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

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Am in the middle of Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loving every chapter so far.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

I’ve been on a Moriarty tangent lately, this one Three Wishes, is about three triplets (women), two identical, one fraternal, as they progress through their 33rd year of life. So many twists and turns for each one. As someone said on amazon, Liane Moriarty never disappoints with providing a good story.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

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

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

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

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Cookies, on December 2nd, 2022.

It’s holiday time, and my cousin Gary visits most years, and he’s gluten (or at least he’s for sure wheat)  intolerant.

A post from Carolyn. My cousin and I share one very important trait (hmmm, maybe it’s genetic?) – we love chocolate. He will always tell me, “no, don’t bake cookies for me,” but then I think, yes, I should. I didn’t ask him this year, I just made them. It’s the holidays. A reason to try a new GF recipe for him.

Recently the New York Times offered a subscription to their food section and archives (not the daily newspaper) at half price, for $20/year. I don’t know about you, but I think newspapers should offer recipes for free – maybe not the stories, but at least the recipes; but they don’t. Or at least most newspapers don’t. And particularly the New York Times. But at half price I thought it was a good buy. In the past when I’ve discovered the NYT had printed some great sounding recipe, I’d do a search all over the web, and sometimes I’d find the recipe somewhere else. But not always. One of my very favorite cookbooks I own is Amanda Hesser’s gigantic tome, The Essential New York Times Cookbook: The Recipes of Record, a 2021 re-release with new added content. I have the older edition – the one here is the recent one. The older one must be out of print already!

With that in mind, and my new subscription available, I decided to search for GF cookie recipes for Gary, and downloaded this one and made them for him. They’re very straight-forward. No unusual ingredients, providing you have almond flour on hand already. I do. I keep it in the freezer. Do use the pure almond flour – not the one from Trader Joe’s that has the skins included. I buy my blanched almond flour at Costco. I had a small bag of Bob’s Red Mill almond flour in my pantry (that had been there for well over a year) and it smelled just fine, so I’m not sure almond flour needs to be kept in the freezer after all. Might open up some new real estate in my jam-packed freezer.

In this case I used half artificial sugar, half real sugar; the recipe calls for both light brown and granulated; I use half Swerve brown, and half So Nourished erythritol granular. In sampling the finished cookies, I cannot tell there is any artificial sugar in them.

First it’s butter and sugars to be mixed, then eggs, then vanilla, and lastly the dry ingredients. With most new cookie recipes these days, I bake 2-3 of them first to make sure they’re the right consistency. These were; I made no adjustments except for the baking time. The cookies are scooped onto baking sheets and lightly flattened before baking for 13 1/2 minutes (in my oven, anyway). The original recipe made gigantic ones. I made traditional sized, and that’s the time they needed. These cookies were plumper than the ones shown in the newspaper photograph – theirs were very spread out, but still in a nice round shape. Mine were thicker – they barely settled a little in height when baked. That may be why they required a bit more baking time.

What’s GOOD: well, obviously, that they GF. GF cookies (at least those made with almond flour) tend to be a bit more “sandy” in texture. From a frozen state, I liked these better. They’re pretty fragile at room temperature. They’re still a bit fragile from frozen, but manageable. My cousin ate a few every day and liked them.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than GF cookies tend to have a different texture. If you prefer tender, soft cookies, these will be perfect.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

GF Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from the New York Times
Servings: 60

5 1/2 cups almond flour — finely ground (blanched)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
20 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar — I used half Swerve light brown
2/3 cup sugar — I used half Erythritol granular
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
24 ounces unsweetened chocolate — coarsely chopped or grated bar (or bittersweet) chocolate
1 1/4 cups walnuts — chopped (optional)
Sea salt (optional, for finishing)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the almond flour, salt and baking soda to combine.
3. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Add the egg and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well, then add the vanilla and mix to combine.
5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined, about 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl well and mix on low speed to ensure the mixture is homogeneous.
6. Add the chocolate and walnuts; gently mix to incorporate it. Scoop the dough into heaping tablespoon mounds of dough, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Stagger the rows to allow the cookies room to spread.
7. Gently press the cookies down slightly with your fingers. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, if using. Bake the cookies, switching racks and rotating the sheets halfway through, until they’re golden brown around the edges and just barely set in the center, 11-13 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies with a spatula onto another rack to cool a bit more. Freeze for best storage. Cookies are fragile, so cool well before moving to a freezer bag.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 13g Fat (73.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 18mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 123mg Potassium; 66mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on November 25th, 2022.

Oh my. Oh my. This is so darned good I could not keep my spoon out of it for days on end. I will never make any other kind of rice pudding. Ever.

A post from Carolyn. I can’t take a speck of credit for this recipe, but it’s such a keeper. It’s going onto my favs list (the top right tab on my home page). It was just a week or so ago I watched Ina Garten in her newest series, Be My Guest, when she invited Nathan Lane to her home and served him some barely warm rice pudding. He swooned.

