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Ode to an olive

We love olives in our house. I know some people are not very fond on them, but we really like them – both the green ones and the black ones. My children find it quite amusing that, as a child, I used to get a can of black olives every year for my birthday! I guess it’s because I was the only one in my family who liked the black ones. Rob learned to eat black olives after we were married. We eat olives plain, on pizza, in salads, and I recently started putting them in my deviled eggs to add a new twist to an old favorite.

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A couple of years ago I ran across a recipe for an olive salad that was eaten on Mufaletta sandwiches down in Louisiana. I have made the sandwiches a couple of times, but we really enjoy this olive salad on many types of sandwiches as well as in tuna salad or even on a pizza.

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If you love olives you will have to give it a try. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Olive Salad

1 Tbsp. olive brine
1 10 oz. jar sliced green salad olives, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsps. capers (optional, but good)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
pepper to taste

Combine in food processor bowl: garlic, onion, celery, olive brine, olive oil, oregano, and vinegar. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped but not mush. Add the sliced salad olives and the capers and pulse a couple of times until the olives look chopped rather than sliced. Place in a jar or other container and refrigerate. This will keep for several weeks and is delicious on hot or cold sandwiches.

This is the first recipe I ever used capers in. They have a unique taste and texture that I have grown to like. Capers are the buds of a small shrub that are pickled. They are often used as a seasoning in Italian cooking. They can be found in the grocery store near the pickles and a small jar will cost you about one dollar. I use a small infant feeding spoon to spoon them out of the jar.

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We are using lots of small spoons and forks this week since our grandson, Drew is here for a visit. He had a somewhat sleepless night Monday night, so Megan and I took him to the doctor Tuesday morning, suspecting that he might have an ear infection. We discovered that his eardrum must have burst after his plane flight. He was pretty miserable. He is now on his very first antibiotic and pediatric Motrin and has been sleeping quite well. Hopefully his little ear will feel better very soon. Here is a picture of him during a happy moment.

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Festive Salad

Festive Salad

Posted by Becka on 09 Apr 2009 at 9:47 pm | One comment so far

Several years ago when I was up in Michigan visiting Megan, the parents of her first graders organized a pot luck supper in her classroom so they could all get to know each other better. One of the women brought this delicious salad which has become one of our favorites. The ingredients are readily available pretty much year round enabling you to make a colorful salad even in the dead of winter.

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Festive Salad

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsps. finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. poppy seed

Combine the sugar, vinegar, onion, salt, and lemon juice and blend together in a blender. While it is whirring gradually add the vegetable oil and then the poppy seeds. (Note: I only use about 1/3 of this dressing for a batch of the salad. The rest can be stored in the refrigerator for the next time or for use on other salads.)

10 cups Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped or torn
1 red apple, cored and chopped
1 pear, cored and chopped (I coat the apple and pear with a little dressing to keep them from turning brown)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
6 oz. dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 cup chopped cashews

Place the lettuce and cranberries in salad bowl. Add the apple, pear, cheese, cashews and dressing at the last minute before serving. Be prepared to give out the recipe!

We are very excited that our daughter Megan and grandson Drew are flying down to visit us this Saturday.

For Easter Megan is going to put together this dessert which she has posted on her blog. It is also on the cover of the latest Kraft Food and Family magazine if you have access to it.

I’m going to try to paste the recipe in here for those who can’t access Megan’s blog.

Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Bowl
Posted on 2009 under Cheesecake, Desserts

If you think cheesecakes are too boring, then why not mix it up a little bit with some fresh fruit, pudding, and a whole lot of fun in a bowl, and you got yourself a delicious and fun snack on the go!

Here’s what you need to make this fun and delicious Cheesecake Bowl.
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
2 cups thawed COOL WHIP LITE Whipped Topping, divided
2 cups frozen pound cake cubes (1 inch)
1 square BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate

COMBINE berries and sugar; refrigerate until ready to use. Beat Neufchatel cheese with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add dry pudding mix; mix well. Whisk in 1-1/2 cups COOL WHIP.

SPOON half the Neufchatel cheese mixture into 2-1/2-qt. bowl. Top with layers of cake, berries and remaining Neufchatel cheese mixture. Refrigerate 4 hours.

MELT chocolate; drizzle over trifle. Top with remaining COOL WHIP.

Have a wonderful Easter as you contemplate the Lord’s sacrifice for us.


Sugar Pie

Have you ever eaten Sugar Pie? If you haven’t tried it before it tastes sort of like a butterscotch pie.

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When I was a little girl my grandmother would make sugar cream pies. She would put brown sugar and flour in an unbaked pie shell which she would then place on the oven rack and pour in some milk. She would add a couple of butter pats and bake the pie until it was firm. It was one of my favorites.

They also used to sell Sugar Pie at Bob Evans restaurants when we lived up in Michigan. We would sometimes order it when we ate there.

