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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Blender Ice Cream

I have a beautiful mint plant on my back steps, that I keep watering every summer because I plan on using it to flavor mint ice cream. The last couple of summers, however, that idea has seemed out of reach. Infusing the cream with mint and pulling out the ice cream machine has been too much. But I am back in the ice cream game now, with this new recipe for making ice cream in a blender!

This was the perfect first-day-of-school treat! So easy. Whip the cream in the blender for 30 seconds, then dump everything else in and process for a few seconds more. Freeze for 6 hours or more, and voila! Soft, scoop-able, tasty ice cream.

Both recipes I tried were plenty sweet for me. I'm going to remove the granulated sugar next time--but here is the original, since I know not everyone objects to sweet.


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Blender Ice Cream Base, with Three Variations


Source: Cook's Country
Yield: about a quart

2 c heavy cream, chilled
1 c sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 c whole milk
1/4 light corn syrup
2 T sugar
1/4 teas table salt

Vanilla variation

1 T vanilla extract

Mint Cookie variation

3/4 teas peppermint extract
4 Oreo cookies, or something similar, crushed coarse (1/2 c)

Peanut Butter Cup variation

1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c coarsely chopped peanut butter cups
(This peanut butter ice cream is really good topped with spanish peanuts.)

The original recipe says to process cream in a blender for 20-30 seconds until soft peaks form, then scrape down the sides and process another 10 seconds until stiff peaks form. I have a ninja blender and it was hard to tell the exact peak stage, so I went with the time recommendations instead.

After the cream is whipped, add all other ingredients except the big stir-ins like cookies or candy chunks. Process for another 20 seconds or so until fully combined, then pour into a loaf pan. Gently stir in cookie or candy, if applicable. Then cover the ice cream with plastic wrap, pressing it down so it's resting right on the cream mixture. Freeze for at least 6 hours, then enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Baked Peach Oatmeal with Almonds

One more summertime oatmeal recipe.



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Baked Peach Oatmeal with Almonds


Adapted from:  https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/baked-peach-almond-oatmeal/
Yields:  6-9 servings

2 c rolled oats
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 c chopped almonds
2 c milk,  any kind but almond milk might be particularly good
1 large egg
3 T coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly, or 3 T melted and cooled butter
1 teas vanilla extract
1/4 teas almond extract
1 1/2 c chopped peaches
Peach slices for the top, optional

Oil or butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and almonds in a medium bowl.

Mix the milk, egg, coconut oil (or butter), and extracts in another bowl. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until combined.

Spread the chopped peaches on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with the oatmeal mixture and even it with an offset or rubber spatula. Top the pan with peach slices, if desired.

Bake for 40 minutes; the oatmeal should be set and the top be golden. Let it cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Notes:

This is not a particularly sweet version of baked oatmeal which suits me fine, but I wager many people might like it a bit sweeter. You could add another tablespoon or two of sugar without a problem. Or you might offer a bit of maple syrup when you serve it. If you have some Peach Drizzle, this would be a great use for it.

You can double this recipe and place ingredients in a 9X13 pan.

Next time, I may use 2 cups chopped peaches, especially if I have an abundance of fruit.

This can be easily reheated in the microwave but you may want to stir in a bit of milk for creaminess.


Peruvian Chicken Soup

Although I'm unsure if this soup is authentic, it is tasty, pretty, and, for me, unique. Better yet it is very quick. The soup can be finished in about 30 minutes.

You may not love quinoa and although it hangs out at the bottom of the pan making it hard to serve evenly, I could find nothing objectionable in the flavor--it added texture to the soup. You could leave it out or use some potatoes, rice, or orzo (you'd have to fiddle with cooking time, though).



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Peruvian Chicken Soup


Serves about 2 but can be multiplied

1 small onion, cut into quarters
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small jalapeno pepper, optional (or it can be increased), seeds removed and coarsely chopped
8 large stems of parsley or cilantro, including tender stems, coarsely chopped
1 T oil
2 c chicken broth
1/4 c quinoa
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast half (about 11 oz)
1/2 c frozen peas, optional
salt
pepper
1 lime for serving

Place the onion, celery, garlic, jalapeno, and parsley or cilantro into a blender or a food processor along with the oil. Pulse until you've got a pesto-like paste. If it resists your machine's efforts add a tablespoon or 2 of the chicken broth and try again. It's nice to have it quite smooth but if you can't get there, don't fret. It will still taste good.

Scrape the vegetable paste into a saucepan and place on a burner over medium heat; let it heat for a minute or two. Add the broth. If your quinoa needs to be rinsed (check the package) do so and then put it into the pot. Once the mixture starts to boil, put a lid on it, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so.

In the meantime, cut the chicken breast across the grain into 1-inch slices and place into the sauce pan. With the lid off, cook for 10 minutes until the meat is opaque. The quinoa should be starting to pop. Remove the chicken from the pan and cut it into bite size pieces. Return the chicken to the soup and stir in the peas. Cook until the peas have warmed up and are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Peach and Corn Salsa

It's time for peaches! This fruit keeps me happy for weeks and weeks during the summer. And corn on the cob helps, too. Even though this is a canning recipe you can easily half it and store in the fridge if you have left overs. You'd get about 3 cups of salsa.