Perhaps you don’t think there’s much to say about rice pudding – it’s pudding. But you’d be dead wrong. This version, with either golden raisin- or currant-soaked in dark rum in a rich rice pudding made with half and  half, is just off the charts delicious. I can’t tell you if it’s the rum, or the plump raisins, or the pudding itself made with the half and half that make the strongest impression. It’s a combination made in heaven. I hope they serve this up there in heaven. Wish I’d discovered this version decades ago!

You can make this in one pan – cooking the basmati rice first, then adding the half and half, cooking it until it’s just right, adding a fork-stirred egg to thicken it slightly, then a splash of vanilla, and lastly those scrumptious plump rum soaked raisins (or currants if that what you have on hand like I had). It takes awhile to cool – I made one in a little ramekin just so take a picture of it, but the remainder went into a ceramic dish. That’s the dish I can’t keep my spoon from dipping in several times a day for just a bite.

It doesn’t make a thick pudding. Guess you could call it a loose pudding. Some commenters said the pudding was too thin, so I added less half and half.

What’s GOOD: every single solitary thing about this pudding is off the charts, in my book anyway. Can be made ahead. If you’re not a fan of rum or alcohol, just plump the raisins with apple juice or hot water. Maybe add a slight more vanilla.

What’s NOT: there isn’t anything about this I didn’t like.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Adapted a little from Ina Garten
Servings: 8 (maybe more)

1/2 cup raisins — golden, or currants
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum — use spiced rum if available
1 1/8 cups water
1/2 cup basmati rice
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/4 cups half and half — divided, and more if needed
3/8 cup sugar
1 large egg — beaten
1 1/8 teaspoons vanilla extract

NOTE: If you prefer a more firm pudding texture, use less half and half. As is, this makes a pourable pudding.
1. In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.
2. Combine the rice and salt with water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan large enough to hold all of the pudding. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Watch it carefully during the last 5 minutes or it will burn and stick. The rice is not fully cooked at this point. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner during the cooking.)
3. Stir in sugar and most of the half-and-half and bring to a boil. Simmer over very low heat, uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end.
4. Whisk egg in a small bowl and spoon some of the hot pudding into it, then pour into the large pot of bubbling pudding and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the remaining half-and-half, the vanilla, and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well.
5. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled. If you use a lesser quantity of half and half, wait until it cools and add more half and half, stirring thoroughly. This makes a more thick-soup style pudding. If you pour the pudding into ramekins it will probably serve 12.
Per Serving: 220 Calories; 12g Fat (48.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 181mg Sodium; 19g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 115mg Calcium; trace Iron; 208mg Potassium; 117mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Vegetarian, on November 18th, 2022.

Comfort food – think all the ingredients of cabbage rolls, but in a casserole.

A post from Carolyn. You’ll likely find a bunch of recipes out there for cabbage roll casseroles. I looked at about 15 maybe before deciding on one, but then I tweaked it some. First, I substituted Impossible burger meat instead of ground beef. You can use beef, or ground chicken or turkey too. In a casserole like this, I doubt anyone could tell the difference!

There’s another recipe here on my blog that’s a similar concoction, Unstuffed Sweet & Sour Cabbage, posted waaay back when – in 2008. My goodness, how time flies. I also have made a similar mixture into a soup. But I prefer the sweet/sour aspect of this recipe and my 2008 one.

First a chopped up an onion and sizzled that a bit in a big frying pan with a bit of oil. Then garlic, some celery (not in the original recipe), then the beef substitute. It cooks up just like ground beef, looking like raw, with redness, then it cooks out the red. Then a big can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste are added. Paprika and thyme were sprinkled in. I also added some half-sharp paprika too. Since most of you won’t have that (you can buy it at Penzey’s), just add a little jot of Sriracha to the mixture. I added some beef soup base (not much) to give it a bit more beefy flavor, though you could use vegetable soup base just as easily. I added a little bit of caraway seed, ground sage, celery seed too. Those weren’t in the original recipe either.

Meanwhile I cooked up 2/3 cup of basmati rice (long grain) and set it aside. Once the sauce came to a boil I simmered it for about 20 minutes to meld the flavors. I poured it out into a big bowl. Then I chopped up a big green cabbage. Some recipes leave the cabbage in wedges, but I liked the idea of layering the cabbage and the “meat” sauce, so I cut it into about 1″ squares, approximately. That got sautéed a bit in oil and water (in the original pot), then steamed until mostly cooked. One recipe cautioned that the baking of  the casserole doesn’t cook the cabbage any further, so it needs to be fully cooked before composing the casserole.

Into a big 9×13 pan it went – half of the cabbage – then half the “meat”, then the remaining cabbage and remaining “meat.” I also sprinkled on some fresh dill in between the layers and some more on top when it was served.

