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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pumpkin Pancakes

Hoo-whee, four kids is a lot of kids. I have had quite a time adjusting to the additional demands (and sleep deprivation) of an infant. Cooking is one of the things that I do less during this stage in my life. I find that breakfast cooking (at least when I'm not running off to work) is easier than dinner, though. Fewer people around, less going on.

I've never been much of pumpkin eater but this fall I was suddenly struck by a pumpkin-eating mood. These are one of the things I tried.



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Pumpkin Pancakes


Source: New York Times
Yields: 12-16 depending on the size you make

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (they are also good with half whole, white wheat flour)
2 T sugar
1 1/2 teas baking powder
3/4 teas baking soda
3/4 teas kosher salt
1 1/2 teas cinnamon
1 teas ground ginger
1/8 teas freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3/4 c pumpkin puree
2 eggs
3 T melted butter, vegetable oil, or coconut oil, plus more for greasing skillet or griddle
1 teas vanilla extract

Begin heating your skillet or griddle on your stovetop at medium-low heat.

Mix the dry ingredients including spices together in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using a rubber spatula stir with a folding motion until just combined. You'll have a few small lumps which are okay. The batter will be quite thick. I advise not adding liquid if you want to keep them puffy.

Lightly butter the skillet or griddle and drop the batter using either a quarter cup measure or a spring-type ice cream scoop. Leave plenty of room between pancakes for spreading.

Cook for a minute or two until the batter begins to brown on the bottom and starts to bubble on the edges. Flip carefully and continue to cook for a couple minutes until the pancakes are deep golden brown and puffy. Repeat until all the batter is used. Serve. These are nice with toasted pecans and maple syrup. You might consider adding the pecans to the batter.

You can keep the pancakes warm in an oven heated to 225F. I like to put them on a cooling rack so they don't get soggy.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

High Altitude Carrot Cake

And here's another (more traditional) carrot cake!

A few years ago, when my bigs were not quite as big, and my littles weren't around yet, the boys wanted to do some baking. We looked through Pie in the Sky, and they wanted to make this carrot cake. I found it a bit too oily the first time through, so when carrot cake was requested as a birthday cake, I reduced the oil slightly. This time, it was perfect; dense and moist, but not too much of either. Since then, it has been this boy's standard birthday cake request, whether he eats it or not. Granted, his birthday starts a treat-filled week at our house, with Halloween and two birthdays, but I have to say that uneaten birthday cake makes me want to just serve ice cream.

2015, he requested the cake but didn't eat any

2017, he ate a big slice and so did the rest of us


Sometimes we post sea level and high altitude variations. I'm just going with high altitude here, since I modified the oil amount and I don't know how that will affect the sea level recipe.

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High Altitude Carrot Cake (~5,000 feet)


Adapted from Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields one tube pan cake

(The recipe says it can be baked in a Bundt pan, too, but also instructs bakers at 5,000 feet and above to line the tube pan with greased parchment paper. So to prevent sticking, I'd recommend a tube pan.)

For the cake:
3 c peeled, grated carrots (6-10, depending on size)
1 c walnuts, chopped
1/4 c sunflower seeds, optional
1 1/4 c canola oil
2 c sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 T vanilla extract
1/4 c wheat germ or bran
2 c flour
1 1/2 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
2 teas cinnamon
3/4 teas nutmeg
1/2 teas ginger
1/2 teas allspice

For the frosting:

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 teas vanilla extract
2 c sifted powdered sugar, or as needed

Place the rack in the lower third of your oven, then preheat to 375F. Grease your tube pan with butter. Line the bottom of the greased pan with a ring of parchment paper, wax paper, or foil, then butter the liner. Flour the entire surface inside the pan and then tap out the extra flour.

In a large bowl, blend together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and wheat germ/bran with a whisk. Set a strainer over the bowl and measure the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into it. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and whisk gently until combined. Then stir in the carrots, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Place the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes. Then move a knife around the edge of the cake to help loosen it. Turn the cake out onto a plate or foil -covered cardboard disk. Peel off the paper, and let the cake cool completely.

As the cake cools, mix the frosting. Blend together the cream cheese and butter until very smooth and creamy; I used a hand mixer, but the original recipe recommends a food processor or electric mixer. Beat in the salt and vanilla, then gradually add the sugar, beating until smooth. Frost the cake and enjoy!

Note on frosting: A dusting of confectioner's sugar can be used instead. Also, I halved the original frosting recipe; double it if you are a big frosting fan.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Brazilian Carrot Bundt Cake

If your family needs more sweets in the coming week, here's a cake for Halloween. Although the cake isn't truly black and orange, it may be as close as one can come naturally. It nearly goes without saying that this can be baked any time of year.

As it stands, though, this cake will probably garner more adult fans since it isn't terribly sweet. Because it is another way to sneak a veggie into a treat, this recipe may be attractive to parents who bake. If you like something sweeter, consider adding chocolate chips to the batter or make the ganache with milk chocolate.


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Brazilian Carrot Bundt Cake

Source:  Food52
Yield: one bundt cake


I'm including changes for my altitude (4000-6000 feet) in parentheses. 

I haven't tested this, but if you choose to add chocolate chips for kids or adults who like more sweetness, I'd add about a cup of chips shaken with a tablespoon of flour to help them remain afloat in the batter. 

For the cake:

2 c (270 g) 1/2 inch carrot slices from 3-4 carrots, scrubbed but not necessarily peeled 
3/4 c plus 1 T neutral oil, vegetable or grapeseed
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c sugar (high altitude--334 g or remove 2 T sugar)
1 3/4 c flour (high altitude--260 g or add 2 T flour)
1 1/2 teas baking powder (high altitude--1 1/4 teas)
1 teas salt, table or fine sea salt

For the ganache:

6 oz (1 c) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teas honey
7 T unsalted butter, in half-inch slices

Heat the oven to 425F and place the rack in the center. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.

Place the carrots, oil, eggs, and sugar into a blender. Blend until smooth (if you think your blender will need some help getting the mixture smooth, consider chopping the carrots smaller than half inch slices). Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and stir well. Pour the carrot mixture into the bowl and stir with a spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, until no streaks of flour remain. If you want chocolate chips, add them now.

Place batter in the bundt pan. Pound the pan on a counter top a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. Put cake in the oven and bake for 5 minutes at preheated temperature and then lower the oven to 400F and continue baking for about 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick or cake tester and remove cake from the oven when the tester comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Place on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and then remove cake from the pan and allow to cool completely.

Place the chocolate, honey, and butter in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until you have a smooth mixture. It took about 3 repeats in my microwave. You may have to stir a few extra minutes after the last burst in the microwave to get remaining bits of chocolate to melt but it is better to spend time stirring than it is to overcook the chocolate. 

