Thursday, April 30, 2009

New England Boiled Dinner

That's wear, not dirt. New England style: Use it up, wear it out...

This dish is also known as Corned Beef 'n Cabbage. The day after this supper you always have Red Flannel Hash, which is made from the leftovers. Always. Just as New England is a traditional place, so are its people traditional, no matter where they go. 

My mother made this dish for us in Marin County, California, when we were growing up. No matter where we were, we never stopped being New Englanders.

3 lb. corned beef
1 tsp. peppercorn or 1/4 tsp. pepper
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, halved lengthwise
1 med. head cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

In large saucepan, cover corned beef with water. Add peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf. Cover; simmer 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until tender. Add potatoes and carrots. Cover; simmer 15 minutes longer. Add cabbage and cook an additional 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf. Cut meat into pieces. Serve with cooking liquid and vegetables. 6 to 8 servings.

This version comes from I don't believe my mother ever wrote hers down.

Fruit by Season

Here is a handy reference from the Tennessee State University's Institute of Agriculture website to help you determine when to buy fruit. This list obviously changes slightly depending on where you live in the world (and you can buy anything at anytime these days, so most everything is always AVAILABLE) but this list is still a nice reference to have. If I'd seen this, I wouldn't have bought that bad pear the other day that excited then disappointed me. Below, each fruit name is followed by it's peak season and what to look for when shopping.

Apples: September-May. Good color for variety; firm to touch. Avoid those that are soft and mealy.
Apricots: June-July. Golden yellow; plump; firm. Avoid pale yellow or green, very hard or soft, shriveled and wilted ones.
Avocados: All Year. Yield to gentle pressure; vary in size, shape and color from green to black. Brown markings on skin do not lower quality.
Bananas: All Year. Firm; bruise free; yellow touched with green. If needed, ripen at room temperature.
Blueberries: June-August. Firm; plump; full-colored; bright, clean, fresh appearance.
Cantaloupes: May-September. Color and aroma best guides. Delicate
aroma; thick netting that stands out; yellow-tinged skin under the netting. No evidence of stem at blossom end.
Casaba Melons: July-October. Buttery-yellow, wrinkled rinds, lengthwise furrows.
Cherries: May-June. Fresh appearance; firm; good size for type of cherry.
Coconuts: September-March. Good weight for the size; milk inside still fluid. If no milk, coconuts are spoiled. Avoid ones with moldy or wet-looking eyes.
Cranberries: September-December. Firm; plump; full-colored; bright, clean, fresh appearance.
Crenshaw Melons: July-October. Yellow-gold rind; pleasant aroma.
Figs: July-September. Fairly soft to touch. Use at once, spoils quickly. Sour odor indicates overripe fruit.
Grapefruit: October-June. Firm; well-rounded; heavy for the size; smooth textured. Avoid coarse, puffy, rough-skinned fruit.
Grapes: June-December. Fairly soft; tender; plump. Well-formed clusters with green, pliable stems. Darker varieties are free of green tinge; green grapes have a slight amber blush.
Honeydew Melons: February-October. Creamy, yellow rinds; pleasant aroma.
Kiwi: June-August. Soft to touch, like avocado. Sometimes called Chinese gooseberries.
Lemons: All year. Fairly firm; smooth and glossy-skinned; heavy for size.
Limes: May-October. Heavy for size. Green variety more acidic than yellow.
Mangoes: April-August. Solid and not too soft to touch. Can vary in size from a plum to an apple and in color from yellow to red. Smooth skin often speckled with black. Green mangoes are sometimes used in cooking.
Nectarines: June-September. Plump; fairly fi rm depending on type. Skin color white or yellow with a red blush.
Peaches: June-September. Plump; fairly firm depending on type. Skin color white or yellow with a red blush.
Persian Melons: July-October. Thick webbing; gray-green to brown skin under webbing.
Oranges: November-June. Heavy for size; firm; skins not too rough.
Papayas: All year. Greenish yellow to full yellow in color; flesh gives slightly when fruit pressed in palm of hand.
Pears: August-May. Yields to gentle pressure at stem end. Color ranges from creamy yellow to russet. Ripen at room temperature.
Persimmons: October-January. Firm; shapely; plump; orange-red color; attached stem cap. Handle gently. Looks like a large red tomato in shape and firmness.
Pineapples: February-August. "Piney" aroma; golden yellow; slightly soft. Ripe when leaf is easily removed. Green fruit may not ripen properly. Over-mature fruit may show soft watery darker spots on the base or sides.
Plums: June-September. Plump; full-covered, soft enough to yield to slight pressure. Softening at tip is usually a sign that fruit is mature. Avoid shriveled and hard plums.
Pomegranates: September-November. Thin-skinned; bright purple-red; looks fresh.
Raspberries: March-July. Plump; full-colored; bright, clean, fresh appearance.
Strawberries: June-August. Firm; plump; full-colored; bright, clean, fresh appearance. Should have hull (stem cap) attached when mature.
Tangerines: November-January. Deep orange or yellow; glossy skin.
Tangelos: January-October. Loose skin. Overripe fruit has puffy, dry skin.
Watermelons: May-August. Dull surfaces with cream-colored undersides; symmetrical shape.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Banana Wheat Muffins

Finally! Something to do with those overripe bananas that isn't banana bread! These muffins make a nice breakfast when served with scrambled eggs.

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbl. wheat germ

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup hot water

Sift the first four ingredients together; add the wheat germ. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the oil, honey, banana, and water and mix well. Note: If you measure the oil first in your measuring cup and then the honey, the honey will slide right out. Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour disappears. Spoon into a muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Tuna Casserole

Before Web 2.0 and blogging, my mom tried an early attempt at compiling recipes for me. On my 27th birthday, she gave me a recipe box (the one I'm still putting all these blog recipes in) and several recipe cards. The plan was to keep adding recipes, but I think it just ended up being a lot of work and the project never got far off the ground. Recently, I was looking through all the old cards and I noticed that all of the recipes have appeared on this blog except for one: Tuna Casserole. Tuna Casserole is one of those classic 50's style dishes that I still crave and she still cringes over, a dish born out of college poverty instead of culinary excellence. I don't think she ever wanted to give it to me in the first place, but I kept asking and she eventually gave in. When I got over my fear of NYC apartment ovens (and the mysteries inside!), this was the first dish I made. Her recipe card reads:

Tuna Casserole* (aka Tuna Yag)

--1 can Tuna, drained
--1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup, thinned with 1/4 cup Milk
--Assorted Peas

Mix together, sprinkle the top with Crushed Potato Chips. Bake until bubbly.

