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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 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

At the moment I’m reading Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally I’ve just started it, but 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. Loving it so far.

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, on November 22nd, 2021.

Because the calendar says it’s Fall, I’m thinking about baking. Fall flavors. Gingerbread comes to mind.

Actually I made these a few weeks ago and they’re already long gone. In the interim I was helping both Karen and Sara with posting recipes of their own and I let this recipe sit in the wings. You’ve seen a lot of biscotti recipes around here in the last several months. I’ve convinced myself that a biscotti has less fat, calories and sugar (and since I make it with mostly artificial sugar) then I can have one now and then. Given my ‘druthers, I’d make either chocolate biscotti, or anise biscotti, or combination of chocolate and anise, but even I get tired of those after awhile. And since I write a blog, it was time for a variation. Something totally different.

This recipe actually came from the Challenge dairy company. Is Challenge a West Coast firm? My DIL, Karen, gave me this recipe several years ago and I just hadn’t gotten around to making them.

It took very little time to mix them up. Except for grating the fresh ginger. I have a little flat device for doing this, but still it took me about 10 minutes to get 1/4 cup of it! The dough I made in my stand mixer – the only caution I’d give you is to add the almonds and dried apricots slowly and mix it well. The mixture is kind of dry-ish, so the add-ins didn’t want to come together very well without striations of almonds or of dried apricots. So when I sliced the logs, some fell apart because they had too much of those in the middle. But it made no difference in the finished product, obviously. They tasted fine, even though some of them broke apart.

What’s GOOD: I liked the fall flavors – the spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and the hint of molasses too. The biscotti are good. I won’t call them sensational, but then my palate is jaded because I love anise biscotti and/or chocolate ones. But it’s fall – these were nice.

What’s NOT: only the grating of 1/4 cup of fresh ginger. Otherwise, mixing these up and baking them were pretty easy.

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

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Gingerbread Biscotti with Apricots and Almonds

Recipe By: Challenge Dairy recipe
Serving Size: 30

1/2 cup unsalted butter — (1 stick) softened
1 cup sugar — or artificial sugar, or combo of both
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup grated ginger root — yes, freshly grated ginger root
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped almonds — or sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots — be sure to cut them into very small little cubes

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Cream butter, sugar, ground ginger and allspice until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, molasses and chopped ginger root. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into butter mixture. With mixer on, slowly add almonds and apricots. Chill dough for ease of handling.
3. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into two 12-inch long logs. Place logs on a lightly buttered or parchment lined cookie sheet. If you have one of the corrugated-style baking sheets, neither parchment nor butter is required.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until firm. Cool for about 15 minutes, then using a long, serrated knife, cut diagonally into 3/8-inch slices. Place slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 250°F for approximately one hour to dry the biscotti. If you use a convection oven for this step, reduce time to about 40 minutes. If you run out of room on your baking sheets, stand some of the biscotti on the edges but leave enough room around them to dry out in the oven. Make sure they aren’t touching. Cool completely then freeze in plastic storage bags. They’re fine, eaten from a frozen state. Great with a cup of coffee or tea.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 5g Fat (34.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 85mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 19mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 106mg Potassium; 42mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Cookies, on November 15th, 2021.

A post from Carolyn. My freezer was bare – of cookies.

Having resisted making more cookies for a couple of weeks, I knew I needed something new to stock the freezer. I found this recipe in my files – it says it came from the blog cookie madness, but when I researched her website I didn’t find them, so perhaps I was wrong. Have no idea then, of the origin of these cookies. There’s another recipe here on my blog for a cookie called Ranger Cookies. Any of  you ever made those? I think they have oats and walnuts in them too. These are similar. Maybe even better.

They were cinchy easy to make – first thing was to melt a couple of cubes of butter then let that cool. Meanwhile I roasted the whole almonds in a medium oven, then added the coconut on top and let all of that become golden brown. Once that had cooled some it was poured into the food processor and chopped up finely. Then I started the butter and sugar mixture (I used nearly all artificial sugar – golden brown Splenda, and So Nourished erythritol granulated form) in my stand mixer, added the egg, extracts and salt.

