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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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, Desserts, on June 28th, 2022.

So easy to make with puff pastry dough, fresh fruit and some frangipane.

A post from Carolyn. I’ve been on a tear lately with frangipane. I made some recently for a rhubarb galette (don’t think I’ve posted that recipe yet), then decided to make it again using a different recipe for my book review group meeting at my home. I was expecting about 12-13 people, but at the last minute only 6 of us showed up (not sure if was the book, or just other circumstances). I sent everyone home with one of these plus some of the lemon almond tea cake (haven’t posted that one yet, either).

It was years ago when I was attending a cooking class near me and the hostesses served something similar to these as we all arrived for the class. They were quite easy to make, so I input the recipe in my files, but never had gotten around to making them. With fresh summer fruit in season, I decided to try these. But I decided to use some apricot halves (canned) and some fresh blackberries instead. And in lieu of the cream cheese filling (from the original recipe) that was going to be underneath the fruit, I made the frangipane.

If you’re not familiar with frangipane, it’s pronounced fran-jeh-payn.  Wikipedia says frangipane:

. . .is a sweet almond-flavored custard used in a variety of ways including cakes and such pastries as the Bakewell tart, conversation tart, Jésuite and pithivier. A French spelling from a 1674 cookbook is franchipane with the earliest modern spelling coming from a 1732 confectioners’ dictionary. Originally designated as a custard tart flavored by almonds or pistachios it came later to designate a filling that could be used in a variety of confections and baked goods.

You might know it from the center filling of a bear claw. Certainly that was my earliest knowledge of an almond filling. I remember stopping at a bakery in Europe (France, I think) one morning and we bought a little slice of a tart – sure enough, frangipane. Yummy is all I can say.

So these little numbers require puff pastry. Pepperidge Farms brand is probably the most widely available. My grocery carries a store-label also, but I opted for the Pepperidge Farms. There’s also one called Dufour, I think it is. Also very good, probably better than the Pepperidge. The unopened packages defrosted in the refrigerator for more than a day. If you decide to try these, be sure to look at the expiration date on the puff pastry box. Do not used any that are “old.” And be sure to give them the full 24+ hours to defrost fully.

The pastry sheets are lightly floured, but you need a bit more flour on your work surface to keep them from sticking as  you roll it out further, to about a 11″ or 12″ square. Then cut that square into quarters, so about 5 1/2″ squares. One box will make eight pastries.

Meanwhile you’ll have made the frangipane – some butter and sugar, some almond meal (flour), an egg and a little bit of regular flour, PLUS a jot of almond extract. Perhaps if you used freshly ground almonds the frangipane would have a significant almond flavor, but I wanted it stronger, so I used almond extract instead of vanilla.

Then you scoop a bit of the frangipane pastry cream in the center, position the fruit on top (they kind of look like sunny-side up eggs, huh?), then roll in the pastry edges and crimp them (similar to the edge of a pie crust). Onto a baking sheet they go. They got a brush of an egg wash and some sprinkled Turbinado sugar on top. They take about 30 minutes to bake, to get that lovely golden brown.

What’s GOOD: everything about these was good. Delicious. Loved the frangipane filling, loved the flaky pastry, ate one. Gave the rest away. Why did I give them away, you ask? Because I’d eat them all! And I had about 10 of them left.

What’s NOT: only that you’ve got to buy the puff pastry a couple of days ahead so it has time to completely defrost in the refrigerator. There are instructions for defrosting in the microwave, but I wouldn’t do it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apricot Frangipane Croissant Pastries

Recipe By: Adapted from a long-ago recipe from a cooking class
Servings: 8

1 pound Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets — defrosted in refrigerator at least 24 hours ahead
8 canned apricot halves — drained, or fresh apricot halves, and/or fresh blackberries
1 large egg — mixed with a teaspoon of water, for glazing pastries
1 1/2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar — for sprinkling on top
FRANGIPANE FILLING:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

NOTE: Defrost pastry sheets for a minimum of 24 hours in the refrigerator.
1. Roll out puff pastry onto floured board. Use a floured rolling pin to flatten slightly and cut into squares approximately 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ inches. You may want to cut off the corners so the pastries roll inward more easily.
2. FRANGIPANE: Using a hand mixer, combine butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed and crumbly. Add almond meal, egg, almond extract, adding flour last. Mix until there are no streaks in the batter.
3. Spread about 2 tablespoons of frangipane in the middle of the puff pastry square. Top with a drained apricot half, cut side down (or with about 7 blackberries in one layer). Roll the pastry edges toward the middle, leaving some space between the filling and the edges. Press the edges gently (crimping like a little pie crust) so they will hold in place.
4. Add about a teaspoon of water to the beaten egg and whisk. Brush the croissant with the egg wash. Top with turbinado sugar.
4. Preheat oven to 375°. Place the pastries on a Silpat lined baking sheet and bake approximately 30 minutes.
Per Serving: 143 Calories; 9g Fat (52.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 135mg Potassium; 61mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beverages, on June 25th, 2022.

Oh, so lovely. Tart, sweet. Another Ina winner.

A post from Carolyn. I’m on a roll here, so many recipes to post. These lovely thirst-quenching cocktails were made by my friend Dianne. She invited my granddaughter Taylor and me to dinner awhile ago. And made these delicious drinks for us to sip on as we talked awhile before she served dinner. She also made some great Brussels sprouts that I’ll post, and a strawberry pie that I loved. I’ll get to them eventually. As I said, so many recipes to post.