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Peach and Corn Salsa


From: The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving 
Yield: about 6 half-pint jars (or 6 cups)

1/4 c malt vinegar (5% acidity)
1/4 c lime juice (about 4 small limes)
3 T chopped canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (optional) I used about one or a little more
2 T maple syrup
2 teas salt
1 teas fresh thyme or dried
3 1/2 c finely chopped peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 1/3 c fresh or frozen corn kernels (2 fairly large ears; more if small)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c finely chopped red bell pepper

Heat clean canning jars in the canner as you prepare the ingredients.

Place all ingredients into a 5 or 6-quart stainless steel or enameled Dutch oven. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook about 5 minutes until heated through. Stir often.

While the salsa is cooking, clean lids and place them in a bowl of boiling water and allow to sit until you need them.

Use a ladle or measuring cup to place the salsa into each hot jar leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a chopstick or thin rubber spatula to remove bubbles. Wipe the jar rims with a clean paper towel to ensure no food adheres to the edge.  Place the lids on top. Top with clean bands on each jar and tighten with your finger tips. Place the jars into the simmering water in the canning pot. Measure to ensure you have at least one inch of water above the tops of the jars.

Cover the pot and return to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes but adjust for altitude by adding required boiling time according to this chart:

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 jars have boiled for the required time turn the heat off and allow them to sit in the water for 5-10 minutes to reduce the risk of siphoning (hot liquid escaping the jar in rapid temperature change). Using jar tongs, pull each jar from the water being careful not to tip the jars (also a siphoning risk) and place on a towel in a spot where it can remain for 24 hours as it completes its seal and cools down. If you must move them, place them on a towel on a baking sheet and as soon as all the jars are on the sheet carry them together to an area where they won't be disturbed for a day.

Note if you aren't canning this:

Cook the salsa longer 15 minutes or so. Test it and if it is too crunchy, cook it for another 5 minutes. 


Monday, July 29, 2019

Slow-cooker Salmon with Peppers, Onions, and Charmoula

Using a slow-cooker to cook salmon may seem strange especially since it only cooks for an hour. But during a hot summer it is nice to heat up only that small space.



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Slow-cooker Salmon with Peppers, Onions, and Charmoula


Source:  Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Serves: 6

Charmoula is a green, herb based sauce served with fish, meat, or vegetables in several countries in the north of Africa.


For the salmon:

1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large bell pepper, cut into narrow strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into narrow strips
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 thick salmon fillet (about 2 pounds) cut into 6 serving pieces
1/2 c water

For charmoula sauce:

1/2 c fresh cilantro
1 large clove,  roughly chopped
1 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas paprika
1/3 c olive oil
2-3 T fresh lemon juice

Drop the onion and peppers into the bottom of the insert of a slow-cooker. Spread the pieces of salmon over the top and pour the water over all. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the insert in the slow-cooker, cover with the lid, and cook on high for an hour. Test the fish by cutting into the thickest part. If it is just barely translucent it will be done.

In the meantime, place the cilantro, clove, cumin, paprika and salt to taste into a food processor or blender and process until chopped finely. Add the oil and lemon juice and process until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

Serve the salmon on top of the vegetables and pass the charmoula for drizzling over the fish.

Note:

I am sure you could increase the amount of vegetables if you prefer. I wouldn't increase the water, though.



Friday, June 28, 2019

Strawberry-Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal

I love baked oatmeal but admit that it's a cool weather love. This recipe extends the oatmeal season for me. Rhubarb lends a pleasant tartness to a sweet background and since you likely won't find it in the supermarket again until next spring, frozen will work fine. (That said, keep an eye out for fresh rhubarb; I saw some 2 days ago in my local co-op.)


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Strawberry-Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal


Serves 6-8

Next time I bake this, I'm going to add a half teaspoon grated orange zest and top it with a handful of slivered almonds. I haven't tested it, but I believe you could substitute an equal amount of strawberries for the rhubarb if it's out of season.

3 c old fashioned rolled oats
1/3-1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 teas baking powder (at 4000-5000 ft. elevation, 2 teas. at lower elevations)
1/4 teas salt
1 teas vanilla
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 c milk, any kind
1/4 c yogurt
3/4 c chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 c chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen (red varieties are prettier, but not necessary) about half-inch dice
3-4 T cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix the oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in another bowl. Pour the milk mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the strawberries and rhubarb. Pour into a pie plate, a 9-inch round cake pan, or an 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle the top generously with cinnamon sugar.

Place in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes at my elevation, at lower elevations start checking at 40 minutes. When it is done, it will be fairly firm to the touch and crispy on the edges.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato Wrap

This wrap feels summery to me, pairing nicely with corn on the cob and/or sliced watermelon.



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Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato Wraps


Adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman

bacon and some hot, rendered bacon fat
rotisserie chicken
cherry tomatoes
avocado
lime
tortillas or sandwich wraps

Cook 1-2 slices of bacon per wrap in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. While bacon is cooking, halve some cherry tomatoes and slice some avocado. I like about a quarter of a large avocado in my wrap. Tear chicken into pieces with your fingers. Prepare tortillas if necessary.

Construct the wraps. Place chicken pieces in the wrap first, then top with bacon slice(s), tomatoes, and avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Squeeze some lime juice over the top, then drizzle some hot bacon fat over all of it. Wrap it up like a burrito and enjoy.