In another bowl I’d combined the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soda and salt. I mixed that up a little bit with a whisk to distribute the cornstarch and the soda clumps (actually I poured that out into my palm to mash any little clumps first). Then that was added to the wet mixture just until it came together, then in went the corn flakes and lastly the chocolate chips. With very little mixing. I used my handy-dandy scoop to make rounds, flattened them slightly and baked the cookies for 16 minutes. They rested briefly on a rack because they were a bit too fragile to transfer immediately. Once cool, they’re quite sturdy. Packed into plastic bags, they’re now resting in the freezer for frequent visits by those of us in the house at the moment (my granddaughter and her dad, Todd, who is visiting). Can’t tell you how many times the freezer door has been opened and shut since I made these cookies. Does that tell you whether these cookies are worth making?

What’s GOOD: they’re simply wonderful. The cornstarch obviously adds some crispy texture to the cookies, but the corn flakes do too. Altogether great cookies. A winner of a recipe.

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of. These are really good crispy cookies.

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

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Crispy Crunchy Almond Chocolate Chips Cookies

Recipe By: From the internet, somewhere
Serving Size: 60

1 cup almonds — whole, unsalted
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes — about 5 ounces
2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1 cup brown sugar — I used Splenda brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar — I used 90% So Nourished erythritol
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour — very lightly spooned, so scant the measurement slightly
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips — or bittersweet, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or foil and set aside.
2, Place almonds in a 13×9 inch pan or rimmed cookie sheet and roast for 6 minutes. Dump coconut over almonds and roast both together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, both sugars, both extracts and egg. In a separate bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture.
4. Transfer almonds and coconut to a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely chopped. Add corn flakes and pulse 5 more times to crush cereal. Dump almond/coconut/cereal mixture into cookie batter and stir until batter comes together. Do not over mix. Add chocolate chips and mix very briefly.
5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheets. Press balls down slightly so that tops are flattened a little bit. Bake one sheet at a time for 16-18 minutes. Let cool for about 3 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in plastic bags in the freezer for longer term storage. However, they may not last all that long.
Per Serving: 112 Calories; 6g Fat (46.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 76mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 20mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 49mg Potassium; 37mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, IP, on November 8th, 2021.

This post comes from Taylor, Carolyn’s granddaughter. 

This part from Taylor. This is such a special cheesecake recipe! One of my dear coworkers, Candy, was famous for bringing this to birthday celebrations at work. Our department went all out for birthdays and Candy was known for her baking! Everyone had requests for what their special birthday treat would be. This was always mine. After my sweet friend Candy retired, she passed the famous cheesecake recipe on to me to continue making it for celebrations. It was an honor to take this on and while it may not ever taste the same as hers did, it sure is a good cheesecake! There are some special additions I’ve included that make it that much more delicious.

This additional info from Carolyn.  At right is a photo of Taylor – at her nursing school’s “white coat ceremony” recently. I was privileged to be the family member who helped her put on her coat. Taylor is living with me while she attends nursing school through Concordia University near where I live. Taylor is my daughter Dana’s daughter. Home for her is near Placerville (east of Sacramento). A few years ago, after she graduated from Sacramento State (with a BS in Health Care Administration) she began applying to nursing schools, which took awhile. She worked in a clerical job in the ER at her local community hospital while she applied to nursing schools. That’s where she met Candy. Anyway, now Taylor is in Concordia’s accelerated nursing program (13 months long, rather than the more traditional 2 years) and when she graduates next August, she’ll have a 2nd bachelor’s degree (this one a BSN). After that she’ll probably go back home to Placerville, study for and take the nursing exam, then try to find a job in the Sacramento area.

Taylor isn’t a cook – she’d be the first one to tell you that – but she does like to bake. As I write this, Taylor made some wonderful cookie bars recently that will be posted eventually. I’m just loving having this granddaughter of mine living with me. She’s a great companion, helps me out when I need things done around home, and we have a lot of fun together. Although she doesn’t have a whole lot of extra time – she’s in classes, working a day a week at a local hospital (part of her nursing program) or studying like crazy on her days off.

