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Currently Reading

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 2023, 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):

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Cookies, on March 10th, 2023.

Yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe.

A post from Carolyn. What’s there not to love about chocolate chip cookies? These are good ones, something different to add to your repertoire. I started with an online recipe I found years ago and tweaked it just a bit. I used some artificial sugar (for half of the brown sugar and half of the white sugar) in the batter, and since I love walnuts, I used them rather than the pecans that were part of the version I read about.

I come from the camp that cookie batter is good to eat/taste. That’s one of my favorite memories of cooking with my mother when I was a young child, and I eat cookie batter every time I make cookies, no matter the type. But when I dipped a spoon into this one I wasn’t so sure. The spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger) were overwhelming. Obviously once  you add the spices, it’s a bit late to remove them! So I went with it. I figured I could always give them away if I didn’t like the finished cookie. Lo and behold, once baked, these cookies turned out to be lovely. The warm fall spices add a delicious hint of themselves and were not overwhelming in the slightest. These may not be to everyone’s taste –  I’m the first one to tell you that for decades I made the Nestle’s printed recipe on the chocolate chip bag – for all of my chocolate chip cookie baking! (Not anymore – as you can see if you merely look at my recipe index and search the cookie section, you’ll find oodles of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The ones in red print are my favorites.)

These look like “regular” chocolate chip cookies, but they’re definitely different. I liked using the bar chocolate, chopped up, instead of chips. You COULD use regular chips, but the irregular crags of chocolate in the cookies make them different.

What’s GOOD: definitely different. If you’re a purist when it comes to chocolate chip cookies,  you might not like these at all. They grew on me as time went by – as I write I still have a couple dozen of them in the freezer (I like frozen cookies). If you’re intrigued, but a bit scared to try it, make a half batch.

What’s NOT: only that these are very, VERY different than regular chocolate chip cookies. Some people might find the flavors of the spices off-putting. Maybe these are in the “Mikey, try it, you might like it” camp.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Warm Spices

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 56

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter — softened to room temperature
1 cup brown sugar — (may use half artificial sugar, if desired)
1/3 cup granulated sugar — (may use half artificial sugar, if desired)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
6 ounces semisweet chocolate — chopped (not chocolate chips)
1 cup walnuts — diced

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Use parchment paper if you prefer on the baking pans.
2. In a bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate and nuts.
5. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls (I use a cookie scoop) onto the prepared pans. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned.
6. Cool cookies on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Package into sealed containers and freeze, or eat within a few days.
Per Serving: 105 Calories; 7g Fat (57.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 15mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 15mg Calcium; trace Iron; 43mg Potassium; 36mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on March 3rd, 2023.

If you eat these warm, they literally melt in your mouth, almost like those meltaway mints. But these are chocolate. Brownies.

Recently I bought a stand mixer for the 2nd home I own with my daughter and her husband in Palm Desert. We’re having the place remodeled; and it’s almost done. We have a new kitchen with a really nice, large island, and even though I didn’t think we were going to need all kinds of baking appliances, I just decided we needed a stand mixer and a small food processor. The stand mixer arrived (bargain price on amazon because of its mint green color, I guess) and I needed to do a quality control check on it. Right? That house doesn’t have everything a baker would need, but we did have a 9×9 ceramic dish, and I had chocolate. And as it happened, I had some mascarpone cheese that needed using up.

Once the batter was mixed properly (and yes, the new stand mixer worked just fine) it was poured into the pan/ceramic dish and baked for about 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of your pan. I used an instant read thermometer and removed the brownies when the temp in the center reached 195°F. They rested and cooled, then the frosting was spread on top. One thing we don’t have in that kitchen is an offset spatula – makes it a bit difficult to spread the frosting, but I managed with a plastic butter spreader instead. I waited a couple of hours before cutting into them. OM Goodness, were they ever tender. And tasty. I’m a dark chocolate fan, so I used 85% chocolate (Trader Joe’s bars) for both cake and frosting. You can easily lighten it up by using semisweet or lighter. I don’t know that this recipe would work with milk chocolate (it has a different chemistry than other chocolates because of the milk contained in it).

If you’re not a fan of nuts in your brownies, then leave them out. I am a fan, so was happy to add about 1/2 cup into the brownie batter. You could use pecans or almonds too, but I prefer walnuts. Altogether wonderful.

