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Cooks' Exchange: Celebrate the flavors of fall before winter arrives

Cooks' Exchange: Celebrate the flavors of fall before winter arrives


Welcoming a new month seems to stir my interest of what should be celebrated before the next month arrives.

Such was the case recently with thoughts of my mother’s birthdate of Nov. 13, 1908 in Budapest, Hungary, the birthdays we celebrated together in Madison, taking me to piano and dance lessons, making beautiful clothes for me, and the wonderful meals she served when the weather was chilly.

Memories also include celebrating Thanksgiving together when relatives joined us, who might get the best part of the turkey’s wish bone, and all the food she’d prepare to serve in our dining room on a beautiful table elaborately set with her favorite holiday dishes.

Recently I’d learn more about November being the ninth month of the old Roman year with Nov. 11 marking the beginning of winter. Also discovered was that St. Catherine’s feast day, celebrated Nov. 25 in the Roman calendar which, in turn, found me wanting to learn much more from The Nature Notes of an Ewardian Lady written by Edith Holden and published in 1989 with nary a single recipe from the past to prepare and enjoy.

Banana-Raisin-Rum Quick Bread

Rum-soaked raisins in modern times make this variation of a good ole banana bread recipe even better than before. Soak raisins in rum for several hours and drain before assembling the recipe. You will need 3 to 4 medium-sized bananas for this recipe found in Dona Z. Meilach’s 1997 Gourmet Gifts compilation featuring incredible edible gifts to give to others on special days throughout the year.

1 cup sugar

1 cup softened butter

2 eggs

1½ cups mashed ripe bananas

¹⁄³ cup water

1 ²⁄³ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped almonds or walnuts

½ cup golden raisins soaked in ¼ cup rum or brandy

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of a 5x9x3-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Stir in eggs until blended. Add mashed bananas and water and beat for 30 seconds. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to banana mixture and stir until just moistened. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour batter into pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool bread in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap cooled bread with foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Apple Crisp

Apple season gifts us with many favorites including pies, crisps, breads and even meat loaf recipes using apples. Although some recipes arrive on index cards and are easy to read, now and then a recipe arrives without a name attached making it impossible to clarify a recent question regarding how one judges the amount of apples needed merely by describing them as small, medium or large. I recently discovered in an old cookbook that one pound of apples will yield about 3 cups diced or sliced. Here is a recipe described as being “sinfully delicious” from The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, initially published in 1980.

9-10 medium-sized apples (Northern Spy)

2 tablespoons honey

¼ cup apple juice or cider

1 cup light brown sugar

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup sweet butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2-quart casserole. Peel, core, and thinly slice apples. Place in the dish, drizzle with honey, and add the apple juice. Mix sugar, flour, and spices in a small bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the apples. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Especially nice served crisp warm with heavy cream.

Chicken and Avocados in Cognac Cream

When long time reader Isabel Hubbard requested recipes using avocados, the search began, hoping to receive recipes from others. With no response, some heavy-duty searching of my own began, discovering many recipes to share, especially this one for a main meal, found in a 1991 Hometown Collection of America’s Best Recipes celebrating its heritage, compiled for Oxmoor House by Editors Ann Harvey and Janice Krahn, and tested by their Test Kitchen Home Economists.

6 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons butter

¼ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or onion

½ cup cognac

1½ cups whipping cream

1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices

Cut each chicken breast half into 3 strips; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add chicken, and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet and sauté until tender. Add cognac; stir well. Gradually add whipping cream, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Return chicken to skillet. Add avocado and cook until thoroughly heated. Yield: 6 servings

This recipe was initially discovered in Gourmet LA, The Junior League of Los Angeles.

Avocado and Pine Nut Dip

Found in the same compilation is an appetizer recipe from The Best Specialties of the House … and More, North Suburban Guild of Children’s Memorial Medical Center, Chicago, initially shared by Arlene Harris.

2 medium-size ripe avocados, peeled and mashed

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

½ cup chopped pine nuts

3 green onions, chopped

1 small garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons lime juice

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon pepper

Dash of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until well blended. Cover and chill thoroughly. Serve dip with tortilla chips.

Yield: 1½ cups

Avocado Soup

This is the first time I’ve seen a soup recipe using avocados and found it in a 1981 third edition of America Discovers Columbus: A Wonderful Collection of Recipes For Easy Entertaining from the Junior League of Columbus, Ohio, submitted by Kathryn (Kathy) Kluss Peppe. It’s too simple not to try, is described as being “a cool summer delight!” and requires using a blender or food processor.

2 large ripe avocados, peeled and diced

1 pint cold water

1½ chicken bouillon cubes, crushed

½ pint heavy cream or half and half

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Salt, pepper and mace to taste

Dash of nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth liquid. Chill mixture thoroughly.

Optional ingredient are thin slices of cucumber to decorate each serving.

Romeo and Juliet

Here is a simple recipe serving two, described in the same cookbook as being “easy” being prepared and served in 20 minutes. The recipe provider, Jim Budros, suggested serving this with pimento rice, a green salad and white wine.

1 whole chicken breast split, boned and skinned

1 ripe avocado

1 cup Hollandaise sauce

Carefully peel and seed avocado and slice each half diagonally into 5 slices. Place avocados in a pie plate and slowly warm in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes. Slowly sauté chicken breast halves until just done. Allow to rest covered for 5 minutes. Slice chicken into horizontal/diagonal slices, arrange warmed avocados decoratively on top of chicken and top with hollandaise.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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