Friday, June 13, 2014

Cutting cherry tomatoes

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Not anywhere near as difficult as people think it is to make!


1 1/4 c water
1 c sugar
2 cloves
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 t lemon juice
Small piece of lemon rind
1/4 c honey

Place syrup ingredients in a saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain out solids and return syrup to pot.

2 c chopped walnuts
1 c chopped almonds
1/4 c raw sugar
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1 lb package of phyllo dough, thawed
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 c) butter, melted

Melt the butter and cut a piece of parchment for the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Use a pastry brush to coat the top sheet and the sides of the dish with butter.  In a bowl, combine the nuts, sugar, and spices and set aside.

Unroll the phyllo and place on a piece of plastic wrap.  Cover with another piece of plastic wrap and a damp towel.  Place 3 sheets of phyllo in the dish, recovering the rest of the stack.  Brush with butter.  Add 3 more sheet and brush with butter, repeating until about half the phyllo is gone.  Spread 1/2 the nut mixture, top with three more sheets, butter the top, and spread the other 1/2 of the nut mixture.  Continue stacking 3 sheets of phyllo and brushing with butter until you run out.  End with butter.

With a sharp knife, cut through all layers: 6 lengthwise strips and then 6 crosswise strips.  Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

When the baklava is cool, reheat the syrup and pour hot over the pastry.  Let it stand for at least 3 hours at room temperature before serving.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Braised brisket or pot roast

If it's done right, you can eat it with a spoon!

Beef Brisket or Pot Roast

Beef brisket, 3-4 lbs
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil
2 - 3 lbs onions, sliced thin
1 T tomato paste
2 T brown sugar
4 - 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
3/4 c dry red wine
Up to 2 c broth (half beef and half chicken)
3 bay leaves
3 large sprigs of thyme
Quartered potatoes, large chopped carrots, other root vegetables
1 T cider vinegar

Set out the meat for about 1/2 hour and let it dry and warm up.  Salt and pepper it generously.  Preheat the oven to 300 with the rack in the middle-low position.  Slice up the onions and garlic and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, brown the meat over medium-high heat until well browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Place the meat on a plate and set it aside.  Lower the heat to medium and cook the onions along with the tomato paste and sugar until onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and flour, and cook for about a minute, stirring.  Stir in the wine to deglaze the pot; cook until almost completely evaporated, and then return the brisket to the pot, on top of the onions.  Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme, enough broth to come up 1/3 to 1/2 way up the sides of the meat.  Bring the broth to a simmer, cover with foil and with the lid, and stick it in the oven for 3 to 4 hours.  Add the vegetables around the meat, submerging them as best as possible for the last 1 1/2 to 2 hours of cooking time.

Optional serving methods:
1. Transfer the brisket and vegetables (not the onions) to a platter, tent with foil, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.  Place the pot on the stove top, add 1 T cider vinegar and bring to a low boil to reduce the sauce somewhat, about 5 minutes, fishing out the bay leaves and thyme.  When the sauce is reduced enough, slice the brisket, arrange on the platter, and pour the sauce over.  Serve onto plates.

2. Or, transfer the brisket and vegetables (not the onions) to a platter, and tent with foil.  Let it rest for 15 minutes, and then slice.  Place the pot on the stove top, add 1 T cider vinegar and bring to a low boil, fishing out the bay leaves and thyme. Place the meat and vegetables back into the sauce and serve directly from the pot, probably into bowls.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Amazing chicken stew

I usually make chicken soup, not chicken stew, but with winter dragging on into what's supposed to be spring, I couldn't help myself.  Last weekend, I set aside the three-plus hours it takes to make this incredible stew.  The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, but of course they won't let you have it.  I'm perfectly happy to send you somewhere else that will: Best Chicken Stew

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cranberry-white chocolate chip monster cookies

Recently I made a batch of my monster chocolate chip cookies, shown below, and it occurred to me that some of my other recipes could probably be adapted to make over-sized delights like these.

I started my experiments with my recipe for Cranberry-White Chocolate Cookies, and it worked out so well that I think I'll probably try it again with other recipes!  Start with the basic recipe at the link above, and make these four adjustments.  Melt the butter and let it cool before beating with the sugar, add an extra egg yolk, lower the oven temperature to 325, and form and bake them according to the directions for the chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Brown rice cakes with sauteed vegetables

When I first saw this recipe, I thought, "Well, maybe..."  And then I promptly set it aside for a couple of years and forgot about it!  Recently I found it in my "to try" file, and thought, "Well, maybe..."

