Friday, April 27, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Sweet Molasses!

When I did an earlier post on best natural sweeteners, I left out one- Blackstrap Molasses. Just a tablespoon provides 15 percent of the daily iron requirement for premenopausal women, as well as vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium and more antioxidants than any other natural sweetener. Some ways to add it to your food: Stir a few tablespoons into baked beans, pour over a baked sweet potato or (my favorite) in Molasses Sugar Cookies. Here is the easy recipe, saved from an old Bon Appetit.

Makes about 5 dozen

Molasses Sugar Cookies
   3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
   1 cup sugar
   1/4 cup light unsulfered molasses
   1 egg
   2 cups sifted all purpose flour
   2 teaspoons baking soda
   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
   1 teaspoon ground cloves
   1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
   1/2 teaspoon salt
   pinch ground nutmeg

   Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter heavy large cookie sheets. Melt shortening in heavy small saucepan over low heat. Pour into large bowl and let stand until cool, but not set. Mix in 1 cup sugar, molasses and egg. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and nutmeg in small bowl. Stir into shortening mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for 10 minutes.
   Shape dough into 1 inch diameter balls. Roll each in sugar, coating completely. Place on prepared cookie sheets spacing 2 inches apart. bake until cookies are just barely set (surface may crack), about 8 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely.

Some of the ingredients for Molasses Sugar Cookies

Yummy cookies

I sent a batch of these to my niece Kate for her birthday, which is this Monday. I also sent some to my son and niece Allison in Tallahassee. Allison- if you didn't get your cookies, talk to Chris. And enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Redeeming Qualities of Ramps

We went to the Farmer's Market in Asheville and found a vegetable I had never seen before.
"What is it?" I asked the guy working. "Ramps," he answered. I had heard of ramps before (on cooking shows) but had never seen them up close and personal. "They only grow at certain elevations" he continued (which explained why I hadn't seen them in Miami) and they're only around in the Spring. I HAD to get them, because who knew when I would get the chance to eat ramps again? "What do they taste like?" I asked. "Like a cross between a leek and garlic" he told me. And "How do you cook them?" I inquired. "I like to fry them in a little bacon fat (we were in North Carolina here) and mix them in with eggs or potatoes." Which is exactly how I cooked them and they were delicious. The bottom of the ramps looked like the bulb of a scallion and was covered in dirt (easily washed off. The top part was flat, green and leafy and infinitely easier to clean than leeks. When we went into town, I even saw a Ramp Festival, to celebrate the brief season of these delicious, delicate, high-growing veggies.
On Facebook, they had a questionnaire (you know, the ones where they raid your personal info if you answer it) on how many unusual foods you had eaten. I had eaten 73, but some of them (a moon pie!) didn't really qualify as unusual. Still, I made a list of new foods to try. I don't even know what most of them are, but here goes.
Dandelion Wine
Tom Yum
At least now I can cross ramps off my list!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Home Again, home again

We were in North Carolina a week for Spring Break and my husband made a big breakfast with scrambled eggs, country ham and bacon. Afterwards, I asked him where the leftover bacon was. He said he threw it away. Sacrilege! Leftover bacon can be used in so many ways, it is truly a dirty shame to throw it away. The obvious BLT sandwich comes to mind, but in Oprah's latest magazine, she takes it a step further, making a sandwich of turkey, avocado, Swiss, bacon and tomato on whole wheat bread, then grills it. It also is delicious crumbled up in salads (especially spinach and Cobb) and also can be used to enhance the flavor of different breads. I saw it recently in brioche, but it is also excellent in cornbread or mixed into waffle batter. If you crumble it up, it is not as caloric as just a strip and could be used in scrambled eggs, risotto, polenta, pasta dishes (good in mac and cheese) or to add some pep to veggies like green beans or creamed corn. The possibilities are endless, and as for the bacon fat... well that's a whole nother blog. Do not let those precious little strips of pig go to waste- that is the moral of this blog.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Lenten Promises

Last Sunday was Easter and with it ended my Lenten promise to do one good deed each day of Lent. I have to admit, I did not fulfill this task every day, but towards the end, I remembered more, picked up steam and tried to "finish strong". Having said that, I really like the idea of doing something positive, instead of denying myself of a treat, for Lent. I usually give up French fries, but this is not something that I encounter every day and so usually only remember when I'm out to lunch (and sometimes after I've eaten half my fries). Being nice to people, doing good deed-, isn't this What Jesus Would Do? Giving up french fries, not so much. Just imagine if everyone did a good deed each day of the 40 days of Lent. Lent would be a kinder, more compassionate time than even Christmas!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Little Flower Novena

Mercury Retrograde has been a doozy this time around. Not only did I order the wrong size shoes and wrong product on the internet, to top it off, the hard drive in my computer died. Mercury Retrograde fouls up all things having to do with communications- phone calls, mail, computer. So, out with the old computer, in with the new- a laptop I am still trying to get the hang of, hence the lack of postings. Along with my biscotti, another tried and true gift I give is saying a special Novena for certain intentions. A novena is a prayer you say for nine days straight. I have tried many, but this one, the Little Flower Novena, seems to work every time. It has rescued people from crisis, gotten jobs, cured illnesses, you name it. I am now saying one for my friend Martha who is recovering from surgery. If you want to say it, you can Google it (I am not going to put the whole prayer here) but it starts: Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of divine love. It ends:O Lord, you have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Therese, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.