*Very few people will admit to eating this anymore

I seem to remember that sometimes there was Pasta in it and it was topped with Bread Crumbs. (Mom, I apologize for posting this. I just really loved it even if you hated it and only served it during lean times.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rhubarb Sauce on Toast Points

My friend Gay, back in New Hampshire, used to make rhubarb sauce from her rhubarb patch early every spring. In fact, that is often how I knew it was spring, as the weather sometimes gave no sign of it. The sauce was delicious, but it was more the whole experience that I loved so--Gay's beautifully set table with flowers and little figurines and linens to match the season, and the wonderful company of friends in that old, old farmhouse. 

The sauce was always served on toast points and the dish was always referred to as rhubarb-sauce-on-toast-points, a phrase that somehow reminded me of my mother, who grew up in Maine, as did Gay. If you don't know them, toast points are simply firm bread that has been toasted and lightly buttered, then cut diagonally into four pieces. 

Rhubarb Sauce

- 3 cups of rhubarb, well cleaned and cut into one inch pieces (of course, you know to throw away the poisonous leaves)
- Approximately one cup of white sugar (start with maybe a bit less--you can taste the completed sauce and add a bit more, if necessary)
- Just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan

Cook and stir over medium heat until the rhubarb is as soft as you like it. Stir in a little vanilla. Serve warm on toast points.

Italian Mac-n-Cheese

Mom says there's "such a vast gap [between] your nouveau recipes and my 1950s-origin recipes." She also says that I eat such healthy food, probably because we never ate vegetables when I was young. So to dispel the myth: we certainly ate lots of vegetables when I was a kid. They were just very basic dishes, not really worth calling a "recipe". We ate beets and baked potatoes and peas and steamed broccoli and steamed cauliflower and all sorts of fresh garden vegetables... And now, I eat PLENTY of food that could be considered less than healthy (usually, it's the other half of the week when I grab food on the way home). Sometimes I cook the unhealthy food at home, because I ALWAYS crave the "1950s-origin" comfort food!

--1 lb Ziti, Penne or Cavatappi Pasta, cooked al dente
--1 lb Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage
--2 tbsp Extra-virgin Olive Oil
--1 tbsp Butter
--3 or 4 cloves of Garlic, chopped
--12 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced (or other mushroom variety)
--Salt and fresh-ground Black Pepper
--2 tbsp Flour
--1 cup Chicken Stock
--1 cup Heavy Cream
--2 1/2 cups Italian Cheeses (Provolone, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano), shredded. Usually, you can find this 4-cheese blend in the supermarket.
--1 can Diced Tomatoes, drained well
--1 tsp Hot Sauce (optional)
--1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Cook the pasta al dente. Crumble the sausage into a non-stick skillet and brown. Drain sausage on a paper-towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add the olive oil, butter, garlic and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms are lightly golden. (Now, Preheat broiler to high.) Add flour to the mushrooms and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in chicken stock, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of the 4-cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired. Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of 4-cheese blend and the grated Parmesan over the top. Brown under the hot broiler.

From the Food Network's Rachael Ray.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cod or Salmon Cakes

This is the perfect dish for leftover fish, which of course you need to use up by the day after cooking it. In the old days in New England when folks had to work really hard for a living, these were eaten for breakfast, along with lots of hot coffee and a nice piece of apple pie afterwards. Nowadays, we slackers just have these for supper.

Use your hands to crumble the cod or salmon into a bowl, carefully removing any bones and bits of skin. Depending on how much fish you have, add one or two beaten eggs, chopped cooked onion, cooked and mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, and just enough flour to hold the mixture together. 

Heat a large skillet or griddle, melt a little butter on it. Form the fish mixture into patties about the size of hamburgers, and brown them slowly over low to medium heat, turning when one side is brown. When brown and crispy, remove from heat and serve hot.

Sugar Cookies

After my mom posted the recipe for Fruit Pizza, I asked her if she had a recipe for the sugar cookie crust. Neither of us could remember ever making sugar cookies when I was little (mom says she only made desserts with chocolate in them), so she didn't have a recipe. Later, I found a handwritten note card in my recipe box labeled "Sugar Cookies" (Who knew?!). I have no recollection of having ever made this particular recipe, let alone needing to write the recipe down. I must have at some, for the heck of it, I present Sugar Cookies!

--1 cup Butter, softened
--1 cup Sugar
--1 Egg, beaten
--1 tbsp Milk
--3 cups Flour
--3/4 tsp Baking Powder
--1/4 tsp Salt
--Powdered Sugar
--Non-stick spray to grease cookie sheet

In a mixer on low speed, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and milk. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt, then gradually add it to the mixer. When the dough is well mixed, divide it in half and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the dough (to a thickness of 1/4 inch) onto a surface coated with powdered sugar. Cut and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baked Whitefish with Vegetables

This is way more delicious than its title would have you believe. It's lovely for a winter night's supper.

4 potatoes
1 onion
2 carrots
1 to 1 1/2 cups green peas or cooked green beans
1/4 lb. (1 stick) butter
4 to 5 pounds of whitefish (cod is wonderful here), whole or in slices with its skin on
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly into rounds; peel the onion and slice it thinly into rings; peel the carrots and slice them thin, lengthwise. In just enough salted water to cover them, parboil these vegetables (plus the green beans if they aren't already cooked) until nearly done, but still a bit hard. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, reserve the liquid. If you are using peas or cooked green beans, add them to the other vegetables now.

Lay the fish in a buttered baking dish; place the drained vegetables on and around it. Dot with lots of butter, using the whole quarter pound. Do not use margarine, it doesn't work in this recipe. Fill the dish to a depth of 1/2 inch with the liquid from the vegetables.

Bake uncovered at 375 until the fish can be flaked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Check a couple of times during baking, and baste with the liquid in the pan. If it should dry out during cooking, add more of the reserved liquid. When the fish is done there should be very little liquid left. The potatoes should be crisp and brown. If necessary, place under the broiler to finish browning.

