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Welcome to My Kitchen

Clam casserole, thick lentil soup, knife do's and don'ts


February 1, 2018

My cookbook collection grew considerably over the past year. Several collections and individual books were gifted to me. There is only so much shelf space so it is time to work through the new additions to see what I want to keep. My rule, there has to be at least two keeper recipes in it.

The Church Supper Cookbook, A special Collection of Over 400 Potluck Recipes From Families and Churches Across the Country, edited by David Joachim, has made the cut. Thick Spiced Lentil Soup intrigued me because it includes pickling spices. The recipe is attributed to Virginia Colivos, Dover New Hampshire.

Thick Spiced Lentil Soup

1/2 pound dry lentils

5-6 cups water

2 large onions, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 tsp pickling spice (tied up in cheesecloth)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Rinse and drain lentils. Combine with water, onions, bay leaf, garlic, tomato sauce, pickling spice, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a large soup kettle. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking until lentils and onion are tender. Remove bay leaf and pickling spice before serving. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Note: I combined all the ingredients in my slow cooker, using 5 cups water and a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and cooked on low 10 hours.

Clam Casserole, attributed to Catherine B. Anderson, Hampton, New Hampshire was another recipe I tried. Easy to prepared from ingredients you most likely have on hand, serve with a colorful vegetable and a fruit salad for a well rounded meal.

Clam Casserole

2 cans (8 ounces each) minced clams, un-drained

24 crushed saltine crackers

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup melted butter

Combine clams, including the juice, crackers, eggs, milk, and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden and set. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Note: in the directions, mention was made you could add additional herbs. A pinch of mace and/or sage would be a good addition to this recipe.

Several inquiries have come in about bread baking and the current trend of listing an internal temperature for instant read thermometers in recipe directions. Several current bread baking fads come to play, many new recipes include ancient grains, teff, quinoa, amaranth, millet and rye. Gluten free, high gluten and 100%whole wheat are more dense, require more liquid and produce a course texture not responding as well to the hollow thump test.

Sourdough, also popular in baking, combined with these grains bakes differently, so a thermometer can be helpful. The

golden brown crust doesn't mean the center is done. Most recipes recommend 190 degrees for internal temperature, but some are as high as 210 degrees. If your bread is browning to quickly, cover loosely with foil.

Sourdough is fun to work with, and a simple, white Sandwich Bread is a good first try recipe. A few things to remember when working with sourdough: don’t use metal bowls, utensils or baking pans (metal restricts sourdough action), have all ingredients at room temperature and be patient, it won’t rise as fast as yeast dough.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Primary Batter:

1 cup active sourdough starter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups warm water (110 degrees)


6-6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups milk

2 Tbsp melted butter

Prepare the primary batter the night before by combining the starter, flour and water in a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Mix well until batter is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let set in a warm place overnight.

Next day: place 3 cups of the batter in a warm 4 quart or larger mixing bowl. Return remaining starter to the starter jar or crock. Stir 1 cup flour and the sugar into the starter in bowl.

Heat milk to 110 degrees, stir in butter until melted. Add salt. Pour into starter mixture along with enough of the remaining flour (approximately 4 cups) to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough out on floured surface, knead in enough additional flour to make a smooth elastic dough. Knead well, at least 8 minutes, to work up a good gluten structure so bread will raise well.

Grease outside of dough with butter or shortening and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm dry place until dough doubles in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch dough down, and return to same warm place for a second rising, about 30 –45 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, Divide in half and form each half into a loaf and place each in a well greased glass loaf pans. Brush tops with melted butter. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake loaves 45 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped and crust is brown. If you want to try an instant read thermometer, 190-195 degrees would be my best estimate.

When bread is done, remove from oven and turn out of pans. Place loaves on their sides on wire racks to cool. This prevents the bottoms from getting soggy. Yield: 2 loaves

The other question I was asked is how to care for kitchen knives and keep them sharp. First, keep knives in a knife block or on a magnetic wall rack. If you must keep them in a drawer, protect the blades with individual sheathes. Never, ever, put knives in the dishwasher, the detergent and high temperature water will erode the edge. It is best to wash kitchen knives in the coolest, least detergent water as possible and dry immediately to preserve the sharp edge. Don’t use knives to pry off lids and cut open packages. Kitchen shears and bottle openers are made for that purpose. Follow these guidelines and your knives should remain sharp a long time.

Share your favorite recipes and kitchen tips by sending them to Welcome to My Kitchen: c/o The Odessa Record, P.O. Box 458, Odessa, WA 99159, email or drop them in the Welcome to My Kitchen mail tin in The Odessa Record office. It is to early to be starting garden seeds.


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