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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.

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:

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. This book is about a young man, a young father also, who loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good guy friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). As a parting request, his wife asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

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. It became a monument, of sorts, a lovely garden too, and people became friends, heard their stories of the tsunami and watched as they approached the phone booth, entered, and began to talk solemnly to their loved ones. This book is just amazing. I found myself tearing up several times. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating the poignancy of this special phone booth. And what it did to heal people through grief. I sure could identify.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move. It begins when Grace visits Monaco for the Cannes Film Festival, and a few days later she meets Prince Rainier. Young Sophie becomes Grace’s friend, and actually, so does the relentless photographer. I can remember when Grace Kelly married the Prince – the fairy tale come true. It was quite the big news (I was in my late teens then). Definitely this story is a romance, but not the sappy type you may be used to. Loved the book.

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

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.

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

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

Tasting Spoons

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

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Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on June 7th, 2021.

In cooking terms, what does “outrageous” mean to you?

A post from Carolyn.  So, outrageous . . . the word? Out of the box? Rich? Decadent? Probably all of the above. And this recipe qualifies on all counts. Maybe not so much on “out of the box” except that it’s an outrageous amount of chocolate in them. You can see on the right all the various packages of chocolate I unwrapped – unsweetened, semi-sweet plus the dark chocolate chips too.

Of course, the batch, baked in a half sheet pan, makes 20 (or more) servings, so to tell you that it calls for a pound of butter and nearly 3 pounds of chocolate . . . it does make a lot. I cut them into smaller pieces, so I got about 30+ squares from the pan. Not counting the two small one-inch square pieces I ate while the pan was cooling. . .

The recipe comes from Ina Garten. I think I saw her make these on her TV show awhile back – that’s probably why I already had it in my recipe collection. And perhaps it’s in one of her cookbooks as well? I haven’t checked. As I write this I’m having a wine tasting event here at my house. To serve a variety of wines with appropriate appetizers to go with them. Some white, some red. I’ve made home made caponata (I’ll post it soon – couldn’t believe that recipe wasn’t already here on the blog). I’m going to open a bottle of red after-dinner wine, which will go with the brownies. I still have a couple hundred bottles of wine in the wine cellar – 99% of them from when my DH Dave was still alive (and he’s been gone for 7 years now). And 95% of them are reds. A few of the bottles got poured out as they didn’t cellar well, but mostly the wine has been fabulous.  I did go out and purchase a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc, one of my favorites if I’m drinking a white. Many years ago Dave and I spent time in New Zealand, and I fell in love with Cloudy Bay wines.

Know from the beginning, that there are several steps:

Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolate and butter

Mix the 7 eggs, sugar and vanilla together

Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl

Mix the add-ins (chocolate chips and walnuts) separately, and coat with flour.

If you know all of the above when you start, you’ll get it all in the right order. First thing is to melt the chocolate and butter (either in the microwave – see the instructions – or over the stove in a double boiler or on top of a flame-tamer – the latter is what I did) and let it cool some. While you’re doing that, get all the rest of the ingredients together in their proper bowls. Heat the oven, then start mixing. The chocolate mixture does need to cool to room temp before you can proceed. Hot chocolate + raw eggs = scrambled eggs, maybe. So be careful.

The only unusual thing – after 20 minutes in the oven, open the door, pull out the rack, pick up the sheet pan a bit and rap the pan on the baking rack, to pump out any air trapped in between the pan and the parchment. After they finish baking, the brownies are cooled to room temp, refrigerated (yes) for an hour – THEN you can cut them. Makes for easier slicing. They’ll store in the frig (in an airtight container) for a week. Otherwise, freeze them, tightly wrapped in foil.

What’s GOOD: oh my gosh, are these wonderful. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll be over the moon. I used dark chocolate chips so these were pure decadence for me. Wonderful. Marvelous. A keeper. Rich. Buttery. Yessss.

What’s NOT: don’t be on a diet when you make these.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Outrageous Brownies

Recipe By: Ina Garten
Serving Size: 20 (or 30)

CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE:
16 ounces unsalted butter
16 ounces semisweet chocolate — finely chopped
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate — bar type, finely chopped (not cocoa)
EGG MIXTURE:
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
DRY MIXTURE:
1 cup all-purpose flour — divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
CHIPS & NUTS:
3 cups chopped walnuts
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup flour

1. PREP: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13×18-inch rimmed half sheet pan (or grease and line with parchment paper).
2. CHOCOLATE BUTTER MIXTURE: Place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. (Alternately, you can also melt the butter and chocolates in a double boiler on the stovetop). Allow to cool slightly.
3. EGG & SUGAR MIXTURE: In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. DRY MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture and stir gently with the wooden spoon until mostly combined.
5. NUT & CHIPS MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter and stir until totally incorporated. Pour into the baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and cut into 20 large squares (and those are very large). Leftover brownies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze in foil for longer storage. If you cut smaller squares you can certainly have 30 servings that are more “normal” sized squares.
Per Serving (cut into 20 pieces): 670 Calories; 48g Fat (61.5% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium; 45g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 335mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, Fish, on June 2nd, 2021.

