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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pecan Pie

I used to make pecan pie using the ubiquitous corn syrup recipe. Pecans made the pie a favorite with me, in spite of my aversion to overly sweet desserts (just today I read a description of this American specialty as "candy in a pie shell"). About 10 years ago I discovered the following recipe and have made it most years since. There are more nuts than usual which makes it all the better.

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Pecan Pie


Adapted from:  David Rosengarten's Taste: One Palate's Journey Through the World's Greatest Dishes
Yield: one 9-inch pie

One unbaked pie crust:  see either Vodka Pie Crust or Grandma's Old Fashioned Pie Crust  
6 T unsalted butter
1 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teas salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 T vanilla
1 c finely ground pecans
1 1/4 c coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prick the bottom and sides of the pie shell with a fork and line the shell with some oiled aluminum foil (oiled side down). Add some pie weights (or rice or beans--at least an inch deep). Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove shell from the oven and lower the heat to 275F.

In the meantime, start the filling: In a metal bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter. Remove the bowl from the heat, and whisk in the sugar, salt, eggs (one at a time), corn syrup, and vanilla. Replace the bowl over the simmering water, and stir until the mixture is shiny and quite warm to the touch (about 130 degrees). Remove from the heat and stir in all of the pecans.

Pour the filling into the partially cooked pie shell and return to bake on a rack placed low in the oven. On the lowest rack, place a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the center feels set but still slightly soft. Cool at least 4 hours. Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crusty Skillet Cornbread

Over the years, I've used a number of cornbread recipes, most cooked in a cake pan. When I tried cooking cornbread in a skillet, I became a fan of the extra crust on the bottom of the bread.


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Crusty Skillet Cornbread


Adapted from:  Food Network which credits Richard Jones
Serves: 8

2 c corn meal
1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
3 T sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1/2 stick butter

Heat oven to 375F. Place butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet and put in the preheating oven to melt the butter, watching to make sure it doesn't scorch. Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir eggs into buttermilk and add to dry mixture. Remove skillet from oven and carefully swirl to coat the skillet with butter. Mix remaining melted butter into batter. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 25-30 minutes until it has a golden brown crust. Cut into wedges and serve hot.

Do not let this cornbread sit too long in the skillet following the meal. It will become damp on the bottom and will rust your skillet.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I believe this is Michael's all-time favorite of my baked goods. I remember eating (and loving) them growing up, and now because they're such a favorite, my children will grow up on them. The muffins by themselves are delicious, but the almond and sugar topping make them truly extraordinary.

Last night I taught a group of teenage girls about the muffin method and high altitude baking using this recipe. I shared with them the multiplier I learned from pastry chef Romina Rasmussen, at Les Madeleines in Salt Lake City. As I prepared to teach them the multiplier, I figured out a rough estimate for people that don't have a kitchen scale. For each cup of flour in a recipe, add an extra 1 T. And for each cup of sugar, subtract 1 T. These adjustments will work at elevations around 4500 feet; people near 3,000 or 6,000 feet will have to make different changes. 

Do try these muffins. They're a great use for old bananas!



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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Original


 Yields about 16 muffins

1 1/2 c flour (half whole wheat adds some nuttiness)
1 c sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas soda
1/2 teas salt
1 c mashed banana (2 1/2-3 bananas)
1/2 c butter, melted
1/2 c buttermilk (+1 T if you use whole wheat flour)
1/2 teas vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Topping:
3 T sliced almonds
2 T sugar

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in one bowl. Whisk banana, butter, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined (or a little less).

Stir in chocolate chips. Fill paper-lined muffin tins about 2/3 full. Mix almonds and sugar together, and sprinkle on tops of muffins. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes, until a tester or toothpick comes out clean. 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, High Altitude (4500 feet)


Yields about 16 muffins

219 g (approximately 1 1/2 c + 1 1/2 T) flour (half whole wheat adds some nuttiness)
186 g (approximately 3/4 c + 3 T) sugar (alternatively, measure one cup and then remove 1 T)
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas soda
1/2 teas salt
1 c mashed banana (2 1/2-3 bananas)
1/2 c butter, melted
1/2 c buttermilk (+ 1 T if you use whole wheat flour)
1/2 teas vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Topping:
3 T sliced almonds
2 T sugar

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in one bowl. Whisk banana, butter, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined (or a little less).

