Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

pommesfrites.jpgI think I can speak for everyone when I say French fries are probably Americans' favorite guilty pleasure. So much so that Americans dared to rename them Freedom fries when France objected to the war. Interestingly there is nothing French about them. As history goes, potatoes were first brought to Spain via the New World expeditions. Fried potatoes became popular during the 17th century in the Spanish Netherlands, present day Belgium.

When there were no fish to fry, the poorer citizens fried potatoes. Sometime during World War I, an American or British soldier eating fried potatoes erroneously named them French fries since French was the official language of Belgium. Another theory suggests that the culinary term for slicing into thin strips, "to French," was applied to fried potatoes and thus the name.

However the story goes, fried potatoes or pommes frites have achieved worldwide acclaim. American fast food chains accepted them as their own and their popularity soared. Once you bite into a golden crisp fry with a pure white fluffy interior, you just can't stop at one.

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spaghetticarbonaraHave you opened your freezer lately? I bet it's completely full just like mine. And how about the pantry? In the freezer I had a package of peas and sliced pancetta leftover from this Boeuf Bourguignon. In the refrigerator I had a pint of sour cream and a block of Parmesan cheese. In the cupboard I had a box of spaghetti. My staple ingredients included oil, shallots, garlic, and black pepper.

All these ingredients come together to form a luscious pasta dish in anticipation of springtime. The peas provide bursts of verdant flavor and the pancetta a salt-and-brine flavor. The combination of sour cream and Parmesan cheese with some pasta water creates the perfect sauce.

But the best part about this recipe is the endless possibility for reinterpretation depending upon what you have. The ingredients do not have to be the exact ones mentioned here. Use bacon instead of pancetta. Use heavy cream or milk instead of sour cream. Use fettuccine instead of spaghetti. It's up to you to experiment and have fun with it.

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chocolate_cinnamon_rolls_008.jpgI'm still rolling through my office, trying to organize every inch of it, with the help of my friend, the professional organizer. We're making great progress. Tops of my desks have stayed mostly clear. My files are filling up. I'm finally seeing blank space on the shelves in my storage closet, the result of some purging.

There is much more to do before the job is done. My organizer strongly suggests I get my cookbook collection all in one place and that place should be my office. Cookbooks live on shelves in the storage closet in my office, on shelves and in a bookcase in an extra bedroom, in a pile next to my bed and a few on the ottoman in the living room. I shudder when I think of consolidating this enormous number of books into one space in my office. I fear the "organizer" will tell me to start choosing cookbooks to put in a "give-away box."

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shepherdspie_indiv.jpgI do love this time of year and cooking in a somewhat cooler climate makes me happy.

Two years ago I started making Shepherd’s Pie and much to my surprise, everyone at my dinner table fell in love with it. It’s a simple dish, made with everyday, fridge and pantry ingredients.  One more feather in this recipes cap – it’s a one pot dish.

Using the white part of the leeks (saving the green part for my homemade stock), and left over mashed potatoes, I am proud to say that I can feed my family of five (with leftovers for lunch the next day) for about ten bucks.

I am working on accomplishing that task most nights. Making wholesome meals, using fresh ingredients for a few dollars makes me happy and giddy. I cannot wait to share more of my “happy meals” with you.

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BAKEDBEANSWhen ever we go out for barbque, I always, choose baked beans as one of my sides. There is something so satisfying and so comforting in eating a dish like this along with my tri-tip sandwich and a double portion of asian slaw.

I have had this particular recipe for baked beans in my repertoire for over 25 years. They serve a crowd – a very large crowd. Therefore, I only have a few opportunities through out the year to make this dish. Using only 5 ingredients, cooked slowly in the oven for about 5 hours, these baked bean are always the star of the evening.

This past July 4th, we celebrated the day with our good friends and 60 of their nearest and dearest. When I heard the number of people I asked if I could make my homemade baked beans. My friend, B, responded with, “my husband will love you and covet the whole pot, please do”.

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