Farewell Fare

Longtime Dining In columnist Nancy Finch leaves us with a good taste in our mouths.

by Nancy Finch, Food Columnist

Probably I should feel nostalgic, and indeed I do, a bit.      

I am sitting down on a Sunday night as I have for many years (not always on Sunday) to write a food column. But, this one is different — this is my last.

Like many other column-writing nights, I have flour all over me, a pie from a new recipe is just out of the oven and I hope, desperately, that it will be as good as it looks. The “test stomach” has just announced that he is going to bed so there will be no testing tonight.

I have been going through this routine since 1972.

For the last 10 years, Dining In has been a feature of, first, Rural Living and now Cooperative Living. Before that I wrote for Cooperative Farmer and, before that, I was food editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Thirty-two years makes for a lot of food columns. I’ve gone from testing on a husband and four children to an empty nest. A casserole that once was devoured at one sitting now seems to last ... and last ... and last. Then there are the age and time changes that hamper the way you like to cook. Fat, cholesterol, spicy esophageal murder foods and fast-after-work numbers have changed how I cook. Readers likely have faced similar changes depending on what stage of life you are in.

Bill Sherrod, my editor for the last 10 years, suggested I do a “look back” for my last Dining In.

Bill did me a favor. Going back through columns from years gone by helped me find “lost” recipes. I am delighted. Stacks of magazines contained favorites that I would not have searched for otherwise.

I sought Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday issues only. But, just to keep the tradition, I tried two “new” recipes — a chocolate pecan pie and a layered mocha pie. While I love pumpkin pie and wouldn’t think I had celebrated Thanksgiving without it, some of my children would happily substitute chocolate pecan pie for the holidays. If you, too, have less-than-enthusiastic pumpkin pie family members, you can bet they’ll also like “Mocha Truffle Pie.” A plus? It’s easy.

One of the “finds” was a column about cabbage when I had fed the family three kinds of cabbage in one meal. A son had plaintively wondered why I couldn’t have tested something chocolate instead of cabbage. I guess the chocolate pecan pie is for him. It is VERY chocolatey!

So, what were some of my “finds?”

The one I am most thrilled with is recovering the lost “Texas Lizzies” recipe from a friend of my late mother’s. Wilda Adams’ recipe came from her mother in Kentucky so it is quite old. Having lost my original, I went online to find “Lizzies” just last year. I found them, but the recipe was not as good as this one.

The reason I love this recipe is that it makes a large quantity. You can keep the batter in the refrigerator and bake cookies as desired. I’ve kept it for at least a couple of weeks, but they’re so good, they don’t last long.

“Ella’s Creamed Jets” are another family tradition. My late aunt and uncle made them and I treasure the recipe, handwritten by Uncle Buck. I published this recipe in 1983.

Since I love giving parties, although that has been on the wane, my recipes often were for fellow party givers, especially at holiday times. “Spinach Dip in a Bread Round or Loaf” came from a food editor friend, Louis Mahoney, now of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but when I published it in 1986, she was with The Richmond News Leader. This recipe is always a hit.

Another party favorite is a familiar artichoke dip recipe. I named this “Sam’s Favorite Artichoke Dip” because I set it on the coffee table for guests and Sam, our shaggy dog, ate it before guests had a chance. It is easy and delicious. Ask Sam.

And to readers, keep cooking. I get worried when I see “take out” and mixes filling the grocery shelves and counters. Cooking is fun! And I intend to keep right on. I was shocked recently when a check-out clerk looked at the picture of a chocolate cake on my box of cake flour and asked, “How do you get the cake brown? Do you use food coloring?” Mothers (and fathers), help your children know that chocolate cakes don’t come from food coloring.

CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE

Ingredients:

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1 pie crust (if using frozen, use deep-dish size and transfer to large pie plate)

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1 pkg. (8 squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided

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2 T butter or margarine

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3 eggs, slightly beaten

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1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar

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1 cup corn syrup

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1 t vanilla

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1⁄4 cup pecan halves 

Directions: Heat oven to 350˚. Coarsely chop 4 squares of the chocolate and set aside. Line 9-inch pie plate with pie crust. Microwave remaining 4 squares of chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on high 1 to 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar, corn syrup, eggs and vanilla into chocolate mixture until well blended. Stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into pie crust. Spread pecans on top of pie filling. Bake for 55 minutes or until knife inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Makes 8 servings. Tip: If melting the chocolate and butter on top of stove, melt at very low heat so the chocolate won’t burn.

Mocha Truffle Pie

Ingredients:

Crust:

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1 prepared chocolate or graham cracker crumb crust (9-inch)

Filling:

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1 pkg. (8 squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate squares, broken in half

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1 cup heavy or whipping cream

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1⁄4 cup flavored instant coffee, any flavor

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2 T sugar

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1 t vanilla

Topping:

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8-oz. tub whipped topping, thawed

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2 T flavored instant coffee, any flavor

Directions: Place chocolate in medium bowl and set aside. Mix cream, flavored instant coffee and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour over chocolate in bowl. Let stand 2 minutes. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Stir topping and instant coffee in tub until blended. Spread over top of pie. Refrigerate. Garnish with a sprinkling of additional flavored instant coffee just before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Wilda Adams’ Texas Lizzies

Ingredients:

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2 cups brown sugar

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1⁄2 lb. (2 sticks) butter

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4 eggs

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1 t nutmeg

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1 t cinnamon

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1 T soda

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31⁄2 cups flour

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3⁄4 lb. walnuts, in large pieces

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3⁄4 lb. pecans, in large pieces

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3⁄4 lb. dark raisins

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3⁄4 lb. white raisins

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1⁄4 cup each, red and green cherries, halved

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1 cup whiskey

Directions: Combine sugar and butter. Beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs. Mix well. Add spices, soda and flour and combine until well mixed. Then add nuts and fruit. Mix in whiskey and stir until batter is completely mixed. Drop cookies about 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350˚ for about 10 minutes until edges turn lightly brown. Bake as many as desired, then refrigerate batter, covered, and bake as needed. Store cookies in sealed container.

Ella’s Creamed Jets

Ingredients:

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1 egg white

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1 lb. confectioners’ sugar

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1⁄4 lb. butter (no substitutes), softened

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1 t vanilla

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3 squares unsweetened dark chocolate

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1 small piece paraffin (about 1 t)

Directions: Beat egg white until stiff. Gradually add half of the sugar, beating well and continually. Add butter, vanilla and remaining sugar. Beat until thick and creamy. Let set in mixing container in large ball, wrapped in plastic wrap overnight. Then roll in balls about 3⁄4 inch in diameter. Place balls on cookie sheet in cool place to allow to harden on the outside. Melt chocolate and paraffin over low heat. Use a nut pick or ice pick to dip balls in chocolate. Then fill hole with small amount of chocolate. Drop on waxed paper on cookie sheet until chocolate hardens. Keep in cool place in covered container. Makes about 36.

Spinach Dip in A Bread Round or Loaf

Ingredients:

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10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained or squeezed

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1 pkg. Knorr vegetable soup mix

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1 cup mayonnaise

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8-oz. pkg. cream cheese or 8-oz. carton sour cream

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8 oz.-can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

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4 to 6 strips bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

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1 loaf or round, preferably of rye bread

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Vegetables for dipping

Directions: Thoroughly mix spinach, soup mix, mayonnaise, cream cheese or sour cream, water chestnuts and bacon. Cut off top of bread round. Leave a 1⁄2-inch rim, hollow out the bread from the center of the round. Cut bread into cubes. Use bread cubes and vegetables for dippers. Makes about 20 servings.

Sam’s Favorite Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

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6-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

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1⁄2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

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1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

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1 t minced garlic

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Salt, as needed

Directions: Chop artichokes on cutting board. Combine remaining ingredients. Place in small casserole dish. Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes or until warmed through. Serve with crackers.