Friday, February 28, 2014

National Chocolate Soufflé Dat - Feb. 28th; Chef Bernard Carmouche

Chef Bernard Carmouche
Carmouche is the Culinary Director of Emeril's Orlando restaurants. As a high school student, he wanted a job to buy a car, and what he discovered was a career. He has been working with Lagasse since 1984. He watches for young talent in the kitchen and mentors, as he was mentored. "Mentoring is a gift not to keep, but to pass on," he told the Orlando Sentinel.

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Chocolate Soufflé Day is February 28th. I admit I've never really even toyed with the idea of making one, and my grandmothers didn't have any recipes for soufflé, chocolate or otherwise. The egg white meringue that give this dessert its lift takes time and care, and I don't always have that.

Here's another addition you can consider making to your cookbook: prep times. The cooking time, especially with baked items, is usually fairly clear but the time to prepare a dish is often overlooked. Even experienced cooks can be fooled by this, and that can mess up your dinner plans. So, if you know how long it takes to prep a recipe, be sure to include that in your recipe notes!

Available at Amazon.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

National Chili Day - Feb. 27th; Vertamae Grosvenor

Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor 
Grosvenor is a culinary anthropologist and a regular on National Public Radio. She's the author of Vibration Cooking, Vertamae Cooks in America's Family Kitchen, Vertamae Cooks Again, and Thursdays and Every Other Sunday Off (on sociology). Her work on the NPR program Horizons on the AIDS crisis in the US won her awards. In 2013, she received the Southern Foodways Lifetime Achievement Award.

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The 27th is Chili Day, and a hot bowl of chili on a cold day is a magical thing. There are chili cook-offs and debates about beans or no beans, tomatoes or not, and whether or not anyone outside of Texas can truly make "a bowl of red" may rage, but chances are good your family has a recipe for this winter favorite. It was one of the first things I learned to cook, and I don't even have a recipe for it. Browned ground beef, an onion, chili seasoning, tomato juice and a can of kidney beans, simmer for hours and serve. As an adult, with no one trying to force me to eat beans, I make it pretty much the same way (except for the beans). Is that proper Texas chili? Nope, but I'm not a Texan!

Available at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

World Pistachio Day - Feb. 26th; Chef Devin McDavid

Chef Devin McDavid
A native of Trinidad, McDavid is an acclaimed pastry chef, and was named Best New Pastry Chef by Food and Wine in 2012. When his family moved to the US when he was 12 years old, that was his first experience with race as an issue. "You work that much harder, proving to yourself that you can do this regardless of what people might think is your disadvantage or disability," he told the Chicago Tribune.

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February 26th is World Pistachio Day! And you may all be sick of it but... (I confess, I love it) dance break!

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

National Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day - Feb. 25th; Kathy Strahs

Kathy Strahs
Strahs is a food blogger (two of them: Panini Happy, and Cooking on the Side) and author of The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook. She's been featured in The New York Times and Saveur, and has judged food competitions in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. Regarding the representation of African Americans in the field of cooking, she said 
"Food blogging and social media as a whole has exploded in popularity in just the past few years. [...] I think it’s never been a better time for African Americans – or anyone, really – to make a name for themselves."
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February 25th is both Chocolate-Covered Peanuts Day, but also Clam Chowder Day. New England Clam Chowder was covered on January 21st, and call me grumpy, but I don't think chowder needs two days.

I've also covered a bit on tempering chocolate, so you're all set to grab some peanuts and start dipping! Peanut clusters are some of the easiest candies to make at home, and you're certainly not limited to using only peanuts in your candies. Add miniature marshmallows for Rocky Road, or raisins, or maybe you have a secret spice you like to add to the melted chocolate before you put the peanuts in.

Available at Amazon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

National Tortilla Chip Day - Feb. 24th; Chef Marvin Woods

Chef Marvin Woods
Woods (no relation to Sylvia, that I know of), is a New Jersey chef who learned to cook when he was young, introduced to cooking by his father. He's an author (The New Low-Country Cooking and Home Plate Cooking) and award-winning tv host, and is very involved with educating children and their parents about healthy cooking.

