Easter Pineapple

Happy Easter and Happy “National Pineapple Upside Down Cake” Day!

yup its a real day and you can read all about it here.

While I didn’t make cake, I did make muffins. With one simple substitution to basic corn muffin mix I was able to turn something ordinary into something special.

pinneapple corn muffins

Simply substitute the oil called for in your cornbread recipe/mix with equal amounts of pureed pineapple. This gives a nice citrus zing to the muffins. If you want it a little sweeter, add in some honey or brown sugar to the batter – or better yet serve with honey butter!

 

On Another Note…

Please forgive my lack of blogging/cooking lately as I am finishing up a crucial semester in grad school and thesis deadlines are making it almost impossible to cook at all! Be done soon and looking forward to more cooking!

 

 

A lot Like Matt

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Matt? As in “Fat Matt?”

No really that is his real name!

Well I had the pleasure some years back of going to see him in his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. Yup some of the finest BBQ you will ever experience. None other than “Fat Matt’s Rib Shack!”

While I can’t imagine be able to replicate BBQ anywhere near what they do so well down there, I do try on occasion to make an old-fashioned plate of BBQ.

served

Serve it like Matt does with slaw, white bread and pickles but this could easily be on a bun or over rice and beans!

While they didn’t ask me or pay me to talk nice about them – if anybody out there wants to send some of their food my way – email me and we can make it happen!

In the meantime I can’t emphasis how easy it is to make some more than acceptable BBQ at home. With your slowcooker. Yup no grill and no smoker needed, just the slow cooker.

The secret to sucess is that you purchase a high quality jar of sauce – preferably one with a “smoky” flavor built-in. I simply pour a jar of sauce over a small roast (usually 3lbs+/- for me) into my relatively small slow cooker, cover and cook on high for at least 4-6 hours. If you are feeding a crowd or want lots of leftovers (freezes well!) you can double the meat and use two jars of sauce. You don’t need to add anything else unless you want to.

So if you can’t get down to Atlanta, this could be an easy alternative!

 

Empanadas #92

There was something about the turnip in my crisper drawer that spoke to me one day. It somehow begged to be roasted and stuffed into little dough pockets. And of course some diced ham seemed like a nice match too. Feeling like I needed something green to tuck in there too, frozen peas seemed easy. (Like “Samosas” according to my husband.)

So that is how these empanadas were created…

empanada

I bake mine but I can’t emphasize enough how delicious they would be/are deep fried!

Surprisingly easy, I prefer to roast rather than steam/boil my turnip. And yes that is some sweet potatoes on the pan too. I figure if I am roasting anyway why not throw some other stuff on there too. And I often roast the a day or two ahead when I have the time so these can come together quicker. Saute the onion and ham first to get a little more flavor and color on them. Be sure to let the filling cool before you stuff the dough rounds.

I usually use the larger “disco” dough rounds from brands like Goya or LeFey. These are found in the freezer section, perhaps in an ethnic foods part of the freezer. If you can’t find these you could definitely use some refrigerated dough product or if you are really ambitious maybe make your own. They are essentially just thin dough rounds that get stuffed, sealed and baked. Or Fried. Have I mentioned that these really are delicious deep-fried. Sadly (Insert sad sigh here) I never fry anything at home. I reserve fried treats to occasional indulges when out at restaurants. It’s the same with ice cream. (Another sad sigh here.)

ready-for-the-oven

bake at 375 degrees on parchment lined sheet pans for 20-30 mins until browned

These are great to make ahead and have around for parties, lunch/dinner on the go, or an office pot-luck. The only advantage to the non-fried version like these,  is they are good room temperature or warm and will re-heat easily and beautifully.

The Recipe:

dough rounds (10-15 of the larger 6″ +/-size or 20 of the smaller 4″+/- size) and it also depends on how full you fill each one…but the dough rounds can be frozen/re-frozen.

1 med turnip (couple pounds??) peeled, cut, roasted on  a sheet pan with a little oil oil, S&P at 400 degrees till tender and yummy. Mashed and cooled.

1/2 large sweet onion diced ( I used “Maui”)

1-2 cloves of garlic minced fine – more if you like

3/4 lb +/- diced cooked ham

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chili flakes

3/4-1 cup of frozen peas

Salt and pepper to taste and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to saute

Saute the onion garlic and ham in the Olive oil. Add the dry spices and stir for a minute or two. Add the frozen peas and stir a few more minutes. Take off heat and combine with the mashed turnip. Taste for seasoning. After the filling has cooled, spoon a few table spoons onto a dough round. Flap over the dough and use a little water on your finger on the outer edge to seal them shut. Now either use a fork along the edge or roll the edges onto themselves. Brush with melted butter or spray with butter spray and bake at 375 degrees on a parchment/silpat lined sheet in the preheated oven for 20-30 mins till puffed, golden brown and delicious. These freeze beautifully either stuffed and not baked off or baked and cooled.

