Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

The Elvis Sandwich

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by Joseph Erdos

elvissandwichI've loved peanut butter sandwiches as long as I can remember. And I don't know anyone who hasn't eaten them as kids or even adults. Most people owe their school lunches to peanut butter and jelly. But somewhere down the line I had lost my interest in the sandwich and peanut butter in general.

It wasn't until my travels in England that I really had a strong craving for a real pb&j.

 For me the sandwich was never complete with just any jelly—it always had to be Concord grape jelly. I was inconsolable that in London I couldn't find a jar of Concord grape jelly (because Concord grapes are only native to America). So my only substitute was blackcurrant jam, which wasn't bad but it didn't hit the spot.

It took a trip far away from home to help me realize how much I had missed a peanut butter sandwich. 

In New York there's a place that specializes in peanut butter sandwiches. But I had never managed to eat there, that is until recently. Peanut Butter & Co. has everything a peanut butter lover could ask for in their massive variety of sandwiches all using peanut butter. But my favorite is one that the King himself loved—and by king I mean Elvis.

Mac ‘n Cheese Crackers

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by Susan Salzman

crackers.mac.cheese.jpgMy girlfriend took one bite of these and said, “this tastes like Mac ‘n Cheese”.  Voila, the Mac ‘n Cheese cracker was born.

I had been wanting to make more savory snacks and this was a really great place to start.

What I love most about this recipe is that these can be made in big batches, baked right away or frozen for future use, making last minute entertaining, either in our own home or at others, easy and stress free.

What's the Difference Between Bruschetta and Crostini?

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by Susan Russo

bruschettabrieboard.jpgBruschetta and crostini? What's the difference?

They’re both wildly popular, easy-to-make Italian appetizers of toasted bread with toppings.

In my family, bruschetta was toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil, tomatoes, and basil, while smaller slices of toasted bread with various toppings were called crostini.

I wanted to provide you with a more thorough explanation of the difference between the two, so I explained to Jeff that we needed to take a trip to Italy to conduct research for my blog. However, out plans fell through. So instead I just Googled it.

Brushcetta, from the Italian "bruscare," which means "to roast over coals," refers to the bread, not the toppings. Rather large slices of bread are grilled, rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with olive oil. They are usually topped with tomatoes and basil, though other toppings from meats to vegetables can be used.


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by Joseph Erdos

fonduta.jpgWith the blustery weather the Northern hemisphere is having right now, there are plenty of reasons to stay in and gather with family over holiday food. And for safety's sake, I just hope that is what most people are doing. There are many dishes that create a sense of togetherness, but none is as famous as fondue. This dish of melted cheese originates from the Alps. The Swiss popularized and designated it a national dish in the 1930s. It eventually crossed the pond and became extremely popular in suburban America during the 1960s. There are also French and Italian versions, like Fonduta, as it's called in Italy.

Fonduta is a specialty of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. It is made with fontina, a young cow's milk cheese that melts much like mozzarella. Its taste is similar to other Alpine cheeses, like Gruyère and Emmental from Switzerland. The big difference between Swiss fondue and fonduta is that the Italian recipe does not include wine, garlic, or cornstarch as thickener. Instead fonduta is made with butter, milk, and egg yolks as thickener. It comes together much like custard and is made in a bain-marie, a double boiler. The final dish is richly flavored and silken. It's ideal for a communal gathering of family or a New Year's Eve party with friends. Just add a roaring fire, and complete the Alpine feel.

How to Make New England Clam Chowder

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by Brenda Athanus

quahogclams.jpgWhat a perfect time to declare it to be New England clam chowder week because the temperature here in Maine has been zero degrees at night and the wind has been a howling! Recipes for chowder are pretty personal  around here. Some old salts would never use rendered bacon fat to sauté their onions in, they'd stop listening to you, roll their eyes and turn up their noses. Salt pork is how the old timers started chowder, period. Quahogs, not likely, either.

I'm telling you from experience you can't please too many people here in Maine with chowder because it's never like their mother's. Perhaps they will taste it, but if you leave the room they all will be chatting about "where did she learn to make chowder, Howard Johnson's"?  But, I'll take a shot at MY way of making it and hope that I don't take too much heat for it.

First off, you need 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of steamer clams, yup, steamers. What's a steamer clam, you ask? It's a soft shell clam that lives in sandy or muddy Atlantic shoreline. If you're lucky enough to have a choice, pick the mud clams. Nothing complicated, the mud washes away after several soakings, but God couldn't get all the grit and sand out even with an army to help. There's alway some crunchy grit left, period! Clean the fresh steamers well and go directly from the sink to a waiting large 6 quart heavy bottomed pot, turn the heat on medium and cover. You caught me, no water! Be brave...

