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Just finished reading The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

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 Miscellaneous, on May 20th, 2018.

comeback_sauce_2_fish_seafood

Little did I know – there is comeback sauce, and then there is comeback sauce. Of course there could be riffs, and maybe that’s all this is. A riff with comeback sauce for fish, not meat or poultry. Or every other kind of food thing on the planet.

Seems like I read, or heard, that comeback sauce is a condiment almost as ubiquitous as salt and pepper on the dining tables of the South . Not that it could live there (out on the table) – no – because it has mayo in it. But it can live in the frig for quite awhile and be used for all variety of things over the course of many meals.

So I read, Comeback sauce was originally used on fish and shellfish, but since it’s been around a loooong time, it’s kind of morphed into something that can be universally  used as a condimentcomeback_sauce_2_bowl on just about anything. At least I think that’s the case – if I have any Southern readers, please correct me in the comments below!

I suppose this could be more like a tartar sauce, but it’s with more of the comeback additions. I wrote about Comeback Sauce awhile back. That one has more tomato type ingredients (jarred chili sauce and ketchup) than this one, though both are mayo based first.

Wanting to try this one, I made it to go with some shrimp I had left over from a restaurant meal. And I liked the recipe because it contained capers (love them), cornichons, and it had a bit of minced celery – which gives the sauce some lovely crunch. It took but a few minutes to prepare – I made a green salad and some fresh veggies to go with it, and there I had a lovely meal. I think, since I’ve been a widow (4 years now) I’ve become more inventive with making a full meal with stuff – left overs from various things I’ve made.

When I made this, I had only one recipe/post in the queue for posting here. Gracious! I needed to get busy. But then I went to a cooking class which created a whole raft of new recipes to write about, and I totally forgot I’d made this. As I write this, I still have the sauce in the frig, and it still tastes great. I’ll give it another week, and if I haven’t used it up, I’d best toss it out. The celery is about the only thing that could go “off.” Otherwise, I would think this would keep for a month. The recipe I used said it could be made 3 days ahead. Well . . . mine’s a whole lot older than that, and it still tastes as good as the day I made it. Amazingly, the celery still has crunch.

The making of this is so easy – grab a small bowl and start adding the ingredients. Stir, chill for a little bit to let the flavors meld, and you’re good to go.

What’s GOOD: as I mentioned, this is a kind of a universal sauce for lots of things, but this one lends itself better to fish (with the capers, cornichons and lemon), but I’ll tell you right off, since I made it I’ve used it to dip leftover chicken into, and even some asparagus. It was lovely. AND, I’ve used it instead of mustard or mayo on a sandwich.

What’s NOT: really nothing – it’s a great basic sauce to serve for fish, but don’t let that limit you to using it on other things.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mississippi Comeback Sauce for Fish

Recipe By: From Food & Wine, May 2018
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise — Duke’s or Hellman’s/Best Foods
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 celery stalk — peeled and minced
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley — minced
1/2 tablespoon cornichon — minced
3/4 teaspoon shallot — minced
3/4 teaspoon capers — drained, rinsed, minced
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest — (grated, not in strings)
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne — or more if desired

Note: If making this to serve 4 as a tartar sauce with fish, double the recipe.
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.
2. Cover and chill. This will keep for a week or two. Serve with shellfish or fish. Leftovers taste great on vegetables or other protein (chicken, pork, or as a spread on a sandwich).
Per Serving: 148 Calories; 16g Fat (88.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 374mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on May 14th, 2018.

chicken_shallots_grapes_in_pan

No, don’t be confused – my last post was DUCK with shallots and grapes. I adapted it to chicken. So good.

Don’t get me wrong – I like duck, but whenever I cook it, or eat it, I don’t want to look at the calorie and fat count. Those darned ducks store up fat like nobody’s business! So, after having the duck prepared this way – and after reading in the recipe that it could be made with chicken, a-ha! Chicken it is.

The duck was cooked with high heat and long. I knew chicken, with much, much less fat to render, would be a dried out mess, so I researched some braised chicken recipes and came up with a formula that worked. The timing I used was from Judy Rodgers.

