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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline. Soldiers aren’t supposed to have any attachment to the stray dogs, let alone bring them onto the home base where he spent part of his time. His unit all fell in love with Fred, but Craig was obviously the dog’s first love. A very inspiring story; a few tears were shed here and there as I read it. Fred now lives here in the U.S. against all odds.

Also read Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy. There is joy, grief, a tiny bit of religion, and likely this book wouldn’t make you think much of pastors. They’re flawed as we all are. Quite a read, for one of my book clubs. I had hoped the book would paint a brighter picture of the profession (I have a wonderful pastor at my own church).

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment is Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also caring for their infant. He is a consummate humorist and can find chuckles in almost every task. I ate this book up in one go. LOL funny and interesting on all fronts.

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, centered around a tragic event in their small town in Minnesota. About how he reviews his memories as he grows old, looking at the people, the event, and his part in it.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century. Abigail Howland, who came to the house as a little girl, lives with her crusty but loveable grandfather. Her grandfather’s forbidden love life is an open secret, but long after his death it is Abigail who must pay the price for a love match Southern society could not abide. Lots of sub-stories. Very interesting read.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982. She once again leaves the home place to build a house for herself. As the foundation is poured and the walls go up, each of the hurtful memories are uncovered. Finally the mystery, left in the ashes of the burned home, is revealed. How could her mother do what she did? Very interesting read.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

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.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What 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, on August 8th, 2020.

lemon_lavender_crumb_muffins

A post from Sara . . .

This is one of my go-to recipes. It’s fast, flavorful and a favorite in our house. I often give them out as gifts because they make such a pretty package. I’ve served them at breakfast, baked them as loaves and shipped them in care packages and made mini muffins for afternoon tea with whipped cream.

I’ve modified the original recipe to make it a bit healthier (fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream and half applesauce for all butter), but really, what muffin is healthy? The lavender can be omitted and a lemon glaze (which the original recipe calls for) can be used.

There’s the drylemon_lavender_crumb_muffins_batter ingredients in photo at right. The flecks are the lavender buds.

I find that the glaze is not necessary. It makes the muffin top wet and hard to ship, serve or store. It’s listed in the recipe below, in case you decide to use it.

I use twice the lemon zest because I love a good punch of lemon flavor. You can drop it down for your tastelemon_lavender_crumb_muffins_ready2bake.

I made these just the other day and my family ate them hot, right out of the oven. I had to hide the half dozen I was giving to a neighbor! My advice? Don’t bother cutting the recipe in half. Just hide some for later…

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Lavender Crumb Muffins

Recipe By: Adapted from Taste of Home
Serving Size: 20

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lavender buds — crushed
4 large eggs — room temperature
1 cup Greek yogurt, fat-free
1/2 cup butter — melted
1/2 cup applesauce
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
TOPPING:
3/8 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup sugar
12 tablespoons cold butter — cubed
GLAZE: (optional)
1/4 cup sugar
2-2/3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, lavender and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream, applesauce, butter, lemon zest and juice. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.
3. In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
5. GLAZE: (if using) In a small bowl, whisk glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm muffins. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 253 Calories; 7g Fat (24.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 52mg Cholesterol; 132mg Sodium; 27g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 12mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 47mg Potassium; 45mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, Grilling, on August 2nd, 2020.

grilled_lemon_pound_cake_grilled_peaches

Another recipe from Sara.

Some weeks ago I spent the day with daughter Sara and her family. In her backyard. Social distanced. It was a beautiful sunny Southern California day – the kind that makes you glad you live in California. Sara had made two new dishes – I’ve already posted the Italian Meatball Sub Sandwiches (which were SO good). For dessert she made this lemon pound cake. She’d baked it the evening before, and her family went so NUTS over it, they ate the whole thing. So the next morning she had to bake another one. Her words: this is the best pound cake I’ve ever made. What it is, is VERY lemony. It’s a pound cake – dense like a pound cake is, but so tender. SO tender.

lemon_pound_cake_ready_to_grillThe  cake comprises the usual ingredients – eggs, butter and sugar, but what was different was cake flour. Which always makes baked goods lighter in texture. That’s not to say it’s like a normal cake – no. It’s a pound cake, meaning more dense. And it is all lemon – there’s 1/4 CUP of lemon zest in this pound cake. I wonder if there’s ever too much lemon zest in things?

Do use ripe, but not overly ripe peaches. And get everything in place when you begin the grilling. Have the serving platter or dishes handy. Grill the pound cake so you get pretty grill marks, remove them, then start on the peaches. If you have a big grill, put the pound cake on the unheated side while you do the peaches. That way the pound cake will stay warm. This could be served with ice cream (vanilla) or whipped cream. grilling_peaches

Years ago I posted a recipe for grilled pound cake with grilled peaches, but the cake didn’t have the lemon in it. That makes this recipe much more interesting to me. Everybody loved it.

What’s GOOD: what bring summer to mind any more than fresh, juicy peaches? The pound cake would be good any time of  year, but the lemon aspect of this is off the charts delicious. And the combination of pound cake and peaches is sublime.

