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

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

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

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on December 16th, 2022.

Another iteration of a different kind of cranberry sauce.

A post from Carolyn. For Thanksgiving I was invited to go to a distant relative’s home, so this is what I made – this sauce plus my regular old-faithful raw cranberry relish I make every year. This new one came from Cook’s Illustrated, from 1999, my records tell me. It was very simple to make – just water, sugar, some grated fresh ginger, a dash of ground cinnamon (which you can taste in the finished sauce, although it’s elusive, but you know something, something is different about it), salt, cranberries and fresh pears. That’s it.

Preparing it ahead a day or two made it easy; all I had to do was package it up and take it on the drive and pour it out into a pretty dish when I got there. The raw relish I made didn’t last all that long after making it (probably because I used half fake sugar, so it didn’t have as much sugar/preservative to keep it from spoiling). As I write this, it’s been made for over 2 weeks, this sauce, and it’s still delicious. I’ve had it spooned over my morning yogurt, and served along with some roasted chicken I had.

What’s GOOD: easy sauce to make – very delicious. I really, really liked it. It may become a regular that I make every Thanksgiving!

What’s NOT: not a thing. Of course, we can’t make this during the summer unless we’ve frozen a bag of cranberries over the holiday time when they’re available!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Fresh Ginger

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated from 1999
Servings: 9

3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 ounces cranberries — picked through
2 medium pears — firm, ripe, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1. BEFORE YOU BEGIN: The cooking time in this recipe is intended for fresh berries. If you’ve got frozen cranberries, do not defrost them before use; just pick through them and add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.
2. Bring water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt to boil in medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries and pears; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until saucy, slightly thickened, and about two-thirds of berries have popped open, about 5 minutes. Transfer to nonreactive bowl, cool to room temperature, and serve. Can be covered and refrigerated up to 7 days; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving. May keep several weeks longer, although the intense flavor of it might be lessened. It was still good a month after making it.
Per Serving: 127 Calories; trace Fat (0.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 67mg Sodium; 28g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 8mg Calcium; trace Iron; 80mg Potassium; 9mg 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)

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on December 31st, 2017.

cranberry_apple_sauce

So good. Not quite as tart as regular cranberry sauce, but more mellow. Milder, I guess I’d say.Very easy to make and would keep for awhile. Serve alongside any kind of meat.

I have a package of cranberries in my refrigerator right now, and I’m going to make this in the next few days. It’s really easy to do – start to finish in about 20 minutes, I’d say. The hardest thing you do is peel and chop the apples. There’s just enough sweetness to this to make it easily edible, but just enough tartness from the cranberries, to make it a good side for meat.

Tarla Fallgatter made this at a recent cooking class and served it alongside a whole host of holiday side dishes. And my fork dipped into it with the dressing she made, and with the potato/parsnip mash she made. I wished I’d had more on my plate! It will be used several times over the holidays as I serve chicken, or turkey, or even beef or pork. As I mentioned above, I don’t think this would go with fish – although salmon might work. Try it and see!

Tarla recommended Braeburn apples as her first choice, but Gala works too. Do not use a tart cooking apple like Pippin or Granny Smith. It gets peeled and finely chopped. In a pan you combine apple cider (or juice), sugar, the apple, cinnamon and cloves. Once brought to a boil you add the fresh cranberries and simmer it for 10-12 minutes or until the berries burst and the sauce begins to thicken. See? Easy. Then you add in a teaspoon or apple cider vinegar. Let it cool and it’s ready to serve. Put it in an airtight jar and it will keep for a week or so. For longer storage, freeze it.

What’s GOOD: the lovely fruity flavor, mellow with the addition of apples. So pretty. You could eat it straight, I’m telling you!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cranberry Apple Sauce

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 10

1 cup apple juice — or apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 Braeburn apple — or Gala, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Place cider (apple juice), sugar, apple, cinnamon and cloves in a pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
2. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries and simmer 10-12 minutes, or until berries burst and sauce thickens. Stir in vinegar. Let cool to room temp.
Per Serving: 76 Calories; trace Fat (1.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Miscellaneous sides, on December 26th, 2012.

winter_fruit_salad

You know what those little bug-like things are? Star anise. Not commonly in every kitchen, I suppose. I don’t use them very often, but when you need them in cooking, they’re essential. They wouldn’t normally go on top of the salad, but I wanted to get your attention.

