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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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 Fish, on November 21st, 2017.

honey_mustard_salmon_panko_pecan_crust

Looking for a new way to fix an easy baked salmon dinner? Here it is!

It may have been my daughter Sara who told me about a recipe she’d found on Jenn Segal’s website, Once Upon a Chef. Jenn is a full time mom and wife now (now blogger and cookbook writer) but at one time she was a classically trained chef, so she brings a certain amount of perfection to her recipes. She also uses tons of photos for every post. You’ll never have any guesswork about what the different steps look like!

Her recipe for this easy baked salmon was just the ticket for me one night recently. I quickly defrosted a nice piece of salmon and this dinner came together so easily and quickly. First you make up a honey mustard mixture (my honey was quite thick, so I heated it in the microwave briefly) with butter, Dijon, salt and pepper. Since I was making this recipe just for myself, I guess-timated at the amounts, and I ended up with more than I needed. I certainly didn’t want to waste the rest of it (after I’d spread some on the top of the salmon), so, I added a bit of water to it and used it as a deglazing for a pan full of sliced Brussels sprouts. You can see them in the background behind the salmon in the photo.

Salmon Temps:

Current advice says farm-raised should cook to 125°F. Wild salmon is done at 120°F. Reason: wild salmon contains less fat and goes from raw to cooked (or overcooked) more quickly.

Then you make a little mixture of pecans (chopped) and panko. I forgot the parsley, so added it on the top when I served it. You can add it in with this mixture (per the recipe) and just garnish with some additional sprigs. The pan is popped into a hot oven and baked very briefly – 7-10 minutes only, until the thickest part of the salmon has reached 125°F.

There’s been recent discussion about the inherent differences between farm-raised and wild salmon, and to what temperature it needs to be cooked. Chefs (many, not all, I’d suppose) say that wild salmon (which has less fat in its tissue) is done at 120°. But farm-raised, with higher fat, needs to go to 125°F. The FDA says to cook salmon to 145°F. I never cook it that far because it’s dry. In this dish, with a thinner piece of salmon, it was done at 6 minutes, but you’ll want to test it with an instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook it.

brussels_sprouts_honey_mustardThe BRUSSELS SPROUTS: I didn’t use a recipe for this one – I just made it up as I went along! The leftover honey mustard was the inspiration! As the fish was baking, I prepared the Brussels sprouts, and added the remaining honey mustard mixture, (to which I added a little bit of water so the sprouts would steam a little bit) at the very end and tasted it for seasoning. TJ’s sells a package of Brussels sprouts already sliced up – that’s what I used. I greased a large frying pan with a little bit of canola oil, tossed the Brussels sprouts many times, covered it briefly so it would steam-cook a little bit, then when it was nearly done, I added in the thinned-out honey mustard mixture and stirred and tossed. Done. Dinner was finished in a matter of about 25 minutes including the time needed to preheat the oven!

What’s GOOD: how quickly this dinner came together. I truly liked the honey mustard on both salmon and sprouts. You might think the same seasoning on both would be too much – it wasn’t. Perhaps because the Brussels sprouts are savory and almost bitter (although I don’t think Brussels are a bitter green), if you know what I mean. There’s not enough honey or mustard added to the Brussels sprouts to make a lot of difference, but I definitely knew they’d had something added. Loved the salmon – the honey mustard added a lovely sweetness, and I liked the crunch of the panko and pecans. An EASY dish to make. I’ll be making both of these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. This is a great combo – both are keepers for sure.

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard and Pecan Panko Crust

Recipe By: Once Upon a Chef (blog) 2017
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets — cut into 4 even pieces
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup pecans — finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley — finely chopped (optional for color)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole lemon — for serving (optional)

