The Big Cheese

Hello everyone,  Winnie Griggs here. Happy Monday.

A while back I read a little historical footnote that in 1804 President Thomas Jefferson attended a public party at the Senate where an enormous loaf of bread, dubbed the “mammoth loaf” was part of the food offering.

If you know anything at all about me you know I couldn’t just let this intriguing bit of information go without digging into it further so of course I did some research. And oh boy, did I ever find out more than I bargained for – in fact in the process I came across an even more intriguing bit of trivia.

It seems that enormous loaf was baked to go with a mammoth wheel of cheese that President Jefferson had received as a gift two years earlier.  And for the record, I’m using the word mammoth deliberately, because that’s how these items were described at the time.  I found a notation that stated Americans of this period were enamored with the term due to their fascination with the then recent discovery of the skeleton of a giant woolly mammoth in the state of New York.

This massive wheel of cheese was the brain child of John Leland, the Elder of a Baptist  congregation made up of the staunchly Republican citizens of a farming community located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. The goal was to recognize and commemorate Jefferson’s long-standing devotion to religious freedoms. Leland asked every member of his congregation who owned even one cow to bring all the milk and/or curd produced on a particular day to a local cider mill.

It was reported that the milk from about 900 cows went into the making of the cheese and that the cider press they used measured six feet in diameter.  The final product, once cured, measured more than 4 feet in diameter, 13 feet in circumference and 17 inches high. I read one report that said it weighed in at 1,235 pounds and another that reported 1325 pounds but in either case it was BIG. In fact it was so big it couldn’t be safely moved the entire distance on wheels. The logistics in and of themselves were interesting – it traveled by sleigh from the town to the Hudson River, from there by barge to New York City. Then it was moved to a sloop which carried it as far as Baltimore. The final leg of the trip to Washington D.C was accomplished via a wagon pulled by six horses. All in all, the approximate 500 mile trip took over three weeks to accomplish.

President Jefferson praised the people who had donated the extraordinary gift for the for their skill and generosity   Because he believed he should refuse gifts while in office, he paid Leland $200 for the cheese.

The cheese lasted for quite some time as it was gradually consumed at various White House functions over the next couple of years.  Finally, on March 26, 1804, the President attended the above-mentioned party designed to rally support for a naval war with the Barbary States. A Naval baker created a huge loaf of bread to accompany the remnants of the mammoth wheel of cheese as well as large quantities of roast beef and alcohol.  It’s assumed that the last of the cheese  was consumed during the event.  An alternate theory is that after this party, the remnants were disposed of in the Potomac River.

Is this bit of historical trivia something you already knew about?  And why do you think people are fascinated by things of an unusual size?  Is it perhaps the novelty of it all or is it something else entirely?

Happy Valentine’s Day–A Little Early

I know Valentine’s Day is eleven days away, but I never seem to think about the day soon enough. That means I end up running around like crazy trying to do something special. In order to keep that from happening this year and in case you need ideas, I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day facts and one of my favorite (and easy dessert) recipes for tiramisu.

  • Over 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold every year.
  • Men spend about twice money as much on Valentine’s Day gifts as women.
  • Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by kids, then moms, wives and girlfriends.
  • More than one-third of men are okay not receiving anything on Valentine’s Day.
  • The only other day when more flowers are sold than Valentine’s Day is Mother’s Day.
  • Candy hearts were invented by a pharmacist and were originally medical lozenges! Not only that, but 10 new sayings are introduced every year.  
  • People prefer receiving candy over flowers.
  • Caramels are the most popular candy in a box of chocolates.
  • 40% of people prefer an “experience gift” such as concert tickets or an evening out.
  • 3 out of 10 people say they skip celebrating Valentine’s Day, though they might treat themselves to a small gift or a night out with friends.
  • It was bad luck to sign Valentine cards in Victorian times.
  • 3% of pet owners will give their pet a gift this Valentine’s Day.
  • In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystavapaiva which translates to “Friend’s Day.”

I think making Valentine’s Day about celebrating everyone we care about and appreciate in our lives is fabulous! That could prevent the holiday from being one where so many people feel excluded. This year, let’s all reach out to one person who might feel left out or despondent on Valentine’s Day—a single friend, a widow or widower immediately come to mind. I’m reminded of the song “Love is Something if You Give it Away.” For the lyrics click here. The more love we share, the more we create in this world.

Now on to dessert!

Ingredients—

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

½ C powdered sugar

½ tsp run extract

1 C heavy whipping cream

Lady fingers

½ C coffee

2 tsp cocoa

Directions–

1. Place Mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and run extract in large bowl. Whisk by hand or with electric mixer until smooth. Don’t over mix.