This makes a generous quantity, and it’s very filling. I ate one portion and then squared out  more portions and put them in freezer containers for another day. Always happy for that occurrence. I used some plastic wrap to mold (pressed directly on) the top of the food itself, then put the plastic lid on top. I didn’t want it to grow ice crystals, so hope that will be a good solution. My cousin Gary is coming to visit over Thanksgiving, so this will make a nice dinner for us one night.

What’s GOOD: loved the ease of making this – it’ll serve at least 8-10 people. I liked that the whole casserole had just 2 cups of cooked rice in it (since I try to limit carbs). Loved the flavors, the sweet (from the tomatoes) and the sour (from the little bit of cider vinegar added at the end). You might ask – why did she put in celery? Because of the flavor – celery adds a nice addition to flavors. It probably isn’t in cabbage rolls. I try to add more veggies wherever I can.

What’s NOT: nothing really. It made a mound of dirty dishes, but it wasn’t all that bad. I miss my dear hubby who used to wash all the dishes for me – that was our deal – I cooked – he cleaned up.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cabbage Roll Casserole

Recipe By: Adapted a lot from Spend with Pennies blog
Serving Size: 9

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion — diced
1/2 cup celery — chopped
3 cloves garlic — crushed
1 pound meat substitute — like Impossible or Beyond Beef, or lean ground beef, or ground pork, or 1/2 pound of each
28 ounces canned diced tomatoes — including juice
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon beef broth concentrate — or vegetable broth concentrate
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon half-sharp paprika — or add Sriracha to taste
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cooked rice — (about 2/3 cup raw)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dill weed — optional
CABBAGE:
1 large head cabbage — about 12-14 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil — or more if needed
4 tablespoons water
TOPPING:
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese — grated
1 1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese — grated
fresh dill weed sprinkled on top

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. in a large skillet sauté onion and celery in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then add garlic and the meat of choice over medium heat until no pink remains. Drain any fat. Stir in diced tomatoes (including juice), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and all seasonings – broth concentrate, paprika, half-sharp paprika or Sriracha, thyme, sage, caraway, celery seeds, salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and add cooked rice. Add cider vinegar and stir thoroughly so it’s mixed well throughout. Taste for seasonings (may need more salt). Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, chop cabbage into 1″ squares. Heat half the oil in same large skillet and add 1/2 of the cabbage and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook just until softened (about 10 minutes). Watch carefully so cabbage doesn’t burn, adding more water if needed until cabbage is cooked through. Repeat with remaining cabbage. Place 1/2 of the cooked cabbage in a 9×13 casserole dish. It will just barely cover the bottom of the casserole. Top with 1/2 of the meat sauce. Sprinkle some fresh dill in between layers. Repeat layers of cabbage and sauce.
4. Sprinkle top of casserole with a generous portion of the two cheeses. You may refrigerate the casserole for a later time (allow to cool first). When ready to bake, remove casserole from refrigerator for about an hour before baking – it may take longer to bake.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until top of casserole (the cheese) is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling around the edges. If you’re not sure it’s thoroughly heated, test casserole in the center with an instant read thermometer and casserole should read 165°F. Remove from oven then sprinkle more diill weed on top. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, cut and serve.
Per Serving: 514 Calories; 33g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 1039mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 757mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 494mg Potassium; 632mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on November 11th, 2022.

Actually that’s the chicken before baking – it just got golden brown.

A post from Carolyn. Do you watch the show, Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern? It’s so interesting to go along with him – it’s a reality food program – as Zimmern visits a home and the family prepares a big family feast. Zimmern usually makes one thing – something from his own repertoire that he hopes will complement the meal. Lots of the programs are about food from various parts of the world, from families who have been in the U.S. for a long time. Various family members contribute their willing hands and you get to enjoy the repartee of the family.

Recently I watched a program of a family with roots in Canton, China. They have a blog, too, The Woks of Life. Isn’t that the most clever name? And they’ve published a cookbook, that’s just come out (with the same title as their blog).

In the program, this dish intrigued me. When they said this was one of their family favorites, that got me more interested. Chicken thighs first. You generally can’t buy thighs that are boned, but still have skin. I found some with bone and with skin, so needed to remove the bone myself. It’s not hard, just a little bit tedious. Once done, the thighs are marinated for a bit, then stuffed with a rice mixture that included onion, mushrooms, shallots and five spice powder.

Their family recipe calls for Chinese sausage. I didn’t make a special trip to an Asian market to buy that, but the recipe indicated bacon could be substituted.

What’s unique about this is the use of sticky (sweet) rice. Many, many years ago I made a dessert for a Chinese-themed dinner, something like “jeweled” rice, and I had to buy 5 pounds of sweet rice because it was all I could find. After 10 years I finally threw away the rest of it as I didn’t know what to do with it. If you search on amazon you can find a smaller size – I bought a small plastic jar of it that holds about 3 cups.