NOTES: If you’re going to use some of the honey mustard mixture in a side vegetable (as I did with shaved Brussels sprouts), increase the mustard, butter, honey, salt and pepper mixture by half, then set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 of it to use on the vegetable.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, melted butter, honey, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
3. In another small bowl, mix together the panko, pecans, parsley (if using), and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
4. Spoon the honey-mustard mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. (Don’t worry if it drips down the sides a little.) Sprinkle the panko-pecan mixture over the glaze, pressing it lightly so it adheres.
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes per inch of thickness, depending on how well done you like your salmon. (If you find that the topping is browning more than you’d like before the fish is cooked through, loosely cover the salmon with foil.) Serve hot or at room temperature. (Note that if your salmon has skin, it may stick to the foil; to remove the fish from the pan, slide a thin spatula between the skin and the flesh, leaving the skin behind.) Garnish with additional parsley, if desired, and add lemon wedges for serving.
6. Make Ahead: The salmon can be glazed, coated with the panko-pecan mixture, and refrigerated up to 3 hours ahead of time.
Per Serving: 332 Calories; 17g Fat (45.0% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 104mg Cholesterol; 620mg Sodium.

—————-

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with a Honey Mustard Slurry

Recipe By: My concoction, inspired by some leftover honey mustard made for baked salmon.
Serving Size: 3

1 tablespoon canola oil — or EVOO
3 tablespoons yellow onion — chopped finely
1 garlic clove — smashed, chopped
12 ounces Brussels sprouts — shaved (sliced thinly)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter — melted
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons water — or more if needed

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat; add oil and allow it to heat until the oil begins to shimmer.
2. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and stir very briefly (no more than 45 seconds or so) then add the Brussels sprouts and stir well, continuing to turn and stir until all the vegetables have been coated with a little bit of the oil. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes until the sprouts are cooked just barely tender.
3. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, melted butter and honey in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper. Add water and stir to make a slurry. During last minute of cooking the sprouts, add the slurry and continue cooking, stirring to make sure all the sprouts are coated. Allow sprouts to simmer and steam until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 172 Calories; 13g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 167mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on November 17th, 2017.

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes

As a family of one, I sometimes don’t want to fix a standard sized meal, when there’s only me eating it. But that could be a mistake when something is as good as this sheet pan dinner comes to town.

My daughter-in-law’s sister Janice sent an email to the family recently, with a link to a recipe online at Food & Wine, that she raved about. I looked it up, added it to my MasterCook software and had it in the back of my head that I’d try it soon. As I glanced at the recipe again I realized I didn’t have white potatoes – but I did have one sweet potato. Okay, that could be substituted. I did have a red onion, and I had boneless, skinless chicken thighs – the recipe called for those thigh/drumstick combinations. I didn’t have a sourdough boule, but I did have sliced sourdough bread in the freezer. And last but not least, I didn’t have fresh oregano, but I prefer dried oregano anyway. I figured I could improvise. Since I want vegetables in my meals, I decided to add some yellow squash to the mix also, as there weren’t any veggies in the original (unless you count onion and potatoes). The original also called for slab bacon cut into square chunks. I certainly didn’t have that either, but I did have thick sliced bacon. It would have to do!

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_closeupBecause of the substitutions, I lowered the oven temp by 15°, to 385° (from 400°). Why? Because the croutons (nothing but sandwich bread cut into cubes) might have burned at 400°. Plus, the chicken was in smaller pieces as well. I just thought it would be safer baking at a lower temp.  So, first I combined the bread cubes, sweet potatoes, red onion wedges and bacon. That was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red chili flakes, dried oregano plus salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix it all up so everything has a thin coating of oil. Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. Although the combo is spread on a large sheet pan (rimmed) you kind of bunch it up in the middle (but still in a single layer) and I actually laid the bacon slices over the tops of all the onion wedges. Meanwhile I combined the boneless skinless chicken thighs that I cut into more manageable pieces and the yellow squash and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and oregano. Those things were added to the pan, trying to put the squash on the outside edges (because they’re a wet veggie and would weep water) and the chicken draped over the top of the center stuff. Another 40 minutes in the oven and the chicken was done with a bit of browned edges, all the veggies were perfect. If you have some parsley, sprinkle it on top and serve immediately. For a family meal, just put the pan on the table (on a towel maybe) with a big spoon or spatula to serve with; otherwise, pour it all out onto a HEATED platter and serve. I promise, you’ll hear mmmmm’s.

