Heavenly Hash

So the past seven days are really a blur. The details of our week are vague; however I am pretty sure I have not made a meal since last Sunday. A funny concept since I spent the entire week entertaining. Note to self: cooking and entertaining are not mutually exclusive!

Suffice it to say, between hosting Easter parties, our church Wednesday night supper, and shuttling children with overloaded dance cards, I spent the week wired on grande-non-fat-one-Splenda-lattes.

Thank goodness I had the weekend at my mother-in-law’s to come down off my adrenaline buzz. I caught up on several FoodTV and HGTV shows, watched Gidget and It Runs in the Family, and finished needle pointing one of the elephants on my son’s Noah’s Ark stocking. I didn’t cook, wash, clean or even make my bed! And, it was delicious.

Our Easter feast was traditional with expected favorites including spiral glazed ham, potato salad and baked beans. Perhaps the unsung hero of the day was the Heavenly Hash. I remember a variation of the dish my grandmother added to holiday meals, so today’s rendition struck my tongue as one part nostalgic and two parts unfamiliar. In my wildest dreams I could have never come up with this concoction of marshmallows, cherry pie filling, pineapples and Cool Whip. Yet the sugary-sweet pink cloud stole the show. When asked what the best part of the meal was the girls responded without hesitation, ‘the pink stuff’.

In my opinion Heavenly Hash gets a bad rap. Yes it’s sinful, but thankfully it’s not addictive. In fact, Heavenly Hash is one of those dishes you are embarrassed to admit you actually really like. But, it’s so damned good eventually you just give up and dive in head first.

Don’t get me wrong, Heavenly Hash definitely has its place. The pseudo fruit salad dessert wannabe isn’t fit for every affair. It won’t grace the occasional table and might only make a cameo if requested by really insistent children. Or will it?!??!

As I was driving my snoozing family back home down I-35, I resisted the temptation to plan this week’s meals. The weekend’s not over yet! Besides I’m still noshing on chocolate eggs, jelly beans and secretly dreaming of Heavenly Hash.

Heavenly Hash
1(14 ounce) can
sweetened condensed milk

1 (16 1/2 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 large container Cool Whip, thawed
Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight.
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Sunday Supper

After church the boys took off fishing while the girls and I stayed closer to home and played outside, worked on art projects and whiled-away the hours. I even got in a sacred hour of needlepoint. My goal is to finish the children’s Christmas stockings while they are still young enough to believe in Santa!

I must confess the day seemed like something out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. You know the scene; women folk sit around the hearth darning while the men venture into the wild to hunt and gather dinner. Only in this modern version, Ma and the girls were snuggled in front of a Sony watching Disney Channel movies while Pa and the Boy trotted up the road in an SUV to shoot pellet guns and to see if the bass were biting.

Under the influence of my bucolic daydream, I busied myself in the kitchen in eager anticipation of my boys return from the wilderness, er ranch. We gathered around the table tonight tired from a weekend well spent. I served a whole roasted chicken, fresh white corn on the cob, roasted in their husks drizzled with butter and salt, stewed okra & tomatoes and cornbread baked in my cast iron skillet. The children love corn on the cob and we use these nostalgic ear holders I used as a kid. The novelty that these yellow plastic corncobs were mine when I was a little girl never ceases to get a rise out of them.

My reverie of a little house on the prairie must have really gone to my head because somewhere between church, needlepoint, playing with the girls and husking corn, I baked up a sinful (for a Sunday anyway) apple-pecan cake. Spiked with allspice, cinnamon and, in my opinion a generous whop of Jack Daniels, the spongy cake was met with sheer delight by all of us. No doubt the babies will slumber well.

Tomorrow’s reality will hit hard. Travel schedules, preparations for the holiday weekend and a host of obligations will swoop in like a heavy rain in a mere few hours. The simple nature of this weekend will soon be gone but not forgotten. After all, we will always have Sunday supper.

Mussels for Muscles

Its spring in Austin and today was one of those chamber-of-commerce type days that defines why we live in our town. The morning air was crisp and without a cloud in the sky the sun warmed us to what we affectionately call California weather. A 75 – 55 split.

