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Carolyn

Sara

      Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the bread winners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, on April 4th, 2020.

irish_guinness_quick_brown_bread

In my travel recollection, the crunchy brown bread I had in Ireland in about 1987 was some of the best wheat bread I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t quite as dark as this bread, and I’m pretty sure it was a yeast-raised bread, but it used a type of milled wheat and grains that was unlike anything I’d eaten up to then, or since. I went to the grocery store with our friends we were staying with and they had rows of warm brown bread.

When I came home from that Ireland trip I looked in my various bread cookbooks for recipes. We didn’t have the internet to research with back then! I tried a couple. Nope. Didn’t measure up. Then someone told me the milled wheat produced in Ireland is different than anything we can buy here. Ah, well, that explained it. So I’d never tried making it since.

My Tivo records any new Ina Garten shows, and when they pop up in my Tivo menu, I’m sure to be watching her show. And this last week she did one on this bread. I was instantly interested and decided to try making it. So glad I did.

irish_guinness_loafIna used a brand of wheat flour called Heckers. I’d never heard of it before, but I learned it’s an East Coast label and is milled in the U.S. It’s carried at some Wal-Mart stores in the East, but I just went online and they’re out of stock (probably because of Ina Garten’s show). I bought an organic, non GMO whole wheat flour which is a finer mill than others – at least finer than ones from regular store shelf brands anyway.

Storing

Wheat Flour:

Just remember, whole wheat flour doesn’t keep for long at room temp – it will go bad – so seal it well and store in the freezer.

What’s different about this bread is how it’s made – the texture. The dry ingredients are stirred into a large bowl, then the wet ingredients are poured in and you use your fingers to lightly – very lightly – stir it together, pulling with 2-4 fingers from the center outward, until the batter (it’s more a batter than it is a dough) is mixed through and no dry streaks are visible. It’s very sticky and wet. Just know this is not like anything you’ve ever mixed before as a quick bread. The batter actually pours. No kneading could be done in any case.

guinness_brown_bread_slice_butterMeanwhile you will have buttered a loaf pan and the batter is poured into the pan and the top sprinkled with some more oats. It goes into a 450°F oven, and immediately you turn the oven temp down to 400° and it bakes for about 45-55 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer – bread is done at somewhere between 195° and 205°F. I took the bread out at 200°F. At 45 minutes my loaf wasn’t done and it took another 10 minutes to reach that temp.

I cooled it for about 5 minutes in the pan, then upturned it and cooled the loaf on a rack. I served this to a group of friends alongside a bowl of soup, with Kerry Gold butter.

SERVING: you will want to slice this bread thicker than a regular yeast bread because the structure of a quick bread is just different – it doesn’t have the glue (gluten) to hold it together. So hold your hand over the loaf, using your 4th and 5th fingers to keep the far edge from breaking off, and use a serrated knife and saw slowly.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the bread. So easy to make – truly. The only oddball thing was buying Guinness stout beer! Loved the flavor and warm flavor from the wheat flour and Guinness. Was this as good as I remembered from Ireland – well, no, but it was close.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Irish Guinness Brown Bread

Recipe By: Ina Garten recipe
Serving Size: 12

1 cup oatmeal — NOT quick cooking type, but use McCann’s, plus extra for sprinkling
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour — such as Heckers
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar — lightly packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
11 ounces Guinness stout — (11- to 12-ounce) at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk — shaken
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted, plus extra for brushing the pan
serve with salted butter such as Kerry Gold

NOTE: If you use King Arthur Flour, the batter may be thicker – suggestion to use the larger quantity of stout – the batter needs to be very loose – not as loose as pancake batter, but not sturdy enough to roll out and knead, for instance. But this dough isn’t kneaded anyway.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the beer, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. With your fingers, stir the batter from the middle of the bowl to the outside, until it’s well mixed. It will look more like cake batter than bread dough.
3. Brush a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan with melted butter. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with oats. Put the bread in the oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 400°F, and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (mine took 55 minutes to reach 200°F). Turn the bread out onto a baking rack and allow to cool completely. Slice and serve with salted butter, preferably Kerry Gold!
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 2g Fat (8.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 623mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on April 3rd, 2020.

cc_cookies_alice_medrich

Are you really tired of reading another chocolate chip cookie recipe from me? My apologies, but I guess I’ll be forever on the quest for the perfect one.

I’m assuming most of you are on house arrest, aka shelter-in-place like I am. Social Distancing. What a phrase – we’ll remember that word forever, won’t we? As I write this, I’m on day 17 of being at home all day, all night, with not a single trip out of my driveway. In many ways, I’m lucky – I live in a big house, and I use most of the rooms  – living room for my phone calls on my cell – dining room table for a project now and then – kitchen all the time because I’m cooking a lot more than usual – my kitchen dining table is where I eat most of my meals – and my family room with TV (on from about 8am to 8 pm every day) and the gas fireplace nearby. Master bedroom of course, my big bath and dressing room area gets daily use, and my very comfortable library/study up there where I watch TV in the  evenings.

