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Recipe for a Wonderful, Unexpected Vacation

by Jo Ann Miller (The Grandmother)

The following is a new recipe that I found over the weekend:

Gather a bunch of family (Your own mixture will work))
Mix together one State Mock Trial Competition for one day. (Almost any activity to bring you together)
The following cannot be changed:
Add at least 2 members not willing to go home after one day.
Mix in a spirit of adventure.
Stir up enthusiasm for finding an unbeaten path.
Results: A wonderful weekend.

All of this started with two grandsons participating in Mock Trial at Waco High. The team advanced to the State finals in Dallas. The Miller family, minus a few who had other things to do, went to Big D for the finals. By Friday Night we had all arrived and some of us found the way to Pappadeaux for a Mardi Gras dinner. (We choose to go there often when in “the city.”) Mardi Gras celebration was in full swing. Lots of beads and lots of people. After a l-o-n-g wait we had crawfish etouffe, bacon-wrapped grilled shrimp stuffed with jalapena served over dirty rice, and  different desserts–turtle cheesecake and key lime pie.

To bed late and up early for the trial. Shivering we drove downtown, parked at the old Dallas County Court House and walked the George Allen Court House. Grandsons performed well and placed eighth in the state. Good work, David and Matthew, aka Buckeye Pawpaw.

Next stop–the free parking at Neiman-Marcus’s valet lot and a visit to the Zodiak Room for a early lunch. We were treated to delicious chicken broth with a tiny cheese biscuit*, beautiful popovers with strawberry butter, shrimp and corn chowder, sliced chicken sandwich on ciabata and tiny shell pasta with a light alfredo sauce. Yum. Granddaughter tried on hats in Millinery, and then we were ready to head home.

BUT WAIT! Two of us wanted to delay that. And we did. We started searching at Waxahachie where we encountered a Mardi Gras parade and caught beads and doubloons, for a bed and breakfast. The Mother (the Final Decider) nixed the regular type hotel. All the way to Hillsboro we searched via cell phone,and took  a chance on finding a B&B at Whitney and Meridian. No luck. Undeterred the Grandmother suggested Glen Rose. Viola. Not a B&B but a hotel with a warmer atmosphere and better rates than the big city hotel.
So Glen Rose it was on a Saturday Night. We could have gone to a rodeo, but chose instead to go to the Texas Beer Garden and The Green Pickle. We had a surprisingly good Bleu Cheese Hamburger and, of course, fried pickles. And, of course, we drank beer and sat shivering in the Garden to hear some country music.That wasn’t all! Next day we giggled our way through the Fossil Rim Wildlife Preserve where we fed emus, zebras, many different types of deer and giraffees.

Hopeful that we could have a light supper at Red Caboose Winery in Clifton, we stopped. Alas, no food, but a nice glass of one of their great reds and a close and delightful encounter with a Wire-haired Pointing Griffon named Bear Hug. We fell in love with him. And after that–home.

Thanks to the small towns in Central Texas for exciting adventures. There may not be a Mardi Gras Parade or a rodeo, but I would bet that with a little research, you will find great adventures  not too far away.

*Helen Corbitt’s** Cheese Biscuit Recipe:

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup grated sharp cheese
3/4 cup milk

Sift flour, baking powder, and slat together; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir grated cheese into mixture. Ad all milk and mix to smooth dough. Turn out on lightly floured board. Knead lightly. Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake  in very hot oven at 450 degrees F. for 12 to 15 minutes.
Note: For small biscuits cut with doughnut hole cutter.
**Helen Corbitt  was in charge of food service at Neiman Marcus for a number of years.

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And Even More Pancakes

Since writing the first “:Pancakes” blog, several pancake variations have come to our attention fLAVORS OF MOROCCO has a recipe for “Semolina Pancakes–beghir.” These are served with honey and butter. From TAPAS to MEZE showcases two pancake recipes that are not the usual sweet treats. ‘Shrimp and Green Onion Pancakes” are featured at Bodego La Alboriza in Seville. These pancakes, made with chickpea flour, are served with golden, deep-fried sardines. The other recipe from this source is “Chickpea, Olive Oil and Cumin Pancakes.” These cakes, crispy and brown, are cut into wedges, drizzled with flavorful olive and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

In the vein of savory as well as sweet, pancakes, Julia Child,  Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck  give us the paths to crepes for desserts AND crepes for entrees. Crepe rcipes for the main dish with a variety of filling such as spinach, cream cheese, mushrooms, chicken, cooked fish, shellflish, veal, ham with added vegetables using appropriate sauces are in their first cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Desserts crepes are in the cookbook with detailed instructions for making crepes ala Julia.

