Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ricotta Spinach Gnocchi

These tasty little dumplings are a great side dish with roasted chicken or any other roasted meat. We are having prime rib for Christmas dinner and in addition to the traditional baked potatoes I plan to have these on the side. For those who are watching their carbohydrates, these are a nice substitute because they are high in protein due to the cheeses.

When cooked and served in a broth and topped with a bit more grated cheese they make a great and satisfying soup. Easy to make and yummy to eat.

Ricotta Spinach Gnocchi

1 Tbs minced onion
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs finely
chopped ham
1 package frozen chopped spinach thawed
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup flour

1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp pepper

Saute onion in butter until translucent. Add ham. Squeeze water from spinach and add to onions. Saute 5 minutes or until very dry. Place in large bowl.

Add the flour and ricotta. With a wooden spoon blend. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. It will be like cookie dough.

Shape into balls the size of walnuts. Dust with flour. Bring a large amount of water to boil. Drop the gnocchi into the water and simmer at a low boil for 4 minutes or until the gnocchi float. Drain

Serve with melted butter and fresh grated Parmesan. the cooked gnocchi's in a shallow casserole, dot with butter and parmesan and bake in the oven until warmed through and bubbly.....OR use the dumplings in a soup made with browned beef bones and onions.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Armageddon Pantry Part 2

A while back I posted about the stockpiles of food and other items that I have been putting into our pump house. It really isn't that I think the end of the world is coming, but hey... why not be prepared. We go to Costco and purchase in bulk. It cost much less to purchase in bulk, by the case lot.
Because we live in a rural area and often in the winter there is snow, it is so handy to go out to the well house and pull some staple or even a luxury like liquor or wine off the shelf.

When I use something from the pump house, we replace it so the stock is always the same. The pump house stays basically the same temperature year round because it is a block building that is well insulated and sided. In the winter the temp is about 40 -45 degrees. In the hot summers the cool water from the well keeps the temp in th 50 degree range. Our well water is very very cold, even in the summer.

Freezer storage is in another building along with most of the non food items. I'm ready.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Knead Yeast Rolls

I've loved baking ever since I was a small child and used to make cookies and yeast bread for my family. Here I am in our 1950's kitchen checking on the latest experiment I was already infliciting on people. ...bread, I think, in this photo.

The following recipe is one that I've had for years, probably since the 70', so I have no clue where it came from. It has been a holiday staple because it is so easy to make. As it says, no kneading, simply shaping the dough into balls and plopping into prepared pans. We have enough to do on Thanksgiving, so let's take it easy with the rolls.

No Knead Yeast Rolls

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 large egg, beaten
4 1/2 cups flour, sifted

Sprinkle yeast over the 1/4 cup water and set aside in a warm place. Combine shortening, salt and sugar in boiling water. Stir and cool to 105 to 115 degrees. See Notes Add shortening mixture to the yeast then beat in the egg.

Mix in the flour about 1 cup at a time to make a soft dough. Place in a warm place in a greased bowl and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half. Divide each half into 12 equal portions. Shape gently into rounds (like golf ball sized) and place into 2 cake pans. 12 rolls in each pan. Let rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes

Makes 24 rolls.

NOTES: Be sure the mixture is cooled to at least that temperature or you will kill the yeast and have dough balls instead of fluffy rolls. Believe me, I've learned this from experience and by being impatient. If you don't have an instant read thermometer, test it like you would a baby formula. Opps!! I guess I just dated myself since people probably don't boil their baby's formula anymore. LOL

In the olden days, I would use a big wooden spoon and beat the dough until my arms were sore. Probably good excercise, but now, I just use my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer. My husband bought one for me for Christmas several years ago and I couldn't live without it. Love love love it. Everyone who is a serious cook should have one. I use it with the paddle attachement to mix the dough which basically is the substitute for the actual kneading process.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Part One

Thanksgiving is a big cooking holiday and it is always good to get as much of the preparation out of the way in the days leading up to the big event. Planning will keep you from going insane and trying to cook everything last minute. Plus if most things are done ahead, I can relax with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

Day before Thanksgiving: I made the marinade for the Brined Turkey, used the last (thank God) of the Asian Apple Pears for a Gingered Pear Pie and made seasoned broth from the turkey neck and giblets to be used as a base for gravy.

The turkey is happily marinating in a small ice chest and sitting on the back deck where the temperature is just as good as any refrigerator in the evening.

Tomorrow- Thanksgiving: In the morning start the No Knead Yeast rolls that are a favorite every year. Very easy to make and as it says. No kneading. Those take about 4 hours from start to finish. It doesn't hurt if they are done early, just wrap in foil and keep warm on the back of the stove.

Mid day. Assemble the stuffing casserole. Assemble the green bean casserole. Sometime around 2pm put the turkey in the oven. Have a glass of wine. Make the glaze and let it sit on the stove. About half way through the turkey....pop in the casseroles. Three quarters of the way through the turkey, cut up the carrots and par boil, set aside and mix up the orange glaze ingredients for the carrots. Hmmmm ....maybe a glass of wine would be in order here to reward me for my hard work.

Sometime during the day, set and decorate the table.

While the turkey is resting, cover the casseroles in foil. Finish off the carrots. Have another glass of wine. Whip up some gravy. I don't want it but if we don't have gravy it just isn't Thanksgiving for my hubby. I refuse to have cranberry sauce this year.

Carve the turkey in the kitchen. Mound the stuffing in the middle of the platter and arrange the turkey around the stuffing. Carrots in a decorative serving bowl and bring out the gravy boat. Schlepp it all over to the table... MORE WINE for everyone.

Dinner is served. is going to do all these dishes and clean up this mess????

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smoked Brined Turkey

Brining your turkey will keep it moist and full of flavor. As I mentioned in my post about our smoked deli operation, we would brine the chicken and turkey before smoking, deep frying or baking by using a commercial vacuum brining machine.This is a recipe that I think came from a Sunset magazine. But who knows, I clip and keep so many recipes I can't remember. I just know it is very good.

It must be prepared early in the day before you plan to cook because the bird should brine overnight at least. I use a small clean ice chest. Since it's pretty cold at night here (20 degrees this morning), I can just put the bird the the ice chest,fill with the cooled brine and set outside on the deck.

Smoked Brined Turkey

6 quarts water
2 large onions quartered
1 cup coarse salt (non-iodized)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped fresh ginger
4 bay leaves
4 star anise
12 whole peppercorns

1 whole turkey (10 -12-lbs)
2 oranges quartered

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs sesame oil

4 cups hickory chips soaked in water

3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup dijon mustard
3 tbs butter

BRINE: Bring to a simmer in a very large pot ,the water and all ingredients up to the turkey in the list. Simmer until sugar and salt are completely disolved. Cool brine COMPLETELY. Do a day ahead if needed. Completely thaw turkey. Rinse and pat dry. Submerge in brine and chill. Marinate overnight or longer. Turn turkey twice.

Before smoking, place oranges inside bird. Brush with oils. Smoke at a low temperature according to your smoker or BBQ directions, (about 220) breast side up unitl reaches 160 degrees. Approx 3 hours. Brush with glaze and cook until temp reaches 180 in the thigh areas, about 1 to 2 hours or patient. Cover any parts of turkey that are getting too dark with foil

GLAZE: Mix syrup, wine, mustard and butter and simmer, stiriing in a small pan until thickened. Brush over the bird for the last half hour or so.

