Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Jelly

Apple Jelly
(4 half pints)


5 lb. Apples (see note)
5 cup Water
3 cup Sugar
¼ tsp. Crystalline Ascorbic Acid


Wash apples and remove stem & blossom ends. Cut apples into wedges (no need to core or peel) and place in the water of a large sauce pan. Over medium heat, bring apples to a boil and gently cook for about 20 minutes or until very soft. Line a colander with 2 layers of cheesecloth and suspend over a stainless steel bowl (china bowl works too). Place the cooked apples into the cheesecloth and let drip several hours or until apples are dry. This should yield 4 cups of apple juice. If need to be press apples to yield more juice but do it through a new piece of cheesecloth. In a stainless steel pot, combine the apple juice, sugar and ascorbic acid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Heat to 220 degrees or until mixture sheets on the back of a metal spoon. Remove pan from heat and spoon off any froth before filling jars within ½ inch of top. Make sure the jars have in sterilized and are warm before adding mixture. Wipe rims with a clean cloth and pour the melted wax on top to a thickness of 3/8 inch (approximately) and let cool. Once cooled, put lid on jar and store in a dark cool place. After opening a jar, please refrigerate.

Note: To seal with paraffin wax, please be careful. Place a small to medium sauce on the stove top with an inch of water in it. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place a disposable foil pie pan on top of the sauce pan. Cut one slab of wax (4 in a box) into several pieces and carefully place them in the pie pan. The heat will melt the wax. Once all the wax in the pie pan has melted, carefully pour over the apple butter in the jars. Repeat the process until all the jars are sealed.

Note: To sterilize jars, you can place them in boiling water for a few minutes. USDA guidelines suggest 15 minutes of boiling for the jars. Be sure to use only clean equipment when making jellies or canning other products.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rhubarb-Cherry Jam

Rhubarb-Cherry Jam
(8 - half pints)


5 cup Fresh Rhubarb, diced (see note)
4 cup Sugar
1 (21 oz.) can Cherry Pie Filling
2 (3 oz.) pkg. Raspberry Jello Mix
as needed Wax, melted to seal jars


In a medium sauce pan, bring the rhubarb and sugar to a boil and continue 10 minutes. Add the pie filling and return to a boil continuing for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the dry jello to the mixture. Combine well and then fill half pint jars to within ½ inch of top. Make sure the jars have in sterilized and are warm before adding mixture. Wipe rims with a clean cloth and pour the melted wax on top to a thickness of 3/8 inch (approximately) and let cool. Once cooled, put lid on jar and store in a dark cool place. After opening a jar, please refrigerate.

Note: You can use frozen rhubarb in this recipe. Just thaw before using but include the liquid from thawed rhubarb.

Note: You can use blueberry pie filling to give a different flavor profile for the jam too.

Note: To seal with paraffin wax, please be careful. Place a small to medium sauce on the stove top with an inch of water in it. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Place a disposable foil pie pan on top of the sauce pan. Cut one slab of wax (4 in a box) into several pieces and carefully place them in the pie pan. The heat will melt the wax. Once all the wax in the pie pan has melted, carefully pour over the apple butter in the jars. Repeat the process until all the jars are sealed.

Note: To sterilize jars, you can place them in boiling water for a few minutes. USDA guidelines suggest 15 minutes of boiling for the jars. Be sure to use only clean equipment when making jellies or canning other products.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jellies & Jams.

Jelly and Jam making can be fun and quite tasty. They are both similar and different in their processes for making the finished product.  Today's blog will not be a full in-depth course in making jelly and jam but a good introduction.

There are already a couple of recipes on the blog.  One is for Apple Butter (V).  Another is for Green & Red Pepper Jelly (V).  The green & red pepper jelly gives you both a different heat level and color for presentation.

