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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):

Have only begun Geraldine Brooks’ brand new book, Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loving it so far. 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. No bird song in the air or fish in the sea. There’s this woman, Franny, who is on a quest to follow the very small, but last migration of arctic terns, who fly from pole to pole each year. She somehow sees this migration as a paean to her own life (of many travails). Is this book a foretelling of what our world will be like?  There’s a lot of angst going on here in this book, with her marriage, with her career, with her perpetual need for travel . . . always needing to go somewhere else other than staying at home and finding peace and happiness there. Then this final, gritty, illegal at-sea voyage trying to find the terns. Very much worth reading if you can stomach the sadness in it. Soul-searching is a common denominator here, but then aren’t a lot of books?

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. A German Kommandant enters the picture in this tiny berg in France. Knowing her husband is in a camp, most likely a death camp, she compromises her morals to save the picture and possibly save her husband’s life. Jump to somewhat current day and the painting, which has survived all these years, and is in the hands of a young widow who has an extraordinary connection with the painting. A lawsuit ensues having to do with art stolen by the Nazis and a convoluted trail of how the painting traveled in the intervening years. Even though this was WWI, not WWII, but the law encompasses the past. It’s a heart-wrenching story. There’s a love interest too. Well worth reading. Would make a good book club read.

Memoirs are such fun, especially if you really enjoy/love the author. This was the case as I read Rachael Ray 50, an ode to  her age. So I read online, Rachael discloses more about her personal life in this book than she has done in her many other cookbooks. I really enjoyed reading the book, as she told stories about her growing up, including some of her mother’s recipes and from other family members. She and her family eat tons of pasta, so lots of the recipes I probably won’t prepare, but okay, I still enjoyed reading all the stories.

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. I’m not a gardener at all, but I found the story just fascinating. It chronicles the love story between a young couple, human ones, not trees, one a Greek, one a Turk and their relationship (verboten back in the 70s). It goes back and forth between the 70s (when the real conflict was going on) and current day (2010ish). Loved this book from page one to the last.

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. The book follows along as a family buys Klara, an AF with perhaps a better personality than some. She has feelings, but not very many needs. The reader never really “sees” Klara except for a few descriptions of her human-type shape. You get into Klara’s brain (her PC chip) and know how she feels about her family. Her main job is to be a friend to the daughter, Josie, who has some kind of unnamed illness. The AF must spend a part of every day in the sunshine (some kind of hidden solar unit must be within Klara). There are any number of other characters in the story (mostly human, not AFs) which add dimension. I was quite mesmerized by the story and am in awe at the creativity of this author. Loved the book. May not be for everyone. I’m not a science fiction fan at all, but this was believable. And you’ll fall in love with Klara who wants so much to be wanted and loved.

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. The husband and wife own a tennis school (this takes place in Australia) and the children grow up surrounded by tennis everything. The children don’t necessarily get along. The parents haven’t always gotten along, either, although through many years the parents were quite besotted with each other, to the detriment of the parenting. Much travail from all the family members. But oh what a story. It had me riveted and wondering, until the last 5 pages of so when the resolution occurs. Big surprise.

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, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

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

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

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

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

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

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

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on May 27th, 2022.

A post from Sara: I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And when you use chewy brownies and melted peanut butter? Well, simply fantastic. I made these little jewels to ship to my kids in school in the South. It packages and ships well enough. I do put each in its own cupcake paper so they don’t stick. Then I boxed them up in aluminum 8×8 throw away containers with lids before packaging in a shipping box.

I used my go-to recipe for chewy, dense brownies. They’ve been posted here on the blog before. After pouring the batter into 9×13 pan, melt 1/2 cup peanut butter. I use a glass measuring cup and heat it gently in the microwave so it’s easy to pour onto the brownie batter. Then use a knife and swirl peanut butter into brownie batter for a marble effect. (See photo at left)

Bake according to directions. Once cooled, frost with a basic peanut butter frosting recipe.

I use a Betty Crocker recipe, and once frosted you need to place the pan in the freezer for a few hours. Then I cut out the shape I wanted using a cookie cutter. Since it was Easter, I chose egg shapes. You freeze again for at least 30 mins. Then use a chocolate glaze made with dark chocolate chips and a smidge of margarine. Using your hands, each one is dipped into the chocolate and set on a rack to dry, then sprinkled with decoration before the chocolate sets.

What’s GOOD: I was really surprised at how easy and professional they looked. They were a huge hit as every bit of leftovers pieces (photo above right) were consumed at Easter. I guess everyone loves peanut butter and brownies as much as I do! The number of servings is based on cookie cutter size. In this case the batch made about 32. Would make a great gift in an Easter Basket.