The lime juice and bacon fat is key to this recipe. Don't leave it out!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sour Cherry Cobbler (with adjustments for altitude)

For the last few summers a friend has generously shared the harvest from her sour cherry tree with me. This is one of the joys of the season.


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Sour Cherry Cobbler (with adjustments for altitude)


Source: Cook's Illustrated
Serves: 12--however I halved the recipe and cooked enough for 6

For altitudes of around 4000-5800 feet I suggest the following adjustments to the biscuits:

add 2 T flour
subtract 1 teas sugar
use a scant teas baking soda

For the biscuits:

2 c unbleached flour
6 T granulated sugar
1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas table salt
6 T unsalted butter (cold), cut into half-inch cubes
2 T granulated sugar for sprinkling
1 c buttermilk

For the fruit filling:

4 pds sour cherries, (about 8 cups)
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
3 1/2 T cornstarch
pinch table salt
1 c dry red wine
cranberry juice (if needed)
1 3-in cinnamon stick
1/4 teas almond extract


Prepare cherries:

Pit the cherries and reserve the juices. Stir sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a large bowl; add the cherries and stir again until well combined. Pour the red wine over the cherries and allow to stand for 30 minutes at least.

Par cook the biscuits:

Preheat the oven to 425F with the rack in the middle position. Use a silicone baking pad or parchment paper to line a baking sheet.

In a food processor place flour, 6 T sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pulse until combined. Add the butter cubes evenly over the top and pulse about 15 times until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Place this mixture into a bowl and pour the buttermilk over. Toss with a rubber spatula until combined. Divide the dough into 12 equal biscuits on the baking sheet. This is easiest using a 1 1/2 inch spring-loaded ice cream scoop but can be achieved using a couple of serving spoons. Space them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on the baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until lightly browned on top and bottom. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on.

Make the cobbler:

Pour cherry mixture into a colander set over another medium-sized bowl and drain. Measure the drained and reserved juices; you should have collected 3 cups. If the combined juices don't equal that amount add cranberry juice. (I used some raspberry juice and think you could also use grape juice in a pinch.) Place the juices into a saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, and heat over medium-high and cook until mixture thickens, whisking frequently. When thickened remove cinnamon stick, add the almond extract.

Spread the drained cherries into a  9X13 pan. Pour the hot, thickened juices over the cherries in the pan and use a spatula to even it out. Place the biscuits on top of the cherries and filling in 3 rows of 4 each. Place the cobbler in the oven and bake until biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 10-15 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Notes:

If you are going to use frozen, pitted cherries you need less than 4 pounds, closer to 3 1/2 pounds.

It was late one night when I first started this recipe and I hadn't realized the resting time for the cherries so I mixed the cherries and sauce and and rested them in the refrigerator not for 30 minutes but overnight. This worked fine.

My food processor bowl has to be washed by hand so I get lazy about using it sometimes. I have found that I can grate well chilled or frozen butter into the dry ingredients of this biscuit and mix all together with a fork. I think it works just as well and the bowl and grater can go into the dishwasher.

Cook's Illustrated suggests using a glass baking pan. I can't see why it's necessary and found my metal pan worked fine.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Loaf (with altitude adjustments)

I have been guilty of procrastibaking when it comes to this recipe. The tang of the sour cream and the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate nicely offset the sweetness in the bread.



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Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Loaf


Source: How to Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach

Changes needed for altitudes of 4000-5500 feet above sea level:
     add 2 T flour
     reduce baking soda to 1 teas
     reduce granulated sugar by scant 1 T

2 eggs
2/3 c sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/4 teas baking powder
1 1/4 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
1/2 c butter, melted
1 1/3 c sour cream
3/4 c dark chocolate chips
1/3 c roughly chopped walnuts

Cinnamon sugar:
1/4 c sugar
3/4 ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 375F. Butter a standard loaf pan. Assemble the cinnamon sugar.

Beat the eggs until frothy in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, then beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Add the melted butter and the sour cream to the egg mixture and beat until combined. Next add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a spoonful at a time, and beat just until smooth. Then fold in the chocolate chips. 

Spread half the batter in the prepared loaf pan, and sprinkle with about two thirds of the cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle with the walnuts. Then add the remaining batter and spread it evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the loaf completely on a rack before slicing.

Note from Colette:

At my altitude, nearly 5000 feet, I used 1 teas baking powder and 3/4 teas baking soda

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cornish Pasties

I visited Cornwall and ate a pasty there but I also lived (for 4 cold winters and admittedly pleasant summers) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where generations earlier Cornish iron miners imported this dish. It's long been a  regional favorite. I visited the U.P. last summer and with the help of the internet found several of the best pasties available in the area. This recipe tastes just like those.




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Cornish Pasties


Makes 6 big hand pies; some diners can eat only half

For the crust:

2/3 c sour cream, chilled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 c unbleached flour
1 3/4 teas salt
16 T unsalted butter, cut in half-inch pieces and chilled

For the filling:

1 T unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 teas dried
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 pd skirt steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-in pieces
10 oz. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-in pieces
10 oz. rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-in pieces
1/4 c unbleached flour

For the egg wash:

1 large egg
2 teas water

Cook's Country points out that you can use turnips for rutabagas and if you can't find skirt steak substitute with 1 1/2 pounds blade steak which will require more trimming so it needs an extra quarter pound. 

