Friday, April 10, 2015

Shhhhhhhh.................

If you don't tell anyone that these are gluten free, they will never know.

I am not going to ramble on and on about these decadent gluten free recipes, other than to say that these are just a very few of the recipes that can withstand the addition of gluten free flour without the texture being altered. Classically called Florentines, these cookies have been around for a few centuries, but not from Italy. Go ahead and see if you can buy one in any Italian pastry shop. Now if you take a jaunt over to France, you will find them quite easily.

They are also classically styled as dainty and sticky. Enjoy these simple Lace(Florentines) cookies without any added filling. Drizzle each peanut butter cookie with chocolate as traditionally sold and marketed.


Gluten-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Lace Cookies

 
Although rolled oats are naturally gluten free, they are sometimes transported in tankers that have carried a wheat product previously, so it is best advised to actively seek out gluten-free oats. These cookies are absolutely no different than if you had made them with all-purpose flour. So for those of you who have had issues with texture and gluten-free recipes, you will be extremely happy with these treats, as well as the following two.

I must add, however, it is vitally important that you read every label with regards to gluten content. Even though these ingredients are gluten free, read the label first to ensure a satisfying, and relaxed, dining experience.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour *
3/4 cup milk, divided
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1(11.5-ounce)bag chocolate chips

Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small bowl, add peanut butter and oil. Cover with film wrap and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth; set aside, covered. In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in peanut butter mixture, milk, melted butter and vanilla until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan. Meanwhile, melt chocolate by adding chips and oil to a small bowl and microwaving on high for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir until smooth.




Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so melted chocolate onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

* There are many other gluten-free flours that work equally as well, such as chickpea, amaranth, barley, arrowroot, corn, millet, oat, potato, soya and tapioca flours to name a few.

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

 

Gluten-free Tropical Lace Cookies

 
Filled with simple, mashed mango, these coconut-flavored cookies will leave you wanting more and more. There is just no need to add anything else to the pure sweetness of mangoes and all this in a gluten-free sandwich of crispness.

I must add, however, it is vitally important that you read every label with regards to gluten content. Even though these ingredients are gluten free, read the label first to ensure a satisfying, and relaxed, dining experience.

 

1(12-ounce)bag frozen mango slices, thawed
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour
2/3 cup milk
1 stick(1/2-cup) butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

 

Mash mangoes with a fork or in a blender or food processor; set aside. Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, coconut, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in milk, melted butter and extract until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan.

Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so mashed mango onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

 

Gluten-free Peach Melba Lace Cookies

 
Boy oh boy!!!! When you make a crunchy sandwich out of peaches and raspberries, you will be ready to make them again the next day. You will adore not only the healthy aspect of these simply made "Florentines", but the perfect blend of flavors. As mentioned in the first recipe, you can substitute all-purpose flour with zero distinction between the two. Chalk this one up for a remake!

1(12-ounce)bag frozen peach slices, thawed
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup(1 1/2 sticks)butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry all-fruit

 

In a bowl, mash peaches or use a blender or processor; set aside. Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan. Meanwhile, melt chocolate by adding chips and oil to a small bowl and microwaving on high for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir until smooth.

Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so mashed peaches onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

In a small bowl, add the raspberry all-fruit. Cover with film wrap and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth. Drizzle over each cookie.

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wait For It...Wait For It...Wait For It!!!


http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp
Our friends at http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp

This anticipatory mantra can be heard, and verbalized, throughout Yankee-land only once a year, and that is during "sugarin' time".


With maple syrup making now in full swing here in New England, and the fact that I have never touched on this syrup making even though I am The Yankee Chef, I feel obliged to explain the history, process and the ultimate result in this long, drawn-out endeavor. I am sure many of you know why maple syrup is more expensive than the cheap, fake sugar-based liquid called maple syrup in supermarkets, but one taste and you will be a convert for life.

The sugar(aka rock) maple tree produces that slightly sweet sap that is pain-stakingly transformed into maple syrup for only about 5-6 weeks of the year. Usually by late February, early March, sugarmakers are out in the sugarbush(a group of sugar maples)setting up their buckets or tubing. How do sugarmakers know when the proper time is? This is a knack that us New Englander's have ingrained in our soul, believe it or not. Because there really is no set time, the sugarmaker needs to be rely on instinct, the ice flow in the rivers and streams, the cries of the crows and the time of year when the nights are still below freezing but the days are much warmer. When "sugar weather" is upon them, then they are upon the trees with their spiles.



Going from tree to tree, drilling holes in trees that are at least 40 years old and have a diameter of at least 10 inches and driving the metal spouts(spiles) into the trees if they are using buckets for gathering. These buckets that hang from the spiles slowly start filling up, and I mean slowly. If a sugarmaker is using tubing, hard plastic spouts are used that are all connected to the main hose for the sap to flow in one central location.

