Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BIOGRAPHY: Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray was born into cooking. "My first vivid memory is watching Mom in a restaurant kitchen. She was flipping something with a spatula. I tried to copy her and ended up grilling my right thumb! I was 3 or 4," says Rachael. "Everyone on both sides of my family cooks."

Rachael's maternal grandfather grew and cooked everything that his family of 12 needed for sustenance, and her dad's family was steeped in the food-rich traditions of Louisiana. The Ray family was also in the food business, owners of a family restaurant in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Eventually the family relocated to New York, where her mother went to work as the food supervisor for a chain of upstate restaurants.

Rachael's career started at Macy's Marketplace in New York, first at the candy counter and then as the manager of the fresh foods department. After Macy's, Ray helped to open Agata & Valentina, the prestigious New York gourmet marketplace, where she was the store manager and buyer. Though this New York City food fast track was exciting, Rachael decided she wanted to return to the lifestyle of the Adirondacks.

Once upstate, Rachael managed pubs and restaurants at the famed Sagamore resort on Lake George and was then recruited by Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, to be its food buyer. Rachael turned the job into dual positions as food buyer and chef. As a way to increase grocery sales during the holidays, Rachael began a series of cooking classes.

The "30 Minute Meals" classes became so popular that the local media sent a feature reporter to cover the phenomenon, and the following week, an Albany TV station asked Rachael to do a weekly "30 Minute Meals" segment for the evening news. Nominated for two regional Emmys, the show was a major success: A companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally. Rachael's TV work grew to include a series of travel segments following the same theme of living a rich life without having to be wealthy. Today Rachael's work continues on Food Network's 30 Minute

Rachael Ray

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meet Willie Crawford, Internet Genius and Soul Food Cookbook Author

Autobiography of
Willie Crawford

I grew up on a tobacco farm in Fairmont, North Carolina. My two younger brothers and I were raised by my grandmother (Mary Alice Jones). From as early as 5 or 6 she started teaching us to cook. At first - simple things like grits, eggs, and toast. Later things such as cakes from scratch and stuffed turkeys. Part of her motivation may have been due to the fact that by the time I was 6 she was already 65. Anyway - she wanted us to learn to take care of ourselves. So she taught us to cook, iron, sew, do laundry, etc. at a very early age.

Since we were very poor, we also learned to work at an early age. In fact, we were so poor that if you looked up "poor" in the dictionary, you did not see our picture. Nobody owned a camera at least until we were teenagers. We were helping neighborhood farmers with their tobacco and cucumber crops as early as 6 years of age.. We were also doing chores for relatives at a very early age. My aunts and uncles had me doing things like feeding their livestock after school, unthawing their electric water pumps, and doing yard work. This was good because this was how we paid for our school clothes and supplies. We bought the majority of our school stuff, and the government provided us with free school meals. The school lunch program fed a major portion of my neighborhood.

At home, we grew much of our own food. We had a large garden with tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, collards, turnips, okra, peas, string beans, butter beans, squash, strawberries, and whatever else we cared to plant. We froze many vegtables for winter although collards and turnips would continue growing half-way through the winter. Relatives (slightly better off) also frequently gave us food they had canned or frozen for the winter. The sweet potatoes my Uncle Thomas stored in potato hills were probably my favorite.

We also had livestock. I personally raised pigs and rabbits. I tried raising chickens but without much success. The chick were very frail and few survived the drafty chicken pen I put them in. The hogs I raised did well and I periodically sold one at the local stock yard for what was big money back then. I fed my hogs commercial livestock feed when I could afford to. In the summer it was more often weeds I pulled from nearby fields. In the fall I often gathered corn left behind by the mechanical combine to feed my pigs. This lasted into the winter at times. The winters were fairly mild, my hogs did well and provided food and a little money.

When I was about 14 or 15, my grandmother bought me a 22 rifle with my money. I used that to hunt rabbits and squirrels after school. I was a good shot and frequently brought home squirrels. An old squirrel with rice made a very tasty treat. Me and my relatives were all fairly good shots. I learned to shoot by shooting pecans off our trees with my bb gun. Sometimes I could even hit a grasshopper sitting on the clothes line - although this was more luck than skill.