What’s NOT: can’t think of anything. Great for an outdoor barbecue.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Peaches and Cream

Recipe By: Bryan Calvert, James (restaurant), Brooklyn
Serving Size: 10

2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup lemon zest — finely grated, from about 3 lemons
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter — at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs — at room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable oil — for brushing the grill
4 large peaches — sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
Lightly sweetened whipped cream

1 Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a 9 1/2-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the cake flour with the lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
2 In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Beat in the milk, lemon juice and vanilla, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
3 Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cake cool for 20 minutes. Unmold the cake and let cool completely, about 3 hours.
4 Light a grill. Using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake into 10 slices. Lightly oil the grate and grill the slices over moderate heat, turning once, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plates. Lightly oil the grate again. Grill the peaches over moderately high heat until lightly browned and tender, about 2 minutes. Spoon the peaches over the cake, dollop with whipped cream and serve.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 22g Fat (39.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 161mg Cholesterol; 201mg Sodium; 46g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 75mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 209mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, Grilling, on July 27th, 2020.

roasted_tomatoes_before_roasting

That’s a photo BEFORE roasting. SO good afterwards. See that photo below.

You’ve heard me mention my best friend Cherrie. She’s an avid cook, and prepares fabulous meals for herself and her husband Bud on a daily basis. Even before the pandemic, they rarely went out to eat. During the pandemic she’s been preparing a monstrous dish of some kind about once a week, dividing it up into four boxes and taking it to four friends – all of them don’t like to cook. One afternoon each week she and Bud go on a driving trip to deliver the meals to these four friends. Who have come to depend on their weekly delivery! She doesn’t stop at my house because she knows that I DO cook.

Some weeks ago she tried this recipe for Roasted Tomatoes from Ina Garten. I think Cherrie served them with some nice, soft fresh mozzarella cheese and made a salad. Then she began incorporating them in several of her casserole dishes she was making for friends. Then they bought a 25 pound box of Roma tomatoes to make even more of them. She was swimming in Roma tomatoes! They would be wonderful chopped up into pasta, if you’re inclined. Anyway, Cherrie was raving to me about these tomatoes. So I decided I’d best try them myself.

My neighbor did buy 12 Roma (plum) tomatoes for me a week ago, and I had some fresh thyme from my veggie delivery box. I had garlic, EVOO and balsamic. That’s all it needs except for some salt and pepper. Ina’s original recipe didn’t call for thyme, so you can eliminate that if you’d prefer. The tomatoes are halved (and I clipped out the little stem part), placed on parchment , cut side up on a sheet pan, then you begin the layering – salt, pepper, EVOO, garlic and then the thyme laid gently on the top. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes have slumped. The recipe said 20-25 minutes, but mine didn’t “slump” until about 50 minutes, probably because they were quite large tomatoes. Once roasted and cooled slight, gently strip the thyme sprigs off onto the tomatoes and discard those twigs.

roasted_tomatoes_ina_gartenMany nights I’ve been eating just vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, onions in some manner, summer squashes and mushrooms. Sometimes in combination, but usually on their own. That night I made green beans, with onions and bacon, and put a couple of these tomatoes on my plate. I didn’t take a picture of that . . . sorry.

What’s GOOD: well, what can I tell you . . . one of those tomatoes popped into your mouth is like eating candy. Truly. I think they’d be best at room temp or warmed. They’d be good with fresh mozzarella. Or chopped up and served alongside a burger or steak. Or chicken. Chopped up with green onions and lime juice, they’d be good on a piece of grilled fish.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you do need to use Roma (plum) tomatoes. I suppose you could try it with other varieties, even cherry tomatoes.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Serving Size: 4

12 plum tomatoes — halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
4 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves — minced
2 teaspoons sugar — optional
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme

NOTE: I generally don’t add sugar – ripe tomatoes have plenty of sweetness.
1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a piece of parchment paper in a large roasting pan and bend up the edges if possible so the juices don’t ooze out onto your pan (the juices will burn something fierce on the super-hot metal). You may also use foil, but parchment works better.
2. Arrange the tomatoes on the lined sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, sugar (if using), salt, and pepper over the tomatoes. Spread the thyme sprigs across the tops of the tomatoes.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are concentrated and beginning to slump down and caramelize (which may take up to 45-55 minutes). Remove from oven, cool, then carefully, over the tomatoes, strip the thyme sprigs of their leaves, and discard the stems.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be used in a salad with mozzarella cheese, or ricotta, chopped up on top of a block of cream cheese with crackers, or eaten straight, warm or at room temp, for a delicious sugar bomb in your mouth!
Per Serving: 170 Calories; 14g Fat (70.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 879mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 29mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 464mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on July 21st, 2020.

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwich

Such a colorful photo, isn’t it? There’s a toasted piece of bread on the bottom, some mozzarella cheese, a kind of Italian meatball, the some marinara sauce on top.