What I want you to get from this recipe is the succulent sauce – I love chicken – but this recipe is so enhanced by the use of shallots and grapes. Serve it with some rice or mashed potatoes (or maybe some disguised mashed cauliflower?). And for sure serve some crusty bread along side to dip into those fabulous juices.

chicken_shallots_grapes_resting_cuttingboardThe making of this is VERY easy. Add seedless grapes (a pound) and about 12-15 shallots (yes, that’s a lot, but trust me), pour in some red wine and chicken broth, some aromatics, nestle the chicken right in on top and into the oven it goes for about 30 minutes at 375°F. Covered. Then you reduce the temp to 200°F, remove the lid and bake for another hour. THEN, you turn up the heat to 400°F and get it juicy brown in 15 minutes. Remove, put the chicken out on a cutting board, tent for 10 minutes while you finish getting everything else together, then slice and serve. Meanwhile, pour the pan juices into a fat separator, let it sit for 5 minutes, return to the pan and continue to reduce it some if you’d like.

chicken_shallots_grapes_parsnip_mashWhat you then have is a great platter of tasty chicken with shallots and grapes to eat on the side. And some delicious sauce to serve on the side, or drizzle on top of the chicken. Do eat the shallots and grapes – they’re to die for (if you can get that excited about an onion or a grape, that is). My taste buds were singing.

What’s GOOD: how easy this was to make. No browning, just braising, really, with some varied ingredients. And the taste – well the grapes and shallots add a fragrant and tasty sweetness to the mix; the juice is out of this world, so don’t waste it!

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. Takes a couple of hours; that’s it!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Braised Chicken with Shallots and Grapes

Recipe By: Adapted from a Saveur recipe for roasting a duck
Serving Size: 4

Salt
1 pound red grapes — on the stems, seedless
12 shallots — (12 to 15) or pearl onions
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme — on the stems
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1 large chicken

1. Salt the chicken well, inside and out. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Pour the stock and red wine into the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf. Arrange the shallots, grapes and thyme in the pot, then nestle the chicken on top. Roast for 30 minutes, covered.
3. Reduce oven temp to 200°F, remove lid and cook for an hour. Increase heat to 400°F and continue roasting for 15 minutes. Chicken thigh meat should register 170°F. Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil for 10 minutes, then slice chicken in pieces, and serve with some of the shallots and grapes, along with lots of sauce. If there is leftover sauce, chill it to remove the fat and use with leftover chicken, or save to add to soup.
Per Serving (assumes you’re eating all the skin and fat): 949 Calories; 59g Fat (58.3% calories from fat); 69g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 340mg Cholesterol; 434mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on May 9th, 2018.

duck_with_grapes_in_the_pot

You know the word unctuous? Not a word I use very often, and it doesn’t pertain to every dish you might prepare that delivered delicious results.

Having used that word, I decided to look it up. Unctuous, in relating to food, is only used in conjunction with greasy. Well. That brought me up short. This duck, well, yes, I suppose it did have a generous amount of fat in the pan, but it definitely was not greasy. So maybe unctuous isn’t the right word. I thought it had a more generous description/definition meaning soothing, rounded flavor. Which this duck was. So, if you’re turned off by the word unctuous, please disregard!

What this duck was, was EASY to make, and it was just bursting with flavor. My friends, Bud & Cherrie, invited me for dinner one night, and Bud, having read an article in Saveur about duck, decided to make this dish. Every once in awhile he gets a bug in his ear and decides to cook. So Cherrie took the back seat and made sides. I brought dessert.

Once I got home I looked up the recipe, and read that it could also be made with chicken, so my next recipe in a few days, will be this same recipe, but with chicken. As I’m writing this, I’ve just finished using up all of the chicken left over from making it (and  used the last of it in a soup). But this post is about duck.

duck_with_grapes_platterThe duck is only prepped with some salt. In a large Dutch oven you layer in the flavors – a pound of red seedless grapes and a boat load of shallots. A lot of them – at least 12 if not more if they’re small. You add some low-sodium chicken broth and an equal quantity of good red wine, add some bay leaves and fresh thyme, and you’re in business. The duck gets laid in on top of all that stuff and put into a HOT oven for about 2 hours, give or take, with some of it covered, and some not. By that time, the duck is just about falling apart, but it’s absorbed some of the wonderful flavors of the grapes, shallots and red wine.

