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Sara

 

Sara and me

I participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) to me if you purchase any books I recommend, or products that I buy and feature on my food blog. 

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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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

Kathleen Wheeler has written quite a family story. Brought To Our Senses: A Family Saga Novel. The title calls it a saga, but two generations don’t make a saga – to me anyway. But that’s not the story . . . this is a book about dementia or Alzheimer’s, and it’s hard to read in many places. The mother, the matriarch, is in denial for years and years about her problems. Some of the children are also in denial. The daughters don’t all get along. The son moved away and chooses (mostly) to be absent for most of the drama. Such a sad, sad story, but could be and is real for lots of people with relatives, loved ones who suffer from this awful disease. There is resolution at the end (with the children, all adults, of course). But the mother’s downhill slope is so graphic and realistic. I don’t wish to stick my head in the sand because I know many families suffer through the kinds of angst written here. It’s just so hard to read. Good book, though.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Agathe von Trapp was the eldest daughter of the renowned von Trapp family. Some years ago she wrote Memories Before and After the Sound of Music: An Autobiography beginning from her first memories at age 2 (yes, really!). The book tells the honest-truth about the family’s life in Austria and Italy prior to the war, and debunks many of the story lines from the musical, The Sound of Music. Liesl, the part played by Charmian Carr, was supposedly the story of Agathe. But it wasn’t, really. As long as you know that the musical and movie were written and changed to make a story for the stage and film, then reading the true stories about their family life, their escape (by train from Italy, with no problems at all, no hiding in an abbey) and eventual settling in Stowe, Vermont, where there still is a family lodge for paying guests. The family singers toured for many years, and earned enough barely money to then survive for some months in Vermont, practicing and gearing up for their next national or world tour. One of the sad parts for me was reading that although Maria von Trapp certainly kept the family together, her step-children didn’t necessarily love and adore her. They say she was quite selfish. A good enough read. Not a long book, and not exactly an example of fine, non-fiction literature, but still, it kept my interest mostly because I’ve been a fan of the movie ever since it came out in 1965-66.

Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read in my life. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

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

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

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

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

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.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

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

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

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

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

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

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

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

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

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

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on April 11th, 2021.

argentinian_steak_red_chimichurri_sauce

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Listen up. You just gotta make this. I can’t praise this enough. If you like steak, this is your lucky day. The recipe was demonstrated on Milk Street, and Jim Hirsch, one of the producers, went to Argentina and his job, with the film crew, was to find out what makes Argentinian steak so special. Certainly steak is the signature dish of Argentina. They raise a LOT of beef cattle in the country. My granddaughter, Sabrina, spent 5 months in Argentina (not exactly a happy experience, I’m sorry to say, even though it was through her university college exchange program). But she told me she had steak similar to this when she was there.

Normally, in Argentina, steak is grilled outside, on a grill that has an adjustable grate level – in other words, you can lower it to be close to the coals, or way up high (more like 10-12 inches), away from the wood coals. Most restaurants make this steak with a 2-hour grilling. Can you imagine? Likely they do that to have a very precise control over the temperature.

strip_steak_seasonedOnce the Milk Street crew returned to Boston, they began trying to recreate this steak (using American/different equipment) – and the chimichurri sauce. Speaking of the sauce, you may be familiar with green chimichurri sauce (that’s all I’d ever had prior to making this). This red sauce is a strange combination of things – 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 1/4 cup red pepper flakes (yes, really), and 1/4 cup dried oregano, and lastly 3/4 cup of neutral oil. Added later, garlic and balsamic vinegar. If you’ve ever watched Chris Kimball (he’s the guy who started Cook’s Illustrated, but was ousted some years ago and started Milk Street) you know that he does not like spicy heat. Not that he’s into bland food, but heat bothers his palate. So when they were making this in the test kitchen, when he was asked to add 1/4 CUP of red pepper flakes, he said oh-no, no, I won’t be able to eat this. The chef pleaded with him to follow the recipe and he might be surprised. And indeed he was, and so was I.

At left is the photo of the beautiful New York strip steak, 2” thick, with the rub on it (having rested in the frig for 24 hours), on a rack, before it went into the oven. One of these steaks will serve at least 2 people, maybe even 3 people.

There are a few steps to making this:

1. Make a rub of black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg (lots of it) and sugar. Put it on the 2” thick steak.

2. Place the steak on a rack, open, in the refrigerator, for 24 hours.

3. Put the steak in a 250°F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove it and let it rest for 30 minutes.

4. Make the sauce.

5. Grill the steak in a searing hot pan on the stove (or do this on your outdoor grill) to caramelize the two sides, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Get the rest of the meal ready.

6. Slice the steak across the grain, in 1/4” thick slices, plate it and drizzle the sauce on the ends and offer more sauce at the table.

red_chimichurri_cookingThe sauce takes no time, really, to make, but there are steps to making it also. In a skillet you combine the oil, paprika, red chili flakes and the oregano, and cook it over very low heat (never allowing it to boil) for 5-7 minutes. Then you add the garlic, and let it cool. Once cool, you add the balsamic vinegar and salt. The photo at right is before it even cooked – so you can see the ingredients.

When Chris Kimball tasted the sauce, he first barely touched his bite of steak with the oily part of the sauce, as he was not thinking he could eat it. He was surprised, and my friend Linda and I (when we made it) were also amazed that our mouths weren’t burning up. The guesswork is that the addition of 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar somehow tempers the spicy, fiery heat of 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes.

