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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 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

At the moment I’m reading Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally I’ve just started it, but 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. Loving it so far.

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 Chicken, on January 21st, 2022.

Butter Chicken is a favorite of mine, and this version of it is SO very easy, you simply won’t believe it. Everything for this dinner is cooked right in the Instant Pot.

A post from Carolyn. My Instant Pot sits on a shelf in my laundry room (mostly because I don’t have room in my kitchen for it), but it gets a pretty good workout even so. And this recipe is going to make your day. It’s so very easy, and dinner is ready in a flash – truly, under 30 minutes. This recipe came from Food52, from Urvashi Pitre. She’s known as “The Butter Chicken Lady,” and rightly so. She’s a celebrated author of numerous instant pot cookbooks, and let me just say, this recipe is a winner. I’ve followed her blog for several years (called twosleevers.com), and have made a few of her recipes in the past, but it’s for this one that she’s the most famous. She even got a write-up in the New York Times.

Her title for this recipe is “Now and Later Instant Pot Butter Chicken.” That’s because when you make this, you’ll end up with about 1 1/2 cups of extra sauce, which you’ll save (and freeze perhaps) to use with some other leftovers another night. What I love about this recipe is that into the instant pot you combine the canned tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne (or Kashmiri chile powder in my case), paprika, salt, cumin and garam masala. You stir it just a bit, add the chicken thighs, stir that just a bit so the chicken is coated in the flavorful sauce.

Meanwhile, you will use a small glass or ceramic bowl (that will fit into the Instant Pot) to which you’ll add basmati rice, water, butter and salt. After placing a trivet (I used the instant pot trivet that has the two handles) on top of the chicken, you place the rice bowl on top. Put the IP lid on top and pressure cook the chicken for 10 minutes. Then you let it sit for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Release the pressure, remove the bowl of rice (now fully cooked) with the trivet handles, remove the chicken to a bowl (large enough so you can pull apart the chicken easily). The sauce on the bottom of the Instant Pot gets smoothed out with an immersion blender, which takes about 20 seconds or so, then you add cream (or coconut milk), 4 T of butter and some chopped cilantro plus another teaspoon of garam masala. Your butter chicken is done. Put the chicken back in the pot and stir it around, and serve with the rice.

What’s GOOD: how absolutely simple this is. It’s genius, as they say at Food52. This is going to become my go-to butter chicken recipe henceforth! Only thing I might do differently is add some chopped up onion to the mixture. Not sure that’s authentic, but I’ll try it that way next time. I served it with some steamed broccoli on the side.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – such a simple dish, easy and flavorful.

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

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Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Rice

Recipe By: adapted very slightly from Food52
Serving Size: 5

RICE:
1 cup basmati rice — rinsed
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
BUTTER CHICKEN:
14 ounces diced tomatoes — undrained
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon kashmiri chile powder — or more to taste, or cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garam masala — divided use
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound chicken thigh without skin — boneless, left whole
4 ounces butter — cut into cubes (use coconut oil, if making this dairy free)
4 ounces heavy cream — or use full-fat coconut milk
1/3 cup chopped cilantro — using some to garnish

NOTE: This recipe makes more sauce than is needed for the dish. Originally it was called “Now and Later Instant Pot Butter Chicken” because you serve it the first time for 4-5 people, then you have about a cup and a half of the sauce to freeze, or to use in some other dish for some other leftovers.
1. Combine all the ingredients for the rice, place in a 6 or 7-inch heat-safe pan or dish (that will fit in the Instant Pot, with room for the rice to expand), and set aside.
2. Place tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, salt, 1 teaspoon of the garam masala, and cumin into the Instant Pot. Mix the sauce a bit, then place the chicken on top of the sauce and stir around a little to coat the chicken. You are putting in everything except the butter, cream, cilantro, and 1 remaining teaspoon of garam masala.
3. Place a steamer rack/trivet on top of the chicken mixture, and place the uncovered bowl of uncooked rice on the rack. Make it as level as possible.
4. Pressure cook for 10 minutes.
5. Once it is done cooking, allow the pot to cool for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Then, release all remaining pressure and open the pot. Remove and set the cooked rice aside (cover it if you want to keep it super-hot). Remove the chicken and set aside.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend together the sauce until it is smooth. Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the cut-up butter, cream, cilantro, and garam masala.
7. Remove half the sauce and freeze or refrigerate for later.
8. Break up the chicken into bite-size pieces, add it to the sauce. Serve with rice. Add more cilantro on top if desired.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 33g Fat (68.4% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 163mg Cholesterol; 960mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 50mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 480mg Potassium; 219mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on January 15th, 2022.

