Archive for the ‘Dainty Morsels’ Category

Make it easy, make a sandwich

January's post-holiday letdown, cold weather and short hours of sunlight gives rise to a craving for comfort foods. For many, that means soup. It does for me, too, but what's soup without a sandwich? Everybody loves a sandwich and it is the one food that's as welcome in a lunch box as it is at a party.

My mother threw the best parties. In the music department of the college where my father taught, there were always post-concert gatherings, most of them stuffy little affairs, but not at our house! Great platters of sandwiches or cold cuts were laid out on the ping-pong table, along with a few sides and lots of beer. The laid-back atmosphere put everyone at ease and the fun lasted well into the night.

The sandwich is said to have been invented by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, also known as "Jemmy Twitcher," a nickname given by alleged association with pirates. A noted gambler, he often went from pub to pub in London on gambling marathons. He would order slices of meat between two pieces of bread in order to satisfy his hunger, while continuing to gamble.

The sandwich was introduced to America in 1827 by cookbook author Elizabeth Leslie. A recipe for a ham sandwich was suggested as a main dish; reassuring because wince we're having grilled ham and Swiss for dinner tonight!

Sandwiches became very popular in the American diet when soft white bread was introduced in the early 1900's. I have memories of visiting my grandparents in coastal North Carolina in the 50's and 60's. Saturday night was sandwich night – usually banana sandwiches made with soft white bread, mayo and sliced bananas, washed down with a Pepsi Cola. My grandpa was always grumpy on those nights, but the rest of us were ecstatic. As my mom used to say, "I love me a banana sandwich." 

There are endless sandwich recipes: tea sandwiches, po' boys, muffelettas, clubs, wraps, pitas, subs, Cubans, Panini and croque monsieur are just a few of the types that have become famous through the years. For most southerners these days, pimento cheese is a favorite.

But you don't need a recipe to come up with a memorable sandwich; sometimes the best ones are created from a spontaneous concoction of leftovers you find during a late night rummage through the fridge. Extra grilled chicken breasts can be chopped up and turned in to chicken salad, roasted veggies and cheese could be slipped into a pita and broiled; just keep a loaf or two of good bread in your freezer to help you be prepared for a hunger attack or last minutes guests.

Why not take a cue from the salad bar and have a sandwich bar party? Platters of meats and spreads, sliced fresh or slow roasted tomatoes or other favorite veggies form the foundation of the menu. Offer the standard cheese selections but jazz it up with slices of brie for the decadent and make or purchase red pepper sauce, flavored mustard and mayo.

For an easy Super Bowl get-together, try this simple recipe for Barbecue Beef Sandwiches.

Anne Tomforde's Crockpot BBQ Beef


3 lb. boneless chuck roast cut into chunks

1 cup light brown sugar

1 medium onion, chopped and lightly sauteed


Combine and cook in crockpot for 4 hours on High setting. Remove all. Return 1/2 cup liquid; add 1 bottle chili sauce and 1/4 cup ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 hour on high. 

This is an easy recipe for beginning cooks and may be changed up to give it your own signature touch. Feel free to add your favorite seasonings or hot sauce. Makes enough for 10 big sandwiches.  Cole slaw is the perfect topping.


The best hostess is a relaxed hostess, so why not make it easy on yourself the next time you have guests? Ok, so maybe not banana sandwiches, but some great ingredients tucked into wholesome bread and I guarantee your guests will be relaxed, too.                                                                                                                                                              


Cranberries and Chocolate?

What do you do when a friend gifts you with five pounds of Callebaut Chocolate? I don't know about you, but I've been on a 'this would taste so much better if I just add some chocolate' kick. This cranberry nut bread recipe from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads (sans the chocolate) was a holiday tradition at our house when the kids were growing up; half of a bag of cranberries left over from Thanksgiving compelled me to dig it out again. Everything tastes better with a little chocolate, don't you think?

                              New Again Cranberry Nut Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup shortening

¾ cup orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 egg, room temperature and beaten

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional)

One large (9×5) or two small (7½ x 3½) loaf tins, greased or Teflon. If glass, reduce oven heat to 325

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In small bowl combine orange juice and grated rind with the beaten egg. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix just enough to dampen. Don't beat. Carefully fold in the nuts and cranberries.