What’s GOOD: the texture of these was sublime. So soft and tender because of the mascarpone cheese in them. Everything you’d ever want in a brownie.

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Brownie Meltaways with Mascarpone Cheese and Walnuts

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 18

1 cup unsalted butter — with a little more to grease the baking dish/pan
3 ounces dark chocolate — 85% finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar — (I used half Bocha Sweet)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese — softened
3 large eggs — at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts — finely chopped
6 ounces dark chocolate — 85% finely chopped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

NOTE: If you don’t prefer dark chocolate, use a lighter chocolate like semisweet for both brownie and the frosting. If your eggs are straight from the refrigerator, place them in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-inch square glass or ceramic baking pan and set aside. If using metal, reduce oven temperature by about 15°F and reduce baking time. Use instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overbake them.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl add unsalted butter and chocolate. Microwave at reduced power for 30 second at a time, stirring between each heating. Continue until both are completely melted.
3. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder. Add to the butter/chocolate mixture. You may mix this by hand. Add the mascarpone, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Fold in the flour, salt and walnuts. You can use a stand mixer for this, but use it on slow speed and mix only until ingredients are combined.
4. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 38-43 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you have an instant read thermometer, remove brownies when the internal temp has reached 195°F. Cool in the pan on cooling rack.
5. FROSTING: Add chopped chocolate to a small bowl. Set aside.
6. In a small saucepan, heat butter and cream over medium heat, stirring constantly. When mixture is almost boiling, pour over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds, then stir until smooth.
7. Pour the frosting over cooled brownies and spread evenly. Allow the frosting to cool completely before cutting brownies into about 18 small rectangles..When eaten within a few hours, the brownie just melts in your mouth. After an overnight rest, they taste more like a traditional brownie in texture. Still exceedingly tender. Will keep at room temperature for several days in an airtight container. If there are still any left by then, refrigerate, separated with layers of waxed paper. They freeze well.
Per Serving: 337 Calories; 26g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 76mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 172mg Potassium; 96mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on February 24th, 2023.

Don’t you just want to sink your fork into these?

Recipe from Karen; write-up by Carolyn. Actually, I remember the first time I had a poblano pepper – stuffed similarly to this. Probably around 1990. At a restaurant in Pasadena, called the Parkway Grill. I believe it was a lunch menu special, and I really thought it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten. Of course, I didn’t have their recipe, and back then poblano peppers weren’t commonly at grocery stores, either. Now they are, certainly here in California, where our grocery stores carry a variety of chiles, small and large. A few weeks ago I spent the day with Karen, and family. For lunch she served leftovers, a big favorite of mine, Pasta Puttanesca. If you click back to that story, you can read about Karen and my son Powell’s early dating, when Powell made that pasta. It’s a cute story.

So back to this story – Karen had four beautiful poblano peppers, and she and I worked on this dish together. Karen started from an internet recipe, but made a few changes to it. The poblanos have to be prepped – the tops cut off, the seeds and membranes removed, then gently sliced to open up the peppers kind of like a cup, so you can spoon in that luscious filling. The filling is a combination of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, oregano (or marjoram in this case as Karen didn’t have any Mexican oregano – did you know that marjoram is very similar to Mexican oregano? who knew?) and cumin. And cheese, and Mozzarella. (You could also add just a little bit of corn to this too.) Once the peppers are stuffed with that mixture (see picture just above), gently mounded in the pepper so none of it leaks out, the peppers are baked for about half an hour. Then you add cheese to the top. Karen had a package of Mexican blended cheeses, and that was gently mounded on the top and put back into the oven – on broil – until the cheese melted and was golden brown (see picture at top!).

Let the peppers rest for 4-8 minutes until they’ve cooled down enough so you don’t burn  your mouth! Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. Thanks, Karen, for this delicious recipe. If you wanted a slightly different taste, add corn (and remove some of the chopped tomatoes).

What’s GOOD: for me, the poblano chile pepper is the star of the dish – it has a unique flavor. But the combination in the filling is also so delicious with this, and oh, the cheese. Everything’s better with cheese!

What’s NOT: nothing other than there is a bit of prep for this – maybe 30 minutes worth, then they baked for 30. Broiled for 2-3, and it was ready.