Some weeks ago I went to my daughter Sara’s backyard – Sara, who partly (occasionally) participates on my blog. She’s so busy – she and her husband own a small business, they’re short handed, work long hours – 5, sometimes 6 days a week, and both of their kids are home now. The older one, Sabrina, just graduated from Clemson University and is applying to med school. She’s having to take a gap year but hasn’t yet found a job to fill in between now and fall 2021, that would be an asset to her medical career. She’s hoping. Her brother John is in summer school at Virginia Tech (online, that is), and he helps out most days at the family business. Sara cooks dinner at least 5 nights a week. The two kids each do dinner one night a week.

grilled_ital_meatballs_rawExcept to visit the powder room, I stayed outside the whole time. It was a lovely day. Not too hot, thank goodness. Sara made dinner (I’m posting this recipe for her, also the dessert in a few days). We had such a nice visit – it was so good to see the whole family although we couldn’t hug, of course. I wanted so much to hug my grandchildren! And everybody, really, but no, we can’t. We stayed socially distanced.

grilled_ital_meatball_bread_grillingAnyway, Sara made these open-faced Italian meatball sandwiches. She’d found the recipe on the web, but altered a bit by using chicken Italian sausage instead of pork. She’d purchased those kind of flat rolls – I don’t know what they’re called, she halved them, spread with a bit of olive oil, grilled them so they had lovely grill marks and were just barely crispy. Meanwhile she’d mixed up the meat – she used extra lean ground beef and some chicken Italian sausage and made the meatballs. The recipe indicated making round balls, but Sara tried to flatten them out some so they’d kind of fill the top of the piece of toasted bread. As you know, meat shrinks up when it’s cooked, and sure enough, these did, so they ended up more like round meatballs. The bread had some nice fresh mozzarella cheese draped over them (see photo), then the sizzling meat was put on top. They were garnished with a goodly amount of marinara sauce and decorated with some fresh basil.

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwiches_off_grill

There they are fresh off the grill, sizzling hot. Since I wasn’t doing the cooking, it was pretty easy for me to take ample photos. Some of us ate them with our hands – I ate it with a knife and fork. I knew some of that bright red, stain-worthy sauce would end up on my blouse.

What’s GOOD: loved everything about these. Partly because I hardly ever eat a sandwich of any kind these days. The meat was juicy; the mozzarella cheese gave it a nice oozy feel in the mouth. The sauce added lots of flavor, and then the fresh basil added a delicious fillip to each bite. This is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Not all that difficult  – make up the meatball mixture a few hours ahead.

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Italian Meatball Sub Sandwich

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from The Modern Proper food blog
Serving Size: 6

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound italian sausage — bulk ground (or use chicken Italian sausage)
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs — Italian style, flavored
1 large egg
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper — freshly ground
1 small focaccia — cut into 6 rectangular shapes (halved)
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices mozzarella cheese slices — use fresh style
1 1/4 cups marinara sauce — use a “good” brand
Fresh basil for garnish

1. Place the beef, sausage, parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, salt & pepper in a large bowl. It is important to not over mix the meat, so use your hands to combine the meatball ingredients. Once all ingredients are combined, roll into 1.5 inch balls, flatten them some so they’re kind of a flat oval and thread onto 4 skewers.
2. Preheat grill. When it’s hot, grease the grill (pour some oil onto a folded paper towel, grab with tongs and brush on the grates), then place the meatball skewers on the grill. Using tongs, rotate the meatballs until cooked through and evenly browned on all sides about 8-10 minutes total, depending on grill temperature.
3. Cut the baguette crosswise, split each piece horizontally and brush with olive oil. Place the bread face down in the grill. Flip the bread over when it is crispy and grill marks have appeared.
4. Top each baguette with mozzarella and wait for it to melt before removing it from the grill.
5. Place grilled meatballs onto the cheesy bread, drizzle with ample sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil.
Per Serving: 509 Calories; 33g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 1207mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 251mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 616mg Potassium; 398mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on July 15th, 2020.

dark_choc_mousse_tofu

So, do I know my readers? Tofu? Can I hear ewwws out there? Don’t be a naysayer until you’ve tried it.

Right off the get-go, I’ll just share that I’m not a fan of tofu. Back in the day I’d leave the tofu squares at the bottom of the soup bowl at a Chinese restaurant. Still would if I’m eating at a Chinese restaurant (I’m not). Didn’t and don’t like the texture. Tofu, in and of itself, has very little flavor. You know that, right? But that doesn’t make me want to eat it in cubes in much of anything. There is a tofu dip here on my blog that’s actually very good.

This recipe I got at a cooking class many, many months ago. Way back when I was still attending such things. I’m certainly not at the moment. And may not be for a very long time. Sigh. But anyway, Susan had found this recipe on the ‘net, at the Food Network. I’m not sure which type of tofu she used at the class, but it was so runny it hardly seemed like pudding once she whizzed up this dessert. It was more like a sauce. But I liked it. Just didn’t like the thin type texture. So over the last many months I’ve tried it twice. The original recipe called for silken. But I tried it first with firm tofu. It was way too firm, even though I thinned it out with some milk. I asked my neighbor, who is still doing some of my shopping for me (but now I’m able to order online and drive in front of my local market and they put the groceries in my trunk – yeah!), if she’d buy me some silken tofu. Well, Trader Joe’s was the grocery of choice for her, that day, so I got what they had. And funnily enough, the box didn’t say which style tofu it was. It wasn’t as firm as “firm,” but it was still fairly so. Definitely not silken. Perhaps Susan used silken and it was too soft.

