Friday, November 5, 2010

Chicken Francais

Firstly, let me appologize for such an ugly photo of the dish. I only took one last night, and the cauliflower sitting next to it, doesn't look half as tasty as it actually was.
Secondly, I am a little troubled by the name of this dish. This comes from my Grandma Melusine, and she was a stickler for spelling things correctly. I cannot figure out what a Chicken Francais is. At first I thought maybe she just forgot the E in Fracaise, but the ingredients aren't what you would find in Fricasise. There is no lemon, no bread crumbs...
Irregardless, this is a damn good recipe. It's also one of a kind I suppose. This one is written in my grandmother's hand. It's printed, and it's very neat, which tells me that it's very old. My grandma Mel, had horrible arthritis by the time I came long (mid 70's) and her hand writting was not this neat then. She also opted for cursive later in life, because it was easier for her to continue the flow of the pen. anywho, just alittle aside to the history of the recipe.
Chicken Francais
1/4 cup butter
1 frying chicken cut up
1 medium onion, minced
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
3/4 cup apple cider or juice
2 cups half and half
2 tbsp cornstarch
heat butter, add chicken and onions and brown slowly for 20 minutes. Add seasonings and apple juice. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove chicken to headed platter. add cornstarch mixed with 4 tbsp of half and half. Stir in remaining half and half and cook until thick.
Add chicken back in and cover in sauce, then serve.
First let me just say the Chief Commentator's eyes lit up when he walked into the house and smelled dinner. He rushed right over to the pan and stuck his nose in it. Perhaps that's because Chief Commentator thinks that pan cooked chicken is a gift from the gods. Until we started this project neither of us had really cooked chicken in a pan, but rather relinquished it to the oven or a fryer. the Chief Commentator loves the color on the skin, and how it seals in all the juices.
This recipe was no exception. Great flavors, tender chicken. He ate a good 3/4 of the entire pan last night - picking every morsal he could find from the bones, and enjoying the sauce. I loved the texture of everything. I think the chicken really is showcased nicely in the sauce. I think next time I make it, I may double the seasonings and add a hint of black pepper, but that is just how I like my sauces.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Bread -1

First let me say, I didn't actually make this one. I did stand over and supervise the making of it though. Chief Commentator's daughter asked to make some pumpkin bread, so I dug up a recipe in my Grandma Melusines cookbook, and the two of us hit the kitchen for a little baking time. Again a recipe that was cut out of a newspaper with no credits.

Also, much like my cranberry dilema, it seems that myself, and both Grandma's have a think for pumpkin bread too (and zucchini bread, and carrot cake... ) so I have resorted to the numbering system.

2 cups cooked pumpkin
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup walnuts,finely chopped (thank you food processor)

Blend pumpkin, sugar, eggs and oil, add baking powder, soda, salt, allspice, cinnamon and flour. Mix well and fold in nuts. Bake at 325 for 1 hour or until done when tested with toothpick. Makes 3 small loaves.

Delishes. Everyone who tried some loved it. No one could believe that a 10 year old made it. One friend commented that she is officially 'out baked' by a 10 year old. The recipe is pretty fool proof, and the loaf comes out with a beautiful texture and pumpkin flavor. Not overwhelming with too many spices, or faux pumpkin like some of the boxed mixes - this is really a treat to behold.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cranberry Caramel Drops

In continuing with my love of everything cranberry, I have decided to make a cookie that involves them, to break up the monotony of all the bread recipes.
This one comes from my Grandma Melusines binder, they are called Cranberry Carmel drops, and the recipe is a cut out from a newspaper, no credit is given to the original creator.
Makes 4 dozen cookies
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 package (small 3 3/4oz) butterscotch instant pudding
5 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups fresh cranberries
In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and milk. Cook while stirring until miture comes to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in pudding, otameal and cranberries. Stir until well blended. Cook 15 minutes. then drop by teaspoonfuls on waxed paper. Let set several hours befor paking into airtight container and storing in a cool dry place.
Ok - first of all, the recipe does not say how to cook for the final 15 minutes. Cook high? cook low? I just put it on medium, and stirred it a bunch of times and hoped that counted. I am guessing it didn't, because the drops came out a bit soggy. The flavor was incredible, and I loved the idea behind them, but I really need to figure out how to make them a little less limp.
Kids loved them. Chief commentator loved them. But we'd all like them to be a little firmer.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cranberry Bread - 2

Yes. Here we have another recipe for Cranberry Bread. This one also comes from my grandma Melusine. This one is a cut out from a newspaper clipping. The clipping credits Eleanor Madigan, so cheers to you Eleanor, thank you for sharing your recipe.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 cup fresh cranberries - chopped (I threw them in whole, and let the mixer chop them)
1 cup nuts (ditto on the chopping)

Combine all ingredietns except cranberries and nuts, mix well, stir in cranberries and nuts, pour into pan which is well greased and bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

Yes, you can see this one earned the distinction of Easy - mostly because I took it upon myself to make the chopping of the nuts and cranberries easier. A little something I learned, if you just toss them in and let them whip themselves with the dough - the crack and chop all on their.

Chief commentator liked this one a lot. He said he could really taste the orange coming through in the recipe and loved how the cranberries left little tart pockets in the orangy flavored bread. We both liked the consistancy better than the first batch, although I still feel like there is a recipe out there with a slightly better texture. Good thing I seriously have like 29 more cranberry bread recipes to try...

Arnaud's Remoulade Creole Jambalaya

If you now me, then you know of my love of all things New Orleans. The food, the people, the culture, the music, the ambiance, did I mention the food? I love Remoulade's situated right on Bourbon street in the heart of the French Quarter. Its somewhere that I frequent, when in NOLA, and if you are a fan of yelp, you can read me waxing poetically about my love of this restaurant.

When I was there in 2007, I fell in love with their Jambalaya. As luck would have it, I found the recipe on their website, and printed off a copy for my cookbook. I have made it many times over the past few years, and it has become a staple in my cooking.

If you are in the NOLA area, Remoulade's is a must stop. If you can't make it there, well, you can have a little taste of NOLA right in your home. I like to make it when watching Saints games...

2 pounds jump shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound seasoned sausage, such as andouille, diced
1/2 cup green onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 bayleaf
1 teaspoon crushed thyme
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (I use 1/4 I like it a little hotter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups broth
1 cup long grain rice

1 - prepare shrimp.

2 - in a dutch oven or a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid, saute sausage in the oil for about 3 minutes

3- Add garlic, onion, and green pepper, cook til tender

4- Add parsley, tomatoes, seasonings, rice and water. stir in thoroughly then add shrimp

5- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover tightly

6- cook without stirring over low heat, or transfer to 350 degree oven for 25-30 mins until rice is fluffy (I prefer the oven method)

7 - remove bayleaf before serving.

The chief commentator couldn't get enough of this. I think he ate 3 bowls the first night (and I had made homemade corn bread to go with it!) He was delighted beyond all belief. I of course love it, and have considered it a staple in my kitchen for a while now.