For a brunch a couple of weeks ago I needed some kind of fruit. I have a wonderful Spiced Fruit dish I’ve made for years – it’s great for a morning kind of thing. Spiced Peaches also go well with a vanilla_star_anise_syrupbrunch, but this time I thought I’d try something new. I’d just read the recipe in The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. My go-to cookbook these days. This is actually in the dessert section of the cookbook, but it says it’s great with breakfast or brunch. It’s flavored with whole vanilla, some lemon zest and the star anise, all soaking in a simple syrup kind of sugar and water concoction. The other good thing about this is you have to make it the night before – so the fruit has time to marinate in the tasty syrup. There above is the mixture before I brought it to a boil.

vanilla_star_anise_syrup2Here at left is the mixture after I brought it up to a boil – the sugar is dissolved and hopefully the heat will have opened up the flavors of the vanilla, lemon and star anise. The recipe calls for Bosc pears, fresh apple, dried figs and dried apricots. I added some dried Braeburn sliced apples I had in my box of dried fruits in my pantry. The syrup is mixed up with the vanilla bean (sliced in half to release all those lovely little tiny beads of flavor), a few strips of fresh lemon peel and the star anise. It’s brought to a boil, the sugar gets dissolved, then you pour that hot-hot syrup over the fresh fruit. You let it cool to room temp that way, then cover with plastic wrap, poke a couple of holes in it to ventilate it, store in the refrigerator. By pouring the hot liquid over the fruit, it almost “cooks” the fruit, but not really, and not quite. The fresh fruit still has texture, and the dried fruits and pleasantly toothsome. I liked the combination a lot.

When you serve it, you’ll want to remove the star anise, the vanilla bean halves and the lemon peel. So you’re left with the nice bowl of mixed fruit. I had ample left over and it’s still tasty some days later. The pears probably won’t last – as I write this (about 5 days after I served it) I still have left overs and the pears are not so nice in texture anymore, but all the remaining fruit is fine. So probably you could make this a couple of days ahead if you needed to.

What’s good: it’s make-ahead easy. Nice flavors, considering it’s all winter-type fruit. Went well with a brunch (an egg dish) and left overs were very nice for several days. Try not to make more than you’ll eat at the one meal. I made the recipe below and could have served about 10 people, I think. Keep that in mind, unless you’re feeding fruit fanatics! Save the syrup – you could use it to flavor and sweeten iced tea (or hot tea) or pour over other fruit. Strain out all the fruit dredges first, though.
What’s not: only that you must plan ahead – it’s got to be made the night before (or maybe 2 days before) you want to serve it.

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Winter Fruit Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from New York Times, 2001 (Amanda Hesser)
Serving Size: 8
NOTES: The recipe assumes you will eat/drink all of the sugary syrup. You don’t, so it is not as caloric as the recipe indicates.

1  1/4 cup sugar
3 star anise — (I would add 4 of them next time)
1 vanilla bean — plump, split in half lengthwise
2 long pieces lemon zest — (2 inch) preferably Meyer lemons, (peeled with a vegetable peeler)
3 Bosc pears — firm
1 apple — tart type, firm
8 whole dried apricots — Turkish, if possible, cut in half
4 whole dried figs — quartered
2 ounces dried apples — (optional – not in original recipe)

1. Fill a medium saucepan with 5 cups water. Add the sugar, star anise, vanilla bean and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, and cook until all the sugar is dissolved. Then shut off the heat. Meanwhile, peel and core pears and apple. Slice thinly lengthwise and place in a large heatproof bowl. Add apricots, dried apples and figs. Pour hot sugar syrup on top, making sure all the fruit is covered. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; poke a few holes in plastic. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
2. The next morning, remove the star anise, lemon zest pieces and vanilla beans, then use a slotted spoon to ladle fruit into a serving bowl and serve. Store left overs in a sealed container.
Per Serving (inaccurate – assumes you drink all the marinating syrup): 528 Calories; 1g Fat (2.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 136g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 21mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Desserts, Miscellaneous sides, on September 12th, 2011.