Let's get on with jelly and jam making.  Starting with equipment, you'll need heavy stainless steel pots or kettles.  They will need to be size appropriate to the batch size you will be making.  It would help to have a scale, candy thermometer, ladle, funnel, canning jars (1/4 pint, 1/2 pint & maybe pint) and proper lids.
I use paraffin wax to seal my jars.  That was how I was taught by my mother and grandmothers.  Some people today don't believe this method to be the safest way and suggest canning lids, filling jars almost full and doing water baths for jams (jelly doesn't need one).  You can go whichever way you feel most comfortable.  You do need to be careful when melting the wax.  It is flammable so you need to pay attention.  I've never encountered a problem or even heard of anyone who has either.  You do need to keep them in a cool dark place.  If it gets too hot the wax will have a problem.
Another piece of equipment you may want is a jelly bag and stand for your jelly making.  If you don't have one, cheesecloth, a colander and a stainless steel bowl will work just fine.
In making jelly, you need to extract the juice from the fruit (reason for paragraph above).  You then combine sugar (amount depends on the fruit) and another ingredient or two depending on type of jelly you're making.
Jams use fruit pulp instead of juice.  This makes a thicker heavier spread.  It still takes sugar and a few other ingredients again depending on what fruit you are working with in the recipe.
You need to be a little more hands on with jams.  They can stick, scorch or burn easier than jellies.  So you need to stir more and watch your pot.
Measurements need to be accurate when making both jelly and jam.  Some say that recipes should be for no larger of a batch than to fill 4 half-pint jars.  I usually double that amount and have not had any problems once again.
It also helps to be organized and start early (especially with jelly) when making these types of recipes.
This week the 2 recipes are for "Rhubarb-Cherry Jam" and "Apple Jelly."  The rhubarb-cherry one is a favorite of mine.  Well enjoy trying one of these or the ones mentioned at the start of this blog.  "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple, Fennel & Sage Covered Pork Chops

Apple, Fennel & Sage Covered Pork Chops
(6-8 servings)


8 (3 to 4 oz.) Thin cut Boneless Pork Chops
as needed Salt & Black Pepper
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 Leek, (white & light green part only) thinly sliced
1 bulb Fennel, halved lengthwise, cored & thinly sliced (crosswise)
1 medium Fuji Apple, halved lengthwise, cored & thinly sliced
8 small Fresh Sage Leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup Hard Cider


Season the pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large saute pan over high heat, bring the oil to almost smoking. Cook chops until browned on both sides turning only once (1-2 minutes per side). Remove chops to a platter and keep warm. Using the same saute pan, add the butter and reduce heat to medium. Add the leeks and cook for about 3 minutes or until tender. Now add the fennel and apple continuing to cook an additional 4 minutes or until softened. Next add the sage and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper, remove to a plate and keep warm. Pour the hard cider and any meat juices from the platter holding the chops to the saute pan. Bring to a boil over high heat until it thickens (about 4 minutes). Place the fennel mixture over the pork chops and top everything with the sauce and serve.

Note: If you don't want to use hard cider, just substitute plain apple cider.

Note: You can use other types of apple in this recipe too.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole

Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole
(6-8 servings)


2 (6 oz. Pkg.) Long-Grain & Wild Rice Blend w/seasoning
¾ lb. Cooked Chicken, diced or shredded (see note)
1 (10 ½ oz.) can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 (10 ½ oz.) can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (4 oz.) can Mushrooms, stems & pieces drained
¾ cup Celery, chopped
½ cup Bacon, cooked and chopped (see note)
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
½ cup Plain Bread Crumbs
½ cup Slivered Almonds
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted


Cook the rice blend according to package directions. While the rice is cooking, combine the ingredients from the chicken to the pepper in a large bowl. Now mix the rice with the chicken mixture and transfer to a greased/sprayed 2 qt. baking dish. Place the baking dish in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. While the casserole is baking, combine the bread crumbs, almonds and melted butter in a small bowl. After the 30 minutes, pull casserole from oven and sprinkle top with the butter mixture. Return casserole to the oven and continue baking another 10 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Note: I've discussed using rotisserie chicken for other dishes. This one works well for the rotisserie chicken. I will pull both breasts off and use for another recipe or meal. Then use the remaining chicken for this recipe. If you remember from that blog, I 'll make stock from the bones and skin too.

Note: Here you can cook off your own bacon or buy the real bacon pieces that come in a jar.

Note: This recipe makes for a great dish to take to a potluck event too.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hearty Fall Dishes

It's fall and with that comes cooler temperatures, furnaces and/or fireplaces to keep warm.  Unlike bears that put weight all summer and fall to get ready to hibernate all winter.  We humans seem to loss weight in the spring and summer just to put it back on in the fall and winter.