What’s NOT: it takes a bit of time to make the various layers, but altogether they’re very easy to make. Allow for freezing time in between.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Eggs

Recipe By: A combination created by Sara
Serving Size: 32

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES:
1 cup butter — PLUS 2 tablespoons
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour — PLUS 1 tablespoon
3/4 cup cocoa powder — PLUS 1 tablespoon
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped nuts — (optional)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter — for swirling in batter
FROSTING:
1 cup butter — softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon margarine — yes, margarine, not butter
decorative sprinkles for the top

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat. Let the mixture cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs gradually, mixing well. Add vanilla extract.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges if needed.
5. Melt the 1/2 cup peanut butter in a glass measuring cup in microwave on low power (spout is important here) until pourable. Pour on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Using a knife, swirl the peanut butter throughout.
6. Bake approximately 35 minutes – do NOT overbake or you’ll lose the fudgy, gooey texture! Cool completely.
7. FROSTING: Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth. Spread frosting all over the brownies, then place pan in freezer for 1-2 hours.
8. Using a cookie cutter (in this case an egg shape) cut brownies into preferred shape. Freeze again for about 30 minutes.
9. GLAZE: Melt chocolate chips and margarine in small saucepan over low heat until completely smooth. (Once cooled the margarine helps the chocolate to set up more firmly.)
10. Using your hands, dip each cookie/egg into chocolate to cover the top and sides. Set on a rack to cool, then sprinkle decorations on top before the chocolate cools and sets. Cool completely. To package for shipping, place each egg in a cupcake paper to keep them from sticking together. Pack in a disposable aluminum pan with a lid.
Per Serving: 378 Calories; 23g Fat (52.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 60mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium; 35g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 24mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 128mg Potassium; 50mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Pork, Veggies/sides, on May 20th, 2022.

An easy, easy dinner for two. Sheetpan suppers are just the best!

A post from Carolyn.  I’d bought some fresh chicken sausages (with jalapeno in them) and was contemplating what I’d do with them, and since I also had asparagus, zucchini and sweet potatoes, a recipe was born. Many years ago I started buying a seasoning packet from Urban Accents. They had (and still do have) several varieties, but my favorite is the one for vegetables. You can buy their packets on amazon. See photo at right. The one I used was the middle one with Parmesan in it. Each bag or box of these has several smaller packets inside – I used one packet for the sheet pan’s worth of food. You could use pork sausages in this rendition too – Italian would be perfect. I was trying to go a more healthy route with the chicken.

I have a chart I downloaded from the ‘net about how long it takes to roast just about every kind of vegetable. The sweet potatoes would take the longest. And the sausages too. I tossed them with some EVOO and they went into a 425°F oven. After 20 minutes, I took out the pan and added the zucchini, also oiled with EVOO and sprinkled with seasoning. It went back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then I added the oiled asparagus and the rest of the seasoning and baked again for another 10 minutes – I checked the veggies and they needed another 5 minutes and everything was done. It might depend on how thick the asparagus was, and how thickly you cut the zucchini.

If you wanted something to serve with the sausages – try a variety of mustards (hot, sweet, stone ground) or some salsa, or marinara sauce, or mix up a little bit of sour cream with a little speck of horseradish in it. What can I tell you? This was so easy to make and it was SO delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was to put together on the sheetpan and it cooked in less than an hour. All the veggies were perfectly cooked – crisp tender veggies- and the sausage just right. Love the Urban Accents seasoning to put on it all. Do buy some if you don’t already have it in your pantry (amazon link above).

What’s NOT: only that you need to have some of that seasoning on hand. I always do have it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheetpan Chicken Sausages with Veggies

Recipe By: My own recipe
Serving Size: 3

1 pound fresh chicken sausage — links, fresh, not pre-cooked type, or substitute pork sausages if desired
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 medium zucchini
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 packet Urban Accents Veggie Roaster seasonings

NOTE: many butchers now make various chicken sausages with flavors like jalapeno, Italian, Thai, spinach/feta, garlic, spicy Mexican, or with cheese and flavoring. You do not want pre-cooked sausage for this sheetpan dinner as they would be overcooked.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with a baking mat or with foil.
2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes in chunky half rounds. Cut the ends off the zucchini and cut into chunky rounds or half rounds, depending on how big around they are. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.
3. Place the sausages and sweet potatoes on the sheet pan. Drizzle with EVOO and toss around to cover them in oil. Bake for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pan, add the zucchini to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly and sprinkle the entire sheet pan with most of the seasoning packet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Remove pan and add the asparagus, tossed lightly with EVOO and sprinkled with the last of the seasoning. Return to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, making sure you don’t overcook the asparagus. Test the zucchini and asparagus – you want them to be just barely tender.
5. Remove veggies and sausages and serve on a big platter. Serve with hot or spicy mustard on the side (for the sausages) or marinara sauce, salsa, or a mixture of sour cream and horseradish.
QUICK ROASTING INSTRUCTIONS at 425°:
Sausages and sweet potatoes – 20 minutes
Add Zucchini – 12-15 minutes
Add Asparagus – 10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus
Check for just barely tender zucchini and asparagus
Per Serving: 296 Calories; 17g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 76mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 957mg Potassium; 155mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Restaurants, Travel, on May 18th, 2022.

The second installment of my trip pictures, this one focusing on Nashville. Above is a “selfie spot” so designated with a sign in one of the atriums at the Opry Hotel.