Are you a fan of thumbprint cookies? I didn’t think I was, but these made me become one.

A post from Carolyn. These cookies, this recipe, comes from my friend, Linda T. My blog contains a number of her recipes over the  years. I visited her (she lives about an hour or so south of me, toward San Diego) a couple of weeks ago and she always makes me a lovely cup of coffee (she became a Nespresso fan too), and she always has some little sweet waiting for me when I get there. What a treat these were. Truly, I would never have reached for thumbprint cookies if there was a spread of cookies being served. They always seemed over-the-top sweet with the jam on top. Well, this recipe has turned me around completely. Maybe it’s just that this recipe comes from Ina Garten. Her recipes are always foolproof, just like the title of some of her cookbooks. Her recipes are reliable. And always good. This recipe comes from her 2002 Family Style cookbook.

What’s different about these is that instead of rolling the dough in chopped nuts, Ina has you do it in sweetened coconut. The making of these isn’t much different that most cookie doughs, although you do need to make time to chill the dough for awhile. It helps to have a kitchen scale, as she wants these to be 1 ounce each. The balls are placed on an ungreased cookie sheet, then you press a little thumb indentation in the top (not actually flattening the entire cookie). Ideally these are filled with raspberry or apricot jam, a mere 1/4 teaspoon. How do you even measure 1/4 teaspoon of jam, I ask? In other words, very little jam.

Speaking about Nespresso, as I was up above, I had to phone the customer service people there to have them walk me through why one of my machines wasn’t working quite right. They figured it out easily enough and we got it back in working order. While we were waiting for hot water to pump through to clean out the head, I casually mentioned to the nice guy, Ricardo, that I’m just a huge fan of Nespresso, period. That I now own three of them, and that I joke with my family (I do) that I need to be buried with my Nespresso machine, because it has to go with me to heaven. Ricardo just burst into laughter, telling me that was the funniest thing he’d heard all week, and could he share my story with his co-workers at their next staff meeting. I said yes, of course!

What’s GOOD: these cookies are just scrumptious. Just sweet enough. Not too sweet. Lovely with the coconut on the outside edges, with them lightly browned. Thank you, Linda, for making these. This recipe is a keeper, and perfect anytime, but particularly as Christmastime.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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

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Thumbprint Cookies with Coconut

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 32

3/4 pound unsalted butter — at room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg — beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces shredded coconut meat — sweetened type
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough into 1-1/4 inch balls. (If you have a scale, they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.
Per Serving: 175 Calories; 11g Fat (55.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 23mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 6mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 42mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Miscellaneous, on January 14th, 2022.

Another new way to use rhubarb. 

A post from Carolyn. On Saturday last, New Year’s Day, I was alone at home, content to watch the Rose Parade with the fireplace blazing, warm and cozy inside. I decided it was an appropriate day to make a nice dinner for myself. I’d had some duck in the freezer for a really long time (I’m not even going to tell you how long . . .). It was a duck half, partially cooked already, vacuum sealed. It needed about 25 minutes of heating through in a 350°F oven and it was juicy and bubbling. Originally the duck came with a packet of sauce to go with it, but I couldn’t locate it in the freezer, so I glanced at a shelf nearby (in the freezer) and spotted rhubarb that I’d chopped up and frozen some months ago. And sure enough, I had a chutney recipe in my files.

The recipe actually had you make it all in the microwave, but I decided to just do it stovetop instead. I sweated some minced yellow onion in apple juice (I used frozen concentrate diluted 1-to-1, not 1-to-3 as the package instructed), then added garlic and red pepper flakes to the mixture. The rhubarb had a little bit of sugar sprinkled over it already and was still partially frozen, but the cooking defrosted it in short order, especially since rhubarb is made up of a lot of water – the heat and steam took care of that in a jiffy. Golden raisins were added – nothing else – not even more sugar, nor salt. It was perfect. I didn’t cook it long as I didn’t want the rhubarb to disintegrate. My mother used to make rhubarb sauce and cooked it way too long – I like to see some definition in the rhubarb pieces. So it was simmered for a bare 3-5 minutes and it was done. I let it sit with the lid on it for about half an hour to blend the flavors a bit, then cooled it and refrigerated it to serve later.