One good-sized, healthy tree can be tapped for over 100 years, but never in the same hole. They can even have 3 or 4 taps in the same tree, in the same year, in order to increase output. Unhealthy trees, or ones that have been plagued by insects are rarely, if ever, tapped. Why? Because of the honor and respect a New Englander has for these gorgeous trees that give so much to us Yankees.

Getting only about 10 gallons of sap per hole, the end result will only be about a quart, depending on the length of the season, weather conditions and overall tree health. And speaking of the length of the season, this too, is hard to explain. Many times, the weather thwarts any attempt of even workloads and constant boiling. One week, a sugarmaker may have sap running for 3 days straight and then all of the sudden 3 days of nothing. It is during this time of sap running that the sugarmaker is up almost nonstop boiling and bottling. When sap ceases its flow because of the uncontrollable weather conditions, this is the time when the sugarmaker will catch up on some sleep and clean his equipment for another run.

Much like the Southern moonshiner of old(and 'new' according to television shows now airing), the first run of this clear sap is ready for the "distilling".  The image to the right is from a 1623 maple harvest.

When the maple sap is initially obtained from the tree, the hydrometer gives the sugar content ranges as 1-4 percent, which is very low. The rest of the sap is simply water, which must be evaporated as soon as possible because, as in most fresh products, sap is also best when fresh.

Like in the olden days, many sugarmakers use the bucket method, going out from tree to tree, again, and emptying these sap buckets in one large gathering tank that is atop a sled or wagon of some type. Horses and oxen are still used widely to drag this sled, but tractors are used just as much now. When the tank if full or all the trees have been attended to, it is brought back to the sugarhouse and dumped into a storage tank before boiling down.

When using the tubing method, the sap runs directly into the mainline and into the storage tank.

Here in New England, you can still find the same sugarhouses that were used a century or more ago. Rustic in appearance and crude in amenities, it has been passed down from father to son for many generations. Still other sugarhouses are state of the art, with stainless steel equipment, tanks and bottling facilities. There is, however, one item of each sugarhouse that hasn't changed over the years, and that is the cupola. This is the vent at the peak of the ceiling, or roof, that allows the steam from boiling to escape. This author can truthfully, and with a sense of Yankee pride, say that there is no better picture in the landscape of our forested land than the sight of billowing plumes of steam rising from the sugarhouse. Much akin to the smoke rising from the Vatican, it signals a new beginning, if only for the year.

Directly under the cupola is the evaporator, which are flat pans that sit on a firebox. Whether it be wood, gas or oil fired, the flames dance all along the underside of pans. As with other uncertainties, it can take anywhere from 3 hours to a couple of days to boil 40 gallons down to 1 gallon.

The sugarmaker keeps a keen eye of the syrup as it closes in on the right consistency and color. When he sees it turning a golden color and the temperature is 219 1/2 degrees, it has reached optimum density. Some sugarmakers do as they did in the olden days, putting a scoop into this syrup. If the maple syrup holds together when lifting it out, he knows it is time and has attained 67 % sugar with only 33 % water.

It is then filtered, bottled and ready for sale. The end of the season is also determined by methods that are centuries old. Some sugarmakers will notice that the buds on the trees are getting larger and leaves begin to form. It is at this point that the sap is no longer worth boiling down and the sugarhouse is closed down and cleaned up.

As for the different grades and flavors of syrup,. one thing remains true, regardless of the grade. The sugar content is the same, while the maple flavor starts with mild and leads to super strong, which is the way this Yankee likes it.
This old sugarhouse is long gone, but not forgotten

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the fresh sap(or the very beginning of the sap run) results(when boiled down) is the 'sweetest' tasting and lightest in color. With a mild maple flavor, many sugarmakers confirm this light amber to be the most popular. As the season wears on, the more pronounced the flavor becomes and the darker the color gets. Medium amber is next, followed by dark amber. In years gone by, Grade B was after dark amber and was not popularly considered good tasting syrup. As the first Yankee Chef, the second Yankee Chef and me, the third Yankee Chef will unequivocally state, this is by far the best of the best. The darker the better. It is only recently that these snobbish "aficionados" have declared the darkest to be the best. Sorry guys, you are a century late.

Many of you may be asking by now "The darker the syrup, the less sweet it is?". You would be wrong. As mentioned, they all have the exact same sweetness. They only taste less sweet because they have more maple flavor.

http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp
 
According to my friends at the Maine Maple Producers Association, pure Maine maple syrup doesn't have, nor has it ever had, artificial....anything. The best way to keep real maple syrup is tightly resealing and placing it in the freezer because real maple syrup will not freeze. All the members of this association are top notch craftsman equal to no other. I cannot state enough, that if you have a chance to take your little ones to a sugaring house this year, or any year, please do so. This is one of the last remaining vestiges of the old way of life that still clings and will be around for some time yet. Once you taste real maple syrup, YOU will be the snob and turn your nose up at that sickening liquid sugar on the store shelves. Trust me on this folks. Here is some more info from my friends.