The original recipe for this dish is called Mama's Baked Whitefish with Vegetables, and comes from Elsie Masterton's Blueberry Hill Cookbook.

The Best Whole-Bake Carrots

I first saw this recipe on Marsha's blog Panda Cake, and it has become a favorite. The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's cookbook Cook With Jamie. I enjoy his cooking style, in particular his sense of measurement.

--1 lb young bunched Carrots, washed and scrubbed
--Olive Oil
--Herb or Red Wine Vinegar
--Sea Salt
--Freshly-ground Black Pepper
--A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
--3 cloves of Garlic, crushed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the carrots with "a good glug" of olive oil, "a splash" of vinegar, salt, pepper, the thyme sprigs and the garlic cloves. Place in a roasting pan, cover tightly with foil and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until just tender. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the carrots have browned and carmelized nicely.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Forfar Bridies

You can't not make this recipe, with its wonderful name. I was reminded of it when reading Espresso Tales, by Alexander McCall Smith, and the Scottish place name Forfar came up.

These are little pasties, a meal in the hand, that the Scots probably buy fresh down at the local shop. Too bad for us, but at least we can have the pleasure of preparing, eating, and saying the name of our very own Forfar Bridies.

You can read about the name and history of this dish at Scotland's Enchanting Kingdom, where you will also find another version of the recipe and a photo, as well. This version (below) came originally from Welcome to My Scotland.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Yield: 8 to 16 pastries

12 ounces lean ground lamb or ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons beef broth or stock
Pastry for a double-crust pie
1 egg white, frothed lightly with a fork

1. Cook meat until it is no longer pink; drain thoroughly and add onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and just enough stock or broth to moisten the mixture.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll pastry on a floured board to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into rounds; depending on preference, they can be from 3 to 6 inches in diameter.

3. Spoon filling onto the bottom half of each circle; fold over and crimp edges tightly. Brush lightly with egg white and cut three slashes in top of each.

4. Place on flat baking sheet. Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Wilted Spinach with Butter and Wine

Eating spinach is like a duty. I see it in the store and my sense of responsibility lets out a little groan. Not that I hate spinach. Far from it, in fact. I just prefer it raw or in a salad. But I'm not sold on what happens to spinach when you cook it. Even when looking at this recipe, I let out an instinctual shudder. Then, I remember that this recipe makes cooked spinach not only bearable, but tasty.

--3 tbsp Butter, cut into small pieces
--1 1/2 lbs Spinach, triple-washed and chopped coarsely with the tough stems removed
--2 cloves Garlic, smashed
--Salt (I recommend Kosher or Sea Salt)
--1/2 cup Dry White Wine
--Fresh-ground Pepper

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Mix the garlic and two pinches of salt with the flat side of a knife to make a paste. Add butter to the skillet. When it has melted, add the garlic paste. Add the spinach a little at a time so that it all fits in the pan as it wilts. When all of the spinach has wilted, add the wine and coat the spinach in it. Cook for about 2 minutes until the wine has cooked down and the alcohol has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scallops, Portuguese Style

     Long ago in Puyallup, Washington
It seems that when we lived in Washington state, we were always having some memorable seafood meal--I especially remember the clams, oysters, salmon, and yes, the scallops. Alas, we are now very far from fresh fish (except the ubiquitous catfish, ugh) and other seafood. When we travel to either coast we always order some when eating out.

Here is one of the dishes I remember best. I picture the kids in their preteen years back in our little Craftsman cottage, eating around the table, with the dining room windows looking out over the sheep field. 

1 pound (1 pt.) fresh bay scallops (the little kind)
  or frozen scallops, thoroughly defrosted
8 tbl. butter, cut into 1/2 inch bits
1 cup flour
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
3 tbl. finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash the scallops quickly under cold running water, then spread them in one layer on a cookie sheet covered with a linen towel. Drape a second towel over the scallops and place them in the refrigerator for about 4 hours to drain thoroughly. 

In a small heavy saucepan or skillet melt the butter over low heat, turning the bits about with a wooden spoon to melt them slowly and completely without letting the butter brown. Remove the pan from the heat and let the butter rest for a minute. Then skim off the foam from the surface and discard it. 

Tipping the pan at a slight angle, spoon the clear butter on top into a heavy 12-inch skillet (preferably non-stick). Leave behind all the milky solids that will have settled to the bottom of the smaller pan. 

Place the flour in a large bowl and drop the scallops into it. With a slotted spoon or your fingers toss the scallops about gently until they are coated on all sides with the flour. Then turn them out into a sieve and shake them vigorously to remove the excess flour. 

Warm the clear butter in the skillet over high heat for 10 seconds. Add the scallops and, sliding the pan back and forth to turn them about, fry them for 2 or 3 minutes until they are firm but not brown. DO NOT OVERCOOK the scallops.

Add the chopped garlic and parsley to the skillet and slide the pan vigorously back and forth for about 30 seconds longer. 

Mound the scallops attractively on a heated platter, season with the salt and a few grindings of pepper, and serve at once. 

This recipe originally came from American Cooking: New England, part of the Time-Life series, Foods of the World.  

Roasted Potatoes with Peppers and Onions

[2nd Version: Marsha and I had to overhaul the recipe I originally posted. It was just SO WRONG!]

This is another of my favorite side dishes from my time living with Marsha. It's a simple, cheap, and versatile delight. At different times, we made it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch. And we always modified the ingredients. Sometimes we used red pepper flakes, sometimes not. Sometimes we used fingerling potatoes, sometimes baby red potatoes. Sometimes we hacked up the garlic, sometimes not. We used to grab ALL SORTS of different sweet pepper varieties, such as green and orange. Whatever caught the eye. I don't think it was ever the same twice.

--3 or 4 Russet Potatoes, scrubbed clean, peeled, then cut into 1-inch cubes
--1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
--1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
--1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
--4 large Garlic cloves, smashed
--2 or 3 tbsp Olive Oil
--Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt
--Fresh-Ground Black Pepper
--1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a cookie sheet, toss all vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Penuche Frosting

Sandra tells me that this frosting is perfect on Better Than Sex Cake. That cake is just too rich for me (you can draw your own conclusions) but I am happy to send you to some recipes for it, here and here. Or you can put this frosting on my recipe for the very simple chocolate Cockeyed Cake.