I do double the cayenne in the recipe when it's just him and I. The 'normal' 1/8th teaspoon howeer is fine for the kids, and they love eating the recipe as well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cranberry Bread - 1

First off my darling readers, I must make a confession. I love cranberries. LOVE them. The day that fresh cranberries hit the supermarket shelves, I am buying bags by the armfuls and throwing them into any and every recipe I can. I'm also freezing them like crazy so I can have cranberries year around. I think one of the reasons the Chief Commentator is so hesitant to buy a deep freeze is because he secretly knows I would devote a solid 1/2 of it to cranberries.
Apparently this obsession of mine with the fruit runs in both sides of the family. Not only do the cook books I've put together have pages upon pages of recipes with the lovely little red berries being showcased, both of my grandmothers fill their books with recipes requiring them.
So for simplicity sake of keeping track of the volumes of Cranberry recipes, I've added Cranberries to my sortable list (on the right side of the blog) and because there are so many Cranberry Bread (and also Cranberry sauces, etc) I am going to number them so not to confuse myself or hopefully you. Many of them do not differ by much, although I am hoping in those small subtle differences, I will find what truely makes one better than the other.
This one comes from a recipe card from my Grandma Melusine's small cardex box. I found it the same day I found the beef bourguigon and made it the following.
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
juice of 1 lemon , juice of 1 orange plus water for 1 cup total liquid
1 1/2 cups cranberries cut in half
bake one hour at 325.
Ok - my first kevetch of this recipe... I do not like standing there slicing cranberries in half. Especially for a fruit that when exposed to heat pop on their own.. but I did it (patiently). It's for that reason, the recipe got a Moderate rating rather than easy. It takes a lot of time to cut those suckers. Not that it's necessarily "hard" work.
I also kinda felt like I was wasting the lemon and the orange by not grating the rind into the recipe.. but maybe that is just me.
First off, the bread came out looking beautiful. It had a very nice light color to it, it smelled amazing. The dough consistance had good flavor of oranges, and cranberries, but the texture was a little moist. Cheif commentator wondered if maybe we should have cooked it longer (although the tester came out clean) to make the texture a little firmer. Or perhaps that is just how it was supposed to be?
All in all a good recipe. Little more work than most, but tasty.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beef Bourguignon

Ok, for all you Julia Child nuts out there, who have ever tried to make her recipe for Beef Bourguignon, you know that if you follow all the steps, the way she makes it, it's not an easy dish to do. This recipe came out of my Grandma Melusine's recipe file box. She claims there are only 156 calories per serving... and my claim to the recipe, aside from the cooking time (hands free) it's "Sunday night taste, with Tuesday night effort"

3lb lean beef
2 tsp oil
1 med onion sliced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano crushed
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
3 mushrooms

Cut beef into 1/2" cubes. In 2 quart saucepan cook meat, brown, add onion and flour stirring to coat. Add wine, chicken broth, and seasonings. co ver and cook 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Add mushrooms 5 minutes before end of cooking time. Remove bay leaf.

Perhaps one of the reasons I love this recipe so much is because it's actually written out in my grandmother's handwriting. She's clearly made it, and it's not just some recipe card that was cut out of a magazine for 'some day maybe I'll do this'... but that's the emotional side of me talking.

So really it's that simple. I have a couple of suggestions of my own for the next time I make it. I would A) double the amount of mushrooms B) Soak the mushrooms in some wine before adding, to amp up the flavor and C) Add them sooner, so they can intergrate into the sauce a little more.

Cheif commentator says that this is a "new favorite" he can't wait to have it again. He loved everything about it - his only complaint is that there wast much left. Between the two of us and the 3 kids, we gobbled it all down. The beef really cooks down, so if you are figuring this for a dinner party, I would guess more like a 1lb per person (precooked) and 2 mushrooms per lb.

Also, we served it with potatoes with rosemary and garlic (yummy) but it would have been equally delicious over rice, so that the rice could absorb some of the gravy. It was a huge hit with all three kids - so yay for a good meal, that is also kid approved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Coffee Cake - 1973 Pillsbury Bake Off Winner

Hi There.
Forgive the sideways photo. I have no idea why it has decided to do that, but editing the picture to make it go the other way turns it wonky. I promise the photo being sideways does not affect the flavor of the coffee cake.
The Chief Commentator has often mentioned to me his love of coffee cake. There are few things that make him as happy as the idea of having a delicious slice of heavenly cake with his morning cup of joe. Lucky for him, it appears that both my grandmothers also have a thing for breakfast cakes and breads to be enjoyed with their sanka. This recipe is no exception.
This one comes from my grandma melusines cook book - it's a cut out from a Pillsbury flour bag. It is titled "one-step tropical coffee cake" and under it it says $5,000 flour winner in Pillsbury's 1973 Bake-Off"
So the recipe won $5k for someone several years before I was even born... $5k is a lot of money, especially in 1973... so this must be good right?
Oven @ 350 degrees and you are going to need a 8 or 9 inch coffee cake pan.
Using solid shortening, grease the square pan.
1 1/2 cups flour (Pillsbury of course!)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz plain yogurt or sour cream (I used yogurt)
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, level off.
combine all ingredients in large bowl
stir 70-80 strokes until well blended (ugh! my arms!)
pour into greased pan
set batter aside
1 cup coconut or chopped nuts (I used almonds)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
combine in small bowl, and sprinkle over batter
bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
tip: 3/4 cup well drained crushed or chunk pineapple, fruit cocktail or mandarin oranges maybe spooned over the batter before sprinkling with streusel mixture. Bake 10-15 minutes longer.
High altitude - 5200 feet, bake basic recipe at 375 for 35-45 minutes. if adding fruit, bake 45 to 55 minutes.
Ok, so I didn't "go there" with the fruit cocktail, oranges or pineapple. It just didn't seem right (although it does seem very early 1970's)
Chief commentator liked how the cake wasn't very sweet. He said it stood up well with his coffee, although he would have liked a little butter drizzled into the topping to make it stick better.
Coffee cake isn't my forte, but I did like it, and I think in part, I liked it because it wasn't overly sweet.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Softball Cake

This recipe was not in my original cook books, nor was it in any of my Grandmother's however the time and effort it took me to make this cake, makes it worthy of a post on my blog, with some of the photos of what I went through, getting from point A (an empty pan) to point B the cake you see before you. Also, I realize that Martha Stewart can make a cake, but I'm still giving this recipe the most difficult of ratings, because it's not for the faint of heart, but can be done, if you are a good instruction follower and have heaps of patience.

My original inspiration for the cake. The Chief Commentator's daughter plays softball and loves everything softball... so for her 10th (double digits!) birthday, we decided to do a softball themed cake to celebrate.

I am so proud of myself, I read all the instructions on the cake pan, before starting (i.e. cover pan in shortening, and then flour but NEVER butter then flour before adding batter...) etc etc etc. The instructions also said to use dense cake like a pound cake for the recipe.

Since the kiddo loves lemon, I chose the Barefoot Contessa Lemon Pound Cake by Ina Garten as my base, and then "kidded" it up a bit by adding a cupful of confetti candy to the mix.


(makes 2 8" loaves)

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method (note this is the method per Ina Garten with my changes due to pans in (parenthesis)

preheat oven to 350 (325) grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2x 2 1/2 loaf pans (grease pan with shortening and then 2 teaspoons flour rolled around until all surfaces are covered)

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until ight and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest


**note - if you can find an easier way to zest 8 lemons, by all means go for it. My hands hurt so much after the zesting, I took a 10 minute break and had to stretch them. I used a microplane to zest, but by all means, if you can find a quicker method go for it.

Sift together the flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the butterminlk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evently between the pans, smooth the tops and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until cake tester comes out clean.

(This is where I folded the confetti candy into the mix, to make it more 'kid friendly'.

** I don't normally believe in keeping everything separate and then slowly mixing them in steps, but out of pure fear and supersticion that the cake would come out poorly, I followed along exactly. Also, I followed the baking instructions at 325 per the pan, which is more than an hour, it's more like, a hell of a long time.. I think closer to an hour and a half or so.

