Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter Cookies

I wanted to try out making cookies in the shape of Jesus for church things and why not try it out for Easter?  I made these with a gingerbread woman cutter.  I had some spare icing left, so I decorated some butterflies.   I tried a different recipe than I usually use, and it's one I won't use again for cutout cookies.  It was from Maida Heatter's great cookie cookbook Brand New Book of Great Cookies.   It was a tasty cookie but difficult to roll out.    Instead, I'll stick to this tried and true recipe.   Also click on that link to learn more about technique. Happy Easter everyone!  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

To The King's and Queen's Taste

Straight out of these 70s. I found these cookbooks at a book sale.   Everything Elizabethan was big in the 70s; I sang in a madrigal group and loved learning about this era when I was in high school humanities class.   I really love the marvelous black-and-white illustrations throughout from original woodcuts of the period, and an introduction that describes the extravagant preparations involved in a typical medieval feast. The author, Lorna J. Sass, holds a doctorate in medieval literature from Columbia University. She is the author of four historical cookbooks, including these two, plus Dinner with Tom Jones (18th Century), and Christmas Feast from History, which I would also love to have in my collection. I've know her work because she has written the best pressure cooker cookbooks I own....

Can't wait to cook something out of these gems!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Buckeye Pie

I'm from Michigan, and our disdain for our neighbors to the south is legendary.  While I enjoy many Ohio culinary delights like Tony Packo's and Tony's Steakhouse and Cincinnati Chili, I will go on the record that Michigan certainly got the better end of the deal when we ended up getting the upper peninsula in lieu of Toledo.  Other Michiganders aren't so generous: my husband refuses to spend any money in the state of Ohio if he can help it (Cedar Point is the exception).  Michigan Football fans are known to cheer "Oh how I hate OHIO STATE".   There's a lot of hate for the Buckeyes when you venture north....

But perhaps we can consider a buckeye of a different persuasion....Buckeyes are also a confection made from a peanut butter fudge partially dipped in chocolate to leave a circle of peanut butter visible.  Named for their resemblance to the nut of the Ohio buckeye tree (the state tree of Ohio) this candy is particularly popular in Ohio and it is common for Ohioans to make buckeyes at home, but they are also available in mail-order catalogs and candy shops. No Columbus tailgate party would be the same without them, I am told!

Love or hate Ohio, I'll admit buckeye candy is one of my favorites.    I saw a recipe online for buckeye pie,  so I wanted to give it a try.   It had lots of mistakes in it; I improved upon the recipe and here is what I came up with:

Makes a 9 inch pie

graham cracker crust
12 chocolate graham cracker
4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup plain graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces dark chocolate (I use 70%), coarsely chopped

peanut butter pie fillling
reserved buckeye mixture
6 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

Start by making the pie crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a 9 inch glass pie dish combine chocolate graham cracker crumbs
and melted butter until crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Press crumbs into bottom and
sides of dish. Bake for about ten minutes until crust is firm. Set aside to cool.

Next, begin work on the buckeyes:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer add Neufchâtel  and peanut butter, mix until well combined. Add graham cracker crumbs, confectioners sugar, melted butter, and vanilla then mix until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, set aside two cups worth of peanut butter mixture for the buckeyes and reserve the rest for the pie filling in the mixer bowl To shape the buckeyes, scoop slightly less than a tablespoon of peanut butter mixture and roll into a ball. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet stick each with a toothpick. Place peanut butter balls in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes.

Now, back to the pie:
Mix together the reserved buckeye mixture with Neufchâtel  and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined. Slowly add in heavy cream and mix on medium high until well combined. Scoop mixture into cooled chocolate graham cracker crust and refrigerate until set, 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Dipping the buckeyeyes
In a microwave safe plastic bowl (glass holds heat too well and can ruin melting chocolate, melt chocolate until smooth. heat on high for 30 seconds then stir,then repeating 10 second increments.  Stir frequently.  When the chocolate is melted smooth, let cool slightly. Remove chilled peanut butter balls from freezer and dip and swirl in chocolate using the toothpicks being careful to leave a circle of exposed peanut butter on top. Return buckeyes to parchment lined baking sheet to set.
When you've finished dipping the buckeyes, remove the toothpicks and smooth over the hole with your finger. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until completely set. 

