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An Apple A Day


By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

It’s difficult for me to believe that this is the 2nd day of October.  You know, that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the sun slants in a direction that changes the way things look, the leaves start changing colors, and the temperatures are cooler.  Wait, did I just say the temperatures are cooler?  Somebody needs to let Mother Nature in on that secret, because here in the south, we are still not feeling much cooler.

A sure sign that fall was right around the corner when our kids were in grade school was when the jonathon apples hit the stores. A friend of mine and I would keep a watchful eye out, and when we spotted them, we would call each other with the news, and off we would go to buy a bag of those yummy, tart little apples.  I still love them, but it seems like now we have more apples to pick from and that makes the process really difficult.  I was at the store the other day and there were apples all over the place.

snoboyI remember growing up in Moorhead how difficult it was to get good produce, especially fruit, in the winter.  Around
Christmas time, my dad would buy 2 wooden boxes of Snoboy apples.  One of the boxes would go into our basement for us to eat and cook with during the winter.  We would take the other box and deliver it to the orphanage in Fargo so the kids that lived there could enjoy some fresh fruit, too.  Of course, dad used it as an opportunity to explain to me just how fortunate I was to have parents, a warm home, and plenty of good food to eat.  A lesson not lost on this kid.  I came across the end of one of those wooden boxes, complete with the snow man logo, a few years ago in an antique store, and I just had to buy it because it reminded me of my dad and to be kind and generous to others.

And, speaking of plenty of food, I picked up a cookbook (surprised?) a couple of weeks ago, “Cooking from The Cupboard: Meals in Minutes from Your Pantry” by Jeanne Jones.  Published by Rodale Inc. in 2004, this nifty cookbook not only has some great recipes on its 338 pages, but also is filled with some pretty good ideas of what a well-stocked pantry should contain, thus helping to eliminate a lot of unnecessary trips to the grocery store when preparing meals.  There is also a list of refrigerator basics, along with menu ideas and lots of other good information.

Some of the recipes combine ingredients together that I don’t believe I’ve seen before, such as a can of condensed green pea
soup with a can of chicken stock and sherry extract.  Here’s another one: frozen chopped onions, curry powder, chicken broth, peanut butter, and evaporated milk; or a sweet potato dip that’s made from sweet potatoes (duh!), marjoram,cooking nutmeg, pepper, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil.  I don’t know that I would jump on that one.  There is one for Cherry Clafouti, an easy and inexpensive peasant dessert from France that is made from evaporated milk, flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, frozen pitted Bing cherries and vanilla ice cream that sounds absolutely delicious.  Her recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole sounds good, but I might have to avoid even thinking about making the Tuna Tamale Pie.  Something is just not right-sounding about that one.

But, back to apples.  Here’s a couple of great ideas for those tart, fall apples that I like to do.  If you like sauerkraut and brats, try draining and rinsing a can of sauerkraut in water, and then add a couple of grated apples and a tablespoon or so of sugar (depending on your taste) to it.  Put in a casserole, top with some brats, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350°, or until nice and bubbly and hot.  Or, using your favorite pancake recipe, grate a couple of apples and mix into the batter.  If you like, you can a sprinkle of cinnamon, and then bake on a griddle as usual.

We had a couple of apple trees in our yard when I was little, and my mom would make apple butter from time to time using the apples.  That was some mighty good eating when spread on a piece of warm buttered toast.  This cookbook has a recipe for apple butter that calls for dried apples, but don’t hesitate to use fresh if you would like.  In a large saucepan, mix 2 cups of dried apple slices, 2 cups unsweetened apple juice, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Cool to room temperature and spoon into a container with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator.  This recipe will make 2 cups of some mighty good eating – and what could be more easy?  Maybe Mother Nature hasn’t hit the chill button yet because the best apples haven’t soaked up enough sunshine!

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Day Two of Our Stay At Home Order

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By Gini Rainey

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m so glad I have nearly five hundred cookbooks in my arsenal, although most of them won’t do me any good a time like this, which is why I’m so glad that I picked up this little cookbook about a month ago. Yes, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars might just make a difference in my life (or not) when our food supplies begin to run out.  Fortunately, our household has plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, and food (if you think I’m going to tell you my address – think again), but should we run short, it’s good to know that, not only do I have about a week’s supply of ramen to fall back on, but also a cookbook with some fairly awful recipes and in-mates stories to fall back on. 

