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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 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):

Once in awhile I’m ready to read another Louise Penny mystery. This time it was World of Curiosities. Usually I’d write something wonderful regarding “another tome about Three Pines.” Not going to say it this time. Three Pines becomes a sinister place. Murders (many).  Of course. Some bad folk out there, far too close to home. I had to put it down a couple of times because it was so frightening. But Inspector Gamache prevails. Of course he does! A piece of very complicated art is involved (I think it may be a real painting). Louise wrote a nice epilogue about how she devised the whole idea. Very interesting read.

Over the years I’ve read many of Jodi Picoult’s books. This, her newest, or very new, is called Mad Honey. Oh, my. This book is beyond Picoult’s usual borders, but then she always writes edgy books. That’s her genre. This one is written with a co-author, a woman who is gay (I think) and also a trans-gender. There is a lot of learn in this book, and might be very difficult or hard for some to read. Very engrossing story, though, as always.

Philippa Gregory is one of my fav authors. Just finished her 3rd (and last, I think) in the Fairmile series called Dawnlands. If you scroll down below you’ll find the 2nd book in the series, Tidelands. Very interesting about English history, but about the same families from the first book in the group. Loved it, as I loved all of them.

Am currently reading Rutherfurd’s long, long book, Paris. I love these involved historical novels about a place (he’s written many about specific places in the world). It’s a saga that goes back and forth in time, following the travails of various people and families, through thick and thin. Some of it during the era of the King Louis’ (plural, should I say Louies?). Very interesting about some of the city’s history and royalty.

Although this book says A Christmas Memory, by Richard Paul Evans, it’s not just about Christmas. A young boy is the hero here, but really an older widower man who lives next door plays a pivotal part of this book. It’s poignant, heart-rending and sweet. It delves deep into childhood memories to take readers back to an age when a world felt like it was falling apart, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, the light of hope can still shine. A beautiful read.

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult. Another page-turner. I loved this book. A thirty-something woman, about to take a trip with her boyfriend, when Covid breaks out. Covid plays a major role in this book, beginning to end. She decides to go anyway as her boyfriend is a doctor and cannot leave. She ends up on a remote Galapagos island, and you go along with her – with people she meets, the life she leads, the isolation she experiences, the loneliness she feels, but the joy of nature is a sustaining aspect. She’s stuck there because of Covid. Not boats, no airport, no nothing. Barely enough food. But yet, she survives. I could NOT put down this book. It had me riveted. You know, Covid is going to play a major role in a lot of books in our future – it has to. It was such a pivotal moment in this century!

Not everyone wants to read food memoirs. When I saw Sally Schmitt had written a memoir, titled Six California Kitchens, I knew I wanted to read it. I met Sally a few times over the years when I visited Napa Valley, and bought some of her famous pickled items, chutneys, jams, etc. She was the original chef at The French Laundry, before it became truly famous by Thomas Keller. Sally shares her food story, how she came to become a chef and entrepreneur. It’s a charming book and there are a few recipes (I think one at the end of every chapter). Enjoyed reading it. If you ever visited Napa Valley in the early days (the 1960s through 80s) you will enjoy reading how “California cuisine” kind of came into being.

Being a fan of Vivian Howard (from her TV show), when I saw she’d written another book, I knew I should buy it. This Will Make It Taste Good is such an unusual name for a cookbook, but once you get into the groove of the book, you’ll understand. She’s now divorced, but still running two restaurants and raising twins (part-time, I’m guessing as I assume her ex is involved some). I don’t know how she had time to write another book. She’s hysterically funny. I mean it. Over the years (and I’m guessing most of this came from her North Carolina roots and the mayhem she encountered opening a restaurant in her tiny, rural town, to great fame) she developed a group of tasty “things,” to complement her food. It’s hard to pinpoint what these are – they’re recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers. If I make some of them (I hope to) I’ll post them on my blog. They have umami flavors, and she says it’s how she survives and makes everything taste good. She includes the recipe for each of these kitchen heroes (and each title is laugh-out-loud funny in and of themselves) and a few uses of them. Recently she wrote a column in Garden & Gun (magazine) about online dating, and about how she filled out her profile and of some of the not-so-happy first dates. I laughed and laughed over that. I hope you click on that link and read it.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 Desserts, on May 19th, 2023.

Just make this, okay? So good.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe came from Southern Living magazine, in 2020. I’d added it to my to-try recipes, and so glad I did. It’s very easy to make (unless you count as tedious pressing out some dough onto a board and cutting them up into squares). The biscuit dough was super tender (flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar and heavy cream). Originally the recipe was developed for individual servings (baked in ramekins), but as I mentioned a few posts back, I was out at the Palm Desert house and there aren’t any ramekins there, so I made it in a long loaf pan. I adapted the recipe slightly . . . the biscuits were intended to be 3/4″ thick and it made really thick ones . . . too thick in my thinking, for the volume of fruit. So the recipe is altered for smaller biscuits and baked in a glass dish, 9×13 or maybe even a 8×11-ish one.

