Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Eve Drink: Grapefruit Ginger Gussy

Here is a base cocktail recipe that can be finished by each guest to their liking- spiked or non-alcoholic. Gussy up ruby red grapefruit juice with homemade ginger syrup and a squirt of lime juice then add a little bourbon or rum, or when its time to take a break from the party, a little seltzer or ginger ale.

Homemade ginger syrup is ridiculously easy and really makes this cocktail fresh for the new year.  The base recipe makes about 72 ounces (nine cups), enough to fill the glasses of twelve friends and family. Pour the mixture into a big pitcher or serve from an iced punch bowl. 

Grapefruit Ginger Gussy
Makes 72 ounces
64 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
1 recipe ginger syrup*
Juice of 2 limes
Mix-ins (soda or alcohol)

  1. Combine  grapefruit juice with ginger syrup. Stir in lime juice.  
  2. Chill until ready to serve.  
  3. To serve,  add a handful of ice cubes and juice mixture to a tall pitcher.  Set out glasses with a choice of additions- rum, bourbon, vodka and seltzer, ginger ale.  Use a rough ratio of 5:1 juice to alcohol or 2:1 for juice and seltzer or ginger ale. 
*Homemade Ginger Syrup
1 cup cold water
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup sugar can be used for a lighter syrup)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced using a vegetable peeler

  1. Stir to combine water and sugar in heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir again.  
  2. When liquid is perfectly clear, remove from heat.  
  3. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel the ginger and to cut off off paper thin slices of fresh ginger. Drop ginger slices in sugar syrup and allow ginger to infuse the syrup while it cools.  
  4. When cool, store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  Use within 3-4 days.  
Ginger syrup can also be used to make fresh lemonade, sweeten tea or moisten pound cake. 
Happy New Year!

Sources acknowledged: There are many grapefruit juice-based drinks online, especially searching under daiquiris. Several have interesting add-ins like ginger.  This recipe allows each guest to finish the drink a little differently -with rum or not--so perhaps it no longer qualifies as a daiquiri The inspiration for this recipe is from who were in turn inspired by Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery

Friday, December 21, 2012

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cake, my godchild's favorite, was the inspiration for these holiday cookies.  I created the recipe when Kate went off to college.  No one expects mail on campus these days so I had to send word electronically for her to check her mailbox.

This year I will be getting a new address for Kate and have the special treat of seeing her and her family just before Christmas.  It seemed time to update the recipe and "winterize" it with the addition of white chocolate baking chips peaking out among the toasted coconut and pecans in these deeply rich chocolate cookies.  These cookies have no eggs in them so if you in a baking flurry and running low on eggs, reach for this recipe as is or as a pattern for no-egg cookies.

German Chocolate Cookies
Yields about 24 cookies
12 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla exract
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted*
1 cup toasted sweetened coconut*
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels (chocolate or butterscotch chips can be substituted)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  
  2. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lightly oiling or using silpats to prevent sticking.  
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  When mixture is light and fluffy, add vanilla.  
  4. In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed mixture all at once and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula.  
  5. Fold in cooled nuts, coconut and white chocolate morsels.  
  6. Form balls about 1 tablespoon in size; use a tablespoon "ice cream" scoop if you have one.  Ask Santa for one if you bake cookies frequently. 
  7. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Use a fork to press cookies down.  These cookies do not spread much so you should have enough room on the both pans for the entire batch.  
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350˚F rotating sheets midway through.  
  9. Remove and allow cookies to rest on baking sheets one minute before removing to racks to cool.  Once cooled, cookies will keep for a few days sealed tightly.  These cookies can also be frozen.  
*To toast coconut, preheat oven to 350˚F.  Spread coconut on a baking pan and bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Check and stir every 3-4 minutes to ensure coconut does not burn at the edges.  Pecans can be toasted at the same time in a sperate pan  They take only about 3 minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole looks like an ornament and gives the cook an easy night in the midst of busy December. 

Sautéed mushrooms and roasted peppers build subtle complexity in a turkey mixture that alternates with lengthwise sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese layered like a sideways lasagna. The mild southwestern flavors can be spiced up with a sprinkling of cayenne or hot sauce. 

Bake it in a round casserole dish to create a Christmas ball ornament effect that will make mid-week December dinners feel special.  It’s attractive enough to bring to holiday potlucks and cookie parties.  It even makes a good brunch dish.

Serve the casserole with pasta, rice or stuff portions into corn or flour tortillas.  On nights when we feel a bit weighed down by too many holiday parties, we eat it as is (no carbohydrate sides) with a side salad.

Its versatility is especially evident when you are in a hurry to a carol sing, candle lighting or school play.  It reheats beautifully.

Christmas Ornament Turkey Vegetable Casserole
Serves 4

1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise*
8 oz portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ground turkey
14-oz can low-sodium tomatoes and their juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup milk or light cream
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 egg
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/8 inch slices
3 ounces mozzarella
3 ounces grated cheddar, grated (about 1/2 cup)

*or 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚K.  
  2. Coat a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon oil and grill jalepenos until skin bubbles and flesh begins to brown.  Remove from pan and when cool slice.  
  3. Add more oil to pan if needed and sauté mushrooms.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (If using sliced bell peppers sauté with mushrooms.) Add to reserved peppers.  
  4. Cook ground turkey over medium-low heat until no pink remains. Add a little more olive oil if sticking.  When turkey is cooked, drain.  Add juice from canned tomatoes, salt, oregano and spices. Return peppers and mushrooms to pan. Stir to combine and cover.  Cook 5-7 minutes on low.  
  5. Remove cover and add milk or cream.  Cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone. Fold in chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts.  Remove from heat.  
  6. Oil a round or oblong casserole dish (a deep pie plate is perfect).  Stir egg into slightly cooled turkey mixture.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.  
  7. Insert zucchini slices strait down into turkey mixture at intervals so that the green skin shows at top of casserole.  Slice mozzarella in half then into 1/4 inch slices and tuck along side of zucchini.  Chop the drained, canned tomatoes and layer over casserole.  
  8. Sprinkle grated cheddar over the top.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 350˚F, until zucchini is tender.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with sour cream, chopped black olives, hot sauce

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mushroom Appetizers

The focus is on simple holiday appetizers.  I like ones that come together quickly or can be frozen and reheated when needed so the cook and the kitchen can stay focused on the main meal or other party matters.

I created a tasty mushroom appetizer that can be hand-held, made ahead and even frozen.  It’s instant party food. 

And it does not require any pastry skills so I’m hoping all my friends will give it a try.  Think if it as a simple mushroom sandwich with a cheesy top layer. When it’s cut in squares, the mini-sandwiches turn into toothpick-worthy puffs.

Mushroom Minis
Makes 30-36 squares
8 slices firm bread
4 tablespoons butter, softened and divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and  finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (your choice, parsley, dill, thyme)
3 ounces cream cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Remove crusts from bread and butter four slices with 2 tablespoons of butter.  
  3. Lay butter side down in a 8”X 8” baking pan (metal preferred).  
  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallots and mushrooms and cook over low heat stirring occasionally until mushroom juice has begun to evaporate.  Stir in herbs, anchovy paste if using and half of cream cheese then remove from heat.  
  5. Spoon warm mushroom mixture over  bread in baking pan.  
  6. In a small bowl , mix remaining butter and remaining cream cheese together.  Butter last four slices of bread with cream cheese mixture and lay, buttered side up over mushroom layer.  
  7. Sprinkle top layer with Parmesan cheese.  
  8. Bake at 400˚K for 12-15 minutes, until top cheese layer has begun to brown and edges of pan are showing that bread lining pan is browning.  You can peak by lifting the edge with a spatula.  (Repairs are easy with a little extra cheese.) 
  9. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  
To freeze: Cool completely, wrap in aluminum foil and freeze.  To reheat, places frozen squares on a plain baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325˚F for 15 minutes.  Garnish with a roasted red pepper strip or sliced olive to serve. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spanikopa Casserole

This year's antidote to turkey is spanikopa. 