The food we raised or hunted was supplemented with surplus government food. We would go to the local welfare office to pick up dried beans, powdered eggs, powdered milk, huge blocks of cheese, milk, cereal, and other goodies. I still like the taste of powdered eggs.

It was a harsh life, yet a good one. We never really went to bed hungry. We learned to be self-sufficient. Cooking was something I really liked to do. Since we did not have a telephone, television, or car for much of my youth, cooking also gave me something to do. I would also periodically go to my Aunt Ruth's house and cook for her. She had a television, so I liked visiting her. She frequently had me prepare chitterlings when I went to visit. That's where my love of chitterlings first developed. I'd clean, then boil them. Next I would fry them and sit down with her and eat my fill. What a treat! She seemed to like my cooking and that stroked my confidence.

Soul Food Recipes

Order a Soul Food cookbook for yourself and some for gifts.

RECIPE: Fried Chitterlings (Chitlins) and Hog Maws

From Fried Chitterlings (Chitlins) and Hog Maws

In my part of the country, chitterlings come in 10 pound buckets. Hog maws come in smaller packages found in the freezer case. If you can find the larger containers and like the recipe, simply use several times the ingredients to end up with the same percentages. Local supermarkets also carry smaller packages. After cleaning the chitterlings of the fat you will only end up with about half as much volume.


2 pounds hog maws (pig stomach)

2 pounds chitterlings (pig intestines)

3 quarts water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper (flakes)

1 medium peeled onion (white or yellow)

The hog maws are the thickest and will therefore take the longest to cook. Rinse them thoroughly as you trim off the excess fat. Put them in a 6 quart pot along with your 3 quarts water, onion, pepper, and salt. Bring them to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes.

While maws are cooking, rinse chitterlings thoroughly and trim the extra fat off them. Like most organ meats, they have a lot of fat. Add chitterlings to pot after maws have cooked for 1 hour 15 minutes. Cook another 1 hour 30 minutes or until tender. Add a little extra water if necessary.

Prepare a large cast iron skillet with 1/4 stick of butter. Remove maws and chitterlings from pot and slice. I use to slice them right in the preheated skillet although you can use a cutting board. Then stir with a large metal spoon as you lightly brown them. You can pour out the water from the pot, including the onion. The onion added a little flavor and made them smell nicer while simmering.

A variation on this recipe is to slice the chitterlings and hog maws into pieces as above, but them put them back in the pot with the stock. Again, you can get rid of the onion. Cover the pot and simmer the cut up mixture for another 50 minutes.

If you don't like onion or don't have onion, you can add four or five bay leaves to the mixture instead.. Again, you throw the bay leaves away before frying or cooking down the chitterlings.

By now the hog maws and chitterlings should be thoroughly done and almost falling apart. You can serve them with your favorite side dishes such as greens, maccaroni and cheese, or rice. I actually prefer to eat them by themselves, with several splashes of hot sauce. However, they are fattening and it's tough not to eat too much. So you probably should have a side dish.

Store the leftovers in the refrigerator. Like so many other great soul food dishes, chitlins taste even better after the flavor has soaked in for a few hours. The leftovers won't last long.

Willie Crawford

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Monday, November 28, 2005

RECIPE: Smoked Duck or Goose

Slow Smoked Wild Duck (or Goose)
This will take 4 to 8 hours depending on the heat of the smoker and thickness of the breast meat of the birds.

2-4 dressed birds, skinned
½ stick butter per bird -- more as needed
1 teaspoon liquid smoke per bird (optional)
1 teaspoon herbs of choice per bird (optional), rosemary or sage
hickory, pecan, or mesquite wood chips, at least a double handful per bird

This is an all day project, though other activities can be engaged in through the process. However, the preparation must begin a day earlier.

