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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Breads, Brunch, easy, on February 12th, 2014.

apricot_jam_pastry

Oh my goodness, is this ever fantastic. The problems with this are: (1) finding good, tender and rich brioche bread; and (2) keeping your fingers out of the finished pastry. They are just so delicious. The base is a thick slice of brioche bread (the one above is about 1/2 inch thick, maybe just slightly thicker), spread with a ground almond and butter mixture (an almond cream, it’s called), spread with a little bit of apricot jam, some almonds sprinkled on top and baked briefly, then generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The other morning we were at one of my book group meetings, at our friend Peggy’s establishment, (Peggy & Gary own it along with their son) Mead’s Green Door Café in old-town Orange. Every other month we meet at their little café and enjoy a latte or cappucino and some lovely treat Peggy has baked while we discuss our current book selection. Peggy and her husband used to own a restaurant in Orange, but sold it a few years ago and bought a derelict building and spent over a year renovating it to the Café it is now. Cute as a bug, Old-world style, country-ish, eclectic, offbeat, catering a lot to the young Chapman University crowd nearby. They serve vegetarian and vegan food only, with usually at least one GF item too. They specialize in breakfast and lunch. Peggy does 90% of the baking. Peggy’s #1 seller (of her pastries) is her sweet potato scone, which is delish also, I can attest!

This little number, which blew me away, is so easy to make. Disclaimer here – I didn’t make the one you see above – Peggy did. But it’s so very easy, I was fairly certain you wouldn’t mind me showing you hers. If I made this now, I’d be gobbling it down. The recipe came from Sunset Magazine (earlier last year). First you must start with good brioche. Maybe one of our local bakeries (like Panera or Corner Bakery) will have it – I’ll have to look. You slice it thick (the recipe said 1-inch; I think Peggy sliced hers closer to 1/2 inch. Anyway, thick brioche. Then you spread the top with a little apricot jam, then a mixture of butter, granulated sugar, salt, egg, and half-and-half that’s been whizzed  up in the food processor. Then the top is sprinkled with almonds and sugar. Baked for 20 minutes or so, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Done. Very easy. Very special.

What’s GOOD: certainly the taste is first and foremost! These things are just delish. Worth making. You can make the almond cream ahead and it will keep for several days. The almond cream makes more than what you’ll use to make 8 – so perhaps cut down on the quantity first time.

What’s NOT: really nothing.

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Almond and Jam Pastries

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, March, 2013
Serving Size: 8

ALMOND CREAM: (you’ll have more than is needed)
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup granulated sugar — divided
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons half and half — or milk
TOASTS:
8 slices brioche — or challah bread, 1/2 in. thick or thicker
1/2 cup apricot jam — or other flavor
2 cups sliced almonds — about 2 T per toast
Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Whirl 1 cup almonds with 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
2. Blend butter and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a food processor until smooth. Add salt, egg, and half-and-half and pulse just to blend. Add reserved ground almonds and blend until mixture is smooth.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread about 1 tbsp. jam, then 2 tbsp. almond cream, on each slice of bread (you’ll have almond cream left over). Sprinkle each with about 2 tbsp. sliced almonds.
4. Bake until almond cream is golden brown and almonds are toasted, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
5. Make ahead: Chill extra almond cream airtight up to 2 weeks and use for making more pastries.
Per Serving (not accurate because you make more almond cream than you’ll use): 831 Calories; 55g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 371mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Fish, on January 31st, 2014.

salmon_capers_lekue

If you’re not into new gadgets, you may as well skip on by this post. I’d been eyeing this new thingamabob for several months and finally decided to bite.

The company that makes Lékué is in Spain. And when you try to SAY the word, speak it fast – you don’t languish the word out but quick step it fast. The product appears to be made of silicone (like Silpats, for instance – it has a similar feel to it), but nothing says exactly what or how. Other than it can withstand microwaving at 800 watts and the oven up to 400° F. It’s not a hard surface – it’s very soft and pliable but sturdy enough to stay put, although if you have food in the steam case (that’s what I bought – they have lots of other products as well) it will bend. Hence you walk from counter to microwave holding both ends of the Lekue Steam Case with Tray for 1 to 2 Persons.

Obviously the products have met the standards of the EU, since it’s manufactured in Spain. Everything says its very safe for storing, cooking, baking and microwaving. I’ll take their word for it since the EU is far more strict about these kinds of things than we are here in the U.S. Photo at left is from the company’s website. (Yes, they make them in green like mine, or orange or clear.)

What you see there is the smaller of the two types of steam cases. It has a slightly rounded bottom, but the little soft, silicone tray sits inside it (removable because you can cook without it).

Since I’m retired, you’d think I’d have endless time on my hands to cook whatever and whenever with no concern for the time involved. Not so. I don’t know how I found time to work, back when I did. I’m SO busy. I treasure my time at home on the occasional day when I don’t have any plans. The evening I used my new steam case I was pressed for time. I’m guessing you are also, so ride along with me as I explain how I made dinner in about 15 minutes flat.

Recently Updated2

There you can see my about-to-be cooked dinner. The tray thing is in the bottom – the fish is sitting on it.

Into the bottom I poured in about 1/3 cup of water, then I squeezed a half of a lemon in the water also. The water or liquid is below the tray and although the tray has holes in it, the fluid didn’t come up over the edges. The tray went in and I gently placed the fish on top.

I sprinkled the top of the salmon with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then I spread about 2 teaspoons of butter as best I could all over the salmon. That part was a bit difficult because the salmon was moist and the butter, although soft, didn’t really want to spread. You can see how well I did there in the top photo.