Butter pan well, line the long sides and bottom with one length of wax paper, butter paper in place, for easy removal of the loaf. The mixture will be stiff and must be pushed into the corners of the pan with a spoon or spatula. Form it slightly higher on the sides to compensate for the rising crown.

While oven preheats to 350°, allow the filled pan to rest.

Bake in the the oven until the loaf tests done – when pierced in the center with a metal skewer or toothpick. If it comes out clean and dry, the loaf is baked. If moist particles cling to the pin, return the loaf to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Test again.

Remove bread from the oven . Carefully turn from the pan, peel the wax paper away and cool on a metal rack. An easy way to remove the loaf is to turn the pan on its side, tug gently at the leading edges of the wax paper to work the loaf loose. Allow the loaf to age overnight before slicing.


Remember it's better to give than to receive. Double the recipe. And about that recommendation to let the loaf age overnight? Good luck with that!


Jacob’s bowl of lentils

In my experience, there are two kinds of people in this world; those who would practically kill for a steaming bowl of lentil soup and those who turn up their noses and head to McDonalds.  Essau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils. What does that tell you?

I was a wannabe hippie, just starting college back in 1972 when  I made my first pot of lentil soup. It seemed like a good hippie kind of thing to do. I followed a recipe in those days, but now that I'm an old hippie, I never make it the same way twice. Here is the basic starting point if you're just beginning to cook, or thinking of becoming a hippie. Ideas for making it your own are at the bottom of the post.

                                     Jacob's bowl of lentils

1 pound lentils, washed

10 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 large potato, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1 package (10 ounces) fresh spinach, stems discarded and leaves chopped, or 1 package (10 ounces) chopped, frozen spinach, thawed

Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

Grated Parmesan cheese, minced celery tops (optional)

In large kettle, bring to boil lentils, water, oil, onions, carrots, celery, potato, garlic, and pepper. Simmer 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for thirty more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice. (If soup becomes too think, add a little boiling water.) Serve in warm soup bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and celery tops, if desired. Makes 10 cups, or about 8 servings.


Change it up with these suggestions, or come up with your own

  •             1/2 to 1 cup chopped, canned Italian tomatoes
  •             1 cup cooked small pasta, such as ditalini
  •             1 cup chopped fennel
  •             Sliced smoked turkey sausage
  •             Tiny meatballs (ground lamb – yum)
  •             Cook soup in ham broth
  •             Try bay leaves, or oregano, chopped fresh mint, curry powder

* Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.     Genesis 25:34     


Tomato soup my way

At least once a week when we were growing up, mom served us kids Campbell's Tomato Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – CHEEZ WHIZ, that is. I thought that's how everybody made them – how else was the cheese going to melt?!

Now that I'm all 'growed up' I make tomato soup with fresh tomatoes when they're in season, but on a winter afternoon after a busy day, I have no problem whatsoever making this soup that's based on a good old can of Campbell's Tomato. My friends always say they're amazed I make tomato soup from scratch. I just smile and say, "Umm, umm good!"

roasted tomato celery soup

3-4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

3 tablespoon good olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Optional: 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1- ten ounce can tomato soup

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

Toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper; place on a baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly, then chop or puree in blender, depending on the texture you prefer.

In a 4 quart stockpot on medium heat, sauté onions, garlic and celery with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon butter for 5-10 minutes – do not brown. Add optional red pepper flakes. 

Add the can of tomato soup, 1 soup can water (or equivalent chicken broth) thyme leaves, parsley, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir. Add roasted tomatoes, stir and allow to simmer for 5 minutes – any longer and the celery will lose it's crispness.

First the onions and celery – don't overcook!

Can't stop nibblng the caramelized tomato skins!

The perfect bowl.

Now all you need is the grilled cheese sandwich!

THE LAST COURSE: If you're not yet comfortable playing around with a recipe, this one is a good place to start.

In the Mood for Italian? Top each bowl with a handful of fresh baby spinach leaves before serving. Or add frozen cheese or chicken tortellini, a dash of Italian herb blend or a can of drained cannellini beans. Don't forget the Parmesan cheese.