Stir in chocolate chips. Fill paper-lined muffin tins about 2/3 full. Mix almonds and sugar together, and sprinkle on tops of muffins. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes, until a tester or toothpick comes out clean. 

Grandma's Apple Crumb Pie

My dad's mother, Lydia Jane Savage Peterson, baked a week's worth of pies most Monday mornings and in numbers large enough for a family of eight. Dad loves apple pie in particular and told my mom he would peel all the apples if she would make the pies. I'm not certain when this recipe became the family favorite but it's the only apple pie I remember eating. As I grew up we didn't have pie every week, but we ate them often and there was never a Thanksgiving or Christmas without this pie. I can't resist the shortbread crumb topping and as a child often annoyed my mother by picking bits off. My fingers have never have been tempted by frosting on a cake, but it is all I can do to leave these crumbs alone.

One piece of advice: bake two of these pies, at least. This pie makes a sublime day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast. On Black Friday I'd rather sit eating apple pie than fight bargain-hunting crowds. My brother, Sam, recently taught me the best way to eat it early in the day--pour cream over your piece of pie. Nothing like keeping up the calorie count.



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Grandma's Apple Crumb Pie


Source:  Betty Peterson

1 9-inch pie unbaked pie shell, see either Vodka Pie Crust or Grandma's Old Fashioned Pie Crust 

6-8 cooking apples, depending on the size (I like golden delicious)
1/2 c sugar
1 teas cinnamon
2 T cornstarch

Peel and slice the apples into a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch over the top. Stir until well blended. Place the apples into the pie shell and set aside. I like to have so many apples that the pie is a bit mounded at this point. When they cook, the apples will shrink and mounding ensures a thick pie.

For the topping:

1/3 c salted butter
1/2 c sugar
3/4-1 c flour, to make crumbly short bread struesel

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar. Then add the flour.  I like the crumb topping to have some fairly big crumbs--about the size of a pea and up to the size of a small marble. If you add to much flour, it will be more powdery, which is all right but not quite as attractive. So start with the smaller amount of flour. If the mixture looks more like a dough than crumbs, add a bit more flour.

Spread the topping over the apples. This can be difficult if you've mounded the apples quite high. Just use one hand to catch the crumbs that roll off and put them back on. There may be a few apple slices that peek out but that will change as the apples settle during baking and cooling.



Bake at 375F for 50-60 minutes, until the apples are softened. You may see some bubbling of the thickened juices. Remove from oven and let cool. If you can't wait and eat the pie warm, it won't stay in wedges, but it will taste wonderful anyway.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Orange Refrigerator Rolls

I first tasted these rolls soon after we entered the Air Force and moved to Mather AFB in California for Leon's navigator training. While there we made friends with Bob and Joyce Lemmon and their little boy, Bobby. Joyce made these rolls for us and I've been baking them ever since, even though I already possessed a superb recipe for rolls. Since I've insisted on serving both types of rolls, our family has had 68 rolls when we've eaten Thanksgiving dinner, even when it was just the five of us. We never have polished them off, not really come close, except when we've had company. But it has been nice to enjoy the bounty.

Almost ready to go into the oven.



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Orange Refrigerator Rolls


Source:   Thanks to Joyce Lemmon for her contribution to decades of good eating
Yields 36

Soak for 10 to 15 minutes, until you see some bubbling action:

2 pkg or 4 1/2 teas active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water

Add to yeast and water:

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
3 beaten eggs
2 teas salt
3/4 c warm water

Stir in:

4 c flour

This is a very soft dough; don't add more flour. Let rise until double. Mix down, cover and place in the refrigerator (it will keep 3-4 days, if you stir it down occasionally). About three hours before serving, stir the dough down and divide half of the dough out of the bowl.  Roll this first portion of dough into a thin rectangle, using ample flour on a pastry cloth or counter. (Repeat with second half.)  The dough will be very sticky. Don't stir in more flour, but use plenty of flour as you roll the dough out.

