for about 2 or 3 weeks. Check it every once in awhile and spritz it w/ brandy as needed. It can be refrigerated if you want to keep it longer than the initial 2 – 3 weeks.

I’ve read where some people line an airtight tupperware container the cake will fit in with parchment paper and then it can lifted it out of the container by picking up the parchment paper. Then unwrap the cheesecloth to cut off servings and the remainder can be rewrapped and  lifted back into the container — just be careful not to cut through the paper.  That way the cake and brandy do not come in contact with the container. Anyone out there who tries this, please let me know how you like it.  I’m really sorry I don’t have pictures of the ones I’ve made in the past. If I make it this year I will add them to a later post.

Wild Fruit Cake

For this post I’m going to start by presenting an Alton Brown recipe which is the basis I used to create a version I called a Wild Fruit Cake. For all of you folks out that who might have discovered this recipe already, I’m going to suggest using it as a start for creating your own version of a wild fruit cake. First of all read over the recipe and then try to imagine ways to tweak it to make it a “wilder” fruit cake as I have done with astonishing results. What I recommend is to use the recipe as a guideline and modify the fruits and nuts by adding a variety of wild fruits and nuts. You want the same approximate quantities, but you can vary the amounts of those in recipe so that you can add more wild ones. I added an array of wild nuts so that my cake included hickory nuts, black walnuts, butternuts as well as the pecans the recipe called for. In addition I’ve added dried elderberries and I’m certain one could add paw paw, persimmons or whatever other wild fruits that are available. I think one could even adjust the recipe to use fresh or frozen fruits by adjusting the wet ingredients a bit so that you obtain the right consistency. I’ve made my suggestions and I would be interested in how this recipe works for anyone who tries to make a wilder version of it as I did a couple of year ago.  I have offered alternate suggestion in the recipe that are shown in parentheses below.  Remember be creative and let me know what you did.

Free Range Fruitcake

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Easy

Serves:
10 slices

Ingredients

* 1 cup golden raisins
* 1 cup currants
* 1/2 cup sun dried cranberries (for fruits you can add or substitute any wild fruits — just try to keep overall quantities the same — I suggest you reduce raisins and currants to compensate for additions)

* 1/2 cup sun dried blueberries (wild one if you have them)

* 1/2 cup sun dried cherries — (any wild cherries would work here)
* 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped –( I’d try paw paw or persimmon here if I had some)
* Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
* Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
* 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped (if you have candied wild ginger that should work)
* 1 cup gold rum
* 1 cup sugar
* 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
* 1 cup unfiltered apple juice  (or any wild juice you have on hand and if you use any fresh or frozen fruits such as pawpaw pulp, the amount needs to be reduced)
* 4 whole cloves, ground
* 6 allspice berries, ground
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken (or any mixture of wild nuts you have)
* Brandy for basting and/or spritzing (a wild home made brandy would work here to make it more wild)

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks. If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.