I skipped this next step completely, because I was going to frost the cakes, but here you go if you want to know how to finish off the recipe. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small sauce pan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cook for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

While the cake was baking, I decided I needed something for the softball to sit in, and because I wasn't about to self teach how to make a fondant or gum paste glove, I opted to make the ball sit in some grass. Now what is edible and looks like grass? coconut. Mixing a cup of coconut in a sandwhich baggie with about a teaspoon or so of green food coloring yields a nice looking grass effect. But it's sticky at this point and needs to be dried a little, so I spread it out on some parchment paper and stuck that in the oven (when the cake finally came out) watching it toast slowly. Which means, sitting infront of the oven because the difference between dry, and scorched is about 47 seconds. To make my cake, I used aprox 2 cups of coconut. Granted I did it 3 times before it came out correctly.. but the final product was 2 cups.
Now it's time for the cake to sit and rest. But before it's cooled (consulting my instructions again) I have to trim off the tops of both of the cakes and then flip them onto the racks to cool completely. (this translates to me, as 'done for the day' start again tomorrow with the rest of the project.
Before going to the frosting phase I have to trim one of the cakes, so that it sits flat. I don't want my finshed product rolling all over the table now do I?
So now it's time to make a whole bunch of frosting. In the interest of not having to make a second batch if I ran out and worrying about matching colors, I made a double batch of buttercream frosting (wiltons - basic buttercream) however for this size cake, one batch would have been pleanty with enough to spare the recipe said 1 batch, but erring on the side of caution and trying to skip the "I told you so's"
I pulled out a small amount to turn red, and then made the rest of it "neon nuclear green" then after I got the correct color, I pulled out 3/4 of it, and thinned the remaining 1/4 for smoothing icing (i.e. mix corn syrup into frosting until thinned)
First you flip the bottom half, and smooth it all with flat smoothing icing, then you start to decorate it. Prior to flipping it, I decided I wanted to make sure that the frosting was hard enough incase I touched it, so I shoved it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
At this point I could have filled the center, and thought about doing a lemon filling, however I was a little worried about it staying together, so instead I used a big glop of the regular butter cream and put the top on, frosting the entire rest of the outside in the smooth frosting.
Next I finished dotting the entire cake with the #16 tip (just like the instructions said!) and whipped up the red (it looks a little pink in the photo, but trust me it's red in person) and attached the #3 tip and went on to making the stitches.
Then I stuck the entire cake back in the fridge to harden again.
finally I added the green coconut around the base of the cake to make it look like grass.
There will be comments (hopefully tomorrow) on what the cake actually tasted like, but the little chunks I cut off the top when leveling were pretty darn tasty.
Here is the finished cake:
and here is the cake sitting in the middle of the set Dinner table for Daughter's "Japanese Themed" party. She requested Sushi, and all the fixin's.

The cake was certainly a learning experience, and now that I've done it, I'm sure I could recreate it faster next time. I was panicked about the cake consistency turning out the way I was hoping it to, and also learned (from reading the directions!) that it's important when frosting a cake like this with so many strange shapes and having to hold it together, that you use a dense cake (packaged cake mix doesn't work well unless you cut the oil down)

French Burger

This one comes out of Better Homes and Gardens, January 1998.

The article is titled Burgers Go Multicultural an the idea is to start with a Basic Burger recipe and then dress it up differently. The choices are: Middle East Burger, Korean Kimchee Burger, French Burger, and Greek Burger.

I made the French Burger tonight

Here is the Basic Burger Recipe:

1 beaten eg

3.4 cup soft bread crumbs

1 lb lean ground beef

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into four 3/4 inche thick patties. Broil 3 -4 inches from heat for 12-14 minutes.

Now here is the French upgrade:

add 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons drained capers

snipped fresh tarragon

Top with more blue chees if desired, serve on a toasted sour dough bread.

I ended up topping them with a blue cheese chive spread I whipped up and served with sweet potatoe fries with a curry lime dipping sauce.

Chief Commentator: Fantastic. He would skip extra cheese spread on the bread, because (and maybe it was the kind I used) blue cheese in side was strong enough and carried through nicely.

"definately one of the better burgers I've had in a long time, and it's not your ordinary burger" The capers also alleviated the need for pickle, with the tang and salt.

Celery Root Rémoulade

Growing up in Napa, getting deli made salad’s from Vallergas Market was always a special treat to me. I was in love with their celery ‘roulle salad, that I recall once getting my hands on the recipe for when it came in one of their mailers, but I must not have stuck it in my cookbook, as it’s no where to be found. I also clipped along the way, the following recipe it was from a magazine, although I have no idea which one.

Celery Root Rémoulade
(from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)
1 medium celery root (about 1 lb)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp crème fraîche
2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cut away all the brown skin and small roots from the celery root. Rinse. With a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the celery root into 1/8-inch thick slices. Cut the slices into thin matchstick-size pieces. (This is called a julienne of celery root.) Toss with salt and white wine vinegar.Mix remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir well. Pour over the celery root and toss to coat. Taste for salt and acid. The salad can be served right away or refrigerated for up to a day.

Add other raw julienned root vegetables, such as rutabaga, carrot, or radish, to the salad.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley, chervil, or mint.
Toss together with a rocket salad.
For the crème fraîche, substitute 1 egg yolk and whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil.

To note – I made one of the variations, instead of the crème fraîche, I did the substitution of yolk and oil.

Chief Commentator said: He liked it, it would go great with fried chicken or fish and chips as a lighter side, and was reminiscent of coleslaw in that aspect to him. He enjoyed the lightness and was easy to eat with a fantastic crunch, although he seems to think most people wouldn’t really like it, because it does have a ‘root veggie’ taste to it.

I have to add, if you are going to make a lot of celery root dishes, buy a mandolin and use that. I love celery root, and I would make it much more often if I had one, because cutting the root up by hand is a royal pain.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chicken Lime Soup

This one came into my cookbook by way of my co-worker Matt. He brought it for a pot luck, and I love love loved it!!!! He brought me the recipe, and it has sat in my cookbook for at least 3-4 years, never once being made. Until now, when today we had some cool fall weather, and I was looking for something warming, and easy. Well, the soup part is easy, I am giving this recipe a mixed difficulty of easy and medium, because although the soup is easy, the frying of the tortilla strips for topping may be challenging for others who are leery of pans of splattering oil.

Chicken Lime Soup

8 corn tortillas
½ cup vegetable oil
course sea salt
4 chicken breasts
10 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 pepper corns
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 large tomatoes , peeled and chopped
5 limes, juiced
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves


Cut the tortillas into ¼ inch strips. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and when very hot, fry the tortilla strips, in small batches, until lightly golden and crisp. 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain. Season with sea salt to taste. Repeat until all tortilla strips have been fried. Set fried strips aside.

Add the chicken, broth, onion, garlic, pepper corns, salt, oregano, jalapenos and tomatoes into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Remove chicken from the soup and set aside until cool enough to handle. Allow coup to continue simmering.

When the chicken has cooled a bit, shred into bite size pieces and return to the pot along with the lime juice and cilantro leaves. cook for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through and the soup is piping hot. Ladle the soup into wide soup bowls, with a handful of tortilla strips added to each bowl. If desired garnish with additional fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Before I get to the comments, let me tell you what I did change and what I’d do differently next time, cause there definitely will be a next time.

I skipped the 2 teaspoons of salt, because I figured my broth had enough sodium in it already (and it was the reduced sodium at that) and I think that was a good call. Plus I prefer to sprinkle a little salt on the top when I eat it anyway.