My report? I’m fine – feeling fine, no symptoms. My next door neighbor, Josee, has been a lifesaver for me – she goes shopping for me about once a week or every other week. The high school kids at my church are also available for shopping – all I have to do is send a list, put out some cash and shopping bags and they bring it back an hour later. I stay busy enough, I guess. I do watch the TV more than usual – tuned into news most of the hours, then in the late evening I go upstairs to my comfy study and start watching some of my recorded shows that take my mind off coronavirus. Have you seen this picture?

Screen Shot 2020-03-30 at 1.49.08 PM

That’s my neighbor’s very well-trained standard Doberman. I was sent a similar picture of a little Chihuahua with similar wording but had an acronym on the photo that wasn’t nice language – I sent it to my neighbor and she took a picture of Batman and added the same lingo but with the word “heck” instead of the f word.

Anyway, I belly-laughed so hard over this picture. Laughing is good for us, you know?

In my normal life I’m so busy I rarely have enough time to read or go up to my studio (an unused room in my house at the moment) to draw or paint. Reading I’m doing (see sidebar on my web page for what I’ve read recently). Cooking, I’m doing. But most everything else has fallen by the wayside. Have I cleaned my house? Nope. I’ve paid the two women who come clean my house for me, but I told them not to come in. I’ll do that again next week when they’d be due to come again. And I’ll pay them anyway as I know they need the money. I can’t seem to concentrate on doing other things. A couple of days earlier this week we had really beautiful weather here in Orange County and I went outside and sat in my nice outdoor furniture, under the umbrella and read for awhile, always conscious of the fresh air, the birds singing and the butterflies flitting.

What I crave is comfort food. What I really want is a pasta casserole (haven’t made one). Or things like mashed potatoes (haven’t done that either). Soup has been a mainstay on my table and you’ll have another recipe up soon – a delicious creamy chicken poblano chile from Joanna Gaines. Delicious. Most nights I have a big green salad. My neighbor is bringing me fresh salmon today from her shopping run, so I’ll have that with some fresh asparagus tonight.

Comfort food: [from wikipedia] The term comfort food has been traced back at least to 1966, when the Palm Beach Post used it in a story: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.”

I can’t say that I turn my mind to poached eggs. Or chicken soup either as my mother didn’t make chicken soup (my dad wouldn’t eat chicken). It might be better for me if I indulged in pasta or potatoes – rather than chocolate chip cookies! I don’t know about you, but I have a favorite brand of chocolate chips. I grew up on Nestlé’s semisweet, but oh no, since the advent of dark chocolate chips, I’m all over those, and Ghiradelli Bittersweet are my favorite. They’re very hard to find these days – have you noticed? I even considered ordering a 25 pound bag from amazon, but it was semisweet and I want bittersweet. So I’m figuring that lots of other households are baking chocolate chip cookies just like I am. My neighbor took a photo of the shelf at the grocery store – empty of Ghiradelli’s bittersweet. Sigh. So, since I’m nearly out of them in my own pantry, I dug into my chocolate stash and found a bag of Callibaut very bitter chocolate chips. They’re fine – I like them. So I’ll certainly have a couple more recipes’ worth before I’m desperate for Ghiradelli. Now that I’ve alerted my neighbor to look for them, she’ll probably hunt for them whenever she’s shopping.

cc_cookies_dough_aliceTurning to a cookbook I’ve had for awhile (I think I bought it just before Dave passed away) I found several cc cookie recipes that would suffice, but this one, Alice Medrich’s favorite, seemed to leap off the page. When I began I didn’t realize how different the batter/dough would be. This recipe uses melted butter  – certainly a variant that was not something I’ve ever done for cc cookies. The butter is combined with the regular and brown sugars, eggs, then the dry ingredients. The dough has a totally different look – it’s wet. See photo. I’m not sure you can tell from the photo  – it really does LOOK wet, although the dough is handle-able and pliable. It’s not sticky in the least.

The only other variant was that it recommended at least an hour or two of chilling (even overnight if time permitted). I did an hour. Then used my scoop for 1-tablespoon sized mounds. My baking sheets don’t require foil or parchment – they baked up perfectly.

What’s GOOD: gee, I really like these cc cookies. I want to try them with Ghiradelli, but other than that, they’re a perfect complement to a hot cup of coffee or tea. Or a mid-afternoon snack.

What’s NOT: nothing really. My problem is that I know they’re in the freezer . . . .

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Chip Cookies Alice Medrich

Recipe: From Alice Medrich’s cookbook: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy
Serving Size: 60 (I got about 54)

10 1/8 ounces all purpose flour — about 2 cups
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces unsalted butter — melted, cooled slightly
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts — chopped, or pecans

