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Sara

Sara and me

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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. Soldiers aren’t supposed to have any attachment to the stray dogs, let alone bring them onto the home base where he spent part of his time. His unit all fell in love with Fred, but Craig was obviously the dog’s first love. A very inspiring story; a few tears were shed here and there as I read it. Fred now lives here in the U.S. against all odds.

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

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: 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. He is a consummate humorist and can find chuckles in almost every task. I ate this book up in one go. LOL funny and interesting on all fronts.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story, centered around a tragic event in their small town in Minnesota. About how he reviews his memories as he grows old, looking at the people, the event, and his part in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Her Mother’s Hope 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 Brunch, Vegetarian, on December 7th, 2019.

potato_pie_montlucon_slice

Montluçon just means this pie’s origins are French. This is a marvelous brunch dish, or hearty entrée for a holiday breakfast. Or a light Sunday supper, even.

Having made this about 4-5 months ago and having taken pictures of it, I was finally getting around to doing something with the photos. I thought I’d posted this recipe years and years ago – because I’ve been making this forever (I believe I made this the first time in 1981), and I was going to update the photos. But I certainly can’t find any post on my blog about it. I served it to a group of friends who came to my house to watch a movie. It was a fund-raising event I did for my P.E.O. chapter in which they bid on coming to my home to watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. Our book group had read it a few years ago, and the movie is available on amazon prime (I think that’s where I found it) and I’d serve lunch. So, I prepared a meal suitable for the movie title – potato pie.

The recipe came from an ancient French cookbook I had (or still have somewhere) from Sunset Magazine. How many times have I made it? Probably 15-20 times. It was a frequent entrée I served over the years when Dave and I did brunch on our boat. We’d invite a group of friends (4 guests plus us) for an early morning sail on a Saturday or Sunday (after church), we’d brew up a big pot of strong coffee, I’d have fresh fruit, maybe sausages, maybe a green salad, and after we’d enjoyed a late morning brunch I’d serve some kind of dessert. And champagne would be a featured item on the menu. Normally I prepared the pie the night before, let it sit out on the kitchen counter overnight to cool, took it to the boat and reheated it in the small oven onboard. Once heated I’d pour in the additional cream through the little window in the piecrust that was called for in the recipe, let the cream soak in a bit, then slice it and serve.

potato_pie_wholeThere’s nothing all that unusual about it – a rich, buttery pie crust is made. You can use the most recent pie crust recipe I posted in 2018 that uses some cornstarch. It was a winner of a recipe. You’ll need to double the recipe to get enough for a top crust too. The top crust is important – it holds in the moisture so the potatoes steam-cook. Do notice, there is no cheese in this recipe.

The potatoes are thinly sliced (use the food processor so they’re evenly sliced, or a hand-held slicer), layered with salt and pepper, then the top crust is affixed. Cut a hole in the center so the steam can escape and pour in most of the cream. Bake until golden brown, then when you’ve removed it from the oven you add the extra cream, as I mentioned. Be sure to use enough salt – potatoes require a LOT of it.

What’s GOOD: can be made ahead and reheated. Wonderful flavor. Rich. Hearty. Different.

What’s NOT: only if you’re on a carb-restricted diet, it wouldn’t be so good for you! This is a tried and true recipe. Surprisingly it doesn’t have all that many calories – moderate fat grams, however.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Potato Pie Montlucon

Recipe By: old Sunset magazine cookbook about France
Serving Size: 8

2 each pie crusts (9 inch) — to make one double crust pie
4 1/2 cups russet potatoes — thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons onion — minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

1. Prepare the pastry dough. I use a short crust dough, make one half slightly larger than the other and chill. Roll out the larger piece to fit into a 9-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch cake pan, or even a springform pan.
2. In a large bowl mix together the sliced potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes compactly in the pastry shell. Pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and dot the potatoes with the 1 T. of butter.
3. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit over the potatoes, sealing the edges. Cut a 1-inch diameter round hole in the center of the pastry. Brush top of pastry with some of the remaining heavy cream, which gives it a lovely glaze.
4. Preheat oven to 375°, and bake the pie, uncovered, for an hour and 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and pour (through the hole in the middle) as much of the remaining cream as the pie will hold. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.
5. If making this ahead, do not add the cream at the end, but cool the pie, cover and refrigerate until the next day. Reheat the pie in a 350° oven for 50 minutes. Then add the cream and allow to sit for just a minute of two to allow the cream to absorb. Cut into wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 384 Calories; 25g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 45mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on December 19th, 2018.

bacon_egg_breakfast_tart

Every December a group of girlfriends get together for breakfast at one of our homes. It was my turn.

The rest of the year, every couple of weeks, we meet at a Corner Bakery and catch up with our lives, our children, grandchildren, our dogs and cats, our travels, our reading and just general “life.” We’ve been meeting for about 35 years. Since we meet quite early, I needed to make something that I could complete likkety-split. This seemed like a good recipe to make that happen.

