Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mollie Katzen

Molly Katzen is, as you probably know, the author of a number of books about food and cooking, including The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (both of which have been issued in new editions). Her books have been a fixture in our house for decades. 

I was pleased to discover that Mollie's work was honored by the James Beard Foundation and that The Moosewood Cookbook was named to the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2007 (I'm a little behind) "for its significant and enduring impact on the way we cook and understand food." 

Please take a moment to watch the video below of Mollie accepting the award, then go to her website to find out more about the woman and her books, and to see featured foods and recipes. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Malt-O-Meal Muffins

The older we get, the more we get into reading labels on food products, wading through the lists of daily values and trying to compute vitamin, carbohydrate, fat, and sodium amounts. According to the label, Malt-O-Meal, is a good source of folic acid, calcium, and iron; and it isn't so bad with sodium, fat, and carbs. Besides, it is a link to our childhoods...

These are crunchy and very tasty, but a little dry. Next time, I will try adding a heaping tbl. of nonfat yogurt.

1 - 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Malt-O-Meal hot wheat cereal, dry
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 - 1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Sift dry ingredients together. Mix egg, oil, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and the raisins. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. 

Pour batter into greased muffin tins. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until center is firm to the touch.

Makes 12 muffins

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pucci's Italian Cookies

The Mary and Pucci stories are legion in our family, but this is probably not the place to start telling them. Here is what I will say: Mary and Pucci are my husband's aunties. They were born in Italy and came over to America on a boat in the early 1930s. Their Pappa had built a house for the family in southern Connecticut and these two unmarried ladies lived in that house all of their lives. 

Pucci is gone now, but I can still picture her making these cookies in her kitchen on a wonderful old metal table, rolling out the dough with what looked like a sawed-off broomstick. Apparently there are versions of this cookie made all over Italy--called, variously, cenci (rags), chiacchere (gossips), lattughe (lettuce leaves), nastrini (ribbons), or lover's knots. We'll just go on calling them Pucci's Italian cookies. 

1 - 3/4 cups flour
2 tbl. olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbl. anisette liqueur
a pinch of salt

Pucci used to pile the flour on her table, make a well in the middle, add the remaining ingredients, and mix the dough with her hands. I suppose you could mix the dough in a bowl. Knead the dough slightly and roll out thinly to about 1/8 inch thick.

Using a pasta cutter (serrated rolling wheel), cut the dough into strips about an inch wide and about the length of your hand. Fold each into a bow-knot and fry carefully in hot olive oil. 

Pile the finished cookies on a plate to drain. 

Since Pucci never wrote this stuff down, I found some of my information about these cookies on Italian Food.

Banana Cardamom Pancakes

I miss Oznot's Dish.
It has been closed for a few years now, but I'm no less pissed off about it. Marsha and I used to eat brunch there regularly. Usually I had the Moroccan steak and eggs, with the most wonderful roasted potato home fries on the side and a little bit of Sriracha hot sauce (my introduction to the stuff). Marsha would get the cardamom french toast with bananas. Then, one day, Oznot's Dish was closed. Gone forever. I never found out why. When I think about the time and work that must have gone into hand-setting all of the glass mosaic tiles that decorated the place I get really agitated, because someone probably destroyed it all in one day. Desert Candy has a suitable replacement for the french toast:

--2 large Eggs
--2 cups Buttermilk
--6 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
--1 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
--1/4 cup Sugar
--2 tsp Baking Soda
--1/2 tsp Sea Salt
--1/8 tsp Cardamom
--2 large Bananas, diced

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, melted butter). In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cardamom and salt). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined — don't worry if there are a few lumps. Stir in the bananas (Don't be tempted to smash the bananas into the batter, these work best when the bananas are distinct within the pancakes, soft compliments to the fluffy batter). Lightly grease a large sauté pan or griddle with the nonstick spray or butter. Heat the pan until hot and then spoon out 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook the pancakes until the tops look dull and a few of the bubbles pop, about 3 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another minute.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jessi's Mushroom Chicken

Here is another of Jessi's kitchen creations. She's the master of making it work with what's on hand. This recipe happened when an insane mushroom craving slammed into a desire to make Chicken Marsala (when I had nothing even closely resembling Marsala Wine in my house). We tried to class it up after the first time we made it, but soon learned to keep it simple. I still want to try this with a little parsley though...