Penuche Frosting

1 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tbl (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Place the brown sugar and butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, until well combined--about 2 minutes. Carefully pour in the milk, stirring, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and cool slightly. 

Place the powdered sugar in your mixer bowl. Pour the brown sugar mixture over it. Beat on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 or 3 minutes. 

Use immediately while still warm to frost the cake. The frosting may harden while you are working with it--in this case, warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave. 

To use this frosting for the Cockeyed Cake, I would make just half a recipe. 

Hamburgers with Lemon and Soy Sauce

This is another recipe from Real Simple magazine that Marsha and I used to make often. Wow! I guess we did a lot of cooking together!

--1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
--1 tsp Honey
--1 small Shallot, minced
--1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
--1/4 tsp fresh-ground Black Pepper
--2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
--2 Shallots, thinly sliced
--1 tsp dried Summer Savory (or Oregano)
--2 lbs Ground Beef

Whisk together lemon juice, honey, and the minced shallot. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Season with the salt and pepper. Whisk in the soy sauce, sliced shallots and summer savory (or oregano). Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of this lemon soy sauce vinaigrette to the ground beef. Mix and form 4 patties. Grill the hamburgers to desired doneness and spoon the remaining vinaigrette over them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stuffed Mushrooms

Large white mushrooms, cleaned, with stems cut off (chop up the stems)
A pat of butter
Bread crumbs
Chopped fresh parsley
Lemon juice
Catsup--just a small shot
Walnuts, finely chopped

Once again, I'm giving you a recipe with no measurements. That's because I gave away the cookbook that I got this recipe from and have made it ever since using approximate amounts. 

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan and add some finely chopped white onion and the chopped mushroom stems. Cook until the onions are transparent, then add the bread crumbs. These are the kind you make yourself from stale bread, not the kind you buy prepackaged, which are too fine for this recipe. 

When the crumbs have browned somewhat, remove the pan from the heat. Add the remaining ingredients in amounts that make sense to you. You can add salt and pepper to taste, if you wish.

Place the mushroom caps, topside down, in a greased baking pan. I've read somewhere that life is too short to stuff mushrooms, and that's true, so just pour the "stuffing" over the mushroom caps. 

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. 

Marsha's Southwestern Succotash

I crave Marsha's Succotash often and I think it needs to be shared with as many people possible, so I ripped it straight out of Marsha's old blog Panda Cake. I wanted to include her own words, because I think it's important to understand how her version of this recipe evolved. And it should CONTINUE to evolve as other people make it too. That's just the type of recipe it is! In fact, the next time I make it, I plan on trying it with shelled edamame or lima beans and maybe adding some spice to the meat. Who knows? Marsha writes:

Tonight...I made a dish that my mom used to make all the time when I was little and that my sister has recently resurrected...I've changed it up a little from my mom's recipe and from Sarah's recipe. Sarah uses too much garlic powder and doesn't like spicy. I can't comprehend not liking spicy. Spicy takes food to a whole new painful and exhilarating level. But what I like best about Sarah's version is that she garnishes it with diced avocado and tomato and douses it with even more lime juice. The Martinez girls like their citrus. Just look at our enamel!

--1 lb Lean Ground Beef
--1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
--1 Zucchini, diced
--1 can Sweet Corn, drained
--2 Serrano Chiles, diced
--The juice of half a Lime
--Salt and Pepper
--2 tbsp Olive Oil
--Half an Avocado, diced
--Half a Tomato, diced

In a medium skillet cook the ground beef just until all the pink is gone. Drain the excess oil and set aside. In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and serrano chiles. Cook for about a minute or so or until the onions begin to get tender. Add the zucchini and cover pot with a lid and let cook for about 2 minutes or until zucchini is just tender. Add corn and cooked ground beef and cook until corn is hot. Add salt and pepper to your liking and douse it all with the lime juice. Garnish with avacado and tomato.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chocolate Pudding

This is so much better than the kind from the box. Serve it warm with a little milk poured over the top, or with a small dollop of whipped cream. 

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa 
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbl. cornstarch

2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients together, making sure to stir the cornstarch in well and get all lumps out. Gradually add the milk.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into 6 custard cups. 

Microwave directions: This recipe pre-dates the microwave oven, but I have found that you can mix the dry ingredients and the milk (as above) in a large glass bowl and cook on high for 8 minutes (at least in my decades-old microwave), stirring well every 2 minutes. Add vanilla, and pour into custard cups. With the microwave, there is no risk of scorching, which can happen if you stop stirring when cooking the pudding on the stove. 

Halibut in Artichoke and Tomato Broth

Artichokes and seafood, continued... This one comes from the Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis, but I've made adjustments per Marsha's blog Panda Cake. She makes this all the time, so I trust her modifications.

--4 tbsp Olive Oil
--4 Halibut Fillets (around 6 oz each)
--Freshly ground Black Pepper
--2 Shallots, sliced into thin rounds
--2 cloves Garlic, minced
--1 lb frozen Artichokes, thawed (Marsha sez: I use 1 can of artichoke hearts - I can never find frozen ones)
--1/2 cup White Wine
--1 1/2 cups low-sodium Chicken Broth
--1 (14.5 oz) can Diced Tomatoes
--1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, minced
--You will need a Grill Pan or improvise around it

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the halibut and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Cook the fish on the grill pan until just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and artichokes and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and stir, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes (with the juice), thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Ladle the artichoke and tomato broth into shallow bowls. Top with the grilled halibut. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mexican Pizza

With a little organization, you can have this homemade pizza ready for the oven in just half an hour. Trust me.

There are three parts to the pizza: The sauce, the dough, and the toppings. Put a little music on and get ready to dance between the mixer, the rolling pin, and the stove. 

Step 1: Sauce

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbl. olive oil
1 - 15 oz. can of Contadina tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dry red wine
Chile powder
Freshly ground black pepper

Open the can of tomato sauce and have it close by. Brown the garlic in the olive oil, but not too much. Quick! Grab the tomato sauce and pour it in, then rinse out the can with the water and the wine, adding each to the sauce. Add oregano, chile powder, cumin, and pepper to taste. You can leave out the chile powder and cumin if you want, but you will no longer have Mexican Pizza. Cover the pan with a splatter guard, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. 