First you begin with a sheet of defrosted puff pastry. It is rolled out a little bit more than it is as it comes in the box, but didn’t require much to get it to an 8×10 size. Onto the baking sheet it went. With a sharp knife you score a line all around the outside edge of the puff pastry – this allows the edge to rise up (and kind of become a ridge/rim so the filling doesn’t leak out). Then I mixed up some crème fraiche and a bunch of grated Gruyere cheese. That was spread all over the interior of the puff pastry. Into a hot oven it went for about 14 minutes. I waited until all of my friends were here before I put this in the oven. When it came out of the oven at that point the filling part was golden brown all over and smelled lovely! Onto the top I placed about 4-5 slices of already crisped bacon, cut into little pieces, then I cracked 3 eggs. At this point you time it carefully – 7-10 minutes back in the oven to make the eggs sunny-side up. At 7 minutes the whites were still not cooked. At 9 minutes they were done, maybe even over-done. Then you use a knife to cut kind of irregular pieces, giving each person a bunch of the pastry/bacon part and one egg. Oh, I hadn’t sprinkled the top with chives when I snapped the photo.

bacon_egg_tart_before_baking_eggsThere’s a photo after I’d cracked the eggs onto the tart. One yolk broke and it wasn’t very pretty (I ate that one). If I did this again, I’d probably try to get 4 eggs onto the piece – the recipe said it fed 4, but you only put 3 eggs onto the sheet. Strange. I’ve adjusted the recipe below for that. I’d recommend large or even medium eggs and do try to get 4 onto the tart. I made both sheets of puff pastry and then had 6 eggs altogether – should have done 8. And no, I didn’t eat any of the puff pastry – I ate the egg and bacon only and got some of the cheesy mixture too underneath the eggs. All the guests enjoyed it. The cheese added just a great flavor to the whole tart. This could be something you’d make on Christmas morning. Grate the cheese the night before and mix it  up with the crème fraiche. You could even do the bacon the day before too. Then it’s just a matter of rolling out the pastry, chilling it for 15 minutes, it said, then you put the toppings on and bake. The other thing I would do – making this again – I have 2 ovens – I would have used both, because even with switching the 2 pans halfway through and turning them around, one sheet didn’t cook up as nicely golden brown.

What’s GOOD: easy to make, really. Lovely presentation. It looked better once I had the chives sprinkled all over the top. Some of my guests didn’t eat the egg yolk, but they ate everything else around it and the pastry. I served this with fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) and I had some slices of Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts in the freezer, and since it’s not a very sweet cake, I thought it would work well with the breakfast. It did. I served mimosas and hot coffee.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except planning ahead to defrost the puff pastry for 24 hours before making this. And don’t use extra large eggs – even medium eggs would be good. I used large. Watch the eggs carefully during the 7-10 minute cooking time. Mine went from not done at 7 minutes to over-done at 9 minutes. But then, everyone’s oven is different.

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Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Williams-Sonoma
Serving Size: 4

1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg — lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
3 ounces crème fraîche
2 ounces Gruyère cheese — shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper — to taste
8 bacon slices — cooked until crisp
4 large eggs — or medium sized if you have them
10 fresh chives — cut on the bias into 1/2-inch lengths

1. Thaw puff pastry dough according to package instructions, usually 24 hours, left in the box.
2. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
3. On lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and to a 10-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score a border 1/2 inch in from the edge of the pastry. Using a fork, prick the center of the pastry. Brush the border with the egg wash and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche and cheese, and season with pepper. The bacon will add enough salt, but you can also sprinkle salt on top at the end.
5. Spread the crème fraîche mixture on the pastry, keeping the border clean. Lay the bacon pieces on top, scattered all over. Bake the tart for 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a level heatproof surface. Using a fork, prick any large air pockets in the pastry. Crack the eggs onto the tart, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 7 to 10 minutes.
7. Transfer the tart to a platter, garnish with the chives and serve in irregular pieces so each person is served an egg.
Per Serving: 625 Calories; 47g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 311mg Cholesterol; 500mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on April 13th, 2018.

budapest_coffeecake_slice

Lovely, tasty coffeecake with a cinnamon and nut filling, made in a Bundt pan.

It’s been years now, I’ve been on a quest. A friend and I went on a Los Angeles gourmet crawl of some kind. It was daytime, and we visited a variety of restaurants and food emporiums. When we paused at a catering place in Santa Monica (I think it was) they served us each a little slice of a Hungarian coffee cake. I was smitten. I asked if they’d share the recipe. Uh, NO. That coffeecake didn’t look like this coffeecake, I’m sorry to say – it was much darker colored batter/cake. It was made in either a Bundt or a tube pan and it had cinnamon in it, some nuts too. It was just so divine. Ever since (and this has been 25 or more years ago) I’ve looked in cookbooks at the library, on the internet, etc. to try to find a recipe for a dark battered coffee cake. But when I looked at THIS recipe I thought well, definitely not a dark batter, but it sounded good nonetheless.

budapest_coffeecake_wholeThe recipe came from Food52, and is credited to Maida Heatter, that diva of all things sweet, and comes from a 1999 cookbook she published. I followed the recipe to a T; however, I’ve made one little change in the directions. When served, as I cut my fork into the cake, it toppled over right where the filling was – because the filling was dry and unto itself. So I’ve added one step – running a knife through the batter and filling layer to help adhere the cake and filling together. Obviously I didn’t do that with the one I made, but it’s such a minor change, you might not even be aware of it. Hopefully, the cake will hold together better.

