Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Often we're asked to participate in cookbook projects organized by our church, a community organization, a nursing home, a literacy association,or some other group as a fund raising project. When you participate in these endeavors, you'll help your organization or cause, see your name and recipe in print, and leave memories for your family.

I realized I have food memories in several community cookbooks in my collection. These books include recipes contributed by my mom, my mother-in-law, my aunt and myself, along with friends of my childhood.It was enjoyable to see our names and recipes in print when the cookbooks were produced. However, now that my mom, aunt, and mother-in-law are no longer living, I appreciate these cookbooks for the memories they evoke.

Mother’s Church Cookbook

I remember my mom’s excitement when she asked me for contributions to the 1974 Poughquag Cookbook, compiled by members and friends of the church she attended. I was living halfway across the country but responded to her request with a recipe for Apple Cake.

Now as I browse through Mother’s copy, well-used with stains and drops of batter, I come across names of friends from the town (Poughquag, NY) of my youth. A best friend’s mother contributed recipes. She was a great cook and meals at her home were fun times.

I see a recipe of my aunt’s which brings back memories of visits to her home and the family get-togethers we enjoyed there. Another lady was one of my Sunday School teachers. Her Poppy Seed Cake topped the list of my favorites at community suppers.

Parish Potpourri

My mother-in-law was thrilled when her favorite recipes appeared in the cookbook compiled by her church called Parish Potpourri. She knew of my interest in food and cooking so gave me a copy as a Christmas gift that year.

This, too, is a treasure because of Mum’s recipes. Browsing through the cookbook evokes memories of Mum’s excitement at being published, stories of her friends who contributed, and new recipes she tried from the cookbook when we visited.

Nursing Home Collection

Family Favorites Cookbook brings back memories of my mom’s days at the nursing home. Although this could have been a sad time in our lives as she journeyed through Alzheimer’s, I have fond recollections of visits with my grandchildren to bring my mother happiness.

For this cookbook, recipes were collected from residents, their families,and the staff. Contributors’ favorites and the stories accompanying them leave a legacy for friends and future generations of family.

I felt honored when asked to write the introduction for this cookbook. If you have community cookbooks in which family members have contributed recipes, stop a moment and write down the memories connected with them. Save the cookbooks as part of your family heritage.

Try this SAUSAGE/MACARONI CASSEROLE - Cook one 8-oz. package elbow macaroni in salted water about 8 minutes; drain well. Brown 1 pound bulk sausage and drain off excess fat.

Sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup green pepper strips in 2 tablespoons sausage fat. (Or spray frying pan with spray butter.) Stir in 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly add 2 cups milk; cook over low heat, stirring until mixture has thickened. Add 1/2 the sausage and 11/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese. Combine this with the macaroni.

Pour into a greased casserole. Top with remaining sausage and 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes, until heated through and top has browned.

(c)2004 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen enjoys researching food history and collecting family recipes. She also has compiled a family cookbook and is writing an instructional manual on how others can do this. If you're interested leave a message in the comments below.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Country Kitchen Blogger Published in Anthology

Country Kitchen blogger, Mary Emma Allen has stories featured in the new release, Eternally Yours, an anthology of poetry, light essays, devotions and meditations, edited by Mary Ellen Grisham and published by Xulon Press.

Featuring some of the best Christian writers on the Internet, this book represents work that has appeared in the Eternal Ink E-zine since it’s inception in 1999.

In addition, Mary gives presentations and teaches workshops at schools, libraries, writers’ conferences, and for other groups. Some of her talks include topics such as Alzheimer's and caregiving, quilt history and quiltmaking, New Hampshire history, and writing.

I was pleased when Ms. Grisham selected some of my stories for inclusion in this anthology. It's exciting to encourage and inspire others with my writing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Treats from the Food Bloggers

The Food Bloggers are a group of us who write about food, recipes and related topics. I hope you enjoy our selection this week.

A Homemade Fruit and Yogurt Parfait Use fresh or frozen fruit to make a midwinter healthy treat.

Busy Family Meals The best chocolate cookies Cyndi has ever had. Ever!

Butterfinger Buzz A review of Nestle's new caffeinated candy bar -- a twist on an old favorite!

Cooking Gadgets Cyndi has two Smith's Edge knife sharpeners to give away this weekend!

Mardi Gras Cocktail Recipe A delicious recipe for your Mardi Gras celebration

Quilled Pastry Hearts with Key Lime Curd You can make quilled hearts out of paper or get really creative and make them from frozen puff pastry.

School Lunch Variations Mary Emma at Country Kitchen chats about school lunches past and present and gives you a recipe for Mayonnaise Cake.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day from Country Kitchen

Happy Valentine's Day!

May this be a special day for you.

We have been enjoying Valentine's Day flowers, cards and candy. This was a fun day at school yesterday with the Valentine parties.