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

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Instant Pot Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Recipe By: adapted from Pressure Cook Recipes
Serving Size: 8

CRUST:
10 whole graham crackers — finely ground, 120 grams
3 tablespoons unsalted butter — (42g – 56g) melted (3 to 4)
1 pinch sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar — or less if you prefer it less sweet – start with 2 tsp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
BATTER:
16 ounces cream cheese — (454g) room temperature
2 large eggs — room temperature
2/3 cup sugar — (133g)
1/2 cup sour cream — (120g) room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch — (16g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract — (10ml)
2 pinches sea salt
TOPPING:
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
CHERRY TOPPING:
15 ounces cherry pie filling

NOTES: Use a hand mixer, not a stand mixer, as it overmixes the batter.
1. Place cream cheese, eggs, sour cream on counter-top to reach room temperature. Then, melt the 3 – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. This step is critical to the success of the batter.
2. Crust: Finely grind in a food processor. Or place the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Then, in a small mixing bowl, mix finely ground graham crackers, a pinch of sea salt, brown sugar together with a fork. Mix in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix in roughly 3 – 4 tbsp unsalted butter until the mixture sticks together.
3. Line the side and bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment paper. Do not butter parchment paper. Pour in the graham cracker crumbs mixture. Gently press down the crumbs with a ramekin or Mason jar to form an even layer. You can also use a spoon for the edges. Blind bake crust in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely before continuing.
4. Mix cornstarch, 2 pinches of sea salt, and white sugar together in a small mixing bowl.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, briefly break up cream cheese by beating it for 10 seconds with a hand mixer using low speed. Add in HALF the sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds). Scrape down the sides and hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula every time a new ingredient is added. Add remaining sugar mixture and beat until just incorporated using low speed (roughly 20 – 30 seconds).
6. Add sour cream and vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Beat until just incorporated using low speed (20 – 30 seconds).
7. Blend in the two eggs using low speed, one at a time. Mix until just incorporated (about 15 – 20 seconds with a hand mixer and less time if you are using a powerful stand mixer). Try not to overmix on this step.
8. Scrape down the sides and any batter on the hand mixer blades with a silicone spatula and fold a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Pour batter in cheesecake pan. Tap cheesecake pan against the counter to let air bubbles rise to the surface. Burst the air bubbles with a toothpick or fork. Tap until you are satisfied. Ensure the surface is clear of air bubbles or fork marks.
9. Place a steamer rack and pour 1 cup water in pressure cooker. Bring water to a boil (Instant Pot users: Press manual/Pressure Cook and set the time to 28 minutes). When the water begins to boil, place cheesecake pan on the steamer rack with a foil sling right away. *Caution: Don’t wait too long to place the cheesecake in pressure cooker, as it’ll affect the cooking time. Place it immediately once the water begins to boil. This prevents too much water from evaporating. Immediately close the lid with venting knob at venting position. Turn venting knob to sealing position and let it pressure cook at high pressure for 28 minutes and full natural release. It should go up to pressure in roughly 1 minute. Natural release will take roughly 7 – 9 minutes. Open the lid gradually. Absorb any condensation on the surface by lightly tapping it with a soft paper towel.
10. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature with the lid open in the pressure cooker. Or place it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
11. After cooling for 10 – 15 minutes, carefully run a thin paring knife between the sidewall and parchment paper to release the cheesecake from the pan. Pull the slightly wrinkled parchment paper lightly to straighten it out for a smooth side.
12. Once the cheesecake has completely cooled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 – 8 hours (preferably overnight).
13. Before serving, add sour cream mixture and spread it out fully to edges. Pour cherry topping over the top and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to get the topping cold.
14. Serving: Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and cut into wedges to serve.
Per Serving: 551 Calories; 32g Fat (51.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 365mg Sodium; 29g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 110mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 220mg Potassium; 152mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, on October 31st, 2021.

Post by Sara – What can you do with celery leaves?

I know…we all add them to our stock or soups, maybe even salads.  But seriously, what else can be done?  I started researching this very thing because I was given a box of fruit and veggies from a local organic grower.  And the celery was twice as big as you see in the stores plus it had this gorgeous head of leaves.   When I buy celery at the grocery store, it is trimmed of the leaves.  To be honest, I was shocked at how large the bunch of celery was with its leaves intact.  So…what can we do with celery leaves?  Make pesto, of course!

There is a very unique taste to this pesto.  It’s not as strong as you might expect.  Not so overwhelmingly celery flavored.  I served it as an appetizer on toasted baguette slices at a family BBQ.  It was topic of conversation while being a big hit.  I plan to use some of the (very little) remaining as a sauce on my halibut I’ll be grilling this week.

Ingredients pictured left in food processor before processing into paste and adding olive oil.