The only thing I’ll say is that you need a meat thermometer for this recipe – I eat my steak medium-rare, and you remove the steak from the oven when it reaches 110°F (about 10-15 degrees below that magic medium-rare temp). I did that, but during the resting time, the temp went up nearly 10 degrees, and once I seared it, it went up even more. We got it out of the pan at about 128°F, which is a few degrees higher than I wanted. So watch it carefully.

What’s GOOD: I absolutely LOVE-LOVED this steak and the sauce. Definitely well enough to make it again. You do need to plan ahead 24 hours, and make sure you have a whole pod of nutmeg for each steak. You do not taste nutmeg in the rub when eating it. It’s uncanny there could be so much nutmeg on the rub and you wouldn’t taste it in the finished steak (although I was able to taste it when I ate the leftovers, cold). And the sauce – oh my goodness. So good. Very easy – make it the day ahead to save time if you’d like. It’s also uncanny there is so much red pepper in the sauce and I could eat it. I won’t say I ate copious quantities, but I certainly ate some with every bite, and went back for more.

What’s NOT: only that the steak is expensive (do buy a good one, though I did choose choice, not prime beef); however, one steak will feed 2 people, maybe 3. You do have to visit a butcher, as the steak must be 2” thick. I don’t know of any grocery store that has pre-cut 2” steaks. The nearly one pound steak cost me $29. The recipe is for feeding 4, so twice that amount. And you do need to plan ahead, as I mentioned, so the steak can sit in the frig for 24 hours.

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

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Grilled and Oven-Baked Argentinian Strip Steak with Red Chimichurri

Recipe By: Milk Street, Jim Hirsch
Serving Size: 5

STEAK:
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg — from two whole nutmeg pods
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 strip beef strip steaks — (about 20 ounces each) about 2″ thick, patted dry
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or other neutral oil
RED CHIMICHURRI SAUCE:
3/4 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dried oregano — do not use fresh
2 medium garlic cloves — finely grated
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

NOTES: Using this much red pepper flakes seems like WAY too much. You can reduce the amount by about a tablespoon, but apparently the balsamic vinegar tempers the heat. This red chimichurri is not as well known in the U.S. as the green herb style.
1. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, the nutmeg and sugar. Measure out and reserve 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture, then rub the remainder onto all sides of the steaks, pressing it into the meat. Place the steaks on the prepared rack and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 250°F with a rack in the middle position.
3. Place the baking sheet with the steaks in the oven and cook until the centers reach 110°F, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for up to 30 minutes.
4. In a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and cook until the second sides are well browned and the centers reach 120°F (for medium-rare), 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Transfer the steaks to a large plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Alternatively, the steaks can be seared for the same time over direct heat on a very hot charcoal or gas grill with a well-oiled grate.
6. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and cut into thin slices. Place on a platter, pour on the accumulated juices and sprinkle with the reserved seasoning mixture.
7. SAUCE: In a small saucepan over low, combine oil, paprika, pepper flakes and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble, 5-7 minutes. Do not allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in garlic. Let cool to room temp.
8. In a medium bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp salt and stir until salt dissolves. Slowly whisk in the cooled oil mixture.
Per Serving: 500 Calories; 42g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 47mg Cholesterol; 59mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 71mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 521mg Potassium; 215mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Soups, on March 18th, 2021.

chili_guy_fieri

Dig out your spices in multiple types and heat.

Today I’m sharing a recipe from my neighbor, Scott. His wife, Josee, has been my salvation this last year, as she has gone shopping for me to various places, but of late, it’s been weekly trips to Costco, since I wasn’t willing to go there during the pandemic – except once. Periodically I make something that has a big quantity and I’ve shared it with their family of four. I’m happy to do it as a thank  you for all the various trips Josee has made for me.

Now that I’m past the 14-day hold after the 2nd vaccine, I’m “free.” Happy days. No fear of eating out, outside still, though. Don’t have to wear masks in small groups. As I write this I haven’t had a chance yet to hug my kids and grandkids, but I will!

So, Josee brought over a plastic bag of chili for me – Scott had made it. He’s the weekend “chef” – he loves to barbecue –  and I think he’s a very accomplished home cook. He and I have had a few conversations about cooking and food in various contexts. Anyway, I managed to get two meals out of the baggie of chili Josee brought me, and OH, was it ever good.

Scott said it’s Guy Fieri’s recipe, so I was able to go online and print that out easily enough. Know from the get-go that you need to read the ingredient list carefully – you might not have everything on that list. So plan ahead, and of course, always with stew-type or soup type foods, it’s better the next day. Scott made beef Bourguignon a week or so ago and it was outstanding.

Since I didn’t make this recipe myself, I can’t really give you much info, other than what Scott told me. He said follow the recipe and do your prep ahead so you don’t miss anything. If you’re sensitive to heat, reduce the amount of cayenne, perhaps use half-sharp or mild paprika. Do note, the title of the recipe is Dragon’s Breath, so that should give you a clue about the fiery heat. It was fine for me – I can tolerate medium-heat. This is a great recipe. I’d definitely make it myself and yes, I would use the finely chopped up chuck roast, just because it adds a lot of flavor. If you have the bone to go with it, I’d put it in the pot too to add even more flavor. If you look at the online recipe, Guy Fieri always serves this with French Fries. I’m not much of a French Fry person (although hot ones from McDonald’s put in front of me would be eaten!).

Scott added fewer beans (their family is trying to reduce carbs too), but there were some in there.

What’s GOOD: as you know, for me it’s all about the end result – the flavor. The texture. And this scored on all counts.