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Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Chicken

Recipe By: Altered slightly from an online recipe
Servings: 4

Olive oil spray
4 whole poblano peppers — select evenly sized, larger rather than smaller
1 tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup fresh tomatoes — diced
1/2 yellow onion — diced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano — dried, crushed in your palms, or use marjoram if you don’t have Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups cooked chicken — diced or shredded, rotisserie is fine as long as it doesn’t have different flavors on it
1 cup Mozzarella cheese — grated
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped, including the stems (mince those up very finely)
1 cup Mexican blend cheese — grated
3 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. For easy clean-up, line a large broiler-safe baking sheet or ceramic dish with foil and spray it with EVOO.
2. POBLANOS: cut off stems, remove ribs and seeds (discard), If there is sufficient pepper around the stem, discard the stem itself, then mince the remaining pepper into tiny pieces and add it to the filling mixture below. Cut a slit down the side of each pepper and open it slightly (without breaking the curve of the pepper) and remove any remaining seeds or membrane. Set aside.
3. FILLING: Heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, Mexican oregano (or marjoram), and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until liquids have evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the chicken, mozzarella and the cilantro, mixing well.
4. Divide the filling among the peppers, using a spoon to get the filling in the pepper, filling all the inside curves, pressing down and out to fill the pepper completely. Use your hands as needed to keep the filling from falling out.
5. Place the peppers on the prepared baking sheet or dish, slit side up. Lightly spray them with olive oil. Bake until the poblanos are soft and charred in places, about 30 minutes.
6. Remove peppers from the oven. Change oven from bake to BROIL. Top the peppers with the Mexican cheese blend, molding it carefully over the filling.
7. Return peppers to the oven and broil the peppers 6 inches below the broiler element just until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Do wait a few minutes to serve so you don’t burn your mouth!
Per Serving: 576 Calories; 31g Fat (49.0% calories from fat); 59g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 174mg Cholesterol; 2293mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 531mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 939mg Potassium; 658mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salad Dressings, on February 17th, 2023.

A tart, but not overly so red wine vinegar and lemon juice type, with a tiny bit of honey. And Dijon. And red chile flakes.

Over the years I’ve certainly had my fair share of very tart, puckery Italian and Greek salad dressings – at restaurants always. And haven’t always been a fan. One Italian place I frequented in years past served such a tart red wine vinegar dressing that I couldn’t eat it. Just couldn’t. Literally, I would choke and cough because it had too much vinegar. Ever had that problem? So when I volunteered to make Greek salad dressing for a potluck luncheon recently I was determined no one would erupt in a choking fit. I perused lots of recipes, and settled on one at Simply Recipes. Why that one? Because it had a tiny little bit of honey in it. And I felt that the ratio of acid (red wine vinegar and lemon juice) to oil (EVOO) was better than some.

The other nice thing about this dressing is that you can mix it up in a screw-top jar – no blender required. I minced up the garlic (lots) really well. I used fresh lemon juice (a must) and I used a good EVOO. This recipe has both red wine vinegar AND lemon juice. I liked that also. It had a little jot of Dijon in it, some red pepper flakes too (not necessarily standard). The ONLY thing I did differently was to add more dried oregano. And I doubled the recipe because I was serving a bunch of people. Other people were bringing the Romaine, the Kalamata olives, the cucumbers, Feta, and halved cherry tomatoes.

What’s GOOD: good, garlicky and not too stringent because of the ratio of acid to EVOO, and because of the tiny bit of honey. Love the flavors from the oregano and red chile flakes. Altogether delicious dressing. A keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Greek Salad Dressing

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 6

3 cloves garlic — very finely minced or grated
3/4 cup EVOO
4 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice — freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt — see NOTE in directions
3/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons honey

NOTE: if you’re using any salty ingredients in the salad (like Feta cheese) go easy on the salt. You can always add more at the end.
1. Combine the ingredients: In a pint or larger screw-top jar. Add the garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, Dijon mustard, and honey. Screw on the lid tightly. Shake well. Make sure the honey has dissolved in the dressing. Alternately you could use an immersion blender, but make sure the blade part will fit into your container. Taste for seasonings. Note that there is no ground black pepper in this recipe – you may add it if desired.
3. If using within a few hours, allow it to sit at room temperature. For longer storage, refrigerate. Before using, allow dressing to warm to room temp for about an hour. Shake the dressing thoroughly before using. The dressing will keep for about a week.
4. For serving, use a sturdy green like Romaine, then add Kalamata olives (pitted), sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes (halved), Feta cheese (crumbled). When adding the dressing, toss the salad and sample a lettuce leaf to see if there is enough dressing. This is when you need to determine the salt level – add more if needed. You can pass additional dressing at the table, if desired.
Per Serving: 251 Calories; 27g Fat (95.3% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 298mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 10mg Calcium; trace Iron; 26mg Potassium; 5mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on February 10th, 2023.