--1 to 1 1/2 lbs Chicken Breast, cut into small pieces
--1 small Yellow Onion, diced
--3 cups of White Mushrooms, well cleaned and sliced
--1/4 cup Soy Sauce
--A couple Saltine Crackers (or some white flour)

Brown chicken with butter in a pan over medium heat. When cooked through, set it aside in a bowl. Return pan to heat and melt a little more butter. Add the onion and saute until it is clear. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce. Cook until the mushrooms have reduced in volume. Add the chicken. If necessesary, thicken the sauce by crumbling in a couple of Saltines (or a little white flour). Toss with pasta.

Mom's Mashed Potatoes

My old wooden masher (also called a beetle)

Ben wanted to know if I do anything special in making mashed potatoes. I don't think so, but now that I look back over time, some of my earlier attempts were not so great. So, honoring my son's request, here is the method that has evolved over the years in my kitchen. 

Peel russet potatoes and cut each into eighths. You can count on about a potato and a half per person. This is pretty generous and will probably result in leftovers, but that's a good thing, right?

Bring potatoes to a boil in lightly salted water just to cover. 

Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer until done--I pierce the potato pieces with a sharp knife to test for doneness. I won't give you a cooking time because, as I have found out here in eastern New Mexico (elevation 4200 feet), altitude makes a difference in how long you cook things.  I would start testing when they have simmered for at least 10 minutes.

Pour off the water. Turn off the burner. Return the pan to the burner and, using the residual heat, make sure that all of the water is evaporated and the potatoes are dry. Do this by tossing the potatoes in the covered pan then setting it down on the warm burner, and repeating this process until the potatoes have a dry look to them. I learned this part from Ben's Dutch Oma, and she made the best potatoes.

Place about a cup of the cooked potatoes in a mixer bowl. I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer for this, and for many, many other things. Mash the potato pieces in the bowl by hand with a wooden masher (see the photo--if you don't happen to have an antique "beetle" in your kitchen use whatever works for you). Keep adding potatoes and mashing until they are all roughly mashed. 

Heat some milk (I'd say about 1/4 cup for every six potatoes or so) and some butter (the amount is up to you, your conscience, and your doctor) in the potato pan until the butter melts. 

Using the whipping beater on your mixer, add the hot milk and butter to the potatoes while mixing slowly, then whip them until they are of a consistency that pleases you. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Oma also added freshly ground nutmeg to her mashed potatoes.

You can also add a bit of sour cream but, again, your doctor might want to have a say in this. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Granola (Lower Fat Version)

The low cholesterol diet handout from our doctor lists granola as one of the foods to be avoided because of its fat content. This recipe from, gives a variation that without the coconut and butter* is certainly lower in fat than the commercial versions. 

In a large oven proof skillet or 9"x13" baking pan, melt 1/4 cup butter (or substitute 1/4 corn oil), then stir in 1/4 cup honey. Add 3 cups rolled oats, 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut, 1 cup sunflower seeds and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss together with the honey and butter mixture and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring several times during the baking period. Then stir in 1/2 cup wheat germ and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the mixture is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and stir in 2/3 cup raisins. Let the granola cool completely before storing it in an airtight container.

*If you're on a strict low cholesterol diet, be sure to use corn oil instead of butter and leave out the coconut.

For another granola recipe, click here.

Pasta With Spinach and Cheese Sauce

Jessi is absolutely fearless in the kitchen, much like my old roommate Kiyash. They both have a willingness to "boldly go" and experiment. Recently she concocted this happy accident on clear-out-the-fridge day. She was convinced that the secret ingredient in this first version was soy milk (sounded odd to me, but it was delicious). When we refined the recipe, we used regular milk and it tasted the same. In the end, we just eliminated the milk.

--1 lb Large Rigatoni (or other hefty pasta), cooked al dente
--Olive Oil
--1 cup White Mushrooms, cut up small, however you would like
--1/2 to 3/4 cup Sliced Ham, small dice
--1 box or more Frozen Spinach (much easier to approximate the wilted volume than fresh spinach)
--1 cup Smoked Gouda Cheese, small dice (Jessi sez: use any cheese here or a combination of cheeses. Parmesan would work. I sez: the smoked gouda was brilliant and I wouldn't change a thing)
--1/2 to 3/4 cup Sour Cream
--Salt and Pepper

While your pasta is cooking, heat olive oil on medium heat and saute the mushrooms and ham. When mushrooms are done, throw the ham and mushrooms in a bowl and set aside. Return the pan to the heat, add a little more olive oil and the spinach and saute for a couple minutes. Add the cooked mushrooms and ham, the sour cream and the cheese. Bring to a bubble. Let simmer for 5 minutes or so and season with salt and pepper. Toss well with the pasta.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pork with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

1 tsp sugar 
1 tbl. cornstarch
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock 

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/8 tsp salt (optional, especially if your chicken broth is salty)
1 clove garlic minced 
2 slices ginger shredded
2 cups sliced lean pork

1 bunch fresh brocolli sliced

1/4 cup water 

Mix together sugar, cornstarch, oyster sauce and chicken stock and set aside. 

