Friday, October 31, 2014

The Stew

We haven't addressed the soups/stews recipes in the BCC before, because frankly, my Mom has her own pretty spectacular recipes in that department, tested and proven and handed down for several generations in our family. If you've ever tried her broccoli-cheddar soup, beef stew, potato soup, chicken noodle soup, or chili, you will understand... we don't want to sacrifice any of our favorites on a chilly fall night for the sake of exploring something new. But, we decided yesterday to trust Betty and give her stew a chance in the Spoon Drop Inn.

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew (from p. 398 of the BCC): I think I will call this the "One-Inch-Rule Stew." The recipe says to add: beef cut in 1" pieces, potatoes cut in 1" cubes, carrots cut in 1" slices, and celery sliced in 1" inch pieces.  It also called for a turnip cut in 1" cubes, but Mom did not have a turnip in the house to use. (In fact, I don't think she has ever had a turnip in the house, at least on purpose.) It also adds a green pepper cut in strips and a diced onion, but only because I think it is very hard to find a pepper or onion that you can cut 1" thick.

This stew is different from Mom's traditional beef stew, because hers has a tomato sauce base, and this had a white sauce base, which included flour, salt, pepper, shortening, hot water, beef bouillon cubes, and a bay leaf. It tasted a lot like a roast beef and gravy dinner, served in a bowl with heaps of gravy... which is definitely not a bad thing.

Since we have our big meal for lunch with Dad before he leaves for work, Mom put all the ingredients together on Wednesday night, and then slow-cooked them in the crock pot Thursday morning. We think stew tastes better when all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and get to know each other for a while anyway. :) 

We liked it, and we really think Kevan would like it, too. So it looks like we have a new stew recipe to add to our "favorites" collection!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Noodles Romanoff

Yesterday's special at the Spoon Drop Inn was Noodles Romanoff... And no, I checked, and there is no relation to the Romanov family, the last of the Russian royals.

However, this dish came by its name because it was originally served at Romanoff's, a famous Beverly Hills restaurant in the 1950s, that was owned by none other than Michael Romanoff. Ironically, that wasn't even his birth name. His parents gave him the name "Hershel Geguzin." It's probably a good thing he changed his name, because I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat a dish called "Noodles Geguzin."

Apparently the dish was a smash hit in Hollywood because of its "mystery ingredients," and Mr. Romanoff himself was full of mystery, because he had multiple aliases and fictional heritages and con games, and well... he was eventually deported for fraud. His restaurant closed, and Stauffer's reduced the Noodles Romanoff to a boxed frozen dinner special that any non-cooking mother can buy at the local grocery store.

But Mom is not a non-cooking mother! Thus, the BCC helped us to restore some of the dignity of this dish.

Noodles Romanoff (from p. 226 of the BCC): This is the first pasta dish we have made from the BCC! It looks like its in alfredo sauce, but it's actually a mixture of sour cream, Parmesan cheese, chives, salt, pepper, and garlic. Just cook the egg noodles and fold them in with the mixture. The recipe also says to be sure to arrange and serve it on a "warm platter." It had a wonderfully unique flavor, which I think made it worthy of its exotic last name. Mom served it as a "filling accompaniment" with Rotisserie chicken and breaded-baked zucchini.

Dad liked it, but was in a mischievous mood and suggested we fold it in with whipped cream next time instead of sour cream. "After all, cream is cream!" he said. Oh, the wisdom of Dad... I think he was just pining for more pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"There's a happy feeling nothing in this world can buy..."

"...when we pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie..." Ok, so it isn't Christmas or Thanksgiving yet - goodness, it isn't even Halloween yet! - but Mom said that she was in the mood... and when the House Cook is in the mood, we don't argue, we just eat. :) Anyway, it is the time of year for all things pumpkin - pumpkin cake, muffins, bread, pancakes, cookies, cheesecakes, and don't forget chai and lattes... so why not indulge in the pièce de résistance, the timeless, classic pumpkin pie?  

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie (from p. 331 of the BCC): Of course, per tradition, Mom began with the homemade 9-inch one-crust pie from p. 316. Then she mixed up the pie filling, with 2 eggs, 2 cups of pumpkin, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and the stuff that makes it truly marvelous: cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. After baking it, she served it, still warm, with a mound of whipped cream on top!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yummy Mahi Mahi

(Note from Connie: This is the first post on the blog written by Mom!)

Peter was returning from a trip this weekend and we wanted to cook something special for him. He really likes fish (which is not usually prepared at "The Spoon Drop Inn"). But the BCC had a Baked Fish recipe that we thought we could handle.