With the cake still on the cooling rack and over a baking sheet, spoon the ganache over the cake and let it sit until it has cooled before slicing and serving. I found the glaze was quite runny right after being microwaved so I repeatedly spooned over spots and attempted to cover all the cake. While it was still warm, I gathered glaze from the baking sheet and poured it on the cake. (There was still plenty of glaze left for a baker's treat.) If you prefer, you can just drizzle some glaze and leave some cake showing but in that case I recommend reducing the amounts in the ganache--possibly even halving the ingredients. 

The cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container--a large bowl can be inverted over a platter if you don't have a cake dome or carrier.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Baked Rice Pudding with Plum Compote

Albuquerque and surrounding areas had fewer late freezes last spring so fruit trees have provided a season of plenty. We have been eating our fill of stone fruits, canning jams and jellies, and giving fruit away to friends and co-workers. My plum harvest had finished several weeks ago but a week ago I was given a bucket of plums. At the same time this recipe showed up in my email. David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food writers, posted this just in time.



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Baked Rice Pudding with Plum Compote


Serves: 6-8

The surface of the pudding may begin to caramelize. Lebovitz simply stirs it into the pudding.  

Lebovitz uses "Italian prune plums" which are cling-free and easy to work with. I'm not sure what kind of plum I had but they didn't want to easily release their pits. In addition, they were juicy but worked fine even though the compote was rather runny.

Lebovitz points out that this recipe can be varied to accommodate your flavor preferences. I used cinnamon sticks and allspice rather than using a vanilla bean (I'm running low). I think you could use a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract if you want. He also mentions nutmeg, orange zest, orange flower water or cardamom seeds. If you like, you can add raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries before you place the mix in the oven. 

The recipe calls for white wine in the compote. Lebovitz indicates that you may substitute water or apple juice.

For the pudding:

1/2 c short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1/2 c sugar (if you plan on a sweet topping you may want to reduce this amount)
1/4 teas salt
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped, or a cinnamon stick or another of possibilities listed above
4 c whole milk
2 T butter, salted or unsalted, cubed

The oven should be preheated to 325F.

In a 2-quart (or larger) baking dish that has sides 2-3 inches high, mix the rice, sugar, salt, and flavorings. Add the milk and stir it into the other ingredients. Drop the cubes of butter on top. 

Place in the oven (if you have any fear of a boil over, put a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pudding). Stir the rice every 10-15 minutes, scraping the bottom of the dish to ensure that nothing sticks and scorches. If the top begins to brown, just stir it in. 

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The pudding will be finished while it still is quite runny looking, rather like a very lumpy pancake batter. You can taste the rice to be sure or go to the original website and watch a video Lebovitz posted. Remove from the oven and let sit at least 15 minutes. It will thicken up as it cools. 

While the rice cooks, begin the compote:

1 1/2 pounds of plums
1/3 c white wine, or water, or apple juice
3 T sugar 
1/2  vanilla bean, or other flavoring, see above

Pit the plums and place them cut side down in a baking dish large enough to fit them in a single layer but also small enough to fit in the oven with the baking rice pudding. I used a skillet. Drizzle the wine over the top of the plums and sprinkle them with the sugar. Place the spice or flavoring in between some of the plums. Cover with foil and bake until the fruit has softened and is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the plums and your altitude. If you have left-over compote, as I did, use it over vanilla ice cream or freeze it for later use.

Cooking this a day ahead is ideal since both the pudding and the compote will thicken as they cool. However, it can be eaten after it cools somewhat.

This pudding would be good with other fruit compotes or fresh fruit in season. If you want, you can top with a dollop of jam. Or eat it just as it is. It's pretty tasty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Black-eyed Pea Salad

I've mentioned before how much I love black-eyed peas. My crop of shell peas has been superior this summer so I love them even more. This recipe is based on two recipes but includes other garden fresh ingredients I had on hand.



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Black-eyed Pea Salad


Adapted from: Country Living and from Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4-6

I think you can tweak this in anyway you'd like. I didn't have spinach called for in one recipe so I used green beans and placed the salad on a bed of arugula from my garden. Leave the bacon out if you want this salad to be vegetarian. You could add a variety of fresh herbs. You won't see halved cherry tomatoes above because I was running out of good lighting for a photo. I added them later.  

You can use black-eyed peas in any form. I particularly like fresh shell beans since I grow them, but you can cook dry beans or you can use canned (just rinse them well and stir the mix gently). If you use frozen, you can treat them as fresh.

4 c. fresh or frozen black-eyed peas cooked until tender but not falling apart (mine took about 25 minutes). I like to add some carrot and celery chunks as well as a halved onion to add flavor to the peas. Remove those additions before cooling the peas and making the salad.

1/3 c olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
3 strips bacon, cut into 3/4-inch chunks and cooked
1/3 c finely chopped red onion
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions
1 T very finely chopped jalapeno chile (or more if you'd like)
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 red bell pepper, chopped in 3/4-inch pieces
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 c green beans, cooked to crisp tender, or 2 c cleaned baby spinach, or chopped kale (you might want to massage it before adding it to the salad)
salt and pepper to taste
salad greens or arugula, optional

Prepare black-eyed peas and cool to room temperature. Place the olive oil and the vinegar into a large bowl and stir. Place the black-eyed peas into the bowl and stir well to combine.

While cooking the bacon, chop the other salad ingredients and add to the bowl. Toss all together and top with the bacon and stir once more. Taste it to see if you need to add more salt or more vinegar.

You may want to let the salad rest in the fridge for several hours before serving to allow flavors to meld. (I did not--I wanted to eat before bedtime.) If you choose to do this, remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving and toss once more. 

If you don't use spinach or kale in the salad you may want to have some salad greens or arugula arranged on each serving plate. Top the greens with the salad.

Serve with crusty bread or cornbread.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cream of Zucchini Soup from a Slow-cooker

Lucky gardeners who don't have to worry about squash bugs or squash vine borers have a glut of zucchini every summer. This recipe will help deal with the abundance and it has the added advantage of using a slow-cooker which won't heat up the kitchen. Fortunately zucchini is available much of the year in supermarkets so the soup can be eaten anytime

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Cream of Zucchini Soup from a Slow-cooker


This title is misleading because there is no cream in the soup, just well cooked white rice. To attain the creamiest soup a counter top blender is needed but a stick blender will work, too, and create fewer dishes. 

Source:  The French Slow Cooker  by Michele Scicolone
Serves:  6-8

2 T olive or vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
1-2 garlic clove, chopped or sliced (adjust to your taste)
2 fresh large sage leaves
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and thickly sliced
6 c water
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c long-grain white rice
1/2 c freshly grated or slivered Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives
croutons, optional

Mix the onions and oil in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened and are starting to become golden. Add the garlic and sage and cook for about 30 seconds. Move this mixture to a large slow-cooker.

Add the zucchini, water, salt (1/2 to 1 teas), and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 hours until zucchini is soft. Add the rice, cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes until the rice is very tender (overcooked, really). 