See some of my other stuffed creations here, here and here!

Convenient Calzone

Sometimes you just have to use convenience foods to get it done!

lazy fried peppersAnd this time around I used one of my favorite convenience foods… a jar of “fried peppers” from Mancini packing company. A nice little new England company with another factory in Florida as well – you can read about their history here.

This little jar packs lots of flavor – sweet bell peppers sautéed in olive oil and packed into the jar. An open jar is like arriving at the sausage carts lining Yawkey Way at Fenway. Just add Sausage.

And that is what I did. I managed to work up the effort to cut up a few sweet Italian sausages ( or hot if you prefer) and a white onion and get those into a pan for some browning and precooking.

Actual cooking here folks!

Actual cooking here folks!

Add in the jar of fried peppers and honestly dinner is almost ready! Even if I happen to have some fresh sweet bell peppers in the fridge and was inclined to slice them up, the long cooking time and patience required to get that “fresh from the sausage cart” flavor was more than I had this day.

After the sausage and onions had some brown to them and the peppers were mixed in, I also added a small can of tomato sauce (another favorite convenience item of mine) and a heavy pinch of Italian seasoning with some salt and pepper.

I let the mixture cool a bit while I rolled out some pre-made pizza dough (you see the “convenience” theme here!) and laid half the dough as the bottom on a parchment lined sheet pan. Next I spread the somewhat cooled filling onto the dough – not quite to the edges – and put the top half on, rolling up and crimping the edges.

Feeling slightly more energetic, I sprinkled some shredded Parmesan cheese on top with a little dash of garlic powder to just give some extra zip to the top.

Into a preheated 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the dough seems done and not overdone like mine.

20 mins to prep, 20 mins to cook and very little clean up!

20 mins to prep, 20 mins to cook and very little clean up!

This makes about 9-12 large squares on a “half” size sheet pan, depending on how thin you stretch the dough. This cuts better if it is allowed to cool a bit first. (A tricky subject around my house!)

Notes: leave the cheese off the top for dairy-free and use any kind of sausage you want, including turkey or even tofu. I won’t tell, if you don’t tell!

Gift Basket Clean-Out

 
 
This marmalade  Plus This  the main players 
 
Equals  ↓dinner

Whenever you get those gift baskets at the office or home, all the good stuff is immediately eaten. (cookies, crackers, nuts and candy) But the little hotel size jars of jelly and marmalade always seem to get left behind. Maybe because making toast at the office just isn’t an option! I like to use them to make a sauce or glaze.

I grabbed a few things from the cupboards to mix in and you can basically take any direction…I went a little Asian with my last one. Soy Sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, Chinese 5-spice and ground ginger powder (not shown) and some crushed dried rosemary… just because. Unfortunately a sesame allergy prevents me from using any type of sesame oil but that would be just perfect to add to this sauce for a distinct Asian flare.

The Recipe

6 oz orange marmalade

1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

2 tbsp low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce

2 tsp ground ginger powder

2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder (divided)

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp chili flakes

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1″ pieces

1/4-1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp oil of choice for saute

1 1/2 cups +/- diced onion

Whisk the top 8 ingredients using just 1 tsp of the Chinese 5-spice powder. Coat the chicken pieces  in the remaining teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and salt/pepper to taste. Sauté the chicken and onion in the oil on med-high heat till each side has a bit of brown. Add the sauce and cover for a few minutes to let the chicken cook thru. Remove cover and add peas and let sauce reduce for a few minutes more. Serve over rice.

Light And Bright

That’s how I like my chicken soup.

I like a broth that is flavorful and rich but still light and little sparkle from some lemon never hurt any chicken soup.

This soup makes a nice cheerful bowl in March, especially when winter never seems to end !

chicken soup

This soup couldn’t be easier…

I started out with some diced chicken breast and onions in a slow cooker with enough water (fortified with a bouillon cube)  to fill the cooker. (I was out of box stock but you could use that too or homemade if you had it!) I added carrots and lima beans from the freezer about halfway through.  I cooked the light egg noodles separate and just spoon the soup over at serving time with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous twist of lemon when you serve. If you had some leftover rice, that would be nice too. Cooking times vary depending on your slow cooker and whether you use the low or high setting, but basically you need the chicken to be cooked through and frozen veggies too.