The recipe calls for cocoa powder, Dutch processed. I used an extra dark cocoa that I buy from either Penzey’s or King Arthur and it’s not Dutched. It’s richer and darker than usual, but you can easily use grocery-store bought cocoa like Hershey’s. Their extra-dark is actually very good. In this recipe, I can’t imagine the Dutch type is important, so I don’t know why it specifically calls for it.

What I will tell you is that this dessert – that really is more like a pudding than a mousse – is so incredibly easy and quick, you won’t quite believe it when I tell you you can whip it up in 10 minutes or less. It does like to be chilled for awhile, however. When I made this batch (pictured above) it made 6 little cups of pudding. You might eke out 7 if you tried. Even though it’s tofu, it’s rich, creamy, and very satisfying. I used one of my brands of artificial sugar (Lankanto monkfruit, my current fav) and couldn’t tell the difference from using regular sugar.

The chocolate, cocoa, a little bit of water and brandy are heated until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then you add in the sugar (which cools it down), then you add it to the tofu in a blender or food processor (I used the latter). If you whiz it up for a bit, it makes the texture very pudding-like smooth. See if you like the texture (not smoothness but the thickness). If it’s too stiff, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin it slightly. Spoon or pour the pudding into little cups and chill for at least an hour. I left them open (meaning, uncovered) in my frig for days and the top never developed a skin.

Susan whipped up real cream. I used the canned type since I had some, and forgot to add the chocolate shavings to garnish it.

What’s GOOD: so easy. So rich, chocolaty and creamy. Loved the texture, even though I know I’m eating tofu, it doesn’t seem like it. Would make a great company dessert. I promise you, no one is going to know it’s tofu. You don’t have to tell them. This is also a GF dessert – no thickening used.

What’s NOT: only that you’ll have to plan ahead and have some tofu on hand. Don’t use silken or firm. Something in-between.

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Dark Chocolate Pudding Mousse with Tofu

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan V, Feb. 2020
Serving Size: 6

19 ounces tofu — drained (don’t use firm or silken)
4 ounces dark chocolate — bittersweet preferably, high quality, finely chopped
1/3 cup cocoa — preferably Dutch-processed
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup sugar — plus 1 tablespoon
TOPPING (makes a very small amount):
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons chocolate — shaved on top

1. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until it is smooth.
2. Put the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, water and brandy in a saucepan or heat-proof bowl fitted over a pot containing 1-inch barely simmering water. Stir frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
3. Mix in 1/2 cup of sugar, a little at a time, until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the tofu and puree until smooth and well blended, scraping down the sides once or twice. Taste for thickness – if too thick, add a little bit of milk (1-2 tablespoons) and re-whiz until it’s to your liking. Spoon the mousse into serving dishes, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. TOPPING: Whip the cream with a beater. When the cream is almost completely whipped, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and finish whipping. Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings and serve.
Per Serving: 294 Calories; 15g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 348mg Calcium; 7mg Iron; 258mg Potassium; 150mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on July 9th, 2020.

chilled_curried_cauliflower_apple_soup

Needing a nice, gentle curried cauliflower soup to serve chilled? This is your ticket.

In my soup recipe repertoire, I must have 30 or more cauliflower soups. And there are plenty of them already posted and archived in the index. They’re all very different; this one is no exception. When I ate, then prepared the cauliflower soup I posted a few months ago, Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Capers and Balsamic Drizzle, there’s no question it sailed to the very top of my list of favorite cauliflower soups. Even though I’ve only made it once. It was just sensational. But I’d get tired of making that one over and over. I eat a lot of cruciferous vegetable soups, or soups that don’t have a lot of carbs. Hence broccoli and cauliflower rank high on my soup cooking lists. Recently I made a combo soup of both of those veggies. It was awful. After two servings of it, it got poured down the drain.

So as I perused all of the other recipes to try, this one kept coming back for my review. I had a relatively small head of cauliflower. I had a Gala apple and onion. Everything else was do-able. I made it, thinking I’d serve it hot (which is how the original recipe was served at Campton Place). I made it a couple of days ago and had it chilling in the frig. When I took out the container I needed to taste it for salt. Oh my, it tasted just wonderful chilled. So, although you may serve this hot or cold, cold is my preference. At least now since it’s summer and very hot outside.

The soup is like many others – butter, onion, curry powder (medium heat) and fresh ginger. Sautéed. Then apple, saffron, the cauliflower and low sodium chicken broth. That simmered for about half an hour or less, then I added the milk, whizzed it using my stick blender, then cooled it. I recommend you make it a day ahead.

chilled_curried_cauliflower_apple_soup_closeupIn the original recipe, the garnish was minced apple, saffron and curry powder with a dash of salt. I decided to enhance it with some more vegetables. I love celery, so it got minced up so very fine, some red bell pepper because it would look pretty, a couple of green onions, some cilantro, salt, and some lemon juice. I’d actually gotten out an avocado as well, but at the last minute decided there was enough already. I chose not to add more curry powder. There’s enough in the soup, although it’s not overpowering at all. I saved a few whole cilantro leaves to place on top.