grilled_pineapple_nutella

Every once in awhile we grill pineapple to serve with a dinner outdoors. To go with a pork roast, for instance, or pork chops, or grilled chicken. Or grilled fish. This time as I was flipping through recipes in my to-try pile (actually it’s in a 3-ring binder, 1 of 2 that I have, and recipes are slipped inside clear sleeves, maybe 3-4 to each side) this one sounded like it might be fun for a brunch. Indeed it was.

nutella_scoopIf you’re not familiar with Nutella, you should be. In writing this I went to Nutella’s website and found out a whole bunch of info about it. It was first developed in Piemonte (the NW region of Italy). It’s pronounced new-tell-uh. What’s available here in the U.S. of A. is manufactured in Canada. It’s gluten-free. And kosher. And peanut free. They’re meticulous about that. And they use non-hydrogenated palm oil to emulsify it. Each 13-ounce jar contains about 50+ hazelnuts, sugar, skim milk and a tiny bit of cocoa. It all got started in the 1940’s because Mr. Ferrero, a pastry maker, couldn’t afford to pay the high (war time) taxes on chocolate – and because hazelnuts grow in abundance in Piemonte, it was a natural for him to devise a new spread. In the 1960’s Ferrero’s son started marketing it to consumers. It’s quite similar to the guianduja (an Italian product that’s 50/50 hazelnuts and chocolate) which you often see as a gelato flavor (it’s my favorite gelato).  Its most popular use is spread on toast (sorry, I don’t care much for Nutella that way – it’s too sweet – but most consumers disagree with me there). One of Nutella’s benefits is that it should not be refrigerated, although you do want to use it up within soon time frame – there is a use-by date on each jar. If you want some other options for using up the Nutella, there’s a website devoted just to World Nutella Day (February 5th).

Originally this recipe came from Giada de Laurentiis way back in 2004. Then, I took liberties with the recipe, but it’s still generally Giada’s design. I think this would make a great dessert with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. And if you want to make it Giada’s way (with mascarpone instead of the crème fraîche, and adding vanilla and some whipping cream) then click over to her version. Mine is just a bit simpler.

If you want to serve this as a dessert, you’ll likely use all of the Nutella mixture; but as a brunch side dish I didn’t overwhelm any of the pineapple slices with too much Nutella. So I ended up with leftover Nutella. Not a bad thing, but I don’t eat Nutella in other things. However, I will say when I was craving just a tiny sweet something after dinner the other night I stuck my spoon into the leftover Nutella mixture. Mmmmm, good.

What I liked: this was SO easy to make as long as you have a little tub of crème fraîche on hand and the Nutella, of course. It’s very pretty too.

What I didn’t like: not a thing, really, Just don’t use too much of the (sweet) Nutella mixture; you want to be able to taste the pineapple!

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Grilled Pineapple with Nutella

Recipe By: Adapted from a 2004 Giada De Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 8
Serving Ideas: This can be served as a dessert – with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream nestled in the center, with a little tiny dollop more of the Nutella mixture on top, with more hazelnuts too. Or, serve at a brunch. Use a limited amount of the Nutella mixture in that case – this would be served as a side dish (not dessert) so you don’t want it to be overly sweet. You’ll have leftover Nutella in this case.

1 whole pineapple — peeled, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and core removed
1/3 cup crème fraîche — room temperature
1/3 cup Nutella — or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
Canola oil for brushing on the grill
1 1/2 tablespoons hazelnuts — chopped toasted

1. Lightly oil an outdoor grill. Grill the pineapple slices until heated through and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes per side. It’s important to leave the pineapple on the grill, untouched, to create grill marks.
2. In a small bowl combine the Nutella and the crème fraîche and set aside.
3. Transfer pineapple slices to a serving platter and spread a little bit of the Nutella mixture on each piece.
4. Sprinkle tops with toasted hazelnuts and serve while still hot.
Per Serving: 120 Calories; 7g Fat (50.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 15mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, easy, Miscellaneous sides, on December 18th, 2008.