Also – going forward, because the chief commentator loves dark meat rather than breasts, I think I’ll make the recipe with thigh meat, and or a whole chicken.

and finally, I like a little more heat, so I would prolly double or triple the number of jalapeno’s in the recipe.

Comments: Chief commentator said he is going to request this once a week in the winter. He loved the tang of the lime with the chicken and the broth. He specifically loved how un-salty the broth is! (good call on my part to leave out the extra salt)

I love this recipe too. I like how healthy (if you keep the tortillas out of it) that it can be. I love the zip of the lime juice, and the hearty comfort quality of the broth.

Definitely a new favorite.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomato Vinaigrette

Tomato Vinaigrette

I made this one because I have so many tomatoes at this point of the garden, and I needed a creative way to use some up. I made a triple batch, (3 tomatoes) just to use some up.

I have no idea where the initial recipe came from. Its scrawled in my pre-teen handwriting on a page of a book. Knowing me, it prolly came from a newscast I saw on TV or the green grocer or something like that.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1 plum tomato,
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar,
3 tablespoons olive oil,
½ tablespoon fresh tarragon,
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Puree Tomato and vinegar, add oil, tarragon, salt and pepper.

Toss with greens.

The Chief commentator liked it a lot. So did the kid who loves tomatoes. Very Fresh, light, and covered the greens well. I liked it too, fresh. I didn’t like it the next day when I used the rest of it up, because there seemed like too much acid from the tomatoes, so this is not a recipe you want to leave sitting around.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nora Ephron's Mustard Vinegarette from the book Heartburn

Last night was a "grab a pizza and feed the kids fast" kinda night. So with take out pizza in hand, and feeling guilty that there were not veggies associated with it, I decided I better make a quick salad to serve along side the pizza.

Now if you know me, you know there isn't EVER bottled dressing in the fridge (not even ranch for dipping your pizza crust) I am just not a bottle dressing kinda girl, and well, honestly, I wouldn't have room to stick bottled dressing in the fridge, cause I have too many jars of pickles, and other things that take up nearly all the door space.

Before I get to the recipe, let me give you all a time saver. Every few days, I wash several heads of lettuce, spin them dry, and chop them, I add chopped cabbage to the lettuce and then I make up gallon sized baggies, and toss in a paper towel or two to help reduce moisture, seal it up and stuff it in the fridge. Then when it comes to dinner time, I cut a fresh tomatoe, and a cucumber and top the pre-made salad in less than 5 minutes. My own version of Salad-in-a-bag.

I grabbed for the nearest cook book and flipped quickly looking for a dressing, instead of doing one of my usual creations, ala flax seed oil and raspberry vinegar or olive oil, lemon juice and (my secret weapon) Cavendar's greek seasoning. One of the first recipes in the front of the book scribbled out in my early teen handwriting, copied from Nora Ephron's book Heartburn was her recipe for Mustard Vinegarette.

Sidebar - Heartburn is a GREAT book. The movie is also awesome (Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson) In the book the heroine Rachel is a cookbook author, and along the way of her story, you get fantastic recipes, as a teen chef, I thought this was fantastic, and painstakenly wrote them all down and carefully glued them in my book, never to actually make them. Until of course, now.

and with that, I give you:

Nora Ephron's Mustard Vinegarette from the book Heartburn:

2 Tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard

2 Tablespoons good red wine vinegar

whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add 6 tablespoons olive oil, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy.

This makes a very strong vinaigrette that’s perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive.

Strong. Indeed it was, but it was a good strong. I let the chief commentator taste it and he liked it too, although he reminded me that 2 out of the 3 kids may not be that big on the whole dijon thing... quickly thinking, I split the recipe in half, and into half of it, I whisked a tablespoon of Honey - Now we had Honey Mustard - which all 3 kids LOVED, and tonight, asked for again ontop of their salad.

Chief Commentator thought the original, was a perfect dressing for all the lettuce's listed above and loved the tangy taste and the consistency was beautiful. I liked it also, although personally, I would have wanted a little more tang.

We both loved the dressing with the addition of the honey, and will be adding this as a regular dressing into our rotation!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Orchard to Oven Apple Pie School

Chef Meloni Courtway and I at the apple pie class.

Ok - First let me say this is the very first time I have every published a blog with multiple photos in it. The reason being is that I don't like the way you have to upload them (blogspot please take note) So this is a little out of order, but I'll make it work.

So my friend GW and I decided to sign up for a pie class at Olympia's orchard and if you are in the area, you need to sign up for one of these classes too. It was awesome. You start by going out to the orchard, picking the apples for your pie, bringing them back to the farm lodge and making your pie. from scratch. the old fashioned way. what can possibly be more awesome than that? oh they feed you a snack, and some pie, and you get hands on instruction from Meloni who won the Best Bakers in America Award by Martha Stewart... ya. it's THAT awesome.

A photo with myself, Meloni (she's in the chef coat - duh) and GW infront of the oven where we baked our pies (also where they baked the delish pizza we noshed on while waiting for our pies to bake)

GW and I out picking our apples

The schedule of events for the day

My finished pie. Yes, really I MADE THAT! THAT beautiful piece of love right there.
So with this one, you aren't getting a recipe (go try the class for yourself) but you are getting some advise, even if you think you are a pretty good cook, it's really fun to go get tips and pointers from a pro. Oh and if they feed you yummy stuff, and let you drink wine while you do it, all the more reason to sign up.
Just sayin.

PS - Look to the right - you will find a link to Meloni's food blog. Check it out. There is some great stuff there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stuffed Potatoes

Before I even get to the recipe, I had a little hurry up and rush moment... that was my own doing. I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table and time everything with the steak, and a very hungry boyfriend, so instead of twice baking these, I had a deviation, and well, made them Stuffed Mashed Potatoes.
The recipe comes from a newspaper clipping. it says it serves 6, I have no idea where or how or when the paper printed this, or which paper for that matter. Here it goes:
Stuffed Potatoes
3 large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1/4 pound bacon
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
paprika to taste
Wash the potatoes and drain. Place in a bowl and rub with olive oil and salt
place the potatoes directly on an oven rack in the center of the oven, bake at 375 for 1 hour.
Remove and allow to cool until the potatoes can be handled
*see what happens when you don't allow yourself time for this step? I instead grabbed them off the rack, chopped them using a fork and knive into large chunks and dunked them in the mixing bowl... skins and all. (can't get rid of that yummy salted skin now can I?
fry the bacon until crisp. drain on paper towels, chops the bacon coarsely and set aside.
Cut the cooked potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides, elaving about 1/4 inch of potato attached to the skins.
set skins aside.
beat the potatoe with the bacon, scallions and half the butter. Add the sour cream, worcestershire and salt and pepper. Refill the skins and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle the tops with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with papricka.

With the oven on broil, bake the potatoes in the center of the oven until nicely browned and hot thorughout - about 10-15 mins.
Ok, here is my diversion. Beat everything together until chunky yumminess. Scoop onto plates, and top with a little paprika for color. Done!
Update: 9/13/10 - the left overs were made into potatoe pancakes this morning, and turned out delish with a dollop of sour cream on top.
Chief commentator said: Loved the rustic flavors and the chunky texture (He didn't know they were supposed to still look like baked spuds) Good flavbors, the ingredients compliment each other well. He loved the chunky consistency.
This one is getting an It was OK, not a New Favorite, only because we aren't really potatoe people, so for us to make potatoes more than once a month, is hard pressed. It's also getting a moderate rating, because you actually HAVE to read the instructions. my bad.

