This Site's Menu Of Various Directions



Sum Cookin'



"If the wine had been as old as the turkey,
and the turkey had been as young and fresh as the wine,
and the turkey's breasts had been as nice as those of the waitress...
the meal would have been WONDERFUL."
-Duncan Hines,
Food critic and namesake of the cake mix





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Piparkakut Finnish Gingerbread

I recently tried the recipe in the graphic below. It's pretty dang good.
I DID change a few things. I doubled the spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) It was suggested to me to do that by a spice expert at a really nifty store called Penzey's Spices. She said that most all of the chefs with whom she has ever dealt almost always do that.
Anyway, I ran across the recipe on a DVD of a movie called "Rare Exports".
"Rare Exports" is a story about the REAL Santa Clause. The REAL Santa is, in actuality, a demonic creature who is not very nice at all to little boys and girls, even if the little tots have not been naughty. We never get to see him in action, but his "Helpers"...could we call them "Elves"?....are a bit intimidating
I suggest to all to find a copy of it. I believe that Wild and Wooly Video, here in Louisville has it.

Gingerbread cookies play a small but important role in the story. And I saved a screen shot to place here:





Sumshee's Ancestral Soup

As for soup, there aren't many rules for the ingredients, as far as I'm concerned.
Consider everything, use most. Soup is life. Experiment!
I call it "Ancestral Soup" based on the fact that for ages, in villages throughout the World there is usually or often a community fire for cooking, with a big pot of some kind with a soup or stew constantly brewing. Very little goes to waste. Anything not consumed in other fashions often gets tossed into the soup with a little added water.
Many legends claim that the soup has always been there, never consumed to completion and always cooking. Therefore technically, the soup is as old as is the village. Some villages, in China for instance, have soups that are thousands of years old, never depleted, only added to; the same soup as was eaten by all ancestors.
So far, I have yet to crack one thousand years.

If the soup is somewhat new and there hasn't yet been much break-down of the ingredients, you can get that thicker broth going sooner by introducing grain products. But introduce them slowly, grains and pasta will sometimes keep swelling, before they might break down and eventually go into solution/suspension. Flour and corn starch can thicken well. Corn starch thickens more per tablespoon than does flour. Always mix in cold water to create a thin slurry before adding either. Corn meal works nicely. But remember, they can all expand and thicken beyond what you find in the first few minutes.
Instant potatoes thicken great. But sprinkle-inject while stirring vigorously in small doses and wait five minutes to see how it does; it can surprise you and you'll end up with loose mashed potatoes. And all of that is if you DO want a thicker soup. A clearer broth is fine, too. It depends on what you want.
My "spirit" or "ancestral-style" soups are usually thicker because of the amount of accumulated cooking time that has gone into them. With enough boiling, everything in it will break down eventually. One time, I had a ten month old soup going which had become a mysterious thick liquid that had hardly any chunks of ANYthing in it. The flavor was indescribable. All of those wonderful collective ingredients were so melded that even I wasn't able to tell anyone what all was in it.
Just remember that if you are to NOT refrigerate it, which is easier to get away with in cooler weather, keep it just to a boiling point until you've finished dipping out of it and COVER IT.
IF you dip out a small amount here and there, use a well washed ladle and re-cover asap. (I try to use a bleach-sterilized implement, rinsed after the bleach-dip) But that doesn't matter much if you know that you are going to be bringing it to a boil again within a reasonable period of time. You're trying to maintain a sterilized environment and just raising the lid CAN let in "little guys" which WILL keep duplicating. If you're around the house a lot, this whole process is easy.
If kept un-refrigerated and covered, I have no problem with letting as much as 24-36 hours pass between boilings. In really cool weather, I HAVE let it go for almost three days, but it was turned off and kept covered ALL of that time.

The practice of not refrigerating the soup is NOT an official recommendation! I'm just saying that it works for me. You're on your own there. Officially, I have to state that you should follow Health Board guidlines for food safety.

Remember that as the soup thickens, there are more suspended solids. It is easier to burn the soup at that point. When you first restart the heating, stir it well and somewhat frequently until it's boiling to keep those suspended solids off the hot bottom.
And once it is 212, reduce the heat to a crawl until you're done "sterilizing"...usually 20 minutes of boiling will sterilize it sufficiently.
To keep it boiling with the lid ON, takes far less heat than with it off. When you cover it, take a peek in a few minutes to confirm that you're not rolling it harder than necessary. Covered, it might surprise you how little heat it takes to keep it at 212.