"Maple syrup also delivers more nutrition than all other common sweeteners and has one of the lowest calorie levels.

Pure Maine maple syrup is made by boiling the sap of hard rock maple trees. It provides three times the sweetening power of cane sugar, and contains only 40 calories per tablespoon! All Maine maple syrup commercially sold is U.S. Grade A quality, as defined by Maine law."

Thank you to Maine Maple Producers Association for the following, simple clarifications as well.

Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor
Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is generally early season syrup. As tradition goes, this is the rst few runs of syrup at the beginning of the season, however with modern technology, we can produce this grade of syrup throughout most of the season. It has a ne pronounced sweetness with a delicate maple avor. This syrup is desirable for pancakes, wafes, French toast, and as an ice cream topping if a delicate maple flavor is desired.

Grade A: Amber Color with Rich Flavor
Grade A: Amber Color with Rich Flavor Pure Maple Syrup has a slightly stronger avor with a noticeable darker color. This syrup is by far the most popular choice for all purpose syrup. This grade has a rich full bodied taste that makes it the perfect compliment to most foods. It is the gift of choice by many.

Grade A: Dark Color with Robust Flavor
Grade A: Dark Color with Robust Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is much darker in color and has a stronger more robust maple avor. It is less desirable as a table syrup but often preferred in baking and cooking because of its strong avor. This syrup is great to pour over baked apples or squash or use as a glaze on meats and vegetables.

Grade A: Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor
Grade A: Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is generally very late season syrup. It is great is foods and recipes where a strong maple presence is desire. Wonderful in cookies, breads, and baked beans. Due to the nature of this syrup, it is often only packaged in larger plastic containers.

Grade Changes Adoption
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on January 28, 2015, that grading standards for maple syrup have been revised to match international standards giving consumers a better understanding of what they are buying. In 2010, the International Maple Syrup Institute, which represents maple producers in the U.S. and Canada, started the implementation procedures for these new grade standards in hopes of making it easier for consumers to understand what grade of syrup they are buying as grades used to vary amongst regions. The revisions completely do away with the Grade B syrup label as the USDA notes there is more demand for dark syrup for cooking and table use. All syrup producing regions will now follow the same grading standards with Grade A to include four color and flavor classes for maple syrup: golden color and delicate taste, amber color and rich taste, dark color and robust taste, and very dark and strong taste.

Now that we have learned just a little more about this purely natural sweetener that slaps that imitations stuff right "side the head", go out and enjoy some of New Englands finest sweetener and see what our forefathers and mothers served to your ancestors.

Here are two sweet treats that has been around longer than even your great great grandparents.

Maple Taffy is also called "Sugar on Snow", by which our ancestors referred to. You can taste this treat at any sugarhouse throughout New England when the sap is running. It is simply the sap that is boiled past the syrup stage and has long been a tradition to enjoy with donuts and pickles, believe it or not. We Yankees have been combining sugar and salt way before these celebrity chefs have been touting its culinary intrigue. When you roll it around a stick while it is still pliable, it will harden just like todays suckers. Also popular is the Maple Sundae. Which, in essence, is the same thing but drizzled over newly fallen snow and eaten the same way you would enjoy a sundae.

And there we have a quick(at least in Yankee terms)rundown of our maple syrup life here in New England.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"My name is Beija B.....

…..and I am a survivor of breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 48 years old in Feb. of 2012 with an aggressive form of cancer which my Doctor had called Her2 positive Stage 1 in my left breast. "



It all began when this beautiful young lady started experiencing pain and tightness in her chest, around her heart in particular. But these episodes were sporadic at the beginning, recurring more often, and with more intensity, as the months progressed. Three months later, Beija came down with the flu. No biggie, but when she found that both were causing her too much to deal with, it was time to visit her physician.

Doing a full work up on her, the doctor saw no concern with her health, although her blood cell count was a little off, this could easily be attributed to the flu. Feeling somewhat relieved, Beija decided she may as well have a mammogram performed. Going home and feeling a little better, both physically and emotionally, Beija decided to stop procrastinating and get current with her mammograms. She had put it off for 2 years because of her busy lifestyle and other health issues.

So the week following her doctors appointment, she had it done. Of course there was nervousness pinching Beija's mind with regards to the results of this scan, but she was more concerned at what she could accomplish with what was left after the test on this Monday.

A mammography was performed, she had tidied herself up and now was waiting in this somewhat claustrophobic room for the nurse to discharge her. Within 10 minutes, the nurse reappeared asking Beija for another scan. She needed a more complete evaluation before this appointment was over. Once finished, and taking a moment or two looking at the image, the nurse requested the doctor on-call to evaluate.

Routine? Must be! Nervous? Of course!

It wasn't long before the image was scrutinized by the professional. As if the world stopped immediately, the doctor "explains to me that the finding on the imaging is a mass that could possibly be cancer. At that point I felt my whole life changing just by him mentioning the word cancer!"