Transfer ingredients to a blender in batches and process until very smooth. Replace in cooker and reheat if necessary. Serve topped with cheese, parsley, and croutons.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Chicken, Chard, and Carrots, a One Pan Meal

I first tried this recipe in the spring when I had a bunch of chard in the garden and I was happy to find a way to use it. The dish turned out to taste richly garlicky and meaty. It is convenient, too, since the vegetables are included.



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Chicken, Chard, and Carrots, a One Pan Meal


Adapted from Cook It in Cast Iron: Kitchen-tested Recipes for the One Pan That Does It All from America's Test Kitchen's Cook's Country
Serves:  4-6

Note: Although I am enthusiastic about this recipe, I find it heavy on the meat and light on the vegetables, especially the chard. The book indicates it serves four, meaning that each diner will eat two thighs. If you'd like to increase the vegetables, do so, although more chard will be look like it won't fit into the skillet (give it time to cook down). For my tastes, I think I'll increase the vegetables but reduce the amount of chicken pieces by two.


8 5-7 oz bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed but not skinned
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 teas dried
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced (don't skip this recipe if you don't have this)
2 T flour
1 c chicken broth
1 pd carrots, peeled and halved crosswise, or into thirds and quarter the thick ends
1 1/2 pds Swiss chard, (or more if your family likes veggies) stemmed and halved and cut into 1 inch strips
3 T whole-grain mustard
1 T butter, melted
1 teas grated lemon zest plus 2 teas lemon juice

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet (any oven-safe skillet will work) on stove top over medium-high heat and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil and let heat until it is beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken in batches, making sure the skin is dark brown. Transfer chicken to a plate or tray while you continue.

Preheat the oven to 335F.

Pour off most of the oil; leave about 1 T in the skillet. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic, thyme, and anchovies and cook briefly (half a minute will do). Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Gradually add the broth, making sure to scrape up the fond on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure there are no lumps of flour. Add the carrots and bring to a simmer.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the carrots. The skin should be above the level of the liquid. Pour over the chicken any juices that accumulated while set aside. Transfer to the oven and cook until about 165F or until the meat offers little resistance when poked with a tip of a knife but isn't falling off the bones. At this temperature it took about 45 minutes in my oven. (The original recipe calls for a 325F oven and says it will take 60-75 minutes). I advise checking the chicken with a thermometer at the 45 minute point. Keep cooking if it isn't at 165 degrees.

While the chicken is braising, clean and prepare the chard. Mix together the mustard, butter and lemon zest and juice in a small bowl.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Keep one pot-holder resting on the handle even when you aren't holding it so you don't forget and grab the hot handle. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover lightly with foil (tightly would make the skin steam and get flabby). Place the skillet back on the stove top and stir in the chard handful by handful. You'll think it won't fit but pile it on and stir after each addition. Place a lid over the skillet if you have one. This will cook down fairly quickly but I advise you remove it from heat as soon as the chard wilts; it will continue to cook while you add the final ingredients. Stir in the mustard mixture. Either place vegetables and chicken on a platter, or dish up into shallow bowls and serve. If you think you will have left overs, you may want to remove the food from the hot cast iron so the chard won't become over cooked.

I found this to provide quite a bit of "gravy" so recommend serving in a bowl. Serve with bread to sop up this delicious sauce.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Roasted Peach Drizzle

It is barely still peach season but before our minds turn to winter squash and pumpkins, here's one more peach recipe--not quite a syrup and not a fruit butter, but a "drizzle". Although it is a canning recipe, the peaches can be roasted, refrigerated, and used within the week. You could freeze the sauce, too, if you don't want to spend time canning. This is fantastic on Sweet Zucchini Waffles with fresh peach slices and whipped cream. If you don't have fresh peaches, you could use raspberries instead and fashion a peach-melba topping for waffles or for ice cream. This is a great recipe for someone who suffers from peach peeling fatigue--the skin remains on the fruit while roasting and is blended with the peaches.




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Roasted Peach Drizzle


Adapted from foodinjars.com
Yield: 3-3 1/2 pints

This can be halved or quartered. 

8 c peach pieces, skin included
2 c sugar
2 vanilla pods, scraped
juice of 1 lemon

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Roast in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly and blend with blender or stick blender until smooth. Add lemon juice and stir. Return to burner and bring back to a simmer. When simmering, place sauce in hot half pint jars (or half cup) with 1/2-inch headspace, check for air bubbles, clean the jar rims. Place lids (that have been softened in boiling water) on top of clean jars and top with rings. Place in a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes at sea level (for added altitude timing, see below).

1,001-3,000 ft--5 additional minutes
3,001-6,000 ft--10 additional minutes
6,001-8,000 ft--15 additional minutes
8,001-10,000 ft--20 additional minutes

When the time has passed, turn off heat, remove lid and allow jars to rest in the water for 5-10 minutes. Remove jars from hot water and place on a towel in a spot where they can remain undisturbed for 24 hours. Store and use within a year. If the drizzle separates a bit give it a good stir before serving.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Peach Salsa

My home is at a high altitude but in a river bottom, where freezing air settles, so my peach tree has born only twice in its seven year life. This was one of those summers and we've relished this gift from Mother Nature. Our peach season has come and gone (well, there are a few peaches still in the fridge). I've bottled peach halves, jam, peach BBQ sauce, conserve, and this salsa which has proven to be my favorite method for preserving the fruit. Even if you don't want to can it, this is tasty enough you could divide the recipe and keep the salsa in the fridge for a week, if it lasts that long.


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Peach Salsa


Adapted from: Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-round by Marisa McClellan
Yield: The author claims the yield is 4 pints but I've made this three times and produced no more than 3 pints. 

6 cups peeled, pitted, and chopped peaches (about 4 pounds)
1 1/2 c distilled white vinegar
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 chopped onions (1 large onion) (red is very pretty, but not necessary)
1 c chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
3 jalapeno peppers, minced (I'm a wimp and used 1- 1 1/2)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teas salt
1 teas ground cumin
1/4 teas cayenne pepper, you can leave out (which I do) or increase depending on heat tolerance

Prepare a boiling water bath and pint jars. When you start cooking the salsa, you can start bringing the water to a boil. Have your jars in the water so they will be hot when you ladle the salsa into them. Place the lids in a small saucepan and when closer to topping the jars, cover with boiling water.

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. I like to mix the vinegar and the sugar together first and then add the peaches, stirring with additions. This kept the peaches from discoloring while I continue chopping. Bring all to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. The author allows it to simmer about 10 minutes but in high altitude that is too short a time for the juices to reduce. She instructs to simmer until the salsa no longer looks watery. Taste and adjust with additional jalapeno or vinegar, if needed.