The filling consists of cinnamon, cocoa, nuts, dark brown sugar and some chopped up raisins. As you layer the sour cream rich batter in the greased Bundt pan, you sprinkle on the filling. Just run your knife through as you add each layer of filling. I didn’t use quite all of the dry filling. It’s baked for 50-60 minutes (I’d lean toward 60 if you make this yourself). I used the toothpick test, but found when I served it that the cake toward the center was still quite wet – I took my cake out of the oven at 50 minutes. Anyway, the cake is cooled, then plated and drizzled with an easy icing.

What’s GOOD: my favorite part was the filling, and the raisins in it. They add a special bit of sweetness. It’s a nice batter – not overly moist, actually, considering there’s 2 cups of sour cream in the batter. The cake part is relatively nondescript, as it’s the filling that makes it.

What’s NOT: nothing really.

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Maida Heatter’s Budapest Coffee Cake

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, 1999
Serving Size: 12

NUT FILLING:
3/4 cup dark brown sugar — firmly packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons raisins — coarsely chopped (dark or golden)
1 cup toasted walnuts — finely chopped
CAKE BATTER:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces butter — (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 cups sour cream — at room temperature
ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons hot milk — (2 to 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. NUT FILLING: In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Set aside.
2. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. Into a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and the sugar and beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, as necessary, to keep mixture smooth. Beat at high speed until mixture is light and creamy, about 1 minute.
5. Turn mixer to low speed. Add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two additions, beating only until smooth after each addition.
6. Spread a thin layer of batter in bottom of prepared pan. Sometimes it’s easier to use a small spoon to drop some batter into pan, and then to smooth it together. Top with 1/3 of nut mixture. Run a knife, zigzagging slightly through the batter. Repeat until you have 4 layers of batter into pan and smooth it together. Use a knife to zigzag once with each layer of filling. Top layer will be batter and it’s not necessary to run the knife through that layer.
7. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of cake comes clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and re-invert on a rack.
8. Combine confectioners’ sugar, hot milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Mix well. Mixture should have the consistency of a thick cream sauce. Place a sheet of wax paper underneath a cooling rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it run down the sides, while still hot. When glaze is set, transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve cake warm or at room temp.
Per Serving: 611 Calories; 27g Fat (39.1% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 86g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 470mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on February 24th, 2018.

ban_choc_walnut_coffeecake

Oh, dear, do I overuse the word “yummy?” I hope not. This is a time to use the word. I try to use different descriptors for my blog food, so you get a sense of how it tastes. This recipe is a keeper.

One of my book groups was meeting here at my house, and I reviewed the book, The Last Midwife, a wonderful historical novel about the 1880s in a small mining town in the Colorado Rockies. About Gracy, an older woman who has been a midwife since she was 10 years old. A crime rocks the town and Gracy is blamed (she isn’t guilty, but only the reader knows that). Currently, the book is written up on my sidebar if you want more info, but it will disappear from there in a month or two as I add newer books to my “currently reading” section. It’s a great book and with lots to talk about – the hardships of mountain, pioneer life. Many  interesting characters to discuss too.

Anyway, I made this coffeecake for the group, and oh gosh, was it ever good. It has 2 banana batter layers and 2 walnut/chocolate layers – as you can kind-a see in the photo. Sorry my photo was a little blurry on the bottom . . .I was in a hurry! It was very easy to make. According to my notes, it was from an old Gourmet magazine back in 2008. The riper the bananas, the better the flavor. Mine weren’t as ripe as I would have liked, but at least they weren’t green!

The cake took longer than expected to bake – the recipe said 35-40 minutes, but it took 50 minutes for me. I used my instant read thermometer to make sure – once it reaches 190°F it’s done sufficiently. I let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, but then I HAD to cut it into squares to serve it. It was still quite warm, but once out on a pretty platter it cooled enough for everyone to eat. I heard lots of uhmmmms and ahhhs. Including my own murmuring.

What’s GOOD: the banana flavor is certainly there. Which is good – it has that kind of speckled look (as in banana bread, you know what I mean). Loved the scent of cinnamon, and the crunchy walnuts and of course, the chocolate, which isn’t predominant, but you definitely know it’s got chocolate in it. Altogether delicious. I’d definitely make it again.

What’s NOT: only that you do dirty a few bowls in the making of it. None of the steps is hard or time consuming.