Such a luscious cake – tender, moist, juicy, and that sweet butter sauce puts it “over the top.”

My friend Linda – I have two Linda’s in my life, both good friends – my friend Linda T has a bunch of recipes on my blog already – but this one is from my other friend Linda I. (She’s quite thrilled to have one of her recipes show up here on my blog!) She made this cake for an event we had at my home a couple of weeks ago. I swooned (again) over this dessert, as she’d made it for some other event we had awhile back. This time she left me with two servings and I had to talk to myself to NOT eat it all in one sitting.

Searching online, I found it – it has an interesting past . . . it was published in a magazine for cross-stitchery in 1988. Looong time ago. It was a winner then, and it’s a winner now.

This cake is just so good. The finely minced apples make the cake so very moist. It’s a dark cake – I don’t understand, really, how/why the cake is dark as there isn’t any brown sugar in it. Perhaps it’s just the amount of regular sugar that helps provide that lovely dark golden color on the top of the cake. Well, anyway, it makes no difference how or why the cake has the dark consistency, what it has going for it is moistness, juiciness and a lovely apple-y taste. But then you pair it with the very simple sauce . ..  it’s just marvelous.

The sauce is nothing but butter, sugar, vanilla and some heavy cream. In the picture at top, you can see the sauce pooled on the left side of the plate – it’s not a creamy looking sauce, even though there is 1/2 cup of heavy cream in it. But oh, you’re going to want to lick the plate to not let any of that sauce go to waste!

Do use Granny Smith apples when making this. Sweet apples will fall apart, and that you don’t want. You can use pecans (what was in the original recipe) but Linda used walnuts on this version. I’m sure either would work just fine. You can easily make this the day before – and I can tell you for sure that it keeps just fine for several days. Do refrigerate the sauce, however, but warm it up when serving. You want the sauce to be WARM. And another must, is the whipped cream. It’s necessary. There’s something about the pillowy foil of whipped cream with some desserts – some just require it. This one does, for sure. Not that the cake wouldn’t be good without it, but it’s just better WITH whipped cream.

My thanks to my friend Linda I for her recipe. She’s been making it for years, so she tells me. Do make it – you won’t be disappointed.

What’s GOOD: love the moist, tender cake, but then the sauce. Oh, the sauce. So good. And adding the whipped cream just makes it. But the sauce is really the part that separates this apple cake from any other I’ve ever had. Do make it.

What’s NOT: not a thing. This is a winner – a keeper.

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Fresh Apple Cake with Sweet Butter Sauce

Recipe By: adapted slightly from a recipe on
Servings: 14

4 cups Granny Smith apples — peeled and sliced
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts — or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream — (1/2 cup canned evaporated milk may be substituted for the whipping cream)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch-by 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the apples and 2 cups sugar.
3. In another medium mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the apple-sugar mixture; stir well; set aside.
5. Place the eggs into a small mixing bowl and beat well with an electric mixer or hand held egg beater. Add the oil and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat.
6. Stir the egg mixture into the apple mixture, blending until thoroughly moistened. Stir in the walnuts or pecans.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Serve with warm Sweet Butter Sauce.
8. SWEET BUTTER SAUCE: In a small, heavy-duty saucepan, over low heat, melt butter. Add the sugar, vanilla, and heavy whipping cream or evaporated milk; stir. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 3 minutes. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 582 Calories; 32g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 475mg Sodium; 50g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 34mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 201mg Potassium; 104mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Healthy, Soups, on February 3rd, 2023.

Just the simplest of soups – although there are a LOT of vegetables in it, but the more the merrier, and the merrier the taste. I wasn’t expecting it to be so delicious!