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Celery Leaf Pesto

Serving Size: 8

5 cups celery leaves — loosely packed, leaves only
zest of a half an orange and zest of 1 whole lime
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese — grated
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup olive oil — plus 2 tablespoons

1. Wash celery leaves in cold water and lightly pat them dry.
2. Add all ingredients to the food processor EXCEPT olive oil. Pulse until a thick paste forms.
3. Add the olive oil and pulse the sauce at lowest speed until well combined.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Be careful about the salt – some Parm is very high in sodium. Taste before adding.
Per Serving: 246 Calories; 23g Fat (81.6% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 300mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, Pork, Uncategorized, on October 25th, 2021.

A tasty way to use up that summer zucchini!

A post from Karen.  Among the things I loved about this creation is it is one of the few ways I can get my son to eat zucchini.  He not only ate it…he went back for seconds!  And that was my motivation for coming up with this.  My fruit truck guy, Roberto, visits every Thursday morning in our neighborhood with his picks of the freshest and most tasty produce.  On this day he had gorgeous-looking zucchini.  I couldn’t resist, even though I knew it would be tough going to convince my son to enjoy it with us.  So I started thinking about what I could pair with the veggie to make it more palatable to him.  Sausage was a good starting point.  I looked online for existing recipes for zucchini casseroles, but on this particular day, nothing looked like something that would tempt my son.  So, it was time to get creative.

I’m all for making your own sauce, but if you need to save time, we really liked the Vero Gusto Calabrian Marinara.

In addition to the sausage, I had some stale ciabatta bread that I didn’t want going to waste.  I also had cottage cheese and started thinking about layering ingredients like lasagna.  So that was the impetus for cutting the zucchini lengthwise instead of in rounds.  Among the recipes I had read on casseroles, more than one mentioned taking the time after slicing to salt the zucchini to draw out the extra moisture so you would avoid an overly mushy casserole.  sounded sensible to me, so I incorporated that step.

I hadn’t made a lot of casseroles using bread cubes but knew I wanted to make sure they absorbed enough flavors and moisture, so I decided I would try folding them in with the cheese, egg, and cream mixture.  This ended up working really well.  I have made this recipe more than once experimenting with different types of bread.  We have decided the ciabatta has both a nice chew texture and savory flavor profile that we prefer.  The Savory Spice “Limnos Lamb Rub” was a wonderful blend of herbs to add to both the white sauce and for topping off the casserole.  If you need to select a different rub or make your own, this particular rub is a blend of coarse sea salt, garlic, lemon peel, onion, black pepper, fennel, rosemary, Mediterranean thyme, sage, basil, parsley, Greek oregano, spearmint, marjoram.  As for the different sausage choices, we enjoyed both the Hot Italian Sausage and the Lamb Merguez, so I’m content to let my mood or freezer dictate which one I use.  Speaking of the freezer, I have tested freezing the leftovers into individual portions and it worked really well!

What’s Good:  My son will willingly eat this dish.  Paired well with a lite salad for a complete meal.  It’s a great way to use up some bread that is past its prime.

What’s Not:  Only that I have to be organized enough to make sure I have the ingredients on hand.

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Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

Recipe By: Original by Karen
Serving Size: 12

28 ounces zucchini slices — about 1/4 inch slice, length wise vs. rounds
1 pound hot Italian sausage — no casing, or a lamb merquez sausage
1 large onion — chopped
20 ounces tomato sauce — Vera Gusto (Medium Heat)
8 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups bread cubes — dried thick cut,1 inch cubes, I prefer Ciabatta, crust removed
1 tablespoon herb rub — I use Limnos Lamb rub from Savory Spice or similar
1 pound mozzarella cheese — low moisture, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese — grated
kosher salt — for sprinkling

1. Place sliced zucchini on clean kitchen towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Then wipe dry with a clean towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350*
3. Saute loose and broken up sausage – let brown on one side then add onions and continue to saute until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes.
4. Mix egg into cottage cheese (or can substitute Ricotta) with 1 TBS. Limnos Lamb Rub and heavy cream. Pour mixture over dried bread cubes and mix well.
5. Grease a 9×13 casserole pan and pour in 1/2 the red sauce. Place 1/2 the zucchini slices in an overlapping layer over the sauce. Pour bread mixture on next and spread evenly. Sprinkle sausage and onion mixture and then 1/2 of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. Create another overlapping layer with the remaining zucchini. Spread remaining red sauce over zucchini, followed by remaining Mozzarella. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with more Limnos Lamb rub if desired.
6. Bake for 1 hr or until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
Per Serving: 377 Calories; 26g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 597mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 326mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 503mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, easy, on October 17th, 2021.