Heat wok until hot and dry. Add the oil and the (optional) salt and turn heat to medium. Add the ginger and the garlic and fry until golden brown. 

Turn heat to high then add the pork and fry until outside is lightly browned. 

Add the broccoli and stir fry for 3 minutes, then add the water and cover and cook for 4 minutes. 

Pour in reserved sauce mixture then stir while cooking until gravy thickens. 

Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 2 minutes more. 

Place in a covered serving dish until ready to serve. Serve with hot steamed rice.

Spicy Beer-Battered Fish Tacos

Of all my experiments in the kitchen, this recipe has benefited from the most disasters. Once, I spilled salt into the mix. Another time, I spilled cayenne pepper. I tried using corn meal once, but that may have been the time I spilled the salt. Oil too hot; Oil too cold. Each time, I just kept trucking along, churning out one culinary horror after another. In the end, I stopped messing around and simplified. Of course, I might mess up remembering the recipe (don't trust my measurements)...

--1 to 1/2 lbs Whitefish fillets, cut into small pieces
--Canola Oil
--1 cup White Flour
--1/2 tsp Salt
--1 tsp Fresh-Ground Black Pepper
--1/2 to 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
--1 bottle Dark Beer (I liked using a thick Stout)

Mix flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl for dredging. In another bowl, pour the beer. You may not need the whole bottle, so take a sip! Dip the pieces of fish into the beer, then dredge them in the flour. Dip in the beer again, then dredge in the flour one more time. Pile up your battered fish on a plate to prepare for frying. Heat a frying pan on high and pour in a lot of oil (I'd deep-fry the fish if I had the equipment). Remember that if you heat the oil to hot enough, the batter will cook almost instantly and the food won't absorb all that bad oil. Carefully place the fish into the hot oil and fry until it's golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Recommended: Serve on lightly pan-heated corn tortillas with a squeeze of lime juice, piled with mild cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a salady mixture of chopped tomatoes, avocado, salt, black pepper and a little bit of olive oil. Sometimes I like sliced radishes on the side.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recipes and the Internet

Here is something I've kind of always known, but never actually spelled out to myself until I read it in an article on Google. If you find yourself wanting to cook something a little different and aren't exactly sure what it might be or what it might be called, just do this:

Google three ingredients that you have on hand to find a recipe using them

This is so simple that it hardly need be said, but it's a handy little rule to have floating around in your head. Here are some searches that I have done lately to find online versions of recipes that I recall having made in the past:

pork "oyster sauce" broccoli

"red cabbage" onion apple

"pea soup" thyme carrots

Of course, any two or three terms will help you find the recipe you remember but can't locate in your recipe books, such as these recent searches I did to find old favorites: 

"strawberry tart" "Julia Child"

"chicken spaghetti" "cream of chicken soup"

Obviously, as you are reading a recipe blog online, you probably already realize all this stuff and I am preaching to the choir. This advice is really meant for Internet novices, such as some of the ladies in my knitting group who don't even have computers. 

That's a conundrum for another day.

Rosemary Corn Cakes with Proscuitto AND Chicken Sausages with Hot and Sweet Peppers

This is really two recipes, but they go so well together that I couldn't bring myself to separate them. The combination of sweet and savory is way too important. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. This combination is from The Food Network's Rachael Ray (the last one I have from her, I think). Marsha and I only made it once, but we loved it. Marsha knew how to seduce me with the sweet and savory!

--2 lbs Chicken Sausages
--2 tbsp Olive Oil
--1 box (8 1/2 oz) Corn Muffin Mix
--1 Egg
--3 tbsp Butter, divided
--3/4 cup Milk
--2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped Fresh Rosemary Leaves
--4 slices Prosciutto, chopped (or more than 4!)
--Fresh-ground Black Pepper
--2 large Cubanelle Peppers (long, Italian light green sweet peppers), seeded and thinly sliced (or other sweet pepper)
--4 hot Red Cherry Peppers, chopped

Preheat a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Prick sausages with a fork and place them in a different pan, Add 1 inch of water and olive oil, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sausages cook until the liquid evaporates (about 10 minutes). While they are cooking: Combine muffin mix with egg and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the milk, rosemary, prosciutto and pepper, then heat the mixture on high in the microwave for 15 seconds. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the hot griddle to coat. Form corn cakes 2-3 inches in diameter and cook them in the griddle until golden on each side. Back to the sausages: Once the water has evaporated, move the sausages off to one side of the pan to allow the casings to crisp and brown. Add the hot and sweet peppers to the other side of the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook them until soft. Serve the sausages with peppers on top alongside the corn cakes drizzled with honey.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Tart

It's strawberry time. I remember making a version of this tart many years ago (long before Ben was born) out of my copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was beautiful, and it made me, a beginning cook at the time, feel very accomplished. 