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Banana Chocolate Walnut Coffeecake

Recipe By: Gourmet Mag, Feb. 2008
Serving Size: 12

BANANA BATTER:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter — softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups bananas — mashed very ripe (about 3 medium)
2/3 cup yogurt — full fat
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
TOPPING:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate — 70%-cacao, coarsely chopped [I used bittersweet chocolate chips]
1 cup walnuts — toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).
3. With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
4. Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Spread half of banana batter in cake pan and sprinkle with half of chocolate mixture. Spread remaining batter evenly over filling and sprinkle remaining chocolate mixture on top pressing slightly to adhere the topping to the batter.
5. Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 40 – 50 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temp fo 195°F. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, right side up. When you upend the coffeecake some of the topping may fall off. Cut into small squares.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 22g Fat (48.7% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 215mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, IP, pressure cooker, on February 12th, 2018.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach

Goodness, me. This was so easy to make. I could even make this for myself for dinner, and then have leftovers.

Christmas morning I usually make something special for breakfast. My cousin Gary was visiting, and although he wasn’t feeling very good, still he knew he should eat, so I whipped this up in the IP. It was my first IP recipe I tried, and it turned out really well. My cousin has to eat GF, so going crustless was the way to go anyway. I was perfectly happy with the results.

I did research using the IP for quiche, but found several recipes, so I knew it was a successful thing to try. I had some baby spinach in the refrigerator that needed eating anyway, so I kind of combined two recipes and made it a quiche Lorraine style but with added spinach. Daughter Sara gave me an IP cookbook called Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast. This recipe, with my modifications, came from that book.

The quiche ingredients were standard, starting with some thick sliced bacon that I sautéed for awhile to get it rendered out and crispy. There was hardly any fat in the pan anyway since the bacon I used was so meaty. The onion was cooked through, then I cooled and cleaned the IP pot. Meanwhile I mixed up the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cream, S & P, Emmental cheese, spinach) and the bacon and onion, of course. The rack is inserted into the IP, then the quiche, loosely covered with foil (you don’t want steam to get in there – it would ruin the chemistry of the quiche). It was pressure cooked for 10 minutes, rested for 10, then quick released.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach_wedgeI’d shredded a bit of extra Emmental and sprinkled more of it on top and stuck it under the oven broiler, just so it would have a bit of color. One thing about pressure cooking . . . you can’t get good color unless  you brown things before, or broil them after. It took no time at all to broil it for a few minutes. I let it rest for a couple of minutes because it was so hot, then cut into 4 portions and served it along with some yogurt and fruit.

What’s GOOD: it was basically a 2-dish prep (IP pot plus the ceramic baking dish) so there was easy cleanup. Loved the quiche. It may not have had the same consistency as a traditional oven-baked quiche – almost like eggs done in the microwave – but it was good and hit the spot. I liked the addition of spinach, even though it’s not traditional for a Lorraine type quiche.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless you really miss the crust.

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IP Crustless Quiche Lorraine with Spinach

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Instant Pot Obsession
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon butter — (for coating baking dish)
3 slices bacon — chopped
1 small onion — sliced thin and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh spinach — coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper — or black
1 1/4 cups Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type
1 cup water — for steaming
TOPPING:
1/3 cup Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type

1. Prepare a 1-quart round baking dish (that fits in the IP) and coat the bottom and sides with the room temp butter.
2. Using the IP saute function render the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove and set aside. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is fully translucent and soft. Remove and set aside. Pour out any extra grease from the pot, cool, then clean the pot and replace into the IP.
3. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and cream, then add pepper and remaining salt. Add half the cheese to the mixture along with the spinach, bacon and onion, and pour it all into the prepared, buttered baking dish. Add remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil – not tight – but enough so steam won’t get into the dish. Install rack in the pot and gently place quiche dish on top of the rack. Add water to the bottom. Use manual pressure for 10 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes as a natural release, then quick release.
4. Open IP, remove quiche, using the rack handles and set on countertop. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
5. Add extra cheese to the top of the quiche and place under broiler just long enough to get some nice golden brown color to the top (watch carefully), remove, allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Cut in wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 386 Calories; 31g Fat (71.9% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 250mg Cholesterol; 519mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on January 4th, 2018.

black_pepper_biscuits_closeup

Who would think that just regular rich buttery biscuits could be so much better with the addition of pepper?

A few weeks ago a group of us got together for a breakfast at my friend Cherrie’s house. Some in the group have been meeting for about 35 years, others a shorter time. Usually, in December, one of us hosts the group for breakfast and we share Christmas gifts with one another. Cherrie made a lovely breakfast for us (a potato casserole, sausage and gravy – along with the biscuits I made – fresh fruit, OJ or Prosecco and OJ, and a cranberry coffeecake and coffee, of course). It was all sumptuous.

breakfast_group_Xmas_2017

There we are in Cherrie’s living room about to open our presents. She’s doing an Olde English Christmas this year (see one of the Queen’s adapted mottos at the left – it says “Keep Calm and Feast On” – and the London 2-decker bus back behind the table – it’s mounted on the mirrored wall, but looks like it’s in the frame). She has Scottish charger plates and runners and she’s been collecting Nutcrackers for years, though you can’t see any of them in the picture. Cherrie does a theme every Christmas – last year it was Hawaiian. And just as an aside. Kathy’s grandson, Zach, has just been accepted at the University of Hawaii with a FULL football scholarship. Their family is floating on Cloud 9. Zach was offered scholarships at 9 colleges or universities. Obviously he’s a star player!