Within a week of that tentative diagnoses, it was unfortunately confirmed through a biopsy. And within a week of that, Beija was on the table being prepped for surgery to remove the tumor that was pushing toward her heart. This explained the tightness and twinges of pain she had been experiencing in her chest. Because of the position of the tumor, Beija was able to decide between a lumpectomy or full removal of her breast. She chose the lumpectomy. As fast as her life stopped from hearing of this cancer, she could now begin to live again. Recoup, regroup and catch up. Two weeks later, a routine scan was performed in order to confirm the success of the operation. That one step forward, took one leap back when two more tumors showed up in the same area.

So back to the table and a second lumpectomy. This time, after a short healing process, the resulting scan showed Beija to be cancer free. But certainly she couldn't rest on her laurels. Her endurance would be tested through monthly chemo and blood transfusions, and it wasn't long before she was feeling, and seeing, the effects of these treatments.

Although she was losing her hair and dealing with sickness and nausea every day, she found strength and love in her "chemo buddies", even exchanging ideas on eating habits that could be tolerated throughout her tenure of treatments. "Even trying to eat a grape tasted like metal."

One of her "chemo buddies" offered pizza as the answer and what do you know? Even though she was still feeling ill, at least she found something that didn't taste like metal. " Needless to say, I had eaten a lot of pizza during my months of chemo!"

Completing chemo, followed by radiation and effects associated with these as well as other physical tribulations, Beija became a survivor.

 

"All during my cancer battle, I was providing personal care every day and all day to my live-in 83 year old mother Patricia, who had dementia....[I was also a single mother of 12 year old boy Dexter, both pictured below}.....My mother passed away in October, 2013. It was my mother, my best friend, who was the reason for me staying strong and surviving this dreadful disease."

Because of this strength her mother gave her, Beija used this same fortitude to care for her mother until her last breath.

Mother knows best! Mother's intuition! Both adages proving true.

I could sit here and write page upon page of a fitting, and poetical, epilogue to finish Beija's story and some may hit home while others may seem dramatic. But unless you have endured the physical scars of this disease, unless you have become stronger in ways only cancer survivors can relate to, then my words would be general, vague and simply for dramatic purposes. So I would like to end this story in Beija's own words. After all, who is better qualified to write the epilogue to your own story?

"The inability to deal with the after effects that are left behind…emotionally, financially, physically, and even socially. Only to be told you are a 'Hero' from the scars of your battle. The time it takes to rebuild yourself to become stronger. The many medical appointments to be had…just to reevaluate and cure the damage that was left behind. I’m a hero to no one but myself, but I’m a survivor among the many.

I’m a hero to no one but myself.....[although this author lovingly disagrees]

.....but I’m a survivor among the many. "

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A True Champion



 
I have always considered myself a good pugilist in my day. I am proud to say that I dodged when I should have and my defense was second to none. But I will also say that I never had that killer instinct that you need when battling a formidable foe. Maybe I needed a better trainer. Maybe I needed someone who could show me how to fight. Maybe I needed Marty.

Meet Marty E.

A 67 year old fighter who has had more emotional spikes than the great majority of us will, or could, ever endure.

To begin with, at age 44, she was separated from her husband but found emotional stability with her 15 year old son. Although anxiety was a daily curse now because of her new, single motherhood, Marty was blessed that her boy was coping better than she was at times. Shortly after this breakup, she was diagnosed with beast cancer. Because of the immense mental and physical difficulties associated with this disease, Marty wanted to give her marriage one more go. Radiation and a partial mastectomy were successfully performed, but regrettably, her marriage was not as successful and she found herself a single parent once again.

For the next few months, being a single mother was starting to ease its financial and emotional grip, with the fear of cancer on the back burner, behind her son. Then one day, she felt that grasp, pulling her back into those yesterdays of fear and uncertainty. Marty was diagnosed, again, with breast cancer. This time, she decided her treatment would be fast and furious. Enough so that this bothersome bandit had no where to hide. Radiation, chemotherapy and another partial mastectomy would surely loosen that recurring hold.

By 1994, it was agreed between Marty and her physician that she was cancer free. Even with 2 partial mastectomies, she had been given a reprieve and found herself doting on her son and looking for another love. A couple of different men entered her life, but for reasons that partly involved the results of her cancer bouts, Marty and her new beaus just couldn't make it work. It truly does take a special man to stumble along with a woman, yet make sure she doesn't fall. A man that wouldn't judge her for the physical wounds but how she tried to heal from the fight. .

Her high school reunion was in 2005 and boy did she have stories of victories to tell. While enjoying seeing her graduating class again, someone from her earlier life remembered her vividly. His name was Phil and his memories of Marty stretched back to Junior High. They spent a great deal of time talking, reminiscing and she simply loved the feeling of smiling. She remembers in short, "We danced.....and he felt good". Although something sparked, it would not be for another four years that they would reconnect. Marty recalls that on August 31, her phone rang and yup, it was him.