Make it Mexican: Replace thyme and parsley with Mexican seasoning blend (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fresh, chopped cilantro. Add some shredded rotisserie chicken, and/or a can of kidney or pinto beans, and top with tortilla strips, grated cheddar and a dab of sour cream.


Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

When do you make soup?

When the temperature drops, I make soup. When my budget shrinks, I make soup. When I want to treat friends to a casual meal, I make soup. When my fridge and pantry is full of odds and ends, I make soup. When my wallet is bulging with bucks, I make seafood chowder. It's been a while!

I make a lot of soup.

What is it that makes soup so comforting? Eating soup is like getting a hug from mom. It can be down-home or uptown and you can eat it with a spoon. It warms you up when you're cold and lifts your spirits when you're down.

According to food historians, our present day restaurant industry is believed to be based on soup. Restoratifs (where we get our word 'restaurant') were the first items served in the public restaurants in 18th century Paris. Many of the soothing soups we know today such as broth, bouillon and consomme were created during this time period.

I like to keep the pantry and fridge stocked with soup fixings, so I can just cook up a big pot whenever it strikes me. There's nothing worse than having the sniffles and thinking, "If I had some noodles, I could make chicken noodle soup, if I had some chicken."

Like a good Girl Scout, I prefer to Be Prepared. Some staples I like to keep on hand for a quick and easy soup meal:

  • Stock – beef, chicken or vegetable ( try to buy high quality stock; I find the cartons to be better quality than canned). If you have the time, make your own.
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Rice, pasta, barley
  • Canned beans and dried beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Frozen tortellini
  • Baby spinach
  • Onions, celery, carrots
  • Ham hocks in the freezer
  • Potatoes

My go-to dish for holiday gatherings? You guessed it. Soup. 

A big cast iron pot of hearty peasant-style soup simmering on the stove, and a batch of cornbread coming out of the oven, is a great way to say 'welcome.' When I want to dress things up a little, I pour the soup into a pottery tureen (my idea of dressy) and place it at the center of the buffet, surrounded by small bowls of add-ons, so guests can create their own 'signature' soup. If I'm serving the soup as a side, I ladle portions into espresso cups so people can sip. No matter what the occasion, I've never failed to please people when I serve soup.

So for the next few days, I'll be serving up some recipes for soup here at The Shared Table. Tomorrow: Tomato Celery.

Till then, enjoy Lewis Carroll's ode to soup:

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green, 
Waiting in a hot tureen! 
Who for such dainties would not stoop? 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup! 
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening, 
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish, 
Game, or any other dish? 
Who would not give all else for two 
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup? 
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop! 
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening, 
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP! 

The Last Course: "A bowl of soup with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate"

Proverbs 15:17 New Living Translation


Bonnie’s Baked White Chili and Grammabelle’s Banana Bread

Baked White Chili

1 tsp. salad oil

1 medium vidalia onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

4 chicken breast halves (boneless/skinless), cut into 1" pieces

1 can white kidney beans (cannellini beans 15-19 oz. can ) drained

1 can garbanzo beans, drained (15-19 oz. can)

1 12 oz. can white corn, drained

2  4oz. cans chopped green chilies

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 lb. Monterey Jack cheese  (regular or light)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a saucepan over medium heat, heat oil, cook onion, garlic until the onion is tender.  In a 2 1/2 quart casserole, combine onion mixture with chicken (uncooked), white kidney beans, garbanzo beans, corn, green chilies, and chicken broth.  Cover casserole and bake for 50-60 minutes or until chicken is tender.  To serve, add addtional spice to taste, garnish with parsley or cilantro, and serve with shredded cheese.   Serves 8.

This is also good with black beans added.


Grammabelle's Banana Bread

Mix in a bowl

   2 ½ cups Sugar in the Raw                                   

   1 cup oil

   3 eggs (slightly beaten)

   1 ½ cup ripe bananas, smashed

   6 T. buttermilk

Whisk or sift together

   1 tsp. salt

   2 tsp. baking soda    

   2 cups whole wheat flour

Add to the first mixture. Add

   1 cup oatmeal

   2 T. wheat germ

   2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

   1 cup craisins

   1 cup chocolate chips                    

Stir well. Spoon into 2 greased & floured loaf pans 9×5 inches.

Bake 1 hr. 20 mins. @ 325

Makes 2 loaves