I'm glad I finally got around to actually trying it.  It's really really good!  Brown Rice Cakes with Sauteed Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, and Ricotta

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cuban shredded beef

More Cuban!  Now that my taste buds have been fully enticed, I don't seem to be able to get enough!  This is another Cook's Illustrated recipe, and you can find a kind soul who posted his own version of it right here: Cuban Shredded Beef.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cuban pork and beans stew

I have really grown to love the flavors of Cuban food.  All except for cilantro...still can't abide the stuff.  Smells like dirty socks to me, and apparently that's some sort of genetic "I can't help it so don't tell me how good the stuff is" thing.

I recently made a Cuban Pork and Beans Stew that I found in Hannaford's Fresh magazine.  But I made several changes.  I neglected to soak the dried beans overnight, so I ended up using canned.  That was fine, because I really prefer small red beans to black beans anyway, which is what the recipe calls for.  Also, I seared the meat before stacking the slow cooker, because nothing tastes better than seared meat...boiled just doesn't do it!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Orecchiette with broccoli rabe

Martha Stewart has about a million recipes for pasta with broccoli rabe.  Well, maybe not a million, but an awful lot.  Here's one we really liked; even though it doesn't have the usual sausage in it, it's still got a real umami kick thanks to a couple of anchovy fillets.  Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Tomatoes

My major change was to use dried orecchiette.  I don't really know what universe Martha lives in, but in my universe, I'm lucky to find orecchiette in any form, forget fresh.  I boiled the pasta and added the broccoli rabe for the last 3 minutes.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pasta alla Norcina

Can you ever have too many wonderful pasta recipes?  Doubtful!  Recently, I made Pasta alla Norcina for just my sweetie and me, which means that I cut the recipe I was following in half.  It turned out to be amazing, and so I really want to share it with you.  Of course, as usual, Cook's Illustrated will not let you see the recipe on their site.  However, I found someone else who has posted it, so now I can just send you there instead!

This fabulous recipe includes "making" your own pork sausage.  More like "assembling" it, to be honest, but that's just fine with me, because that means we can have this even on a weeknight!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quinoa pilaf

I learned something about cooking quinoa that rocked me back on my heels...I, along with most everyone else, have been adding way too much water to the delicious little seeds, turning them into the mush that no one likes!  According to Cook's Illustrated, the secret is to toast the quinoa first in a dry pan, set it aside while you saute up your onions and whatever, and then add the toasted quinoa back with only a little bit more water than seeds.  For example, they suggest 1 1/2 c quinoa to 1 3/4 c water.  Simmer on low for about 20 minutes, stirring only once.  Remove the pan and let it sit for 10 minutes before fluffing, adding herbs and other flavorings, and serving.  This was THE BEST quinoa we've ever had.  Period.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Shallot soup with Gruyere cheese

I love French onion soup, but if you can believe it, I think this version is even better!

Shallot Soup with Gruyere Cheese

2 1/2 lbs shallots
4 T butter
1 c white wine
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
8 c broth, half beef and half chicken
Salt (optional)
Handful of small croutons for each bowl
Grated Gruyere cheese for each bowl

Blanch the shallots briefly to allow the skins to slip off easily.  Slice into 1/4 inch rounds.  Heat the butter in a Dutch oven and saute the shallots for about 30 minutes until really tender.  Add the wine and cook until almost completely evaporated.  Add the peppercorns, bay leaf, and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until broth is reduced a bit.  Season with salt if desired.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with small croutons and grated cheese.  Put under the broiler until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.  Serve immediately.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hamantaschen with chocolate

Why did I never think of this before?  The centers of the hamantaschen are the perfect size for Hershey's kisses.  I believe that means something...

My recipe is at the link above.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quesadilla broccoli pie

It seems that we've started to trend towards quesadilla pies and away from quiches in our family.  Not sure why...

Quesadilla Broccoli Pie

Extra large flour tortilla
Cooking spray
3 slices of bacon
2 c fresh broccoli, chopped and steamed soft
Onion, chopped

1 c shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

Spray 10 inch deep dish pie pan and press tortilla into it. Lightly spray the tortilla.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain most of grease and set bacon aside. Saute onions and steamed broccoli in skillet until softened.

Scrape vegetable mixture into the prepared tortilla. Add the Swiss cheese, spreading evenly.  In a small bowl, mix the flour through the Parmesan cheese well and pour over the tortilla. Top with the crumbled bacon. Cook at 450 for about 20 minutes.

