A New Hip, a New Pan, and a New Appreciation For the Ability to Cook

Tomorrow is my four-week follow-up appointment with the VA about my new hip.

I'd love to say I'm waltzing across the dance floor and ready to hike Kilimanjaro, but I'm not quite there... The new hip is doing pretty good - it's the other parts that are out of warranty and keeping me from disco dancing the night away.

Tomorrow we will discuss the future. Right now, I'm happy to be able to get back into the kitchen!

First and foremost - thank the gods I married a man who can cook! And knows how to shop, figure out meals, utilize leftovers... all those fun things that so many people really are clueless about.

The amount of work involved in taking care of someone is phenomenal. Helping me get in and out of bed the first week, Putting on socks, carrying food from point A to Point B - and cleaning up after. All the laundry, taking out the trash, It's a pretty endless list...

And he did it all and still had time to cook excellent meals every day! Yes, I am lucky, I am fortunate, and I am also truly grateful.

What I didn't do was take a lot of pictures of the dinners Victor was creating. Actually, what I didn't do was take any good pictures of the dinners... I'm going to blame prescription medication, but the few pictures I did take came out really poor.  Definitely my bad. And the drugs.

I'm off the drugs and walking without assistance, so I thought it time to cook a meal. We had just received a new pan I had ordered from Milk Street back in March - they said it was shipping in June - so I thought I would break it in. It's called an "Everything Pan" - a cast iron braising pan with a glass lid and a magnetic wood trivet. I'm a member, but paid a lot less than the current member price listed. I got it to give our poor 45 year old Le Creuset braising pan a bit of a rest. That poor thing is really showing its age and getting more and more difficult to keep clean... I had to replace the lid knob a few years ago when it cracked in half and fell off...

It will now come out for special occasions...

 

 

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 3/4  lb chicken, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup carnaroli rice - or arborio, vialone nano...
  • dried oregano
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Saute  chicken in a bit of butter and olive oil. Add shallot, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until vegetables are limp.  Add rice and cook about 1 minute. Add oregano and a bit of salt & pepper. Add wine and cook, stirring often, until it is absorbed.

Begin to add broth by the ladle, stirring continually.  Continue adding ladles of broth as the last one is absorbed, until rice is just tender. Add the peas.

At this point, stir in  butter, and then cheese.

Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, as desired.

 

On the healing road and the road to getting back into the kitchen a bit.

Life is good...


Almond Tequila Cheesecake

Back when we went to Cabo San Lucas last year, we went to a Tequila tasting. Naturally, we bought several bottles since 1) it was really good, and 2) it's not imported to the US. It wasn't exactly cheap, but whatever it was, it was affordable for a vacation purchase. Besides, after all the various tequilas we tasted - and re-tasted several times - I wasn't exactly in the mood to deny ourselves a little splurge. [hic]

One we tasted - an almond tequila - definitely stood out. Too sweet for casual drinking, but we knew it would be a great ingredient for cookies or something.

The other bottles were consumed over time, but the Almond has sat unopened on the liquor cart since we got it through customs...

Until a few days ago.

My sister was having the gang over for a Cinco de Mayo nosh so I volunteered to bring dessert. The Almond Tequila was telling me it was time to get cracked open, so an Almond Tequila Cheesecake was born.

I think cheesecakes are a pretty easy thing to make. They're something I have made for years - and years - so they're generally not something I need to break out the cookbook for... I think the biggest secret is to keep 'em simple and make them at least three days before serving. They really do improve with a few days in the 'fridge before cutting into them.

 

 

Since most of y'all are probably not going to have an Almond tequila sitting around, try it with Amaretto... and the brown sugar really does add a nice twist. Light or dark will work, although we usually only have dark in the pantry. Your call.

Almond Tequila Cheesecake

The Crust:

  • 3/4 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted

The Filling:

  • 5 pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Almond Tequila

The Topping:

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Almond Tequila

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 350º.  Mix crust ingredients and press evenly into bottom of 10″ springform pan.  Set aside.

Cream the cheese until light and fluffy.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugars, vanilla, and , mixing until smooth and light. Pour into pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 15 minutes.  Keep oven on.

Mix topping ingredients and spread onto top of cheesecake to within about 1/2 inch from edge.  Return to oven and bake about 7 more minutes.  Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate 2-3 days, if you can.

 

 

 

It really is that easy.

