Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Cut Spaghetti Squash

I want to show you the safe way to cut through spaghetti squash.

Use a serrated knife to cut the ends. Cut just enough to give a straight edge, so you can work with it, safely.

Some will tell you to take a large knife, and cut down the center of the squash. Have you ever tried that?! It is very difficult, and you don't have a secure knife. This puts you at risk of injury. Do not do it like this!!!

Instead, use a paring knife, and circle your way around the squash.

There are two cutting lines, in this photo. I wanted to point out the curved line is using the large knife. See how you start to lose control of the cut. It goes the way it wants to. Looking at the line, using the paring knife, you can see the cut is straight.

Once the squash is halved, use a spoon to scoop out the innards. The seeds can be roasted, the same as pumpkin seeds.

Here is the comparison: The top photo, I used the paring knife and got a uniform cut. The bottom photo, I used a serrated knife, but was having a tough time cutting, so I enlisted the help of my santoku knife. It was a difficult task, and the end result is a sloppy, uneven cut.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jarrene's Hot Fudge Sauce

I'm sitting here, trying to think what I am going to write about my Mother-in-law, Jarrene, when I stumbled upon this black and white photo. I really love black and white photos. There is a certain nostalgia, found in them. Isn't this photo the most darling?! Look at that car! And, that dress! I wouldn't be surprised if she made, the dress, herself. It certainly looks like she is showing it off. One of the best gifts my Mother-in-law gave me, besides this recipe, was to teach me an easy way to sew in a zipper. That lesson has come in handy!

Besides sewing, my Mother-in-law is an exceptional cook. She is always testing new recipes. I'm not sure when she found his Hot Fudge Sauce recipe, but she had it perfected, when I met her, back in 1988. The recipe comes from her treasured cookbook, The Joy of Cooking. (Probably 1975 edition).

* I am going to say this is an adaptation of the recipe, because we are using different cooking techniques, and we are not using vanilla extract.

To give you some idea of how popular this family recipe is. It is August the 9th, and so far, we've had this recipe at least 8 times, this year! It never gets old.

The recipe starts with melting 2 ounces, of your favorite brand of unsweetened chocolate, over a double boiler. We did that, for the correctness of the recipe, but you can melt it, on low heat, directly in the sauce pan, and save washing an extra bowl.

Other options include:

* Unsweetened cocoa powder:  3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil = 1 ounce. You would need to double this measurement to get the two ounces.

* Nestle Choco Bake:  Each packet is 1 ounce. You would need two packets. This is my Mother-in-law's choice. The choco bake is hard to find, though. We order through

Once you've melted the chocolate; add to the sauce pan: butter, water, sugar and corn syrup.

* An alternative to using corn syrup would be to use honey.

Stir until sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a boil, over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cut the heat back  to medium high. At this point, it is critical to keep an eye on the pot; watching for a boil over. Let the mixture boil for 5 - 8 minutes.

5 minutes:  A smooth sauce, that doesn't harden.

6 - 7 minutes: A sticky sauce, that hardens like softened taffy.

8 minutes: A hard sauce, that becomes stiff like hard taffy.

We aim for the softened taffy consistency. Pull it off the heat right between the 6 - 7 minute mark.

Let the burner cool a bit, then you can return the pan, to keep the sauce warm. We do a serve yourself approach, and let people spoon the sauce, directly out of the pan. You'll want to make the sauce just prior to serving the ice cream, as it crystallizes when it cools.

Try to drizzle the sauce, in small streams.

Because, as it hardens, you will have one large glob to deal with, if you don't stream the sauce.

This is Hot Fudge Sauce nirvana. The sauce came together nicely, and is spooned in small streams; making it perfectly easy to eat.

The sauce has a slight pull to it.


2 Ounces unsweetened chocolate squares - or- 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil - or - 2 (1 ounce) Packets Nestle Choco Bake
1 Tablespoon butter
1/3 Cup boiling water
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup - or - 2 Tablespoons honey

Melt chocolate in a sauce pan. Add butter, water, sugar and corn syrup. Cook mixture over medium high heat, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high heat. Let sauce simmer, rigorously, but not furiously. Boil for 5 minutes, for a soft sauce. 6-7 minutes, for a softened taffy sauce. 8 minutes for a hard taffy sauce. Remove pan from heat. Let the burner cool a bit, then return sauce pan. Serve immediately. Serves 8-10


If you are lucky, you may have a little sauce left over. It will look like a crystallized mess. Your instinct will be to throw it out. Don't do that. We can bring it back to life.

Start by spooning the sauce into a microwaveable bowl. Add just a bit of water, to loosen the sauce. Microwave in 20 second intervals.

Stirring, until the mixture has become smooth again.