2. In separate bowl, beat whip cream until stiff peaks form. (If the whip cream isn’t stiff you’ll get a runny filling.) Fold into cheese mixture until combined.

3. Place lady fingers in 8 x 8 dish. Spoon coffee over ladyfingers making sure to cover completely. Top with half the cheese mixture. Layer more ladyfingers on top of this and cover with remaining cheese mixture. (Recipe calls for 3 layers using 1/3 each time, but I only do 2 .) Sift cocoa powder over top.

4. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

5. Top with whip cream, or not. Enjoy with a friend or family!

To be entered in today’s giveaway for a valentine T-shirt and a copy of Home On the Ranch:  Colorado Rescue leave a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day treat.

Easy Tex Mex Baked Eggs

Holiday Greetings!

I don’t know about you, but when I have a houseful of guests, I love to cook, but three meals a day gets a tad overwhelming. That’s why I love this recipe. It’s quick and easy, and I get rave reviews, even from people who don’t think of themselves as Tex Mex folk.

Here we go:

6 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream (I cheat and use half and half)

1 cup of grated cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 4 oz. can mild diced chilies

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or butter a shallow baking pan. I often use a 9×9 brownie pan. In this case I used my fancy pan.

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in cream, salt and pepper.

Add chilies to egg mixture.

Spread the cheese in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until eggs are set. (Living at altitude, it always takes longer where I live–usually between 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it.)

Broil the top if you want more browning.

Serves 6.

I’ve doubled the recipe and cooked it in a larger pan quite successfully, because funny thing–in our house, this only serves 4. Hmmm…

We always top the eggs with hot sauce or salsa and serve with bacon or ham. 

Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021!

Cheers,

Jeannie

Boot Scootin’ Holiday Favorite Cow Pie Cookies

 

As some of you may know, my daughter is a chef and is always coming up with interesting recipes.  I asked her to think up a recipe for Cowboy cookies and she did.  These yummy cookies are now a family favorite. My daughter wasn’t thrilled when I called them Cow Pies, but the name stuck and it makes the grandkids giggle.  Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas. 

 

 

Cow Pie Cookies

              Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of pretzel Bits
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans toasted
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes

Directions

  • Place pecans on a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture; beat well. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, pretzels, and pecans. 
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle the sea salt flakes on top.  Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes or until brown. Move to wire racks to cool.

What is your favorite Holiday treat?

                           What I hear when I’m with you, is two hearts beating as one. 

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It was just his luck to have a run-in with a trigger-happy damsel.

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Classic Christmas “Sweeties” Part 3 ~ by Pam Crooks

If you read my blogs the past two months, you’ll notice a definite theme.

Candy.

My little series began in October with “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” – you can read it here – and focused on candy from the 1800s.

The sweeties moved on to mid-20th century and featured treats we remembered from our youth, and it was great to reminisce with you!  You can read that blog here.

This month, we’re movin’ on up to modern day treats, and what better time of year to talk about candy than at Christmas?

The classic treats, of course, are candy canes, fudge of all varieties, chocolate-wrapped candy, and sugar cookies frosted and decorated. We could mention divinity, peanut brittle, ribbon candy, or peppermint nougats, too.

traditional christmas candy, old fashioned candy

The list is infinite.  But one thing I can say for certain is that no Christmas is complete without ALMOND BARK!

Yep. The basis for so many treats today is incredibly easy to work with. It’s a magical treat that the hard-working housewives of the 1800s had never heard of.  Likely not the ones from the mid-century, either.

Though I have scoured the Internet, I could not find the origin of almond bark anywhere.  But I know it’s been around for decades. The first time I’d ever heard of it was the seventies, I believe.  I remember being at a grocery store and finding almond bark for the first time. I intended to make some amazing peanut clusters that I’d heard about, and one of my classmate’s mother noticed me studying the package for directions and asked me how to use it. We stood in the aisle discussing the marvels of almond bark, and it’s been a staple in my house ever since!

The name almond bark is a bit of an anomaly. It does not contain any nuts, though it is very often used to coat them. It’s more of a confectionary coating rather than real chocolate since it does not contain cocoa butter.  Instead, it contains other fats like cottonseed or palm oil. Almond bark usually is sold in one pound slabs, supposedly to resemble bark.  I don’t really get that part, but whatever, right? It could also be called candy melts, candy wafers, candy coating, or summer coating.

The best news about almond bark? Your microwave does all the work!  No double-boilers or extra ingredients.  It’s so incredibly versatile, I couldn’t possibly tell you all the ways you can use it.