What’s NOT: only that it takes hours to simmer and you might have to purchase a few ingredients if you don’t already have them in your pantry.

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

Dragons Breath Chili – Guy Fieri

Recipe By: from my neighbor, Scott, but from Guy Fieri, Food Network
Serving Size: 10

3 tablespoons bacon grease — or canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Anaheim chiles — roasted, peeled, seeded
3 poblano chiles — roasted, peeled, chopped
2 red bell peppers — diced
2 jalapeno chile pepper — minced
2 yellow onions — diced
1 head garlic — minced
1 pound chuck roast — boneless, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 pounds ground beef — coarse grind
1 pound Italian sausage — casings removed, or buy bulk
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper — (use less perhaps)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons hot paprika — (might use half hot and half regular)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup tomato paste
12 ounces beer — lager style
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
30 ounces canned kidney beans — with juice
30 ounces canned pinto beans — with juice
Saltine crackers — for garnish
1 bunch green onions — thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
sour cream for garnish (optional: not in original recipe)

1. Add the bacon grease and butter to a large stockpot over high heat. Add the Anaheim chiles, poblano chiles, red bell peppers, jalapeno chiles and onions, and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Add the chuck and brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage and brown, stirring gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much. Cook until the meat is nicely browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain off fat. Add the chili powder, cayenne, coriander, cumin, granulated garlic, granulated onion, paprika, salt and black pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add the tomato sauce and paste, and stir to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beer and stock. Add the kidney and pinto beans; lower the heat and simmer, about 2 hours.
3. Serve the chili in bowls. May be served over Double-Fried French Fries. Garnish with crackers, green onions and Cheddar. Optional garnish: sour cream
Per Serving (sodium level is very high): 742 Calories; 40g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 1479mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 227mg Calcium; 9mg Iron; 1643mg Potassium; 599mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, on September 19th, 2020.

curried_shepherds_pie_spoonful

Comfort food galore. Has the weather begun to cool for you? This casserole should be in your future.

Having a bit of ground beef and ground pork on hand, I needed to find a use for it, other than meatloaf or meatballs. When I spotted this old-old recipe I’ve had in my to-try file for a long time, I decided to lighten it up a bit by using riced cauliflower instead of potatoes. You don’t have to do that if you don’t care about the carbs. What you do need to know is that this casserole is spot-on fabulous. The original came from Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey, way back in 1984. But, I didn’t stick to the recipe exactly – mostly, but not verbatim.

curried_shepherds_pie_bakedFirst you cook some onions, then add garlic, then lastly a few spices (curry powder, obviously, plus ground cumin and ground coriander). Some tomatoes were added (I used fresh but you can use canned) and some chicken broth. That simmered for just a short time to blend the flavors.

Meanwhile, I cooked the cauliflower rice in an open pan so it wouldn’t get too wet and soggy. A tiny bit of butter was added, some salt and pepper, then I used my stick blender to mush it well – it didn’t need much of that – and I added in a little bit of frozen peas (I think you need them for color). The hot meat mixture went into a large ceramic pie plate (I made a half recipe), then the mashed cauliflower goes on top. I veered off just a bit by adding some grated Fontina cheese to the top. Oh-so-good.

You can bake the casserole right then, which will require nothing more than a bit of a broil to brown the top a little bit. I made it in the morning, chilled it, then baked it for about 45 minutes in my toaster oven, then turned on the broil element and browned the top with the cheese on it. The photo above, left, is the finished casserole.

It’s good to let it sit for at least 5 minutes, because it’s way too hot to eat. That was my dinner – since there were veggies on the top (the cauliflower rice, pureed) I had a full meal with my serving. But, I went back for seconds it was so darned good.

What’s GOOD: well, I love Shepherd’s Pie in any way, shape or form. This one, though, with the curry flavors, was exceptional. And how did the cauliflower go as far as a stand-in for potatoes? Well, it wasn’t JUST like potatoes, but it was close enough. It gave me the illusion anyway. As I write this I’ve had it twice, and there are at least 2 more servings in the casserole. I’ll probably freeze one portion. Remember, though, I halved the recipe. SO good.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. Delicious on all levels.

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

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Curried Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe By: Adapted from Craig Claiborne & Pierre Franey, 1984
Serving Size: 7-8

1 tablespoon EVOO — or vegetable or corn oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon garlic — finely minced
1 tablespoon curry powder — or more if desired
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pounds lean ground beef — or can use half beef, half ground pork or lamb
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste
1 cup tomatoes — canned imported tomatoes or fresh, chopped
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
CAULIFLOWER “POTATOES”
1 large cauliflower — or use an equivalent of cauliflower rice
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups Fontina cheese — grated, for topping

1. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions and garlic over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted. Add the curry powder, cumin and coriander and cook briefly, stirring.
2. Add the meat and cook, stirring down with the side of a heavy kitchen spoon to break up the lumps. Add salt, pepper, the tomatoes, broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes.
3. While the meat is cooking, cook the cauliflower in a bit of water or broth. When the mixture is cooked, test for doneness and make sure mixture is not too wet. If it is, continue cooking them until the mixture dries some. Use a stick blender to puree the cauliflower. Stir in frozen peas and cook very briefly.
6. Season with butter, salt and pepper.
7. Heat an eight-cup baking dish and pour the hot curried meat into it. Top with the hot mashed cauliflower. Smooth over the top. Sprinkle with cheese.
8. Broil until the top is golden brown. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.
9. If making ahead, chill, then bring out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking at 350°F for about 45-60 minutes. Turn on the broiler at the end to brown the cheese. If you’re not sure it’s hot, use an instant read thermometer – it should reach about 150°F.
Per Serving: 477 Calories; 28g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 44g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 148mg Cholesterol; 582mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 323mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 736mg Potassium; 498mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, on September 7th, 2020.

swedish_kalpudding

This is definitely a savory dish – no pudding as we know it – it’s made with ground beef, ground pork and a lot of cabbage. And then there’s a luscious little drizzle of a sauce that starts with jam or preserves.