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February 24th is Tortilla Chip Day -- those crunchy bits of fried tortillas that are a vehicle for getting salsa (and more) to your mouth. If you're trying to avoid the fat, they can also be baked.

One of the things that aggravated me about the family cookbook was my brother promising to send recipes... and never doing it. I got them eventually, and will have them for the next cookbook, but it was frustrating. (And despite what my brothers believe, I don't enjoy nagging.) This is one of the reasons you need to give yourself plenty of time, but also give your family a firm deadline. "I need it by (this date) and no later, ok?" And be sure to follow up. A lot.

ANYway, I have a wonderful guacamole recipe from my sis-in-law to share:


2 avocados
2 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tomato, diced
1 serrano pepper, seeds and all
cilantro, to taste
lime juice, to taste
salt, to taste
Mince onions, garlic, cilantro and pepper together. Halve avocado, discard pits and scoop flesh into a ceramic or glass bowl. Add tomato and minced vegetables. Add lime and salt to taste. Mix.
Use only plastic utensils on avocados to minimize oxidation.

Available at Amazon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

National Banana Bread Day - Feb. 23rd; Chef Sylvia Woods

Chef Sylvia Woods
Woods was a restauranteur whose landmark Sylvia's still serves soul food in Harlem, now run by children and grandchildren. She ran the restaurant until she retired at 80. She wrote Sylvia's Soul Food and Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook (with Christopher Styler and Melissa Clark, respectively), and is known as the Queen of Soul Food. She died at 86; her memorial service was two hours long.

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Banana Bread Day is February 23rd. Hands-down the best use of overripe bananas, it was one of the first quick breads I ever learned to make. Here's a recipe for it that I found in my grandmother's box. There's no date and no indication of what she tore that recipe from, unfortunately. (Not every piece will lead to historical information; some clues are dead ends.)

Available at Amazon.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

National Margarita Day - Feb. 22nd; Chef Maxcel Hardy

Chef Maxcel Hardy
Hardy has cooked for some pretty VIP, including the prince of Dubai, and is the personal chef for an NBA star. He's the founder of One Chef Can 86 Hunger, a not-for-profit that raises awareness for hunger in the US. "The Foundation is also committed to bringing culinary arts to inner city communities through its culinary programs and scholarships to the next generation of young chefs." Additionally, he's created a line of chef's jackets that are updated modern chefs.

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February 22nd in Margarita Day! There's a few stories how this cocktail was invented and named, but no clear winner. It seems likely that it's been around since the 1940s, and possibly even earlier. Made with tequila, triple sec and lemon or lime juice, it's the most popular tequila-based drink in the United States. And that's all fine and good, but you know what else is good? Cookies. I just found my next must-try cookie recipe, over at Smitten Kitchen: Margarita Cookies. (Yes, there's tequila in them.)

Available at Amazon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

National Sticky Bun Day - Feb. 21st; Chef Melba Wilson

Chef Melba Wilson
Wilson is a restauranteur in New York City, where she was born and raised. She has a PhD in restaurant business and does Melba's Catering in addition to Melba's Restaurant. She was featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, where she won the challenge with her Chicken and Waffles.

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February 21st is Sticky Bun Day. "Sticky Bun" is a rather broad term for sweet rolls that are, well, sticky. Gooey and delicious, and occasionally difficult to pull apart, there's lots of variations in the kind of things you might find in one. I think you could make the argument that Monkey Bread counts: it's sticky, hard to pull apart, has lots of variations... totally counts.

I have a lot of recipe boxes. This one, not full,
just has bread/rolls in it, and I keep them in
a box with grains on it... for now.

Available at Amazon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

National Cherry Pie Day - Feb 20th; Chef Bryant Terry

Chef Bryant Terry
Terry has been called an eco-chef. He's an activist and author, having contributed to two books, and written two of his own: Vegan Soul Kitchen and Afro-Vegan (due out this April). He works toward raising awareness of food justice and sustainable foods. He's written for Food and Wine and Plenty, and has had numerous television appearances.