Baked Fish (from page 269 of the BCC): We used fresh Mahi Mahi fillets and dipped them in a butter mixture which included a little lemon juice and grated onion. Then the remaining butter mixture was poured over the fish and it was baked in a 350 degree oven until it was deliciously flaky. (We did not desire to sprinkle with paprika.)

We served up this lovely dish with baked sweet potatoes (from our garden) and a layered green salad and Peter enjoyed every bite. Success!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Missionary Buckle

Mom and I had some friends over for coffee this morning, so we decided to make a little something special to have for breakfast. What could be a better choice than the BCC's "Favorite Coffee Cake"? 

Blueberry Buckle (variation of the Favorite Coffee Cake on p. 55 of the BCC): Mom followed the regular recipe for the coffee cake, but added more flour and 2 cups of blueberries. Instead of using the regular topping, the Buckle recipe says to mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter together and sprinkle that on top, making a lighter, less crunchy topping. It was fabulous, light, fluffy, and just sweet enough!

The word "buckle" means to "warp or bulge," and that is what this dish does... the baking powder in the batter causes the cake to rise, but the addition of the blueberries makes it rise unevenly, and look a bit lumpy and bulgey on top. "Buckle down" is an American idiom that means "to begin to seriously work at something," which is what we ladies were doing together this morning. Anna and I have a new ministry idea bubbling in our minds and hearts, and Mom and Kathi were helping us brainstorm and work out the details.  

So, missionaries buckling down with some buckle and coffee... what a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Would you like some cheese with your pie?

As promised, the apple pie extravaganza continues! For our third variation of the month, we did something the Chandler family has never done before: we put cheese in the middle. Yes, we thought it sounded weird, too, but hey we like cheese, so why not? As a family, we decided to adjust the recipe only slightly and use cheddar cheese instead of the recommended processed American cheese... 

Apple-Cheese Pie (from p. 321 of the BCC): We used the recipe for a regular 9-inch, two-crust apple pie, except that we poured half of the apple mixture into the pastry and covered it with five slices of cheddar cheese, then put the rest of the apple mixture on top. Then mom put the top crust on, and used a little fall-leaf cookie cutter to make this beautiful design on top: 

We loved the pie! We ate it on Kevan's last day with us here, and he took the leftover portions back to Fort Wayne with him, to eat all by himself, or perhaps share with his cool roommates. 

As we ate, we critiqued it. Of course, Dad reiterated that he has yet to meet a pie he doesn't like. However, we were all a little surprised that the cheddar didn't add as much flavor to the pie as we thought it would... we could barely detect it, so it really just tasted like a normal apple pie (which is never a negative thing). Kevan suggested that, while we're not huge fans of processed American cheese, maybe it would make the pie more creamy. Mom thought maybe we could put the cheese on the top instead of the middle, and I wondered why we couldn't put it in the middle and on top. We're open to suggestions about types of cheese, amounts and placement in the pie, so if you have any ideas, please send them to us! 

Regardless, the key to any amazing pie is the homemade crust... which you can read  all about here. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Carrots are better, but family is best.

What's your favorite family meal? You know, the one you instantly go to when your grown kids come home for a visit, or when everyone is out of school and work and you just have time to sit and be together for a while... that old faithful dinner that just sings "Family!" and "Home!" For us, one of those meals is Mom's homemade chicken pie. She never puts vegetables in the pie (so there is much more room for chicken-y goodness!), but always has two or three veggie sides, and we mix them in as much as we want.  This time, one of the sides she made was the BCC glazed carrots. 

Glazed Carrots (from p. 422 of the BCC): The most interesting detail about this recipe, I think, is the specified way of cutting the carrots into lengthwise strips... making them unique and distinct from other familiar and/or famous versions of this classic home-cooked recipe (which usually has chopped or diced carrots). The glaze is a slow-cooked blend of brown sugar, salt, orange peel, and butter... not as "WOW-orange-sweet" as the glaze in the sweet potato dish, but very nice and subtle. Another great orange veggie to add to your family dinner favorites!

The special occasion was having Kevan, Dad, Mom, and I around the table together today for lunch. As much as my parents and I enjoy each other's company, it just isn't the same as when Kevan is here. We laugh more, because of Kevan's jokes, and he and Dad's ongoing battle of wits. We savor the food more and sit together longer because we're so busy talking and telling stories. Anyone who knows Kevan, knows that he adds more color and life and magic and joy to everything around him... and no one knows that better than his family.