Back when my DH (dear hubby Dave) was alive, I cooked a regular dinner every night, unless we went out, or unless we had sufficient leftovers. Now, 6+ years on, my routine is changed significantly. About once I week I fix a traditional dinner with a meat, a veg and maybe a salad. Most evenings now, I make a big green salad with lots of raw veggies in it, with just a speck of some protein (chicken, tuna or eggs). On one of the weekend evenings, I often will fix that more traditional dinner, though. And I think back, fondly, that my DH rarely asked I cook anything in particular  – he was happy with whatever I wanted to make, bless him! Occasionally he’d ask if maybe we could barbecue a steak, as he wanted them more frequently than I thought we should. So, obviously, it was left to the cook in the house as to “what shall we have for dinner?” Most frequently my weekend meal is some kind of salmon since it’s so good for us, and I love it. The rest of the time, well, I leave it to my cravings, which are a kind of whimsical thing. I looked it up:

Often, the craving is for foods high in sugar and fats, which can make maintaining a healthful diet difficult. Food cravings are caused by the regions of the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward. An imbalance of hormones, such as leptin and serotonin, can also cause food cravings. – from a medical website

In this instance, I don’t think it was that I was craving sugar or fat, so what does that say? What I really wanted was a casserole of some kind. And casseroles usually have carbs. That may have been my desire, yet I try really hard to eat very little carbohydrates. I still do – fruit are, and even some veggies have carbs. It’s the obvious carbs I steer clear from, like potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, bread, corn and peas. Then there’s the sugar carbs – baked goods and desserts.

swedish_kalpudding_casseroleLast week I ordered a food delivery from Amazon/Whole Foods. In the order I’d asked for a pound of organic ground pork that I was going to stick in the freezer – probably to make a fall style dish, maybe meatballs in a month or so. I didn’t know what. So when they delivered the food, it was ground beef, not ground pork. Sigh. Then my neighbor made a trip to Trader Joe’s and she found ground pork there. Rather than freezing both chunks of meat, I decided to fix something with them. So you’ll find this recipe, and probably another one shortly with the second half of the meat.

Looking up recipes in my to-try repertoire, I found a bunch (many meatball oriented) including this dish. It was probably the cabbage that sucked me in. Meatloaf is something I do crave now and then – I’d like nothing better than to have my tried and true favorite one, Sweet and Sour Meatloaf. I wrote up that recipe during the first year I had this blog, 2007. But it contains quite a bit of sugar in the tomato sauced topping, and I try to steer away from those kinds of recipes too, as best I can. Although I could easily substitute monkfruit brown sugar in lieu of the regular stuff and see if I liked it. And use cauliflower mashed potatoes. Maybe I will do that sometime soon as well. Recently I watched a Rachel Ray show and was intrigued with her Sicilian Meatballs. They are calling my name too.

swedish_kalpudding_raw_meatMeanwhile, back to this dish . . . sorry, that was a whole lot of trivia and not getting to this recipe. The explanation about this dish (I had to look it up online) is that kal in Swedish means cabbage. Someone wrote that if you’d written it as Col-pudding, lots of English/Irish speakers would know cabbage (from colcannon, potatoes and cabbage). The pudding part is so misleading. We think pudding must be sweet, but to the Swedes, I guess it’s not. It has to do with minced meat, and a savory pudding means meatloaf.

swedish_kalpudding_ready2bakeFirst you cook the cabbage in butter and a bit of molasses. In Sweden I think they’d use Lyle’s golden syrup, but most westerners would use molasses. I have some Lyle’s, but didn’t want to open the jar, so I used the molasses on the shelf. It doesn’t need much. It helps the cabbage caramelize and gives it a lovely lightly sweetened taste. It took awhile, probably 15-20 minutes, to get the cabbage cooked down and slightly caramelized. The molasses gives it the dark brown color.

Meanwhile you mix up the meatloaf part with raw onion, salt, pepper, cream and about a third of the cooked cabbage (chopped up finely). No egg in this one. It also had some bread crumbs (I used panko because that’s all I keep on hand). I halved the recipe below and I think I’ll have 3-4 more servings of it, so I used a smaller casserole dish. The meat was spread into the bottom, then the caramelized cabbage is spread on top and leveled a bit. You pour on a little bit of broth on top. It’s been way too hot to turn on my main oven lately, so I baked it in my toaster oven (it has lots of functions, so I used bake at first) and then at the end I turned on the broil function to crisp up the cabbage a little bit. Hence the finished dish (up a few paragraphs) looks slightly burned, but it’s not. Trust me on that!

swedish_kapudding_sauceWhile the meat is baking, you mix up the sauce. Lingonberry jam is what’s called for, but I didn’t have any, but I did have blueberry preserves, so they had to suffice. It’s heated up with some butter, red wine vinegar, and then a moderate amount (to taste) of Worcestershire sauce. Someone else who made this recipe substituted raspberry jam for the lingonberries. I know I could buy some if I made a trip to Ikea. It’s about 15 miles away – too far, plus I’m not shopping in stores.