For the crust:  

Mix the sour cream and egg, whisking in a small bowl. Place the flour and salt in a food processor and run for about 3 seconds. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until pea-size pieces remain. Pour in about half the sour cream mixture and pulse about 5 times until combined. Pour in the remaining sour cream and process again until the dough begins to form a mass, about 15 pulses.

Remove from processor to a lightly floured counter and knead until the dough comes together. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk, about 6 inches in diameter. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. (The dough can be made ahead and kept in the fridge about 24 hours but allow it to sit out for 15 minutes before attempting to roll out.)

For the filling:

In a 10-inch skillet at medium heat melt the butter and add the onion and 1/4 teas salt. Cook until the onion has softened. Add the thyme and garlic and cook and stir about 30 seconds until fragrant. Let this mixture cool somewhat, around 5 minutes. In a large bowl, stir the beef, potatoes, rutabaga, and onion mixture together. Add 1 1/2  teas salt, 3/4 teas pepper and stir. Then stir in the flour and toss the mixture to coat. 

To cook:

Preheat the oven to 375F and place the rack at upper-middle position. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet (18X12). Divide the filling into 6 equal portions on a plate or tray (1 cup or more) and remove the dough from the fridge. Cut it in 6 equal portions (about 5 oz each).

On a pastry cloth or floured counter roll one portion of dough into an oval about 8 by 10 inches approximately 1/8 inch thick. Put a portion of filling on the bottom half of the dough making sure to leave half an inch or more along the edge to seal. Use water to moisten the edges of the dough and fold over the top to form a half-moon shape. Press the dough around the filling to adhere and press down on the edges to seal.

Trim ragged edges away and crimp edges to seal or pinch and twist diagonally between your thumb and forefinger.  Or you can seal with the tines of a fork. Place on baking sheet to rest while you repeat with remaining 5 portions of dough. You may place them on the sheet horizontally with three in each of two rows. (If you want to freeze any or all of the pasties they can be placed in the freezer until solid and then placed in a zippered bag for up to a month. When it comes time to cook, place in 350F oven and cook for 65-70 minutes. You'll want to remember to brush with an egg wash just before baking.)

With a paring knife cut 2 vent holes in the top of each pastie. Whisk the egg with 2 teas water and use a pastry brush to brush this mixture on each pastie (it's best not to use the egg wash if you are freezing them). Place in oven and bake about 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and you can see the filling bubbling up through vent holes. Rotate the pasties half way through cooking. When done place pasties on a wire rack and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Notes:

Don't try to save time by chopping ingredients in larger chunks, particularly in case of the beef, because it may not cook through. I will try to chop meat in the food processor next time. 

When I froze half of these they were no different from those I cooked immediately after preparation. This would be a great make-ahead meal. 


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kenji's Easy Butter Pie Crust

Last week, for Pi day, my department at work held a pie party, celebrating the end of a long, time-intensive project. I've never managed a pie for Pi day, but I decided this would be the year. And I was desperately avoiding a trip to the store, so ended up looking for all butter pie crust recipes. I've wanted a good one for a while, due to flavor and also a desire to avoid partially hydrogenated oils. This recipe lived up to the "easy" in its name, both in mixing and rolling, and it was definitely flaky and butter-flavored. You can see that it was popular, too!



pie crust cookies, of course

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Kenji's Easy Butter Pie Crust


Source: Serious Eats https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/07/easy-pie-dough-recipe.html
Also, check out the step-by-step pictures here: https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/10/how-to-make-pie-dough-step-by-step-slideshow.html. They helped me figure out when to stop the food processor.

Yields two crusts

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 teas kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
6 T cold water

Add the sugar, salt, and 1 3/4 c flour to a food processor bowl, and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pats and then add to the food processor. Use a number of short pulses until the dough starts to form clumps and the flour has been incorporated entirely. The original recipe said about 25 pulses; I did at least 50 because my dough wasn't clumping yet. Redistribute the dough in the processor, then add the remaining 3/4 c flour. Pulse a few times until the dough is broken up.

Place the dough in a bowl, and sprinkle with water. Fold and press with a rubber spatula, until it all comes together in a ball. Divide the ball in two and form disks from the two pieces. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before rolling.

Grandma Betty's Rhubarb Crunch

Spring is around the corner--I have rhubarb leaves breaking through the soil.


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Grandma Betty's Rhubarb Crunch 


Adapted from my mom's recipe
Yield: an 8X8 pan

1 1/4 pd rhubarb, cut into half-inch pieces (about 5 1/2-6 cups)
1 c old fashioned oatmeal
1 c flour (I like to use wheat but you can use all-purpose)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c salted butter
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 teas cinnamon
1 T water
1/4-1/2 c chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Mix oatmeal, flour, and brown sugar in a bowl and cut in butter until crumbly. (I like to grate frozen butter into these ingredients). Pat 1/2 of the mixture into the bottom of the 8X8 pan that has been buttered. Add sliced rhubarb to pan and top it with the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and water. (If you prefer you can mix the sugar and cinnamon together before sprinkling it over the rhubarb.) Mix the chopped nuts into the remaining crumble mixture and spread over the sugared rhubarb.

Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Rotate the pan at about the halfway point and check it at about 35 minutes to ensure the crumble topping isn't scorching (if it is, top it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil). Use a fork to test that the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Eat as is or serve with ice cream, whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or pour some unsweetened cream over the top. 