What’s GOOD: how incredibly easy this is, providing you have all the ingredients on hand. I made a smaller size (using one package of Costco’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs) but it was enough for 4 meals. If you have hearty eaters, well, it might feed fewer. Flavor is magnificent – probably from the bacon and the oil, plus the chicken fat that slowly oozed out of the meat as it roasted. I could hardly keep my fork out of the pan when I was packaging up the leftovers.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Bacon & Sourdough Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, 2017
Serving Size: 8

8 ounces sourdough bread — cut into 1″ cubes
2 red onions — peeled, chopped in wedges
5 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut in 1″ pieces
3 small sweet potatoes — peeled, cut in 1″ chunks
2 tablespoons dried oregano — divided use
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into big chunks
Salt and pepper and more dried oregano
3 large summer squash — either zucchini or yellow
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 385°F.
2. Prepare a large rimmed sheet pan (line with foil for easy clean-up). Add bread, onions, bacon and sweet potatoes on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle most of the oregano all over and season with red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss these ingredients so most of them are oiled. Spread out, but still leave it in a centered mass, but a single layer.
3. Bake for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, lightly oil the squash and chicken in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper and oregano.
5. Remove pan from oven. Place the squash around the outside edges and place the chicken pieces on top of the middle mound (so the juices will drip into the mixture below it).
6. Return pan to the oven and roast for 40 minutes until the chicken has begun to brown around the edges and the squash is roasted. Remove and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 403 Calories; 18g Fat (40.2% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 509mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on November 15th, 2017.

 

blackberry_cuke_caprese_skewersSara_375

A quick and easy appetizer that’s very healthy and fun.

A post from Sara . . .I find dinner with my family to be a bit of fun because we are all so willing to try new foods and flavor combinations. I brought this appetizer with me to my brother’s house and everyone loved it. I chose it because it was so easy to make and it travels very well.

Typical of Southern California, I was on the road for almost 4 hours! It’s 130 miles from where I live in San Diego County, to where my brother lives near Pasadena. Can you tell the traffic was awful?

I love simple appetizers that are fresh and quick as well as pretty to look and easy to eat. These definitely fit the bill. The recipe came from a blog called The Sweetest Occasion, by Cyd Converse. I didn’t have the marinated mozzarella balls (but you can add your own seasonings if you’d like and roll them in some good EVOO). The blackberries were sweet. You DO want sweet blackberries because the appetizer is quite savory and to add an unripe blackberry (very tart) to the mix would be pucker-worthy. I made the platter at home and 4 hours in the car was fine. I squirted the balsamic glaze on them just before serving (hard to see in the photo, but really, I did use the glaze).

What’s GOOD: how easy they were to make. They traveled well. Everyone liked them a lot. They’re also very colorful – put onto a white platter, it looked SO pretty!  This recipe is a keeper!  I’ll serve this for years to come.

What’s NOT:I can’t think of any negatives for this jewel.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Blackberry Cucumber Caprese Skewers

Recipe By: The Sweetest Occasion (blog) by Cyd Converse
Serving Size: 12

25 mozzarella balls — fresh (mini ones)
25 blackberries — you need sweet ones
25 basil leaves — use large ones
25 cucumber — cut in chunks, preferably English cucumber Balsamic glaze to drizzle on top
25 Bamboo skewers, 3″ long

1. Using 3″ bamboo skewers or similar, layer your ingredients starting with the mozzarella balls, then a folded basil leaf followed by a blackberry and a chunk of cucumber.
2. Line a tray with your finished skewers and refrigerate or serve right away.
3. Drizzle with balsamic glaze right before serving.
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 5g Fat (15.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 21g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 33mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on November 11th, 2017.

salted_caramel_apple_parfait_glassdish

My mouth is watering looking at that photo. ‘Tis the season of apples. This one’s not hard, although there are 4 steps to it: (1) caramel; (2) apples; (3) crunchy pecan and oat granola; and (4) whipped cream.

Having had this at a cooking class with Susan V a month or so ago, I knew I’d make it. So when my son and family decided to have a small family gathering, I offered to bring this. I could make everything ahead; all I had to do was heat up the caramel a little bit so it would pour (microwaved it) and layer the caramel, apples, granola and then add a bit of whipped cream on top.

sugar_turning_to_rocksFirst I made the caramel – it was very easy and I made it in my really good (All-Clad copper core) saucier pan (not nonstick, and it’s not dark colored). The sugar (see photo at left) actually turns into sugar rocks – that’s what it’s supposed to do, so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. Once upon a time I did that (thought I’d bungled the sugar melting part and threw it out!) You need to be able to SEE the caramel as it develops, adding the heavy cream at the end (see next photo). This caramel sauce is really easy, however. I let it cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes, then poured it into a glass jar and let it cool completely. Then I made the granola – rolled oats and pecans. They are pan-toasted (easy); just don’t let them burn. You want the granolacaramel_bubbling to be toasted but not blackened. Then you pour a melted butter and maple syrup mixture over the toasted granola and pour that out onto a plate to cool. Then I transferred that to a jar.