What’s GOOD: altogether delicious. It definitely satisfied my cravings for a casserole. The meat was very light and tasty, and the cabbage is certainly a great variation on meatloaf. Then the sauce – oh yes, that part is really, really good. Yes, I’d make it again. I think I might make it in a bread pan next time – it might make for easier slicing and serving.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of, really. Very easy to make. Very filling.

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

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Swedish Kalpudding (Meatloaf with Caramelized Cabbage)

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from The New York Times, Sam Sifton, March 2017
Serving Size: 6

MEATLOAF:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head cabbage — green, approximately 3 pounds, cored and shredded
3 tablespoons Molasses
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 small yellow onion — peeled and chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth — beef or vegetable stock
FOR THE SAUCE:
1/3 cup lingonberry preserves — or blueberry
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter — optional
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce — or to taste

1. Heat oven to 350. Put a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the butter. When it starts to foam, add the cabbage and molasses, lower the heat to medium and sprinkle with salt. Cook slowly, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated and the cabbage is caramelized, approximately 20-25 minutes.
2. While the cabbage is cooking, lightly mix the meats in a large bowl, then add the onion, cream, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs, and mix again to combine.
3. When the cabbage is done, remove about 1/3 of it to a cutting board and chop more finely. Add it to the meat mixture, and mix to combine. Transfer the meat mixture to baking pan or ceramic casserole dish, spreading it out to cover the whole surface evenly. Spread remaining cabbage over the meat, then pour the stock or water over the top and place in the oven, on a sheet tray, to cook for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cabbage is very, very caramelized, almost dry and crunchy at the edges. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.
4. While the meat and cabbage cooks, make the sauce. Heat lingonberry or blueberry preserves, vinegar and butter in a small pot set over medium heat, then add Worcestershire sauce to taste. Serve alongside the Kalpudding.
Per Serving: 464 Calories; 31g Fat (60.2% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 132mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium; 16g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 89mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 627mg Potassium; 256mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, on September 1st, 2020.

spiced_beef_stew_shiitakes_cranberries_onions

Spiced doesn’t mean hot, it means with spices.

In the midst of a pandemic, summer heat and sometimes limited groceries, why I wanted a beef stew, I don’t know. My garage freezer is filled with meat, but it’s pork chops, salmon or halibut fillets, chicken breasts and thighs, and a few ribeye steaks. Nothing there that would make do as a stand-in for chuck roast. But, fortunately, my neighbor was going to Costco and found a huge package of chuck roasts (3 of them) and so I cut up one for stews, and the others are now vacuum sealed as roasts, for when the weather turns a bit cooler. As I’m writing this, it’s supposed to hit 100 today, or close to it. Fortunately, I made this a few days ago before this heat wave hit. But then, I live in the comfort of an air conditioned home – thank goodness!

This recipe came from a class I took with Phillis Carey 15 years ago. Before I started writing this blog, and so far as I know, I’ve never posted this recipe. It’s a good one. Ideally, it’s supposed to have red onions in it. Alas, I only had white ones and a half of a red one. And in the midst of this time, here in California, some onions produced in our central valley were contaminated with salmonella, so onions were in short supply. I had to throw out 6 very large yellow onions because they were from one of the contaminated farms.

What makes it “spiced” is the addition of allspice and cinnamon to the flour mixture you use to dredge the beef stew cubes. The other thing that’s different about this stew is the addition of dried cranberries. They add a sweetness to the stew you wouldn’t ordinary expect. But I like them in there. I use Unsweetened Dried Cranberries. The stew also calls for sugar, though you might not need it if you use sweetened dried cranberries. Taste the soupy mixture to see before adding the sugar. The stew is full of mushrooms – both shiitake and button, but you can use whatever mushrooms you have. Shiitake add a different, more boosted mushroom flavor, though they’re expensive, so I don’t use much of them.

You could probably make this stew in the instant pot (pressure), which would take much less time, but when doing a braised type of meat, I think the long, slow cooking (in this case 2 hours) adds more flavor to a dish. I made it one day, cooled and chilled it, then had some the following day. I made half of the below recipe, so had about 4 small servings. What I didn’t eat in the 2 meals went into ziploc bags and are now in the freezer. What it did do was satisfy my craving for a beef stew. This stew doesn’t use potatoes, although you could add them if you wanted to. I think it’d be terrific with mashed cauliflower or mashed potatoes on the side. Some of that stew liquid spread into them would be delicious. You could even serve the stew in a bowl on TOP of mashed cauliflower or mashed potatoes.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor. Very tender beef after 2 hours of slow cooking. The mushrooms added tons of flavor, and the onions, of course. The carrots kind of lost their flavor (I think they gave up their flavor to the stew so there wasn’t much left for the carrots themselves). The juice/liquid is what tastes so good, plus the dried cranberries added in.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. A keeper. If encountering something sweet in a stew is not your thing, you might not like this version.

