Holidays are coming: Old fashioned cheese wafers

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

I got, as we say in these parts, a hankerin’ for these. Cheese wafers? Never had them? Well, I think you have met your new favorite snack addiction. Buttery, savory, cheesey, crunchy…perfect served with champagne, cocktails, beer, whatever punch, as an accompaniment to soups and salads, to munch on while sitting and watching the glow of the fireplace and relaxing. I love these things. It is one of those things you try to hide from yourself but, dang it, you remember and haul them out and finish up the tin of them. My Grandma Ninny made steady batches of these from Thanksgiving through Lent. She kept them stored in cake tins. I always keep mine stored in wide mouth, tightly latching glass cannisters.

Some people cut into strips, make without the pecans, make without the pecans but press a pecan half into the top for a festive garnish. it doesn’t matter – it’s all good. A few of these tucked into a spiffy mug or bowl or put on a plate and covered in plastic wrap with a bow on top just drawls, Howdy! Happy Holidays to a neighbor or hostess, coworker, teacher, bus driver, whatever. I like it best to keep for myself, to be perfectly honest. And here in the South, cheese wafers or cheese straws are ubiquitous and show up every where for every occasion. Even in this day and age, every Southern woman has at least two recipes for these. And in this day and age, so do many Southern men.

About the cheese: You can use pre=grated bagged cheese. I don’t recommend it. That stuff is dry and doesn’t have the same flavor or texture as freshly grated cheese. I like to use a good brand of extra sharp cheddar cheese. I hope you try these and enjoy them. I think you will be surprised at how good they are and I think, you will also be surprised at how much you like them.

Cheese Wafers
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter cut into slices
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese – 8 oz. block
2 cups flour
several dashes of hot sauce
Optional: 1 cup crushed Rice Krispies or finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put into a large bowl, the sliced butter. Add on top, the grated cheese. Let sit and soften then mix butter and cheese with hands until blended completely. Add flour and hot sauce (and optional Rice Krispies or chopped pecans) and continue to mix with hands until dough is formed. Roll mixed dough into balls about the size of large marbles and place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until just lightly brown around edges. Cool and remove from baking sheet. Store in airtight container. Can be frozen in airtight container for later use. Great served with cocktails, champagne or to accompany soups and salads. Makes 5 dozen.
NOTE: on waxed paper, press out dough and cut into strips using one of those fancy fluted pie crust trimmers, if you absolutely must have cheese straws instead of cheese wafers.

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Winter’s Coming: Sensual Fruit Crumble

Do I have your attention? I’m sure I do. Now, how is a crumble, that most humble and homey of fruit desserts sensual? Well, having fixed this many times during the past few years and observing the “behavior” of the fruit involved, all I can say is: the cranberries pop! and the sugar melts…Okay. Maybe not, but it is good.  Tangy and full of juice – perfect with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or with a cold glass of milk.

You can of course use different fruits according to season. This is a crumble using autumn/winter fruits. If you don’t use the cranberries and only use apple or apple/pear, then add about one fourth cup of apple juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice and adjust cooking times and sugar content. You can also add a nice splash of pear or apple brandy along with the vanilla as well. Not only a sensual, but an extremely adaptable fruit crumble.

I like best those desserts that are simple and full of fruit. My favorite birthday cake is apple pie and for my birthday this past weekend, I fixed apple pie. And it is all gone and very happily enjoyed!!! I hope you enjoy this crumble and I am sure you will agree with me on one thing – it’s good!!!

Autumn Fruit Crumble
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2 firm-ripe pears such as Bartlett, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 apples such as Gala, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use Macintosh)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup chopped nuts – walnuts, or pecans or almonds (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Directions
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Stir together fruits, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and place in a buttered shallow 2-quart baking dish. Stir together oats, flour, salt, nuts, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Scatter over fruit and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Serves 6

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Winter’s Coming: Chicken Paprikash

I grew up in an old and established neighborhood. At the end of our block was the granite stone wall separating us from the Duke University East Campus. The wall was high enough to keep out dogs but not kids dropping their dogs over and running with them on the lush grass beneath old oaks. It was also low enough for adults to shinny over and walk about in peace or picnic or for teens to find a quiet place to smooch under the moon.