Ladle the hot salsa into the jars, and leave 1/2-inch headspace. With a damp paper towel, wipe the rim and place the lids and rings on the jars. Tighten but only with your finger tips. Process for 15 minutes at sea level, add additional minutes for higher altitudes:

1,001-3,000 ft--5 additional minutes
3,001-6,000 ft--10 additional minutes
6,001-8,000 ft--15 additional minutes
8,001-10,000 ft--20 additional minutes

When finished, turn off the heat, remove the lid and allow jars to rest for 5 minutes to cool off slightly. Remove the jars and allow to sit for 24 hours before labeling and storing. Remember to test the seals and if any jar didn't seal keep the salsa in the refrigerator before use.

This is great for use as a fruit salsa but the author recommends it as a simmer sauce for chicken legs and thighs.

Note:

If you want this to be hotter, increase the cayenne, not the jalapeno. The canning recipe is balanced and safe as it stands. If you change ingredients you shouldn't process the salsa in bottles but refrigerate.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil

Well, hello!



Turns out that my little guy arrived shortly after my last post, a week before we expected him based on my previous deliveries. My summer has been a whirlwind as we have all adjusted to the addition of boy number four. Despite some difficult days and weeks, he is now sleeping through the night (hurray!!) and is a super pleasant baby for most of the day.

Most of my cooking is still survival-mode, feed-the-family cooking, but I'm starting to do a few more things, especially with all the fresh, amazing produce available here this time of year. Maybe I can manage this pasta soon. I discovered it last summer, and it's a lovely way to use fresh corn. As you can see, it was popular with a least one little!


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Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil


Source: New York Times
Serves 4

12 oz dry orecchiette or farfalle
1 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced with the whites and greens separate
2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (2 c kernels)
1/2 teas ground black pepper
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste
1/3 c torn basil or mint, more for garnish
1/4 teas red pepper flakes, or to taste
fresh lemon juice, as needed

Cook pasta in salted water, until almost al dente but not quite. Reserve 1 c pasta water. (I have made this recipe twice and have forgotten to save the pasta water every time. I'm sure it will taste better with it!)

Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Cook scallion whites with a pinch of salt until soft, just a couple of minutes. Add 1/4 c water and all but 1/4 c corn. Simmer for several minutes until corn is almost tender. Add 1/4 teas salt and 1/4 teas pepper. Place mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Add water if you need it to get a "thick but pourable texture."

Place the same pan over high heat. Melt the butter, then add the remaining 1/4 c corn. Cook for 2 minutes, until corn is tender. Add corn puree from the blender and cook for 30 seconds.

Turn the heat down to medium, and add pasta and 1/4 c pasta water. Mix everything together to coat the pasta. Cook for one minute. Add more water if needed--my experience was that it needed quite a bit more water. I poured the water into the blender first to get every last bit of corn puree out, too.

Stir in 1/4 c scallion greens, cheese, herbs, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teas each of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Garnish with scallions, herbs, olive oil, and pepper.





Saturday, May 27, 2017

Magic Cookie Bars

Well, my little guy is taking his sweet time getting here, but my maternity leave from work has started and I haven't had anything planned because we're so close to the due date. And having irregular contractions for days on end calls for some comfort food! So I'll sneak in another recipe or two.

Recently we had some graham crackers leftover from making s'mores up the canyon. On a whim I tried the magic cookie bar recipe on the back; I have always loved these seven layer bars, with coconut and chocolate and nuts, but haven't tried to make them myself.

I found the result of the recipe on the back of the graham cracker box to be way too sweet for me, with butterscotch chips, sweetened coconut, and sweetened, condensed milk, and I even substituted dark chocolate. Also the graham cracker and butter crust just crumbled and wouldn't hold a shape. So, as I started looking for other options, I found this one from the New York Times that set out to solve these two problems: the cloying sweetness and the flimsy crust! And it succeeds pretty well, Eli and I agree. "Tookie, pease, Mama!"





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Magic Cookie Bars


Source: New York Times
Yields a 9x13 pan of deliciousness

For the crust:

6 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled; more for greasing the pan
20 graham crackers
1/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas kosher salt
1 large egg

For the topping:

1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (1 1/2 c)
1 c pecans, chopped
2 c unsweetened, flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F. Butter (or spray) a 9x13 pan, then line with parchment paper.

Process the graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Then add the sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse until the mixture is combined. With the machine running, add the egg and melted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened and clumps form.

Place the crumbs in the prepared pan. Use your fingers to separate the clumps and then press the mixture into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is set and dry.

Pour the milk over the crust and use a spatula to spread it out into an even layer. Sprinkle half the chocolate and half the pecans over the surface, then sprinkle all of the coconut on top. Finally add the remaining chocolate and nuts.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the toppings are golden brown. Let the bars cool in the pan, on a wire rack. To cut, pull the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Though less sweet than the first recipe I tried, these are still quite rich so cut them small!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Chicken and Chard Gratin

Hooray for lazy gardening! A small chard patch that I planted last year in the front of my house came up by itself this spring and provided enough for this meal. Chard is often served in soups or as a side dish; try this for a main dish option.

I will probably be a bit inactive on Pie Crust Cookies for the next few months, as I prepare for and care for another type of harvest, due at the end of May. I'll post a picture or two once he's arrived!



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Chicken and Chard Gratin


Source: How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman

3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 lbs chard
4-8 ounces Gruyere cheese, 1-2 c grated
2 thick slices rustic bread

A couple of notes on ingredients: Bittman offers several flavor variations with cheddar, mozzarella, or Jack cheese, so try these if you don't find Gruyere or if you'd prefer cheaper cheese. Also the bread slices are for bread crumbs; feel free to use 1 c bread crumbs if you already have them on hand.

I'm modifying Bittman's "prep as you go" instructions because prepping chard takes me longer than it does Bittman. Either I'm slow, garden chard is dirtier, or my little person interruptions make it take much longer (probably all three!). I made this recipe last time with young chard and didn't worry about removing the stems, and it turned out great. So I might be more lax about leaving in chopped chard stems in the future.

Begin by prepping the chard, removing thick stems and slicing them thinly. Chop the leaves. Then cut the chicken into chunks.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the broiler to high, and move the rack so it's 6 inches from the heat.

Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until it loses its pink color, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, mince the two garlic cloves and grate the cheese.

When the chicken is no longer pink, add the garlic, chard, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook until the chard leaves are just wilted, stirring occasionally, another 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, tear up the bread slices and pulse in a food processor until they are bread crumbs.

When the chard is just wilted, sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the top and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are browned and crisp, 2-5 minutes.

Serve with buttered egg noodles for a fast meal.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bee-Bim Bop

I don't get to eat Korean food often and am familiar only with two to three dishes. But I have loved Bee-bim Bop for some time. Several years ago, Betsy discovered the children's book Bee-bim Bop by Linda Sue Park, a delightful rhyming and rhythmic story about a family cooking together. Park explains that the name means mixed up rice in Korean. Because I am referencing the book I am using her spelling; it is also often spelled bibimbap or bibimbop. Let me encourage you to read this book if you haven't already.