A serving of 1 1/2 cups of this is a whopping 167 calories, including the garnishes. With the apple in it, it does have 24 grams of carbs.

What’s GOOD: almost any cauliflower soup is a bit bland, so adding other flavors is imperative in my book. The curry powder (not much) adds just a lovely hint of curry flavor. The apple added into the mix also mellows out the cauliflower. Really liked that part. I couldn’t distinguish the saffron – I suppose if it was taken out the soup would have a different flavor profile, but truly saffron didn’t come to mind as I tasted it. But the star of the soup was the garnish. It’s a way to get more veggies, but it’s tempered by the addition of some apples too. You can serve it hot or cold. The garnish will keep for a day or two with the addition of lemon juice.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of – making it a day ahead is helpful – the flavors will meld better. Maybe preparing the garnish, but it still only took about 5 minutes to do that part.

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Chilled Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Bon Appetit, from Campton Place
Serving Size: 5

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion — chopped (~1 cup)
2 teaspoons curry powder — medium heat
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads — soaked in 1/4 cup hot water for 10 minutes
1 cup Gala apple — peeled, cored and chopped (2 small apples or 1 large)
1 medium head cauliflower — greens and stem removed, and broken into small florets
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — (1 quart)
1 1/4 cups whole milk — or half and half
1 pinch cayenne pepper — optional
salt to taste
olive oil (for garnish)
GARNISH:
1 cup apple — very finely minced, leaving skin intact for color
1 cup celery — very finely minced
3 whole green onions — very finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper — very finely minced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro — most finely minced in garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste
a few cilantro leaves to place on top when serving

1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onions, curry powder and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped apple and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until soft.
2. Add the cauliflower, saffron and the water it soaked in, then add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is fork tender. Stir in the the milk or half and half and continue to simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Do not bring it to a boil or the milk may separate.
4. Use a stick blender to puree the soup in the pot. Otherwise, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. If serving chilled, cool and refrigerate overnight if time permits. If serving hot, return pureed soup to pot and heat over low flame. Add cayenne pepper (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Cool and chill at this point, or you may serve it hot.
5. GARNISH: In a medium bowl combine the minced apple, celery, green onions, bell pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice and the minced cilantro. Season with salt.
6. Soup may be served chilled, or piping hot. Add a generous couple of spoonfuls of apple garnish and drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Place a few cilantro leaves on top.
Per Serving: 167 Calories; 6g Fat (29.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 16g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 113mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 565mg Potassium; 151mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, Veggies/sides, on July 3rd, 2020.

asparagus_appetizer_secret_sauce

Most likely you’re going to laugh. Secret sauce? Eh-what?

Making this appetizer is so very simple – other than having to cook the asparagus to just that right al-dente bite. You don’t want limp asparagus. You want them barely cooked through, but not so they’d totally fall over in a stand-up container. Part of the fun of this is using some kind of fun vertical container. If I had a glass cylinder that wasn’t too tall, I’d use that, just so you can see the asparagus full length.

It’s been decades since I first read or heard about this method of offering asparagus as an appetizer. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember where I got it. It could have been at a Weight Watcher’s meeting. It might have been from some old-old cookbook. It might have been at a cooking class. I didn’t even have a recipe written up for this – like a real, honest to goodness recipe to follow. I had to write one for this post. Asparagus, some salt, water, and then the secret ingredient. And a tad of sesame seeds as a garnish.

First, you just have to steam or simmer the trimmed asparagus in salted water until they’re just barely tender. Sorry, I’m repeating myself here. It’s important you not overcook them, so they stand up. Drain them and let them dry. If you’re in a hurry, put them out on paper towels or a tea towel and gently dry them off. I prefer these cool or cold, but that’s up to you.

Then, ta-da, you merely roll them in some seasoned rice wine vinegar and sprinkle them with the sesame seeds. That’s it. You DO NOT make this ahead (the acid in the rice wine vinegar will make the asparagus turn an insipid canned-asparagus-color). Not good. So JUST before you’re ready to serve them, you put them in a flat dish or flat bowl, sprinkle a bit of the seasoned rice wine vinegar over them, roll them around with your fingers. If I’m feeling adventurous, I also sprinkle toasted secret_sauce_rice_wine_vinegarsesame seeds around the top of the asparagus, picking up a bunch in my hand. Then stand them up in your chosen vertical vessel. Coffee mugs are just about the right height. I took this to my a family dinner a week or so ago. They were gone in a flash. Even my grandson Vaughan, who professes to not like asparagus very much, had a bunch.

I forgot to take the sesame seeds when I served them last time, so you can’t see them sticking to the tops. I’m making them again today, so am going to put out the sesame seeds – so I don’t forget!

What’s GOOD: so easy and extremely low calorie. Nice for a picnic although do take a wet paper towel to wipe off your fingers after you’ve used the vinegar. The vinegar has some sugar in it (that makes it “seasoned”) so it’ll make your fingers sticky. I guarantee you, they’ll be a hit. One of the fun things is serving this in a vertical container.

What’s NOT: only that you have to do the seasoning (finger-rolling in the vinegar) at the last minute, but truly it’ll take you less than one minute to do it.