A post from Carolyn. Once we landed in Nashville, we took a van to downtown, to a lovely hotel, the Thompson, in The Gulch. The Gulch got its name from its roots as a busy railroad yard dating to before the Civil War, which included a roundhouse (where rail cars were repaired), a coal yard and a paint shop in subsequent years. Nashville (downtown) is a little bit hilly, so it would seem logical it would be a good place for a railroad yard. Now it’s a bustling and thriving part of downtown Nashville, filled with shops, restaurants and hotels.

That’s one of the water features, in the third atrium at the Grande Olde Opry Hotel. 

One of the days there several of us went out to the Grand Olde Opry. It was interesting to hear the history about the Opry. The Opry music venue used to be in the heart of town, then it moved a bit further (a few blocks, really) to an old church. The neighborhood didn’t like the noise, so they moved further away, and now they’re about 15+ miles out of town. where they’ve built a very impressive auditorium and a huge, HUGE hotel. Since I’m not into country music, the others went on a tour of the Opry itself, and Dylan and I walked over to the hotel, about 1/2 mile away on a marked walking path. We took our time meandering through the hotel atriums, pausing here and there to take pictures. There are stores and food in various places in the atriums also.

The hotel, The Gaylord Opryland Hotel has 2888 rooms. Beyond imagination. If you can picture three sort-of elongated ovals, and each oval has a huge fully glassed-in atrium, 4-5 stories high. And of course, room windows face into the atriums. Each atrium was different. The third one, probably the largest, actually has a river flowing around inside it and you can take rides on a boat around the island in the center. Each atrium has wide catwalks so you can see everything from a bird’s eye view. I took dozens and dozens of photos there, but I thought two to show you were sufficient.

Our first night in Nashville all of us gathered for a very special dinner at a steak restaurant just down the street from the hotel, Kayne Prime. We had a delicious dinner there with several bottles of wine enjoyed by all. I had a wagyu filet mignon. Kayne’s is similar to Morton’s, in that you order a cut of meat, and nothing comes with it – you have to order sides. We had several, but the highlight of the meal – to me – were the popovers, which were served piping hot several times over the course of our meal.

Before we sat down, however, we waited in the bar area and I asked the waiter – – so, I’m not really a connoisseur of bourbon, though I like it, so which one should I try? He said, I have just the one. That’s it above right. Served in a highball glass with a very large, clear ice cube in it. Belle Meade. So very smooth and easy to drink. I nursed it all through dinner. I liked it so much I went to Total Wine the other day and bought a bottle of Belle Meade, Reserve. I don’t know if I had the reserve, or the regular, so I splurged and bought reserve. There, on the left are the corks from the bottles of wine we enjoyed. The Illumination Quintessa (a white) was delightful.  So was the Crown  Point (red), and the BV (red), and the last one (also a red) I can’t remember what it was (I’d had enough wine at that point). Julian ordered a cheese platter at the end, and I thoroughly enjoyed a few bites – WITH some torn pieces of popover to go with them. Oh my goodness, was that special. I liked it so much I bought a new popover pan the other day, a nonstick one, so maybe I can make them occasionally. I used to have a popover pan, but it was not a nonstick and I had numerous problems with it over the years so I’d given it away. I read with my new one, not to put it in the dishwasher as it might remove the nonstick surface. Seems illogical, but several amazon customers commented on it.

The other day we were in Nashville I went on a food tour. I’d signed up for it online several weeks before the trip. It was great fun. We met at a central location (I took a Lyft to and from my hotel) and 13 of us piled into a big van and off we went. First we stopped at a place called the donut distillery. Huh, we all said? It’s a thing in Nashville. The distillery and brewery combo serves home made donuts (one of them with a whiskey glaze – see the right hand donut in the photo – my favorite). In the daytime, more mornings, I’d guess, they make donuts. And then as the day moves on, it’s more of a brew pub and bar with food (donuts notwithstanding). Back into the van and we stopped at Christie’s Cookie Co. It’s distinction is that they make the famous cookie given away at Doubletree Hotels. We trooped through the storefront and could choose a cookie. I tried the TCB (triple chocolate blondie).

We passed by the high school where Oprah graduated, stopped at the downtown Farmer’s Market and had some pulled pork on grits. Also stopped at Martin’s BBQ, so they said, it’s the #1 barbecue joint in Nashville. We tried a rib, some brisket with various types of barbecue sauces, and some hush puppies. After this trip, I’ve decided I’m not much of a fan of hush puppies. If any place should make them well, it would be in the south, right? I had them several times, and never really warmed-up to them (too dry).

Once back at our starting point, we were served teeny-tiny little glasses of moonshine and bourbon. The straight moonshine (left) was gosh-awful. I don’t know how anybody could drink that stuff. The next one was a Apple Pie Moonshine. Hey what, you say? Yes, well, it’s moonshine they’ve added some kind of sweetener to and apple pie spices. It was quite nice (I bought a little bottle of it). The next one was a not-very-aged bourbon. Ehh. Then the far right was a specialty liqueur sold at the little distillery where the tour originates – it’s a take on Kahlua, they call it Mo Cocoa Joe. It was nice, but I have Kahlua in my liquor cabinet already.