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Cherry Pie Day is the 20th, and it is my most favoritest pie. (Which makes my pie difficulties that much worse; I very, very rarely make pie.) I found this recipe in my grandmother's recipe box, and I might have to try it. It sounds delicious!

Available at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

National Chocolate Mint Day - Feb. 19th; Sanura Weathers

Sanura Weathers
Award-winning food blogger Weathers may not have the specialized training of some of the African Americans profiled this month, but she certainly has the passion. In addition to the blog My Life Runs On Food, she also created Kwanzaa Culinarians, a collaborative blog celebrating Kwanzaa with recipes and stories.

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February 19th is Chocolate Mint Day! During the Christmas season, I buy the little mini candy canes, and then pulverize them in small batches in my food processor. That gets put into a little shaker bottle and I can use that to add to my hot cocoa, or make a peppermint mocha that's much better than something commercially purchased (not to mention cheaper!). I keep the candy canes that are still whole in their original wrappers and in a zip-top bag in my pantry. So long as they stay dry, they will keep for a good long time. However, it's best to do that in small batches, because humidity will turn that little jar into a sticky block of mostly-fused peppermint mess.

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

National Drink Wine Day - Feb. 18th; Chef Kevin Sbraga

Chef Kevin Sbraga
New Jersey native Kevin Sbraga may be best known to some as the season 7 Top Chef winner. He's got his own restaurants, Sbraga and Fat Ham, with "menus that focus on pairing the most flavorful ingredients available with the perfect beverages." In addition to his restaurants, he also has a consulting business to help others with theirs.

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February 18th is Drink Wine Day! In 2000, when I did our first family cookbook, I was 30 years old. Certainly old enough to imbibe, but I hadn't really taken the time to develop a taste for wine. Now, even though I have, my husband has not, and I hate opening a bottle for just me. I think that probably puts our little family in the minority; a lot of Americans drink wine and enjoy it with their meals. Some of you probably have splendid suggestions for wine pairings with those meals. Why not add that do the recipe notes in your cookbook? Just one quick line, "Red Zinfandel goes really well with this Pepper Steak," would be all you needed, and it might be just the thing for someone just starting out. 

Available at Amazon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

National Café au Lait Day - Feb. 17th; Chef Tanya Holland

Chef Tanya Holland
Holland is a restauranteur and author of New Soul Cooking, and The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook due out later this year. She has classical French training, and been a contributor to many publications including Food and Wine and Travel and Leisure. Last year (2013), she received the California Travel Association's award of Restauranteur/Chef of the Year.

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February 17th is Café au Lait Day. That's every day for me, in part because I really love coffee with chicory, and you have to drink that with milk.

I have a particularly strong memory of Mom, Aunt Janice and Mamaw (and me for whatever reason) sitting at the kitchen table, with the adults talking and drinking coffee out of turquoise melamine cups. Mamaw used Milnot in her coffee. I don't know if that was a preference or a habit from necessity, but I remember the can of Milnot. 

Not all your memories have to be about the food and the cooking of it; they can also be something as simple as a moment in time.

Available at Amazon.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

National Almond Day - Feb. 16th; Chef Jeff Henderson

Chef Jeff Henderson
Henderson has not had an easy life. A former drug dealer, 10 years in prison turned his life around. He learned to cook in the prison kitchen and went on to be the first African-American executive chef at the Bellagio in Las Vegas with no formal training. His Chef Jeff Project mentors at-risk individuals. He's written several books, including his memoir, Cooked, and the inspirational If You Can See It, You Can Be It.

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February 16th is Almond Day! Because tree nut allergies are fairly common, you may have someone in your family who is allergic to nuts. There are a few ways you can customize your family cookbook to be safe for those folks.
  1. Only include recipes that are safe for those family members.
  2. Make nuts an optional ingredients, listed in the recipe notes.
  3. Separate any recipes containing nuts in a chapter by themselves.
  4. Include a special notation in the recipe heading ("Contains Nuts").
This could be done for any other allergy/sensitivity as well. When you know you have people in your family with celiac disease, for instance, include a chapter on gluten-free recipes. Suggest alternatives. Everyone should be able to enjoy the family cookbook, no matter what their dietary restrictions might be!

