The rains have arrived! This past week, we’ve had rains all around us. Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons as I worked in the Hospital Gift Shop, it was raining, and I drove in rain as I went to Cuero on Thursday morning, but the showers just seemed to go around my area. However, Saturday evening, the storms came with a lot of noise but not much rain and on Sunday morning, when I was headed to church, here came the rain in a downpour and it continued during our service. By the time we finished Mass, it was down to sporadic light showers and it seems to be continuing the same way as I am working on this. (Of course, I did not have an umbrella in the car and looked like a drowned puppy when I got into church, but since I wasn’t the only one, and I soon dried off, I didn’t mind. Some of my neighbors don’t leave home as early as I do, and the showers had already begun at their homes, so they had protection! We are so happy to see the rain, as it has been a really long time since we had a measurable amount and I told someone the other day that the cracks in my back yard are large enough that you have to watch where you walk.
Parts of the following article are copied from an old edition of The Devine News. The information is almost as applicable today as it was at that time. The only difference that has been noted is that there are only two types of baking powder today. The type called “double-acting baking powder”, which means it rises slightly while you are mixing and will rise more when you have it in the oven. A single-acting type (which is something I have not seen in stores in years) is one that rises when your batter/dough is baking and does not make for as light a product.
Baking soda can also be used as a leavening agent. It is almost always used in conjunction with sour milk, clabber, or buttermilk. When a recipe calls for baking soda, it is generally (not always) dissolved in the sour milk/buttermilk before adding to the product being made.
Yeast is yet another leavening agent with which we are all more or less familiar. It is used mostly in bread, rolls, coffee cakes and sometimes biscuits. When using yeast, it can either be dissolved in warm liquid before adding to the flour mixture; or, with the newer types of quick rising yeast, it is added to the dry ingredients before the liquid is added to them.
With all the years our grandmothers spent hours in the hot kitchen baking homemade bread, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, etc., wouldn’t they be surprised at the way it is done today?
Today, anyone can have a hot loaf of bread at any time of the day or night, thanks to the technology of the bread machine! No mixing, no kneading, no letting it rise in a warm, draft-free place, no waiting for it to rise a second time before shaping into loaves and baking. The smell in the kitchen is still just as heavenly, the finished product is (almost) always perfect, there is no real mess to clean up, but isn’t there some little something missing? While it is a lot of work and a real mess to make bread or rolls from scratch, it is something that is very satisfying. As you pummel, punch and knead the dough, you can work out all of your frustrations! Think about it, no one gets hurt, no feelings are hurt, your arms are getting a good exercise and your family will absolutely love the finished product.
Our grandmothers used yeast cakes, small squares of yeast sometimes bought either from a bakery or from a grocery store. Or, they used a sponge they made themselves. The yeast cakes, as they were called, were broken into small pieces and softened in some of the liquid that was being used in the recipe. Another type of yeast they used was called “Everlasting Yeast”. The only information I have at this time is that it was in a brick shape, and was cut out with a biscuit cutter, into circles, then into halves. It was stored on the pantry shelf and was gray with a rough texture. It also looked and felt as if it had cornmeal on it. This information is from my aunt in LaCoste. Her mother was the one who used this type of yeast and that would have been close to100 years ago. When I was growing up, yeast was sold in the grocery store in small foil-wrapped squares, which were kept near the cheese in the dairy case or in the meat case. The yeast cakes were made by Fleishmans, as are the dry types now available.
Depending on the area of the country, they also made sourdough bread with a starter they kept alive at all times by feeding it and keeping it cool until ready to use. If you remember the days of “Herman”, and the “Friendship Bread” that was popular several years ago, you remember a type of sourdough bread.
Today, you can purchase granular yeast in pre-measured amounts, in two types. The older type which is placed in a warmed portion of the liquid from your recipe, and the other type, which is called “Rapid Rise”, and is added to the dry ingredients and does not begin acting until the warm liquid is added to the mixture. Also available, is a granular yeast especially made for the new bread machines.
Now, since the Fall Festival is on its way. Yes, I know, it is almost a month away, but I am trying to get an early start for you to get your avocado recipes together. Here is an Avocado Pie recipe for you to try. It is delicious! I was given a sample last year several weeks before the festival.
Erma’s Avocado Pie
1 prepared graham cracker crust
2 egg yolks
1 large avocado
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel avocado, remove seed and place avocado in bowl. Mash, using your electric mixer. Set aside. Beat egg yolks until thick, add beaten avocado meat and vanilla, and continue beating. Add milk and remaining ingredients in order listed. Beat until smooth and well combined. Pour into crust and bake at 325º for 20 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly. Pour on the following topping, and refrigerate until well chilled before serving.
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix together until well combined and pour onto pie.
Dee’s Chicken N’Rotel® Tomatoes
Read instructions before beginning!
1 whole chicken cut into serving size pieces
½ to 1 cup cooking oil (for frying chicken pieces)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbs. sugar
Salt and pepper
1 can Rotel® tomatoes with green chilies
½ to 1 can tomato sauce (8-oz can)
1 can diced tomatoes, (large can)
1 can sliced mushrooms
½ to 1 cup water
Skin chicken and season on all sides with Cajun seasoning. Heat oil in heavy skillet and fry chicken until nicely browned; remove from pan and set aside. In same skillet, sauté onions and bell pepper; drain off excess oil and add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and mushrooms. Add chicken to sauce; stir and add sugar and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until chicken is done, and serve over white rice.
The late Mrs. Bess Polk, who was in an Assisted Living home in Victoria at the time, sent me this Chicken and Rice Casserole which had appeared in her daily paper, The Victoria Advocate. About two weeks after she sent hers to me, a similar one appeared in the San Antonio paper, but, if I remember correctly, that one required instant rice and I liked this one much better.
Fiesta Chicken and Rice Bake
1 can cream of chicken soup or cream of onion soup
1 cup chunky salsa or picante sauce
½ cup water
1 cup whole-kernel corn, drained (buffet size can, or I just used a well drained 15 oz can)
¾ cup regular long-grained white rice (uncooked)
4 boneless chicken breast halves*
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375ºF Mix soup, salsa, water, corn and rice in 2-quart shallow casserole or baking dish. Top with the chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Cover with lid or foil. Bake about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice has soaked up all the liquid and the chicken is cooked through. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and put back in the oven for a minute or so, until the cheese melts. *I use cut-up chicken or leg/thigh quarters instead of breasts, and I use 6-8 thighs and it works very well.
If you want to double the recipe, use: 2 cans soup, 2 cups salsa, 1 cup water, 15-oz can corn, 1½ cups rice (uncooked), 12 to 15 pieces chicken, may need larger pan.