Note: The original recipe calls for 1/2 c granulated sugar. This is just too sweet for me, but if you find rhubarb overly tart, you may want to use that amount of sugar.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

One-pot Black-eyed Pea and Sausage Soup with Kale

I'm a fan of black-eyed peas and have them in the shell stage in my freezer most of the time. I've not cooked this recipe using the dried legume but I trust the source of this recipe.

Black-eyed peas are delicious with pork and with greens. This soup would be great with any green but spinach (unless you add it at the last minute) so if you don't have kale you can use chard or collard greens. Chard will take less time to cook than kale so add it later.



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One-pot Black-eyed Pea and Sausage Soup with Kale


Adapted from: seriouseats.com
Serves: 6

1 T oil, olive or vegetable
12 oz andouille sausage, cut into quarter inch slices (or another sausage if this is too hot)
6 oz salt pork or slab bacon (or regular if that's what you have) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large leek,white and pale green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 c)
1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 c)
2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 c)
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 c)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional or to taste)
1/2 teas red pepper flakes (optional, depending on spiciness of sausage)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or minced in a garlic press, if you're in a hurry)
1 pd dried black-eyed peas
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
chopped parsley, as a garnish, (optional)

In a Dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in sausage and salt pork and cook until browned. Add leeks, onion, celery, green pepper, jalapeno (if using), red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Add the black-eyed peas, chicken broth, and bay leaves and a bit of salt and pepper (you can add more later--remember the sausage, salt pork, and broth are all salted). Cover the black-eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat but keep simmering until the black-eyed peas are tender, 45-75 minutes. This will depend on the size of the peas and their age. When the peas are getting close (try one--you should have some resistance but nothing hard) add the kale and cover until it has wilted--you might have to do this in batches. Cook until the kale is tender and the black-eyed peas are done.

Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. This can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

If you use black-eyed peas in the shell stage, they will only need 35-45 minutes of cooking so you may want to add the kale a little sooner. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Oranges in Caramel Sauce





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Oranges in Caramel Sauce

Serves 8 and can be easily halved

8-9 oranges, navel or cara cara oranges or a combination, blood oranges make a nice visual contrast
1 c granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 T butter

Juice 2 of the oranges to yield 3/4 c of juice. I'd advise straining orange pulp out especially if you use cara cara oranges which tend to leave a lot of pulp behind  If this reduces the amount of juice you have left, squeeze some more and add another orange for slicing.

Cut the ends off the remaining oranges and stand each orange on end and cut off the peels and pith. You may notice from the photo that I only peeled mine because the white edges of the oranges don't bother me and I wanted to preserve as much of each orange as possible. Slice the oranges thinly and lay them overlapping somewhat in a 9X13 pan or casserole dish. 

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, 1/4 c of the orange juice and the cinnamon sticks. Over medium-high heat bring this to a boil and cook, swirling the pan occasionally. The sugar will begin to color around the edges. The bubbling sugar will change from frothy and thin to shiny and thick. At this point reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture is coppery-brown in color, swirling often.

Off heat add the butter and stir constantly until melted. Splash a small amount of the remaining juice in and stir until smooth. The mixture will bubble and steam when the juice joins the caramel. Add the rest of the juice and whisk until completely mixed in. If the caramel sticks to the pan and separates, return it to the heat and simmer until the hard, toffee-like caramel dissolves. When smooth, pour the sauce evenly over the oranges and cover the dish. Place in the fridge for 3 hours.

I like serving this with plain Greek yogurt but you might like it with some ricotta cheese or even vanilla ice cream. 

Note:

I had some trouble with crystallization when I made this. I'm not sure whether it was caused by altitude or weather, but each can impact candy making (and caramel is candy). I added extra juice earlier than called for and cooked it until it was fully caramel colored. I used a small strainer to pour the sauce through to catch any sugar lumps that hadn't fully dissolved. 

Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili




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Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili


Serves: 8

This is a vegan chili but I cooked up a little chorizo as an add-in for meat eaters. It is yummy either way.

1 T oil
2 c chopped onion, about 2 medium onions
4 c cubed sweet potatoes (3/4-inch), about 1 1/4 pds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle en adobo, finely chopped, or to taste
1 T ancho chile powder
2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas smoked paprika
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes, diced or whole and crushed before adding
3 1/2 c cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if from cans (about 2 1/4 15.5 oz. cans)
1 1/2 c homemade or purchased vegetable broth
1/2 teas salt
1 avocado, for garnish, optional
1/4 c snipped chives, for garnish optional

Start heating the oil over medium heat and add the onions once it shimmers. Stir frequently and allow onions to cook until translucent and tender. Add the sweet potatoes and the garlic and cook until the sweet potatoes are beginning to get soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chipotle en adobo, ancho chile powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Stir constantly while the spices become fragrant and mixed in, about a minute.

Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth and raise the heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer slowly uncovered. Stir occasionally until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30-35 minutes. If you want to change the consistency, add more broth.

Stir in the salt and taste and adjust.

Serve topped with chopped avocados and chives.

Notes:

You can find chipotle en adobo in many supermarkets these days; otherwise it's available in a Mexican market.

I made this with home cooked beans and since I used aromatics (carrot, onion, celery, garlic) while cooking the beans, I used bean broth instead of vegetable broth.