Spread with Orange Butter:

zest of 1 large orange
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c very soft butter

With a pizza slicer cut into 1 inch slices and roll. Place in 3 well oiled or buttered muffin tins. Let rise to the top of the tins, about 2 hours, depending on the heat.

Bake at 375F for 8-12 minutes. Check for browning. Use a fork to remove rolls from the tins and serve immediately.

It is hard to see, but here is the orange butter spread over the soft dough.

Grandma Betty's Twelve Hour Rolls

I remember my mother making these rolls often when I was a teenager, not just for Thanksgiving. The recipe is a good one for a busy cooking day since the dough can be mixed and set aside for a long time. If the cook can restrain herself and use only the called for amount of flour, the rolls will be amazingly light and buttery.

There are some rather old fashioned methods in this recipe, but I'm not going to change them. Twelve Hour Rolls are perfect as they are.



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Grandma Betty's Twelve Hour Rolls


(In spite of the title, the timing of these rolls is rather flexible.)

1/2 c warm water
1 pkg or 2 1/4 teas active dry yeast or instant
1 T sugar
1 c milk
1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar 
3 eggs
1/2 c sugar
3/4 teas salt
4 c all purpose flour (no more)
more butter, melted, for brushing the tops of the rolls.

Mix together the water, yeast, and 1 T sugar. Allow to it sit out for 10-15 minutes until bubbly.

Scald the milk (place in a small saucepan over medium high heat and nearly bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally--you'll see tiny bubbles around the edges of the milk). Place the butter in the hot milk and let it melt. Pour the milk and butter into a medium bowl and allow to cool to lukewarm and add the yeast mixture. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the 1/2 c sugar. Add this mixture to the milk mixture. Add the salt and flour and stir well. The dough will be very sticky. Do not add more flour for it will make your rolls tougher and drier.

This is the sticky dough after it has risen 5-6 hours.

Butter a very large bowl. Place the dough in this bowl for the rise. Cover and leave out overnight, if convenient, or let stand for 5 hours. Do not refrigerate.

Stirring the dough down before rolling.


Stir the dough with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out half of the dough on a very well floured board (or pastry cloth--my preference). Roll into a 14- to 15-inch circle, quite thinly (about 3/8" thick). Brush with melted butter and cut circle into 16 wedges.




Roll lightly starting at the wide end. Place the rolls on an oiled sheet pan with the sharp tip under the roll against the pan. Brush the tops with melted butter.


Allow the rolls to rise for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or so (this rise can depend on the heat and the weather, so keep an eye on them). Don't let them rise for too long or they will lose volume and deflate. (I've never had them completely collapse but they can flatten if left to rise too long.)

Thanks to Sam Peterson for photos.


Bake at 375F for 8-12 minutes being careful not to let them over-brown.

Note:

Instant yeast usually doesn't need to be mixed with water beforehand to bloom. However, I've never tried this recipe without blooming my yeast. Therefore, I can't say how it will turn out if you add dry yeast to the dry ingredients. 

These rolls are almost pastry like and need a very light hand. This is why I like a pastry cloth and pastry stocking. The dough may stick a tiny bit on the floured cloth, but not usually.


These rolls are exceptionally good when they are hot out of the oven. I don't bake them ahead but instead throughout the Thanksgiving meal. It does mean a lot of ups and downs for me, but it seems a small sacrifice. Others may choose to bake the rolls ahead. I suggest you cook them the day you are going to eat them because they are very perishable. Even a day makes a huge difference in their quality. If you decide to make them beforehand, wrap tightly and freeze, thawing just before the holiday meal.

Having written this, I realize it may take some timing manipulation to get them to the table hot. I do such things as place them in a warm room if they are rising slowly or in a cool spot (even the garage) if they are nearly ready to bake, but I'm not ready to bake them.  You may rightly say its not worth the bother, but make sure you get a cook's snack and eat one when it is just out of the oven.

My mom also used this recipe to make Parker House rolls, by cutting in circles and folding them, not quite in half. I've not done that except in her kitchen. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Sage

I love spaghetti squash, as long as its cooked completely. And it has been surprisingly difficult for me to master this skill. Finally I've been able to accomplish consistent results by roasting the squash for an hour and 15 minutes, or a little longer if the squash is quite large. Since this is winter squash season, here is my favorite way to prepare spaghetti squashes.