Fresh Strawberry Tart (Tarte aux Fraises)
1 fully baked 9-inch (24-cm) tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough (below)
Pastry cream (below)
3 to 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled

Just before serving, spread the chilled pastry cream in the fully-baked tart shell. Top with halved or sliced strawberries. You may glaze this with a strawberry glaze if you wish, but it is lovely without. 
Sweet Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse oatmeal. Add the lightly stirred egg yolk and mix with a fork until the dough holds together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead slightly with a light hand. 
Press into a buttered tart pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until slightly browned. 
Pastry Cream (from Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/4 cups (300 grams) whole milk
1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside for 10 minutes. Or, if you are using vanilla extract, just bring the milk to a boil and proceed with the recipe, adding the extract before you add the butter to the hot pastry cream.
2. Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until thick and pale. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk onto the yolks. Then, still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a steady stream over the tempered yolks. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.
3. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and without stop, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl. Allow the pastry cream to cool on the counter for about 3 minutes.
4. Cut the butter into chunks and stir the chunks into the hot pastry cream, continuing to stir until the butter is melted and incorporated. At this point, the cream needs to be thoroughly chilled. You can either set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and, to ensure even cooling, stir the cream from time to time, or refrigerate the cream, in which case you should press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal.

Mashed Plantains

Here's the second part to the Cuban feast mentioned in yesterday's post (from Food Network's Rachael Ray). It took me a little while to extract the recipes from Rachael's mess of instructions. I get the concept behind mashing four recipes into one overall set of directions, but unless you plan on making an entire feast, the individual recipes are damn hard to follow.

--3 Green Plantains
--Waxed Paper
--1/2 cup Chicken Stock
--Olive Olive

Slit the skins of the plantains from end to end (to vent them for microwave cooking). Wrap each plantain in wax paper, twisting the ends. Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes together (or 90 seconds individually). Peel and mash with the chicken stock and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Split Pea Soup

Wash and soak 2 cups split peas. Drain the peas, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to the reserved liquid to make 10 cups. Adding peas again, cook covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Add and simmer, covered, for 1/2 hour longer until vegetables are tender:
1/4 tsp. thyme, 1/2 cup chopped onions, 1 cup chopped celery with leaves, 1/2 cup chopped carrots.

Put the soup through a sieve.
2 tbl. butter. Stir in it until blended: 2 tbl. flour. Add a little of the soup mixture, slowly. Cook and stir until it boils then stir it into the rest of the reheated soup. Correct the seasoning.

Makes about 8 cups.

Grilled Flank Steak with Lime and Onions

Ever since I began posting on this blog, I've had two worries in the back of my mind: (1) My recipe box will fill up. (2) I'll run out of recipes I want to post. Now that I've got a recipe-posting rhythm, I'm still very concerned about running out of space in the box, pretty much because my second concern has not been a problem at all. I'm not running out of recipes any time soon. The other day, I remembered a Cuban feast from Food Network's Rachael Ray that Marsha had cooked for me as a welcome-home dinner. As Marsha and I tried to find the recipe, we found a couple others that we'd forgotten about (...not running out of recipes any time soon). Here's part of the Cuban feast:

--2 lbs Flank Steak
--Olive Oil
--2 tbsp Grill Seasoning Blend (i.e. Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
--1 tbsp Cumin
--Zest of 1 Lime
--1 Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
--1 Lime, cut into wedges (or more lime, if you're like me)

Preheat a grill pan (or a large cast iron skillet) over high heat. In a shallow dish, drizzle enough olive oil over the flank steak to coat (about 2 tablespoons). In your palm, blend the grill seasoning, cumin and lime zest, then rub evenly over the steak. Cook steak in the grill pan for 4 minutes, then turn over and cook 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside to let the juices redistribute. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet on high heat. Add the sliced onion and sear, but do not keep on heat too long. The onions should still have some bite to them. Cut the steak across the grain into thin slices and spread out on a serving platter. Squeeze lime juice over them and top with the onions.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beets with Orange Sauce

This is one sure way to get kids (and me) to eat freshly cooked beets. I can't remember which cook book I used to use for this recipe; this version comes from

8 medium beets
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Dash pepper

1 cup orange juice
1 medium navel orange, sliced and halved
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1.Place beets in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool slightly. Peel and slice; place in a serving bowl and keep warm.
2.In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and pepper; stir in orange juice until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in orange slices if desired and peel. Pour over beets.

