Dateline: January 2, 2005

First of a brand new year. I hope everyone got through the holidays with no major "Oops". The Doctor has a lot to take care of this morning, so here we go.

Lynn writes: Is there any way to get a piecrust flaky after the pie has been frozen? I froze a peach pie and when I thawed it out, the crust was soft.

Hi Lynn: I don't know of anything you can do about that. Next time, scrape the filling out of the pie and freeze it. When you get ready for pie, get a new crust, thaw the filling and assemble. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Shirley needs help: I need help. I have put up some garlic cloves in vinegar, no water bath, and they are turning bluish-green. What does this mean and are they safe to eat now? Please reply with instructions for doing it some other way if I have done it improperly.

Hi Shirley: Did you use the "hot pack" method of canning? That is, cooking the garlic about a minute in boiling vinegar and then sealing? This method will let the garlic keep about three months under refrigeration. Also, if you used iodized salt, it will turn the pickled stuff colors. Use pickling salt. Other than that, I can't think of anything. If that garlic of yours turned colors in less than a month, I don't think I would use it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Dorothy says: I grew up around an Italian lady. She fixed this great dish where she dipped eggplant slices in beaten eggs and fried, and then layered them in a baking pan with sauce and cheese. I need the recipe so I can fix it for my family. Can you help?

Hi Dorothy: Sounds like Eggplant Parmesan to me. Here's a good recipe.

Eggplant Parmesan

Peel the eggplant down to the white part. Cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices in salted water (with a few ice cubes) for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and pat dry.

In one bowl, place the flour mixed with the salt and pepper. In a second bowl, place the eggs. Dip eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg. Fry until golden brown in olive oil.

Stir the oregano and basil into the tomato sauce. Mix the grated cheeses together.

Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9x12-inch pan or dish. Place a single layer of fried eggplant slices topped with one-fourth of the cheeses. Place another layer of sauce, eggplant slices and cheeses. Repeat two more times. Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes.

Kristi is looking for that special icing: My Granny used to make chocolate icing that hardened when it was put on the cake. What kind of frosting sets up like that when it sits? I thought it was butter cream, but I'm not sure? Can you help? Hi Kristi: I think this is the recipe you are looking for. It's called "boiled icing".

Bring to a hard boil stirring all the time. Cook for one minute. Remove from heat and beat with electric beater until stiff and cool enough to work with. Apply to cool cake. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Audrey has judging questions: I am going to be judging tables at a church tea. I have never done anything like this before, and I am not sure as to what the other judges and myself should be looking for. The tables will be representing the different auxiliaries of the church; they will have food. Do you have any suggestions or is there a book that you can recommend that lists guidelines and categories to observe for functions such as this? Thank you.

Hi Audrey: This is the first I've heard of a church tea judging. I'd bet no one has written a book on the subject.

But my advice is to just use your good judgment. First of all, take a good look at the overall presentation. Does it look nice? Is everything in its place? Have the contestants taken any special pains to make things just right? If there is a theme, you want to see how the theme is carried out. Originality always is worth a few extra points. You don't want something that was just copied out of a book. If you judge the food, the same advice applies. Just pretend you were serving your most desired guest. Is this the way you would want it to be? Good luck and most of all, have fun with it.
Dr. John