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool for 2-3 minutes.
2. Combine in a bowl the flour and baking soda. Stir well and break up any lumps.
3. In a bowl combine the melted butter with sugars, vanilla and salt. Mix in the eggs. Stir in flour mixture just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chips and walnuts. [This dough looks WET – very different than usual because of the melted butter used – see photo.] Chill dough for at least an hour, or overnight. If chilling overnight, let the bowl sit out at room temp for 20-30 minutes to warm up slightly.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Scoop dough into 1-tablespoon mounds and place on greased or foil lined cookie sheets. Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes, rotating pans and switching them halfway through. Cookies should be golden brown on the edges, and no longer look wet on top. Remove pans from oven and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes until cookies “set.” Remove to rack to cool completely. They will keep at room temp for several days if stored in an airtight container. Otherwise, freeze them.
NOTES: you may substitute raisins for chocolate chips. Also, you may remove chocolate chips and use only pecans (double the quantity). This latter is one of Alice’s favorite variations.
Per Serving: 115 Calories; 7g Fat (49.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 15mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on April 2nd, 2020.

central_coast_mountaintops590

My recent trip – photo is looking south toward Morro Bay, fog is over the ocean

Waaaaaay back in late February, I took a driving trip. At the time we’d heard that coronavirus was in China and while I was on the trip the first cases appeared in Washington State, but there wasn’t even a whiff of quarantine or even much concern. How times have changed. But anyway, I took an 8-day driving trip, in my new car (I’ve been a BMW fan for most of my adult life) and love driving back roads and highways behind the wheel.

Here in California we know the phrase “Central Coast,” meaning it’s the central part of California, and mostly on the coast, although it also includes coastal hills and dales. In the summer it’s often hot there, so I went in spring-like weather and it was lovely. The hills were beginning to green-up.

emerald_iguana_mosaicMy goal was just to drive, enjoy the scenery, stay in a few nice B&Bs or boutique hotels, walk, shop, wine taste and devote an hour or more each day to reading. I did all of those things. Only one night did I spend on the coast, in Cambria, and the weather wasn’t very nice – foggy and cold, so I didn’t hardly walk much and it was the only place I stayed that I’d not return to – the motel wasn’t special in the least. The first two nights I stayed in Ojai (oh-high), a small inland town in the foothills almost east of Santa Barbara. The town is tiny, but my friend Cherrie and her husband often stay near there with their 5th wheel and Cherrie had told me for years about an old-fashioned department store in Ojai called Rains. They were having a sale on some items and I took my time and went to every department. Bought some cute t-shirts and my big purchase was a Patagonia top. I’ve never owned one and was so tickled to find one that fit and was 50% off. The B&B, called The Emerald Iguana, is as cute as a bug. I highly recommend it. I stayed in a large suite that included a kitchen and great room with dining table and separate bedroom. Breakfast was enjoyed on their sweeping patio each morning with excellent coffee and a varied breakfast. The photo above is the centerpiece of the inn – a mosaic iguana.blue_iguana_LR

There’s a photo of the main living room of my suite. It was really nice. It was a beautiful couple of days there. I shopped, had lunch at a quaint little coffee place (with a limited menu) and dinner at a recommended restaurant there. I had enough to take home and enjoyed it for my dinner the following night – only because I had a refrigerator to keep the food! I also spent several hours sitting out on the veranda of my suite, looking at the view (picture below). It was dark enough that the glare wasn’t too bad to emerald_iguana_porchread. There were plenty of birds and buzzing bees and pretty butterflies flitting. Ojai also has a place called Bart’s Books. It’s an Ojai institution – an old, dilapidated house that holds thousands of books. Do I need more books? Nope. But that doesn’t ever stop me from browsing in used bookstores. I think it’s something in the blood of anyone who likes to read, to meander into used bookstores. I bought 3 books – haven’t yet opened any of them, so can’t report yet about them. I bought a Louise Penny mystery, a memoir by Joyce Carol Oates and an essay book by Elizabeth David. All hardbacks.

cachumaDriving again I headed north and breezed through Santa Barbara. I drove over the mountains to look at Lake Cachuma (sometimes dry in drought years, but currently it has some water). It’s an iffy road to drive because it’s a 2-lane highway with just a few passing lanes, so if you happen to get stuck behind a truck and trailer, it can be miles before you can get around them. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I tried not to get annoyed. I think that picture was Cachuma – if not it was some other lake I passed on my trip.

hotel_cheval_streetview_pasoAlong the way I stopped and had an In-n-Out burger. So very good – a rare treat for me. Then I continued on to Paso Robles (technically it should be pronounced pass-oh robe-less but most people say pass-oh-ROH-bulls). I passed through San Luis Obispo along the way, which is one of the hubs of winemaking in the central coast. My DH Dave and I often stayed in SLO, it’s called, when we were on a wine-buying trip. I’ve begun enjoying Paso more than SLO (that’s how the locals refer to both towns), and I had reserved a room at the Hotel Cheval. Oh my goodness, was that ever special. On any future trip, I’m going to book 3 nights at this hotel – it was just hotel_cheval_interior_courtyardextra special. They call themselves unique, and certainly it qualifies. Luxury but not ostentatious. Rustic, yet elegant. Hard to describe. If you walk 150 feet to the right in the picture above, you’d be on the town square. I did a lot of walking all around the town, shopping, just enjoying being outside. On my 2nd day there I did a round about drive to several wineries (Still Waters, Cass). The drive was so pretty. Rural for sure. Love the landscape in and around Paso. Yes, I bought wine – a case altogether. The next day I visited Kiler Ridge Olive Oil and two more wineries before heading toward the ocean to Cambria (mentioned above).