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Spiced Beef Stew with Red Onions, Dried Cranberries and Shiitake Mushrooms

Recipe By: Phillis Carey recipe, 2005
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast — boneless, cut into 1″ cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil — divided use
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms — stems removed and quartered or sliced
1 cup white mushrooms — chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
3 cups carrots — julienned
3/4 cup dried cranberries — [I used unsweetened]
2 tablespoons sugar — or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup red wine — Pinot Noir or Merlot
2 cups beef stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Italian Parsley for garnish (chopped)

1. Combine flour, salt, spices and pepper in a plastic bag. Shake or toss beef in the mixture, coating pieces evenly; reserve any extra flour for later use.
2. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a third of the beef and cook until browned on all sides, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining meat in batches, adding another T. of oil to skillet with each batch. Transfer meat to the bowl after it’s browned.
3. Add another T. of oil to the skillet and add mushrooms plus a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms soften, about 4 minutes. Remove and add to beef in reserved bowl.
4. Add another T. of oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven. Add onions and cranberries. Cook until onions are soft and light brown, about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix in sugar, vinegar and water. Increase heat to medium high and cook until onions brown, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
5. Add beef and mushrooms to onion mixture along with any remaining flour mixture. Mix in wine and stock; bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover stew during last 30 minutes of cooking if cooking liquid is too thin – or add a small amount of beef stock or red wine if stew is too dry. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with Italian parsley on top. Can be made a day ahead and reheated. A side of riced cauliflower or mashed potatoes would go well with the stew liquid.
Per Serving: 633 Calories; 26g Fat (37.2% calories from fat); 56g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 153mg Cholesterol; 884mg Sodium; 27g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 96mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1502mg Potassium; 554mg Phosphorus.

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

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwich

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

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

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

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

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwiches_off_grill

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

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

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

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

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Italian Meatball Sub Sandwich

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

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

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

Posted in Beef, on June 27th, 2020.

smoked_brisket_chili

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smoked Beef Brisket Chili

Recipe By: Adapted from Vindulge website
Serving Size: 8

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

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

Posted in Beef, on June 11th, 2020.

meatballs_french_onion_soup_style

More and more, I see bloggers who show food-sloppy pictures. So here’s mine!

As I write this, looking at that picture, I’m laughing. What a messy casserole! I could have tried to clean it up before taking the picture, but oh well. It is what it is. I’m also laughing at myself – – – when I make something that is wildly delicious, the next day my fingers are just itching to get to my keyboard to start writing up a post. This is one of those kind of posts. After checking my email and doing my online jigsaw puzzle to wake up my brain, I was right into it, correcting the recipe with the changes I made, preparing the photos and beginning to write the story.

My neighbor, who is still doing a lot of my grocery shopping for me, bought sweet onions (instead of regular yellow ones). Afterwards, I gave her a little lesson in onions (she’s not much of a cook – she COOKS, but not because she likes to – because she has to feed her family of 4). She had never heard of sweet onions – so I gave her a quick lesson about them. I should give her a link to the blog post I did some years ago after my friends Tom and Joan gifted me with a passel of Texas Noonday sweet onions. And, last week she went to Costco (for herself, but also for me) and I had her buy a 3-pack of the ground beef. I froze two, and left one the frig. So, here I was with ground beef and sweet onions (you know, of course, that sweet onions don’t last as long in your pantry as regular onions – they have more moisture/water in them, so they tend to spoil much sooner). I searched my recipe database, and up popped this recipe that I hadn’t tried yet.

meatballs_fr_onion_style_onions_sauteeingAnd what a winner of a recipe it is. I’ll be making this again. I think next time I’ll try it with ground turkey, just to make it a bit healthier. First you have to slice 2 big sweet onions (cut in half first, then sliced) and they sweat away with some EVOO until they’ve caramelized. That takes awhile – especially with the sweet onions. When they get to the end of caramelizing you add in a little solution of beef broth and red wine and sweat that off too.

meatballs_fr_onion_style_sauteeingThen you make the meatballs. First you mix some of the usual kinds of ingredients. A cube of mozzarella cheese is put into the center of each meatball. Not a very big piece as lots of the cheese oozes out during cooking. Then you brown the meatballs.

Meanwhile, the onions are put into bottom of a casserole dish (or you can make this in a frying pan that’s suitable for going into the oven, that’ll save one more dish from dishwashing). The meatballs go in on top. Then you make a cornstarch-thickened mixture with broth and more red wine and that cooks in the residual fat left in the frying pan. Once thickened, that’s poured over the top of the meatballs.

meatballs_fr_onion_style_baking_cheeseInto the oven they go for about 15-20 minutes, then you take them out and add the cheese on top and back into the oven they go for another 15-20 minutes, and they’re done.

There’s a picture of the casserole (the second one I made that I gave to my neighbor) ready for the second baking with the cheese on top.

Once the casserole is done, I suggest you take it out of the oven and let it sit for about 4-5 minutes. It’s really hot, and that cheese will, for sure, burn the roof of your mouth. meatballs_fr_onion_style_plated

I probably should have had just three meatballs. I splurged and had four. And oh, were they ever good. There really isn’t “soup” as you might think – there are delicious red-winey-onions on the bottom, then the meatballs, crispy with the golden brown cheese. This could be served on a bed of rice, cauliflower rice (buttered), some mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower too, or some noodles? Or a bed of buttered garlic spinach.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The onions have great flavor, especially with the little bit of red wine added, then the sauce too, which has broth and red wine in it. The beef was tasty, especially if you had a bit of cheese and onion with every bite. I almost licked the bowl.

What’s NOT: well, this does take a bit of time to make. If you have some extra hands in the kitchen to do the meatballs, that would be a great help. It probably took about an hour and 20 minutes or so to do it all, altogether, including the 30 minute baking time. The onions take a long time – you could easily do those ahead, as that would save a lot of time.