The blueberries (so lovely this time of year) are mixed with some light brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest and some freshly grated ginger. That’s poured into the baking vessel and – note – you bake the fruit for awhile first – in a hot oven (400°F) for about 20 minutes. THEN you add the biscuits on top and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.

Ideally, serve this warm with vanilla ice cream, or sweetened whipped cream.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good. Delicious. Worth making. Easy. Do use the ice cream or whipped cream – I think it needs the “foil” of the cream. It’s not overly sweet – it’s perfect, in fact.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. This recipe is a keeper.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Blueberry-Orange-Ginger Cobbler

Recipe By: Adapted from Southern Living
Servings: 6-9

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter — cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream — for brushing biscuits
1 tablespoon sugar — for sprinkling on biscuits
6 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon orange zest — (from 1 orange)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger — approximately a 1″ piece
Vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Freeze 5 minutes. Add 1 cup cream, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
2. Turn dough out onto parchment paper; gently press or pat dough into a 1/2-inch-thick, 9- x 6-inch rectangle. (Mixture will be a little crumbly.) Cut into 9 (3- x 2-inch) rectangles. Place biscuits in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush tops with 1 tablespoon cream, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Stir together blueberries, brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and grated ginger in a large bowl until well blended. Spoon berry mixture evenly into a 9×13 glass dish.
4. Bake in preheated oven 23 minutes. Remove from oven, and place biscuits on top. Return to oven, and continue baking at 400°F until biscuits are golden brown and done, about 13-14 more minutes. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream. Leftovers are wonderful for breakfast with cream of half and half poured over the top.
Per Serving: 647 Calories (less if you serve 9, one serving per biscuit); 31g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 89g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 515mg Sodium; 47g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 232mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 228mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Salads, Veggies/sides, on May 12th, 2023.

Would you believe I forgot to add the cotija cheese?

A post from Carolyn. The best laid plans – the cotija cheese was right there beside the bowl, but did I remember to add it? Nope. Well, the salad was fabulous without it, but when you make it, you should add the cheese. This recipe I adapted just a smidgen from smitten kitchen. What intrigued me was the combination of ingredients – the harissa (which I love), the caraway and cumin too. If you  have a food processor, do use it for grating the carrots. Although I have a box grater, it’s new and those blades are ever-so sharp. My carrots were small, and was afraid the carrot would wobble and next thing I’d grate off part of my fingers. So I used a mini-food processor and chopped/chunked them instead. Not the best carrot shape, but it made no difference to the flavor or texture.

This salad is so easy to make – the dressing has a bunch of ingredients, but it takes little time to gather them up (garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa, sugar, lemon juice and herbs). The dressing is cooked slightly (to take the edge off the raw garlic and enhance the caraway and cumin). Then there’s olive oil too, and lastly the cheese. Smitten’s recipe calls for feta, but I had cotija (A Mexican cheese that’s very similar to feta, salty too) and it should have made it INTO the salad if I’d remembered! Once you’ve combined the carrots and the dressing, taste it for seasonings (salt? more oil? more lemon juice?), then sprinkle with cheese, fresh mint and parsley, finely chopped.

What’s GOOD: the lemon juice and seeds (caraway and cumin) add a lovely flavor. Then there’s the harissa, of course, which has a real whammy of flavor. Put them altogether and you’ve got a great tasting salad. A keeper.

What’s NOT: only that grating the carrots takes time and does make a bit of a mess. Worth the effort, though.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Cotija and Mint

Recipe By: Adapted from smitten kitchen
Serving Size: 4

3/4 pound carrots — peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic — crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika — or try smoked paprika if preferred
3/4 teaspoon harissa
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice — scant
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint — finely chopped
1/3 cup cotija cheese — crumbled or chopped into bits, or feta

NOTE: using a food processor to grate the carrots will save a lot of time.
1. In a small sauté pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes.
2. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Taste for balance of oil – acid – it may need a bit more olive oil.
3. Pour over the carrots and mix. Add the herbs and mix again. Allow salad to chill for an hour then add the cheese before serving.
Per Serving: 216 Calories; 18g Fat (72.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 142mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 341mg Potassium; 104mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Fish, on May 5th, 2023.

Oh-so-delicious salmon with a piquant glaze that just hits all the right spots.

