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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

11/30/2021

~ Boston Cream Pie -- Why this Cake is called a Pie ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07f62f7c970dBoston Cream Pie, a feel-good dessert that won the hearts of Americans over a century ago.  The crazy thing is, it's a cake, not a pie -- not even close to a pie.  That said, this retro cake, sandwiched between a layer of pastry cream and topped with chocolate, is one of my favorite cake desserts.  Don't ask me why -- ok ask me why -- I find myself making Boston Cream Pie in the dead cold of Winter.  That's because my mom always made it for the Thanksgiving holiday, as a cake dessert to accompany her pies (and please the cake lovers).  She always chuckled when she offer dessert, saying, "you have a choice been pumpkin pie, apple pie, or, Boston cream pie."

A bit about the Boston cream pie:  Let's start with, it's the national dessert of Massachusetts' (over the Toll House Cookie and the Fig Newton). That's some very famous company.  Past that, it's not a pie, it's a cake:  two thin-ish layers of vanilla and/or rum-flavored, golden butter-cake with a vanilla- or rum-flavored egg-laced pastry cream sandwiched between the layers.  The op is glazed with a soft, elegant, almost drizzly chocolate.  It is attributed to be the culinary creation of French chef Sanzian of Boston's Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House --  The Parker House was the first hotel in the city to boast hot-and-cold running water and an elevator ), although they have never explained why they named it "Boston Cream Pie", although during that period, chocolate was consumed in households in beverage or pudding form, and, pastry-creams were limited to use in "cream cakes" (aka cream puffs).  Their idea to incorporate the two into a cake called "Chocolate Cream Pie" (later renamed Boston Cream Pie) became quite the rage.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07f49ab5970dSo why is this cake called a pie?  It's thin (like a pie), it's soft (like a pie), and, it gets cut into wedges (like a pie). There's a bit more to it than that.  It seems that in early American New England and Pennsylvania Dutch country, cooks were known for baking crossover-cakes (my word) meaning:  sometimes it was hard to tell them apart.  The Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-Fly pie is a prime example.  That was because pie tins were more common than cake pans.  More often than not, these cooks baked pies and cakes in pie tins.  It is said that the precursor to Boston Cream Pie was the early American "Pudding-Cake Pie".  This "pie" became so popular, it was turned into a boxed mix by Betty Crocker and sold sold nationally in 1958.  At age three, this boxed mix was my introduction to Boston Cream Pie.

I won't lie, this convenient mix containing three packets, one each for mixing the cake, custard and chocolate glaze kept me very happy for a lot of years.  Like a good brownie mix, I always kept a box in my pantry for emergency purposes.  Then, without explanation, they stopped making it -- poof -- it disappeared.  I hate it when that happens.  Fast forward to the year 2000.  I was  hosting a birthday party for two of my neighbors and girlfriends, Carol and Maryann, who celebrate their birthdays on February 10th and 14th.  For their new millennium birthdays, I decided to serve a retro lunch:  my own recipes for Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup, Waldorf Chicken Salad, and, Boston Cream Pie.  For their birthday gifts:  I gave them each a fondue pot.

Try my recipe for Baby, it's Never to Cold for Boston Cream Pie:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c752645b970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

11/27/2021

~ Bell's Seasoning -- My Favorite Poultry Seasoning ~

IMG_3477 2Poultry seasoning.  These two words get used generically in the writing of recipes, meaning, no brand name is mentioned -- Bell's, Durkee, McCormick, Penzey's, Spice Hunter, etc.  This leads the reader to believe that all poultry seasoning is basically the same and all brands can be used interchangeably.   In the wide world of spice blends, nothing could be further from the truth. Poultry seasonings are all relatively strong-flavored blends of ground, aromatic herbs and spices, and, they vary considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer.  None of them contain the same list of herbs and spices, most are salt-free, many are all-natural, and, others are organic -- also noteworthy, none contain poultry products or bi-products of poultry.  All that said, if you grew up liking foods seasoned with poultry seasoning:  stick to the brand your mom or grandma used. Never tasted or used poultry seasoning?  Invest in two or three and taste them side by side.

Bell's brand is America's oldest purveyor of seasonings, spices and stuffing mixes.  It started in Boston in 1867, a short four years after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday.  William F.Bell of Newton, Massachusetts created an exotic-smelling combination of all-natural, salt-free, preservative-free herbs and spices from and old family recipe.  He called it "Bell's Seasoning".  Trading ships carried his ingredients into Boston Harbor and it didn't take long for his blend to become a beloved staple throughout New England.  Over a century later, the recipe for the mixture remains the same -- and so does the colorful box it comes in..

Bells-1902-720x534To copycat/make 4 tablespoons Bell's poultry seasoning, process (in a small electric spice blender) the following to a powdery state:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c70428f1970b2 1/2  teaspoons dried rosemary leaves

2  teaspoons dried oregano leaves

2  teaspoons dried rubbed dalmatian sage

1 3/4-2  teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2  teaspoons dried marjoram leaves

1 1/2  teaspoons dried thyme leaves

1/4-1/2  teaspoon black pepper

Note:  Store poultry seasoning in a tightly-covered container as you would any other seasoning blend.

A point to ponder:  Consider this before you purchase that pricey oversized jar or box of poultry seasoning. If you only use a few tablespoons a couple of times a year (mostly during the holiday season), there is a case for making your own.  All dried herbs and spices have a relatively short shelf life before they start to lose their intensity, six months to a year.  Poultry seasoning (or any herbaceous spice blend) is no exception.  For me, making my own poultry seasoning once or twice a year is an efficient to use up those herbs and spices before they end up in the trash.

Try my Bell's Seasoned Basic, Soft White Bread Stuffing:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c712e994970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021) 

11/24/2021

~Take All the Guesswork Out of Portioning All Poultry~

6a0120a8551282970b019b01ad0351970b 2What size bird to purchase, no matter what the occasion, tends to be confusing because, simply stated, all poultry is not created equal.  Seasoned cooks will tell you size doesn't always matter, because some fowl, duck for instance, may appear to be large enough to feed six people, but, you'd be lucky if you get enough meat from one to adequately feed three.  If you've never cooked a duck before, one duck comfortably feeds two people -- and I had to learn this the hard way.

Every cook, novice or expert, at some point, finds him or herself asking the question, "how much poultry do I need to buy?"  This chart is a great place to start.  I ripped it out of a magazine in my doctors office almost 38 years ago.  Since my son Jess will celebrate his 38th birthday in December, my recollection is precise.  We women remember important stuff like our wedding day, the birth of a child, and, the first time we cooked Thanksgiving Dinner for our family -- timing the turkey, making the gravy, and, peeling all those potatoes.  It can be extremely overwhelming.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0910b84970c

About the only other commentary I can add to this short, informative post comes in the form of advice:  Always know your crowd.  Purchase more poultry if you're serving dinner to four hungry college-age guys, or less, if your serving lunch to four middle-aged women.  Always look at the big picture too.  If you want leftovers of the dish you are serving, or you can use some of the leftover poultry to turn out a quick second meal for your family, buy twice as much -- I do!

IMG_5419"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)