If you own a lemon tree (check), have some Pellegrino (check) or club soda on hand, plus a bottle of Grey Goose (check), have Limoncello in the cupboard (check) and some simple syrup (last check) you can make these in a jiffy. Dianne added all the ingredients to a large pitcher and poured it into those tall thin highball glasses above (I think she mentioned they belong to her mother – how fun!). My mother had some similar glasses with silver rims and etched leaves on the side, only used for special occasions.

The glass rims were dipped in an equal mixture of salt and sugar, and do be extra careful when you pour the cocktail that you don’t take off some of that lovely sugar/salt rim. So fun.

What’s GOOD: another Ina winning recipe. So easy to make and pretty to serve.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Limoncello Tom Collins Cocktail

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Servings: 4

1 1/2 cups vodka — such as Grey Goose.
1 cup fresh lemon juice — (6 lemons)
6 tablespoons simple syrup — (or less to taste)
1/4 cup Limoncello
1 1/2 cups club soda — such as Pellegrino, very cold
Ice cubes.
Sliced lemon — for serving.

NOTE: If desired, dip rims in lemon juice and then into a mixture of half salt and half sugar. Ina recommends using a very good brand of vodka; not any cheap stuff.
1. Combine the vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Limoncello in a large pitcher.
2. Just before serving, pour in the club soda and stir.
3. Fill highball glasses with ice and pour the mixture over the ice. Garnish each drink with a slice of lemon and serve cold.
Per Serving: 268 Calories; trace Fat (1.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 33mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 11mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 79mg Potassium; 11mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salad Dressings, Salads, on June 22nd, 2022.

So simple and easy to make at the last minute. Love serving anything on that tomato plate I bought in Cortona, Italy about 10 years ago, which I wedged carefully into my suitcase to bring home.

A post from Carolyn.  A week or so ago I’d bought a container of burrata cheese, with no particular plans for it. As it sat in the frig for several days, I decided one day at lunchtime that I should make a salad with part of it.

Here at left is the salad I made for lunch. I knew I wouldn’t eat all of the burrata (it was 8 ounces) but it looked so pretty on the plate. For myself I added one Roma tomato, one egg, quartered, and I opened a package of the vacuum-sealed cooked beets (from Trader Joe’s). Then I went out into my garden and cut some fresh basil, which I sliced up and sprinkled on top, then I drizzled some lemon white balsamic vinegar and EVOO on top. Finally, I added freshly ground black pepper and Maldon flake salt.

Oh my. It was SO delicious. It was so good, in fact, that I made it as a side salad (the picture at top) for dinner. I cut up the half of the burrata that was remaining, added avocado to the plate too (didn’t use the egg as we were already having a protein for dinner) and drizzled again with the same dressing. For dinner I also gathered some mint and added it to the basil.

There at right you can see the same lunch plate with the oozy burrata after I’d cut into it. Oh so good.

For dinner I’d made a ground beef casserole and it was just ho-hum, so I won’t be posting that recipe. But this salad was a hit – with me, of course, with granddaughter Taylor and with my friend Judy who came to share it with us.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was sensational. So seasonally good, the fresh oozy, gooey cheese, the tomatoes, even the beets.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Burrata Salad Platter

Serving Size: 6

8 ounces burrata cheese
3 Roma tomatoes — cored, sliced
3 small beets — cooked, peeled, sliced
1 medium avocado — sliced
2 eggs — hard boiled, quartered (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced
1 tablespoon fresh mint — sliced
DRESSING:
2 tablespoons lemon white balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons EVOO
Freshly ground black pepper and flake salt

1. Mix up salad dressing (using white balsamic vinegar if possible) and EVOO in a small jar with a lid.
2. Arrange cheese as the centerpiece on platter. Place rows of tomatoes, beets, avocado, eggs (if using) around the cheese.
3. Shake dressing, then drizzle over the top of the salad; add freshly ground pepper and flake salt on top, then scatter with herbs. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 320 Calories; 26g Fat (74.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 302mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 405mg Potassium; 76mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, Pork, on June 19th, 2022.

Another recipe from the wine tasting event last month. So good.

A post from Carolyn. So there’s a little story to go along with this recipe. If you’ll recall, the wine tasting event (a fundraiser for my PEO chapter) at my house was kind of a Spanish wine and tapas affair. Not strictly, but mostly. First we had a Spanish sangria made with a cava rose wine. I have yet to post that recipe . . . and Lois made these wonderful appetizer meatballs, among other Spanish tidbits we served.

Just so you know, there’s a difference between Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo. The Spanish variety is more like cured sausage – it IS a cured, dry sausage. I’d found the recipe online and gave the recipe to Lois. I’d cautioned her to make sure she bought Spanish chorizo which would require cutting the sausage into tiny little (dry) cubes and incorporating them into the meatball mixture. I recommended Lois go to Whole Foods, as I knew they (usually) have Spanish chorizo. She went to the specialty meat counter and pointed to the chorizo in the case and asked the butcher if it was Spanish chorizo. My guess is the butcher was Hispanic, and thought she was asking if it was “Mexican” chorizo, although she said “Spanish.” Semantics. Perhaps he didn’t know there was a difference. So she bought Mexican chorizo (which is a raw meat product) and made these wonderful meatballs.