Quesadilla Chicken Pie
Quesadilla Mango and Chicken Pie

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Caldo verde, Portuguese soup

I came across a reference to Caldo Verde recently, and since I liked what I was reading, decided to give it a try.  This seems to be another of those traditional soups where there are as many variants as there are cooks, but here's what seems to be working for us:

Caldo Verde

12 oz linguica sausage, sliced
Olive oil
Onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
3 - 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped to 3/4 inch pieces
4 c chicken broth
2 - 4 c water
1 lb kale (or collards) chopped
2 t white vinegar

Brown the linguica in a bit of olive oil in a Dutch oven; remove from pot and set aside.  Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic with a dash of red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Cook until translucent, a few minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth, and 2 c water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Dip out about 2 c of potato and broth into a large glass measuring cup.  Add about 3 T olive oil to the mix, and blend really well with an immersion blender.  Set aside.

Add the greens and the linguica to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add up to 2 c more water, only as needed.  Give the blended portion another blast, and add it to the soup, along with the vinegar.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Apricot and almond granola

Using my recipe for Basic Chunky Granola, I recently experimented with another variation, namely Apricot and Almond.  I saw this combination featured in an issue of Hannaford market's magazine, but I didn't really like the results...too dry and completely crumbled, with no chunks and not a particularly good taste.  So I messed with it, and here are the results.

Apricot and Almond Granola 

1/3 c agave syrup
1/3 c raw sugar
2 t vanilla
2 t almond extract
1/2 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c canola oil
5 c rolled oats (not quick cook or steel cut) or 4 c oats and 1 c uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 c almonds, chopped, raw preferred
1 c sunflower seeds, raw preferred
2 c dried apricots, chopped 

Spray a rimmed baking sheet and line it with parchment.  Set the rack to the upper middle position and preheat to 300.  In a large bowl, whisk the syrup, sugar, extracts, salt, and spices together, and then whisk in the oil.  Stir in the oats, almonds, and sunflower seeds and work with your hands until the sugar mixture is worked through. 
Scrape out the oats onto the baking sheet and compress the mixture firmly into a thin, even, and tight layer.  Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating the pan once. Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool thoroughly.  Break the granola into pieces and stir in the apricots.  Store in an airtight container.   

Link to my Cranberry Granola

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pistachio crisps

Although we had these for an appetizer one evening, they'd also make a great dessert, maybe by just upping the sugar content a smidge...?

Pistachio Crisps

A batch of Thin Pizza Dough
Olive oil
1/2 to 1 c pistachios, chopped extra fine
Raw sugar
Kosher salt (optional - only use if pistachios are unsalted)

Preheat oven to 450 with the rack near the bottom.  Roll out the dough as thin as possible and place it on a parchment covered baking pan.  Spread a thin coat of oil on the top and sprinkle with the nuts and sugar.  Add salt only if needed.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, checking carefully after 15.  Cut into pieces and store in a tight container.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dandelion greens

Cultivated dandelion greens can be substituted for just about any reasonably robust green that you enjoy, and can be cooked in all the same ways.  It's a bit less delicate than baby spinach, and considerably more delicate than collards, so use that for your guide in how you choose to handle them.  All I did was chop them up, and saute them in a bit of bacon grease with onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Roasted bok choy

The best bok choy to use for roasting is the little tiny baby size.  But we can almost never find it, so I've adapted the roasting directions for a piece that's a bit bigger!

Roasted Bok Choy

Baby or small heads of bok choy
Olive oil
Garlic salt (optional)

3 parts lemon juice
2 parts miso paste
1 part rice vinegar

Preheat oven to 425.  Wash the bok choy and slice it lengthwise if it isn't baby-sized.  Pat dry and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt.  Add a couple T of water to the bottom of the pan and cover with foil.  Bake for about 5 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more until leaves are crisp.

Whisk together the lemon juice, miso, and vinegar, and spoon sauce over bok choy once plated.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cranberry chutney

Although I originally made Cranberry Chutney to go with a warm brie appetizer, we've found that we like it a lot as an accompaniment to poultry dishes instead of the milder Cranberry Sauce I usually make.  It's nice to have options!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mildly spicy butternut squash soup

You can never have too many variations on butternut squash soup!

Mildly Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 (20 oz) bags of frozen butternut squash, thawed
2 c vegetable broth (more if needed)
1/2 t cinnamon
2 t each of fresh marjoram and thyme
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can of coconut milk
Roasted pumpkin seeds

In a Dutch oven, combine the squash and broth, bringing it to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until squash is completely soft.  Stir in the spices and herbs, and add half the can of coconut milk.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Add the rest of the coconut milk if desired.  Top with pumpkin seeds to serve.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Black Forest cake

Mike's birthday is just a few scant weeks before Christmas, when I'm already in the cookie baking frenzy that becomes my life in December.  It would be sooooo easy (and tempting) to simply put some cookies on a plate and say "There you go!" to my sweetie, but that wouldn't be very nice.  This year it was a wonderful Black Forest Cake that his heart desired!