Step 2: The dough

While the sauce is simmering and reducing, make the dough. Please note that while this is a yeast dough, you don't really give it time to rise. Don't worry, it will turn out just fine. 

1 tbl. dry yeast
Tiny, tiny pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water

1 cup warm water
2 tbl. olive oil
1 tbl. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 cups flour

Dissolve the yeast and the tiny pinch of sugar in the 1/4 cup of water. Set aside, but not too far from the action. (Once I set mine somewhere safe and forgot to add it to the dough. The resulting pizza had the texture of a giant cracker and we couldn't figure out what went wrong until I found the yeast mixture later when I was doing the dishes). 

Mix the cup of warm water with the olive oil, sugar, salt, and about half the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture. Beat well for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the remaining flour with the mixer on slow speed, using the dough hook. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough rest while you turn your attention to step 3. First, though, swing by the stove and give the sauce a stir. 

Step 3: The Toppings

I'm certainly not going to tell you what to put on your pizza; you are the best judge of that. I would highly recommend lots of Monterey Jack cheese for this particular pizza, but the choice is up to you. We have even used Cheddar when we had nothing else around and it was perfectly good. 

We often used browned and seasoned ground beef (seasoned with more chile powder, cumin, pepper, and a bit of salt), but sometimes we use anchovies instead, which is probably why you won't be taking my advice about toppings. 

Step 4: Assemble and Bake

By this time, your sauce has probably reduced by about one third. Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to fit your round pizza pans, which you have sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (Pam, or a generic equivalent). Before we had round pizza pans we used cookie sheets and no one minded that our pizzas were rectangular. 

Begin preheating the oven to 450. It should just about come up to temperature by the time you have the pizzas assembled.

Place the dough on each pan. Spread it with a bit of olive oil--just enough to give it a nice sheen. Spoon some of the sauce onto the dough and spread it around. Top with your choice of toppings, and then with grated cheese. 

Lately, we have taken to sprinkling our pizza with a pizza seasoning mixture that we make out of oregano, marjoram, basil, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder, all ground up together in a mortar and pestle and stored in a little shaker jar. Sprinkle this on just before the pizza goes into the oven.

Bake the pizzas at 450 for 18 minutes. Your oven may be different, so I would advise checking for doneness at around 15 minutes. The crust should be a little brown underneath and the pizza should be firm (not limp) when you lift the edge with a spatula.  

Tuna with Black Pepper, Artichokes, and Lemon

This is a recipe from Real Simple magazine, with notes from Marsha's short-lived blog Panda Cake. We ate this a couple times when we lived together, though I haven't made it since. I remember really liking it. We made a lot of dishes with artichokes. Marsha loves artichokes!

--2 tbsp Olive Oil
--1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced (Marsha sez: I used a yellow onion instead and actually liked it better than the red)
--3 6.5 oz jars Artichoke Hearts, drained and halved
--1 Lemon, cut into 8 slices (Marsha sez: plus the juice of one half of a lemon)
--2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
--4 sprigs Fresh Thyme
--1 1/2 lbs Fresh Tuna, cut into cubes
--1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
--1 tsp Black Pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the artichokes, lemon, garlic, and thyme. Cook until heated through, 3 more minutes. Transfer to a plate. Season the tuna with the salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Cook the tuna, turning to brown all sides, to the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium. Return the artichoke mixture to skillet and toss to combine.

Real Simple recommends serving over rice.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fruit Pizza

I never realized that Ben felt so fruit pizza-deprived as a child. I promise to make this for him the next time he visits.

The "pizza dough" is made of sugar cookies. Use your favorite recipe and cut the rolled out dough into circles. Place the circles, slightly overlapping, in the bottom of a buttered spring-form pan if you have one, making sure that the circles touch. You can also use a round pizza pan or even a cookie sheet. Pat down the dough a bit to be sure that you have one big piece of dough rather than a bunch of separate pieces. Bake at the temperature recommended in your cookie recipe for a little bit longer than recommended for single cookies or until slightly browned. Let cool slightly and carefully remove to a large serving plate.

Mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 8 oz. cream cheese, and just enough orange juice--one or two tbls.--to make the mixture spreadable. Spread the cheese mixture onto your cooled cookie base.

Now comes the fun part. Arrange a variety of sliced-up fruit on the cream cheese mixture. Kiwis are perfect, as are strawberries, whole blueberries, and bananas. Sliced star fruit would be nice; so would mandarin orange sections, or grapes cut in half. I'm sure you will be creative.

Warm 1/2 cup apricot preserves in a small saucepan over low heat. Add a tbl. of orange juice. Put this mixture through a sieve and brush the resulting glaze over the fruit, especially the banana slices, as this will keep them from turning brown.

Serve the fruit pizza the same day you make it. It is a beautiful presentation and tastes delicious, but I'm afraid it just isn't as good the second day (if you have leftovers).

Haddock with Bacon and Onions

Since I've admitted more than I should about my love of bacon, why stop now? This recipe is another very, VERY worthwhile use for a quality slab of the stuff. Bacon pairs perfectly with another of my favorite ingredients: the onion. This recipe introduced me to the sweet goodness of the cippolini variety.

--2 lbs Haddock fillets
--2 tbsp fresh Lemon Juice
--Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--1 tbsp Butter, softened
--8 Cippolini Onions, thinly sliced
--6 rashers of thick-cut Smoky Bacon
--1 large Garlic clove, finely chopped
--1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
--1/4 cup Flatleaf Parsley, chopped
--2 tbsp Capers, drained and chopped
--2 Plum Tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse fish and pat dry. Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Set into oven-safe skillet that has been drizzled with olive oil and softened butter. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the bacon. Render the fat for three minutes, then add onions and garlic. Slowly saute for about 10 minutes until onions well cooked, then remove pan from heat. Add bread crumbs and stir to coat them in the drippings. Mix in the parsley and capers. Top the fish with the mixture, then bake for 15 minutes. When ready to serve, top with the chopped tomatoes.

From the Food Network's Rachel Ray.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oatmeal Pie

I never heard of oatmeal pie until that good cook, Marie, brought it to our knitting group. 

