Odds and Ends

This past week was a fun and relaxing one for me. Since I was hostess at our bunco club, I spent part of Monday and Tuesday making some of the food that I was planning to serve. That evening, I decided to load anything that didn’t to be kept cool in my car to get a head start, so Wednesday morning all I had left to load was the stuff that went into an ice chest. It sure did save me a bunch of time that morning and I managed to get away from home by 8:30 a.m.

This in itself is unusual! So, before 11:30 I was at my daughter’s. My son-in-law unloaded my car, and I put everything where it belonged to be used later that day, when this was done, guess what? It was nap time, and I woke up refreshed and ready to make my dessert and get out the dishes that I planned to use. Everything worked out just fine, other than the fact that the hot dog buns stayed in the oven and my daughter had to go to the store and get some more. Ho hum…stuff happens. We even re-checked in the kitchen to be sure nothing was left; however, we couldn’t see into the oven, they weren’t sitting on the counter.
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. (Ask any of my family that were on the vacation to NM last year how much fun they had making cinnamon rolls, they even found a unique rolling pin to use, since there wasn’t one in the house!).
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 Fleishman’s, 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.
Here’s the recipe for the dessert I served at bunco, it’s been in my column before, and my family all really likes it.
Sopapilla Cheesecake
2 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-oz) cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick melted butter
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease or spray a 9×13-in. pan and roll out 1 package of the crescent rolls on the bottom of the pan, sealing creases. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and spread over the dough. Roll out the second crescent roll sheet and place on top of the cream cheese mixture. Pour melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the sugar and then the cinnamon, bake for 30 minutes.
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
Cajun seasoning
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. I have made this many times and it is especially delicious with the cream of onion soup. I hadn’t been able to fine it for a long time as the local stores in Devine nor the one here had it. They recently opened a Brookshire Brothers store in a neighboring town, and they had a whole shelf full and still carry it.
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.
P.S. – In answer to a friend: using a wooden spoon keeps you from breaking up pinto beans, cut green beans, spaghetti or different kinds of macaroni!