A post from Carolyn. A couple of weeks ago, over Easter weekend, my friend Linda joined me in Palm Desert and we had a cook-fest, of sorts. I did dinner Friday night (big green salad with chicken and freshly made popovers); we went out to lunch on Saturday (La Quinta Baking Co. had quiche – it’s a French inspired menu); I made coq au vin on Saturday night, served on a bed of delicious mashed cauliflower; Sunday morning Linda made a potato frittata, and we worked together on a lovely Easter dinner with this salmon plus a carrot salad and a tomato salad. Then I made a blueberry cobbler for dessert. All those recipes coming up soon. We had great fun. Cooked our little hearts out! Realized I don’t have a potato masher at that house, for one thing. Also have no ramekins. Not a one. So we punted. I think a stick blender is in order for that place too.

I’ve taken a lot of extra things from my Orange County home out there and we’re well-enough equipped, (the home was furnished when we bought it in 2020, my daughter Sara and her husband John and I), and came with a moderately outfitted kitchen, just not everything to my/our liking for quality or quantity). Most of the knives went into the donation bag. So did lots of the dishes and pots and pans and utensils. It was obvious the previous owners weren’t cooks, or they didn’t value good quality kitchen equipment, for sure. We joke that the wife (we guess) bought most of her kitchen stuff at the 99¢ store or perhaps at the Goodwill store. Maybe some at Marshall’s or Home Goods. Over the years I’d gathered duplicates of many things, so nearly every time I drive out, I take something else to use there.

So, this salmon. It was first published in Cook’s Illustrated last fall (2022) and it’s been on America’s Test Kitchen also. In any case, this recipe is a blue-ribbon, first class winner. I just loved it.

The salmon (Linda bought it at an upscale fish market in Carlsbad before she drove to the desert) was briefly brined in a salt and sugar mixture. Only for 15 minutes, then they were dried carefully with paper towels before proceeding. She made the glaze: apple cider (she used apple juice), cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, oil and cornstarch. The glaze is Asian inspired – since it has soy and ginger in it, but it’s not an overwhelming flavor. The recipe was developed by Lan Lam, if you’ve watched her on any of the episodes on tv. The salmon was briefly sauteed to get it golden brown on top, then flipped over, and the first glazing happened just before it went into a warm oven (300°F) to finish cooking. Once removed, some of the set-aside glaze was brushed all over the salmon, top and sides. A garnish of chives went on top and we sat down to eat it. The only mistake we made was to wait until after baking to slice it into serving portions, so we didn’t have neatly sliced sides. Have the rest of your dinner fully prepared so you can sit down to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, this was off-the-charts delicious. SO tender, so flavorful, and the glaze just makes it. Succulent, cooked to perfection to 125°F internal temperature. Do use an instant read thermometer. Have a heated platter or plates ready. Dig in.

What’s NOT: nothing really. This is a keeper.

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Double-Glazed Salmon with Ginger and Apple Cider

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2022
Servings: 4

1/4 cup salt — for brining
1/4 cup sugar — for brining
2 pounds salmon fillets — 6-8 ounces each
1/3 cup apple cider — or apple juice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 piece ginger — 1″ piece, peeled, smashed
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chives — minced, or parsley

Notes: If apple cider is unavailable, substitute apple juice and increase the amount of cornstarch to 1¾ teaspoons. Use the bottom of a small saucepan or skillet to smash the ginger. To ensure uniform cooking, buy a 1½- to 2-pound center-cut salmon fillet and cut it into four pieces. If your salmon is less than 1 inch thick at its thickest point, check for doneness after 10 minutes of roasting in step 3.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300°F. Dissolve salt and ¼ cup sugar in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge salmon fillets in brine and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Remove fillets from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, combine cider, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and cornstarch in small saucepan and stir until no lumps remain. Add ginger and bring to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and let ginger steep for at least 5 minutes. Discard ginger and transfer 2 tablespoons glaze to small bowl.
3. Heat oil in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place fillets, flesh side down, in skillet and cook until flesh side is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip fillets and reduce heat to low. Brush tops of fillets with reserved 2 tablespoons glaze. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until centers are still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and register 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 10 to 15 minutes. Wash and dry brush.
4. Brush remaining glaze on top and sides of each fillet and sprinkle with chives or parsley. Transfer to platter or individual plates and serve.
Per Serving: 370 Calories; 9g Fat (23.1% calories from fat); 46g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 168mg Cholesterol; 7348mg Sodium; 21g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 35mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 1036mg Potassium; 655mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on April 28th, 2023.

So good! There’s spicy sauced chicken underneath, then a thin layer of slowly browned onions, some mint and cilantro, then a layer of saffron rice on top with more onions and herbs.

A post from Carolyn. Ever had biryani? That’s beer-ee-yahn-ee for the uninitiated! If you want to know more, click on that link to wikipedia and you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about biryani with its different spellings, variations and origins. My relative Janice (my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister) sent the recipe to me and I decided to augment it and to prepare it differently because I had about a half a chicken from a whole roasted one I’d done a few days before. Janice had made a couple of alterations when she made it, and I made even more, but the flavor basis of this dish is the same.