Meaning that these meatballs weren’t authentically Spanish, but a Mexican version. I didn’t know how they’d turn out . . . but I can categorically say they were fantastic. Everyone loved them. So did I! It’s not as if the recipe was wrong, or bad, just that we didn’t cleave to the original. We all laughed about it. The blog where the recipe originated is written by a young couple who live in Spain and all their recipes are authentic (and in English).

There are two parts to the recipe – the meatballs (ground pork and chorizo) and a tomato based sauce (with smoked paprika) that is spooned over the top of the hot, cooked meatballs. If these were served in a tapas bar in Spain, they’d probably be warm, not piping hot. They might even be at room temp (not a good thing bacteria-wise). We served them hot (picture at top) with toothpicks.

If you wanted to make these into a meal, serve with a side veg, and some Spanish rice version of some kind. And maybe a green salad.

What’s GOOD: these were really delicious. Not authentically Spanish, but very tasty. Very much worth making.

What’s NOT: only that you should seek out good quality chorizo. NOT the kind from your local grocery store as it’s usually very fatty and you don’t really know what’s in it.

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Spanish Meatballs

Recipe By: adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 12

MEATBALLS:
3 tablespoons EVOO
2/3 pound Mexican chorizo
2/3 pound ground pork
1 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
SAUCE:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 whole bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine — or dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth — or vegetable stock
14 ounces crushed tomatoes — or diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves — chopped, a few larger pieces for decoration

1. MEATBALLS: Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of the EVOO. When it’s hot, add the chorizo and sauté to release the fat, for 5 minutes or until the meat turns a darker, golden color. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent.
2. Add the garlic and sauté together until aromatic (about 1 or 2 minutes). Take off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ground pork, breadcrumbs, paprika, thyme leaves, egg, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, garlic, and chorizo and mix until well-combined.
4. Wet your fingers lightly with water, then roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Makes about 30.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place meatballs on two parchment-lined large sheetpans, leaving space in between each one. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. SAUCE: place a separate saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the diced onion until translucent, then add the garlic and paprika. Continue to sauté for a further two minutes, until the aromas are strong.
7. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes until the wine is reduced. Add the chicken broth, as well as the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
8. To serve, garnish the meatballs with tomato sauce and fresh parsley. Both meatballs and sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat meatballs and sauce separately and proceed as above.
Per Serving: 196 Calories; 13g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 368mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 37mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 305mg Potassium; 120mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, Soups, Vegetarian, on June 16th, 2022.

Simply the best kind of refreshing first course for summertime. If you haven’t got good, ripe tomatoes or watermelon yet, save this to make in a month or two.

A post from Carolyn. So, a couple of weeks ago I hosted a small fund-raising event at my home. It’s the third time or fourth time we’ve had a wine tasting fund-raiser on my patio. I think we skipped a year, 2020, when we were all housebound from Covid lockdowns. About 10 of my dear PEO sisters bid on attending the event this year. The money all goes to philanthropies to help young women get an education; and we who host pay for the food or activities and the bid money goes to the philanthropies.

I had two co-hostesses, Linda and Lois, and they made most of the food. I made sangria (recipe coming up) and I also made another batch of the tres leches cake I posted a few weeks ago. The one made with pineapple, coconut milk, rum, etc. I made some asparagus appetizers, then we had some Spanish meatballs, and also a baguette slice appetizer. All those recipes coming up soon.

The weather was okay – maybe we should be happy it wasn’t blisteringly hot as that would have been miserable. It was about 70, and we sat outside the whole time. I’d figured out the menu some months ago and decided to go with a Spanish wine and tapas theme. After having the sangria (from Spanish rose cava), we moved on to an appetizer, then we served this lovely gazpacho. I love gazpacho. I found a great website just chock full of tapas recipes, called Spanish Sabores. Most of the recipes came from that website, however all of them had a few modifications so I feel quite comfortable posting them. If you’re ever wanting to do a tapas night, do go to that website for ideas. The couple who post are just the cutest!

So, this recipe. I told Lois to buy really good tomatoes, and to find a ripe watermelon. That’s not always easy, and this was in May, so it’s possible neither would be great, but I sent Lois to my favorite independent grocery store where I can rely, always, on their good produce. She talked to the produce guy and he helped her pick out the best. When in doubt, buy Roma tomatoes as they generally have good flavor year-around.

The gazpacho is so easy to make – whiz up most of the ingredients in a blender, put it through a fine-mesh sieve (or not, if you want more texture) and then add the watermelon and mint, then taste for seasoning. After Lois made it, I tasted it and decided it needed a tiny bit more salt, a bit of sugar (because I could taste the bitterness of the green bell pepper) and then I added some balsamic vinegar. A tetch. Really just a tetch. Oh, perfection. In this soup, you really can taste the tomatoes, the watermelon, the bell pepper. The other ingredients just add layers of flavor.

What’s GOOD: so fresh, and refreshing. Easy to make. Do taste it at the end to add salt, maybe, or a bit of sugar, or the balsamic vinegar (very little). You can make it ahead, too.

What’s NOT: only that you need to seek out and find really ripe (tasty) produce to go into it. Don’t compromise on that or the soup won’t be great.