2 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 tbl. brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup oatmeal
1 tsp. vanilla
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

Mix all ingredients together, pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 F. for 45 minutes. Cool and serve with whipping cream or ice cream, if desired. 

This version comes from Southern Food.

Colonel Bill Newsom's Bacon Biscuits

Yes, I was a member of The Bacon of the Month Club. I have a t-shirt and everything. The Christmas gift of my year-long membership to this club was one of the sweetest most thoughtful gifts ever (from Marsha in 2005). Once a month, for the next twelve months, a special package would arrive with bacon from a different private farm that raised healthy pigs and used its own time-tested curing technique. This was no hormone-and-water-injected Hormel nonsense. This was the real deal! It was the gift that kept on giving (until the 12 months were up and it stopped giving).

Each month's bacon came with a recipe card, complete with a suggested wine pairing. Colonel Bill Newsom's Bacon came with this recipe:

--4 oz Thick-cut Smoky Bacon, small dice
--Preserved Bacon Drippings
--2 cups all-purpose Flour
--1 cup Buttermilk
--4 oz Butter, small dice
--1 tsp dry active Yeast
--1/2 tsp Sugar
--1 tbsp Salt
--1/2 tsp Baking Powder
--1/4 tsp Baking Soda
--2 oz cold Water
--1 tsp Black Pepper

Slow-cook the bacon on medium heat until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel and preserve the drippings.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt, black pepper, yeast, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the diced butter, cold water, buttermilk, bacon, and bacon drippings. Mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise - about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once dough has risen, turn out onto a floured work surface. Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees. Dust dough with flour and roll out to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Cut out rounds (1-inch to 2-inch) and arrange on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mexican Fudge, from Sandra

My friend Sandra has a sense of humor that makes me laugh and laugh. Although she hasn't always had an easy life, she just keeps moving ahead with her practical and witty approach to things. She can't abide whiners and says, just put on your big girl pants and get on with it.

Sandra is a great cook and is the source of many recipes that will be appearing here. She always tells me about the newest recipe sites she finds online, many of which appear in the sidebar below. This appetizer recipe is one she discovered on

8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz. Cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup green taco sauce
2 jalapeño peppers

Shred the cheeses and mix. Layer half in a 9: x 13" pan. Beat the eggs and add to the 1/2 cup of taco sauce. Pour this mixture over the cheeses and the chopped jalapeño peppers. Top with the other half of the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 or until the center is slightly firm. 

To serve, cut into small squares and place on tortilla or nacho chips. 

Note: You may substitute any soft white cheese for the Monterey Jack; and may substitute enchilada sauce for the taco sauce.  

Tom's Red Neck Sauce

About 7 years ago, when I lived in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I had a neighbor named Tom. He was an old goat, crass and witty, somehow mysteriously alone in the world. We'd sit in lawn chairs on the side walk and drink cold cans of beer and I'd usually just let him talk and talk. Sometimes we'd just complain about my roommate together. In the "backyard" (one of those oft-neglected forgotten spaces behind the buildings in any given city), he cultivated a large tomato garden. One day in mid-summer, he handed me a jar of this wicked salsa. I loved it so much that he gave me the recipe. In his own words:

--3 large ripe Tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
--1 medium Red Onion
--1 clove of Garlic, peeled and roasted
--1/2 tsp Salt
--1/4 tsp Pepper
--1/2 tsp Cumin
--1/2 tsp Oregano
--2 Scotch Bonnet Habenero Peppers
--1/2 cup Vinegar

Chop or Blend.

His recipe was no more specific than that (I would recommend removing the seeds and membranes from the Habenero Chile Pepper though...) Sadly, I've lost touch with Tom. I hope he's well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ham Hash

We moved from Washington state to New Hampshire in November of 1984 and bought a little house that had been built in the mid-1800s, probably to house one of the families that worked in the shoe factory that was nearby at the time. Those old shoe factory workers were later housed in a small, stone-walled cemetery up around the corner from where we lived; their lives and deaths marked with tilting old granite gravestones. 

We loved that little two-story red house, with its wide-pine floors and its many-paned windows (we loved those windows even more when we discovered how storm windows worked and slid ours down, which instantly warmed up the house). 

We especially loved our Saturday night suppers in the kitchen. It was one of my favorite kitchens ever, with lots of windows, lots of cupboards, and a "secret" pantry that was accessed by pulling on a bookcase built into its concealed door. 

We really liked the way that New Englanders embraced traditions, so we made a family tradition of our own of baked bean suppers on Saturday nights, and we ate while listening to the wind howling on the outside and the radio playing Prairie Home Companion on the inside. 

Lots of times our bean supper was accompanied by ham hash. This is a great dish to make with your leftover Easter ham. You can also serve Steamed Brown Bread with the meal.

Ham Hash

There really aren't any measurements for this recipe. Just take a look at your leftover ham and decide how many potatoes you want to add, and how much onion. 

Brown chopped onions in a little olive oil. Add some peeled, cooked, cubed potatoes and some chopped up ham. Stir and cook over medium heat until the potatoes have browned a bit. Season to your liking with salt (optional) and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. 

Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes

Though it's remarkably basic and simple, this was one of my favorite of Marsha's recipe creations. A bowl of this pasta plus a large green salad makes a great dinner. We usually made it without Kalamata olives (if only because the rest of the ingredients were readily on hand, so no trip to the store) but it was worth it whenever we added them. Don't stress it though. Even without olives, this is surprisingly delicious.

--1/2 lb Thin Spaghetti
--1/4 cup Water That the Spaghetti Cooked In
--1 tbsp Olive Oil
--1 tbsp Butter
--1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
--2 or 3 cloves of Garlic, minced
--1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
--Kosher Salt and fresh-ground Black Pepper
--1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, chopped (Optional)

Cook the pasta al dente. When you drain it, retain a small amount of the water it was cooked in. Preset the pasta in a serving bowl. The rest happens fast...

Heat a small frying pan on low-to-medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the red pepper flakes. After about 10 seconds, add the garlic. Saute the garlic for another 15 seconds or so, then immediately remove from heat and pour over the pasta (Times are approximate; just don't burn the garlic or dinner will taste awful!) Now toss the pasta with the oil, use some of the pasta water to add moisture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the Parmesan cheese and Kalamata olives (optional), then serve.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Butterscotch Brownies

1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs 
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Cook over low heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Cool. 