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Asparagus Appetizer with Secret Sauce

Recipe By: Can’t remember; I’ve been making these for 40+ years
Serving Size: 6

1 pound asparagus — not too thin, not too thick
salted water to cook the asparagus
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds — toasted, garnish

NOTE: This is meant as an appetizer, but it can also be served as a side dish.
1. Trim asparagus of woody stems. You do not want them to be all the same length.
2. Using a wide saucepan, bring a cup or so of water to a simmer (just enough to cover the asparagus), add some salt to taste, then add the asparagus. Bring the water back to a simmer again, watching it carefully and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the asparagus is just barely al-dente, stirring and rolling the asparagus around so all the stalks are under the water line. Do not overcook them. They need to be firm enough they’ll stand up in a mug or tall container.
3. Remove asparagus and cool, then blot dry with paper towels or tea towel. Chill if you have the time.
4. Into a shallow dish place the asparagus and sprinkle the rice wine vinegar over the top, drizzling back and forth. Using your fingers, roll the asparagus so all of them have been in contact with the vinegar. DO NOT make this ahead as the asparagus will turn yellow. Holding the asparagus in one hand, gently sprinkle the sesame seeds on the tops of the asparagus, as you turn the asparagus around. Stand the asparagus into a vertical container (coffee mug or similar shape) and serve immediately. If you’re not sure you’ll eat all the asparagus it’s wise to season some of it, serve, then if you need more you can always add more to the vinegar and serve more of them.
Per Serving: 21 Calories; trace Fat (7.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 89mg Sodium; 1g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 154mg Potassium; 41mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, on June 27th, 2020.

smoked_brisket_chili

It’s not every day you have some left over smoked beef brisket. If you do, however, THIS is a recipe for you!

Several weeks ago I ventured “out” and drove to the Pasadena area where my son and his family live. I stayed outside in their back yard and enjoyed a lovely afternoon with them, and had a sumptuous dinner. Powell has a big honkin’ barbecue/smoker and he’d purchased THE largest brisket I’ve ever seen in my life. He goes to a meat market near where they live, called Harmony Farms. They know him by first name now. Anyway, what to do with left over beef brisket that’s been smoked? Karen had made this chili once before (a year ago maybe) and I’d exclaimed over the wonderful flavors of the chili. So when I went home that evening she gave me a nice container of smoked brisket to use however I wanted, but what I wanted was this chili.

The recipe called for 3 cups of leftover brisket. This brisket was not slathered with anything wet – it had a dry rub on it and had been smoked for 12 hours or so, and it had deep, smoky flavor. Powell uses something called Cue-Glue from Savory Spice. It’s something that helps dry rub stick to the meat. The label calls it “the pro’s secret weapon.”

When I made the chili, I adapted the recipe, just slightly. I had more brisket, and didn’t have the smaller half-cans of kidney beans or black beans, so I used one can total and some frozen corn. I just eye-balled it. Since the brisket had some fairly warm (spicy) rub on it, I tamed down the seasonings a little bit. Play with it if you make this. The recipe came from a website called vindulge. There are oodles of grilled and smoked meat recipes on that website.

What “makes” this recipe is, obviously, the brisket itself and it’s deep, smoky flavors. You start off with 1-inch chunks of the already smoked brisket, and as it cooks (simmers) the beef does break down into smaller pieces. And becomes super tender. There’s a little bit of coffee (I made a shot of espresso) in this, some chipotle in adobo sauce (be careful, that stuff is hot) and smoked paprika and beer.

When I made this a few weeks ago, it was still cool spring weather here, so I ate some of it and froze some of it – maybe for the fall once summer winds down.

Tuck this recipe into your hat for the fall, unless you’re wanting to make a smoked brisket in the summer. Just don’t use a wet-slathered red sauced type brisket. It would lean this chili over into a barbecue sauce soup, which isn’t what you want here. A tip of my hat to my daughter in law, Karen, for finding this recipe, and for sharing the smoked brisket with me so I could make it myself.

What’s GOOD: oh my, so delicious. I just love this recipe. But then, I do love chili. Not usually ones with tons of beans in it, however. I was prudent with how many beans I added. The combo of flavors is over the top wonderful. I don’t cook smoked meat, so if I make this again, it’ll need to be from another part of my son’s smoked meats. He loves to smoke meat, though, so that’s probably not a problem! Make the day ahead if you have time – all soups get better with an overnight chill.

What’s NOT: maybe acquiring the smoked brisket? Otherwise, nothing at all. Plan ahead a few hours.