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Watermelon Mint Gazpacho

Recipe By: Adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 8

6 large tomatoes — very ripe, roughly cut into large chunks
1/2 cup green bell pepper
2 small cloves garlic — cut into a few pieces
1 small onion — roughly chopped
3 cups watermelon — ripe, roughly chopped with seeds removed
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons EVOO
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar — or maybe up to 2 tsp
1 teaspoon sugar — or more to taste (optional)
2/3 cup fresh mint leaves — plus more for garnish

NOTE: If you prefer your gazpacho thicker, do not strain, or use a wider-mesh strainer to retain more of the tomato pulp. You can also top each glass with a little sherry vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, a watermelon ball and a mint leaf.
1. Wash and chop the tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Make sure you are using the best quality fruits and vegetables possible since gazpacho is a raw dish.
2. Blend the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and garlic until completely pureed.
3. Strain the blended vegetable juice through a fine mesh strainer. (Or not, if you prefer a thicker consistency.)
4. Everything should pass through except for a layer of seeds and skin. Discard this.
5. Add the vegetable juice back to the blender and add the watermelon. Blend again until completely pureed.
6. Add salt to taste (go easy, you can always add more later), and sherry vinegar and blend. Suit your own taste on how much vinegar – and it depends upon the ripeness of the fruit and vegetables used.
7. Finally, slowly add in the EVOO (better olive oil means better gazpacho) as the blender is running. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar and blend until smooth.
8. Taste the gazpacho for salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary. Then, add two to four ice cubes (depending on how thin you like your gazpacho – when we made it we used no ice). Let them melt for a few minutes in the blender and then add a handful of fresh mint and blend for the last time. Can be made the day before; keep chilled.
9. Taste for salt and serve ice cold in glasses, garnished with a mint leaf.
Per Serving: 87 Calories; 4g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 36mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 392mg Potassium; 44mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on June 13th, 2022.

With great interest I read an article in Food & Wine magazine. About Kewpie brand Japanese mayonnaise, and why it’s an integral part of making this egg salad sandwich. And no, that’s not a lettuce leaf peeping out on the left, it’s the green measuring cup I used for the mayo. LOL.

A post from Carolyn. I have way too many recipes waiting to post – I must have 7-8 waiting to be written up and now this one. Ever since I handed over my gavel in PEO to a new president, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands. Good time. Time to read, to wind down the pile of magazines I have sitting in my family room, and time to cook. So, as I leafed through an issue of the magazine I stopped at this one, about a particular style of egg salad, from a 7-Eleven stores in Japan. The writer was on a mission of sorts – he’d spent some years in Japan and frequented a nearby store and often bought sandwiches there. He didn’t realize how much he loved them until he wasn’t living in Japan anymore. So he set about trying to recreate the sandwich.

I’m such a sucker for those kinds of stories, they just pull me in. I do love egg salad sandwiches and rarely eat them (since I try not to eat bread). I had some soft potato bread in the freezer. No, I didn’t have any of the specialty Japanese milk bread (although I have a local bakery that makes it and I love it), but the potato bread would suffice. But first, I had to find the Kewpie mayo. I could have taken a drive to a local Asian market about 7-8 miles away, but with the price of gasoline these days I opted to get it on amazon.

What’s different about this mayo? Well, having taken a little tiny taste of it, I’d say it’s a bit more acidic – maybe vinegar or more lemon juice. Since I WILL be making this egg salad mixture again in the future, I have some more Kewpie mayo to use. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup, so this little bottle will keep me stocked for several iterations. This recipe supposedly makes enough for ONE sandwich. Gee whiz. Five eggs (well, yolks plus half the whites) in one sandwich? I think it makes enough for two, and since I’ll be making them in half-sandwich portions from now on, I might make 2/3 of a recipe next time, so with three eggs. Or heck, make the full recipe and you’ll have enough for a couple of leftover servings.

Start off with some hard boiled eggs. I do mine in the instant pot, as I’ve mentioned here before, the 2-10-2 method (2 minutes on high pressure, 10 to cool down inside the Instant Pot, then 2 minutes in an ice bath). Keeping the eggs moist when you store them is also a key to success, to keep that membrane inside sort of wet – makes for easier peeling. I keep mine in a refrigerator container with a paper towel inside that stays very damp. Anyway, separate the eggs. All the yolks go in a bowl. The whites, well, you’ll only use half of them. And they need to be chopped up VERY fine. Mine weren’t done near finely enough, as you can see with the egg salad kind of seeping out of the sandwich up top.

Then to the yolks you add the mayo, salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar. Yes, sugar. It’s an important ingredient – the author said he knew his copycat recipe wasn’t quite right until someone suggested he add some sugar. That did it – he felt this recipe was spot on. One of the tricks to this is letting it rest in the frig for an hour. I didn’t have time to do that, and I think the mixture needs that resting time to firm up. Mine was too loose. After firming up you add in two teaspoons of heavy cream. Yes, really. Then the bread is spread with a thin film of butter, and the egg salad added. Close the sandwich carefully and also very gently slice with a serrated knife, cutting the sandwich in half. I’m just saying this sandwich for one, will serve two.

What’s GOOD: loved every mouthful of this sandwich, even though it oozed. It has a very smooth texture, nothing to distract you (like pickle relish or celery or onion, or even celery seed that I might ordinarily add). I LOVED this. And yes, I’ll be making it again. I might even try it when I next make deviled eggs. Do seek out the Kewpie mayo, though.