This is a post from Sara. FAST & FLAVORFUL.

These days I am without the hustle and bustle of chicks at home as we are officially Empty Nesters.  But I am amazed at how little time I have to make dinner.  So I find myself searching for new quick and healthy recipes.  This is a recipe I found online that is SUPER easy.  I mean 20 mins start to finish easy!  And so tasty.  I was looking for something to do with the ground beef I’d bought that wasn’t tacos, or hamburgers.  And this recipe fit the bill perfectly!  It is so flavorful with a hint of heat.  I added the steamed cauliflower to satisfy my need for veggies.  You could add any type of cooked veggie, frozen would work easily too.  This also made excellent leftovers for lunch the next day.

Starting with the rice since it usually takes 20 mins.  Then I cut and cleaned the fresh cauliflower, dropped it into the steamer to cook.  I began browning the beef and garlic in a shallow pan.  While that was cooking, I mixed the sauce ingredients.  When the beef has no more pink, I added the sauce and let it cook on low for a few mins.  Then I fluffed the rice and was ready to assemble.

I used a bowl, layering the rice, beef then cauliflower.  I topped it with sliced scallions.  My husband enjoyed this dish with a bit of siracha to kick up the spice and a nice IPA (well, not with the leftovers at work!)

This will be a repeat in my rotation for sure!  I imagine one could substitute ground turkey or chicken for the beef, but you may need to increase the spices to give it more flavor.

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Korean Beef and Rice

Serving Size: 4

1 pound lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup soy sauce, low sodium
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups hot cooked rice
3 green onions — thinly sliced
2 cups cauliflower — steamed

1. In a large skillet, cook beef and garlic over medium heat until beef is no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix brown sugar, soy sauce, oil and seasonings.
2. Stir sauce into beef, heat through. Serve over rice and cauliflower.
Per Serving: 551 Calories; 26g Fat (43.3% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 703mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 3 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.

Posted in easy, Fish, on October 1st, 2021.

It’s not often that I repeat a recipe, but this one is just too good to forget.

Way back when, I posted this recipe, one that came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey. And as an aside, Phillis still isn’t doing any in-person cooking classes, and I’ve decided that if I can’t attend a class and taste the food, well, I don’t want to go to an online class. Phillis always made me think outside my box, serving ordinary food but with a different twist or ingredients that I might not have matched with one thing or another. Leeks and salmon are one of those combinations, but I’m telling you true, this is a match made in heaven. My friend Linda T, who lives about an hour south of me, is a big fan of my blog (we’ve been friends for over 30 years), and it may not be a stretch to say that this recipe is one of her all-time favorites.

One of the things I like about it is how EASY and quick it is. All made in one pan. First it’s the chopped leeks (I buy Trader Joe’s because they’re already cleaned – all I have to do it trim the ends and chop) gently sautéed in butter. Do this over low heat so they don’t burn (like mine did, see photo above). Then the salted and peppered salmon is laid on top of the leek bed, and you add in some dry white wine (I used vermouth), grated orange rind, thyme and some cream. The salmon is very gently simmered (covered) for about 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness). I used my instant-read thermometer and it was thoroughly cooked in 8 minutes. If using wild salmon, 5-7 minutes probably. Meanwhile I’d cooked some rice with a tad of lime juice and more orange zest, and a pan of sautéed zucchini too. The original recipe called for a little tiny bit of sugar, but I didn’t use any, and I can’t say that it made a difference. I did have to add a little more cream, as most of it boiled away during the gentle simmering. Add water, cream, or a bit more wine if yours dries up. I’d made a half of a recipe and 2 leeks needed a bit more liquid to make it all come together.

Dinner was prepped and done in about 25 minutes total time. My granddaughter Taylor nearly licked the plate. Seriously. I did, too. Fortunately, I made enough for 2 meals, so we’ll have leftovers in a night or two. This is certainly a meal fit for company, and easy enough for a weeknight family meal also. Do make pasta or rice on the side to sop up any sauce remaining on the plate.

What’s GOOD: first off, it’s all about the leeks. Once cooked and simmered, they take on a very mellow flavor, but they add startlingly lovely accents to this sauce. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: only that you must have leeks and cream on hand to make this work.

