Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Cooking in Oz;" "Cora's Country Cookbook;" "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown;" "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - food for New Year's Day


Date I made these recipes:  January 1, 2014 (New Year's Day)

The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown – Celebrity Recipes and Hollywood Memories from Six Feet Under the Mistletoe by Frank Decaro (author of The Dead Celebrity Cookbook)
Published by:  Health Communications, Inc.
ISBN:  13: 978-0-7573-1700-2
Recipe:  Judy Garland's Ham Casserole with Sherry – p. 93

Cooking in Oz – Kitchen Wizardry and a Century of Marvels from America's Favorite Tale by Elaine Willingham and Steve Cox – Foreword by Margaret Pellegrini (a Munchkin)
Published by:  Cumberland House
ISBN:  1-58182-051-8
Purchased at:  Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks (NYC)
Recipe:  Margaret's Old-Fashioned Hopping John – p. 68

Cora's Country Cookbook by Margaret Hamilton (playing TV character, Cora) (Margaret Hamilton was the Wicked Witch of the West in the movie, The Wizard of Oz
Published for General Foods by MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc.
Purchased at:  Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks (NYC)
Recipe:  Coconut Cookie Bars – p. 40

The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookbook by Suzanne Huntley
Published by:  Antheneum
© 1965
Purchased at:  Falling Rock Cafe, Munising MI
Recipe:  Rum (or Bourbon) Balls – p. 10-11

I think I got just a tad carried away with my New Year's Day meal, but it wasn't necessarily my fault. 

In August 2013, Margaret Pellegrini, the last of the Wizard of Oz Munchins, passed away.  About a week earlier, when I was in NYC, I purchased the cookbook Cooking in Oz, a cookbook and narrative of life on the Wizard of Oz set.  Margaret wrote the foreword.  So when she died, I thought it would be a great idea to make something from the book but then I got busy and so I set the book aside with reminder to myself to make her Hopping John recipe for the new year to bring us good luck.

At the same time I bought the Oz book, I bought Cora's Country Cookbook by actress Margaret Hamilton.  Margaret was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West and managed to scare the bejesus out of me for many years until I got old enough to figure out she was an actress.  Her alter ego in the movie was Miss Gulch, the mean and heartless woman ripped our adorable Toto ("and your little dog too") out of the arms of Dorothy Gale.  To this day, when I see people riding bicycles, the "music" from her ride starts up in my head.  Talk about memorable – not a lyric to be heard and yet that music alone also set my hair on end.  I hid behind my dad's chair when that movie was on more times than I could count.  And until I was older, we watched the entire movie in black and white (no color TV set for us!) and so I had no idea the movie switched to color when Dorothy landed in Oz.  I was a deprived child....

At any rate, in her later years, Margaret did a complete role reversal away from scaring us to death to comforting us by playing the nice, sympathetic general store owner, Cora, in Maxwell House (coffee) commercials.  (It was "good to the last drop," don't you know!) "Cora" later wrote a cookbook – Cora's Country Cookbook – featuring basic, comfort food including the delicious Coconut Cookie Bars.

Whereas both Margaret Hamilton and Margaret Pelligrini lived into their 80's, Judy Garland, our heroine Dorothy, only lived to be 47.  And so as irreverent as this may sound, her demise earned her a place in The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown.

Now before you get all up in my grill about even owning an irreverent cookbook (along with The Dead Celebrity Cookbook), let me tell you that this book is funny.  Not in a tacky kind of way funny but funny.  The author clearly loves his celebrities, loves old movies and loves giving us a glimpse into his fun world.  He is both precocious and reverent in his discussions – I like that in an author.

Judy Garland's Ham Casserole with Sherry turned out to be a big hit in our house on New Year's Day.  It's a little strong on the sherry but then again, that's perhaps a fitting way – "...and one more for the road..." - to end a typical alcohol and sugar-filled holiday season.  (By the way, this is going back in time, but every time I head that song – One for My Baby, from which "and one more for the road" is a major line, I cannot help but think of the episode of The Mary Tyler Moore show where Mary Richards sang this number.  It was pretty funny.)

And speaking of the holiday as you can see, apparently I had a subliminal theme going on here – three dead celebrities (not planned, I assure you) – and then out of the blue I included The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookbook.  Well, there's a simple explanation for that:  while I was shelving newly purchased books, I came upon my "Christmas" collection and thought "oh why not?"  Besides, New Year's Day is part of the twelve days of Christmas that run from December 25th to January 5th.  When I was growing up, we spent the 6th of January in church celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany.  So see, it's all good!  Even better were the rum balls I made for dessert – whoa, Nelly, they were potent!  Between Judy Garland's Ham Casserole with Sherry and these, Andy and I could have spent the day feeling quite happy.  P.S.—I love Judy Garland's rendition of "Happy Days (Are Here Again)."  As it is, I watched my Michigan State Spartans win the Rose Bowl (happy, happy, happy) and then we settled down to this mish-mash repast.  Quirky though it may have been, all dishes were good and all cookbooks were fun to look through while planning the dinner.  If I had to recommend one (or two), it would be the two Dead Celebrity books just because they include so many great recipes from famous actors and actresses plus tidbits that make you primed to win at Trivial Pursuit or my favorite TV game show, Jeopardy.