EASY! Have salmon? Asparagus? Cream? Yogurt, cilantro, ginger and curry powder? Plus some red curry paste (Thai)? You can make this in a jiffy. 

A post from Carolyn. What I had on hand was a nice, big piece of salmon. And I had asparagus. But no recipe. I decided to “wing it,” and I’m so glad I did. I was in the mood for curry, and this was so very easy to make. Of late, I’ve wanted to simmer fish over very low heat on the stovetop rather than baking or grilling it – mainly because I love the smooth silkiness of salmon that’s been poached. And I overcook fish too often when it’s oven baked or grilled. It’s a turn-off to me to eat a piece of overcooked (aka: dry) fish. This way, it’s moist, tender, and just so easy to eat that way.

First I dug out my jar of ghee, and slowly warmed a dollop of it in the pan while I chopped up half an onion and added it. Then I grated some fresh ginger and added that into the mix. Then I minced up some fresh garlic, sprinkled in a bit of salt and pepper. Curry powder and red curry paste were added, along with Greek yogurt (don’t use nonfat) and some cream. I let that simmer for about 5 minutes over very low heat.

The slab of salmon was added, and I spooned the sauce over the top of the salmon, put on a lid and let it heat up, allowing it simmer for about 6 minutes. I checked how it was doing, and when I could still see that the salmon wasn’t quite cooked through, I took it out. I knew the salmon would continue to cook as I continued with the dish.

The asparagus I prepped differently – I left a few spears whole (but trimmed), and the rest of them I cut up into little pieces. Both were added to the sauce still in the pan. Once the pan came up to a simmer again, I put the lid back on and let it bubble away, slowly for about 4 minutes. I tested the asparagus and when a knife would slip easily into the asparagus, it was done. I removed the asparagus to the serving plate(s), then poured the sauce over the salmon and added a few sprigs of cilantro. Done. The whole meal took about 20 minutes. Yeah! Serve with rice on the side too – I didn’t – but it would be great to sop up all the rest of the sauce on the plate.

What’s GOOD: how easy this was – start to finish, about 20 minutes. Really lovely, subtle curry heat and lots of flavor. Asparagus was crisp-tender and went well with the fish. I have leftovers and will do nothing but reheat in the microwave. Because the fish was just slightly under-done, I think the fish will reheat without overcooking it. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, unless you don’t have all the ingredients.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salmon in Creamy Curry Sauce with Asparagus

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 2

1 tablespoon ghee
1/2 yellow onion — diced
1 large clove garlic — minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger — finely minced salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Thai red chili paste
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — unflavored, unsweetened
1/2 cup heavy cream
12 ounces salmon
6 ounces asparagus
2 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. In a large skillet, melt ghee and bring it up to medium heat. Add onion and ginger. Cook for 2-4 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic, salt and pepper. Add chili paste, curry powder and stir until combined. Add yogurt and cream and stir until mixture comes to a low simmer.
2. Add salmon (leave whole or cut into serving pieces) and spoon sauce over top of salmon. Bring back to a low simmer; cover and continue cooking for about 6 minutes, until outer edges of salmon are cooked through. Interior of salmon may still be “rare,” but will continue to cook once it’s removed from the pan.
3. Remove salmon and set aside.
4. Cut half of asparagus into small pieces, leaving 4-6 spears whole. Add to simmering cream sauce; cover pan and keep on low heat until asparagus is cooked through, but not soft, about 4-6 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus).
5. Cut the salmon into serving pieces and spoon sauce over the top, along with the spears and chopped up asparagus on the side. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 594 Calories; 41g Fat (62.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 244mg Cholesterol; 194mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 95mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1029mg Potassium; 577mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 27th, 2021.

Refreshing spring side-dish salad with Asian flavors

This is a post from Karen.  Back in 1976 when I was 9 our family and a number of others on our block hosted high school students from Japan.  Some of the students were game to host a potluck with dishes from their hometown.   Minoru was staying with our neighbor and he put together a dish his mother would make.  He enjoyed its simplicity and fresh spring flavors.  We enjoyed it so much, my mom made a  point to get the recipe from him.

