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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Just finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 February 11th, 2017.

apple_champ_custard_torte_whole

What this is, is unusual. Different. Not a typical torte. Not a typical custard. It’s kind of like an apple pie, but with a custard/champagne filling and a load of whipped cream on top, sprinkled liberally with unsweetened cocoa. It’s SO hard to describe. Was it good? Yes, indeed.

When Chef Caroline prepared this at a December cooking class, I said, wow, this looks like way too much work. And yes, it does require several steps of preparation. But, none of the steps are all that difficult. I suppose, the question always is, was it worth the effort? The finished piece of torte was excellent. I wrote “fabulous” on my recipe notes. Caroline had a long, rambling story to tell about acquiring the recipe from her friend Doris who is of German descent. And this friend, although a really good cook, doesn’t exactly cook with a recipe, so Caroline had to visit her house and watch, scribble, help and use more guesswork to write down the ingredients and quantities. She assured us it would be worth waiting for, and worth the effort to make. Tasting the finished product, I agree.

It starts with a 10-inch springform pan that’s lined with parchment and buttered (important). A pastry dough is made, but it’s not your standard pastry, either. It has baking powder in it and an egg – but it’s not a biscuit dough. Not a pie dough – maybe more like a thin cake, yet it’s NOT a cake batter, either. So hard to describe. If any of you are overly annoyed with my inability to describe this, well, you might have to make it and tell me. I haven’t tried to analyze the chemistry of the pastry to figure out what it really is. Caroline rolled out half the dough for the bottom of the springform, then rolled out rectangles to make the sides, then pressed the edges together in the pan. Clever, that girl! She thought Doris had difficulty with the dough too, so her solution was to do it in two parts. Then you slice Gala apples and place them on top of the dough.

apple_champ_custard_torte_slice

Picture at left is a piece of the torte, and the whipped cream topping slid right off the side. But at least you can see the consistency of the pudding part – read the next paragraph about that – it’s different!

In the meantime, you prepare the “custard,” which isn’t exactly a custard by normal standards – it’s a kind of a pudding made with Dr. Oetker’s packaged vanilla pudding mix (Cost Plus has it and I found it in a 3-pack at Amazon), but instead of mixing it with milk, it’s made with Prosecco. Yes, Dr. Oetker Original Pudding Mix, Vanilla - 3 pcs.Prosecco. Or champagne. Or even sparkling cider would likely work (use a bit less sugar). So it’s a clear-looking (sort of) pudding – almost like a gelatin pudding, but it’s vanilla flavored, of course. See, I told you this dessert was unusual. Once it’s made, you pour it on top of the apples and into the oven the torte goes for about an hour. The oven is turned off and you leave it sit in the oven for 10 minutes, then you remove it to cool completely on a wire rack.

At this point you refrigerate it overnight. When ready to serve, whip up the heavy cream with a tablespoon of “vanilla sugar,” from a package you can find at Cost Plus. It’s also a Dr. Oetker product – available in multi-packs at Amazon. Spread that all over the top of the torte, then sprinkle unsweetened cocoa through a sieve (so it will distribute evenly) on top. You can also top with chocolate shavings if desired – or both. You don’t have to buy vanilla sugar to make this part – just add sugar and some vanilla instead.

What’s GOOD: although this might look like an extra-rich, heavy dessert, it isn’t. Making the pudding with Prosecco provides a light feeling to the torte. The pastry isn’t all that rich – the apples are good for us – and the only wicked part is the whipped cream on top. If you decide to make this, you’ll be glad you did. It looks gorgeous. What’s also GOOD is that it serves 12. Not very many desserts serve that many people. If you prefer, you can halve the recipe (to serve 6) and make it in a 7” springform pan.