Canned diced tomatoes usually have calcium chloride added which keeps them in a consistent diced state and they don't break down with cooking. It's a matter of preference whether you use them. If you like your tomatoes to dissipate in a soup or stew, break or crush whole tomatoes but if you like chunks of tomatoes in your dish, use the diced version.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (with altitude adjustments)

Betsy and I went through a couple of weeks of concentrated chocolate chip cookie baking last December when she gave a presentation on high altitude baking. This is my current favorite recipe; plus these cookies already have a history.

During the holiday season, Betsy had to do without a refrigerator and freezer for a few weeks. I mailed Betsy a couple dozen cookies without high altitude adjustment so attendees could compare them to modified cookies. To protect their freshness they needed to be stored frozen but with no space at home Betsy used the freezer at the church right next door. This was a mistake because the bulk of the cookies disappeared before Betsy's presentation. Happy holidays for someone! I imagine the cookies tasted so good to the 'testers' that they couldn't stop at just one. These are hard to resist!


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Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (with altitude adjustments)    


Source:  Cooksillustrated.com
Yield: 16 large cookies

Changes needed for altitudes of 4000-5500 feet above sea level:

add 1 T flour
reduce baking soda to 1/4 teas
reduce granulated sugar by 1 T




1 3/4 c flour
1/2 teas baking soda
14 T unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1 teas table salt
2 teas vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 375F with the rack in the middle position. Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets (18X12). (You may use smaller sheets but will need to bake in more batches.)

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and soda together and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet (avoid non-stick since it makes it hard to monitor browning) heat 10 tablespoons of butter until melted. Swirling the pan constantly, continue to cook until the butter has browned to a dark golden brown color with a nutty smell. Remove from the heat and using a heat resistant rubber spatula, place the browned butter into a large bowl. Stir the remaining butter into the melted butter and stir it until it has melted completely.

To the bowl containing the butter, add both sugars, salt, and vanilla. Stir until well mixed. Add the egg and yolk and whisk until there are no sugar lumps visible. Allow this mixture to stand for 3 minutes, then whisk it for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking twice more until the mixture is glossy, smooth, and thick. (Don't skip this step; it will allow more of the sugar to dissolve before mixing other ingredients in which improves flavor and texture.)

Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) stirring just enough to ensure they are evenly distributed in the dough. This should also ensure no pockets of flour remain.

Divide the dough using a #24 cookie scoop, if you have one, or into portions of about 3 tablespoons (try a scant quarter cup). Place them on the baking sheets, 8 balls per sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10-14 minutes (it's easy to misjudge cooking times with two in the oven and end up with some overcooked cookies).

Note:
You may make these smaller if you wish but modify the cooking time.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Although we already have a good mac and cheese recipe in our collection, I'm going to include this one, too. I like the idea of an almost one pan meal (depends on if you want to count supplementary bowls) and I like that this cooks on the stove-top.


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Skillet Macaroni and Cheese                     


Source:  Cook's Country Magazine
Serves: 4-6

2 T unsalted butter
2 slices sandwich bread pulsed in food processor until coarsely ground to equal 2 c crumbs

salt and pepper

3 3/4 c water, plus more if needed
1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk, divided
3 c elbow macaroni
1 teas cornstarch
2  teas hot sauce, or to taste
3 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a 12-inch skillet melt butter over medium-high and add bread crumbs, 1/4 teas salt and 1/4 teas pepper. Cook and stir frequently until the crumbs are deep golden brown. Move to a bowl and let rest.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Replace on stove at medium-high heat. To the skillet add the water, 1 1/4 c of the evaporated milk, and 1/2 teas salt and bring it to a simmer. Add the macaroni, stir. Cook until macaroni is al dente remembering to stir often. 

In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the remaining evaporated milk and stir in the hot sauce. Stir this mix into the skillet and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about a minute. Remove from heat and stir the cheeses in, one handful at a time, adding water if needed to adjust the thickness of the sauce. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve.

Note:

Because of all the cheese, I believe the amounts of salt called for in cooking may be reduced somewhat.

Also, you could tempt fate and use salted butter on the bread crumbs which would save a step. 

This was plenty cheesy for me, but I realized I used extra sharp cheese which is stronger in flavor. It will be fine if you use what is called for. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

This creamy sauce is quite beautiful and ensures a tasty chicken meal. The marinade and sauce take a bit of time to pull together and you have to allow time for marinating, but cooking the chicken is straight forward and easy.

The original recipe offers substitutes items fairly often found in home kitchens and I followed those suggestions. I didn't want to wait until I could find new ingredients online and wait for delivery. The results were excellent.


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Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce


Adapted from NYTimes Cooking
Serves 4

This can be cooked as either two halves of a chicken or as chicken pieces. I chose to cook pieces and found that when I removed the breast pieces from the oven earlier than the thighs and legs, as advised, the sauce burned on the pan. To avoid the burned mess and smoke, I advise cooking the chicken on two quarter sheet pans (or two cake pans would work) placing the brown meat on one and the breasts and the wings (if you use them) on another. This way, you can place the breasts in the oven 10 minutes after the brown pieces so that everything finishes up at approximately the same time. Additionally, the juice that is released by the chicken as it cooks is very tasty and it is a shame to let it burn away when it would be better to drizzle it on the pieces of chicken just before serving.

For the marinade:

6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T soy sauce
1 T aji amarillo or another chile paste such as sriracha
1 T lime juice
1 teas aji panca paste or 1 teas pasilla chile powder (I used ground dried mild Hatch chile)
1 teas Dijon mustard
1 teas ground cumin
1 teas freshly ground pepper
1/2 teas table salt

In a large bowl or storage container mix the ingredients above.