 


Sausage and Peppers and Piadina

I've been a bit lax at the blog writing, lately...

We're obviously still cooking and eating, but we haven't been making a lot of noteworthy dishes - one can only write so many times about a plate of spaghetti or a salad.

I'll admit to a bit of laziness in the kitchen... the hips and knees have been out of warranty for some time, now, so I've been on my butt more than on my feet. [If the warranty gods cooperate, the first of the replacements will be on May 14th. But that's another story for another day...]

Last night's dinner was an old standby as well, but with a fun addition.

Sausage and Peppers, and Onions - Italian comfort food. Sometimes with potatoes, sometimes with eggs scrambled in. Sometimes served in a roll, sometimes just on a plate.

And sometime - at our house, anyway - on an Italian flatbread called a piadina.

There are about as many ways to make a piadina as there are ways to make a pasta sauce. Most recipes I've seen call for lard, although newer ones use olive oil. Some call for milk, some call for yogurt or sour cream, some no dairy at all. I always use lard, because I always have lard in the freezer, but the only wrong way to make them is to not make them!

I used a variation of a recipe I got from Milk Street many moons ago. It's quick and easy...

Piadina

adapted from Milk Street

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup lard, room temperature

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process to mix. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the sour cream and water. Process until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

Roll each dough ball into a 6"-7" round. Brush lightly with olive oil.

Heat a skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook for about another minute.

At this point, you're ready to eat. They're not pocket breads like a pita so they can be used as a wrap as with a tortilla or layered as with sandwich bread. We just tore them apart and used them as utensils like an Ethiopian Injera with our Sausage and Peppers.

I grilled the sausages. I sliced the potatoes with a mandoline, drizzled them with olive oil, and added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some Italian seasoning, lined them up on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and baked them in a 425°F oven. While they were cooking away, I fried onions and peppers together.

When everything was done, I mixed it all together and sprinkled some pecorino romano on top.

And there are leftovers for lunch!

 


Green Velvet Cupcakes and Four Leaf Clovers

We're off to my sister's house for St Paddy's Day, tomorrow. And that's PADDY, not PATTY! Patty is a girl's name, just so ya know.

And... since we're learning things, today, let me tell ya what I learned. There is no plant called a "Shamrock"! It's the original WTF? How can that not be?!? I've learned and heard of Shamrocks all my life! Sang songs about them. Learned about them in Catholic School.

It appears that the word "Shamrock" is merely a bastardization of the Irish word for Little Clover - Seamair Bheag! Who knew?!? Besides the Irish, that is... One thing I did know was that the plant in the US that is sold as a shamrock around this time is actually oxalis - an invasive weed. You can buy oxalis killer at Ace Hardware - I know, I've bought it.

What started me on this was opening some decorations I bought for the cupcakes - and they were FOUR-leaf clovers. Another WTF moment.

I first found out that there was no plant called "shamrock" and then found out that only 1 in 10,000 clover leaves are 4-leaf. All the others are three. The little clover - the Seamair Bheag - was used to explain the Trinity in the Catholic religion and gained popularity, but it's the FOUR leaf clover that is lucky - The Luck of the Irish!

My own Irish roots are on both sides of the family. My mother's maternal great-grandfather was born in Tipperary in 1818, emigrated to the US in the 1840s and settled in Galena, IL. I haven't really been able to trace him because Michael Hickey. Tipperary. His name might as well be John Smith. There's a million of them. It's quite possible he came over in one of the first waves of immigrants escaping the Potato Famine. His first child was born in Galena in 1848, so the timing is close. Who knows?!?

My father's family is a bit easier. His paternal grandfather was born in Slievawaddera, Ballyduff, Co. Kerry, and emigrated in 1874 and settled in Omaha. We've traced his family back to at least three-great-grandfathers - all in the same town in Ireland. We also have the ship he arrived on, arrival date in New York - pre-Ellis Island - and his citizenship papers. He became Fire Chief of Omaha.

We were hoping to visit Ireland this year for our 30th Anniversary. Hard to believe that I've never been - but right now my hips are making it difficult to walk across the room, let alone do a decent pub crawl across the Emerald Isle! Hip Number One May 14th and Hip Number Two in November. Ireland 2025 is now the plan!

In the meantime, I have my Ancestry membership and I'm going to try and find out a bit more about The Hickey Family of Tipperary.

And eat cupcakes.