Written by Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Star Trek, and West World, among others) and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez (inmate extraordinaire) and printed in 2015 by Workman Publishing, this off-beat cookbook attempts to elevate the lowly ramen noodle to a higher level.  I never knew there were so many ways to “cook” ramen, although a lot of times, the recipes mostly call for just soaking in tepid tap water, depending on the availability of water temperature in the chef’s cell. 

Not the least bit tongue-in-cheek, the recipes, along with accompanying stories that have been included, are contributed by various inmates (past and present) of jails/prisons in the California penal system and show a lot of creative imagination on the part of the inmates.  Using whatever commissary items available, they have been able to create everything from a PB&J and a ramen tamale to Hit Man Burritos and Trejo’s Machete Ramen.  You remember Danny Trejo, don’t you? Before he became known for playing the anti-hero in dozens of movies and TV series, he was a drug counselor. Seems he also served a little bit of time. 

Trejo isn’t the only “celebrity” who contributed. Tarryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Shia Labeouf (Man Down), David Anthony Fausino (Married…with Children), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), and Slash (Guns and Roses) also shared their recipes and stories in this book. 

I can hear all of you now, shouting at your screen “But, what about a recipe?” Let me tell you, right now, we should all be thankful that we aren’t really incarcerated and hopefully these mandated, life-saving orders aren’t life sentences, because I’m pretty sure we really won’t need to fall back on any desperate measures for food. However, if you insist, one of the least stomach challenging recipes is for “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup,” which is pretty much your basic ramen.  If you should choose to be a bit more adventuresome, you could always up your game and make “Frankie’s Soup in the Hole,” which adds one chopped Slim Jim to “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup.” 

So, let me leave you this thought: we’re all in this together and we will survive.  Be thankful for your family, be thankful for the health care professionals and be thankful you live in America. Stay healthy and happy and appreciate the smaller things in life, like sun shining, birds singing and life living. 

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Give the Girl a Sammich!


By Gini Rainey

Right now, considering all that is going on in our world, the KISS method would seem to be the best way to go with everything.  You know, Keep It Simple Silly!  I bought some new and weird cookbooks recently on ebay and I thought this might be a good time to share one of them with any of you out there that might still check periodically to see if I’m still around. Which, by the way, is probably an excellent thing for all of us to be doing right now. Give a call to some of the folks (or all of the folks) in your life who are important to you today. Our lives have all change dramatically in the past few weeks and it’s never too late to let people you love know you care. 

I was chatting with my sister a little bit ago and I reminded her of the time that I had the Asian Flu.  I checked with Google earlier to determine when that pandemic made its way around and discovered it was in 1957 – when I was nine years old. I was sick with it around Halloween time and what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to a kid when they’re nine and sick around Halloween?  Right! They can’t go Trick or Treating! My sister, who is eight years older than I and was in high school, offered to take a grocery sack around the neighborhood to collect candy for her poor little sister who was stuck at home, bedded down on the couch, with a raging fever. 

My dad, whose creativity knew no bounds, drug a six-foot ladder up out of the basement and dressed it in his overcoat.  He put our jack o lantern on the very top of the ladder, ran a string through the sleeve of the coat, and over to me on the couch.  When the doorbell rang, some poor unsuspecting, candy-hungry kid was greeted by the door slowly being opened by a ghoulish giant of a pumpkin-headed man swinging his arm maniacally at them. 

I’m sure mom made sandwiches that evening, just to keep things simple. (nice segue, huh!?!) It’s too bad she didn’t have had a copy of Scanwiches in her cookbook arsenal. This book, written by Jon Chonda and published by PowerHouse Books in 2011, is definitely one of a kind. It features amazing cross-section scans of sandwiches, along with the ingredients, place of origin, and bits of trivia. The range of sandwiches go from the super simple and humble grilled cheese sandwich all the way to a seven-layer Dagwood. From the strictly home-grown Elvis favorite of peanut butter and banana to the French Pan Bagnat and the Chinese Rou Jia Mo.  We’ve all eaten sandwiches, but the beautifully high definition scanned cross section photos of the sandwiches included in this book puts a whole new spin on the humble sandwich. Speaking of dinner, just looking through this book will give you a king-sized hunger for something yummy to eat! 

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