I love Indian food, and have learned over the years that the dishes from Hyperabad are considered the best of the best (it’s the region of India known for its haute cuisine). This is one. Anything that resembles butter chicken or chicken khorma is at the top of the list for me. This one is different in several ways: (1) it uses saffron rice; (2) it layers the chicken on the bottom, rice on the top (not served side by side on the plate); (3) those browned onions are just the bomb; and (4) the layer of herbs in the middle just add to the flavor profiles.

The original recipe has you cook the well-marinated chicken thighs in a heavy-duty pan (like a Le Creuset) with the hot rice on it – the rice that’s just partially cooked and spooned all over the top of the chicken. It’s a very different way to make this – only partially cooking the rice so it finishes cooking once it’s put into the heavy pan with the chicken. Obviously I couldn’t do that with mine since I had already cooked chicken and didn’t want to cook the daylights out of it even more. So I needed to improvise a lot.

There below is the chicken in the sauce. Uncooked. Ready to be adorned with the rice component. Although the chicken in it is cooked, it’s just that the sauce wasn’t cooked. The only cooking it underwent (is that a word?) was in the oven or microwave.

I still marinated the cooked chicken in the “marinade” and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 days. That gave it ample time to let all that flavorful yogurt spicy sauce with kashmiri chili powder in it to seep into the meat. Then I prepared the rice, using the directions provided, but I cooked it almost to done with just a tiny bit of bite to the rice. I also cooked up those super-browned onions (easy, just cook them long and slow in olive oil).

Once I was ready to put together my casserole I spooned it into the baking dish (above), and spread it out. Then I added some of the browned onions and fresh herbs (cilantro & mint), then I put a rice layer on top. It had a lovely yellow color from the turmeric in it, and also from the saffron. The remaining onions were added on top. At this point I could have baked the casserole in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, but I decided to take a shortcut and microwave it. Actually what I did was heat up the chicken layer first, then added the hot rice on top and returned it to the microwave for about a minute. The garnishing herbs went on top and I chowed down. Oh so delicious.

What’s GOOD: the flavors in this dish are just over the top. Creamy, flavorful, just a bit of heat from the kashmiri chili, the texture of the rice, the lovely hint of mint and cilantro. Divine. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. I’ll be making this again soon.

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Chicken Biryani Cassserole

Recipe By: Adapted from My Food Story blog and by my relative, Janice. And then adapted further by me.
Servings: 4

2 whole yellow onions — halved, sliced
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cups cooked chicken — chopped in cubes or shredded
3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree — or tomato paste (use a bit less)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic — finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
1 tablespoon kashmiri chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala — ground to a powder
2 tablespoons onions — well browned
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup milk — or heavy cream
2 tablespoons hot milk
10 saffron strands — (10 to 15)
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1 whole bay leaf
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 cardamom pods
1 cup mint
1 cup cilantro — chopped
crispy brown onions from above
Add a little chicken broth if needed to the casserole.
Serving: black sesame seeds (optional), onion raita or plain raita (optional) or plain yogurt

1. ONIONS: pat the onions dry and if time permits, leave them out on a kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes to dry them out slightly. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Over a medium flame, shallow fry the onions for 15 minutes until they are a deep golden brown, without burning them. Drain them on a paper towel, and set aside. These can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container overnight. Burned onions will add a bitter flavor to the biryani. You can also use store bought fried onions/ shallots which are easily available in some supermarkets, Indian and Asian stores.
2. CHICKEN: Mix together all the ingredients under chicken and marinate for at least two hours or up to 2 days.
3. SAFFRON: When you are ready to make the biryani, soak saffron strands in hot milk and rub them slightly with the back of a spoon. Set this aside.
4. RICE: Bring water to a roaring boil and add salt, whole spices and basmati rice. Cook for about 15 minutes (until barely tender) and drain completely. Remove the whole spices in the rice.
5. CASSEROLE: If the chicken mixture is very thick, add a bit of milk or cream to thin it enough to loosen it. In a large casserole dish, pour the chicken and spread out evenly. Scatter half the onions all over the chicken, and then sprinkle half the cilantro and mint leaves. Next layer the rice all over the top, and in the end drizzle saffron milk over the rice. Then scatter the remaining onions over the top. You may heat this in the microwave (covered) for 5-8 minutes or bake in a 325°F for about 35 minutes until the chicken mixture on the bottom is fully heated through. Do not let the rice dry out – so you may need to cover the casserole with foil. If you’re in a mighty hurry, heat just the chicken in the casserole in the microwave, then add onions and herbs, then add the hot rice to the top, and finish with the garnishes. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes maximum and serve.
6. Scatter the remaining mint and cilantro. Serve hot, digging the spoon deep to get all the layers. Serve with raita or additional yogurt.
Per Serving: 744 Calories; 40g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 60g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 153mg Cholesterol; 4378mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 164mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 853mg Potassium; 497mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on April 14th, 2023.