Sweet rice isn’t sweet. I don’t know why they call it sweet because the only difference is it cooks up sticky. It’s also called glutinous rice, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with gluten, but about the fact that it’s glue-like. VERY sticky. Don’t be turned off by the name – it’s just rice that cooks up differently. I suppose it’s in this recipe because you want the rice combo to stick together in a kind of oval ball and you mold the boneless chicken thigh around it. Most sticky rice comes from Thailand or Japan. If you don’t want to buy sweet rice, use regular, but know it won’t look quite the same but it’ll taste just as fine!

I also didn’t have shiitake mushrooms on hand – but I had regular ones. I’m sure the shiitake would be better. They were finely minced.  The rice is flavored with onion, scallions, soy sauce, dry sherry (if you have Shaoxing wine use it – I didn’t), five spice powder, the mushrooms and a tiny splash of both dark and regular soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, just use more of what you have. Years ago I bought a bottle of mushroom soy sauce, and it’s super-dark, so I use that when I need it. I use a low-sodium soy sauce when recipes call for the “regular” type.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was fabulous. I’d definitely make it again. Loved all the flavors that enhanced the rice. The meat was tender and juicy, and the Chinese flavors were quite subtle – nothing was overpowering. I see why it’s a favorite of the family. I think one chicken thigh is sufficient per serving.

What’s NOT: only the mound of dishes I had to clean afterwards. Engage a friend to help in the kitchen when you make this as it’s more labor intensive than a lot of dishes.

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Chinese Chicken with Sticky Rice

Recipe By: adapted slightly from The Woks of Life blog
Servings: 4

5 shiitake mushrooms — dried
4 chicken thighs — deboned, skin on
MARINADE:
1 medium garlic clove — minced
1 medium shallot — finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine — or dry sherry
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
RICE:
2/3 medium onion — finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweet rice — also called sticky rice, raw
1 1/3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small lean Chinese sausage — (lap cheung) diced, or substitute bacon
1 scallion — finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
TOPPING:
1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon five spice powder — sprinkled on top of chicken

NOTE: the chicken skin is important, so don’t use skinless. Chinese sausages vary in size. I think for this dish, a small one will suffice or 1 thick sliced piece of smoked bacon.
1. MUSHROOMS & CHICKEN: soak mushrooms (if you didn’t soak them overnight already, this can be expedited into a 1-2 hour process if you soak in hot water) and debone the chicken thighs.
2. Chop the onions, garlic, shallot, and scallion. Cut the sausage into small discs and slice the mushrooms (after soaking and draining) lengthwise into thin strips.
3. MARINADE: Combine the shallot, garlic, wine (or sherry), five spice powder, and sesame oil into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add the chicken to the mixture and coat it in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
4. RICE: The package said soak rice in cold water for 15 minutes, drain, then each cup of rice is cooked in about 7/8 cup of water in a saucepan, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook and don’t allow rice to stick to bottom (so, stir frequently). Set aside.
5. STUFFING: Heat vegetable oil in a wok using medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent. Add the Chinese sausage and cook for another minute. Then add the mushrooms, scallion, salt and white pepper. Cook another minute and add in the cooked sticky rice, salt to taste, then add the soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Mix thoroughly (this will take awhile as the rice doesn’t like to come apart and mix very easily) and then allow the rice mixture to cool.
6. BAKE: Preheat oven to 375°F. Divide the rice into equal ovals for each thigh, and wrap meat around each portion, tucking all sides under. Lay them in a baking dish. Add chicken broth (pour it evenly in between the crevices of the chicken) and reserve the rest if needed during baking.
7. Combine salt, white pepper with five spice powder, and sprinkle a dash of the mixture over the skin of each chicken portion. Bake for about 35 minutes, and add additional broth if the bottom of the pan looks dry. Watch it closely, as you don’t want to overcook the chicken. Use an instant read thermometer and move to next step when it reaches 165°F.
8. Once the meat is cooked through, broil it on low for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden brown. Don’t walk away as it broils! Watch it like a hawk to prevent burning. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (this isn’t quite accurate – it’s low – because not all the ingredients are listed online): 579 Calories; 38g Fat (60.1% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 189mg Cholesterol; 840mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 31mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 622mg Potassium; 389mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 6th, 2022.

No, those aren’t biscotti. I know they look like them, but they’re not.

A post from Carolyn. A dear friend passed away recently at 96. Such a sweet PEO friend; she’ll be missed. Our PEO chapter offered to bake cookies for the reception, so I looked through my to-try files and this one seemed to fit the bill. They would transport well (with waxed paper between layers, that is) and they weren’t all that difficult to make. Plus they had fall, spicy flavors in them. A win-win.

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe that I’d downloaded a year or two ago, but after reading the comments, I changed the recipe some. Many said they were too sweet. So I reduced the amount of brown sugar and the amount of molasses. I didn’t have enough golden raisins, so I used half of them and half currants. I also added some ground cardamom. I think you could still reduce the sugar in these, especially because of the icing, which is 98% sugar. I also have reduced the quantity of icing – it made too much.

