Monthly Archives: October 2009

Mary’s Memo #2133


Summer has come and gone but the Consumer Information Catalog has everything you need to keep you going for the rest of the year. To get a copy, call toll-free 1-888-878-3256, weekdays 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it's your turn to host the family meal. Item 616T in the catalog includes four simple rules to prevent food-borne illness and keep your family healthy and happy.

Moving on, I've made homemade breads my entire adult life and still love doing it. When I see many breads selling for over $3.00 a loaf at the supermarket, I'm thinking more people should join me and make their own! Although people are counting calories and shy away from a lot of sweet stuff at bake sales, my rolls and bread continue to attract customers.

Bread making is an art but don't be intimidated because anyone willing to try can master it, especially with a copy of 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads by Judith Fertig. Published this month by Robert Rose, Fertig shows the home baker how he or she can achieve incredible results in minutes. She covers everything from basic equipment, making it ahead of time and how to master easy, no-knead, one-bowl breads. Your artisan loaves will have a crisp, darkened crust, a tender and moist crumb and a mellow, toasty flavor. The basic dough will also make delicious rolls, pizza or flatbread.

As you work your way through Fertig's new cookbook, each recipe will become easier to make and by holiday time you'll have artisan-type breads to serve at home and/or to give away as gifts.

Judith Fertig is a talented food writer, cooking instructor and product spokesperson. She is also one of the best-trained barbecue experts in the country and one-half of the famous "BBQ Queens" best selling cookbook duo with Karen Adler. Their latest book is 300 Big and Bold BBQ & Grill Recipes.

Look for 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Breads (Robert Rose; October 2009; softcover/$24.95) at your favorite book store or order from Believe me; this cookbook will pay for itself in homemade bread savings!


Each year Halloween is becoming more of a reason to celebrate with decorations and food. My neighbors tell me that when their children went trick or treating they made a beeline for our home because I gave away homemade popcorn balls and they wanted to be sure they got one. But when scary things turned up in homemade treats around the country I switched to wrapped candy like most everyone else. Until recently I had no idea how much the popcorn balls meant to neighborhood children. So this year I'll be in the garage with a bowl of commercially wrapped candy but for old time's sake I'll also have homemade popcorn balls and hot spiced cider (for the adults). I can't guarantee that I'll have enough popcorn balls to last through 1 1/2 hours of trick or treating but like earlier days, they'll be available on a first come first serve basis.The only recipe I've ever used is from Better Homes and Gardens so if it works why fix it!


20 cups popped corn (5 quarts)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Keep popped corn warm and crisp in 225F oven. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, salt and vinegar in large heavy saucepan. Cook to hardball stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer). Stir in vanilla. Slowly pour over popped corn and stir just to mix well. Butter hands and quickly shape mixture into even size balls. Recipe makes 15 to 20. Package in plastic sandwich bags and tie with orange paper ribbon.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens recipe.

Frosted Pumpkin Drops will also put smiles on the faces of trick or treaters and adults, too.


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups unsifted, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar.
Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and beat thoroughly. Mix dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture. Stir in dates and walnuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 375oF oven for 10 minutes or until cookies are golden. Cool on rack and spread with frosting. To make, combine brown sugar, milk and butter. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Store cookies in plastic container, separating layers with waxed paper. Download PDF of Memo #2133

Mary’s Memo #2132


What makes a good cookbook? Buyers' opinions will differ. Since I've been involved with produce demonstrations at the Bryan Chief, I'm always looking for recipes I can serve there. Labor Day weekend at Books and Co. in Dayton (I love that book store) I bought Nathalie Dupree's Southern Memories, published by the University of Georgia Press in 2004. However, the original hardcover version was published in 1993 by Clarkson Potter, a member of the Crown Publishing Company. As I perused the cookbook Hot and Spicy Stir-Fried Coleslaw caught my eye. I don't know about you but I've never eaten stir-fried coleslaw but I knew I wanted to make it. September 18th and 19th I served it at the Bryan Chief and customers loved it and so did I! The original recipe was too salty for my taste so I've cut the amount in half. Also, instead of grated carrots, I used the food processor to shred them. If you don't have a food processor, use a hand shredder. The original recipe called for 10 dashes of Tabasco sauce. That's a little hot for our part of the country so I used 4 drops. Trust me, this is a winner!


3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage (do not shred)
2 cups coarsely shredded carrots
4 cups seeded and thinly sliced green and red bell peppers
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 drops Tabasco sauce or to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet (I used an electric skillet) on high heat until it sizzles. Add the vegetables, bell peppers, salt, Tabasco and soy sauce all at once. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve immediately. Recipe cuts in half easily if you want a smaller amount.