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Bee-bim Bop (Rice Topped with Vegetables and Meat)


Source: Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
Serves 4

These are the instructions found in the book. However, personal experience and online research has lead me to believe there are other ingredients that are great, too. See below.

In one recipe, after each ingredient (except the meat) was cooked, it was mixed with a tablespoon of sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds (1/2 teas for these amounts). This suggestion adds flavor but it isn't required.

Restaurants sometimes serve this in heated stone bowls which make the rice crispy. To mimic this effect (and avoid buying some stone bowls) I heated some oil in a skillet and placed the cooked rice in and allowed some of the bottom rice to brown and become crispy. This is also not required.

Keep each component in a warm oven after cooking.

2 c white rice
4 c water
1 pound tender lean beef (such as sirloin tip although I have used chuck steak)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips (matchstick size), or shredded on large holes of grater
1 pd fresh spinach, washed, or 2 pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted or use Swiss chard
1 pd mung bean sprouts
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

For the marinade:

  2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  2 scallions, sliced
  5 T soy sauce
  2 T sugar
  2 T vegetable oil
  1 teas sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
  1 T sesame oil
  1/8 teas black pepper

Cook the rice using your favorite method.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a large zip-lock bag or a plastic container. Slice the beef across the grain into very thin slices. This will be easier if you freeze the beef for 30-60 minutes before slicing. Place the beef into the bag, close the top and carefully squish the beef in the marinade (this will increase the tenderness of the beef). You can also stir it all together in the plastic container.  Set the bag with the beef and marinade aside or in the refrigerator if you think it will take you more than an hour to prep other ingredients.

[Optional egg treatment--egg pancakes: Break the eggs into a large measuring cup. Beat with a fork until fully mixed. Heat 1 teas oil over medium heat in non-stick pan. Pour about 1/4 of the egg into the pan. Rotate the pan quickly so the egg spreads out in a thin layer on the bottom. Cook the egg for 1 minute. Using a wide spatula, flip the egg over and cook the other side for 1 minute. This may be easier to grab carefully with your fingertips. You now have an egg pancake. Flip the pancake out onto a cutting board and leave to cool. Repeat until you have used up all the egg, adding a little more oil if needed. You should be able to make at least 4 pancakes. Leave them on the cutting board until cool enough to handle. When cool, place them in a neat stack. Roll up the stack tightly and cut the roll into 1/4-in slices. Place the slices into a medium-sized bowl, unroll them and lightly toss. They will look like yellow ribbons. Set aside.]

Heat 1 T oil in a large frying pan over high heat and stir-fry the carrots until tender. Empty the carrots into a bowl and set aside.

If you are using frozen spinach, squeeze some of the water out of it. If you are using fresh spinach, cook it for 2 minutes in a pot of boiling water, drain and let cool for a few minutes, then squeeze some of the water out. Put 1 T oil into the frying pan and stir-fry the thawed or precooked spinach for 2-3 minutes until tender. If you use fresh Swiss chard, chop it coarsely and stir fry it.  Empty the spinach into a bowl, season it with salt and pepper and set in oven.

Pour one c water into a large saucepan. Add 1/4 teas salt. Put the pan over high heat. When the water boils, place the bean sprouts into the pan. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the bean sprouts and empty them into a bowl.

Wipe out the frying pan and heat again over high heat for about 30 seconds. Take the beef and marinade and dump them into the frying pan--all at once. When the beef hits the pan, it will sizzle loudly. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, spread the beef out in the pan. Stir for 2-3 minutes until all the red meat is cooked. Turn off the heat. You'll be left with a bit of flavorful gravy with the beef.

To serve:

Put the rice, the bowls of egg strips and vegetables, and the pan of meat where everyone can reach them. Each person puts a pile of rice in the middle of a soup bowl or plate and some meat and vegetables on top. Be sure to pour a couple of spoonfuls of gravy your rice.) Top with egg ribbons. If you like spicy food, add some hot-pepper paste or some gochujang which you may find in an Asian grocery store. Apparently you can make your own, a fairly complicated process.

Now "bee-bim" (mix everything together in your bowl). It is ready to eat. If you like it, kimchee is a good accompaniment.

Betsy and I like fried eggs instead instead of the egg pancake. If you leave the yolk quite runny and stir it into the hot vegetables, it cooks the rest of the way and flavors the whole dish.

Here are other ingredients you might like to use; stir fry if appropriate.

zucchini
snow peas or sugar snaps
green beans
mushrooms
crumbled nori
julienned cucumber or cucumber slices that you've salted and rested for an hour (rinse them, pat them dry and add some sesame oil and roasted seeds)
See this site for ingredients more traditional in Korea.

Note:

The heat for stir-frying vegetables will depend on your stove top. Closely attend the first time you cook this recipe and modify the heat if you need to.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Asparagus, Leek, and Fennel Soup

I had to try this as soon as I saw it since it is asparagus season in the garden. I am going to post it quickly, too, for the same reason. Although the soup has other vegetables, asparagus is the star. This soup can be vegan if you use vegetable stock and skip the creme fraiche. It is quick, creamy, and beautiful but might need the accompaniment of some bread and a salad to make it a full meal.

Let me encourage people to grow French tarragon (make sure you don't buy a Russian tarragon seeding which is completely different in flavor). This plant is a perennial down to zone 5 and can be wintered in a garage for lower zones. It is easy to grown in pots as well as in the garden. I love having one right next to my back door and often grab a bite as I pass by. Yum.


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Asparagus, Leek, and Fennel Soup


Adapted from:  Serious Eats
Serves: 4 if it is the main dish or 6 if it is a side

2 T oil
1 large leek, white and pale green portions, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (save some of the fronds for garnishing)
salt
2 T all-purpose flour
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
2 pds asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1 1/2-in pieces
1 small handful minced fresh French tarragon leaves (plus a little more for garnishing)
2 T fresh lemon juice
creme fraiche thinned with some cream or milk, optional
pepper

Heat the oil in a 4- qt saute pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Scoop the leek and fennel into the pot and stir in a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the flour and stir while cooking until it is incorporated, about half a minute. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. 

Add the tarragon and asparagus, reserving a about 8 spears. Return to a simmer and cook 6-8 minutes until the asparagus is tender. Add the lemon juice. Place the spears in a small bowl with a tablespoon or two of water and microwave for 1 minute. Remove from the bowl, drain, and cut each spear in half.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender. You can blend it very smooth or a bit chunky if you like. Taste the soup and season with pepper and more salt if needed. Serve, garnishing with creme fraiche (if you are using), tarragon leaves, and fennel fronds. You may also drizzle a bit of olive oil over all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables

Here is another fast recipe from Cook's Country that will help you take advantage of asparagus season.