If your bbq has a temperature gauge, check occaisonally to make sure the temperature doesn't rise over 22o and use an instant read meat thermometer after an hour or so. Depending on the size of your turkey it could take several hours to cook to the desired temperature. I use a Polder temperature gauge like this one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pot Luck Worry? Ricotta Pineapple Pie. No Problem

It's a pot luck for the holiday and YOU have been asked to bring a dessert. Panic!!!

Don't like to bake? Can't make pie crust. Don't have much time? No problem. Here is a dessert that is a snap to make and is impressive. No need to tell everyone how easy it is......just bask in the praise that will be heaped upon you.

After watching the Soprano's on television for a while and watching them shovel food into their faces after they had committed some horrible crime or two.... I discovered that there was an actual cookbook The Soprano's Family Cookbook. Carmella Soprano's solution to everything was food: either some nice manicotti or a ricotta pie.

Ricotta Pineapple Pie

1 tbsp butter softened
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla

20 oz crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan or springform pan. Add the crumbs, turning the pan to coat the bottom and sides. (note: I usually use 1 to 2 tbsp butter. Spread it thick and pat in lightly the graham craker crumbs)

In a large bowl stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Ad the ricotta, eggs, cream, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the pie is set around the edges but the center is stll slightly soft. Cool on a wire rack to room temperture.

TOPPING: Drain the pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. In a medium saucepan, stor together the sugar and cornsatrch. Stir in the 1/2 cup of pineaple juice and lemon juice. Cook, stiring constantly, until thickened... about 1 min. Add the pineapple. Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm. Spread the topping over the pie. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

TIPS: Use whole milk ricottoa cheese that has been aged a bit in the refrigerator. I let it age until after the experation date, which is usually just a suggestion anyway. The skim type of cheese will make a pie with a grainy texture. If you have a diabetic in the family, you can use Splenda in place of sugar in this recipe and it won't have any affect on the pie.

The texture of this pie is even better if refrigerated overnight, without the topping if you can. I found that the ripened pie is smoother and the topping tends to 'weep' a bit if you refrigerate for too long.

A few thinly sliced strawberries strategically placed on the pie as decoration makes a lovely presentation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our Adventures in Smoking

Smoking meat, fowl and fish that is.

For several years, we owned and operated a deli that specialized in smoked foods. Our specialty was a hot smoked trout and the name of our little establishment was Rainbow's End. Every other week we would go directly to the hatchery, about 20 minutes away, and obtain hundreds of pounds of trout that were all about 1 1/2 pounds. The hatchery could sort them by size with a screen. The fish were then transported alive in tanks of water to the "fish shop". You can't get product any fresher than that!!

My poor husband was the "gut and cut" part of the operation and processed the fish by gutting and filleting the fish. We figured he was the best man for that operation since he is a plumber and used to ick. LOL. Guts and fish remainders were sold to a local ranch that used them as a fertilizer source. The next step was to season the fillets with our own secret special recipe and marinate them in our cold room until ready for the smokers that we had designed specially for the fish. They were cooled and vacuum sealed in packages of one to two fillets.

Everyone loved the fish and we actually won first prize in Seattle for the hot smoked category. We sold many to a local restaurant who also loved the fish because they could reheat them and serve as an entree. The fish could be served as appetizers or processed into a tasty trout pate. Andronico's in the Bay Area carried our products.

We then branched out into hickory smoked hot wings (very very popular with the resorts in our area for their bar snack menu), brine smoked turkey, deep fried turkey, smoked whole and half chickens. Commercial vacuum tumblers and commercial smokers were used for the meat and chickens to get the brine and marinades deep into the meat to create a juicy and flavorful product.

Hooking up with a local buffalo rancher, we soon started serving smoked buffalo tri tip type roasts, barbequed buffalo burgers, and smoked pork ribs in sauce every Friday. The staff would prepare various side dishes (corn bread, cole slaw, potato salad, beans) and a dessert (giant cookies, sheet cake cut into individual serving squares) People would order ahead and pick up an entire meal to take home Friday after work or just stop in and have an early dinner.

We sold the business after 5 years. Why did we stop?? Oh my God, were we ever tired!!! Not only were we doing the deli, I was operating a full time financial planning office and my husband was still operating his plumbing/pump/water system business. Operating a restaurant, overseeing employees, marketing product is a full time occupation and anyone who plans to go into business needs to be able to devote their full attention to it and be prepared to NOT make any money for the first couple of years.

Every now and then I miss the business, and then come to my senses. I do miss the product. Loved the hickory smoked wings and occaisonally we make a small batch for ourselves. This year for Thanksgiving, I'm making a smoked and brined turkey that was very popular in our brief deli career.

Anchovy Bell Pepper Spread

If you are going to host an early afternoon cocktail or wine event, it is a wise idea to include finger food, nibbles, appetizers to accompany the alcohol. We keep the event rather small and have only 6 to 8 guests. I like to have a cheese and cracker plate with wedges of Brie, Smoked Gouda and various types of spreadable or sliced cheeses. Sliced fruit: like pears or apples to go with the cheese. Perhaps some salami or prosciutto. Bowls of olives of different types, garlic stuffed are very popular, pimento, blue cheese, Kalamata and your basic black olives. Pickled asparagus spears. All available from your local grocer and require nothing more than slicing and arranging on serving plates.

Small tartlets of mushrooms or mini quiches baked in those tiny muffin pans can be prepared early in the day and reheated in the oven.

Dips and spreads are nice to have for dipping fresh crunchy veggies and spreading onto sliced baguettes. Here is a tasty spread that is one of my favorites.
Anchovy Bell Pepper Spread

2 large red bell peppers
2 oz can of anchovies with olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Char the bell peppers over a gas flame or on the barbeque turning until blackened on all sides. Place in a paper bag and let stand for about 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers and coarsely chop.

Place peppers, anchovies and oil ,onion , parsley and vinegar in a food processor and process until the onion is finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow flavors to mellow.

Serve with baguette slices and/or cucumber rounds.

TIP: If you don't have the time or access to fresh red bell peppers, you can also buy roasted red bell peppers in jars. Just be sure to drain well and blott off as much of the oil as you can or esle your spread will be less spreadable and more like a thick soup. I highly recommend doing the bell peppers yourself. While I'm taking the time to roast a mere two peppers, I go ahead and make more roasted peppers than I need for just this recipe and slice or chop the remainder, place them in olive oil and refrigerate for a few days to use in other recipes during the week.

Tis the Season to Cook

For a person who likes to cook, this is the best time of the year. The Holiday Season!!! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. The season for entertaining and having friends over for cocktail and hors d'oeurves (also known as appetizer) parties. A chance to create interesting and tasty morsels like Anchovy-Bell Pepper Spread on Baguettes, and try them out on your tipsy friends. Tiny savory tartletts of sherried mushrooms and cheese.

Giving gifts of food, cookies, candies, jams. Dry mixes for soup or quick breads in decorative containers, gaily wrapped up with the recipe card attached. Wonderful gifts that don't cost much money and are a thoughtful gift of time and love.

