Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something Good with Nutmeg

February 27, 2008

Research shows that most of the hits on this blog come with the search words "Health Benefits Nutmeg," with "Garlic Soup Colds" coming in second.

There is an early post about my discovery of chai tea which discusses the health benefits of nutmeg -- and cinnamon and cloves -- in the tasty tea known as chai. You can find this post and the garlic one by browsing the blog. This post is about a wonderful cake with a large nutmeg component.

The recipe, with some tweaking from me, is found in Nick Maglieri's cookbook Perfect Cakes. It has the charming name of "Fresh Apple Cake from Mrs. Appenzeller (5D)." Maglieri got the recipe from the superintendent of a Greenwich Village apartment building who in turn obtained it from the tenant in Apartment 5D. I can't help but love this Mrs. Appenzeller -- after all, I lived in Switzerland for six years, and Appenzel is a quaint canton in the mountains. Besides, the cake, with its high nutmeg content is not only delicious but probably will help with joint pains and indigestion. Obesity is another matter.

For health considerations, I decreased the amount of oil, added some whole wheat flour as well as brown sugar, and for esthetics used Granny Smith apples where Mrs. Appenzeller and Nick Maglieri use Golden Delicious. Applesauce would probably work well too. I do recommend the cake, and admonish the baker to use all the nutmeg suggested.

1 1/2 Cup Unbleached White Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
3 Cups Peeled, Chopped Apples
1/2 Cup Dark Raisins
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Butter and flour a 12-Cup tube pan and preheat the oven to 350°.

Whisk together flours, baking soda, and spices.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs to break them up, whisk in the oil, sugar and vanilla. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the dry ingredients and apples, raisins and nuts.

Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cake is excellent with coffee or tea, or can be dressed up with ice cream. It freezes well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Watching People Eat

February 20, 2008

Maybe there are people out there in television-watching-land who really enjoy the numerous shows and segments of shows in which people stick food into their mouths and then try to describe to the viewers what they're experiencing.

They carefully close their lips over the bite (thank goodness and Emily Post) and then roll their eyes to the heavens and chew. This part gets tricky because they have to get most of the bite down before they start talking. Usually they use this time to make odd "mmmm" sounds, close their eyes, and try to think of something not obscene-looking to do while we wait for them to clear the mouth and talk to us.

Then, food removed, they start saying bizarre things like, "There's this gentle flow of spice followed by a little kick..." which is supposed to enlighten us about the experience of eating.

I cannot understand why there are so many shows that feature this embarrassingly un-entertaining display. There are restaurant shows, where the host, usually an affable enough person, goes to some restaurant, orders something, then goes through the eating-for-the-camera exercise described above, and tells us how to go to a restaurant. Or how to put food in our mouths. Or how to taste it. All of which most self-respecting adults have long since learned how to do.

There are cooking shows in which abnormally slim people demonstrate a recipe and then start eating it for our pleasure.

Two exceptions to the above tirade, in my view, are people I don't mind telling me what they're eating or how the food they cook tastes. These are Anthony Bourdain, whose show is more a cultural exchange than a food show, and Paula Deen, who so obviously enjoys scarfing down that fattening food that she can joke about it.

But a show based on watching people eat is a bad idea. When I catch myself watching such a show, I worry about my life.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Not Fattening Cheesecake

February 16, 2007

First, let me offer this disclaimer: If you like to eat, but want to lose weight, you gotta believe.

Me, I believe mostly in Atkins. That hasn't lost a lot of weight for me, but it helps me believe I'm dieting when I eat the foods I like. The trick is to stop before you want to. That's one I haven't mastered yet.

Here's a trick for a cheesecake that I won't promise will help you lose weight, but you'll hardly notice the artificial sweetener, and you can feel pretty good while you're eating it. In moderation, of course. I've served it at parties and nobody knows. (Or so they say.)

Make your crust using ground almonds instead of graham crackers.

The filling consists of:

3 8-oz pkgs. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup Splenda
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
Grated lemon rind (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to 325°.