Devils on Horseback

There are many obscure food nicknames/references in the world but with advent of the internet most of the time the origins of these can be tracked down. Not as easy with “devils on horseback.”  Or “angels on horseback.”

Google it and you will find some stories about English pub snacks and horseback warriors wielding meat-covered shields. However these snacks got invented and why they have this name, I may never really know. But in the meantime I shall just make and eat dozens of them.

I can’t take credit for inventing this. I first heard about these from a friend and colleague at work . We carpool once a week and torture ourselves discussing food all the way home, hungry for dinner after the work day!

She had the pleasure of eating at the Chicago restaurant, “Avec that invented these.  As she described them to me,  I knew immediately that I would need to make these.

My variation of "devils on horse back"

My variation of “devils on horse back” – dates split and stuffed with a lardon of smoked Spanish Chorizo and wrapped in bacon. Smothered in a smoky tomato and red pepper sauce.


Production Notes

The rolled, stuffed dates bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-30 mins.

You can double roll them with bacon and if you do you may want to bake them on their end so all sides get a little crispy.

These could also be made with raw, uncooked Chorizo – just make sure to cook them long enough that they are done. Use a thermometer if need be to test for temperature.

The sauce is basically finely minced onion and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil, add a 7 ounce jar of roasted peppers diced up, a 15 ounce of diced tomatoes, some garlic powder, ground cumin and smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes on med-low. Taste for seasoning and add salt/pepper and a tiny bit of Agave to smooth it out. This makes plenty of sauce for the approximately 36 dates I made.

Scooby Snacks

Have you seen this new trend where 3 or 4 pictures give the whole recipe? Especially popular on Pinterest.

Well here is my version…

Any questions…

beauty shot

Production Notes

I used a smoked, fully cooked chorizo – but a raw version would work too – just make sure it cooks fully.

I also used a pre-made “crescent roll” dough that comes in a “blue can” – they have a seamless “1 piece” version but you could easily adapt this for the traditional crescent style. Or I guess if you are handy – make your own dough from scratch.

A layer of cream cheese or even just a sprinkle of Parmesan might have put these over the top – just sayin.

January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

Everything Is Better When It’s Small….

Is it?

Recently I bought some baby kale. Yup little tiny baby leaves of kale. Very adorable.

Isn't it adorable?!

Isn’t it cute?!

Raw it tasted kind of like a mild cabbage. I love all veggies so it was cool with me.

Hmmmm but what to do with it?

I made a greek salad using some of the baby kale as my “lettuce” – good but maybe not for the non-adventurous.

Keilbasa, pasta and baby kale dinner

I decided that the rest of it should be treated as I would with baby spinach… throw it in at the last-minute of a “quick pasta dish.”

These kind of dishes are quick and you can use whatever you might have on hand for veggies… frozen peas, canned beans, squash….whatever you have. I happen to have some fairly decent fresh tomatoes on hand. (A miracle during the winter in New England!)

I sautéed some onions, garlic and kielbasa in olive oil, and threw in some “Al Dente” cooked bow tie pasta. ( I used the multi color veggie pasta.) The fresh tomatoes, cut into big chunks, went in just to heat up and release some juice along with a generous amount of dried Italian seasoning. Last but not least, the baby kale. Just long enough to start to wilt it.

Serve in big bowls with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you have a winter dish that just “hints” a little bit of summer!

Dinner For Dinner

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may already know that my husband and I share a common love of “dinner for breakfast.”

But lots of times we just have “dinner for dinner” and this basic pot roast is one of his favorites. (mine too!) Simple and tasty – this can be made in one pot and put into a slow oven until you are ready to eat and if you are using one of those heavy cast iron dutch ovens like I do, it will stay hot for a long time in case you have family or friends wandering thru at different times to be fed.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips to really help make the dish shine.

1. Add lots of seasoning to the meat and make sure to brown it. I really think being generous with your spices and seasoning sets up the meat for not only a flavorful crust but tasty “au jus.”

2.Sauté those carrots. Take the time to really cook those carrots a bit along with the onions – it makes a difference!

carrots and onions

For the record… this picture was taken as soon as I threw in the carrots, so they were still raw, but they did get a nice saute in the pan!