What’s NOT: well, perhaps all the steps, but none are all that difficult. The pudding part is easy, actually with the packaged mix to help. Now I just need an excuse to make it myself – and have  12 people over in order to serve it all!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple & Champagne Custard Torte

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 12

PASTRY:
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1 large egg — beaten (or up to 1 1/2 eggs)
APPLE FILLING:
2 1/2 pounds apples — Gala (or Fuji), peeled, thinly sliced
A bowl of lightly salted water
CUSTARD PUDDING:
74 grams Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding mix — (instant type – 2 packages)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 bottle Prosecco — or Champagne, or white sparkling wine
TOPPING:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar — (Dr. Oetker, a packet)
1 tablespoon cocoa — unsweetened

NOTES: Dr. Oetker products can be found online at Amazon (free shipping if you buy the multi-packs) and most Cost Plus stores (imported from Germany). The prepared pudding in this torte is not a true “cream” looking pudding – it’s made with sparkling wine, so it’s much less rich – but no less good!
1. PASTRY: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides only. In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter and egg. Mix with a fork until the dough comes together and then knead with your hands a few times to make the dough smooth.
2. Roll HALF the dough on a lightly floured tea towel to make a circle – slightly larger than 10″ to fit in the springform pan. With remaining HALF of the dough, roll into strips about 3″ wide and 6-7 inches long. You will have 2-3 pieces – enough to press onto the sides of the springform pan, and then press all the edges together so you have an even, filled-in pastry shell.
3. APPLES: As you prep the apples, place them in the bowl of lightly salted water. Remove apple slices to paper towels and blot dry. Place all the apple slices on top of the pastry.
4. PUDDING: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and vanilla pudding packets with about 1/2-cup of Prosecco. Then, in a medium saucepan, add the remaining Prosecco and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly as you add it to the pudding mixture and bring it to a boil again. Cook for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Pour evenly over the apples in the pastry. Bake the torte for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven heat and allow torte to sit in the oven for an additional 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool completely. Refrigerate the torte overnight, if possible.
5. TOPPING: Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks and add the packaged Vanilla Sugar (or omit and just add your own quantity of sugar and vanilla). Whip until completely mixed in. Spread cream over the top of the torte. Using a sieve, sprinkle unsweetened cocoa powder all over the top of the torte and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Per Serving: 381 Calories; 19g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 122mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on February 6th, 2017.

pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_bowlWhat a success this was! It’s a trifle – with layers of  angel food cake, whipped cream and a pumpkin-cream cheese mixture. Was it easy? Absolutely.

Nearly every year on Christmas Eve, we join family for a big dinner celebration (anywhere from 16-30 people) and to play that gift exchange where you can steal the gift up to 3 times. And every year my cousin Gary flies south from the Bay Area, to spend the holidays with me, and he has to eat GF.

So, my mission, always, is to bring a GF dessert – something kind of special, spectacular, and certainly one that tastes good. If you do a search for GF here on my blog, you’ll find any number of desserts I’ve made over the years.

This one was particularly good and for sure it was easy to make. A friend served it at a party I attended –and I went online – found this version at Mom on Timeout. I’d purchased an angel food cake mix, but realized that it contains flour. WELL! Had to improvise by making a GF angel food cake from a recipe I found at King Arthur. It was easy to make, used a dozen egg whites, and was really delicious all by itself. I had some GF all-purpose baking mix in my pantry, so it was an easy recipe to make.

Once that was cooled (several hours), I cut it up into flat pieces, mixed up the pumpkin and cream cheese mixture , whipped the cream, and hunted all over for my trifle bowl before finally finding it. Anyway, it went together in a jiffy once I had all the 3 things made. I sprinkled some cinnamon and nutmeg on top, and chilled it overnight. Except for making the GF angel food cake, this is Trish’s recipe.pumpkin_cheesecake_trifle_spoonful

I will definitely make this again. If Gary isn’t here, I’ll make it with a boxed angel food cake mix. Some company does make a GF angel food cake mix, but Gary said it’s AWFUL, so I scratched that idea, even if I’d been able to find it somewhere. With the extra pieces of angel food cake Gary and I swiped the two mixing bowls clean. Yum.