Next I drizzled the top of the salmon with a little tiny bit of olive oil. I don’t exactly know why since I’d already spread butter on it, but the recipe said to use both. Okay.

Then I sprinkled about a tablespoon of capers on top of that and sprinkled about a tablespoon or more of freshly chopped Italian parsley on top of that. The lid was closed. Easy. Up to this point I think it took me about 2 minutes, including the time it took to walk out to the garden to find Italian parsley. Well, I may be a little off – maybe 3 minutes total.

Into the microwave it went to 2 minutes. I do need to go find my instruction booklet for my Dacor microwave because I think mine is higher wattage than 800, and the recipes are all for 800 watts. So I might need to cook whatever I do make in this at a lower power setting.

The recipe I followed was for fillet of sole, and my salmon was actually quite thin – not much thicker than sole, but I did cook it for 2 minutes, rather than the 1 1/2 minutes suggested for the sole. And sure enough, it was perfectly cooked. Wow.

The rest of the dinner was all ready (yellow crookneck squash and a big green salad with lots of vegetables in it and my favorite Creamy Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing that I make many times a year). I quick-like dished up the vegetables and the salad, then lastly I put the salmon out on our dinner plates and we sat down. It might have been better had I taken the steam case to the dinner table – it would stay hotter longer – but it was still piping hot when we ate our first bites.

What’s GOOD: first and foremost, the speed at which I got this dinner on the table. Wow. The vegetables were left overs, so all I had to do was warm them up. The salad took about 15 minutes to make. The recipe was a good one – we could taste the citrusy aspect of this, and of course, the capers give it lots of flavor anyway. Sometimes fish is just best done the simplest way. It was juicy and tender. Only a couple of little edges (that leaned up against the inside wall of the steam case) were a bit overcooked, but still edible. I’ll watch that next time. So far so good, I’d say, with my new cooking utensil investment. I’ll be trying other dishes. One intrigues me – you can make scalloped potatoes (like au gratin) in no time flat.
What’s NOT: so far, nothing at all. I like this thing, this Lékué and I liked the recipe.

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Steamed Salmon with Capers in the Lékué

Recipe By: Adapted from the Lekue cookbook
Serving Size: 2

10 ounces salmon fillets
2 tablespoons water Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons soft butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon capers — drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — divided use

1. Using the small (1-2 person serving) Lekue case, pour in water and lemon juice. Insert tray.
2. Place salmon fillet on top of the tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Spread the fish with the butter and drizzle with olive oil.
4. Add capers and half of the Italian parsley. Fold lids closed.
5. Microwave at 800 watts for 2 minutes (if using thicker salmon, it will take longer). Remove Likue case from microwave and leave the lid closed for one minute longer (it continues to cook).
6. Serve on heated plates and garnish with additional parsley and lemon wedges, if desired.
Per Serving: 228 Calories; 12g Fat (48.6% calories from fat); 28g Protein; trace Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 81mg Cholesterol; 161mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Fish, Grilling, on January 19th, 2014.

cedar_planked_salmon_mustard_brownsugar

Are you looking for a super-easy dinner with salmon? You’ve come to the right recipe – this one’s so simple – as long as you’re willing to do the cedar-plank thing on the grill.

Not taking a lot of time to hunt for a recipe this time, I just googled “cedar plank salmon.” The #1 recipe came from the Food Network. It’s a Steven Raichlen recipe, but from what I read, Bobbie Flay must have had him on his BBQ show and prepared this dish. What convinced me was the 5-star rating. I read through some of them – a few people didn’t like the quantity of mustard or thought it was bitter. My thought is that they used cheap Dijon. If you use the real stuff, particularly the Maille brand, there won’t be any bitterness. I did reduce the quantity of both mustard and brown sugar, and we were ooohing and aaahing as we ate it.

First we soaked a cedar plank (one worked for the portion we were grilling, but you might need 2) for about 2 hours in cold water. Then the plank itself went onto a medium-hot grill for about 4 minutes. That gave it time to steam-out most of the water, but got the plank super-hot. Then my DH salmon_mustard_sugarturned the plank over and carefully placed the lightly slathered and brown sugared salmon fillet (pictured at left with the slather and sugar ready for grilling) on top of the plank. The lid was closed, the heat reduced just slightly, and 10 minutes later the salmon had reached 135°F and it came off. When Dave lifted the lid the last time (he checked the temp of the fish twice) a big plume of smoke engulfed him and burned his sinuses a little. He had a honkin’ headache for the rest of the evening, poor guy. Beware of that, my friends! He said the plank was slightly in flames too, but it didn’t reach the fish. Obviously, you toss the plank once it’s used. You could also do this in the oven, I suppose, but not with the cedar plank – unless you do it at a lower temp. You don’t want that kind of smoke swirling around in your oven.

The salmon needed nothing else – perhaps I could have served it with a little wedge of lemon – but it truly didn’t need it. It was a tiny bit crispy along the edges (from the brown sugar) and the mustard added just a lovely character to the fish. It was perfectly done, juicy, flaky. Delicious.