The night before I’d made a vegetarian entrée (fresh Portobello mushrooms chopped up, garlic, onion, zucchini, some little dabs of cream cheese and grated Grana Padano) and had leftovers of that. So my dinner was complete with the roasted duck, the rhubarb chutney and the mushroom side dish.

What’s GOOD: loved the sweet/sour taste of the chutney. Easy to make, and I’ll use the leftovers for something with chicken, probably. It would work even on my morning yogurt, for that matter.

What’s NOT: only that you need to procure rhubarb. I try to freeze some when rhubarb is in season so I can use it at a later date.

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

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Rhubarb Chutney

Recipe By: Found on fareshare website
Serving Size: 6

1/3 cup onion — finely minced
1 clove garlic — minced
1 tablespoon apple juice frozen concentrate — plus 1 tablespoon water
2 cups rhubarb — chopped, frozen, defrosted
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons sugar — or less – taste it
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

NOTE: If you have just apple juice, use 1/4 cup and simmer it for about 2-3 minutes to reduce it by 1/2, to about 2 tablespoons.
1. In a medium saucepan add the apple juice concentrate and onion. Cook over low heat for about 3-4 minutes until onion has begun to soften, but the juice is still very visible.
2. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Add all the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook over very low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring several times. Taste the rhubarb for sugar – add in small amounts until it suits your taste. Don’t allow rhubarb to fall apart.
3. Put a lid on the pan and set aside for about 20 minutes, then cool. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving alongside poultry, duck or firm-fleshed fish.
Per Serving: 63 Calories; trace Fat (1.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 44mg Calcium; trace Iron; 200mg Potassium; 17mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on January 7th, 2022.

There’s no question, I do love tortilla soup. This one’s a little bit different, but certainly in the same genre.

This post from Carolyn. Over the holidays (two weeks before Christmas) I came down with a cold. A really awful cold that had me down and out for over a week. It had me cancel several fun things I was going to do which made me quite sad. It had me snuggled under a blanket watching too much television. I had a jillion Rachael Ray shows recorded, so one day I watched about 10 of them. This recipe came from one of those programs. Had I been well enough I would have made this while I was sick, but instead I made it after I was well. My cousin Gary drove down from Northern California where he lives. As it happened we’ve had a lot of rain in California in recent weeks, so his trip would normally take about 7+ hours, and it took him nearly 11 hours because of traffic issues, rain, road conditions and just jam-ups  in various places. This soup was his reward once he arrived.

Rachael said she was looking for a leaner, very green, vegetarian style tortilla soup. And she explained that the toppings are what make this dish. I totally agree. The soup itself is merely the “bed” or the sled to pile on the goodies. The more toppings the better. As it happened, I did end up adding some shredded rotisserie chicken to the soup, but that’s certainly optional. The soup was a bit on the hot side for my cousin, so I’ve tamed down the chiles in the recipe – Rachael used Hatch chiles (which are generally hotter than regular green chiles), so you can decide for yourself if you want hot, use Hatch mild, otherwise, the regular cans of Ortega green chiles will be fine too. For the leftovers I added a little bit of cream to the soup (this was to tame it down) and squeezed a bit of sour cream on top as well.

What’s GOOD: I loved everything about this soup. The texture of all the varied toppings IS what makes the soup. Tomatillos are the strongest flavor of the soup base itself. But the crunch of the various things on top give it so much variety. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Easy to make. The hardest part is chopping up all the toppings!

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

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Green Mean Tortilla Soup – with or without chicken

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Rachael Ray show, Dec. 2021
Serving Size: 4

6 corn tortillas — halved and cut into ½-inch strips, baked to a golden brown in a 400°F oven for 7-8 minutes
1/4 cup EVOO
3 medium zucchini — seeds removed, diced
3 poblano chiles — chopped
1 onion — chopped
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 cups vegetable stock — or chicken stock
1 cup Hatch chiles — use mild, or if you’re sensitive to heat, use Ortega regular mild chiles
12 ounces tomatillos — papery skin removed, washed and quartered, or use canned
2 cups shredded chicken (optional)
Garnishes: thin sliced radishes, crumbled queso fresco, scallions sliced on bias, diced avocado with lime, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, crema or sour cream, pickled jalapenos

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high to high heat, add zucchini, poblanos, onion and salt. Partially cover, turn heat to medium and soften 7 to 8 minutes.
2. Remove half of the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Grate garlic into the pan, add the spices and black pepper. Add the stock, chiles and tomatillos and let come to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
3. Puree in a high-powered blender or with an immersion blender, then add back the reserved vegetables and simmer together 5 minutes. Add chicken at this point if you’re using it.
4. Serve soup in wide bowls and top with your pick of garnishes – the more the merrier.
Per Serving: 318 Calories; 17g Fat (44.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1020mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 116mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 1071mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Fish, on December 29th, 2021.