So, while the carrots were great, and made the chicken pie lunch taste better, it wasn't really about the food... It was (and always is) about the wonderful people in our lives that we love so much... family is the best recipe.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall festival pie

We had a Fall Festival at our church tonight, with giant Jenga and Kerplunk games, volleyball, soccer, corn holes, horseshoes, a photo booth, bonfires, marshmallows, chili, hotdogs, hot cider, and of course the famous TCF dessert spread. I'm telling you, our church really knows how to celebrate and fellowship well. It was a clear and crisp evening, and everyone who came had a great time together! And Mom made a classic BCC apple pie for the special occasion, with fancy lattice work and festive fall leaves on top. Doesn't it look fabulous?!

Apple Pie (from p. 321 of the BCC): Yes, for those of you who have been following for a while, we have indeed already made a French Apple Pie. But we Chandlers love apple pies and decided we should make every variety, so we are. This is the original version, 9-inch two-crust pie, and is filled with all things autumnally delicious: sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, and 6 cups of "thinly sliced pared tart apples."

I think the only thing better than the beautifully arranged pie you see above, is the empty dish we brought home from the festival, scraped clean by happy church families who thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

Friday, October 17, 2014

If you can't go to Hawaii...

...then bring Hawaii to your home! That's what we did today, with a fun new meatball recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Waikiki Meatballs (from p. 261 of the BCC):  These are all-beef meatballs mixed with cracker crumbs, minced onion, egg, salt, milk and just a 1/4 tsp ginger... (I love ginger, it's my favorite "spicy spice," the way it's sweet on your tongue and then lingers and tingles on the back of your throat.) Once you prepare the meatballs, the recipe gives directions for how to fry them in a skillet, but Mom prefers to bake hers, so that's what she did. Then you mix a sweet-n-sour sauce with cornstarch, brown sugar, pineapple syrup, vinegar and soy sauce "until smooth." Cook it, and then add in the meatballs, along with pineapple bits and chopped green pepper. 

Mom put her most tropical tablecloth on the table, to compliment this colorful, zingy dish, and we ate it over sticky jasmine rice. We all loved it - the flavors were so incredible! The Hawaiians would say it was "Oh, so 'ono!" - delicious!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Our friend, Wendy, is becoming our very own "produce lady." She was the one who gave us the apples for the Apple Crisp, and this week she gave us some eggplant. What do you do with eggplant, anyway? We haven't done much, and I do have this weird thing against purple vegetables. But Mom looked it up in the BCC, and found out it is a star player in a dish called "Ratatouille." We've never made it before at the Spoon Drop Inn, and eggplant is not a common ingredient we use, so we decided this is one of those cooking adventures we'd just have to charge boldly into. 

By the way, the BCC does give a good "Eggplant 101" section on how to choose a good eggplant, how to serve it, how to cut it, and how to cook it. So if anyone is like us and is a novice to the purple vegetable game, the BCC helps tremendously! 

All I really knew about Ratatouille was that it was colorful and French and reminded people of home... and these guys make it well: 

Ratatouille (from p. 426 of the BCC): Mom got a little more information by quickly scanning the recipe. It called for eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, onion, and tomato - all of which she had in her kitchen this week, thanks to her own garden and Wendy's generosity! It's basically a stir-fry. Once you cut up all the veggies and mixing them with oil, garlic, salt and pepper, you just cook and stir them on the stove for about ten minutes. As soon as mom put them in the pan to cook, the smell filled the kitchen and was amazing. It smelled like... a lush late-summer garden saying hello to autumn. This picture cannot capture the smell, but it does show off the colors, doesn't it? 

The BCC doesn't give any suggestions for what to serve with Ratatouille. You could probably do pasta or rice or kuskus, depending on if you're in a European, Asian, or African mood. But today Mom made barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes, which really complimented the veggies well!

I loved this, and think it might be a new comfort food for me. Mom liked it too, and is already brainstorming ideas for adding cheese or making it a casserole in the future. When I asked Dad if he liked the Ratatouille, he said, "Sure! And the vegetables were pretty good too!" And Kevan's professional opinion was this: "Eggplant has never been more desirable!" Just like in the movie, the Ratatouille passed the food critics test with flying, savory colors of purple, green, and red!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good enough to eat!

Mom and I made cherry turnovers yesterday afternoon, so I could take them to share with my small group last night. We make a pretty great team in the kitchen, if you ask me. Mom mixed up the dough and I mixed up the filling; Mom cut the dough out and I folded them over. One hour and about 60 turnovers later, we were finished, and piled them on a plate and covered them to deliver, still warm, to the small group!