The weather is cool and baking not only warms the soul, it also warms the home. Cakes, pies, cookies, cheesecake, bread. Baking a turkey, ham, leg of lamb or even that most wonderful cut of meat....a prime rib of beef.

In the next few months, I'll be posting some of my favorite holiday recipes and sharing what we are cooking for the season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gingered Pear Pie

On my other blog I wrote about these unique and delicious Asian Apple Pears that we have an abundance of this year. We have had them sliced and added to salads tossed with a balsamic vinegarette dressing. On a cheese and cracker plate. They are especially good with brie cheese. Pies, like the one I made last night. And now that they are getting a bit past their prime, tommow will be chopped up and made into Walnut, Pear Muffins and frozen for breakfast treats.

This recipe is from an old Bon-Appetite magazine, November 1991. I know......who keeps these magazines around for 17 years? A recipke junkie, that's who! I am, however, in the middle of a huge project to divest myself of this clutter and still keep the recipies. Using the Living Cookbook program which I highly recommend, I am systematically going through the magazines and copying the recipes that appeal to me and don't seem to be duplicates. Scanning some of the photos and then .....sadly waving goodbye to my old friend the magazine is gone.

Gingered Pear Pie

One recipe of lard pie pastry (see previous apple pie recipe)

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

3 pounds pears, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp quick cooking tapioca

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Egg Wash (one egg mixed with a tbsp of water or milk)

Make the pie crust according to the directions in the previous recipe. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Place raisins and ginger in a small saucepan and just barely cover with water. Simmer for about 5 minutes on a very low setting. Set aside and let raisins plump while preparing the filling and crust. The raisins can be done several days ahead. Just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and slice the pears. I put them in a water bath that has had a bit of lemon juice added to it to keep them from turning brown. When al l pears have been sliced, drain and toss the pears with the remaining ingredients. Set aside while rolling out the crusts.

Mound the fruit in the bottom crust leaving an overhang of about 1/2 inch. I have a handy pair of kitchen scissors that I use. Roll out the top crust and place on the pie and trim to equal the bottom crust for overhang. Roll the two crusts under and flute. Save the scraps and cut out some decorative shapes. Brush the crust with the egg wash and place the decorations. Brush again with egg wash and cut a few slits for steam vents.

Place on a baking sheet, to keep spills from occuring, and bake at 400 for 1 hour or until golden brown. If the edges begin to get too brown, protect them with a strip of foil.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beef Lemon Shiskebab

The last gasp of Indian Summer is upon us in California. Crisp mornings and warm afternoons in the high 70 to low 80 degrees. Perfect time to use up that last bag of charcoal briquettes and have friends over for an early afternoon barbeque.

This recipe takes a not so tender cut of beef and turns it into a tasty and festive meal that really stretches the food budget. I've cooked this since the Carter years, which it seems we are doomed to repeat. SO goes an inexpensive meal that will easily feed 6 to 8 adults.


1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp granualed beef broth
1/2 tsp pepper

Blend all the marinade ingredients in a food processor until a fine puree.


4 pounds of thick cut sirloin steak or london broil
32 large mushroom caps
3 large lemons
3 large red and green peppers

Optional: Zuchinni, yellow squash, eggplant

Cut the meat into 32 squares about 1 1/2 inches. Pour the marinade in a large ziplock bag or bowl and toss in the meat squares. Marinate overnight for optimal tenderness.

A few hours before cooking:

Cut up the pepper into 1 1/2 squares.

If using the optional zuchinni or other squash. Slice into 1/2 thick pieces.

Eggplant cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Peeling the eggplant is optional. I like the peel because it keeps the eggplant chunks whole.

Thinly slice the lemons.

Bring the meat mixture out and toss in all the ingredients except the lemon. Marinate and bring to room temperature for several hours. Room temperature is important otherwise your skewers will be uncooked and cold in the center.

Place meat on skewers alternating the other ingredients. Broil or grill until meat is desired doneness. Basting with marinade if needed. The meat in the middle of the skewers will be less done than the ends for those (me me me!!) who like their meat on the rare side.

Serve with:
Mixed greens salad and lemon rice or orzo pilaf.
Dessert: pineapple lemon sorbet. If you think you are already overloaded on lemon/citrus then you can't go wrong with plain old vanilla ice-cream and some fresh chopped macerated fruit.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Caramel Apple Pie

Apple pie time!!!. The days are getting short and cooler and baking is in the air.

Here is an unusual apple pie with a caramel sauce poured over the lattice crust. I use lard in my pie crusts to give the most tender and flaky crust.

Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup lard (Yes I said lard!!)
6 tbs cold water or more if needed

In food processor or with knives cut in the flour, lard and salt until resembles coarse meal
Remove to a bowl and toss lightly with a fork while sprinkling in the water. Toss until it forms a ball that can be held together when pressed lightly. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water

8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced thinly

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure the sauce is thick.

Meanwhile, cut the pie dough in two and roll out a crust with one half. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. The lattice work crust is non negotiable. You must be able to pour the caramel over and through the crust.Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off. Take a pastry brush and spread the caramel over all the pie crust. The crust will become crispy and shiny when cooked.

Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

Let the pie cool before cutting or else the caramel will come running out.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sourdough Part 2:

Sourdough Pumpkin Roll

Photo scanned from the 1977 clipping of a delicious sourdough pumpkin roll stuffed with sweetened cream cheese and pecans. Notice all the wrinkles and folds. :-)

Adventures in Sourdough

I love sourdough bread and going through my vintage recipe clippings, in the hopes that I could pare them down and put them on my computer cookbook program, I rediscovered some sourdough recipes from 1977. OK......I know..... too anal to hold on to clippings for over 30 years. However, as I recall, these were really good and turned out great most of the time. Of course....actually reading the recipe thoroughly is sort of important (more on that later)

Here is the starter

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water

Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a larger mixing bowl. Gradually stir in very warm water until mixture resembles a smooth paste. Cover with a clean towel or several layers of cheese cloth and let stand in a warm place (85 degrees) stirring several times a day. If temperature is lower than 85 or you prefer a more pronounced sour flavor, let the mixture stand 3 to 5 days. If mixture is allowed to sour longer than 3 days and it does not seem bubbly, stir in 2 tbsp of four and 2 tbsp lukewarm water. At the end of the bubbling and souring period, pour into a large jar or plastic container, partially covered to allow gasses to escape and store in refrigerator.

To prepare basic starter for sourdough recipes: Measure 1 cup of the mixture into large bowl (return jar with remainder to refrigerator) Stir in 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour with wooden spoon until fairly smooth. Cover bowl with a clean towel and set for 5 to 6 hours or overnight. This is the Basic Sourdough Starter you will use in the recipes that follow. Return any unused starter (at least 1/2 cup) to the starter stored in the refrigerator.

If you are not baking every week and the starter is not replenished this way, every week, add 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup flour to container of sour dough. Stir with wooden spoon until mixed. Leave out covered with a clean towel or plastic wrap overnight. Next day return to refrigerator until needed

The key to the sourdough recipes that I have been using is give yourself plenty of time. This is a weekend project for me. Once you have the initial starter done, it takes overnight or at least 5 hours to 're-proof' the starter that you will be using in the following recipe. This is a step I skipped in my first recreation .... READ first. As a result my loaves were flat and somewhat tasteless.