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Smoked Beef Brisket Chili

Recipe By: Adapted from Vindulge website
Serving Size: 8

3 slices thick-sliced bacon — diced
1 large onion — about 2 cups, chopped
1 whole red bell pepper — chopped
3 cloves garlic — finely diced
4 cups smoked beef brisket — cooked, cut up into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
12 ounces beer — or beef broth
1/4 cup coffee or espresso
15 ounces diced tomatoes — including juice
15 ounces tomato sauce — or tomato paste plus water
15 ounces canned black beans — drained and rinsed
15 ounces canned kidney beans — drained and rinsed
7 ounces canned corn — drained and rinsed
4 ounces canned diced green chiles

Note: The original recipe used half the amount of beans and corn. I didn’t have a use for leftover canned beans or corn, so I added the whole cans into the mixture. The original recipe also used more chili powder. Use your own judgment about how much to add. Be careful adding the chipotle peppers in adobo – they can be very hot. You can always add more, but you can’t take them out once they’re in.
1. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels using a slotted spoon and reserve for later. If there is excess bacon grease remove it, otherwise cook the onions in it.
2. Add onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add bell pepper and garlic; cook 1 additional minute to soften.
3. Add the leftover cubed brisket and all dry seasonings. Let cook 1 minute stirring often.
4. Add beer (or broth) and allow it to deglaze the pan and cook off the alcohol (about 1-2 minutes). Then add coffee, tomatoes, beans, corn, green chiles, and the reserved bacon.
5. Bring to a low simmer, cover, and cook for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two hours to develop the flavors.If the stew starts to get too thick, you can add water 1/2 cup at a time to thin it out.
6. Serve with a drizzle of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Optional: minced red onion, green onion, tortilla chips (crushed) or Fritos.
Per Serving: 512 Calories; 26g Fat (59.1% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 124mg Cholesterol; 1817mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 79mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 774mg Potassium; 189mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on June 21st, 2020.

sandy_cc_nutbutter_cookies

Yes, chocolate chip, but with a decidedly different texture and flavor profile.

Necessity is the mother of invention. During the time when I was eschewing nearly all carbs, I had collected a lot of recipes, including this one for a GF cookie (although this one I made here is not quite GF). I was all out of my last batch of choc chip cookies, so needed to find something new to try. I wanted to make something that had next to no sugar, and very little if any flour. This recipe came into being. I had almond butter on hand. In little 1 ounce packages. Hmm. But not enough to make 6 tablespoons. But I did have peanut butter, so I combined the two. Neither flavor really prevailed in the finished cookie, which was fine with me. The recipe called for coconut butter (oil), but I used unsalted butter. It also called for coconut sugar. I had some, but decided to use some monkfruit sweetener in addition, so I did half and half. I had the pure blanched almond flour on hand, but I also had some of Trader Joe’s almond meal (which contains some of the almond skin – hence these cookies have a little more dark/speckled look to them. The recipe also called for coconut flour, so that’s when I substituted regular wheat flour, all purpose. It was only 1/3 cup, so hardly any carbs for the whole recipe.

I’ve renamed the recipe because these cookies have a different texture – not exactly like pecan sandies – but they’re similar in texture. So even though they’re chocolate chip, with a hint of peanut butter, they do have a different texture than any chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever made.

sandy_cc_nutbutter_cookies_closeupMixing it up was no trouble – into my stand mixer went the ingredients in a specific order. Refrigerated butter needs nothing more than 10 seconds in my microwave to be softened. No more, no less.

Knowing that I’d veered away from the original recipe with a lot of different ingredients, I wasn’t sure how they would turn out during the baking process, so I baked just two at first, thinking that I could add more flour or something else if it needed it. Once out of the oven they were incredibly soft and tender. They looked done, but when I touched the top of the cookie, it was almost a wet pouf, but once I let them cool  on the sheet first, they were easy to remove from the cookie sheet. And they were fine. Just fine. Better than fine!Next time I’ll add some chopped walnuts, just because I like choc chip cookies with nuts. So you could easily add 1/3 cup of them to this recipe, or not; your choice. You’ll get a yield of a couple more cookies.

What’s GOOD: definitely chocolate chip. Definitely different texture (but good). Like them a lot. I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t have almond flour, or almond butter. Easy to make. Can be refrigerated before baking.

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Sandy Chocolate Chip Nut Butter Cookies – nearly GF

Recipe By: Adapted from a paleo blog cookie recipe
Serving Size: 34

6 tablespoons unsalted butter — softened
3/8 cup coconut sugar — or regular sugar, or use more monkfruit
3/8 cup monkfruit sweetener
3 tablespoons almond butter
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup almond meal — or almond flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour — or substitute coconut flour if you want a GF cookie
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped walnuts — optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a mixing bowl (stand or hand mixer) combine the softened butter, sugars, almond butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix until smooth, about a minute.
3. Beat in egg until combined, then add almond meal and flour and continue beating just until it’s mixed. Add chocolate chips and walnuts (if using) and beat until incorporated.
4. Use parchment paper on cookie sheets to prevent sticking. Using a cookie scoop, place rounded balls of dough on cookie sheets, about 1 1/2″ apart.
5. Bake for 11-13 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine took 12 minutes. Recommend: Bake two cookies first, to see how long they need to bake. They’ll still be very soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets, then taste to make sure they’re “done.” Bake remaining cookies. Freeze for long term storage, or eat them within 3 days if left at room temp.
Per Serving: 86 Calories; 7g Fat (63.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 12mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 23mg Calcium; trace Iron; 63mg Potassium; 42mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on June 16th, 2020.

roast_chix_schmaltzy_brussels_onions_plated

Absolute divine chicken and vegetables.