Filled Turnovers with Cherry Filling (from p. 150 of the BCC): The dough is a lot like sugar cookie dough, and you have to cover and chill it for an hour. After that, you roll it out pretty thin, about 1/16" thick, and cut it into 3" circles. The recipe says to put a teaspoon full of the filling into half of the circle, but that was way too much for us, so just go with your own discretion with how much filling you can fit, then fold the dough over it in half, and press the edges together to seal in the filling. Then you lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them for about 10 minutes. 

The BCC offers four different options for filling - orange, cherry, pineapple, and date/fig/raisin/prune fillings. Since I love all things cherry, that's what we made. It was really easy - mix sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, cherry syrup, butter and chopped maraschino cherries, then cook and stir it until it's thick. The recipe made a lot more filling than we needed, but I'm sure we'll find a creative use for the leftovers. :) 

I had imagined the turnovers being much bigger, but I really liked that they were so small, just little sweet appetizer pockets! And I thought they tasted like cherry-filled Christmas cookies. Anyway, they were a big hit. I got pictures of some of my small group friends eating them, but this picture of our little princess is definitely the winner for the blog! Doesn't she look like she's thoroughly enjoying it? It's just the right size for her to hold, and just sticky-sweet enough to make "finger licking" totally acceptable and appropriate!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Favorite Pancakes

I think one of my favorite Saturday morning traditions is homemade pancakes at the Spoon Drop Inn. When the whole family is home, and Mom cooks them up hot off the griddle by the plateful, until all the batter is gone. Stacks and stacks! Butter and syrup everywhere! Oohhh, the stickiness! As the BCC says, "Is there a better way to start any day?"

Favorite Pancakes - Blueberry variation (from p. 57 of the BCC): Yes, the BCC actually calls them "Favorite Pancakes," and I must agree, I've never had better pancakes than these. Betty isn't bragging, she is simply speaking truth. The book has the recipe for classic, plain batter, so you can make plain pancakes. But the great thing is, there are nine variations listed below! And if that wasn't enough, there are specialty pancakes listed, with toppings, syrups, fillings, and butters. You could basically make and enjoy a different kind of pancake every day for two weeks! Or have a pancake festival with the whole smorgasbord! Ok, I'm getting a little too excited and carried away... But if you try any of the variations, please share them with us!

At any rate, we did the blueberries yesterday, because that's a Chandler traditional favorite, and for very good reason. It includes 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries... and when they are hot, I love to poke them and make them burst warm purple juice all over my plate. Here, we have a lovely display of the morning's pancakes, in all their golden glory, with Mom's Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne stoneware dishes, which she has had as long as I can remember. They are about as nostalgic to me as the BCC...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

For Kevan's Sake

Yesterday Mom had her apron on most of the day, and the kitchen smelled amazing. Kevan was coming home - drove ten hours from Indiana, and mentioned several times that he would most definitely be home in time for dinner... hint, hint! So potato soup was in the crockpot, homemade bread was on the counter, and classic homemade chocolate chip cookies came fresh out of the oven. Mom and I talked about what I should blog, regarding the cookies, and she said, "Well, this isn't really about the cookies... it's all about our Kevan." 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (from p. 136 of the BCC): "Has any other cookie ever been so popular? We think not..." Oh, that Betty, she sounds so sassy, doesn't she? If you've never made homemade chocolate chip cookies (NOT the frozen kind that you spoon out on a baking sheet), this is an absolute must, so look it up and just do it. The "Petes" and "Kevans" in your life will thank you. :) It has all the usual baking suspects in it - butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, and of course 2 packages of semisweet chocolate chips. The recipe suggests that if you want a softer, rounder cookie (which we do!) you can add more flour (which we did!). It makes... well, enough cookies to fill and overflow your biggest cookie jar!

As promised, Kevan got home in time for dinner last night. And after dinner, we had tea and cookies. It actually took him about an hour to eat one cookie, just because he was telling me so many stories about his adventures. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish which ones are real and which are imaginary, because he tells them with so much charm and magic... There was the story of how he corralled the runaway shopping carts in the parking lot on a windy day, and the story of how he rescued a half-drowned, panicking squirrel by leading it to safety, among other great stories. I loved watching him wave his half-eaten cookie around in the air as he spoke, listening to his nice deep voice get so animated, and enjoying how his eyes crinkled in the corners as he relived funny memories. 