Green Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from Garnish & Glaze

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons green liquid food coloring

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. (The cocoa powder will clump if not sifted. Ask me how I know.)

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy - about 7 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate each. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and food coloring.

Mix in the flour until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for about 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

For the Frosting:

  • 2 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup butter butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature. Place in mixing bowl and cream together until smooth.

Slowly add the sugar and then the Bailey's and vanilla.

Pipe onto cupcakes and decorate, as desired.

 


Żurek - a Polish Rye Soup - and a loaf of Rye Bread

We were invited over to Phoebe and Nancy's for dinner, last night. Phoebe was making a soup they had eaten in Poland that they really liked - Żurek. a soup made with a fermented rye starter - Zakwas Żytni. (Do not ask me to even try to pronounce any of this.)

We were the guinea pigs. Anyone who knows me knows I'm first in line to try a new food, so we were there with the proverbial bells on! And since we were having a soup with rye, I asked if I could bring a loaf of rye bread.

I must admit I had never heard of fermented grain soups. Evidently, they are quite common in the west Slavic countries - where my culinary knowledge is pretty bleak.

In doing a little research after the fact, I found that hardly anyone in Poland makes their own Zakwas Żytni, anymore... it's available in just about any grocery store. But... since there are not a lot of Polish grocery stores in Beaverton, Oregon, Phoebe made her own.

And I must say I am quite glad she did! The soup was excellent! Slightly sweet and sour, it was rich and flavorful - lots of root vegetables, kielbasa, bacon, and the crowning touch - a medium-cooked egg on top.

Stunning and delicious!

Also doing a bit of research after the fact, I found that there are variations in different regions of the country - and from home to home. Kinda like pasta sauce in Italy or tacos in Mexico. The constants are the Zakwas Żytni, sausage, and the boiled egg.

The fermented rye needs at least five days to develop, so plan accordingly!

Żurek - a Polish Rye Soup

adapted from The Polish Housewife

For the Zakwas:

  • 5 tablespoons rye flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves

For the Soup:

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 pound Polish sausage
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1 large parsnip, sliced
  • 1/2 celery root, peeled and diced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoon horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • hard-boiled eggs

To make the Zakwas:

Add the flour to a qt mason jar.

Add the water, garlic, and bay leaves.

Mix thoroughly, as it sits, it will separate with the flour sinking to the bottom

Cover the jar with a paper towel or kitchen towel and secure with a ring or rubber band.

Let sit for five days, giving it a stir daily to mix.

To make the soup:

Brown the bacon and sausage in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrot, parsnip and celery root.

Add broth and bay leaf and garlic, simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the potatoes and marjoram, cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add 2 cups of the zakwas (strained or flour mixed in, your choice) - add all of it if you want a more sour soup.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add horseradish and cream.

Return to a boil and remove from heat.

Serve by garnishing with hard-boiled egg half.

 

Recipes in our family are suggestions - or concepts, or a base idea to get the creative juices flowing and use up things that are already in the house. Rarely is something followed word-for word. Phoebe took the recipe and switched it around a bit to suit her needs. The above is a mere approximation.

Same hold true for the bread, below.

I saw a recipe for a Guinness Rye Bread and went to the site. The person making the bread more or less winged it - her oven doesn't work right, she left part of the dough out too long... more comedy routine than recipe. I went to the recipe site she was using. It had more structure, but I liked the first approach, better. Besides, the original site was using an Italian bread pan to make long rounded loaves - definitely not what I was looking for. I blended the two, added my own spin, and ended up with a hybrid. The recipe did not specify type of white flour, so I used bread flour. I had to play with the dough a lot in the making...

Guinness Rye Bread

adapted from Wild Yeast and One Perfect Bite (neither blog has been updated in years...)

Sponge Ingredients:

  • 195 g flour
  • 140 g coarsely-ground whole rye flour
  • 4.7 g (1.5 t.) instant yeast
  • 45 g water
  • 1 bottle Guinness Stout

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 195 g flour
  • 11 g salt
  • All of the sponge

Make the starter:

1) Combine beer and water in a large bowl. Add yeast and stir until completely dissolved.

2) Add flours and mix until a thick batter forms. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about two hours. Refrigerate over night. (Since I used bread flour and my starter was rather thick.)