The day after that I meandered along Highway 1, drove through Morro Bay, had lunch, then on to Los Olivos (actually Ballard) a town not too far away, where I stayed in a very pretty boutique hotel, the Ballard Inn. The only thing wrong with it was they don’t have TVs in the rooms (one only in the sitting room area near the lobby). I discovered that in the late afternoon I enjoyed my rooms, wherever I was, and wanted to listen to the news and later in the evening I wanted the “companionship” if you can call it that, of having the TV on before I went to sleep. Yes, I could have tried to stream something on my iPad, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. Ballard is a tiny, sleepy town with nothing to do – a great place for a romantic (couple) weekend away – but not so much for a widow. Had dinner in their lovely restaurant (great food) then the next day headed back toward home. I spent 2 nights with my son Powell, his wife Karen and grandson Vaughan near Pasadena. And then home. Loved my own bed – don’t we always? I swear hotels all buy some kind of padded top thing when the mattresses have seen better days, trying to eke out another year of use, and I’m not a fan. I complained at one place about it. It was so thick I felt like I was sinking into a deep feather pillow. But not comfortable.

My trip was great – it taught me a very good lesson – stay in nicer places – eat well – and I did. I wasn’t sad being by myself – enjoyed plotting out my trips each day – stopped to take pictures here and there – did plenty of window shopping and walking. I’d make this trip again but I’d leave off Cambria and Ballard and just stay in Ojai and Paso.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on March 31st, 2020.

roasted_asparagus_dijon_thyme

Roasted asparagus with a butter Dijon sauce poured on top.

Asparagus is one of my very favorite vegetables. And they’re just coming into season about now, though the ones I’ve seen have been quite thin. I prefer them a bit more matured rather than pencil thin. So, this recipe, from a class with Phillis Carey, was so simple to make. The trimmed asparagus was tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 450°F. That’s one HOT oven. These were done in 8 minutes. So, in the interim, you make the buttery sauce – with garlic, Dijon and thyme. Once the asparagus come out of the oven you pour it over and toss well. Finished. How easy is that?

The only suggestion is to make sure you spread the asparagus out in a single layer – no overlapping. They roast better that way. I love spearing an asparagus with my fork and munching it down to the base. I’ve been known to pick them up in my fingers too, butter and all, to munch them. Not according to Emily Post, for sure.

What’s GOOD: how easy these are to make – just get the ingredients for the sauce out before you put the asparagus in the oven. Delicious.

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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Roasted Asparagus with Dijon and Thyme

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Phillis Carey, 2020
Serving Size: 4

1 pound asparagus — ends snapped off
4 teaspoons EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small cloves garlic — minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss asparagus with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast asparagus for 8 minutes, or until asparagus is just tender.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, then whisk in mustard and thyme. Keep warm until ready to serve and toss over the hot, roasted asparagus.
Per Serving: 109 Calories; 10g Fat (82.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, on March 25th, 2020.

veg_sheetpan_bowl_arugula_wh_beans

A great combo of flavors – all tasty by themselves, but tossed with a light balsamic dressing, it takes it to a tastier level.

When this veggie bowl was served to me I was certain I wasn’t going to care for it. I was at a cooking class, and often this instructor includes a vegetarian entrée at her classes. Then I took a bite, and decided it was really quite wonderful. I don’t eat very many beans (carbs) and I definitely don’t eat hardly any potatoes, either (more carbs) so I ate a bite or two of those things and devoured the rest of the bowl. It’s the dressing that pulls it all together.

Truly, I love sheetpan dinners – and this one is very easy – it’s just done in stages – pine nuts first (and removed), then potatoes and garlic, and zucchini last. Meanwhile, you make up the dressing – adding the roasted garlic to it once you take the sheetpan out of the oven. The arugula adds a lovely texture to this – making it equally a salad rather than just roasted vegetables, and as I mentioned, the dressing just enhances it all. When I make it myself, I’ll probably use sweet potatoes since they are healthier for me.

I’ve adjusted the recipe to use fewer potatoes (and added the sweet potato option). Do chop up the arugula – if it’s mature arugula it can be quite unruly to eat – easier to eat if chopped. The cold halved tomatoes also add a nice textural contrast. Making it for myself I’d add more zucchini and fewer beans, but that’s totally up to you. I don’t think you can buy half cans of cannellini beans!

What’s GOOD: for me the dressing brought all the various ingredients together and made it more of a salad than a sheetpan dinner, exactly. Loved the dressing element. Liked the contrast using chopped arugula and fresh tomatoes.

What’s NOT: only that it helps to have everything out and ready when you start – you make this in stages, but still, all on one pan. Yeah!