What’s GOOD: rip-roaring easy and tasty. That’s about all I can say, it should be enough for you to try this super-simple recipe. Good enough for guests too. I haven’t tried oven roasting this, but it should be easy to do that if you don’t want to cedar plank it.
What’s NOT: nada, nothing!
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Cedar Planked Salmon with Dijon and Brown Sugar

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a Steven Raichlen recipe, via the Food Network
Serving Size: 4

one cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Soak the cedar plank(s) under water for 2 hours or more.
2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place the cedar plank on the grill, cover and allow to pre-heat for about 4 minutes.
3. In the kitchen, spread the salmon fillets with a coating of Dijon, then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top. Do this just before you’re ready to grill – otherwise the sugar will begin to melt off the fish, even sitting at room temp.
4. When the cedar plank is super-hot, carefully turn the plank over with tongs and place the fish on top/center of the plank. Close lid, reduce heat just slightly (you don’t want the plank to burn, if at all possible). Depending on the thickness of the fish, cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135° (use an instant-read thermometer). If the edges of the plank start to catch fire, have a spray bottle of water handy and carefully spray the wood (not the salmon) and perhaps lower the heat slightly. Remove from grill and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 231 Calories; 6g Fat (25.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 258mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, on January 1st, 2014.

milk_braised_pork_chops

Surely you’ve heard somebody talk about milk braising a pork roast. I know I had, but somehow, even though I’d read and heard it was a really tasty way to prepare pork, I’d never actually done it. Plus, I’d simply pictured a curdled gloppy sauce. Who boils milk with any expectation of something pretty!

What I had were pork chops, not a roast. Time was at a premium that day (when I made this a couple of weeks ago I was deep in a quagmire of gift wrapping and Christmas card mailing), I quickly scanned through some recipes for pork and stopped at milk-braised pork. Hmmm. The original recipe I had would take too long, so I researched online and came across this extra-easy and quicker method (although it does take about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish) that was perfect for my timing.

I didn’t even print out the recipe – it was that kind of simple, although I did double check the cooking time and the last-minute saucing. The recipe came from about.com. the Southern Food section of that site, from Diana Rattray, who has provided most, if not all, of the recipes. And this is simple with a capital S! First you make a flour, salt and pepper mixture (and there is very little flour) and coat the chops. You shake off any excess. Into a hot frying pan they go (with a little oil and butter). Meanwhile, you use whatever amount of flour is left over from the dipping (not much) and use a whisk to combine it with some milk. You want to remove all the lumps. Once the chops are browned for about 3 minutes per side, you pour off most of the drippings, and add the milk/flour mixture, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. It cooks for about 30 minutes or so, stirring every so often. You don’t want the sauce to reduce-down too much and burn.

Not realizing the nuances of the flour, I’d put a bit too much in the bowl, so I had to add additional milk so this mixture was soupy, not thick. If it’s thick it will likely burn and/or boil away. It won’t be pretty! If you have a low-enough burner, it’ll cook very gently. That’s the goal. After 20-30 minutes, you turn the chops over and add more milk. The amount can vary because of the flour amount used. I added just a little bit of my Penzey’s chicken soup base to add more flavor. Again, stir it around, cover and simmer for about another 30 minutes. During this time, check the sauce – if the gravy is too thick, add more milk, but don’t add too much. I added some dried thyme to this, as it’s my go-to herb when I want to add some flavor. Then you take off the cover and allow the pork to continue bubbling away, but the sauce will reduce and get thicker. In that time I quick-like made a salad and some mashed potatoes.

My DH thought he was back home as a kid. Growing up, his mother and dad had a housekeeper named Sarah, a loving Black woman who cooked and cared for the family nearly her whole life. She was from the South, and often cooked kale, turnip greens, black eyed peas and the like. This dish just reminded him of the meals she used to prepare. He wanted to sop up every single bit of the gravy (since I don’t make this kind of a meal very often).

What’s GOOD: how easy this was to make, although it does take more than an hour of just simmering – you want that pork to be fork tender. The sauce was lovely. It’s NOT a fancy sauce – it’s just milk, flour, salt and pepper, so don’t expect some deep character kind of gravy here. Do make some kind of carb (rice would be fine too, or even noodles) to eat with the sauce. I’ve added a note in the recipe about throwing in some mushrooms to this. I didn’t, but if I’d had any, I’d have used them in the sauce. Definitely a keeper of a recipe. Comfort food, for sure.
What’s NOT: probably the lengthy cooking – for pork chops, 1 1/4 hours is a long time to simmer. Hard to do with a table full of hungry children waiting. If you can plan ahead, by all means do it.

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Milk Braised Pork Chops

Recipe By: Adapted from about.com, Diana Rattray
Serving Size: 4

4 pork loin chops — about 3/4 to 1-inch thickness
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — or more, or seasoned pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme — [my addition]
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk — added at the end (may not need all of it)
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s chicken soup base — or other paste-type chicken base
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1. Trim excess fat from the pork chops.
2. Combine flour, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large food storage bag. Add chops; shake to coat them with the seasoned flour mixture. Remove chops from bag; pour remaining flour mixture in a medium bowl and gradually whisk in 2/3 cup milk. Whisk to remove any and all lumps.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter with the vegetable oil. Add pork chops and cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the drippings. Add milk and flour mixture to the skillet. Stir well until it’s smooth, adding more milk if needed, so it’s a soupy sauce, not a thick one or it will burn during the braising process.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Turn the chops over. Add remaining milk and chicken soup base (paste); stir to dissolve; cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, if you’d like to during this section of cooking. If the soupy sauce boils away too soon, add more milk and reduce heat.
6. Uncover skillet and cook the chops for about 15 minutes longer, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, or to your desired consistency.
Per Serving: 235 Calories; 12g Fat (48.1% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 309mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, easy, on December 28th, 2013.

savory_herb_buttermilk_scones

Oh, just gaze at those. Merely looking at the photo makes my mouth water. These scones (or rich biscuits) are just the cat’s meow. The bestest. The most tender scones I’ve ever made, for sure. And they are just a pairing from heaven with some hot soup. Like cream of tomato? I made them to serve with one of my favorite recipes – Italian Sausage and Tomato Soup

The recipe came from a recent cooking class with Phillis Carey. And as she explained at the class, it’s very unusual to see eggs IN scones. Used as a glaze on top, yes, but rarely do you see any recipe with eggs in the dough. These scones (biscuits) are going onto my favorites list, if that’s any indication how good they were (are).