They are baked in long logs – they seemed quite thick – I should have made the logs thinner, so because of that, I cut the pieces (after they were cooled and iced) into smaller ones. Usually hermits are kind of oblong-ish squares. Oblongs would have been way too big. So, therefore I cut them into thinner biscotti-like pieces.

The icing, Dorie said, could be made with lemon juice (in the powdered sugar) or rum, or milk. I opted to do two of the logs with lemon juice and two with dark, spiced rum. There is a difference in the color of the icing if you use spiced rum. I liked both, so use your preference.

What’s GOOD: easy to make, great for fall. Would be nice as Christmas cookies too. You can make the batter several days ahead. Am sure these would keep well – layer with waxed paper, though, so you don’t damage the icing.

What’s NOT: nothing, really .. . make sure you have golden raisins and/or currants.

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Iced Spiced Hermits

Recipe By: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Servings: 48

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal salt — or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter — room temperature
2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
GLAZE:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar — (220 g) sifted
4 tablespoons milk — (or more)or use fresh lemon juice, or rum

NOTES: I altered the original recipe – I used less brown sugar, less molasses and added ground cardamom. I also used some black currants (dried) in place of some of the golden raisins. Plus I reduced the quantity of the icing.
1. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and pepper in a medium bowl.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat brown sugar and butter until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and molasses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients; beat until just combined. Add raisins and currants and mix just to evenly distribute. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
3. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Divide dough in quarters and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Using wet hands, shape dough into two 12″-long logs (a plastic bowl scraper is helpful for this). Use your fingers or your palm to flatten the logs. They spread some, so don’t let the logs touch. Arrange on opposing long sides of baking sheet, spacing 2″ from long edges.
4. Bake logs until edges are just set but centers are still soft, 23–26 minutes (logs will spread and crack). At the halfway point, switch sheets and turn them around so they bake evenly. Remove and let cool on the baking sheet.
5. GLAZE: Whisk powdered sugar and milk (or rum or lemon juice) in a small bowl until smooth. Glaze should be thick but pourable; thin with more milk, juice or rum as needed. Drizzle glaze erratically over logs; let sit until set, at least 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice logs crosswise 1″ thick (or slice 2″ thick and cut in half down the center for a squarish cookie). Store airtight at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.
6. Do ahead: Cookie batter can be mixed up to 4 days ahead.
Per Serving: 131 Calories; 4g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 131mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 95mg Potassium; 27mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on October 30th, 2022.

Oh so tender little cakey bites with dried apricots and golden raisins plus a brandy syrup poured over the top. And then a lemony drizzle on top of that.

A post from Carolyn.  This isn’t a new recipe here on the blog, but it’s been years – YEARS – since I made them. And because I did – make them last week, that is – any of you who weren’t around in 2008 should know about them.

Originally the recipe came from a 1996 issue of Sunset Magazine. I’d put it into my recipe program way back then, and have made them many times. What appealed to me was the combination of apricots and brandy. And that’s still the same thing that encourages me to make them.

You mix up an easy batter  – kind of a cake type, not cookie type and pour it into a buttered 10×15 pan. You can do it in a 9×13 pan, but they’ll take a bit longer to bake. The cake is baked for about 25 minutes. Once out of the oven you pour over a syrup made up of sugar, apricot brandy and lemon juice. Once the bars have cooled, you drizzle on a lemony icing. That’s what you can see in the photo – the icing. The syrup completely soaks into the cake. Although the bars are not soggy or wet at all – you can taste the brandy, certainly, and you might think the brandy is in the icing. But no.

They keep at room temp (sealed in a container, of course) for three days, but after that you should freeze them, using waxed paper to separate the layers. When you store them at first you should separate them with waxed paper also.

What’s GOOD: Love the tender cake rather than firm, chewy cookie-style bar, exactly. Love-love the brandy in these (not much). Definitely something for adult palates. You probably don’t give your children bourbon balls – so you might not want to give them these bars either. So, so good with a cup of coffee or tea. They freeze well (separate with waxed paper). They lend themselves well to fall flavors or Christmas, but you could make them any time of year.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Absolutely wonderful little nuggets.

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Brandied Apricot Bars

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine, 1996
Servings: 36

COOKIE/CAKE BATTER:
1 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups dried apricots — minced
2/3 cup golden raisins
BRANDY SYRUP:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup apricot brandy — or Cointreau
3 teaspoons lemon juice
LEMON JUICE GLAZE:
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar

NOTES: Be sure to use fresh dried apricots and golden raisins. If they’re the least bit firm (from sitting on your pantry shelf for months) rehydrate them in hot water for at least 30 minutes before draining, blotting dry and adding to the batter.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar with mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add orange peel and vanilla.
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Stir into butter mixture along with apricots and raisins.
3. Pour batter into lightly buttered 10×15 in. pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until cookie is lightly browned and springs back in center. Set on rack to cool.
4. BRANDY SYRUP – Just before cookies are done, combine 1/3 cup sugar, brandy, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat, remove and when cookie comes from oven, spoon warm apricot syrup evenly over it. Let cool completely, then cut into 3 dozen equal pieces and leave in pan.
5. Lemon Icing – mix lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies. Once drizzle is sort of dried, remove cookies from pan. Store airtight up to 3 days; after that freeze them.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 6g Fat (38.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 23mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 132mg Potassium; 41mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Soups, on October 25th, 2022.