Preparation the day before the feast:

1. Hunt birds. Whether you actually bag any or not is not particularly important provided you are prepared to buy, bargain, or beg for the required birds.

2. Clean birds and refrigerate.

3. Soak the wood chips for smoking in water overnight.

4. Tell thrilling stories of the hunt to eager listeners.

5. Waken eager listeners as necessary.

6. Sleep well.

Feast Day
1. Light plenty of charcoal and confine pile to one area of the fire bed if you are using a grill rather than a true smoker.

2. Drain wood chips for smoking and place a large handful in aluminum foil and wrap poking holes through out the pouch. You will need one or more pouches of smoking chips per bird depending on size of pouch and duration of planned smoke.
3. Skin birds.
4. Place birds in shallow pans or aluminum foil "pans" made of several layers of foil with sides turned up about 1 inch on all 4 sides crimping corners.

5. Put in grill (on side away from charcoal) or smoker.
6. Put a chips pouch close to the coals or fire to allow gradual, slow burning of wood producing flavorful smoke. Replace pouches as wood becomes fully charred. Burned wood chips may be added to the charcoal to complete burning.
7. Place butter in pan along with liquid smoke and herbs of choice.

8. Baste birds with the buttery liquid in pan frequently (about every 20 minutes, more frequently as necessary) to see that the meat remains moist.
9. Turn birds about every 2 hours.
10. Add charcoal and adjust air inlets as necessary.

11. The temptation is to cook the meat too fast. Another pitfall is the failure to baste the birds frequently enough to maintain the meat's moisture.
12. The meat is done when the thickest part, usually the breast near the breastbone, is done with no bloody juice being noted when making a small cut is made through the full thickness.

13. Time to doneness will vary greatly with size and number of birds and size and heat of smoker.

Serving Suggestions
Serve with chutney of various sorts. Relish or salsa works well, too.

Contributed by Dr. Paul Elliott in Flavored with Love.

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Christmas Tree History and Fun Facts

"Heap on more wood! - the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still."
These warm, vivid lines from Walter Scott's poem "Marmion" paint an almost-perfect holiday picture. Add to it a well-decorated Christmas tree and its magical beauty will evoke true Christmas spirit even in the heart of the sternest Scrooge!

The Christmas tree as we know it today has come a long way from its rather obscure beginnings. A combination of different facts, legends and customs, it has evolved to become the most popular and enduring Christmas tradition.

Pagan Sources
The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of several pagan influences. The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and placed candles in live trees as part of their celebration of Saturnalia. In Scandinavia, apples and candles were hung from evergreen trees during the winter solstice, known as Yule, as a reminder that spring and summer will soon follow.

St. Boniface
Legend says that England's St. Boniface, who traveled to Germany in the seventh century, was furious when he saw pagans revering an oak tree. He hacked the oak tree down but a fir tree sprang up in its place. St. Boniface then attempted to introduce the ideal of Trinity to the pagan tribes using the triangular-shaped, evergreen tree, which in time became a part of the Christmas celebrations. In fact, by the 12th century, it was a common custom in central Europe to hang fir trees upside down from ceilings at Christmas.

Martin Luther
Most of the credit for the tradition of the Christmas tree as we know it goes to the 16th century German theologian and Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther. It's said that one Christmas eve he was extremely touched by the beautiful sight of snow-dusted evergreen branches shimmering in the moonlight. Wanting to recreate that beauty for his children, he went home, set up a small fir tree and adorned it with candles - a custom we still honor today in modern forms.

Which tree wins the popularity contest?
In the 1870's the most popular Christmas tree was the fragrant Cedar. However, it lost its foliage indoors quickly, and so was replaced briefly by the Hemlock, which was flimsy and would not support many ornaments on its branches. Pines and spruces followed, but by 1900 all these were ousted by the Balsam Fir.

Balsam Fir retained its lead until the depression of the 1930's, when it was overtaken by the Scots Pine. Nowadays it is the tree most commonly cultivated in Christmas tree plantations in eastern North America.