3. Potatoes on the side please!

I used to put the potatoes right in with the roast but they were never as good as I wanted them to be, so when a TV cook from Oklahoma once suggested serving the pot roast on a mound of yummy, rich mashed potatoes, I have been doing it that way ever since! (plus this gives opportunity for extra flavor – like “garlic mashed potatoes!”)

dinner plate
My husband made these delicious mashed potatoes!

Production Notes

My basic spice blend for the meat contains sea salt, course ground black pepper, garlic powder and celery seed. In addition to this I can change the flavor profile depending on what else I add. For example…ground cumin, paprika and a tiny bit of cinnamon for an “exotic” pot roast. Or  crushed red pepper flakes for a “spicy” version.  Let your imagination run wild.

My basic “go to” for liquid is water mixed with a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce to de-glaze the pan and become the cooking liquid for the pot roast meat and veggies. But you can use stock, cider, beer or wine too. Each of this will add/change the flavor profile.

I usually add a small can of tomato paste (or a couple squirts from the tube) to the pan after I have browned the meat and veggies but before I de-glaze to add a real depth of flavor to the pot roast liquid and because I love tomatoes!

If you want a thicker consistency for the “Au Jus” than add a tiny bit of cornstarch or an arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving.

Let It Rest

Isn’t that the title to a Beatles song?

Oh wait that song is actually “Let It Be” – still… both are words of wisdom!

In my case “let it rest” usually refers to some big cut of meat like a roast or chicken or something, but in this case it refers to lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned "All American" Lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned “All American” Lasagna!

Letting lasagna rest is a must for a clean, neat cut and so you don’t burn the roof off your mouth!

This lasagna was inspired by the green baking dish it was made in. I received it for Christmas this year from Aunt Barbara and I have been cooking in it a couple of times a week ever since! Mac and cheese, lasagna, you name it!  How did I ever live without this perfectly sized dish with handles!!

Production Notes

I used standard lasagna protocol here – nothing crazy or exotic. 3-4 layers of regular meat sauce, ricotta and noodles.  This time I used standard “boil first” noodles, but I have done it both ways… here and here.

Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

The Last Potato

I have made my last batch of mashed potatoes. Ever. By request of my husband.

Yes it is true, and while many of the dishes that come out of my kitchen are delicious and get rave reviews, my mashed potatoes are not one of them. I can’t seem to get the hang of them. I can’t even make instant mashed potatoes properly! Even when I follow the box directions precisely, something is not quite right. No matter how much butter or cream or anything, there is something wrong. Sometimes it’s the texture and sometimes it’s the flavor.

The problem

First off I HATE peeling potatoes and that was the probably the final straw on this last go round.  Secondly I don’t like getting out the big pot and waiting forever for the water to come to boil. After all that, inevitably, I pull the boiled potatoes out either over-cooked or undercooked. Sometimes, in total laziness, I oven-bake the potatoes instead of boiling them to get them cooked. Than they get mashed, peels included. The peels hold all the nutrients, right? (At least I dig out all the little “eyes” on the potatoes first!)

This last (and final) round of mashed potato was used in a perfectly delicious Shepard’s Pie. But the un-peeled mashed potatoes didn’t go over so well. Or perhaps it was the carrots that I adventurous-ly included. Maybe I will never know. But the hubby has instructed me to leave the potato-making to him. He is after all a Boston Irish guy and if that doesn’t qualify him to know his potatoes, I don’t know what would!

Leftover Soup

"Everybody in the pool!"

“Everybody in the pool!”

Like most folks I had more food than people at my Christmas table, so that presents lots of leftover opportunities. And like most folks, soup was the perfect thing to throw some of the items into and create a whole new meal.

Leftover baked ham got sliced into bite size pieces. A random potato or two rolling around the crisper drawer was diced small. There is always an onion available in my kitchen. A can of beans and the extra kale from the salad made the “nutritious factor” sky-high.

Method

Saute the diced potato, onion and ham in a little butter (or fat of choice) and once they start to soften, add some smoked hot paprika, a dash of grated nutmeg and some red chili flakes. Now add a box of stock and another box’s worth of water. (Adjust the liquids based on your amount of leftovers and how hardy you want the soup.) Simmer for about 20 mins and add a small can of beans.(Rinsed and drained first.) I like to add my kale at the end and simmer about 10-15 mins more but if you want your kale cooked even more, than go longer.

I served it in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Some shaved Parmesan would have been good too!

hot soup 2

A “Green” Christmas

Veggies not money!