Just look at that deep, dark color. I’d never made chili this way. Read on.

A post from Carolyn. We had a few days of cooler weather, a harbinger of fall, here in SoCal, and my taste buds turned to winter weather foods. First I craved chili, so I decided to try a new recipe. I have a deep respect for the work that the folks at Cook’s Illustrated do, and sure enough, I had a recipe to try. They called it “Best Ground Beef Chili.”

Right off the top, I’ll tell you, this isn’t a 1-2-3 done kind of chili. It requires a few steps and about 2 hours in a low oven too. But oh, my goodness, is this ever good. The dried ancho chiles are the key ingredient in this version. Well, there are a couple of other oddball ingredients in this too, but the ancho chiles are certainly the first and foremost. They are stemmed, seeded, and cut or torn into chunky pieces. They go into a dry Dutch oven and are toasted. You’d think they’re already toasted with the color of them, but they’re not – they’re simply dried chiles. The picture at right shows the ancho pieces as they toast away in the dry Dutch oven. Do watch the pot, though, and make sure they don’t begin to smoke. If they do, turn down the heat – but stir them a lot as they toast. You cannot tell they are getting toasted, just trust the recipe.

Meanwhile, I mixed up the lean ground beef with 2 T of water and a bit of baking soda. Say what, I asked? Why? Well, doing that helps the beef retain its moisture as it cooks and helps the beef to not shed all of its juices. What an idea! That bowl was set aside to rest while I began the other steps. Onion was sautéed in the Dutch oven (same one I used for the chiles). The toasted chiles went into a food processor along with a whole bunch of dried spices and herbs. That got whizzed up into a fine dust and was added to the onion. A large can of whole tomatoes was also pureed (I guess you could buy already pureed tomatoes if you’d rather). They say the whole tomatoes have better flavor; I suppose that’s why you whiz them up yourself. The ground beef was added to the Dutch oven, the spices and the tomatoes. Plus a few other minor ingredients like chipotle chiles in adobo, a can of pinto beans, a tetch of sugar and a couple cups of water. That was brought up to a boil, lid affixed, and it went into a 275° oven for 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2).

Once out of the oven, the mixture needs to get stirred as the fat rises to the top. Stir it in to get more flavor. The chili is so SO dark colored. Those toasted chiles really did their job of coloring the entire pot full. You also add 2 T of cider vinegar. What that does for the chili I don’t know – I couldn’t really taste it. Guess it gave it a bit of tang, perhaps? The recipe recommends serving it over rice and/or tortilla chips. I did neither as I didn’t want the carbs. A serving is about 1 to 1 1/4 cups – it’s rich, so a little goes a long ways. All the toppings give texture too. Grated cheese, avocado, red onion, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, lime wedges, chopped cilantro – any and all of those go with it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this chili is stellar. Deep, dark flavor from those ancho chiles. The chili is just slightly warm (go easy on the chipotle if you’re sensitive to heat). Notice, there is NO chili powder in this chili. Loved it from the first to the last slurp. A definite keeper. Thanks to Cook’s Illustrated.

What’s NOT: nothing other than it takes a few hours to prepare and more cooking prep than some recipes. But you’ll be rewarded at the end for all your hard work.

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Chili with Deep Dark Anchos

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated
Servings: 8

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons water Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 whole dried ancho chiles — stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 ounce tortilla chips — crushed (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
14 ounces canned tomatoes — whole
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion — chopped fine
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 teaspoon chipotle chiles
15 ounces canned pinto beans
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Lime wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion

NOTES: Diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese are also good options for garnishing. This chili is intensely flavored and should be served with tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice. The water and soda added to the ground beef help the meat hold on to moisture, so it doesn’t shed liquid during cooking.
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275°F.
2. In a bowl combine ground beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking soda in bowl. Mix with hands until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place anchos in dry Dutch oven set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if anchos begin to smoke. Transfer to food processor and let cool.
3. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, and 2 teaspoons pepper to food processor with anchos and process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and set aside. Process tomatoes and their juice in empty workbowl until smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef mixture and cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break meat up into 1/4-inch pieces, until beef is browned and fond begins to form on pot bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Add ancho mixture and chipotle; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Add 2 cups water, beans and their liquid, sugar, and tomato puree. Bring to boil, scraping bottom of pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is tender and chili is slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
6. Remove chili from oven and let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in any fat that has risen to top of chili, then add vinegar and season with salt to taste. Serve, passing lime wedges, cilantro, and chopped onion separately. (Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.) One serving is about 1-1/4 cup.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 7g Fat (26.3% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 464mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 91mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 751mg Potassium; 316mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on October 18th, 2022.