  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup basic sourdough starter (the re-proofed starter from paragraph 2!)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in large bowl. Stir until yeast is dissolved, add basic sourdough starter, sugar salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon 2 to 3 minutes. Cover bowl with a towel. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in volume

Stir down down. Mix baking soda with 1 cup of remaining flour; Stir into dough. Gradually beat in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly flour surface. Knead until smooth and elastic 5 to 10 minutes using only enough additional flour to keep from sticking.

Shape into 2 long loaves or one large round loaf. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover with a cloth. Let rise in a warm place 1 to 1/12 hours or until doubled in volume. Brush loves with water. Make diagonal slashes across top with a thin bladed sharp knife or a razor blade.

Bake in a hot oven 400 for 45 minute or until crust is brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from cookie sheet or pan. Cool on racks.

Here is a wonderful website for basic baking and loaf shaping for anyone who hasn't much experience in baking.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ham and Spinach Picnic Pie

This is a super recipe to use leftover ham. Once again, I have no idea where this came from but I have made it for ove 25 years. It is a hit for picnics and camping because the pie is in fact best served at room temperature. Pretty to look at with its flakey golden crust and delicious to eat.


  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (Calrose not long grain)
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • Butter Pastry (see below)
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water

Roll out and line 9 or 10 inch spring form pan with over 1/2 of the butter pastry. Save the scraps as you trim. Chill the remaining pastry, and the pastry lined pan while finishing the pie filling.

Squeeze the liquid from the thawed spinach. Saute briefly in a dry pan to remove most of liquid. Set aside. Saute the ham for a few minutes to render any fat. Set aside with the spinach. Melt the butter in a large skillet and saute the onion until tender. Add the spinach, ham, rice, cheese and spices. Stir and heat through if your rice is leftover cold rice, otherwise just toss together. Remove from heat and stir in the eggs.. Chill the pie mixture. You don't want to add a hot mixture to the cold pie crust as it will melt it and reduce the flaky texture.

Turn the pie filling into the prepared pan. Roll the remaining dough to make a top crust. Flute the edges and re-roll the scraps. Cut into decorative leaf shapes or flower shapes. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and water mixture to make a nice glaze. Attach the decorations and brush again. Cut a few steam vents.

Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbs shortening (yes you need to use shortening or lard)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 Tbs cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening and butter. Make a well in the center. Beat together the egg and water. Add to the well and toss with a fork. Work with fingers until dough forms a ball. Knead on a floured surface 3 to 4 times. Refrigerate in plastic wrap until used.

Great pastry for tarts or savory pies.

Serve with a fresh fruit salad and green salad. Slightly sweet white wine.

Blood Puddings Irish Style

This recipe requested by a fellow poster on Ann Althouse:

Blood Puddings Irish Style

4 pints blood (don't ask)
8 oz oatmeal
8 oz breadcrumbs
2 tbs finely chopped onions
4 oz minced fresh pork
Pinch of herbs (savory is what I used about 1/4 tsp dried.)
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt (maybe not so much depending on mean where you got the blood)

Wash the intestines thoroughly, leaving each piece about 15 inches long. Steep in salted water over night (Or just buy some already prepared from your butcher. Try to use some that are rather larger than you would use for italian sausages. About 3 inches in diameter). Stir the blood until cold to prevent lumps. Next day mix the ingredients together with blood until it is stiff. Wash intestines again and tie one end. Put the mixture into the intestine and then tie the other end. Put into a pot and cook slowly for 2 ½ hours in the water. Cut each pudding into about 8 pieces, flour the cut ends, and fry in butter.

Recipe word for word from250 Irish Recipies (Mount Salus Press, Dublin) A cookbook I bought when I was visiting in Ireland in1969- 1970. I know…I’m a food geek. Cookbook souvenirs.

I used instant oatmeal for a finer texture and made my own bread crumbs from regular firm stale white bread, not the canned Contidina crap.. Also added a bit more pork fat because I like that texture. The mixture is kind of like a very soft cookie dough. They said next day after stirring the blood, but I just let it sit in an cooled ice chest. .. no ice.(not the fridge....too cold) until it was completely at room temperature. Be sure to not boil the puddings and be sure that they are cooked all the way through. They should be just barely at a simmer. You don’t want them to break and ooze into the water… believe me.

I haven't made this in years and years because my husband won't have it anywhere near the house. This and chicken livers.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fish With Browned Butter Caper Sauce- No More Tarter Sauce

As a person who loves to cook, I try to bring creative blends of spices and tastes into every recipe. Presentation is also important to me. The food needs to be beautiful to look at as well as bring subtle flavorings to the palate that makes the dish memorable and enjoyable. One of my peeves is to see all that effort smothered under big blobs of tarter sauce, catsup or mindless additions of salt and pepper. People learned to eat with these condiments as a standard addition to food. Meatloaf? Smother it in catsup. Fish? Smother it in tarter sauce. Turkey? Stlather some canned cranberry jelly on it. Lamb? Mint sauce.

When my husband and I began dating I would have him over for gourmet dinners. You know......the way to a man's heart and all. I think it worked since we have been married for 15 years now. I was horrified and offended to see him grab the salt or ask for catsup on the dish without even tasting it first. "Ahem.....I spent some time on least you could taste it the way the cook (I) intended it before you start adding salt or catsup! " Tarter sauce on fish was a bone of contention. He insisted that he must have it on all fish. Now there is nothing wrong with a good homemade tarter sauce as a condiment on some fish dishes but to my mind especially eating a delicately flavored fish like sole or tilapa or even red snapper, the fish is overwhelmed by what is basically flavored mayonnaise.

Here is a technique for fish and it is now my husband's favorite way to eat fish and without tarter sauce. There are no exact measurements. A free form recipe that I make on the fly depending on how much fish I have on hand.

Butter Sauce Ingredients:
4 to 8 tbsp room temperature butter
2 to 3 tbsp capers drained and smooshed (technical term)
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice

Cooking the fish:

Rinse off the fillets and damp dry. Flour and set aside to let the flour cling. Re-flour again just before cooking.

Put a thin layer of peanut oil in a skillet and get it VERY hot before adding the fish. Place the fillets in the pan and cook briefly until crusty and golden brown on one side. Carefully flip over (using two spatulas when cooking sole so it doesn't break apart) and cook until brown on the other side. Thin fillets like sole will only take a few minutes to cook. Thicker fish like snapper as much as 5 to 6 minutes. DO NOT OVER COOK THE FISH. Nothing worse than dried out over cooked fish......this is probably why the tarter sauce conundrum came about. Your fish should be flaky but still moist inside. Barely translucent. Place the fillets on a warm platter.

Make the sauce:
There should be barely any peanut oil in the pan. If there is then drain it but leave the browned bits of flour. Remember you are not deep frying the fish and the hot hot hot oil should be just enough to keep it from sticking to the pan.
In the hot skillet over a fairly high heat add the butter and swirl it around until it begins to sizzle. Add the capers and smoosh them a bit in the butter to release more of their flavors. Cook until the butter starts to turn a golden brown (not black). Be careful it won't take more than 10 seconds to go from brown to black. Remove from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. It will sizzle and pop. Immediately pour the sauce over the fillets.

Enjoy with a fresh Ceasar salad, steamed asparagus, couscous or other pasta and of course a crisp white wine.