The drink I liked the best (which they served us after our tasting above), is pictured below right. A drink called a bushwacker. It’s a rum-based drink (so nothing whatsoever to do with bourbon and moonshine distilleries in Tennessee). It’s a frozen blender drink with a bunch of different things in it.

It’s refreshing – I liked it enough that I went onto Google to look for a recipe:

Bushwacker: 2 ounces dark rum, 1 ounce coffee liqueur (such as Kahlúa), 1 ounce dark creme de cacao, 2 ounces whole milk, 1 ounce cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez), garnish: nutmeg, freshly grated.

I have yet to make one since I got home, but there’s one in my future sometime. Definitely a hit on a warm day and it was one that day in Nashville. If any of you have gotten this far in the reading, congratulations! I’ll continue the Nashville saga in another post.

 

 

Posted in Restaurants, Travel, wine, on May 16th, 2022.

Probably I’ll break up the photos from this trip into sections as I’m going to post plenty of pictures, and you’ll get bored with them all.

I’m lucky enough to have a distant relative (through my daughter-in-law Karen) who needed to take a business trip. Julian decided to take a private plane and not go commercial, and he invited 5 others of  us to go along to his business destinations. At left, here I was, ready to go when a couple, Patti & Bruce, that I’ve known for some years also, who live near me, and were also invited on the trip. They came by to pick me up as we wended our way north (by car) to Santa Ynez (central coast wine country here in California). We drove there the day before our flight, spent the night with Julian and his family, then we were up early the next morning to catch the first leg, Santa Maria to Denver.

So there’s a story to tell about the glass of wine at left. Julian enjoys good wine. That’s a bit of an understatement, really. He enjoys fine wine. I took two bottles with me from my DH’s cellar, two reds. One got poured down the drain (over the hill, even though it had been a good bottle at one time) and the other one was nice enough, from 2005. When Julian flies, he likes to drink from crystal glasses, so he lugs along a special padded case with his heavy, Irish crystal glasses. That was the view from my seat, with fine red wine as we headed toward Denver. This was by far the best glass of wine we had on the trip, a Stag’s Leap 2017 Fay. Julian shared it with all of us.

As it happens, I have good friends, Sue & Lynn (top right), who live in Denver. There are a number of Sue’s recipes here on my blog, and my DH Dave and I visited them (and I have driven there myself in 2015 a year after Dave passed away) where they live in Morrison, a hilly town about 15 miles SW of Denver. We took off from Santa Maria and flew 2 hours to a regional airport a bit NW of downtown Denver, in Broomfield. Sue and Lynn drove their car out on the tarmac and met us at the plane. As it happened Lynn knew Patti from their business careers. Small world! At right is a picture of Dylan, another one of the guests on the trip, as we were getting ready to board.

They took me back to their home, and I spent 2 days and 2 nights with them. We went out to dinner to a Czech restaurant in Morrison, Cafe Prague. What a great meal we enjoyed there – I’d go back there anytime! Sue and I both had chicken schnitzel. The next day I went to church with them, then we took a lovely drive up into the mountains. Later Sue prepared a fabulous dinner with lemon chicken. I have the recipe and will need to make it and take pictures to post. The next morning we drove up to Boulder, a special trip there, for us to go shopping at Peppercorn, an independent kitchenware store there. If you’re a cook, you have to go there if you’re ever in Boulder. This was my third visit to that store. And yes, I bought something, a gift. I didn’t buy anything for myself. If I’d had more time, there’s no question I would have found some things to buy. We only had 45 minutes and I barely made it around all the aisles in that period of time.

After Boulder, they delivered me back to the airport in Broomfield, to head to Nashville. We enjoyed a beautiful smoked salmon platter, among other things, on the flight. And did I mention wine? Yes, more wine.

This trip was quite a thrill. The flights were so quiet and peaceful, as we flew at 45,000 feet altitude, always. No bumps. The pilots avoided all the weather events going on far below us.

More in a day or two when I’ve downloaded more of the photos.

Posted in Desserts, on May 13th, 2022.

Are you a fan of Tres Leches Cake? Oh my. This version will rock your boat. It sure rocked mine.

A post from Carolyn. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you already know I’m a fan of tres leches cake. A big fan. There’s something about the luscious almost drippy cake with the gobs of whipped cream on top that sends me into reverie. One might think that’s bacon adorning the cake – no, just overly-toasted coconut. Daughter Sara and I laughed  – we thought we were going to have to start over, but Sara tasted the mighty-toasted coconut and pronounced it delicious. So we went with it. Even the totally blackened coconut tasted just fine!

This cake was our finale for Easter dinner. Taylor and I drove to Sara’s house and 12 of us enjoyed a delicious Mexican feast (birria tacos, beans, rice, salad, fruit, appetizers too, some Champagne of various types) then this cake was brought out. I think I can safely say we got raves from the recipe. It’s the coconut and the rum that made it so good. Not only is there coconut extract in it (you might have to hunt for that), but also coconut cream, plus rum in the cake, the tres leches and a little jot in the whipped cream too.