But here are a few ideas:

 

 

I can’t resist adding this one!  Elf Snack Mix from Shanna Hatfield’s COWBOY CHRISTMAS. So good!

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Of course, you want the recipe, right?  

ELF SNACK MIX

 

10 cups popped popcorn

1 cup cocktail peanuts

2 cups mini pretzels

1 bag red and green M&Ms

1 package white almond bark (or candy melts)

1/4 cup Christmas sprinkles, optional

 

Combine popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, and M&Ms. Set aside.

 

Melt almond bark/candy melts according to package directions. Pour over popcorn mixture.

 

Stir well to coat. Top with Christmas sprinkles, if desired.

 

Store in an airtight container.

 

So there you go!  Classic Christmas treats made from almond bark that are super easy, extra delicious, and more importantly, microwavable!

What is the one Christmas treat that you make every year without fail?

Do you have a favorite almond bark recipe?

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Satisfying That Old-Time Craving for “Sweeties” – Part 1 by Pam Crooks

Years ago, my mother gave me a cookbook reprinted from 1888 that offered all kinds of advice and recipes for the homemaker. One section was devoted to Confectionaries, and I found their selection of candies, sodas, and ice cream fascinating.  Who knew they had so many? And yep, they called them “sweeties.”

Given that I have had a sweet tooth since the time I was old enough to hold a lollipop, I’d love to share with you my trip through history in both the 19th and 20th centuries in the next few blogs. 

The author of my cookbook mentions the fortune made by a Mr. Pease in New York with his horehound candy.  Ditto with a Mr. H. N. Wild’s candy store on Broadway which must have been a super store at the time, given the description of great numbers of customers (mainly ladies and children) who shopped there at all hours.

But my focus is for the common housewife who made “sweeties” for her family.  She was encouraged to use the best refined sugars that left behind no sediment and that had a bright color, such as sugar from the West Indies or Louisiana.  She was also encouraged to buy coloring materials and flavoring extracts rather than try to make them herself since educated chemists at the time had perfected them for consistency as well as reasonable price.

After a listing of tools needed, the recipes followed for Butterscotch and Everton taffy. Peanut and black walnut candy were different than what I imagined – no chocolate but covered with a sugar syrup then cut into strips.  The Cocoanut and Chocolate Cream candies sounded pretty good, as did the Fig and Raisin Candy, where figs and raisins were laid out in a pan and covered with sugar syrup, cooked slowly over a fire.

Rock candy in various flavors and Ginger candy was pretty self-explanatory. I must admit to being confused on what “paste drops” were. Made with currants, raspberries, pears, apples, and pineapple, I can only imagine them being similar to our Fruit Roll-Ups.

Candy “Tablets” followed. Again, it took some imagining, but since the sugar was boiled, flavored, and poured into molds, I’m thinking the tablets were like our hard candies. Flavors were ginger, orange, vanilla, clove, rose, and fruits like currants, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, cooked and pressed through a sieve for their juice.

Housewives made their own chewing gum with balsam of tulu, sugar and oatmeal, soaked, mixed, and rolled in powdered sugar, then shaped into sticks.

Caramels were a favorite and poured into 1 inch molds. Caramels came in intriguing flavors like lemon, orange and lime, coffee, chocolate, and orange cream and vanilla. Yum!

Popcorn balls were made with molasses. I bet they were pretty good, too!

Soda Water and Soda ‘Sirups’ were popular, and while it wasn’t impossible to make one’s own for their families, the process was much easier while living near a big city for obvious reasons.  Flavors, however, were quite numerous and ranged from Nectar, Sarsaparilla, Walnut, Wild Cherry, Crabapple, and Lemon, to name a few.

Confectioners in the city generally offered “Ice Cream Saloons” to their stores. Adding a saloon was inexpensive and very profitable.  The cookbook provided a recipe that made a large quantity. However, other than the traditional flavor of vanilla, only Coffee or Chocolate flavor appeared to be available.

Well, there you have it.  A glimpse into an 1800’s homemaker’s candy kitchen!

Do you have a sweet tooth? 

Do you enjoy making candy or ice cream?

What is your favorite?

 

Popcorn, Anyone?

 

I don’t know why in all the stories I’ve published that I’ve never written about popcorn until this Christmas book I’m writing. A great oversight on my part!

Anyway, I’ve done some research and what I found is interesting.

Even though popcorn is grown on ears, it’s very different altogether from sweet or field corn. The hull of popcorn is just the right thickness to allow it to burst open. Inside each kernel of popcorn is a small droplet. It needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. Don’t ask me how it gets the water inside there.