A post from Carolyn. I don’t know about you, but after the holidays, of not-so-healthy eating, desserts served more often and just plain eating more than I usually do, I was so ready for some pure foods, healthier. My refrigerator had a bunch of vegetables and some had to be tossed in the trash, but what was there surely was enough to make a delicious soup. As I’m writing this, we’ve had rain – rain – and more rain. It’s so good for our soil as we’ve been in years of drought, so I’m not complaining. A rainy day makes me want to cook, as long as I don’t have other things I have to do. My usual busy routine has started up but I had a free day, and it was raining.

Often, when I look at recipes for vegetable soup, I think eh, veggie soup doesn’t have enough flavor to make me happy. But I decided to try it anyway since I had so many veggies that needed to be used. I’m SO glad I did, as this soup was scrumptious, and well worth making again.

Into a big pot went a sweet onion and leeks, with some olive oil. As that sweated I chopped up all the vegetables (red bells, poblanos, zucchini, yellow squash, a sweet potato, celery, carrots, garlic) and added them all at once.

Last month at the cooking class in San Diego, Phillis Carey mentioned how much she loves the new Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base. Picture at right. She also mentioned the same brand for chicken, the Roasted Chicken Base. I’ve bought both. And I also bought their Chili Base too, since I make more than a fair share of chili-based soups. All of them are available on amazon (use the links to get right to the pages).

All of these concentrates contain a goodly amount of sodium, so I didn’t add a single grain of salt to this soup. I added water, the vegetable paste/base, some oregano and thyme (my go-to herbs). Once the vegetables were done I removed some of it and whizzed it up with my immersion blender and poured it back into the soup (just to give the soup some thickened texture).

Then I added a little tiny can of corn and a big mound of grated Cheddar. Than I added a can of coconut cream. Now, about that. I buy Trader Joe’s coconut cream when I want that creamy texture, but I don’t want to taste coconut. TJ’s brand doesn’t taste like coconut. Neither their coconut cream or coconut milk has much of any taste of coconut. In this case, that’s what I wanted. I wasn’t making a coconut soup with vegetables, I merely wanted the creamy texture. If you want coconut milk that tastes like coconut, do buy Thai Kitchen. I buy it from a Costco that’s not near me at all as not all Costco’s carry it. Or use the link for amazon.

I scooped about a cup of soup into the bowl, added some grated Cheddar on top and a sprig of Italian parsley. Done.

What’s GOOD: altogether delicious. Healthy for sure. Lots of flavor (maybe it’s the broth that did it – but surely all the various veggies contributed too). The soup has some heat from the poblano chiles. If you’re sensitive to heat, use just one, or substitute green bell peppers. I don’t like green bell peppers, so you’ll almost never see them in my cooking repertoire! This recipe is a keeper in my book, and that’s saying something since I’m a bit reluctant to even make vegetable soup since I assume it’ll be blah. Not so with this one.

What’s NOT: really nothing. It’s a very flavorful soup. Relatively low in calorie too. A keeper, and yes, I’ll be making it again. It should freeze well.

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Vegetable and Cheddar Soup

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2023
Servings: 12

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion — chopped
2 large leeks — cleaned, chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 cup celery — chopped
2 small carrots — chopped
2 medium zucchini — chopped
1 medium yellow squash — chopped
2 medium poblano peppers — seeded, chopped
2 medium red bell peppers — seeded, chopped
1 large sweet potato
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
7 cups vegetable broth — I used Better Than Bouillon, seasoned vegetable base
15 ounces coconut cream
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese — grated
1 1/2 cups canned corn — optional
1 cup frozen peas — optional
Salt and pepper to taste — (won’t need much salt)
Grated cheddar for serving, plus Italian parsley

NOTES: If desired, add a can of beans, or pasta, or rice, wild rice (precook it), brown rice (also precook it). I try to eat fewer carbohydrates, and sweet potatoes (which are a resistant starch) flow through your body with less absorption as a carb.
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot.
2. Add onion and leeks and stir frequently as the vegetable sweat for about 7-10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add garlic, celery, carrots, zucchini, squash, poblano peppers, red bell peppers and sweet potato. Add bouillon and water, or vegetable broth.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through.
4. Remove about 3 cups of soup and puree in blender (or use immersion blender), and return to the soup pot. Add coconut cream, grated cheese, corn (if using) and peas (if using). Taste for seasonings. When serving, grate more cheese on top and add some Italian parsley for color.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 25g Fat (64.5% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 648mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 260mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 554mg Potassium; 247mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on January 27th, 2023.