For you sportsmen who catch Blue Gill or Croppie or Bass, this also an excellent way to cook those fishes.

Homemade Newtons (Fig or Apricot)

Fresh soft and wholesome cookies for adults and children. These take just a bit more time than a standard drop cookie but so worth it. You can use figs as the recipe indicates, but I prefer an apricot or even strawberry rhubarb filling.

Home Made Newtons

1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange or lemon zest
1/8 tsp or less salt

Optional: finely chopped walnuts about 1/2 cup

Fig Filling

2 cups dried figs, finely chopped (or dried apricots)
1 1/3 cup water (or substitute some more lemon juice if you like a tarter filling)
3 Tbs lemon juice or orange juice
1/3 cup sugar

Cream the butter and brown sugar very well. Add the eggs and beat until light. Add the vanilla. Mix together the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture one third at a time and beat well. Briefly knead the dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for a couple of hours,.

Meanwhile: make the filling. Combine the chopped dried fruit and rest of filling ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Cool.

Roll out the dough into about a 14 inch square. Cut into three strips. Mound 1/3 of the filling down the center of each strip. Using an offset spatula flip the long sides over to slightly overlap. Press gently to seal and carefully transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Leave 3 inches space between the strips. Cut crossways into seven or so equal 1 inch pieces but do not separate.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are puffy and firm to the touch. Everyone's oven cooks at a slightly different pace. You want the cookies done but not hard. Cool for about 15 minutes and then separate the pieces and place on a wire rack to completely cool.

I prefer the tarter "California Style" dried apricots that have been treated with sulphur to retain their bright orange colour, over the more readily available "Turkish Style". If you use the Turkish apricots you might want to reduce the sugar just a bit. A nice touch is to add a bit of Grand Marinier in the filling with either the figs or apricots.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chinese Steamed Buns

Char Sui Bao. I pronounce it bow as in put a bow in your hair. These are great little portable morsels of meat and bread. Normally they are part of a dim-sum luncheon. Mmmmmm. If you have never had a dim-sum experience, I highly recommend it. When I left San Francisco, the main thing that I missed was the eclectic selection of restaurants. You could eat at any time of the day or night in any type of restaurant. Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Soul Food, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese.... you name it. It is a foodie's heaven. I learned to cook many of these ethnic dishes out of self defense when I moved to an area that had basically the blue plate special type of restaurant. Nothing wrong with diner fare, in fact I have some great comfort food recipies that I wil post at a later date. However, variety is the spice of life.

I've made this recipe for years based on a cookbook that my Aunt Rachel brought back from the Philippines where she and her Air Force Colonel husband were stationed. The wives of the officers were pretty much bored with lots of time on their hands. They spent their time taking classes and of course shopping. In addition to learning how to cook oriental food, she could also make and arrange silk flowers Japanese style. She was quite the elegant lady and a world traveler.

Often I will make Bao ahead of time and either reheat them for a snack or just put into a lunchbox to take to work. They are also good camping fare because they can be put into a backpack without harm and eaten cold.


1/2 tsp yeast
2/3 cup warm water
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp sugar
3 Tbs sugar

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 lbs pork, cubed small (march chopped)
1 Tbs sherry (or sake)
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce

DOUGH: Dissolve yeast in water. Add flour, salt and sugar. Knead well. Cover with a wet cloth and let rise until the dough doubles. Prepare filling while the dough rises. Roll out dough slightly and cut into 12 pieces. Roll or form with fingers into 3 inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Place 2 tbsp of prepared filling in the center and bring up sides to the top. Pinch closed. Place seam side down and let rise. for 20 minutes.

FILLING: In a small dish combine the 1 tbsp sherry, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 cup of water. Stir and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan add the pork and cook stirring 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook two more minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 30 seconds more. Cool mixture before adding to the dough rounds.

To cook the dumplings. Use a bamboo steamer or other rack. Spray rack with cooking spray or use a layer of lettuce leaves. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.

If you like a sweet dessert roll, instead of savory, use fermented sweetened bean paste as the filling instead of meat.

March Chopping. Technique. Using a chinese cleaver or good sharp chopping knife you rock the knife back and forth through the meat. More or less marching it through the meat. Take the cleaver and flip the meat over and continue marching and chopping and flipping, until the meat is fairly finely chopped. For this recipe I chop the pork into pieces about the size of peas.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Jello Salad and Some History

Ever wonder where Jell-o came from? What makes it actually "jell"? Knox Gelatine was invented before Jell-o by Charles Briggs Knox in the late 1800's when he saw how much work it was for his wife Rose to make aspic for jelled dishes. He established the Knox Gelatin company to make flavorless granulated gelatine, which is still a staple in pantries today.

The discomfiting reality is that gelatine is derived from the connective tissue and bones of animals. You know, that jelly like substance that pools under a roasted chicken when it cools? That's gelatine. Up until his invention women toiled for hours boiling calves feet to make jelly or aspic. Here is a recipe in case anyone is tempted to make the original. Veal was a very common cut of meat in those days so calves feet were not to rare. Where we get calves feet today.....dunno. I'm just has happy to buy a box of Knox. After his death Rose went on to become one of the most successful business women in New York.

In our modern convenience culture we are so divorced from where our food comes from and how it gets to the grocery store, that we never give it a passing thought. Knox and Jello are just there. Just like steaks and chicken drumsticks magically appear in shrink wrapped Styrofoam trays. Not so in this 1933 book of Knox Dainties. They gave homage to the source, calves... in charming drawings on their packaging. They also seem to give some credit to a couple of cherubic black and white children cooks.

Jell-o, the concept of flavored and sweetened gelatine was invented by Mary Wait and her husband who sold it to another person and so on. Eventually the company became a part of General Foods in the interesting history linked here There were some flavors that they experimented with that thankfully went away. Chocolate Jello?

The salad that I am presenting here is always a hit at BBQs and pot lucks. I often get requests for the recipe. It is not sweet and is often mistaken for a dessert which it is not. The first time I had it was at a special dinner hosted by my employer in the early 1970's. Mary Vorhees was the owner of the only local answering service in Paradise, California and I was one of the operators. We used the old style PBX machines like this one where you would plug in the wires and connect the two parties weaving the connections back and forth.

I felt like I was in a 1930's movie.....very retro. Mary was also a retro lady being about 60 years old (at least) in 1970. Her dinner parties were relics of a finer gentler age with all the niceties and formality that we hardly ever see today. She even had a maid to serve for these occasions. Crystal glasses for water and wine. Fine linens, candles and flowers. Translucent porcelain dishes and coffee cups for after dinner.

This salad was the first course followed by soup, then the entrees and dessert and coffee. Each person had an individual dainty moulded green salad on a leaf of butter lettuce. The moulded salads were decorated with beautiful vines and flowers of pastel tinted cream cheese piped around the bases and at the peaks of each mound of jelled salad. They were so lovely that we felt guilty eating them. I'm glad I did and immediately asked (what nerve!!) for the recipe and have had it ever since....almost 40 years.

Springtime Salad

2 packages Jello lime gelatin 3 0z packages
2 cups very hot water
1 large can crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 tsp grated horseradish

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

Dissolve the lime Jello in hot water stirring well. Cool in the refrigerator and check periodically for it to begin to jell. This can take about 15 to 3o minutes. Stir it a bit occasionally to check and when it has the consistency of egg whites it is ready to add the other ingredients. Watch it carefully as it will start to jell almost all at once and if you wait too long your salad will be chunks of green jello instead of a beautiful creamy fluffy green concoction.