A very simple salmon preparation worthy of a weeknight dinner or for guests.

A post from Carolyn. I try to make salmon at least once a week – not that I always succeed but I try. So I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe or method to prepare it. This recipe has been in my recipe arsenal for a long time, so my notes say. It was originally published in Fine Cooking (does that magazine exist anymore?). In the photo you can barely see some lemon zest and/or orange zest. There’s also juice from both, Champagne vinegar and parsley and minced shallot. The vinaigrette is quite easy to prepare as long as you have the fresh orange and fresh lemon on hand. I always have a shallot or two, and usually I have cilantro (what the recipe called for) but I had Italian parsley instead.

The salmon is simply dressed with EVOO, salt and pepper and baked at 400° for 5-7 minutes (depending on the thickness). Use an instant read thermometer – remove it when it reaches 140°F. Watch it carefully, as it goes from 120 to 140 in a mere minute. I like my salmon just barely cooked through, when it’s still soft, not when it becomes a dryer texture. If the salmon is thinner, obviously it will cook in 4-5 minutes at that temp. So, my warning: WATCH IT CAREFULLY SO YOU DON’T OVERCOOK IT!

Meanwhile, you prepare the vinaigrette and let it sit for whatever minutes you have available. I made it while the salmon was in the oven, but next time I think I’d make the vinaigrette FIRST, so I didn’t feel panicky at the last minute hoping I’d get it ready in time for salmon to come out of the oven. My salmon wasn’t all that thick, so it took fewer minutes.

Once the salmon is out of the oven, serve immediately OR tent it with foil for a minute or two at the most. Serve with the vinaigrette poured over the top. You’ll probably have leftover vinaigrette, so you can serve the extra at the table, or save for another use. The vinaigrette goes very nicely with rice if it happens to ooze over to the rice on your plate. Just sayin’ . . . .[cheeky grin here].

What’s GOOD: how easy this is – providing you have a fresh orange and lemon on hand. The vinaigrette is so very tasty and nice on the salmon.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether lovely salmon.

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Baked Salmon with Citrus Vinaigrette

Recipe By: From Fine Cooking
Serving Size: 4

CITRUS VINAIGRETTE:
1 medium shallot — finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar — or white-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest — finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon orange zest — finely chopped
Kosher salt
SALMON:
2 pounds salmon fillets — cut into 4 portions
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF.
2. In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, lemon zest, orange zest, and a pinch of salt. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk the oil into this mixture, taste, adjust seasoning and add another drop or two of vinegar, if needed. Set aside.
3. Season the salmon with salt, put it on an oiled rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle a thin stream of oil on top. Bake until it’s done to your liking, about 6 minutes for medium, 8 minutes for medium well, keeping in mind that it will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven. Check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer, and remove the salmon from the oven when the temperature reaches 140°F.
4. Transfer the salmon to four dinner plates, spoon about 2 Tbs. of the vinaigrette onto each portion, sprinkle the cilantro on top, and serve.
Per Serving: 338 Calories; 15g Fat (42.3% calories from fat); 46g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 168mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium; 1g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 29mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 998mg Potassium; 645mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Pasta, on December 23rd, 2021.

Oh goodness, is this good. Easy to make, and sensational to eat.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe is such a winner. Really quite easy to make – the creamy white sauce starts it off, but then you add cream cheese to it, and Caesar salad dressing. Not a lot of the dressing, but just enough that you can barely taste a hint of Caesar flavor. If you’re into EASY, then do buy a rotisserie chicken, which yielded about 3 cups of shredded chicken for me, just the right amount for this casserole.

After that, it’s the usual kind of lasagna, cooked noodles (I undercooked them slightly), layered with the cheeses and the creamy sauce and chicken. Plus some baby spinach added into each layer. Originally this recipe came from A Pinch of Yum (from 2013!), but I altered it a bit – increasing the sauce quantity and another layer of noodles, and I used a grated cheese blend. Although I’m more of a traditionalist about cheeses (almost never using pre-grated cheese because they put something on it so it won’t clump), this time I was into speed, so I bought Kraft’s Italian blend of cheeses in 8-ounce bags. I used 1 1/2 bags for this recipe. My only caution: make sure you have enough cheese left over to put on the top layer of noodles – you don’t want crispy edges. I also added a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to the sauce – certainly not traditional! In savory dishes like this with a creamy sauce, I just think nutmeg is a sure-fire winner. You don’t really taste the nutmeg.