Holiday dinners like Christmas can be so full of heavy, rich dishes that I decided to take a really “light” approach with the salad course. Just fresh shaved greens – 3 kinds, all raw and lots of them! Plus some fresh grated raw turnip for a sweet-spicy crunch and some dried cranberries for a little color and sweetness.

Green Number one….

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts.

Green number two plus some orange…

sliced celery and shredded raw turnip

Sliced raw celery and shredded raw turnip – Celery is like “beginners fennel”

Green Number three…

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my cusinart

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my Cuisinart – I used “Curly kale” and took out the stems first!

All together now…

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

Dress this with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh start to a holiday feast!

Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

Cookie Experiment

The “cake mix cookies” went so well that I felt kind of confidant and decided to experiment. What if I used chocolate cake mix? What if instead of peanut butter I used marshmallow Fluff? This seemed logical – after all both peanut butter and Fluff are gooey? That has to count for something when substituting in baking, right?

Wrong.

They looked really promising as I mixed it together – the white marshmallow Fluff giving the chocolate cake batter a kind of “designer grey” color! Once I started to portion them out on the cookie sheet, I really started feeling confidant and dug up some candy canes that I thought would be great all smashed up as a topping! They looked really promising as they went into the oven!

But when they came out…..

They seem to spread a lot more than I thought they would. In fact they spread a lot! And they had to be cut away from each other. But that wasn’t even the worst part.

They deflated too. While they were baking they had puffed up nicely and I was deceived into thinking I would have a nice puffy, chewy cookie. Instead they deflated to a flat, really flat cookie. And as a result I had really thin, crispy cookies. Maybe not the kind you want. I forged on anyway, making small dough balls and placing them further apart so at least I wouldn’t have to cut them away from each other, but I still had flat crisp little rounds.

They were still kinda tasty, despite the flat crispness. And it didn’t stop me from eating too many. But if any baker out there can tell me what to add (I suspect it is either baking soda or powder) I would love to get these a little “Fluffier.” (Pun intended!)

P.S. probably not going to take these versions to the cookie swap!

Old Fashioned Idea

Most people who like to cook and eat also collect recipes. Sometimes it’s in the form of books and sometimes it’s in the form of a mess of recipe cards, newspaper articles and general scraps of paper.

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

A few years back I did put together a bunch of recipes from family and friends to create one of those little homemade cookbooks. You know the kind – you make it on your home computer software and have it bound into a little book at the local copy shop. It turned out pretty good and makes nice gifts!
I would love to say that I tested every recipe that was included but that would have been an extra year and 20 pounds so I went ahead and included them even if I haven’t actually made them. (I had to believe my family and friends wouldn’t make bad stuff right?)
Recently I decided to make one of the vintage recipes that was submitted by an aunt on my father’s side. Old fashioned Persimmon cookies.
baked cookies
His side of the family hails from California so Aunt Ethel probably had a persimmon tree growing in her backyard. (circa 1958) This was a considerable undertaking as I really had no idea what a persimmon even was or tasted like. But I hunted some down at my local supermarket. (It helps that I live in a big city area with access to foods from around the world.) I bought a few, ripened them in a paper bag with a banana for a few days and then the big moment…


The flesh kinda reminded me of a tomato with thicker skin. They tasted good – mild not citrus-y.
The cookies turned out pretty good considering I am not great at baking. I made myself follow the directions EXACTLY – it was tough. These cookies seem to be the kind that are moist and cake-like. (unless I just under-cooked them.) The spices play a big role in the cookies and the persimmon is mild so maybe cutting the spice amount in half might let the fruit shine through a bit more? Also I think I should have mashed the fruit more for even distribution or perhaps they weren’t ripe/soft enough?

fruit rinds

I cleaned them out as best I could and didn’t seem to find any seeds!

The Recipe
1 cup persimmon pulp (I needed about 3-4 small ones to get this)
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg (large)
1 “cube” (stick) margarine**
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nut of choice (I used pecans)
3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped dried cranberries instead)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix pulp and baking soda – set aside. In larger bowl cream the margarine and sugar together. Beat the egg lightly and add to sugar mixture. Add pulp and mix again. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices together and add to mix. Stir in chopped nuts and raisins/cranberries. Drop golf ball size balls onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just browning. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

**I translated a “cube” of margarine to mean 1 stick and therefore used 4 ounces of shortening (Crisco). I am pretty sure the “cube” reference probably referred to the old-fashioned margarine product named “oleo” READERS please straighten me out if you think otherwise!!

