Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Taste From Childhood

I grew up in a family of six: Daddy and Mommie, older brother and two older sisters. (We got two more brothers after Mommie passed away, and Daddy married Nana.)

Mommie was a working woman. She taught Special Education at Loma Linda Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas. But our family still had home cooked meals almost every day. In fact, going out to eat was reserved for special occassions. As we girls got older, we shared the dinner cooking duties. For this, I am eternally grateful. All of us know our way around a kitchen!

Mommie made up many recipes. She used whatever was on sale, in the kitchen cabinets or in the backyard garden. All of her creations were tasty. One thing that I remember about childhood was that homemade desserts were rare. Oh sure, we had the occassional cake made from a mix. Even more rarely, we had a homemade Sweet Potato Pie or Pound Cake. But we all knew we'd hit the jackpot when Mommie made Raisin Dumplings!

I know, I know.... you are all wondering, "What the heck are Raisin Dumplings?" So, to answer your question,


Made from humble ingredients, these tender and tasty morsels made us feel loved. (And we WERE loved!)For some strange reason, I am the only daughter that actually knows how to make these. I think that they are actually quite easy to make. (I do cheat with refrigerated pie crust dough for the dumplings, though)

My Daddy and brother in law prefer them warm and served with vanilla icecream. My oldest brother and sister prefer them after cooled and chilled in the fridge. As for me.... I like them any way I can get them. Although, I admit that I rarely eat more than a spoonful as they are very rich and delightfully sweet.

I made these for Daddy and Nana last week during their visit. They were happy. So was my brother in law. He's hooked, too.

I hope you will try this recipe. Let me know what you think!

Raisin Dumplings (adapted from Dorothy's Raisin Dumplings)


1 15 oz. Box Raisins
4-6 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1 stick butter (no margarine)
1 pkg. refrigerator pie crusts, in pieces
1/4 c. heavy cream


Measure first 8 ingredients into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, using enough water to cover the raisins by two inches.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occassionally until raisins are plump and tender.

Return mixture to a gentle boil. Drop crust pieces in slowly, stirring gently. Cook until mushiness leaves dough, and mixture thickens.

Remove from heat. Stir in heavy cream. (Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools)

Allow to cool until just warm. Serve in bowls with a good vanilla icecream.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Risotto Who Loved Me

I don't know about most of you. But as for me, I am at times intimidated by "frou-frou" foods. I worry if I will master the technique. I worry that even if I master the technique, the family won't like the food. I worry that I will waste money on fancy-schmancy ingredients, for a let down.

In spite of my many reservations, I kept hearing a sensual whisper in my ear. "Risotto" Every time I turned on Food Network some one was making "Risotto". And each time I watched them stir the thick, creamy and steaming hot "Risotto", my mouth watered. I love rice. I love rice pudding. And "Risotto" looked like a hip, savory and oh-so-worldly cousin of rice pudding.

Today was the day that I faced my ambivalence. Today was the day that I became intimate with "Risotto".

To accompany our dinner of roasted chicken, glazed carrots and steamed brocoli, I made "Mushroom Risotto." Oh. My. Word.

This dish didn't just call my name. It called me "Baby".

Mushroom Risotto

Prep Time: About thirty minutes

2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 pound of mixed fresh mushrooms (I used portabellas,white,shitake,& oyster)
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 lb. Arborio Rice (I used Bellino)
1/2 c. medium dry white wine (I used Mondavi Chardonnay)
2 Cartons Low Sodium Chicken Stock (not broth.. I used Swanson 26 oz.)
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
4 Tbsp. Butter (no substitutions!)
1/3 cup. shredded Parmesan Cheese (no substitutions! I used Frigo)


Pour all stock into a pot. Warm till just below the boil on a back burner of the stove. Keep at this temperature for the whole process.

In another large, heavy bottomed sauce pan warm oil until fragrant. Add half of the mushrooms finely chopped and cook until golden brown on edges. Add the minced shallots and garlic and bay leaf. Stirring, cook until vegetables are translucent.

Add all of the rice. Stir to coat every grain with oil. Cook for about three minutes. Stirring constantly.

Add white wine and stir until absorbed.

Add one cup of stock and stir until absorbed.(A ladle is very helpful) When all liquid has been absorbed, add more stock. Continue until the half of the stock has been used. Continue stirring.

Add remaining larger pieces of mushrooms with an addition of stock. Cook until liquid is absorbed. Continue until all of the stock has been used. Remember to stir attentively.

Once all of the liquid has been added and absorbed, turn off the heat. Taste for salt, add pepper to taste.

Stir in butter and cheese.

Remove bay leaf and serve.

*Recipe serves 9 normal people or a famished family of 5.