With a chicken with bones, pick as clean as you can, the meat from the bones. Boil the HECK out of the remains in a separate pot with just enough water to cover the mass. Do this till you're satisfied that you have elicited a satisfactory amount of goodness.
Drain with a collander the broth, into the soup and let the remains cool a bit and pick again if you like. (Watch for REALLY LITTLE bones. But they WOULD dissolve, too...eventually)
Other meats are fine. I happen to prefer chicken for most of my soups.

A study was conducted several years back at some university as to the veracity of the age-old claim that chicken soup is medicinal. Every Jewish Mother will administer her Chicken Soup to anyone ailing from ANYthing.
As it turned out in the study, there was a consistent improvement in the subjects who consumed the Chicken Soup as opposed to the other control group

Always add spices and salt a little at a time. You can't remove them, only dilute them by stretching the soup.

Also, potatoes and beans eventually break down well to thicken a soup. EVERYthing breaks down, but they do so earlier than say, broccoli, cabbage and celery, etc.

Interesting side note: I learned recently that even though beans get the hell cooked out of them in making proper baked beans, the reason they keep their form in that recipe, is the sugar content of the dish. Either brown sugar or molasses is almost always used. Sometimes honey is used. The sugar content keeps the beans from breaking down in shape.

Chiles (hot peppers) are really good for the diet.
Nuts can be wonderful. Sam's has an economical BIG can of cashew halves and pieces... a BIG can. Often, guests will not realize that those little chunks with the unusual texture are nuts...especially with cashews.
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Sum-Unusual Bread
This recipe assumes that you have SOME sort of idea as to how bread goes together...you know, where all the little gears and pulleys fit in...how the laces are tied...
If you need to learn some basics, open another window and search for "how to bake bread".
The following is just the magical and genius combination specific to one of my favorite bread recipes.
Hey!...people keep asking for it, so I must have done SOMEthing right.

If ya try this out and end up with a total mess, I guess you can always email me for additional help. When I stop laughing MAO, I will do what I can to explain a few things.
Maybe someday I'll do up a video and post it here.
Until then, get the following stuff together...
This recipe will yield about four nice loaves. I rarely make only one loaf at a time. I GUESS you can "quarter" the recipe. I GUESS it'll turn out OK. Try it.

9 cups of bread flour
3 cups of corn meal
3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
3 tblespoons of salt
3 tablespoons of Spanish paprika
3 tablespoons of dry active yeast
1 cup of milk
1 drink-size can of V-8
I can of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup
1.5 cups water
1 egg (If you like a bread that is a bit more "airy" or "fluffy", use two... or even three eggs. But the more eggs, the more delicate AND fragile the bread will be, sometimes being a bit too "fall-apart". I rather like a firmer, denser bread, unlike that white fluff that is so common out there...it's mostly air.)

Mix well, all dry ingredients together in a suitable container... a soup/stock pot works well.
Heat and mix well, all wet ingredients except the egg to 110-120 degrees
Add and mix well, the egg, into other wet ingredients.
(If you put in the egg earlier, some of it will likely congeal to the bottom of the sauce pan while warming)

Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff and start playing in the mud, squeezing and squishing the mixture between your fingers, having fun in the process.
Have an open container of flour handy, with a measuring cup to dose out a little flour, if necessary, to work into a dough.
When the mixture starts becoming homogenous, dump and drag in out onto the counter which has been dusted well with flour.
I like to use a nice wide straight-edge metal scraper, much like the business end of a large spatula to scrape into and under the dough ball to get it off the counter as it absorbs moisture from the spread-out flour. Keep folding and kneading the dough, sprinkling flour onto and around it until it stops sticking like glue to your hands.
Keeping a little flour on the hands pulls the moisture out of the sticky dough and helps to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Keep that counter well dusted until the dough is taking on its own cohesive body.

When the dough has been worked enough to become homogenous, cut into four equal pieces and work those the same way, dusting with flour if necessary, until cohesive. ( I find it easier for this size of a recipe to break the doughball up for easier working. )
Shape each into slightly elongated balls on baking sheets or press into greased bread pans and put into slightly warm areas to rise. Cover with towels if you like.

Sometimes, I will toss some of them into the oven right away...they WILL rise in the baking.
Baking right away will produce a slightly denser bread which makes a kick-ass toast!
Others, I will let rise for a half-hour to forty-five minutes before baking.

I usually bake for 25-30 minutes, at 350 degrees, starting to watch them closely at 25.
When the tops are starting to brown and the bottoms start getting nice and dark (but not burned, duh...) they are about done. Take one out and thump it on the bottom.
If it sounds hollow, that's a sign of done-ness.
Lately, I have been baking a little longer at 300-320 degrees.
With the first and largest loaf out of the oven, I will often crack it open, down the middle. IF it is a little under-done in the middle, let the others go another ten-fifteen-twenty minutes and place the cracked one back together and back on the pan and back in the oven, too....it'll bake OK....
It'll taste good...it just won't be as pretty as the whole loaves; just give that one loaf to the hired help.
(When cracked open, the center will seem very "wet" but not doughy. It will probably be OK when moisture evaporates out. )
Place on racks to cool, so the bottoms don't get all soggy with all that moisture.