The wall also did not separate visiting professors to Duke and when housing permitted, to move into our neighborhood and to share their culture with our Southern culture. When I was around seven, a Hungarian professor moved into the empty Bailey house along with his wife, kids, mother, and goat. The goat sometimes liberated himself and roamed about. Luckily for us, the professor’s mother was often the one to come and retrieve him. An ample and friendly soul, she soon knew everyone and everyone knew her.

Thanks to her, we all became lovers of Gulyás, cheese strudel, dobos cake, stuffed cabbage, Flódni, and….chicken paprikash. Some of the foods we knew but with a different angle instead of Hungarian. She always said, our country may be small but our food is vigorous! And it was.

This week, a local grocery had an amazing sale on whole chickens. Other than roasting, I pondered what to do with the one of several chickens I bought. A cold blustery day I thought, roast chicken…booooring. And then, it hit me – spicy, warming, rich chicken paprikash. Perfect. I cut one of the chickens up and even now, this lovely dish is simmering on my stove top in my cast iron dutch oven. If you or your family likes all the chicken pieces, whole is the cheapest way to purchase. There are a zillion videos on You Tube showing how to cut up a whole chicken. All you need is a good sharp knife. Don’t have one? Really???? Get one. And get some good Hungarian paprika.

For the paprika in this recipe, don’t use your grandmother’s paprika unless your grandmother is Hungarian. The red stuff on most grocery shelves that is mainly used to sprinkle on deviled eggs, the top of potato salad or anyplace you want to add a bit of red color is not the same thing as good quality, smoked, sweet, peppery Hungarian paprika. it is a little bit of an investment, but you will be so glad you invested time to find it and money to buy it. You’ll never go back to bland “paprika” again. You can also purchase online.

There are variations on this dish, of course. A friend of mine from Philadelphia used bacon grease and served over broad egg noodles. Many people do not use the bacon grease and serve with dumplings or spaetzal. However, this is a happy red dish that will warm you inside and out. Eat with a sweet white Hungarian wine or lots and lots of water. Thank you Pieter for this recipe, which you said was handed down from your grandmother.

Chicken Paprikash
2 tbs. bacon grease
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tbs. paprika
1 (2 to 3 pound), whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin intact
1 cup water
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes in juice
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1(8 ounce) container sour cream (can use low fat)

Directions
Heat bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, and paprika. Stir together and saute until onion is translucent, using low heat so as not to burn the paprika.  You may need to add a bit more grease or a touch of butter. Add chicken pieces and pour water over all. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.

Stir in tomatoes, reserving liquid. I use whole tomatoes and coarsely chop before adding. You can also used diced tomatoes. Stir tomato liquid into a medium bowl with flour and sour cream; mix until well blended, then slowly add mixture to chicken, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is thick. Serve with noodles, dumplings, or spaetzal. Serves four.

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Public Domain Clip Art

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Fish scale clouds: iwashigumo 鰯雲 haiku

Iwashigumo
swim in autumn sky – birth day
almost at an end

copyright kanzen sakura

copyright kanzen sakura

Posted in General Poetry, Haiku, Musings | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Happy Birthday to Me….and the rest of the 11/16 Society

I love birthdays and I especially like my own. My birthday is my New Year for me, not January 1. It is the beginning of starting a new chapter in the book of my life and for reflecting on the chapter I have just finished writing.

This past year has been full of many troubled times, challenges, and grief but it has also seen times of great joy, deep peace, incredible new friendships (thank you with much love to the Bitten Babes!), beginning again with a new profession and proving that no, I am not beaten and yes, I triumphed.

Last night at dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant with some friends and my husband, one told me, I am so proud of all you have done this year and how you used a great injustice to move forward and grow. Wow.