This wonderful puff of a spinach-cheese casserole is easy to make since the sheets of filo are quite forgiving to even the sloppiest layering.  It always looks pretty and can be prepared and baked ahead then reheated or enjoyed at room temperature. A great alternative to quiche at a brunch, it also serves as a side dish for grilled meats and fish.  It is vegetarian-approved and with a side salad plenty filling. Single servings freeze well and reheat quickly for a quick save for dinner or lunch. 

Spanikopa Casserole
Serves 6-8
6 oz feta cheese (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
10-oz package frozen spinach (defrosted, drained)
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon olive oil or spray oil
1/2 package frozen filo sheets (16 sheets), defrosted
4 oz melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together feta, ricotta, defrosted and well drained spinach, dill, pepper and salt.  If your feta is very salty, you may want to use only a little bit of salt. Taste the mixture before adding the raw egg.  
  3. Crack egg into mixture and stir to combine well.  
  4. To assemble casserole. wipe a 9 X 13 baking pan with a bit of olive oil or spray oil.  Open defrosted filo package and roll out sheets.  Immediately place sheets on a plastic wrap- or wax paper-lined baking sheet, cover with more plastic or wax paper and a damp dish towel.  This will keep the filo sheets flexible while you work with them.  
  5. Have ready a pastry brush and the melted butter in a small bowl.  Place a single filo sheet on a large cutting board or other clean surface in front of you and lightly brush it with butter.  Transfer the sheet to the prepared baking pan. The sheet will come up the sides a bit. This is fine since it will help to form the outer crust. Continue to butter and transfer filo sheets until you have eight layers. If the sheet dries and bit and breaks, simply butter it and layer it in place.  Any “wounds” will heal during baking. 
  6. Spoon out the spinach-cheese mixture over the buttered filo sheets and smooth out the top to form an even layer.  
  7. Butter and layer eight more filo sheets, folding over or cutting away any excess than hangs over pan.  With a sharp knife, lightly score through a 2-3 top layers of filo at 3-4 inch intervals to create a wide diagonal pattern.  
  8. Bake spanikopa for 30-35 minutes, uncovered,  until pastry is nicely browned and spinach filling is slightly puffed indicating that egg is cooked.  Cool about 10 minutes before slicing. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sweet Potato Puffs

It’s hard to beat plain baked sweet potatoes.  We like them best with a dab of butter, a sprinkle of salt and a robust grind of black pepper.  For Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes often get a bit too gussied up for us with their marshmallow poof hair-do.  This year I looked for common ground so that diners could dress up their serving with some brown sugar and nuts or leave plain and simple.

I like the result not only because it is light but also because it preserves the natural sweetness of a baked and slightly caramelized sweet potato.   And there was an unexpected bonus.  These can be made ahead, even frozen, and warmed in the oven or microwave at serving time.  And, for those who are looking for the marshmallows, it’s fine to toss a few on top of the puffs for a final blast in the oven.

Sweet Potato Puffs
  • Bake enough sweet potatoes for each diner plus 1-2 extra.  If they are very large, you might not need the extras.  (Preheat oven to 400˚F. Place some aluminum foil on the lowest oven rack.  Prick the skin on the top side of each sweet potato. Place potatoes on the rack above the foiled rack.  Bake at 400˚F for 30-45 minutes until potatoes are quite soft.  Cool before proceeding with puff recipe.  OK to bake potatoes a day ahead.)
  • Cut each cooked sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Using a fork, lightly mash the potatoes.
  • Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  • For every 2 cups of baked sweet potato, add:
2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole egg
  • If the sweet potato jackets are in good shape, you can fill them with the sweet potato puff filling or make individual servings in buttered ramekins.  If using the jackets, place each portion on a lightly oiled pie plate for baking.  The mixture can also be placed in one large or a few smaller buttered, baking dishes.  
  • Bake at 400˚F for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your vessel.  Remove and serve immediately or allow to cool completely and store refrigerated or frozen until ready to eat.
  • Defrost frozen puffs before reheating.  Reheat in the microwave on medium until heated through (2-3 minutes) or in a 325˚F oven for 25-30 minutes.  
 Toppings that can be added at the table or during the last few minutes in the oven include brown sugar and pecans, marshmallows, salted peanuts, toasted coconut or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maque Choux

That's French for Native American corn as interpreted along Cajun byways as far as any one can make out.  Its also a great side dish for Thanksgiving or Fall meals that blends native ingredients and know how with ingredients and techniques brought to our continent from the 'old world.' 

Every family has a few “obligatory” items  at holiday dinners but as more of us explore varied diets, its nice to mix up the menu and audition some newcomers.   Even if you’ve never had maque choux, you have probably had a corn salad dish derived from this hot combo hatched in Cajun country.

My friend Pam, who brought this colorful side dish to a recent fall party where we were guests, told me that every recipe she found for the dish was different.  Good evidence that the dish has traveled well and adapted to available ingredients.  In fact, Pam herself substituted red for the green pepper and yellow corn for shoepeg.  Everything else she had on hand.  No andouille sausage?  Try chorizo or bacon.  Leave it out for a vegetarian version. 

Maque Choux
This recipe was a prize winner in the December 2001 issue of Southern Living.  Use it your base recipe and add, subtract and substitute as suits your guests.

1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups frozen shoepeg corn, thawed
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 pound andouille sausage, cooked and diced
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 8 minutes or until tender. 
  2. Add corn, tomato, and sausage; cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. 
  3. Stir in green onions, salt, and pepper; cook 5 minutes.

This dish comes together quickly.  In fact, this is one of those dishes that can be prepped ahead of time and cooked while the turkey rests before carving.  It can also be made in advance and reheated. 

Thanks Pam!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Clam-Stuffed Mushrooms

Sometimes you want stuffed clams but the amount of breading holds you back.  This recipe for clams stuffed in mushroom caps with garlic, oregano and red pepper can satisfy your craving.  And if you want to add a few breadcrumbs sprinkled on top with the Parmesan cheese, you’ll hear no argument from this household.  Either way the dish is fit for company.

Clam Stuffed Mushrooms
12 mushroom caps (baby bella or button)
1 can clams, drained (reserve juice)
2 T cream cheese
2 T diced red pepper
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F while you prepare the mushrooms.  Line a small baking sheet with tin foil.  
  2. Clean off any dirt from the mushrooms using a light touch with a paper towel or a mushroom brush.  
  3. Chop the clams a bit more finely that they come from the can so that they pack well into the mushrooms.  
  4. In a small bowl mix together the cream cheese with red pepper, green onions, garlic and herbs.  Stir in the clams. Moisten with clam juice as needed.  The mixture should hold together.  
  5. Divide clam mixture among mushroom, mounding each cap with filling.  Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over each stuffed cap.  
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until mushrooms are cooked and cheese is melted.  Serve hot. 

Your Own Dried Parsley

Drying your own herbs is no big deal. Next time you buy a big bunch of fresh parsley for a specific dish, take half and dry it.  You will notice right away that it is greener than what you normally purchase.  
Here’s how:
Wash the parsley and pick out any dead leaves or damaged stems.  Roll in a paper towel to dry.
When dry, tie stems together with kitchen twine (cotton) leaving one long end so that you will be able to hang the herb with the leaves facing downwards.  Hang the herbs out of direct sunlight in a dry spot that gets a little ventilation. 
If you do not have a convenient rafter or empty closet rod, tie the long end of the string to a dowel (or ruler) and place the stick on a shelf, nestled between a few books in a little traveled area of the house. 
Check the herbs as they dry (a few days depending on room temperature) and when leaves are dry store the bundle in a paper bag or pull dried leaves from the stem and store in a small airtight bottle. 