Today the children in our household are enjoying it, too.

Have you made anything special for Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Discovering Stories Behind Culinary Memorabilia

Salt shakers, mixing bowls, egg beaters. refrigerator dishes, rollingpins, spice tins, and juicers may seem rather ordinary kitchen items. However, it’s usually not a monetary value that’s important (althoughthis could be there), but the memories they evoke.

Sometimes you'll come across these items in an antique shop, auction, ora book on collectibles. Or you may be cleaning out a home when a parent must move to a smaller abode. Immediately they'll bring back memories of family occasions....dining,cooking, gift giving....which can be humorous, nostalgic, or bittersweet.

Green Jadite

When I came across a green Jadite salt shaker my mom had saved, I recalled this set we'd used throughout my childhood. These were round, about five inches high with an metal screw top. Raised ridges decorated the lower half of each shaker. The glass was an opaque milky green.

We used them every day and didn't value them as we did the gold coloredglass ones my grandparents received as a 50th Wedding Anniversary gift .Those were kept for "company."

However, when I saw the Jadite shaker it brought back memories of meals around the farmhouse kitchen table. I wondered where to find a matching pepper shaker and discovered one in an antique shop. Then I became curious to learn more about these items and found they probably were made by the Jeannette Glass Company.

I also discovered there were many other Jadite items for kitchen use...other shapes of shakers, canisters, juicers, butter dishes, refrigerator dishes, mixing bowls, match holders, and pitchers. The same designs were made in other colors. While attractive, they don't evoke the memories the Jadite does.

Green Mixing Bowls

I received a set of Fire-King green ribbed mixing bowls as a wedding shower gift 49 years ago. Although actually rather plain to look at, they served in our kitchen for years.

One by one, they got broken and now we're using more modern ware. However, when I see these bowls in shops or books of collectibles, I recall that wedding shower of kitchen gifts my aunt and future mother-in-law planned. They took me completely by surprise.

Collecting Memories

As I look through antique shops (a pasttime my daughter and I enjoy) and books on collectibles, I come across other items we used in our home orthose of friends. Some of these I collect for our home today as part of our culinary heritage. Others I include in my memory writing and scrapbooking.

Not that we're going to live in the past, but pull from it joys and lessons learned we can pass along to future generations.

Memories Among the Recipes

CHICKEN DIVAN is a dish my family enjoys. My daughter mentioned not long ago that someone had asked her for the recipe.

Cook 2 small or one large package broccoli spears until just tender.Either cook 4 whole chicken breasts or use the equivalent of leftover cooked chicken cut into pieces. Lay broccoli in a 9 x 13-inch bakingdish. Lay chicken over broccoli.

Mix together 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup,1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 small can mushroom pieces. Pour over chicken and broccoli.

Bake at 350 degrees F. about 45 minutes, until heated through and bubbly.(For lower calorie meal, use low fat soups, cheese, and sour cream.)

(c)2004 Mary Emma Allen

(I encourage my readers to record their memories for their family heritage. I also teach classes in "Writing Your Family Stories" and "Scrapbooking.")

Will Obama Popularize Tea?

Apparently Obama prefers tea, hot and cold, to other beverages. Will this increase tea drinking and tea sales?

According to the Bigelow Tea blog, President Obama Favors Organic Tea, especially chilled Berry Teas. So they and other tea companies apparently are introducing new organics.

Now I have questions...How are organic teas different? What's so special? Where are they raised? How are they processed?

If you have answers, let me know.

Monday, February 09, 2009

School Lunch Variations

“We took hot potatoes for lunch in the winter and cold ones the rest of the year,” my mom related about school lunches in the early 1900s. “We held the potatoes in our pockets. This kept our hands warm as we walked to school,” she continued.

(They walked three miles each way to school and back home. Yes, up hill and down, because I’ve traveled the route, but in a car, when I visited Mother’s girlhood home.)

Then in the warmer months, Mother, her sister and two brothers carried cold potatoes, sliced and spread with butter. Sometimes they took a sandwich made from homemade bread and meat or cheese. If there was no meat or cheese, Mother, her sister and brothers had simply bread and butter.

There were no hot lunches served in the one-room schools of the early 1900s. There were none in the one-room school I attended during my first through fourth grades.).

No, my sister, brothers and I didn’t eat boiled potatoes for our lunches. Instead we had sandwiches, milk or water in a thermos, and cookies. If apples or oranges were in season, Mother might include these. More likely it was an apple because my dad had an orchard, along with dairy farm. Oranges were treats around Christmas time.

Hot Lunches of Mid-Century

When I began attending the distant, larger school, in 5th grade, I enjoyed hot lunches. However, since there was no reduced price or free lunch program, I took cold lunches when my parents couldn’t afford the school lunch for us four.