Source: Adapted from recipe in Nathalie Dupree's Southern Memories Recipes and Reminiscences, University of Georgia Press, 2004. Should be available at


I've had a lot of questions about peanut oil from tasters. You can also use vegetable oil, preferably canola. Peanut oil has a higher smoking point so fried foods are not as likely to burn. I don't use it exclusively but for things like fried green tomatoes and zucchini fritters that I made recently, the inside of the food has a chance to cook thoroughly while the outside doesn't scorch. Peanut oil is about 50 percent monounsaturated and 30 percent polyunsaturated. Although it does contain some saturated fat there are o grams of Trans fat in peanut oil.


Whole gains may help control blood pressure, suggests a new Harvard study of more than 30,000 male health professionals. Men who ate the most whole grains (equal to about three servings a day) were 19 percent less likely to develop hypertension over 18 years than those who ate the least. An earlier study in women yielded similar results. Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain the bran and germ and thus have more fiber and nutrients.

Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, October 2009.


Two zucchini plants in my mini salad garden produced more zucchini than I could possibly use this summer. So I was constantly looking for new ways to serve it. The interesting thing about Zucchini Cornbread Casserole was that it tasted even better reheated as a leftover. It has the texture of a spoon bread. Serve it instead of crackers with chili or bean soup. To cut calories make it with reduced-fat Cheddar cheese.


4 cups shredded zucchini
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 8.5-ounce box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 ounces shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2-quart oblong dish with non-stick spray. In a large bowl mix together the zucchini, onion, eggs, muffin mix, salt and pepper. Stir in half the cheese. Spread this mixture in prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Recipe makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from recipe, the world's favorite recipe web site.


I can't count the times I've been asked which apple is best for pie or which one is the best baker. Although the Golden Delicious remains my apple-of-choice because it's an all-purpose variety, another all-purpose apple is the Gala. For an eating apple, Honey Crisp are wonderful and so is the Pink Lady. Ask someone else and they may prefer any number of apples over my favorites.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups finely chopped pared apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Mix dry ingredients together; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in apples. Spread batter in greased and floured 9x13 inch baking pan. Combine walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Download PDF of Memo #2132

Mary’s Memo #2131


Italy is not the birthplace of pasta as most people think. Historians credit the Chinese with making a rice noodle as early as 1700 BC. However, the Italians were major players in the evolution of pasta as we know it. As early as 400 BC Italians had a noodle similar to lasagna. But it was Arab traders, not Italians, who boiled the pasta. Wanting something hot at the end of the day, they combined the noodles with boiling water. Arabs brought this food with them to Sicily during the 8th century invasion. Before long the city of Palermo was producing large quantities of pasta. But it was Naples where technology was developed to mass produce it. This success brought Naples out of an economic depression.

Italians ate pasta plain or sprinkled with cheese. It wasn't until 1839 that a tomato sauce was mentioned. Later a variety of pasta shapes were introduced.

Although Thomas Jefferson introduced pasta to America in the late 1700's, it didn't become widely popular until Italians immigrated to America in 1800-1900, bringing their pasta with them.

Pasta is as popular as ever, probably because it's nutritious, very affordable and a good meat extender, just what we need in this troubled economy! Whole wheat pasta is the "newest kid on the block" and I use it whenever I can although some dishes are better with the regular kind. Most of us keep a variety of pasta on hand, another attribute being its long shelf life.

So we're celebrating National Pasta Month with recipe favorites of mine.


1 8-ounce package medium noodles
1 stick butter, divided
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour (5 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups milk (whatever kind you use)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 5-ounce cans tuna fish canned in water, well drained
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) shredded Muenster cheese (you can also substitute another cheese, preferably a reduced-fat kind)
1/2 cup buttered crumbs

Cook noodles; drain. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Stir in milk. Continue cooking, stirring until sauce has thickened and boils 1 minute. Slice cream cheese into sauce and stir until melted. Add drained tuna, olives, chives and Muenster cheese. Mix with noodles and spoon into 2-quart casserole. Melt remaining butter and combine with 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs. Bake in 325F oven until bubbly (about 45 minutes). Recipe makes 6 servings.

Since it's also National Pork Month, our next recipe combines bulk pork sausage with uncooked macaroni to make an easy top-of-stove, one dish meal. Just add a salad and fruit dessert for a wholesome combination.


1 pound bulk sausage
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Saute sausage, onion and green bell pepper together. Drain off drippings. Add tomatoes, uncooked macaroni, buttermilk, sugar, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Reduce temperature and simmer an additional 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Recipe makes 6 servings.


An animal study at Purdue University has shown that adding ascorbic acid and sugar to green tea can help the body absorb helpful compounds and also demonstrates the effectiveness of a model that can reduce the number of animals needed for these types of studies. Mario Ferruzzi, associate professor of food science and nutrition, adapted a digestion model with human intestinal cells to show that adding ascorbic acid to green tea would increase the absorbability of catechins, a class of polyphenols (antioxidants), common in tea, cocoa and grapes. Antioxidants are thought to fight heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other health problems.