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Skillet Chicken with Spring Vegetables


Source: Cook's Country

3 lbs bone-in chicken pieces, of your choice, trimmed
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c dry white wine (I used vermouth)
1 T minced fresh tarragon, divided (or 1 teas dried tarragon)
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut on bias into 2-inch lengths
1 c frozen peas
2 T unsalted butter
2 T minced fresh chives

Heat oven to 475F. Heat oil in 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper while the oil is heating, then cook the chicken skin side down until well browned, 6-10 minutes. Flip and cook on other side until lightly browned, approximately 2 minutes.

Add broth, wine, and half of the tarragon. Then move the pan to the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the breasts reach 160F and drumsticks/thighs reach 175F. Transfer chicken to a platter (or a casserole baking dish) and tent with foil.

While the chicken is in the oven, microwave the asparagus in a covered bowl until just tender, about 3 minutes. After the chicken is on the platter, place the skillet back on medium-high heat (be sure to use a hot pad to handle the skillet!) and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add peas and asparagus and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Off heat whisk in butter, chives, and remaining tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Pour vegetables and sauce over chicken, then serve.

Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup

Is it too late for soup? Maybe. But this would work well on a coldish spring day, as well as a really cold day in the winter. I love it because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, and because it reminds of my grandmother's beef, vegetable, and barley soup I ate frequently as a child and teenager.



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Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup


Source: Cook's Country

1 lb 90% lean ground beef (I have used 80% lean and it is greasier, but not inedible)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teas dried oregano
salt and pepper
4 c beef broth (or chicken broth, if you don't have any beef)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (red potatoes would also work)
6 oz green beans, trimmed and cut on bias into 1-inch lengths
2 T chopped fresh parsley, optional

In a Dutch oven, cook beef, onion, carrots, oregano, 1 teas salt, and 1/2 teas pepper over medium-high heat. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the beef until no longer pink. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, 10-12 minutes.

Add green beans and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and soup has thickened slightly, 12-14 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Savory Sour Cherry Sauce

Last summer my friend, Diane, had a pie cherry tree loaded with fruit. She kindly let me pick some and I ended up with enough for jam and a couple of quart bags of cherries in the freezer. I've made the sauce with fresh and frozen cherries and they performed equally well. This can be used on pork (as in the recipe below), sliced ham, or baked or sauteed chicken. It is rather hardy so it seems more like a winter dish, but if you eat "seasonally" it can be a summer meal, too.



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Savory Sour Cherry Sauce


Adapted from: Epicurious.com
Serves: 6-8

3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T sugar
3/4 c dry red wine
1/4 c minced shallot
1 3-in cinnamon stick
1 c chicken broth
1 pound sour cherries (about 3 cups), pitted (frozen sour cherries are fine, too)
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 1 T cold water
2 teas fresh lime juice, or to taste
salt and pepper
6-8 thick pork chops (country style ribs, pork roast or tenderloin would be good, too)

Boil the vinegar and sugar over moderate heat in a heavy saucepan until the mixture has thickened into a glaze. Add the shallot, wine, and cinnamon stick; bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Stir in the cherries and the broth and allow the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the sauce. Stir as the sauce thickens and simmer for 2 minutes. If you want it to be thinner, add water by tablespoon until you achieve desired thickness. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the sauce and keep it warm.

Here's how to prepare pork chops to eat with cherry sauce:

Brine pork chops for an hour in a mixture of 1 1/2 quarts water and 3 T table salt. With paper towels, pat the chops dry and season with pepper. Grill the chops over heated coals or a preheated gas grill for about 6-8 minutes on each side or until they are cooked to your preference. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow juices to be reabsorbed. 

Serve the chops passing the cherry sauce at the table.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pound Cake

This recipe comes from the marvelous book Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy. Every recipe in the book was tested at five altitudes, including sea level. And each recipe is presented so you can succeed no matter in spite of the effects of air pressure, lower boiling point, etc. Here's a link for baking this cake at 5000 feet elevation. Although I have not baked this cake at sea level I have so much trust in Purdy's instructions that I'm posting it for readers who don't live at my elevation. For any reader who lives at 3000, 7000, or 10,000 feet I recommend you check the book out from your library.



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Pound Cake (for sea level up to 2500 feet)


Source:  Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Serves 12-16, depending on how you slice it


3 c sifted all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 teas baking powder
8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 teas cream of tartar
3/4 teas salt
3/4 c plus 2 c granulated sugar, divided
3/4 pd unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
1 c sour cream
1 T vanilla
2 teas lemon or almond extract or 1 teas each
3 T brandy or rum

Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F. Coat a 10-inch (12-16 cup) plain tube pan (angle food cake pan) with nonstick spray or butter.  Avoid a bundt pan. 

In a bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. Place to the side.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until foamy. Then gradually pour in the 3/4 c of sugar and increase the speed to high. Watch closely and beat until you see tracks in the top of the mixture. Stop and check the whites. You are looking for something that is just beginning to stand in peaks, no droopiness. Don't overbeat. The mixture should also be smooth and shiny. Set this aside as well. If you need your bowl for the remainder of the recipe, put the mixture into another bowl.

In a large bowl (5 quart or larger) place the butter and the remaining sugar (2 c) and cream together, scraping down the bowl and beaters. Cream until well blended. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and other flavorings, and the brandy or rum. Mix until combined and add the egg yolks 2 at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix a couple more minutes. If the batter looks curdled, don't be surprised. It is fine.

Lightly stir in approximately 2 cups of  the egg white mixture into the creamed butter and sugar to lighten the mix. In 5 or 6  alternating additions, fold in the flour mixture and  the remaining egg white mixture. A long handled rubber spatula is good for this job since you'll have quite a bit of batter by now. Fold until you have a creamy, thick batter and you no longer see streaks of flour.  With a light hand, scrape along the bottom to ensure you've mixed everything in. 

Place the batter into the prepared tube pan. Use a knife or a thin spatula to run through the batter to remove any air pockets, but be sure to avoid the sides and bottom of the pan. Smooth the top and place into the oven. 

After about 30 minutes of baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top, shiny side down; this will keep the top from getting too brown. Continue to bake for a total of 50-55 minutes until the top is golden and has a few cracks. It should be springy to the touch and if you use a tester (or a toothpick) it should come out with a few crumbs, nothing wet. 

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 45-60 minutes. Then use a knife to carefully run around the sides of the pan and the tube. Invert the cake onto a plate and invert again onto a cake platter or another plate, so the top is up. Allow to cool completely. 

The author of this recipe recommends you wait until the next day to eat it for best flavor and slicing; but she points out it is difficult to wait that long. 

This cake is wonderful served with berries, fruits in simple syrup, berry coulis, lemon curd, or whipped cream. 

High Altitude Pound Cake

This is the best pound cake I've ever eaten; it would have to be with all those eggs. If you want a superior cake with fine texture, consider making this. But be prepared for it to take a little time and dirty a few dishes.



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High Altitude Pound Cake (5000 ft) 


Source:  Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Serves 12-16, depending on how you slice it

I believe this recipe will work for elevations from 4000-5500 feet. For a sea level recipe please see "Pound Cake" and for other elevations consider borrowing the book from the library. It can really help you succeed when baking.