It would be over a decade before we ventured into sushi, but our family has fully embraced that as well.  My dad and I even took a class on making sushi.  My son was 3 when I took him for his first taste.  He was starving after his Tae Kwon Do “Tiny Tigers” class and right across the street was what would become his favorite sushi bar, so I walked him in and let him order off of the picture menu.  He picked Ikura, which is the sushi topped with Salmon roe.  I had not ordered that personally because it was a texture I wasn’t into, and fishier than I chose to venture. I didn’t think I should be ordering something I grew up putting on the end of my fishing hook to catch trout!  I was about to stop my son from ordering it, but then told myself that I shouldn’t censor or bias his food choices just because they might not be mine.  Who knows, he might like it.  And guess what, he did!  I asked him what he liked about it and he told me, “It tastes good and I like the way the balls pop in my teeth!” For the next two years that was always the first thing he ordered.  The owner and the sushi chef were so delighted to see this American kid enjoying their sushi instead of asking for buttered pasta that they made a point to spoil him rotten and ensure that his parents brought him back, which we happily did for many years before we moved.  But I digress, back to the Harusame Salad and 1976:

Back then we didn’t have rice vinegar as an option, so mom used apple cider vinegar.  We used regular white sugar at the time, but now I’ve tried alternatives and settled on palm sugar.  Whichever one you use, I make the sauce first so the sugar has time to dissolve. I have listed one tablespoon of sugar, but the original recipe said 1-2 TBS.  One works fine for me.  If you only have access to thick-skinned and waxed cucumbers I would go ahead and peel those.

Short on time?

I have also cut the noodles by picking up a hand full and cutting them with my kitchen scissors directly into the bowl.

I have experimented over the years with different vegetables and proteins.  I was out of ham but had chicken.  And when I was out of cucumbers I used red bell pepper or carrots.  But I always stuck to Minoru’s premise that everything should be uniform in size, roughly 3″ lengths for the noodles, vegetable, and protein.  Once it is done, it’s all I can do to wait and give the flavors a chance to meld for at least 30 minutes.  It doesn’t last long after that because we all love it so much.  I do make a point to use chopsticks when I eat this.  They hold onto the noodles better than a fork can. I also use it up within 1-2 days.  Otherwise, the cucumbers get soft, releasing more of their liquid and ultimately diluting the flavor.

What’s good:  Very easy, fresh flavors, great texture between the crunch of the cucumbers and the chew of the noodles and ham.

What’s not:  It disappears too fast.  Will get watery and dull if not eaten within a couple days.

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Harusame Salad

Recipe By: Minoru, a Japanese Exchange student that stayed with our neighbors in 1976
Serving Size: 8

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
1 tablespoon sugar — I use palm sugar
150 grams Saifun Bean Threads — dried bean noodle package, softened and cut in roughly 3″ lengths
1 large cucumber — or 1 large Japanese or English Cucumer or 2-3 Persian cucumbers cut in matchsticks.
6 ounces ham slices — Black Forest or Canadian bacon works, cut in matchsticks
Garnish: toasted white sesame seeds, chopped green cilantro, onion or chives
Additions: red bell pepper, seaweed, tofu, carrots, shredded egg omlette, chicken

1. Mix together rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar and set aside.
2. Set noodles in a deep dish and cover with boiling water, let stand about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well and chop into 3″ lengths. Place cut noodles in mixing bowl.
3. Cut cucumber and ham into 3″ matchstick pieces and add to bowl with noodles.
4. Give sauce a final stir and pour over noodle mixture, toss all ingredients to mix well.
5. Let chill in refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
6. Use within 2 days.

Per Serving: 129 Calories; 4g Fat (25.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 448mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 14mg Calcium; trace Iron; 152mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 22nd, 2021.

These tacos arrive with the warmer weather and fresh fruit!

This is a post from Karen.  While there are dishes I rely on often, I allow a lot of my menus to be dictated by what is fresh for that season.  This week fresh mango and papaya wandered into my kitchen, bringing with them the memory of yummy light fish tacos we had done the last time they came to visit. Fortunately, I had some fresh-frozen cod in my freezer.  I’ve used sole in the past, but have been wanting to find more ways to work cod into our menu.  In this preparation, working from frozen is nice because after just a little thaw I can slice them more easily into uniform pieces for more even cooking.
I like that this dish doesn’t take long and that the salsa and fish can be prepped a few hours ahead to come together quickly later.  The Peruvian Chile Lime seasoning from Savory Spice is used for both the fish and the salsa.  I also love adding some to my fresh guacamole.  If you don’t have access to that feel free to try your own spice blend!  New for me this time was the Cholula Green Pepper Hot Sauce, thanks to my son who added it to my cart the last time we were at the market.  I have to be careful how often he goes with me, he can be a very enthusiastic shopper, but if I think he is going overboard I just tell him he can have it if he can pay for it…The sauce has quite a kick, and I loved topping my taco with a few shakes from the bottle.  Since jalapeno heat can vary, the amount I put in can adjust as needed.  Today’s batch was pretty mild, I could have safely added a third.