Then it’s the apples (photo below). Very easy. Peel and slice the apples (not too thin) then add them to a wide frying pan with melted butter and cinnamon. You stir them as they cook – you do want them to be nice and soft. Do use an apple variety that doesn’t fall apart – I used Honey Crisp. If you use Granny Smiths, you’ll likely need to add more maple syrup to make them sweet enough. pan_fried_applesUsing Honey Crisp doesn’t require much sweetening. Anyway, once the apples are cooked, add maple syrup to coat and you set them aside. I put them into a plastic container so I could transport them.

All I had to do then was whip some heavy cream (no added sugar as the dessert is plenty sweet) and added a tiny tetch of vanilla. It took all of about 5 minutes (with my grandson Vaughan right by my side, licking his chops and waiting for the whipped cream bowl) to put it all together.

At the cooking class, Susan raved about a new cookbook she’s just purchased (this recipe came from it) called Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome by Dennis Prescott. He’s made a name for himself mostly via Instagram and Twitter. He has jillions of followers. Some of his recipes are on his website: DennisThePrescott. He doesn’t write a blog – he just posts recipes. Since I don’t do much Instagram, and I don’t do Twitter, I’d not heard of him. Have you? . . . Anyway, Susan said she’d made several things from his new cookbook and said they were all really fabulous.

What’s GOOD: loved the combo of the salted caramel, the crunchy granola and the super delicious apples. This dessert is SO perfect for a fall dinner. The recipe says it serves 8-10 – I’m just mentioning that it doesn’t make really large portions. That was fine for this dinner, but you might want to increase the size of it if you know your family would want to devour it or you know you want leftovers!

What’s NOT: there are 4 steps to making this, but really, everything can be made ahead. All except the whipped cream, which could be made a few hours ahead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salted Caramel Apple Parfaits

Recipe By: Eat Delicious by Dennis Prescott
Serving Size: 8

CARAMEL:
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
APPLES:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds apples — Honeycrisp, or other sweet crispy apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
GRANOLA:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecan halves — chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. SALTED CARAMEL: In a high-sided nonstick pan, heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring continuously. It will turn into strange rock-ish pieces—that’s normal! See photo. Slowly but surely, the sugar will melt and turn into a gorgeous amber colour. When the sugar has melted entirely and is now golden brown in color, carefully stir in the butter and let it melt. It will bubble like crazy. Stirring continuously, slowly pour the cream into the pan in a slow and steady stream until it has been incorporated into the caramel. Let the mixture bubble away for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and sea salt and very carefully pour it into a medium heatproof bowl. Set aside.
2. APPLES: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the apple chunks and cinnamon and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very soft. Add the maple syrup and give the pan a toss to coat the apples. Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. GRANOLA: Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat and add the oats and pecans. Cook, turning every minute or so, until the oats are fragrant and have started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. Place the pan back on the burner and melt the butter and maple syrup. When the syrup is simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the oats and pecans. Mix thoroughly to evenly coat the oats, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
5. WHIPPED CREAM: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or whisk by hand or use a hand-held mixer), whip the cream until thick, then fold in the vanilla.
6. Build each parfait with about 2 tablespoons of the salted caramel, a scoop of the apples, and 2 tablespoons of the granola. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, then repeat. Finish with a final drizzle of caramel and serve.
Per Serving (assumes you’ll use all the caramel – you might not): 587 Calories; 40g Fat (59.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on November 7th, 2017.

raspberry_limoncello_prosecco1

A very refreshing drink you could enjoy any time of year.