Always remember to experiment here and there in cooking...it keeps it more fun and you can sometimes blow yourself away with new flavor-discoveries.







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OK...here's something really easy. You don't have to be schooled to do it.
There are variables allowed here as in all of life, so morph and change all of this as you like. Experimentation is wonderful.
You create new things that way and besides, where d' rules? This is a dish that is very forgiving in it's outcome, allowing for bits and dashes instead of teaspoons and cups.

Get yourself a casserole dish...glass, metal, cast iron, ceramic, pottery...whatever.

You'll also need pasta of some sort. Most any kind will do, but the classic is small elbows. Spirals are nice, too and flat noodles are OK.
Boil those till they're done and put a little olive oil in the pot and mix it around after draining the noodles, so they don't stick together while waiting to go into the dish... AND the flavor is nice.

I suggest cheddar, but grate some cheese of your preference.
Lay a covering layer of noodles in the bottom of the dish and add a covering layer of cheese. The density of each layer is up to you.
(The more cheese, the cheesier...duh!)
Build it up to close to the top of the dish in this manner. I prefer a not-too-shallow pan or dish to gain some quantity of layers.

Throw into a bowl, a couple of eggs and some milk....some salt (not too much)...maybe some black pepper. I suggest some paprika and some nutmeg. How much? Again, it's up to you. You are, at this point, working with a liquid mixture.
That means that you can give a little taste on the finger and add some more of something if necessary.
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(IMPORTANT!) As with all spices, flavoring, etc., once you put it in, you can't ake it out. AND...most flavors kinda need at least a few minutes to leech out into the liquid base, sorta like making tea: you need to steep the tea about five minutes to get the flavor out of the leaves, right? Same here. Mix it around a little while, then taste it...salt, too. Think about it: salt is a bunch of little rocks that dissolve to give up their taste. If you dont let them dissolve ALL THE WAY, you don't have the full magnitude of how salty the dish will be. Don't hurry it too much.
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Get your oven up to 350 degrees.
Pour enough of the liquid mix all over the dish until it is just below the top of the noodle/cheese layers.
Bake uncovered ....I don't know....it depends on the size of the dish, the depth versus the width, etc. ...do it till it's nice and brown...probably 35-55 minutes.
As a guide, I wait till it's just started to get a LITTLE dark and crusty at the edges.
Take it out.
Eat.
Smile and go, "mmmmm".










And don't forget your Mushrooms
Stuffed, of course!

Get the biggest, roundest mushrooms you can find.
Clean out the stems and the inside of the caps without breaking them.
Fry up, in butter, some VERY small bits of chicken until they're well done but not burned. Keep breaking them up and apart to get them as small and "shredded" as possible.
Soften some cream cheese however you like. A microwave will do, but watch it closely and stir it around frequently; or a double-boiler will do.
Grate some Gruyere cheese.
Shake in some chili powder...or Spanish Paprika...some salt, common black pepper and VERY finely chopped walnuts or cashews.
Do the same with some onion; finely chopped.
Play with the amounts of all these things as you like. It's going to taste good any which way. Just always to remember to add spices slowly, mixing it up for at least a few minutes, to see how the taste is coming together.
What you're shooting for is a loose paste, not a slurry.
Make plenty. Whatever you have left over, except maybe for the chicken, can be stretched thinner with some more softened cream cheese and maybe even some melted Velveeta and it can be used as a dip. The Velveeta really DOES need to be heated in that double-boiler, in my opinion.
Stuff the caps and place in a baking dish, bottom side up, of course. Shake a liberal amount of grated Parmesan cheese over the whole array.

Bake at 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees.


Sumshee's Original January Biscuits



Mix together some flour and corn meal; 2 flour : 1 corn meal approx.
Add a 2:1 mixture of milk and egg nog, enough to make a "slightly-drier-than-sloppy" consistency; ya don't want it runny but yer not gonna make bread,
with kneading and all.
Dollop some onto baking sheets
Evenly sprinkle salt on the tops
Bake at 350-375 till slightly brown on bottoms

In, I suggest, a very warm cast iron skillet(s)... pour a good layer of honey, enough that the biscuits can soak some up from the bottoms.
Lay out cooked biscuits as close together as possible.
Shake a modest amount of Spanish Paprika all over. Don't be stingy but ya don't want to over-power.
Give a liberal coverage of cinnamon.
Pour warmed honey evenly all over the biscuits.
Cover with finely chopped cashews (or another nut of your choosing)
Slowly pour some more warmed honey to "seal in" the nuts.
Do 15-25 minutes more in the oven, "basting" with a spoon, the honey, part way through.

