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

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

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

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

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

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

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

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.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Desserts, on September 10th, 2019.

lemon_curd_pudding

You love lemon? Oh, this pudding is for you. Tart and sweet.

One of my granddaughters (Taylor) is visiting me from Northern California. She graduated with a BS from Cal State Sacramento last May and is waiting to hear if she’s been admitted to a fast-track nursing school. If so, she’ll graduate in a year with a BSN. So she’s enjoying time off. Taylor and I were invited to friends the other night for dinner and I offered to bring dessert. I found this recipe in my repertoire of recipes to try – I thought it was a recipe from Marie Rayner, but I can’t find it on her blog.

lemon_curd_pudding_without_toppingAnyway, the original recipe was a pudding with a meringue topping. I’m not such a fan of meringue (like in pie) so I made it with a whipped cream topping flavored with limoncello. The pudding was easy enough to make. I used my copper-core All-Clad pan and put it on top of a flame tamer too, but by doing so I was able to make the pudding in it rather than resorting to a double boiler, which is what the recipe recommends. Anyway, added egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, cream cheese, sour cream. It was warmed up to a slow simmer and thickened a bit (not much, really), cooled, then I mixed in some heavy cream. Poured it into little cups, cooled and chilled.

Then, just before serving I whipped some cream to soft peaks, added a jot of limoncello. I didn’t add any sugar as the pudding was sweet enough already, I believed. Garnished with a mint leaf from Bud & Cherrie’s herb garden. The pudding isn’t a firm pudding – a soft, gentle one.

If you wanted to use the leftover egg whites, by all means, make a meringue with 2 & 2/3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and pour over the pudding. Bake at 425°F for about 6 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.

lemon_curd_pudding_group

Here they are all lined up to serve. Even though it’s still very much summer here in SoCal, Cherrie has brought out all of her fall stuff. Loved the little fall-color plates she’d put out for me to use.

What’s GOOD: love-loved the lemony, tart flavor. I wanted to lick the little ramekin. Not nice to do that! Liked the fact that it was a small serving. Super smooth (make sure you get all of the little tiny pieces of cream cheese to dissolve smoothly into the pudding – Taylor helped me and we used a spring coil whisk to make that happen).

What’s NOT: a little bit tricky to transport, but it all worked fine. Nothing else.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Curd Pudding with Limoncello Whipped Cream

Serving Size: 8

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 teaspoons lemon zest — grated
2/3 cup heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons limoncello
8 small mint sprigs

1. Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, cream cheese and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Use a spring coil whisk to make sure you dissolve all of the cream cheese. Add the lemon juice and the zest.
2. Place n the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Whip the cream until thick. Fold this into the lemon mixture. Divide the pudding between custard cups or ramekins. Chill until serving time.
4. TOPPING: Whip the heavy cream and add limoncello at the end. You can add sugar to this if you think it’s needed. Spoon onto the ramekins. Garnish each with a mint sprig. Make small servings, which is fine as it’s rich.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 28g Fat (74.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 2nd, 2019.

Hi everyone – Carolyn here . . .
Somewhere in New Mexico on I-40, the old Route 66

Not a whole lot of cooking has been going on in my kitchen, or Sara’s kitchen either, as we took a road trip from SoCal to Virginia, then to South Carolina, then flew home. Sara’s son John is now a freshman at Virginia Tech (bio-chem major, see picture below), so we delivered him there, driving across the hot-hot-hot southern route. The night we arrived in Scottsdale, at 7pm, it was 114 degrees. That was the highest temp we experienced, but as we drove east, the temp was slightly lower (under 100 for sure) but the humidity began to climb. We had a night in Santa Fe (more on that later), then to Amarillo, through Oklahoma City, overnight in Ft. Smith. Oh my. I think the hottest I felt was in Memphis with temps in the low 90s and 100% humidity. Cooler weather prevailed as we went through North Carolina and into Virginia (the eastern parts there are slightly mountainous and at a higher elevation).