Chicken With Artichoke Hearts and Fontina Cheese

This is the last of the recipes from Marsha's Panda Cake blog, and the first recipe that she posted. Recipe for 2 servings:

--2 Chicken Breast Cutlets, pounded very thin
--Handful of Shredded Fontina Cheese
--3-5 Artichoke Hearts, drained from a can and chopped
--Salt and Pepper
--Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix artichoke hearts and shredded fontina cheese in a bowl and add a splash of olive oil to coat. Salt and pepper the chicken cutlets after they have been pounded thin and spoon the cheese/artichoke mixture onto them. Carefully roll the chicken into a nice little bundle and secure with a toothpick or skewer. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook for about two minutes on each side. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Carrot Cake Recipe

In my search for a carrot cake recipe without so much oil, I found the one below on The Foods I Crave. You could also try Carrot Sunflower Seed Cake.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, coconut, pecans, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Combine oil and eggs; stir well. Stir egg mixture, grated carrot, and pineapple into flour mixture. Spoon batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla just until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cake.

Parmesan Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

Here's another dish from The Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis, as made in the kitchen of Marsha and I:

--2 1/2 cups Broccoli florets
--2 1/2 cups Cauliflower florets
--2 Eggs, lightly beaten
--1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
--1/2 to 1 cup Olive Oil
--1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
--4 cups lightly packed Fresh Spinach
--1/2 Lemon, zested
--1 Lemon, juiced
--1/4 cup Extra-virgin Olive Oil
--1/2 tsp fresh-ground Black Pepper

Place the broccoli and cauliflower in a large bowl. Toss with the beaten eggs to coat evenly. Place the Parmesan in a large tray or baking dish and dredge the vegetables in the cheese, pressing to coat evenly. Pour olive oil in a large heavy skillet until the olive oil is 1/4-inch deep, about 1/2 cup depending on the size of your skillet. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the Parmesan-coated vegetables. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook in batches, if necessary. Let the vegetables cook until a crust forms, about 3 minutes per side. Turn the vegetables only when they easily release from the bottom of the pan. Drain on paper towels and season with salt. Place the spinach in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the spinach with the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan coated vegetables. Toss and serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cranberry Orange Relish

We sometimes made this relish as a second cranberry side dish to go along with our Thanksgiving turkey, in addition to the Classic Cranberry Sauce. Oops, and I have to admit that we also often plopped the contents of a can of cranberry sauce out onto a dish and sliced it up. For some traditionalists, only the childhood version will do, and since Thanksgiving is all about tradition, we did what had to be done.
  • 1 lb cranberries, raw (pick out any stems)
  • 2 or 3 oranges, unpeeled, without seeds (wash well and dry); cut up into chunks
  • granulated sugar to taste
Coarsely grind the cranberries and oranges in meat grinder or food processor. Sweeten to taste with granulated sugar. 
Serves 8.

Garlic Chicken with Garlic Garlic

Saturday afternoons as a kid were often PBS afternoons. We'd watch This Old House, Victory Garden, and Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet. Unfortunately, Jeff Smith's sex crime accusation made quick work of The Frugal Gourmet. Every trace of "The Frug" simply vanished. The show was cancelled (not a whif of a rerun in the last 25 years) and one of the best-selling cookbook series of the 80s simply stopped being printed and distributed. Not only was Smith punished, but the food was punished too. And WE were punished. For the love of Jeebus! Society can think what it would like to think about the man, but don't pass judgement on how great garlic and white wine go with chicken!

In my mind, this recipe typifies the cooking of The Frugal Gourmet. I know it sounds ABSOLUTELY ABSURD to cook with so much garlic, but I assure you that this recipe is phenomenally delicious! The garlic, when roasted, turns very sweet and mild. My mom claims that when you eat this, you seep garlic through your skin for 2 weeks afterwards, but I don't know about that...