When done, set out in the Cold January weather to cool down.
The name = January Biscuits because ya serve 'em refrigerated, or at least MUCH cooler than room temperature....and I came up with the recipe on a cold January day.
No, ya don't HAVE TO eat 'em cool/cold. Eat them at whatever the heck temperature you like.


Ruby's Fruit Cobbler

1 stick butter/oleo melted
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp baking powder
salt - a pinch
nutmeg to all but peach and guava
2 cups fruit
melt butter in 1.5 - 2 qt casserole dish
mix dry ingredients, add milk, pour batter into casserole dish DO NOT MIX WITH BUTTER
add fruit, DO NOT MIX
bake in a moderate oven (350) approximately 50 - 60 min. until top is golden brown

Serving hint: serve warm with a nice vanilla ice cream

apples, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, strawberries, pears all work nicely or a combination. 2 cups of fruit is the original recipe but most fruits can be increased but no more than 3 cups.

serves 4-5 generous servings



SALT

Think about THIS regarding salt in your diet!
Over the years, since the first medical/scientific reports started coming out about how bad salt is for us, used in overabundance, everybody has been getting on the bandwagon to reduce salt.
OK, that's all fine and well, but there is a negative side to how this has panned out in practice. As with so much in society, things can be taken to extremes...often without a lot of thought.
Restaurants AND individuals in the home thought, "OH, if too much salt is bad...then let's just cut out ALL salt and let everybody salt their food to their own taste right there at the table!".
Good idea, right?
Not necessarily.
Think about it. Salt is one of those additives which awakens other flavors... as well, it CAN be overpowering...making something TASTE salty. Unless you WANT something to TASTE salty, use it sparingly and the other flavors come alive, preventing a bland eating experience. Cool!
But IF we allow salting-at-the-table to be the sole source of salt in our food, there can easily be a back-fire.
For instance:
You are at the table...at home or in a restaurant. Your food, often hot, has been set before you.
Why? Because you are about to eat.
Why? Because you're hungry.
You taste the food and feel that it needs a little salt.

Do you do THIS?:
Add some salt... mix it well...allow several minutes for it to completely dissolve...mix again, really well...taste it...if it's not enough, do that again?

No, you don't.

You're hungry and ready for food NOW...usually, while it's hot or warm.
So, you throw some salt on it and if it tastes OK, you eat it.

Now, think some more. To dig in right away, you are tasting the saltiness that is available to you.
By that, I mean that salt is a bunch of little rocks that dissolve to give up their full content and taste. If you don't let them dissolve ALL THE WAY, you don't taste the full magnitude of how salty the dish will be. Dissolving completely takes time, albeit not a LONG time, but usually longer than most of us want to wait when we sit down to eat.
You are tasting the saltiness of the outside of that little rock as it is STARTING to dissolve, not the full impact of the saltiness... the salt CONTENT...of what you just sprinkled on your food.
You eat, think it tastes fine (which it does), satisfy your hunger WHEN you are hungry, WHILE it is fresh and hot... and you go on with you day.
AFTER you have swallowed the food, you are actually ingesting more salt than you ever tasted, because a lot of that salt sprinkled onto your food, never hit your taste buds. Very often, it is in your belly before it has given up it's entire salt content.
So, in trying to reduce our salt intake, we end up consuming MORE salt than if the salt had been added prudently during the cooking process.

I learned this with a college buddy while running some experiments pertaining to salt content.
The study consisted of giving two different groups the exact same portions of the exact same foods, some of it prepared without any salt and some prepared with just a little salt to awaken the flavors.
The amount of salt put into the pre-salted portions was carefully recorded and the amount of salt used by the salt-the-food-at-the-table group was carefully monitored.
The test was carried out quite carefully. The end result was that the NON pre-salted food group ended up CONSUMING more than three times the salt as did the pre-salted group.

If you have any concern about this situation, you might want to try one or more of the following remedies.
One is soy sauce. The salt in soy sauce is in solution...it's already dissolved. In that case, all of the saltiness is on the table...so to speak. Douse a little on and a quick mix reveals the flavor.
Some folks don't like the soy taste. There might be some other salty sauces on the market. Honestly, none come to mind right now. But you CAN make up your own salt solution in a soy sauce-type bottle. Keep it around as with a regular salt shaker.
Another plan is to only buy FINELY gound salt. This product is almost a powder and compared to the more standard grind, dissolves VERY quickly.

Just a few helpful thoughts...

-Sumshee




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