A few weeks ago I was reading Smitten Kitchen (blog) and Deb had written up a recipe for smaltzy chicken with a bed of cabbage underneath it. I know enough Yiddish to know that schmaltz is chicken fat. I laughed at Deb’s naming of the recipe – schmaltzy – to connote the fat that drips down from the chicken into and onto the bed of cabbage underneath. When I made the dish, it was absolutely fabulous. I mean drop-dead fabulous. And I took pictures of it. But when I tried to work with the photos, it was just so “brown.” You know me and dull, brownish pictures. Hate them. I used all of that chicken, and ate all of the delicious cabbage that had been permeated with the chicken juices, and fat, of course. So, with another chicken in my frig, but no cabbage, I decided to try it with different veggies.

To make this recipe work, I think you DO need to use firm brassica vegetables (Brussels, cabbage, turnips and/or cauliflower). I had Brussels, but nothing else, so I added onions on top. Onions aren’t of the brassica family, but they do take a long time to cook through. So, I thought, why not? Oh my goodness. A marriage made in heaven.

chix_brussels_in_panThis dish is a cinch to put together. I mean it. The Brussels sprouts are halved if they’re big, otherwise left whole, and they’re placed cut side down into an oiled iron skillet. One that’s big enough to hold all the vegetables and the whole chicken sitting on top of them. Then the halved and sliced onions are put on top of that. I seasoned them with salt, pepper and dried thyme (my favorite go-to herb). The whole chicken is dried off, then oiled with EVOO, salted, peppered and more dried thyme, then set atop the veggies. Into a VERY hot oven (450°) it goes for about 50 minutes. My oven runs a tad hot, so I used 445°F. At the halfway point I turned the pan around 180°F in the oven.

roast_chix_iron_skilletWhen I made chicken before, I removed it when the thigh had reached 165°F, the usual temp cooks say it needs to reach. But I wasn’t totally happy with the chicken – to me it wasn’t quite done. It was done, but it wasn’t done enough. The leg wasn’t loose – the sure sign that a chicken is cooked through. So this time when I opened the oven at 50 minutes, the chicken was very golden brown. So I turned the oven down to 420°F and let it roast for another 10 minutes, at which point the thigh had reached 180°F. If you have a smaller chicken or a larger one, you might need to adapt the total baking time. I removed the pan with all the wonderful chicken and onion flavors floating around my nose, tented it with foil for about 10 minutes, and was ready to serve. chix_brussel_onions_in_pan

The vegetables stayed plenty warm in the hot-hot frying pan while I carved  up the chicken. My portion control went right out the window. I hate a leg (thigh and drumstick) and a big scoop of vegetables. And as I peeled off all the chicken from the carcass later, I nibbled on more juicy, dripping chicken. Oh my.

What’s GOOD: there is nothing that wasn’t sensational about this chicken. If I don’t have brassicas to add to the pan, well, I’ll just use more onions. But the combo of Brussels and onions was doubly wonderful. If you’re not a Brussels sprouts fan, use cabbage and onions.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of – you do need some kind of veg that needs long, hot cooking. Hence I didn’t think broccoli would work here. Cauliflower would, however, so I’ll try that next time, providing I have some.

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Roasted Chicken with Schmaltzy Brussels and Onions

Recipe By: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen blog, 2020
Serving Size: 5

2 teaspoons EVOO
1 pound Brussels sprouts — stems trimmed, halved if large, whole if small
2 large yellow onions — halved and sliced
salt and pepper to taste, sprinkled on top
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme — sprinkled on the vegetables
3 1/2 pounds whole chicken — patted dry with paper towels
1 tablespoon EVOO
salt and pepper, sprinkled on the chicken
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme — sprinkled on the chicken
2 teaspoons fresh parsley — chopped, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 445-450°F. My oven runs hot, so I reduce the temp by 5°F.
2. Smear the EVOO in the bottom of a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the vegetables and the chicken to sit on top.
3. As you cut the Brussels sprouts, lay them cut side down in the skillet and add the additional ones on top. Sprinkle with some of the salt and pepper.
4. Arrange the halved and sliced onions on top, sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, then sprinkle dried thyme over all.
5. Pat dry the chicken, then rub it all over with EVOO, salt, pepper, then set it on top of the vegetables. Sprinkled dried thyme on top of the chicken.
6. Roast in oven for about 50 minutes. If you’re brave, remove the pan from oven halfway through and if you find drippings in the bottom, use a deep spoon to drizzle it over the top of the chicken. If not brave, rotate the chicken 90°F. Check the internal temp of the bird. Usually chefs say cook until the thigh is 165°F, but I prefer a whole chicken roasted further, as often the leg is not loose and not ready to eat. Turn down heat to 425°F if the top of the bird is overly browned. Continue baking for about 10 more minutes, until the internal temp of the thigh is at 180°F and the leg joint moves easily.
7. Remove pan from oven, tent loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
8. Remove chicken from the pan to a carving board and carve thick slices of breast and remove legs, cutting them in half. Serve with generous servings of the Brussels sprouts and onions on the side. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving (assumes you’ll be eating all the skin, hence numbers are high): 774 Calories; 52g Fat (61.0% calories from fat); 62g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 286mg Cholesterol; 247mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 88mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1023mg Potassium; 550mg Phosphorus.

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