These are incredibly easy to make. You combine the dry ingredients and lightly fluff them with a fork so the salt and baking soda don’t clump in one spot. Then you add the cold-cold butter that’s been cut into little cubes. I use a pastry fork, and then sometimes I dig in with my fingers, since that’s fairly easy to do. The trick to this is leaving some of the butter in tiny little shreds. But in this case, the eggs provide additional leavening to the batter too. This one has fresh herbs in it, but you can vary which ones you use – don’t like rosemary? – just use dill or thyme. The cheese also adds a nice taste to them.

herb_buttermilk_scones_before_bakingThe dough makes a big chunk, so you cut it in half and shape each half into a circle, an inch thick. Don’t use any more hand-power than necessary – the less the better. I used a sharp knife to cut the scones into 6 wedges, then I carefully scrunched them back into the circle – barely touching. If you like all the edges to be more crisp, separate the wedges. If you want just 6 biscuits, halve the recipe below. When they’re shaped up and ready, use a pastry brush or silicone brush with some additional heavy cream to glaze the top, then sprinkle more herbs and cheese on top.

The end result is a very, very tender scone – almost like a light cake in texture. For years I’ve been making scones from a recipe I acquired back in the 1980s, and it’s been my go-to recipe – it’s also on my favorites list – Buttermilk Scones – and they’re just very different from these. The others are more like a biscuit, a southern biscuit, I suppose.

These are scrumptious with soup. I served them the other night, as I mentioned above, with another of Phillis’ recipes, the Italian Sausage, Tomato and Orzo Soup. We had 6 of us for dinner, and I had 4 scones left over – a few people took 2nds on both soup and scones. I wrapped each scone in plastic wrap and edged them into a freezer ziploc bag and they’ll be perfect for a later soup dinner.

What’s GOOD: oh gosh. Everything about them is good – texture, taste, tenderness, even the savory aspect  (the cheese and herbs). They’re very light in texture, which I like a lot. You’ll not be sorry if you try them.
What’s NOT: nothing, other than they’re fairly high in calorie. If you serve them with soup, perhaps the meal balances out, right?

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Savory Herb Buttermilk Scones

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, December 2013
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — grated
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary — minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — minced
1 teaspoon Italian parsley — minced
SCONES:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter — chilled, cut in tiny cubes
2 large eggs — beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Additional cream for brushing on the tops

Notes: this batch can be made into slightly smaller scones if you shape each half into a rectangle and use a square cutter – about 8 per half (2 across by 4 lengthwise) = 16 scones. The batch for 12 makes fairly large scones.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 T. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2 T. cheddar cheese and 1/2 tsp each rosemary, thyme and parsley. Set aside for sprinkling on top of the scones.
3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Scatter the butter over the top and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Quickly mix in the eggs, buttermilk and 1/2 cup cream. Quickly mix in remaining cheeses and herbs.
4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide dough in half. Pat each half into a circle about 1-inch thick (about 6 inches across). Cut each circle into 6 wedges and arrange, with edges mostly touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of each scone with a little cream, then sprinkle on the reserved cheese and herb mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly golden. The tops of these will not show browning or even a golden color – look at the bottom to determine if they’re done. Serve immediately with butter. [When I baked these it took exactly 25 minutes.]
Per Serving: 248 Calories; 15g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 330mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Fish, Veggies/sides, on December 17th, 2013.

salmon_papillotes_redpeppercorns_ginger

It’s fun being a teacher in the kitchen. All of our 3 children know how to cook, and during their growing-up years they helped in the kitchen. For a year or so during the teens, each kid had to cook a meal for everyone once a week. Skip forward 25 years, and now our various grandchildren are visiting from time and time. I’ve spent patient hours in the kitchen with each of them, helping them to master a recipe or two. Mostly it’s seemed to be cookies, because that’s what they wanted to make. Fine with me. This time, it was our oldest grandson’s [girl] friend Mary’s turn. She’s never cooked, so with coaching from me, she made dinner!

Logan had asked for salmon. I chose a recipe I’ve been wanting to make anyway, and with a couple of exceptions, I had all the ingredients. I had lemons, not limes, and I didn’t have any fresh dill. But this recipe was delicious enough as is – but yes, next time I try it I’ll buy limes and dill.

mary_carolyn_kitchenThere’s Mary listening to me explain about something. I talked to her about Sichuan pepper, what a “pinch” was, and how to drizzle. Also how to use a mortar and pestle, grate fresh ginger, chop and sauté mushrooms in butter, make rice (she’d done that before). She was a very good student – I demonstrated some of the things and she quickly tried it and did it all very well.

We used a rice cooker, did the mushrooms separately, and combined them at the end. The salmon was prepped with some fresh ginger spread on each piece, salt, the Sichuan pepper, red peppercorns, a bit of oil, then they were baked in foil packets – about 10+ minutes. Mary made a green salad – I already had some of my Molasses Honey Vinaigrette in the refrigerator, so Mary just had to chop up the salad.