The cake was baked the day before in a 9×13 pan, and the three milks mixture was poured over the top of the cake (that’s the tres leches part). The whipped cream topping was made at the last minute. Some of the well drained canned pineapple was added to the cream, but most of it was spread over the top of the wet cake itself. And the overly toasted coconut sprinkled all over at the end. This recipe is an absolute winner. I’d started off with a recipe from The Pioneer Woman (hers was called a Pina Colada tres leches cake), but I changed it quite a bit, so I’ll call it mine at this point. Whatever its provenance, do make this.

What’s GOOD: every single little morsel of this extravagant cake was fabulous. I’ll be making it again soon. As soon as I have a good reason for baking a cake for 12 people!

What’s NOT: only that you need to start the day before (to bake the cake). It’s not difficult to make unless you consider having to separate the eggs and whip the whites and yolks separately. Yes, it did make a few dirty dishes too.

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Pineapple Coconut Rum Tres Leches Cake

Recipe By: Adapted from Pioneer Woman
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
Nonstick cooking spray — for greasing the pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour — plus more for flouring the pan
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs — separated
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
TRES LECHES MIXTURE:
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup cream of coconut — or Thai Kitchen coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup rum — optional
TOPPING:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rum
15 ounces crushed pineapple — chilled, drained well (divided use)
1/2 cup coconut flakes — toasted

1. CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease with cooking spray and flour a 9×13 pan. If using glass, reduce oven temp by 25°F.
2. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3. Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high until the yolks are pale yellow. Stir in the milk and coconut extract. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
4. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl (make sure beaters are clean with no residual egg yolk) with the mixer on high until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and spread to even the top.
5. Bake the cake until risen and lightly golden, 23-28 minutes, or until you can see the cake begin to brown on the edges and pull away from the pan. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.
6. TRES LECHES: Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, cream of coconut (this may need some mixing to combine the coconut fat with the milk/cream – use a whisk), coconut extract and rum in a medium-sized pitcher. Gently use a whisk to make sure it’s evenly mixed. Poke holes (using a large fork or toothpick) all over the cake, pushing the implement all the way to the bottom. There should be holes at least every 1/2 inch throughout. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake. Cover and chill for 4-24 hours.
7. CREAM TOPPING: Whip the cream with the sugar and rum until soft peaks form. Add about 1/3 cup crushed pineapple to the whipped cream and mix in gently.
8. FINISH: Spread the remaining pineapple all over the top of the cake, then spread the whipped cream all over the top of that. Chill (covered) for several hours, or you can serve it immediately. Sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Cut into squares and serve.
Per Serving: 635 Calories; 34g Fat (47.8% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 175mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium; 52g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 291mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 427mg Potassium; 347mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on May 5th, 2022.

Can I just say . . . baking crispy tacos is genius! You get to be judicious in how much oil you use, making them so much more healthy.

A post from Carolyn. My friend Linda used this method of making tacos recently and raved about them to me. They were so good she made them two or three times in a week or two. With that kind of praise, I decided I needed to try them. Rarely do I make Mexican food because we have so many excellent Mexican restaurants within 1-3 miles of my house. It was the method of making them – the oven frying – I was the most interested in here.

Linda made chicken tacos, but I decided to make carnitas tacos – actually I thought I had some carnitas in the freezer. Yes, I did, but they’d suffered from freezer burn, so granddaughter Taylor bought some ready-made carnitas (just the meat) at a local restaurant and we were ready to make tacos.

You need to heat the tortillas (corn) a little bit, to make them pliable. Then you brush one side of each tortilla with vegetable oil. Be generous with the oil, because it’s what crisps up the outside of the tacos. Then you lay in the meat and cheese and fold the tortilla over. Be careful as  you do it, so the tortilla doesn’t crack. Hopefully the tortilla will stick in the closed position – sometimes that takes a bit of doing. Gently, though.

Into a very hot oven they go for 6-7 minutes, then you remove them, turn them over and they go back into the oven for another 4-5 minutes to crisp the other side. Meanwhile, make the toppings you want to use: more shredded cheese if you want it (we didn’t), chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and for sure some guacamole, or in this case it was avocado cream (crema). It doesn’t have any dairy in it – it’s just a creamy texture. That part is whizzed up in the blender with lots of lime juice (I used lemon because I didn’t have any limes) and cilantro, plus salt and pepper. Oh, and some pickled jalapeno peppers. They add a wonderful piquant flavor to the avocado.

Chow down. Crispy deliciousness. Now that I have this technique down pat, there may be more oven-fried, oven-baked crispy tacos in my future.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. It was easy, nice enough for a company meal, even. Definitely I’ll be having more of these, maybe using different meat – chicken, beef? Who knows.

What’s NOT: only that you need to have carnitas on hand and fresh tortillas.