Meanwhile, while waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for it to jell, incorporate the horseradish into the mayonnaise with a small whip or fork. Even if you are tempted to, DO NOT LEAVE OUT THE HORSERADISH. You could cut it down to 1 1/2 tsp (you wimp), but if you leave it out the salad tastes boring and awful. When ready stir in the mayonnaise, the pineapple with juice and the walnuts.

Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula and pour the salad into a 2 quart mould or individual moulds for the fancy presentation. Chill until firm or overnight.

Or can do like I do and pour it into any 2 quart bowl that you have handy and scoop it out when ready. Plop. Obviously, I'm not quite up to the presentation that Mary had created, but it still tastes great.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Swedish Tongue

Get your mind out of the gutter! This is a method of preparing beef tongue Swedish style that even people who swear they hate beef tongue will love.

When I was younger, beef tongue was a very cheap cut of meat, which probably explains why my Mother would make it frequently. No offense Mom, but I never much cared for the presentation. A big grey naked cow's tongue on a plate. Even when cut into slices, still a big rubbery tongue. Instead, this presentation is crisp breaded and sauteed slices that will leave people guessing what the meat is and asking for more.

Now that tongue is no longer a cheap piece of meat in the grocery store, in fact I can rarely find it, I have to pre-order these from a local cattle rancher. When he slaughters several cattle for his own freezer he is more than happy to give me the tongues and tails. Probably wonders why I would want such things. Well, here's why.

Swedish Style Tongue

3 lb (about) beef tongue
1 onion peeled and quartered
2 carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 beaten eggs
bread crumbs

Cook the tongue: Scrub the tongue well under running water. Cut off some of the fat and saliva glands at the root of the tongue. (I know, you are right now going ick ick ick......get over it! Just imagine how commercial sausage is made and what is actually in it, if you want to gross out.)

Place the tongue in a large kettle and just cover with water. Add to the water the carrots, onions and spices. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 3 to 3 1/2 hours until it is able to be pierced easily with a fork. Peek now and then to add more water to keep the meat covered. Cool completly in the broth.

When cooled, reserve the broth by pouring through a sieve to remove impurities and toss away the veggies. Peel the tongue and cut away any fatty parts. Refrigerate until ready to use. You can prepare this a day or so before, just keep wrapped up in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Swedish Style Tongue:
Cut the tongue into 3/8 slices, starting from the back end, not the tip of the tongue. Thin slices. Dip in egg and then in flour, back into the egg and then into crispy bread crumbs. Panko didn't exist in the stores when I obtained this recipe (about 1972 from Sunset Magazine I think) so I would make my own by using stale french bread and whirling it in the food processor or blender. Do NOT use the pre made kind that comes in the store, like Contadina. It will just make a heavy doughy covering instead of an airy crispness.

Saute each slice in butter, or a combination of butter and peanut oil, until crispy and golden brown. It won't take long. The slices are already cooked fork tender and are very thin. Keep warm on a plate in a low oven until all the slices are done.
Serve with a mild sour cream horseradish sauce on the side. Vegetables poached in the reserved broth as vegetable side dish (asparagus, carrots, potatoes). You can freeze and later use the reserved broth as a base for a beef soup.

Truly. No one will know you are serving them the dreaded and gross out beef tongue unless you tell them........ after they have eaten it. Be sure if you do this, your friends are the forgiving types.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pinwheel Gnocchi

This is a recipe that I've had for years and years..... at least 20. I don't remember where I got it from (maybe Sunset? or Bon Appetite) who knows. I have never seen anything quite like it since. Basically a potato gnocchi in a jelly roll format with a spinach cheese filing baked in the oven. Some people hoard recipes as if they were State secrets. My opinion is that recipes are to be shared for everyone to enjoy. Spread the wealth....and the calories.

Pinwheel Gnocchi

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach thawed
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 lbs Idaho baking potatoes
2 eggs beaten
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp melted butter

Make the filling: squeeze the moisture from the thawed spinach. Combine with the ricotta and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Mix in the spices and set aside. You can refrigerate until ready to use, but do bring to room temperature for easy spreading.

Dough: Peel the potatoes and leave them whole. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender or a skewer can be inserted, but NOT falling apart. Drain and toss the potatoes around back in the hot pan until the surface is dry. (This is how you should always treat potatoes that you are going to mash otherwise you will have watery potatoes). Let the potatoes cool just until you can handle them. Cut up if necessary and rice or mash very well. Builds up those biceps and reminds me of the "we must, we must we must improve our bust" exercises we did in school.

Add the beaten eggs to the slightly warm riced potatoes. (too warm and your eggs will scramble so be careful) Quickly, blend in 2 and 3/4 cups of the flour and mix to form a soft dough. The flour will bring down the temperature of the potatoes.

Knead, adding just enough of the rest of the flour to keep the dough from sticking. Roll out into a 15 inch square. Spread with the filling. Roll up jelly roll fashion and wrap the roll in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour to let it firm up.

Butter a large shallow casserole dish. Cut the gnocchi into 1 inch thick pieces. Lay in the pan overlapping shingles. It may take several rows depending on the size of your pan. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes until the tops are just turning a light golden brown.

Some tips. Don't handle the dough any more than you must or it will get tough. Add the potatoes while still warm. I use a potato ricer to 'mash' the potatoes. A very handy tool that I highly recommend. Every kitchen should have one. Because the potatoes will vary in size it's best to start will a smaller amount of flour than to add all of it at once and end up with dry floury dough. The delicate sweet flavor of the potatoes is what you want to come through. No salt in the dough......resist the impulse.

To cut the dough roll, use a serrated knife and clean off between cuts if the dough is sticking to the blade.

If you like (and I do because you just can't have enough ricotta and Parmesan cheese) you can make the filling recipe a bit larger., even doubled. Finely minced ham or prosciutto is also good in the filling. A little extra butter on top of each slice doesn't hurt either when serving.

These are a nice side dish for an Italian style roasted chicken. I also like the pinwheels fried in butter in the morning with eggs for breakfast.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heart Attack on a Plate: Italian Sausage Shrimp Pan Roast over Pasta

Enough with the frugal food. Lets do something lavish. Full of calories. Full of taste. Heart attack on a plate. Damn the torpedoes. Full flavor ahead.

I made this recipe up after eating at John Asquaga's Nugget. The Oyster Bar serves a most delicious pan roast that has been their signature item since the 1950's. My favorite is the oyster pan roast. My husband who hates oysters prefers the shrimp and crab combo. Pan Roast is basically a smooth soup made from cream, wine, cocktail sauce and other secret spices and containing sea food. Sweet and slightly spicy (is that paprika?) with a faint tomatoey undertone. It's a real treat to sit at the Oyster Bar counter and watch them make the pan roast in steam heated bowls. Wham bam boodle, the cook moves like a practiced ballet dancer adding the ingredients, opening the hot steam vents, wooosh. Tossing the ingredients, whipping out bottles that contain the magic ingredients squirting just the perfect amount into the hot steaming metal bowl.