It was a lovely dinner. Mary did a superb job of getting everything done and the dinner came together well. And the salmon? It was really, really good. I think we all liked the crunch of the red peppercorns, and the amount of heat from the Sichuan pepper was just right.  The little crunch from fleur de sel on top was an added, nice crunch. As I mentioned, with Mary’s help, we made a rice cooker batch of basmati rice with mushrooms that was fabulous. I’ve included it in the recipe below. It was so good I made the rice again some days later for an Indian chicken dinner, which I’ll write up in a few days.

What’s GOOD: the salmon was cooked perfectly (almost under-done, but it was cooked through) and we all liked the seasonings a lot. The foil packet made it so simple with an easy clean-up. I’d definitely make this again, and it’s nice enough to make for guests too. The little drizzle of cream on the salmon at the end (just before serving) gave it a little lusciousness, although almost once poured you couldn’t see it – it was only a teaspoon per serving. I’d definitely make this again. I don’t guarantee the flavors if you use anything but the red peppercorns. Black ones would be oh-too strong, for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Salmon Papillotes with Red Peppercorns, Lime and Fresh Ginger

Recipe By: On Food 52, but from Babette’s Feast, 1/1/2010
Serving Size: 5

35 ounces fresh salmon fillet — (about 7 ounces each)
2 inches fresh ginger — peeled and grated
3 tablespoons red peppercorns
1 1/2 limes — freshly juiced
A couple of pinches of Sichuan Pepper
salt to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs fresh dill
5 teaspoons heavy cream
Fleur de Sel
1 tablespoon chives — fresh, coarsely chopped
RICE WITH MUSHROOMS:
1 cup rice — (Basmati preferred)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh mushrooms — sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — for the mushrooms
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced, for garnish, if desired

1. Take 2 large pieces of aluminum foil (or parchment paper) the same length and put one on top of the other, both shiny sides outside. Roll together on the length the aluminum foil together to make a seam and tighten it. Roll this seam 2 more times and press on it so the 2 pieces of aluminum foil are tight together. Gently open the foil. Press on the seam which is now in the middle and you have a double width piece of foil that can take all the pieces inside. Turn the foil so the seam is perpendicular to you and you have a wide aluminum piece. Fold it in half and lightly press so you know where the middle is.
2. Clean the salmon fillets of all bones and if you prefer remove the skin. Otherwise place salmon skin side down. Spread each piece of salmon with the fresh ginger, then season with a pinch of salt, freshly ground Sichuan pepper, and lime juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Place the foil on a baking tray so that the bottom half is sitting on the tray. Drizzle the olive oil on the foil half nearer to you, place the salmon with the seasoning on top and add the red peppercorns that you lightly crush with your hands (or lightly grind with a mortar & pestle). Place the dill on top of each salmon fillet and fold the top half of the foil towards you. Go round the foil folding together the 2 foils (top and bottom) 2 or 3 times so you completely seal all around.
5. Bake about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The papillote, if closed tightly, should puff up with the steam inside the packet (ours didn’t do this).
6. Discard the dill, serve one fillet per person on a bed of sautéed vegetables. Drizzle a teaspoon of thick cream down the length of each piece of salmon, sprinkle with some chopped chives and a little Fleur de Sel.
7. RICE: In a saucepan combine the chicken broth, butter, lime juice and salt. Bring to a boil, then add rice. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the rice is tender.
8. In a small skillet melt the butter and add the sliced mushrooms. Saute for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Add them to the rice just before serving and garnish with Italian parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 514 Calories; 18g Fat (31.3% calories from fat); 46g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 631mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, easy, on December 4th, 2013.

turkey_hachis_parmentier

An altogether different (for me anyway) way to use left over turkey. And it will likely become a favorite. Made especially easy because I was able to use our Thanksgiving turkey meat, and left over mashed potatoes too, which were taking up space in my refrigerator.

Not knowing anything about the history of the French word Parmentier, I looked it up online, only to find that, in culinary terms it means a potato on top, almost like a shepherd’s pie, or a cottage pie. The dish is named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French pharmacist, nutritionist, and inventor who, in the late 18th century, was instrumental in the promotion of the potato as an edible crop. So, that’s why (per wikipedia). The hachis part means chopped meat.

I read the recipe over at Susan Herrmann Loomis’ blog, On Rue Tatin. If you don’t know about her, you should. She’s an American, but went to live in France a long time ago now, wrote a book about her culinary experiences (very cute) including meeting her husband (I see that she doesn’t mention her husband on her About page, so perhaps she’s divorced now . . . don’t know . . . but she does have a couple of children). She lives in Normandy in the little town of Louviers, gives English-speaking cooking classes regularly if you’re interested and has written about 12 cookbooks.

turkey_hache_parmentier

My version of this – from the picture above – is a much more wet casserole – not exactly soupy, but certainly it oozed all over the plate. My mashed potatoes were very soft to begin with. But that made no difference to the flavor.

One of the things that stood out in my mind as I was reading Susan’s blog, was her little quip that “ . . . . sprinkling Gruyere cheese on almost everything that goes in the oven is a French custom. . .”  Having visited the Gruyere cheese factory (a very small place considering the volume of cheese sold ‘round the world with its name on it – hence I always buy the imported, the “real” Gruyere), and since I had a chunk of the cheese in my refrigerator already, it was a no-brainer I’d make this.