So….happy birthday to me! Happy happy happy birthday. And thank you to all of you who continue to fill my life with your thoughts, travels, experiences, poems, photographs, friendship – all of you whose blogs I follow. You help me expand my universe but most important, expand my heart.

the group of us, those whom I term the 11/16 Society, I wish you all happy birthday and year filled with joy, health, and growth. I love you all. The 11/16 Society lost two of our unique band, Jeff and Jamie but….a year ago today, one of the 11/16 Society became grandfather to Jackson. So!!! Happy birthday my Band of Brothers:
Beni, Billy, Itoshi, Jackson, Mashashi, Takahashi-san, Thomas, Will, William and as noted on M-R Blog, Luke. M-R posted a Happy Birthday Greeting to Luke and I.    She is a fine lady from Oz and she keeps us all in line and honest and…wishes us happy birthday! Go visit her and go wish Luke happy birthday. Tell him Kanzen sent you by way of M-R.      http://margaretrosestringer.com/    I am link challenged but M-R is gifted – she has a link to mine and Luke’s blogs on her website…. Thank you M-R for the cake you baked as well.  I am so glad I got the pretty one and not the chocolate one.

And rest sweetly, Jamie and Jeff.  Your lifesongs have ended but the melody is still there in our hearts.   The 11/16 Society:  My friends, brothers, and maker of many of my smiles.  And a Happy Birthday wave on my 7th birthday, in the snow, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Kanzen's 7th Birthday   copyright Kanzensakura

Kanzen’s 7th Birthday copyright Kanzensakura

 

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初雪(はつゆき First Snow – haiku

midnight: snow flowers
spiral down and quickly die
on my outstretched hand.

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Holiday Sweet Potato (no, not yam) Recipes

photo from NC Sweet Potato Commission

photo from NC Sweet Potato Commission

Okey dokey. Let’s clear this up before we go any further: What is called “yam” in the US is not a yam – it is a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes and yams are not even related or even part of the same family. Yes, both are tubers, yes, both are sweet, both are flowering vines. But…

YAM: grown in Africa, Asia and the Carbbean. It has a thicker skin and some of those pups can grow to be seven feet in length! Yams are starchier, drier, paler interior, darker exterior, must be cooked to be eaten safely, firmer textured, lower in beta carotene and Vitamin C. The yam is part of the lily family.

Sweet Potato: Grown in the Southern US, has tapered ends, flesh can range from white to deep orange, moister, thin skinned, and is a member of the morning glory family. There is a purple variety grown in Okinawa, however. What is called “yam” in the US is actually – Sweet Potato!!! So, no more candied yams, baked yams, fried yams. Unless of course you have been to a specialty grocery and specifically bought a yam imported from the Caribbean, Asia, or Africa.

The Recipes: Cornwallis Yams, er, Sweet Potatoes. I don’t think General Cornwallis ever had this dish or a yam and haven’t a clue as to why this ridiculous name was given to this recipe. But, it is one delicious and rich casserole. It could be considered dessert but it is a side dish typically served during the Holidays. Both of these are standard recipes and came from handwritten recipe cards from my Grandma Ninny’s recipe box and have been part of our family celebrations since Ninny was a baby.  Sweet Potato Pie is a Southern Classic. You folk can have all the pumpkin pie you want, most of us in the South will take Sweet Potato Pie, thank y’all very much.

I did a Christmas post a couple of seasons ago about sweet potato pie, family, and honoring those who have passed before. Here is the link:  kanzensakura.com/2012/12/24/the-smell-of-home a true Christmas-story   I am link challenged and it probably won’t work but the name of the post is The Smell of Home – a True Christmas Story.  You can also search under sweet potato.  I hope y’all enjoy.

Cornwallis Sweet Potato Casserole
6 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon
ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup grated coconut, plus some for garnish (I use the frozen, unsweetened grated rather than the sweetened coconut in a bag or can)
1 1/2 cups milk
½ c. chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:
Boil sweet potatoes until softened. Peel and mash. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter.  Beat eggs and add to cooled potatoes. Combine with remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch or 3-quart casserole. Bake in a 350 oven until light brown, about 1 hour. Top with a sprinkle of coconut.

Sweet Potato Pie
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves or mace
2 tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon peel
1 – 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) package frozen deep-dish piecrusts, thawed
Garnishes: whipped cream, grated nutmeg

Directions
Cook sweet potato in boiling water to cover 30 minutes or until tender; drain .Beat sweet potato and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, orange juice, peel, and spices, beating well. Pour mixture evenly into each piecrust. Bake at 350° on lower oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Garnish, if desired.

 

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