This is the reheated sauce. It is just as good as the fresh made version.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Fat Bastard

The Fat Bastard is a sausage, egg and cheese croissant sandwich smothered in sausage gravy. Talk about a mouthful! If you eat this for breakfast, chances are you won't eat anything else the rest of the day.

The recipe starts out with Sausage Gravy.

A toasted croissant, sausage patty, cheddar cheese and 1 egg, cooked any style.

To plate; place the bottom half of the toasted croissant on a plate. Top with the sausage patty.

Add cheddar cheese and an egg.

Put the lid on the sandwich.

Cover with gravy!

Dig in!


1 Recipe (see Sausage Gravy)
4 Croissants, cut in half
4 Teaspoons butter, for croissants
4 (2 ounce) Sausage patties
4 Ounces cheddar cheese, divided
4 Eggs, cooked to order
Butter and olive oil for frying eggs

Prepare sausage gravy as directed. Heat a large frying pan, or a griddle, over medium-high heat. Toast croissants; set aside. Cook sausage patties until browned. Add a little butter or olive oil to pan fry eggs, as desired. To plate: Place the bottom half of the croissant on a plate. Top with a sausage patty, then cheddar cheese and egg. Place the top half of croissant to form a sandwich. Cover sandwich with hot sausage gravy. Serves 4.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Florene's Vanilla Ice Cream

My father-in-law, Milton, recalls his mother, Florene, making ice cream, as far back, as the 1930's. Times were different. Florene didn't have the luxury of electricity. She couldn't chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator. Nor could she freeze ice cubes. Ice would have to be brought in, from town. Not having an ice cream maker, Florene, came up with a way to churn her own ice cream. She would put the ice cream base in a syrup tin. The tin was set into a large bowl of ice and salt. She would twist and turn the tin can; then scrape down the inside, of the tin, with a butter knife, until the milk base froze, and turned into ice cream.

I never had the pleasure, of meeting Florene. She passed during the 1970's. I can feel what a special person she was, by the way my father-in-law speaks of her. 

She must have really loved her family, to go through all that work, churning ice cream with a tin can and a butter knife! I can't help but think, she would be happy to know her son is keeping her memory alive, by passing along this family tradition.

I asked my father-in-law if other families, in the area were making ice cream, too. To his recollection, she was the only one.

This recipe starts by mixing 2 cups of the whole milk, whipping cream, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla; until the sugar is dissolved.

* There are times when it becomes necessary, for health reasons to cook the ice cream base: pregnant, elderly, or toddlers; you should err on the side of caution. My in-laws never cooked the ice cream base, but I did elect to, when my daughter was pregnant. If you decide to cook the ice cream base, it would be at this point. Blend thoroughly: 2 cups of the whole milk, whipping cream, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla; until the sugar is dissolved. Cook ice cream base, in a dutch oven, over medium high heat; until you get a temperature of 170 degrees.Let mixture cool, then resume with the remainder of the recipe.

** Another good tip, when it comes to raw egg safety: wash your eggs with soap and warm water, prior to cracking!

I pour the milk base, and the remainder of the whole milk, into a gallon milk jug; giving a good shake.

Make sure to label the jug, so you don't accidentally drink it. Keep refrigerated, until ready to churn.

We are churning the ice cream, but with the help of an ice cream maker.

Find a comfortable spot, because that's where you're gonna be for the next half hour.

Fill the container, with the ice cream base; then attach the crank. We always set the ice cream maker in a large tub, to catch the salt water, as it melts.

Fill the tub with ice, a third of the way; then add a cup or so of rock salt. Repeat, until the ice is filled to the top. As the ice melts, keep adding ice and salt.

I've found that it takes 20 pounds of ice to churn a 6 quart container of ice cream. It probably takes about 1 pound of rock salt. Rock salt tends to be expensive, at the store. A box of rock salt at the store, can cost as much as a large bag at the hardware store. So, if you plan on making ice cream more than twice, get the big bag!

Now you're set to crank! It is important to not stop, once you start the cranking. The ice cream is freezing, to the inside of the tin. If you stop, it will be hard to get to cranking again.

*Here is my own disclaimer. Keep your upper arm close to your side while cranking, to keep your shoulder stable. Last thing you want, is a shoulder injury. Remember, all this hard work will be worth it, when you are eating home made ice cream.

I always serve the ice cream, from the kitchen sink. Just place a dish towel, on the bottom of the sink, then place the ice cream maker on top.

You can serve the ice cream, right after it has been churned. It will be a soft serve consistency. I prefer to have the ice cream prepared 2 - 2:30 hours, before serving. This gives the ice cream time to harden.

To pack the ice cream, for hardening:  Start by removing the dasher. It will make the ice cream easier to serve.