Tender, tender apple torte with not much cake, mostly apples.

A post from Carolyn. A few weeks ago one of my book clubs met to discuss the novel, Lessons in Chemistry (such a fun book, see the sidebar for a further explanation). We’re meeting now at the home of one of our members who has mobility issues, so each time we meet, one of us brings a sweet. I offered. This cake was the result.

An easy cake to make – maybe except for peeling and coring the apples – leaving them whole though, then slicing them carefully into rings. I used Fuji, but I think next time I’d use Honeycrisp. I’m guessing the Fuji apples I bought were last year’s crop. They were good, but not overly tasty. The apples are combined with the batter, then poured into a greased and floured 9″ springform pan. The apples don’t exactly lie down flat, so you need to help them along to flatten out the batter. I just used my fingers to get them settled down.

Ideally, serve this warm. I actually baked it the day before, and it kept just fine overnight – I left it in the springform pan (although I’d loosened it when it was still warm) and covered it overnight. Just before serving, I sprinkled on the powdered sugar. We had plenty of other food, so I didn’t serve it with the creme fraiche as the recipe suggested. Whipped cream would be lovely too.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. A delicious, tender cake with tender apples in it. Easy to slice. There at left you can see the slice – mostly apples. The cake is a lovely, eggy, light one.

What’s NOT: gee, nothing that I can think of. It kept for another day and I had the last slice. Everyone got a slice to take home.

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Apple Almond Cream Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Sunset, Sept 2016 by Amy Traverso
Servings: 10

1 1/2 pounds apples — (3 or 4) such as Cameo, Fuji, or Gala
3 large eggs — at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract, or vanilla
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Powdered sugar
Crème fraîche (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and generously flour a 9-in. springform pan. Shake out excess flour and set aside.
2. Using a paring knife or sharp corer, core apples from stem down through seeds and base to remove in one cylinder. Peel apples and slice crosswise into 1/4-in. rings. Set apples aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggs and granulated sugar on high speed until pale and slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add cream and vanilla. Beat about 30 seconds more to blend. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and blend on low speed until evenly combined.
4. Add apples (including any uneven end pieces) to batter and stir gently with a spatula to coat, separating slices. Pour mixture into prepared pan and arrange apples flat.
5. Bake cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into center of cake (rather than an apple piece) comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let cake cool on a rack 20 minutes, then run a slender knife between edge of cake and pan. Remove pan rim and cool cake at least 10 minutes more.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with spoonsful of crème fraîche if you like.
Per Serving: 242 Calories; 8g Fat (29.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 76mg Cholesterol; 197mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 77mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 125mg Potassium; 130mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salads, on October 10th, 2022.

What an unusual salad – good, earthy flavors.

A post from Carolyn. I keep forgetting to write who is posting, but then I’m the one who is doing nearly all of it. My daughter and D-I-L are just too busy with other things. I didn’t begin writing this blog until 12 years after I retired, so I get it.

Anyway, I needed to prepare a salad to take to a potluck luncheon, and my aim was to avoid a special trip to the grocery store. Flipping through my recipes this one popped up – I had sweet potatoes, I had wild rice, and I had Feta, a fresh Bosc pear and Italian parsley. Everything I needed. Fresh lemon juice I had stored in the freezer (my wonderful, bountiful Meyer lemon tree has young budding fruit right now, small and hard nuggets, undeveloped), and maple syrup was in the frig.

First I began cooking the wild rice – I think it took about 40 minutes – using nothing but rice, water and a bit of salt. I let it cool in the water it was in, then I drained it. Meanwhile, I roasted two sweet potatoes and a nice sized red onion (cut into thin wedges). If you make this, do keep the two things kind of separated on the sheet pan because likely the potatoes will be done before the onion – at least it took the onion another 20 minutes or so to caramelize and be tender. Scallions were chopped up, Italian parsley minced (save some for garnish). I toasted the walnuts too. Everything went together, the chopped up pear included, and it was ready to serve. I tossed some of the Feta in the salad and kept a little bit to brighten up the top when I served it.

What’s GOOD: I liked this a lot – the extra chewy texture of the wild rice, the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the caramelized red onions, the acidity of the Feta and lemon juice. I could barely taste the maple syrup in it. Loved the pear in it as well. I thought it was best the day I made it, although it kept in the frig for a few days. Was this a wow dish? Uhm, maybe not, but I really did enjoy it and had comments from several of the guests at the luncheon, wanting the recipe.

What’s NOT: nothing, really, except that you need to have all of the ingredients on hand – not all the items are everyday pantry staples! Finish mixing it just before serving. It’ll keep a day.