What’s GOOD:  An easy sell to Powell and Vaughan!  Comes together quickly, but if REALLY short on time Salsa can be prepped ahead.  Can substitute other white fish. Could change out tortillas for lettuce cups if still working off those Pandemic Pounds….like I am…

What’s NOT: People who don’t like fish.  erase erase erase, just kidding.  It’s a winner in our house.

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Cod Tacos with Mango Papaya Salsa

Recipe By: Karen’s Inspiration
Serving Size: 5

MANGO AND PAPAYA SALSA
1 cup mango — peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 cup papaya — peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 cup red onion — cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 cup cilantro — roughly chopped
2 jalapenos — minced
2 limes
1 teaspoon salt — or to taste
Savory Spice brand Peruvian Chili Lime Seasoning, about 1 teaspoon or to taste
TACOS
20 Ounces cod fillets — sole works great too, cubed small
1/2 teaspoon salt Savory Spice brand Peruvian Chili Lime Seasoning, about 1 teaspoon or to taste
1 tablespoon oil — grape seed or EVOO both work great
12 corn tortillas
CONDIMENTS: Hot Sauce (Cholula Green Pepper recommended), Sour Cream, Lime wedges, Cubed Avocado Note, may need to use two tortillas per taco if too fragile with one.

1. Prepare the salsa ingredients, combine and set aside.
2. Evenly distribute the seasoning over the cut fish.
3. Heat saute pan with oil on medium heat and saute the fish until opaque, about 4 minutes
4. Heat tortillas, I microwaved 6 at a time in a tortilla warmer for two rounds of 30 seconds on high.
5. Divide fish among the 12 tortillas, top each taco with 2-3 tablespoons salsa and garnish as desired.
Note: The Chalula Green Pepper has a kick. Serve immediately. Serving Ideas : Can make Salsa several hours ahead. Fish can be cut and seasoned hours ahead, ready to saute.
Per Serving: 317 Calories; 6g Fat (15.2% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 792mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 101mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 855mg Potassium; 443mg Phosphorus. 

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 16th, 2021.

Hi there, I’m Karen.  I have enjoyed being Carolyn’s daughter-in-law for almost 20 years now.  Both sides of our family enjoy getting in the kitchen.  I love the holidays as much for enjoying what everyone brings to the table as I do for how it can bring us all together.  My husband, Powell, and I have one son, Vaughan and you will likely see our Bernese Mountain Dog, Shelby from time to time. (Yes, I have to sweep the Shelby hair out of the kitchen before I start cooking!) As you have seen from Carolyn’s previous entries, we are doing what we can to encourage Vaughan’s confidence in the kitchen too!

In addition to enjoying the kitchen, I teach piano and enjoy reading, camping, fishing, gardening, volunteering on the school district foundation, and a number of winter sports.  I used to do Tae Kwon Do regularly until my body decided I would have some arthritis in my hip.  So….I’ve adjusted my sights.  But I do miss that one!

Customers never saw the lovely backside of this machine. It had to face the wall in Dad’s shop.

So, what is with the picture of the espresso maker?  When Powell and I were getting married, my Dad had just retired from running his coffee business of 13 years.  I was visiting my parents one day, standing in the garage with my dad, who had just asked what I would like for a wedding present.  I looked over at the professional copper espresso maker just sitting in his garage and said – If that is going to just sit in here, I’d love the Espresso Machine!”  My soon-to-be husband thought I was nuts…until a few years later when we had the opportunity to install it and get it back in action.  I can’t say it is practical but it comes with a lot of great memories from my Dad’s store and has helped us create even more as we gather with friends and family.

I look forward to sharing my kitchen exploits with you- recipes coming soon!

Posted in Breads, on May 14th, 2021.

Kind of weird shapes, but tasted great with nutmeg in them.

One of the mornings my family was at the desert house, I made scones. There hasn’t been a whole lot of baking going on in that kitchen, truth be told. There is no stand mixer – just a mediocre hand-held Rival mixer. Discovered there was no pastry blender, either. And there isn’t a food processor. Sara and I haven’t decided if we really need those things there – we go there to relax, so perhaps we don’t need the fancy kitchen appliances. There’s an electric range, of course, an oven, a Maytag dishwasher (many years old, but works just fine) and a microwave. There is also a Maytag washer and dryer. Old. Back in the day when Maytag’s name meant good quality. So I hear that’s not necessary so anymore. We’re going to continue using those old appliances as long as they keep running.