A short story to illustrate just what an iconic item the Pan Roast is and how seriously the Nugget takes this: Last summer we went to Reno (Sparks actually) and ordered our old standby favorite that we have to have each time that we have gone there for the last 17 years. It was completely inedible!!! Some one had tampered with the recipe and it was so freaking spicy you couldn't taste the seafood or anything else other than the hot spices. Our tongues were on fire. WATER!!! Upon leaving the restaurant, we complained to the hostess and she said that they had received a lot of complaints. Surely they haven't changed the recipe? Say it ain't so.

I sent an email to the Nugget expressing our disappointment and requesting that if they want to have a spicy version, please let us have the option of ordering the original. Within a day, I received a call at my office from the manager of all the restaurants in the Nugget . The big cheese was calling me! and wanted to know the time and date that we ate there. No they had NOT changed the recipe and he wanted to find out which of the cooks had taken it upon himself to spice things up. Turns out that they have hired several new Mexican cooks who persistently and secretly spiced up many of the recipes. The Nugget had received a lot of complaints and WOULD be taking care of this. Now, I don't especially want someone to lose their job..... but don't mess with my pan roast. The Nugget took this issue seriously and I was very impressed at the top down customer service.

Because this flavor is something we really like and we only get to taste it once or twice a year, why not use the basic sauce and mix it up a bit at home? I asked myself. I added Italian Sausage, which I had on hand at the time and use frozen shrimp (thawed out) both of which I buy from Costco in quantity and freeze for later use. Bow tie pasta which I always have in my pantry.

Italian Sausage Shrimp Pan Roast Over Pasta

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion sliced
3 garlic cloves minced
3 or 4 Italian sausages casings removed
1/2 lb medium to large size shrimp
2/3 cup white wine
1 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce
1 cup whipping cream
6 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

16 oz cooked pasta (penne or farfalle)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion and garlic until tender about 5 minutes. Break up the sausage with your fingers into bite sized chunks and add to the pan and saute for 7 minutes until done. Break up any larger pieces with a spoon. Drain off excess fat.

Add the wine and cook at a low boil until most of the liquid evaporates. About 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice and a couple dashes of hot sauce. More if you like a kickier flavore (But be aware: too much and you can't taste the delicate flavor of the shrimp and many Italian sausages contain spices already.) Simmer for 3 minutes. Add the whipping cream and simmer until thickened stirring frequently. About 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque (not completely done as the shrimp will be tough and will continue to cook in the hot sauce) Stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the pasta and top with cheese. Garnish with more fresh parsley and sprinkle with paprika. Serves 6 ......or 4 really piggy people.

If you want to prepare the meal a day ahead; it keeps well covered in the refrigerator and can be reheated. Prepare it up to adding the shrimp. Don't add the shrimp until right before reheating the next day otherwise you will have rubbery tasteless shrimp.

This is a great meal with a fresh Cesar Salad, some fruit and crusty french bread. Serve with a crisp slightly sweet white wine. Gewertzerminer or a Riesling is my favorite.You don't even want to know how many calories. Lets just say enough to satisfy the daily requirements of a family of 4 in a third world nation.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rhubarb Pie and Michelle Obama

According to Michelle Obama some one is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so others can have more. Sounds like communism to me. I have earned my "pie" by hard work and getting an education. I suggest that since Michelle wants everyone to have pie, that people learn to make their own pies and NOT rely on stealing mine.

If people want pies. It takes a lot of practice to make a good pie crust. Lard is the best fat to use even if it is politically incorrect. Another tip for good pie crust is to keep the fat (butter, lard, shortening) cold. Use cold water and work the crust as

To that end: because I am always helpful and because it is strawberry season

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.

For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Mmmmmmm Pie.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Frugal Food Tips from World War II

Good tips on saving food and money never go out of style:

Don't you just love how happy they all look and how dressed up they are for cooking, shopping and sitting down to dinner?

Gray skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face
Wipe of the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face
Take of the gloomy mask of tragedy
It's not your style
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
That you decided to smile
Pick out a pleasant outlook
Stick out that nobel chin
Wipe off that full of doubt look
Snap on a happy grin
Spread sunshine all over the place
And just put on a happy
Put on a happy face
Gray skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face
Wipe off the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face
Take of the gloomy mask of tragedy
It's not your style
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
That you decided to smile
Pick out a pleasant outlook
Stick out that noble chin
Wipe off that full of doubt look
Snap on a happy grin
Spread sunshine all over the place
And just put on a happy
Put on a happy face

Preserving Food for VICTORY

If we think times are hard now that we have to pay extra for milk, eggs and butter. Now that flour has gone up in price from 1.29 for 5 pounds to 2.79 ...we might want to reconsider what we think of as hardship. Here is a book from WWII when there were actual food shortages and people dealt with it.

"Despite the wonderful mass production by the commercial canners, the smaller supplies that cannot get to market, when multiplied by the efforts of forty-five million women, will be a notable addition to the winter food supply and will release just that much more to feed staring nations and our own men bearing arms in the far corners of the world. The prices of canned goods are rapidly rising. Moreover, commercial canned foods may not be available next winter an you must feel your family. Even when the war is over, we must never again be as wasteful as we have been, as the devastated counties will still be underfed." By Anne Pierce 1942

How soon we forget. We take the abundance that we have now and throw it away. People who live in rural areas still can and preserve, but unless you are a real "foodie" in an urban area you are in a distinct minority. During WWII food was rationed and people established Victory Gardens in their communities or in their yards.

Meatless Menu from Sunset Kitchen Cabinet
Circa 1942

  • Garbanzos Espanol
  • Tomato Aspic Ring- Filled with Vegetable Salad
  • Hot French Bread
  • Olives and Pickles
  • Orange Pudding Cake (sans frosting)

Garbanzos Espanol

1 pound dried garbanzos

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

2 tbsp oil1 small onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

few whole cloves

salt and pepper to taste

Wash and pick over garbanzos: put in a deep heavy kettle with 1 teaspoon of salt and lukewarm water to cover. Soak overnight. The next day add more water, if necessary, to cover garbanzos. Bring to a boil; skim off white foam; repeat 2 or 3 times or intil water is clear. Then add tomato sauce, oil and sesaonings. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours or until garbanzos are tender. Do not stir or disturb while cooking but watch to see whether more ater is needed to keep covered.

If the resulting sauce is thinner than you'd like it, drain it from the cooked garbanzos. Add a little smooth flour paste (allowing 1 tbsp flour for each cup of sauce) and simmer until thickened. For extra flavor, a sprinkling of herbs- basis, oreganok thyme or marjoram - can be added too. Then pour the sauce back over the beans and heat thoroughly before serving. Serves 8 generously.

In the 1930s to 40's anything with tomato sauce was considered "espanol". I would add some spice to this stew with about 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes while cooking with the tomato sauce.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cooking for the Depression

Evidently, according to all the talking heads, we are supposed to be in the midst of the next
Great Depression. The brain trusts from the main stream media who are parroting and squaking this mantra are too young to remember any really tough economic times. Their idea of a a disater and economic hardship is when their cell phones don't have full coverage or their plasma HDTV goes on the fritz or ...God forbid...oh the humanity!!!.... they have to use dial up.