Southern Style Shrimp and Grits

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by James Moore

shrimpgrits.jpgUglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans (Uglesich website) serves one of the best shrimp and grits that I ever tasted, although, just about everything there was incredible. This recipe, which follows a method from America’s Test kitchen, is pretty easy to throw together and makes a great quick dinner for two.

Southern Style Shrimp and Grits 

8 ounces shrimp (large size 31-40 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 minced garlic clove
pinch of Cayenne pepper
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Cajun Seafood seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion minced (about 1/2 cup)
1½ cups water
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup Quick Grits (Quick not instant grits is key)
4 oz extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese, shredded
1 green onion sliced thin

Skinny Pork Chop Scaloppini

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by James Farmer III

porkdinnerTechnically defined as “thin cuts of meat, sautéed and cooked in a rich sauce,” the scaloppini fashion for cooking pork, chicken, and veal is simple and elegant. In the midst of my stew, soup and comfort food wintertime phase, I ere toward the side of something fresh and light in betwixt the heaviness comfort food affords. Enter my Skinny Pork Chop Scaloppini.

Lemon, garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley and white wine all meld and mélange together to form a succulent sauce with the renderings of the thinly slice pork cutlets.

Why pork for this dish? Well, to quote my Mimi, “If I have to eat one more piece of chicken, I may scream! There IS another white meat!” Upon delivery of such a statement, Mimi and I drove to a fast food chain and scarffed down cheeseburgers and fries. Sometimes there is nothing better. Back to the dish at hand!

Like my Mimi, I do like a break from chicken and thinly sliced pork cutlets fit the bill. Veal too is luscious in this manner but many folks have an aversion to said meat; thus, the pork cutlets make do marvelously. This cut of meat is economical, easy to handle and the perfect portion to plate. They brown well, yielding that flavor as a delightful element for the sauce. Ahhhhh – the sauce!

Bring Back the Date Bar

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by Sue Doeden

vegan-date-bars-012.jpgWhen was the last time you ate a date bar? I haven’t had one in years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve even given thought to that deliciously sweet, rich layered dessert.

Not long ago, I received an email request for a date bar recipe. My thoughts swiftly went back to the date bars my dad’s cousin used to make using a recipe that had been in my dad’s family for years — maybe generations. Following the visions of date bars running through my head came the date-filled cookies I used to get from the Rothsay Truck Stop. On my trips from Fargo to Minneapolis, I could never pass up the I-94 exit that took my car up the ramp and right into a parking spot in front of the large plate glass window that looked into the little cafe attached to the gas station. I’d walk up to the counter lined with bar stools and order half dozen of the homemade date-filled cookies. A waitress would pull the large, soft cookies from a glass jar on a shelf and slide them into a paper bag. Chewy and not too sweet, they were a date-lovers dream. They were an easy snack to eat out of hand in the car. The truck-stop cafe is still there. The date-filled cookies are not.

Cherry Almond Puff: Perfect for Any Celebration

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by Sue Doeden

cherry_almond_puff_021.jpgFebruary is zipping right by. The days are getting longer, the sun is shining, the temps have been mild. I’m enjoying a mid-winter high. In just a couple of weeks, though, March will arrive with gray days, dirty snow, more snow, ice — all things that make the month of March in Minnesota my least favorite time of the year.

I’ve decided to celebrate the sunshine of today with a batch of Cherry Almond Puff. I began the process with an old recipe for Almond Puff that I got years ago from a friend of mine who lives in Bird Island, Minnesota. I haven’t made it in years, but was reminded of it when I was having coffee with someone the other day who told me about this great dessert she had made for a neighborhood get-together. I recognized it as Almond Puff.

Since February is National Cherry Month, I made a filling with dried cherries and almond paste. Yes, I’m still finding ways to use almond paste.

Stewed White Beans with Tomatoes and Rosemary

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by Cathy Pollak

stewedwhitebeans.jpgI love beans. There I said it. I mean, don't you love them too? Beans can stretch any meal far beyond the usual menu ideas.  There are countless sauces and toppings that can be incorporated with beans and served over rice and pasta. Let's not mention the affordability of this very fine staple.

I do suppose there are those who suffer lots of intestinal-distress when consuming beans, luckily, I am not one of them. Too much information? Maybe.

Anyway, these white beans in tomato sauce, scented with rosemary, are even better a day or two after cooking. They make a great side dish and are easily reheated. My favorite way to eat them is with a generous helping of freshly, grated Parmesan cheese. It melts all over the warm beans and it's just fantastic.


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