Once buckeyes are set, place evenly spaced buckeyes on top of the chilled pie. Cover and refrigerate
any leftovers.  You will have extra buckeyes to snack on, which is great because they are SO GOOD!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Onigaming Supper Club Spinach and Bacon Salad

When I lived in Houghton in the 80s, there was a seasonal restaurant just south of town called the Onigaming Supper Club.  It was open from May to October and a complete throwback to what we now call "Mid Century Modern".

From their website I learned that the Onigaming Yacht Club was established in 1894. The name Onigaming was given to the club by Francis Jacker, brother of the Rev. Edward Jacker, who was a missionary colleague of Bishop Frederick Baraga. The name was derived from the Chippewa word “onigam” which means portage.  And since Houghton is on Portage Lake, it is well named.  In 1896 the yacht club purchased a large parcel of land adjacent to Portage Lake and built a clubhouse with a long porch facing the lake, a pier, tennis courts, and a bathing beach.  In 1924 a fire of unknown origin destroyed the Onigaming clubhouse, but it was immediately rebuilt, and in June of 1925 a gala dance was held to inaugurate the new building. The club flourished for many more years, but the Depression, World War II, and the postwar economic decline and closing of the area’s copper mines took their toll. By 1960, the Onigaming Yacht Club was nearly at an end.  In 1962 the disbanded club’s property was divided and sold, and the clubhouse became the Onigaming Supper Club and went on to become one of the area’s finest restaurants.    By the 1980s, it was definitely in it's waning days, but we loved to visit there and hoped to get a table on the screen porch and enjoy the Lake Superior Trout served on a plank.

Nice carpet

I can remember the first time I went there.   It was a couple weeks into my freshman year when a cute "older man" (he was probably 25) that looked like Tom Selleck asked my roommate Jill to find a friend to go out on a double date to the Onigaming.   I can't remember what the handsome young man's real name was, but he was a resident assistant in our dorm and so we dubbed him "Magnum R.A." and his nickname is all I remember now.  Magnum invited a friend of his who was an grad student from India and I was to be his date.    I wasn't really interested, but figured a dinner out was better than the dorm food, so I went along to be a good sport.   I'm not sure what I ordered; my guess it wasn't the Lake Superior Trout as I wasn't into fish when I was eighteen, but I do remember my first course, which was the Onigaming Spinach and Bacon Salad.    I wasn't sure about getting a spinach salad, but the waitress said it was the house salad, and Magnum had spent the summer in Houghton after his honorable discharge from the Army, and he had dined at the Onigaming before and vouched for it, so I went along.   I had never had a wilted spinach salad before, but it was fantastic!  Sweet and sour dressing, with sizzling bacon and hard boiled eggs.   I loved that salad!

While that particular date didn't really work out from a dating point of view, I found myself at the Onigaming many times throughout my college career at Michigan Tech.  There were two "fine dining" establishments back then....and both were seasonal...the Summer Place in Chassell and the Onigaming Supper Club.     I can remember dining at both many sorority sister Jeanine turned 21 on Easter Sunday so we went to brunch at the Summer Place and her dad ordered us a bottle of champagne delivered to our table as a surprise!  My friends Jim and Jeannie had their wedding reception there.  During the winter, the Onigaming hosted a musical put on by MTU.   That was the first time I ever saw "South Pacific".    When I graduated from MTU with my bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, it was there that we had our post commencement dinner.   My parents never visited MTU when I was a student; the only time they ever ventured that far north was to drop me off for college when I was a freshman, or to attend commencement ceremonies.  They came back up one more time, when I got my masters, but that was it.   My mom was eager to try the spinach salad, as I had told her about it.

I'm not sure when the Onigaming closed, or why it came to mind to me the other day, but it did.   I started googling and I found this recipe for the spinach salad posted by the grand daughter of the managers there.  I had to give it a try for old time's sake; it is SO GOOD!  I modified it a bit to use bacon grease and make it more tangy....but it is wonderful.

Onigaming Spinach and Bacon Salad
serves 4

4 slices bacon
4 cups spinach leaves
4 hard cooked egg, sliced (for perfect hard boiled eggs, here is a recipe)
2 T. sugar
1/2 c,  cider vinegar
3 T. bacon grease
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground  pepper

Fry bacon until crisp, drain on paper towel and cruble.  Reserve fat.   In a jar, mix sugar, vinegar, warm bacon grease, salt and pepper.   Shake until well mixed.   On 4 plates, arrange 1 cup spinach leaves, and top with 1/4 bacon crumbles and egg slices.   Drizzle with warm dressing.