Monday, July 26, 2010

Spezi, Anyone?

When it's hot like this, I just mainline Diet Cokes. And when I've had my limit of caffeine for the day (something people tell me as opposed to something I figure out all on my own), I switch to lemonade.

But I never really thought about mixing the Coke and lemonade together. Maybe it's because I really hated the canned lemon coke that came out several years back. To me it tastes like lemon Pledge smells.

Or maybe it's because of one of those colorful "Depression-era" stories my mother was so fond of telling . You know those "making do" stories that parents raised in that era told (and embroidered just a teensy bit) so we lazy 70's teenagers would know how easy we had it?

Her story was her family couldn't afford soft drinks for all six kids, so Grandpa, as a special treat, would mix one or two bottles of Coke (actually I think it was RC Cola) into a pitcher of lemonade to stretch out the cola.

I felt so sorry for her.

Three years ago, I visited a friend in Bavaria. The trip included a visit to Crazy King Ludwig's castle in the Alps (the one on which Cinderella's Disney castle is based). Now that castle is way in the hell up in the sky. So the first thing you want to do after hiking your ass up there is find something to drink. At the concession stand that someone obviously saner than Ludwig was thoughtful enough to provide, you will find a revelation: a drink called Spezi -- a mixture of lemonade and Coke.

Turns out Spezi is a very popular beverage all over Germany and, in fact, in many parts of Europe. In Bavaria, it is made with an orange lemonade while in northern Germany it's more of the traditional lemonade. It's not bad -- especially if you can find carbonated lemonade (or orangeade) as they have in Europe. I make mine with regular lemonade and Diet Coke. For a more authentic Bavarian touch, try mixing the Coke with Fanta orange soda.

For the record, I never really believed Mama's"walking to school in the snow" story either. I mean, hello, I was raised in Biloxi, too. I'm saying.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Night Special: Fried Egg Sandwich

It's Sunday night. The house is tidy (well as tidy as it's gonna get with seven cats in residence ). The clean laundry is folded and put away. The garbage has been hauled to the curb for tomorrow's pick-up. All that's left to do is check in with you, dear readers, and enjoy my family's traditional Sunday night dinner: a fried egg sandwich.

I have been eating fried egg sandwiches on Sunday nights for as long as I can remember.

In my family, the Sunday noon meal has always been the big pull-out-the-stops meat and three plus dessert meal eaten on the good china around a table with a tablecloth (or at least place mats). At least twice a month, we would enjoy these at my grandparents' house on Point Cadet.

Those feasts usually revolved around baked or fried chicken, a roast (pork or beef) studded with garlic and falling apart, rice and gravy with Parmesan cheese, potato salad and deviled eggs (both covered with a generous coating of paprika -- Nona loved the stuff), and canned green peas. Nona wouldn't have known a leafy green vegetable if one had bitten her.

After the big noon meal, the kids headed outside to play hide and seek, walk on the fishing bridge or go to Rosetti's for ice cream. The adults cleared the table, cleaned up the kitchen, played cards, talked politics and told stories and jokes until dark. Everyone laughed a lot.

When we got home, as full as we still were, my mother insisted we eat a "little something" before we went to bed. Three daily meals -- whether you needed them or not -- was an iron-clad commandment in our household. That "little something" usually turned out to be a fried-egg sandwich.

When I moved out on my own, I continued the tradition -- mostly because eggs were about the only thing I could afford to eat for many years. Now I just do it (my cholesterol level permitting) cause I like 'em.

To me a simple fried egg sandwich, on fresh white bread, was, is and will always be the coda on a weekend well-spent.

It wouldn't be Sunday night without one.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Melt a pat of margarine or butter over medium heat in a non-stick pan until it stops bubbling. Break a large egg into the hot skillet. When the egg white has set, burst the yolk, using a spatula to spread the yolk into all the cracks and crevices of the cooked egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, flip the egg, and cook until the bottom is just set but still a little "juicy" and the lacy outer edges of the egg are brown and crispy.

Flip the fried egg onto a piece of FRESH white sandwich bread, top with a second slice. That's it. No mayo or other condiments (except for a drop or two of hot sauce if you must). For the optimal sandwich you want white bread, but it must be super soft and fresh or the sandwich won't be any good.. If your bread is past its prime, lightly toast it first.

Since I am not normally a "white bread" person, I keep a loaf in the freezer so I can thaw out the slices for this very purpose. It works.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sarah Coventry Parties

The 1970s were THE decade for home sales parties. If it hadn't been for Sarah Coventry jewelry -- which Aunt Marie sold on the home party circuit -- I would have had a pretty empty social life -- and even emptier jewelry box. I do not remember a single birthday or Christmas from high school where I did not receive at least one piece of Sarah Conventry jewelry.

The jewelry was not unattractive and well made for costume stuff. I received many compliments on a long hinged owl pendant with moonstone eyes as well as a silver necklace with a bib of intricately woven silver chains -- both looked great against a black turtleneck. I also felt very sophisticated in a gold faux-coral studded dinner ring that reached to my knuckle.

The standout SC piece, however, had to be the "Love Story" birthstone ring that everybody, including me, just HAD to have. It consisted of two crystal hearts set in a lot of frou-frou entwined vines and flowers. The collection also included earrings and a pendant.

I don't have any of my Sarah Coventry jewelry anymore. Looking at its popularity, and the corresponding prices, on e-Bay now, I wish I did. SC has gone from schlock to vintage. Who knew? Funny how time has a way of bestowing respectability.

I do, however, still have some of those Sarah Coventry party recipes. Two in particular stand out: congealed pretzel salad and my cousin Susie's fudge scotch ring.

The "salad" was really more of a dessert. Fudge scotch candy was one of the few things Sue liked to cook; she always made this for Christmas and to any pot luck type of affair.

So, are there any other Sarah Conventry girls out there? What was your favorite piece of Sarah Coventry jewelry and your favorite party recipe?

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup margarine, melted
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3/4 cup white sugar
4 1/2 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (6 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a medium bowl, mix crushed pretzels, margarine and sugar. Press crushed pretzel mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish, and bake in the preheated oven 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Blend together the cream cheese and sugar. Fold in whipped topping and spread evenly over cooled pretzel mixture.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the strawberry flavored gelatin in boiling water. Mix in strawberries and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Pour gelatin mixture over cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Fudge Scotch Ring

1 cup walnut halves (I've also made this using pecans)
1 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 6-ounce package butterscotch morsels
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with a 12-inch square of aluminum foil. Place a custard cup in the center of the pan. Plan walnut halves around the custard cup forming a 2-inch ring. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate and butterscotch morsels and condensed milk in the top of a double-boiler. Place over hot, not boiling, water. Stire until the morsels have melted and mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in chopped nuts and vanilla. Chill about an hour. Spon chocolate-butterscotch mixture in mounds over the walnut halves. Remove the custard cup. Store in refrigerator covered with foil. Yields one 8-inch ring.