Back to the biscuits: since we meet early, I cheated and made the biscuits the night before and stuck them (raw) in the freezer, then popped them in Cherrie’s oven once I got there. The tops of the biscuits had been slathered with buttermilk, then black pepper sprinkled on top. Black pepper biscuits are definitely a southern tradition, but I’d never had them (nor made them) before. The recipe is a fairly traditional rich (butter) biscuit but it has a bunch of fresh ground black pepper in the mixture, and then on top too. Photo below is before I baked them.

black_pepper_biscuits_ready2bakeIF I were to make these again, I wouldn’t freeze them – only because they didn’t brown evenly (see photo), but that was really not a problem with the taste, just the appearance. Or, the option would be to freeze them, but not slather the buttermilk and pepper on top until just before you bake them. The buttermilk had been absorbed by the biscuit dough, although the pepper certainly did stick well enough.

There were raves around the table, mine included. You know, we here in the U.S. and Canada, and likely England as well, use black pepper as our tableside condiment. In many other countries, they use other things like spicy paprika in Hungary and other countries in that region. And in some South American countries they use a spicy dried pepper (not peppercorns). But for us, black pepper became the standard. And I certainly use a lot of it – did you also know that as we age, our taste buds lose their ability to taste as well, so it’s not uncommon for people to use more salt or pepper?

I thought these biscuits were superlative! With the sausage gravy on top – oh my goodness was that ever good. Loved it. And yes, I’ll be making them again.

What’s GOOD: the addition of black pepper does make the biscuit spicy/hot – use less if you’re sensitive to heat. It made a very different tasting biscuit, and it was well liked by everyone at the breakfast. Cherrie kept most of the leftover ones and is going to make sausage gravy again and serve it over those biscuits.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like black pepper . . . I thought these were scrumptious.

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Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe By: Bobby Flay
Serving Size: 8-12

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder — plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper — plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — cubed and chilled
2 cups cold buttermilk — plus more for brushing

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and baking soda. Scatter the cubed butter over the dry ingredients and, using your fingers, pinch the butter into the flour to form small sheets of butter, with some of the butter about the size of peas. Stir in the 2 cups of buttermilk just until a dry, shaggy dough forms.
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour and knead gently, folding the dough over itself 2 or 3 times to form a layered dough. Pat the dough out to a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut out as many 3-inch-square biscuits as you can. Gently press the scraps together and cut out more biscuits. [I used a 2 1/2″ square cutter, so this recipe made about 13 biscuits.] Biscuits may be frozen at this point, then sealed into a plastic bag. Use within 2 weeks.
3. Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake for about 15-16 minutes, until golden brown. If baking them from a frozen state, still do the buttermilk brushing and added pepper just before baking, but the biscuits may take 2-3 more minutes to reach that golden brown.
Per Serving: 432 Calories; 21g Fat (44.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 879mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on October 30th, 2017.

microwave_poached_egg

So cinchy easy I can’t believe nobody had figured this out before.

Subscribing to the posts from Food52 is sometimes daunting. They post about 10+ posts a day. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but seems like every time I go to look at what they’ve posted, it can take me an hour to get through them all. Yet I don’t want to not look at them because there are some real gems there.

raw_eggs_for_poachingAnyway, since I’ve been having a poached egg or two on toast for dinner now and then (my DH would NOT have thought that was a proper dinner, which is why as a widow, well, I can!). So I had to try this pronto. Since I did two eggs, I  used a bowl instead of a mug (recommended). You add about 1/2 cup of tap water, a tiny splash of distilled vinegar, stir it a bit, add the eggs, cover the mug or dish, pop it into the microwave and cook on high. In MY microwave, it takes 90 seconds, but a single egg in a mug will take maybe 45-60 seconds. You’ll have to judge it yourself. The toast needs to be in the toaster before I put the eggs in the microwave and in a jiffy it’s all ready. So VERY easy. If the eggs aren’t quite done, put it back in the microwave and continue for maybe 5-10 seconds until it’s done to your liking. I like a runny egg, so your timing might be different.

In my microwave, the very tip-top of the egg isn’t submerged. If you want to not see that, remove the bowl/mug after about 45 seconds (once the water is warm) microwave_poached_eggs_bowland use a spoon to drizzle some hot water over the top. I’m fine with the little coin of bright yolk on top. What’s nice is that my lunch or dinner is finished in a matter of 2 minutes, tops.

What’s GOOD: the speedy meal – the fact that I can have a meal done in a matter of 2-3 minutes. These are every bit as good as ones you’ve done in simmering water, I think.

What’s NOT: gee, can’t think of anything. Maybe if you needed to do 6-8 eggs for a family, this wouldn’t work – easier to do a big skillet of them, but for me, this works like a charm!

