One of the easiest and delicious foods to make is Ambrosia Salad. It is always fresh tasting and perfect for summer and fall. I made it recently for Rosh Hashanah dessert and I’m planning on it again this week. You’ll find the ingredients below the photos.
Cool Whip and Sour Cream, folded together.
Can of crushed pineaapple
Can of mandarin oranges
Maraschino cherries, halved
The beauty of this type of recipe is there is no recipe. Put in what feels right until it’s the consistency you want. When I make it again I will add two cans of mandarin oranges, but for the rest I used about 8 ounces of sour cream, half a container of Cool Whip, half a small bag of coconut flakes, and half a bag of mini marshmallows. If any of that is too much for your sweet tooth, add less. Too much, add more.
Set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve in a dessert bowl.
The first time I had a jacket potato was in Warwick in the Warwick Castle cafe. It was a special treat. Warwick was a food oasis. We were hiking and staying in hostels and so we cooked our own meals – mueslix for breakfast, canned hash or peanut butter for lunch, hot dogs. We had eggs once. Warwick was the castle cafe and dinner at Toby’s Carving Room. No idea if it’s still there, but that was delicious.
It may have been the food on the go that made this jacket potato so amazing, but it stayed in my head for years; decades. It was simple and it was delicious.
It was simply a baked potato with stuff in and on it. I can’t remember what it contained. I have a vague memory of melted butter, freshly shredded cheddar, and sour cream, but there may have been bacon and there were definitely chives.
It became bigger than life in my memory.
When my family went to Wales a few years ago, we ate at a wonderful cafe that I had eaten at on my solo trip in 2009, The Bell Tower Cafe, and I ordered a jacket potato with a salad. It was amazing. It lived up to the memory of Warwick Castle. It was laden with cheese, and honestly on baked potato even with stuff in it doesn’t look like much, but it fills you up, and you’re set for the day. With all my instagramming, I still can’t believe I passed up the opportunity to take a picture of it!
Recently for dinner, we had roast beef, and instead of making my usual leftover meal of Shepherd’s Pie (I know, it’s cottage pie, but my mother in law was from Antrim in Northern Ireland, and if she could call it Shepherd’s Pie, then I can call it Shepherd’s Pie). But I digress. I decided instead to make jacket potatoes with the leftovers.
I baked large russet potatoes in the oven for an hour or so at 400, and when they were finished, sliced them open, added butter, an already warmed up mixture of roast beef, gravy, peas & carrots, onions, and Worcestershire sauce, topped with shredded cheddar, sour cream and chives.
I was eating a Dole fruit cup – cherry mixed fruit or something – and I was transported back to my childhood. We didn’t have the individual plastic cups like the one I was eating from. My mother would buy the cans of fruit cocktail, and we would most definitely fight over the cherries because there were never enough, and they really were the best part.
When we would have a special dinner – a holiday dinner – whether it was Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah or Passover, it didn’t matter which, there was always a multi-course meal with special dishes. Some meals like Rosh Hashanah would begin on the top plate with a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a scoop of chopped liver. There might also be a soup course – matzo ball – always a good choice, even on Thanksgiving. There also might be half a grapefruit with sprinkled sugar or a small dessert dish with fruit cocktail in it.
I loved those dessert dishes. They were small and squat and sat on little pedestals. They were perfect for fruit cocktail, jello, chocolate pudding (with whipped cream), and all sorts of interesting foods. The one problem I found as a kid was the texture of the dish. It wasn’t smooth so you could never scrape all the little bits of food left from the nooks and crannies, and they were annoying to wash, but I loved opening the cabinet just over the sink and seeing them, wondering what wondrous sweet treat they would next hold for us.
I still have them although they’re packed away in our basement. I wanted to find them last month for chocolate pudding, and then again to include a photo in this post, but our basement is a mess and in need of pruning. Finding them will be a goal for the next twelve months, but in the meantime I’ve included a photo I found of them from Ebay. We’ll see in the future if this photo that matches my memory will match the real ones when I find them.
It’s been a good day, and I may post about that in the delayed Inspire post later today or this weekend, but after my mental health break this morning, I returned to my favorite Starbucks, computer and backpack in tow, and they are open for seating (with appropriate social distancing), and I am thrilled.
I have set myself up at my favorite seat and am deliciously enjoying a breakfast sandwich and Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher.
Sometimes it’s the food that makes the Friday, and sometimes it’s the place that you’re enjoying the food.
In this case, it’s both.
We are slowing returning to pre-pandemic times, although I hope we’ve grown in the last year plus. Time will tell, but today maybe time can stand still for just a little longer.