Available at Amazon.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

National Gumdrop Day - Feb. 15th; Chef Tiffany Derry

Chef Tiffany Derry
She got her start working at IHOP when she was only 15 and was in management by 17. Derry is a Texas native, and has appeared on Top Chef. She works as a restaurant consultant, appearing on Hungry Investors, and is a spokesperson for the Art Institute's Culinary Arts Program; she has taught in the Dallas Culinary School.

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February 15th is Gumdrop Day! Made with gelatin or fruit pectin, they are very similar to Turkish delight (which has been around since the 1700s). Honestly, looking at recipes online (there are none in my family cookbook, or in any of the recipes I have from my grandmothers), it doesn't look all that complicated, and might be a fun thing to try with kids (adults supervision required, because of boiling liquids). I found an Instructable that uses grape juice (and fruit pectin), and Bakerella makes them, too (with gelatin)!

Adding a contemporary recipe to your cookbook probably means that it hasn't had generations of taste-testing. But if you find a recipe and make it your own, with your own experimentation, why shouldn't you include it? Every recipe was new at one time!

Available at Amazon.

Friday, February 14, 2014

National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day - Feb. 14th; Chef Joe Randall

Chef Joe Randall
Randall is an Air Force veteran, and has been executive chef in a dozen restaurants. He's noted for his teaching ability and has worked in that capacity in four schools. In his over 50 years in the culinary and hospitality industry, he's seen a lot. His uncle was a caterer and restauranteur in Pittsburgh, and that's where he got his start. In 1995, he received a Lifetime Leadership Award from the Culinary Institute of America's Black Culinary Alumni for his work in advancing the contributions of African Americans in the culinary arts.

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It's Valentine's Day; naturally the foodie holiday would be something like cream-filled chocolates! There's a real art to making chocolate confections. Tempering the chocolate is a process that improves the quality and texture of the chocolate, and avoids the development of that odd greyish "bloom" that you might think means your chocolate has gone bad, but what's really happened is that cocoa fat has surfaced on the candy. You can read more about the science and how-to of tempering chocolate in an article by David Lebovitz, or more info in this Food Network piece. Eliminate the need for paraffin in your old candy recipes! Learn to temper the chocolate!

Available at Amazon.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

National Tortellini Day - Feb. 13th; Chef Delilah Winder

Chef Delilah Winder
A Philadelphia native, Winder is a restauranteur (she had 6 at one time) and author (Delilah's Everyday Soul cookbook), the Queen of Macaroni and Cheese (according to Oprah). She was raised in a time where women were expected to be housewives (a liberal arts degree was to make a gal well-rounded for husband-hunting), not pursue careers. Her focus has shifted from heavier meals to healthier ones, closed her restaurants, and works around the country conducting demonstrations on healthy cooking.

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February 13th is Tortellini Day! Have you ever wondered why there are so many different shapes of pasta? Basically, and vastly over-simplified, it's because of the sauces. Different sauces -- light, heavy, creamy, chunky -- work best with particular shapes of pasta.

Here's an interesting tidbit about tortellini, from an interview with Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy about their book The Geometry of Pasta:
"Tortellini, which I love — tiny tortelloni, they’re normally filled with mortadella and prosciutto. Their shape — reputedly at least — is based on the shape of Lucrezia Borgia’s navel," [Kenedy] says. "And when you eat them, particularly in a very light sauce... so you can really feel the pasta shape, it is slightly erotic if you think about it enough."
Growing up, I really didn't realize just how many pastas there truly were (hundreds). For us it was spaghetti, macaroni, and rotini. I'm still searching for the perfect macaroni and cheese... and I have got to ask my sister-in-law for the recipe for the mac and cheese she made for this last Christmas...  

Available at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Preservation Is Important

This well-loved, stained and torn recipe was in my paternal grandmother's recipe box. The box was crammed so full, the lid wouldn't close, and I don't think another recipe card would fit inside. I've been scanning all of the contents. Had I tried to pull out this recipe before I removed a lot of other things first, I might have damaged it even more.