"We talked for hours! Such joy for us. He came to see me in Pittsburgh for my birthday on October 1, then I visited him in Florida, where I always wanted to be. We were falling in love."

Sweet love, unfortunately at times, needs to be proven. Would Phil stick around if Marty was ever diagnosed again? Did he have the fortitude to cope with his new, sweet love if cancer ever returned? Could he accept her with some physical anomalies that would only be visible if intimacy evolved? Does he know a woman is more than each part separately? Or can he truly see the sum of all parts? In essence, can he love? Truly love?

October, 2010. Marty was selling her home and getting ready to move to Florida to be with Phil and hopefully answer these questions. But cancer returned, lung cancer. With a renewed vigor, she vowed to take care of it as quickly as possible, and with her new-found support, no matter how far away he was, she was on the plane. "My dream!", she recalls. "I got a condo on the the beach, on the sand for a year! Oh what fun! I spent the weekends with Phil. After a year, he asked me to move in with him. So I did!.....happy girl! "

 


End of story. Life was good, wedded bliss soon to follow and the beach as the backdrop for the rest of her life.........until Valentines Day, 2014. Unbelievably, Marty found another lump in her breast yet again. "After all my history, my surgeon advised a double mastectomy.....so I did it without reconstruction". She goes on to explain...."radiation affects skin so it looses it's elasticity. Dear Phil took wonderful care of me..so much love!".

By January, this once in a lifetime man married her. "He is amazing. I survived 4 cancers, 3 breast. I amaze myself."


Marty's granddaughter, Toren, was her flower girl and with all the strength she amassed through her own ordeals, it was the tender innocence of Toren that showed her weak side. Toren was diagnosed with leukemia. "Her beautiful blond hair.....she never left my side." Toren will be continuing with chemotherapy until December, 2015. Although her immune system is suppressed for the time being, she is full of sprite, as are all children her age. She is full of love, as all around her are and Toren is full of hope, as we all should be.

Marty has found her niche, now, in life by supporting, and believing, in alternative medicine through acupuncture and essential oils being a distributor with http://www.youngliving.com/en_US/




 "So now I am again cancer free...I am currently making my own organic deodorant and body care products...my contribution!"


Thursday, March 12, 2015

"I am a drinker, with a writing problem."

That was a quote attributed to Brendan Behan, a well-"versed' Irish poet, novelist and playwright, which plays right into this post.


Ireland......The very first thought that comes to mind is green pastures, rolling hills and, of course, a tip of the glass. It wasn't that long ago that the Irish that immigrated to America were "cartooned" as brawling drunkards whose last dime went into the bottle

Now that times have changed, St. Patrick's Day has many declaring their ancestry as Irish, regardless if their name is Baryshnikov, St. Pierre or Polanski. In fact, more than 30 % declare themselves of Irish ancestry in the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day and when the same poll is taken 30 days afterward, only 16 % say they are of Irish stock.

Many seek any reason, really, to indulge in original Irish liquor on just one day of the year. And Ireland is known for the superior spirits that are enjoyable straight from the bottle or mingling with other ingredients to result in a tasty treat, even if you aren't a drinker.


Ireland is much like New England. Not only does liquor bring the worst out in people, but to most of the Irish, it enhances togetherness and warmth, much like rum's effect on our fore-families. Their meals are simple and inexpensive yet provide the comfort feeling we Yankees are known for.

Let me give you just a few examples of this simplicity, but with a New England influence.

 





 


Crispy Irish Maslin Bread


Maslin literally means brass, but it also refers to a variety of grains used in the baking of bread. So keeping with tradition, in a way, I am including different grains as well as a surprise ingredient that I think you will find a perfect fit.


If you don't have buttermilk on hand or just don't want to purchase it, the perfect substitute is mixing 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in the same amount of whole milk and let it sit for 30 minutes, or even longer. It will curdle, which is exactly what you want. The interaction of this with baking soda gives this perfectly salty/sweet bread that distinctive hollow sound and the flavor is will remind you of an old world bake shop, in Ireland of course.




Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
1 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
Extra honey or maple syrup for brushing the top

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F and position oven rack to the upper portion of the oven Grease a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine both flours, graham crackers, baking soda and salt. Add butter and cut in using either 2 knives, scissor fashion or a fork. Stir in buttermilk, honey and egg, mixing well. Turn out onto well floured work surface and knead for a minute, or until smooth and elastic. Brush off excess flour and place in the middle of the prepared pan. Brush the top with honey and sprinkle extra rolled oats over the top, slightly pressing into the dough. Mark the top with a serrated knife with two 1-inch deep gashes. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until very well browned all over. Remove to cool slightly before serving.

 

* Simply place the oats in a blender or food processor and have at it. In a few seconds on high and you will have powdered rolled oats, or oat flour.