We got John moved into his dorm, (his roommate Jaylon, is a freshman cheerleader) then headed to Asheville, NC. I treated Sara and me to a night at the Biltmore (we did that when we were scouting colleges 4 years ago with Sabrina). I was and am still in love with The Biltmore. We had been there in February before – gray, cloudy, rainy, icy and miserably cold, so this time it was mid-summer and we got to see the Biltmore Gardens in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous. Sara and I had tea in the lounge (not the full afternoon tea, just a pot of TEA), had dinner at one of the restaurants on the Estate, then had lattes and a decadent flourless chocolate cake (yes, I ate some) on the terrace at the Inn as we watched the sunset. Oh my, again. So wonderful. I’d like to live there. On the Estate, of course! Ha!

Then we drove to South Carolina to deliver the 2001 Toyota we had driven across the country (that has really good A/C in it, thankfully) to Sabrina (the car is hers) who is a senior now at Clemson. We drove to Greenville, had dinner in the very quaint downtown there, got dropped off at an airport hotel and spent the night, then flew home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been catching up. Made a new soup, not great, so won’t be posting that one. Sara and I both couldn’t wait to get back home to eat more healthy salads and things. We stayed in Hampton Inns mostly, and got overly weary of the rubbery, tasteless scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet and sometimes fruit that had seen better days or had some kind of strange taste to them. Even the hard boiled eggs seemed to have zippo flavor. And never did they peel easily (obviously they don’t use the InstantPot method of pressure cooking hard boiled eggs which make for the easiest shell removal ever!). But hey, it was free with the overnight stay. Salads as I know them, filled with all kinds of vegetables, are virtually unknown to the restaurant world in the South. They know lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and bottled dressings mostly. Not my fav. No celery, no shredded or chopped carrots, no crumbled Feta or goat cheese, no radicchio or fennel, no fresh herbs, avocado, red or green cabbage either. I really missed them. If we were having a more upscale dinner, then yes some salads contained more ingredients, but we were traveling on a moderate budget, so rarely did we have nice salads. Just sayin’ . . . .

Several times Sara and I went to a grocery store and bought sliced Boar’s Head turkey, some fresh apples and a variety of cheeses and had that for dinner at our hotels. We traveled with a styrofoam ice chest in the back seat where we kept fruit (grapes, blueberries, cheese, a few diet sodas, water and apples). Perfectly satisfying. We stayed hydrated everywhere. I have a new, very tall Hydro Flask and at the hotels each morning I filled up my flask with purified water we found in the gym at every hotel, added some fruit flavor drops, topped with ice and that got me through most of the day. Lots of restroom breaks, however.

I’ll do another post with more pictures . . .

Posted in Gundry-friendly, lectin-free, Soups, on August 12th, 2019.

faux_zuppa_toscana

I know – I can hear you – this isn’t soup weather. Well, sorry about that. I eat soup year ‘round.

You may remember me mentioning a few weeks ago that I was on my 4th batch of a soup – this is the one. This time makes 5 times (over the course of 3 months). I just love-love-love this soup. I wasn’t sure that you, my readers, would be all that interested in this soup because it’s not got any carbs in it and really it’s cauliflower – Italian sausage – kale – and a creamy soup base. I now make a big batch of it whenever I do. I use part pork Italian sausage and part turkey Italian sausage. There’s a lot more flavor in the pork, obviously, but I like to make it a bit more healthy with the turkey type. Making it with all turkey lacks flavor (I tried that also), so do use some of the pork style.

There’s bacon in this which helps with the flavor. I’ve had the original recipe in my arsenal for awhile – it came from Kalyn’s Kitchen. After making it according to her recipe, I adapted it a little bit (a bit more broth, more cauliflower, adding coconut cream or milk to it). The recipe is a riff on Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana, which is a potato based creamy soup with a tiny bit of sausage in it, and the kale. Kalyn did a really super job of adapting the recipe to a low-carb soup – no potatoes, obviously. She added more meat to it. The only other change I made was how I cut the cauliflower. At Olive Garden, the potatoes in their soup are sliced. Small slices, actually. So, I did the same with the cauliflower. You’re not going to be able to avoid some florets out at the tips, but I sliced up the deeper parts, the stems and the main stem too.

