Let’s see. My obsession with collecting heritage recipes and cookbooks began in earnest in 2000, when I opened my first restaurant and featured my own family’s dishes. Since that time, I have cooked from and collected hundreds of cookbooks, ranging from family heirloom recipe collections and church fundraising cookbooks to publications produced by food manufacturers hoping to give the home cook suggestions on how to use their products. Some cookbooks go into unbelievable detail about a family’s genealogy or a church or civic organization’s fundraising activities. Then, there are the books that say nothing on the cover and nothing on the inside pages. They are simply hand-written and bound recipes. It was one of these non-descript cookbooks in which found this scrumptious recipe for Brown Sugar Nut Bars. The cookbook simply said “VAVS Volunteer Cookbook.” (I’m assuming VAVS is the acronym for Veterans Administration Volunteer Services, or Veteran’s Affairs Voluntary Services.) In any case I have no one to thank for pages and pages of delightful recipes like this one. The Brown Sugar Nut Bars have a light and delicate shortbread base, and you can use any nut you like, although this recipe suggests slivered almonds. It’s a terrific treat to make ahead and freeze, and it can easily be transported to a party or pot luck without worrying about it falling apart. If you’ve got some leftover walnuts, pecans or almonds, just mix them together and blend them in the bath of butter, brown sugar and pure vanilla. The sweet and salty result is the perfect paring for the shortbread base below!
Surprise Filling Apple Pie
Homemade fresh-out-of-the-oven apple pie ala mode. Pretty hard to beat. When I got a letter this week from Sun City resident Eva Meeks, it included a recipe for an award-winning apple pie that she had clipped from a magazine a few years ago. Here’s part of Eva’s letter:
“During the 4th of July holiday I hosted a pot luck for my family and decided to bake my favorite apple pie. I’ve been making it for several years now, and it’s always a big hit. Apparently this pie won some blue ribbons at state and county fairs. All I know is it wins hearts every time I make it for friends and family. It has a surprise filling that really adds a nice flavor. I thought you’d like to try it.”
Well, Eva, you thought right! I wasted no time peeling the Granny Smith apples and mixing up the “surprise” filling. I’m so happy Eva “blind bakes” (also known as pre-baking) her bottom crust. I’ve always done that as well because the bottom shell stays somewhat crispy after filling and baking. I’m also a fan of cooking my apples just to soften before filling the pie shell. Eva softens her apples in the microwave and then adds the rest of the ingredients. If you’re an apple pie lover, dish this one up with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in for a big surprise!
No Bake Chocolate Fudge Cake
We love our chocolate desserts! But as the weather heats up, who wants to turn the oven on if we can have a no-bake treat to satisfy our chocolate craving? This one is easy and awesome, two qualities every dessert should be required to have! Enjoy every bite, Chocoholics!
Bacon. It’s my favorite five letter word! In fact, when I was doing a lot of catering, bacon was my secret weapon. If it was a breakfast catering, I would make three times the amount requested, and it was never enough. For a lunch or dinner catering, I would make beer candied bacon as an appetizer and just pile it on a giant platter. Again, every crumb gobbled up. Never enough. Don’t know what to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner? Just add bacon somewhere in the dish, and you can bet it’ll be a hit. Here’s another idea that’ll get your taste buds sizzling—Bacon Jam. Just seeing those two words together, I knew it was going to be delicious, and I was not disappointed. Bacon Jam can be used in so many ways! It’s fantastic on a charcuterie board with lots of different cheeses, crackers and crustini. Bacon Jam also makes a wonderful condiment for a turkey burger! I cooked up a large ground turkey pattie, (beef is just as tasty) loaded it up with sliced tomato, lettuce, avocado, blue cheese dressing and then I slathered the pattie with bacon jam. YUM! It turned a very ordinary turkey burger into a super burger! A few things have to go right to get the perfect bacon jam. Cook the pieces of bacon until they are crispy. When the bacon foams up (that’s the bacon fat talking) that is a good indication that the bacon is just about done! Also, make sure to use sweet yellow onions, which add the natural sweetness to the salty bacon! Perfect combination! So, if bacon is your jam, Bacon Jam may be just the recipe to spread around!
Watch my How To Video for Bacon Jam here!
Three Kings Cake
It’s one of the most colorful traditions we have, and it all starts on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrating the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The Three Kings Cake, with its colorful adornment of beads, a plastic baby hidden inside and topped with a king’s crown also kicks off the Carnival season with Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras. With this treat, you’ll be feasting your eyes on fun!
Watch my How To Video here!