The Scots Pine briefly lost the lead in the 1960's to the Douglas Fir, which is now popular only in the western part of North America. In California, the Monterey Pine is the most popular tree; in the south the White Pine is most prevalent, while New England largely uses Balsam Fir, White Fir or White Spruce.

Let there be light!
In the past, Christmas trees were often lit with candles or with colorful glass lanterns, but as soon as technology allowed, Christmas trees were lit up and decorated with electric lights. In 1882, Thomas Edison's lab assistant, Edward Johnson, strung a Christmas tree with hand-blown light bulbs.

Other popular Christmas traditions - Santa Claus
Santa Claus gets his origins from St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, who lived around the fourth century A.D. He was an extremely generous man and always helped the children and the poor, often throwing gifts through children's windows to make them happy. St. Nicholas reportedly died about 350 A.D.

Brought to America in the 1600's by Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam as "Sinter Klaas," Americans began calling him Santa Claus. Over centuries and through the imagination of various authors and illustrators, Santa Claus evolved into the fat, jolly, red-suited man from the North Pole we know today.

Kissing under the mistletoe
Kissing under the mistletoe has long been a part of Christmas tradition. It dates back to a 17th century English custom. At that time, the correct etiquette demanded that a man should pluck a berry when he kissed a woman under the mistletoe, and when the last berry was gone, there would be no more kissing.

Christmas card
People across the world send Christmas cards to their family members and friends to express and share Christmas cheer. This holiday practice was started in England in 1843. The first Christmas card was printed in the United States in 1875 by Louis Prang, a Massachusetts printer. By running nationwide contests for the best Christmas designs, Prang helped make Christmas cards part of the holiday festivities.

More about Christmas Trees

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RECIPE: Crawfish Quesadilla

Today I cooked this dish at KTVE. Go to their site for some interesting recipes.

KTVE Region 10 - KARD FOX 14

1 pound crawfish tails, cooked
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 package large tortilla shells
1 package shredded cheddar (as much as you like)
non-stick spray

Saute the crawfish in the Rotel.
In a separate pan heat 1 flour tortilla for 1 minute.
Add 1/8 of the crawfish mixture and as much cheese as you like.
Fold the tortilla in half and continue to heat it.
Flip it.
Heat it until the cheese is completely melted.
This recipe makes 8 quesadillas prepared 1 at a time.

***To order a copy of Mary Cheatham's cookbook "Flavored with Love" go to or call 318-548-1716.

RECIPE: Butterfinger Pie

Here's one of the dishes I cooked today at Channel 10, KTVE. Go to this site to find several more recipes:

KTVE Region 10 - KARD FOX 14
1 (9") pie crust
10 fun size (or 2 king size) Butterfingers
1 small size whipped topping

Bake the piecrust and allow it to cool.
Beat the candy bars while they are still inside the wrappers, unwrap them, and chop any large pieces that remain.
Mix the candy with the whipped topping and pour the mixture into the piecrust.
Freeze and keep it frozen until it is served.

***To order a copy of Mary Cheatham's cookbook 'Flavored with Love' go to or call 318-548-1716.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

RECIPE: Rachael Ray's Five-Minute Fudge

We watched Rachael make this fudge on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and we cannot wait to try it.

Five-Minute Fudge Wreaths: Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currants
Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray
From the show Oprah and Rachael Ray
Throw a Holiday Party
Makes 2 pounds

This super-simple recipe will be a hit at your holiday party! Try all three varieties: the Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currants, the White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio and Cranberry or the Goober and Raisinette Wreath!