--3 lb frying Chicken, whole
--41 cloves of Garlic (yes, you read that right!), 40 unpeeled plus 1 peeled and split
--Salt and Fresh-Ground Black Pepper
--3/4 cup Dry White Wine
--1/2 cup Chicken Stock (optional)
--1/2 cup Whipping Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat the chicken dry. Rub inside and out with one split clove of garlic and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a roasting rack in a baking pan. Arrange the cloves of garlic around in the pan. Stuff some inside the chicken, perhaps. Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 20 minutes and then pour wine over the chicken. Baste with the juices every ten minutes until the chicken is done (about an hour). I recommend cooking the chicken with a thermometer to assure that it's done, but do what you normally do.

You can serve the chicken on a platter with the garlic as is (which can be squeezed out like a mild, sweet paste) OR you can make it into sauce: Heat the chicken stock and cream in a small saucepan. Squeeze all of the garlic cloves into the sauce, discarding the peels. Simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Classic Cranberry Sauce

At Thanksgiving, it was always the littlest kid's job to make the cranberry sauce. We would stand her/him on a chair at the stove and let her/him stir away. It goes without saying that I was always right there, supervising this dangerous culinary adventure. 

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups cranberries (pick out any stems)

Place all in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat and let cook an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a serving dish and let cool. 

Here is a nice list of optional additions: Pecans, orange peel, raisins, currants, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.

Red Potatoes with Olive Oil, Salt, and Scallions

The name of this side dish says it all, as I discovered when asking Marsha for her recipe. I asked, "Marsha, how do you make your red potatoes with olive oil, salt, and scallions?" She answered, "Well, you boil red potatoes and season them with olive oil, salt and some scallions! The simpler the better with this one." 'Nuff said!

--6 or 8 Red Potatoes, scrubbed and quartered, with the skins left on
--A few tbsp of Olive Oil
--Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
--1 or 2 Scallions, chopped

Place your quartered potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Boil them until they're tender (about 12 minutes). Drain them and mix with the olive oil, chopped scallions and salt to taste.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Boston Cream Pie

As any New Englander knows, Boston Cream Pie is actually a delicious cake. Here is how I make mine. Parts of this recipe come from Boston.

Bake a Hot Milk Sponge Cake in a 9-inch round pan. Remove from pan and cool. 

Split horizontally into two layers. 

Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. Spread with custard (below) or with vanilla pudding. Place the top layer over the filling. You may need to use some toothpicks to keep the top layer from sliding around. 

Glaze the top of the cake with chocolate glaze, below. Let a little drip down the sides. Chill before slicing. 

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine the cornstarch, sugar, milk, eggs, cream, vanilla extract, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk until smooth.

Bring the custard to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly. Continuing to whisk, let the custard boil for two minutes.

Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter. Set custard aside to cool, continuing to whisk occasionally.


  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a double boiler, melt together the chocolate, water, butter, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until smooth. Remove top of double boiler from heat.

Carrot Raisin Cole Slaw

Try as I might, it's been impossible to get recipes from my step-mother Marj. My phone won't call her home in the Netherlands, so verbal communication is out. She's somewhat of a technophobe, so communication via email won't work. No matter how many times I ask, I can't get her to give me one dang recipe. I'm beginning to think that she doesn't want to reveal any of her secrets. For years I've been wanting to make her cole slaw. It holds a high place in my heart's stomach. So I cheated and found an online approximation on

--1/2 cup Raisins
--4 Carrots, coarsely grated
--1/2 head of Cabbage, coarsely grated
--Did Marj use grated Celery too? I dunno...
--1/2 cup Mayonaisse (I think Marj actually used Miracle Whip, which is different)
--Juice from half a Lemon
--Salt and Pepper to taste

In mixing bowl combine carrots, raisins, cabbage, and mayonnaise. Then add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix throughly and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beef Fajitas

These are made the same way as Chicken Fajitas, but I thought I'd post this separately.

Lean beef steak, cut into thin strips

Freshly squeezed lime juice
A couple of cloves of garlic, put through a garlic press
Olive oil

Sweet onions, sliced thinly
A variety of colored bell peppers, sliced thinly

Marinate the beef strips in the lime juice, garlic, and olive oil for at least an hour.

Stir fry the onions and peppers in a little olive oil until crisp and glossy. Remove from pan. Saute the beef/oil/garlic/lime juice mixture in the pan until the beef is no longer pink. Add the onions and peppers and stir over medium heat until thoroughly heated.

Serve the fajita beef in warm tortillas, along with Rice with Cheese and Onions.