All I know is that the water turns to steam when heated and pressure builds.

 

 

The oldest ears of popcorn were found in a cave in New Mexico in 1948. The oldest found there were 4,000 years old, so it’s been around an awfully long time.

The Aztecs used popcorn in their ceremonies, decorations, and dances. It was an important food for them as well. When Spanish explorers invaded Mexico, they were astounded by these little exploding kernels of corn.

In South America, popcorn was found in 1,000 year old burial grounds and was so well-preserved it still popped.

Long before corn flakes made an appearance, Ella Kellogg ate ground popped popcorn with milk every morning for breakfast. Her husband, John Kellogg, praised popcorn as being easily digested and highly wholesome. I don’t know if I’d want it in a bowl with milk.

 

 

In Victorian times, popcorn decorated fireplace mantels, doorways, and Christmas trees. Kids used to string popcorn and cranberries and was often the only thing on trees unless paper ornaments.

 

 

Here are some Corny facts:

Today, Americans consume 15 billion quarts of popped popcorn yearly.

Most of the popcorn consumed throughout the world comes from the U.S.

Major states producing it are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

National Popcorn Day is January 19th or whatever day the Superbowl falls on.

* * *

Darn, I’m itching to go to the movies! I can smell the popcorn now.

So, I’ve just added a scene in my Christmas book where my heroine pops popcorn for two little kids and they also string some to decorate with. In case you’re curious, the title of the book is A Cowboy Christmas Legend. Look for it September 2021.

Okay, your turn. How much popcorn do you eat? And what is the most surprising fact you learned?

Horehound Candy

 

Do you remember horehound candy?

I ask because I think that a person has to actively search it out today, whereas in times past it was a fairly common hard candy. 

Horehound is the common name of the Marrubium plant, a member of the mint family. Horehound  has been used for centuries by many cultures to treat just about everything–fevers, malaria, snake bite, hepatitis, bites by rabid animals. It’s useful in treating digestive problems, respiratory problems, jaundice, parasitic worms. It is used as a poultice,  and inhaled as a snuff. The leaves are boiled into tea and made into cough syrups. 

And it’s also made into a candy, but after compiling that list, I kind of wonder why. I guess it’s like medicine candy.

If you are the adventuresome sort, it’s easy to make homemade horehound candy. To begin, you boil several handfuls of horehound leaves in water for 15-20 minutes, smooshing the leaves as they cook down. Then you let the brew sit for a spell so that the water becomes a horehound tea. 

Strain the liquid from the leaves. This is where the math comes in. You’ll need to measure your liquid and add 4 times that amount of brown sugar. So if you have 1 cup of horehound tea, you’ll use 4 cups of brown sugar. Then, more math, you add light corn syrup in 1/4 the amount of the liquid. So again using 1 cup of tea, you’d add 1/4 cup of light corn syrup.

Cook this mixture to the hard crack stage (the liquid solidifies into a ribbon when you drop it into ice water) which is about 300 degrees if you go modern and use a candy thermometer. You pour the mixture into a buttered pan, then score the top while it’s soft so that you can break it into squares later.

And there you  have it–horehound candy. 

 

 

 

Dr Pepper and Fritoes … the All-American Team!

What is your favorite snack? In Texas when I was growing up everybody would order a coke for their drink, only to be asked “Do you want a Dr Pepper, root beer, or a Coca-Cola? This shows my age because we went on “coke dates”! Even today we ask if someone wants to stop at a drive-thru for a coke, regardless of what they want to drink.

I found some interesting facts when I begin to think about this Southern way of thinking.

Of interest, Charles Elmer Doolin was a candy maker from San Antonio, Texas, during the Depression. He got hooked on the first local version of a fried corn chip…the Frito.

Mr. Doolin promptly bought the recipe and the business, making it his life’s work to perfect the flavor of Fritos. After varying the recipe, he created his own hybrid corn, and developed a conveyor-belt manufacturing unit to make the chips more efficiently. Along the way, he also invented the Cheeto.

In 1955, he opened the Casa de Fritos restaurants. One was in Disneyland and the other in Dallas.
Pix of Frito Pie: Recipes developed for the Frito, including one of my favorite “go to” dish, Frito Chili Pie, which was invented by his mother. Ironically, Mr. Doolin was a healthy eater…a vegetarian who avoided fat and salt.