Kalyn’s recipe was made in the Instant Pot, and I think the first time I made it that way too. But the next time I forgot and just made it in a regular big, deep pot. It doesn’t take much longer to cook it that way, in any case. I find that this soup tastes better after it’s sat in the frig for a day – as with lots of soups. If you want carbs in this, add some rice, maybe. Or some pasta. But not a whole lot – you might need more broth if you did that. When I made it today I used 2 heads of cauliflower (they were smaller than some) and with the cauliflower and kale in the pot, it was FULL. No room for anything else, unless you added more liquid. In any case, I thank Kalyn for devising the faux style of this soup, cuz it’s really delish.

What’s GOOD: the flavor profile is altogether good. Maybe I’ve gotten used to cauliflower, but I can’t really tell it IS cauliflower when I’m sipping on this soup. Unless you see some of the small florets, you can fool yourself that it’s potatoes in there.

What’s NOT: hmmm. Maybe just all the cutting and chopping of the cauliflower, but I do it so much, I’ve got it down pat.

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

Faux Zuppa Toscana

Recipe By: Adapted some from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Serving Size: 9

2 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut into short cross-wise slices (use more bacon if you prefer)
1 large yellow onion — chopped small
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2/3 pound Italian sausage — removed from casing, crumbled
1/3 pound turkey Italian sausage — removed from casing, crumbled
6 cups cauliflower — cut in small slices, not florets
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 squirt sriracha sauce — or more to taste
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
16 ounces coconut cream — Trader Joe’s preferred
4 cups chopped kale — baby kale if you can find it
1 cup heavy cream
freshly-grated Parmesan to add at the table

NOTE: I use Trader Joe’s coconut cream because it has next to no coconut flavor; but it’s a healthy fat and provides a lovely creaminess to the soup. If you want coconut flavor, use Thai Kitchen. But that’s not the flavor profile you’re looking for in this soup.
1. Slice the bacon crosswise into short rectangular strips. Chop onion, cauliflower, and the kale.
2. Saute bacon in a large, deep pot until it begins to brown. Add chopped onion and cook until it’s begun to take on a golden hue, 4-6 minutes..
3. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute.
4. Remove Italian sausage from its casings and add to the soup pot. Chop up sausage into small pieces as it cooks.
5. Add the numerous cups of low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the chopped cauliflower, sriracha, salt, fresh-ground black pepper. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. The cauliflower should still be fairly firm.
6. Add the chopped baby kale and press it below the surface. Bring to a simmer again and cook for 7 minutes. At this point the cauliflower should be cooked perfectly.
7. Remove about 2 cups of the cauliflower and 2 cups of broth to a deep bowl. Try not to get chunks of the Italian sausage. Use an immersion blender to puree well, then add back to the soup pot. This step is not necessary if you are fine with the thin broth of the soup – if you like it slightly thickened, then do add this step into the process.
7. Add the coconut cream and heavy cream and bring up to a simmer again, then remove from the heat. Serve hot, with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese to add at the table. This soup is best made the day ahead to allow the flavors to mellow and merge.
Per Serving: 443 Calories; 41g Fat (74.0% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 345mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on August 5th, 2019.

creamy_cauliflower_chowder

Vegetable chowder – with a medium hint of the bacon and tons of cauliflower, but enhanced with cheese and creamy products. Not vegetarian, obviously.

In the last 18 months I’ve consumed more cauliflower, probably, than I’ve eaten in my entire life put together. That’s a lot of cauliflower. It’s a bland vegetable. It’s full of fiber and good things for you, but to make it interesting, I have to add other things to it (in this case bacon) to make it worth eating. I started out with a recipe I’d downloaded from somewhere, but once I got started I began adding other things to make it better. I used Trader Joe’s coconut cream (canned) because it’s a creamy substance that adds no coconut flavor, really. Maybe eating it straight you could tell it’s coconut, but mixed in with all the other flavors, no. You can use coconut milk if preferred. If you use Thai Kitchen coconut milk (the best out there) you’ll definitely have a more coconut flavor profile to the soup. I had some crème fraiche in my refrigerator – it was close to its expiration date, so I added that into the soup too. Don’t use a yellow cheddar or it will change the color of the soup. I  used goat cheddar (from Trader Joe’s) because it’s a cheddar I can have on this Gundry diet and it’s a white color.