One of the buzzwords today in the food area is "Comfort Food" and it really comes into play during the start of the fall season.  They are usually a little heavy food than the grilling and salads we've consumed during the summer.  It's more meat and potatoes, casseroles and hearty soups.

Now I'm not saying this is bad for everyone but we do need to think moderation during this season.  Maybe pick up a little more on the exercise too.  Fall is similar to an appetizer before the main course of a meal. That main course is coming in late November through early January and it's called the holiday season.  That's where we pack on even more weight.

I'm not trying to scare you but just want you aware of the potential effect on your body and current clothes fitting appropriately.  I really want you to enjoy these fall dishes because they are terrific.  So make yourself a game plan to be able to enjoy them without any negative affects.

As a reminder, I'll point out some of these hearty fall dishes already in one of the recipes pages of the blog. For entrees you might try one of these; Pasta with Pumpkin & SausageJambalaya (Slow Cooker)Tasty Stuffed Pork Chops and Pan Fried Chicken.

This week I have 2 new entree recipes for you.  Tomorrow is one for "Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole" and you can take advantage of using rotisserie chicken in it.  You may remember I did a blog on the use of rotisserie chicken in recipes back in August.  Then on Thursday, the recipe is "Apple, Fennel & Sage covered Pork Chops".  You could use chicken breast instead of pork chops in this recipe if it fits your needs better.

There are many great fall recipes that you can find to try.  Not just entree recipes like I'm showing you here, but great side dishes and desserts too.  So enjoy the colors of fall as well as the good food.  "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hot Spiced Cider

Hot Spice Cider
(½ gallon)


8 cups Apple Cider
½ cup Molasses
12 whole Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
4 slices Fresh Lemon, halved
¼ cup Fresh Lemon Juice


In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the first 5 ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer about 15 minutes remembering to stir occasionally. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks using a slotted spoon. Stir in the lemon juice and serve.

Note: Garnish cups with lemon slices, cloves and/or cinnamon sticks for presentation.

Note: You could add your favorite alcohol to make it an adult beverage. I would do this by the cup so you still have a child friendly drink to serve.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dark & Stormy

Dark & Stormy
(¾ gallon)


8 cups Ginger Beer
4 cups Dark Rum
½ cup Fresh Lime Juice


Combine the beer, rum and lime juice in an appropriate container until well mixed. It is best to have the beer and rum chilled ahead of time. Once mixed, serve in tall glasses over ice (see notes).

Note: Refrigerate the mixture at least 2 hours before serving if using warm product.

Note: Make ice cubes using ginger beer so drinks don't dilute as ice melts. Just pour 8 cups of ginger beer into 4 ice cube trays and freeze. Best to make the ice cubes the day before they are needed.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Drink Ideas

Fright night is coming and this year we're talking beverages for the big kids (adults).  I know that Halloween is a special night for children allover the USA.  They get dressed in an unbelievable variety of costumes and go out "Trick or Treating" throughout the neighborhoods.  They collect bags full of candy and other goodies.  Little ones are escorted by parents or older siblings and everyone is hoping they have the looking costume of the night.

Going to be a Ladybug this year!
As you can see, my blog assistant is getting into the spirit of Halloween.  I'm not sure if her parents will let her eat all the candy she'll collect in this outfit.  So maybe I can teach how it's nice to share with others (me).  I can also see her on a real "sugar high" the night of Halloween.  Sure hope her mom and dad are ready for a late night of play when she gets home.  That's a good night for me to go to bed early, I think.  Alright, back to adult beverages and Halloween parties.

Depending on what night Halloween falls, there maybe be parties at some homes too.  But this week we're not talking about parties for children.  Unless you're talking about those that still have the child in them even though they're adults.  Many of these big kids have "Halloween Parties" and they may happen the weekend before or after this last day of October.

I think many of these people started having these parties in their college days.  They just never grow out of it as they aged.  In the college days most were concerned with their outfit for the night and what they would be drinking.  As they got older, the decoration of the house and food to snack on through the evening became more important.