Sirloin Steak with Mustard and Fresh Ginger

This one comes from what I think was a Napa Valley Travel Magazine that I cut apart. Date and season unknown... The recipe is called Double-Thich Sirloin Stead with Mustard and Fresh Ginger, and it's credited to an Emily Didier

yields 6-8 servings
1 sirloin stead double thick (about 2 inches) weigning approximately 3 pounds with the tenderloing piece removed, if desired (ask your butcher for this cut)

Mustard Coating:
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic minced very fine
3-4 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced, but not too finely, peel off the skin, slice into thick, diagonal slices, then smash and chop)
2 tablespoons oil

1 trim the meat of any excess fat. reserve.
2 put mustard coating ingredients into a bowl and stir into a paste
3 two hours before roasting time, brush the steak entirely with 2/3 of the coating, then palce in roasting pan. Spread the final third as a thick layer atop the meat. Let stand at room temp 2 hours.
4 To roast and serve: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place meat in center of oven and roast approximately 20 minutes or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 125 to 130 degrees.
5 remove from oven, let sit 6 or 7 minute, then serve
6 slice on the diagonal into thin or thick slices as you prefer; 1/4 inch thick is suggested.

Variation: can be barbecued with great success.

Ok - first off the Chief Commentator, would LOVE LOVE LOVE to try this BBQ'd but we need to try it on a different cut of meat, not our favorite cut here. Also after using the fresh garlic and fresh ginger, I think as a marinade / sauce, it would have had a better consistency had the garlic been powdered as well as the ginger. Both seemed to make it a little akward and lumpy.

On the recipe, there were some Wine pairing suggestions from Napa Valley Appellation's Wine Steawrd, Ronn Wiegand: (hmm maybe this was from Napa Valley App Mag?)
* Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 1991 RSV Claret, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon blend)
*Beringer, 1991 Merlot, Bancroft Ranch, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
*Rosenblum Cellars, 1992 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley

I actually paired it with a "Pro-mis-Q-ous" red table wine I found in a discount bin, that (shhh I know, I know I shouldn't every by a bottle of wine based on this) the label interested me, and it was like $6. It wasn't the best bottle of wine, but for a dish that seemed to scream Mid-West Cuisine, it paired well.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Broiled Chicken wBreasts with Basil - Tarragon Pesto

First off, this is once again a Marie Claire Recipe. And of course the Chief Commentator loved it.. (go figure) This set is by Erica De Mane, again it's food in 15 minutes, and I have no idea the issue or the year, etc etc. the other recipes are all summery and featuring summer herbs, so lets just assume it's once again a "summer" issue.
Broiled Chicken Breasts with basil tarragon pesto
2 large chicken breasts, split and boned, skin on (buy this way in your meat market from the butcher)
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese
2 dozen basil leaves
10 springs tarragon, thich stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 preheat broiler
2 grind garlic and nuts together in a food processor. Add asiago, herbs and 1/4 cup olive oil, grind to a rough paste, add salt and pepper
3 loosen skin on one side of each half breast and push a generous layer of pesto between skin and meat. Place breasts on broiler tray; sprinkle with vinegar, remaining oil, salt and pepper.
Broil 3 inches from flame, until skin is brown and crisp and meat just cooked trhough (about 10 minutes) These are good served hot or cold, whole or sliced at an agle and fanned out on a plate.
If you note in my photo my chicken is a little more than "brown" on the top, you can thank my broiler for that. Not me or the instructions. I would suggest baking it, and then just popping it in the broiler for the last minute or so, to brown.
The Chief Commentator knew all the stuffing ingredients without me telling him. He loved every component of the stuffing. Great consistency of stuffing, the breasts were really moist and delicious.
The stuffing recipe made HUGE portions, there was easily enough stuffing for 4 breasts.

Tomato Crostini

To lighten up dinner as of late, I've been skipping making a starch, and instead making some sort of fresh appetizer type dish as a side dish instead. Also, with the plethora of tomatoes that have arrived at our household, I've been searching out every Tomatoe centered dish I could find. This one paired perfectly with the Caesar Salad I wanted to make, because I could use the crostini's for the croutons, by breaking them up. Two dishes with one dish effort, not that's something to rave about.

This one is from Marie Claire Magazine. The article is by Gillian Duffy and the title of there recipes are "food in 15 minutes" everything is bery picnic related, so I'm guessing it was a summer issue. As for what year? I have no idea. As a side note, the Chief Commentator, seems to enjoy the Marie Claire Recipes that have popped up in the making, I am wondering if his palate is aligned with their chef. Part of me is thinking I should get myself another subscription.

anywho, onto the recipe...

Tomato Crostini (serves 4)

French Baguette, cut on the bias into 16 1/2" thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb unpeeled vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/4" dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoong capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 preheat oven to 400.
2 brush both sides of bread with oil, bake 10 minutes or until golden-eged and crisp. cool. packed in plastic bas, crostini stay crisp for several days. (like they stick around that long)
3 Place tomatoes in a bowl, stir in garlic, basil and capers reamining oil, salt and pepper.
Allow guests to spoon topping onto crostini themselves.
ok - here is a note from me to you. You may be saying, the capers have enough salt, I don't want to use any. use some. use good sea salt, and sprinkle directly on tomatoes and give them a stir, salt helps release the natural juices and flavors of the tomatoes, and makes this dish all the more yummy.
Also - this is just my comment, usually I toss in a little balsamic vinegar into my bruschetta dishes... this one has the capers. I think i'm love the capers.
Cheif Commentators review: Would like some sorta cheese involved. Motz or Parmesean, he also would have liked bigger bread for the crostini's, because it was delicious, and it seemed like he spent a lot of time, making his food nibbles.
Note - some of the crostini's became the croutons for my Caesar. Perfect Caesar croutons.

Boyfriend Snaring Caesar Salad

Boyfriend Snaring Caesar Salad

Ok, so that’s not the original name of this salad, it’s: Chez Bob’s Caesar Salad. But the truth of the matter is, the old adage of ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ is spot on as far as advice goes.

This was one of the first recipes I ever made out of my pieced together cook book. It’s a staple for me, and as early on as my boyfriends in high school, I’ve been having wonderful luck with snaring men using this recipe. Note, if you are dating a guy who ‘doesn’t eat greens’ or ‘doesn’t like salad’ you may just want to re-think the guy all together with, before going forward. Just Say’in.

The other night, I was stumped as to what to make for dinner for the Chief Commentator, as luck would have it, a random opportunity came up for me to run into an old boyfriend. Figuring who better to ask then someone whose heart I landed via his stomach, I candidly asked, ‘what was your most favorite dish I made’? His first response was Stuffed Peppers (that one is to come ladies, I promise) but shortly after, he replied, ‘Your Caesar salad is amazing, and I’m not just saying that, because I order it everywhere, yours is the best, because of its dressing.’

As we parted ways, I thought about it. I had made the Chief Commentator my Caesar early on in the relationship, but I certainly hadn’t made it recently, and I most definitely hadn’t made it since I started this blog. I made a beeline for the grocery store, and made it up tonight, for our salad.

(Edited Sunday, 9/12/10) The Chief Commentator loved it so much, that tonight (the next day)he begged me to make again, this time with him so he could learn. He wanted to experiment with the difference between the anchovy and using the anchovy paste so take two used the anchovy itself. (see his comments below)

I’m pretty sure this one came out of a ‘tween magazine too. I have no idea which one, because it’s totally clipped. The font looks like YM tho.