The soup is fairly straight forward to make – render the bacon, add in onion and celery – then most of the other ingredients. Add lots of chicken broth, then the cream products at the last. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add in the cheddar, chop up the chive garnish and you’re done.

I ate this soup for days on end (soup is my regular lunch nearly every day). By day 9 or 10 I was ready to move on to some other soup. I’m amazed that I don’t get tired of eating these soups day after day, but I don’t. I thought about freezing some of this soup, but I was certain the cauliflower wouldn’t come through defrosting without some change in texture since it’s a very water-dense food.

What’s GOOD: for me it was the creamy, bacon-rich taste that I liked the best. The cheddar added a lovely flavor too. I ate it both hot and cold. We had some days that were mid-90s and even with the A/C on, it was warm, so I ate it cold those days. My preference is served hot, however. My serving was 1 1/2 cups and it satisfied my hunger very well. Probably because of all the cream and cheese in it.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Slicing the cauliflower is a bit tedious, but I’ve gotten the technique down pat so it can’t take more than about 5 minutes total. I prefer the cauliflower in tiny slices rather than florets (although you can’t avoid florets totally).

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

Creamy Cauliflower Chowder with Bacon

Recipe By: Adapted from a ketogenic recipe found online, Free to Keto
Serving Size: 10

3 slices thick-sliced bacon — sliced crosswise into small pieces
1 medium onion — chopped
3 medium celery stalks — chopped
1 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 cloves garlic — minced
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces creme fraiche — optional
12 ounces coconut cream — Trader Joe’s
1 head cauliflower — sliced into small pieces
7 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese — grated (I used goat cheddar)
4 tablespoons chives — chopped, for garnish

NOTE: I use Trader Joe’s canned coconut cream in this recipe because it really has no flavor – no discernible coconut flavor anyway. I didn’t want coconut flavor in this soup, but liked the creaminess that coconut cream adds. You may substitute heavy cream in a smaller quantity, about 3/4 cup maximum. You can use riced cauliflower, but you’ll lose a lot of chewy texture by doing so. I prefer something to bite into, which you won’t get with the riced type.
1. Heat large soup pot and cook chopped bacon until it renders a tablespoon or two of fat.
2. Add onion and celery to the pot and saute until well softened.
3. Add in garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.
4. Add in the cauliflower and spices and saute for about one minute only.
5. Add in the coconut cream, creme fraiche and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cover to simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Remove about 3 cups of broth from the soup and use immersion blender to puree with the cream cheese. Pour back into soup pot.
7. Heat through and simmer until cauliflower is just barely cooked. Add in the cheddar cheese. If preferred, use immersion blender to make smoother. Taste for seasonings (probably will need more salt).
8. Serve with chopped chives on top.
Per Serving: 300 Calories; 27g Fat (79.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on July 31st, 2019.

balsamic_grilled_chix_italian_street_corn

Corn is in season – get yourself some – and make this delicious topping for grilled chicken.

Remember, I went to a cooking class a week or so ago and came home with 3 chicken recipes. One more to go after this one. Phillis Carey did a riff on Mexican Street Corn, a recipe I have here on my blog. In this version she Italianized it with different herbs – she also cut it off the cobs and used it as a side/topping/relish.

The chicken breasts, cut and pounded to an even 1/2” thickness, are marinated in an Italian-style mixture with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and a little bit of brown sugar. Some of the marinade is removed and set aside to use on the chicken as it’s grilling. The chicken can be marinated for a max of 3 hours, but 30 minutes is fine too.

The corn – it’s grilled while it’s still on the cob – then cut off the cobs and mixed while it’s still slightly warm with olive oil, mayo, rosemary, thyme and some grated Parm. Meanwhile, the chicken gets grilled until just cooked through – don’t overcook it or no one will be happy – and serve with the corn mixture on top.

Easy. Delicious.