Speaking of the electric range, Sara and I had decided from the get-go that we wanted to have gas plumbed into the kitchen. Well, that was before we found out what a big job it would be. There is gas within about 6 feet of the kitchen range, but because it’s a condo, it has a shared wall with the condo next door. We’d have to tear out about 6 feet of wall in the existing kitchen to pipe the gas through studs, etc. Probably not worth doing. Probably not going to happen. Maybe we’ll look into induction when the range needs replacing.

There is a very cheap blender in that kitchen that we haven’t used. And in this case, there was a potato masher (I bought a set of kitchen utensils from Rachael Ray, and a potato masher was included). I didn’t know how well that utensil would work for mixing scones, but it seemed to function pretty well. The house came furnished, and the kitchen drawers were chock-full of things, but no pastry blender. There had been a nice KitchenAid stand mixer when we were looking at the house, but when the sellers cleared things out, that went too. I have a small food processor (about a 2 cup size) that I think I’ll take out there. We’ll see if that will work sufficiently well without buying a big one.

I wasn’t sure we had nutmeg at that house, so I took some from home; I had butter, flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Didn’t have a round cutter for scones, so I just cut them sort-of square-ish. But, as you know, shape isn’t important! The dough was on the dry side, so I added a little bit of milk to make the dough slightly sticky. That’s what you’re looking for.

The family enjoyed them. I loved the nutmeg. You know, nutmeg can be a rather overpowering spice. Like cloves (which can be so easily over-done). But the nutmeg – even though there was quite a bit of it in the scones, was just fine. I rounded the measuring spoon too, so I put in more than had been called for. We didn’t serve them with jam – just butter. And the family of 6 of us ate all but a couple of the ones on that tray.

What’s GOOD: loved the nutmeg in them. Nice and tender. They tasted wonderful with just butter, but the recipe, originally from Bon Appetit in 2003, suggested clotted cream and raspberry jam. They’d be lovely, too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Nutmeg Scones

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit
Serving Size: 6

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, or sugar substitute
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg — freshly grated, or use bottled ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter — chilled
1 cup sour cream
1-3 teaspoons of milk if needed for dough pliability
EGG WHITE GLAZE:
1 large egg white — beaten to blend with 2 teaspoons water (for glaze)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in food processor; blend 10 seconds. Using on/off turns, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add sour cream. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form. If the dough is too dry, add milk in 1-2 teaspoons portions until dough begins to come together.
2. Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead 4 turns to form ball. Roll out dough to 8-inch square (about 3/4 inch thick). Cut square into wedges. Or form into a rectangle and cut into squares.
3. Lightly whip the egg white – just enough to loosen the white. Brush on top of scones, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
4. Transfer to baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake scones until tops are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer scones to rack and cool slightly. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Rewarm in 350°F oven 10 minutes, if desired.) If not eaten after 24 hours, freeze.
Per Serving: 358 Calories; 18g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 443mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 163mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 109mg Potassium; 227mg Phosphorus. 

Posted in Salads, on May 8th, 2021.

A lovely, very curry-centric green salad with chicken, fat glossy grapes, fresh asparagus and toasted pine nuts

To digress just a little bit – the blog has now been “migrated,” they call it, to a different platform, and I won’t be getting any of those overage charges. Whew. I’ve lost sleep over this whole thing. So stressful. Mostly the hard work is done now, although I still need to figure out the email subscriptions and some other things. I was shocked to discover that 487 of you have subscribed to the blog. Wow. Thank you, friends and readers! The subscription function doesn’t work the same on this platform, so soon I’ll be adding email subscriptions (in the background) and you may get some kind of email asking you to authorize it. Don’t know about that, as I haven’t delved into it deeply enough yet. And the window where readers input an email address (on the home page) doesn’t function correctly, so I’ve got to figure this out. There are several other things I’m not able to access or accomplish, but hopefully I’ll get it figured out eventually. Need to understand it well enough so I can teach Karen and Sara how to do it too.

So, on to salads. Last weekend I went out to the condo in the desert (Palm Desert) to spend the weekend with daughter Sara and her husband John, and son Powell, his wife Karen and their son, Vaughan. We had a busy weekend, with them visiting an air museum in Palm Springs, and another day all of them going out into the deep desert to go shooting at targets. Not my thing, so I stayed home and did some cooking. We went out to a nice restaurant one night, cooked burgers another (with birthday cake for two family members). It was beastly hot, unfortunately (unseasonably), but we still enjoyed being together as a family. Do note, the new photo on the sidebar of the blog. New picture of the three of us.

When Karen and family arrived it was 106° outside. It was nice and cool inside, thank goodness, so I’d made this salad. Originally, the recipe came from Kalyn’s Kitchen, but I did a lot of tweaking of the recipe itself, adding other ingredients to both the salad and the dressing.