Love those haricot verts. One of my favorite vegetables.

A post from Carolyn. A few  years ago I was enjoying a dinner out with friends, and the waiter came to our table to tell us about the specials. He listed off several, then got to the last one and said the entree was served with harr-eh-cot-vertz. It was like scratching your fingernail on a blackboard. Oof. I quickly told him how to pronounce it – hair-eh-co-vehr. I don’t think he believed me because he gave me a rather blank look. I said, “next time you’re in the kitchen, go ask the chef.” He did, and came back later to say yes, I was correct. He asked me again how to say it and he painstakingly wrote it down on his little waiter notebook. Why exactly we don’t called them “baby green beans” I don’t know. For a long time (years ago) these beans were certainly considered “gourmet,” not ordinary, and were hard to find. I suppose it’s like a lot of French culinary words that have become part of our English speaking – like Bouillabaisse, or fondue, baba au rum, and others. How about boeuf bourgignon. There is no English translation of bourgignon. Hence, haricot verts, friends! I’m not a French speaker, but any good home cook will learn some French as they learn to cook and bake!

Just in case you don’t see them regularly in your market, they’re really just young green beans, plucked before they get big or woody or tough. Trader Joe’s sells them for a very good price in a little 12 ounce package. They’re all cleaned and trimmed. I used 3 packages for this salad/side dish.

The recipe came from David Tanis, the acclaimed chef and author. He worked at Chez Panisse for awhile, and currently writes a weekly column for the New York Times. This recipe came from an article in Food & Wine magazine a few years back.

The green beans are cooked just until bite-tender and cooled. The original recipe had you prepare dried white or cannellini beans, but I’m too lazy – I buy canned. But since there were seasonings in the dried beans as they cooked (onion, bay leaf and thyme) I decided to add onion powder, powdered bay leaf and dried thyme to the salad dressing instead. It was an easy substitution. I made the salad dressing the day before and let it sit out on my kitchen counter overnight, so the flavors would blend. The cannellini beans were drained and rinsed, then I combined just a bit of the dressing in with the beans and they sat in the frig overnight. When I was ready to serve, I scooped the beans down the center of the platter, then the haricot verts around the outside, sort of haphazardly, then drizzled the dressing over everything, using my hands a little bit to distribute the dressing on the beans. If you want to toss the dressing thoroughly with the green beans, do it separately then put them on the platter. I garnished the platter with some halved cherry tomatoes (mostly for color) and a bunch of chopped Italian parsley.

Everything for this was prepped the day before – in this case I was taking it to someone else’s home – so I just put everything into a big tote bag (separately) and composed the salad at serving time.

What’s GOOD: a lovely, different side veg or salad, however you want to think of it. The dressing was really nice. I’d definitely make this again, if only for the color/photo factor. I had several nice comments about the salad when it was served. Certainly there are different textures here – the soft cannellini beans and the just crisp-tender green beans. And the shallot vinaigrette was really delicious.

What’s NOT: only that you need to start a bit ahead, although you certainly could make this and serve it immediately. I wanted the salad dressing to meld a bit; that’s all.

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Haricot Verts and Cannellini Beans with Shallot Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Adapted from David Tanis, Oct 2018
Servings: 12

30 ounces canned cannelini beans — drained and rinsed
2 pounds haricots verts — trimmed
2 large shallots — minced
2 garlic cloves — minced
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme — crushed in your palms
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them on a towel-lined, large rimmed baking sheet to cool.
2. In a lidded jar, combine the shallots, garlic, onion powder, powdered bay leaf, dried thyme, mustard and both vinegars. Add a pinch of salt and let the vinaigrette stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow dressing to rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours or overnight to meld flavors. If time allows, combine the drained and canned beans with about 3 tablespoons of dressing and refrigerate until time to serve.
3. Arrange cannellini beans on a large platter and drizzle about 2 tablespoons dressing over them. Decoratively arrange the green beans around the platter and drizzle the remaining dressing on them. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle top with parsley and cherry tomatoes.
Per Serving: 143 Calories; 9g Fat (58.6% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 30mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 198mg Potassium; 68mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on January 20th, 2023.

This has “comfort food” written all over it. First bite to the last.