What’s GOOD: this was really special. I’ll definitely be making this again next fall, in October, probably. It’s easy. If you buy ready-made angel food cake, you’ll eliminate more steps and it’d be cinchy easy to put together. I love-love pumpkin in every shape and type, so it was probably a no-brainer I’d like it. Unless you succumbed to using Cool-Whip instead of the real cream.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing. Great recipe. Easy.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

Recipe By: Mom on Time Out (blog)
Serving Size: 18

1 Angel Food Cake
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
16 ounces cream cheese — may use Light
15 ounces pumpkin puree — (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice — (plus extra for dusting the top)

NOTE: Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. If you don’t have it on your shelf, create your own blend.
1. Beat cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.
3. Add pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice and continue beating until thoroughly combined.
4. Fold in one third of the whipped cream. Cut Angel Food Cake into small pieces and line the bottom of your trifle dish with one third of the cake.
5. Layer with one third of the pumpkin mixture followed by one third of the remaining whipped cream. Repeat layers twice, finishing with remaining whipped cream.
6. Sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap (use toothpick to hold the plastic wrap above the whipped cream) and refrigerate (overnight is fine) until ready to serve.
Per Serving: 310 Calories; 19g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 257mg Sodium.

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

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Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour
Serving Size: 14

3/4 cup gluten free baking mix — or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour blend
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups egg whites — separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use – up to 12 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract — or Fiori di Sicilia
3/4 cup superfine sugar — + 2 tablespoons

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.
2. Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside. In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.
3. Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.
4. Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.
6. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10″ round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.
7. Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.
8. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.
9. Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.
10. Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices. Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.
Per Serving: 128 Calories; trace Fat (0.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 134mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on February 1st, 2017.

tenderloin_w_mock_bearnaise

I do enjoy a good hunk of beef now and then. I had my share over the holidays – I think I had it 3 times (prime rib twice and this beef tenderloin once), and each time it was just fabulous. This one, with the super-tasty but lighter calorie mock Béarnaise was really special.

Probably I’d cook a small beef tenderloin occasionally, but it makes no sense to do it for one person! Costco has them at a decent price, but they’re huge – only useful for me if I were to have a really big dinner party! Some Costco stores offer beef tenderloin that’s already been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin and sinews. That job takes awhile, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

The cooking instructor, Caroline, from Antoine’s Restaurant in San Clemente (CA) demonstrated  this at a cooking class. She said she was catering a dinner party for a client, and the wife asked if she could do a Béarnaise, but not a fat-laden one. So Caroline came up with the idea of this mock Béarnaise. I won’t sit here and type to you, that the sauce is just as good as a butter-driven Béarnaise, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had ALL the flavors of Béarnaise, but just not all the fat. Some yes, but not the usual amount. I really liked it, and I’d definitely make it. Even for a grilled steak, or any time you need a Béarnaise.

The tenderloin is so easy to do – you season the meat with salt, pepper and oil, sear it on all sides, then roast it in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, remove, tent it, let it sit for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

The sauce is made similarly to a regular Béarnaise, but it’s thickened with a little cornstarch, so it will hold together, AND you can make it the day ahead and just reheat it before serving. That’s a big help, so you wouldn’t have to do this as you’re roasting the meat and putting together the rest of the meal.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The meat was great (tender, juicy) and the sauce was amazing – since it’s a whole lot lower in fat and calories than a regular Béarnaise. My hat’s off to Chef Caroline for coming up with this option for Béarnaise!