Chez Bob's Caesar Salad
(Serves two as a meal and four as a salad course)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 - 3 cloves (depending on you and your guests' garlic threshold) garlic, minced
1 anchovy (or 1 tsp anchovy paste)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (the real stuff not the dried stuff)
1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon,
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable (or olive) oil
1 medium-large head of romaine lettuce. Discard outer leaves. Wash and dry remaining leaves thoroughly, then slice into bite-size pieces.
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup croutons (I prefer homemade, but do what you want)

1) Into a large wooden salad bowl add ingredients up to the vinegar in order, one at a time.
2) After adding each new ingredient, use the back side of a soup spoon to blend it with the previous ingredients into a smooth paste.
3) Add oil & vinegar and blend well
4) Just before serving, add lettuce and toss thoroughly.
5) Add croutons and cheese, toss again, and serve.

Here are a couple of comments from “chez bob” that you may want to know, in regards to making it etc. Caution on eggs: There is a new school of thought that claims eggs should never be consumed unless they are fully cooked throughout. More-moderate thinkers believe that coddling an egg will kill most of the potentially harmful bacteria. If you are at all concerned about the risk of raw egg consumption, do not make this recipe. To avoid most of the potential problems, coddle your eggs by placing them, in their shell, in boiling water to cover for 40 seconds to one minute. Remove and use as directed.

then there was an editor’s note: For an egg-safe Caesar, omit coddled egg, use 3 tablespoons of egg substitue or mayonnaise. Or mix one large egg white with lemon juice; cover and chill at least 48 hours or up to 4 days. We taste-tested the recipe without egg yolk and it was delicious.

Sam’s note: I always use the egg. I’ve never had a problem.

chez bob’s Le secret: Romaine lettuce is the godfather of Caesar lettuces because it ‘wears’ the heavy dressing so well. if you must substitute, use another hearty lettuce. After washing the lettuce, us a spinner or a towel to remove all water. Water from wet leaves dilutes the dressing. For maximum crispness, return the prepared lettuce to the fridge until just before serving. If you are preparing the lettuce hours in advance, you can avoid browning edges by cutting the leaves with a sharp knife instead of tearing them.

Adventure club: Use imported Italian reggiano parmesan , grated just before using,(the key to the definitive Caesar) and good croutons (Sam’s note: duh?!?)

Garnish – top with an extra sprinkle of cheese

Suggested Accompaniments: This salad is complete on its own.

Alternatives: The anchovy is, of course, optional. Omit it or try replacing it with a sun-dried tomato. Because olive oil can overwhelm the dressing, try safflower oil (Sam’s note: This dressing would NOT be the same, not even close without the anchovy, if you don’t think you will like it, try it anyway. seriously. and I always use vegetable oil, because I do think the olive oil is too heavy)

Notes: Lettuce leaves should be coated but not soaked in dressing. Adjust amount of dressing for more or less lettuce to keep salad from becoming too “wet”

Music to cook by: Leonard Cohen, I’m your man (Ironically, the lyrics to this song, is about a man doing anything for you… I get the same response from the men eating this salad…)

Wine – a well chilled Australian Chardonnay (Sam’s comment.. I love it with anything, although I think my favorite (and choice of the night) Piper Brut Champagne.

Ok – now a couple of “Sam Secrets” since this is one of those recipes I’ve made hundreds, upon hundred’s of times.

1) use the anchovy paste instead of the fresh anchovy. I prefer the texture of the paste, as did the Chief Commentator after trying both.

2) juice of ½ lemon is about ¼ cup if using concentrate. Or I should say ¼ cup is what seems to taste the best. I prefer to use the concentrate UNLESS MYER LEMONS ARE AVAILABLE. Then go with the fresh Myer. But for consistency. Concentrate all the way.

3) No matter how small you dice the garlic, it’s always too chunky for my taste, unless you use one of those fancy motor boat sauce mixer things. Use garlic powder, a solid tablespoon full and then a little more, if you need more garlic flavor. Your dressing will have a much richer texture and you will thank me later.

Chief Commentator – why have you been hiding this gem from me? You know how much I love this one. You made it for me in the beginning, and then you stopped (oops busted!) I told him it was my boyfriend snaring salad, and he said, well maybe you should rename it boyfriend keeping salad, because this is a favorite and we need to eat this at least once a week.

His comments specifically about the salad: Preferred Anchovy paste to the anchovy filets, although he did like having chunks of the filets tossed on top of his salad for an added salty treat. The Croutons - crostini’s from the bruschetta I made, were perfect broken up on top.

Chief Commentator also thinks that kids will dig the dish.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mama Vitale's Italian Dressing

This one comes from Grandma Mary's cookbook. If you aren't familiar with Venetian Inn Restaurant in Little Canada, well then, your loss. Family owned restaurant, and although I'm sure the family at one point came from Italy, they've been a staple of Little Canada for a lotta years. At one point there was "Mama Vitale's Italian Foods" frozen foods. This recipe was a cut out from the inside of the frozen food box. Mama Vitale passed away in 1997. The Venetian is still open in Little Canada. You should stop by if you are in the 'hood.

Since getting my Grandma's cook book, I've been making this one. It's a staple in my world. I recently made a big batch for a potluck to dress my salad.

Cheif commentator loves this dressing. It's replaced all the others in the fridge as our go-to.

1 pint oil
1/2 pint vinegar (i use red wine)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry garlic
1 tablespoon dry onion

combine all ingredients in a bottle, cover, shake well and chill. makes approximately 4 cups

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomato Granite

I knew the day would come that I would find one that I hated. H A T E D. Well people, that day has come. I give you a recipe that I cannot recommend you make. But I am still listing it here, incase you are brave.
I love tomatoes. I love basil. I love Granite. This I didn't love. The tomatoes turned tart and akward. and the basil just sorta was blah. The chief commentator said it was the worst thing he ever had in his life. He said, he'd rather take a jar of Safeway chunky salsa and freeze it and eat it, then eat this again. Even the tomatoe eating kid didn't seem to like it.
The only positive thing we can say, was it had great texture. What a waste of good garden tomatoes.
This one came from the Napa Register, I'm guessing at least 20 years ago.
Tomato Granite
1 lb vine-rippened tomatoes (must be very ripe)
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup V8
Core tomatoes and lightly score on one side. Plunge into boiling water for 10 seconds then transfer to ice water. Squeeze seeds out into a strainer, reserving the juice. Using the same boiling water, blanch basil for 15 seconds and transfer to ice water for 30 seconds or until ready to use. Combine all ingredients into blender, blend until smooth and freeze in your favorite ice cream machine. Return mixture to freezer in a bowl stirring every 10 minutes for about 1 hour until it is frozen and granulated. if you do not have an ice cream machine, combine all ingredients into bowl and place directly into freezer. Once the mixture is partially frozen, stir it every 10 minutes until it is frozen and granulated. serve as a refreshing first course or intermezzo between courses.
serves 6.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gazpacho Salad

My friends know this one as my 'bread salad' that I get asked to bring to parties on numerous occasions because everyone loves it so much. I don't have a photo of it, mostly because it was so good, it was gone before I could take any. I originally got this recipe from my past co-worker Lisa. It's been a staple for a long long time. Adopt it into your recipe book too. Especially right now, when Tomatoes are at their peak - fresh from the garden.

8 Servings

Tomato Vinaigrette:

3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded.