What’s NOT: only that you do need Kewpie mayo to make it authentically. And a nice, soft (not sweet) bread. Ideally the Japanese milk bread. Next time I will go buy some of the milk bread.

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7-Eleven Egg Salad Sandwiches – Japanese

Recipe By: Food & Wine
Servings: 2

5 large eggs
1/4 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt — plus more to taste (use less if using table salt)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — softened
2 slices white bread — soft type, Japanese milk bread preferred

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower eggs into boiling water; cook 11 minutes. Remove eggs using a slotted spoon, or carefully drain into a sink. Plunge eggs into a bowl filled with ice water, and let stand until cool, about 15 minutes. Drain well. Carefully peel eggs.
2. Using your hands, split eggs open; separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in a medium bowl, and mash using the back of a fork until broken down and a few chunks remain; set aside. Finely chop egg whites; place in a small bowl, and set aside.
3. Add mayonnaise, salt, sugar, and pepper to mashed yolks in bowl; gently stir until mixture is combined and some chunks remain. (Mixture should not be too chunky or a paste.)
4. Add half of the chopped egg whites to yolk mixture in medium bowl; reserve remaining egg whites for another use. Gently fold whites into yolk mixture until just coated. Chill 1 hour.
5. Stir cream into chilled egg mixture; season with additional salt to taste. Set aside. Spread butter evenly over one side of each bread slice. Top 1 slice, butter side up, with egg salad. Cover with remaining slice, butter side down. Trim off and discard crust; cut sandwich in half diagonally so you have 2 triangles. Serve.
Per Serving: 534 Calories; 42g Fat (74.3% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 535mg Cholesterol; 1088mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 3mcg Vitamin D; 112mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 212mg Potassium; 277mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 9th, 2022.

Have you learned to trust Ina Garten’s recipes?

A post from Carolyn. If you haven’t, you should trust Ina’s recipes. I’ve not ever thought of making a grand statement about Ina’s recipes, but here goes: I’ve never made an Ina Garten recipe that hasn’t been spot-on. She’s a genius in the kitchen. And almost never are her recipes difficult or laborious. Some are expensive since she uses nothing but the best ingredients like pounds of fresh crab right off the boat, or beef tenderloin, or imported cheeses. But many of her recipes are simple. Easy. And many use ordinary ingredients.

So speaking of lemon bars here . . . have you ever eaten some that were not quite up to snuff? I sure have. And I’ve made them too, and not been happy with the results. I mean – they were okay, but not exceptional. These – this recipe – goes into the exceptional category. Just the right amount of sweet to tart, and just the right amount of lemon filling to the sugary topping. And the right amount of crust too.

One time, years ago, I was making a recipe for an appetizer. Don’t even remember what it was, but it was a loosey-goosey kind of recipe – a little this and a little of that. Oh, I remember, it’s on my blog already, they’re called Ginger Picks. It required a little square of ham, a fresh piece of pear and a little nub of crystallized ginger. In making them, I needed to taste it to see if the flavors worked. They did, but I figured out that you needed a piece of ham in a just-so size, a piece of pear in a just-so size, and a piece of crystallized ginger in a just-right size. In order to be perfect, each needed to be a very particular size, otherwise it didn’t work. Hence the same with these lemon bars. They need to have each part – crust – filling – topping be just right.

What’s GOOD: that they’re perfect. Just the right amount of tart to sweet, filling to crust, all in one bite. Make these.

What’s NOT: really, nothing at all. Ina Garten is a wizard.

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Lemon Bars

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 40

CRUST:
1/2 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
FILLING:
6 extra large eggs — at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest — grated, 4-6 lemons
1 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
1 cup flour Confectioners’ sugar — for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 6g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 30mg Potassium; 29mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Breads, on June 5th, 2022.

Oh my, oh my. Do I love popovers. 

A post from Carolyn. I wish there was an ode, or a poem to the gloriousness of popovers. Alas, I didn’t find any, and I’m not going to write one! You know, of course, that the batter that makes popovers is nearly identical to what’s used to make Yorkshire pudding. A eggy, thin batter (eggs, flour, salt, milk and butter – that’s all that’s in them). Yorkshire pudding traditionally is made in the pan after a big beef roast is removed from the oven to rest, most of the drippings are poured off, then the batter is poured in and it’s baked for 30-40 minutes. A wedge or square of it would be served alongside a big hunk of juicy beef roast.

Years and years ago (we’re talking the late 60s), when I was about 25-26 my then husband and my parents (who were visiting from San Diego) and I drove to British Columbia (I was living in Washington at the time) to visit my dad’s cousins who hailed from a tiny farming community there. I think they raised wheat or soy beans, but don’t quote me. They lived in a very old farmhouse, and Sunday dinner was served at about 2pm. The ladies of the house had been bustling in the kitchen for hours (not enough room for more than 2 people) and finally dinner was served at the huge dining table. Yorkshire pudding was portioned out beside the slice of roast, along with big roasted potatoes (probably also cooked in the pan with the roast). Beyond that I have no recollection of what we ate. Probably a vegetable and dessert. But it was the Yorkshire pudding that captivated me. I wanted to know all about it. They’d mixed it up by hand earlier in a big crockery bowl and let the mixture rest at room temp before it was poured into the large roasting pan of beef drippings (grease). Beyond that I knew nothing.