Not A New Idea

I thought I was on the cutting edge by adding pumpkin to my macaroni and cheese – after a quick check of google – I realized this was not a new idea!

That’s okay, it was new to my Thanksgiving table and that is all that counts right?

I was craving mac-n-cheese AND wanted to add seasonality to the dish so I could serve it at the holiday table, so that is how my “mash-up” came about. I simply started with my usual mac-n-cheese white sauce and added a little extra nutmeg and the tiniest pinch of ground cinnamon. For the cheese I decided to keep it kinda plain with a medium cheddar and lots of salty grated Romano. (You could use Parmesan, I just happen to have Romano) Next I stirred in 1 can of pure pumpkin. (Do I need to say.. “not pie filling, just pumpkin?”)

pumpkin mix

Next I combined it with al dente cooked penne pasta and topped it with some more cheese. You can stop here and let it cool and put it in the fridge till you are ready to bake it or even freeze it until then. Don’t you just love a good make-ahead-freezer dish? I sure do!

When you are ready, bake in a 350 degree preheated oven of for 30 mins (longer if frozen) until it is bubbly and brown on top!

This recipe is based on 1 regular box of pasta and 1 14oz +/- can of pumpkin. The basic white sauce recipe can vary for me depending on what’s on hand and how “saucy” I want the dish. But generally I start with 4oz butter and flour for the roux and add in 2 cups of whole milk. I probably used 8oz of grated cheddar and at least a cup of grated Parmesan and/or Romano. Don’t forget to season with S&P and what ever flavorings you like…dry mustard, smoked paprika, nutmeg etc.

This portions out beautifully for lunch leftovers….if there is any leftover!

pumpkin mac and cheese

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

chicken dinner

This was my prize after cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer !

In preparation for the big turkey day I like to clean out my fridge/freezer and make room for the leftovers to come. So yesterday while the temperature dropped into the 20′s and the wind blew so hard I thought the grill was  going over this time for sure…I got started early with a cup of coffee and cleaning.

First thing I found was a couple of “splitters.” At least that is what the package said. I promptly opened the forgotten frozen chicken halves ( thus “splitters”) and submerged them into a brine to help flavor and defrost. Meanwhile as I continued on,  I discovered two small containers of forgotten homemade pesto from who-knows-which-summer. And of course I always have dried pasta and some sort of tomatoes on hand. The tomatoes were starting to get a little past their prime, mostly because they had been pushed to the back of the fridge. ( out of sight-out of mind)  I knew I had do something fast with them.

After a long bath (all day) the chicken got patted dry and massaged with butter. Then coated in a liberal dusting of seasoned salt, black pepper and dried rosemary. A perfect spa day for a chicken. I placed them on a rack and into a hot 400 degree oven. I kept a close eye and covered the tops with foil as soon as they got brown, so they wouldn’t get too brown. I always use a thermometer and cook until a 165 degree internal temperature is reached.

As for the side dish I just placed the sliced tomatoes in a bowl with the pesto and a little butter and when I put the hot pasta on top, it did all the work. I tossed it to combine things, added plenty of grated Parmesan cheese and a little reserved pasta cooking water to keep things moist.

Having a a bath and my discoveries from the fridge/Freezer!

Having a a bath and my discoveries from the fridge/Freezer!

P.S. Wondering about that title? Well me too. According to “urban dictionary”-
The legend tells that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner with a potato and a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2, hence when you won a bet you had enough for a chicken dinner!

Cookie Rehearsal

Recently I was invited by my neighbor to a cookie swap. Of course she knows I love to cook – but I am not sure she knows about my lack of baking skills. On top of that she and her daughter are practically professionals in the baking department. So there is a fair amount of pressure here to make some good cookies! I have never been to a cookie swap but I am pretty sure the concept is arrive with a bunch of cookies you made and leave with a similar amount of cookies, except they will all be the different kinds that everybody brought. i.e “the swap!”

So just as I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to accept this challenge invitation, fate inserted itself in the form of a recipe posting on Facebook! 4 ingredients! One of them from a box! It seemed easy enough for even me!

Peanut Butter Cake Mix Cookies….

Yup – I know the baking purists are gasping out there, never mind the anti-processed food crowd! I like to think I am just as organic, healthy and veggie eating as the next but sometimes you just gotta break down and go with it.