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Sheetpan Veggie Bowl with Cannellini Beans and Arugula

Recipe By: Cooking class with Susan V, 2/2020
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes — cut into 1-inch cubes (or substitute sweet potatoes)
4 cloves garlic — unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil — divided
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper — divided
2 zucchini — quartered and cut into 1-inch slices
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
15 ounces canned cannellini beans — drained and rinsed
3 cups baby arugula — chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes — halved

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 degrees C).
2. Spread pine nuts on a sheetpan; roast until golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Place potatoes and garlic on the sheetpan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake 20 minutes. Add zucchini and rosemary, toss, then continue roasting until vegetables are tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool about 5-10 minutes.
4. Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin into a small bowl, mashing it slightly with a fork. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.
5. Toss roasted potatoes and zucchini in a large bowl with beans, chopped arugula, tomatoes, and dressing. Serve in bowls sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
Per Serving: 670 Calories; 19g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 97g Carbohydrate; 20g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 20th, 2020.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_slice

Comfort food needed.

In this post I’m addressing the current state of self-quarantine from COVID-19. Today is day nine of my staying at home. Completely. Although I have gone out to take walks. And I delivered documents to my CPA. Otherwise it’s day after day of being at home. I’ve been glued to the TV, having it on from early morning  until bedtime. Kind of depressing. I love my home, but my daughter Dana said to me yesterday (on the phone) that it’s one thing to be content staying at home when it’s your own idea. Not so when someone else tells you you have to stay at home. Yes, I agree. It’s been too cold to sit outside – only walking. And we’ve had a lot of rain besides.

There’s been plenty of cooking going on in my house – and I have posts set up into mid-April. My young next door neighbor, Josee, has declared herself my own personal shopper. God bless her!! I give her a grocery list by text and off she goes, disinfecting everything before she sets it on my front step. Although – lots of things are in short supply or in NO supply (blueberries, for instance, and TP of course). No white onions. Huh? All this hoarding is crazy.

I’m about to start a to-do list – things I want to accomplish during this forced quarantine. Like wipe down all the cupboard shelves in my kitchen that are open or glass fronted. My cleaning gals don’t clean those and it’s been a year or so since I’ve wiped them down. Like working in my garage – cleaning shelves and “stuff” that’s accumulated there. I have a 3-car garage, so there is plenty of space to accumulate stuff. One of the car bays stores my outdoor furniture, but once the weather warms up, that will all go outside. Otherwise, I could still get 3 cars into my garage, but things are encroaching on the ease of doing that. I have one car, of course.

My DH Dave used to be the person who handled the garage – periodically cleaning it out, brooming out detritus, getting it neat again. Since he’s been gone I’ve not done much of that – a bit here and there. And by the way, tomorrow is the 6-year anniversary of his death. I’ve shredded thousands of pages of things that could be tossed, but that’s an ongoing project. I’ve tossed out about 90% of my many thick travel files – with clippings and pages from magazines, newspapers, etc. over the course of about 40 years. Most of it isn’t up to date, so why keep it? My desk in my upstairs study needs to be neatened up. That’ll take about 2 hours at most, but it always gets shoved down the list of things to do. I’ve never been good about keeping a neat desk. Filing has never been my forte! Why haven’t I worked on my painting? I don’t know. Can’t seem to motivate myself to. In time, perhaps.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_topviewSo yesterday I was feeling kind of blah. Physically I’m fine – I mean mentally. So I did what lots of people do – I decided I needed a food reward. And it needed to be chocolate! I went searching in several cookbooks, and settled on Maida Heatter – her book about chocolate. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. (The book is no longer in print, but used copies are available for a very inexpensive price if you’re so inclined.) She’s a legend, and all of her books are very interesting reading. I own two I think. I’ve never prepared any recipe of hers that hasn’t been perfect – spot on. Nearly every recipe has a paragraph of explanation – who gave her the recipe, where she first ate it – what chef, friend, relative or neighbor prepared it – why it’s special or why she developed it. Lots of recipes contained things I don’t have in my pantry (almond paste, sweetened condensed milk, a lot of cream or milk, or half and half – I have a bit of those, but not enough). I eliminated dozens upon dozens of possible recipes that required a filling or icing. I wanted easy. A chocolate carrot cake intrigued me, but I don’t have enough carrots at the moment (yes, they’re on the next grocery list).

sour_cherry_choc_torte_closeup_cherries

Above: note the cherries kind of buried under the chocolate cake batter, touching the edges.

What I did have in my pantry was a jar of Trader Joe’s Morello (more or less sour) cherries. Perfect for this recipe. And Maida even mentioned that there is a natural marriage between chocolate and cherries. The cake was made with semisweet chocolate (had that), eggs (had the 3 needed), flour, sugar, almond flour (yes), butter, vanilla, almond extract. Yes, I had it all. The cake is made in a springform pan (a 9” one) and Maida wanted you to butter it and dust it with bread crumbs . . . I used almond flour instead.

sour_cherry_choc_torte_sideviewThere is flour in this recipe, so it’s not GF. The batter is made. The cherries are drained and blotted dry with paper towels (yes, I still have ample of those for now). Half the batter is poured into the prepared pan, then you carefully place the cherries all over the batter, even touching the pan side if needed, then the rest of the batter is poured on top and carefully spread. 50 minutes baking time  later it was done, then it cooled. After dinner last night I cut myself a slice, whipped up some cream with kirsch and had myself a slice. I think I’ll freeze at least half of it so I can bring out a piece now and then.