Sara_375Hi everyone – this is Carolyn’s daughter Sara . . . I’ve always envied Mom for her ability to share her passion of cooking with all of you. I tend to cook for friends and family only; well mostly baking really. So I consider myself a bit of a sugar snob. However, the recipe I want to share comes from a (very) impolite invite of myself to my brother’s house for dinner.

Typical of my family, there was amazing food made by all of us. So naturally, I had to come up with something just as spectacular. And since I was a last minute invite, dessert had already been assigned. I had just finished making a batch of Limoncello (recipe by Giada De Laurentiis) so I found this wonderfully refreshing cocktail to serve on a hot California day. It’s light, fanciful and yet had enough tartness that the men drank it too. I absolutely loved it! I did alter it minutely by adding fresh raspberries. I always choose fresh when I have the option.

This drink (from a blog called DamnDelicious) was so yummy that my sister-in-law Karen sent me a picture of them sharing another drink the following day! That’s when you know a recipe is good. When another person (and fabulous cook) makes it.

What’s GOOD: EASY! Portable! A little tart and sweet at the same time. I think all of us who enjoyed it that day will have it again. So, if you have lemon trees, make some limoncello, so you can!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Rasberry Limoncello Prosecco

Recipe By: Damn Delicious blog, 2014
Serving Size: 6

3 cups Prosecco — chilled
1 cup limoncello — chilled
1 cup raspberries — frozen or fresh
6 sprigs fresh mint

1. In a large pitcher, whisk together prosecco and limoncello.
2. Serve over raspberries, garnished with mint.
3. Note: alternately, you can just add raspberries to the bottom of a cocktail glass, add 1/4 cup limoncello in each glass, and top off with about 1/2 cup of Prosecco.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; trace Fat (1.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on November 3rd, 2017.

nutted_wild_rice_salad

That photo just doesn’t do justice to this rice salad. Even though I use Photoshop to crop and work with my photos, sometimes you just can’t make brown food look wonderful. 

Behind the scenes of any blog, or maybe I should say a food blog with recipes, is a whole lot of file administration. You might not think so, but there are many, many steps to getting a story written, photos worked on, sized correctly, inserted in the right places, recipe itself prepared, stripped of formatting, uploaded and then put into a finished format on the blog. It’s not seamless. And all that is to say that this recipe that I made months ago somehow got lost in the mix. At least it didn’t get deleted. I can’t even remember when I made this (photo properties says I took the photo on August 5th), or for what family occasion (it was probably our group family birthday we do about that time of year). I wouldn’t have made it just for myself; that I know. But as soon as I glanced at the photo, I remembered eating it, and my mouth was watering.

The recipe came from cooks.com and has no attribution. But I used some white rice in it too, so am not sure where I found the recipe, or if I adapted it myself. In years past, I’ve made the Silver Palate’s wild rice salad numerous times (but never written up here), and I have another one here on my blog from a museum restaurant in D.C. The Mitsitam. And yet another one that’s a copycat one from a local restaurant here in my neck of the woods that contained fresh corn. But this one is just a simple-enough wild rice and white rice salad enhanced with pecans, golden raisins, green onions, orange juice and zest. And it’s downright delicious.

I won’t tell you that this salad is cinchy quick – it has several steps, and you have to watch the rice carefully that it doesn’t overcook. That would be a crime, since you want the wild rice to still have some tooth. But once the rice is made, the other ingredients are straight forward and easy. A lovely honey vinaigrette is added and it can sit for awhile. You can eat it warm or cold, and leftovers are still good, although the pecans sometimes get a bit soft. But worth making? Yes.

What’s GOOD: a great salad for a crowd. Can be made ahead. Delicious warm or cold, or room temp. Leftovers still taste good, too. Of all my wild rice salads I’ve made, this probably wasn’t my favorite, but I liked the orange zest and juice in it. And the green onions.

What’s NOT: a few steps to make, but not hard at all.