If you’ve stopped trying to make turkey meatloaf because it just didn’t hit a flavorful high note, you might want to try this one from Ina Garten.

A post from Carolyn. A few weeks ago my good friend Linda T came to visit me out in Palm Desert. We had a lovely, quiet weekend together, and she made dinner one of the nights. She made this, Ina’s turkey meatloaf. What’s interesting about this is that it doesn’t have lots of herbs (it uses only thyme) or other things (flavor tricks) to make it tasty. It just IS flavorful. I was surprised how good it was. Linda’s been making this for a long time and has changed just a few things about Ina’s recipe.

Now, Ina’s recipe calls for making enough to feed a small army (5 pounds of ground turkey breast). Half that recipe (the picture above) is enough to feed at least 6 people. Halving recipes is sometimes problematical, so Linda has adapted the recipe just slightly – she adds a little more bread crumbs (sometimes she uses fresh bread crumbs, not dried), more tomato paste, and she uses a bit more egg. And, we decided that using a bit more ketchup on the top was in order. In my opinion, the ketchup on the top of the meatloaf is essential – it adds a little sweetness and tang.

There are lots of onions in this (you can see the onions in the raw meatloaf picture above) – two large onions are sauteed in olive oil for awhile until they’re very limp and translucent, along with the herbs, salt and pepper. That mixture needs to be cooled to room temp before mixing in with the ground turkey, Worcestershire, bread crumbs, some chicken broth (which likely helps keep it moist) and eggs. The meatloaf is shaped into a long, not very tall loaf, baked on a rimmed sheetpan in a 325°F oven. Ina’s recipe (with that 5 pounds of meat) suggests 1 1/2 hours baking time. A big casserole dish of hot water was placed underneath the meatloaf – Ina says that helps the meatloaf to not develop a crack in it. I think Linda started taking the temperature after about an hour – cook until it reaches 160°F inside the meatloaf. Then the meatloaf rests a few minutes before you slice it into thick pieces to serve. You could serve extra ketchup at the table if desired. Thanks, Linda, for a great new recipe.

What’s Good: everything about this was wonderful. We froze the leftovers so I haven’t enjoyed any of them yet. Ina suggests slices make great meatloaf sandwiches. That reminds me of my childhood: my dad used to love meatloaf sandwiches. This recipe is a winner.

What’s NOT: nothing really. You can’t expect a turkey meatloaf (albeit a really tasty one) to have the same flavor as a beef meatloaf. The texture just will never be similar – turkey meat is very tender while beef is more chewy, and has a lot more fat in it also, which contribute to more/different flavor.

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Turkey Meatloaf – Ina Garten

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Servings: 5 (maybe 6)

1 large yellow onions — chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/8 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey — breast meat only
1 cup dry bread crumbs — plain, not seasoned
2 large eggs — beaten
1/2 cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/4 hours until the internal temperature is 160°F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.
Per Serving: 526 Calories; 23g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 232mg Cholesterol; 1161mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 118mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 862mg Potassium; 557mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Desserts, on April 7th, 2023.

Yet another rice pudding, you ask? It was so different I had to try it.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe came from Southern Living. What intrigued me was the sauce and garnish you put on top. It’s got butter, brown sugar, raisins, and rum in the sauce, then some toasted almonds sprinkled on top. It’s the sauce here that makes it.

The pudding itself is straight forward – the only unusual thing is that you toast the rice in a skillet first. The recipe called for using a cast iron skillet. I used a different pan, but it accomplished the same thing. This stovetop version is not as rich as the rice pudding I made a couple of months ago (that I still think is the best rice pudding ever). And I professed then that THAT recipe was my be all-end all of rice puddings. How fickle I am. I like Southern Living recipes (I subscribe to the magazine even though I don’t live in the South). The pudding itself is not as sweet as some – mostly because you add the sweet sauce on top. I’ve adjusted the recipe just slightly to add a tad more sugar to the pudding and a bit less in the sauce. I still have some of the sauce left – it’s scrumptious warmed up and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

What’s GOOD: It’s a good pudding – maybe not the very best out there (the one made with half and half is better tasting, but oh, the fat calories on that are over the top), but it’s good. I loved the sauce – it “makes” the dish altogether. It would be very blah without the sauce, so don’t think you can just make the pudding and forget the topping because a lot of the sweetness is in the sauce, and you want it mixed into every spoonful you eat.

What’s NOT: really, nothing that I can think of. I still prefer the other one (see link in second paragraph above), but this one is different and very pretty when serving.

