Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Autumn Fruit Crisps for Chilly Weather

On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had incredible dessert options  with every meal, but Alan and I discovered that among our favorites  were their array of crisps: apple, cherry, peach, rhubarb…almost every night some type of crisp was on the dinner menu, and I’m guessing because the chef must have discovered that crisps were perennial favorites for everyone.  Before the cruise was over, I think we’d tried every variety they offered,
and we were never disappointed! Therefore, since returning home, I’ve been on an fruit crisp kick and want to pass along my recipe “just in case” you might be needing a warm, fruity dessert!

Warm Apple Crisp for Chilly Weather

Preheat the oven to 350°F.6 large pie apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into small chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground (powdered) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped, salted pecans (totally optional, and you can use any type of nuts you like, but if you don’t use salted nuts, add 1/2  teaspoon salt   Arrange fruit in the bottom of a 9X12″ baking pan. You could also use peaches, plums, pears, cherries, rhubarb, any type of berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.) Just 6 cups of fruit. In a separate bowl, add all the ingredients together and stir until well mixed. Distribute this mixture evenly over all the fruit in the pan Bake in the oven for 55 minutes at 350°F.  However, if you have really wet fruit, like plums, mushy peaches, or berries, it might require an hour or even a little more.  It’s done when the crumbly crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly but sticky.      Serve warm, and definitely add some whipped cream or ice cream on top. (I failed to bring ice cream along for our Sunday school potluck and was sorry for it, because it’s not as super yummy without something melty on top!)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)

Sugar-Sweet Steamed Pears

All of Michael’s kids seem to have inherited the family sweet-tooth, so there were lots of requests to make desserts while I was visiting. If you’re looking for an easy and pretty nutritious dessert to make with your children or grandchildren, this one is perfect for the fall, when all the pears are sweet and juicy! Their Uncle Joel had sent along as a gift The Redwall Cookbook, in honor of Eowyn finishing the twenty-two book fantasy series, and they were very eager to try the recipe for sugared pears found within! Although we made them together, I didn’t write down the recipe, so this will be “inspired by” but not a 100% replication (which might be against copyright law at any rate)!                                             Sugar-sweet Steamed Pears

Prepare your pears. Choose one firm and ripe (but not mushy) pear per two people. Wash the pears, slice lengthwise, and core (but do not peel) them.Melt over medium heat in a frying pan (one with a lid you can use to cover it):
1 tablespoon butter per pear
1/4 cup granulated (or brown) sugar per person; we used white, but I’d use brown next time
Dash of cinnamon per pear (about 1/2 teaspoon for four pears)  Stir until the mixture is bubbly and completely melted. Turn the heat to low, and  add the pears, flesh side down. “Fry” for one minute, or just long enough for the flesh to begin cooking and absorb with sugar and butter. Gently turn the pears over and repeat on the skin side. Remove pears to a plate just long enough to add to the frying pan 2 tablespoons of water per pear. Stir until you have a light syrup in the pan.  Return the pears, flesh side down, into the pan and cover with a lid. Allow the pears to steam for about 10 minutes on very low heat, or until fork tender. (This could take 6-12 minutes, depending on how ripe the pears and high the heat!) Check the pears every few minutes to make sure they aren’t burning and there’s still liquid in the pan. If there isn’t much syrup left, add a little water as needed.  When the pears are steamed, gently remove them from the pan and place them in a dish, spooning out all the syrup from the bottom of the pan. Keep warm in a covered dish until you’re ready to serve them, hopefully after you’ve had a delicious and nutritious dinner! Although they can be served with whipped cream, ice cream, nuts, or caramel syrup on top, they are excellent just the way they are: warm & sweet! Speaking of God’s wisdom, the Bible reminds us: “My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:19).

The Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu: With or Without

Tiramisu has long been a favorite dessert in our family, especially when we eat Italian food, so my son Joel has been practicing this year and has it down to an art. He even tried making his own ladyfingers (although he says it’s a lot easier to just buy a couple of packages), and he’s perfected the balance of cream with the other flavors to make a memorable dessert that can last several days in the refrigerator and just seems to improve over time! Previously, tiramisu was a dessert I never really attempted to make, I think because I don’t like the heavy alcohol flavoring common in most batches. However, I was surprised but very pleased to discover that the tiramisu I bought for my son Michael’s family in Italy this summer had no alcohol whatsoever, so it emboldened me to work  out an authentic, non-alcoholic recipe that tastes great. You may wonder why I have such a vendetta against alcohol (some of my own kids do), but it’s because I have so many friends who have been hurt by the impact of immoderate alcohol consumption. Just this week, a report came out from the WHO (World Health Organization) stating that 1 in 20 deaths world-wide is due to alcoholism. That’s a shockingly high statistic to me when you consider war, accidents, and disease. Sure, alcohol is probably related to the majority of mechanical accidents, but alcohol is one of the few things in life that we absolutely do not need in order to carry on life (unless someone becomes addicted…which is what unfortunately happens all too often). Therefore, why take a chance with a non-essential substance that gives you a 1 in 20 chance of either killing yourself or someone you love? (And, if you’re in your 20’s, the chance goes to 1 in 7.)Well, I’ll get off my soapbox in a minute and share the recipe, but I also wanted to point out an article from The Washington Post entitled, “Americans Are Drinking Themselves to Death at Record Rates,” which states that 30% of Americans don’t drink at all.* So…if you don’t drink, please don’t feel like you’re the only one out there (which has happened to me a few times). There are a lot of fellow water or Pepsi totters, so the resistance movement is strong!

Ultimately Creamy Tiramisu

Custard:

In a quart-sized sauce pan, whip together:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar. When well blended, add
2/3 cup milk
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it bubbles and thickens. Cool and refrigerate until well chilled. Then carefully whisk in:
1 pound mascarpone cheese until it’s all smooth and uniformly mixed. Refrigerate this mixture until you’re ready to assemble everything.

Whipping Cream:

Whip together until stiff peaks form:
1.25 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Coffee mixture to soak the lady fingers:

5 tablespoons espresso coffee mixed with 6 tablespoons of “something.” Many recipes call for rum or amaretto, but you can also use:
5 tablespoons of white grape juice plus
2 teaspoons of almond extract

To assemble everything:

Lay out one 3-ounce package of ladyfinger (spongecake) cookies flat in the bottom of a 13X9″ pan. If they aren’t already split in half, split them. Drizzle half of the coffee mixture over the cookies, then add half the custard gently, spreading it carefully until all the cookies are covered. Next add half the whipped cream, spreading it over the top. Then, carefully arrange a second 3-ounce package of split ladyfinger spongecake cookies on top of the mixture. Drizzle them with the rest of the coffee mixture. Add the rest of the custard, and top with the rest of the whipped cream, making sure everything is level and covered at each step. Sprinkle liberally with sifted cocoa powder. Ideally, chill it for 4-6 hours at least before serving to let the flavors meld. (As a side note: soft ladyfingers are best, but if you can only find the hard kind, dip them individually into the coffee mixture to make sure they’re soaked before arranging them one by one in the pan. Also, use 6 tablespoons each of coffee and white grape juice instead of 5.) Tiramisu is best if it’s allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving, and it continues to taste great for several days (although it never lasts very long at our house)!                                               Enjoy!! We sure do!  🙂

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1)

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans-are-drinking-themselves-to-death-at-record-rates/?utm_term=.b105c5ec4cfd

 

Fresh’n’Sweet Tomato Soup

When you were little, did you have a favorite soup? How about now? When I was little, my favorite lunch was tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and this is still the favorite lunch of my youngest son’s lifelong buddy (who’s now an adult). Also, on our recent cruise of the North Sea, we were served tomato soup several times and discovered that it’s popular not only aboard ships but on land as well…from Iceland to India. Therefore, I believe it’s an international, inter-generational classic!Alan and I have enjoyed many iterations of tomato soup, such as this unusual bowl of tomato soup with spinach and pasta. Tomato basil soup has become quite popular with hipsters and in upscale restaurants. My “Little Sister, Liz” made some from scratch last time I visited her in Washington D.C. , and it was outstanding!However, I think possibly the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted was served at Friðheimar, a restaurant near Selfoss, Iceland, while Alan and I were on the  “Golden Circle Tour.” It was basically super fresh and creamy, with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley on top. Of course, I don’t know exactly what ingredients go into fabulous dishes, but I can usually come pretty close, so I want to share what I dreamed up, inspired by mulling over the delectable tastes and smells of that wonderful meal and dedicated to the memory of Iceland. If you’re the chef at Friðheimar and find this recipe, please feel free to share “the real” recipe with us. I looked online trying to find your recipe, but all I found were reviews that said things like, “the best fresh tomato soup I’ve ever tasted,” “we just instantly fell in love with the sweet’n’fresh tomato soup,” “simple but so tasty,” “amazing soup,” “gorgeous soup,” etc. That’s just the way we felt too! So, I tried, but mine is not as amazing as my memory of Friðheimar’s. Maybe I’ll write and ask him if he’ll share his recipe. Meanwhile, here’s a bright, healthy soup to warm you up on a chilly autumn day.