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

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Nutted Wild Rice Salad

Recipe By: adapted from cooks.com
Serving Size: 8

1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup wild rice — raw
5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup pecans — toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 whole orange — ZESTED & juiced
1/4 cup honey
4 whole green onions — thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar — or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Strain wild rice in strainer and run cold water over it. Rinse the rice thoroughly.
2. Place wild rice in heavy saucepan. Add stock (or water) and bring to to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 30+ minutes until rice is just barely cooked through. Do not overcook.
3. In another pot, cook white rice in water until it’s barely done – do not overcook. Drain, transfer both rices to a bowl and stir in butter and oil.
4. Combine the orange juice and honey; stir to combine. Add all remaining ingredients, adjusting for seasonings, or more vinegar, or orange juice. Let mixture stand for about 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Taste rice for seasonings. Serve at room temp.
Per Serving: 404 Calories; 19g Fat (41.0% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 361mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on October 30th, 2017.

microwave_poached_egg

So cinchy easy I can’t believe nobody had figured this out before.

Subscribing to the posts from Food52 is sometimes daunting. They post about 10+ posts a day. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but seems like every time I go to look at what they’ve posted, it can take me an hour to get through them all. Yet I don’t want to not look at them because there are some real gems there.

raw_eggs_for_poachingAnyway, since I’ve been having a poached egg or two on toast for dinner now and then (my DH would NOT have thought that was a proper dinner, which is why as a widow, well, I can!). So I had to try this pronto. Since I did two eggs, I  used a bowl instead of a mug (recommended). You add about 1/2 cup of tap water, a tiny splash of distilled vinegar, stir it a bit, add the eggs, cover the mug or dish, pop it into the microwave and cook on high. In MY microwave, it takes 90 seconds, but a single egg in a mug will take maybe 45-60 seconds. You’ll have to judge it yourself. The toast needs to be in the toaster before I put the eggs in the microwave and in a jiffy it’s all ready. So VERY easy. If the eggs aren’t quite done, put it back in the microwave and continue for maybe 5-10 seconds until it’s done to your liking. I like a runny egg, so your timing might be different.

In my microwave, the very tip-top of the egg isn’t submerged. If you want to not see that, remove the bowl/mug after about 45 seconds (once the water is warm) microwave_poached_eggs_bowland use a spoon to drizzle some hot water over the top. I’m fine with the little coin of bright yolk on top. What’s nice is that my lunch or dinner is finished in a matter of 2 minutes, tops.

What’s GOOD: the speedy meal – the fact that I can have a meal done in a matter of 2-3 minutes. These are every bit as good as ones you’ve done in simmering water, I think.

What’s NOT: gee, can’t think of anything. Maybe if you needed to do 6-8 eggs for a family, this wouldn’t work – easier to do a big skillet of them, but for me, this works like a charm!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Microwave Poached Egg

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 1

a bowl or wide cup water, fill about half way, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 large egg — or two

1. Add water to a mug (or bowl if doing two), stir in half a tablespoon of vinegar, crack an egg into the mug, cover with a top (a plate works) and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Look to see if it’s done. If not, add another 10-20 seconds and check again. Depending on the voltage of the microwave it could take longer, or shorter time. Drain using a slotted spoon and serve.
Per Serving: 74 Calories; 5g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 212mg Cholesterol; 70mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on October 28th, 2017.

freezer_after_tenting

Did I happen to mention in the midst of my termite tenting that I have a lot of NUTS in my freezer. Oh gracious. Maybe I’m part squirrel, because I’ve got a pound or two or three of nearly every imaginable nut in existence.

I didn’t discard any of them, so am determined that I will not, I swear, buy any nuts for at least a year, unless I’ve run out. I use more walnuts and almonds than anything else, but I have plenty of those as well!

It may not mean much to many of you, but to look at my freezer now, pictured at left, it’s manageable. It’s not chock-a-block full. I actually have places where I can SEE the shelf. The white bin (bottom left) is full of nuts, as are 2 drawers down below. I had some soup the other day that I defrosted from 2015. Hmmm. It had a lot of freezer burn in it, so wasn’t one of my better ones. But just about everything else in there is worth keeping and I’m slowly winnowing away at the contents.

I had the flu last week (guess it could have been worse had I not had a flu shot) and I dug into the soups for 2 meals once I was able to keep food down. I ate nothing for the first 24 hours except Sprite and sparkling cider.

Also, ERRATA – if you copied or printed out the recipe for the Pan-Roasted Brined Pork Chops I posted early this week, there’s a typo in it. (Thanks to my reader/friend Donna who noticed the error.) The ingredient list calls for 2 cups apple cider – no, it’s 2 cups apple cider vinegar. I’ve corrected the recipe online, the pdf and the MasterCook file in case you want to re-enter it or download the corrected versions.