What’s GOOD: yum. The chocolate wasn’t overwhelming – you wouldn’t want it to be, so you could taste the cherries. Loved the moist cherries kind of hidden inside. And the whipped cream with kirsch? Oh yes. If you don’t have it, not to worry, but do serve with the whipped cream.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except you’ve got to have sour cherries (not dried type) on hand.

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Sour Cherry Chocolate Torte

Recipe By: Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Serving Size: 10

24 ounces canned cherries — tart (sour) red cherries packed in water (it needs to yield: scant 2 cups)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup almonds — ground very fine or use almond flour
1/8 cup almond flour — for dusting the pan
6 ounces unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour — scant
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon Kirsch

NOTE: Trader Joe’s Morello cherries packed in water (sweetened some) is a 24-ounce jar. It yielded about 2 1/4 cups of drained cherries.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F, butter a 9″ spring-form pan dust with ground almonds (or fine, dry unseasoned bread crumbs), shake out extra, set aside.
2. Drain cherries, then spread in a single layer on several thicknesses of paper towel, while you continue to prepare the torte. Measure out a scant 2 cups to add to the cake.
3. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Watch carefully, don’t allow any water to get in the chocolate or it will seize.
4. Cream the butter, add extracts and sugar, beat well; add eggs one at a time beating after each until mixed. On low, add chocolate, beat until mixed, add almonds (flour), then all-purpose flour, mixing just until incorporated.
5. Spread about half or a little more of the batter into the pan (it is thick, using an offset spatula helps) place cherries one at a time over batter in a single layer (they can touch the sides) then spoon and spread the remaining batter over the cherries. Going slow helps prevent pull up.
6. Bake cake 50 minutes – the cake will be dry and crusty on top and a toothpick will come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes on a rack, then remove springform side, let stand until almost cool (to serve warm this is about 30 minutes). Use a long pastry spatula to loosen cake from the cake bottom and slide off onto serving platter. Or cover cake with a rack and flip over, remove pan bottom – you may need to slip a thin spatula between the torte and pan bottom to loosen, cover cake with serving plate and flip back over.
7. Whip cream with sugar and kirsch and serve each slice with a large dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 370 Calories; 19g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 15th, 2020.

creamy_reuben_soup

Just imagine all the best of a Reuben Sandwich combined into a soup.

Do you always fix a traditional Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dinner on March 17th? Not always for me, and less often since I’ve been a widow. You can’t buy a small corned beef for 1-2 meals. In this instance, though, I cooked a whole corned beef and used almost all of it to make a double portion of this soup. I was having a group of friends over to play Mexican Train and my co-hostess Holly brought part of the meal (salad and dessert) while I did a nice varied cheese tray and this soup. Oh, and also an Ina Garten Guinness wheat bread I baked (recipe up soon).

The original recipe came from Phillis Carey, although I didn’t attend the cooking class when it was prepared. She sent it out to her email list as a recipe of the week. I did make a few changes from the original: (1) I added some celery; (2) I thickened the soup with cornstarch because I thought it needed to have more heft; (3) I used a quite sour brand of sauerkraut, so I added a tetch of sugar which just took the edge off of that sour flavor, but  you’d never think there was sugar added (and I used monkfruit anyway); and (4) I added a little bit more cream. If you are watching carbs, you don’t have to thicken the soup – although you could take out some of the vegetables (not the corned beef) and whiz that up in the blender to provide a thicker consistency.

reuben_soup_simmeringAnd I also changed the way you make and serve the croutons – because I made a double batch of this and was serving a bunch of people, I didn’t want to put 8 bowls of soup in the oven. So, I toasted the croutons in the oven to begin with (drizzled with EVOO), then I kind of mounded them into 8 little crowns and sprinkled the grated Emmental cheese on top and put that into the oven to broil and get golden brown. So, when serving the soup, I scooped the soup into bowls, then used a spatula to take a crouton-cheese crown on top of each bowl of soup.crouton_crowns See photo below.

What I did forget to do was sprinkle the top with Italian parsley, but it made no-never-mind to the flavor. I did make the soup the day before serving, and no question, the overnight chill helped meld the flavors. As I write this, I’ve had leftovers twice now, for lunch, and oh-so-good.

What’s GOOD: oh, my, the flavor. Just like a corned beef and cabbage dinner with the Reuben element of sauerkraut and cheese. The croutons and cheese just put this soup over the top. This is a keeper.

What’s NOT: only that you need to prepare a corned beef – or buy thick slices from a deli counter in order to cut cubes. This soup is better made a day ahead.