 



Perfect Irish Yankee Soda Bread(Spotted Dog)



Yankee because of the sweet/tangy addition of dried cranberries and Soda because of the soda used........just kidding. This is called soda bread because of the chemical reaction of baking soda with buttermilk. It gives you the perfect rise and density found in old world-style breads while the crispy browned exterior is ideal for breaking open to enjoy.



Nonstick cooking spray
4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg, beaten well
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, optional

 

 

Preheat oven to 375-degrees F and position oven rack to the upper portion of the oven. Grease a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter with two knives, scissor fashion or use a fork. Add the buttermilk, egg, cranberries and caraway seeds, mixing well to form a dough. Turn out onto well floured work surface and knead for a minute or so, until smooth and elastic. Form into a round loaf, brush off excess flour. Place in middle of prepared pan and spray the top with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until well browned all around. Remove from oven to cool slightly before tearing into.





Bailey's Irish Whiskey Cake

Yes, I already know. There is no such thing as Bailey's Irish Whiskey. This beautifully scented, Irish cake is, however, brought to you by a Bailey and has a hint of Irish Whiskey both in the cake and on 'top'. You can, however, substitute a few drops of rum extract in the milk below or just leave out any hint of alcohol, and its' taste, altogether. The curdled milk is a great way of adding buttermilk flavor without the added expense while giving this upside down cake perfect flavor and moistness.

1/4 cup whole milk, half-and-half or light cream
1/2 cup Irish Apple Whiskey or Irish Apple Liqueur, divided
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup(1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large, firm apple. peeled, cored and wedged 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

 

 

In a small bowl, whisk together milk, 1/4 cup whiskey and lemon juice and let sit 30 minutes to curdle while preparing rest of recipe. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a 9-inch round cake pan over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes until smooth and bubbling. Remove pan from heat.

Lay the apple slices on top of melted butter/brown sugar mixture decoratively. Sprinkle the dried cranberries over the top and evenly drizzle remainder of whiskey; set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and ground ginger. In another bowl, beat remainder of butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and add eggs; beating very well. Reduce speed to low and beat in the flour, a little at a time. Beat in the milk mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter over apples and even out top without disturbing the apple arrangement. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle come out clean. Cool cake in the pan for a couple of minutes and then run a knife around the edge of the pan to help release. Invert onto a serving platter or plate quickly and carefully. Serve warm or at room temperature.






Irish Apple Bread Pudding 'Pie'

This bread pudding is anything but typical. It is beautifully sweetened, less dense and 'gummy' than many other equivalent puddings and the sweet, caramelized crust that forms makes you want to just pick it off first then eat the rest later. Use whatever muffin you desire, I just happened to adore cinnamon but regardless of what you choose, make sure you have 5 cups total after cutting. Taitneamh a bhaint as!

 

4 large plain or cinnamon muffins
4 teaspoons butter or margarine
3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced, divided
1 cup apple juice or water
1/4 cup maple syrup
Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
Irish Butterscotch Cream, recipe below



Slice muffins horizontally about 1-inch thick. Butter all cut sides and grill over medium heat until well browned, about 2 minutes per side. Place on a plate and let cool in refrigerator for an hour, preferably overnight. Meanwhile, add 2/3 of the diced apple to a saucepan along with apple juice or water and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir, reduce to low and simmer 6-8 minutes, or until it has thickened and apples are done, but still firm. Remove from heat and set aside. Spray a 9-10-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray liberally; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Cut grilled muffins into cubes and add to a bowl along with remainder of diced apple. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, juice and grated rind and ginger. Pour over muffin cubes and gently toss to evenly coat. Transfer to prepared cake pan, evening out the top. Spoon cooked apple mixture over the top evenly and bake 40-45 minutes, or until it is firm when touched in the center with a spoon or fork. Make Irish Butterscotch Cream while pudding is baking. Remove pudding to cool slightly before running a dull knife around the edge to loosen. Cut into wedges and serve drizzled with Irish Butterscotch Cream.

Irish Butterscotch Cream

Put 1 cup whole milk, light or half-and-half cream in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons each of brown sugar and Bailey's Irish Cream and 2 teaspoons honey or corn syrup. Over low heat, bring to a simmer while stirring frequently to prevent scorching. After 2-3 minutes, it will be thicker and creamier, stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and remove from heat.


 



                                       Traditional Pan Haggerty

Simple? Yes! Traditional? Yes! But don't let this seemingly mundane dish prevent you from make it. There are so many things I could do to this dish to keep those "food snobs" at bay, but why play with a recipe that has been enjoyed for so long in Ireland? Us Yankees have been enjoying this dish for just as long, but called Scootin' 'Long the Shore. And as much as I would like to add this and that to our version, I decided to take the critics blows for offering a "dull and idiot simple" New England classic. My response to them? You really don't want to know!