Honey Tofu Stir-Fry

This recipe grew out of my Honey Chicken Stir-Fry recipe when Jessi and I discovered my neighborhood vegetable market. It sells blocks of bean curd soaking in a tub for $1.00. Next to it is another tub with bean sprouts for $1.50 a pound. Bags of assorted mini-green peppers are available for $1.00. We often throw a handful of mini-Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (NOT for the stir-fry) onto the counter so that ups the price another $0.60... but it's still a wonderful economical meal! We've used a wide assortment of vegetables for this stir-fry, but this is the most popular combo:

--A block of Bean Curd or Tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
--Peanut Oil
--Dark Soy Sauce
--1 Green Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
--1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
--1 Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
--1 1/2 cups Bean Sprouts, rinsed and patted dry
--3/4 cup Frozen Shelled Edamame, defrosted
--Fresh-Ground Black Pepper

Heat a wok (or your deepest largest frying pan) to high heat. When the pan is hot, add some peanut oil and turn the pan to coat. Add the tofu. Toss it around for a minute to loosen it from the pan, then squeeze a copious amount of honey all over it. Add a couple glugs of soy sauce. Stir-fry until the liquid has completely evaporated. Squeeze honey over it again and add another couple glugs of soy sauce. Stir-fry until the pan is dry a second time and the tofu is golden brown with a light crust. Remove the tofu to a bowl. Let the pan get hot again and add a little more peanut oil. Throw in the peppers. After a minute and a half or so, add the bean sprouts. After another minute, add the tofu and the edamame. Grind some fresh-ground pepper over it all. Toss it around for another 45 seconds or so. The stir-fry should be removed from the heat when the peppers are cooked but still have a crisp bite to them. Serve over Brown Rice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fiddlehead Memories

My mother, Elva, grew up on the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Back in those early years of the 20th century, people ate whatever was in season or raised locally, for the most part. After a long northeastern winter of eating the canned vegetables that had been "put up" the previous spring and summer, the earliest wild spring greens--fiddleheads and dandelion greens--were coveted by the fresh vegetable-craving rural folk.

Fiddleheads are the young coiled leaves of the Ostrich Fern, and they are practically the first green sign of spring in New England, along with the bright yellow skunk cabbage. When we lived in New Hampshire, we could find them coming up back by the old stone wall. My mother tried to time her visits to us from California to coincide with the arrival of the fiddleheads, even though this meant that she mainly saw us during mud and black fly season. 

I believe that when we were out picking those little greens my mother was thinking back to how her mother showed her how she had found the best fiddleheads on the farm in Maine when she was a child. When you consider it, that means three centuries--19th, 20th, and 21st--of fiddlehead memories.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service has a very nice page (from which the above photo was borrowed) on fiddleheads, what they look like, when and where to find them, and how to cook them. 

If you live in a part of the country where fresh fiddleheads aren't available, you might find them in the frozen food section, but the experience just won't be the same. No black fly bites, for example...

Parchment-Steamed Fish

Marsha introduced me to parchment paper. I'd never seen anyone use it in the kitchen before I met her. It turns out that parchment paper is quite useful. Especially if you want to steam something. Like fish.

Marsha was very open about the ingredients to this dish. She prefers using tilapia, but recommends any mild fish that will absorb flavors well. As for the other ingredients, she just says to "add any of your favorite things". Here's her version:

--Tilapia (or any fish you prefer), as many fillets that you intend to serve
--Olive Oil
--Kosher or Sea Salt and Fresh-Ground Black Pepper
--Red or Yellow Pepper, small dice
--Fresh Oregano
--Lemon (a couple slices, plus a good squeeze of the juice)
--Parchment Paper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On top of a cookie sheet, lay out enough parchment paper to make a giant "paper dumpling" with all of your ingredients inside (I never quite trust "paper" holding liquid, so I recommend using two sheets for strength). In the center of the sheet, lay out your fish fillets. Drizzle them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze some lemon juice over them. On or around the fillets, add the diced pepper, fresh oregano, and lemon slices. Now close up your "paper dumpling", though don't wrap it too tightly. Leave enough room in the pouch for steam to collect. Pop the whole thing in the oven for 10 minutes or so, or until the fish is flaky. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot steam when opening the parchment pouch!

Friday, May 15, 2009

National Public Radio's "How Low Can You Go" Challenge

For NPR's "How Low Can You Go" family supper challenge, some of the nation's best cooks have each agreed to come up with a budget-conscious meal for a family of four that's healthy, easy and delicious. The hitch? The meal must cost less than $10 — and the cheaper the better. ~All Things Considered

When I first heard about this challenge, I was sure that most of the suppers we make here at the Zees are well within this price range--dividing the $10/per family of four in half, making $5 for our empty-nest family of two. Looking at Beez's lasagna this past weekend, I'm not so sure. The cost for that cheese sure adds up!