For the chicken:

1 (3 1/2-4 1/2 pound chicken) halved or one chicken cut into pieces (I recommend the larger size or you'll have left over sauce)

Place chicken halves or pieces in the bowl or container. Turn until all pieces have been coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. 

For the sauce:

If you are at all spicy-hot averse, mix the sauce with small amounts of chile and chile paste and taste it after blending. You can always add more jalapeno if you want.

1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
jalapenos, seeded and diced (up to 3-4 but I used just half of one)
1/4 c crumbled feta cheese
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped or sliced
1 1/2 teas lime juice, more to taste
2 teas chopped fresh oregano or basil (or 1 teas of dried oregano)
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas Dijon mustard
1/2 T aji amarillo or other chile paste (see above)
1/2 teas honey or sugar or agave syrup
1/2 teas cumin
1/2 c olive oil

Place all ingredients except for olive oil in a blender container and run the blender until everything is fairly finely chopped. Scrape the sides. Drizzle the oil through the blender opening while the machine is running until everything is emulsified. Scrape the sides again and run the blender a while to get everything as smooth as possible. Stop the blender and taste the sauce; add more chile, salt, and/or lime juice, if desired. Store in fridge until serving time.

Cooking the chicken:

the marinated chicken
olive oil for drizzling as needed

Heat the oven to 450 F. Take the chicken out of the marinade and blot with paper towels to dry the pieces somewhat. Arrange the chicken skin-side up on an oiled rimmed baking sheet (or two quarter sheets as suggested above). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place in the oven. Chicken halves can be roasted for 35-45 minutes (check with an instant read thermometer if you want to be sure it's done; 160F for white pieces and 165F for brown meat). For chicken pieces the brown meat should be done after 35-45 minutes and the white meat after 25-35. I found that both white and brown were much past the target temperatures in the time recommended but they remained tender. Consider my above suggestion and place the white meat in the oven 10 minutes later than the brown since they can overcook and become badly dry. Remove from the oven and allow to sit under loose foil for 5-10 minutes.

Serve the chicken with sauce to pass.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

A slight bitterness (from the sesame paste) contrasts with the deep chocolate--possibly a more grown-up rendition of this perennial favorite. They also posses an airy crispness at the edge while the middle is chewy.




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Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies


Adapted from: New York Times Cooking
Yield: depends on the size you make them--my cookie scoop yielded 24

Adjustments for baking at altitudes of approximately 4000-6000 feet:

subtract 1 T sugar
add 1 1/2 T flour
use 1/4 teas baking soda
add a second teas vanilla


4 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c tahini (sesame paste), well stirred and at room temperature
1 c light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teas vanilla extract
1 c plus 2 T unbleached flour
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas kosher salt
1 c bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

With a paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed cream butter, tahini, and sugar until fluffy. If you have a Bosch mixer use the cookie attachments. It may take up to 5 minutes. Add the egg and yolk, and vanilla and continue mixing for another 5 minutes at a medium speed.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk together. Add this mixture to the butter/egg mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand using a rubber spatula. This batter will be quite soft; don't worry, chilling will make it so you can handle it. Refrigerate for 12 hours at least which will ensure tender cookies.

Heat the oven to 325F and use parchment paper or a silicone mat to line a baking sheet. Use a scoop or spoon to form dough into balls and place on the baking sheet with 3 inches between balls so they can spread. Bake 13-16 minutes until barely golden brown around the edges. The center will be pale in the middle.  Allow to cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

Notes:

You may wonder if the extra 2 T flour is an altitude adjustment since you've seen those from time to time in our recipes. But in this instance the original sea-level recipe calls for a cup as well as 2 tablespoons. For altitude I've added even more, see above.

The original recipe is for a salted cookie. You may find that appealing--I do too, but I'm trying to limit salt intake. The cookies are great without the topping. However, if you wish, sprinkle the cookies with a flaky salt just as they come out of the oven.

You can find tahini in most supermarkets these days.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Why You Eat What You Eat

Part of the reason I love to cook is that the results, in addition to providing sustenance and tasting delicious, can mean so much, as we have recently highlighted. I was on a nonfiction kick last year in my reading, and over the summer I read Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food by Rachel Herz. It's a fascinating and illuminating discussion; Herz describes what we know from scientific studies and offers brief advice on how to apply this knowledge to enhance our eating, our health, and our relationship to food. I especially enjoyed the sections on how our brains associate emotion with food and how much the sense of smell affects our enjoyment of food.

The last paragraph (spoiler alert!) sums up the complexity of food nicely:

"Food nourishes the body and the soul, and knowing how to get the most from our senses and our mind while eating makes it all that it can be. Food is an aesthetic immersion, whether you turn a salad into a Kandinsky painting or not. Food connects us to our past, to other people, to the world, and to ourselves. Food is memory, celebration, identity, conversation, emotion, glory, pleasure, pain, fear, disgust, comfort, and guilt. Food is aromatic, salty, sour, sweet, bitter, savory, tingly, hot and cold. Food is flavor and savor, art and sight, sound and music, texture and design, words and poetry, divine and decadent. Food is love and food is life. And knowledge of how our mind and body are affected by our food choices, and how our senses and psychology alter our experience of food and the consequences of eating, is power."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet

Cabbage has a constant presence in my fridge these days. Its long shelf life enables pantry meals like this one. It works well for my family, as it is easy to deconstruct into both low carb and kid-friendly meals. Maybe someday my boys will see the appeal of cabbage and onions, but until then they can eat the potatoes and sausage.