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. A great dish – both the meat and the sauce.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Beef Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

MOCK BEARNAISE SAUCE:
3/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots — minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard — regular, coarse grain
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
BEEF:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds beef tenderloin — center cut (trimmed of silverskin and sinews)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES: do buy a tenderloin that has been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin. If you do it yourself, allow about 45-60 minutes time to complete it for a full tenderloin.
1. SAUCE: In a small saucepan place the vermouth, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce quantity to about a third (solids and liquids combined). Strain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the vermouth mixture.
3. In a small bowl temper the egg yolks with about 2-3 T of the sauce, then add to the sauce. Whisk and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add the coarse-grain mustard and adjust seasonings. May be made up to a day ahead. Gently reheat just before serving.
4. BEEF: Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, sear tenderloin on all sides for about 10 minutes total time.
5. Transfer tenderloin to a roasting pan and place in the hot oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove meat from the roasting pan and place on carving board. Tent lightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and then serve with the heated sauce, passing more at the table.
Per Serving: 840 Calories; 66g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 330mg Cholesterol; 182mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on January 27th, 2017.

indian_chix_green_chiles

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you already know that every so often I crave Indian food. This time it was chicken in a kind of yogurt-laden sauce with green chiles.

I read a blog called Indian Simmer. It’s a combo of several cooks, and when I read a recipe for a chicken curry mixture (with a long, unrecognizable Indian name) I vowed I’d make something similar. After a trip to the grocery store to buy Anaheim chiles, a Poblano chile, and a mild yellow chile, I dug into my freezer for chicken thighs, defrosted them in about an hour in their pouches by plunging them into a big bowl of cold water, weighted down to keep the bags submerged, and I was off and running.

Veering off the original recipe some, I didn’t use a pressure cooker, but I baked the mixture instead in a low oven, and as I mentioned above, I added a variety of chiles rather than just one kind as the recipe indicated. I also added a bit of chicken broth, AND some Madras curry powder.

I could have flame-grilled the chiles (for more flavor and to remove skins) but I was into “easy” not time consuming, so I just chopped them up raw, skins on. I used more chiles than the recipe indicated (so I could get more veggies into the dish), but they weren’t hot chiles, so it added more layers of flavor, and not capsicum heat. The finished dish was mildly hot, which was perfect for me.

The recipe made a lot, and I’ve had it 3 times since I made it, and I still have leftovers. I can’t freeze it as the chicken was frozen before – well, I could freeze it, but they say the chicken really deteriorates if you re-freeze it. The juices provided just a little bit of sauce to enhance the rice I poured in the bowl. I used very little rice (about 1/3 cup at most) but it gave great texture and very few carbs. If you’re feeding a carb-hungry family with this, obviously, use plenty of rice and you could also add more chicken broth and a sprinkling of flour to give the sauce a bit more thickening.

What’s GOOD: loved the chile flavor – there are ample chiles in this dish, but they were mild ones, so they provided very little heat to the dish. It was very satisfying, eating this – the chicken, chiles, rice and broth. Really good. Not off the charts good, but very tasty. I’d make it again. The yogurt (I always use full fat for Indian food) adds such a lovely creaminess to the dish.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. It was easy to make and baking it in the oven made it doubly easy since I didn’t have to stir it periodically. A reminder – don’t boil the finished dish once you add the yogurt, or the sauce will separate.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Indian Green Chile Chicken Thigh Stew

Recipe By: Adapted from Indian Simmer blog, 2016
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds — whole
1 medium yellow onion — diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — grated using the wide side of a box grater
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1″ cubes
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder — optional
1 medium tomato — chopped
2 whole Anaheim chili pepper — seeded, chopped
1 large poblano chile — seeded, chopped
1 small yellow chile — seeded, chopped
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup cilantro — chopped
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat
More chopped cilantro for garnish
Basmati rice, to accompany

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and wait until they begin to sizzle. Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent. Add in ginger and garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add chicken and salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato and mix well. Add chicken broth, cilantro, curry powder and chilies and stir well. Cover and bake for about 45-55 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Add in yogurt and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Heat mixture slightly, but do not let it come to a complete simmer or it will separate.
4. Garnish with more cilantro and additional chopped chiles (if desired) and serve with basmati rice.
Per Serving: 319 Calories; 18g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 125mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on January 22nd, 2017.

roasted_tom_soup_pesto

Can’t quite believe I’m posting yet another tomato soup recipe. But yes, I am, and is it ever good. And contains no cream or dairy at all, but you’d never know it.