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Salmon Fillets with Orange and Leeks

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large leeks — halved, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
6 pieces salmon fillets
1 teaspoon orange zest
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup dry white wine — or orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh chives — cut in 1-inch lengths, garnish

1. Melt butter in heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sprinkle with sugar and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté 4 minutes. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until very soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
2. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Arrange atop leeks and sprinkle with orange zest. Add cream and wine. Cover pot again and cook until fish is opaque, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer fish to plates and keep warm. If using thinner (wild) salmon, cook for 4-8 minutes, depending on thickness. Fish is done when the internal temp reaches 135°F.
3. Boil sauce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over fish. Garnish with chives.
Per Serving: 678 Calories; 32g Fat (43.6% calories from fat); 82g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 342mg Cholesterol; 219mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 103mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 1849mg Potassium; 1164mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on September 27th, 2021.

Such heavenly flavor from the almond paste in the cake. Beautiful to look at, too.

A post from Carolyn.  I’ve been a long-time follower of Luisa Weiss, from The Wednesday Chef blog. Some years ago she moved to Germany (Berlin, I think) and now has a venerable cookbook to her name, Classic German Baking. She’s a baker of the first order – my opinion from having made a few of her things over the years. Although I don’t own her cookbook. But occasionally one of her cookbook recipes pops up, this one on David Lebovitz‘s blog. I quick-like made sure to save it. So glad I did.

First off, though, you need to know that I’m a big fan of almond paste. It’s an intense almond flavor, and since it’s finely ground almonds and sugar, you can’t just add it to another recipe unless it’s called for. And as many of you have discovered, almond paste doesn’t keep on your kitchen pantry shelf for all that long. A few months at the most. After that it gets dried up and turns into the texture of a rock! I’ve learned that from experience. As I type this I have a 2nd tube of it on my shelf that needs to be used sometime soon before it’s over the hill.

When the 1st of September rolls around, my cooking brain begins to think about apples. I begin to long for cooler nights (hasn’t happened yet, as I write this), and cooler days as well (that won’t happen until mid-October here in SoCal). One year – decades ago – my DH and I took a driving trip in the New England states during September, and I was awed by the side-of-the-road fruit stands with baskets and barrels, displayed within inches of the paved road, just overflowing with apples I’d rarely heard of before, like Northern Spy, Empire, Macoun. Well, perhaps I’d read about them, but never tasted any. Is it because they don’t ship well? Probably they don’t do well with long-term storage? I’d never seen any of them in California. We ate some in the car, we bought some apple juice, and also used some of the apples in baking when we returned to Philadelphia to stay on with our friends Judy and Jerry. I have no recollection what I baked, but something. We all bought apples, and when we left to fly home, THEY still had apples overflowing in their 2nd refrigerator. I probably could have put a few in my suitcase that wouldn’t have been discovered (you aren’t supposed to bring raw fruit into California). What I did do, after I got home, was go online to one of the farms we’d stopped at, and ordered a 25-pound box of mixed apples to be shipped. What a treasure those were. Haven’t done that since, but it was fun.

So, back to this cake. This cake is a real winner . . . I’m just sayin’. Lovely moist cake (with some cubed-up apples in the batter) baked in a springform, with sliced apples angle-shingled on top, then baked to perfect tenderness, and then some apricot jam is brushed on top to let it glisten. This cake lasted for several days. I served it at that lunch I mentioned before, with some of my old employees from 25+ years ago. I sent slices home with several of them, and Taylor and I ate the rest.

There, at right, is an image of the about-to-be-baked cake. You nestle the apple slices into the batter – pressing in just a little. I used Granny Smith apples, and they held their shape well. In fact, some of those slices on the top were still bite-able. Not crisp, but certainly plenty of apple texture.

Thanks to Monica from Playing with Flour, for the photo

One of the interesting techniques mentioned in this recipe (one you need to remember) is to GRATE the almond paste using a box grater. Even the freshest of almond paste can sometimes be a bit firm, and I’ve always wondered how to best disperse it in a cake batter. A-ha moment with the grater.

Forgetting to take a photo of this genius technique, I found an image on the web, from PlayingwithFlour. Monica used a fine-grind. My tube of almond paste was perhaps a month old, and I couldn’t grate it finely, but did it using slightly larger holes on another side of my box grater. And it seemed to disperse easily in the cake batter. Hooray!