We never thought we were deprived. It was the accepted practice, even when we might have only bread and butter, or bread and mayonnaise. My brothers liked bread and catsup when other sandwich fillings were scarce. Mother generally had homemade cookies on hand. Those from the store were a great treat.

Today’s Lunches

Now when I see children with all types of snacks and goodies from the store, pre-packaged items to heat in the lunchroom microwave, and bottles of juice, I marvel that we survived. Somehow most of us were healthy, worked hard on the farms, and generally did well in school.

We would have thought we were in “lunch heaven” if we’d had the convenience foods youngsters have in their lunch boxes today…and then throw away. (I know because I often have lunchroom duty when I’m substitute teaching.)

MAYONNAISE CAKE – Mother, and later I, often made this cake to eat at home and for our lunches. Frequently we didn’t frost it.

Sift 2 cups flour sifted with 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda, and 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder. Mix together with 4 tablespoons powdered chocolate, 1 cup sugar. Add 1 cup cold water, 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix well.

Pour into greased and floured tube pan or two 8 or 9-inch cake pans (if you’re going to frost cake) or large sheet pan. Bake 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. for layer or sheet pans, longer for tube pan, until inserted pick comes out clean.

When cool, ice or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
(c)2009 Mary Emma Allen

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Valentine's Day Parties & Celebrations

What are you doing for Valentine's Day? Are you planning any parties? Do you have memories of parties and tea parties of your childhood?

This was an exciting time when I was a youngster, with parties at school and at home. My mom made this an occasion for us four children, even though she was busy with farm work and housework.

The schools still have Valentine parties. Where I substitute teach, the youngsters in grades K-5 are looking forward to a special afternoon on the day before Valentine's Day because they won't be in school on the 14th. They also are planning a Valentine's Day tea for parents and youngsters after school on the 13th.

Adults often celebrate with a special dinner for two, giving flowers and gifts. A friend, who works in a florist shop, says this is the busiest day of the year for them. They start preparing and taking orders two weeks ahead.

Senior centers and nursing homes usually have Valentine's Day events. Sometimes this is introduced by card making, followed up by card exchanges. Perhaps there's a party with family and friends invited. Here there may be tea and punch and goodies in red and white and silver made into heart shapes.

What are you doing for Valentine's Day in your family and your life?

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Fascination of Tea Infusers and Tea Flowers

I like to try different types of tea and collect tea accessories. Whenever I’ve written of tea and tea customs, I often received responses from readers who tell me about their favorite teas, tea time rituals and whether they collect items associated with tea making.

My daughter gave me a glass mug with tea infuser. I’d seen one of these…a glass tea pot with infuser when Jim and I had dinner with friends. But I hadn’t realized they came as individual tea makers.

Tea Flowers

The package also included a “tea flower” consisting of green tea scented with jasmine flowers. This made delicious tea, actually cup after cup to keep me going the whole afternoon.

In checking out information about tea flowers, I discovered they’re tea leaves hand sewn together in various bud shapes using different types of tea. When these flowers are steeped in hot water, they unfurl into attractive leafy arrangements. If you use glass tea pots or cups, you can watch the flowers take shape.

Tea Infusers

Tea infusers actually consist of almost any container that holds loose tea you can immerse in boiling water. Some of ehe more recent ones consist of glass or plastic inserts that fit into the glass, rather than metal. The one Beth gave me has small slits in the bottom for the water to seep through.

I’ve been experimenting with tea bags and loose tea, trying to decide what works best. I’ve enjoyed using some Earl Grey loose tea I had on hand.

Infuser Facts & Suggestions

In my research, I found a few facts about tea infusers.

*Infusers come in many sizes. Some fit tea pots and others are made for individual cups.
*Infusers are made in many materials.
*Infusers should be fairly large for your teapot or cup.
*To make good tea, the tea needs to have space to “swim” and the water to circulate.
*Tiny infusers made in novelty shapes will crowd your tea so the water doesn’t circulate through the tea leaves well.
*You should have at least twice as much space as utilized by a heaping teaspoon of dry loose tea leaves.

Now I wonder about those cute little tea infusers (sometimes called “tea balls”) I’ve been collecting. Some are no larger than a teaspoon of loose tea. One that I have is shaped like a teaspoon with a snap over top and will only hold a teaspoonful of tea.

Tea Time Accompaniments

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD - Grate rind of 1 orange and squeeze out all the juice into a measuring cup; add enough boiling water to make ¾ cup. Add the orange rind and 2 tablespoons butter, stirring to melt the butter.

Beat 1 egg in another bowl and gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add dry ingredients (2 cups white flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda), 1 cup chopped raw cranberries, ½ cup chopped walnuts, and the orange mixture; blend well.

Spoon into a greased, floured loaf pan or 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees for loaf pan and 30-40 minutes for other pan, or until bread tests done. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

©2007 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen writes from her multi-generational home in NH. )