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Oven Baked Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cream

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

3/4 pound pork carnitas — buy ready made, or make your own, shredded
1/2 cup enchilada sauce — red sauce, not green
12 corn tortillas — warmed (12 to 16)
vegetable oil or olive oil for brushing tortillas
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese — shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — shredded shredded lettuce, tomatoes, chopped cilantro and pickled onions, for garnish
AVOCADO CREAM:
2 large avocados — halved
1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic — grated
1/4 cup lime juice — or lemon juice salt to taste
PICKLED ONIONS:
1/2 red onion — thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 cup water

1. PICKLED ONIONS: cut half of a red onion into slices. In a bowl combine about 2 T vinegar and 2/3 cup of water. Add onions and set aside (make sure all onions are below the surface) for about 10 minutes. Drain and serve with the tacos.
2. Shred the meat and toss with the sauce and warm in the microwave until just hot throughout.
3. Preheat the oven to 435° F.
4. Wrap 3-4 tortillas in a towel and warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until soft. Repeat for additional tortillas. Keep them wrapped to remain warm.
5. On a sheetpan, brush the tortillas ON ONE SIDE liberally with olive oil. Lay each tortilla flat (oiled side down) and add meat and cheese. While the tortilla is still warm, fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, gently pressing to adhere. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip the tacos over and bake another 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp and golden brown.
6. Meanwhile, make the Avocado Cream. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt.
7. Very gently pry apart the tacos and top each one with avocado cream, lettuce, tomatoes, lime juice, and any other desired toppings.
Per Serving: 482 Calories; 27g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 923mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 348mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 541mg Potassium; 377mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, easy, on April 28th, 2022.

I do love my Instant Pot. This meal came together in a flash.

A post from Carolyn. As it turned out, we were invited out for St. Patrick’s Day dinner. But I’d already bought a corned beef – might I just say, a small corned beef at Trader Joe’s was close to $25. And that great big piece of meat becomes a small little bit of meat when it’s done cooking. That’s always the case with brisket, however.

Beef has become a treat anytime with prices like that. Even ground beef is pricey. But anyway, I needed to cook the corned beef. I waited a couple of weeks. Researched a few recipes online and decided on this one. I had Savoy cabbage, carrots and onions. I don’t eat potatoes hardly at all, and can’t say that we missed them. However, I’d have eaten them if I’d added them to the pot!

I made a bed of onions and garlic in the Instant Pot, then added in the rinsed corned beef on top. You can use beef broth or water, then seal and cook under pressure for 70 minutes. Some recipes say 90 minutes, but others said 70. Mine was a smaller brisket so I went with 70. The very tender corned beef was removed and set aside, covered with foil. The carrots and cabbage were added back into the Instant Pot (with all the cooking water) and pressure cooked for 2 minutes. Yes, two minutes. So easy and quick. Onto the platter everything went and I put out grainy mustard and horseradish to augment the corned beef. Altogether delicious.

What’s GOOD: how quick and easy this meal was to make from beginning to end. A 70-minute cooking time in the Instant Pot might make it hard to do for a weeknight if you’re a working family, but it was sure easy in every other way. Veggies were perfect after two minutes under pressure.

What’s NOT: really nothing – not very big servings, but then, we didn’t need a lot.

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Instant Pot Corned Beef, Cabbage and Veggies

Recipe By: Adapted from Pressure Cooking Today
Serving Size: 6

3 pound corned beef brisket — brined in the package
4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 large onion — cut in wedges
8 cloves garlic
3 large carrots — cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small Savoy cabbage — cut into 8 wedges

1. Rinse the corned beef under cold water to remove herbs and seasonings, and discard brine.
2. Place onions and garlic in bottom of pot. Place corned beef on top and add about 3 cups of beef broth or water.
3. Lock the lid in place and cook under high pressure for 70 minutes. When beep sounds, allow pot to cool for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure. When valve drops carefully remove lid. Test meat for tenderness. If necessary, continue cooking under pressure for another 10 minutes if the brisket is not done.
4. Remove the corned beef and set aside, covered lightly with foil.
5. Add carrots and cabbage to the broth in the Instant Pot. Lock the lid in place. Select high pressure and set the timer for 2 minutes. When beep sounds, turn off pressure cooker and do a quick pressure release to release pressure. When valve drops carefully remove lid. Check vegetables for done-ness. If they’re not done, cook under pressure for one more minute.
6. Slice corned beef across the grain into serving pieces and place on a platter along with the vegetables. Serve with grainy mustard and horseradish on the side.
Per Serving: 487 Calories; 34g Fat (63.9% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 3117mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 46mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 871mg Potassium; 306mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on April 21st, 2022.

Just good vegetable soup – tons of broccoli, a little bit of wild rice and some cheese.

A post from Carolyn. There’s a local restaurant near where I live that always has broccoli cheese soup on the menu. And I’ve had it many times, but the last couple of times it was so thick and gluey (with cheese) I was concerned about choking on it. Not a fun feeling. But when I read something about broccoli cheese soup a couple of weeks ago I just decided I needed to make some at home. And I wanted a little bit of fiber of some kind. Since I had some wild rice on my pantry shelf, that’s what it became. Not broccoli cheese soup; not thickened. Not gluey with cheese!