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

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Microwave Poached Egg

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 1

a bowl or wide cup water, fill about half way, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 large egg — or two

1. Add water to a mug (or bowl if doing two), stir in half a tablespoon of vinegar, crack an egg into the mug, cover with a top (a plate works) and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Look to see if it’s done. If not, add another 10-20 seconds and check again. Depending on the voltage of the microwave it could take longer, or shorter time. Drain using a slotted spoon and serve.
Per Serving: 74 Calories; 5g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 212mg Cholesterol; 70mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on August 21st, 2017.

almond_puff_slice

Almond Puff Loaf. Oh gosh. Love this.

It had been decades since I’d last made this. I used to make it back in the 1960s – I’d found a recipe in one of my homespun cookbooks. Then one time I made it and it failed completely, and I had no idea why. The 2nd layer kind of spread out all over everywhere (now I know what happened) but after that failure, I thought oh well, I won’t try that again. Then it was featured recently on King Arthur Flour’s blog, and I was reminded about my previous love of it, then distress of it. As I read, I discovered that you must use large eggs, not extra large. I used to buy extra large all the time, but then about 10-15 years ago I read that bakers use ONLY large eggs because they’re more consistent with the normal size used in almost all baked things. And it was mentioned that if you use extra large eggs, this baked goodie might fail. Ah-ha! That must have been it. If you go the blog write-up then go to the recipe itself at King Arthur Flour, you’ll read all the details, if you’re interested. They actually mention how much one large egg weighs. One website says an average large egg weighs (just the egg part) 50 grams.

I served it at one of my book club meetings recently, held here at my house. The recipe is Danish in origin, and I wanted to make Danish goodies because the group was reviewing The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. We had such an interesting discussion of the book because I invited my friend Janet to come and talk about her experiences in Denmark. Her son lives there with his wife and children, and Janet and Dick visit them regularly. She shared some stories about celebrating Christmas in Denmark (many different traditions), and she also brought a beautiful candle (candles are really, really important in Denmark, and NOT scented) with an unusual glass surround with pine boughs. My meeting was held in my family room – I lit about a dozen candles, had lights on (low) wherever I could (and had it not been mid-summer and hot, I would have lit the fireplace [fireplaces are big deal for hygge]).

almond_puff_fullAnyway, this Danish – well, it’s NOT like a “real” Danish (as we in American might call it), the kind you’d buy at a bakery. This is a pretty easy one to make at home. It has a bottom layer (look at the photo up at the top to see the layers), a top layer that’s like cream puff batter which rises quite a bit in the baking because of the eggs in it, then once baked (it takes an hour) you spread warm jam (I’m quite enamored with Trader Joe’s Peach Bellini jam) on top, then sprinkle on some toasted almonds, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.  There are a bunch of steps, but none is difficult in the least. A bit of stirring, mixing, melting, spreading, etc. After doing all the layering, I cut it into slices about 1 1/2” wide, 3” long (across). The photo above is of one of the finished loaves – it’s about 10” long and 3-4” wide. The puff was still warm when I put it onto a serving plate and invited my friends to grab a piece, along with coffee (another integral part of Danish life) and makes for a lot of hygge (HOO-GAH). We laughed a lot about how much difficulty we have pronouncing it.

What’s GOOD: this is altogether delicious – it has crunch, almost like croissant flakiness in the middle (but it isn’t, it’s cream-puff flakiness), the jam and almonds adding a nice mouth-feel. There were some pieces left over and I invited my friends to take them home – there was none left after that. Now that I’ve figured out about only using LARGE eggs, I’ll be making this again someday. And then, I love almond anything, so that was an added bonus for me.

What’s NOT: If you don’t like managing all the different layers, maybe this isn’t for you, but it’s not difficult in the least. You do need to start about 1 1/2 hours ahead since it must bake nearly an hour. And it really should cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (I didn’t because I’d run out of time!).

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

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Almond Puff Loaf

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour (but this is an old-old recipe I’ve had for decades)
Serving Size: 16

FIRST LAYER:
1/2 cup butter — cut into pats or 1/2-inch cubes, (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup water
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
SECOND LAYER:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter — (8 tablespoons)*
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs — at room temperature; warm them, in the shell, in hot tap water for 10 minutes if they’re cold from the fridge
1 teaspoon almond extract
*If you’re using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt
TOPPING:
2/3 cup jam — or preserves (preferably apricot or peach)
2/3 cup sliced almonds — toasted in a 350F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re a light, golden brown
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar — or glazing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons milk — or water (approximately)