Years later, after I moved to Orange County, CA in the 70s (where I still live) when my mother visited, she and I used to go shopping at a department store, Bullock’s, and they served popovers with the lunch entrees in their restaurant. Loved them. You know and have heard about that Proust-ian moment when you bite into something and it transports you back in time, when memories of the past flood through your brain. With Proust it was madeleines, that lovely little soft French cookie. I was taken back to that day when I’d had Yorkshire pudding. Then I began researching it as best I could. No internet in those days. I bought a popover pan (see above, although the one I had then was not nonstick). I don’t think nonstick existed back then. Over the years I had difficulty with that pan and eventually gave it away because it just was not reliable about the popovers sticking, even though I buttered them well. I didn’t replace it. I THINK my mistake was putting it in the dishwasher. I’ve read since that popover pans should not be put in the dishwasher – even this new nonstick one. Probably because the strong/harsh detergent will eventually damage the nonstick surface. Lesson learned.

More years went by, and then I went on this last trip and had popovers at Kaynes in Nashville. They were absolutely sensational. Again, I was transported – this time not to the Yorkshire pudding days – but to friends my DH and I made in England, and Pamela had made a roast beef and she made popovers. When I got back home from this trip to Nashville, though, I went online to amazon and bought la new Bellemain nonstick popover pan. And since then I’ve been on a mission to make popovers that make me happy. There are lots of nonstick popover pans on amazon – the Bellemain one merely had lots more good reviews. Just don’t ever put it in the dishwasher.

With my new popover pan in hand, my first recipe iteration was from America’s Test Kitchen. It was the traditional 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of melted butter. I made them, and they were okay. Certainly acceptable, but not up to the eggy, rich popover I had at Kaynes. I began researching more recipes and wanting them to be more eggy (so more eggs in ratio). And wanted a richer taste, so I assumed maybe a little more melted butter would be a good addition. My second iteration hit the mark – maybe not quite as rich as Kaynes’, but it’s close. In researching this blog post I came across yet another recipe, purported to be from Cook’s Illustrated that uses even less flour, and a lower oven temp, so I think I’ll need to give that one a try too. I also have a recipe for chocolate popovers – obviously it’s a dessert! I’ll make those one of these days.

This recipe, from King Arthur Flour uses more eggs, less milk and flour, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. You’re to use warm milk and eggs that have warmed to room temp (or let set in hot water for 10 minutes before cracking them open). They suggest mixing in a bowl with a whisk, but I used the blender, and then just let the batter sit with the lid on, for an hour. This gives time for the batter to lose bubbles that have formed in the mixing. Some recipes insist popover batter needs to rest at room temp for an hour. This particular one did not, but I didn’t think it would hurt. I halved the recipe below as my popover pan has six wells.

RECOMENDATIONS: There are any number of recommendations from seasoned cooks and chefs about making popovers. Warm milk, warmed eggs, let the batter sit for an hour, hydrate the flour (needed), heat the popover pan in the hot oven before pouring in the batter, and cardinal of all, NEVER open the oven door during the baking, or they’ll deflate. Also if your oven is smaller, place the popovers on the lowest shelf possible, leave some space, then slide a cookie sheet on a higher shelf (helps to prevent over-browning).

When you make them, prepare only as many as you think you’ll eat. Although you can eat them warmed up (microwave 10 seconds, turn them over and microwave another 4-6 seconds), they’re just not the same. Reheating in the oven will over-heat/bake that lovely eggy interior.

This recipe calls for  using a muffin tin, but I used the popover pan using the same instructions.

What’s GOOD: that they’re so tender, very eggy and golden, gloriously brown on the outside. So easy to pop out of the pan if you have a nonstick popover pan. And remember what I did in Nashville? Julian recommended we have some cheese (he ordered a cheese platter for the table) with little torn pieces of warm popover. Oh my. So good.

What’s NOT: nothing, really – they’re not that hard to make, even for people who think they are. Mix by hand or in the blender. Either one works well.

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Popovers – from King Arthur

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour 3/2010
Servings: 6

4 large eggs — warmed in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before cracking
1 1/2 cups 2% milk — lukewarm, or you can use whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — 6 1/4 ounces
3 tablespoons melted butter

1) Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position a rack on a lower shelf. The top of the fully risen popovers should be about midway up the oven. What you don’t want is for the tops of the popping popovers to be too close to the top of the oven, as they’ll burn.
2) Use a standard 12-cup metal muffin tin or popover pan, one whose cups are close to 2 1/2″ wide x 1 1/2″ deep. Grease the pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter.
3) Use a wire whisk to beat together the eggs, milk, and salt. Whisk unil the egg and milk are well combined, with no streaks of yolk showing.
4) Add the flour all at once, and beat with a wire whisk till frothy; there shouldn’t be any large lumps in the batter, but smaller lumps are OK. OR, if you’re using a stand mixer equipped with the whisk attachment, whisk at high speed for 20 seconds. Stop, scrape the sides of the bowl, and whisk for an additional 20 to 30 seconds at high speed, till frothy.
5) Stir in the melted butter, combining quickly.
6) Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 to 3/4 full.
7) Make absolutely certain your oven is at 450°F. Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .
8) Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. If the popovers seem to be browning too quickly, position an oven rack at the very top of the oven, and put a cookie sheet on it, to shield the popovers’ tops from direct heat.
9) If you plan on serving the popovers immediately, remove them from the oven, and stick the tip of a knife into the top of each, to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Slip them out of the pan, and serve.
10) If you want the popovers to hold their shape longer without deflating and settling quite as much, bake them for an additional 5 minutes (for a total of 40 minutes) IF you can do so without them becoming too dark. This will make them a bit sturdier, and able to hold their “popped” shape a bit longer.
Per Serving: 243 Calories; 10g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 144mg Cholesterol; 315mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 99mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 167mg Potassium; 158mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, on June 2nd, 2022.