So eat, enjoy, and for those of you who try the Hopping John, may good luck follow you all year.

Judy Garland's Ham Casserole with Sherry – serves 6-8 – The Dead Celebrity Cookbook presents Christmas in Tinseltown
4 cups ground cooked ham (use a Cuisinart if you don't have a grinder)
2 cups cooked rice
½ cup heavy cream
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons deiced green pepper
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup sherry wine
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the ham, rice, cream, eggs, tomatoes, pepper, onion, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and sherry.  Mix well and transfer to a greased two-quart casserole dish.  Mix the bread crumbs, melted butter, and paprika, and sprinkle on top of the ham mixture.  Bake 45 minutes.

Margaret's Old-Fashioned Hopping John – makes 8 servings – Cooking in Oz cookbook
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
4 cups water
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 cup long-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ pound thickly sliced bacon, cooked

Wash and sort peas.  In a medium saucepan combine the peas and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Drain the peas, reserving the liquid.  Set  both the peas and the liquid asside.

In a Dutch oven sauté the onion in the bacon drippings until golden.  Add water to the reserved liquid from the peas to make 4 cups.  Add the water, peas, rice, salt and pepper to the onions and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the peas and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed.  Crumble the bacon and stir into the Hopping John.

Ann's Notes:  First, I came close to ruining this entire recipe by first, cooking the peas too much, then almost setting the bacon on fire, then adding too much rice to the mixture and finally, getting a little too close to burning the pan by letting too much liquid absorb.  I was worried that bad luck, instead of good luck, was going to be my friend for 2014.  Second, once I got all the dish assembled I realized that I am just not that fond of this dish.  I've made it before with several variations and it just seems bland.  Still, I don't like to tempt fate and so I'll likely try a new dish next year.  Maybe the nth time is the charm? By the way, this was the first dish out of four that day and so all these comedy of errors happened when I was stone cold sober. ;)

Coconut Cookie Bars – makes 48 small or 24 large bars - Cora's Country Cookbook
½ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups Baker's Angel Flake Coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 ½ cups miniature marshmallows (optional)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Place butter in a 13 x 9-inch pan and place in oven to melt butter.  Remove the pan from oven, and sprinkle crumbs over butter, pressing down with a fork.  Sprinkle coconut over crumbs; add a layer of nuts and marshmallows.  Drizzle condensed milk evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and drizzle with melted chocolate. Cool before cutting. 

Ann's Note:  Maybe this won't happen to you but my marshmallows sort of deflated instead of staying nice and puffy and the chocolate did not drizzle like it should have.  And so I made due by spreading the chocolate on top of the deflated marshmallows just like a frosting. And since I needed to finish what I started, I melted two more blocks of chocolate.  The result was fantastic!  Although the marshmallows were hard to taste (I would have failed on the TV show, Chopped), frosting the bars made them into mini Mounds Bars (sans the almonds—if you recall "...Peter Paul Almond Joy's got nuts.  Mounds don't.") We kept a good portion of the pan for our own eating pleasure but Andy took the rest to work and they were inhaled in two seconds.

Rum (or Bourbon) Balls – makes about 6 dozen – The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookbook
1 cup vanilla-wafer crumbs
1 cup pecans, chopped fine
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
1 ½ tablespoons white Karo syrup
¼ cup or more rum or bourbon

Mix all ingredients together.  From in small balls, using about 1 rounded teaspoonful of the mixture for each ball.  Roll in more powdered sugar and store in a tightly covered container.  A variation substitutes gingersnaps or crushed chocolate wafer for the vanilla wafers; if chocolate wafers are used, omit the cocoa.  For another variation, use almonds or other nuts.  Or roll the balls in cocoa or chopped nuts instead of sugar.

Ann's Notes:  There's hardly a holiday dessert cookbook that doesn't contain this recipe but nobody said anything about what the mixture should look like, just the end result. And the mixture was way too soupy to roll (whether this was operator error or not remains to be seen) so I put the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Well that turned out to be a little long so then I left the bowl on the counter for 10 and the mixture hardened enough to roll out.    Also, a full recipe is said to make about 6 dozen rum bulls but I made half the recipe and in no way shape or form ended up with 3 dozen.  A good dozen maybe, but not three. And as I said before, eating one of these is like drinking a shot of rum so be careful out there!


Fred Christian said...

Can you please If Possible publish the recipie for the Cinnamin Buns from Cora's Country Cookbook . We had it and lost the book. It was a huge hit when my Dad made them Thank You God Bless

Fred Christian said...

Can you please If Possible publish the recipie for the Cinnamin Buns from Cora's Country Cookbook . We had it and lost the book. It was a huge hit when my Dad made them Thank You God Bless