It took about 10 minutes to create the casserole: first I sautéed the onion (Susan used a red onion, I used a yellow) in a bit of oil and butter. While that cooked briefly I shredded the turkey meat and shredded the Gruyere. Into the casserole dish went the mostly cooked onion with a tiny sprinkling of cheese (I was remembering Susan’s comment about the cheese). I sprinkled the top with a little bit of salt, pepper and a light dusting of powdered bay leaf. Then I added all the turkey meat, with another light sprinkling of cheese. I drizzled the cream on top of that and added the little bit of turkey gravy (her recipe has you add stock – I used the gravy because I had a bunch in the refrigerator and never seem to know what to do with it except in reheated left over Thanksgiving dinner). Then using my hands to mush and squish the cold mashed potatoes, I gently placed the potatoes on top and tried to cover it barely and completely. I wanted a solid potato covering, but I didn’t want it to be thick, so I gently pushed and shoved the potatoes so it would be a solid slate of them. If you have youngsters to feed, you’ll likely want a much deeper potato layer, which is fine! The bulk of the grated cheese goes on top of the potatoes. Make sure the casserole is deep enough that the potatoes aren’t heaped above the edge or you’ll have a bit of bubbling overflow. Fortunately I put the casserole on another pan so the drips didn’t burn up in the oven!

We had pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with this, but any green veg would be fine, or even a salad. You could – I’m sure – use some left over veg inside this dish (like peas or broccoli) but I wanted to make it as true to Susan’s recipe as I could. I did make a few changes, but I hope they did nothing but enhance the flavors rather than detract from them!

One little caveat: I used the best-est turkey chunks (both breast and dark meat) from our kosher bird, which was super-moist and tender; I used the left over mashed potatoes which contained cream cheese, so they were rich-rich already. I used ample cheese (maybe more than Susan did – I didn’t weigh it – she used 2 ounces for a larger casserole, I think). I did use heavy cream, although I just added it into the meat section (not used in the potatoes as she did). Just know that it’s rich in fat grams.  Oh, I’d make it again in a second! But then, shepherd’s pie, which is so very similar to this, is also a particular favorite flavor-taste for me.

What’s GOOD: oh gosh, was this ever fantastic. For me – it’s all about the CHEESE. It absolutely “makes” this dish, in my opinion. Gruyere has such a unique flavor – it’s not a straight eating kind of cheese (at least not to me) but has a kind of sharp, yet deep nutty quality to it. I use some Gruyere or Emmental in my cheese fondue  recipe because it’s just the best combo for flavor. Anyway, the flavor in this dish is over-the-top delicious! This is going to go onto my list of Carolyn’s favs, and will be added to my usual Thanksgiving roundup under the section of left overs.
What’s NOT: not a single, solitary thing. It IS rich. Decadent, I suppose. A splurge in the calorie department.

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Turkey Hachis Parmentier

Recipe By: Adapted from On Rue Tatin (blog)
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion — halved, very thinly sliced
3 cups cooked turkey — shredded
1/2 cup turkey gravy
1/3 cup heavy cream
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaf
2 cups mashed potatoes — left over, seasoned with milk, salt and pepper
1 cup Gruyere cheese — grated

Notes: Shred (rather than cube) the turkey meat to give a wonderful texture to the dish. Sprinkling Gruyere cheese on almost everything that goes in the oven is a French custom and is entirely optional, but the flavor will be SO enhanced with the cheese.
1. Melt the butter and oil in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan over medium heat. When it is heated, add the onions and stir so they are coated with the fat; cover, and cook until they are tender and translucent, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t stick. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
3. When the onions are cooked, transfer them to a medium-sized baking dish, and spread them evenly across the bottom. Top with the shredded turkey. Drizzle gravy and cream over all. Sprinkle just a little bit of cheese over the turkey.
4. Spread the potatoes over the turkey in an even layer. If the potatoes are cold, mash them gently in your fingers and drop pieces over the turkey, filling in the holes without mashing down the potatoes. It’s okay if the top is craggy but it should be completely covered. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese, and bake in the center of the oven until the cheese and the potatoes are slightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Per Serving: 522 Calories; 31g Fat (53.0% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 591mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Pork, on November 29th, 2013.

pork_tenderloin_tangiers

Pork Tenderloin is such a versatile meat and is also very quick and easy to prepare. We needed to eat dinner by 6pm (to leave to go to a concert) and I started dinner at 5 and everything was done at exactly 6:00. This version is quite simple and very tasty.

This time I searched at Eat Your Books to find a pork tenderloin recipe that would be (1) easy; and (2) quick. Success on both counts. I have Barbara Kafka’s book that’s all about roasting any kind of meat. It’s one I refer to whenever I’m doing some hunk of meat, so when her book popped up on the list, I looked at the ingredients needed – oh good – I had them all. If you’re at all tentative about the process of roasting, you might consider having her book in your repertoire: Roasting: A Simple Art.

This recipe required no more than combining a simple rub that went on first, then I gently rubbed olive oil into the meat as well. The spices are Moroccan in culture – hence the Tangiers in the title, but the spices are available everywhere. Nothing all that exotic – the recipe called for salt, cinnamon and cardamom. I added some turmeric and smoked pepper. Into a roasting pan it went, into a hot oven and in 20 minutes flat it was out of the oven and cooked perfectly. I tented the meat with foil and while the meat rested, I made a very simple sauce from the few pan drippings, adding some white wine and stock, and lastly adding in just a little bit of butter. So very easy. We’re trying to eat less and less red meat (although pork tenderloin is really, really lean to begin with), so this one tenderloin actually provided enough for us for 3 dinners. I sliced the meat thinly and widely diagonal, so we had the illusion of eating big pieces of meat, but it really wasn’t. Each serving had just a tiny bit of the sauce drizzled on top.