There are quite a few recipes on this blog to get your party going.  Some you might want to think about include: Guacamole (Villa del Arco) (V), Mango Salsa (V), Matt's Hot Artichoke Dip (V), Gouda Cheese Logs (V) and Olive Crostini (V).

Some sweet items to try include: Caramel Pecan Dream Bars (V), Fran’s Bars (V) and Caramel Nibbles (V).  These are great finger foods for a party.

I do have some drink recipe that would be good too.  But this week I'm adding 2 more to the blog.  "Hot Spiced Cider" is on Thursday's blog.  Tomorrow I start with  a drink called "Dark & Stormy" using a little rum.  That cider one is good all winter too.  Helps keep you nice and warm.  So "Happy Cooking" and remember to drink in moderation.  Designated drivers too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Red Cabbage or (Blue Kraut)

Red Cabbage or (Blue Kraut)
(4-6 servings)


1 (2-3 lb.) head Red Cabbage, shredded (see note)
2-3 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp. Sugar
1 large Apple, peeled, cored & sliced (your choice of apple)
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
4 tbsp. White Vinegar
1-2 cups Water or stock (your choice)
1-2 tbsp. Roux (see note)
to taste Salt
¼ cup Red Current Jelly


Shred cabbage and set aside. Using a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Lower heat to medium-low and add the sugar. Saute slowly until golden. Now add the apple and onion, mix well, cover and braise for 3 to 4 minutes. Add cabbage to mixture and toss to coat. Mix in the vinegar, cover and braise another 10 minutes or cabbage turns bright purple. Sprinkle with salt, add 1 cup of liquid, cover and simmer slowly 1 ½ to 2 hours or until cabbage is tender. Add more liquid as needed during this time. Thicken any sauce with the roux as needed in hot but not boiling liquid. Should thicken in 3 or 4 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt if needed. Then add the jelly and stir to melt into mixture. Serve with the rest of the meal.

Note: Remove outer leaves as needed from head of cabbage. Quarter the heard and rinse and drain each. Cut out the core of the quarter and using your knife slice very thinly to shred. Repeat with remaining quarters and place all shredded cabbage in a large bowl.

Note: A roux is a thickening agent consisting of butter and flour. Use equal parts of each to make. In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter. Then add the flour and whisk to mix as you cook it for about 2 minutes. This takes the flour taste out of the roux. Refrigerate any extra for about a week.

Note: If you want this as a main dish, just add chopped ham to it. Add the ham when you add the apple and onion.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Meat & Vegetable Goulash

Meat & Vegetable Goulash
(4-6 servings)


1 ½ lb. Stew Meat (see note)
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black Pepper
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
1 tbsp. Sweet Paprika
2-3 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1 (15 oz.) can Whole Tomatoes
1 cup Hot Beef Stock
8-10 small White Onions, peeled
4 medium Carrots, peeled & sliced
1 lb. Red Potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 cup Frozen Peas


Sprinkle the meat with the salt and pepper while a Dutch oven heats up over medium heat. Melt the butter to bubbling before adding the meat to pot. Brown meat all over and then add the onion to the meat while reducing heat to medium-low. Cook onion until soft and golden. Next add the paprika and stir for 3 or 4 minutes. Sprinkle mixture with the flour and continue until it is absorbed. Now add the tomatoes with it's liquid and the stock. Cover pot, bring heat up to medium and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and continue for 45 minutes. To this mixture add the small onions, carrots and potatoes continuing to simmer another 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. During the last 10 minutes add the peas. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed and serve.

Note: You can buy already cut-up stew meat or cut-up your own choice of meat for this ingredient.

Note: As anyone who follows my blog regularly knows, I hate peas. So I would add frozen whole kernel corn in it's place. I believe most recipes add peas just to offer a color contrast for the dish. Just my thoughts on it.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I'm finding out that my blog assistant (granddaughter) is fearless and adventuresome.  We took a break the other day and went to the park.  We had been brainstorming ideas for future blogs and needed some down time.  She absolutely loves the swing.  This park had 3 different styles but only 2 that would work for her.  The first was a big chair type but couldn't go too high or fast.  It was alright for a few minutes but as soon as the other swing opened up, she was all over it.  This one would go high and fast.  And that is what she kept saying to me -"High" and high she went.  We did take a couple of breaks from that swing to go down 2 different slides.  The tallest of 3 different slides.  I think she could be base-jumping before her uncle can get her started on snow skiing.  She has no fear!  Of the hour we spent there, 40 minutes had to have been in this swing.  She went above my head front and back on the swing and wanted more.