First off, I had really huge chicken breasts, so I poached them – really I steeped them. I mixed orange juice and water, with some salt and pepper, brought it to a boil, slid in the chicken, brought it back up to a simmer, covered it, turned off the heat and let it steep (like tea) for an hour. The chicken was fully cooked, and so very tender and juicy. Once cooled, I cut the chicken into cubes and bite-sized pieces. The dressing I’d made ahead, but I’d added some vinegar (my Meyer lemons were too sweet, so thought the dressing needed a bit more acid), some EVOO too. I tossed the salad with the grape halves, arugula, Romaine and also the asparagus I’d cooked earlier and chilled. The toasted pine nuts sprinkled on the top made for nice texture too. The picture above doesn’t do it justice, really. The family thought the salad was well worth blogging about.

What’s GOOD: lovely for a warm summer’s evening, tender juicy chicken, powerful curry dressing (if you aren’t enamored with curry, either eliminate it or reduce the quantity of curry powder), and the texture from the asparagus, grapes and pine nuts.

What’s NOT: only that there are several steps (steeping the chicken, cooking the asparagus and the other general prep).

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Curried Chicken Salad with Asparagus, Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

Recipe By: My adaptation of a Kalyn’s Kitchen recipe
Servings: 6

1 pound asparagus spears — trimmed and cut into diagonal 2 inch pieces
1 whole lemon — (zest the skin and squeeze the juice)
3 large chicken breasts without skin — to yield about 4 cups
1 cup orange juice — mixed with 2 cups water
1 cup green onion — sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts — toasted
1 cup red grapes — halved
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 cups arugula — or more if needed
3 cups romaine lettuce — chopped or torn, or more if needed
DRESSING:
5 tablespoons Greek yogurt, full-fat — may substitute sour cream or buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — or more if desired
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white vinegar — or more lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Cut off woody ends of asparagus.  Cut asparagus on the diagonal into pieces and then cook in salted water for 3 minutes.  Do not overcook – you want the asparagus to be tender-crisp.
2.  Zest the lemon then cut lemon in half and squeeze the juice.  Set aside.
3.  In another saucepan, combine the orange juice and water.  Season liquid with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Gently slide the chicken breasts into the water.  Cover, bring the water back to a simmer, and remove from the heat.  Set pan aside for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The chicken will have poached/cooked during that time.  Remove chicken, drain, allow to cool.  Discard the cooking water.  Cut chicken into small bite-sized pieces.  You may also use any leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken for this salad.
4.  Whisk together yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, curry powder, Dijon mustard, EVOO, vinegar (or more lemon juice) lemon zest and sea salt to make the curry dressing.  Taste for seasoning.
5.  Drain asparagus into a colander.  Then lay out a paper towel on the counter and spread out the asparagus on the towel.  Cover with another paper towel and gently blot away as much water as possible.
6.  Slice green onions on the diagonal and toast the pine nuts.
7.  Combine diced chicken, asparagus, green onions, grapes, arugula and Romaine with desired amount of dressing; you may not need all the dressing if you prefer your salads to be fairly dry.  Gently stir in the green onion and grapes.  Season the finished salad to taste with salt and fresh-ground black pepper, and serve, sprinkling the toasted pine nuts all over the top of the salad.  If you have any extra dressing you might want to add a bit more right when you serve the salad.  If you prefer, you can leave the asparagus whole, and serve the spears on top of the salad – with the toasted pine nuts – for a pretty appearance.
Per Serving: 411 Calories; 20g Fat (43.5% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 107mg Cholesterol; 285mg Sodium; 13g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 103mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 1183mg Potassium; 458mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, on April 30th, 2021.

braised_corned_beef

The most succulent corned beef I’ve ever had. Bar none.

On St. Paddy’s Day (actually it was the day before – they were celebrating early), my son and his family invited me to their home for the day and evening. I’d been thinking about having a traditional corned beef dinner, but with being just me-myself-and-I, how could I eat up several pounds of corned beef? Yes, I could freeze some, but I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite so happy with leftovers once they’ve been frozen. So when they invited me, I jumped. A few days ago I shared the recipe for Colcannon that I made for the dinner.

Karen made this braised corned beef that was just off-the-charts. It was the most tasty and tender corned beef I’ve ever had. She bought 5 pounds of corned beef (larger than most grocery store cuts) and there were 4 of us for dinner, and maybe smaller portion leftovers for the 3 of them for another night. If you buy a smaller corned beef, it will still need the same number of hours of braising, you’ll just have less of it. As you no doubt know, corned beef shrinks a lot once cooked.