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Creamy Reuben Soup with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut and Rye Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe, 2020
Serving Size: 7

CROUTONS:
1 tablespoon EVOO
7 slices rye bread — crusts removed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
SOUP:
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 small onion — finely diced
1 carrot — peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery — finely chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth — reserving 2 cups (set aside)
1/2 pound corned beef brisket — sliced, cubed
8 fluid ounces sauerkraut
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
5 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon sugar — or monkfruit sweetener
1/4 cup chopped parsley — plus more for garnish
Salt to taste (probably won’t need it)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese — grated or Emmental

NOTES: Ideally, make this the day before as the taste is enhanced with an overnight chill to meld flavors.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread rye bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO then toss well to distribute oil. Bake for about 5-8 minutes until golden but not burned. Watch carefully. Remove and set aside.
2. In a large soup pot, heat EVOO over medium-low. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, garlic, caraway seed and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in corned beef, sauerkraut, and heavy cream; bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Combine the reserved, room temp chicken broth with cornstarch and mix well. Pour into soup pot and stir for several minutes until it comes to a simmer and soup thickens. Add sugar or alternative sweetener. Stir in parsley and add salt if needed – it probably won’t be needed. If soup is too salty adjust by adding small amounts of water and bring back to a boil.
4. Mound portions of croutons on baking sheet and top with grated cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour soup into bowls then carefully (using a spatula) place bubbling crouton crown on top of each bowl of hot soup. Sprinkle with more parsley if desired. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 438 Calories; 29g Fat (55.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 604mg Sodium.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on March 12th, 2020.

indiv_potato_gratin

Goodness me, yummy deliciousness going on here – what’s there not to like about potatoes, cheese and cream?

A few weeks ago my friend Cherrie and I attended a class with Phillis Carey. She did a special menu aimed at Valentine’s Day. Beef wellingtons made individually (see in photo, top right) were demonstrated – I doubt I’ll ever make them. They were fabulous, but more work than I’d want to do. I’ll post the asparagus recipe in a few days.

These little gratins are relatively easy to make – you can even do them early in the day and keep refrigerated (unbaked) until about 30 minutes before baking. Yes, they’re rich. And cheesy. A mixture of Boursin herb/garlic cheese and cream compose the cream sauce – how easy is that? The potatoes need to be very thinly sliced (makes for quicker baking time) so don’t streamline on that part – or know it’ll take longer than 30-40 minutes to bake them until they are tender.

First you melt the cheese and cream together to make the cheesy sauce. The muffin tin or ramekin needs to be greased first. Potatoes are layered inside, half way, then cheese sprinkled on top, then more potatoes, with salt and pepper on both layers. Then more cheese, and the cream sauce poured over. Top with foil – dome it slightly so the foil doesn’t touch the cheese – and bake for 30-40 minutes, removing the foil half way through. Test them to make sure the potatoes are tender.

What’s GOOD: super comfort food. Rich. Altogether great taste. Can be made ahead the morning you need to serve them.

What’s NOT: only that it takes a little bit of time to make the layers, grate cheese, make the sauce, etc. Nothing hard, just a bit time consuming.

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Individual Potato Gratins with Garlic-Herb Cheese

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey cooking class recipe.
Serving Size: 4

nonstick spray
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces Boursin cheese
2 medium russet potatoes — peeled, VERY thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — or Romano, freshly grated

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Spray 4 muffin tins or ramekins with vegetable spray.
3. Heat heavy cream and Boursin cheese in small saucepan, stirring occasionally, over low heat until melted and mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
4. Layer potato slices into muffin cups or ramekins, filling half way up sides. Season with salt and pepper and top with 1/2 tablespoon grated Parm in each one. Fill with remaining potatoes. Do not over-fill as it will spill during baking. Season again with salt and pepper and top with remaining cheese. Pour 2 tablespoons of cream mixture into each one.
5. Cover pan with foil, doming slightly so foil doesn’t touch the cheese. (Gratins may be made to this point early in the day, then refrigerated. Allow to sit out at room temp for 30 minutes before proceeding.) Bake gratins for 30-40 minutes, removing foil half way through baking time, to allow tops to brown. Test potatoes with sharp knife to make sure they’re tender. Invert onto warmed plate, then tip them back so the nice caramelized cheese is on top. Hearty eaters may want two of them.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 20g Fat (80.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 66mg Cholesterol; 157mg Sodium.

Posted in Pork, on March 8th, 2020.

pork_tender_apples_potato_gr_beans

Another winner of a sheetpan dinner.

For me, there’s nothing NOT to like about an easy sheetpan dinner. I love vegetables, and they can vary based on the season or what’s in your refrigerator. This one uses small potatoes and green beans to serve alongside a pork tenderloin. And the surprise? Apple chunks roasted along with the potatoes.

This recipe has one little tricky thing – you start off the oven at 500°F, and you preheat the sheet pan as the oven heats up to temperature. You remove it carefully – oh you do not want to burn your hand on a 500°F sheetpan! The first round of food is added and when you put the pan back in the oven, you reduce the temp to 450°F. And in this one, you do not use parchment paper – you want the pork will get some nice crusty caramelization which won’t happen if it’s put on parchment. The potatoes and apples are tossed with oil, thyme and rosemary and those are added to the sheetpan. At this point you need to watch the temp of the pork – it needs to come out of the oven at 140°F which takes about 11-13 minutes, depending on the size of the tenderloin. You take the tenderloin off the pan to rest, then add the green beans to the sheetpan and the whole pan goes back into the oven to roast and finish. Test the green beans to see if they’re done to your liking (it might need another minute or two past the recommended 10 minutes). If you don’t like crisp green beans, they’ll definitely need more time in the oven.