When using dried herbs, always allow time for the herb to absorb moisture to develop fullest flavor.  Use dried parsley in pasta sauces, potato salad, egg dishes, meatloaf and even cottage cheese. 

Note: This is the first blog post following Sandy, the storm that hit the east coast at the close of October, 2012.  This entry was planned a few weeks ago and today it seems odd to write about the joys of a simple appetizer while we wait to have power restored to all affected areas and hope for viable recovery for the most hard hit among us.  This blog's purpose is to make suggestions on how to eat more pure foods within our fast paced food environment.  The ability to prepare healthy food as well as to obtain it is part of the solution to feeding our country better. During the power outage we were grateful to have healthy fresh food on hand, a well-stocked pantry and the skills to cook on a camp stove.  Helping out a nearby shelter last week, we met people who were not so lucky.  At these times, we are reminded that to sit with one another at the table is warming and nourishing as well.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Eat a Jack O'Lantern

It’s all well and good to know that there are carving pumpkins meant for Halloween night and cooking pumpkins grown and picked especially for pumpkin pies, pancakes and muffins.  True, the smaller cooking Sugar Pumpkin can be roasted or boiled to produce a smooth and rich puree fit for the finest Thanksgiving table dessert but what to do with the big jack o'lantern?  It’s October, when families carve their large-headed masterpieces. Aside from roasting the seeds, TV chefs and gardening experts who insist the big one is not for pie miss a fun teaching moment when kids are a lot more likely to try a food made from the fruits of their hobgoblin-ish labor.

Here are a few recipes using the coarser-fleshed carving pumpkin that will carry the day into a spooky night.

The carving pumpkin, or jack o’lantern, has a more fibrous pulp and a less intense pumpkin flavor.  With the top lopped off and seeds removed, you can shred the uncooked pumpkin inside with a fork to get strands that will remind you of spaghetti squash strands (detailed instruction below).  These are bit more fragile that spaghetti squash strands but can be quickly sautéed in olive oil and a pinch of garlic and served with some grated Parmesan cheese as a quick side. 

The shredded pumpkin can also be eaten raw in a salad inspired by the flavors in a Thai Green Papaya Salad, replacing the papaya with pumpkin (recipe below).  For an even simpler salad with stateside flavors, raw shredded pumpkin can be tossed with grated apple, chopped walnuts, plain yogurt, honey and maybe some raisins or dried cranberries. 

Shredded pumpkin can be cooked down with a little water and pureed with an immersion blender or food processor. (Cool the liquid first if using a blender for this task.)  Just be sure to cook the pumpkin down enough to reduce the water content and bring up the squash’s flavor.  Stirring the mixture will help keep it from becoming a boiling and spitting cauldron.   A little salt and honey or sugar will help bring up the pumpkin’s sweetness.  Pureed pumpkin can be spooned into individual ramekins and topped with a little brown sugar for a Halloween night side or breakfast treat (try a little stirred into oatmeal).  Or it can be mixed with chicken or vegetable broth and unsweetened applesauce for a really nice, kid friendly soup.  The cooled plain puree can be used in dessert recipes.  You can even freeze it in one-cup portions for future soups and desserts. 

To concentrate the flavor of a carving pumpkin, roast it.
Rinse out and slice up your used jack o’lantern into large pieces. Brush the pumpkin with vegetable oil and roast at 425˚F in a shallow roasting pan with a bit of water.  The steam will help cook the pumpkin in about 20-25 minutes.  It’s ready when a fork goes through the flesh easily.  Take a taste.  Keep roasting the slices if the flavor is still mild. 

How to Shred an Uncooked Pumpkin
To shred pumpkin, take off the top and remove seeds.  Then use a fork or wide spoon to draw back on the inside flesh of the carving pumpkin.  Leave about 1/2- 3/4 inch of pumpkin flesh intact to carve.   A 12” diameter pumpkin should yield 3-4 cups shredded pumpkin.  Use half in this salad and cook the other half in a bit of water to make pumpkin puree for soup or a pie.

Thai Style Shredded Pumpkin Salad
Serves 3-4, may be doubled
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste
optional: 1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 cups raw shredded pumpkin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup roasted, lightly salted pumpkin seeds

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the first five ingredients, soy sauce through chili paste (plus fish sauce if you are using it).  Taste this dressing for balance—a pleasing combination of sweet, tart, spicy and salty.  You may need to add a little more lime juice.  
  2. Mix in the shredded pumpkin and cilantro.  Refrigerate at least one hour.  
  3. Serve with a garnish of pumpkin seeds. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Back Brunch

The very best day of the year to host a brunch is Sunday, November 4, the weekend following Halloween.  Overnight we “fall back” to standard time and no one’s stomach knows what time it is- breakfast or lunch.  The extra hour gives you time to make brunch.

Even better, here our two recipes that can be made and frozen ahead of time.  The first is a caramel apple coffee cake and the second is a sausage cheese roll baked in store-bought puff pastry. 

Take each dish out of the freezer when you set the clocks back on Saturday night and they will be ready to heat on Sunday morning.  A simple fruit salad or a platter of scrambled eggs completes the meal and makes this a really simple way to enjoy entertaining.  Ask a volunteer to be in charge of coffee, tea, milk/yogurt smoothies blended with frozen fruit or hot cider. 

Make Ahead Caramel Apple Coffee Cake
Makes 2 cakes, each serves 6-8
Caramel Apple Top:
2 apples
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
dash salt
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or toasted, chopped pecans

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour- all purpose or white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal flour (oatmeal flakes pulverized in food processor or blender to a fine flour-like consistency; measure after pulverizing)
1 teaspoon double acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Prepare metal or aluminum pie plates – bottom and sides--by coating well with butter.  melting the butter in the warming oven is helpful.  Sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of pan and top with sliced, peeled apples.  Set aside while you prepare the batter for the coffee cake. Note: If you are planning to freeze the coffeecake, it is best to keep it in the pie plate so use one you can spare for a week or two.  
  2. Place stick of butter and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  
  3. In a small bowl, mix together flour, oatmeal flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  
  4. Pour buttermilk into a large measuring cup and add cracked eggs and vanilla.  Stir well to break up the eggs.  
  5. Add liquid and flour mixtures to butter-sugar mixture in 2 stages, wet ingredients first.  Once incorporated, beat on medium 2-3 minutes.  
  6. Carefully pour batter over apples in pie plates.  Bake for 30 minutes.  
  7. If serving that day, run a dull knife around edge of pie plate and flip onto a large serving plate.  Caramelized apples and coffee cake will come right out onto plate for serving. If freezing, leave cake in pie plate and wrap well.  Defrost several hours before serving.  When ready to serve, reheat covered coffee cake at 300˚F for 15 minutes to soften brown sugar so the cake will release easily when flipped onto a warmed platter. 
Sausage Roll
This simple sausage roll in pastry was inspired by a rich stuffed crepe recipe that is topped with a sour cream sauce.  While this baked pastry version looks equally impressive, it takes very little time and is easy to eat with knife and fork or by hand, held in a napkin.  You can lighten it up substantially by using turkey sausage and low fat cheeses.  Bake and freeze to reheat later or freeze ready to bake on the day you need it. 

This recipe can be divided in half to make one thicker roll instead of three rolls however since it freezes so well it is worth making the whole thing so you will have an extra appetizer available during the upcoming holidays. 