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

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Italian Herb Street Corn

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, July, 2019
Serving Size: 4

CHICKEN:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar — use Swerve brown sugar if possible
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
CORN:
3 corn on cob, whole
2 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary — minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — minced
3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
fresh salt and pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: cut chicken breasts in half, crosswise, then cut thicker end in half horizontally and pound to even thickness, about 1/2″. Combine balsamic, oil, sugar, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Season marinade with salt and pepper. Remove 1/4 cup marinade and set aside.
2. Add marinade, turning to coat well. Let stand at room temp for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 hours.
3. Preheat grill. Brush corn with 1 T olive oil and grill until charred over most of the surface. Remove and cut kernels off the cobs. Place corn in a bowl and once cooled some, add mayonnaise, herbs, Parm and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Remove chicken from marinade and grill, prettier side down, for 4 minutes. Turn over and grill for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through. Brush with reserved marinade during last 2 minutes of cooking. Serve with corn on top or each piece, or on the side.
Per Serving: 402 Calories; 25g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on July 28th, 2019.

red_hot_cool_strawberries_serving

Oh goodness. Was this dessert ever the hit of the party. If strawberry season is still available where you live, this will have you swooning.

Having invited 8 friends over for dinner last night (9 with me included), I began working on the menu. Because, as a widow, I’m doing all the work myself, I’ve learned that I have to choose things that are do-able for me. Definitely not the more elaborate menus I might have done when Dave was alive. He was a huge help to me when we entertained. Yes, I miss him for that and many other reasons, but getting ready for a dinner party was one of his favorite things!

Since I knew we’d be eating outside, that meant at least a couple hour’s work – cleaning up the patio to be ready for guests, setting the table, cleaning the outdoor countertop where I serve buffet style, getting ready to grill, removing all the towels that drape across all the outdoor furniture when I’m not out there, plus shopping and preparing all the food, of course.

So, I’d already decided to do my easy favorite, the Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad that has been a part of my cooking repertoire for at least 25 years. Only one store in my area still stocks the full grown watercress (not the puny one in the root ball), so that was about a 25 minute drive just to get there. A separate stop for the salmon and peppers to grill with the salmon, and then another shopping trip for everything else.

So. Dessert. Since strawberries are still available, I’d seen a recipe for a strawberry compote kind of thing where the strawberries are cooked with chile de arbol and served with a refreshing whipped-up sauce of yogurt and cream cheese. It just sounded SO different, I had to try it.

Image result for chile de arbolThe strawberries were cut up into about 1/2” pieces. Meanwhile I cooked, so to speak, the dried chile. First I removed the stem and seeds from 2 chile de arbol. See photo at right. They’re long, skinny. And dried, of course. They’re low on the Scoville scale, although I might be readjusting this recipe to use a little LESS of the chile. I think the package said they’re a 9500, roughly about twice as hot as a jalapeno chile. I kind of flattened the chiles and put them into a medium-high heated ceramic pan and let it absorb the heat. It never got to the point of smoking, but the recipe indicated until the chile was slightly browned. I couldn’t really tell if it was browned, necessarily. I did it for about 4-5 minutes, I’d guess. The chiles were cooled, then put into a mortar and I ground it up into a fairly small bit of chile dust. You could use a spice grinder for this, also. My hands felt the heat, however, from handling them. Even a couple of hours later I could still feel the heat around one of my fingernails.

hot_strawberriesI cooked the strawberries with just a little bit of sugar (and the chile dust) until they’d begun to slump and lose their shape. The recipe I started with suggested cooking 15 minutes. No. Lot less than that. I think I stopped at about 8 minutes and as the strawberries cooled they cooked even more. Definitely you should undercook them. Those were cooled and then chilled. You could definitely make this a day ahead.