Kevan is home, and there are plenty of cookies to eat. All is right with the world. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The best of two potatoes

How do you like to eat potatoes? Do you prefer to bake them, roast them... or like our dear, old, adamant Samwise Gamgee, do you "Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew!"? 
Well, if you just can't decide, we have good news for you today - you can have them baked and mashed at the same time! How exciting is that? Of course, it causes a bit of an identity crisis for the poor potato, but I personally think that is the potato's lot in life... after all, is it a vegetable, a root, or a starch? Are they native to the Andes Mountains or from the west coast of Chile, or are you like me and always just thought they came from Ireland? Potato, potahto, patata? Well anyway, you can find them in the "vegetable" section of the BCC... 

Twice-Baked Potatoes (from p. 436 of the BCC): The recipe is for four large potatoes. First you scoop out the inside of a potato shell and mash it, make it nice and fluffy with some milk and butter, season it with a little salt and pepper (Mom used garlic salt - mmm!), and then refill the shells. The BCC says to sprinkle shredded cheese on top "if desired," and well, when does the Chandler family not desire a little extra cheese? Then you bake them until the mashed filling is golden brown. And tada! - you have baked mashed potatoes.

We thought they turned out very pretty, they were fun to eat, and they were delicious! We ate them with barbequed pork chops and homegrown green beans, which was an excellent meal. The BCC had a variation to the recipe that added chopped green peppers or chopped pimiento to the mix. Not sure I'd do either of those, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that you can probably add whatever you normally like to add to your baked or mashed potatoes though... chives, bacon, or if you are like my Grandpa Jack, enough black pepper to make the whole dinner party sneeze. But hey, the potato is one of America's favorite foods, so go crazy!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

For Pete's Crew

"Crispy! Crunchy! Fruity! Flavorful! Just reading about dumplings and crisps and cobblers is enough to make you hungry." Betty Crocker does not often take creative liberties in her descriptions, but when she does, I am highly amused by them. So I just had to share this quote from her introduction to "Crisps and Cobblers." I wonder if the dear old woman penned them herself out of blissful inspiration, or if she had an English teacher for a daughter...

Thank you so much to our dear friend, Wendy, who provided us this week with a bounty of apples to inspire our cooking! They have definitely come in handy!

This week, Dad informed us that "the guys" at his work wanted to do a potluck dinner, so maybe we could make something for him to take. Since we usually have a big delicious lunch together at home, Dad normally takes something small to snack on at work in the evenings, like yogurt and crackers. "The guys" don't know what he gets to enjoy at home, so this was our chance to give them a "taste." We wanted to do an apple cobbler, but Betty doesn't actually have that in her book. Instead, she had a crisp...

Apple Crisp (from p. 177 of the BCC): Tart apples, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter... Is your mouth watering yet? Mine did every time I passed the warm dish on the counter in the kitchen! An apple crisp is basically like a cobbler, only instead of a biscuit topping, you have this crumbly covering of all things autumnally amazing.

Dad's uniform for work has his name embroidered on it: "Pete." Funny thing is, the only people who call Dad "Pete" instead of "Peter" are the guys he works with. So, Mom knows if someone calls the house and asks for "Pete," that the call is definitely work-related. Here he is, all dressed for work, toting his apple crisp to share with all those hard-working airplane mechanics! I know they will enjoy it, and most likely will be requesting more "potlucks" in the future. ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aaaand now, from the South!

Happy October, everyone! I hope you have enjoyed reading and cooking some great recipes so far. Every day we hear positive feedback from more of your readers out there, and it is so encouraging to us! Keep your comments comin'! 

Southern Biscuits (from p. 45 of the BCC): Today's tasty treat is something you dear "Southern Mamas" are probably very familiar with - you may even have your own special variations of this recipe that your families love, and if so, please tell us about it! These biscuits are traditionally heavier and denser, so don't worry when you pull them from the oven -they're supposed to come out that way! It makes them much better for eating with gravy - you need a hearty bread that won't fall apart. One thing I love about the BCC recipe is that you make them small - only about 2 inches in diameter at most. (Then you can have more, and not feel guilty!)  

I mentioned gravy, and that's how we ate it today... You may be familiar with sausage gravy, but Mom made a chicken gravy that her grandma used to make, and it was sooo yummy! It was very easy, just chicken and cream-of-chicken soup. Cut the biscuits in half on your plate, and smother them with gravy. Add a side of corn and home-grown beans, and you are in for a comforting treat that will rival Cracker Barrel.

So, Southern Mamas, how do you serve Southern biscuits?