Cheesy Sausage en Croute
Makes three rolls
1/2 lb breakfast sausage (1/2 package)
1/2 lb turkey sausage
3 oz cream cheese
3 oz  grated cheddar, about 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper
1 sheet puff pastry

  1. Cook sausage meats until thoroughly browned and cooked.  Drain well and cool enough to be able to handle.  Mix cooked sausage with cheeses and herbs.  
  2. Divide meat mixture in thirds and roll each section into a roll about 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter and 10 inches long.  Wrap rolls individually in plastic wrap or tin foil and refrigerate overnight or until firm (a few hours).
  3. Meanwhile, defrost puff pastry according to package directions.  Roll out pastry and cut into 3 strips.  Wrap each sausage log in pastry and seal with an egg wash.  
  4. Sausage rolls may be prepared up to this point and either kept refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve (a few hours ahead) or frozen.  If frozen, do not defrost, but add 5 minutes to cooking time.
  5. Preheat oven to 400˚.  Place sausage rolls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cook 10-12 minutes until pastry is nicely browned.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  This will allow rolls to cool and set up for easier slicing.  
  6. Slice on the diagonal into 1-2”pieces.  Serve plain or with sour cream and hot sauce.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Festival

Since schedules haven’t allowed us to get together for fall activities, we held a digital Pumpkin Festival this weekend.  Washington DC versus Pennsylvania. We each made one savory recipe and one sweet one using pumpkin.  We cooked yesterday and shared photos this morning.   We both had enough leftovers to enjoy everything again today.

My niece Brooke assisted by her husband Wilson and me assisted by my husband – who helped out as head tester and took a great shot of the pumpkin doughnut. My only note is that professional photographers take time with tabletop work, as it is called, so I had to wait a little longer to eat that doughnut.  Comments on the doughnut, “Light and really nice with the maple topping. Not too heavy a pumpkin flavor.  If you frost with a rum flavored buttercream will remind you of cinnabuns, but better.”  Which makes sense since the buttercream was some leftover from a Julia Child recipe.

Wilson on the experience, "It was a lot of work." His job was to stir the risotto, and with a bottle of red wine he was quite happy.  Brooke added, “What's better than a home cooked pumpkin risotto dinner?  Oven-warmed leftovers for brunch. Yummy.”

Next time we’ll Skype as well.

Here are the results and recipes and references:
The Savory,  followed by The Sweet

Pumpkin Risottto garnished with real Bacon
Pumpkin Risotto- almost ready
Pumkin Potato Taco
Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Pumpkin Granola
Pumpkin Doughnuts with Maple Glaze and Pumpkin Sees

Savory: Washington, DC

Pumpkin Mushroom Risotto
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cubed pumpkin
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
32 ounce carton of chicken broth
4-6 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
I tablespoon of butter
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2-1 cup pumpkin puree*
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked bacon or roasted pumpkin seeds

  1. Preheat oven to about 400˚F.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together pumpkin cubes, chopped onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Distribute mixture onto cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 400˚F for about 30-40 minutes. Shake once in a while to keep from sticking or burning.
  3. Get out a large skillet and medium sized saucepan.  Simmer the chicken broth in saucepan.  In the large skillet, pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil and rice over medium heat.  Mix for about a minute until hot, then start to ladle in chicken stock.  Add one ladle at a time, stirring constantly.  After a couple ladles of stock, you can start throwing in small handfuls of parmesan cheese.
  4. Drink wine and stir simultaneously.  This will take up to 30 minutes.  Taste the rice and keep going until it is al dente and you have reached the desired creaminess.
  5. Right as the rice is finishing, melt butter in a small skillet and quickly sauté the mushrooms.
  6. Take the pumpkin cube mixture out of the oven.
  7. Mix the pumpkin cubes, onion, mushrooms, parsley, and pumpkin puree into the rice.  Quantities depend on your taste and what looks good.
  8. Serve into wide bowls and sprinkle a little extra parsley and Parmesan on top. You can also top with something crunchy—a few fried pieces of bacon or some roasted pumpkin seeds.
Adapted from Gordon Ramsey’s Pumpkin Risotto video:

Savory: Pennsylvania
The inspiration for this dish is Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s southern states.  It is best known for its mole sauces which use pumpkin seeds or pepitas as a key ingredient in the classic sauce for poultry.  Oaxaca's capital is also known for wonderful street food including a taco filled with chorizo and potato cooked in a comal, the wide oval earthenware grills.  Here is a vegetarian Oaxacan taco that replaces the chorizo sausage with cooked pumpkin flavored with some spices used in chorizo, namely paprika.  Toss a few toasted pepitas on top if you’d like.  These are wonderful served alongside a chicken or turkey mole. We had ours alongside pulled pork tacos.

Pumpkin Potato Tacos Oaxaca Style
2 servings, 2 tacos each
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cut in chunks
1 cup cooked and peeled potatoes, cut in chunks
Oaxacan spice blend: 1 tablespoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 small flour tortillas
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

  1.  Place cooked pumpkin and potatoes chunks in a skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil.
  2. Sprinkle spice blend over vegetables and stir well as they heat.  Chunks will fall apart a bit as they a coated with a light crust of the spices.  
  3. When hot, scoop into warned flour tortillas and garnish with cilantro and roasted jalepeno peppers.  Hot sauce optional.

Sweet: Washington, DC

Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Maple Pumpkin Seed Granola
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg
1 3/4  cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt

  1. In medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisk milk, egg, sugar and cornstarch together.  Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, mix pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Put the saucepan with milk mixture back onto low heat and slowly whisk in the pumpkin mixture. Keep whisking over low heat for about five minutes while pudding thickens then pour into four glass dessert bowls or glasses.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours until cold. Serve with warm pumpkin seed granola and/or some homemade whipped cream.

*You can buy pumpkin puree in a can, or buy a whole pumpkin and make
it yourself. To make pumpkin puree from scratch, cut a medium sized
sugar pumpkin in half and roast in the oven at about 425˚F  for approximately 15 minutes on each side.  When the flesh is soft enough that you can put a knife through it easily, take it out of the oven and let cool for just a minute.  When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut flesh into medium sized chunks.  Throw pumpkin cubes into a medium pan over medium heat. Top with a lid of tin foil to soften cubes but not make them into mush.  Dump the cubes in the in blender and mix (with a little water if necessary to get the liquid moving) until you get a nice smooth puree.

Adapted from the Pumpkin Pie Pudding recipe on

Pumpkin Granola
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (real) maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
shake of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until oats and seeds are covered with oil and maple syrup. 
  3. Lay the mixture out onto a baking sheet.
  4. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until crispy. Give the sheet a couple shakes here and there to loosen up the mixture

Sweet: Pennsylvania
Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
I based this pumpkin doughnut recipe on one I’ve been planning to try for some time.  It is a plain doughnut recipe that bakes rather fries the dough.   This makes it easy on the cook yet the yeast in the recipe gives them a light doughnut texture we associate with frying. 

Adding a pumpkin flavor and transferring the recipe to a bread machine for extra ease  was not very difficult. I substituted the milk with 1/2 buttermilk and 1/2 pumpkin, cut back on the vanilla and added the classic pumpkin pie spices. 

These doughnuts did not originally have a frosting but the temptation to mix in a little maple flavor into these fall doughnuts was enticing. They are just fine without the filling if you cannot wait to eat the warm doughnuts.