Add eggs to cooled mixture, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla. 

Sift together dry ingredients; add with coconut and nuts to brown sugar mixture; mix thoroughly.

Spread in greased 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" x 1" jelly roll pan.* Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until done. Cut into bars while warm. Remove from pan when almost cool. Makes 3 dozen bars. 

*I have always made this in a large oblong pyrex pan, which works just fine.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

It's hard to get pulled into the appeal of pumpkin in the springtime. It just seems so damned seasonal. But just because it's April doesn't mean that pumpkin is any less delicious. So in an effort to show off the versatility of the pumpkin...

--2 tbsp Olive Oil
--1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage, removed from the casings
--4 cloves Garlic, chopped
--1 medium Onion, finely chopped
--1 Bay Leaf
--4 to 6 sprigs Fresh Sage Leaves, cut into chiffonade (about 2 tbsp)
--1 cup Dry White Wine
--1 cup Chicken Stock
--1 cup Canned Pumpkin
--1/2 cup Heavy Cream
--1/8 tsp Cinnamon
--1/2 tsp Nutmeg
--Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
--1 lb Penne Pasta, cooked al dente
--Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Heat a large, deep non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage. Remove sausage and drain the fat from the skillet. Return the skillet to heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender. Add the bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir sauce until it comes to a bubble. Add the sausage, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce. Toss with the pasta, remove the bay leaf and serve with fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

From the Food Network's Rachel Ray.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


When the apple crop appeared at the farmer's market, I used to help my mother make applesauce. It seemed like we made it by the vat-full, carefully pouring it into hot quart canning jars and processing it in a water bath in the big canning kettle.

Back in those days we cooked the cored apples with the skins still on, running the resulting hot mash through a manual food mill. With all the sprays and pesticides used now, it's better to peel the apples first, but only after washing them well with soap and water and rinsing them carefully.

Fresh Applesauce

Scrub well, peel, quarter, and core 6 to 8 tart cooking apples (Gravensteins are best, if you can get them. Granny Smiths are good, too)

Place the apple pieces in a large saucepan with just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan

Bring the water to a boil, turn down the heat, and cover the pan. Don't leave the area! Just hang around the kitchen doing sudoku and check on the pan from time to time. You want the apples soft, not scorched.

Now you have some choices. Once your apples are cooked, you need to turn them into sauce, although some people like the chunky stuff. You could use an old fashioned hand-operated food mill like the one pictured here, or something similar. You could use a food processor. Because it's handy and because I don't have the old mill my mom and I used, I use one of the gadgets that came with my KitchenAid mixer.

Whichever you choose, run your apple mixture through and put the resulting sauce back in the pan. Turn the heat to low and start adding sugar, a little bit at a time, until your sauce is the desired sweetness. Apples vary and so do tastes, so I'll let you figure this part out without any measurements from me. Keep the pan over the fire until the sugar has dissolved.

Add a little vanilla and you're done.

If you decide to make a really big batch--and why not? You're messing up your kitchen anyway--this freezes well. You can freeze it in small plastic containers or, to save space, in 1-quart ziplock bags. Just spoon the sauce into the bags, flatten out the sauce and zip the bag slowly to let out all the extra air. These flattened bags can be "filed" upright in an oblong container after they have been frozen solid.

To make a spiced sauce: Add some cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg (you don't use any other kind, do you?), and possibly some cardamom and/or mace. I add these spices to the sauce after it has been thawed and warmed.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

When I was a kid, my mom had this wonderful dessert that was a giant "pizza" with a cookie "crust", fruit "toppings", all the works. It was delicious and gorgeous. However, I was rarely allowed to eat it. You see, this was mom's go-to dish to bring to other events. Her signature dessert. I always envied the greedy little buggers that got to eat it.

Marsha had a signature dessert too (that I was actually allowed to eat). Since mom has just posted her Gingerbread recipe, you should use that in Marsha's Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle.

--2 fresh-baked Gingerbread cakes, completely cooled (or 2 14-oz packages of Gingerbread Mix if you wanna take the easy way out)
--1 5.1-oz package of Cook-and-Serve Vanilla Pudding Mix (you will need Milk according to box instructions)
--1 30-oz can of Pumpkin
--1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
--1/3 tsp Cardamon (or Cinnamon)
--1 cup Heavy Cream (to be whipped with 1 tsp Vanilla and 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar)
--1/2 cup crushed Ginger Snaps
--Nice clear-glassed Serving Bowl that shows off the wonderful layers of goodness

Make the gingerbread then set aside to cool. Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the box instructions. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes then stir in the pumpkin, brown sugar, and cardamon. In a separate bowl, make the whipped cream, but don't make it TOO sweet. It should be the counter-balance in this dessert.

In the serving bowl, crumble 1 of the gingerbread cakes. Pour half the pudding mixture on top of that and even the layer out with a spatula. On top of that, layer half of your whipped cream. Repeat for the second layer. Then cover the top with the crushed ginger snaps. Refrigerate overnight.

This recipe came from the Food Network's Paula Deen.

Monday, April 13, 2009


1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup light molasses

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup boiling water

Stir shortening to soften. Gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses; beat thoroughly. 

Sift together dry ingredients; add to molasses mixture alternately with boiling water, beating well after each addition. 

Bake in a well-greased 8" x 8" x 2" pan at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm. 

This is wonderful with warm applesauce (spiced or plain) spooned over it. 

Bacon and Smoked Gouda Scramble

Jessi and I make a lot of brunches. One of the only reasonably priced foods at her local fancy grocery store is cheese. Despite the vast selection that it carries, we keep gravitating to the Smoked Gouda (because it's delicious, that's why). Then we scramble it up with some eggs for a quick and easy meal. We don't always use bacon in our scrambles, but I included it here anyhow.