When Bud removed it from the pot it still held together – barely – and he put it out on that platter (above), gently cut it into pieces and we helped ourselves. It was so moist and tender. We all dunked bread into the luscious juices too. That may have been the best part! When I made this with chicken, I poured the juices through a fat separator, used some for left overs, then used the remaining in a delicious soup I made.

What’s GOOD: first off, it’s EASY. That’s the part that I liked best. The flavor was full – you got a hint of the shallots and red wine and grapes. A domestic-raised duck will feed 4 people. If they’re smaller, you might need 2 ducks. As you likely know, they’re expensive (unless you have them on your property). Altogether wonderful meal; worth making for sure. And yes, unctuous still is the word I’d use, even if it might be wrong!

What’s NOT: the only thing I’d mention is the length of time it took to prep the shallots. Buy big ones, so you can use fewer of them, and they’re easier to peel. Overall, nothing at all wrong with this dish – well maybe the fat content. I didn’t want to know . . . and by the way, the nutrition count you’ll see at the end of the recipe assumes you’re going to eat all the skin and (greasy) juices, which you probably won’t do.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Braised Duck with Shallots and Grapes

Recipe By: Saveur Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 4

1 large duck — or 2 small ones
salt
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth — or use duck stock if you have it
1 cup red wine
1 pound red grapes — on the stems, seedless
12 shallots — or pearl onions (may use more if desired)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme — on the stems

1. Salt the ducks well, inside and out. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Pour the stock and red wine into the bottom of a heavy, lidded Dutch oven. Add the 2 bay leaves. Arrange the shallots, grapes and thyme in the pot, then nestle the duck(s) on top. Cover the pot and roast in the oven for 90 minutes.
3. Uncover the pot and let everything cook down. This will also crisp the skin of the ducks. This can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on how fat your birds were. Keep an eye on it. Remove bay leaves.
4. Cut the duck in pieces, and serve with some of the shallots and grapes, along with lots of sauce. Ideally, serve some crusty bread on the side because you’re going to want to dunk the bread into the sauce/juice. It’s almost good enough to drink. If you have left over juices, chill to remove the fat, then use the juices on the leftovers, or it’s great to add to a poultry soup of some kind.
Per Serving (assumes you’re consuming all the skin and juices, which you won’t): 1421 Calories; 126g Fat (81.1% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 241mg Cholesterol; 254mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on May 4th, 2018.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake

Do you still have some cranberries stuck in the back of your refrigerator? Or maybe a package in the freezer. This one’s for you!

The other day I was trying to find cornichon pickles in my refrigerator. I knew I had some, but couldn’t seem to find them. People who don’t cook much don’t have that kind of problem, I’d guess, since you might be able to open the refrigerator and you can see everything in it at one glance. Not so with mine. I’ve got all kinds of stuff in mine, little jars and packages of this and that, some in little long rectangular box/trays slid onto a shelf, on rounders on the top shelf, etc. Anyway, lo and behold, I had a bag of fresh cranberries pushed up against the back wall on the bottom shelf. That package, unfortunately, had to be tossed out, but I also had a small amount of fresh cranberries in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Perfect for this cake.

spiced_cranberry_bundt_cake_wholeHaving been invited to dinner with my friends Cherrie and Bud, I was asked to bring dessert. And knowing my schedule on that date, I knew I needed to make it the day before. Whatever it was I decided to make. I scrolled through my to-try recipes and settled on this one, since cranberries were on my brain. One of my criteria was to NOT have to make a trip to the grocery store. So, this one fit the bill. I had everything, including Greek yogurt, Chinese five spice, almonds and both the frozen cranberries and dried cranberries. Zi-pi-dee-do-da. Did I spell that right? Haven’t a clue!!

spiced_cranberry_bundt_sliceThe dry ingredients are mixed up together. Easy. The butter needed to be warmed (my Dacor microwave does a stellar job of bringing chilled butter to room temp with one 10 second period, a pause to turn over the cubes, and another zap of 6 seconds, and the cubes are soft but not too soft. The batter was begun by whipping the butter (adding lots of air), then the sugars were added, eventually the eggs, yogurt, then the dry ingredients and mixed just briefly. Once that was combined, the dried cranberries and the halved frozen cranberries plus toasted almonds were added and it easily slid into the greased and floured Bundt cake pan. It baked for over an hour, cooled for an hour, then I upended it onto my wood cutting board to cool completely. I covered it in plastic wrap overnight (since I don’t have a glass dome cake cover). It was easy enough to bring along a fresh orange and I decorated the cake just before serving. I also bought some vanilla ice cream on the way to their house.