With an electric mixer, cream the cheese with sugar and Splenda. Add the egg yolks, extract and lemon juice.

Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks and gently fold them into the cream cheese mixture. Turn this batter into a baking pan prepared with the nut crust. If you're using a spring-form pan, wrap its bottom well in aluminum foil to prevent water leaking in. Put the baking pan into a larger pan and fill the larger pan with hot water up to about an inch from the top of the smaller pan. Bake until the cake is lightly browned, about one hour.

Let cool completely. The water bath will prevent cracks from forming on the top of the cake. This can be eaten as is, or topped with sour cream slightly sweetened and with a bit of vanilla added, or with fresh fruit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dueling Cornbreads

February 13, 2008

My cyberfriend Nan, who publishes a beautiful blog making women all over the world want to move to a New England farm, cook from scratch, and raise a family, recently gave info on how to make a delicious bean stew with cornbread.

On her blog she runs pictures of her dogs, the snow-covered woods, the cozy house, and mouth-watering food, complete with recipes.

Even so, she used a little sugar in the cornbread. I curmudgeonly made the comment on her post that Southerners didn't allow sugar in cornbread. The fact that I know that South Carolina and probably certain other pockets in the South they do serve sweet cornbread didn't stop me from my niggling complaint. Where I come from, the Gulf Coast of Alabama, a hint of sugar in cornbread makes it pure cake.

Here's the recipe I always use for cornbread, from Mrs. S.R. Dull's cookbook Southern Cooking, first published in 1941. Mrs. Dull was the food editor of the Atlanta Constitution for many years.

I have changed her recipe by substituting half unbleached white flour for half of the cornmeal she used. But I do recommend using buttermilk as she does, and I must tell you that that this should be baked in a 10-inch cast iron frying pan.

2 eggs
1 1/4 Cup yellow corn meal
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
2 Cups buttermilk
3 Tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs together until light. Add buttermilk, butter and salt. Add meal and flour mixture, being careful putting in, as meal varies and the batter should be a medium batter. Beat smooth. Put about a tablespoon of bacon fat into the pan (vegetable oil can be used) and keep the pan hot. Sift the baking powder into the batter. Dissolve the soda into a spoonful of cold water and add to the mixture and stir well. Bake at 400° for about 15 to 20 minutes, until brown and crusty.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Waking Up to Broccoli Soup

February 12, 2004

Due to popular demand, I am reviving this blog. Wake up, blog!

That being said, I add the disclaimer that although I haven't posted here since late November, surfers find the blog when looking for recipes for "fair food," which is not what it's about, or using words on their search engines such as "garlic soup cold cure" or "health benefits nutmeg," which they can indeed find here.

This is the blog of a good home cook who prefers simple, fresh food and enjoys cooking from scratch. Most of the recipes are more like instructions for producing old-fashioned and tasty foods. Sometimes I'm on a diet, but there are a few dessert recipes that will indicate why I have that need.

Today's food is one that comes from that not-too-fattening group. It is a variation of a soup in the cookbook of one Suzanne Sommers, sometime actress and age-obsessed blonde who found a second career in writing about health food and selling exercise devices. Be that as it may, it is a delicious version of vichysoisse (no potatoes!) and filled with vitamins instead of calories.

Leek and Broccoli Soup

Chop and wash one leek and sauté it in a little olive oil for about five minutes. Add about 4 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. You'll need about 3 cups of chopped broccoli. Add this, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and process in a blender, food processor or with a stick blender until fairly smooth. To serve, (particularly if you'd on Atkins) you may top with a dollop of sour cream.

If you're not dieting, this soup is excellent with about one cup of cooked brown rice added before the blend. Of course the whole thing is flexible -- tomatoes can be added or any other leftovers if you want to use it as a base for another soup, or if you have any left over and want to extend the life of all the things in little jars in your refrigerator.

Now that you've discovered the revived food blog, come back sometime and explore.