Having a concern for our friends who have an intolerance for gluten, I tried oat flour pancakes. I didn’t find oat flour at the grocery, I made my own in a food processor. Let me just say that the oat flour pancakes that I made have a lot of fiber!!! There are recipes galore on the internet for gluten-free baking, and your grocery store has some mixes on the shelf. And what about Johnny Cakes? Would that be a gluten-free choice?  Help me here.

Some of  the pancake recipes mentioned  follow:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
3/4 cup chickpea flour*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Large pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces small fresh shrimp, shelled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cup cold water
Olive oil for frying
Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook, covered until soft, about 3 minutes.
Combine the chickpea and all-purpose flours, baking powder, salt and pepper.
Add the green onions, parsley, cumin, cayenne, shrimp and water. Stir well. The batter should be the consistency of very heavy cream. Let rest1 to2 hours at room temperature.
Heat the oil 1/4 inch thick in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into the oil. spreading it out to form a 2 1/2 inch pancake. (Put as many pancakes as the pan will hold with them touching.)  Fry until golden brown, turning once, 2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately..
This is served with fino, a fine sherry.
*Chickpea flour is available at any health food store. Chickpeas were introduced to the Spaniards by the Moors.

1 cup stone ground cornmeal 
1 cup boiling water–add only enough to make a rather thick mixture
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Milk–1/2 to 1 cup
Butter, bacon fat or oil for frying
Whisk together cornmeal and salt.  Bring water to a boil and pour over the mixture, whisking to prevent lumps. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
Butter or oil a large skillet or griddle and heat it to about 375 degrees, just to a sizzle (do not burn butter or oil.) Add enough milk (1/2 to a cup) to the batter to make it the consistency of mashed potatoes. Drop by spoonfuls to make cakes about 2 or 3 inches wide and several inches apart (they will spread.) Let the cakes gently sizzle on the grill for about 6 minutes or as long as 11 minutes until you bring them to a deep golden brown on the bottom and slightly firm on the top. Add some more butter to the griddle and/or place a thin pat of butter on each cake, before turning them over and cooking for another 6 minutes (or longer) until they are the deep golden brown color.
Serve with butter and maple.
Makes about 8 cakes.
Recipe borrowed and changed.

Think I’ll go practice with these right now. Easier than doing a blog. I haven’t quite caught on to all the computer stuff.
Call me about another pancake recipe–Orange-Thyme Pancakes.

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How About Pancakes?

by Jo Ann Miller (Karyn’s mom)

Well, how about them? You’ve probably eaten some version of them most all of your life, and  have not given  a second thought to the fact that this quick bread has been around on this earth about as long as any food made with grain. Crushed grain mixed with a liquid and baked on a hot stone was probably the first pancake (or stonecake.) In the United States we call them flapjacks, pancakes, griddlecakes or hotcakes. They may be made with white, wheat, oat or buckwheat flour. Johnnycakes are a variation made with ground corn. Different names in different countries: French crepes, German Pfannkuchen, The Netherlands Pannekoekenk, Swedish pannkakor and on and on and on. If you are interested in all the variations in all the world, Check

My experience with them started when I became engaged. I was teaching a Home Economics class, and one of my students wanted to know how to make pancakes. I confessed that I had never made them,  He said, “Well, Miss Orr, if you are getting married, you’d better learn.” This was good advice since pancakes were my husband’s favorite food. And I’ve made many a pancake in the last 55+ years. They are quick, easy, versatile and so wonderfully delicious in so many different variations.

After we had children we had pancakes EVERY Sunday Morning. Pancakes, sausage and syrup. It’s our tradition!! When we had company, I would simmer sliced apples or peaches with butter, cinnamon and sugar.. Just slather THAT on the pancake for a company meal! Throw in a few blueberries to the batter before baking. Sprinkle some chopped pecans on the top when the pancake is poured on to the griddle. We had orange, thyme pancakes at a B&B in Maine; my friend makes wonderful ones from a biscuit mix. There are as many ways to make and serve as there are kitchens–almost.

On Shrove Tuesday, March 8, beginning at 8:30 a.m. we will be serving the British Isles version of pancakes along with some American ones from my “old family recipe.” (Come and enjoy. No confessions required.)

