How to Use this Blog

This blog is designed to be used like a cookbook. I've put tags on each recipe so you can go to the section on that topic just by clicking on the word in the cloud or the list. Some recipes are under more than one category to help you find what you're looking for.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baked Egg Custard

When we were first married we had a neighbor across the alley we called Oma.  That's the German word for Grandmother; that's what her grandchildren called her and, in fact, what I called my own German grandmother.  She was in her eighties when we knew her and was one of those phenemenonal women you read about in books.  Or, in this case, blogs.

One afternoon soon after we moved in, I looked out the kitchen window to see her standing on top of her house sweeping leaves off her roof.  Not only was she fearless, she was crafty.  She appeared one day and with an innocent look on her face asked Beaven to show her how to change the oil in her car.  Naturally, Beaven did it for her.  And every oil change afterwards she would just show up with the cans of oil and her carkeys.  This evolved into lighting her furnace for her first thing every winter. I painted her bedroom for her.  When we sold the house the new owners of the house called us in early November to ask Beaven how to light Oma's furnace.

In exchange she would make Beaven a custard.  And taught me how to garden by the seasons. 

To start with you have to get your potatoes and onions in the ground by Valentines Day.  So you might have time now if you hurry.  Around Halloween you could give up on the spindly plants.  Oma would pull them up and throw them into the compost pile.  Except for the tomatoes.  They were her personal challenge and she tried her darndest to keep the tomatoes going until Christmas.  And one year she had a few Cherry Tomatoes on Christmas Day. Of course, that depends on whether you have a freeze or not. Come the following spring she would sometimes get tomato plants that came up from the seeds of the previous year.  She would call these "volunteers" and was very proud of them.

She had a smallish garden in her yard what wasn't more than about 6X10 feet.  In it she had squash, onions, okra, peppers, potatoes, green beans and tomatoes. Her garden practically gave her all the vegetables she needed. The soil where we lived in Southwest Oak Cliff was perfect for gardens and most people in our neighborhood had a garden. Following Oma's lead I put in a garden but put in far more tomatoes than I needed.  I harvested so many tomatoes I couldn't give them away.  Big, blemish-free, brightly colored, perfect tomatoes.  And far more than we could eat.  I would take a huge grocery sack to the neighbor across the street, ring the doorbell and run away. I even made ketchup once.  And, let me tell you, tasty though it was, it was just too damned much trouble.

Oma taught me to not be afraid of cooking.  She would add a bit of sugar to most vegetables she cooked because she said it made it taste fresher.  Even the stuff she brought in straight from the garden. She also taught me to not be afraid of motherhood, too.  She babysat for me sometimes so I could run a quick errand.  I forgot to leave diapers and came home to find she had changed Elizabeth into a kitchen towel when there wasn't a diaper.  She used to sew for a living and I've never before or since seen anyone run a sewing machine as fast as she did. 

Here's her Egg Custard recipe. It's Beaven's favorite.  If you invite him over for dinner you could serve this and he just might change the oil in your car for you.

Baked Egg Custard

3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
a little freshly ground nutmeg

beat until well combined but not foamy.  Pour into six 6-ounce ramekins.  Here's the important part:  Put the ramekins into a 9X13 inch glass pan.  Fill the pan with water about an inch deep.  This will temper the heat so the custard doesn't burn or get tough.  Or you can use a 3 1/2 cup souffle dish.

cook ramekins at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes
or 50-60 minutes if you're making one souffle dish
It's ready when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Granny's No Sh*t Hot Chocolate

I'm a purist on my hot chocolate.  Those mixes all have dry powdered stuff which I am inclined to doubt is really milk or even chocolate. There is no doubt that the recipe I'm about to give you is hot chocolate.

Get a mug and fill it with milk.  Add some cream or half & half if you have it to make it even richer. For God's sake please don't use any of that 1% stuff.  Pour the milk in a pan and add a couple of squares of dark chocolate.  If you don't have a bar of chocolate handy you can use chocolate chips.  Heat this stirring with a wire whisk until the chocolate is melted.  The chocolate doesn't dispurse easily and you might even need an electric mixer.  Otherwise the chocolate will stay in tiny clumps.  Add a dash of vanilla.  Pour it all back into the mug.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Potato Soup

We've had two days of ice and temperatures in the teens.  Tomorrow will be the third day school has been closed.  Everybody I know is making soups and chili.  Time to share a few recipes and stories.

My brother used to make potato and broccoli soup every Sunday while he watched the Cowboy game.  It was one of those recipes you just learned by watching.  Not sure I could share it here unless you promise not to be mad if my measurements aren't precise.

Dice a couple of onions in a little olive oil or butter. Add some chicken broth.  Then dice two or three or four potatoes and cook them.  Add some cheese if you want.  If I'm feeling ambitious I like to take out about half of the potatoes and run them through a blender and put back into the pot to give the soup body.  Finally add some broccoli. Season throughout the process as you go along. Sometimes I add sour cream to give an extra zest. 

Doss would put the pot on and keep it cooking during the whole game.  Most people remember my brother as someone who just drank a lot of beer and the occasional jar of moonshine.  But I remember him for this soup.


We Texans are particular about our Chili.  For one thing, we capitalize it when we write it.  When my grandfather died and they opened his safe deposit box all they found in it was his Chili recipe.

We have one grand stipulation that you have to promise if you are to be entrusted with a Chili recipe:  our Chili does not contain beans.  Not a single one.  Am I clear?  Can you take the no-bean pledge before we proceed?

Granddaddy had a special little shack out in the back where he would go cook his chili.  I don't know of anything else he used this building for except Chili.  It never was clear whether the recipe was such a top secret that he had to cook it in seclusion or if Grandmother just didn't want the mess inside the house.

I was never entrusted with Granddaddy's recipe for Chili.  Maybe it had something to do with me being a girl.  Or maybe it was because people spend entire lifetimes making a Chili recipe seem exotic and if you ever saw how simple it is you might be disappointed. After a lifetime of searching for just a simple straightforward Chili recipe I found it at the church Chili cookoff.

When I asked Pat Tripp for his prize-winning recipe he was suspicious.  Assured that I wouldn't make fun of it or compete against him in a future contest he finally gave it to me. It is gloriously simple and has only one ingredient you could call exotic: cilantro.  And if you find cilantro a challenge then there's just no hope for you.

Pat Tripp's Chili
(actually his father's who may or may not have kept this in a safe deposit box)

3 lbs meat  (2 lbs ground meat and 1 of pork sausage)
1 large onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
brown the above

2 oz Chili powder
1 teaspoon each:  cumin, black pepper, red pepper, salt
3  6 oz cans tomato paste
9   6 oz cans of water
1 bunch cilantro

bring to a boil and simmer two hours

eliminate the red pepper for children or yankees