3 c plus 1 T sifted all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 teas baking powder 9 large eggs, at room temperature, separated 1/2 teas cream of tartar 3/4 teas salt
3/4 c plus 1 3/4 c granulated sugar, divided 3/4 pd unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
1 c sour cream
1 T vanilla
2 teas lemon or almond extract or 1 teas each
3 T brandy or rum

Place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375F. Coat a 10-inch (12-16 cup) plain tube pan (angle food cake pan) with nonstick spray or butter.  Don't use a bundt pan. 

In a bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. Place to the side.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until foamy. Then gradually pour in the 3/4 c of sugar and increase the speed to high. Watch closely. At this altitude you don't want the eggs to get to the stiff point. Beat until you see tracks in the top of the mixture. Stop and check the whites. You are looking for something that holds together but the peaks are droopy. The mixture should also be smooth and shiny. Set this aside as well. If you need your bowl for the remainder of the recipe, put the mixture into another bowl.

In a large bowl (5 quart or larger) place the butter and the remaining sugar (1 3/4 c) and cream together, scraping down the bowl and beaters. Cream until well blended. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and other flavorings, and the brandy or rum. Mix until combined and add the egg yolks 2 at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix a couple more minutes. If the batter looks curdled, don't be surprised. It is fine.

Lightly stir in approximately 2 cups of  the egg white mixture into the creamed butter and sugar to lighten the mix. In 5 or 6  alternating additions, fold in the flour mixture and the remaining egg white mixture. A long handled rubber spatula is good for this job since you'll have quite a bit of batter by now. Fold until you have a creamy, thick batter and you no longer see streaks of flour. With a light hand, scrape along the bottom to ensure you've mixed everything in. 

Place the batter into the prepared tube pan. Use a knife or a thin spatula to run through the batter to remove any air pockets, but be sure to avoid the sides and bottom of the pan. Smooth the top and place into the oven. 

After about 30 minutes of baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top, shiny side down; this will keep the top from getting too brown. Continue to bake for a total of 45-50 minutes until the top is golden and has a few cracks. It should be springy to the touch and if you use a tester (or a toothpick) it should come out with a few crumbs, nothing wet. 

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 45-60 minutes. Then use a knife to carefully run around the sides of the pan and the tube. Invert the cake onto a plate and invert again onto a cake platter or another plate, so the top is up. Allow to cool completely. 

The author of this recipe recommends you wait until the next day to eat it for best flavor and slicing; but she points out it is difficult to wait that long. 

This cake is wonderful served with berries, fruits in simple syrup, berry coulis, lemon curd, or whipped cream. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Salad of Peppery and Bitter Greens with Sunchokes and Bacon

Late winter means arugula in our New Mexico garden and it also means chicory. We also grew a truck load of sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes). So this salad is as homegrown as a salad can be in February and March. Add bacon to the mix and it can hardly be beat.



While I'm at it, let me encourage you to give these tubers a try. They are indigenous to North America, easy to grow, and store for months in the refrigerator. They can be eaten raw or cooked. I've served them as soups, salads, and sides. (See note below about the only downside.)

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Salad of Peppery and Bitter Greens with Sunchokes and Bacon


Adapted from:  Dinner: A Love Story who in turn adapted it from a recipe from Jamie Oliver
Serves 4

6 slices thick bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pd sunchokes
2 large handfuls of arugula
2 large handfuls of chicory greens or sliced radichio
1 sliced small sweet onion or red onion
Slivered parmesan cheese, to taste
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Start cooking the bacon in a 12-inch skillet. Remove when as crisp as you like and set aside. Boil the sunchokes in water until cooked but not mushy. Remove from pot, allow to cool until you can handle them and slice into 1/2-inch slices. Leave about a tablespoon bacon grease in the skillet and place sunchoke slices in and brown each side. Remove and set aside.

Cook the onion in what is left of the bacon grease. If needed add some olive oil. When the onions are softened return the sunchokes to the skillet and reheat.

In the meantime, tear the greens into a salad bowl. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over the greens and about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste to test for flavor and add more oil or vinegar. Toss the warm sunchokes and onions into the greens and top with the bacon and the parmesan cheese slivers.

Taste one more time for salt. I find the cheese and the bacon add seasoning so I don't add more but you might want to.

If you don't want to boil the sunchokes, you can roast them in the oven at 375F for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Note:

Sunchokes contain inulin which can be difficult for some to digest. See this discussion of the issue. Some decide to skip sunchokes all together, but we  have found that Beano is helpful, as is eating them somewhat regularly. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Paprika Salmon

In California recently, I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with my husband Michael, his sister Adrienne and her husband Aaron. My mother-in-law had given us a gift card to use at the restaurant, and was watching all of the kids for us. When we arrived at the restaurant we were delighted to find that it was trivia night! Between the four of us, and with some help from a neighbor not playing trivia, we managed to win 3rd place, which was a $15 gift card. One of the questions was something about the heart-healthy qualities of a food known as Pacific, Atlantic, King, and Coho. Salmon, of course!




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Paprika Salmon


Source: Cook's Country

This is so easy it hardly warrants a recipe, but it's tasty enough I didn't want to forget it.

Combine in a small bowl:

1-2 T olive oil
1 teas paprika
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper

Rub onto 4 salmon fillets, 6-8 oz each.

Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon and saute for 4-5 minutes per side, until fish reaches at least 125 degrees. Sprinkle fish with another 1/4 teas paprika for extra flavor.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I was first introduced to lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang's years ago. This version is much cheaper and if you use rotisserie chicken, it is a quick meal. Also it could easily be converted to a meatless meal--just substitute another vegetable for the chicken.




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Asian Lettuce Wraps


Cobbled together from a number of recipes. Sauce from Cooks Illustrated Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

This recipe is flexible and it's easy to create your own variations, depending on what you like or what you have. Consider carrots, red peppers, water chestnuts, or squash as your vegetables, and adjust cooking times according to how fast your vegetables cook.

Rice, of your choice
Crispy lettuce leaves, washed (I like romaine)

For the filling:

1 T vegetable oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
1 lb button or crimini mushrooms
2 ribs celery
3 c cooked chicken (I used rotisserie)

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cook the rice.

Mince the garlic. Peel the ginger, using a spoon to scrape off the skin. Then grate the ginger using a microplane. (If you don't have a microplane, mince it with a chef's knife.) Trim and chop the mushrooms and celery. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Then add the mushrooms and celery and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables reach desired tenderness.

Prepare the chicken. Cook, if necessary, then chop into smallish pieces to match the size of the vegetables. Then prepare the sauce: whisk all sauce ingredients in a small bowl until combined.

When the vegetables are done, add the chicken and sauce to the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes to heat the chicken if necessary and combine flavors.

To serve, fill lettuce leaves with a little rice, then add some of the meat and vegetable mixture.