12 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips z14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (save the can)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounce can walnuts, plus more for topping
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants (a couple of handfuls)
candied red and green cherries to decorate top (like holly)
softened butter to grease an 8 inch round cake pan

Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with softened butter. Pour the chocolate and butterscotch chips, condensed milk and vanilla into a medium saucepan. Put the pan on the stove and turn the heat to low.
Cover the empty condensed milk can with plastic wrap and put it in the center of the round cake pan.
Stir the chips and milk until they melt together, about 3 minutes. Stir in nuts and raisins. Scoop the fudge into the cake pan all around the plastic-covered can in the center to form a wreath or ring shape. Let it be all bumpy on top. Keep pushing the can back to the center if the fudge moves it away from there. Cut the red cherries in half with scissors and the green cherries into quarters. Use the green pieces to make leaves and the red to make holly berries. Decorate the fudge with several groups of holly berry sprigs made from the cherries and garnish with walnuts between the sprigs.
Put the fudge in the fridge and chill until firm. Remove the can from the center, then loosen the sides and bottom of the fudge with a spatula. Cut the fudge into thin slices to serve.
To give the wreath as a gift-wrap in cellophane and secure with a bow or ornament.

White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio
and Cranberry

Substitute the chocolate chips with white chocolate chips, 1 1/2 ounce bag plus 1 cup.
Substitute 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shelled natural pistachio nuts for walnuts.
Substitute 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries for currants.
Goober and Raisinette Wreath

Swap butterscotch for peanut butter chips
Swap large whole peanuts for walnuts used in original recipe (such as peeled Virginia Peanuts)
Swap 1/2 cup large raisins for currants in original recipe

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RECIPE: Anna's Broccoli Casserole

MJ told me she has been looking for a broccoli rice casserole. Here is my niece Anna's recipe that she shared with me to publish in FLAVORED WITH LOVE.

(By the way, I'll share two more recipes from FLAVORED WITH LOVE on Monday, November 28, 2005, on KTVE, channel 10, Monroe, LA, at 6 am.)

RECIPE: Anna's Broccoli Casserole

1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
2 packages chicken flavored rice and vermicelli
2 cans (10 ounces each) cream if chicken soup
16 ounces processed cheese cut into cubes
1 can (6 ounces) sliced water chestnuts,drained

Cook broccoli using the package directions. Drain. Cook the
rice using package directions. Combine broccoli, rice, undiluted
soup, cheese, and chestnuts in a bowl and mix. Spoon 1/2 the
mixture into each of two 9X13 baking dishes. Bake at 350 degrees
for 20 minutes. (Buttered bread crumbs make a good topping.) 16 servings

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

RECIPE: Holiday Bread Pudding

Panettone is rich Italian cake, which is delicately sweet and full of candied orange peel and plump raisins.

1 Motta(r) Panettone (2.2 pounds)
Non-stick cooking spray
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups nonfat evaporated milk (not sweetened)
1 2/3 cups milk (2% butterfat)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 can (15 ounces) sliced spiced peaches, drained and chopped
Disaranno(r) Italian liqueur (amaretto)

Cut the cake into 1 inch cubes. Spray a 3-quart glass baking dish and spread the cubes of cake into the pan.
Whisk the eggs, sugar, cream, milks, and spices until they are thoroughly mixed.
Pour the mixture over the cake. Mix it with your hand until it the cake is completely moistened.
Add the chips and the peaches. Toss them until they are evenly distributed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Allow the pudding to sit 15 minutes so that the liquid can be absorbed.
Place the pudding in the oven and bake 1 1/2 hours or until it is done but still moist.

Drizzle Disaranno over the individual servings

Choosing a Christmas Tree--Christmas Tree Height

It's time to choose a Christmas tree. I have found some beautiful, high quality prelit Christmas trees and other artificial trees that look natural. I was amazed to see that there is such a wide selection of varieties.

You can look at these trees at 1 New Mall/ Christmas Trees

Also there are some helpful articles. Here's a snippet from one of them:

1 New Mall ( presents the high quality artificial Christmas trees and accessories of Christmas Trees Galore:

Christmas Tree Height
Once you've chosen the spot for the Christmas tree, measure both the ceiling height and the width of the room. Keep in mind that our Christmas tree height measurements include the height of the Christmas tree stand. Make allowance for the height of the tree stand before deciding on your Christmas tree; otherwise you might find that the Christmas tree is getting to be too tall for your room. If you'd like to place a tree-topper on your Christmas tree, make sure there is space left to accommodate it.