Simply mix 1 box of yellow cake mix (no I didn’t worry about box size or ounces, just grabbed one, off the shelf) and 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 large eggs and 1 cup of peanut butter. (and for some reason I had 3 open jars of 3 different kinds of peanut butter and I used up 2 to consolidate – yay!)

cookie dough

Now simply form small balls – about golf ball shape – and place on the cookie sheet. No spraying of the sheet needed (I guess) but I did use parchment paper. (not sure if it needed it – just seemed like the thing to do.) Squish each twice (opposite directions) with a fork to form the classic peanut butter cookie look.

forming the cookies

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until browned perfectly. Watch them in last couple of minutes because they can turn on you quickly. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

ready to eat

Easy and delicious – these not-to-sweet cookies came out perfect! hmm…What would happen if I used chocolate cake mix? Watch out neighbors – here I come with cookies!

A Round Dough In A Square Pan

dough

That’s what happens when you are coming off apple pie season and you realize your good pie/quiche dish has been lent out. (With a pie in it of course!)

I had no choice but to make it work…so into my glass brownie pan it went!

If you know me at all – you know that I will throw just about anything into a quiche. And I know for a fact that “real men do eat quiche!” Just ask my husband!

I have posted about quiche before, here and here, and I consider it the perfect vehicle for small bits of things: leftovers, extra parts, frozen things, you name it! So this time around I had some sweet peppers and onions to use up. Of course I always have a ham steak in the freezer if not in the fridge. Cheese of some sort is mandatory.

This is the latest version…I like to think of it as a Spicy Ham Italian Quiche – kinda like a “sandwich-as-quiche!”

Production Notes:

I poke the crust liberally with a fork and prebake the crust in a 400 degree oven for about 8 mins or so. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.

I usually use a filling ratio that is heavy on the eggs but has a little dairy (half and half or whole milk) in it too. I usually start with 6 eggs to about 1/4- 1/2 cup dairy but this dish was big, so 10 eggs plus enough dairy to make 2 cups of liquid, for this one.

I cover it loosely with foil for the first 20 mins of baking time so the crust edges wouldn’t get too dark. Uncover for the last 15-20 mins. Total baking time is around 40 mins but basically as soon as it is firm but tender – take it out!

Let it cool a bit before slicing – it will slice better!

Don’t forget to season! Salt, Pepper, Dried Oregano, Hot Chili flakes – whatever floats your boat!

And no I don’t make my own crust – mine comes rolled in a red box – get crazy and make your own if you want.

Add extra cheese about 10 mins before the end for extra yummy presentation!

ready to eat

Put The Lime In The Coconut

piece The combination of rich coconut and bright citrus-y lime is undeniable and one of my favorites! And it couldn’t be simpler than here in this “impossibly easy pie!”

It is not my first time making this pie – in fact if you have been reading along you might have seen this same pie (really more of a custard) without the lime and decked out for the holidays in a berry sauce.

But this time around I was craving lime (Thanks Lydia for that!) and I had all the ingredients on hand to make this.

The original recipe can be found here and the only change I made was to omit the vanilla and mix in 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice along with the zest of two limes. (1 in the mix and 1 on top to garnish)

It definitely cured the craving, but the lime is subtle – it you want more lime flavor you have to change the alchemy of recipe – something I am not good with. But feel free to report back with new ratios!

Trust me this won't hang around the house very long!

Trust me this won’t hang around the house very long!

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Carol’s Kielbasa Dinner

Maybe it’s the fall nip in the air here in New England. Maybe it was the fact that I had the ingredients hanging around the refrigerator. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to serve one of my many mustard selections I keep on hand. Whatever the reason…I found myself putting together a “kielbasa roast” for dinner one night.

Serve informally and rustic on a Dinner for two served on a rustic wood tray and whole gran mustard. Don't forget a great dark beer!
Served informally and rustic as a dinner for two on a wood tray with whole grain mustard. What could be more romantic than sharing/dipping chucks of meat and veggies! Don’t forget a great dark beer to go along.
This can also serve as party food – served barely warm or even room temperature – guests can grab and dip.

This simple dinner came together easily. I spread rough cut potatoes and chunks of raw onion on a sprayed foil-lined sheet pan. I used a little bit of olive oil to lightly coat everything and sprinkled my favorite all purpose roasting spice blend liberally on top. My choice of spice blend is something called “Northwoods Seasoning” from Penzeys, but you could use your favorite blend or even just a simple mix of seasoned salt, black pepper and ground cumin. Into a preheated hot 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes and then a quick toss and flip. Back into the oven for about 10 more minutes. Add the sliced kielbasa and green veggie of choice, cook another 10 minutes or so. Feel free to toss and moisten everything with a little more olive oil if needed along the way. But remember that the fatty meat will release some of its fat and flavor as it cooks.