For the original recipe, see who adapted the recipe from Lara Ferroni’s book Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
Yield 10-12 doughnuts, 30 mini doughnut balls
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup cake flour
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces), cut into tablespoons
1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Cinnamon Coating
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

  1. Place ingredients in bread machine in the order noted (or according to your bread machine’s instructions for wet and dry ingredients).  Set to dough cycle.  
  2. When dough is ready, turn out onto a lightly floured board or counter top.  Gently pat to flatten out dough to a rectangle about 1/2 inch high.  It will be a little over 10" X 10".  
  3. Use a biscuit or doughnut cutter to cut out doughnuts shapes for either filled doughnuts (biscuit cutter), or classic doughnuts and doughnut holes.  If you do not have a 3" cutter, use the rim of a ramekin or wide glass.  
  4. Place doughnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone pad allowing at least 1 inch space between each.  Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot while oven preheats to 400˚F.  After about 30 minutes, doughnuts will have risen again and are ready to bake.  
  5. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 400˚F.  Remove and coat in melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar immediately.  If you are frosting the doughnuts, you can skip the coating but it is fine to do both.
Optional topping: Maple Cream Cheese
  1. Beat 2 teaspoons maple syrup into 3 ounces softened cream cheese.   Dip cinnamon coated doughnuts in topping.
  2. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds tossed with a small amount of vegetable oil and salt, then coated warm from the oven in sugar mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger.
Freeze doughnuts that are not eaten within a day.  Defrost in the refrigerator if you have used the frosting or coat with topping after defrosting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roasted Red Grape Croutons

Mark harvest time with roasted red grapes. 

We use roasted grapes to make big dramatic croutons to serve with salad.  Originally a very swank hors d’ouevre, they are equally fun on a salad and actually stand out best against a field of simple greens.

Rolled in olive oil and topped with some freshly cracked black pepper, the ripe fruit flavor pops after 15 minutes in a 450˚F oven.  Let the grapes cool for a few minutes than light mash with the back of a fork, leaving several whole. The resulting jammy grape spread has a subtle peppery finish and is good warm or cold on top a thin slices of multi-grain baguette covered with smooth goat cheese.  Cream cheese is a tasty compliment too.  Three croutons per person is nice on a salad of greens with a simple vinaigrette.  Garnish with few sliced roasted almonds.

Grapes can also be roasted alongside chicken parts. Cook skin-on, bone-in chicken parts at 375˚F for about 45 minutes. During the last 20 minutes toss rinsed grapes in with roasting chicken parts and some fresh thyme or rosemary.  Use about a 1/2 cup grapes per serving.  When the chicken is done pull it out of the roasting pan and set it aside to rest.  Gently scoop out the grapes and herbs and put them in a small serving bowl.  Lightly mash with the back of a fork.  Serve as a warm compote beside your chicken.  Are you thinking turkey and pork?  Yep, that works.   And really good smeared on a turkey sandwich in place of mayonnaise. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers

The name of this burger is pretty much the recipe too.  So simple, the grown up complexity will surprise you.  A real star of a fast meal. 

The main complaint about low fat turkey burgers is that they can be dry.  You have to add lots of other things – grains, nuts, oils-- to get a moist burger.  By that point, you’ve added so many calories and fat and are wondering what the effort is for.

These burgers are super moist and still use 99% fat free ground turkey.  The goat cheese—about a tablespoon of a soft variety in each—adds extra protein and is the not-so-secret ingredient to a juicy burger. 

Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers
Makes 4

1 pound lean ground turkey
4 tablespoons soft goat cheese (or reduced fat cream cheese)
flour to dust
1 T vegetable oil

  1. Sprinkle flour on a flat dinner plate.  
  2. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix the turkey with the goat cheese.  You can also use your very clean fingers.  
  3. Form 4 patties.  They will be very moist and sticky until coated with flour.  Wet your hands with cool water to prevent meat from sticking to your fingers.  Place each patty on the flour-coated plate.  Turn the patty once to dust with flour and prevent sticking when pan fried. At this stage, the burgers can be cooked at once or covered and refrigerated for several hours.  
  4. To cook, heat oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, place patties in skillet and lower heat to medium.  Cook 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned and cooked to 170˚F. 
These burgers tastes great plain.  The goat cheese pervades the meat and provides interest in every bite.  If you like adornment, play around with flavored mustards, fruit salsas or red pepper coulis.

Goat cheese turkey burgers store well and make a great lunch the next day tucked in a pita with salad. 

Variations:  Goat cheese coated with herbs or black pepper is delicious on its own.  If you like these, try using one of these varieties or add a favorite herb (about 1/4 teaspoon dried) when you mix the cheese and meat together.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cheesy Corn Squares

I’ve made these throughout the summer to preserve the fresh flavor of corn after an over-ambitious purchase or two.  Fresh uncooked corn can be removed from the ear and frozen in serving portions to enjoy all winter.  Likewise, these cheesy corn squares are easy to pack and freeze in 4-square packets for a quick lunch or dinner with salad. 

Cheesy Corn Squares are based on a cheese squares recipe that uses a easy savory baked French toast base.  This provides a nice puffy platform that crisps around the pan’s edges.  Once you make this recipe, you could add any vegetable.  While corn is still in some farmers markets buy a few extra (this recipe only needs 2-3 ears).  Later in the fall enjoy Cheesy Corn Squares with a bowl of hot soup. 

Cheesy Corn Squares
Yield: about 24 squares

1 loaf Italian or French bread, sliced in 1/2 in slices on the bias
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (low fat or regular)
2 ears of corn (1 1/2 cups) steamed,  cooled and niblets removed from ear
3 cups grated cheese- Cheddar or Monterey Jack or combination (roughly 8-10 ounces)
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk (low fat or regular)
1 teaspoon hot sauce

  1. Prepare a 9” X 13” baking pan by buttering or oiling lightly.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.  
  2. Pour evaporated milk in a pie pan and dip slices of bread in to absorb liquid.  Press the bread between your fingers to squeeze out excess milk.  Lay dipped slices side by side in the baking pan.  Arrange and tear pieces to cover the bottom.  The bread layer will reform as one platform during baking.  
  3. Spread half the grated cheese over the bread layer.  Next layer corn and jalapeños followed by a last layer of cheese.  
  4. In a small bowl mix eggs, hot sauce and milk to create a savory custard mixture.  Pour custard mixture over top cheese layer allowing liquid to soak into all layers.  Use a wide fork or spoon to evenly press the liquid into the squares.  
  5. Bake squares for 30-35 minutes at 350˚F until browning at the edges and cooked through and puffy in the middle.  
  6. Cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  (A plastic picnic knife will preserve your pan.)  
Serve squares hot from the oven as an hors d’ouevre  or pack along for your next tailgate—they taste good at room temperature too. 

This is the kind of recipe that can serve as a technique for you to build your own favorite.  Think about pizza topping you like or one of these fall-inspired combinations:
  • Mushrooms, Swiss cheese, green onion, (optional cooked sausage meat)
  • Roasted zucchini, eggplant, peppers with a layer of tomato and dried basil.  Use mozzarella and Parmesan for the cheese layers

Friday, September 7, 2012

Zucchini Wild Rice Patties

Very pretty as appetizers, Zucchini Wild Rice Patties are also a tasty sandwich stuffer.  Today is the American Primitive painter Grandma Moses' Day (her birthday) and I feel sure she would have liked the pattern of dark wild rice grains against the light green background the zucchini contributes. 

I saw this recipe and set it aside about a year ago and now that fresh zucchini are abundant could not find it.  This is my recreation using cooked and cooled wild rice, grated raw zucchini and some herbs mixed in a light batter.  It is a pretty standard potato pancake preparation.