This particular squash came from our garden--one of our many volunteers.



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Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Sage


Source: Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop

1 medium spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs)
3 T unsalted butter
1 T minced fresh sage leaves (or about 1 teas dry)
1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. I cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, spray a baking sheet, and place the squash halves on the sheet. The original recipe recommends baking the entire squash on a baking sheet after making several slits with a paring knife. Either way, bake until a skewer glides easily through the flesh, about 1 1/4 hrs.

Melt the butter in a small, light-colored or shiny skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the sage leaves and cook until they release their flavor into the butter and the butter has turned golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.

If you baked the squash whole: slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out and discard the seeds with a spoon. Drag a fork through the flesh to pull the strands of squash away from the skin. Place the squash strands in a large bowl. Toss with the sage butter and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Here's another Thanksgiving recipe. Mom made it the first time, when Cook's Illustrated published it 6 or so years ago. I loved it so much that I have made it every year since, wherever I am for the holiday, and it's always popular. The tartness of the cranberries cuts the sweetness of the apples in a delightful way; it's delicious by itself or a la mode. And perfect for breakfast the next day!

The recipe uses the Vodka Pie Crust, which is easy to make and manipulate. And there is always some leftover dough for pie crust cookies.



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Apple-Cranberry Pie


Source: Cook's Illustrated

2 c fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 c orange juice
1 c sugar plus 1 T for top of pie
1/2 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 teas salt
1/4 c water
1 T cornstarch
3 1/2 lbs sweet apples such as Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, or Braeburn (6 to 7 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 recipe Vodka Pie Crust
1 egg white, beaten lightly

Make pie dough and refrigerate. 

Bring cranberries, juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally and pressing berries against side of pot, until berries have completely broken down and juices have thickened to jamlike consistency (wooden spoon scraped across bottom should leave clear trail that doesn't fill in), 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in water, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

While fillings cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Transfer cooled cranberry mixture to dough-lined pie plate and spread into even layer. Place apple mixture on top of cranberries, mounding slightly in center; push down any sharp apple edges.

Roll second disk of dough on generously floured work surface (up to 1/4 cup) to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side.

Using kitchen shears (scissors), cut evenly through both layers of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg white and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Using sharp paring knife, cut four 1 1/2-inch slits in top of dough in cross pattern.

Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake until top is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool at least 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

The two fillings can be made ahead, cooled, and stored separately in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grandma Betty's Sweet Potatoes in Butterscotch Sauce

Betsy and I have decided we're going to post a few Thanksgiving recipes but we won't be able to supply photos of the finished products until after the big day. 

I'm a confirmed sweet potato lover these days, but when I was young I thought they were disgusting unless they were served in this form. Even marshmallows couldn't tempt me. (I'm certain a large part of my problem was that other sweet potatoes I was exposed to were canned, making them mushy and stringy at the same time.) I don't know where my mom came upon this recipe but it has graced our Thanksgiving tables as long as I can remember. Since this feast is the only time I eat the dish, it is one of the reasons I enjoy the holiday. I'm already looking forward to these sweets.



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Grandma Betty's Sweet Potatoes in Butterscotch Sauce


5 medium-large sweet potatoes
1/4 c butter
4 T flour
1/2 c light corn syrup
1 c brown sugar
1 c water
3/4 c chopped pecans or walnuts (to increase flavor, toast in a skillet until aromatic)

Cook sweet potatoes until they are softened but not completely cooked. They should resist a testing fork or knife blade. My mother boiled her sweet potatoes, but I have taken to roasting them in the oven at 350F for 45-60 minutes depending on their size. Either way will work, as would microwaving (although it would take a long time for 5 sweets). Allow to cool until you can handle them. Peel the skins off and slice sweet potatoes 3/8" to1/2" thick. Place in a two to three quart baking dish. Your oven heat should be changed to 225F.

Melt the butter, add the flour, and cook for a few minutes. Add the water, corn syrup, and sugar. Stir and cook until simmering and thickened. Stir in the nuts. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 5 hours. The sauce will thicken considerably and the sweets will finish cooking.