One of my favorite recipes is a tomato soup I learned at a cooking class about 10-12 years ago. It’s on my list of FAVS, called Cream of Tomato Soup. Just typing those words makes my mouth water. Guess I need to make some soon. But maybe I’ll make THIS one instead, as it was almost as tasty and has no cream in it but is loaded with flavor.

This one came from a cooking class with a French chef, and it’s one of her favorites, made with roasted Roma tomatoes. The day of this particular class, the chef, Caroline, couldn’t find good looking Romas, so she used on-the-vine tomatoes instead, and they were delicious. This time of year it’s hard to find really red-ripe tomatoes, so Caroline was disappointed in the orange-y color of the soup – she blamed it on the under ripe color of the tomatoes. The quartered tomatoes and a red bell pepper are tossed with olive oil and roasted 45 minutes. Meanwhile, you cook a yellow onion in EVOO and add the roasted tomato mixture to it, along with some chicken (or vegetable) stock. It’s pureed in the blender and reheated. If you like a really silky consistency, put the soup through a strainer or a Chinois to remove all the pulp and other stuff – I probably wouldn’t bother as I like texture.

If you have ready-made pesto, use it – chef Caroline diluted some store-bought with just a tiny bit of water so it would drizzle. Done. Easy. She served the soup with little French bread croutons with melted goat cheese on top – it was just an easy accompaniment to the soup to help round out the course.

What’s GOOD: how delicious the soup is – it must be the roasting that gives it so much flavor – it’s easy to make. Just be sure to buy good tomatoes.

What’s NOT: not a thing – a delicious soup – but if you can’t find good tomatoes, skip making this until you can.

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Pesto Coulis

Recipe By: Caroline Cazaumayou, Chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

3 pounds Roma tomatoes — (ripe) stemmed, quartered
1 whole red bell pepper — stemmed, seeded, cut in 1″ squares
5 large garlic cloves — peeled, smashed
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Ground black pepper — to taste
1/4 cup EVOO — (for tomatoes)
2 tablespoons EVOO — (for onion)
1 large sweet onion — peeled, chopped
2 cups chicken broth — or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
PESTO COULIS: (optional)
1 tablespoon pesto sauce — store bought is fine
1 tablespoon water — or more if needed

NOTE: If Roma tomatoes aren’t nicely red and ripe, substitute on-the-vine tomatoes.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. On the parchment, toss the tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic, with salt, pepper and the larger quantity of olive oil.
3. In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the smaller quantity of olive oil over medium heat until golden brown. Add the roasted tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Cool slightly, then puree soup in a blender, in batches so it doesn’t overflow. Press through a sieve if you’d prefer it that way. Adjust seasonings.
5. In a small bowl combine the pesto and water – if the pesto is particularly thick, it may need more water to make it somewhat runny. Drizzle on top of the hot soup.
OPTIONAL: toast baguette slices lightly brushed with olive oil, then top with a little spread of soft goat cheese. Bake or broil just until golden and serve alongside the soup.
Per Serving: 206 Calories; 16g Fat (65.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 627mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 20th, 2017.

No, this isn’t a repeat from yesterday – these are the best-est recipes I posted last year. Yesterday’s post was for 2015. Sorry if this is confusing. Altogether different recipes here. For 2016 I had a total of 8 recipes. In years past I’ve had more best-est recipes, but I used to post every 2-3 days then. These days I’m posting every 4-5 days. Here’s 2016 best-est recipes:

 

spinach_jicama_orange_salad_175

Spinach, Jicama, Red Onion and Orange Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

 

 

 

 

 


pork_enchilada_casserole_serving_175

Pork Enchilada Verde Casserole

 

 

 


buttermilk_brined_pork_tender_cilantro_pesto_sauce_175

Chile-Buttermilk-Brined Pork Tenderloin

 

 

 

 


safari_seeded_cookies_175

Safari Seeded Cookies

 

 

 


blueberry_buckle_serving_175

Blueberry Buckle

 

 

 


apple_bread_crumb_pudding_175

Apple Bread Crumb Pudding

 

 

 


best_almond_cake_175

Best Almond Cake

 

 
   Cinnamon Chocolate Cake

 

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 19th, 2017.