What’s GOOD: loved the Chinese five spice (it’s different because of the little amount of ground fennel and Szechuan pepper in it). It gives this cake a different flavor – but you can’t quite identify it. It was moist and sweet. Liked the use of frozen cranberries (tart) and the dried cranberries (sweet). You will want ice cream with this. I brought more than half of it home (even after sharing some with Cherrie & Bud) and it’s now in the freezer from some occasion when I need a dessert in a hurry! On the scale of heavy cake to light cake, I’d say it was about in the middle. The cake pan was heavy. Just don’t overcook it (test with a toothpick) so it doesn’t get dry.

What’s NOT: maybe that you don’t have frozen cranberries on hand. The cake was easy to make, although the ingredient list might be daunting – it’s not really that difficult.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

Recipe By: Epicurious
Serving Size: 14

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour — or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter — (2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar — (packed)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% works too
1 cup almonds — chopped toasted
1 cup fresh cranberries — chilled, halved (or frozen cranberries, not thawed)
1/2 cup dried cranberries — chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons orange juice — (about)

NOTES: Chinese five-spice powder is a combination of spices: make your own with 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground, 1/2 tsp star anise, ground and 1/2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek yogurt. Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan. Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.
2. ICING: Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Sprinkle top with orange zest. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature. Freezes well for up to a month.
Per Serving: 429 Calories; 22g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 187mg Sodium.

Posted in Vegetarian, on April 29th, 2018.

savory_teff_tart_chard_sweet_potatoes

No, it’s not pizza. Sort of looks like it, with some arugula on top. It’s a grain type crust with a filling that contains caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, Feta cheese and Swiss chard.

When I was served this tart, I’d only heard the name teff. Knew nothing about it. Had never tasted it. It bakes up kind of dark (see the crust at the back edge?) and it’s crunchy. Even though the grains are tiny, they don’t dissolve, but they remain crunchy through the baking. I liked that part. Teff is an ancient grain and is full of iron, in case you need some in your diet. It’s a carb, of course. You can buy both the grains (whole, tiny little things) or you can buy teff flour. In this recipe, don’t use teff flour, only the grains.teff_grains

There at right you can see a photo of the grains. It’s hard to get a perspective with the photo – but those grains are about the size of poppy seeds. Golden brown, obviously.

teff_grains_pkgSo the crust you make here contains regular flour too, along with salt, butter and ice water to bring it together. You make it, then chill it for a bit, to make it easier to roll out and get into a tart pan. Use a tart pan with a removable bottom. You can press the pastry some to get it up into the edges. It’s chilled for a bit again, then you pre-bake it, blind bake with foil inside and filled with pie weights or dried beans. The only caution with this tart has to do with the baking . . . After baking for about 10 minutes, lift a corner of the foil. If any of the tart shell sticks to the foil, bake another 1-2 minutes and check again. It shouldn’t take much more than that. If it sticks, the shell isn’t quite cooked through and will get soggy.

Meanwhile you will have started on the filling. Sweet potatoes need to be baked, then cooled, peeled and chopped into small pieces. Red onions need to be rendered and caramelized, which takes awhile. Balsamic vinegar is added to the sweet potato mixture and another little jot added to the Swiss chard mixture. Some Feta is crumbled up and you use eggs to hold the filling together. Those things are layered in a particular order, then the tart is baked for 25-30 minutes, then the caramelized onions are added on top. They warm up just from the temperature of the tart coming out of the oven. Garnish the top with some arugula and serve warm. Or it can be served at room temp, but I’d recommend the warm version. The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, at a recent cooking class.

What’s GOOD: the crunch of the teff, for sure. Liked the combination of sweet potatoes and Swiss chard, plus the little bit of Feta. And the super-sweet caramelized onion add a lovely flavor. Altogether delish.