The Bread:

3) Add remaining flour and salt. Mix with machine for about 10 minutes. This is the tricky part - the recipe stated it as a sticky dough. Mine wasn't. I added a bit too much water and then had to add a bit more flour. After a good 10 minutes of mixing at medium speed, I had a dough that cleaned the sides of the bowl and was juuuuust attached to the bottom.

4) Place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rest for an hour.

5) Turn dough onto work surface shape into a ball and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

6) Reshape ball and place on flour-dusted parchment paper on peel or rimless cookie sheet. Let rise until double in size, about 1 to 2 hours.

7) Preheat oven lined with baking stones to 450°F. Place empty pan/container on rack below baking stones for water when ready to bake.

8) Slash loaves with a razor blade.

9) Slide loaves or pans into oven. Add water to bottom pan.

10) Reduce heat to 425° after 5 minutes. Bake for another 30 minutes or until bottom of loaves sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I wasn't expecting to blog about this, so I didn't take any pictures of the whole loaf or the process. But I did get a couple of the part we brought home...

 

 

It came out pretty good and was a great accompaniment to a really great soup!

 

 

It had a nice, chewy crust and a really delicate crumb. I'll probably never be able to replicate it, but... I'm used to that.


Scallops with Bacon and Peas

Brain-Dead Dinner Night...

It happens now and again... I just have no idea what I want - or want to make - for dinner...

Open freezer.

There's all the usual suspects - chicken, ground beef, a steak, a small pork loin, langostinos, lots of frozen vegetables... and scallops.

The rusty wheels started turning... there was bacon in the 'fridge, red onions, frozen peas... A meal was born.

A main contributor to the recipe concept was the Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce from our friend, Tony at Zantonio.com. As you probably know if you read this thing, we've been helping Tony develop a mail order system for the butter, as well as coming up with easy recipes for its use.

One thing I learned from my Demo Years at Trader Joe's, if you want to make a product a pantry staple, you need to let people know how many ways they can use a product besides the obvious. It's how things like Pumpkin Dressing or Sweet Chili Soup came into existence. (There are still several hundred recipes we created on the site under Quick Meals In Minutes.)

Tony's product is so awesome it deserves pantry staple status.

But I digress...

I came up with a dinner made in the time it takes to cook the rice. Old habits die hard... And do I miss those thrilling days of yesteryear?!? Nope. I was born to be retired...

Scallops with Bacon and Peas

  • 1 lb scallops, cleaned
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon cut into strips
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup peas, thawed and blanched
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • pinch thyme
  • pinch oregano
  • 3 tbsp Zantonio Parmesan Garlic Butter/Scampi Sauce

Clean scallops and pat dry.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan. Add chopped onions and quickly saute . Add peas and quickly warm. Remove peas and onions to bowl with bacon.

Wipe out pan. Reheat and add scallops. Sear on one side about two minutes, flip, and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the Zantonio Parmesan Garlic Butter/Scampi Sauce, swirling the pan and covering the scallops.

Add the wine, and the bacon, onions, and peas.

Heat everything through.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with rice or your favorite pasta.

 

 

A simple meal and clean-up was a breeze! (Not that I know first-hand... Victor does the dishes!)


Lobster Mac & Cheese - Zantonio Style

Lobster Mac & Cheese - decadence on a plate. And this one is Decadence Incarnate!

Our friend, Tony has a business back east - Zantonio Brands of Hammonton New Jersey - and makes a couple of really great products - a fresh Bruschetta and a garlic parmesan butter marketed as Scampi Sauce. Both are available in Acme and Shop Rite stores back east, but there's no national distribution.

We've been working with him to help develop some online sales - something that is definitely not easy with fresh food. Our once-fabulous Postal Service isn't always as efficient as it should be - although even delayed packages have been within acceptable temperatures.

The best part of it for us has been receiving samples in the mail! When one has five pounds of Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce, one needs to find uses for it.

And we are...

Last night, I made a Lobster Mac & Cheese - using a recipe from Food and Wine magazine as my guide. The beauty of Tony's butter is I didn't need at add any additional herbs or spices other than a bit of salt and pepper, to taste. Everything else was there!

The biggest secret to this recipe - other than the Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce -is making the lobster stock. Letting it all simmer together makes for a really rich and flavorful base.