3 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
3 large potatoes, about a pound, diced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sour cream, if desired

 

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add and cook bacon until crisp or to your liking. Remove bacon to crumble and add back into the skillet with onion and cook an additional 5-6 minutes, or until onion is soft but not browned. Drain fat and add potatoes and broth. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer 8-10 minutes(according to the size of your potato cubes), or until the potatoes are firm, but tender and the liquid has absorbed. If you still have liquid after potatoes are done, simple increase heat to medium and continue cooking, uncovered, for a few more minutes until it has evaporated and/or absorbed. Preheat broiler and place oven rack at least 3-inches from heat source. Remove skillet from burner, evenly sprinkle cheese over the top and broil until as crisp as you like. Remove to serve immediately. Top with sour cream if desired.




 

Tipperary Apple Pudding



I remember once, many years ago, trying a Tipperary Pippin Apple and was blown away at the perfect cooking nature of it. Of course, now there are so many more to choose from but that one taste has stayed with me all these years. So in honor of my first bite of a true Irish apple, enjoy this Yankee take on the Apple Barley Pudding that is so dear to Irish hearts, and palates. I gave this a little zing that I think is spot on. For an even warmer feel, try substituting allspice for the nutmeg.

Now many of you will be asking by now, why barley in a dessert? Many centuries ago, in Ireland, barley was a cereal grain that was widely used in kitchens during St. Patrick's time, which is only summized as being in the 5th century. So barley was used as a thickener, porridge, breads, pastries and, of course through natural progression, desserts of all kinds.

5 large apples of your choice, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
5 tablespoons pearl barley
2 cups water
2 cups apple juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 cup whipped cream or topping
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup cranberry juice or orange juice

 

In a large saucepan, bring the apples, barley, water and apple juice to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until barley is soft. Remove from heat and strain, reserving any liquid. Add to a food processor bowl, or in batches using a blender and puree until it resembles chunky applesauce.  Add liquid if needed to puree or more apple juice if the liquid has been fully absorbed. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add sugar and spices, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate until cooled or serve warm.

Meanwhile, make cranberry "sauce". In a small saucepan, add cranberries and juice. Bring to a boil over medium,-high heat. When boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, or until cranberries have started to take in the juice and swell. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. This sauce will thicken perfectly while pureeing because of the very high, natural pectin levels in the cranberries. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cooled.

To serve, spoon apple pudding into 3-4 serving dishes, top with whipped topping and drizzle sauce over the top.

Pearl barley has been processed, therefore it is not classified as a whole grain. But if you would like to add hulled barley(aka pot barley or barley groats) in order to obtain the fiber, simply cook twice as long, and you will need to add one extra cup of liquid because of the longer cooking time. The consistency will not be altered because of the addition of other ingredients, but if you were to cook it on its' own, it will be much chewier and sticky. And don't forget to rinse it before cooking to help keep that stickiness down.

Friday, March 6, 2015

An Inspirational Family


Bonnie C.

Breast Cancer Survivor
 
Fate can be serendipitous and adverse, or both. 

Imagine this. A typical mother of two beautiful daughters and an extraordinary son, Bonnie's life was simply ordinary, yet soon to become exceptional. Although her mother was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer at the age of 69, she herself had no symptoms nor signs of any such disposition, although the thought of genetics was constantly running amok in her mind. But being a single parent for 17 years in 1992 Ohio, there were present and 'real' parenting issues to attend to, not to mention that sweet reverie of a nice gentleman walking that 'yellow brick road'.....right to her doorstep.


At 44 years of age, she found Larry walking that road, dazzling her with sunshine and filling her heart with honest, contented and supportive love that would prove itself over and over again. Agog with new-found adoration from him and lasting affection from her family, fate would show one face that would be tested 7 weeks later. Bonnie would understand the innate fear her mother endured when she, herself, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Without apprehension, she had a lumpectomy and an axillary dissection, a standard procedure to examine and remove lymph nodes.


"I had the best support system with my children, mom, sister and Larry."


With this formidable support system, her mind became eased and her life became enriched. It wasn't long before Bonnie found Larry on bended knee and her son, Matt also became engaged.




"BUT, in September 1994, I had my 6 month mammogram and a lump was found. Two days later, a biopsy showed cancer again, second primary, no metastasis."



Bonnie continues, "I was devastated and frightened. I got several opinions and after discussions with my family and Larry, I chose to have a bilateral total mastectomy with no reconstruction. This was the right decision for me. Larry had said I was more than the sum of my breasts. "



With fortitude that obviously matched Bonnie's, Larry fulfilled his connubial commitment and married Bonnie on Valentines Day, 1995.

In 2004, knowing the high risk of cancer from her mother and grandmother, Bonnie's eldest daughter Jill opted to take the bold, and unselfish, step to reduce her chance of breast cancer by 90 % by having both of her breasts removed, even without initially testing positive AND with a new man in her life. After making this decision, she had an ultrasound and mammogram done, both of which were negative. One last test was done, an MRI. And wouldn't you know it, breast cancer was discovered. Talk about yet another face of fate!