What’s NOT: this takes a bit of work on all counts – baking the potatoes, making the crust and blind-baking it, chopping  up all the other ingredients and cooking both the Swiss chard part separately from the sweet potato part. Just more work than you might think.

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Savory Teff Tart with Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato and Feta

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
1 cup teff grains — see notes (not teff flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsalted butter — cold, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons ice water — or up to 1 T. more
FILLING:
2 medium sweet potatoes — roasted until tender, cooled, peeled, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium red onions — peeled, halved, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves — peeled, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard — (large quantity)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1 pinch red chili flakes
2 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
arugula, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Notes: do seek out teff grains, not teff flour. It may be hard to find, although you can buy it on amazon if you’re inclined to order there. Health food stores will likely have it and probably Whole Foods.
1. CRUST: Combine teff, flour and salt in food processor. Pulse in butter and add just enough ice water to form a dough. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle and unroll over an 11-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Chill tart. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake tart blind, lined with foil and filled with pie weights or dried beans. Test tart at 10 minutes by lifting up an edge of the foil. If the dough sticks, bake another minute. Test again until the foil doesn’t stick – approximately 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack and remove pie weights and foil carefully.
2. Heat olive oil in saute pan and add onions, stirring, and cook until onions wilt and develop a dark-brown color, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover pan with foil and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have caramelized. Add balsamic vinegar and stir until it evaporates and glazes the onions. Set aside for later.
3. Remove onions and set aside. Add second amount of olive oil to the pan and stir in garlic. Cook just until fragrant. Add swiss chard and cook on medium heat until completely wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with second quantity of balsamic vinegar, tossing it until the vinegar cooks away. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Add most of the feta cheese to the chard mixture along with eggs and a pinch of red chilii flakes. Spread this mixture into the bottom of the crust. Top with sweet potato pieces and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart on a flat baking sheet until cheese is nicely browned, 25-30 minutes. Spoon onions over the top of the tart, allowing bits of cheese to peek through. Let tart cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then remove the tart rim. Sprinkle arugula on top if desired. Slice and serve warm, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 446 Calories; 25g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 349mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on April 25th, 2018.

choc_brownie_cobbler

What’s in a name? Is this a cobbler? Not like a traditional one with fruit. Is it a brownie? Sort of, but much looser. Is it a lava cake? Possibly, but made in a casserole instead of individual ramekins. Maybe it’s really a pudding cake in disguise. Whatever you call it, it’s worth making.

Years ago I read an article about all the differences and variations of cobblers, crisps, buckles and pandowdys. And from my recollection, I don’t know that this recipe quite qualifies, but hey, it’s just a name. What this isn’t is a brownie you can pick up with your fingers. As I explained above, this is more like a pudding cake. Decadent, full of chocolate flavor. Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class, and I all but licked the bowl. But then, I love chocolate in almost any way, shape or form. Oh, except milk chocolate. Someone offered me a chocolate bar the other day that contained cinnamon and crispy things inside, but it was made with milk chocolate. I had one bite and threw the rest away. Not for me. It was also exceptionally sweet.

choc_brownie_cobbler_baked_whole

Don’t you just want to dip your spoon into that? From the look of it, it’s a chocolate cake. But oh no, it’s not. Well, yes, it IS a cake, but its properties are much more fluid, soft, oozy. Totally decadent in my book. The batter is just like a chocolate cake (butter, eggs, chopped chocolate, sugar flour, nuts, and some chocolate chips thrown in at the end) and it’s baked in a ceramic or glass dish. If you have big eaters this won’t serve 10. But serving smaller portions  you definitely could feed 10 since you’ll serve it with vanilla ice cream. You need the ice cream to balance the sweet and rich of the pudding/cake. Make this, okay?

What’s GOOD: definitely the chocolate flavor. If you’re a chocoholic like I am, you’ll swoon over this one. You could, I suppose, make this with milk chocolate if that’s your chocolate of choice. I much prefer dark chocolate! There’s plenty of texture in this – cake part, oozy chocolate lava-like part and a bit of crispy crust plus a few little chunks of chocolate chips. Altogether wonderful and easy to prepare.

What’s NOT: if you don’t like chocolate, well, this isn’t for you! This is a keeper as far as I’m concerned. Very easy to make also.