Fresh’n’Sweet Tomato Soup

In a large stock pot, combine:
2 tablespoons butter (turn on heat and melt), then add
1 medium onion, finely chopped (I only used half of the one above)
1 garlic clove (or 1 teaspoon pressed garlic; I just used 1 clove of this bulb)
1/2  teaspoon salt
1  teaspoon (your favorite; mine is Lawry’s) seasoning salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper. Saute until the onions start to brown. Then add:
2 tablespoons flour; stir until absorbed into the juices before adding:4 large tomatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon crushed basil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups of water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes=2 tablespoons of chicken bouillon powder) Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat.  Let it rest 15 minutes, then run it through a food mill or use a blender or immersion blender to puree. At this point, I believe Friðheimar must have run the puree through a strainer to remove skins and seeds, but I tend to think all sources of healthy fiber are good for  you, so I didn’t. Suit yourself on this one.Next, taste it, and possibly add more salt and pepper per your personal taste.
Just before serving, reheat to make it piping hot, and serve with some swirls of yogurt and sprinkles of parsley (fresh or crushed).

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith
” (Proverbs 15:17).

P.S.—In the picture above, I had stirred extra yogurt into the soup (trying to match the color I remembered and add protein), but it wasn’t as yummy with the yogurt as without, so I left it out of the recipe above. Tomato soup is very light, however, so it’s good to combine it with something like fruit and fresh bread with cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich so you don’t end up hungry in an hour! 🙂  )

 

 

Over the Rainbow Pan-Fried Trout

We used to live in Marquette, Michigan, on forty acres in the woods, where you could pull a rainbow or brown trout out of our pond for dinner (if you knew what you were doing, which we didn’t, but our friend, George Sokoly, did).  Michigan has 12,000 miles of trout stream along approximately 1,400 trout streams, and 190 of them are open year around, so trout season never ends here! The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Muskegon Rivers—all fabled for great trout fishing— are within a few hours of our home even here in Grand Rapids, although we also live on a little spring-fed lake that theoretically has trout. (For the record, we’ve never caught one here either! 😦 ) However, even though we’re terrible fishermen (“God made fishies to live!” was Alan’s wail as a small boy observing fishing near his Upper Peninsula home),  we do love to eat fish, and trout is one of the sweetest-tasting, most delicate and delicious fish you’ll ever eat, so when it’s offered on a menu, we often order it.  Alan said his rainbow trout from the mountain streams of Nepal last fall was his favorite dinner from that entire trip. On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had some excellent trout dishes, including rainbow trout in Reykjavik, Iceland that was so fresh it must have been in school earlier that morning! So, I decided to write about trout today, even though for those of you who are old hands at fishing, I know you’ll say, “I already knew that!”

Simply the Best Rainbow Trout

Are you ready for this? The fact of the matter is that the best fish are the freshest fish, flash-fried in hot butter on a griddle or in cast-iron skillet (or over a fire!).Wash the fillets, brush a light coating of flour on both sides, and fry them skin-side up for 3 minutes in hot butter (browned but not burned). Flip them over (carefully, so they don’t break apart), and cook them for three more minutes, sprinkling them with salt, butter, and seasoning salt to taste. (I use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but whatever you like works). If you’ve not overcooked your trout, it will be tender, flaky, and moist. Serve it up immediately with some fruits and veggies. If you like tartar sauce and lemon, that’s fine, but if your fish is really fresh, it can stand alone on its own fins!

P.S.—Have you noticed that in life (like cooking), many things are complicated, but sometimes the best way is to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? In most of the scriptures, “simple” is equated with “ignorant” and given a negative connotation, but there is one verse that tells us to be “simple,” and in this case, it’s a good thing: “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). When it comes to exploring evil, God actually wants us to avoid learning about it. Do friends tease you because you’re so “naive” or inexperienced? I used to get teased a lot. One girl friend alleged that on my honeymoon I’d probably make chocolate fudge because I wouldn’t know what else to do. Keep life pure..and “simple.”