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

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Meatballs French Onion Soup au Gratin Style

Recipe By: Tweaked slightly from Cupcakes and Kale Chips blog
Serving Size: 8

ONIONS:
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 large sweet onions — halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
MEATBALLS:
1 3/4 pounds ground beef — or could use ground turkey
1/4 cup bread crumbs — or panko, or gluten free, if needed, or oatmeal
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
8 ounces mozzarella cheese — about 2 ounces of it cut into half-inch cubes, the remainder shredded for the topping
1/2 tablespoon EVOO
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish — optional
SAUCE:
1 3/4 cup beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste (may not be needed)

1. ONIONS: the onions: Heat oil in a skillet over medium, add onions, salt & pepper, cook 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently or until caramelized. If using sweet onions it will take 30-40 minutes. Add thyme, sauté for minute or two, then add the wine and beef broth. Reduce until very little liquid remains. Pour into a casserole dish large enough to hold all of the meatballs. Set aside.
2. MEATBALLS: Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl, and gently combine with your hands. Divide the meat mixture into 16-18 equal pieces. Take one piece of the meat mixture and flatten slightly into a patty. Place one cube of cheese in the center of the patty and wrap the meatball around the cheese, sealing as best you can. Roll the meatball beween your two palms to make it more round. Repeat with the remaining meat and cheese cubes.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
4. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Place meatballs in casserole on top of the onions.
5. SAUCE: Whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour into the skillet you used for the meatballs (that has some residual fat in it). Heat mixture, stirring frequently, until thickened. Taste for seasonings – it may not need any additional. Pour over the meatballs. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the meatballs and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. The cheese may be golden brown in places (perfect). If not, turn on broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Serve over rice, cauliflower rice, noodles, mashed potatoes, or sauteed spinach with butter.

Posted in Beef, on June 1st, 2020.

beer_braised_veal_bratwurst_onions

Ever get a hankering for bratwurst?

As I write this, we’re still in the sheltering-in-place routine. Am I tired of it? Heck, yes. But I’m not willing to risk going out yet. My doctor has told me that older folks (like me) should stay home until there is a vaccine. Oh my. Is that ever a depressing thought. That’s more than 6 months away. I can’t wrap my head around that possibility. So I’m staying at home and trying not to think more than 1-2 days ahead.

It was a few weeks ago that I was watching Joanne Weir’s Plate and Places (PBS). In that episode she visited Germany, chugged some lager with the locals, and then came home to make veal brats and her version of a cabbage dish to go with it. Since they kind-a go together I’m giving you both recipes in the one post.

My problem was getting the brats. Since I’m not going out, I had to rely on my neighbor to go for me, and there are only a couple of stores locally that carry good veal brats (other than the bulk-made grocery store variety that I don’t think are very authentic). My neighbor, Josee, was kind enough to say she’d go to one particular independent market for me. I had her get the brats and a bunch of Italian sausage (the latter vacuum sealed in one-sausage-per-pkg that’s in the freezer). Fortunately I had cabbage and Brussels sprouts too, so I was happy to be able to prepare this dish.

What I didn’t have was the German amber beer, but I did have ordinary beer (I don’t drink beer, but my son-in-law brought some here last fall when they visited). There was one bottle left, and it was just enough.

The gist of this recipe is that once you brown the sausages in a spice toasted pan, they are braised in beer until cooked through. Then onions are added (see them perched on top of the sausage in the photo) and then served with the mustard sauce (which I forgot to photograph).

cabbage_brussels_pan_braisingThe cabbage dish was so intriguing to me because it combined regular cabbage and Brussels sprouts. But then, I love Brussels sprouts just about any old which way. But to combine them with cabbage, then flavor them with celery seeds, caraway, juniper berries and some Riesling wine? Oh yes! And butter. And the wine I didn’t use in the cabbage I had as an aperitif for several evenings in a row. I went into the wine cellar – which I knew would contain next to nothing in the Riesling department (because my DH didn’t like sweet wine), but I did find about 3 bottles. Yippee, I could make this dish!

There’s a photo at left of it cooking in the pan. As it cooked down, it became less vibrant looking, sorry to say, but it was delicious nevertheless.

What’s GOOD: everything was good. Loved having some veal brats, and I ate this for 3 days in a row. Loved the cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Actually, I liked them better on day two than the night I served them. I suppose the flavors married a bit. Which made the leftovers so much more delicious. Do make the mustard sauce too. A bit of work, but you can do it while the other stuff is cooking away.

What’s NOT: nothing really – pretty easy dishes to make if you have all the ingredients.

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

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

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Beer Braised Sausages with Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Joanne Weir, her TV program “Plates and Places”
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds bratwurst — uncooked veal type, or other sausages– hot or sweet Italian
2 large yellow onions — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Kosher salt to taste
2 cups beer — amber (German)
HONEY MUSTARD SAUCE:
1/2 cup stone ground mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons beer
1 Pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice — or more

NOTE: If possible use German beer.
1. Place the mustard seeds, caraway seeds and dill seeds in a mortar and crush them gently with a pestle.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sausages, turning occasionally, until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool slightly. Using a pin, prick the sausages several times.
3. Over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the spices, onions, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and translucent and begin to take on some golden brown color, about 20 to 30 minutes. Place the bratwurst on top of the onions and pour the beer over the bratwurst. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, until the bratwurst are completely cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.
4. In the meantime, place all of the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
5. With tongs, remove the bratwurst from the pan and place on a platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. Increase the heat to high and cook until the onions are almost dry, 3 to 4 minutes. Place the onions on top of the bratwurst and serve with the Stoneground Honey Mustard Sauce.