The original "Oktoberfest" started in Munich, Germany in 1810.  It was a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) that happened on October 17th.  From there it grew grow. Over the years it has expanded to a 16 day festival (17 days if the first Sunday in October is the 1st or 2nd) at the Munich site.  It had started in October in the beginning but because of weather was moved to start in September.  The last day of the festival is now the first Sunday in October.

Oktoberfest has now become a world wide event or celebration.  Bars and Restaurants have developed it to help increase sales.  Oktoberfest is all about the different beers and great German food.  I'll pass on talking about the beers.  You can all do your own research on which beer is your favorite at this time of the year. The micro-breweries put out some great tasting fall beers.  So if you desire, do your homework and drink up.

I'm going to talk a little about German food and have two recipes this week that are traditional German recipes.  The first one is "Meat & Vegetable Goulash" and is a good hearty dish with lots of favor.  The Thursday recipe is a side dish using a popular ingredient of Germans, cabbage.  This one is "Red Cabbage (or Blue Kraut)" and again is delicious.

Germany is a country that is geographically much smaller than the USA.  But similar to the USA they have all the different terrain throughout the country.  Also like the USA, Germany has different dialects or accents in the various regions of the country.  Much of the Midwest of the USA is like Germany in that we are meat and potato eaters too.

Germany's cuisine has been influenced by those countries that border it.  Not necessarily the whole country but each region.  Similar again in how the food in the Southwest region of the USA was influenced by their neighbor, Mexico.

These influences make for great eating throughout the country of Germany.  However, many people won't be able to take a trip to Germany to enjoy all of these wonders the country offers.  You can take advantage in the USA by visiting good German restaurants.  If you are in or pass through the state of Iowa, try stopping at the Amana Colonies just west of Iowa City and just off Interstate 80.   If you're in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, try the German restaurant, the Bavarian Inn Lodge & Restaurant.  I know there are many more great German restaurants in the USA, but these I've eaten at personally and highly recommend.

Be sure to try these recipes this week.  I get nothing but rave reviews on the Goulash one.  Only complaint I receive on the red cabbage is a usual with cooking any cabbage, there is an odor in the house of cabbage. The vinegar in the recipe helps with that odor.  So "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Risotto with Shrimp

Risotto with Shrimp
(4-6 servings)


1 lb. Raw (in-shell) Shrimp (sized around 30 to the lb.)
3 cups Clam Juice
4 tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1 cup Dry White Wine, divided
1 Medium Yellow Onion, fine dice
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 ½ cups Arborio Rice
4 tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice, divided
1 Lemon, zested
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated (Parmigiano-Reggiano would be best)
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
as needed Fresh Parsley, chopped


Peel shrimp and retain shells. Also, devein shrimp as needed. Bring the clam juice to a boil and add the shrimp shells. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue for 10 minutes. Keep mixture warm until needed. In a large saute pan over medium heat warm 2 tbsp. of oil and shrimp. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until almost done. Add ½ cup of wine and reduce by half (1-2 minutes) before transferring to a bowl including all juice and hold until needed. Add remaining 2 tbsp. of oil to pan, heat and then add salt and onion to pan. Saute 5-7 minutes or until onion is translucent. Now add the rice and saute until opaque (2-3 minutes). Lower heat to medium-low, then add the remaining ½ cup of wine and 2 tbsp. of lemon juice stirring all the time. Strain the clam juice and start adding 1 ladle at a time. Continue stirring until liquid of ladle is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Do this until 1 ladle remains of clam juice. Before adding the last ladle, add the shrimp with it's juices, the cheese, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and the butter. Add the last of clam juice and stir to mix well. Cover pan with a lid, turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the parsley.

Note: If you don't want to go through the extra work of the clam juice and shrimp shells, you can just use 3 cups of warmed water. It won't give you the enhanced flavor but will still taste very good.