spiced-peaches

It’s a good thing I enjoy reading, because I get to do a lot of it keeping up with just some of the food blogs out there. And I keep adding more, and very rarely deleting any. More and more people have discovered the fun of writing food blogs, so there are more and more of them. I can’t keep up with them every day, so I work at it every few days, trying to read as many as I can.

spiced-peaches-bowlOne such blog that is very prolific is Al Dente (an Amazon.com sponsored food blog showcasing recipes from foodie authors). In this case it was Nigella Lawson. I used to watch her show on the Food Network (but I don’t think she has a show anymore; at least I haven’t seen one). This recipe came from one of her cookbooks (not the one I own). She was recommending the spiced peaches as a hot side for a Christmas ham. Sounded good, but I had a different use in mind. I wanted to serve them as a breakfast side dish.

I have one recipe that I’ve used for years for spiced fruit. But it makes a rather large quantity (since it utilizes cans of different fruit), so when I spotted this recipe that used just one large can of peach halves, aha! It’s got many of the usual ingredients in spiced fruit (cinnamon, cloves and a bit of vinegar) but also some more unusual things (sliced fresh ginger, chile flakes and rice wine vinegar instead of regular). The best part? It was EASY. QUICK.  Took about 5 minutes total start to finish. I highly recommend it. To accompany holiday breakfasts, or as a side for ham (served hot).
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Spiced Peaches

Recipe: Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express
Servings: 8

28 ounces peach halves in syrup
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar — or white wine vinegar
2 short cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes — crushed [maybe less if you don’t like plenty of warmth]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorn [I happened to use grains of paradise]
3 whole cloves

1. Empty the cans of peaches into a saucepan with their syrup.
2. Add the vinegar, cinnamon, sliced ginger, chiles, salt, whole peppercorns, and cloves.
3. Bring the pan to a boil, and let it boil for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and leave in the pan to keep warm.
4. Serve the peaches with a hot ham, letting people take a peach half each and some of the spiced juice. Or serve it as part of a brunch, as I did. Any leftovers can (and should) be stored in a jar and then eaten cold with cold ham.
Per Serving: 91 Calories; 1g Fat (5.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 130mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on July 24th, 2008.


balsamic onion marmalade
Have you ever heard or read about how hard it is to photograph brown and beige things? Hope you can even figure out this is onions! I had to balance some of the onions on a fork with my left hand and try to hold the camera steady AND click the shutter with my right hand. All to show some added depth to the photo. And although this may not look all that appetizing, it’s actually very good. Would I kid you?

After just stating yesterday that I didn’t have any posts waiting in the wings, I looked, and oh yes, I had this one. I hadn’t posted it because I made the onion pepper relish to go with the beef sliders for the 4th of July, and thought the two were too similar. This one is less sweet than the relish – more suited for a slab of grilled meat probably, than the burgers and accompaniments. I still have some of this in the refrigerator (as well as the relish from the 4th), and assume it will keep for another few weeks since it’s “pickled,” so to speak, with the vinegar. Hope so, as it was delicious and very suitable for some meat things. I used it on a sandwich last week too.

We had some friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and with the pork roast we did on the rotisserie (that I’d brined) I wanted to serve some kind of sauce or salsa, or something. Found a recipe for a pork rib roast with this onion marmalade. It was just a perfect fit. And oh-my-goodness deliciousness. It’s not difficult, although it does take some time (total cooking time about an hour) to sweat down the onions, then to continue to cook them down to a jammy consistency. If you started this first (when about to make a dinner) it would be done by the time you were ready to sit down).

The recipe came from Food & Wine magazine, May 2008. If you want to do the pork roast, just brine it, bake or rotisserie it until it reaches an internal temp of about 133 degrees (still pink in the middle). Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving with this cold, room temp or hot onion topping. The leftovers will keep for several weeks.
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Balsamic Onion Marmalade

Recipe: Food & Wine, May ’08.
Servings: 8

4 whole onions — peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot (large enough to barely hold all the onions) heat the oil until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 20 minutes. Do not let them burn or brown.
2. Season the onions with the ground cloves, salt and pepper. Add the brown sugar and cook over moderately low heat until the skillet is dry, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and orange zest and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade is very thick, 30 minutes. Transfer the marmalade to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, if you prefer it hot, just before serving, or serve cold, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 65 Calories; 2g Fat (23.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on May 4th, 2008.

mango and strawberry salsa

Wow, is that not a gorgeous photo? If I do say so myself. Must be the colors, the mango, and the strawberry against the black bowl!

