Country Cooking – January 29

Recently I have been more aware of how varied our food tastes are compared to others. Several years ago I looked through some of my collection of cookbooks and discovered how different the recipes were dependent on the area where they were produced. Most of them were church-related collections of the women of the congregations. A lot of it depended on the foods that were available and certainly of the ethnicity of the area. I had a roommate from California when I went to Bethel College in St. Paul and she refused to go to a smorgasbord and the food to her was much too bland. She was used to lots of spice.  James says one of the favorite dishes made at the college is macaroni and cheese on top of mashed potatoes. Nothing like a lot of starch to fill you up. Must be because most of them were used to hard work on the farm. 

One time Robert and I attended a conference in Washington D.C. and had a meal at the Senate cafeteria. This was a chance to try beef burgundy. Needless to say, it was not a flavor that I would try again very quickly, in fact, I don’t think I ate it and went back to get something I was much more acquainted with. I’m certain there were those that thought it very enticing and enjoyed every bit of it. Another time we were in St. Paul and our group saw there was fish soup on the menu. We were all anxious to wonder what it tasted like so with individual spoons we each had a spoonful. Don’t remember if anyone was encouraged to order it again and I’m certain there are those that found it very palatable.

As the years have gone by I have become more adventurous and will try most dishes at least once and some are more desirable from time to time. My first taste of chow mein eventually became a staple at our house providing I made it with our own meat. Occasionally Robert would find a recipe he thought sounded good and would ask me to make it. Applesauce meatloaf was a good one that became a favorite. Several years ago the grandkids had purchased wasabi and urged me to try it. I had seen it included in many recipes and so it was game on. They still chuckle and laugh as they watched me take just a nibble. Better not try too much at once as the full flavor takes a bit of time to release its full potential.  

Granted there was not a lot of variety to our diet while growing up. If we didn’t grow and harvest it we most likely didn’t have access to any new products. Nowadays one can purchase almost any kind of fruit or vegetables relatively year-round. Perhaps we should have more lessons on how to make use of them and vary our eating habits. We all have our favorites and most of them are related to how our mothers cooked and what was available during our growing up years. In this area, not a lot of spices were used mostly just salt and pepper and perhaps some onion. Don’t be too critical of another’s tasting flavors as they probably won’t like yours either for one reason or another. 

Sweet-and-Sour Pork

1 can ( 20 ounces) pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced

Hot cooked rice

Drain pineapple, reserving the juice; set pineapple aside. Add enough water to juice to measure 3/4 cup. Combine the cornstarch, soy sauce, honey, bouillon, garlic, pepper, and pineapple juice mixture until smooth; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet; cook and stir pork and green pepper for 6-8 minutes or until pork is no longer pink and green pepper is crisp-tender.

Stir the pineapple juice mixture; add to the skillet with pineapple. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Serve with rice. Yield 4 servings

Cornbread Squares

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup 2% milk

1/4 cup canola oil

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, milk, and oil. Beat just until moistened.

Spoon into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Baker at 400º for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 9 servings

Romaine Salad

1 head romaine lettuce

1 pint strawberries

1 avocado

1/2 cup cashews

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vinegar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Shred romaine lettuce and put into a bowl. Add sliced strawberries, avocado, and cashews. For the dressing whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over salad just before serving.

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