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Stovetop Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Southern Living magazine
Servings: 7

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean pod — halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dark rum
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into 2 pieces
3 tablespoons sliced almonds — toasted

1. Melt butter in a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium. Add rice, and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add whole milk, heavy cream, brown sugar, vanilla bean, and kosher salt; bring to a simmer over medium, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Simmer, stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture has thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat; discard vanilla bean.
2. Beat egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl. Ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot pudding mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour warmed egg mixture back into skillet. Stir mixture constantly until well combined, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. (Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.)
3. To serve warm, divide pudding evenly among individual servings. Spoon Buttered Rum Raisin Sauce evenly over the bowls; sprinkle with almonds. To serve chilled, transfer pudding to an airtight container and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. Top with warm Buttered Rum Raisin Sauce and almonds.
4. SAUCE: Stir together golden raisins and rum in a small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium; cover, and remove from heat. Let stand until raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Uncover saucepan, and stir in sugar, 1 tablespoon water, salt, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a simmer over low, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Let simmer, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until sauce is thick and glossy. Transfer sauce to an airtight container, and chill until ready to use, up to 4 days. To reheat, place sauce in a microwavable bowl and microwave on HIGH until hot, about a minute or two.
Per Serving: 363 Calories; 18g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 317mg Sodium; 34g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 189mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 310mg Potassium; 160mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on March 31st, 2023.

There aren’t a lot of pasta recipes on this blog – but here is one.

A post from Carolyn. It isn’t that I don’t like pasta – I do. But I do my best not to eat it, or to limit it, for sure. Because of the carbs. But in this case, I’d read about a new pasta that’s sold online, Fiber Gourmet, using a technique for making pasta a resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. As the fibers ferment they act as a prebiotic and feed the good bacteria in the gut. When starches are digested they typically break down into glucose. Because resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine, it doesn’t raise glucose.

It means also that less of the carb is absorbed into the body, hence reducing its calorie and carb count. Sweet potatoes are a resistant starch. So are plantains. And cooked and cooled rice is one. Here’s a photo of the box of this penne. Note that this is an 8-ounce box. I cooked the whole box, but I’m certain I’ll get about 5 servings out of it. If you’re a hearty eater, probably not, but I ate small portions. That means it’s not all that “bad” for me. Loved that I could have some pasta and not feel guilty about it.

I’ll include the nutrition info about this also. They offer several different pasta shapes, including one that’s like orzo, though they call it rice. It’s not, it’s pasta. I bought the variety box. This stuff is expensive, but considering I’ll get 5 servings out of that 8 ounces, I’m willing to pay the premium.

You know those days when you have something in the frig you need to use (Italian sausage) but don’t want to run to the grocery store to buy food to go with it, and so you raid the frig and pantry for other things (frozen peas, arugula, cream, and an onion from the pantry). That’s how this pasta came to be. I sizzled onion in some butter and EVOO, then added garlic (lots), then crumbled Italian sausage and let that cook a bit. Meanwhile I boiled the pasta – let me share a bit about that. Eh what? Boiling pasta? Yes. This pasta suggested a cooking time of 15-17 minutes, far longer than a normal penne. I began checking at 9 minutes. Uh, nope, still very underdone. Added another 3 minutes. Still underdone. I drained it at about 12-13 minutes because I knew I’d be cooking it just a bit more in the pan.

I added a raw egg to the hot, drained pasta (kind of a carbonara thing going), then mixed it in with the sausage mixture to which I’d added the peas and arugula. I’d also added a bit of cream too. Heated that through, served it and garnished with some grated Pecorino cheese. A swift move to my table and I gobbled it down. Yum.

What’s GOOD: just because I was making and eating pasta was a treat for me. Loved it. Now, is this sausage sauce a standout above many others? Perhaps not. I have some great pasta on my blog. This one won’t be getting extra high marks, but it was GOOD. I liked it a lot. It was easy, which I liked. The fact that this is a resistant starch made it all the better for me. I liked the firm-to-the-tooth texture – like regular pasta. I’ll be buying this pasta again, for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing really. It was not labor intensive, certainly something I’d be willing to make again, especially with this new resistant starch pasta.

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Penne with Sausage, Peas and Arugula

Recipe By: My own combination
Servings: 4

1 tablespoon EVOO
1 tablespoon butter
1 whole yellow onion — minced
3 cloves garlic — minced
8 ounces Italian sausage — casings removed
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
1 pinch red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 cups fresh arugula — chopped, or fresh spinach
8 ounces pasta — penne, or other pasta of your choice
1 large egg — beaten with a fork
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — shredded

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you prepare the sauce.
2. In a large skillet add oil and butter over medium-high. When it begins to sizzle, add onion. Reduce heat to medium and saute until onion is fully translucent. Add garlic and cook for about one minute only. Add sausage meat in small pieces and continue to cook until meat has lost all of its pink color. Add Italian herb blend, salt and pepper to taste and red chili flakes.
3. Add pasta to the pot of water and begin a timer so you don’t overcook the pasta. Under cook the pasta by about a minute as you will continue to cook it in the pan for a few minutes later.
4. To the meat mixture add heavy cream and stir as the mixture warms. Add the peas and arugula and stir well.
5. Drain the pasta and pour it onto the top of the sausage mixture. Add the well-beaten egg to the pasta and stir it gently until the egg has fully been incorporated into the pasta. Then gently mix the pasta into the sausage mixture.
6. Spoon portions onto heated plates and garnish with the grated cheese. if you have fresh basil, add some on top.
Per Serving: 663 Calories; 37g Fat (50.3% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 136mg Cholesterol; 742mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 405mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 394mg Potassium; 451mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Lamb, on March 24th, 2023.