Sometimes recipes bear repeating. And sometimes when you change a part of a recipe it makes it different enough that you, my readers, need to know about it. Originally this recipe was for pineapple salsa, but one time years ago I didn’t have pineapple, and I did have mango, so made it that way instead. It was the same recipe, just different fruit.

The Pineapple Salsa was posted last year. However, I didn’t have a photo because that was just after I’d fractured my foot. Now we’ve got a photo, at least of this version! The other night I had some super thick pork chops from Niman Ranch (ordered online, and on sale some months ago). I brined them for a couple of hours, DH grilled them with our tried and true method (mark them over direct fire, then off to the side, reduced heat, until they reached 150 in the center) and served this salsa on the side. I didn’t have red bell pepper, so substituted strawberries. Delish.

If you click on this link for the Pineapple Salsa, just substitute mango and strawberry for the pineapple and red bell pepper.
Printer-friendly PDF recipe for Pineapple or Mango Salsa.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on April 19th, 2008.

yucatecan pickled onion relish

In our local area, we happen to frequent a Mexican restaurant called Jalapeno’s. Now, my DH isn’t all that crazy about Mexican food (he was raised in Ocean City, New Jersey, so what does that tell you – New Jerseyites don’t know from Mexican food – at least not the ones born prior to about 1980), but since I am a native Californian, Mexican cuisine feels like part of my DNA. I know it’s not, because I’m blond and blue-eyed, but tacos and enchiladas were part of my growing up, so at least in cuisine, I’ll claim it as part of my DNA. My parents and I craved Mexican food at least once a week, without fail. When we’d go camping every summer for two weeks, we were deprived of our favorite out-to-dinner menu, and usually the very next night back home, we were over at our favorite restaurant in San Diego, called Aztec Dining Room (it’s been closed for about 6-7 years now), enjoying our regular stuff. I still crave Mexican food on a regular basis.

We do have lots and LOTS of Mexican restaurants in our area, but not many that I consider fabulous. This little place, Jalapeno’s, is family-run, and you have to stand in line to order at a counter, then they deliver the piping hot food to your table.

Once in awhile I can get my DH to go there, but really not very often. So, when he spends a night on our boat in San Diego, unless I have other plans, I zip down to Jalapeno’s for dinner. I order a chile relleno, or maybe their delicious shredded beef tacos, or a cheese enchilada. They make their own chips and fresh tomato salsa. And, they also make a fabulous marinated carrot relish. It’s made in huge vats, it’s that popular, and all I’ve ever known was that it contained what you can see in it: carrot coins, garlic, onions, bay leaf and hot chiles. Oh yes, vinegar. We know the recipe is the family matriarch’s prized recipe. They won’t share it. Even our local paper requested it, and they refused. They sell the carrots, but they’re gosh-darned expensive, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to make them. Since I don’t cook Mexican food much, I’ve had a hard time finding any recipes for them, but then I’ve always been looking for a CARROT relish.

So, when I read an article by Steven Raichlen in Bon Appetit Magazine (May 2008 issue), it mentioned this pickled ONION relish, from the Yucatan. So, I definitely had to try it. It’s not difficult – you simmer the onions, garlic and salt in water for just ONE minute. Drain off the water, then add some white vinegar, bay leaf, allspice, pepper, oregano, cumin and water, then bring that to a boil, turn off the heat, cool and serve.

Nearly a year ago I posted a recipe for stacked enchiladas (a vegetarian casserole type dish with black beans) with an onion relish on the side. I’ve made it a couple of times because I love the onions as a garnish on sandwiches, but since this new recipe contains some of the ingredients I know are in Jalapeno’s carrots, I needed to try this.