The following is the British Isles pancake recipe:

1 cup flour
2 eggs
2 cups milk
Pinch of salt
Butter for cooking

Whisk together milk, eggs and salt.
Fold in sifted flour a little at the time and whisk until smooth.
Let rest for 10 minutes.
Heat a small amount of butter in a small skillet until it almost smokes.
Pour enough batter to thinly coat the pan.
Cook until lightly brown. Turn and brown on the other side.
Serve with lemon juice and sugar.
Note: the first one will be a disaster. It’s the “one for the dog.” The first one seasons the pan.
(Our neighbor always said that kids are like pancakes. You practice on the first one and pitch it out.)

My basic recipe is as follows:

l cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons cooking oil

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl or a large measuring cup mix the milk, egg and cooking oil.
Pour liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir. Do not over mix, Mixture will have some lumps. Let rest about 5 minutes.
Drop by spoonfuls on a preheated griddle (about 375F.) that has a bit of cooking oil to prevent sticking.
Turn when light to medium brown and cook on other side to desired doneness. Remember that the first one seasons the pan, and the others will be better. To keep hot while cooking the entire batch, place a cookie sheet in a warm oven and place cooked cakes on that. That way maybe the cook can eat when everyone else eats.
Serve with butter, syrup, jams, jellies–with any of the variations mentioned or any other food that strikes your fancy.

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If You REALLY Love Your Valentine, Cook at Home

I really love my Valentine. I love my Valentine so much that I want to stay home and have a wonderful, satisfying, delicious, meal. Of course, my Valentine is my 8-year-old daughter. She is, without question, the love of my life. And, at least for now, she loves me almost as much as I love her. She thinks I am beautiful. She is loyal. She is kind. She is worth everything I can give her on Valentine’s Day. So, I am making a special meal. Okay, so the meal is as much for me as it is for her, but I know she will love it, too. Here it is. (The exception will be that I will also make every kid’s favorite salad dressing – Ranch – but it WILL be homemade!) By the way, you can get the specialty ingredients at Gourmet Gallery in Waco. Stop by and let us help.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you try this simple menu and I hope you enjoy a loving, if not romantic, dinner with your Valentine.
Mixed Greens with Truffle Mustard Vinaigrette
Filet Mignon with Vanilla Wine Sauce
Strawberry Meringue Torte
Mixed Greens with Truffle Mustard Vinaigrette
⅓ c grape seed oil
1 peeled shallot, thinly sliced
1 T truffle mustard
1 t parsley, finely chopped
1 T honey
3 T rice wine vinegar
3 T champagne vinegar
1 T dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together and toss with salad greens.
Filet Mignon with Vanilla Wine Sauce
from the Nielsen-Massey Cookbook, A Century of Flavor
Vanilla Wine Sauce
2 c organic beef stock
¼ c dry red wine
1 small onion, sliced in half
3 large sprigs of fresh marjoram or oregano
2 whole garlic cloves
1 t Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract (we like Nielsen-Massey)
1 ½ T tomato paste
1 t light brown sugar
2 T butter, softened
2 four-ounce 1 ½” thick steaks
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T olive oil
2 c sliced mushrooms
½ c clarified butter
Strawberry Meringue Torte
from the private recipe collection of JoAnn Miller
3 egg whites
½ t baking powder
1 c sugar
10 square (2”) soda crackers, rolled fine
½ c cut-up pecans
½ qt unsweetened strawberries
1 c chilled whipped cream
Heat oven to 300. Butter generously a 9” pie pan. Beat egg whites with baking powder until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar until whites are stiff. Fold in cracker crumbs and pecans. Spread in pie pan. Bake 30 minutes. Cool. Fill with strawberries. Chill several hours. Serve with whipped cream.
We sometimes make individual-sized portions by spooning meringue onto parchment paper before baking. Fill with sliced strawberries. Top with whipped cream or Gran Marnier Cream and some orange peel. It makes a beautiful presentation.
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Thanksgiving with the Millers


I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. It almost always means our whole family spends weeks working on a menu that will satisfy all of us. My nephews get frustrated and ask why we can’t just have “normal” food on Thanksgiving, and why it has to be so elaborate.

Part of the reason is that we are not “normal.” Part of the reason is that we love experimenting. And part of the reason is that the memories from planning and cooking with each other are just as important as the actual eating of the meal.