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Chocolate Brownie Cobbler

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

1 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips — or pieces
cocoa powder
vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter a 9-inch baking dish (glass or ceramic).
3. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla, both quantities of flour and salt. Stir in walnuts and chocolate pieces/chips and transfer to prepared baking dish.
4. Bake until top is crisp, 40-50 minutes. Center of cobbler should be soft. Cool in a rack for 15 minutes. Dust with cocoa powder. Spoon the cobbler into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream. As the cobbler cools, it firms up some and won’t have the soft, runny consistency.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 37g Fat (58.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on April 21st, 2018.

new_pot_salad_asparagus_gribiche

Or, in this case, fingerling potatoes with arugula, asparagus and a vinaigrette version of gribiche. Altogether delicious.

What is gribiche, you ask? It’s a dressing, but traditionally it’s made with mayo, or a kind of emulsion with cooked egg yolks (a mayo of sorts). It’s unique ingredients include minced hard boiled egg, little slices of cornichons (those French baby pickles – see photo below left), and some capers. Definitely a savory kind of dressing, but here, Tarla Fallgatter made the dressing using EVOO, sherry vinegar and a bit of honey mustard. Definitely a departure from the standard gribiche. It’s French, and no, I’m not certain how it’s pronounced, although I think it’s greh-beech. And oh yes, it was really good with the fingerling potatoes that had been oven-roasted, the asparagus and tossed with arugula. We jokingly tease Tarla that nearly every class needs to contain something with arugula and usually chocolate.

cornichonsThis could be a beautiful side/salad for some kind of grilled meat (chicken, pork chops, even fish or lamb, and definitely for steak) and would cover you for both salad and a carb. Tarla made the dressing ahead of time, had roasted the potatoes and asparagus, so it was easy to finish up the last of things like mincing hard boiled eggs, slicing the cornichons, draining the capers. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about gribiche variations, read Daniela Galarza’s blog post about preparing it in various restaurant kitchens. And her advice that you can make gribiche the main attraction, like an open-faced egg salad sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about that. Photo above of cornichons from finecooking.com.

What’s GOOD: there were lots of good flavors melding in my mouth – from the capers, the cornichons and the sweet/savory dressing. As most of you know, I don’t make many potato salads, but this one was a winner. I’d definitely make this for a nice company dinner too.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you do need to roast the potatoes and asparagus, and mince up the eggs. Not too hard, and definitely worth it for the flavor burst in your mouth! I think this dressing would need to be eaten the day you make it – though it might hold for one day.

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New Potato Salad with Asparagus and Gribiche

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

2 packages fingerling potatoes — roasted, slightly cooled, halved
1 pound asparagus spears — trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste
1 cup arugula — or watercress
GRIBICHE:
1 tablespoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs — hard boiled, very finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1 tablespoon cornichons — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon capers — drained, patted dry
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and roast until tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Cut into small pieces.
3. GRIBICHE: Whisk mustard, vinegar and olive oil together. Stir in minced hard cooked eggs, Italian parsley, cornichons and capers. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss potato halves and asparagus with gribiche. Add arugula and toss again. Divide among plates and serve.
Per Serving: 194 Calories; 16g Fat (70.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on April 17th, 2018.

spinach_salad_artichoke_hearts_raisins

This is the kind of salad you could make as dinner if you’re inclined to do that. It’s got lots of good stuff in it. You could easily add some chicken if you want some protein.

Usually I’m not a big fan of spinach salad. Spinach served and eaten raw makes my teeth squeak. Anyone else notice that about spinach? But this one didn’t both me much that way – maybe because it was baby spinach? I have no idea why. Maybe because there is sugar in the dressing? Who knows. In any case, this is a really delicious salad, one it’s definitely worth the time to make.

There are a few things that are unique about this – the sweet/sour salad dressing is made with powdered sugar. Why? Tarla Fallgatter told us at the cooking class when she prepared this, that it’s because it dissolves easily. Yes. For sure it would. Did she use that method in other salad dressings? No. And the second thing is the use of grilled artichoke hearts (if you have Trader Joe’s near you, they’re bottled, marinated in the veggie section). And for me, the golden raisins just “made” this salad. This salad is one that Tarla said she’s been making for years, decades maybe, but had never shared at a cooking class before. She doesn’t always use bacon, but she did for the class. I love bacon, so liked that too.