"This model may be used as a pre-emptive screening tool at very little cost before you do expensive tests on animals and humans," said Ferruzzi, whose findings were published in the early online edition of the journal Food Research International. "If you want to get human screening off the ground, it takes months. If you use this model, it takes hours."

Ferruzzi urges consumers to add lemon or citrus juice to their tea. "Having the vitamin C seems to do it," Ferruzzi said, "and if you don't want to squeeze a lemon into your cup just have a glass of juice with your green tea or look for ready-to-drink products that contain 100 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on the ingredient list."

Source: Purdue News Service, September 9, 2009. Download PDF of Memo #2131

Mary’s Memo #2130


Let's talk about the "other white meat." Living alone, it's convenient to keep boneless pork loin chops in the freezer to grill or broil. I watch for sales on whole or half loins and ask a Chief meat cutter to slice it into 1-inch chops (they do it free). At home each chop goes into a plastic sandwich bag and then all are stored in a dated freezer bag. I do miss pork roasts but reserve those for company meals.

In addition to having a grilled or broiled chop, I may cube a chop for stir-fry entrees or this stovetop dish.

2 1/2 pounds cubed pork loin

1 cup sliced onions

1/4 cup canola oil

1 16-ounce jar sauerkraut

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/8 teaspoon dry thyme

1 can undiluted beef consomme (I use Campbell's)

1 bay leaf

1 cup sour cream (can be reduced fat one)

Shake pork cubes in sack with flour to coat. In a Dutch oven, brown pork and onion in hot oil. Add other ingredients except sour cream. Cover and simmer until tender. Add sour cream and heat through but do not boil. Recipe makes 8 servings.

Sausage, Peppers and Onions, a microwave recipe, was one of the best recipes of 1991. Did you make it?

1large onion, halved and sliced

1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 14-ounce jar spaghetti sauce

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In 8x12-inch baking dish cook onion and pepper, covered, on high for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Add sausage, recover and cook on high 5 to 6 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink. Stir half way through cooking time. Carefully discard drippings. Stir in garlic powder and spaghetti sauce. Cook covered 4 to 5 minutes until sauce is hot, stirring halfway through cooking. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Recipe makes 4 servings.

Source: Good Housekeeping magazine, August 1991.SLOWER FOOD COST GROWTH IN 2010

After a couple years of above average food price inflation, a Purdue University economist believes the inflation rate will return to normal next year.

Corinne Alexander, an agriculture economist, estimated 2010 food prices would increase between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent, not near the records that were set in 2008 of 5.5 percent. The 10-year average for food price inflation for 1997 to 2006 is about 2.5 percent, she said.

Several factors have been driving the decline in those inflationary numbers including significantly lower commodity prices as well as lower cost of fuel. "Grain prices peaked last summer. We had $8 corn and $13 wheat," Alexander said. "We also had $147 per barrel oil."

The recession also slowed growth in developing countries, reducing the demand for meat and other food exports. That has increased the supply available in the United States, driving down the price.

"You just can't have rising meat prices with domestic supplies so high," Alexander said. "This year domestic demand weakened because of the recession."

Alexander warned, however, that inflation could go higher based on the economy. "If the U.S. and world economies start growing and the recession is finished sooner than expected, that will boost inflation," she says.

Source: Purdue News Service, August 29, 2009.

A diet high in vegetables, nuts and fish and low in high-fat dairy products may be just the right combination to help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to findings released at an American Academy of Neurology meeting. Researchers led by Yian Gu, PhD, of Columbia University analyzed seven nutrients thought to be related to Alzheimer's in the diets of 2,136 healthy seniors in New York: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate. Their goal was to identify dietary patterns that explain, as much as possible, the variation of nutrients believed to relate to Alzheimer's disease risk.

"Because foods are not consumed in isolation, dietary patterns taking into account the interactions among food components may offer substantial advantages," Gu and colleagues explained.

Over an average follow-up of almost four years, 251 subjects developed Alzheimer's. A dietary pattern high in cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, nuts and fish but low in red meat and high dairy products was associated with lower risk of Alzheimer's.

The one-third of the subjects most closely matching this dietary pattern were 42% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those whose diets most diverged from that pattern. Even the middle group, matching the dietary pattern less closely but better than the bottom one-third, saw a 23% lower risk of Alzheimer's.

The dietary pattern linked to lower Alzheimer's risk was positively correlated with omega-3, omega-6, folate and vitamin E, and negatively correlated with saturated fat and vitamin B12 intakes. The B12 finding was a surprise, Gu commented, because low B12 levels are associated with dementia. Since a chief dietary source of B12 is meat, those consuming more B12 might also be getting lots of saturated fat.

Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, September 2009. Download PDF of Memo #2130