NOTE: Be sure to use only LARGE eggs.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a large cookie sheet.
2. First layer: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, and salt (if you’re using it), working the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork, your fingers, or a mixer. Mix until everything is crumbly, then stir in the water. The dough will become cohesive, though not smooth.
3. Divide the dough in half; if you’re using a scale, each half will weigh about 4 5/8 – 5 ounces. Wet your hands, and shape each piece of this wet dough into a rough log. Pat the logs into 10″ x 3″ rectangles on the sheet, leaving at least 4″ (but preferably 6″) between them, and 2″ on each side. These puff up in the oven (hence the name), and you need to leave them room for expansion.
4. Second layer: In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then add the flour (and salt, if you’re using it) all at once. Stir the mixture with a spoon till it thickens, begins to steam, and leaves the sides of the pan; this will happen very quickly. Transfer the stiff batter to a mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat it at medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to cool it down a bit.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the batter loses its slippery look, and each egg is totally absorbed. Mix in the almond extract.
6. Divide the batter in half. Spread half the batter over one of the dough strips on the pan, covering it completely to the outer edges. Repeat with the remaining batter on the 2nd and dough. With a spatula (or your wet fingers) spread the batter until it completely covers the entire bottom layer of dough. Smooth it out as best you can.
7. Bake the pastry for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and transfer each pastry to a wire rack.
8. Topping: Spread each warm pastry with about 1/3 cup of jam or preserves.
9. Sprinkle the toasted almonds atop the jam. By this time, your beautifully puffed pastries are probably starting to sink; don’t worry, this is all part of the plan.
10. Icing: Stir together the sugar, vanilla, and enough milk or water to form a thick but “drizzlable” icing.
Drizzle the icing atop the pastries. Cut into squares or strips to serve.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 16g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 138mg Sodium.
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Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on August 28th, 2016.

apple_dutch_baby

A Dutch Baby. Oh my. So delicious. This one with a layer of sliced apples that have been cooked with a bit of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Then the puff pancake mixture is poured in. Yes!

It’s been years since I’d had one of these treasures. Years ago I used to go to a pancake house in Denver that had it on the menu. It was served plain, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a wedge of lemon to drizzle on top. I recall that I ordered it fairly often. Many years ago I tried to make one and my recollection is that it failed – it didn’t rise. It didn’t have that characteristic popover-type custardy tender texture.

These things are also called a German pancake, a Bismarck, or a Dutch puff. Normally it’s made in a cast iron frying pan. According to Wikipedia, which cites Sunset magazine as its source, Dutch babies (by that name) were introduced in the early 1900s at a restaurant in Seattle, called Manca’s Café. It was family run, and one of the daughters is said to have coined the name, Dutch Baby.

A few months ago I was reading someone’s facebook page and it contained one of those rip-roaring fast videos of how to make an apple Dutch baby. I watched it twice and determined then and there that I’d try making it again. So, a week or so later I went to my friend’s facebook page to watch it again, and it was gone. Huh? I emailed my friend and asked about it – she had no idea about any Dutch Baby video on her page. So I did some sleuthing – I couldn’t remember where it had come from, but I finally found it. I think – although I’m not certain about this, so don’t quote me – that if you ever DO allow one of these video sources to post a video on your facebook page, you have right then and there, agreed to let that source company post more videos to your facebook page without your knowledge. I finally found the video at tiphero. I’m not going to give you the link because if in fact that’s what they do, I don’t want to be spreading the problem. The recipe for this dish can be found at other places on the web.

dutch_baby_apple_sideMaking this recipe, the proportions and directions came from their website. According to Wikipedia, there is a formula, for every 1/4 cup flour, you need to have 1/4 cup milk – very similar to a popover batter. And for every 1/4 cup of those you need an egg. So, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup milk and 3 eggs. The apple slices are cooked in a bit of butter, then removed. The pan is wiped clean (so the butter doesn’t burn) and you heat up the iron skillet in a 425°F oven for 8-10 minutes, so it’s literally smoking hot. Handle with care! Remove the pan, melt a bit more butter, pour in the apples, then pour in the batter. And back into that hot oven it goes for 18-20 minutes. Mine was done at 18. Again, I was very careful with it because that pan is really hot. I slipped the pancake out onto my serving plate, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that with the exception of about 3 bites, I ate the whole thing. It was my dinner. I relished and I mean relished every single bite! You don’t have to make it with apples – I just liked the idea of it.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh. I thought it was fabulous. But then I also love popovers, though I never make them. This was quite easy to do – just have everything ready when you start, and be prepared when it comes out of the oven to eat it immediately. No fiddling around with setting the table or pouring a glass of milk. No. Serve. Sit. Eat.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – it was quite easy and was a special treat for me.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Dutch Baby with Apples

Recipe By: From Tip Hero (online videos)
Serving Size: 2

2 tablespoons butter — divided
1 large granny Smith apple — peeled, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
BATTER:
3 large eggs — room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk — room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar and lemon wedges, if desired.

NOTE: You must have an iron skillet – a 10″ one to make this dish.
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218 degrees Celsius).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour and sugar until smooth.
3. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apple slices and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes, frequently tossing, until the apples are coated and have softened. Transfer to a dish.
4. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel and place in the preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, until very hot.
5. Add the remaining butter to the skillet, swirling to coat the bottom and sides. Add the cooked apples to the center of the pan and pour the batter on top.
6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pancake has puffed and the edges are golden brown. The center should be set but custardy.
7. Sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with a lemon wedge, if desired. Note: The pancake will lose its puff as it sits out, so be sure to prepare this one right before you want to eat it and enjoy as soon as it’d done! Have your table set, beverages poured, fork poised, and dig in while it’s piping hot.
Per Serving: 664 Calories; 34g Fat (45.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 72g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 393mg Cholesterol; 273mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, on September 8th, 2015.

asparagus_bread_pudding

Tender, moist, cheesy, leek-filled and altogether lovely for a leisurely brunch.

