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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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baking

Brownies To Go

Brownies were created when there was a request for a desert for a group of ladies that would be attending a fair in the late 1800s.  They wanted a small cake-like dessert that could be eaten from a boxed lunch.  A Chicago chef, working at the Palmer House Hotel, created the first brownie for the ladies, which featured an apricot glaze and walnuts.  The Palmer House Hotel still serves their original recipe for brownies on their menu.

Which are your favorite brownies: blondies, with no chocolate or the normal chocolate? When I was a kid, my older sister started making congo squares. They were blond brownies with both chocolate and butterscotch chips in them, plus walnuts. A pan of these could disappear in a couple of days when all four of us girls were still home. They were best when still warm and the chips gooey.

Brownies are one desert I buy a package mix for. Betty Crocker makes them just as good as any recipe I have ever tried and with no mess. Currently, they are one of the go-to gluten-free deserts that taste so close to regular you can’t tell the difference.

I think brownies became really popular among college students in the ’60’s when they were laced with a certain weed.  I can honestly say I have never had one of those kind. I don’t think I missed anything. I’ve also heard of adding ex-lax to them when angry at a particular person. Thankfully I’ve never had the honor of eating any of them either. I guess I’ve been lucky.

In the baking aisle of any complete grocery store you can get a good brownie mix and multiple flavors of chips. If you add chocolate mint chips they would fit right in with the rest of your holiday treats.

 

 

Scrapple? What’s That?

Scrapple is arguably the first pork food invented in America. For those who are not familiar with scrapple, which is also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name “pon haus“, it is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal, wheat flour and spices.  (The spices may include, but are not limited to: sage, thyme, savory and black pepper.)  The mush is then formed into a semi-solid loaf, sliced and pan-fried

The immediate ancestor of scrapple was the Low German dish called panhas, which was adapted to make use of locally available ingredients and, in parts of Pennsylvania, it is still called Pannhaas, panhoss, ponhoss or pannhas.

I’m not personally acquainted with Scrapple so I included the above from the National Day of calendar.  When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “I had it once in a restaurant near York, Pennsylvania,  and hope I never have to eat it again.” So much for the idea of making my own. I then looked up the contents of Spam; they are very similar except potato starch is used to hold things together instead of cornmeal. Maybe I will give one of the many recipes I found for scrapple a try and not call it that! It seems like it would be a good side dish for that weekend breakfast when no one wants to get dressed and there’s been too much bacon consumed recently. Seems anything covered with maple syrup as they suggest would be good!

Let me know how yours turns out!

 

National Cherry Turnover Day

The only thing I can say for sure about cherry turnovers is there is never enough cherries and always too much crust.  I’d rather have a piece of cherry pie with the woven top crust, that way you can see up front, just how many cherries you are getting.  And then of course it’s always better with vanilla ice cream.

When I was a kid there was a great bakery in the town I went to school in.  I’ve mentioned in past posts that we did most of our own baking at home, but things like maple bars, apple fritters, fried cakes, salt rising bread and turnovers were left to the Fitzpatrick family.  I lived in a neighboring town and rode the bus to school so it was a real treat for me to be able to walk home with a classmate and stop at the bakery.  My favorite then, and now, is still the pudding filled, chocolate frosted doughnuts.

Let’s get back to cherries; these are some interesting facts: 

  • Related to plums, peaches and nectarines, cherries are drupes or stone fruits.
  • Cherries were brought to North America in the 1600s by the English colonists.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of cherries in the United States.
  • There are an average of 44 cherries in one pound.

Do you know anyone with a cherry tree in their yard?  I’ve known a few people and the complaint is always the same; the birds get the cherries before the human can get out  to pick them.  So that leads me to question how an orchard keeps the birds away long enough to make it worth while to raise them.  I’m sure they have a trick or two, but I don’t know what they are.

In western Ney York state, especially along Lake Ontario, there are orchards that grow cherries, apples, peaches, pears and plums.  The state’s Finger Lakes region is well known for it’s grape vineyards and wineries. Strawberries and red and black raspberries are also plentiful.  To facilitate buying the fresh fruit easily there are public markets in a lot of the local cites, towns and suburbs.  It can be even be a fun family event if you are inclined to go pick your own.  When the fruit is in season, there are bargains and you eat your fill knowing fresh is best.  We wish the seasons lasted a little longer, but then the juicy unadulterated flavors wouldn’t be such a treat.