Well, then. So I tasted them. Oooh. That chile de arbol has an afterburn. In the interim, however, I’d made the sauce it was initially to be paired with – a mixture of yogurt (I used coconut yogurt) and cream cheese. But having tasted the strawberries, I knew immediately that the little bit of yogurt sauce wasn’t going to be enough to temper the heat. So, I revised my plan altogether and made a kind of Eton Mess. Here on my blog you’ll find a recipe that I’ve made for years that’s a riff on the English college’s favorite desserts, a way to use up some berries or fruit.

red_hot_cool_tray

There’s a photo of the tray of them. I had my friend Cherrie help me putting them all together. First, though, 30 minutes before I was planning to serve the ice cream, I moved the tub of vanilla ice cream to the refrigerator. I read this hint recently for easier scooping. It worked like a CHARM!. I’ll be doing that little trick from now on. Just don’t forget to put the remaining ice cream back into the freezer!

First, into the bottom went a nice ball of ice cream. Then chilled berries on top (don’t use them all because you put more on top later). Then the drizzle of the yogurt/cream cheese mixture, a few more berries, then a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Trader Joe’s stocks a vanilla meringue cookie – it literally never gets stale – my tub of them has been in my pantry for at least 2 years. A couple of those were crushed up and just a tiny sprinkling of the meringue went on top of each serving. Top with a mint sprig AND a shaving of dark chocolate. You could put another berry on top too, if you’d like to. I like the dark green to be contrasted with the cream, however. The original recipe came from a recent issue of Food and Wine, but I made so many changes to it, it hardly resembles what was in the magazine.

Then these beauties were served. I warned everyone that there was some heat to the dessert – I think I saw some frowns at the table. Like whaaat? Then everyone began and there was stunned silence at the table. Just the clink of spoons in the glass compote dishes. Then began the oohs and aaahs. I think 3 of my friends said “is this going to be on your blog?” Obviously I needed to say yes. I’ll also be posting the pasta salad I made too. I didn’t eat any of it, but I heard raves all around about it. As people were finishing up, several said, oh that dessert was just the best part of the dinner.

What’s GOOD: oh, gracious. Every single solitary morsel of this was beyond wonderful. I have some leftover berries – I’ll be having them over some ice cream. (And no, regular ice cream isn’t on my diet, but I’m having it anyway.)

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything . . . you do need to make the berry compote ahead of time, with time for it to chill. And you’ll need to find chile de arbol. I had considered using a big, fat jalapeno chile in it if I hadn’t found the dried chiles. Obviously, do NOT serve this to people who don’t like spicy, chile-induced heat.

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

Red, Hot, and Cool Strawberries – riff on Eton Mess

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

2 chile de árbol — stemmed and seeded or similar chile
14 ounces strawberries — hulled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or coconut yogurt
4 ounces cream cheese — softened
8 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 small meringue cookies — crumbled
2/3 cup heavy cream — whipped, with sugar and vanilla
Fresh mint leaves — for garnish

1. Heat a small skillet over high; add chile, and cook, tossing occasionally, until toasted and a nutty aroma is released, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from skillet, and crush in a mortar and pestle.
2. Stir together crushed chile, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and syrupy, about 8-12 minutes. (Strawberries should mostly keep their shape; if they start collapsing, remove from heat sooner.) Remove from heat, and let strawberry mixture cool completely, about 25 minutes. Chill.
3. While strawberry mixture cools, whisk together yogurt and cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
4. Scoop ice cream into bottom of each serving dish, spoon on some of the strawberries, drizzle with yogurt mixture, add more strawberries, then spoon whipped cream on top. Grate a tiny bit of bar chocolate on top, then garnish with mint leaves, and serve.
Per Serving: 321 Calories; 21g Fat (58.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on July 23rd, 2019.

salsa_verde_chix_onion_relish

Bet you thought you wouldn’t hear from me again. Gotcha! Carolyn here. After attending a cooking class last night. Had to share a few recipes with you. There will be two more chicken recipes plus a dessert coming up in a bit.

That photo may not be the best representation – brown food never looks that photogenic – it’s a red onion (grilled) with Cotija cheese crumbled in it set atop a grilled (marinated) chicken breast. Oh gosh, was it good! Phillis Carey said we’d all likely want to have the whole bowl of onion relish. Yes. My hand would have poked in the air begging for an extra serving. There weren’t any leftovers at the class, alas. Hence I’m going to have to make this dish sometime soon.