I rounded up a few recipes and chose the best from them. I made this soup very high in broccoli and relatively low in cheese, and also not a whole lot of broth or milk in it. You definitely know you’re having broccoli with some cheese. And the wild rice gives it a really nice chewy consistency. You can make this in the Instant Pot if you’d like (and one or two of the recipes I consulted had you do that). I had time, so I made it in my big round Le Creuset pot. Low and slow.

It’s the usual kind of start to a soup – onion, carrots, celery, and I had leeks, so they went in there too (good flavor). After sweating them a bit, I added chicken broth, dry marjoram, salt and pepper, some wild rice and let it cook about 10 minutes. Then I added the broccoli (all chopped up into little florets) and basmati rice and let that cook for another 15-20 minutes until both rice ingredients were just barely tender. It came off heat, I added heavy cream, some half and half, some sharp cheddar and reheated it briefly to let the cheese melt. Then served it with some grated cheddar on top, some pine nuts (toasted) and a flicker or Italian parsley.

Is this soup going to blow your socks off? Probably not, but it was delicious (not low in calorie, I’ll add, with all that dairy in it), but a cup of it was plenty for a serving.

What’s GOOD: all the veggies – liked the texture both of the veggies and the rice (wild and white). Very filling, even though it doesn’t have any meat protein in it. I liked it a lot. Yes, I’d make it again. I made enough to freeze several cups for another time. One cup is a sufficient serving.

What’s NOT: really nothing – liked this soup a lot. If you don’t have leeks leave them out. It uses a lot of broccoli.

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Broccoli Wild Rice Soup with Pine Nuts

Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large yellow onion — chopped
3 large carrots — peeled, sliced
2 1/2 cups celery — chopped
2 medium leeks — cleaned, chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup wild rice
1/3 cup basmati rice
8 cups fresh broccoli — trimmed, chopped, stems chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
6 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat add EVOO. Then add onions and leeks. Allow to sweat, turning heat down as needed, while you chop the carrots and celery. Add those to the pot. Add the broccoli, wild rice, salt, pepper, marjoram, heavy cream and chicken broth. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add water or milk to the pot to just barely cover the vegetables.
2. Bring the mixture to a very low simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add white rice and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Taste the rice to make sure it’s barely tender. A little bite to it is good, but not crunchy.
3. At the very end, add half and half and grated cheddar (or you may add the cheese as a garnish), and bring back to a simmer. Serve at this point or cool and refrigerate. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove about 3 cups of the soup and use an immersion blender to puree and add back into the soup.
4. When serving add Italian parsley to the top. Optional garnishes: croutons, diced red bell pepper, pesto, more grated cheese. You could also add chopped rotisserie chicken. You could also use coconut milk in lieu of heavy cream and/or the half and half. If you use Trader Joe’s brand it won’t have much of a coconut milk taste.
Per Serving: 519 Calories; 37g Fat (60.9% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 91mg Cholesterol; 932mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 530mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1030mg Potassium; 504mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, easy, on April 14th, 2022.

Elegant dinner but super easy. You’d think it’s complicated and time consuming, but it’s really not. 

A post from Carolyn.  Someone asked me recently what chefs I follow . .. . my answer? I don’t really follow many chefs. Probably my two favorite food TV shows are Ina Garten and Rachael Ray. Neither of them are professionally trained. They’re both excellent cooks who make very approachable food. Do I have cookbooks from famous chefs? Yes, I do, but I can’t say I turn to them all that often for inspiration. I love reading cookbooks, however.

So, a few weeks ago I was watching a Rachael Ray show and she made these delicious little  morsels and I couldn’t wait to try it. Since I always have chicken thighs in my freezer, and I always keep shallots on hand, it was an easy “yes” that I’d make them. She explained that this recipe is Canadian and on a trip she saw a recipe in a magazine and tore it out and probably made it her own somehow. She thought these tournedos were worthy of even a wedding dinner. And I would agree. They’re really fabulous.

I changed just two things in her recipe: (1) I spread a bit of mustard on the insides of the chicken thighs; and (2) I added a little splash of cream to the sauce. You can certainly eliminate both of those if you want to be true to Rachael’s recipe. Usually tournedos refer to beef, but the word refers to the shape, I think (normally it’s beef tenderloin). So someone, ingeniously, decided to try the techniques with chicken.

So first you spread the inside of the chicken thighs with grainy mustard. The first thigh you mold (as best you can) in a roll, a log shape. Then drape the other thigh over the first one. Then wrap the bacon slice (use thick sliced if you can) around the outside edge and loop kitchen twine to tie it. It’s a little awkward getting the bacon in the right place and the twine just in the middle and then tied properly. Just takes a little bit of fussing. The chicken is sprayed with oil or some kind of spray and baked for a mere 30 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook them.