This is our Thanksgiving Menu this year.

Oregano-Lemon Roasted Turkey
Wild Rice and Pine Nut Stuffing
Mom’s Cornbread Dressing
Pork Roast with Garlic and Rosemary
Potatoes Dauphin
Herbed Roasted Parsnips, Carrots and Potatoes
Green Beans with Cranberries and Almonds
Beth’s Broccoli with Crispy Asian Noodles
Bread Pudding
Pecan Pie
Rustic Apple Tart with Cinmamon Cream

Sounds pretty normal to me! If you would like any of these recipes, please email me at

Also, join us at Gourmet Gallery the day after Thanksgiving for the following events:

“Secret” Sale
Kids’ Day
What to Do with Your Leftovers
Wine tasting from
The Klassy Glass
(a new wine bar opening soon on Austin Avenue)
Gourmet Gallery
2056 N. Valley Mills at Cobbs
Waco, TX 76710

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The Benefits of Hoarding

Sometimes I have trouble throwing things away. My grandmother once scolded me for throwing away some used tin foil she had kept since The Great Depression. Consequently, my house has little piles of things I feel guilty about throwing away in almost every cobwebby corner. Many of the piles have something to do with cooking. I need to clean out most of these corners. This once, however, I was really, really glad that I hadn’t.

In the midst of one of those stacks was an old Bon Appétit magazine. It was the September 1995 issue, and yes, I still have it, along with almost every other issue for the last 15 years. The cover picture (as often happens with my favorite cooking magazines) made my mouth water. I recognized this recipe. I made it within the first week of receiving the issue back in the days when I had time to read an entire magazine and time to test out some of the recipes on my friends. I STILL remember how much I loved this recipe, as is evidenced by the splatters, stains, and stickiness of page 16.

Bon Appétit printed this fusion recipe in their R.S.V.P. section, which is the portion of the magazine where they print recipes requested from restaurants all over the world. The recipe came from a restaurant all the way around the world and back – Tucson, Arizona. Presidio Grill to be exact. It combines pasta with chicken, garlic, basil, poblano chilies, and prosciutto. The richness, spiciness, and beautiful coloring of this dish deserve a bold red wine – a fusion of sorts to match the fusion of flavors in the pasta dish.

When I spouted off the list of ingredients to winemaker Bill Peper, he immediately thought of one of his new wines that he hopes to call “Mammoth Red.” Bill is one of the founders of the soon-to-be winery Valley Mills Vineyards Winery, right here in Central Texas. Among other yummy-sounding wines, he is developing this exciting five-varietal blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lenoir, Tinta Cão, and Tempranillo. Sounds rich. Bill said he will bring a drop of it by Gourmet Gallery. In the mean time, keep your eyes, ears, and taste buds open to learn about the Valley Mills Vineyards Winery. I know I’m excited about it. If you have enough time, maybe you can pair it with this recipe, too.

Linguine with Chicken, Garlic and Basil
From Bon Appétit, September 1995

¼ c plus 1 T olive oil
¼ c minced garlic

¾ lb linguine (A homemade pasta from one of Gourmet Gallery’s pasta making classes would be ideal.)

1 ½ lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 poblano chilies, seeded, cut into matchstick-size strips
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ c thinly sliced fresh basil
4 oz prosciutto, chopped
2 T (1/4 stick) butter

1 c freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Heat ¼ cup oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until light golden brown, about six minutes. Strain oil into glass measuring cup; reserve garlic. Add enough oil to measuring cup to measure ¼ cup. Set aside.

Cook linguine in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bit, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat reserved oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté five minutes.

Add poblanos and sauté two minutes. Add tomatoes, ¼ c basil, prosciutto, and 2 T cooked garlic and sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir just until melted.

Drain linguine and place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture and 1/2 c parmesan; toss to coat. Season with salt and freshly-ground black or pink pepper (depending on how spicy you want it). Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c basil and 2 T cooked garlic. Serve with remaining Parmesan.

Serve with salad greens with a mild vinaigrette sweetened slightly with some local honey (no herbs so you don’t detract from the full flavors of the pasta) and a bit of crusty bread. While you are enjoying this tasty recipe and your second glass of Mammoth Red, look around you to see what treasure you might discover in the dark, cobwebbed corners of your home. For once you might be glad that you haven’t cleaned for awhile. My grandmother would be proud.