Zucchini Wild Rice Patties
Yield: 18-20 small patties

2 cups cooked (and cooled) wild rice
1 medium zucchini, grated on wide holes
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, using small holes of grater
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried dill  (1 tablespoon fresh)
black pepper to taste
1 egg

Mix wild rice, grated zucchini and cheese together in a large bowl.  Stir in flour, salt, dill and pepper.  When thoroughly mixed, add egg and stir with a fork until mixture is just moistened.  In a large non-stick skillet heat a small amount of vegetable oil—just enough to skim the surface-- over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot carefully place tablespoon-sized dollops of the batter in the pan.  It should fit 4-5 small patties.  It is important to keep the patties small, about 2 inches in diameter, in order for them to cook through and create a crisp exterior with a fully cooked interior.  Cook 1 minute then flip.  Cooked side should be slightly browned and feel firm under the spatula.  If it is too wobbly to flip, wait another 15 seconds and try again. Cook another 1 minute on the second side.  Remove and drain in a paper towel-lined plate.  Continue to cook patties until all the batter is used.  Patties can be cooked ahead of time and reheated in a 325˚F oven for 10-12 minutes or served immediately.  Reheating is not absolutely necessary.  They are quite tasty served cold in a pita pocket with some salad stuffed in alongside.

For a look at some of Grandma Moses’ works go to Wiki Paintings where you can see her paintings in chronological order.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celeriac Avocado Salad

If you like the taste of celery hearts, celeriac also known as celery root, will delight you. It looks a little knarly and knobby with rough thin green stalks growing out of the top but is quite kind hearted.  You will know it because smells so deeply of celery.

It can be cubed and boiled or even mashed and mixed with other root vegetables.  It is most famous in the dish Celariac Remoulade.  I’ve updated the classic remoulade sauce with some avocado and cilantro.  The original recipe calls for crème fraiche.  Use a good plain yogurt if you do not have crème fraiche on hand.

How to tackle celeriac.
Cut off the stems (great to steep into soup or broth, too stringy to stand in for celery stalks).  Have ready the juice of half a lemon in a bowl.  Cut away any uneven roots at the bottom of the plant.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the thin skin. Slice off a thin section from the side so that you have a stable base when placed on a cutting board.  Cut slices as thinly as possible.  When you have 5-6 slices, stack them and cut into matchsticks.  Place the matchsticks into the lemon juice and toss.  Continue slicing the celeriac in batches of 5-6 slices.  This will keep the match sticks from oxidizing and turning brown before they are dressed. A medium celeriac provides about 1 1/2 cups match sticks, enough for 4 side servings.

Celeriac Salad
Serves 4

1 celeriac peeled and cut in match sticks, coated juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 avocado, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh herbs- dill, cilantro, parsley
salt and pepper

  1. Place celeriac match sticks tossed with lemon juice in a medium bowl.  
  2. In a separate small bowl, mix remaining ingredients to create the thick dressing.  Taste for seasoning.  Pour dressing over celeriac and toss well.  
  3. Store in refrigerator at least 1/2 before serving and not more than a day.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Potato Rolls

The sweet potato in these soft dinner rolls provides fiber without the crunch or dryness you think fiber adds.  So ease back into the rigors of school days without feeling like you are giving your family homework.  Made a little larger, these rolls are great for sandwiches in an enviable brown bag lunch.

Bake an extra sweet potato next time you are serving them at dinner or microwave one that is about 4 1/2 inches long to yield the amount you will need in this recipe.  These rolls are easy even without a bread machine since they need little attention after mixing.  Both methods are included here. 

Sweet Potato Rolls (Yeasted)
Adapted from

Yield: 12 large sandwich size or 16 small dinner rolls
1 small sweet potato cooked, peeled and mashed, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup tepid water
2 egg whites
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

Bread Machine Method
  1. Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order listed (or according to your machine’s layering instructions).  Use the dough cycle to create a light orange dough. 
  2. When dough cycle is complete, use floured hands to scoop out portions.  Roll and pinch onto round balls and place on a greased cookie sheet for separate rolls or 2 greased pie plates for rolls with soft, connected sides.  Make balls a little larger than the size of a ping pong ball for dinner rolls.  For sandwich or hamburger rolls, make balls about 1/3 larger.
  3. Cover dough balls with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise about 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375˚F while rolls rise to about double in size.  Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes.  If you are using pie plates, you may need to bake an additional 2-3 minutes.  Remove rolls from pan and let cool slightly before serving.  Fully cooled rolls can be lightly toasted for sandwiches and hamburgers. 

Hand Method
  1.  In a large bowl combine water, 1 tablespoon of sugar and yeast and let stand 5 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.  
  2. Add all ingredients except flours and mix well (by hand or with a mixer on low.)  
  3. Stir in bread flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour.  With last cup of flour in reserve, turn dough out onto a floured board.  
  4. Knead dough 4-5 minutes working in remaining flour to form a soft, non-sticky dough.  
  5. Wipe out mixing bowl and insert dough ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a non-drafty spot for one hour.  
  6. Proceed from step 2, in bread machine instructions above to form and bake rolls. 

Fresh rolls that will not be enjoyed within a day or two can be frozen for up to three months.  For maximum freshness, freeze as soon as rolls are cool. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer Broccoli

The look of these delightful bright green shapes send a 60’s vibe to me.  They are the stems of broccoli, peeled and cut crosswise like tree trunks.  When lightly steamed and stir-fried with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and some baked tofu, broccoli becomes a summer meal with a whimsical flair.   

I learned about broccoli stem and sesame stir-fries from Kay Langan who I have admired for her cooking and general wisdom since childhood.  I think of Kay often when I cook and problem solve but I do not make her recipe for broccoli unless the vegetables are at their best. Gardens and farmers markets are delivering the most flavorful vegetables right now. Recipes like this will help you use every tasty morsel.

Baked tofu is a new addition to the recipe.  It seems Mark Bittman’s recipe for baking slabs of drained firm tofu basted with a little soy sauce and sesame oil is making the rounds in my food circle lately.   It is hard to mess up this simple technique.

The tofu is baked at 350˚F for 45-50 minutes until firm and a little crisped at the edges.  The result is a nicely textured and flavored firm tofu that can be sliced for a stir-fry or left in slabs for a sandwich.  Since it keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats quickly, it is worth baking a batch ahead so it will be ready and waiting when you are hungry. 

Delicious and groovy too, broccoli sesame tofu stir-fry.  Thank you Kay and Mark.  (Can I call you Mark?)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ricotta Salata on the Side

When fresh sheep’s milk cheese is salted, pressed and dried, it forms a chalk white sliceable block with a subtle creamy/salty flavor called ricotta salata.  Don’t mistake this for pressed and salted ricotta; the name in Italian refers to a process of making cheese—recooking and salting—rather than the base cheese it is made from. 

But don’t get caught up too much in the name’s true derivation.  It’s pleasant sponginess and fresh milk taste will remind you of the best fresh ricottas, if you’ve been lucky enough to have a homemade or deli-made version.  Ricotta Salata goes in many of the places feta cheese or Mexican cotija can go like the salad below.  It is also nice to crumble over pasta dishes and compliments grilled or roasted vegetables.  I recently found sliced wedges of it drizzled with a little honey and placed alongside some grilled peaches in an elegant dessert course. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
2/3 cup cubed ricotta salata
5-6 fresh mint leaves, sliced or torn
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Toss the cucumbers, cheese and mint leaves together in a small bowl.  
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and pour over salad.  Toss to just combine dressing.  
  3. Salad can be made up to an hour ahead of serving. 

Cucumber Mint Ricotta Salata Salad is a great side for grilled steak on summer nights.  Since it can be made ahead of time, the cook in charge of side dishes can get out of the kitchen onto the patio with everyone else. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Corn-Water Poached Salmon

 On hot nights one pot of simmering water is all that can or should be mustered for a simple summer meal.  Try this one: salmon quickly poached in the water fresh of ears of corn have just exited. The corn taste is not strong.  You will feel efficient. The kitchen will stay cool.  So will the cook.