By April, 2009, Jill's surgeon informed her that her ovaries would need to be removed because of the likelihood of ovarian cancer, directly attributed to her breast cancer. "Jill fought this and, because she didn't have the gene, so she felt safe. The doctor won and the ovaries were removed. The final pathology showed stage one ovarian cancer. This doctor had saved her life." A hysterectomy was soon to follow for other medical reasons.

A shout out must go to Chris, Jill's husband. Not only was he a true advocate for his wife, but for he entire family as well. He played as much of a deciding factor in the quality of Jill's life as any doctor could.

Enough is enough, wouldn't you think?







"In August of 2009, my daughter Tricia, age 40, decided to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. A mammogram and ultrasound were negative, but an MRI showed a suspicious area. When a biopsy was performed, it showed breast cancer. Tricia had a double mastectomy and had her ovaries out."









If there was ever such a family that deserves a tribute, it would be this steadfast family. I am in a haze of reverential wonderment for these brave women and the men who stood by them. To Bonnie's son, Matthew, and Larry, we salute and praise you for supporting all the loved ones around you who were struggling. To Bonnie, Jill and Tricia, we celebrate with you. There can be no more of a fitting epilogue to the struggles this entire family than to quote Bonnie in her correspondence with The Yankee Chef.


"My daughters and I feel blessed in many ways. Surround yourself with good and loving people. Appreciate everything. Hug your kids and your husband, yell less often, tell those you love that you love them. Every day I am reminded of two things when I look in the mirror. I am a woman without breasts , but more importantly I am a woman who survived breast cancer.....We are survivors. We want you all to be survivors. Know your bodies. Be pro-active. Ask questions. Be your own advocate. We feel blessed to have each day and each other and all of you".


 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Surviving

Every once in a while I would like to honor those who have survived breast cancer. This post will be one of many that I would like to share with everyone, and it gives me an opportunity to write in a way that I haven't attempted before. I have asked many breast cancer survivor groups to share their stories with me, not only for my blog, but for my new book being edited presently. I truly would like to hear from as many of you as possible as it relates to your story of survival as well as surviving siblings, spouses, children or parents whose family member couldn't win that frightful battle. Of course many of you know of my mothers struggle(Mary's cousin) with breast cancer, but her story will be told in my next cookbook that is dedicated to her and all survivors and those who could not survive breast cancer.
I would like to begin with another lady who is close to home as well.....




Meet Mary M G of Maine

Breast cancer Survivor- 1 year

Mary was born in 1965 to my great aunt Rita Barbara Meeks. Aunt Rita was my mothers' aunt and had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast while in her late 30s. She recovered, only to have cancer return in her kidney(which she had removed), lung(she also had removed) and esophagus. Aunt Rita died March 1, 1991 from the esophageal cancer and she is truly missed by all those who knew her. I often think about her as being joyous and comforting to us children when my Mom passed on.

Her daughter, Mary, my cousin, has endured tribulation as well from this devastating affliction. Although Mary led an active, fulfilling and cautious life, that other-worldly voice still found time to whisper in her ear that dreaded 'C' word. Rich, her husband of 26 years, doted on her as passionately as if on their first date.
It was the day he came home from another, solo mountaineering trip that his caring persistence paid off when he found a lump in her breast.Always the mountain climber, adventurer and caring father and husband, he knew of Mary's genetic susceptibility when it came to cancer and often double checked his wife's self-examination.
 
"I'll never forget how his hand snapped back, like it touched something hot when he felt it.".

 Although Rich was concerned, Mary was hopeful that this oblong lump would disappear on its own, so she decided not to pursue another opinion, even though Rich was vehemently suggesting otherwise.


A few months later, because of a chest cold, she visited a doctor. After this checkup, and getting ready to leave, the physician asked her if she had any questions. She mentioned that her husband had found a lump and she may as well have it finally looked at if he had the time. Within 2 weeks, Mary, Rich and the rest of the family received word of her breast cancer.

She reflects "As soon as I heard it, a calm washed over me, tears fell silently, and my first thought was not why me, but why not me." After all, Mary's mother and her aunt died of cancer, and she had lost her brother from a different illness. "If I am cured through treatment, great. If I end up passing, then I was okay too because I would be in God's presence with Mom, Eddie, and everyone I loved that went before. "


Chemotherapy was ruled out as treatment for Mary, but she did have 2 surgeries to remove the tumor and lymph nodes, followed by 3 months of radiation treatment.

She survives today, cancer free, but not without her and her three children going through another tribulation. Her husband who had been so cautious, determined to never leave Mary's side throughout every doctors visit during those emotionally frightening days throughout her ordeal, was to be embraced by Mary's mother, aunts and brother before she would be reunited with them. Rich took one last adventure to the high mountains of Canada, all alone as he enjoyed. After failing to check in with his wife at a predetermined day and time, the Canadian government fount him on August 16, 2013, dangling from his climbing gear, unresponsive.

 
 
This day is significant in her family. It was Mary's mother's birthday and the same day of her cousins death from breast cancer.