Paper is fragile. Recipes get stained and wet, sometimes irreversibly damaged. By scanning old recipes, you create an important archive that can be shared with others, and make a digital copy that can be printed out and used in place of a fragile original.

See my chapter on Archiving for more information!

Available at Amazon.

National Plum Pudding Day - Feb. 12th; Chef Tre Wilcox

Chef Tre Wilcox
Wilcox was a contestant on Top Chef: Miami when he was 30, after working in fast food kitchens as a teenager, working his way up with hard work and determination. He's been nominated for the Rising Star Chef award twice. He is a private chef and gives cooking demonstrations, with experience as executive chef at Marquis Grill in Texas. When he's not in the kitchen, he's working out at the gym, dedicated to fitness and healthy living, in the kitchen and out of it.

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February 12th is Plum Pudding Day... even though it's not Christmas (and this is traditionally an English Christmas dish), and it doesn't actually contain plums, but raisins, which are sometimes called "plums"... it's odd, you can read more about it here.

Another language oddity is the use of "mango" in reference to a sweet bell pepper. It's something I heard my own grandmother use, though I'm not sure how common that usage still is. According to The Word Detective, it comes from a time when pickled mangoes (the tropical kind) were introduced to the American colonies, from the East Indies. Pickled, because they wouldn't have made the slow-boat ship to North America without rotting. Soon, other pickled items came to be known that way, and a cookbook in 1699 referred to "a mango of cucumbers." "Mango" was even used as a verb (in place of "to pickle") in the 18th century.

If you come across any unusual word usages like that when you're compiling recipes, be sure to include modern translations for future generations! (And if you're insatiably curious, you can try to find the origin of the usage online, like I did for mango!)

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

National Peppermint Patty Day - Feb. 11th; Chef B. Smith

Chef B. Smith
Smith was a model before she became a chef, and was the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle (1976). She has three restaurants, has acted on stage, made television appearances and hosted B. Smith with Style, and written three cookbooks, the most recent B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style.

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February 11th is Peppermint Patty Day! I don't have a recipe for these, but I can share a recipe that could probably be chocolate-coated (I'll have to try it).

Party Mints
8 oz. cream cheese
2 lbs. powdered sugar
Flavoring, to taste
Food color to suit the occasion
Granulated sugar
Directions: Mix cheese and powdered sugar. Add flavoring and color as desired. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into a ball. Roll ball in granulated sugar. Press in molds. Let mints dry on wax paper. Makes 200 molded mints.
For a small batch: 2 oz. cream cheese, 1 3/4 C. powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp. mint flavoring, food color as desired. Makes about 50 mints.
Notes: “For a mint flavor, buy ‘mint’ flavoring – use this sparingly. These freeze and keep well. Molds can be purchased at stores selling cake decorations. Buy ‘mint’ flavoring at the grocery store.” 

These were made for a family member's wedding, done in the wedding colors, and are addictively delicious.

Available at Amazon.

Monday, February 10, 2014

National Cream Cheese Brownie Day - Feb. 10th; Chef Morou Ouattara

Chef Morou Ouattara
Chef Morou (as he prefers, over his surname) was born and raised on the Côte d'Ivoire in West Africa. His cooking style is a combination of French, Middle Eastern and African. He appeared on Iron Chef America and Meet the Next Iron Chef. His restaurant, FarrahOlivia in Virginia, is described as "modern tribal." When it closed, he and his brother opened Kora which serves Italian food, but four nights a week FarrahOlivia lives on in the Kora private dining room. He developed his own line of spices, based on how he cooks in his restaurant, called UNIKeats.

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Cream Cheese Brownies, now there's something to celebrate on February 10th! Delicious, marble-y brownies... and now I am more than a little sad that I don't have a family recipe for them, because I'm pretty sure I need some.