She’s been using this same recipe for several years, and she says it’s SO easy. She found the recipe at allrecipes.com. What’s different about it? Well, most recipes I’ve ever made, you simmer the beef for maybe 2-2 1/2 hours max. This recipe IS different. First Karen slathered both sides of the beef with HP sauce. You probably could use A-1, but HP is the British version. Once slathered, she browned it first on the stovetop in a little bit of vegetable oil, then put it into a big roasting pan on a rack, and covered the top with yellow onions and slivered garlic. Water was added to the pot and she covered the pot with foil to seal it really well. A note of caution: when browning the meat, wear an apron and also if possible put newspaper down on the floor, as the meat throws off a lot of spatter. Enough that their dog, Shelby, slipped in the grease and fell in it (I expect there was a bit of dog-licking-floor action going on after that). So, pay attention to that part.

braised_corned_beef_in_panThe tight foil-sealed roasting pan then went into a 275°F oven for just about 6 hours. I put 5 hours on the photo, but it was actually 6 hours. And you do not want to pull it out to “check on it.” If you do, it loses all that head of steam that’s been slowly tenderizing the meat. So do NOT open the foil covered pan at all during that time. If you do, add about another hour of baking time.

Once out of the oven, Karen put it on a big cutting board (see picture at top). You can see all the HP sauce browned into the top (picture at left). Brisket contains a goodly amount of water, and plenty of fat, so you can see there was about a scant cup of liquid in the bottom of the pan. I was surprised at the addition of just one tablespoon of water – but Karen assured me the recipe is correct. She thinks the onions also provide some liquid.

What’s GOOD: oh my. So succulent and juicy. SOO very tender. The most tender corned beef I’ve ever had. This will be my new go-to recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you need to plan ahead as it requires 6 hours of baking time, plus the 25-30 minutes of browning first.

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Braised Corned Beef Brisket

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from All Recipes
Serving Size: 7

5 pounds corned beef brisket — flat cut
2 tablespoons HP sauce — British imported browning sauce, similar to A-1 sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion — sliced
6 cloves garlic — sliced
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 275°F (135 degrees C).
2. Discard any flavoring packet from corned beef. Brush brisket with HP browning sauce on both sides. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown brisket on both sides in the hot oil, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Advice from my daughter-in-law: Do wear an apron, and you might put newspaper on the floor around your stove, as the browning process throws off a lot of grease.
3. Place brisket on a rack set in a roasting pan. Scatter onion and garlic slices over brisket and add water to roasting pan. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Do not open the foil at all during the braising time as it will lose all of the built-up steam.
4. Roast in the preheated oven until meat is tender, about 6 hours.
Per Serving: 669 Calories; 50g Fat (69.0% calories from fat); 48g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 175mg Cholesterol; 3949mg Sodium; 1g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 31mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 996mg Potassium; 388mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 22nd, 2021.

Unbeknownst to all of you readers, there’s been a problem brewing behind the “face” of my blog. Some hackers have created a robotic script and have been trying to gain access to my blog.  Trying to take it down – just for the fun of it. No, we don’t know where they’re from. It’s a game to them – to try to access blogs or websites, go in and destroy stuff, so the website can’t operate. Such hackers are wreaking havoc all over the world doing this – it’s not just me or my blog. Once the blog is taken down by the hackers, the owner has to have a programmer recreate it to get it up and running again. You can’t prevent them from trying, although I’ve done various things to discourage the attempts. But they keep trying. Last month I had over 360,000 attempts to get into my blog. Can you imagine? Good thing I have a really strong password. Makes me think I need to create a new password that’s at least 160 characters long. With numerous numbers, symbols, capitol letters, etc. You know the drill on that stuff.

The problem was that all that robotic scripting (the login attempts) ran up my GPU usage, and I got dinged to the tune of about $50 last month on overage fees. Dang! So I had to take a hard look at my blog. Did I really want to keep doing this, running up these charges. Sara posts when she can, but she’s so busy at her full time job, she rarely has time, or remembers to take pictures of what she creates. Hard to do a post without a picture. So I’d almost decided I was going to close/shut my blog down altogether. But NO, I’m not.

I looked into some options, and have decided to move the blog to a different platform that doesn’t charge extra for those GPU overages. And, on top of that, my daughter in law, Karen, has decided that she’d really like to be part of the blog herself. She and Powell, and their son Vaughan, are all foodies of the first order. I’ve posted many recipes from Karen, or Powell, and some months ago I posted two recipes from Vaughan (13) who stayed with me for a few days.

Which means that I will be taking a more back-seat role here. After 14 years of food blogging, I’m cooking less, although I have to say I still feel that pressure to keep trying new recipes that might be blog-worthy. Sometimes they’re successes, sometimes not. Do I eat out much? No, not really, and not-at-all during this last Covid-year. Do I buy ready-made food? No, not at all. On a regular basis I eat a big green salad (with some kind of protein on it) about 6 evenings a week. Can’t really blog much about that, now can I?