Last January, apparently, I forgot to post a list of my best-of-the-best recipes from the previous year. So, I’m rectifying that now. Tomorrow you’ll see the best of 2016.

There were only 7 best-est recips in 2015. And here they are. Click on the link to go to the original post about the recipe.

cranberry_jalapeno_salsa_appetizer_175

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese

 

 

 

zuni_cafe_roast_chicken_easy_175

Roast Chicken Salad (simplified Zuni Café recipe)

 

 


braised_lamb_shanks_carrots_175

Braised Lamb Shanks with Carrots

 

 

 

breadfarms_grahams_175Breadfarm’s Homemade Graham Crackers

 

 

 


berry_cobbler_sublime_175Sublime Berry Cobbler

 

 

 


no_bake_holiday_cookie_cubes_175

 No-Bake Holiday Cookie Cubes (Dorie Greenspan)

 

 

 


peach_blackberry_almond_crisp_175Peach & Blackberry Almond Crisp

Posted in Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on January 17th, 2017.

mushroom_cauliflower_risotto

Brown food doesn’t always look all that great in photos. But what it might lack in picture worthiness, is more than made up for in flavor. And low calories. And low fat. And nearly zero in carbs. There is no RICE in this dish, just so you know.

Cauliflower “rice” is sold at Costco, and at Trader Joe’s. Perhaps at other food purveyors as well. Trader Joe’s has both cauliflower and broccoli (more stems than green part) that’s been “riced.” That’s not what one usually means by riced, as in using a RICER with a cooked potato – no, this is the fresh, raw vegetable chopped up finely in a food processor so it has somewhat a similar shape as a kernel of rice. You can do it yourself with your own food processor. I’ve not tried it, but you could try using the grater with cauliflower too.

This dish was prepared at a cooking class I attended last month – a great class of French food, and this was served alongside a delicious beef tenderloin. Since then I’ve made it myself as well, and it was every bit as good. Using the word risotto, of course, connotes rice and a creamy consistency. I won’t tell you that it tastes just like risotto, but if you don’t think about it, you can conjure up the toothsome-ness of rice and slightly creamy texture. The success of the dish is all about the mushrooms, actually, and probably the jot of soy sauce added in for umami flavor. You absolutely do NOT taste cauliflower. I can guarantee it!

I’ve mentioned it here before, that one evening several years ago I served mashed cauliflower as “mashed potatoes” and fooled a friend, Lynn, about it. I didn’t know he detested cauliflower – I just thought it was so fun to mimic mashed potatoes, so I didn’t tell anyone it was cauliflower. Lynn lapped it up and liked it. Ever since, when he and Sue visit me, Lynn is wary of what I’m going to serve him. If he knew this was cauliflower he probably wouldn’t eat it, but if I didn’t say anything, I’m sure he’d wolf it down like everybody else did!

Shallot, minced up finely, starts the dish. Along with both Crimini mushrooms and Shiitake types (you need the Shiitake for extra flavor – they’re expensive, but you don’t need all that much of them). Dried thyme and garlic are added, then the cauliflower rice. You add a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, just a tiny bit of heavy cream, and truffle salt (if available). You cook it briefly – about 2 minutes for the Trader Joe’s type, and a bit longer for Costco’s (because theirs is a bit bigger chunks). Parsley is added at the end, and you serve it immediately while it’s still steamy hot. I did make it and had leftovers. When reheated, it wasn’t quite as good, only because the cauliflower was softer with further cooking it.