Ever get a craving for something? A lamb shank called my name.

A post from Carolyn. Rarely do I eat lamb. I love it, but whenever I look at the nutrition and see how much fat there is in lamb, usually I reconsider. This time I gave in to my craving and bought a nice honkin’ lamb shank. Looking through my recipes to try, I found this one. Originally, this came from Food & Wine, awhile back, when they provided an online listing of the 40 best recipes of all time. Certainly I pay attention when a magazine makes that kind of statement. By the way, have you noticed that Bon Appetit  and Epicurious are now going to charge for access to their recipe files? Makes me so very frustrated. When I find a recipe published by them (that I don’t have from a recent issue of one of Epicurious’s magazines), I go online to do a search, and usually I’ll find the recipe somewhere else, somebody else has made it, or at least published it. And there’s no charge. I’m not going to pay for access to those. I already subscribe online (paid subscription) to Cook’s Illustrated (the group that also includes America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country), Milk Street, and the New York Times. I’ve decided that’s enough.

Back to this recipe. From the get-go, I’ll just say – – I don’t know about the ranking of one of the 40 best recipes of all time. I mean . . . these were really good, but not sure they qualify with those kind of bragging rights. Just sayin’ . . . . .but would I make them again? I might. Mostly because it was really easy. Read on . . .

So here’s what’s involved. A whole lot of garlic. With the exception of that infamous recipe of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, this may be the most amount of garlic I’ve ever used in a single recipe. I only made one lamb shank, but the recipe for four shanks calls for 36 cloves of garlic – some peeled, some left whole in the skin. Lamb can surely handle a heavy hand of garlic and I loved the flavor in this. Anyway,  you brown the lamb shank(s) on numerous sides, then add seasonings and part of the garlic, and it goes into a 300°F oven for 2 hours, turning the shank(s) every 20 minutes. Once out of the oven you remove the shank(s) and begin cooking the peppers and onions. Onions weren’t in the original recipe, but I do like the combo of peppers and onions – and I had a big red onion that needed to be used up. I did end up adding a bit of water to the peppers so they wouldn’t burn, and once the veggies were done you make a tiny amount of a pan sauce. I added a bit of water to that as well. And you’re done. There’s bay leaf and thyme in this dish also.  If I were making this for guests, I’d add a bed of buttery mashed potatoes or creamy polenta and nestle the shank onto/beside it. Make a salad, and that’s dinner.

The Food & Wine recipe called for fresh thyme (I used dried) and fresh bay leaves. Not very many people have a bay laurel tree in their yard. I sure don’t. So I used dried. And then I added the onions, more broth and a tiny bit of dried thyme in the sauce.

What’s GOOD: the succulent lamb, first and foremost. Loved the flavor of the garlic with peppers and onions. Next time I’d double the amount of peppers and onion (I’ve made a note of that in the recipe). The veggies were a wonderful foil to the richness of the lamb. Worth making, and don’t skimp on the garlic. Each lamb shank (for me, anyway) made two servings.  Would make a nice company dinner, but at the price of lamb shanks (each shank was about $15) it would make a very pricey meal. The recipe is really very easy to do – seasoning, browning, 2 hours of roasting, chopping of the peppers and onion and little bit of cooking after that. Very simple. Can be made the day ahead, the recipe said.

What’s NOT: only that it takes a few hours to make (minimum 2 1/2 hours).

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Garlicky Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Peppers and Onions

Recipe By: Adapted a little from Food & Wine best 40 recipes of all time, 2022
Servings: 4

4 lamb shanks, whole — about a pound or more each
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
12 garlic cloves — unpeeled
24 garlic cloves — peeled
2 whole bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 large red bell pepper — cut into 1/4-inch strips (more recommended)
1 medium yellow bell pepper — cut into 1/4-inch strips (more recommended)
1 large red onion — thinly sliced (more recommended)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
(you might need a few tablespoons more broth or water)