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Last weekend we went apple picking at Robinette’s Orchard, and last night we went to Alan’s longest-standing and dearest friend’s home for a dinner party. Alan and Larry grew up across the street from each other, and they both loved Alan’s mother’s apple pies…which were famed throughout their little village. Early into our marriage, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me how to make apple pies. “Sure!” she responded cheerily. However, when I went to watch, I quickly realized that she did everything by look and didn’t measure anything. I practiced quite a bit, and Alan’s older brother was my best critic. “More sugar!” he’d announce.  “More butter!” Eventually, I got the hang of it, but Alma’s pies were magical. It was a sad day for us after she died and we found one last apple pie in the freezer, which we all shared in sober grief mingled with joy (because Alan and I knew she was with Jesus in heaven). From then on, I had to become the family pie lady, and I do still love to make pies, although I’m never quite sure they live up to her immortal gold standard!  To the best of my ability to measure it out, here’s her recipe, now passed on for posterity:

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the pastry for two pie crusts:

                                       2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1/4 pound each, or half a pound altogether) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water (more if needed)
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Apple Pie Filling:

6 large pie apples peeled, cored, and sliced (These are Macintosh, which was Alma’s favorite, although now there are a number of great pie apple varieties.)1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamonMix together until all the apple chunks are well coated.Divide the dough in half, and roll out one half between sheets of plastic wrap.
Peel off the top wrap, place dough in pie plate, and peel off second wrap. (Save plastic for top crust.) Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Don’t worry if it’s really high; be glad!  🙂 Slice up another stick of butter into thin pieces and dot the entire top of the pie.Repeat rolling out the dough with the second half and place over the top.  Seal the edges. If you’ve rolled it out thin enough, you’ll have enough to flute the edges. I didn’t this time. 😦  Sprinkle the top with a light coating of sugar and cinnamon, then bake for 20 minutes at 425°F. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake another 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream, preferably while still warm! By the way, I am thankful for every day that I can enjoy such a wonderful feast as we shared last night, but there is a better feast coming in heaven, and as aging mortals, it becomes clearer to me every day that we need to be living with a profound appreciation for life and the gift of eternal life, which is offered to us in Christ. As a youth, I didn’t quite understand this verse: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Now I think I understand. We will all die, so it is better to allow ourselves to mourn over the death of loved ones and turn in faith to God for salvation, then to simply enjoy a feast today with no thought of preparing for the next life.

Meringues: Fun and Fancy

While I was helping out with Michael’s family when their new baby was born this summer, my two oldest grand daughters were really interested in cooking with me, and in particular, they’d tried to make meringues but couldn’t get them to turn out right. They were either burned or gooey. So, we worked together and made some that turned out just lovely! After leaving their home, Alan and I went for a three-week cruise, and meringues were part of many dessert options (like this one, called “Mixed Berries Pavlova”), so I decided they are popular with everybody these days and worth writing up.  I think the secret to success is more sugar than you’d think (to help them keep their shape) and a longer, lower baking temperature than is often prescribed to help them keep from browning or burning (or at least a lower temperature than was prescribed in the kids’ cookbook).

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meringues

Preparations:
1.  Preheat oven to 275°F
2. Grease large baking sheet with shortening and sprinkle with sifted flour or line with parchment paper
3.  Cut small opening into bottom edge of a gallon zip lock bag and insert a fluted cake-decorating tip.  Ingredients:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2. Beat until soft peaks form
3. Then, slowly add
2.75 cups granulated white sugar, beating until stiff peaks form Shaping:
You can spoon out the meringues, but I think they’re a lot prettier fluted. To flute them, carefully fill the zip lock bag with the mixture and seal. Then, shape the meringues into little 1.5″ rounds with peaks on top Baking:
The trick with baking is to cook them slowly at a low heat so that they harden but don’t turn brown. This is best achieved by popping them straight into an oven preheated to 275°F. and baking them for 2 hours, then shutting off the heat, leaving them to continue drying in the oven overnight. It would be good to check them after an hour and a half, just to make sure they aren’t browning. In the morning, carefully scrape them off the cookie sheet and store them in an airtight container. Humidity or any type of moisture can make them sticky, just like cotton candy.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
” (Psalm 119:103).