After I was married I tried making Sugar Pie a few times, but mine just didn’t taste like Grandma’s. Looking back now I think it’s because she was using non-homogenized milk in those days so it contained cream which made the pie richer and more flavorful.

A few years ago I had a delayed flight and was stuck in the Detroit airport for several hours. I bought a copy of Midwest Living magazine and found a recipe for Sugar Pie. It has a few more ingredients than Grandma used, but it does produce a very good pie. Here is the recipe:

Sugar Pie

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup cream
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsps. melted butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
dash salt
1 unbaked 9" pie shell (do not prick)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour and brown sugar making sure to break up any lumps. Add the evaporated milk, the cream, the egg yolk, the vanilla, salt, and melted butter. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 40 mins. Serve with whipped topping or whipped cream.

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Brenda over at CoffeeTeaBooksandMe recently posted several recipes for Sugar Pie that I hope to try. Sugar Pie is a good recipe to keep in mind in the winter when fruit is expensive or when you need to make something from things you have on hand. Everything but the cream is a pantry staple. I have also edited my recent post on pie crust to add a few more tips on making tender pastry since that post seemed to strike a nerve among several of my faithful readers.


Our spare room

Whenever I hear the phrase "spare room" I think of Anne of Green Gables and the night when Anne and Diana frightened the elderly aunt by leaping on the bed in the spare room!

We are in the process of decorating our spare room. We moved into this house nearly five years ago. The house was previously owned by a single lady who married a widower and moved into his home. The house was immaculate--not a speck of dust anywhere. We have slowly been painting and changing things to reflect our tastes since we have moved in.

A few months ago we bought a bed frame and mattress, Rob painted the room a nice shade of green, and I bought a quilt and pillow shams. Here's a picture showing the wall color and the quilt:

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The project has been on hold for a while so I could figure out what to do about a window treatment. I finally decided to copy one that DD Nora had made earlier for our bathroom. Here's the valence Nora made:

picture of Pinkbathvalence

I chose fabrics that were similar to those in the quilt and made this little valance:

picture of Spareroomvalence

We still need a few accessories and a dresser, but the room is slowly taking shape and will be ready for some visitors we are expecting in the next few weeks. We hope to have a comfortable place ready for them when they arrive.

Do you have any decorating projects going on this spring?


Extra tender pastry

A while back Deb wrote a post about pies to which I wrote a comment. She suggested that I do a post on pie crust since many people have problems making tender pastry.

I'll begin by telling you a family story. My grandmother, my mother's mother, died when mom was thirteen. She dropped out of school that year (after her eighth grade graduation) to take care of her "kid" brother, Ed, who I believe was about seven or eight years old. Some of the neighbor ladies gave her advice and taught her to cook a few things. She was a very good cook, but she did not really enjoy cooking very much. One thing that she never mastered was pie crust. All during my childhood the only pies that she made had graham cracker crusts. She made all kinds of cream pies with graham cracker crusts.

Sometime while I was away at college my grandmother, my dad's mother, gave her two recipes for pie crust which grandma said were "never fail." One of the recipes contained lard and the other contained an egg and some vinegar. Mom tried these recipes and with a little practice soon began baking absolutely beautiful pies. Her pies could have graced the pages of a cookbook. As the years went on she also used pie crust mix. I think by then her confidence and skill had increased to the point where she could work the pastry without overworking and toughening it.

Here is the version of pie dough that I use the most. It contains an egg and some vinegar, both of which promote tenderness. You can smell the vinegar as the crust bakes, but you cannot taste it. If you haven't found a pie crust recipe that you are satisfied with I hope you will give it a try.

Extra Tender Pastry

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg beaten
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons water

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. In a small bowl blend together the egg, vinegar, and water. Add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the egg mixture to form a paste. Add the paste to the rest of the flour mixture. Press into a ball shape. Divide in half and form into two disk shapes. Wrap each individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least twenty minutes. (This step is important and really helps to make the dough easier to work with by fully hydrating the flour.)

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You can refrigerate this for a couple of days or place in a ziplock bag and freeze for a few weeks. (Thaw in refrigerator before using.) When ready to use roll the dough as desired and bake according to the recipe you are using.

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Here is a really good recipe for a chocolate pie from Hershey's:

Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups chocolate chips (they recommend the special dark but I usually use semi-sweet)
whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream
1 baked pie shell

Bake pie shell. (Prick with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 mins.) Cool. Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a two quart saucepan. Combine the egg yolks and milk in a container with a pouring spout. Gradually blend the milk mixture with the sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir one minute (this is important). Remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is well blended. Pour into prepared pie shell.

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Press plastic wrap onto filling. Cool and refrigerate several hours or overnight until well chilled and firm. Garnish with whipped topping or cream and additional chocolate chips if desired. Makes eight delicious servings!

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