What makes this is the onion relish, for sure, but the marinade gives the chicken lovely flavor and I know for sure the fresh lime juice squeezed over the top just before serving added a whole lot of extra piquancy. But I could have eaten several servings of the red onion relish.

So first you marinate the chicken in jarred (Trader Joe’s) salsa verde along with oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder and cumin. The chicken breasts were given the royal Phillis Carey treatment (she being the queen of the myriad uses of chicken breasts and the pounding of them). She has a new technique, however. Since so many chicken breasts are SO big, she first cuts each breast in half crosswise in about half. Note, crosswise, not lengthwise. The thinner end is probably already thin enough, you don’t need to pound it at all – if any, just the thicker end a tiny bit. The other piece she cuts horizontally in half which gives you two equally sized pieces and those two get pounded just slightly (put the pretty side down, cover with plastic wrap and gently pound to equal thickness). So each big chicken breast = 3 nice sized entrée serving pieces. And all will cook evenly.

The onions are oiled and grilled until soft and caramelized, then removed. They’re chopped up coarsely (see photo) and some of the reserved salsa is added plus some Cotija (a dry, Mexican style salty cheese, similar to Feta) that’s crumbled up into it. The chicken is grilled as well and taken off before they overcook. Some salsa is put on the flipped over side, then you serve it with the onion piled on top. Done. You’ll hear raves, I just know it. Oh, don’t forget the grilled lime half that you grill also and squeeze that over each person’s serving. Grilled limes look so pretty – let each person squeeze their own.

What’s GOOD: the onion relish, tender, juicy chicken, everything.

What’s NOT: nothing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file

Salsa Verde Chicken with Grilled Onion and Cotija Cheese Relish

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, July, 2019
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces salsa verde — Trader Joe’s, jarred, divided use
3 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves Salt and pepper to taste
2 whole red onions — cut in thick slices
2 whole limes — halved (for grilling)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano — chopped
1/2 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled (or use Romano, or Parmesan)

1. Remove 1 cup of salsa from the jar and set aside. Combine remaining salsa, 2 T. oil, lime juice, garlic chili powder and cumin.
2. Trim chicken and pound to an even thickness or about 1/2″. You’ll probably want to cut the chicken breast into 2 or even 3 pieces. Place chicken in non-reactive dish, season with salt and pepper to taste then pour the salsa mixture on top of the chicken, turning to coat the pieces well. Let stand at room temp for no more than 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours (no longer or the chicken will begin to “cook” in the acidic salsa).
3. Preheat grill. Brush sliced onions with oil and grill until soft and brown. Remove to a cutting board and stir in the 1/2 cup reserved salsa and the fresh oregano; set aside to cool and then toss in the Cotija cheese. Grill lime halves until browned to a medium color on the cut sides.
4. Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 4 minutes on the prettier side. Do NOT overcook. Turn over and spoon about 2 T. salsa on each chicken breast. Close lid and grill about 4 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with onion cheese relish and with a grilled lime half to be squeezed over the chicken.
Per Serving: 298 Calories; 12g Fat (36.9% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 69mg Cholesterol; 367mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, lectin-free, on June 14th, 2019.

cauliflower_hummus

Truly a miracle – hummus (sort of) using roasted cauliflower plus all the other ingredients that make it taste like hummus.

Tomorrow I’m going to San Diego to celebrate with my grandson John as he graduates from high school. His mom and dad, Sara and John, are having a big family gathering. My job is to bring appetizers. I’ve got a big hunk of Manchego cheese to take along, some crackers, and will be making a Brussels sprouts appetizer too. If it’s really good, I’ll post that recipe too. It has to be made at the last minute, obviously.

So, this recipe came from a blog I follow, As Easy as Apple Pie. Elena developed it (thank you, Elena) and I’m just so glad she did. Although the texture of this isn’t exactly like bean-hummus, I would be surprised if anyone could tell. With the additions (lemon juice, tahini, garlic, olive oil, cumin, S&P) you really don’t notice. Trust me when I say certainly you won’t think cauliflower when you eat this. You will think hummus, through and through.