A really delicious dip to serve about 8-10-12 or so. Similar to many recipes out there, but there are a couple of things different about this one.

A post from Carolyn. If you go online and hunt for seven layer dip, you’ll find hundreds of recipes. Literally hundreds. It’s certainly popular and well deserved, since it’s so delicious. Haven’t we all made seven layer dip for decades? I sure have. There are a few things that are different about this one – the bean layer requires some cooking (and mashing) with some good flavorings added in, and there’s a corn layer to this one.

I started with a recipe on the ‘net, and changed it by adding the kind of canned corn that contains peppers (Fiesta, Mexicorn type) instead of either fresh corn or ordinary canned corn. I also added more ground cumin. The first layer in the 9×9 pan was the beans (see photo at left) – black beans in this case, and they’re drained well, then added to some of the green onions and garlic sautéed with some EVOO. Some cumin is added too. The beans are mashed (either with a fork or a potato masher) and some water is added – they need to be spreadable (i.e., not too dry). Finally, they’re smeared into the dish.

Then a layer (not much) of sour cream is added. There’s some shredded cheddar cheese, the guacamole you’ve made, some more cheese, the can of corn, then lastly you add the freshly made salsa. I used fresh Roma tomatoes, which were nicely ripe. I didn’t peel them, but they were chopped finely and I removed the center part with most of the seeds. Lime juice gives accent to the salsa and guacamole, ground cumin adds piquancy to both the beans and the guacamole, and garlic is added to the beans and guac. The salsa should be drained (of liquid that generates from the tomatoes) before it’s spread on the top.

I made this 24 hours ahead, letting those flavors meld a bit, then served it with a lot of crispy tortilla chips. I buy a brand of tortilla chips that are actually freshly fried (Las Golondrinos) available at a few of my local stores. If you can, seek out a place that makes home made chips – they’re so much better! Just before serving I sprinkled a bit of salt on the top of the tomatoes – use your own judgment after tasting it.

What’s GOOD: all those good, fresh flavors – the beans, cheese, guac, corn and salsa. Altogether delish. There is no heat to this dip – you could add some chili powder if you prefer. Loved that I could make it ahead.

What’s NOT: nothing at all, except you need to start a few hours ahead.

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Seven-Layer Dip – with corn

Recipe By: adapted from a recipe on the internet
Serving Size: 8 (maybe more if they don’t eat too much of it!)

2 cups tomatoes — cored, diced (Roma)
1 bunch green onions — thinly sliced, light and dark parts separated
1 jalapeño pepper — seeded and finely diced (divided)
4 tablespoons lime juice — from 2 limes (divided)
1 teaspoon salt — and more to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons EVOO
3 cloves garlic — minced (divided)
15 ounces canned black beans — drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin — divided use
A tablespoon or two of water
3 medium avocados — halved, pitted and diced
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese — shredded (divided)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups corn — canned, drained – with peppers (Del Monte Mexicorn, Fiesta, Green Giant)
Tortilla chips — for serving

1. SALSA: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, half of the dark part of the green onions, half of the minced jalapeño, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the sugar. (If your tomatoes are sweet, omit the sugar.) Set aside.
2. BEANS: Heat EVOO in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add all of the light part of the green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Measure out 1/4 teaspoon of the minced garlic and set aside in a medium bowl (you’ll use this for the guacamole). Add the remaining garlic to the skillet and continue cooking for 30 seconds more. Do not brown. Add the black beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon of the cumin, and water and continue cooking for about one minute. Off the heat, mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until they have a chunky puréed texture. Add a tablespoon or two of water to make the beans spreadable. Spread the beans into an 8×8 or 9×9-inch glass baking dish into an even layer. Set aside. Don’t be dismayed if the bean layer tastes salty – the dish needs salt.
3. GUACAMOLE: To the medium bowl with the reserved garlic, add the avocados, the remaining dark green scallions, the remaining jalapeño, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cumin, and the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice. Mash with a large, wide-tined fork until blended but still a bit chunky.
4. ASSEMBLY: Spread the sour cream evenly over the black bean layer. If you have one, use an offset spatula. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the sour cream, followed by all of the guacamole, and then the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the corn over the cheese.
5. Transfer the salsa to a fine sieve and drain for about 5 minutes. Then pour the salsa on top of the corn corn layer, using a spoon to spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight if possible. Remove from refrigerator about an hour before serving, and serve with a spoon and heaps of tortilla chips. If made ahead, liquid might possibly rise up to the surface – use a paper towel to blot the liquid before serving.
Per Serving: 415 Calories; 31g Fat (64.3% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 566mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 268mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 810mg Potassium; 285mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Travel, on May 28th, 2022.

