It’s my yummy holiday gift to you! In cooking school this week I shared a new version of hummus. This one is so seasonal and celebratory! Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus is simply spectacular, especially when paired with my all-time favorite Naan bread! So you’re getting two gifts in one! I can pretty much promise these two treats will be your new favorites all year long!
Thank you Irving Naxon, for inventing the Crock Pot. Your cooking wonder found a place in our kitchens in 1940 when you won the patent for it, and we’ve never given it up. In fact, slow cooking is as popular as ever, especially when it produces such delicious meals like the Crockpot Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Bacon Slaw. (Perfect for next day pork sandwiches!) Also, if you ever wanted to know a bit about the iconic Crock Pot, here’s an excerpt from a Huffington Post article:
“Naxon called his devise the Naxon Beanery. He said his mother, Tamara Nachumsohn, inspired him. She had told him stories about a bean-based stew she used to make in her village bakery at home in Lithuania. The stew, known as cholent, is a traditional Jewish dish that cooks all day. It’s rooted in the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest in which observant Jews aren’t supposed to work. The stew goes on the heat before sundown Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, and cook all the way until the end of Saturday services the next day. As the ovens were turned off for the Sabbath, the pot of cholent would be put in the oven, and that slow residual heat over the course of the 24 hours would be enough to cook the cholent.”
Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing the 70’s, which rebranded his Beanery as the Crock Pot. It was marketed toward working mothers with the slogan, “Cooks all day while the cook’s away,”
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!
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!
I’m not sure “a comeback” is quite accurate. That’s what social media claims is happening with the Classic Tuna Melt. I say that because I’m not sure its popularity ever went away. But perhaps it’s getting more attention these days because a lot more people are consuming canned tuna. Reddit, the aggregate of social media news, claims that references to canned tuna are up more than 60% among its nearly 19 million member food community. I’m sure it all started when the pandemic hit. We were all a bit panicked and started filling our pantries with canned foods, and tuna was flying off the shelf. Well, what better way to use up some of those cans than by making the sandwich that’s been a favorite for decades? Where its popularity all started is a bit unclear. Some references claim that The Tuna Melt was invented at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Other articles say that the popularity of the Tuna Melt was the work of Kraft Foods which wanted to prove the versatility of their Velveeta cheese. One way or the other, this ironic sandwich caught a wave of popularity and never let up. This particular recipe is for the Ultimate Tuna Melt, and trust me, it’s fully loaded. The Tuna mixture is a combination of creamy dressing, crunchy veggies and relish for sweetness. Then, two cheeses get added to mix; a slice of your favorite cheese and a shredded mozzarella. The bread? Entirely your call, but in order to make it Ultimate, you’ve got to spread mayonnaise on both sides of the bread, which adds a rich flavor and a beautiful deep golden brown crust. This month is National Sandwich Month! This one’s in the can!