What’s GOOD: how quick and easy it was to make. Including the sauce at the end. I got everything ready so when the meat came out of the oven everything was right there to whisk together the sauce on the stove top. I quick-like made a vegetable and a salad, and dinner was ready. Love it when that happens. Taste was nice – this isn’t an off-the-charts kind of dinner, but it was good for sure.
What’s NOT: nothing, really.

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Pork Tenderloin Tangiers

Recipe By: Adapted from Roasting, by Barbara Kafka
Serving Size: 3

1 pound pork tenderloin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon smoked pepper — (Schilling)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped (for garnish)
SAUCE:
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup pork stock — or water, or chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Remove silverskin from pork tenderloin. Preheat oven to 500°F.
2. Combine turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and salt in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the spices all over (all sides) of the pork. Pour half the olive oil into your palm and gently smear it all over the pork. Repeat with remaining oil. Don’t rub, just gently spread the oil all over. Place the tenderloin into a shallow roasting pan with low sides (that’s just slightly bigger than the roast), tucking the thin end under by an inch or two.
3. Roast tenderloin for 10 minutes, turn the roast over and continue roasting (about 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven and the thickness of the pork) until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
4. Remove pan and place on your stovetop. Remove pork to a heated platter and tent loosely with foil.
5. SAUCE: In a measuring cup combine the wine and broth. The pan will be intensely hot – turn on vent and slowly add the liquid. It will steam and boil. Do NOT touch the pan. Turn on the heat under the pan and simmer the liquid, scraping up any browned bits from the pork. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste for seasonings (salt and pepper?). Turn off the heat and allow mixture to stop boiling. Add half the butter and gently stir until it’s melted, then add the remaining butter. Pour into a pitcher to serve.
6. Slice the pork across the grain and on the diagonal (to get larger slices) and drizzle the sauce on top. Add some minced Italian parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 306 Calories; 15g Fat (51.2% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 747mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, easy, on October 15th, 2013.

cinnamon_apple_pudding_cake

You know pudding cake, right? That mysterious chemistry that happens when you combine certain baking ingredients and it makes its own sauce – like magic! I’ve had chocolate pudding cake and lemon pudding cake (here on my blog it’s called a Lemon Sponge Pudding), and count them as favorites of mine, but oh, this one. Wait till you try it.

Since it’s October, my thoughts turn to Fall. I love Fall. Here in Southern California, though, it comes late and doesn’t last long. My physical calendar says yes, October is Fall, but real Fall doesn’t arrive here, usually, until November. As I write this we’ve had a couple of beautiful cooler days, but we’re anticipating Santa Ana winds which usually come with very high heat (winds blow in from the hot deserts). Most people dread them – they blow like hell. They wreak all kinds of minor havoc. Light weight things get tossed around back yards, into pools, get hung up in trees. And leaves and debris blow just everywhere. Weak limbs on trees and even whole trees can fall and block roads and down power lines. Often my internet connection is shaky. Why that should be I don’t know since the cable is underground. But it happens almost every time. And no, none of this is related to a hurricane – there is no water/rain associated with the Santa Ana winds. Here where we live, on a western-facing hill, the winds come roaring up and over the peak of the hill behind us, then create a twist and roll back to our yard and particularly our side patio. Birds hunker down and try to hold on. I don’t know how they manage to eat when we have the winds. Our awnings are pulled in, all our summer umbrellas are stowed, our rolling cart that lives on our patio is tied down. We keep towels on our patio, covering cushions to protect them from sun damage – if we didn’t take those in they’d all be flying up the road, off to neighbors’ yards, or caught in bushes. It’s crazy. We get these winds during the Fall and Spring mostly. And now is the season. We’ve been told we’ll have 3 days of winds – that’s a long one. If we’re lucky they last just one day. Not this time, I hear.

But it’s a good day to stay inside and bake, if you’re so inclined! I am going to bake bread today (one of those overnight no-knead types that I mixed up a couple of days ago). If it’s successful, I’ll post it. It’s a whole wheat rye loaf.

We expected a big crowd for our bible study group last week when I made this. We had 9 people, I think it was, and am so glad I made a double batch of this – that way we did have a bit of left overs. A couple of conscientious people decided not to have any. I couldn’t resist. I made some sweetened whipped cream to put on top, but didn’t take the time to photograph one, so I created a photo-worthy version the next day with some cream poured over.

The recipe comes from fellow blogger (and friend) Marie Rayner, who lives in England. I started reading her blog many years ago, A Year from Oak Cottage. Some years ago when we visited England, we visited Marie and her husband Todd (and their adorable then-puppy Mitzie) and went out to dinner together. Marie’s recipes are posted at her 2nd blog, The English Kitchen. Marie loves pudding cakes and explains on the blog post about this recipe about several of her other pudding cakes. When I made this I didn’t have enough milk, but I did have buttermilk, so I adapted the recipe. That meant I reduced the amount of baking powder and added baking soda – I also added just a tetch more fluid – I had to do that because the initial batter was so thick it couldn’t hardly hold all the flour. Hence I added more buttermilk.

cinn_apple_pudd_cake_collageNow, let’s get to this pudding cake. I am very long-winded this morning . . . this dessert is SO easy to make. You create a cake batter first (it’s just a bit on the stiff side), then you create the sauce part (a lot of brown sugar, water and butter). The batter is spread into a pan, the sauce part is poured over, then you dot the top with fresh chopped apples and walnuts. That’s it. Into the oven to bake for nearly an hour and it’s done.