Note from Colette: Cook's Country Magazine also offers a good recipe for a filling for lettuce leaves. It suggests grinding your own pork but I have done it with purchased ground pork. This recipe, too, can be tweaked. I didn't have canned water chestnuts the last time I made it so I used carrots and it tasted great. I supplemented the filling with a spoonful of cooked white rice. 


Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Soup

We had a volunteer banana squash plant in our garden last summer, such a lovely surprise here in squash-bug country. But a banana squash can be a bit large for two people to consume without boredom and I'm pleased to find various ways to eat it so I subbed banana squash for butternut in this soup.



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Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Soup


Adapted from:  The Make-Ahead Cook:  8 Smart Strategies for Dinner Tonight by America's Test Kitchen
Serves 4-5

4 c vegetable broth
1 T vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped 
4 scallions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teas minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teas minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teas dried
1 pound butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces  (3 cups)
1 pound swiss chard, stemmed and cut roughly into 2-3 inch pieces
1 c canned coconut milk
salt

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and scallions and cook until softened. Stir in garlic, chipotle, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in 1 c cubed squash and 2 cups broth, setting aside the additional 2 cups. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender. Carefully process the mixture in the blender until smooth; depending on how your blender handles hot liquids you may have to do it in two batches. Return mixture to the pot. Or use a stick blender. Add the rest of the broth.

Stir in remaining squash cubes and chard and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender. Off heat, stir in coconut milk and let sit for about 5 minutes until heated through. Season with salt to taste. Serve.

If you want to prepare this ahead and finish a few days later (as the original recipe intended), let the soup cool after blending and add the second half of the broth. Let soup sit, uncovered, until cooled to room temp about 30 minutes. Store it covered in the refrigerator either in the pot or another container for up to 3 days. Place the remaining squash and the chard in the fridge, too. On the day you plan to serve it, remove from refrigerator, add the reserved squash and the chard, and continue to follow the instructions to finish the soup. 

Note:

When I last made this, I had only one cup of vegetable broth in my freezer and I didn't have lots of time to make more. So I subbed water for the broth and threw in a couple of carrots and a stalk of celery (all halved) and a few whole sprigs of parsley in with the onions and left them in while the squash cooked. I removed them when it was time to place the squash in the blender. In the 30 minutes of cooking time this added enough extra vegetable flavor that the broth wasn't missed. If you aren't interested in a vegan dish, you could substitute with chicken broth instead.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Skillet Apple Raspberry Crisp

This is a fussier than usual apple crisp recipe but the apples are evenly cooked and lightly caramelized in a gently thickened sauce. The end result is worth the extra effort. And the raspberries make it look so pretty.




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Skillet Apple Raspberry Crisp


Source:  cooksillustrated.com
Serves 6-8

If you don't have an oven safe skillet Cook's Illustrated recommends that you prepare this on the stovetop and transfer it to a baking dish (9X13) to finish in the oven.



Preheat the oven to 450F and ensure the rack is in the middle position.

For the topping:

3/4 c unbleached flour (I use half white wheat flour)
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas table salt
8 T unsalted butter, melted

Stir together all the ingredients but the butter. When combined stir in the butter until the mixture is completely moistened and crumbly. Set aside.

For the filling:

Cook's Illustrated also reports that Golden Delicious apples are best since they retain their shape and their cooked flavor is excellent.

3 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 7 medium) peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch thick wedges
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c cinnamon
1 c apple cider or juice
2 teas juice from 1 lemon
1/8 teas almond extract
2 T unsalted butter
1 c raspberries, fresh or frozen

Place the apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon into a large bowl; stir to combine. Place the apple cider into an oven safe 12-inch skillet over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until it is reduced to 1/2 cup (pour it back into your measuring cup to be sure). Once it is reduced keep it in the measuring cup or a small bowl and add the lemon juice and almond extract.

Return the now-empty skillet to the burner. Add the butter over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming and has melted, add the apple mixture and cook until the apples start to look translucent and begin to soften, but don't fully cook them. Turn off the heat and stir in the raspberries and the apple cider mixture ensuring the apples are coated.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, making sure there are no large chunks. Place the skillet on a large baking sheet and cook until the topping is browned to a deep gold and the apples have softened. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Note:

Usually apple crisp is a pantry recipe with almost all the ingredients available at home. The addition of the apple cider changes this aspect for me. I keep a can of apple juice concentrate in my freezer and reconstitute some of it to equal a cup and use that instead of the cider.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Red Beans and Rice


This is an old recipe from The Washington Post, so old I can't find it in their recipe database. (There are some that are similar but not the same.) I started making it about 18 years ago. I'm not certain of its authenticity, but I love how it tastes.




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Red Beans and Rice


Adapted from:  The Washington Post
Serves: 6-8

This recipe uses 4 types of pepper. I like the flavor combination so I follow the instructions, although I lower the amount of cayenne. Feel free to modify any of the peppers to suit your heat tolerance.

1 pound dry kidney beans
2 quarts water
1 1/2 teas salt
additional water to cover beans
one ham bone, optional (or ham hocks)
1 large onion, chopped
1 c chopped green pepper
4 green onions, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teas hot sauce, such as Tabasco or to taste
1 teas ground white pepper
2 teas dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teas dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teas cayenne (or less)
1/2 teas freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups cubed ham, about 1/2 inch bits

cooked white rice
sour cream

The night before you plan to serve, sort through the beans on a flat surface; discard stones, dirt, and withered beans. Place the beans, 2 quarts water, and 1 1/2 teas salt in a bowl or pot and stir until salt has dissolved. Allow to sit overnight. At least six hours before serving, drain the beans and rinse them. Place into a pot or Dutch oven, add water to cover by an inch or so and place on a burner over medium heat. If you forget to soak the beans, you can do a speed-soak by bringing to a boil the beans, water, and salt. Then remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least an hour before continuing with the recipe. I'll admit I prefer the overnight method, but have forgotten often enough that I've frequently resorted to the speed-soak. Because the beans have been soaked in salt water, don't add more salt until you've tasted the end product.

Add to the beans, a ham bone or several ham hocks, and all other ingredients except the cubed ham. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, for several hours until the beans begin to break up and the liquid begins to thicken. Stir occasionally and make sure you keep the heat at a level that avoids scorching. When the beans are very tender remove the ham bone. If the beans are still soupy, remove the lid and raise the heat and allow the liquid to evaporate somewhat. Stir often at this point.to keep from burning the beans. You can also remove some of the cooking liquid and discard it (but reserve it until you know you won't need it). At this point I use a potato masher to smash some of the beans. Add the ham and allow to heat through. Taste for seasoning and if needed, add some salt.

Serve over white rice with a dollop of sour cream and more scallions or chives as a garnish. Corn bread is a good accompaniment, too.

Note:

If you can find it, you can use andouille sausage to replace some or all of the ham. You might want to reduce the pepper amounts depending on how spicy the sausage is.

This freezes well.