This serves two and is easily doubled:
  • Simmer four ears of corn in a deep skillet until done.  Remove corn and set aside on a platter. Cover to keep warm.  
  • Turn down the heat, add the juice of one lemon and a few fresh sprigs of dill to the corn water.  When the water is barely moving, lay down a pound of salmon.  
  • The salmon should be about 1 inch thick.  Fold over thin edges and skewer or tie it in a roll to create pieces of even thickness. 
  • Poach (water barely bubbling) salmon for 2 1/2 minutes on each side.  By the time the salmon is ready, your corn will be cool enough to handle and serve alongside the salmon.  
  • Serve this dinner with a side salad of goat cheese, roasted beet and sliced apple decorated with more fresh dill. 
Note: A total of 5 minutes poaching time results in silky medium rare interior and gently flakable outer flesh of the salmon.  If you prefer your salmon poached to a firmer light texture, light pink through to the center, poach an additional 30-60 seconds longer.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lobster Lettuce Rolls

This lobster salad is traditional but uses the roll as a crouton so that you get the right mouth feel without a lot of bread.  Use 1/2 a lightly toasted and torn roll for a cup of lobster salad.

It makes sense to lighten up the recipe by serving it in lettuce cups but without the New England style hot dog bun with the slit at the top, toasted with a dab of butter, it never feels like home to me.  This summer my inland supermarket stocked the New England rolls and I snapped up packages for the freezer anticipating both lobster rolls and hot dogs on the grill. 

Lobster Lettuce Rolls
Serves 2, easily doubled

2 cups cooked lobster meat (claw, joint and tail from about two 1 1/3 lobsters)
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 stalk celery, chopped
salt, black pepper, paprika
1 hot dog roll, New England style if available
1/3 head iceburg lettuce (or other old school lettuce of your choice)

  1. Place torn roll on a baking sheet and lightly toast for 5-7 minutes in a 300˚F oven.  Do not brown the bread.  
  2. Meanwhile cut lobster meat into bite sized chunks, leaving pieces large enough to recognize as real lobster.  
  3. Place lobster in a medium mixing bowl and add mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery and seasonings.  Finally, toss in hot dog roll croutons.  
  4. Serve in lettuce cups.

How to Cook a Lobster
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 1/4 cup salt.  Lower heat to simmer and add lobsters, head first.  Simmer 5 minutes for 1st pound and an additional 3 minutes for each pound more. (2 lobsters would take about 10-11 minutes.) Remove lobsters with tongs and allow to cool in a shallow dish or roasting pan,  When cool enough to handle use kitchen sheers, lobster (nut) crackers and seafood forks to remove meat.  Be patient. Play nice music. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Catalina Pasta Salad

Remember Catalina Dressing?  This is the original.  Not sickly sweet, not full of preservatives, not suffering from tired old herbs.  This Catalina Dressing is zesty with bright tomato, onion and lemony flavors with just a hint of honey for balance.  Tasters loved this and happy to learn there is only 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the entire jar of dressing. 

It is perfect over pasta salads with chick peas, chunks of black olive, red bell pepper, chopped celery, cucumber and carrot strips.   Toss up a batch for pasta salad and save a little dressing for your next green salad.  It is a great match for the cucumbers coming out of gardens now. 

The key to Catalina Dressing is grated onion.  Grating onion is a cool technique that garners a distinctive sweet onion flavor and adds creamy texture to the dressing.  Simply cut a sweet onion, like Vidalia, in quarters and draw it over a cheese grater's large holes.  Very fast and effective way to get both juice and pulp.

Catalina Dressing
Makes about 10 ounces

1 8-oz can plain tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 Vidalia onion, grated
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and toss with your favorite pasta salad ingredients.  Allow pasta salad to cool completely before serving.

Catalina Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

This recipe was inspired by the recipe provided by My Vegan Cookbook blog but cuts the sweet ingredients back and replaces sugar with honey. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fontina Asparagus Pizza

My friend Lee knows I make my own pizza dough. He gave me a ball of frozen dough that he assured me would be just as light and all natural-- the same pure ingredients I use.  His came from a business associate who supplies dough to pizzerias wholesale.  Lucky pizzerias.  Prep space is limited in many restaurants and finding a quality supplier that can save the owner time and money (and space) is a good for all sides of business. 

I also saved time with the high quality frozen dough.  It defrosted leisurely in its package in the refrigerator and over 3 days went from a solid softball to a foamy square pushing into the sides of its bag.

We've had hot, hot days so turning on the oven to heat a pizza stone was out of the question.  Even taking the time to really stretch out the dough seemed too much effort in the steamy heat.  A free form pizza baked over a bed of farina (instead of cornmeal) on an extra thin cookie sheet was all that could be managed and thanks to the relaxed rise of the pizza dough, it came out perfectly. It had a crispy light crust yet was still moist and deliciously yeasty inside.  The dough was a perfect foil to the cheese and asparagus.  Omitting the sauce made for a lighter meal and let us taste and appreciate each ingredient. 

We topped our pizza with quickly steamed, then butter & olive oil-sauteed asparagus over fontina cheese.  X's formed with anchovies provided a salty balance.  If you don't love anchovies, accent this sophisticated pizza with crisped bacon, it's cousin pancetta or top with good quality prosciutto.  (If using prosciutto, wait until the pizza is out of the oven.) For an all vegetable pizza, slice a few oil cured olives and scatter over randomly.

Bake the pizza in a preheated 400˚F oven for 12-14 minutes until the dough is puffed up a bit and the bottom is light brown and sturdy.  Let the pizza rest a moment before slicing.

NOTE: High quality pizza dough has few ingredients, just like what you would put together with flour, water, salt and olive oil.  The trick is giving your dough time to rise. Be patient and go for a slow rise under refrigerated conditions in a loosely secured plastic bag to allow for expansion.  A freshly made dough will rise in about 8-12 hours and can hold for a day.  Let a frozen dough come to the ready over three days.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seafood Stew

Seafood Stew is within your grasp this summer even if you are far from the shore.  This recipe has easy to put together, flavorful ingredients, hardly any “stewing” time and uses either freshly caught or frozen seafood.  Don't wait for vacation to enjoy. 

My recipe combines something from all the coasts I love—a little fennel and tarragon from the south of France, some saffron notes from Spain’s peninsula and our Atlantic coast's bounty of cod, clams and scallops.  Seafood Stew is a world wide thing so once you know the basics of this tomato-based soup you can swap in your local fish, garden favorites and the herbs that make you happiest.  

Seafood Stew
Serves 3, doubles well

1/4 sweet onion
1/2 fennel bulb
1/4 cup celery leaves
2-3 garlic cloves (plus extra for garlic bread to dunk)
Olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup tomato based vegetable juice
1 cup clam broth
1/2 cup water
6-8 threads saffron
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 6-oz fillet of cod, haddock or other firm white fish
1 cup bay scallops
1 cup fresh clams or shrimp (out of shell)
Salt and pepper
Fresh herb garnish: dill, tarragon, parsley

  1. In a large wide heavy-bottomed pot, sauté vegetables in olive oil over medium heat.   
  2. When vegetables have softened, add garlic and cook stirring another minute. 
  3. Add wine and stir to scrape up any caramelized pieces sticking to the bottom of the pot.  
  4. Lower heat to medium-low and add tomato juice, clam broth and water.  Sprinkle in saffron and red pepper flakes. Simmer 5 minutes.  
  5. Add fish and simmer 5 minutes more.  Add remaining seafood and simmer until cooked through, 2-3 minutes.  
  6. Serve immediately garnished with chopped fresh herbs.  
Pass around toasts rubbed with olive oil, garlic and a smear of anchovy paste. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Car Trip Trail Mix

A recent trip to Vermont reminded me of the pleasures of trail mix.  Yes, its great for a hike but it's also a good snack to get you through the divide between lunch and dinner when you are too busy to stop but need something that can sustain you for just a little while.  Long car trips, an extra hour at the beach, a late dinner are all good times to reach for trail mix. 