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Flat Irons and Red Cabooses

Fall Favorites – Flat Irons and Red Cabooses
Gourmet Gallery is offering our first Flavors of Fall cooking class for 2010 on Saturday, September 18 Soups, Stews, and Chilies Class. Check out our website for more information at

It takes so little for me to get excited about Autumn. The slightest change in weather stirs that expectant waiting of warming comfort foods, colorful leaves, football, fall picnics, red wine. To celebrate the harbingers of Fall, Jo Ann, Caryl, Molly, and I went to the Red Caboose Winery in Meridian, TX. Whether or not you are a wine drinker, this is a beautiful place to visit. The facility is GREEN; the people are warm and inviting; the wines are enticing and delicious.

We tasted a few wines, but my favorite, especially for Fall, was a Syrah-Malbec that will knock your socks off, or, as winemaker Evan McKibben phrased it, “It really hits you in the face.” He meant it in a good way, and he’s right. It’s a hearty, earthy wine that is rich enough to stand up to any steak or Texas bar-b-que yet mellow enough to complement a piece of dark chocolate. My family and I shared two bottles of it on Labor Day with a medium-rare flat iron steak. (Recipe to follow.) The steak was fantastic, but the wine really set it off.

Red Caboose winery has a Cork and Fork the last Friday of the month. They sell wine by the glass and by the bottle. You can take your own picnic and enjoy the lovely scenery. The folks at the winery suggested we bring our own lawn chairs to ensure a seat. You can find out more at If you go, please tell them you found out about us from the girls at Gourmet Gallery. Maybe they will come to Waco to do a tasting for us! In the meantime, pack up a picnic and get ready for a beautiful Autumn. To me, it’s the best time of the year to experience the feelings, tastes, and smells of the outdoors.

Grilled Flat Iron Steak*

This recipe is modified from one my mom found on Theirs was cooked in a nonstick skillet. Truth be known, I simply didn’t want to spend the money to feed my whole family. When Mom said she had some of these “new, trendy”steaks in her freezer, it was a lucky day. The steaks were fantastic thanks to a good recipe and Caryl’s grilling expertise. The few remaining leftovers made a wonderful steak salad.

2 lbs flat iron steak*
2 ½ T unfiltered olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T shallot, minced
¼ cup hearty red wine (don’t waste your Red Caboose on this, though! Any nice red will do.)
½ t salt
¾ t fresh-ground black pepper
1 t dry mustard powder
1 T meat tenderizer, such as Adolph’s

Sprinkle tenderizer on both sides of steaks. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, shallots, salt, pepper, wine, and mustard powder. Pour over steaks. Cover tightly and marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Grill over medium-hot coals for about 3-4 minutes per side. Let rest for five minutes, then slice across the grain into thin slices.

Serve with jasmine rice and a colorful green salad, or use on rolls for a delicious sandwich to take to
Red Caboose Winery. Don’t forget the deviled eggs and a hunk of dark chocolate to go with the Syrah-Malbec.

*Flat iron steaks are a fairly-recently “discovered” a thin cut that is surprisingly lean and tender. Scientists were trying to find a way to minimize the wasted cut from the shoulder of the cow. According to, these “friendly scientists” found a way to take out the thick connective tissue that made the cut undesirable. Like other thin cuts, flat iron steaks, also known as “top blade steaks,” benefit from marinating and from cooking no more than medium-rare. This cut also makes a wonderful chili or beef stew.

Happing cooking and eating!

Please see our website at for a complete listing of our cooking classes.
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Beautiful Mediterranean Appetizers

At Gourmet Gallery we occasionally offer a “Mediterranean Menu” class in conjunction with MClennan Community CollegeC. MCC’s Karen Hix has taught these classes for us, and she returns this week for a 2-class series on Mediterranean foods. Karen is Lebanese and Scottish. Fortunately for us, her Lebanese mother’s cooking expertise (read Mediterranean) beat out the haggis and blood pudding influence her father brought to the union. Thus we have a Mediterranean Menu cooking class by the Scottish/Lebanese- American, Karen Hix. Boy, are we glad!

Her menu will dig into appetizers and salads, main dishes and desserts. No shortage of flavor in these lessons. Below are a couple of recipes that she WON’T be making, some that we have come to love and rely on for our own appetizers classes, parties, and pot-luck events. They are always hits; so, try them even if they seem a little unusual to you.