Here at left you can see the different steps. The top photo shows the fairly stiff batter in the pan. The liquid was poured in after that and when you do that the batter starts to separate some. Blobs of batter float to the top. Don’t be dismayed by the appearance (I should have taken a picture of it at that point). Just persevere. The 2nd photo shows it ready to go in the oven, then below that that finished cake. At first – when I snapped the photo of that step, you could not see or feel the pudding part.

The cake cools for awhile and when I scooped into the pan to serve it, there is all that delicious, brown sugary caramel-like sauce in the bottom. Do spoon some of that sauce over each portion.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, everything about it. I just loved this dessert. Do note that a 8×8 pan only contains 2 T. of butter – so it’s very VERY low fat. It’s not low sugar, however. I should have made it with some Splenda, but often the first time I make things I want to make it according to the recipe. Since this is one of those mysterious chemistry things, I was afraid to change it much.

What’s NOT: gosh, nothing. Definitely a keeper.

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Cinnamon Apple Pudding Cake

Recipe By: Adapted from The English Kitchen blog
Serving Size: 8

CAKE PART:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/8 cups buttermilk
PUDDING PART:
1 1/2 cups water
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar — packed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large apple — peeled, cored, chopped (or 2 medium sized ones)
1/3 cup walnuts — toasted, chopped (or more)

Note: if you don’t have buttermilk, make it with milk, per the original recipe – 1 cup milk, and 4 tsp baking powder. Do not add soda in this case.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F or 180°C. Butter the bottom of a deep 8×8 inch square baking dish. Set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk,. Whisk together until smooth – it will be a bit on the stiff side and not like a typical cake batter. Pour into the prepared pan and spread out to the edges.
3. Heat the water, brown sugar and butter together until the butter melts, the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. This can be done in the microwave – use a large glass bowl and watch carefully so it doesn’t boil over. Pour this carefully over top of the batter in the pan. The mixture will look very odd (part of the cake batter will separate and float). Just carry on – it all will turn out fine. Sprinkle the chopped apples and walnuts over top.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until risen and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm and spooned out into bowls (including some of the pudding/sauce part), with or without cream or ice cream. It’s definitely better with cream, whipped cream or ice cream.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Per Serving: 413 Calories; 7g Fat (13.9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 85g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 353mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Healthy, Soups, on September 29th, 2013.

broccoli_white_bean_sausage_soup

Hearty, comforting and healthy soup. There’s no cream in it – the broccoli provides the creamy texture. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Read on . . .

Rarely do I watch The Chew. The show is so fast-paced (frantic almost, like The View which I refuse to watch at all because they all talk over each other) and loud that I will only watch it on occasion and rarely do I ever try one of the recipes. A few over the years . . . but I know the show is well liked by many. When we were on our trip I happened to turn on TV and I tuned in to the program and Stacy London [a TV fashionista and co-host of the show What Not to Wear, another show I don’t watch] was making a soup. She had someone come to her home to cook for her and this recipe was borne of that professional relationship, as I understood it. Apparently, she had leftovers of both a healthy pureed broccoli soup and one with white beans and sausage and Stacy decided to combine the two. She loves it so much that she learned to make it herself and eats it by the gallon.

It’s no secret around here that I love soups. Not only for their ease (a meal in one pot) but soups are comforting and provide infinite variety. And often I add a little jot of cream to soups. This soup looked like it had cream in it, but it doesn’t. Nary a bit of cream or dairy at all. Basically you make 2 soups – a broccoli soup in one pot (which gets pureed and becomes the liquid in the other soup) and the spicy sausage and cannellini bean soup in the other. Once the broccoli soup is cooked through (takes no time at all) it’s whizzed up in the blender and then that’s added to the other. Because I had some mushrooms on hand, I added them, and I think I added some zucchini too, though neither of those were in the recipe.

The only fat in the entire soup is a tablespoon or two of olive oil to sauté the onions, the same for the chicken sausage soup plus whatever intrinsic fat is in chicken broth and the chicken sausage (not much, in other words).

Adapting the recipe a little, I added some fresh mushrooms and zucchini to the soup. Why not, I said? I wanted more veggies and texture since the broccoli is completely pureed. The recipes serves 8, and that’s about right – we had 2 dinners and 2 or 3 lunches out of the one preparation. I’m sure it would freeze well also.

What’s GOOD: I like that it’s a very healthy soup. I really had to work at it to taste the broccoli (and I like broccoli) since it’s pureed. You honestly think it’s a cream soup! My DH liked it a lot and told me each time I served it that it was really good. I felt the same way. A keeper. It’s not gourmet. It’s not over-the-top with flavor, but it’s just wholesome and good. It’s thick – you can see that from the photo. If you wanted a lighter soup, add more chicken broth and thin it some.
What’s NOT: nothing at all that I can think of.

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Stacy London’s Broccoli, White Bean & Sausage Soup

Recipe By: Adapted slightly From “The Chew”, Sept. 2013
Serving Size: 8

BROCCOLI SOUP:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion — (chopped)
2 large heads broccoli — (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)
5 cups chicken stock
CHICKEN SAUSAGE SOUP:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy chicken sausage — (removed from casing and crumbled)
1 bunch kale — (cut into 1/2-inch ribbons and chopped)
6 ounces button mushrooms — sliced [my addition]
2 small zucchini — chopped [my addition]
2 15.5 ounce cannelini beans, cooked — (drained and rinsed)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

1. Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then add onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.
2. Pour the chicken stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.
3. Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until VERY smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and zucchini and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes.
5. When almost completely cooked, add the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the veggies are all cooked sufficiently. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Pour the broccoli soup in the sausage and kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
Per Serving: 401 Calories; 12g Fat (25.3% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 1450mg Sodium.

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