The food pictured above, left to right by columns:
1. Caramel Cake for Mother’s Day, York Peppermint Patty, Rainbow Funfetti Cake Slice (just because).
2. Unicorn Cake Pop from Starbucks, York Peppermint Patty (yum), Tiramisu.
3. Chicken Paillard with Baby Potatoes and Blood Orange Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (a cooking night on FB with my church, Brach’s candy egg (childhood memories of this candy, which is simultaneously the best and the worst candy ever), Homemade Meatball Sub.
How many times do you smell something cooking or take that first bite of something and you’re transported back in time to a special occasion or your childhood, Grandma’s house or getting a quick bite before a doctor’s appointment?
Whenever we have baked sweet potatoes, pools of melted butter mixing in with the soft, sweet flesh I always think back to when I was sick. I was sitting up in my parents’ bed and on my lap was a plate with a hot sweet potato, butter melting as I mashed it in the skin with a fork. It is the best tasting thing in the world, and it makes me feel calm and better.
Speaking of food when you’re sick, chicken noodle soup is known by some as Jewish penicillin and the ingredients blend together to make the common cold disappear or at least wave away the symptoms so sleep will come.
Other of my comfort food favorites include:
The perfect grilled cheese. Two to three slices of cheese depending on their thickness. Instead of buttering the bread, I put the butter in the pan as if I was doing French toast. Before flipping, I add more butter. I cover the sandwich with a pan lid until the cheese is perfectly melty. I have also used ghee instead of butter, and this is an excellent substitute.
Matzo ball soup. I use a box mix, which says to simmer for twenty minutes. I let it simmer for an hour, at least, sometimes longer. After the first half an hour, I’ll add baby carrots (fresh or frozen), some chives, and leave it until dinner time. Delicious.
Macaroni and Cheese. Kraft. The blue box. (The 7oz. one.) I use butter and not margarine and add milk for creaminess. I could eat this all day, every day, and I am the only one in my house who makes it right. (That’s not me saying it; that’s the rest of them.)
Fruit and Sour Cream. I don’t know when in childhood I started eating this, but it is delicious, and healthy, and comfort food at its best. I cut fresh fruit into pieces and put in a bowl, add sour cream, and that’s it! No sugar, no granola, no nothing; just fruit and sour cream. My favorite fruits to use are: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches. It can be all or some, but the bananas are a must. (I have no idea why!)
For the last six Wednesdays, beginning with Ash Wednesday, my parish has been delivering soup weekly during Lent. Typically during Lent, they would have a noon Mass and then have a community soup lunch in the parish center, but since covid arrived last spring, this was their reaction to the cancelling: a limited delivery service for the remaining weeks of last year. In 2021, they started delivering right at the beginning.
It’s been a wonderful idea and example of works put into action. Every week, my family looks forward to seeing which soup is that week’s, and tasting something that we normally would not have made ourselves.
Since the kids are learning remotely, they are home to run outside when we hear the car in the driveway and bring in four soup-bowl sized containers filled with the steaming hot soup of the day along with four soft pieces of (usually sourdough) bread for dipping or spreading with butter on the side.
Every slurp of broth, every bite of fresh vegetables is a reminder of the greater community of the church. There are gatherings in the parish kitchen (covid protocols always in place), chopping, cooking, ladling, packaging, and delivering our midday bounty. And for us at home there is a brief respite from our individual remote workings to come together even for a moment for each of us to collect our containers, talk a minute about what kind of soup, and appreciate the greater community around us.
It is a time when all of us at home can come together to enjoy the offering midday, mid-week, mid-Lent. We share the same meal, unlike most lunches during the work and school day, and we ooh and aah as our taste buds come alive. A couple of times I was able to enjoy lunch with my kids when their lunches coincided with the delivery.
We find out that our parish cooks like pepper and/or garlic depending on the soup. In mid-March one of the soups that contained corn had the most delicious, crunchy kernels of corn. It tasted like summer corn and I savored every tiny bite. Chunks of tomato in the bean soup surprising me (in good ways) with its red broth rather than white. They were all delicious and filling and made for a wonderful, satisfying lunch. There was rye bread with the corned beef and cabbage soup and a cracker sized pie crust round to go with the chicken pot pie soup, both wonderful change-ups and delicious.
On the last day we received a cheerful card from the students in youth ministry. I’m already looking forward to next Lent and hoping that they do this again. I’m not ready to give up my weekly soup so I even made matzo ball soup on the weekend for Passover.
I don’t have any of their recipes, but I’m sure varieties of them can be googled, so I will include the names of the weekly selections: Creamy Vegetable Chowder, Hamburger Barley, Cheesy Potato & Corn Chowder, Tuscan White Bean, Corned Beef & Cabbage, and Chicken Pot Pie.