If you have a favorite cherry turnover memory I would love to hear about it.  And, just in case you are one of my regular readers, yes, I mixed up the chop suey date and cherry turnover date.  Sorry, not as precise as I used to be.  Today is really the 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

National Lemon Meringue Pie Day

Sometimes when you are the youngest you get to help your Mom do something just because you fit in the spot where the problem is.  I must have been about seven years old when I had the privilege of cleaning up the mess of all messes.

Whenever we got a new puppy my mother was the one who had the job of house training  it just because she was home all day.  To make the job easier, and to keep track of the puppy better, we used a table leaf to barricade the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room and to the bathroom.  We humans just had to step over the twelve-inch obstacle.  A black dachshund puppy didn’t know how to jump it.

Shortly after we got Dee, I came home from school one day and could smell lemon when I went in the house.  I thought, “Oh, Mom baked.”  When I got to the dining room I just stood there looking at the remains of a whole lemon meringue pie underneath the dining room table, like someone had thrown it there on purpose.  There were pieces of the meringue in big chunks on the linoleum floor, there was the lemon curd filling hanging on the center, arm size, corkscrew turned spindle table leg and all over the floor, and the unbroken glass dish was upside down wedged against the leg, waiting for someone to rescue it.  Me!

I asked, “What happened?”

My mother was sitting in her green chair at the head of the kitchen table.  Luckily she had a great sense of humor. With a very matter of fact tone, she answered, “I wanted to show your father (who was in the living room) the best meringue I had ever made and I forgot to step over the table leaf.”

“Did you fall down?”

“No, just the pie.”

“Why is it still there?”

“So all you girls could see how perfectly it landed.”

I think I asked if I could eat some of it with a spoon and the answer was no.  After we laughed that someone couldn’t have made it land that way if they had tried, Mom got out two pancake flippers.  She scooped what she could reach off the floor.  I went under the table, got the pie plate, and put what I scooped into that.  Then the “fun” part had to be done.

Mom slid me a large pan of warm water with a dish rag in it.  I sat comfortably under the table and cleaned every individual crevice of that table leg until it wasn’t sticky anymore.

The next day she moved all the chairs away from the table and mopped the floor then made us another lemon meringue pie.

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National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

One of my favorite smells is chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.  It’s not only the smell; it’s the satisfaction of mixing them up, licking the beaters, having well used cookie sheets, and family waiting to eat them while they are hot.

I grew up in a 4-H household so I learned early how to measure ingredients correctly, use good ones and have the butter and eggs at room temperature.  We rarely bought any baked goods; Girl Scout cookies and Oreos were exceptions.  Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips were, and still are, my chip of choice.   I’ve tried others, but nothing comes close to the familiar taste I came to know as a child.  I can probably recite the cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle’s bag.

My mother was born in 1906.  I’m not sure her age had anything to do with it, but it was customary to serve a snack whenever coffee was poured for a visitor.  Mind you, the definition of visitor was usually a neighbor, a best friend or one of my father’s hunting buddies.  I have carried on that tradition and I like that I am known for scratch-made cakes and cookies.

My grandson stayed overnight when he was about five and asked if we could make cookies.  Of course I said yes.  He opened the refrigerator door, stood there inspecting the shelves and finally said, “I don’t see any.”

I smiled when I realized he was looking for a package of pre-mixed dough.  I told him, “Grandma doesn’t do it that way.  How about you help me.”  He watched wide eyed as I got out all the ingredients and the mixer.  He had a ball cracking the eggs and being my taste tester.  I got a call about a week later from my daughter.  She said in a sarcastic tone, “Thanks.”  I asked,  “For what?”  Her answer, “William now expects me to make cookies the way you do.”  I told her to think of it as a bonding opportunity.

I find it sad that families today are so busy that baking from scratch is not the norm anymore.  Heck, I know a bunch of young women that don’t cook at all.  It doesn’t make sense to me that they never learned.

May I suggest, the next time you eat a chocolate chip cookie try to imagine yourself at a kitchen table eating it hot out of the oven.  I guarantee it will taste better.

 

 

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