While the vegetables are finishing up, the pork tenderloin rests, covered loosely with foil. When everything is ready, remove the vegetables, then slice up the pork. Then you quickly add some chicken broth, butter and apple cider vinegar to the sheetpan and stir it around to dig up any tasty, crusty bits and pour that over everything.

What’s GOOD: the combo of flavors. Loved the thyme and rosemary (two of my favorite herbs). The apple addition is just genius! Like the crunchy green beans and the perfectly tender, medium-rare pork. And the bit of au jus you mix up at the end adds lovely flavor too.

What’s NOT: only that you do need to be in the kitchen, in and around that oven over the various baking times. The pan does go in and out a few times, but still, it’s all cooked on ONE pan!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sheetpan Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Potatoes and Green Beans

Recipe By: From cooking class with Susan V, Feb. 2020
Serving Size: 4

1 pound pork tenderloin — trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme — divided
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary — divided
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt — divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper — divided
12 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes — cut into 1-1/2″ chunks
2 apples — Gala, or other sweet apple, peeled, 1″ cubes
6 ounces haricots verts — trimmed (if using regular green beans, baking time will be longer)
AU JUS:
3 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (do not remove pan while oven preheats).
2. Rub pork with 1 tablespoon oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons thyme, 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove pan from oven; add pork, and return to oven. Immediately reduce oven temperature to 450°F. Bake pork 5 minutes.
3. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 2 teaspoons thyme, remaining 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, potatoes, and apple in a bowl; toss to coat.
4. Remove pan from oven; add potato/apple mixture to pan with pork. Bake at 450°F until a thermometer inserted in pork registers 140°F, 11 to 13 minutes. Remove pork from pan; place on a cutting board. Add green beans to pan with potato mixture. Bake at 450°F until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste green beans to see if they’re to your liking.
5. Place vegetable mixture on a heated platter. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stock, butter, and vinegar to hot pan. Scrape browned bits loose with a wooden spoon, and stir until butter is melted. Cut pork into 12 slices; arrange over vegetables. Drizzle stock mixture over pork.
Per Serving: 369 Calories; 15g Fat (37.5% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 685mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on March 2nd, 2020.

sour_cream_walnut_brownies

Oh gosh, just make these, okay? So rich and chocolaty. So easy (mix in one bowl).

The other night I had eaten a very virtuous dinner. A very light dinner. And I just craved a little something sweet. All the chocolate chip cookies are gone (I took them to the desert and my friend Ann and I ate the two dozen or so I took out there). I scrounged in the freezer, thinking there might be something in there. Nope. I try not to keep ice cream in the freezer, because it beckons me too often to come have some. So there was simply nothing in the freezer to satisfy. So I opted to make something new. Brownies.

There are so many different textures of brownies out there – thick, thin, chewy, crunchy, even fudge-like ones, or the kind that have a shiny, crackled top. And then there are cake-type, like these. Do you have a favorite? These may be my new favs.

What was the greatest? They were mixed up, by hand, in one bowl. I did melt the butter and chocolate in a separate bowl in the microwave (and watched it very carefully so it wouldn’t boil), and I used a wooden spoon and a rubber spatula. But that was all it took. The pan needs a foil sling, so don’t overlook that part, and I sprayed the foil with EVOO. Eggs gave it nice lift, and the sour cream (only 1/3 cup) gave it tenderness. And it only contains 1/2 cup flour. What provides the dense chocolate flavor is the use of some bar chocolate (I used dark) and a hefty amount of Dutch-processed cocoa. Some brownie recipes use pecans. I prefer walnuts. Into a 325°F oven they went and 40 minutes later they were just barely cooked through. Because they’re such a tender cake-type, you definitely want to let them cool in the pan for awhile.

I did use monkfruit sweetener for half of the sugar amount called for. I couldn’t even tell there was any alternative sweetener in there. I do like the monkfruit type – has a very natural taste.

These could feed 9 hearty eaters, but I cut this into much smaller squares. The recipe does say 16, but you could easily get 18-20, I think. Don’t refrigerate them – just put them in a covered container. If you don’t eat them within 48 hours, freeze them, using parchment paper in between the layers so they won’t stick to each other.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the tender texture, cake-like, and intense chocolate flavor of these. A little serving gives you a big jolt of happiness.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of, unless you don’t like this type of tender brownie.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sour Cream Walnut Brownies

Serving Size: 16 (or more)

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate — coarsely chopped
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts — coarsely chopped

NOTE: If you’re watching sugar intake, you may easily swap monkfruit sweetener for the sugar, or use half sugar and half monkfruit.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 8-inch square pan with foil so that at least 2 inches hang over two opposite sides. Spray the foil with EVOO, or grease with butter.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or use a microwave (but watch it carefully so it doesn’t boil). Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl.
3. Using a wooden spoon, beat in cocoa powder and sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract. Add flour and salt. Mix just until blended. Stir in walnuts.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool for about 30 minutes in the pan on wire rack then use foil sling to remove them to the rack to cool completely. Will keep a few days at room temp, or freeze for longer storage. If freezing, use parchment paper to separate the layers so the brownies don’t stick, as they are very moist.
Per Serving: 272 Calories; 20g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 69mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

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