Note:

Since this method of cooking will tie up your oven for a long time on a busy cooking day, I advise cooking them a day or two ahead, unless you have two ovens. Cool and refrigerate them until nearly time for serving. Reheat in the microwave. They don't seem to suffer. You may also cook the sweets ahead of time, refrigerate for up to two days, peel, slice, and cover with the sauce and cook for the required time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lemon Berry Trifle

Although the season has passed, I admit this trifle is one of my top five favorite summer desserts. However, it can be enjoyed any time of the year if you use frozen berries, or some fresh berries available in supermarkets year round nowadays. The original recipe is based on blackberries but the past year or so, I've used  raspberries because of the raspberry glut at my house. I believe you can mix and match berries with great success.

In my household of two, I make individual trifles rather than one big one. Cake in a trifle is supposed to soak up juices but by the time we could finish a whole trifle, everything would be disagreeably soggy. If you are interested in a big trifle, just multiply amounts and place in a trifle dish or glass bowl.

Unfortunately I have lost my copy of the original recipe and have searched unsuccessfully both around the house and online. For some time I haven't needed to use the recipe since it is composed of several items brought together. Use what you find below as a guideline and tweak it to your liking.


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Lemon Berry Trifle


Serves 3-4

12 ounces, by weight, berries (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or combination)
6 T sugar
one slice pound cake per serving, purchased or home made
3 T Chambord or limoncello, optional
1/2 c lemon curd bottled or home made
1 c whipping cream

Mix berries with sugar and lightly mash them with a fork or potato masher. If you are using strawberries, you may prefer to slice them. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes, but longer will likely result in more juice. 

Whip cream to soft peak stage. Lightly fold lemon curd into the cream, leaving streaks of cream visible.

Cut pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes.

Compose the dessert:  place the cake cubes in the bottom of a wine glass or dessert dish. If you are using it, drizzle the Chambord or limoncello over the cake. Spoon the macerated berries on top. Finally, add a generous dollop of lemon curd cream.

Notes:

This is another one of those recipes which can be changed to suit tastes of the cook. The proportion of lemon curd to cream can be varied so it is heavier in lemon or cream flavors. You may also want to add a T of sugar to the cream, although it is plenty sweet for my tastes.

You may buy the lemon curd, but to make sure it tastes as good as possible, use real whipped cream.

If you haven't a scale, 12 ounces of raspberries equals about 1 1/2 cups; 12 ounces of blackberries are closer to 2 cups.

Other cakes will work well here, too, although I am not sure that angel food cake would be as good, partly because of its airy texture. I have often used Hot Milk Cake, although if I know I am going to use it in this recipe I will use lemon extract as a substitute for the almond extract called for in that recipe.

I think other fruits that are complemented by lemon would work in place of the berries. I'll bet peaches or nectarines would be tasty. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fresh Ginger Tonic

Fall rolled in and so did viruses. For the past month or so, we as a group have been putting up with colds, laryngitis, croup, etc. Yesterday Betsy asked me for this recipe, which I totally forgot about when it was my turn (she and her family were at my house keeping my spirits up).

I found the recipe in the book Sarah Moulton Cooks at Home where Moulton credits Michelle Beckles, a Food Network contributor and producer. Both swear that ginger tea can do wonders. I've not experienced full healing when I've used the tonic, but perhaps I didn't drink it often enough.  

Here at the beginning of the sicker seasons, I'll post this recipe in hopes that it will provide some comfort, if nothing else.

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Fresh Ginger Tonic


Yield 5 cups

5 c water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
2- or 3-inch piece fresh ginger (depending on your tolerance for spicy heat), peeled and grated
honey to taste, optional

Bring water to boil with the cinnamon and cloves. Remove from heat and add the ginger and honey and allow to steep for 10 minutes. (If you are using raw honey, do not add honey at this point; the heat will destroy all the benefits that come from unpasteurized honey. Wait until the tea has cooled somewhat to add the honey. You will have to do some stirring to help the honey dissolve.)

Strain well, discarding the solids. This tonic is good hot or cold.

Note:

I find the easiest way to peel ginger is to scrape the skin off with a metal spoon. I like to use my microplane for grating, although the smallest holes on a box grater would work fine, too.