When you're asking family members for recipes, don't forget to ask the kids. They may not be cooking yet, but they may have special things that they love (maybe their mom's brownies) so be sure to get that recipe and include it. You might even note with the recipe, "These are JR's favorite!"

Available at Amazon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

National Bagels & Lox Day - Feb. 9th; Chef Sunny Anderson

Chef Sunny Anderson
Anderson was born in New Orleans, but her military family took her all over the world. She was in the Air Force and hosted a radio program in South Korea, then for the Air Force News Agency in Texas, before she ended her military career. She continued to work in radio until starting her own catering company in New Jersey, before making her first appearance on the Food Network, and currently hosts Home Made in America with Sunny Anderson. She's the author of the cookbook Sunny's Kitchen.

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February 9th is Bagels and Lox Day! This is a Jewish-American dish, at one time something you could get only in NYC delis, but once the railroad started moving west, so did the cured salmon.

Cultural traditions are definitely something you want to include in your cookbook. Don't assume that because you know why the family does something, that future generations will also know. Time can fade and obscure memories. Plus, a lot of people are part of blended families, and it's even more important to note those traditions so that someone new to the family can learn about them, too.

Available at Amazon.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

National Molasses Bar Day - Feb. 8th; Chef Herb Wilson

Chef Herb Wilson
Wilson was a competitor on Top Chef: Masters, was the executive chef at Sushi Samba in Las Vegas and will be the head of Sumo Maya (opening in 2014) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Originally from New York City, he worked in prestigious French restaurants abroad before returning to his native turf, eventually opening Bambou, an upscale restaurant (now closed) that paid homage to his Jamaican heritage.

*  *  *

February 8th is Molasses Bar Day. Molasses has a pretty distinct flavor, and is derived from sugar cane. In my experience, it seems to be more of a Southern thing to eat. (Molasses on fresh buttermilk biscuits... grits with butter and molassess... yum!) However, my mother recalls a cookie that her maternal grandmother (who was not Southern) made with molasses. Unfortunately, we don't have that recipe, at least not that we're sure of. Her parents had a house fire when I was young. My grandmother lost a lot of things, and may have lost recipes from her mother. (By the time I did our family cookbook, all my grandparents had passed, so there's gaps in my family history, culinary and otherwise.)

Don't be afraid to experiment with recipes you find that remind you of things your grandma (or great-grandma, or a great aunt, or..?) made. If you find one that tastes like you remember, add it to the cookbook and note that you don't know if it's the same one, but that it tastes like the one you recall. Get a second opinion if you can; does a sibling or a cousin recall it?

I did find this recipe for Molasses Drop Cookies in Grandma's file. We don't know how old the recipe is or where it came from. The card it's written on isn't very old, but it wouldn't be, since she lost a lot of her kitchen in the fire.

I know I urge this a lot, but I really do want to encourage you to talk to your older family members, get your history while you can, gather those old recipes and traditions. Please don't make the mistakes I did.

Friday, February 7, 2014

National Fettuccine Alfredo Day - Feb. 7th; Chef Carla Hall

Chef Carla Hall
Carla Hall co-hosts The Chew (a foodie talk show), was a competitor on Top Chef, and is the owner of the artisan cookie company Alchemy by Carla Hall. She's a Tennessee native, and her cooking combines classic French training with her southern roots. She has a CPA and worked as a model in Europe before switching to cooking.

*  *  *

February 7th is Fettuccine Alfredo Day! It is somewhat notorious for being an unhealthy dish, with the sauce made of butter, cream and melted Parmesan. People have become much more health-conscious than previous generations, so when you come across some recipes that call for rich and fatty ingredients, why not note alternatives that you have learned, or that are suggested by your submitters?

For cases like those, have the original recipe listed as-is, then as recipe notes, list the substitutions or techniques that may help make the dish a little healthier. In some recipes, for instance, applesauce can be substituted for some or all of the oil/fat if done properly. For fettuccine alfredo, using 2% milk instead of cream will take out some of the fat. I would caution you to do this only if you (or your submitter) has tried it and know that it works well. De-fatting the alfredo sauce is only worth it if the finished product tastes good!