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Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet


 Minimally adapted from Good Fast Eats by Amy Flanagan

1/2 lb red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 14-oz cooked polska kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small head cabbage, core removed, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, mined
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas black pepper
2 teas rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 teas Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes with 1/2 T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 18-20 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook for 1 minute without stirring; then stir occasionally for 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the fat and oil as you can in the pan.

Add the cabbage, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes. Mix in the vinegar and mustard; add the sausage back to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes. Toss in the roasted potatoes and enjoy!

Note: The original recipe called for new potatoes, but these aren't always easy to come by so I usually make them with red potatoes. Also I don't weigh them, because I have kids who will eat just potatoes so I cook enough potatoes to feed all six of us, and then add the desired amount to each grown-up's serving.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

This was a good use for excess sour cream almost at its expiration date before a long trip.  Since a whole bundt cake is a bit much for this household to manage, I cut the cake in half and froze it for a month. It thawed beautifully. I'm not sure I would top with a glaze before freezing, however.


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Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake


Source:  Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves: 12-14

For altitudes of around 4000 ft to 6000 ft make the following changes:
2 T less sugar
2 T more flour
3/4 teas soda ( I may try less next time)

This time I didn't have enough regular cocoa so I used about 1/3 of the amount in Dutch processed. This may have affected how the soda reacted.

I found my kitchen was so cool the chocolate sour cream mixture started to set up while I was gathering and mixing other ingredients.

It seems the cocoa/butter coating of the pan was able to sit quite awhile without any trouble. I would extend it even higher in the pan since the batter filled the entire pan.

Recipe:

pan coating (cake release):

1 T butter, melted
1 T cocoa

Mix together in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, brush all of the interior of a standard bundt pan (12-cup). If the mixture becomes cool and thick, heat it again in the microwave for a 10 seconds or so. Inspect the pan (especially if it has a dark coating) to make sure that the mixture covers all the of the surface. I used all of the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack at the lower third of the oven.

For the cake, first step:

3/4 c natural cocoa (avoid Dutch processed because of the reduction of alkali)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teas instant espresso powder
3/4 c boiling water
1 c sour cream at room temperature

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium size bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir until smooth and well combined. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then stir the sour cream into the chocolate mixture ensuring no white streaks remain. This will look a lot like a bowl of frosting.

For the cake, subsequent steps:

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1 teas table salt
1 teas baking soda
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
2 c packed light brown sugar
1 T vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Place the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix at medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes or so until creamed. Scrape the sides and add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides after adding 2 eggs and again when finished. Don't worry if the batter appears curdled or separated.

Combining the elements:

At medium low speed add about a third of the flour mixture and half the chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated. Scrape sides of the bowl and add another third of the flour mixture and the remaining half of the chocolate mixture. Mix until incorporated. Stir in the last third of the flour mixture just until combined. Scrape sides and mix on medium-low until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Place the batter in the prepared pan taking care not to leave batter on the inner sides of the pan above the level of the batter. (I found the batter came close to filling my pan.)

Place the filled cake pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes. Test that cake is done with only a few crumbs remaining on the testing skewer. Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack covered with parchment paper. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours.

Top with any assortment of garnishes--powdered sugar, a glaze, or ganache. Serve as is, or with fruit and whipped cream or with ice cream.


Spiced Shepherd's Pie

A couple of decades ago when I began reading cook books for entertainment, I found this in one  of the few volumes available at the NATO support unit library near our home in Belgium. It became staple family fare until our nest emptied. I still love what once seemed an unusual spice combination.



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Spiced Shepherd's Pie


Although the recipe calls for using a baking dish, I imagine it could be baked in the skillet, as long as it is oven safe. When the meat is done, spread it out and top with the potatoes and place in the oven. This would save some clean up.

Serves: 8-10

For potato topping:

3 1/2-4 pds of potatoes (I choose the larger amount)
1 T butter
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper 
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese (or sour cream or Greek yogurt or a chunk of cream cheese)

For the meat layer:

1 pd ground beef or lamb 
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped celery, optional 
1 minced garlic clove
1 teas dried mint
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas allspice
1/4 teas pepper
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, slightly blended
3/4 teas salt

Spray a 9X13 or 10X13 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Peel and cut potatoes into chunks and cook in water over medium heat until tender.

In the meantime brown the beef (or lamb), onion, and celery in a 12-inch skillet on medium heat. If your meat is very lean, you may want to add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the meat is cooking and onions and celery are softened, add the garlic, mint, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper and cook and stir for a minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes along with the salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish (or individual 16-oz  ramekins). 

When potatoes are cooked, drain them but leave a couple tablespoons of cooking water in the bottom of the pan. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and feta cheese and mash the potatoes by hand or with a hand mixer. Continue until they are fluffy and light. Evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture.

Place baking pan or ramekins in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until you can see the meat mixture bubbling at the edges and the potatoes have started to brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes or so before serving.

This can easily be halved especially if you substitute a 8-oz can tomato sauce for the tomatoes.