Most people who experienced the real Great Depression are either dead or had the good sense to just get on with getting on in life without constant whining. They had poverty, lack of food, lack of jobs, lack of housing. They also made do and gave up what little luxuries that they had.

We are not in a depression. Maybe a mild recession. The last prolonged economic downturn was in the 70's. Having lived through that time myself and having really enjoyed the Jimmy Carter economic plan (not), I think I can make some valid comparisons and offer some helpful cooking tips for surviving this small downturn in the economy.

Hard Times Cookbook, 1970 by Gloria Vollmayer is a funny cookbook based on a crashed stock market theme. "Dedicated to our former stockbroker" ...... Apropos, since I'm a stockbroker. I bought the book when I lived in San Francisco in 1970 for $1.50, now selling for about $12.00 in vintage book stores. Now THERE is inflation.

The Gold Standard
Curried Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp beau monde seasoning
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/ cup Swiss Cheese shredded
  • bacon crumbles
Melt butter over low heat and blend in the flour curry powder and wine. (make a roux basically). Thin the sauce with milk, gradually adding the beau monde, salt and pepper.
Place eggs (sliced in half) in lightly buttered casserole. Cover eggs with curry sauce. Sprink top with crip fired crumbled bacon and some shredded cheese. Bake in 350 oven 20 minutes until bubbling hot.
This casserole is excellent when serven over cooked spinach, aparagus or broccoli.
So, there you have it. Cheap, meatless and nutritious. I must confess, I have no idea what beau monde seasoning is.
In my version of creamed eggs, that I learned from my Grandmother who was an actual participant in the "Great Depression" I just used curry powder, dash of cayenne, salt and pepper. No cheese. Chop up the eggs and stir into the cream sauce and serve over toast or in those puff pastry cups. A green salad or fruit salad on the side and you have a complete meal. Great for a quick brunch dish.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stir Fry Chicken over Rice

This frugal stir fry for my Food Stamp Challenge week didn't include the mushrooms, sesame oil or water chestnuts.

For the not frugal: snow peas, bamboo shoots, sake instead of rice wine vinegar, fresh grated ginger root, baby corn, shitake mushrooms.

One Whole Chicken Breast
2 ribs of celery
1 to 2 carrots
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 of a head of broccoli
1/2 onion
4 large mushrooms
sliced water chestnuts (small can)
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
chicken bullion cube
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch

The trick to stir fry is in the preparation. Cube the chicken breast into 1 inch chunks. Toss in a bowl with about 1 tbsp soy sauce, ginger and the sesame oil. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Slice the celery and carrots in oblique shapes (not just crossways). Cut the half of red pepper into strips. Coarsly chop onion into 1 inch pieces. Slice the mushrooms. Cut the broccoli into spears, slice in half if they are too large. Drain the sliced water chestnuts

The idea is to have all the pieces, meat and vegetables, approximately the same size.

Before cooking group the vegetables on your chopping board according to the length of cooking time. Mushrooms and red peppers don't takre as long to cook so you want to add them at the last.

Make the sauce: combine the soy sauce, water, bullion cube, rice wine vinegar and sugar. Heat or microwave until disolved. Set aside to cool. Stir in the cornstarch when cooled.

Cooking the Stir Fry:

In a large deep fry pan or wok, heat about 1 tbsp oil until very hot. Add the chicken all at once and stir in the hot pan for a couple of minutes until the chicken is almost done. Remove chicken pieces from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Add a bit more oil to the pan if needed and bring back to hot. Toss in the carrots, onion and celery. Stir and toss in the pann until just beginning to become limp. Add the red pepper, mushrooms and water chestnuts and continue stiring for about a minute. Add back the chicken pieces and toss about another minute or less.

Stir the sauce mixuture to mix up the cornstarch, which has settled on the bottom. and pour all at once over the stir fry. Quickly toss and stir for about 30 seconds or until the sauce is thickened and clear. If the sauce is cloudy looking, the cornstarch hasn't cooked.

The time from beginning to end of the stir fry process is usually about 5 minutes or less.

Food Stamp Challenge Grocery List

I am posting my shopping list for the food stamp challenge here and discussing it over at my other blog Dust Bunnies of the Mind. I am assuming a couple has $200 a month in food stamps to spend on food. I am also assuming that they are not starting with ZERO food in their house and have some basic staples like salt, spices, cooking oil. The challenge is to feed yourself on $3.oo a day. I think this is easily done with some simple cooking skills and budgeting.

This is bare bones food. I didn’t buy any luxury items for our hypothetical couple. It also assumes that we have to buy a lot of staple items that most people should otherwise own like flour, sugar, cooking oil etc. Once you buy these items, you won’t need to get them for several months again.

Shopping list * things that will likely have leftover amounts for next month ir several months budget

2 Whole 5 lb chickens .89/ lb (sale) 8.90
London Broil/Top Roun 2.99/lb (sale)x3 8.99
Hamburger 4 lb @ 1.99/lb (sale) 8.00
Small Ham 2.5 lb @ 1.89/lb 4.75
Lunch Meat Thin Sliced @.79/pk x 4 3.16
Pork Steaks 2 lb @ 1.19/lb (sale) 2.36

Milk 2% @2.59/gal 2.59
Butter @3.09/lb 3.09
Eggs @ 2.29/doz x2 4.58
Cottage Cheese @2.19/pt 2.19

Raisin Bran Cereal .250/box (sale) 2.50
Oatmeal Regular 1.79/1 lb box 1.79*
Rice .89/lb 2 lb bag 1.69*
Spaghetti 1 lb bag 1.95
Macaroni elbows 1.40 lb 2 lb bag 2.79*
Dried Navy Beans 2 lb bag 2.89*
Corn bread mix 1 package .89
Sugar 5 lb 2.69*
Flour 5 lb 2.49*
Brown Sugar .89/lb .89*
Top Ramen Soup 6 for 1.00 1.00
Bread @ $3.00/ loaf (sale @1.99) 6.00
Tomato Sauce sm can @ .35 ea x 4 1.40
Whole Tomatoes canned Lg. 1.85
Corn .50/can sale x2 1.00
Green Beans .50/can x2 1.00
Garbanzo .50./can x2 1.00
Kidney beans .50/can x2 1.00
Black Beans canned .89 .89
Jar of Jalapenos 1.79*
Stewed tomatoes .79/can (sale) x2 1.58
Canned Half Peaches 1.95
Canned Whole Chilies 2.59
Frozen Peas 1 lb bag (sale) 2.00
Bottled Lemon Juice .89 small .89*
Jar of Salsa 3.60*
Tuna .99 a can x 3 3.00
Frozen fruit juices @1.89/can 3.78

1 lb each at 4.89/ lb Cheddar and Jack 9.78
Sliced Swiss (I package 8 slices) 5.65

Onions .50/lb 5 1.25
Potatoes 5 lb 2.75
Garlic 2.99/lb 4 heads .90
Carrots .79/lb 5 ..87
Broccoli Heads 1.59/lb two crowns 1.49
Celery Whole Stalk 1.19 1.19
Red Bell Pepper 2.59/lb 1.17
Roma tomatoes 1.89/ lb 8 tomatoes 1.53
Apples 1.89/lb = 4 apples 1.89
Head of Romaine Lettuce 1.89
TOTAL 133.86

I still have 66.14 left to spend!!