I made this the day before I wanted to serve it, and just let it warm up to room temp for about 45 minutes before I put it in the oven. It took a little longer to get it all heated through. I cut it into lunch-sized portions (for one of my ladies’ book groups, a potluck), so use a sharp knife to cut the slices evenly. Do let it cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s GOOD: oh gosh, the creamy sauce; altogether deliciousness. It’s easy to put together; can be made ahead too. Loved the leftovers as well.

What’s NOT: not a thing. This recipe is a keeper.

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Cheesy Chicken Caesar Lasagna

Recipe By: Adapted from Pinch of Yum, Nov. 2013
Serving Size: 12

3 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese — cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup Caesar salad dressing
12 ounces grated cheese — Kraft’s Italian cheese blend, comes in 8 ounce packages
12 lasagna noodles
3 cups chicken, meat only — from a whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 cups fresh spinach — baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — chopped

NOTE: the original recipe called for 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and 3 cups shredded Mozzarella. The purchase of the Kraft pre-shredded Italian blend worked beautifully in this recipe, and simplified the work.
1. Melt the butter over medium high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, a little bit at a time, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Whisk in the cubes of cream cheese, nutmeg, and Caesar dressing until smooth and creamy. Continue cooking over low heat until cream cheese has melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
2. Cook the lasagna noodles a minute or two less than the package directions (noodles will continue to cook in the oven). Add the chicken to the sauce mixture and keep over medium low heat.
3. Grease a 9×13 pan and preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover with 3 lasagna noodles. Top with 1/3 the chicken mixture, a third of the spinach, 3 tablespoons of the sundried tomatoes, and a quarter of the cheese. Cover with 3 more noodles. Repeat layers, ending with another layer of noodles and the remaining 1 cup cheese. Make sure you leave enough cheese to cover the top layer.
4. Bake for 30 minutes covered with greased foil. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to brown the cheese. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator for about 45 minutes before baking.
Per Serving: 673 Calories; 26g Fat (35.6% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 74g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 94mg Cholesterol; 539mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 292mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 537mg Potassium; 457mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on December 13th, 2021.

Have you ever tried potato chip cookies? I sure had not, but now I’m a fan.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe has been in my files for awhile. It came from Food52, and it just sounded so non-sensical. Potato chips in a cookie? Yet several commenters said they were wonderful, so I just had to try them. I never buy potato chips – they’re just something that I can walk right on by and never be tempted. Not that I don’t like them – I do. But I never crave them – maybe just a little bit with a ham sandwich. If I ever order a tuna sandwich (out) and potato chips are served with it, I’ll put some of the chips inside my sandwich. Not sure where that came from, though I know some people do that on lots of sandwiches.

Just so you know, an 8-ounce bag of Lay’s classic potato chips (that brand is called for here), when crushed (food processor) yielded about 3 1/4 cups. I have to laugh at myself – the original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups, but when I poured out the bag I ended up with over 3 cups and didn’t remember that I needed only 1-1/2 cups. So I put in the entire bag – 8 ounces – of potato chips. So the recipe has been changed below to indicate 3 cups of crushed potato chips.

The recipe starts with a pound of butter (whew!). But you won’t eat that many cookies at a sitting, and (of course) with all that butter, these just about melt in your mouth. The butter needs to be at room temp. My four cubes weren’t, so I put two cubes at a time into the microwave and zapped them for 10 seconds, then turned the cubes over and did another 10 seconds. All four cubes were perfectly softened. Into the stand mixer they went (it would be ideal if you have a stand mixer here because this next step takes awhile) and they got whipped for 10 full minutes. No guessing here – set the timer so you know.

At right you can see how light and fluffy the butter gets. There is nothing in there except butter at this point. Then you add in sugar, mix a bit, then add vanilla, then the potato chips and finely whizzed-up pecans. You mix that just until combined. Note, there is no leavening here – none whatsoever. No eggs. No baking powder.

The baking sheets need to be lined with parchment paper, then you use a small (tiny) scoop, or use two teaspoons to drop small rounded teaspoon-sized blobs onto the parchment. The first cookies I flattened with a glass, but the next trays I just let them drop as they were. Those cookies were a little more craggy on the top – more or less flattened – but not quite as flat-flat as the first trays. I’m fine with the more craggy ones – you can actually see the little tiny pieces of potato chips in those.  The picture at top shows the craggy ones. The original recipe didn’t call for pecans, but one of the commenters mentioned adding them, so I did too.