Baked Pita Chips
Cut split pita rounds into even triangles with a knife or pizza cutter. Place on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt lightly on top of triangles. Bake at 350° F for about 10 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.

Feta Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Pine Nut Dip

6 oz feta cheese ½ c finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ tsp minced garlic Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature Pita chips, crackers or crudités for serving
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced


Combine the feta, garlic, sour cream, and cream cheese in a food processor, pulse until the ingredients are just combined. Scrape the feta mixture into a bowl and stir in the red pepper and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, spoon the dip into a serving bowl and scatter the toasted pine nuts on top. Serve with pita chips, crackers or crudités.

Pita Nachos with Hummus and Greek Salsa

1 serrano chile, minced 2 tsp red wine vinegar
½ c diced red onion ½ tsp salt
1 large tomato seeded and diced Pita chips
½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced 1 ½ cups hummus*
1 T chopped fresh Mint ½ grated aged mizithra cheese
3 T olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the chile, onion, tomato, cucumber, and mint. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Arrange the pita wedges on a large platter. Scatter dollops of hummus on top of the pita chips. Spoon the tomato mixture over them and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.

*Hummus is a dip made from garbanzo beans, tahini paste (optional), and olive oil. There are lots of great recipes for it, or you can use purchased hummus from just about any grocery store. Karen Hix teaches us how to make hummus (a staple at her house) at her next class.

Dates with Prosciutto and Bleu Cheese
We won “Best Appetizer” at the Waco ISD Education Foundation Cook-off this year with this recipe. It sounds weird, but it’s really fabulous!

24 dates
1 c quality bleu cheese
12 thin slices prosciutto (the best you can find at the market)
Aged, sweet balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut the date in half and remove the pit. Place a teaspoon of bleu cheese in cavity and pack in slightly. Wrap the date with a thin strip of prosciutto, knotting or criss-crossing it on the top of the date. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven until the prosciutto is toasted and the cheese is warm, about 12 minutes.

(These can be assembled two weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container in the freezer. Remove from freezer and bake per above directions.)

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Simple Italian Cuisine

We recently returned from a trip to Tuscany where we ate, prayed, and loved! One of the best evenings we experienced was the farmhouse dinner at Fattoria il Poggio, a working winery, olive orchard, and farmhouse in Montecarlo, Lucca. It was a beautiful evening with fabulous food, wine, and good friends. They made a spelt soup that I could live on. (After I find a regular spelt supplier, I will make it and share the recipe if it’s okay with the folks at the farmhouse.)

Below is a recipe for Tuscan panzanella. According to my Food Lover’s Companion, panzanella is an Italian bread salad made with onions, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings and chunks of bread. . . . According to me, it’s delicious! My non-traditional version has a bit of fresh parmesan shavings on top for taste and garnish. Pair with a Tuscan Pinot Grigio.

Traditionally, this salad is made without the heat of an oven with leftover bread. (The Italians did not/do not throw bread away. They gather it up and use it in soups, salads, whatever works.) You can opt to toast or grill your bread first, but the original is stale bread soaked in a bit of water. I prefer soaking in a little water and olive oil mixed.

1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 2-day old country loaf or ciabatta, thickly sliced and torn into 1-inch pieces
6-7 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 T drained capers
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c cold water
¾ c + 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c red wine vinegar
Shaved parmesan

Mix 1 c cold water and 2 T extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Toss torn bread into mixture. Working with a little of the bread at a time, remove excess water by squeezing the pieces gently in your hand. Rub a large salad bowl with the garlic clove. Place the softened bread into the salad bowl. Add tomatoes, drained capers, red onion, cucumbers, and basil to the bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar and whisk in olive oil. Drizzle salad with dressing and toss. Chill. Garnish with extra basil and add more dressing before serving.

I would love comments and feedback – and other favorite Italian recipes!

Buon appetito!

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An Impromptu Picnic

(from Picnics I Remember by Jo Ann Orr Miller)

Picnics with Mother’s family were usually by Murvaul Creek, near a pond out in a pasture, at the Angelina River, or by the bay or beach at Galveston. Mother, Nannan (my grandmother), and Aunt Nellye loved to fish. Occasionally we fried the little crappie or sun perch that we caught served up with a big helping of DO NOT SWALLOW A BONE. However, we usually released the fish to allow them grow. Nannan always had her outdoor cooker in the car along with a cast iron skillet and a knife; so, we could eat the catch fresh from the water.