What’s GOOD: this is a veggie dish that’s loaded with flavor and it’s very satisfying. Add some grated Parm on top if you want to make it extra special. The soy sauce is almost indistinguishable, but it adds good umami flavor. I think this dish is spectacular – I’m fooled that it IS rice.

What’s NOT: nothing, really – it’s quick and easy – certainly comes together a whole lot quicker than making real risotto!

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

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Mushroom Cauliflower “Risotto”

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon EVOO
10 ounces Crimini mushrooms — sliced
3 1/2 ounces shiitake mushroom — sliced (discard stems)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large shallot — sliced
1 large garlic clove — chopped
1 pound cauliflower — in “rice” form (Trader Joe’s or Costco)
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Truffle salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped

1. In a large skillet or 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt and shallot. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute only.
2. Add the cauliflower “rice” and stir well. Add soy sauce, cream, truffle salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and cook for a minute or two (longer if using Costco’s cauliflower) until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not so long that it becomes mushy. Stir in parsley and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 126 Calories; 5g Fat (29.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 7mg Cholesterol; 587mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on January 12th, 2017.

lemon_wedding_cookies

These were cookies my friend Cherrie made the day we did a marathon Christmas cookie bake day. We only did 4 types of cookies last month – usually we do 5-6, but whew, that’s just too much.

Cherrie found this recipe at King Arthur Flour, and she was intrigued because of the lemon. We always make the Mexican Wedding cookies (same type, without lemon), but the lemon part added a really lovely flavor.

Ours (hers – I was making a different cookie a few feet away but watched her) didn’t come out as round as the unflavored ones, but surely it doesn’t matter. The recipe online calls for an ingredient we didn’t have – lemon juice powder. It sounds wonderful – a way to add concentrated lemon flavor without having to juice lemons. It is a sweetened product (with corn syrup) but it’s dry – a powder. You don’t use very much of it, so I may order it next time. We did without it. Am certain our cookies weren’t quite a lemony as the ones made with the powder added, but they’re pretty darned good the way they are.

These are simple to mix up – ample butter, of course, no eggs, but powdered sugar inside and outside. The lemon juice powder is combined with the powdered sugar for the coating (if you use it). They’re baked and are just a one-bite wonder. Delicious. The recipe indicated it made 50-60. Uh . . . no, it made about 32, so next time we’d definitely double the recipe. In fact, I think when I finish the recipe, I’ll double it for you – because 32 cookies definitely aren’t enough!

What’s GOOD: the lovely, but subtle lemon flavor. Love the texture of these anyway – light, crumbly and just one bite. Definitely a keeper. They’re small.

What’s NOT: rolling these in powdered sugar is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t take all that long. Worth making anyway.

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

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Lemon Snowball Cookies

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour, 2011
Serving Size: 64

COOKIES:
2 cups unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt — if using salted butter, eliminate the salt
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon zest — or lemon oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
ROLLING SUGAR:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice powder — a King Arthur product

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and salt until soft and fluffy.
3. Mix in the confectioners’ or glazing sugar, and lemon oil or grated rind (zest).
4. Add the flour, mixing until well combined.
5. Form the dough into 1″ balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop is a real time-saver, and your cookies will be nice and uniform. Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet.
6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They should be very light brown on the bottom, and feel set on top.
7. Remove the cookies from the oven. Let them cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes before disturbing; they’re very fragile when hot.
8. To finish the cookies: Sift the confectioners’ or glazing sugar with the lemon powder and place in a shallow pan. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar/lemon coating.
9. Let the cookies cool completely, then add edible glitter (if desired) to the coating and re-roll in the sugar. When completely cool, store cookies in airtight containers for 1 week, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 6g Fat (44.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 18mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 7th, 2017.

choc_cake_ddl_frosting

Lovely chocolate cake (springform pan) and a rich cream cheese and dulce de leche frosting.