Scooping the cookies is a bit tedious – because the cookies are really small. I can’t say that I was all that diligent about getting each and every cookie uniformly sized. But they didn’t bake-up irregularly, so I think you’ll be fine whatever size you make them. I ended up with over 90 cookies, far more than I would have thought.

So the recipe indicates, the cookie improves on day two or three, but mine will go into the freezer, since that’s what I do with almost all cookies. I doubled the recipe that I’d found on Food52 because it indicated it made just 24 cookies. Nowhere near enough for what I needed. But doubling (and using more potato chips as I did) yielded over 90 cookies.

As I write this, my good friend Cherrie and I are going to get together to bake Christmas cookies. We always do cranberry noels, and she’s making a lemon icebox cookie (if they’re good I’ll post it after Christmas, probably). I’ve made these potato chip cookies already, and am not sure what other cookies I’ll do. At least one other. And I’ll be baking one batch of Golden Bishop’s Bread which is a must-have at my home over the holidays. My cousin Gary is driving south next week to be with me through the holidays. My granddaughter Taylor (the one living with me who’s in nursing school) is finishing up her second (of four) semesters and gets to have four weeks off before she returns after Christmas to start again. She’s leaving to go home to Placerville in a couple of days and SO happy to have a month off. This concentrated nursing school is grueling – on the days she has off  from school or clinical work at a local hospital, she’s closeted in her room studying and/or watching nursing school videos, and doing practice quizzes. Going for a 14-month BSN is not for sissies! I just love having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a real joy to have around.

What’s GOOD: everything about them is good – the flavor, texture, the melt-in-your-mouth quality to them, the little bit of crunch from the potato chips and the pecans. They look pretty, and surprisingly they are more sturdy than I’d have thought, what with using mostly whipped butter as a batter. The recipe is a keeper. You might expect these to be extra salty, but they’re not at all. Surprisingly!

What’s NOT: only that you need to have potato chips on hand. And a pound of butter!!

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Potato Chip Cookies with Pecans

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52
Serving Size: 90

2 cups unsalted butter — softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans — chopped fine in food processor (optional)
3 cups potato chips — classic Lay’s potato chips, chopped finely in food processor (you can use less – – I accidentally doubled the amount)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar — to sprinkle on top

NOTE: The original cookie didn’t have pecans, but someone added them and said they were good, with more texture in the finished cookies. You can delete the pecans if you prefer.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Use a food processor to finely mince the potato chips and pecans (not together) and set aside. Do not over-process as you want the chips to still have some form.
3. Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer), beat the butter until light and fluffy – at least 10 minutes. Do not skimp on the mixing time. Then add sugar and beat well. Add vanilla, then gradually add in the flour. Add the pecans and crushed potato chips last and mix until just combined.
4. Drop by the teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. If you don’t mind the tops being a little bit craggy, just mound the batter and they’ll flatten out in their own way.
5. Bake until slightly brown on the edges and still relatively white/creamy in the center of each cookie, about 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and using a fine sieve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 107 Calories; 7g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 42mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 4mg Calcium; trace Iron; 102mg Potassium; 19mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on December 13th, 2021.

What I’ll say is that this dessert received many, many raves.

This post from Carolyn. Aren’t those glasses the cutest? I bought them about 20 years ago, tall shot glasses, and I’ve never used them for shots. But then, I don’t drink shots. Hence, they’ve been used for little servings of soup (usually cold, since holding the glass of hot soup might be difficult) and for little servings of dessert. This time for a mini-serving of chocolate. My cousin Gary, who was visiting over Thanksgiving, can’t eat wheat, so I always make a GF dessert for him to enjoy. I gave him a choice of a GF flourless chocolate cake or torte, or rich chocolate pudding. He enthusiastically said the pudding.

So, on Thanksgiving morning he and I made this pudding. I started with a recipe from Circle B Kitchen, but changed it a little bit because I wanted more chocolate-truffle-like pudding that was decadent. This certainly filled that bill! My cousin is an engineer (retired) and I assigned him the task of figuring out how we were going to get the pudding into the narrow little glasses without getting pudding all around the top edges. Finally, a traditional funnel was found to be the best resource, although once the pudding began to thicken (as it cooled) it became more and more difficult to do.