You can buy packaged trail mix on the road but making it yourself gives you complete control over the flavor, saves money and allows you to source the most pure and fresh ingredients. Who knows how long that bag of GORP has been sitting at the gas station?

The proportions are roughly 2/3 nuts and seeds to 1/3 dried fruit.   I like to have at least two types of either nuts or seeds.  Some recipes add chocolate but beware in warm conditions.  I hold off until  colder weather to include chocolate chips in my mix. 

The trail mix in the photo includes almonds, sunflowers, pepitas, dried cherries and dried apricots.  Cut large pieces of fruit with kitchen sheers rather than a knife.  Simple and less rippage.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Roulade

A sliceable strawberry shortcake that can stand up to refrigeration. 

The cake tastes like the freshest ladyfingers you’ve ever had and the strawberry whipped cream filling is dotted with lightly poached strawberry slices. A pure strawberry syrup adds a deep stripe of ruby red. 

The cake portion is from the jelly roll recipe in Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book (2005 and other editions).  The whipped cream is stabilized with gelatin, the method professional bakers use to help the cream stand up to refrigeration without weeping. 

This is a small cake but many standards but will satisfy 4 people with ease.  If you are serving more, rather than double the recipe, make two cakes and bake them side by side.  Flipping and rolling up the cake is easily managed in the single recipe so it’s better to make two regular ones versus one large one. 

Strawberry Shortcake Roulade
Serves 4
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
(Confectioners sugar for coating dish towel)

Special Equipment
Jelly roll pan or 1/2 sheet pan with rimmed sides (15” x 10” x1”), parchment paper, small fine meshed strainer. clean kitchen towel

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. 
  2. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl and egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl.  Allow to stand at room temperature while you prepare pan and dry ingredients.  
  3. Grease baking pan and line with parchment paper cut to fit inside long edge of pan and hanging over shorter ends by two inches on each side.  Grease and lightly flour parchment paper lining.  
  4. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl. 
  5. Add vanilla to egg yolks and beat with an electric mixer on high for about 5 minutes, until mixture is thick and lemon yellow in color.  Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar while continuing to beat on high.  The friction will dissolve the sugar.  The mixture is ready when you can rub a bit between your fingers and feel no sugar granules.  Set aside and wash beaters in hot soapy water to remove all egg yolk (which will prevent whites from achieving good volume).  
  6. Beat egg whites with electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar continuing to beat until stiff peaks form.  Stiff peaks stand up on their own when the beaters are pulled away.  They do not flop over as they do at the soft peak stage.  
  7. Gently fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites.  
  8. Next sprinkle flour mixture over batter and fold in until combined.  Batter will be thick.  
  9. Spread batter into prepared pan.  Use a wide rubber spatula to smooth and even out batter.  
  10. Bake at 375˚F for just 12-15 minutes.  The cake is done when it springs back from a light finger touch.  
  11. Remove cake from oven and immediately run a knife around edge to loosen.  Lay kitchen towel down flat next to pan. Using the strainer, sprinkle an even coating of confectioners sugar on towel matching the size of the baking pan.  Flip the cake over onto the towel and peel parchment paper away.  From the short end, roll up cake in the towel and place on a rack to cool in its rolled shape.  Cool for 1 hour.   
Cake can be made a day ahead.  Cover lightly with pastic wrap.  No need to refrigerate at this stage.  Unroll cake and remove towel to add filling.  Re-roll and chill.   

Strawberry Whipped Cream Filling
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 Tablespoon cold water
2 cups fresh or thawed strawberries
2/3 cup whipping or heavy cream
2-4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Stir powdered gelatin into cold water.  Set aside 5 minutes.  
  2. Meanwhile, hull and slice strawberries.  Microwave strawberries on medium temperature until slightly cooked and tender, about 90 seconds.  Remove and strain.  Reserve strawberry juice.  
  3. Heat gelatin in  a small pan or microwave until just melted.  Remove and cool.  
  4. Beat whipped cream  until beginning to thicken.  Keep beating and gradually add sugar to taste.  Add vanilla.  Stir in gelatin.  
  5. Fold in strawberries, reserving a portion to use as decoration. 
  6. When cake is completely cool, unroll and remove towel.  Spoon strawberry whipped cream onto cake within an inch of its edges. Gently re-roll cake and refrigerate at least an hour.   

Use a serrated knife to cut slices cleanly.  Serve cake with a syrup made from the leftover strawberry juices cooked with a few teaspoons of sugar or honey.  If there is not much juice, add a little orange juice to the mixture. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TV Dinners in Their Purest Form

There are times when a pre-cooked meal is the best option for dinner. A family with a busy week, a smart dieter's lunch plan, a neighbor convalescing can all use something pure and good standing by in the freezer.

There are more choices that are natural and a bit more exotic than the ones we ate on TV dinner folding tables.  There are also easy ones you can put together while you are cooking dinner by doubling your recipe.  These have the advantage of simplicity, customization and minimal processing. 

The dinners pictured here were made from 4 pounded chicken breasts braised in a light broth, 2 cups of cooked rice and 2 large heads of broccoli cut in florets an lightly steamed.  The rice and chicken nestle with a bit of pan gravy and the broccoli got a squirt of soy sauce.

Cool complete in the refrigerator before freezing to prevent condensation forming.  Freeze in plastic containers to reheat in the microwave or aluminum ones to reheat in the oven (generally 325˚F for half hour).  Avoid tomato based sauces if freezing in plastic since the sauce will stain and damage the container when reheated.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vegetarian, with a Side of Meat

There are a lot of meals that, when deconstructed, suit a wide range of eaters.  When vegetarians come to dinner, a meat-based meal is often subtracted from to create a vegetarian option.  With more of us eating as vegetarians for part of the week, it now makes more sense to turn that meal plan on its head.  Start with a vegetarian base then add a meat, chicken or fish serving to provide an omnivore protein option.

Here's a simple weeknight recipe we made recently when both vegetarians and meat cravers sat at our table.  Beans and pasta are a classic combination in Tuscan cuisine.  Don't be surprised if your meat eaters dig into the beans as well, so make plenty.  Leftover beans can be pureed with broth to make soup or mashed with more herbs, olive oil and feta or goat cheese to make dip.

Penne with Broccoli, Parmesan And...
Serves 4

8-10 ounces penne rigate (or other fork friendly pasta shape)
2 heads broccoli
3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives
olive oil

Vegetarian option:
1 14-oz can white beans (1/2 cup per person), drained and mixed with
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, thyme or rosemary (triple amount if using fresh herbs)

Omnivore option:
3 ounces cooked chicken breast per person
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, thyme or rosemary (triple amount if using fresh herbs)

Extra Parmesan cheese, olive oil and red pepper flakes or herbs for the table

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to water.  
  2. Cut broccoli into florets and toss in boiling water for 4 minutes.  
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon to large, wide serving bowl.
  4. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions, approximately 8-10 minutes until al dente.  
  5. While pasta cooks, saute chicken or heat beans with herbs.  
  6. Drain pasta and add to serving bowl. 
  7. Toss pasta and broccoli with olive oil and cheese.  Add olives.
  8. Serve family style in wide bowls and pass beans and chicken for diners to add as they wish.  

This post is in celebration of Brooke and Wilson who's wedding dinner will be joyfully shared by an assortment of diners.  In addition to pasta, Brooke and Wilson start their vegi-carni meals together with stir fries and pizzas to make satisfying and delicious repasts.