We were coming back from visiting Aunt Nellye in Houston, and Nannan decided that we’d stop at the roadside park at the river and have fried chicken. (Eating at a café was not much of an option in the late ‘30s and early 40s’.) She bought a fryer and some Mrs. Tucker’s lard in Lufkin. We had everything we needed along with a growing appetite—except some flour. Always equal to any occasion she stopped at a farmhouse on US HWY 59, knocked on the door, and came back with a cup of flour!

I don’t remember what else we had to eat. I just remember vividly the “neighbor” we didn’t know who enabled us to have our picnic “down by the riverside.”


Catch chicken. Wring neck. Put under a bucket until it stops flopping around.

Dip in scalding water. Pluck feathers. Hold over A flame to “swinge” it (a word Nannan coined for “singe to remove hairs”).

Cut open abdomen and remove all inner parts. Be very careful in getting the liver for the bile duct is very close to it. The bile is bitter. Cut open gizzard and remove the lining along with the small rocks inside. (This is the place the chicken “chews” its food.)

Cut into desired pieces. Be sure you have a pulley bone*. Place in salted water to allow it to absorb the salt.

Heat enough lard to half-cover the chicken. Pepper chicken, dip in flour. Fry until golden brown on one side. Turn and fry until golden brown on other side and until juices run clear.**

Drain grease leaving enough for some gravy—about 4 tablespoon—add 4 tablespoons making a light roux. Be sure to scrape crusty pieces from the bottom of the skillet. Slowly add water until gravy is the desired thickness . Salt and pepper to taste. If you have a lot of company, make a lot of gravy.
Enjoy with some buttermilk biscuits.

*Known in some circles as the wishbone.
**According to the Health Department, chicken should be cooked to 165°F.

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Remembering Dad
By Jo Ann Miller

My father was born in 1901, the oldest son of ten children. He was the family patriarch from about age 30. He worked hard, never worried about weight, blood pressure or cholesterol and died at 97. All this made me start thinking about what he ate. Living on an East Texas farm he ate fresh vegetables (hot peppers and peas, etc) and fruits, pork and chicken, cornbread and biscuits–and dessert–lots of desserts. His favorites were the following:
• Pies–hot and cold—specifically sweet potato, chocolate, or pecan made with ribbon cane syrup, pecan made any other way, coconut cream, buttermilk, any other pie available. He really wasn’t terribly particular.
• Ice Cream–homemade or purchased.
• Cakes-fruit cakes and any other kind.
• Syrup on anything.
• Cobblers–Peach and Dewberry, Mixed Berry or Blackberry when fruits were available in the summer. Sweet potato in the fall in winter along with Raisin Roll. This recipe came from Mother’s family and is literally an “old family recipe.” I never saw a written recipe, but I have watched Mother make it many times. I think this is accurate enough to share.

Aunt Essie Dennard’s Raisin Roll

Heat oven to 400F. Grease a 9″X 9″ cake pan. If using a glass baking dish, lower temperature to 375F.

1 1/2 cups raisins–dark or white. Reserve about 1/4 cup after heating.
2 1/2 cups water. Reserve liquid after heating with raisins
Put water and raisins into a saucepan and heat until raisins have plumped. Drain, saving the liquid.

1 cup whipping cream, whipped until moderately stiff. Set aside.

Make pastry dough by mixing
2 cups all-purpose
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Crisco shortening
3 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small cubes
6-8 tablespoons ice water
Cut shortening and butter into flour leaving some particles small and some a little larger. (The dough should have different sizes of particles so that the crust will be flaky.) Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time and mix making the dough stiff as possible, but it should stick together. Divide into two parts and chill for about 10 minutes.

Roll each half into approximately a 9″ X 12″ rectangle Spread 1/2 of the raisins on the up to about 1 inch of the edge of the crust; spread 1/2 whipped cream over the raisins.

1-1 1 /2 cups sugar

Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar over each roll. Gently roll, pinching the edges and tucking the ends to keep it all together. Carefully place rolls side by side in the pan and place in preheated oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

While the pie bakes, heat the retained liquid and raisins and add 1/2 cup sugar. When the pastry is browned to your liking, pour the hot liquid mixture over the rolls and return to oven. Turn off oven and let the syrup mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cook, if you can possibly wait that long.

Food and fathers seem to go together. What was your dad’s favorite? Please share the recipe is it isn’t too much of a “family secret.”