– – –

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Braised Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Recipe By: Joanne Weir, Plates and Places TV show
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds — crushed
6 juniper berries — crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts — halved
1 1/2 cups Riesling wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 head cabbage — red or green, 1-inch dice

1. Place the celery seeds and the caraway seeds in a mortar and with a pestle, gently grind the seeds.
2. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring and shaking the pan occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are golden on the cut side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the Riesling and continue to cook until the Brussels sprouts are almost cooked and the Riesling has evaporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside in a large bowl.
3. Melt the butter in the frying pan over medium high heat. Add the cabbage, celery, caraway, and junipers berries and cook just until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup Riesling and cook until the Riesling has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
4. Over medium high heat, add the Brussels sprouts to the cabbage and toss gently together. Cook until hot, 2 minutes.
Per Serving: (not accurate as it assumes you’re drinking the wine, not simmering it off in the pan) 265 Calories; 10g Fat (47.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 15mg Cholesterol; 33mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 61mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 447mg Potassium; 77mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on January 2nd, 2020.

spicy_beef_tenderloin_cranberry_mango_chutney

What is there not to like about a whole beef tenderloin?

For Christmas Day I offered to buy a whole beef tenderloin for the family celebration. Sara said “yes, please.” So off I went to Costco to buy an already-trimmed (of extra fat and silverskin) tenderloin. I cut it in half (easier handling in the oven), patted well with the spice combo (not herbs, but spices, which were a type of dry rub) then it was tightly tied with kitchen twine. They went into plastic bags (or wrap well in plastic wrap so it doesn’t leak) and I let them marinate in the refrigerator for almost 3 days. The recipe, from a class with Phillis Carey, calls for marinating the dry rubbed tenderloin for 4 days.

My cousin Gary and I drove to Sara’s and John’s (in Poway, CA) on Christmas Day and the meat went into the frig until about an hour before we wanted to begin cooking them.

spicy_beef_tenderloin_ready_for_ovenAfter the dry marinating time, the two pieces were seared on all sides with EVOO, then placed on a rimmed baking sheet and into a 400°F oven. The recipe said 20 minutes, but ours took about another 3-4, I think, to reach 130°F. Actually both reached about 133°F when we got them out of the oven. In case you’ve never done one of these, let me just warn: the last 3-8 minutes are crucial – monitor the internal temp frequently. The internal temp rises quickly once the meat reaches about 120°. Be forewarned. The last thing you want is an overcooked tenderloin. Some in our group wanted more medium and we got that perfectly with the smaller piece.

A few days ahead I’d made the spicy_beef_tenderloin_restingchutney, a kind of cooked relish of fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar, dried mango chopped up and a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger.

So, there’s a photo of the finished pieces. Note one is larger – it went in the oven for about 5 minutes before we added the 2nd, smaller piece. So they both came out of the oven at the same time.

The meat was lightly tented with foil for 15 minutes, then carved in thin slices (recommended) and served. The recipe says to roast to 135°. I’m hesitant to go that high, so I took them out early. They continue to cook during the resting time anyway.

JUST WATCH THE TEMP CAREFULLY. When you pay $114 (that’s what this one was) for a hunk of good beef, you certainly don’t want to ruin it by overcooking. Just so you know, if you overcook beef, it gets tough.

What’s GOOD: loved the seasonings –  the beef was “hot” because of the quantity of pepper. If you’re sensitive to it, reduce the pepper from the mixture below. Loved the spices on it. AND loved the chutney. It’s perfect with a big hunk of beef. I had two small pieces, and after feeding 12, there was nothing but a small handful of beef tidbits left over. I think everyone went back for seconds, just about.

What’s NOT: if you’re sensitive to pepper, take it out of the recipe altogether, and if you are turned off by spices patted onto meat, reduce the quantity of the spices. Obviously, if cost is a factor, pass on this one as it’s an expensive entrée.

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

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Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Cranberry Ginger Mango Chutney

Recipe By: Cooking Class with Phillis Carey, Nov. 2019
Serving Size: 12

2 tablespoons black peppercorns — scant (or a mix of black and green peppercorns)
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar — packed
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 garlic cloves — coarsely crushed into slivers
5 pounds beef tenderloin — tied as a roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil — divided or EVOO
CRANBERRY MANGO CHUTNEY:
12 ounces fresh cranberries — about 3 cups
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup dried mango — chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced

1. Grind peppercorns in an electric spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder) to a medium grind. In a small bowl, combine pepper, brown sugar, salt, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, and cloves; whisk to combine. Rub meat sparingly with crushed garlic slivers, then rub all over with spice mixture.
2. Cut tenderloin crosswise in half. Wrap each half very tightly with several layers of plastic wrap (so that it looks swaddled), put in a rimmed pan, and refrigerate 4 days.
3. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large frying pan (not nonstick) over high heat. Add 1 piece of meat and sear until well browned on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking pan and repeat with remaining oil and beef. Transfer baking pan to oven and cook meat until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 130°, 20 to 30 minutes. (Halves may not cook at the same rate; after meat has been in the oven 20 minutes, begin taking temperature of both pieces of meat every 1-2 minutes.) Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest 15 minutes. Remove kitchen twine.
4. Cut meat into very thin slices (less than 1/4 in., if possible) and serve warm or at room temperature, with crusty rolls and chutney.
Per Serving (you won’t eat all of the chutney): 747 Calories; 46g Fat (56.0% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 1350mg Sodium.

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