A post from Carolyn. It’s no secret that I love shepherd’s pie. And traditionally, it’s made with ground lamb. If you make it with beef, it’s considered cottage pie. This version has all the ingredients, but made into a soup instead. I’m not sure when I began making shepherd’s pie – decades ago – maybe I had it on my very first trip to Britain in about 1978. I’ve always made it with beef. Maybe we Americans have adopted the title, but without keeping to the British tradition of lamb. I like it with either. And originally, the “pie” was made with tiny, minced up pieces of leftover roast, not the ground meat we buy at the grocery store. I started with a recipe I found online, but then augmented it with more flavor (mushrooms, celery).

Because I try to limit carbs, I made this with less potatoes. To explain . . . this soup has two quantities of potatoes in it: (1 part) cooked separately, made into mashed potatoes (or use some leftover you have) and added to the finished soup to give it a thick texture; and (2nd part) cubed potatoes added in at the end of cooking and cooked in the soup just until done. You can see a cube right on that spoon in the photograph. Originally this recipe called for a total of 3 pounds of potatoes. I used about 1 1/2 pounds total with half in the mashed potato part and half in the soup. You can change this to suit your wants or your family’s.

Important flavors in this soup: Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and mushrooms. All umami flavors. Actually, because I didn’t want to have beef, I used Impossible Burger meat in mine. Because it’s mixed into a soup, truly you’d never know the difference. And if you want to eliminate the meat altogether, you’ll have a delicious vegetarian soup. Just make sure the broth you add has lots of flavor.

What’s GOOD: altogether comfort food. Good stick-to-the-ribs winter meal. Serve with some crackers or toasted bread and you have a full meal. This is going onto my favorites list as I’ll be making it again soon.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. This is a keeper.

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Cottage Pie Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 7

3/4 pound potatoes — peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup onion — diced
1 cup celery — chopped
1 cup carrots — diced
2 cloves garlic — chopped
1 pound ground beef — or lamb, or meat substitute
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces mushrooms — chopped, mixed variety
4 cups low sodium beef broth
3/4 pound potatoes — peeled and cubed (yes, this is listed twice)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
1 cup frozen peas salt and pepper to taste
More grated cheddar and chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. MASHED POTATOES: Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. When they’re tender, drain them, mash with a potato masher (or mixer), then add butter. Add half of the low sodium beef broth and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2. SOUP: Meanwhile, cook the beef, onions, celery and carrots in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, breaking the beef apart as it cooks, until the beef is cooked through, and drain off any excess grease. Add the mushrooms, garlic and tomato paste to the beef and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
3. Add remaining half of the broth, the uncooked cubed potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to the soup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
4. When the diced potatoes in the soup are tender, add the mashed potatoes, grated cheddar and let it melt into the soup, about 2 minutes, until it’s just heated through. Add the peas and heat, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more grated cheddar and some Italian parsley chopped on top.
Per Serving: 484 Calories; 29g Fat (52.7% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 703mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 307mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1101mg Potassium; 411mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Salads, Veggies/sides, on January 13th, 2023.

Oh so delicious. Served warm – it could be an entree, or a pasta side salad.

A post from Carolyn. Looking at this recipe, I might not have given it much attention. Kind of regular-type ingredients (pasta, sausage, broccolini, tomatoes, cheese). Not exactly ho-hum, but when you put them all together, it’s quite a tasty dish. This came from the December cooking class with Phillis Carey. She’s a Southern Italian (actual Sicilian) and she said this recipe comes from Puglia (pronounced poo-lee-ah). For me, the Italian sausage makes it a stand-out, but the creamy addition of ricotta cheese on top gave it a silky finish too. The grape tomatoes are roasted for 20-25 minutes until they’re just at that peak of plumpness and about to fall apart. Do save a little bit of the pasta water as you’ll want to add some of it at the very end to give the pasta a bit more smoothness.

If you have all the ingredients, you could probably make this in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

What’s GOOD: the combo is really delicious and filling. For me it’s the Italian sausage that gives it a wonderful taste. The tomatoes add umami flavor too, and you get in some veggies with the broccolini. Altogether wonderful.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – easy to make.

