JOPLIN, Mo. —
When I think about what scares me, a couple of things come to mind immediately. First on the list is mice -- that anxiety dates back to an unfortunate episode some 50 years ago at my grandmother's house that haunts me to this day.
Another fear is flying. For some unknown reason, I've never experienced a good airplane flight. Once on a flight to New York City, a friend assured me she loved to fly and had always enjoyed smooth flights -- that ended with us landing back home and exiting the plane to her declaration that she was never flying with me again.
I would love to go on the Alaska cruise offered by the Duke Mason Band. If only they could pick me up in St. Louis instead of far-away Seattle. However, I doubt many large cruise ships make it down the Mississippi River. I would be content to never again venture into the wild blue yonder.
One and only kitchen fear
In the kitchen, yeast has been my one and only fear. This stems from my attempts several years ago to make cinnamon rolls, or should I say expensive attempts. After 14 or 15 ruined batches, I gave up. Since then, I've always avoided recipes calling for yeast.
Imagine my joy when I saw the TV ad for homemade bread that's made by simply adding water. Right up my alley. I chose the Italian herb flavor from the grocery shelf and hurried home, anxious to get the loaf into the oven.
But I was in for a big surprise. Imagine my disappointment when I looked at the baking directions and the first bullet point instructed me to combine the enclosed yeast packet and sugar with very warm tap water. Should I have expected that? Probably. But I was so excited about the prospect of making bread by simply adding water that I wasn't thinking straight. I failed to realize that not activating yeast was not an option.
Since the box was already open and the oven preheating, I forged ahead, running the tap water until it was very warm, stirring it into the yeast and sugar, then leaving it to do its thing. Sure enough, it began to foam. A good sign.
I followed the rest of the directions, and the finished product was a nice loaf of bread -- crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It was actually quite tasty. Perhaps my fear of yeast is one I can put to rest. And maybe someday I will be able to experience a serene airplane ride with a mouse seated next to me, and my fears can be calmed once and for all.
Russell Presson is looking for a sugar-free banana-nut bread recipe, so I told him I would ask readers for their ideas. Feel free to send them my way so he can enjoy one of his favorite treats. Russell's wife has baked the bread using Splenda, but they didn't like the final results.
All of this week's recipes remind me of special occasions from the past week. On Saturday I joined Judy and Lowell Mason in celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. One of the delicious snack offerings that afternoon was a favorite of mine -- marinated asparagus. The taste of the Grecian green beans reminds me of this asparagus. They can be served warm or cold, but cold gets my vote. I like eating them as a finger food. I turn the jar upside down a couple times during marinating to make sure all the beans get a chance to soak up the flavor. Surprise ingredient? Coca-Cola. This recipe is from "The Coca-Cola Refreshing Recipes" cookbook.
My best friend, Betty Saferite, had her birthday on Saturday, so in her honor I'm sharing one of my favorite slow-cooker recipes. Like me, she is a slow-cooker user from way back. She even uses her cooker to fix hard-boiled eggs. I've made lots of Swiss steak over the years, but never with French onion soup. The soup sets this one apart and is a good addition to any Swiss steak recipe. The delicious gravy adds flavor, too. I couldn't find tomato rice soup, but regular tomato soup should work fine. Instead of tomato soup, I used a drained can of diced tomatoes because I like the tomato chunks in my Swiss steak. This recipe is from the "Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook."
Our Valentine's Day was spent at Granny Shafers where the food, music and company could not have been better. It was one of those occasions when I ate some of my dessert first, making sure I had room for Oreo cheesecake. With several excellent cheesecake choices, Mike Wiggins made it difficult to narrow them down to just one. I'm sure I would have enjoyed any of them. The cheesecake recipe for today is one I've had for many years. I'm not sure who gave it to me, but I thank them for a dessert I've served often. The cupcake-size portions are perfect for serving. Use your favorite pie filling flavor for the topping. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!
Grecian green beans
2 (16-ounce) cans small, whole green beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Coca-Cola
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
Drain beans and discard liquid. Peel and thinly slice shallots; separate into rings. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add beans and shallots; toss lightly with fork. Pack into 1-quart glass jar. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight for flavors to blend. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
No-fuss Swiss steak
3 pounds beef top round steak, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons oil
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
1 3/4 cups water
1 can tomato rice soup
1 can French onion soup
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
In large skillet, brown beef in oil over medium-high heat; drain. Transfer to slow cooker; add carrots and celery. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is tender. Discard bay leaf and thicken cooking juices if desired. Yields 8 to 10 servings.
Petite cherry cheesecakes
24 vanilla wafers
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling
Line muffin pans with paper cups. Place one vanilla wafer in bottom of each cup. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla until fluffy. Fill cups 2/3 full of cream cheese mixture. Bake at 375 degrees about 15 minutes or until set. Top each with 1 teaspoon pie filling when cool. Yields 24 servings.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.