1/2 medium red onion, cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


6 cups diced crustless hearty country bread 1/2 inch pieces

3 cups finely diced ripe tomatoes

2 cups finely diced peeled and seeded cucumbers

1 cup finely diced red bell peppers

1 cup finely diced green bell peppers

1/2 cup minced red onion

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1) make the vinaigrette. In a food processer, puree the tomatoes, red onion and garlic. Transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and black pepper.

2) In a large bowl, toss the diced bread with half the vinaigrette. Let stand for 30 minutes.

3) Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onion and parsley to the bread and toss. Add the remaining vinaigrette, toss well and serve.

I like to sprinkle a little feta cheese over the servings to add another dimension to the salad.

Cheif Commentator LOVED it. Delicious. delicious. delicious. He wouldn't change a thing, and he likes it with the cheese too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

oops I did it again...

Behold. it is a new recipe book. I bought it the other day because i just couldn't say no to such an awesome cover. It's empty, and so so pretty. I am going to be filling it with recipes, of stuff that I actually make, that are 'mine' the things we eat for dinner most nights, but because they aren't from one of the original cook books, fall between the cracks of every day life, and this blog.
I will be posting the 'favorites' that are lucky enough to make the pages of this book. Perhaps I'll refer to it as "samantha's grown up recipes"... or not.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Chocolate Rocks

Linda was over the other night, and I was making dinner -- while I was cooking I threw my pile of cookbooks at her, and told her to 'look for a dessert recipe that didn't involve powdered sugar' as I didn't have any. After much reading (because it turned out I didn't have several other things too)

We came across this recipe for chocolate Rocks
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped raisins
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (i cheated and used full size)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
preheat oven to 375. Grease two cookie sheets, set aside in a large mixing bown, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg and vanilla extract, beat until well blended. On a sheet of wax paper, combine cocoa, flour, salt and baking soda. sir into creamed mixture to form a soft dough (I threw it all in the kitchen aid) stir in raisins, chocolate chips and pecans (again kitchen aid) spoon 1/4 teaspoon (Yea RIGHT.. I used a teaspoon...) of dough 1 inch apart onto cookie sheets and bake 6-7 mins (9-11 for the size I made) cool on wire rack (what rack is that skinny? mine barely fit) makes about 120 (makes about 45)
Chief Commentator: Good, little candy like cookies. Raisns add a nice surprising touch when eatting.
Uber easy to make. tastey, and kinda like eating one of those chunky bars from when we were kids with the chocolate and raisins together.

Italian Cassarole

We made another nights meal for Chief Commentator's friend. It was another casserole from Grandma Mary, because well, what do mid-westerner's do well? They cook casserole. In fear of making it a little too bland for California palate, I did take a liberty to the recipe. I'll explain as I take you through it.

1lb cooked large shell macaroni

1/4 cup butter

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 medium onions

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 pound sharp cheese, grated

2 cans (8oz each) tomatoe sauce

2 cans (3 oz each) chopped mushrooms with liquid

3/4 cup burgundy wine

in a large skillet, brown meat. saute onions until tender. Drain off excess fat, add salt, garlic salt, and pepper. Toss cooked macaroni with 1/4 cup melted butter and place in two (2quart) cassaroles. Add 2/3 of chees to meat mixture and stir until cheese melts, add 1 can tomato sauce and mushrooms and pour the mixture over the macaroni. Top with second can of tomatoe sauce and sprinke with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 40 mins in 325 degree oven. When ready to serve pour on wine. Serves 8.

Again another recipe from "Fan" which I'm starting to think means a fan of the column, of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch.

Ok so what I did differently. I drained all the mushrooms, cause homie doesn't do mushroom liquid. I also substituted pasta sauce for tomatoe sauce to add some flavor. and instead of garlic salt (too much sodium in this dish) I made it garlic powder.

oh and when baking. Don't bake it for an hour and 40 mins, it would have been glop. 45 mins is all it needs, it's all pre cooked anyway.

Chief Commentator liked it alot. the 8 person serving, served 3 kids, him and I with maybe left overs for lunch tomorrow... the kids ate double portions, so it's a really good kid friendly dish. Everything mixed well together. It's your typical 70's hotdish if you are from the midwest, it will take you back to being a kid, and eatting thatkind of thing for dinner. Pair it with a salad to lighten it up a bit. We ate it with some good old fashioned PBR...


Oddly enough my Grandma Mary only has 1 spare rib recipe. She was more the meat eater then the other one, yet the other one has a bunch. Instead of attempting the mass quantites of Grandma Mel, I opted for the 1 recipe of Grandma Mary.

Pretty glad I did.

This one comes from Fan in Saint Paul, circa the Saint Paul Press Dispatch Newspaper, and again I'm guessing well over 30 years ago. there is an ad on the back of the clipping for Mink Coats, and they are $2495 new, or $1295 bucks pre owned.

I'm not sure many people can remember a day, when departments stores advertised that they even sold Mink Coats.


2.5 pounds spareribs, cut into serving pieces (ok, I left mine whole on the rack)

3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 table spoons frozen orange juice concentrate

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

Place ribs on rack in baking pan. bake at 400 for 45 minutes. Pour off pan drippings. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Brush sauce over ribs. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake 3o minutes longer or until tender, turning occasionally and brushing with remaining sauce. Serves 4.

well... I kinda cheated with this one. I double the sauce recipe and split it in 2. I marinated the ribs in half before backing, and then the last 30 mins, I pulled them out and threw them on the grill, and cooked them, while basting with the left over sauce.

Chieft Commentators comments: Citrus, good texture, loved the orange. loved. loved. loved it. it was simple and easier then most Bobby Flay recipes and also tastier (Sorry, Bobby, he likes my recipe better.. wanna challenge?)

oh and the photo doesn't do the ribs justice, but I paired it with several diferent vodka drinks that we were 'taste testing' after the final prep and sampling of the recipe, and as much as I'd love to include those drink recipies, they aren't from back when I made the cookbooks.

Upper Peninsula "Cornish" Pasties

I remember a long time ago, flipping through the pages of the cookbook of my Grandma Mary. I remember reading the titles out loud to my mom, and at some point she made a semi sarcastic comment to me about how my Grandma most likely didn't make ALL the recipies in the cookbook because she wasn't much of a cook, especially for things that took a long time. I was a little insulted at the time thinking OF COURSE she made every recipe... otherwise why would they be in her cookbook?


well years later, I know different. After filling 2 cookbooks myself with unmade recipes, and of course age, I've learned better. I'd still love to believe (for my childhood self) that she of course made every recipe that made it into the cookbook... but in the instance of the Pasties. I'd like to call b.s. on this theory. There is no way. NO, NO, NO way, (especially without the convenience of a kitchen aid) that my Grandma made these. And with that being said. I'm a little sad she didn't because I think she would have enjoyed them.

I have liked Pastie for a long time. Back in Highschool I dated a guy whose mom made them, based on a recipe she got from her Mother In Law. I'm guessing her crust was premade pie crust, since she wasn't exactly betty crocker... but again maybe I'm wrong. I don't remember her's tasting like this.

First a note about Suet: if you don't know what suet is, it's beef fat. Its the full slab of fat that is cut away from the underside of the beef. it's big. it's ugly, and if I can figure out ever how to post more then one photo per blog, I would show you, since I took a photo of all 6 pounds of the stuff that I had, before I had to grind it. I stuck it all in the kitchen aid food processor and it was done in less time then I thought, although the grease factor was less then pleasing when cleaning up. If you can get the suet ground from the butcher, by all means do. Also, call your butchers when you start this project. It's not as easy to find as I would have thought. Oliver's does carry it, and will stock extra if you call ahead. they may even be nice enough to grind it for you.

and with that I give you "Upper Peninsula "Cornish" Pasties.