Luisa didn’t say to serve the cake with anything, but I had a tub of crème fraiche, so each piece got a dollop of that when I plated it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cake was marvelous. Can’t say enough good things about it. Love-loved the intense almond flavor (from the almond paste) and the tender cake itself. Loved how beautiful it was. I served it at the table on a cake stand. So pretty! My recollection is that everyone loved the cake. Cake was easy to make. I’ll definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: only that you need a fresh tube of almond paste.
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German Apple Almond Cake

Recipe By: Luisa Weiss, blogger, Classic German Baking (cookbook)
Serving Size: 10

4 medium apples — (1 3/4 pounds, 800g)
1 lemon — zested and juiced
7 ounces almond paste
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs — at room temperature
1 cup flour — plus 3 tablespoons (150g)
9 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder — preferably aluminum free
1/4 cup apricot jam — strained if lumpy

1. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (23cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Peel and core the apples. Divide the lemon juice into two separate bowls. Slice two of the peeled and cored apples into 8 sections, and toss the apple slices in one bowl of lemon juice. Dice the other two apples into 1/3-inch (1cm) cubes, then toss them in the other bowl of lemon juice. The cubed apples are added to the cake batter; the sliced apples are placed on top.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
4. Using a grater with large holes, grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and mix until the almond paste is finely broken up.
5. Add the melted butter, almond extract, and lemon zest, and continue mixing until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
6. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the almond batter mixture by hand, then fold in the diced apples, along with any lemon juice in the bowl.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the sliced apples in concentric circles on top of the batter, pressing them in very lightly.
8. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If using a 9″ springform pan (meaning the batter is higher), it might take an extra few minutes to get the very center cooked through.
9. Remove the cake from the oven. Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan and brush it over the top while the cake is hot. Let the cake cool completely, then run a knife around the inside of the cake pan to release the cake, and remove the sides of the cake pan. Keeps at room temp for a day or more; refrigerate after that.
Per Serving: 465 Calories; 24g Fat (44.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 226mg Sodium; 36g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 129mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 227mg Potassium; 213mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beverages, Brunch, on September 20th, 2021.

What’s different about this one? Mostly it’s about the lime juice.

A post from Carolyn. For several years now I’ve subscribed to a magazine that, on the surface, if you know me, wouldn’t be one you’d think I’d read – it’s called Garden & Gun. Yes, about gardens and guns. But, the gun part usually comprises one page in each issue, and gardens maybe 4-6 pages. But in between all those other pages are interesting essays on a variety of things South. Everything from an article about a dog, about travel in our Southern states, and certainly some pages of home décor and food. The truth of the matter is that I don’t garden. And I have little to no interest in guns. But those other pages do interest me.

Julia Reed was a venerable icon in the food world. She died of cancer some years ago and has been missed sorely by so many others in the food arena. In a recent issue of Garden & Gun the editor wrote a tribute to Julia Reed, and about why he love-loves Julia Reed’s mother’s recipe of the mixture.  Looking at it – the recipe – it didn’t seem to contain anything very different than any other one I’ve read. I’m surely not a connoisseur of Bloody Marys, but for whatever reason the article prompted me to make them one evening when I invited friends over for dinner.

First off, I needed a lot of limes – so I bought those little net bags of them (3 bags, in fact, about 8-10 in each one) and used all but about 3 individual limes to get enough lime juice (about 3/4 cup) to serve 4 people. What this recipe does contain is a bit more lime juice than most other recipes. You might think it would overpower the drink; it didn’t. Not at all. I’d purchased a “better” brand of canned (bottled) tomato juice. What would make it “better,” I cannot tell you – I did look at the nutrition to see about the sodium in the bottle. None of them were low sodium, but I wasn’t going to buy the run-of-the-mill brand and sought a different label. It was probably $.20 higher than Campbell’s.

The recipe suggested celery stalks and pickled okra as garnishes. Well, I didn’t want to spend over $5.00 for a jar of pickled okra that probably would never be eaten after that day, so I bought dehydrated okra and put one in each glass (see the one sticking up in the left glass in the photo above?). Once it soaked in the Bloody Mary for 5-10 minutes, it was still crunchy on the inside and semi-soft on the outside. It was good. Not pickled, however.

Making the mixture was certainly easy – adding the tomato juice, the lime juice, a ton of Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of salt (I scanted the quantity), a dollop of prepared horseradish, some pepper plus some Tabasco. And of course, some vodka. My friend Cherrie’s husband Bud did the honors of adding the vodka, pouring and handing out the drinks.