My friend Cherrie attended a cooking class awhile back and I couldn’t go – I think I was volunteering that morning at my church. I “work” in my church’s Samaritan Care Center twice a month, where it is staffed by 2-3 volunteers every weekday, who pray for church members (and non-members who regularly attend the church) going through tough times. It could be illness, cancer, other medical issues, divorce, grief, hospitalization, for their family members too, etc. We make choc_dlc_cake_slicenumerous phone calls to make sure we’re praying for the right things, and just let them know we’re praying for them. It makes a big difference in the lives of many people, to just know someone cares. I’m blessed each and every time I volunteer – someone gives a big “thank you,” or they tell us what a lift it gives them to hear from somebody.

Anyway, I couldn’t go to the class, but Cherrie shared the recipes, and said this dessert was the best of the bunch. Since she knows I enjoy baking, I tried this recipe first. My weekly nighttime bible study was meeting at my house, so I used that as a reason to make this cake. I parceled out the left overs so I wouldn’t have any of it in my refrigerator, to tempt me. I ate a tiny sliver of it – oh yes, it was good!

choc_cake_batterThe cake is a light textured chocolate cake – made in a springform pan, lined on the bottom with parchment, and the sides were butter-greased. It was easy enough to make. There at left you can see the batter in the pan. Once out of the oven, the center of the cake dropped some. Sometimes cakes done in a springform do that. Don’t understand why. Anyway, once it was cooled, I used a wide spatula to get the cake off onto a footed cake stand. Easy enough to do, too.

dulce_de_leche_frostingThen I made the frosting (see photo at right)– canned Dulce de Leche (it’s a thick Mexican caramel sauce), cream cheese, butter and vanilla. It was super-easy to spread on the top of the finished cake.

A small amount of chocolate sauce was next – I had a little trouble with it – it was supposed to be a drizzle (melted chocolate, butter and a tetch of warm water), but I just couldn’t get it to drizzle – it wanted to drop in round plops – so I just spread it all over the top. DO refrigerate the cake if you have left overs – with cream cheese in it, you need to keep it chilled.

What’s GOOD: this cake was really scrumptious. Rich? Absolutely. The frosting puts it over the top – but because the dulce de leche sauce has cream cheese mixed in, it gave it a really lovely texture, soft, great mouth-feel. The cake was really nice. Even though I used dark chocolate, it wasn’t overly deep in chocolate flavor – it certainly WAS chocolate. The cake isn’t dense at all. The frosting is what makes this cake.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than it takes an hour or so to make it. The cake batter is quite standard, and the frosting was too. For how beautiful it was, it actually was quite easy to make. Not a bad thing!

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

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Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting

Recipe By: From my friend Cherrie, who got it at a private cooking class
Serving Size: 10

CAKE:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate — or dark chocolate
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sour cream
FROSTING:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
13 3/8 ounces Dulce de leche — (canned)
DRIZZLE:
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate — chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon warm water

1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan.
2. In a large bowl microwave the butter and chocolate for 2-3 minutes until melted. Stir until all the chocolate and butter are completely mixed. Cool for 5 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.
4. In a stand mixer, add the chocolate mixture, then add sugar and mix in thoroughly. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Alternately, beat in the sour cream and flour mixture, starting with sour cream.
5. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hours 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack. Once cool, remove cake from the pan and set on a serving plate.
6. FROSTING: Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer. Add vanilla and the Dulce de Leche and beat until smooth. Frost the cooled cake with the icing.
7. DRIZZLE: In a small bowl microwave the butter and chopped chocolate for about 45 seconds to a minute. Stir it until smooth and stir in the warm water. Drizzle mixture over the cake.
NOTES: Cake can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then remove cake an hour before serving. If you want to make a half of a recipe, use a 7-inch springform pan. Can also be made into cupcakes.
Per Serving: 758 Calories; 48g Fat (54.9% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 77g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 163mg Cholesterol; 496mg Sodium.

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