I’ll still blog – I’m sure of it – because when I do make something new and fun, I’ll want to tell you about it. As I’ve explained before, when that happens, my fingers “itch” to get to the keyboard to tell all of you about it. Surely that will still happen.

As the next few weeks go by, I’ll introduce you to Karen, and Powell, and Vaughan, and hopefully going forward, you’ll get to know Karen’s cooking style. And Sara will chime in now and then too. I think I’m going to Powell & Karen’s for Mother’s Day, so perhaps we’ll take pictures and do a blog post from there. I need to spend some concentrated one-on-one time with Karen to acquaint her with how to blog.

There will be a difference on the posting face  – we’re going to simplify how recipes are posted. Neither Sara nor Karen want to fuss with the programming stuff (that I do because I like the recipe to look “pretty) to create a box that goes around a recipe. Nor do they want to pdf or create a MasterCook file, either. So it’ll be a post (the narrative) plus a recipe. You’ll want to cut and paste it to use somehow. To make my blog more print-easy, would require major programming – an expense I’m not willing to take on. Remember, I don’t take any advertising on my blog, so anything I do is out-of-pocket. My pocket.

In the next week or so my blog will migrate to a different server – hopefully you’ll never notice a difference, although at some point the blog will be off line for a short while, I suppose. They say they’ll do it at night so you’d not notice. We’ll see how that part goes.

. . . Carolyn T

Posted in Veggies/sides, on April 17th, 2021.

colcannon_bowl

You know Colcannon, right? An Irish dish, mashed potatoes with cabbage. This one also has green onions in it.

This recipe should have been posted BEFORE St. Patrick’s Day. Sorry about that . . . Maybe you can print it out and make it next year. Or anytime, really. I’d intended to add some cauliflower to it (to make it less carb-centric) but I forgot to take the cauliflower along with me to my son’s house the day we had this dinner.

I made enough to serve 6, so we’d have some leftovers, as I wanted to make a few potato patties that they could have with the remaining corned beef, and I could have with something. So easy to make big patties of mashed potatoes once you have them done.

I started out with about 4 pounds of potatoes, and the recipe called for 9T of butter. Yum. Plus a bit more to melt on the top when serving (sorry, forgot to take a picture of that). I had Savoy cabbage, and used 5 green onions. Plus a mixture of heavy cream and milk. I was surprised at the quantity of milk/cream (1 1/2 cups), and as I was adding it to the potatoes, I was thinking, really? This seems like too much. But it wasn’t. What it makes is really smooth, silky potatoes. I’ve made Colcannon before, many times, but I do believe this is the best I’ve ever tried. And I’ve never posted a recipe for it, as I kind of “winged it” whenever I’ve made it, and it wasn’t memorably. This one was.

Here’s a picture of the Colcannon on the plate:

colcannon_plated

You can’t really see much of the cabbage or green onions in this photo – that’s why I used the one I took when I was mixing it up – it’s more colorful. No question, this will be my go-to recipe for future iterations of Colcannon. If you make potato patties as leftovers, sprinkle a bit of flour on each flat side (to help them brown). The Colcannon is very “wet” so they didn’t brown very well, and it’s hard turning them over without messing up the golden crust. Flour would help with that.

potato_pattie_from_colcannonWhat’s GOOD: how rich and creamy it is – good flavor from the cabbage and green onions, but likely it’s the butter and milk/cream that enhances it the most. Don’t even think about not adding all of it. Make potato patties with the leftovers – flour them and sauté them in some butter.

What’s NOT: nothing, whatsoever. Perfectly wonderful comfort food, and ideal with corned beef.

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Colcannon

Recipe By: Simply Recipes
Serving Size: 6

3 & 3/4 pounds russet potatoes — peeled and cut into large chunks
Salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter — (with more butter for serving)
4 1/2 cups cabbage — lightly packed, chopped kale, chard, or other leafy green
4 1/2 green onions — (including the green onion greens), minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups milk — or cream or use half and half

1. Boil the potatoes: Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander.
2. Cook the greens and the green onions with butter: Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and once it’s hot, add the greens. Cook the greens for 3-4 minutes, or until they are wilted and have given off some of their water.
3. Add the green onions and cook 1 minute more.
4. Mash the potatoes with milk or cream and greens: Pour in the milk or cream, mix well, and add the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium.
5. Use a fork or potato masher and mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Add salt to taste and serve hot, with a knob of butter in the center.
NOTE: If you have leftovers, form the potatoes into patties, dust with a bit of flour and fry them in butter.
Per Serving: 432 Calories; 20g Fat (39.3% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 52mg Cholesterol; 56mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 142mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1397mg Potassium; 232mg Phosphorus.

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