 

Lobster Mac & Cheese Zantonio Style

  • 6 small lobster tails – about 1 1/2 lbs, total – thawed, if frozen
  • 9 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce, divided
  • 3/4 cup sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound uncooked short curly pasta – elbows, cavatappi, or campanelle
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 16 ounces mixed grated cheeses – fontina, Gruyère, cheddar, asiago – cheeses you like
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Crumb Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs – fresh, store-bought plain, or panko will work
  • 3 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions

Grease a 3-quart, 13- x 9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high. Add lobster tails; cook, undisturbed, until shells turn red but meat is still slightly translucent, about 2 minutes (lobster will be undercooked). Using tongs, transfer lobster to a large bowl; let cool 5 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups of the cooking water to a heatproof measuring cup and set aside; reserve remaining water in pot on stovetop.

Using kitchen shears, cut down the center of each lobster tail shell, transfer meat to a cutting board, and add shells to bowl. Clean the lobster tails.

Chop lobster meat into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Make lobster stock

Melt 2 tablespoons of the Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved lobster shells with any juices from bowl; cook, stirring often, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring often, until almost dry, about 6 minutes more.

Stir in reserved 2 cups cooking water in measuring glass, and bring to a simmer over medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in milk and cream; cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large heatproof bowl; discard solids. There should be about 4 cups lobster stock; set aside. Wipe saucepan clean; set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cook pasta

While lobster stock reduces, return remaining lobster cooking water in large pot to a boil over high. Add pasta and cook for 1 minute less than package instructions for slightly less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Make cheese sauce

Melt 4 tablespoons of the Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce in cleaned saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, until bubbly and light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in reserved 4 cups strained milk mixture. Cook, whisking often, until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from heat; gradually whisk in cheeses, whisking until melted. Add mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Gently stir in cooked pasta and lobster meat. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish; set aside.

Make topping

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons Zantonio Garlic Parmesan Butter/Scampi Sauce. Stir in panko, lemon zest, and paprika. Sprinkle evenly over mac and cheese mixture in baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.

About 8 servings.

 

 

Tony is still not set for online sales - yet - but it's in the works. We'll definitely let you know when it happens!

 


Soft Mustard Molasses Cookies

These cookies come from a 2009 edition of the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine. I've had it laying around probably since then, but never quite got around to making them. I mean... Mustard in a cookie?!?

Well... as so often happens, I was wrong.

Yes, mustard in a cookie! They're like a soft version of a gingersnap - but with a bit more oomph! 

They're really flavorful and you don't actually taste mustard. A keeper, indeed.

Too bad it took me 15 years to get up the courage to make them.

 

Soft Mustard Molasses Cookies

adapted from Gourmet Magazine

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup mild molasses
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg, mustard, and molasses (mixture may look curdled).

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop 1 1/2 Tbsp batter per cookie onto baking sheets, arranging them 3 inches apart (cookies will spread). Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and dry to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

 

Make a batch - don't wait 15 years!


In The Beginning...

... there was no World Wide Web. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok... There wasn't even MySpace, let alone the concept of streaming movies or TV on demand.

Back in those Dark Ages, there was Compuserve, Prodigy, and America Online. You paid a monthly fee for an extremely slow dial-up connection to your service of choice. That fee entitled the user to 'X'-amount of minutes per month - and when you went over your allotment, you were charged by the minute for your overages. A lot. I know.

Victor and I were introduced online - he was on Prodigy, I was on America Online, and our Yenta, Nancy, was on both. She decided we should meet.

We did, and it will be 30 years in November...

During those years on Prodigy and America Online, we met a lot of really great people - people we were able to connect with in real life, and who remain cherished friends to this day.

One person we only knew from the Prodigy online world - who we lost contact with when Prodigy went away in 2001 - was a woman named Lisa Deaton. Lisa will always be remembered because she gave us her recipe for Double Fudge Brownie Decadence. And, as the recipe implies - it is decadent!

The secret to this particular recipe is the corn syrup. And, yes, boys and girls, there is a difference between Karo Corn Syrup and high fructose corn syrup.

Double Fudge Brownie Decadence

Lisa Deaton

Brownie

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan.

In saucepan, heat butter and corn syrup until butter is melted. Stir in chocolate until melted. Cool, slightly.

Add sugar and then eggs, mixing well. Add vanilla, flour, and nuts, mixing well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove and fully cool on rack.

For glaze:

Melt together chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir in vanilla. Frost with glaze and then chill about 15 minutes to set glaze.

The online world really was so much different back in those days. To quote Simon and Garfunkel... A time it was, and what a time it was, it was... A time of innocence...