Here are some of the results from the NPR challenge:

The Neelys Get Playful with a $9 Mac 'N' Cheese (Cheesy Corkscrews with Crunchy Bacon Topping

Chef Ming Tsai Makes a $10 Dish His Kids Love (Chicken-and-Corn Fried Rice with Lemon Spinach)

From Chef Jose Andres, A Family Favorite for $10 (Moorish-Style Chick Pea and Spinach Stew

Navy Chef Gets Creative with a $10 Skate Meal (Cream of Asparagus Soup, Sauteed Skate Meuniere with Potato Gnocchi)

Honey Chicken Stir-fry

When my friends Marc and Becky moved to my neighborhood, it became immediately apparent that I'd be spending a lot of time in their new apartment. Wallets were tightening and my friends and I needed to meet up in a place that didn't charge money. Hamsterdam, as the apartment came to be called, became our new social club. In Hamsterdam there was always laughs and booze, plus a huge flat-screen television and a cute little puppy named Ripley. And the kitchen was much nicer than mine. Of course, I had to clean it because they never cooked. The kitchen was just the dumping ground for take-out garbage. One night, I decided to make everyone dinner and a new recipe was born onto the roster.

--1 1/2 lbs. Chicken Breasts, cut into slices
--Peanut Oil
--1 tbsp Fresh Ginger, minced
--Dark Soy Sauce
--A head of Broccoli, cleaned and chopped up (I prefer using just the florets)
--1 cup Snap Peas (I like the tips removed)
--3/4 cup Unsalted Cashews
--Fresh-Ground Black Pepper
--Corn Starch

I'd recommend using a Wok if you have one, because I don't have one and it's really hard to stir-fry when you can't keep the pan hot enough. If you don't have one, use the largest deepest frying pan you have and turn the heat up high. When the pan is hot, add some peanut oil, then add the ginger and the chicken. Toss it around for a minute to loosen and separate the chicken from itself, then squeeze a whole bunch of honey all over it. Then add a couple glugs of soy sauce. Toss around until the liquid has evaporated and the pan gets hot again. Squeeze honey over it again and add another couple glugs of soy sauce. Stir-fry some more. When the liquid has evaporated the second time, the chicken should be cooked completely (but check a thick piece to be sure). Remove chicken to a bowl. Let the pan get hot again and add a little more peanut oil. Throw in the broccoli and snap peas and still fry for a minute or two. Add the chicken and the cashews and keep that food moving! Grind some fresh-ground pepper over it all. If you get too much liquid in the pan, add a little corn starch to thicken. The stir-fry should be removed from the heat when the the vegetables are cooked but still have a crisp bite to them. Serve over White Rice that has been flavored with Sesame Oil.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Israeli Couscous with Peas

The Sazón Goya gives this dish an interesting flavor and a beautiful golden orange color, and the addition of the Spanish seasoning to the Israeli pasta means that you are making your own version of world peas. *

1 cup Israeli couscous
Pinch of salt
1 envelope of Sazón Goya con culantro y achiote (cilantro and achiote)
1 tsp. butter
3/4 cup frozen peas

Put the couscous in a pan. Pour in boiling water just to cover and add an additional cup of boiling water. Add salt, the sazón, the butter, and the peas. Bring to a boil again, stir well, then turn down heat to low. Cover pan and simmer for 8 minutes. Stir well and serve. 

*As in "imagine whirled peas" for the pun-impaired.

Marsha's Green Beans

Another great vegetable side dish from the kitchen of Marsha:

--3 "big handfuls" of Green Beans, ends cut off, beans cut in half
--1 Yellow Onion, diced
--Half a package of Grape Tomatoes, halved
--3 tbsp Olive Oil
--Salt and Pepper
--Juice of Half a Lemon

Saute the onion in olive oil until tender. Add the green beans and cover. Cook for about 4-6 minutes, until they are tender. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper (Marsha sez: Sarah adds Garlic Powder here, but i don't). Once the tomatoes break down a little, add lemon juice and remove from heat. (Marsha sez: If you want, you can add some Red Wine at the end and reduce to make a sauce. I've added Kalamata Olives before too.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

17 Healthy Foods for Under $1.00 Per Serving

Here is something good to know for these frugal times. This list comes from TipHero, where you can find the complete explanation of the benefits of each of these healthy foods. 

You will notice that these foods, for the most part, come with a minimum of packaging, which makes good economic and recycling sense. Rice, oatmeal, popcorn, nuts, and dried beans can all be bought in bulk, so that just leaves eggs that come prepackaged.








garbanzo beans

pinto beans








water (don't buy water in plastic bottles--filter your own)