--6 rashers of Thick-Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, chopped into small cubes (Jessi sez: Turkey Bacon)
--8 Eggs, beaten and mixed with a splash Milk
--1/2 cup Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated or cut into tiny cubes
--Fresh-ground Black Pepper

Turn a skillet onto medium to low heat and add the bacon. Slowly cook until the fat is rendered but the bacon is not crispy. Drain off most of the fat, but leave the bacon in the pan. Add the eggs. Cook slowly, stirring constantly. When the eggs are about half done, add the cheese and some black pepper to taste. Continue to stir until it's cooked to the desired consistency. Serve on slices of toasted fresh bread.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

Ben has already posted a sauteed brussels sprout recipe; here is another one. This comes from 101

24 small brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice

Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Lime Chicken Lettuce Wraps

There's a fancy-dan Thai restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Sea Thai Restaurant and Bistro. I tried to hate it for being so hipster trendy, but some of the food was damn tasty. Marsha and I started making these refreshing lettuce wraps based on an appetizer from their menu. Actually, this is only MY approximation of OUR approximation of the recipe.

--1 and 1/2 lbs of Chicken Breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
--5 Limes
--2 cloves Garlic, crushed
--1 head of Iceberg or Boston Lettuce
--1 cup Alfalfa Sprouts
--1 Carrot
--1 Seedless Cucumber
--1/2 cup fresh Mint Leaves
--Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

Mix the chicken in a bowl with the minced garlic and juice from 3 of the limes. Place it in the fridge to marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Pull apart and clean the head of lettuce, discarding any bad leaves and making sure not to tear the good leaves. Pat the leaves dry and place them on a serving plate. Cut the carrot and cucumber in a julienne style (to the size of wooden matches) and cut the remaining 2 limes into wedges. Arrange the carrot, cucumber, sprouts, mint, and limes on a serving plate. Take the chicken out of the fridge and pan-fry it until cooked through. Place it in a serving bowl.

Half the fun of the lettuce wrap is constructing it at the table. Place the lettuce "wrapping" on your plate, add the chicken, veggies, a torn-up mint leaf and a little peanut sauce in the center of the leaf. Squeeze lime juice over it, then roll it up and eat it!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sweet Potatoes

I never ate sweet potatoes as a child. My mom called them "yams" and that had an ugly sound to me, so I didn't care that we never saw them on our table. Then, because I was still unfamiliar with them, I never served them to my own kids--as Ben recently reminded me. 

It's only been in the past several years that I have discovered this delicious tuber. Good thing, too, as it is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. Here is a quote from the Food Reference Website:

According to nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the single most important dietary change for most people, including children, would be to replace fatty foods with foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes. 

CSPI ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of all vegetables. With a score of 184, the sweet potato outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points. Points were given for content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Points were deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food.

The Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture tells us that sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place at between 55 and 60 degrees F.--never in the refrigerator. 

My recipe adds a bit of fat and sugar to this wonder vegetable, but it is so delicious...

Mom's Sweet Potatoes
Slice peeled sweet potatoes into a casserole sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
Dot with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar
Sprinkle a handful of pecan halves over the top

Bake, covered, at 350 for 45 minutes; uncover and continue baking another 15 minutes. 

Delicious with ham for Sunday supper.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Mascarpone Cheese

Once, I made this to impress a girl. I already knew she liked bacon, plus I had an upcoming occasion that I was looking to surprise her for. Then, she let slip that bacon-wrapped dates dipped in mascarpone cheese was one of her favorite guilty-pleasures. Soon, a plan materialized...

I looked online and found this recipe on I was amazed at how simple and fast it was to make something so decadent. I placed the finished bacon-wrapped dates between layers of paper towel inside a Tupperware container. In another Tupperware container, I placed a small tub of mascarpone cheese on ice. I labeled and wrapped the containers and wrote a sweet little card. In the end, she was impressed.

--12 slices of Thick-cut Smoky Bacon (get the good stuff!)
--24 Pitted Dates
--Paper Towels
--1 tub of Mascarpone Cheese

Cut each bacon slice in half crosswise. Place all the slices on top of some paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with another paper towel and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Wrap each of the partially-cooked bacon slices around a date (Careful! Hot! Hot!) and secure with a toothpick. Place the bacon-wrapped dates on some clean paper towels on a microwave-safe plate, cover with another paper towel, and zap for on high for another 2 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature with the mascarpone cheese for dipping.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Apple Pancakes

Don't these sound delicious?

3-4 tart apples

2/3 cup melted butter

2/3 cup sugar

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

Peel and core apples. Slice thin and saute in 1/3 cup butter for 5 minutes. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and spices and add to apples. Cover & cook 10 minutes. Cool. Mix eggs, milk, flour & salt. Beat with rotary beater for 2 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 10-in ovenproof skillet. Pour batter into pan. Bake in preheated oven (450) for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon 2 tablespoons melted butter over surface. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Spread apple mixture over half the surface; fold in. Spoon 2 tablespoons melted butter over top; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

The recipe originally recommended puncturing the pancake as it puffs up in the oven. I like puffy pancakes, so I have eliminated that step.

Thai Cucumber and Radish Salad

Here's another random Thai recipe from the box. Marsha brought this recipe home one day, but I don't know where she found it. Marsha loves radishes!

--1/2 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
--3 tbsp Granulated Sugar
--2 tbsp Canola or Safflower Oil
--1 lb. Daikon Radish, peeled and thinly sliced
--1 Cucumber (Seedless or English), thinly sliced
--1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
--1 tbsp crushed Red Pepper Flakes
--20 Fresh Basil Leaves

In the bottom of a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and oil. Add the radish, cucumber, red bell pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Toss until the vegetables are coated, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, tear up the basil leaves and toss in with the salad.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Classic Butter Cupcakes

3 cups (12 1/4 ounces/350 grams) cake flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 fl. ounces/240 ml.) whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature 

2 cups (14 ounces/400 grams) granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cream the butter, add the sugar gradually and beat well. Add egg yolks and flavorings. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. 

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar. Fold gently into the cake batter. 

Pour into cupcake tins that are lined with cupcake papers. (After putting the papers into the cups, spray the flat top surface of the tin with nonstick cooking spray to make the cupcakes easier to release from the pan). 

Bake at 350 for 21-23 minutes. Cool on racks. Frost with a buttercream frosting of your choice. 

Note: A very elaborate and carefully explained version of this recipe appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, 2/9/09. You can read their extensive directions, if you wish. I decided to make only 24 cupcakes instead of the 28 they recommended, and all was well.