September 26, 2010

Betcha Can't Eat Just One

Whoopie Pies--these two words make me think of back home and our  Pennsylvania Dutch country kitchen with the old-fashioned wood stove. So I have something in common with the famous whoopie pies--we both originated in Pennsylvania. I can feel my five senses beginning to work overtime.

Sight: Whoopie pies actually aren't pies at all. They're a sandwich cake, 2 round little (or make them as big as you want) chocolate cakes with rich, creamy filling (and lots of it) in the middle.

Hearing: I hear myself asking Mom, "May I make whoopie pies?" And her answer, "Yes."

Smell: Just like a Food Network Star says, "It smells so good in here. We need smellavision."

Touch: Most of the time I'd eat my whoopie pies just like a sandwich, getting tasty bites of the soft mixture of moist chocolate cake and cream filling. Other times I'd try eating them like an oreo cookie. First, one soft chocolate cake, then lick off the filling, followed by the other round little cake.

Taste: Perfect combo--the deep chocolate flavor with the vanilla-white filling. I always doubled the ingredients when mixing the filling so I could be extra generous scooping on the creamy stuff!

With all the varieties of whoopie pies today--pumpkin cakes with cream cheese filling, or chocolate cakes with raspberry--or peppermint--or peanut butter--or espresso filling--I still like the originals the best.

And why are they called whoopie pies? Appparently,  Pennsylvania Dutch Amish wives would bake these desserts and pack them in their husbands' lunchboxes. When the farmers would open their lunches and see the sweet temptations, they would shout, "Whoopie!"

September 13, 2010

Organize Your Messy Car!

Not that you have a messy car.  This is meant for all those other messy people!

We spend a lot of time in our cars.  And once it's messy, it becomes all too easy to just keep on adding to the mess.

Here are a few easy-to-do steps to maintain an organized and tidy car.  So if next week, your boss asks you to drop him/her off somewhere, you don't have to panic and figure out how you can quickly clean the car before the boss gets in it!

Begin by sorting what's already in the car.  No doubt you will find trash that can just be thrown away. Get rid of it and experience the wonderful feeling that you're well on your way to an organized and neat car.  I usually find french fries on the floor of my car that somehow escaped my mouth--however does that happen?  The last time I cleaned my car, I even found the owner's manual. And maybe you will, too!

Decide which things need to stay in your car.  That would be things you frequently use, things you sometimes use, things you need for a particular trip, and things you may need in the event of an emergency.  Everything else can be permanently taken out of your car and stored somewhere else. (garage, attic, etc)

What are the things you don't have when you need them?  Tissues? Cell phone?  Pen?  Paper?  Loose change for tolls?  Those things you want to keep near you in some way.  Other things can be put in the back seat or even in the trunk.  Remember that some items can be put away from your reach at the end of a season, such as ice scrapers.

Find containers you can use to organize and store.  Revel in the fact that you will no longer be hearing stuff rolling around every time you turn a corner or slam on the brakes!

And that's how easy it is.  Now you just have to keep the car clean and organized.  Once you start having things out of place again--or throwing trash on the floor--you will quickly have a messy car again.

September 9, 2010

How Many Ways Can You Define "Charger?"

Take a few minutes and think of all the definitions you know for the word charger.  This is what I came up with:

charger:  someone who buys something and puts it on their credit card.

charger something used to give a battery renewed strength.

charger:   a person or animal that aggressively goes after another person or animal.

charger:  a large dish or platter used as a coaster for other dishes.  Also called a chop plate, service plate, or underplate.

(Can you add another one?)

I like the fourth definition.  Let's talk about a decorative charger plate!  It gets its "decorative" label because it never touches any food directly.  Instead, it acts as an elegant and decorative coaster for dishes or bowls containing food.  Since it doesn't have to hold food, it can be made of materials that regular dishes cannot be made of such as wood, mother of pearl, and even leather.

A charger plate is a unique way to add color or texture to a table setting.  It is also an easy and inexpensive way to do seasonal decorating.

And yes, there is even etiquette for using charger plates!  This can vary depending on the host or hostess.  Generally, the plate should be set when guests arrive.  Some hosts remove it before the food is served.  Others place the first courses on the charger but then remove it before serving the entree.  However, other people like the appearance of the plate combined with the dinner dishes and leave it on the table for the main meal.  Almost all hostesses remove the charger plate before serving dessert.

September 6, 2010

Pennsylvania Dutch Recipes

The cooler weather the last several days has given me "fall fever" which is not a good thing since the hot weather is said to be returning soon!  One of my favorite things about fall is Snitz and Knepp (Schnitz un Knepp).  Of course, I can eat this comfort meal any time of the year, but I associate it with fall, probably because of the apples in it.

Let me tell you about  Snitz and Knepp!  It  is a Pennsylvania Dutch Recipe consisting of dried apples (the snitz/Schnitz) and flour dumplings (the knepp), so it translates "Apples and Dumplings." 

To make Snitz and Knepp, you start by cooking two pounds of ham covered in water for about two hours. Add 2 cups of dried apples (that’s the snitz/schnitz) that have been soaked in water overnight. Also add the water they were soaked in. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Make sure there’s still enough water to cover.

Then you  make the dumplings (the knepp). Mix 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons baking powder, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup milk to make dumplings. Drop by spoonfuls into the boiling ham, apples, and liquid. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 additional minutes. (This is when my mother would shoo me out of the kitchen because, as a little girl, I always wanted to lift the lid and peek, which is a "knepp no-no"!)

Serve and enjoy, being sure to include some ham, snitz, and knepp in each bite!

When I make Snitz and Knepp, I use smoked sausage instead of ham, simply because my mother made it with sausage and that is how I like it.  I usually don't have dried apples on hand, so I just use fresh tart apples, peeled and sliced.

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and my heritage is Pennsylvania Dutch.  The Pennsylvania Dutch today are descendants from German-speaking immigrants. The "Dutch" does not mean we are Dutch people from the Netherlands. Rather, the German word for German is "Deutsch." So we are really Pennsylvania Germans or Deutsch.  You can see how the "Deutsch" ended up being "Dutch".  So Pennsylvania Germans are called Pennsylvania Dutch!