What’s GOOD: what can I say? – I thought it was a really good Bloody Mary. I liked the amount of lime juice – it didn’t make you pucker-up – it was just right. I could taste the Worcestershire, which I liked. Loved the dehydrated okra in it (and the remaining ones will be eaten because it makes a good veggie snack). Altogether good recipe, and yes, if and when I make Bloody Marys again, I’ll definitely use this recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you need to procure the various ingredients (have them chilled).

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Bloody Mary Mix from Julia Reed

Recipe By: Julia Reed’s mother, Judy, via Garden & Gun
Serving Size: 4

3 cups tomato juice — NOT V-8
5/8 cup lime juice — freshly squeezed
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce — or other hot sauce, or more if you like it spicy
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt — optional if the juice is high in sodium
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Cracked pepper
Vodka, to taste
GARNISHES: celery sticks, pickled okra (or dehydrated okra), lime wheel

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients. Add cracked pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.
2. Pour vodka in each glass, pour in the Bloody Mary mix and top with a stem of celery with plenty of leaves, a piece of pickled okra (or a dehydrated one, submerged in the Bloody Mary) and a wheel of fresh lime.
Per Serving (not including the vodka): 55 Calories; 1g Fat (7.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1118mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 43mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 582mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Books, on September 15th, 2021.

A post from Carolyn. I don’t know about you, but over this last week, reliving the events of 9/11 have been heartwrenching. Will we ever un-see the devastation of those planes plunging into the Twin Towers? I doubt it. I remember being riveted to the TV that day back in 2001, wanting to know more and feeling further wrenched when we did, with the tumbling-down of both buildings. Knowing about all the people stuck on those upper floors. Seeing firefighters entering both buildings, seeing people streaming out, some covered in muck. On Sept. 12th (last week) I watched a documentary about it all, and found myself sobbing as I again felt the surreal impact of those planes as I watched TV. I cried and cried.

For a long, long time after 9/11 I couldn’t read a book about it. It was too painful. But I kept up with whatever news came about, but I couldn’t bring myself to read a book, and there were many. I was so proud of our country and the coming together we did as a nation. And here it is, 20 years later, and as I perused a table at my local library, there was a book about Windows on the World – the restaurant. I picked it up – I think I was the first person to check out the book.

This book, The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York isn’t just about what happened on 9/11 (in fact, only 10-15 pages of it, at the end, explains much about the people who were already at work that tragic morning and ended up stuck on the 106th and 107th floors) but the book is about the entire life-history of the restaurant itself. And the people who ran it and worked there.

It is about its inception, how the name came about, who designed it, the architecture of the building itself, to the architecture/design within the many restaurants in the Twin Towers, all operating under the same umbrella. Even down to the little things like the silverware and dishes. About the hundreds of people who worked there, from the chefs, sous-chefs, captains, waiters, busboys, delivery folk, the wine guy, and a lot about Joe Baum, the guy who conceived the restaurant and brought it into being with long and detailed negotiations with the Port Authority who actually financed and owned the buildings. James Beard played a major consulting role at Windows, did you know that? Imagine the procuring of all the food, and how it was stored. And it’s about the electric ranges (yes, electric – that was quite interesting – the Port Authority felt pumping gas up 107 floors was too dangerous and they were probably right), and about the charcoal grill that was allowed. About the menus, and the various food tastings that took place over the many decades. About the food reviews from various newspapers, the ups and downs of relationships – who was in charge, who gave the orders, and the various in-fighting that occurred.

I’ve never worked in a restaurant, so have no first-hand knowledge of the hierarchy of a restaurant other than what I’ve picked up by reading Anthony Bourdain (gee, I miss that TV show of his too) and from watching the Food Network. Even if you come from a restaurant background, I expect this Windows book would be delightful reading. I always wanted to eat at Windows but never did. Not sure why – just never got around to it. (Of course, living in California had something to do with that!).

The writer of the book, Tom Roston, did a masterful job of bringing all the disparate parts of the story together, with enough personal-interest stories about the people, to make you want to keep reading. I think this book would make a great gift if you have someone in your family in the restaurant business. Or read it yourself if you have interest in Windows. Maybe you did eat there and have good memories of it. Well worth reading. I devoured it. There are no recipes in the book, just so you know, although there were mentions of a famous Venice Wine Cake (a well kept secret by Rozanne Gold, and never on a Windows’ menu) and a variety of comfort foods like Irish Stew, and plenty of international foods that lived a long or short life on the Windows’ menus. Also an interesting story about Blue Trout. All very interesting.

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