The other night I had house guests – Joe, Dave’s good friend, who still comes to stay periodically when he has business in my neck of the woods, and his wife, Yvette. We all attended a social shindig and they decided not to drive back home to San Diego. I was happy to accommodate them, even if my house was (still is) a bit of a mess from the remodeling.

Preparing a brunch dish was fairly easy and straight forward. I’ve been going through stacks of recipe clippings (mostly from magazines over the last couple of years) and adding them to MasterCook (nearly all of them I’ve found online so it’s easy to click a couple of buttons and it’s added into my to-try file). This recipe popped up the other day and I thought it would be a nice dish to prepare for our leisurely Sunday morning breakfast/brunch when they were here.

The recipe (that someone gave me, don’t know who!) started from one Georgeanne Brennan created. She made it when she was in France, and shared her version with the chefs at Chez Panisse in Berkeley but she even says in the recipe that you can substitute a variety of veggies and cheeses. I found several versions online, but this one had a bit more flavorful ingredients in it, so I worked with this one, adding or subtracting from the ingredient list as it suited what I had on hand. I had asparagus and leeks. Check. Eggs. Check. Ciabatta bread. Check. Fontina. Check. And Pecorino-Romano. Check. Everything else was a household staple.

I made half of the below recipe, in an 8×8 glass dish. If you had really hungry guests, probably it would feed about 6. It didn’t take long to put together – this isn’t the type of brunch dish you have to soak overnight – 15-20 minutes with the milk on the bread was sufficient. You could – I’m certain – make this the night before, but don’t add the cheese on top until you put it into the oven, and I’d allow it to sit out at room temp for about 30 minutes before baking. It might take another 5 asparagus_bread_pudding_bakedminutes of baking time too. You can vary the cheese – I used, as I mentioned above, Fontina and Pecorino-Romano, but Swiss cheese is mentioned in some recipes, and Emmental in others, so Gruyere would also work. Even Parmigiana-Reggiano would be fine too but not too much. And if you like a topping, I think this would be nice with some fresh tomato salsa. Or perhaps a mushroom sauce? However, the calorie count is fairly significant with this containing half and half and some cream, so think twice about using a calorie or fat-laden topping. That’s why I thought salsa would be a nice addition. I didn’t have any or I’d have served it with this. You can use your choice of herbs – I used what is currently in my garden (basil and rosemary) but use whatever suits you – chives, parsley, tarragon, thyme.

The leeks are cooked some, then the asparagus too. I cooked the asparagus stems first because they were rather robust in size, then added the more tender tops during the last minute. I used ciabatta bread – I cut it into small cubes and left them to sit out overnight in my kitchen, so they were certainly “stale” by that time.

The casserole is baked for about 45-55 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Don’t over bake it or it will dry out. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving. I served it with fresh fruit, some pork sausage and Greek yogurt.

What’s GOOD: I liked that it could be made just before baking and it was really nice. I might use more asparagus next time just because I like it. It was easy to make and looked very pretty on the plate. I might use a tiny bit more cheese next time – and I might try different kinds just because you can. If you make the 9×13 casserole, it would serve a big bunch of people. At least 12, maybe 14.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Asparagus Bread Pudding with Fontina and Herbs

Recipe By: Inspired by a recipe from Georgeanne Brennan
Serving Size: 12

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 whole leeks — ends cut off, sliced lengthwise, chopped, rinsed well
1 pound asparagus
CUSTARD:
5 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 dash cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups half and half Zest of one large lemon
PUDDING:
5 cups bread — (I used ciabatta) cut into 3/4″ cubes, dried overnight
3/4 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese — freshly grated (or use Gruyere)
3/4 cup Fontina cheese — grated
1/2 cup fresh herbs — chopped – such as chives, parsley, and tarragon; or sage, thyme, and marjoram (I used fresh basil and rosemary)

1. Grease the bottom of the dish you’re using (9×13 works, or similar 4-quart dish as long as it has 2″ high sides). Place bread in a large bowl.
2. Mix half and half, cream, eggs, cayenne, lemon zest, salt and pepper until there are no streaks of egg yolk. Pour HALF of milk mixture over the bread and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Reserve remaining milk mixture.
3. While bread is soaking, trim leeks, and chop well. Saute leeks in butter for 1-2 minutes, then add water and steam (covered) until leeks are cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Remove leeks to the bowl leaving any fluid in the pan. Prep the asparagus: trim off woody ends and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook briefly, about 1-2 minutes, then add the asparagus to the bowl. Discard any remaining fluid in the pan.
4, Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Sprinkle herbs over the bread mixture, then add about half the cheese and stir this mixture around so it’s evenly distributed. Pour it all into the prepared baking dish and then pour remaining milk mixture over the top. Add the last of the grated cheese evenly on top.
6. Bake until top is crusty brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.
Per Serving: 454 Calories; 19g Fat (38.2% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 824mg Sodium.

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