The dressing is mostly normal ingredients, although you don’t usually see ground ginger in a sweetened vinaigrette kind of dressing. I like it a lot. This salad would be great to make to take somewhere, as you could have everything prepped ahead of time, including the dressing, and it’s just a matter of opening up 2 packages of baby spinach, adding it all together and you’ve got salad.

What’s GOOD: loved the dressing. Loved the golden raisins and the artichoke hearts and the crunch of nuts. Everything about this salad was delish.

What’s NOT: Not much . . . I thought this was a super salad.

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Spinach Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Mushrooms and Pecans

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

DRESSING:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
SALAD:
5 sliced thick-sliced bacon
12 ounces baby spinach — (two bags)
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sesame seeds — toasted
6 ounces artichoke hearts — sliced (grilled, if you can find them)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms — thinly sliced
1/4 cup pecans — toasted

1. BACON: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast bacon for approximately 10 minutes, until golden. Remove, drain, cool and crumble.
2. Whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside.
3. Place spinach into a large salad bowl first, then add all the other salad ingredients including the crumbled bacon. Add dressing to coat, tasting as you add (don’t use too much). Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 346 Calories; 28g Fat (69.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 332mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on April 13th, 2018.

budapest_coffeecake_slice

Lovely, tasty coffeecake with a cinnamon and nut filling, made in a Bundt pan.

It’s been years now, I’ve been on a quest. A friend and I went on a Los Angeles gourmet crawl of some kind. It was daytime, and we visited a variety of restaurants and food emporiums. When we paused at a catering place in Santa Monica (I think it was) they served us each a little slice of a Hungarian coffee cake. I was smitten. I asked if they’d share the recipe. Uh, NO. That coffeecake didn’t look like this coffeecake, I’m sorry to say – it was much darker colored batter/cake. It was made in either a Bundt or a tube pan and it had cinnamon in it, some nuts too. It was just so divine. Ever since (and this has been 25 or more years ago) I’ve looked in cookbooks at the library, on the internet, etc. to try to find a recipe for a dark battered coffee cake. But when I looked at THIS recipe I thought well, definitely not a dark batter, but it sounded good nonetheless.

budapest_coffeecake_wholeThe recipe came from Food52, and is credited to Maida Heatter, that diva of all things sweet, and comes from a 1999 cookbook she published. I followed the recipe to a T; however, I’ve made one little change in the directions. When served, as I cut my fork into the cake, it toppled over right where the filling was – because the filling was dry and unto itself. So I’ve added one step – running a knife through the batter and filling layer to help adhere the cake and filling together. Obviously I didn’t do that with the one I made, but it’s such a minor change, you might not even be aware of it. Hopefully, the cake will hold together better.

The filling consists of cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, dark brown sugar and some chopped up raisins. As you layer the sour cream rich batter in the greased Bundt pan, you sprinkle on the filling. Just run your knife through as you add each layer of filling. I didn’t use quite all of the dry filling. It’s baked for 50-60 minutes (I’d lean toward 60 if you make this yourself). I used the toothpick test, but found when I served it that the cake toward the center was still quite wet – I took my cake out of the oven at 50 minutes. Anyway, the cake is cooled, then plated and drizzled with an easy icing.

What’s GOOD: my favorite part was the filling, and the raisins in it. They add a special bit of sweetness. It’s a nice batter – not overly moist, actually, considering there’s 2 cups of sour cream in the batter. The cake part is relatively nondescript, as it’s the filling that makes it.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Maida Heatter’s Budapest Coffee Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, 1999
Serving Size: 12

NUT FILLING:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons raisins — coarsely chopped (dark or golden)
1 cup toasted walnuts — finely chopped
CAKE BATTER:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter — (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 cups sour cream — at room temperature
ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk — (2 to 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. NUT FILLING: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
2. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. Into a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and the sugar and beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, as necessary, to keep mixture smooth. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
5. Turn mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two additions, beating only until smooth after each addition.
6. Spread a thin layer of batter in bottom of prepared pan. Sometimes it’s easier to use a small spoon to drop some batter into pan, and then to smooth it together. Top with 1/3 of nut mixture. Run a knife, zigzagging slightly through the batter. Repeat until you have 4 layers of batter into pan and smooth it together. Use a knife to zigzag once with each layer of filling. Top layer will be batter and it’s not necessary to run the knife through that layer.
7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and re-invert on a rack.
8. Combine confectioners’ sugar, hot milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture should have the consistency of a thick cream sauce. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath a cooling rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run down the sides, while still hot. When glaze is set, transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temp.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 27g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 86g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 470mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on April 9th, 2018.