Note: There are many other ingredients that you can add to risotto instead of shrimp. Mushrooms, asparagus and spring vegetables are some of the most popular. Use your imagination and create your own favorite.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Basic Polenta

Basic Polenta
(4-6 servings)


6 ¼ cups Water
1 tbsp. Salt
2 ½ cups Polenta


Bring the water to a boil in a large heavy sauce pan. Add the salt and reduce heat to a simmer. Begin adding the polenta as a fine rain into the pan whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Now switch to a long wooden spoon and continue stirring over medium-low heat. The polenta should become a thick mass and pull away from the side of pan. This could take up to 20-25 minutes. Do not stop stirring until polenta is off the heat. When done, pour into a large slightly wet bowl and wait 5 minutes. Now turn it out onto a serving platter with a meat, mushroom or tomato sauce.

Note: This basic polenta can be fried, broiled or baked to give you a different taste, texture and use. It is best to use cold leftover polenta for frying. Just spread it out on a cutting board and cut into wedges. Dredge in flour before placing in the hot oil to fry. The polenta should be about ½ thick. Do the same to broil but omit the flour and broil on both sides until speckled with brown spots. Top with grated or spreadable cheese if you prefer.

Ideas for Future Efforts

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Part 12 of Italian (Polenta & Risotto) Cooking

This will be the last segment of "Italian Cooking" although I will continue to publish more Italian recipes.  But with this one I've pretty much covered the basics of Italian cooking.  Remember you can always go back to the other eleven, as well as this one, anytime you think you need to be refreshed on some aspect.

Showing off Grandpa Shirt
Before I start I need to tell on my blog assistant.  We (my wife, granddaughter, myself) went to a neighborhood pot luck a couple of weeks ago.  I took my "Lasagna" recipe from the cookbook and the Garlic Bread (V) recipe from this blog.  Nora (blog asst./granddaughter) wouldn't eat anything until she had devoured 2 slices of the garlic bread.  I think she is just buttering up grandpa for something special.  I'm going to have to watch that one.  She's learning how to get the best of me.  She was wearing a new shirt for grandpa.  It said "My Heart Belongs To Grandpa" and mine to her.

Let's start with "Polenta" which is a product of Northern Italy.  It came about after the new world was discovered and corn was introduced to Italy.  Polenta use to be made with other grains but corn became king I believe because of taste.  In making polenta, you can use water, stock (beef, chicken, vegetable), milk or some combination of them.  You could even try using wine.  One of the keys is to cook it slowly over medium-low heat and stir so it doesn't become lumpy on you.  You can buy quick cooking polenta.  But like grits (Southern USA dish), you are much better off not.

Polenta is a very versatile ingredient.  It can be used for sweet dishes as well as the savory.  It can be a 1st course dish, a vegetable dish, a main course or even a dessert.  I mention in the recipe tomorrow "Basic Polenta" that it is made stove-top to start.  However, you can then take the polenta and roll it out to about a 1/2 inch thickness and cut it into wedges, circles or any shape you desire.  It can then be deep-fried, pan-fried, broiled or baked.  So be sure to give it a try.

"Risotto" is also a product of Northern Italy.  My Italian is minimal but riso means rice.  Risotto is a creamy rich rice dish.  You could do a basic risotto but nobody does.  Risotto always has some other ingredient to enhance it.  You will see many risotto dishes with asparagus, mushrooms or shrimp.  Many other ingredients can be as well.  This week's recipe uses shrimp ("Risotto with Shrimp"- Thursday).

As with polenta, risotto is best cooked slow.  You keep adding liquid to the rice as you stir and let it be absorbed.  Never add more than one ladle at a time to the pan.  This process of first sauteing the rice and then slowly adding the liquid is what makes it so creamy.  Your liquid can be water but other liquids grow the flavor better.  Try using stocks (beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.) or wine or a combination.  It is best to stay away from milk when cooking risotto.

Leftover risotto is good for other uses.  A favorite one is to take risotto and press it around a piece of mozzarella cheese, coat it with fine bread crumbs and deep-fry it.  It makes a great snack or appetizer.

I hope this has given you a better idea of polenta and risotto dishes.  That they are now familiar enough to want to try.  Enjoy and "Happy Cooking" until next week.