2 cups finely ground suet

3/4 cup lard

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


With fingertips, work suet into dry ingredients until well-blended. Add lard and blend again, as for pie crust. Cut in enough water so dough is right for rolling. Divide dough into six equal parts.

Ok, so if you have never made pie crust from scratch, this step is a little daunting. You need to make sure that you make the dough moist and crumbly, but not too moist, because it won't roll. Also, cheat and use your kitchen aid with the dough hook.


2 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut into small cubes

6 medium potatoes, sliced or cubed

2 medium onions, chopped

1 small rutabaga, sliced or cubed

salt and pepper to taste


Combine ingredients, mixing well. Divide into 6 equal parts. Roll out each portion of dough to the size of a dinner plate. On half of each circle, place one portion of filling. Dot with butter the size of a walnut. Cover filling by folding over the other half of the dough and seal edges by crimping. Prick top of pastie with fork to make air holes. Place pasties on an ungreased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Makes 6 servings.

The article came out of the Saint Paul Press Dispatch prolly 30 or so years ago, and it was from Gerry Loverich from South Saint Paul.

Ok.. so besides the major pain in the butt of dealing with the suet, and then having to roll out the dough, neither of which were my favorite, the flavor of the crust and the flakieness are worth the bit of labor. If I was making the crust by hand I'd say the difficulty was Hard, so that is what I'm sticking with.

The chief commentator's review: If you have only had pot pie, you never lived. He loved the rutabega in it, and would have lessened the quantity of potatoe and upped the quantity of the rutabega. It had the perfect texture and it was so good.

It also reheated really well. We put the back in the over at 350 for about 30 mins today, and served them to the commentator's kids and all loved them.

I have about 10 cups of suet frozen (ground) so I will be making this again. Also, I bought the big container of lard (as I forsee more of my grandma's recipes calling for the 'real deal') so I'm well stocked in the staples.

We ate it the first time with a bottle of Marrietta Bin 51 Red Wine Blend.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chick pea Salad

I love chick peas. Its one of my favorite foods. I however don’t like canned ones. You can use them in the recipe if you like, but it’s so easy to make them from dry… why would you do it any other way?

Chick pea salad
19oz chick peas
1 large ball mozzarella, cut into ½ in chunks
small can black olives – halved
small red onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomatoe, chopped
2 tablespoons basil (fresh)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Combine first 6 ingredients, then whisk the last items together, and stir until well combined

Easy to make.

Chief commentator says: “it’s like a salad bar in a pizza place sans lettuce” I think it tastes more like macaroni salad but without the macaroni and mayo..

Overall comments: it was OK.

I wonder if it will taste better day 2.

Curry Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Curry Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Curry powder

Chicken thighs / breasts / what ever your favorite body parts are.

Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Half cucumber, peeled
½ cup plain yogurt
10 large leaves of fresh mint chopped fine.
Put curry, coriander, cumin into a shallow dish. Dip each chicken piece in the powder, turning to coat both sides. Heat a medium size skillet over med-high heat, spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook 5 mins. Turn and cook 4 mins more. Continue to turn, and cook until done.

Slice cucumber in half, use a spoon (I like a grapefruit spoon with the little ridges) to scoop out the seeds and liquid. Then I chunk it up, and add the yogurt and mint. And stuffed it all in the food processor.

To serve, scoop a little sauce over each piece of chicken.

Chief commentator says: Refreshing and lively, crisp minty flavor. Good happy summer dish. Great! I’m not usually a curry fan, but this doesn’t have the typical dirty curry taste.

We served it with a 2007 Simi Viognier.

It was really friggin easy to make.. and Chief Commentator says it’s a new favorite.

Wild Rice Baron

The chief commentator had a co-worker seriously injured in a car accident 12 days ago, today he returned home from the hospital, after having countless surgeries, and is on a long road to healing.

Being from the Midwest, I come from a group of people that when things happen, you cook and you cook and you cook. You send over hot dishes for the family, so they don’t have to concern themselves with making food. Today, when chief came home, I informed him that he would be delivering a Wild Rice Baron hotdish, along with a carrot pineapple cake tomorrow morning.

Note: the recipe and comments about making it are here now, we are cooking our own wild rice baron (I made 2) tomorrow night for dinner, so tasting notes will follow.

Wild Rice Baron
2 cups raw wild rice
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
2lbs ground beef
1lb mushrooms
½ cup celery chopped
½ cup btter
¼ cup soy sauce
2 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons salt (also optional)
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup slivered almonds

Gently cook wild rice, water and salt for 45 minutes. Drain if necessary. Brown ground beef and set aside. Rinse mushrooms trip tips of stems and slice. Saute Mushrooms, celery, and onion in butter for 5-10 minutes. Combine soy sauce, sour cream, salt and pepper. Add cooked wild rice, browned hamburger, mushrooms onions, celery mixture. Toss lightly. Place rice mix into a slightly buttered 3qt casserole dish, sprinkle with almonds.

This can be made in advance (like I did) and then refrigerated, and baked later.
When time to bake. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour uncovered.

Comments about prep: It was harder then I thought to make, mostly because there are so many steps, and you have to do each of them in different pans, which makes for a lot of dishes. If you want a short cut in the time, I would suggest getting precut mushrooms, that was the most time consuming part of the entire recipe.

So far, it looks and smells great, and packed beautifully into the casserole dish.

Not our favorite thing ever. It was a little bland. I don't like the almonds on top. It's a good hardy dish though, and if you like wild rice, it's a good dish. I would add more spice to it next time, and get rid of the almonds.

Carrot Pineapple Cake

My Grandma Mary had a thing for carrot cake. Carrots really. Carrot bars, cake, cupcakes, cookies. If you can shred carrots and bake them into a batter, I think I have a recipe for it. Thankfully, most of them have a cream cheese frosting involved somewhere, which happens to be the chief commentators favorite thing, making him willing to try all of these recipes.

Here are the chief commentators words: “I’ve never had one so chunky. I love love love the frosting! The cake is buttery, rich, chunky, nutty, like grandma’s carrot cake that you never had, because they got too old before you were born, and just bought the store bought crap and fed it to you. It’s the new coffee cake, great for breakfast, sooo damn good.”
Carrot Pineapple Cake
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 ½ cups oil
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded raw carrots – slightly packed
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups coconut
2 cups chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Combine dry ingredients, Mix oil and sugar , add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add dry ingredients, then fold in carrots, pineapple, coconut and nuts. Pour into 2 9x9 baking pans, bake for 45-55 minutes at 350.

Cream Cheese Frosting
¼ cup butter
8oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
1lb powder sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Difficulty: Moderate. This is the first recipe I’ve made in my new kitchen aid mixer, I found that it was hard to get all the batter into the mixer, and get it to mix well. It kinda pissed me off.. But that could just be the learning curve of me and the mixer.

Overall: New Favorite.

I'm Back! and I'm ready too cook!

I’m back! I’m back! And I’m cooking and writing like a crazy woman. I was unable to cook for the past couple of months, due to a sodium restriction in my diet. (and due to the fact that my recipes, as well as most of both grandma’s seem to LOVE salt and items high in sodium.) but with clearance from the Doc… I’m back to cooking !

In honor of my Grandma Mary (who passed from Breast Cancer, and since my whole health scare was lumps in my breast that they thought could possibly be cancer…) I start out with 2 recipes from her. Wild Rice Baron and Carrot Pineapple Cake.