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Wild Rice, Sweet Potato Salad with Pears and Feta

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in the Washington Post
Servings: 8

3 cups water
1 cup wild rice
1 pound sweet potatoes — peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium red onion — peeled, sliced into thin wedges
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large scallions — trimmed and thinly sliced
2 medium pears — cored but not peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup parsley — chopped
1 cup Feta cheese — crumbled, 2 T reserved for garnish
1/2 cup walnuts — or pine nuts, toasted, coarsely chopped, for garnish

1. Cook the wild rice: Add the water to a 2-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and return to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water is barely bubbling, cover and simmer. For hand-harvested wild rice, start checking in 20 minutes. Cultivated rice may take 45 minutes to 1 hour. (If using a blend, follow the package instructions.) Once the rice is tender and just starting to split apart at the ends, drain well. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the sweet potatoes and red onion with 2 tablespoon of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Keep them somewhat separate as you may need to remove the sweet potatoes, as they roast faster. Roast until fork-tender, 20 minutes or so. Remove sweet potatoes and continue roasting onion if it’s not quite tender and caramelized. Let cool.
3. Chop the onion into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl combine the wild rice, sweet potatoes, red onion, parsley, scallions and pears. Can be refrigerated at this point for up to a day. If making a day ahead leave out pear until serving time.
4. Whisk together the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl, until emulsified.
5. Add Feta cheese, pour the dressing over the wild rice mixture and toss to coat. Serve topped with walnuts and reserved Feta. May also garnish with additional parsley.
Per Serving: 426 Calories; 24g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 26mg Cholesterol; 621mg Sodium; 13g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 210mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 526mg Potassium; 284mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Travel, on October 3rd, 2022.

The beautiful park smack-dab in the middle of Greenville, S.C.

After cooking soups for Sabrina for two days, I finally had one day for myself. One evening I took a walking tour of Greenville, with food, called Thirsty Thursdays Tour (cocktails and appetizers). If you go onto Trip Advisor you can find it easily enough under Attractions for Greenville. We met at 5pm at a nearby hotel/restaurant called Oak & Honey, had one cocktail plus a little appetizer sandwich, as the group of 11 got to know one another. Then we moved on to Sassafras Bistro, where we had THE best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had. What made it so good? Creamy grits, for the first thing, blackened shrimp plus some bubbling bits of pork belly (I think, or else it was chunky bacon), and lastly a creamy, buttery sauce poured over the top. They served us Sangria as the cocktail. As it happened, the night before that I’d taken Sabrina out to dinner, and we went to Sassafras. Had a wonderful meal there and had a delightful waitress.

More of the Falls Park on the Reedy.

After that the group meandered on to Maestro, an Argentinian style restaurant where we had yet another cocktail and this time an empanada with chimichurri sauce. I drank about a quarter of the first three cocktails (some in our group had gulped them all down). I just can’t drink that fast. Another walk down the main street and we came to a cute little French restaurant, Bonjour Main. This was dessert, and we were served a magnificent almond cream filled crepe with strawberry sauce on top. And served a glass of sparkling wine with a few blueberries in the bottom of the glass plus a splash of orange liqueur. I was so topped out I couldn’t drink any of it, but the crepe – oh my was it ever good.

There’s another picture of Falls Park on the Reedy (river). See the fellow down there amongst the rocks? He was doing pushups on one of the flat rocks. Lovely, gorgeous walking paths line both sides of the park. It’s positively lovely. I sat for awhile in the shade watching people (mostly moms with children and people walking their dogs), just enjoying being outdoors. It wasn’t that hot and the humidity was low that day, anyway. Canadian geese have taken up residence in some parts.

I checked out of the B&B and moved into a lovely VRBO home the family had rented for the weekend (a 4-bedroom home, about 1/2 block from where Sabrina lives). The next day, after the rest of the family arrived, Sabrina took us on a tour of her med school (it was a Saturday). We got to see plastic mannikin cadavers, her classroom theaters, the myriad of study rooms (many of them filled with her classmates diligently hitting the books), and their relaxation space.

We had a big family dinner that night (we bought South Carolina barbecue with sides) sitting out on the lovely veranda of the VRBO home. A few mosquitoes, but they didn’t overwhelm us. I took mosquito wipes along and they did the trick.

The next day was the white coat ceremony that was held at an auditorium on the nearby Furman University campus (picture above). We met a bunch of her fellow classmates – and I was amazed in meeting one of her friends who said oh, you’re tastingspoons, right? Shock! Sabrina had shared some of the granola bars with him and he loved them, so she directed him to the blog. Guess I’ll have to post the recipe. There’s a photo of Sabrina with her dad, her brother John, and Sara.

After dinner and another overnight at our VRBO home, we drove north to Blacksburg, Virginia to spend a part of a day with young John, who is a student at Virginia Tech (VTI). We put together an outdoor barbecue at his off-campus housing entertaining area, got to meet some of his friends, which was really nice. So proud of these two young grandchildren. We drove to Roanoke and we all flew home the next day on different flights. I went through Chicago. Packed airplanes. But at least no canceled flights.

 

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