NOTE: the peppers and onions add a lot of flavor and texture to this. I recommend you double the amount of them. You’ll need to increase the amount of chicken broth and butter too, and maybe a bit more thyme as well. If the long-braised garlic cloves (in their skins) aren’t burned, squeeze the succulent garlic out into the sauce you make at the end.
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Sprinkle lamb with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium until foamy. Add 2 shanks, all of the unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer browned shanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to a platter, and set aside. Add remaining shanks to Dutch oven, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Return browned shanks, unpeeled garlic, bay leaves, and thyme to Dutch oven. Cover and transfer to preheated oven. Cook, flipping shanks every 20 minutes, until very tender, about 2 hours.
3. Remove lamb shanks, and set aside. Pour chicken broth into Dutch oven, and bring to a boil over high, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven. (Use a fat separator if you have one, otherwise use next method here.) Remove from heat; use a ladle to skim off fat from surface, and discard. Return broth to a boil over high, skimming surface often and discarding fat, until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Pour broth mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large measuring cup; discard solids. Skim remaining fat from surface, and discard. Wipe Dutch oven clean; pour strained stock into Dutch oven.
4. Add peeled garlic cloves to strained broth, and simmer over medium-low until garlic is slightly tender, about 20 minutes, flipping garlic cloves after 10 minutes. Return lamb to Dutch oven. (The lamb can be cooked up to a day ahead. Refrigerate, covered; reheat before proceeding.)
5. Scatter bell peppers around lamb, and cook over medium-low, moving peppers around lamb occasionally, until peppers and garlic are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb shanks to warm serving plates. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, thyme, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to sauce, and stir until creamy. If mixture gets too dry, add more chicken broth or water to make a small amount of sauce. Remove from heat. Spoon sauce with bell peppers and garlic cloves around lamb shanks and peppers and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 603 Calories; 23g Fat (63.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 222mg Cholesterol; 980mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 102mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 565mg Potassium; 150mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on March 17th, 2023.

Another winner of a recipe for roasted veggies.

A post from Carolyn. Can you remember back (not all that many years ago) when we didn’t even know about the succulent sweetness of roasting vegetables on a large sheetpan? I sure do. I think the phenomena happened about 10 years ago, then we went into full swing with sheetpan dinners. I sure do love those. And I’m a fan of America’s Test Kitchen, whence this recipe originated. Brussels sprouts are a favorite of mine, and I was happy to try a new version of them. As it happened I’d been out to lunch that day, and wanted something really healthy for dinner and not too filling. This was my dinner – I ate about half of that plate full.

This would make a great vegetable dish for company. It’s not hard – you could prepare everything ahead of time, have the vinaigrette ready except for the chopped apple, and roast the veggies just before dinner is ready. What’s different about this recipe is the oven temperature. It’s 500°F. Wow, is that ever hot. Have good heavy hot pads at the ready when you take it out of the oven. Just a warning! It intrigued me – that high oven temperature – because usually we roast veggies at about 425 or 450. In this case, the Brussels sprouts came out perfectly tender and still vibrantly green. The leaves that came loose (you know, the leaves that kind of break off when you halve the Brussels sprouts?) burned to a crisp (but they were edible – I just took them off when I plated it). I loved the dark caramelization of the sprouts. Then the apple cherry (or in my case I had dried cranberries open and decided to use them instead) vinaigrette is kind of genius! Pile the veggies on a platter and pour the apple vinaigrette over the top and you’re done.

The maple syrup in the vinaigrette adds a lovely sweetness. I didn’t have a tart apple, so used an Envy. Probably made the dish a bit sweeter than intended. I didn’t have fresh tarragon, either, so I used dried. Am sure the dish would be enhanced with fresh tarragon.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. I will definitely make this again. Loved the texture of the Brussels sprouts (super tender) and the flavor differences between the apple and the little amount of vinaigrette, and then the dried fruit too. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It’s a keeper. There’s very little actual vinaigrette (meaning oil/vinegar) so try to sprinkle the apple fruit vinaigrette all over the top to cover as much of the Brussels sprouts as possible. Maybe next time I’ll double-up on the oil, vinegar and maple syrup.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cherry Vinaigrette

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Servings: 6

1 small tart apple — cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup dried cherries — or dried cranberries
1 tablespoon EVOO — divided
6 teaspoons cider vinegar
3 teaspoons maple syrup
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot — minced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts — trimmed and halved
5 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
6 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon — or dried, using 1/3 the amount

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet in oven, and heat oven to 500°F.
2. Toss minced apple and cherries with 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, and shallot in bowl until well combined; set aside. If using dried tarragon, add it to the vinaigrette here.
3. Toss Brussels sprouts with salt, pepper, and 5 tablespoons oil in second bowl until evenly coated.
4. Working quickly and carefully, remove sheet from oven and arrange Brussels sprouts in even layer on hot sheet. Return sheet to oven and roast until Brussels sprouts are well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer Brussels sprouts to serving platter. Top with apple mixture. If using fresh tarragon sprinkle on top at this point. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 245 Calories; 14g Fat (48.9% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 550mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 83mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 698mg Potassium; 117mg Phosphorus.

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.

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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.

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