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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thanksgiving All Year Long!

Who could forget Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup?  The one that contained the "Golden Nugget".  This was a little egg shaped ball of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins and oils that gave the soup it's rich, chicken-y flavor.  The flavor packet helped too, adding huge amounts of salt along with some other seasonings.

My mom used to buy Mrs. Grass at the A&P and we always had it in the house.  It was one of those foods (in the days before pizza rolls, hot pockets and microwave french fries) that we could help ourselves to any time we were hungry.  And it was fun to watch the "golden nugget" melt as the soup cooked.

Mrs. Grass used to come in a double pack.  The box was actually two boxes that snapped apart.  Seemed like a bargain - you were getting two for the price of one.  Nowadays I think it usually comes in a foil envelope or a single box.  Today, the Mrs. Grass soup line is manufactured by Wyler's.  No matter, I think I have some at home and last time I made it the taste was the same as I remembered.

My mom used to make a wonderful dish she called Tetrazzini.  Though she may have made it sometimes with chicken, it was almost always made with leftover turkey and was sure to be on the menu in the days following Thanksgiving as we demolished the 22 lb. monsters she liked to buy.  A family of 8 requires a large turkey.

Mom did not buy turkey only at Thanksgiving.  Often, turkeys were placed on sale throughout the year.  Mom always bought one.  A turkey made for a great meal for a family that was always hungry, and the amount of leftovers was ample.  There's a lotta good eating on a turkey.

Of course, if it was not Thanksgiving mom did not usually go all out with the side dishes.  Indeed, even at Thanksgiving our table groaned less than those of others who might have roast pork or ham in addition to turkey, two or more kinds of stuffing, and side dishes galore.  Our meal usually consisted of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy; canned cranberry sauce, mom's "succotash" (corn and lima beans - no sauce), sweet potatoes (which only mom liked) and a relish tray of black & green olives, celery and carrot sticks, radishes cut with a cross hatch design and trimmed green onions which we dipped in Miracle Whip (I guess it was cheaper than mayonnaise).

Still, we all enjoyed our holiday meal and the turkey sandwiches, turkey hash and especially the turkey tetrazzini which was sure to follow.  My brother, sister and I have been emailing back and forth for some time trying to remember how to make mom's tetrazzini.  Some time before she passed on I did ask her how to make it, then my notes disappeared into the black hole that is my recipe collection.  Luckily, I had written them in one of my many books and was able to find them. 

Incidentally, it is said that tetrazzini was a dish created for the hefty opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, to help her trim her considerable bulk.  Most tetrazzini recipes incorporate a creamy sauce or at least a can of cream of something soup.  Not likely to appear on anyone's menu of "light" dishes.  Mom's was not like that at all.  As far as we recall it contained only the broth, parmesan cheese, maybe a little butter and the noodles and turkey.  Which inclines me to believe hers is the more authentic version.  Google some recipes and give them a try, then compare them to this.

Mom's Turkey Tetrazzini
Vermicelli, angel hair pasta, thin spaghetti, thin egg noodles,
whichever you prefer or have on hand.
1 or 2 packages Mrs. Grass Chicken Noodle Soup mix
Leftover turkey shredded or cut in chunks
canned or fresh mushrooms (optional)
sliced green pimento stuffed olives
grated parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a cardboard box, NOT the name brand)
butter or margarine
milk (optional)
oregano, basil, garlic powder, ground black pepper

Prepare the soup broth using the flavor/seasoning packet from the soup mix and the noodles, adding additional noodles, spaghetti etc.  Cook until just al dente.  Vary the amounts according to how many people will be eating.  Drain the noodles, reserving the broth.  Find another use for the nugget.

Combine the cooked noodles with olives and mushrooms (fresh mushrooms can be sauteed in butter or margarine - my sis says it has to be margarine as we never had butter - canned mushrooms can be used as is).  You can also add a little butter or margarine if you wish, and the turkey.  Moisten with some of the reserved broth (and milk, optional) and season with herbs.  Add quite a bit of the grated parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine and turn into a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold it.

Bake at 350 for about 40 - 50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  You may wish to add additional broth/milk if it seems to dry.  Serve with additional cheese.

That's about it.  Of course, if you like, you can sprinkle the top with some fine bread crumbs, french fried onions or crushed potato chips in the last 5 - 10 minutes of baking for a crunchy topping but mom never did.