Black Forest Cake

Two layered chocolate cake - your favorite recipe.  Mine is at the link.
Chocolate frosting, glaze, or dipping sauce - I used the dipping sauce since it spreads so nicely.
2 c whipping cream
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T brandy
21 oz can of cherry pie filling
1/2 t almond extract
Almonds for garnish, chopped

Mix up and bake the chocolate cake according to your recipe in two round pans.  Cool completely before assembling.  Make the chocolate dipping sauce and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the cherries and almond extract and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream until it starts to thicken.  Beat in the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the brandy.

Place one cake layer top down on your serving plate (edged with waxed paper to be removed later).  Spread with 1/2 of the chocolate sauce, 1/2 of the whipped cream, and then about 1 c of the cherries, keeping them slightly back from the edge.  Add the second cake layer, top side up, and add the remainder of the toppings.  Sprinkle with the almonds.  Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kumquat, blueberry, or whatever

I'll have a cup of Whatever, please...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cheater's baked beans

You want them to taste great, but you don't have time to simmer all day: here is a cheater's version of baked beans that aren't too bad.

Cheater's Baked Beans

2 slices of bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 (14 oz) cans of small red or pink beans, rinsed
1/2 c molasses
1/4 c ketchup
1 t grainy brown mustard
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon, pouring off the excess grease.  Remove and crumble.  Cook the onion until softened.  Add the rest of the ingredients, including the bacon and heat through.  Add water if needed.

Image - Mk2010

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pumpkin cornmeal cake

I was sort of hoping that this recipe would be appropriate to serve for dinner, but it's really too sweet as is.  I'm definitely thinking about redoing it in a more savory quick-bread form, but in the meantime, it really is quite delicious as a cake!  Check out the recipe for Pumpkin Cornmeal Cake in Hannaford's Fresh magazine.  I found that I needed to raise the temperature to 375 in order to keep the middle of the cake from falling.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Trinidad chicken curry

Sometimes I go for long periods of time not remembering my slow cooker.  But recently I realized that I'd been neglecting it when it really could be a great help...especially when we were going to be eating at different times during the evening.  Not my favorite situation, but there you have it.  It happens occasionally!

I like the recipe for Trinidad Chicken Curry that I found in Hannaford's Fresh magazine, but the meat just has to be seared first.  With that caveat, I followed the recipe pretty closely otherwise.  It's a really nice mild curry because of the coconut milk.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pasta puttanesca

Was it really first made by Neapolitan prostitutes who needed a quick dinner?  Who knows.  Who cares.  It's delicious!

Pasta Puttanesca

1 1/2 - 2 lbs grape tomatoes

1 lb rotini, fusilli, or orecchiette pasta
Salted water

3 T olive oil
3 - 4 cloves of garlic
1 T anchovy paste
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 t fresh oregano or 1/2 t dried

1/2 c pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 T capers, chopped
1/2 c flat leaf parsley, chopped

Process the tomatoes until chopped but not pureed.  Scrape out into a mesh strainer over a bowl and let drain, pressing down solids as needed.

Start the water for the pasta and begin cooking when it boils.

Mix oil through oregano a small bowl.  In a large skillet, cook the garlic mixture over medium heat, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add tomato liquid a simmer for 2 more minutes.  Add chopped tomatoes, olives and capers and cook for 2 more minutes.  Stir in the parsley and keep the sauce warm.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c of the liquid.  Return the pasta to the pot and top with the tomato sauce.  Add as much liquid as needed and reheat gently if needed.  Serve immediately.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Mostly Vegetable Soups" to help remove the holiday pounds

Mostly Vegetable Soups

Click to purchase ~ $2

Just before the holiday gluttony kicks in, and just after the New Year gluttony ends, Mike and I fill ourselves up with healthy healthy soups and stews.  These comfort foods give us the boost we need to resist some of the worst abuses, and they also help to get us back on track in the New Year.  This has been our pattern for years now, and I'm happy to say that even if we pack on a few pounds during the week leading up to Christmas and the week in between it and January 1, we always manage to get them right back off before another two weeks have passed.

No, we're not special (as in "well isn't that special?")...we just choose our gluttony wisely!

Well, I've put together an e-booklet with 13 of our favorites.  While I can't make any health or nutrition or even diet claims for these soups (I am not a registered anything), I can tell you that they work for us. 

Tomato Basil Soup