They’re good – not by themselves, of course – but they didn’t taste like what I expected. They’re great on a sandwich and as a relish, but they’re quite piquant, tart, by themselves. I did sprinkle in some Splenda to the vinegar solution (after they were cooked), and I like them better. Perhaps when Jalapeno’s makes it with carrots – because they’re so sweet – they lend a general sweetness to the mixture on their own. I didn’t have any carrots, otherwise I would have added some to the onions, just to see how they would work. Because these are so easy to make, I’d definitely make them again, probably adding more garlic and perhaps sugar. Or, I may go to my previous recipe and add some spices to it, and see what that tastes like.
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Yucatecan Pickled Onions

Recipe: Steven Raichlen, Bon Appetit, May 2008
Servings: 10

6 cups water
1 large red onion — cut in 1/8-inch-thick slices, rings separated
2 whole garlic cloves — quartered
1 tablespoon kosher salt — coarse salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 whole allspice
1 whole bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano — preferably Mexican
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 packets Splenda (or sugar) [my addition]

1. Combine 6 cups water, onion, garlic, and 1 tablespoon coarse salt in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then boil 1 minute. Drain off liquid.
2. Return onions and garlic to same saucepan. Add vinegar and all remaining ingredients. Add enough water to saucepan just to cover onions. Bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and cool. [Add Splenda at this point, if using.]
3. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, cover, and chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Drain onions and serve.
Per Serving: 14 Calories; trace Fat (10.1% calories from fat); trace Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 570mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Miscellaneous sides, on September 7th, 2007.

sicilian-sauce_1.JPG

My friend, Sue, another of my friends who is a very good cook, served this sauce one night several years ago when we dined at their home. It was served as a major condiment on pork chops, I believe. And was it ever good! She told me the recipe came from a cookbook she’d purchased after hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about it on NPR. I tried to find the recipe online, but had no success at all. So, of course, I had to go buy the book too. Amazon being my good friend, it took no time at all to get it. I enjoyed reading it, The Italian Country Table, all on its own. The author includes lots of fun little stories about the different dishes, about the foodstuffs of Italy, and hundreds of little cooking tips. The sub-title of the book is: Home Cooking from Italy’s Farmhouse Kitchens.

The recipe suggests this can be served with almost any grilled meat. It would be wonderful with grilled Italian sausages, over chicken, or even served as a side to a pork roast. It has a jammy consistency. In fact, Kasper even mentions it in the recipe write-up, that’s it’s more like tomato jam than a tomato sauce. So, this isn’t a sauce for pouring over pasta. This is a tart and sweet reduced (side) sauce that will mound high on a spoon because it’s so thick and goes WITH a protein. Or maybe grilled onions. Or grilled portobello mushrooms. And one of the best things is that this sauce will keep for several weeks. The recipe indicates a week or so, but I’ve kept this much longer than that with no problem. You could also freeze it in small quantities too. I always double this recipe because we use it on lots of different things. Being this is the end of tomato season, you probably could make this with fresh tomatoes too; it just so happens that the author uses canned ones.
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Siciliana Sauce

Recipe From: The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Servings: 4-6
COOK’S NOTES: Sweet, tangy and tart all at the same time. Absolutely the best using San tomatoes from Italy.Spread this on grilled lamb or tuna, thick slices of grilled onions or portobello mushrooms. Or, daub it on bruschetta.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — minced
1 1/2 inches rosemary sprig salt and pepper — to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil zest of one large orange
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup canned tomatoes — drained, generous cup

1. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion begins to color, then add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spatula as sugar melts and bubbles (taking care not to burn), the finally turns pale amber, while the onions remain light-colored. 2. Immediately add the herbs, zest and garlic. Standing back to avoid splatters, quickly add the vinegar. Stir and boil down until the vinegar is a glaze, coating the onion and barely covering the bottom of the pan. Continue to scrape down the sides, to bring the developing glaze back into the sauce. Watch for burning.
3. Stir in tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan. Boil, scraping down the sides and stirring, until the sauce is almost sizzling in its own juices. It should be a thick jam that mounds on a spoon. Finish seasoning with a few grinds of black pepper, turn out of the pan and cool. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 2g Fat (32.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium.

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