The cauliflower florets get roasted for about 20 minutes; then cooled. Into the food processor they went along with all the other ingredients and whizzed it up until smooth. I added a bit more ground cumin. Done. I made a double batch (used a small head) since we’re having a bunch of people at the party. I’m sure this will keep for several days – I made it 2 days ahead and am sure it will hold up well. For the photo I didn’t put on any of the toppings – I’ll do that when I serve it. You could easily use some chopped parsley or cilantro too. Or even some chopped walnuts.

When I took this to my daughter’s I had two of the family members taste it – they didn’t like it at all. They recognized the cauliflower, and although they both like cauliflower, they didn’t like this. SO, it got pureed with one can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed) and it was much better. But then, that took away the low-carb aspect of this. They thought the garlic was too much (it had a very sharp zing to it) and just didn’t care for the taste. I agreed about the garlic – so be careful how much you add in. I still liked it. Make a small batch first and see if you like it!

What’s GOOD: easy to make; lower in calorie; very tasty; healthy.

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cauliflower Hummus

Recipe By: Blog- as easy as apple pie
Serving Size: 5

CAULIFLOWER:
3 cups cauliflower — cut in florets
a drizzle of EVOO
salt and pepper
HUMMUS:
3 tablespoons tahini
2 small garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon water — plus more if needed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
TOPPINGS:
1 tablespoon EVOO — drizzle on top
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes — minced

1. Preheat the oven 400° F. Arrange cauliflower florets on parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tender and lightly browned around the edges. Cool cauliflower.
2. Into a food processor add the cooled cauliflower with olive oil, water, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt, and cumin. Puree to your liking. If it’s too thick, add more water in very small amounts to get the desired consistency. Taste for salt, pepper and cumin.
3. Chill, then spoon into a serving bowl and garnish as you’d like: olive oil, nuts or seeds, red pepper flakes. Serve with raw vegetables.
Per Serving: 144 Calories; 13g Fat (73.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 242mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, easy, Healthy, on June 2nd, 2019.

One of my go-to quick, easy and healthy weekday meals. 

This post is from Sara:  I found the original recipe on Delish.com which is a favorite healthy recipe website for me.  I mostly plan my week’s meals out on Sunday and shop accordingly so that I don’t have to make several trips to the grocery store after work.  However, there are those days that I am not in the mood for my plan or life happens and dinner plans change.  This is one of the fast, easy and healthy recipes I love to make.  It’s a one-pan dish and I usually have everything on hand as it’s fairly common ingredients, at least in my household.  If I don’t have fresh basil, I almost always have pesto sauce that can be substituted.

I serve it with a salad and some balsamic vinaigrette that I add a tsp of pesto sauce to bring up the flavor.  You could also add pasta if you don’t have an aversion to carbs.  Or, like me, you have teenagers that need more calories.  I love this dish because of the fresh ingredients.  I always have grape tomatoes in my fridge as I eat them as a snack daily.  I used fresh mozzarella because I prefer it but regular mozzarella or provolone would work.

Having made this a few times, I found that I prefer to slice the chicken breasts horizontally into two thinner slices.  This keeps my portion size down and gives me leftovers for lunch the next day!  Another bonus of this recipe is to make enough for leftovers so I add the cold chicken cut up to a salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella bits and the pesto balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

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Chicken Caprese

Recipe By: adapted from Delish.com
Serving Size : 4

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast halves — cut horizontally into 4 pieces
Kosher salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 cloves Garlic — Minced
1 pint grape tomatoes — halved
2 tablespoons fresh basil — freshly torn
4 slices mozzarella cheese — use fresh if possible or substitute pesto sauce
12 basil leaves — for garnish

1. In a large skillet over medium/high heat, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden and cooked through, approximately 6 mins per side depending on thickness. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet, then add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes and season with salt. Let simmer until soft, 5-7 mins. Stir in basil.
3. return chicken to skillet and nestle in tomatoes. Top with mozzarella and cover with lid to melt.
4. Spoon tomatoes over chicken and sprinkle more fresh basil if desired.
Per Serving: 537 Calories; 33g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 167mg Cholesterol; 552mg Sodium.

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