We headed out with the girls to Town Lake for a quick jaunt on the hike and bike trail. We could talk of nothing else except how perfect spring is in Austin. After meeting our daily fitness requirement, we immediately treated ourselves to a trip through Whole Foods. Mussels were calling our name and we gathered up a pound or two, some shallots, garlic, fresh bread and salad fixin’s.

Husband and I spent the rest of the day in the yard, clearing, cleaning and planning. Working all day in the earth fresh with the smell of dirt, mulch, flora and fauna our appetites were whetted for a taste of the sea. Gratefully, mussels are quick and easy.

To make a steaming pot of mussels I first sautéed two shallots and two cloves of garlic in a bit of EVOO. When the shallots were soft, I added two cups of good white wine and let the mixture come to a boil. Gently I dropped in the mussels and covered over medium heat for about 6 minutes. When the mussels were done, I removed them to a big white bowl and quickly whisked in two tablespoons of butter to the simmering sauce. I topped it off with salt, pepper and a little chopped tarragon. The presentation of mussels is always so glam. I love a dish that looks and tastes so good, but really requires minimal effort. Paired with a simple mixed baby greens salad and yummy ciabatta bread for mopping up the delicious wine sauce, the mussels were just what our tired muscles needed.

Just Like Martha Used To Make…. (Trout Steaks with Wine & Rosemary)

I’ve read my new prized possession Classical Southern Cooking cover-to-cover. I confess, I’ve read it three times. Damon Lee Fowler’s anthology of southern cooking is as much of a lesson in early American history as it is a cookbook. Fowler brings to life the earliest recipes from the South which are steeped with the flavors of their rich European and African heritage.

Tonight I felt honored as I joined the ranks of women throughout the South by cooking a meal passed down through countless generations.

Trout Steaks with Wine and Rosemary is a recipe from Martha Custis Washington. It first appears in writing around 1749 when she was still married to her first husband Daniel Custis. However, Fowler notes that the recipe, which originated in England, was probably much older than the mid-seventeenth century manuscripts from which it can be traced. You can imagine my trepidation as I embarked upon cooking a 300 + year old recipe that traveled from England with the first settlers to America and was made popular by Martha Washington. I dove in head first and savored every moment of my humble attempt to ‘make dinner’.

No pressure, really.

Trout Steaks with Wine and Rosemary
Serves 4

4 trout steaks, cut 1 inch thick
Dry white wine
4 T butter
2 sprigs rosemary, plus additional for garnish
2 thin quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
Lemon juice to taste (optional)
1 lemon cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
Parsley sprigs for garnish

Place the steaks in a deep, lidded skillet that will just hold them in one close-fitting layer. Pour in enough wine to completely cover them. Take out the steaks and set them aside on a plate.

Add 3 T butter, the rosemary, and the ginger slices to the wine. Turn on the heat to med-high, bring the wine to a good boil for 3-4 minutes to mingle the aromatics with the wine, but not long enough for any to evaporate.

Add the fish, reduce the heat, simmer and cover the pan. Simmer until the steaks are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the steaks to a heated serving plate.

Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid to a nice glaze, about ½ cup. Remove and discard the ginger and rosemary. Freshen the sauce with lemon juice if desired and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Pour the sauce over the fish, garnish with lemons, rosemary and parsley.

Okra & Tomatoes
Serves 4

4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, scalded, peeled and seeded and coarsely chopped
Or 2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups sliced tender okra pods
¼ C chopped yellow onion
2 T butter (or your favorite substitute)
S & P to taste

Put the tomatoes and their juices, okra onions and butter in a deep stewing pan and turn on the heat to med-high. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent ticking and scorching, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.

Season with a healthy pinch on salt and a few liberal grindings of black pepper. Stir well and let the mixture simmer, uncovered until thick, about an hour. Check the pot and stir it occasionally to be sure that the vegetables have not become too dry. Just before serving taste and correct the seasonings.