There are a few steps to making this: combining the dry ingredients, cooking the milk/half and half mixture, then tempering the egg yolks, then pouring it all over the other ingredients .  Then the pudding is cooked – watched very carefully so it doesn’t plop all over – just below a simmer for two minutes. Then the bar chocolate (I used semisweet) is added, and because the pudding is very hot, it melts quite easily.

Then you add the Kahlua. And stir it in well. Gary and I worked feverishly to get the pudding into the glasses immediately. Once cooled, they went into the refrigerator. I have a tall square refrigerator container, so they went into that with the lid on top, so I didn’t have to attach plastic wrap to each shot glass. You don’t want the pudding to develop a skin.

Using the whipped-cream-in-a-can was the best way to get whipped cream on top – though you can certainly do your own whipped cream for this – just be careful as you add the dollop on top (if you’re using a similar tall, thin glass).

What’s GOOD: very rich. Quite decadent. Strong Kahlua flavor. If you’re not a fan of Kahlua, of course, leave it out. Substitute vanilla, if needed. There is no question this is a chocolate Kahlua dessert.

What’s NOT: this isn’t a simple whip-it-up-quick kind of pudding. Several steps. Needs to chill a few hours as well.

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Rich Chocolate Pudding (GF)

Recipe By: Adapted from Circle B Kitchen
Serving Size: 8

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons cocoa powder — (unsweetened)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups milk — full fat
1/2 cup sugar — or less
1/3 cup Kahlua — or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture and then whisk in the egg yolks.
2. Pour the milk and half-and-half into a 3-quart saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl of cream and egg yolks. whisking until well-combined, then pour everything back into the pan.
3. Bring the pudding mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Watch carefully, stirring continuously and once it begins to boil, reduce heat and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
4. Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and blended and then stir in the vanilla or the Kahlua, if using.
5. Divide the pudding into small ramekins or dessert cups, cover each with plastic wrap (to avoid creating a skin on top) and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream if desired. This will serve more than 8 if you use very small bowls or tall shot glasses.
Per Serving: 394 Calories; 24g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium; 33g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 121mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 248mg Potassium; 153mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on December 6th, 2021.

A veggie side dish fit for company, or any holiday.

This post from Carolyn. I’ve been making these green beans for decades. They were served to me in the 1960s, and I have no recollection of the heritage of this – other than it was at a gourmet dinner I’d attended and someone else brought them. I was instantly smitten. These may not be everyone’s cup of tea since there is sugar in the vinaigrette. Quite a lot, actually. But when it’s spread around with the fruit and beans, it doesn’t taste like it. It does require some last-minute preparation, so it’s best to have someone else be in charge of these, or else this be the only thing you’re doing before serving dinner.

The bacon can be made ahead and re-heated. My cousin Gary was visiting over Thanksgiving, and he and I made these for the dinner (at my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister Janice and Julian’s home). We’ve had many Thanksgivings or Christmas dinners there. With so many carbs surrounding the big turkey dinner, I wanted something green. We pre-cooked the beans at home, cooled them in cold water, drained them and let them dry some before packaging them  up to take with us. The bacon was cooked ahead, then I made the bacon vinaigrette (sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and the bacon drippings). I stored that in a glass jar to take along. The pears were cooked at the very end – and depending on the ripeness of the pears, they don’t require much cooking – the water had lemon peel added, and I probably poached them for about 4 minutes.

Then when ready to serve, into a large frying pan I poured the bacon vinaigrette, then all the green beans and let them cook for 1-2 minutes just until heated through, then the hot, cooked pears were added. The bacon reheated in the oven (residual heat from the turkey roasted in there). Onto a big platter they went with the hot crispy bacon added on top. And a few little tendrils of lemon zest too. It’s an impressive vegetable dish, especially for a holiday.

What’s GOOD: it’s certainly pretty – and the pears are unexpected. Altogether lovely side dish for any dinner, but since it’s more work than a standard side, I’d save it for company or a holiday meal. Love the vinaigrette on it. Love the combination of beans and pears too.

What’s NOT: only that it has a bit of prep and last-minute work. If you are making all kinds of other dishes to serve, either assign this to someone else to make or do all you can to have it prepped ahead so all you have to do is combine everything in the frying pan to reheat.