Meanwhile, make the sauce – butter shallots, sherry, mustard, maple syrup, Worcestershire and cream. Some is poured over the chicken, and the rest you can serve on the table. Poppy seeds are sprinkled on the top (kind of an unusual garnish for chicken, I thought) but it looks good.

What’s GOOD: everything about this is good – the moist chicken, the lovely bacon flavor and the sauce. Altogether wonderful. Easy too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Canadian Chicken Tournedos with Creamy Sherry Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from Rachael Ray (her original recipe)
Serving Size: 4

CHICKEN:
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 slices bacon — very meaty
Kitchen string
Olive oil cooking spray
SAUCE:
3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots — finely chopped
1/2 cup dry sherry — or white wine
2 tablespoons hot English mustard — or grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons maple syrup — or smoked maple syrup
Splash of Worcestershire sauce — optional
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 400°F, with rack in center.
2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Roll 4 pieces tightly into cigar-like logs, then drape the top of each cigar-shaped piece with the remaining pieces of boneless thighs and form a round shape like a firm bun. Wrap the side edges of each chicken “bun” with 1 slice of bacon. Secure the bacon to the chicken “bun” by snugly tying a piece of kitchen twine around the bacon. Arrange the chicken on a parchment-lined medium-sized baking sheet, then lightly spray or drizzle with olive oil, transfer to preheated oven and bake 30 minutes, to 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. A few minutes before the chicken is done, top with the glaze and return to the oven.
3. Heat a sauce pot or small skillet over medium heat, add butter and sauté shallots seasoned with salt and pepper for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add sherry and reduce to 3 tablespoons, add mustard, maple syrup and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, then cream and swirl a minute or so. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken tournedos and baste to coat evenly. Return chicken to the oven to finish cooking and to set the glaze, just a couple of minutes.
4. To serve, remove string from the chicken. Top the glazed tournedos with poppy seeds and serve with remaining sauce on the side.
Per Serving: 693 Calories; 44g Fat (56.8% calories from fat); 60g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 332mg Cholesterol; 992mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 99mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 196mg Potassium; 110mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 7th, 2022.

Creamy pasta with luscious lemon flavor and arugula. And cheese. Yummy Parmigiano-Reggiano. A post from Carolyn, but it’s really from my friend Linda.

Linda says: I spent the weekend with my friends Carolyn & Dave many years ago in Palm Desert, California. I picked up a book called “Cooking for Mr. Latte” by Amanda Hesser, a writer [and later editor] for the New York Times food section. I made this recipe finally and it was outstanding. The pasta I used was imported lemon linguine. I added extra lemon zest, Parmesan & arugula. My suggestion is to taste and adjust to your preference. I thought it needed more of everything, except lemon juice. The pepper is important!

From Carolyn: the book from Amanda Hesser is just so cute – it’s about her meeting her (now) husband, and their courtship. He wasn’t much into food, and of course, she was/is. Yet he managed to pull recipes from his back pocket (you’d have to read the book to learn about his cooking), so each chapter tells a little story of their courtship, then bookended with a recipe. Some are his, and most are hers.

When Linda visited me last fall  at the desert house, we went shopping at Home Goods, and she picked up a package of lemon linguine. Now . . . this recipe doesn’t call for “lemon linguine,” just linguine, but hey, if you can find lemon linguine (it might be available at World Market), use it. I bought a package of that lemon linguine too, the same time she did, and I need to try it. As you know, I don’t eat much pasta, but this would be a special occasion.

What’s GOOD: Linda says it was outstanding. That’s enough said! Easy too.

What’s NOT: only that you need arugula and crème fraiche on hand.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Linguine with Meyer Lemon Zest, Crème Fraiche and Parm

Recipe By: Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
Serving Size: 4

Sea Salt
1 pound linguine — lemon flavored if you can find it
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2 Meyer lemons — zest and juice
2 1/2 cups arugula — roughly chopped
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1. Fill a large pot with water and season with lots of salt – enough that you can taste the salt. Bring it to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente (still firm and not quite cooked through).
2. While it cooks, finely grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into a large serving bowl. Zest the lemons into the bowl, then add the arugula.
3. Scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Juice one of the lemons and set aside.
4. Drain the pasta and turn it out into the serving bowl with the cheese, lemon zest and arugula. Working quickly, sprinkle over the lemon juice and a little pasta water. Add crème fraiche, then begin to fold all of the ingredients together. Fold over and over again until the pasta is slicked with sauce, the cheese is fully melted, the arugula wilted and the flavors harmonized. Season with plenty of ground black pepper. Taste a strand of linguine, then add more lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and creme fraiche, as needed. Or add more grated cheese if it’s needed. If the sauce is a bit too sticky, add a little more pasta water and mix again. [Notes from Linda: she added more lemon zest, arugula, cheese and pepper – she didn’t think it needed more lemon juice or the creme fraiche – but then, this recipe is very adaptable to your own individual taste.]
Per Serving: 783 Calories; 29g Fat (34.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 91g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 753mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 752mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 394mg Potassium; 636mg Phosphorus.

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