Now for Dr Pepper which is the oldest carbonated soft drink among popular soft drinks in the United States. The unique Dr Pepper mix originated in Waco, Texas at a small town drugstore called Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. Most people agree Charles Alderton, the pharmacist at Morrison’s, created the Dr Pepper mixture while working. He spent a lot of time mixing fruit syrups and coming up with new flavors for their carbonated soda machine. He later named his creation, containing 23 different flavors, Dr Pepper.

Px on right of Morrisons Drug: The drink became so popular that the drug store owner, couldn’t keep up with the demand. Every establishment that served soda fountain drinks wanted his Dr Pepper syrup. The period in ‘Dr Pepper’ would later be removed.’ While Alderton was a brilliant pharmacist, he had no desire to take the Dr Pepper drink any further and handed it over to Morrison, the drug store owner, and a man by the name of Robert Lazenby. He was a professional beverage chemist and he and Morrison subsequently worked to improve the drink and take it even further in the market. Due to the drink’s colossal success the two started what we now know as the Dr Pepper Company.

The real defining moment was at the 1904 World’s Fair when Lazenby and his son-in-law J.B. O’Hara graced the crowds with the Dr Pepper drink. Nearly 20 million people showed up to the fair and tried the addictive drink. Over the years the drink went global, emerging on the market around the world. It also held many different marketing slogans like ‘the friendly Pepper-Upper’ and ‘King of Beverages’.

At one point Dr Pepper sued Coca-Cola for trademark infringement when they came out with a Dr.Pibb, which was not only similar in name but tasted similar to Dr Pepper. Coca-Cola was forced to change the name to Mr Pibb, a drink you can still buy today. Now you can enjoy the Dr Pepper flavor with a hint of vanilla or with reduced sugar, called Dr Pepper Zero, which was invented in the United Kingdom. The actual flavors in the Dr Pepper drink are said to be kept in two different vaults. The top secret information is a mystery that still pulls at the curiosity of Dr Pepper lovers today.

You can still visit the Dr Pepper Factory in the small town of Waco, Texas, for a guide through the many stages of Dr Pepper’s history. The now nationally known soda started in this unlikely city which still cherishes the drink to this day.

What is your favorite snack? Do you ever drink Dr. Pepper and Fritos or Cheetos together?

To one lucky reader who leaves a message, I will give you an eBook copy of my newest Kasota Spring Romance on Amazon or a $10.00 Bath & Body Works gift certificate.

 

We All Scream For Ice Cream (and Oysters!)

“Illinois wants more girls.  Open some free ice cream booths and you’ll fetch ’em”  -Burlington Free Press 1884

Ice cream might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Old West, but as early as 1880, ice cream parlors were all the rage and began springing up in the most out of the way places.

Marshal Wyatt Earp was an ice cream devotee and every afternoon he headed for the Tombstone ice cream parlor on Fourth Street.  It’s not hard to imagine that he was on his way to enjoy his favorite sundae when he got sidetracked by the shootout at O.K. Corral.  He didn’t drink, but he sure did love his ice cream.  He wasn’t alone.

     “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” (Last words). -Lou Costello           

Ice Cream parlors were popular throughout the west and some frontier towns had more than one.   Many restaurants, hotels and inns advertised Ice Cream and Oysters. Fortunately, the two weren’t served together; ice cream was the summer treat and oysters was a winter delicacy.  

Some parlors were quite fancy.  One in San Antonio advertised plush carpets, oak furnishings and stained-glass windows, but ice cream was also sold out of wagons (the first good humor men?) and tents.  Churches also got into the act and Ice cream socials rapidly grew in popularity.

Nothing says love like ice cream

Many a young man courted his lady love at an ice cream parlor. A Texas newspaper in the 1880s had this advice: “Love takes away the appetite.  If the woman of your dreams is on her third dish of ice cream, she’s not in love with you.”

The same newspaper also announced the wedding of couple who knew each other only fifteen minutes before tying the knot. But a successful marriage was assured as both had a passion for ice cream.

Then as now, the most popular flavor was vanilla.  Ice cream was flavored by fruit and even chocolate, but there were some strange flavors too (Avocado ice cream, anyone?)

Toward the end of 1880s, newspapers began issuing warnings against overindulging in that “insidious foe of health” ice cream, but as far as I could tell no one paid heed and no such warning seemed to exist for oysters.

So where did all that ice come from?

Before the train, ice was wrapped in sawdust and transported by wagons.  By the late 1880s, Tombstone had two ice companies; the Arctic Ice (two cents a pound) and the Tombstone Ice company (one and half cents per pound).

“Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

According to 23&me, people with my DNA prefer chocolate ice cream. Well, they got that right. So tell me your favorite ice cream flavor and I’ll tell you your personality type,  and you don’t even have to send me your DNA! 

 

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