Sara_375AND, big news, my daughter Sara, has asked me if I’d like her to write some posts on my blog. I’m thrilled. There are umpteen recipes already here on my blog that are hers. She’s a very good cook, and she absolutely loves-loves to bake. Her two kids (Sabrina is the daughter who’s at Clemson University and young John is still at home, in high school still) are her greatest fans. Her husband (also John) is too, of course. She’s the best sports-team mom there is as she loves to bake goodies for all the kids. She brought two delicious items to a family get-together last weekend (a stunning cocktail with Prosecco in it, and a delicious, healthy appetizer) but she says she really wants to share HER recipe for chocolate chip cookies. She promises this weekend she’s going to spend some time writing up some things.

Posted in Pork, Veggies/sides, on October 26th, 2017.

pan_roasted_pork_chops_apples_feta

Comfort food at its finest. Brown food is never very revealing in a photo . . . just trust me this is worth trying.

Aren’t pork chops just a simple way to get dinner on the table in fairly short order? Back in the days when I was working full time, pork chops were a regular on my evening dinner rotation because they could be prepared quickly. I won’t say that this method is quite that streamlined, but it won’t take you too much longer than a quick sauté in a pan and a short bake time to have this on your dinner table. I’m also including a new recipe for cauliflower that’s prepared to look like mashed potatoes. I liked this version better than the version I’ve made in the past. The pork chops are served alongside some nicely pan-sautéed apples that make a great accompaniment to the pork. Do make them – hopefully you have some apples, right?

The pork chops need to be brined for awhile – the recipe (from a cooking class I took) says 1-4 hours, but if you’re a working person, I truly don’t think brining for 8 hours would make any difference. The brine solution isn’t too salty (that would be the risk, that they’d absorb too much salt). But if you only have a short time, an hour will do it too. This brine is made with maple syrup, salt, of course, and water, heated to dissolve the salt. The purpose of simmering is ONLY to dissolve the salt, so I recommend you dissolve the salt in a cup or so of water, and the syrup, then add cold water to make up the water portion. That way you’ll get the pork chops in the brine a lot sooner. Or make it the night before and have it chilling. The brine also contains cider vinegar, peppercorns, apple cider and some fresh sage leaves.

Then you toss out the brine, blot the pork chops dry with paper towels and rub with olive oil and salt and pepper. This dish is made in a cast iron skillet (or another type of heavy skillet, like Le Creuset). That way you’ll get a nice sear on the meat and it holds the heat well while it roasts in the oven. The pork is browned on both sides briefly, then popped into a 400°F oven for 6-10 minutes (depends on how thick your pork chops are). Pork is done at 145°F internal temp. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure.

Meanwhile, just before the pork comes out of the oven (while it’s baking) peel, core and wedge some Gala or crispy apples, sauté them in a little butter and olive oil (with some red onion) and lastly you add some maple syrup and just before serving, spoon in some crumbled Feta. In another pan you sauté a few sage leaves until crispy (watch carefully). I usually don’t have sage leaves, so if you don’t either, just eliminate that part.

cauliflower_mash_sour_creamThe cauliflower mash is very easy and quick – buy a whole one, or the newer packages of riced cauliflower if you’d prefer. Cook the cauliflower in salted water until barely done, drain, then pulse in a food processor along with some whole milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. Easy. Of course, it doesn’t taste exactly like mashed potatoes, but I’m telling you for sure, you’d be hard pressed to know if you’re eating it alongside pork and apples.

What’s GOOD: Delicious tasting pork with the sweet maple flavored apples alongside. Altogether scrumptious in my book. The cauliflower is also easy and a good way to eat your veggies without eating carbs. The sour cream is a nice addition to them.

What’s NOT: A little more prep than some, but not overly so. Would make a great company meal. If you have a helper in the kitchen, making this for a family weeknight dinner would be easy too.