Not that we were actually innocent, mind you... we could definitely be hell-raisers walking the fine line of being TOS'd... I spent an inordinate amount of time on the Christianity Boards. It was fun being the Gay Atheist who knew more about the Bible than those who professed to follow it...

I also came close to working for the GLCF - Gay Lesbian Community Forum - on AOL circa 1992-93. Alas, the actual money wasn't there. With 20/20 hindsight, I probably would have made a fortune in stock. Oh, well...

It is difficult to imagine a time when you didn't carry access to the entire world in your pocket. A time when you called someone on the phone and it would be busy for hours because they were online with their dial-up. It's also hard to imagine a time when 14.6kbs was fast! You actually had to go to a bank - online banking didn't exist. Bills came in the mail - and were paid by check. It was downright archaic!

But I digress - as usual...

Thanks, Lisa, for the recipe - and the stroll down Memory Lane...

And speaking of Memory Lane... the plate is from the 1992 James Beard Award Dinner - a set of 4 from our friend, Susan, who has been a friend for more than 45 years - waaaaay before the online world existed.


Homemade Soup and a Loaf of Bread

We finally made it to the grocery store, yesterday. First time in almost 2 weeks. We've had a bit of weather that just wasn't conducive to being out and about.

It's definitely age-related... Back in my youth, I'd be on the roads in a snowstorm half-lit with bald tires heading to the store because we had the munchies or were almost out of beer. Now, common sense coupled with a profound fear of meeting a 2024 version of my youthful self in the middle of an intersection keeps me put.

Fortunately, a well-stocked freezer and pantry kept us well-fed.

The nice thing about not shopping for 2 weeks is we can now actually see into the freezer and cupboards! There's nothing languishing in a far corner, dying of freezer burn. No packaged goods with a Use By date of July 2019. It's all ready to be packed out, again!

Another fun thing about not shopping for a while is getting creative with the things you have - like last night's soup. We had every ingredient but one in the house - and the one ingredient we didn't have was being delivered by Imperfect Foods.

I rarely follow a recipe for soup - it's soup, after all - but once in a while I see something that sounds interesting. I really like the flavor combinations of Moroccan food and this one hit all the buttons.

The original recipe called for a can of chickpeas and no chicken, but... we have several pounds of dried chickpeas from Palouse, so I used them. Also, since the recipe said to use chicken broth, I added some chicken. Leave the chicken out and switch the broth to vegetable broth and you have a lovely Vegan soup...

Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup

adapted from America's test Kitchen

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 oz chicken breast or thigh, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 4 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and starting to brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in coriander, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken and brown lightly. Stir in 1/2 cup cup parsley and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, water, and chickpeas. Cook until chickpeas are almost cooked through. Add tomatoes and lentils; increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in pasta and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chard and continue to cook, partially covered, until pasta is tender, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I did make a vat of this - lunch for several days!!

And since we were having soup, I decided we needed some fresh-baked bread.

 

The recipe for the bread was actually a sun-dried tomato and olive bread. I didn't have any decent black olives in the house, so I just made it without the olives and tomatoes.

This is a really easy go-to recipe that is excellent plain, or made with any number of add-ins. Light crumb, chewy crust... Gotta love it!

And I really do like weighing ingredients - it is just so much easier.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Bread

adapted from the BBC

  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
  • 15g/½oz salt
  • 55ml/2fl oz olive oil
  • 20g/¾oz fresh yeast
  • 275ml/9fl oz water
  • 170g/6oz black Greek olives, pitted and chopped
  • 55g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes

Mix all ingredients, apart from the olives and tomatoes, in a large bowl. Take care not to put the yeast in direct contact with the salt when they are first added to the bowl.

Knead well with your hands and knuckles until the dough is elastic, smooth and shiny. Cover with a piece of cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

Divide the dough into two and add half of the olives and sun-dried tomatoes into each.

Mould both the doughs into rough round shapes and press firmly down. Sprinkle white flour lightly over the top and mark them with a cross.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (silicone paper) and prove for one hour in a warm place.

Bake at 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 for 30 minutes until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

 

Two loaves of bread - one in the fairly empty freezer.

Bring it on, Mother Nature. We're set!


Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the kitchen is so delightful...

I just love it when I haven't been to the store in days, I find a recipe that looks pretty good, and I actually have the ingredients in the house to make it!