Available at Amazon.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February is Cherry Month; Chef Ron Duprat

Chef Ron Duprat
Duprat is a restauranteur, cookbook author and humanitarian. He was born in Haiti, and cooks with a French-Asian fusion flair. You may know him from his appearance on Top Chef. His humanitarian causes include Haiti disaster relief, ending childhood obesity and the Black Culinary Alliance. His cookbook is My Journey of Cooking.

*  *  *

Celebrate February with cherries! (Because of the story of Washington chopping down a cherry tree?) However it came to be, cherries are a delicious and healthy fruit, rich in antioxidants. They probably become a bit less healthy once you put them in desserts. (But we'll pretend we don't know that.)

One of the recipes that was in my paternal grandmother's recipe box was for "Dump Cake." I've recently seen ads for a dump cake cookbook, and had to laugh at this "new" way of making cake because Mabel's recipe for it is an old one. Because this recipe has been around for such a long time, it's one of the ones you make get more than one of when you call out for recipes. One way to make sure everyone is acknowledged for their contributions is to include a contributor's index. For instance, if you have a contributor's index, and you get 3 recipes that are all the same (or maybe have slight variations), your index could read:
Dump Cake: Johnson, Nancy; Smith, Mary; Smith, John -- 32
And then with the recipe itself, if there's a variation to the ingredients, add it as a recipe note with whose variation it is.

Dump Cake
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1 box yellow cake mix
1 C. melted butter or margarine
1 C. flaked coconut
1 C. chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread pie filling evenly in the bottom of a greased 9x13" pan. Arrange the pineapple chunks over the cherries. Sprinkle with the cake mix. Pour melted butter over the cake mix, and top with coconut and nuts. Bake for 1 hour or until done.
Notes: John Smith's version of this recipe uses pecans instead of walnuts.

From my dad's mom's box. Note the use of "oleo." How many young people today would know what that is?
Be sure to include a "translation" for younger generations.

Available at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

World Nutella Day - February 5th; Chef Edna Lewis

Chef Edna Lewis
Lewis was the granddaughter of an emancipated slave, and grew up in Freetown, Virginia. She was a politically active woman, an accomplished seamstress, and gifted chef who received a number of awards and honors in her lifetime and beyond. (She was an African American Trailblazers in Virginia honoree in 2009, after her death in 2006.) She had several cookbooks published, including The Edna Lewis Cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, and In Pursuit of Flavor.

* * *

February 5th is World Nutella Day! "Nutella is more than just a 'chocolaty hazelnut spread,' it is a way of life." 

When you're compiling your cookbook, recipes that have name-brand ingredients should be changed, unless the ingredient is specific and unique to the recipe. If the recipe calls for spraying a pan with Pam®, you should write is as "cooking spray." If a recipe is for Coke Ham, and you're me, it needs to stay Coca-Cola® because Coke's flavor is specific and unique. Recipes that call for Nutella® used to be specific and unique, but now more manufacturers are making chocolate hazelnut spread. However, some cooks think their recipe is best with specific ingredients, so you should note with those recipes, for example: "Nutella hazelnut spread (no substitutions)."

Why should you do this? My intellectual property attorney (who's also my hubby) has this to say: If you're going to use a trademarked item in your recipe, you should also include the generic appellation "Pam cooking spray" instead of just "Pam," or "Nutella hazelnut spread" instead of just "Nutella." As he puts it, the manufacturers of these goods don't want you not to use and name their products, they just don't want you to use them improperly.

Available at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

National Homemade Soup Day - February 4th; Chefs Gina & Pat Neely

Gina & Pat Neely
You may know these celebrity chefs from the Food Network, but they are also the owners of Neely's Barbecue Parlor in Manhattan. (Their Tennessee locations seem to have been closed permanently/indefinitely.) They have authored the cookbooks Down Home with the Neelys, The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook, and Back Home with the Neelys. The Neelys have also partnered with Kraft Foods in their Huddle to Fight Hunger campaign.