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pan-Roasted Brined Pork Chops with Maple Apples and Feta

Recipe By: A cooking class with Susan V, 2017
Serving Size: 6

BRINE:
6 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
2 whole sage leaves — (fresh)
PORK:
6 pork chops — about 1″ thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
APPLES:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 whole sage leaves
1/2 cup red onion — sliced
1 pound apples — Gala or Honey Crisp, peeled, cored, cut in wedges
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup feta cheese — crumbled

1. Brine the pork: combine salt, maple syrup and water in a saucepan. Simmer, stirring, until the salt has dissolved. Let cool to room temp. Add cider, vinegar, peppercorns and sage. Submerge the pork chops in the brine and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
3. Remove pork from brine (discard brine) and pat dry with paper towels. Set the pork on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and allow pork to come to room temp, about 30 minutes.
4. Rub the pork with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and sear on one side for 3 minutes. Turn over, then transfer skillet to the preheated oven. Roast for 6-10 minutes, or until pork has reached an internal temp of 145°F. Transfer to a heated plate and pour any pan juices on the meat. Let rest for about 5 minutes.
5. APPLES: Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet. Add sage leaves and fry for less than a minute (do not burn). Remove sage to a paper towel and set aside. Add onion to skillet and cook about 5 minutes, then add apples, and cook for 6-8 minutes, until apples are softened. Add maple syrup and cook for just a minute. Remove apples from the heat, fold in the crispy sage leaves and crumbled Feta cheese.
6. Serve pork with apples along side.
Per Serving: 512 Calories; 26g Fat (44.5% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 3903mg Sodium.


* Exported from MasterCook *

Cauliflower Mash with Sour Cream

Recipe By: Cooking class with Susan V, Oct. 2017
Serving Size: 6

1 whole cauliflower head — cut in florets
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain.
2. Place cauliflower in food processor with remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
Per Serving: 61 Calories; 4g Fat (52.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 56mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on October 22nd, 2017.

green_bean_salad_pears_parm

What a heavenly combination. You just don’t know they’re one of those matches made in heaven unless you’ve had green beans and pears together. The shaved Parm puts it over the top.

Since green beans are available all year ‘round, there’s no reason you can’t make this salad any time of year. It calls for Bosc pears, which are also available year ‘round, so see, you need to try this. I think it would make a beautiful salad for Thanksgiving or Christmas, if you have a big celebration. Or a small one, for that matter. I’ve offered to make this for Thanksgiving at my son and daughter-in-law’s home. It will go well with turkey, I think.

You can use haricot verts beans, or regular sized – but I’d cut the regular sized in half. They are cooked just barely – so they’re al dente (or you can cook them to whatever tenderness you prefer). Cool off in cold and/or icy water, drain and set aside. Then, you make a vinaigrette with walnut oil and Sherry wine vinegar. Add some chives and parsley, plus finely minced shallots too. And some fresh, shredded basil. Toast some walnuts, shave the Parmesan and lastly cut up the pears. You’ll want to make this just before serving. Toss together then add the shaved Parm on top. That’s it. You’ll be happy to have this recipe in your collection, I promise. It came from a cooking class I did last month with Susan V, although I found the recipe online at farmflavor.com.

What’s GOOD: the food combination (pears, green beans and Parm are just super together). You can make just about everything ahead of time and cut up the pears at the last. If you’ve used Bosc pears, the salad should keep well for a day (leftovers). Altogether wonderful.

What’s NOT: There are a few steps to this (preparing dressing, toasting walnuts, preparing the green beans, shaving the Parm, etc) but it’s all worth doing.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Green Bean Salad with Pears and Parmesan

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan V, 2017, but also at farmflavor.com
Serving Size: 6

1 1/2 pounds haricots verts — (French green beans) or other slender green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
5 tablespoons walnut oil — (can substitute vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh chives — chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped
3 tablespoons shallots — minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil — chopped
2 small pears — firm but ripe pears, such as Bosc, peeled, cored and julienned (cut into matchstick-size strips)
1/2 cup walnuts — toasted and chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — shaved with vegetable peeler (or more)

1. Cook haricots verts (French green beans) in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Drain, then rinse with cold water. Drain well, and set aside. Can prepare beans ahead and chill in refrigerator if desired.
2. Whisk together walnut oil, vinegar, olive oil, chives, parsley and shallots in large bowl. Add haricots verts, basil, pears and walnuts; toss gently. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan, and serve.
Per Serving: 273 Calories; 22g Fat (68.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium.

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