Playing It Safe


merry merchants

By Gini Rainey

For a fairly decent cook, last week’s Easter prep was pretty frustrating for me.  My only job for dinner at our daughter’s was to bring the desserts.  I’m good at baking stuff and usually don’t have any problems, but I pretty much had a batting average of .011 this time.   I wanted to make Mama Jewell’s Pound Cake (usually a piece of cake) and serve it with strawberries and whipped cream, Challah bread (I came across a recipe on-line for lazy Challah), and vegan cake pops for the littles.

Well, to make a long story short, the cake wouldn’t let go of the pan, the Challah bread didn’t taste right, and the cake pops, although they looked and tasted great and the kids loved them, didn’t want to stay on the sticks.  Other than that, the prep was fun and I enjoyed the time being in my kitchen instead of behind a desk.

So, I must confess, that being the cookbook junkie that I am, I bought some more cookbooks a couple of weeks ago on EBay.  One of them, The Little Big Book of Comfort Food, is just so darn cute and handy.  Written by Katrina Fried, Natasha Fried, and Lena Tabori and published by Welcome Books in 2006, this 342 page book has 200 of “the best home recipes.”  But, what I absolutely love about the book is all of the color, vintage illustrations that fill nearly every other page.  Additionally, the previous owner had flagged many of the pages with sticky notes that I’m sure contain recipes that she/he had tried and perhaps enjoyed.  That always lends a bit of niceness to this kind of purchase.

Also,  scattered throughout the book are quotes that are relative to the recipes such as the Polish proverb “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times –in water; in butter; and in wine,” “Food is the most primitive form of comfort “ – Sheila Graham, and  “Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast” – William Shakespeare.  But, I’m telling you, leafing through this book right now, the illustrations are so captivating, you might even forget it’s a cookbook!  My one complaint about the book is how small and light colored some of the print is.  It’s a real challenge to read the recipes on some of the pages.

They have included a recipe for scalloped potatoes that sounds so good and a lot like the one my mom would use.  Hers always turned out great – mine? Not so!  If you’re up for a casserole of home-made scalloped potatoes, here’s what you need to do.  First preheat your oven to 325° and grease a shallow 9×9 inch pan with butter.  Layer 2 pounds of very thinly sliced, starchy potatoes and 2 thinly sliced onions in the baking dish along with 2 minced garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour 1 ½ cups of half and half over the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes.  Drizzle ½ cup heavy cream over the top and continue to bake for another 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve and enjoy.  Me?  I’m playing it safe tonight!  I’m whipping up a box of Betty Crocker’s Scalloped Potatoes – they haven’t failed me yet — and after last week, well…

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