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Today is Homemade Soup Day, and for those of us living in the frozen north, it sure hits the spot! Here's my recipe for Carrot Soup:

Creamy Carrot Soup with Almonds

2 1/2 C. sliced carrots

2 C. chicken broth
1/2 C. sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. butter
2 C. skim milk
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Directions: Steam carrots until tender. Puree carrots in a blender or food processor with 1 C. broth and the almond slices. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add flour, stirring until bubbly. Add the milk, sugar, and ginger. Cook until thickened and bubbling, stirring constantly. Put carrot puree in the pot with the remaining broth. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add additional milk for consistency you like. Season additional ginger to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls, and garnish with almond slices.

Comments: “This soup is really delicately flavored. As an accompaniment to a meal, it’s delicious. As the main course, it’s a little bland. This is similar to a soup we had at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.”

Available at Amazon.

Monday, February 3, 2014

National Carrot Cake Day - February 3rd; Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Chef Marcus Samuelsson
Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, where his maternal grandmother taught him to cook. He has opened several restaurants, including Red Rooster Harlem, which hosted a fundraising dinner for the Democratic National Convention in 2011. He's written the cookbooks Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine, The Soul of a New Cuisine, and New American Table, as well as the memoir Yes, Chef. He and his wife are also the founders of the Three Goats Organization, a non-profit dedicated to providing sustainable resources to families in Ethiopia.

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February 3rd is National Carrot Cake Day, and I make the argument that cake containing vegetables doesn't count as dessert; it's clearly health food. Not to mention the workout you get grating all those carrots!

When we were newly married in our tiny apartment, I made a carrot cake for us. I love the stuff, but a 9x13" cake for just the two of us was kind of a lot. It's been 22 years since I made that cake, and I've never made another one. (It's probably time, don't you think?) If I had known I could freeze it, I probably would have done so. When you're compiling your cookbook, be sure to include any tips you're given, like "this freezes well," in the recipe notes.

Available at Amazon.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Crêpe Day - February 2nd; Chef Angela Medearis

Continuing my spotlight on African American chefs with

Chef Angela Medearis
Angela Shelf Medearis, "the kitchen diva," is a determined cook and author, with numerous children's books and several cookbooks under her belt, including The Kitchen Diva Cooks!, The Ethnic Vegetarian, The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook, The African-American Kitchen, and The New African-American Kitchen. But her own words tell the best story:
"There is no race with food, if someone cooks something for you, you feel loved.  I have just passionately fallen in love with all things culinary.  I'm so glad I get an opportunity to introduce others to African and African American cuisine." (quoted from a PBS interview)
She also has a television program, The Kitchen Diva!, and a radio program.

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February 2nd is a hugely important day for me. Not because I am wildly fond of groundhogs, but because it's the day I met my husband. In fact, this year marks the silver anniversary of the day we met (and I told my roommate, who was his lab partner, "That's the man I'm gonna marry").

However, my sentimental attachment to the day has nothing to do with odd foodie holidays. For that, I give you Crêpe Day! Or if you're in France, la Chandeleur.

Available at Amazon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

National Baked Alaska Day - February 1st; Chef G. Garvin

Every day this month, I'm going to offer a brief biography of different chefs, and their books, restaurants, and relevant links. As pointed out by an article in the Chicago Tribune (March, 2012), African American chefs are underrepresented. I hope I can introduce you to someone new this month, maybe several someones. I'll continue with the fun foodie holidays, too, but I feel it's important to acknowledge these often-overlooked men and women.
Chef G. Garvin
Gerry (or simply "G.") Garvin is the author of Dining In, Make It Super Simple and Turn Up the Heat. He's hosted the tv shows Turn Up the Heat and Road Trip. He is also the founder of the One Bite at a Time Foundation. Garvin is a Georgia native, starting out his career in Atlanta, but also made a name for himself in California before opening his own restaurant, LowCountry, in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, with another location in West LA in development.

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Today is Baked Alaska Day, and also Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day! Kill two birds with one stone, and have Baked Alaska (which has ice cream in it) for breakfast. Hey, January's over, and most of us have ditched the resolutions to eat better anyway, right?

Available at Amazon.