This last post about my trip is a combo of all three cities (Denver, Nashville & Pittsburgh) – pictures I didn’t upload previously.

A post from Carolyn. The mural above was on the outside of the donut distillery I mentioned in my last post. Such a quirky combination, donuts and bourbon. Can’t say that it’s going to become a “thing” in my life, that’s for sure!

There at left I’m in Boulder – at the adorable shop I just love there, Peppercorn. Squinting into the hazy sunshine. It was cold in Boulder, raining mostly. Love that store.

So, those pretty tulips were in a barrel along one of the side streets in Boulder. So lovely, although it was raining, so I didn’t stick around to admire them further.

Sue and Lynn, my friends that I stayed with, love Peppercorn too. Even Lynn who isn’t much of a cook, particularly, enjoys browsing in Peppercorn. We didn’t get to stay as long as I’d wanted because we had to get to the airport for me to catch the next leg of the trip. And I may have mentioned, since I was a “ride-along” on this trip, someone made it real clear to me – if Julian says we need to be “here” at a certain time, we’d best be there, on time. As it turned out, the plane was late arriving to pick us up, so we could have browsed further in Peppercorn. Next time.

These are more photos from Nashville, the day we went out to The Grande Olde Opry. All of my time was spent walking around in the Opryland hotel nearby, with the magnificent atriums.

At left is the river in the third atrium. At right a shot one of the glass canopies. Did I mention the hotel as 2888 rooms? Astounding number!

It was a little bit humid in the atriums – and it wasn’t a humid day, so I can’t imagine what it would feel like on a hot, summer day when the humidity outside is 90%.

Next we move on to Pittsburgh. The flight was about an hour, if that, and so smooth. When you fly at 45,000 feet altitude, the air is so smooth. The only time we experienced any turbulence (and it was minimal) was as we went down to under 20,000 feet, going through the various weather layers. The pilots did a great job of avoiding any weather.

We stayed downtown at the Fairmont. Lovely hotel, lobby shown at right. We were only IN Pittsburgh for one night. My plan had been to visit the Frick Museum, but when we landed and got into town, all of us went to lunch (photo below right) at a great pizza restaurant a couple of blocks away from the hotel. We had a lot of really interesting food besides pizza, plus a couple of bottles of wine were consumed too (I passed on wine, just so you know). By the time we got back to the hotel it was nearly 3pm, and I just felt like resting. That was a mistake as the next morning it was pouring rain, and our flight time had been moved up by about 2 hours, so I was fearful of not being at the right place at the right time. So I didn’t get to visit the Frick.

But the evening before I did go out to dinner with the other couple on the trip, Patti & Bruce. We took a Lyft ride to the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. At left you can see the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline from the restaurant, atop Mt. Washington. There’s a funicular that runs up and down the hill, and I’d hoped to do that while we were there, but I ran out of time. I did take a picture, however, of a picture (so this photo is not mine, below) from Mt. Washington, showing the pretty skyline, and the conjoining of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers, as they become the Ohio.

That is such a beautiful picture. When we were up at the restaurant it was just at sunset, so I took a bunch of photos as the sun went down. I’m just giving you the one (above left) when it was nearly dark.

There’s also a very interesting sculpture up there showing George Washington and an Indian chief as they met there back in the day.

The next morning we asked for a late checkout, which helped. I didn’t want to go traipsing around the city trying to find breakfast, so I made do with a few snacks I had in my room, along with a cup of coffee. Off we went to the airport and boarded yet another plane for our return flight to California. It was 5+ hours, and Julian had arranged for a variety of food, again, and wine, of course. It was another smooth, seamless flight to Santa Maria and we landed at about 5:00 pm. Back at Julian and Janice’s house we sat outside on their lovely patio and everyone else enjoyed wine, yes, more wine. Me? I asked for a Diet Coke. My body was simply saying “no more wine.” And I’m not much of a drinker anyway, but I’d had some nearly every day of the trip.

At left there, a photo as we flew over the Rockies, going west.

Some of the food ordered for the flight was brought back and we had salads mostly. Something we’d not had much of on the whole trip. Even though we had crossed 3 time zones, I was tired and went to bed early.

The next morning Patti, Bruce and I headed back home to Orange County, which took about 3 1/2 hours. We encountered awful traffic; it’s becoming a standard thing going through Los Angeles. The photo at right is from their back yard, looking at the Santa Ynez mountains.

Once I got home, I found a lovely bouquet of flowers waiting for me for Mother’s Day. From my son, his wife and my grandson. Great way to end my trip. One of my other grandsons, Logan, his wife Mary and their two children, Sarah and Lucas, were visiting. So I got to see them a bit before they left the next day to go back to Northern California. Taylor, my granddaughter, the one who is still in nursing school here, the one living with me, Logan’s sister, was here, so she entertained them some. She was off school for a week, so got to spend lots of time with them.

What I was, was exhausted. From not enough sleep any night on the trip, and definitely on overload with food. For nearly 2 weeks I’ve had veggie and fruit smoothies for dinner, trying to cleanse my body a little bit. I’m so glad I went on this trip – it was so fun. Great friends (some new) and visiting many new places. Even at 80, I haven’t lost my love of travel, although I do it a bit differently now. I stay in nicer places (and maybe go for shorter periods).

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