Now that I have unearthed this recipe I am going to make tetrazzini.  As soon as I have any leftover turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving, no matter what time of year it is!

Quotable quotes; in the category Grammar Schmammar, I'm Singin' Here!

"To sing on the stage - that's the one life for me.  My figure's just like Tetrazzini!"  Art is Calling For Me from "The Enchantress"; Victor Herbert

Monday, July 16, 2012

By Bread Alone . . .

I love fresh bread.  Who doesn't?  When I was younger my mom used to buy frozen bread dough.  All you had to do was let it thaw, rise and bake it in the oven and you had a delicious loaf of hot, fresh bread.  A little butter (margarine in those days) and heaven was imminent.

My mom had a set of those Pyrex mixing bowls.  Hers were in shades of yellow and brown and had a design of onions and garlic, as I recall.  Those bowls could be baked in, like a casserole, mixed in and served in.  She used the biggest bowl for virtually everything - spaghetti, salads, you name it.  With six kids in the family a giant bowl of spaghetti was a necessity.

One of my favorite uses for the bowl was her famous double loaf of bread.  She would take a loaf of white bread and a loaf of dark rye, let them thaw in the bowl, sprinkle the top with sesame or poppy seeds and bake them together.  The result was a huge round loaf of two-toned bread.  Break them apart and slice your favorite for bread and butter or for sandwiches.

Once we had a choir bake sale.  Mom had bread dough in the freezer and allowed me to take two loaves.  When I arrived at the sale the loaves were purchased immediately - by one of the choir members, who treated everybody to hot bread for breakfast.

My niece recently made a facebook post asking if anyone had a bread machine.  I guess she was just soliciting feedback on how they worked and whether owners actually used them.  I took it to mean she was in the market and set about finding one for her.  I invited her over to try out the machine and to take it home, should she want to.

Turns out she just wanted the info.  Now I am the proud owner of a bread machine.  Not a problem.  It also turns out the machine seems to work better than the one I had 20 years ago.  One exception, the little beater/paddle sticks fast in the baked loaf which did not happen on my old machine - but the old machine did not bake two great loaves the first time out so . . . . .

I decided I better make a couple loaves before the niece came over just to be sure all was in working order.  The two loaves I tried were both successful with a lovely interior and nice crust.  I used one of the recipes in the guide book, with some necessary modifications, and here is my recipe for a tasty loaf.  You will need a package of 7 or 9 grain hot cereal.  It's like oatmeal but also contains wheat, rye, barley and other grains.  This is not instant or quick-cook.  Look for a cereal that calls for about 2 - 4 times as much water as cereal and about 30 minutes cooking time.  Or just use rolled oats.

You may also want oat bran, wheat germ, ground flax seed or chia seeds (I used both).

Following your bread machine's instructions for the proper order, add the following:

6 - 8 oz water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey or molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened (or use oil)
1/2 cup multi grain hot cereal (not cooked)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used) * see note
1 1/2 tablespoons oat bran, ground flax seed, wheat germ or chia seed
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk powder * see note
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

* you can add about 1/2 - 1 cup whole wheat or whole grain flour in place of some of the bread flour; you can also add a little milk in place of some of the water instead of the milk powder.  Save any extra water to add, if necessary, as the bread mixes.

Select the regular bread cycle and the medium crust (if available) and turn on the  machine.  After five minutes peek inside and if the dough has not formed a ball and appears dry add a little water, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  If it appears wet add a little flour, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Check again in five minutes to ensure the dough has formed a nice ball.

Remove when cool and remove the mixing paddle, if necessary.  Allow to cool.

Now everybody knows that bread is best fresh out of the oven so wait about 20 minutes or so and then slice off one side of the loaf.  This will remove the crust end and make for nicer sandwich slices later AND you get a bonus - a hot slice of fresh bread.  Spread with sweet butter and enjoy!

Alas, neither of the machines I own are manufactured any more but it seems you can still buy bread machines in a wide range of prices and functionality.  I suggest you do your research and find a machine that will meet your needs.  Better yet, find someone who has grown tired of their machine and take it off their hands!

Quotable quotes; in the category I Bet I'd Like It Even Better With Butter!

"I like reality.  It tastes like bread."  Jean Anouilh, French dramatist