chili_spaghetti_2_slice

Sometimes you just crave one of those old-fashioned ground beef casseroles. Instead of hunting for something new, I knew this was what I wanted. If you need a casserole for serving a big crowd, this is a good one.

Just for the record, I posted this recipe about 2 weeks after I began writing this blog in 2007. I was still using my point-and-shoot camera, no special lighting, and I took one close-up photo that looked positively ugly and dark. I didn’t have a clue how to compose or edit photos back then. Some years later I made a list of all the early blog posts I intended to return to, to take some better photos (with my good camera that’s now about 9 years old) and with better lighting. I’d just not gotten around to it.

When I decided I wanted to make a casserole the other night I did hunt in my to-try file, but I kept coming back to – – no, I really wanted to make chili spaghetti. So I did. It’s SO very easy to do. Other than the pound of ground beef, this contains ingredients I almost always have available. You need ground beef (or ground turkey, or a mixture), tomatoes, canned kidney beans, cheddar and Jack cheese, and some pasta (I prefer linguine). And some seasonings. That’s it.

chili_spaghett_2_before_baking

There’s a photo of it before I’d baked it. I’d made a pot of chili (ground beef, onion, garlic, ground cumin and chili powder, then canned tomatoes and canned kidney beans). That took about 20 minutes, I suppose. I let it bubble away on the stove while I cooked up the linguine (a little under-done) and grated tons of cheese. I buttered the pasta just a bit and began layering the stuff in a pie plate. You can make it in a 9×13 pan as well. With a pound of pasta, there’s certainly enough to put into a big casserole. I have the leftover components and will likely make another casserole to freeze.

chili_spaghett_2_after_baking

And there’s the casserole after it had been in the oven for 30 minutes. Since everything was warm/hot when I composed the casserole, it didn’t take all that long to bake.

What’s GOOD: everything about this casserole is delicious. It’s comfort food. It’s not that I truly needed comfort food, but it was a cold night outside, and a casserole just sounded like the perfect ticket for me. It makes a lot, so I can share it with friends, and still have some to freeze for later.

What’s NOT: it’s not fancy, that’s for sure. If you know Cincinnati chili, this is very similar. I think they sprinkle Fritos on top, and they don’t make it in a casserole form – just spaghetti, a big blob of chili on top then cheese sprinkled on top of that.

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Chili Spaghetti

Recipe By: Served to me by friends in about 1972
Serving Size: 10-12

CHILI:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — peeled, minced (2 to 3)
1 whole shallot — peeled, minced (optional)
16 ounces chopped tomatoes — with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
CASSEROLE:
16 ounces black beans — with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce — preferably low sodium water — as needed
1 pound linguine — cooked al dente
2 tablespoons butter — optional
6 ounces monterey jack cheese — shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese — shredded

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, then crumble in the ground beef. While it is cooking, mince up the onion, shallot and garlic separately. Once the beef has lost all its pink color, add the onion and shallot, stir in and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute or so. Add the chili powder and cumin, the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans. Stir gently with a spoon, then bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the chili is too thick, add water to make it a soupy consistency (the pasta absorbs much of the liquid when it’s baked).
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt, then boil the pasta of your choice (I just happen to like the thin linguine, but any pasta will do) until it’s just undercooked, al dente. Drain (but do not rinse). Return pasta to the pot and add the butter (if you want to add it), stir until melted. Have the piles of cheese nearby. Use a 9 x 13 pan, and spray with cooking spray. Add buttered pasta first (you’ll be making two layers), then scoop the hot chili over it, spread to cover the pasta, then sprinkle liberally with the cheeses, then more pasta, more chili, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling hot. Serve.
Per Serving: 635 Calories; 26g Fat (36.3% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 68g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 415mg Sodium.

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