Case in point - last night's Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala!

We haven't been to the store because we've had some fun snow and ice - with more freezing rain about to start any minute. With highs only hitting the teens, the roads have become packed ice and snow. Our latest round of Cold Rain and Snow [cue the Grateful Dead] is only supposed to last until about 5am, tomorrow - an inch of snow and a half-inch of ice down at our level... More than a couple of streets are closed because of fallen trees or stuck vehicles and with plenty of supplies, there's just no reason to venture out. Besides, kids are sliding down our hill using a kiddie pool as a sled - who wants to interrupt their fun?!?

The chicken dish was compliments of a recipe I found on Food and Wine. It's one of the few food magazines I still subscribe to. Why I subscribe to any at this point is a mystery - I have literally thousands of recipes filed that I haven't made yet. I don't really need any more...

Be that as it may... this came out pretty good.

Roasted Mushroom Chicken Marsala

adapted from Food and Wine magazine

  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shallots cut into thin rings
  • 2 chicken breasts sliced in half and pounded into cutlets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Dry Marsala
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • S&P to taste

Heat oven to 425°F.

Toss the mushrooms, garlic and shallots in a 9x13 pan with 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Roast on the middle rack of the oven, tossing the mushrooms once or twice, until the mushrooms are softened with crisp, golden edges - 20 to 30 minutes.

Season the cutlets with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate and then dredge the seasoned cutlets to coat them all over.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, sear the chicken in batches, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the seared cutlets to a plate and set aside.

Add the marsala wine, chicken stock and soy sauce to the pan, with the heat on medium-high, and reduce by half.

Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Once melted, place the chicken cutlets and roasted mushrooms back into the pan.

Heat for a couple of minutes to warm the chicken, then turn off the heat and serve.

 

Parsley Buttered Noodles and Green Beans finished off the plate. And dinner only took three pots and a roasting pan!

It was worth it.

And the leftovers became sandwiches for lunch, today.


Pane Siciliano

I have been making Pane Siciliano for years - ever since I first got Carol Field's The Italian Baker - some 25 or so years ago. I even baked a couple of loaves in Sicily when we were there! It's a good loaf of bread.

I received the latest issue of Milk Street Magazine and, lo and behold, they had a recipe for Pane Siciliano that was just a tad different - it called for ground, toasted sesame seeds in the dough!

Naturally, I had to bake a loaf!

 

 

And I must say - the addition of the ground, toasted sesame seeds really knocked it out of the ballpark! It worked really well with the semolina, adding just the right amount of nuttiness without overpowering the loaf. Needless to say, we liked it!

It has a beautiful, soft crumb and the crust has just the right chew.

 

Pane Siciliano

adapted from Milk Street

  • 40 grams (4 tbsp) sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tbsp warm water,  divided
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp honey, divided
  • 340 grams (2 cups) semolina flour
  • 137 grams (1 cup) bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a skillet over medium heat, toast 30 grams (3 tablespoons) of the sesame seeds, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulse to a fine powder.

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir together 1¼ cups of the warm water, the oil and 1 tablespoon of the honey.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the ground sesame, both flours, the yeast and salt. Attach the bowl and dough hook to the mixer.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the water mixture. Increase to medium and knead until a smooth dough forms and clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place back in the bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment and dust it with semolina.

Turn the dough out onto a dry counter (not floured).

Form the dough into a thick log about 12 inches long. Using your hands, roll the log back and forth against the counter while applying light pressure, stretching the dough into an evenly thick rope about 30 inches long.

Starting at one end, tightly coil the rope, stopping at the rope’s midpoint. Coil the other end of the rope in the opposite direction from the first, forming an S shape.

Place the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until  almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Position racks in the middle and lower-middle of the oven. Place a metal baking pan on the lower rack and heat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons warm water and the remaining 1 teaspoon honey. Have ready 3 cups hot to pour into the baking pan to create steam for baking the bread.

When the dough has almost doubled, brush it with the honey-water mixture and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Place the baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven, carefully pour the hot water into the baking pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool the loaf on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Transfer directly to the rack and cool completely.

 

The recipe states one can also make 6 rolls from the dough, pretty much following the above instructions but rolling into balls and then flattening them to about 1" thick, cover and rise until doubled, and bake 35 or so minutes. I shall do that next time.

I shall be making it again. And again... It's an extremely easy loaf to make.