Then replace the lid. I cover the lid with a piece of foil, so salt doesn't make its way into the ice cream.

Cover the lid with one more layer of ice and salt.

Then insulate with a couple of dish towels. We put the serving spoon, on top, so everything will be ready to go!

This is ice cream that was allowed to harden for a couple of hours. It is nice and thick.

If you happen to have left over ice cream, just store in a ziplock freezer bag. I've found, stored in the freezer bag, keeps it from becoming rock hard.

I'm thankful for so many things: Florene, for creating this ice cream recipe and making it for her family. My father-in-law, for continuing the tradition. For electricity, refrigeration, and freezers. For a White Mountain ice cream maker, to make churning that much easier. Most of all, I am thankful that this recipe is going strong, with 5 generations still cranking, Florene's Vanilla Ice Cream!


4 Quarts:                                                      
4 Cups whole milk                                     
1 Cup heavy whipping cream                            
1 Can evaporated milk                               
2 Cups sugar                                               
4 Large eggs                                               
1 Teaspoon vanilla                                       

6 Quarts:
7 Cups whole milk
1 Pint heavy whipping cream
1 Can evaporated milk
3 Cups sugar
6 Large eggs
2 Teaspoons vanilla 

Beat 2 cups whole milk, whipping cream, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla, with an electric mixer, until sugar is dissolved. Stir in remaining milk; blending well. Freeze ice cream base, according to manufacturer's directions. 

4 Quarts serves up to 10 people
6 Quarts serves up to 14 people

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Crock Pot Rice Pudding

My Grandmother made Rice Pudding, all the time! It was a comfort food to her. Although, I know it is not comforting to stand at the stove for three hours, constantly stirring a pot of pudding.

I think, I tried to make Rice Pudding Grandma's way, one time. I recall pulling a chair up to the stove, and stirring away. By the time the pudding was done, I didn't care anymore. I was over it! I didn't find the payoff worth the amount of effort put forth. Soon, I found myself cheating, by adding corn starch, to thicken the pudding. Grandma turned her nose at that when I told her.

So, wanting an old fashioned pudding, that Grandma would approve of, I set out to make this recipe the best that it can be, with minimal effort. I am sad, that Grandma is no longer here, but I'm sure she would give this recipe her stamp of approval.

We are breaking tradition, and utilizing the crock pot. Just grease the bottom, of the crock, with a couple tablespoons of butter. 

Whisk the pudding ingredients, in a large mixing bowl; until the sugar has dissolved.

Notice the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of rice, per 4 cups of milk. This is how we make creamy Rice Pudding, folks! This is why I develop my own recipes. Most recipes I come across have way too much rice in them! I want decadent, creamy rice pudding.

* A note about the milk and cream. If you don't want to use the cream, that is fine, leave it out. Just increase the milk to 4 cups. You can use reduced fat milk, but your chances of the milk separating increase. I haven't experimented with almond milk and the like.

Pour your pudding mixture into the crock. Then cover with a towel, a double layer of aluminum foil, and the lid. This reduces the amount of moisture allowed back into the crock.

The heat setting is just a little past medium high. Full heat will scorch, so we want to kick the heat back just a little.

I've tested this recipe numerous times. Per my Westbend crock pot, at 1:45 minutes, I stir in the raisins. You should have the same results with the standard crock pot. The rice will be done, yet still quite milky.

This is the most important part of the instructions: Once the raisins are added, the mixture starts to thicken and caramelize. You want to stir the pudding every 10 minutes. It shouldn't take more than 2 or 3 times, until the pudding has reached it's consistency.

The beauty of this recipe is you only have to stir 3 or 4 times. Total! I know; you can thank me later!

The pudding will be the consistency of a thinned pancake batter, or sausage gravy. It will continue to thicken, as it cools.

Transfer the pudding to a bowl, then cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the wrap sits directly on the pudding, to prevent moisture, or a skin forming on the pudding. Of course, you could eat the pudding warm, but I prefer it chilled. 

Refrigerate for several hours; until completely chilled.  Notice how much it has thickened? Grandma would be so proud!

Old fashioned rice pudding, made for today's busy world. Enjoy!


2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup white rice (cheap brand is fine, or Uncle Ben's converted long grain)
1/3 Cup sugar
3 1/2 Cups whole milk
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream

Coat crock pot with butter. Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour into crock. Cover crock with a kitchen towel, double layer of aluminum foil, and the lid. Set the heat to just a notch above medium high heat. Cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes; then stir in raisins. Cover, and continue stirring every 10 minutes, until pudding has reached the consistency of a thinned pancake batter. Should not take more than 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer pudding to a bowl. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap; making sure plastic sits directly on the pudding. Chill completely. Pudding will thicken as it cools. Makes 3 1/2 cups.