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Pugliese Orecchiette with Broccolini, Sausage and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor, Dec. 2022
Servings: 5

16 ounces grape tomatoes
3 cloves garlic — minced (divided use)
1 pinch red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil — (divided use)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound Italian sausage — casings removed
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
8 ounces broccolini — chopped into 1/2″ pieces, or use spinach
1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated fresh
1 whole lemon — zest and juice
1/2 cup ricotta cheese — whole milk type

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss grape tomatoes with 1 clove garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 2 T olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Spread in pie plate and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until tomatoes are blistered and they release some of their juices; set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a generous amount of salt. Add orecchiette and cook to al dente (take 3 minutes of time off the time listed on the box). Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 T olive oil, and sausage; cook, breaking up until meat is brown, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a plate, keeping the fat in the skillet. Add remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add broccolini and cook until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low.
4. Add pasta and sausage to skillet along with grated cheese, lemon zest and juice and a general few turns of black pepper. Stir in a few tablespoons of the pasta water if needed. Toss in the roasted tomatoes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top and sprinkle with more grated Parm. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 856 Calories; 51g Fat (54.4% calories from fat); 48g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 1395mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 949mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 794mg Potassium; 787mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Brunch, on January 6th, 2023.

What a nice dish this was for a leisurely brunch entree. And it’s very easy to make, besides!

A post from Carolyn. Over the Christmas holidays I entertained just once, a group of girlfriends I’ve known for decades. Every December we try to get together to celebrate Christmas and get caught  up on our lives. My friends brought other food to round out the brunch, so this was the only main thing I had to do. I also made some spiced fruit, a recipe I’ve made before, Spiced Peaches which went well with the little croissant sandwiches.

First you need mini-croissants. Some grocery stores carry them; others do not, but I had no difficulty finding them. I purchased some good Boar’s Head smoked ham, had the butcher slice it thinly, though not like those thin see-through shavings called sandwich slices. I cut the ham to approximately fit the shape of the croissant. I also had good imported Swiss cheese, also cut accordingly. I added a nice slice of tomato to these (not in the original recipe). Then you mix up the eggs and heavy cream, with an addition of mustard. The recipe called for Dijon (which I had), but because it was the holidays, I used Brennan’s cranberry mustard instead. I couldn’t really taste the mustard, but perhaps that was the point. It added flavor somehow but not noticeably!

This casserole needs to be assembled the night before, so you pour the custardy mixture over the sandwiches, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit. In the morning I used a big spoon to scoop  up some of the custard and drizzled it over the top of each of the croissants. Ideally, use a casserole dish that is JUST big enough to fit the number of croissants  you’re using. Mine was a little too big. It bakes for 40-45 minutes (do watch that the croissants don’t burn like mine almost did) and serve. The recipe has you put foil over the top during the last 15 minutes of baking (I did, and glad I did so!).

Be prepared to serve it immediately as the dish cools off quickly since it’s not a solid mass.

What’s GOOD: it was easy to make – very easy. Liked that I could make it the night before and nothing more to do except put it in the oven the next morning. This would be a solid breakfast entree for men/boys (although they’d probably eat two apiece) since it’s hearty.

What’s NOT: not a thing. Easy. Delicious.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Stuffed Ham and Cheese Croissant Casserole

Recipe By: adapted from Southern Living
Servings: 10

10 mini-croissants
10 ham slices — buy smoked ham cut 1/4″ thick
2 tomatoes — ripe, sliced
10 Swiss cheese slices — use imported Swiss if possible
6 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard — or cranberry mustard, if available
Thyme sprigs

1. Microwave ham slices between paper towels on a microwavable plate on HIGH 45 seconds. Blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture. [I didn’t do this step.]
2. Split croissants open with a serrated knife. Top bottom half of each croissant with 1 ham slice, then add tomato slice in between the two slices of ham. Add the Swiss cheese on top, cutting both ham and cheese to fit on croissant without much sticking out the sides. Cover with top half of croissant.
3. Place stuffed croissants in a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 13- x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Ideally use a casserole dish that is just large enough to place all 10, cozily, in the dish.
4. Whisk together eggs, heavy cream, and mustard in a large bowl. Pour mixture slowly over stuffed croissants. Use a spoon to drizzle the custard part all over the croissants. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap; If there is still liquid custard in the pan, use a spoon to drizzle it over all the croissants. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes, covering with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes to prevent over browning. Garnish with thyme sprigs.
Per Serving: 382 Calories; 33g Fat (78.6% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 208mg Cholesterol; 454mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 303mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 256mg Potassium; 298mg Phosphorus.

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