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Pears, Beans and Bacon

Recipe By: From a gourmet group from the early 1970’s
Serving Size: 6

3 whole pears — ripe
1/2 cup water
1 piece lemon peel — thin slivers
1 pound green beans — Blue Lake, if poss., stem ends trimmed
1 teaspoon salt
6 slices bacon — cut into 1/2″ squares
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon peel — for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Add salt, dissolve, then add beans. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until beans are crisp-tender. Drain beans and plunge into iced or cold water to stop the cooking.
2. In large frying pan, render the bacon until crisp and dry on paper towel. To the bacon drippings, add the sugar, vinegar and lemon juice and cook for 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
3. Peel and slice the pears into a saucepan, add the water, lemon peel and simmer for 5 minutes or until just barely tender. Do not overcook them or they will fall apart in the finished dish. Drain and set aside.
4. To the frying pan, add green beans and toss mixture over medium heat until beans are hot, then gently stir in the pears. Pour out onto a platter and add crumbled bacon on top when served. Garnish with more lemon peel shreds if desired.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on November 29th, 2021.

Pure bliss. Chocolate and nuts make my day. These are wonderful any time of year, but particularly so around the holidays.

This is a post from Carolyn, but actually Taylor made these. I merely helped a little and took photos. It’s such a joy to have this granddaughter of mine living with me. She wanted to make some cookies, asked me for some ideas and this one popped to the forefront. It’s a recipe from Food & Wine. Since she made them a month ago, I’ve made them as well and served them at a luncheon, topped with sweetened whipped cream. As I write this there are still 8-10 squares (I served larger squares as a dessert rather than a triangle or bar) in the frig. I wish they weren’t so darned delicious because I know that box beckons me nearly every day.

These aren’t hard to make at all, although they do have two steps – the shortbread crust, then the chocolate topping. You can combine the shortbread ingredients in a stand mixer or a food processor, which makes a dough. I’d separate the dough into about 6 pieces, then place them strategically on the sheet pan – which makes it easier to push the shortbread into the corners. There is just barely enough dough to fill a sheet pan.

You can see all the fingerprints in the dough (at left). It might have been nicer if we had used a flat glass to flatten it out, but it truly makes no difference in the finished product.

That gets baked (watch it so it doesn’t burn). Then you make the filling which is butter, dark brown sugar, a little bit of corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and cream. Once it cools slightly you add in the beaten eggs, and pour it out over the shortbread crust. That is baked awhile, then cooled slightly before you add the sea salt flakes on top. Cool completely, and they’re done. Oh so good.

At right you can see the baked bars, with all the pecans pebbling the surface. Once cooled you can cut them, or you can wait until they’re chilled. Be careful as you cut so the knife or sharp spatula doesn’t crack the shortbread. I cut them when they were room temp. After cutting, I put them into a refrigerator storage box with waxed paper separating the layers. Don’t put the cookies right on top of one another or it’ll ruin the chocolate top.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, so much chocolate and nut goodness. Loved these bars as a cookie or as a square piece as a dessert with the whipped cream on top. Altogether fabulous recipe. The chocolate part is a bit sticky, so when you handle them, do have them refrigerated first. And store them in the refrigerator. They make a bunch – they’re an easy dessert or cookie/bar to make. Great for the holidays.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Chocolate Pecan Shortbread Bars

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine
Serving Size: 32

SHORTBREAD:
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
3 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate — finely chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large eggs — beaten
3 cups pecan halves — chopped (10 ounces)
Flaky sea salt

1. SHORTBREAD: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 12-by-17-inch baking pan with foil, allowing it to extend 1/2 inch over the edge on all sides. Spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.
2. In a standing mixer or food processor, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, breaking it up into about 6 chunks and evenly place them on the baking sheet. Then use a flat-bottomed glass, to press the dough into an even layer. If you have difficulty, use your hands to gently coax the dough into the corners. Freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, until firm.
3. Bake the shortbread in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Do not overbake.
4. TOPPING: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, chocolate and cream and cook over low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. If you add the eggs too soon, the hot chocolate mixture will “cook” the eggs, rather than thicken the topping. Add in the eggs, then fold in the pecans.
5. Spread the topping over the shortbread crust. Bake the shortbread bars for about 25 minutes, until the topping is set. Allow it to cool a few minutes, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until firm. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars out of the pan; discard the foil. Cut the shortbread into 32 triangles and serve. If you cut them into squares (larger) you can serve these as a stand-alone dessert with a topping of sweetened whipped cream. Or cut into triangles or smaller bars to serve as cookies. Store bars in refrigerator. You may stack them with pieces of waxed paper in between.
Per Serving: 312 Calories; 26g Fat (72.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 21mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 67mg Potassium; 52mg Phosphorus.

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