Technique Notes:  The kielbasa is a fully cooked product so I am simply getting some color and flavor on it here. I cut my pieces about 1/2″ thick. Trying to keep a uniform cooking time. But I did give the potatoes and onions a head start as the potatoes need longer and the onions develop into a “caramelized” deliciousness. I choose a frozen Italian green beans because that is what I had hanging around in my freezer but I think florets of broccoli would be delicious here! Use your judgement with cooking time to get the level of brown crispness that you are looking for.

roasting sheet

On the roasting sheet – keep a close eye on things so they don’t overcook and be sure to toss and turn a few times. ( keep it “light’ if you must with a great quality turkey kielbasa)

Gordon, Are You Reading This?

Anybody who might have read my early (as in first) post will know that I am a big “Gordon Elliott” fan from way back. His long-time-ago show “door knock dinners” was a favorite of mine! This is the one where he surprised folks by knocking on their door and making dinner out of whatever was on hand. Kinda like “cabinet stew!”

If you are not familiar with Gordon – all you need to know is that he is the genius producer behind many famous cooking or cooking-related shows. Most recently his daytime series “The Chew.” I am an avid fan of this show which started airing in September 2011 – a full year after I started my blog in May 2010. Sometimes I watch it and comment to my husband “hey I just made that not too long ago” and think what a coincidence! Of course if it something common like burgers – which everybody makes all of the time, than it is bound to come up. But if the coincidence is something a little more unusual like perhaps Swedish Meatballs or American Chop Suey – than I have to wonder….”Gordon, are you reading my blog?”

Okay before you think I am a narcissist maniac, lets just consider the possibilities. (After all in this “get a record deal from a YouTube video sensation” world we live in – anything is possible!) Since I linked to Gordon’s production site back in May 2010 – it is entirely possible that his IT guys informed him of the link back to him, and he has been reading along with other my other approximately 70 other regular readers ever since. (A girl can dream can’t she?)

Well if you are reading this Gordon – let the record show that the street goes both ways. Here is an adaptation of something I just saw on the show recently – Chef Michael Symon cooking eggs inside an avocado half. His were a little undercooked as he was doing a “five in five segment” and he used the whole avocado half. I think my changes to this recipe were a good idea. See what you think…

Slice thin and make a big hole!

sliced avocados

In retrospect I would have made the avocado slices with the hole even thinner to allow the egg to cook easier. It really depends on your preference of egg – I like my yolks not too runny – so longer cook time for me.

eggs cooking in avocado

Standard “eggs in a hole cookery” – but use a cover to help them cook through.

final dish

Served on a bed of hash browns laced with chopped cooked bacon. (bacon optional for you vegetarians) Topped with a quick warm “salsa” of cherry tomatoes, basil and onion and sprinkled with Feta cheese.

P.S. I also noticed that not long after I discovered “www.foodimentary.com” which lists all the weird “food holidays” (like “national chocolate cupcake day”) the show started talking about them too. Coincidence? I think not!

Fall Pairings

There are many fall food pairings that go together so well.

A few that come to mind.. apple pie and ice cream, sweet potato and apples, pumpkins and apples…. oh wait…everything goes great with apples!

One of my fall favorites is sage and apples!

I started growing sage in a backyard pot a few years ago and I have really discovered the power of fresh sage! You can see some of my other sage pairings here, and here!

After apple picking the other day, I could think of nothing better than a nice fall dinner of roasted chicken with sautéed apples and sage! I threw in some small diced red onions to perk things up and of course I sautéed in everything in butter for the full “fall weather cooking” effect!

saute pan

I seared the chicken in a hot pan first and then after setting the chicken aside, I added the veggies for the saute. Next the chicken went back in and a little apple cider to deglaze the pan. I put the whole thing into a hot oven with a cover for 20-30 mins until the chicken was cooked through. (I uncovered the pan for the last 10 mins or so to re-crisp the chicken skin.)

The apples and onions melt down to a wonderful “savory” apple sauce and a couple of fried,whole, sage leaves added an artistic garnish. Serve with brown rice and crisp green salad.

 Fall on a plate!

Hmmm... where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Hmmm… where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Steak Tips: What Are They Anyway?

You know that old question…”what would you have for your last supper?” Well mine would most certainly involve steak and tomatoes of some variety! And around New England many a folk might say “steak tips!”

It is high time we discussed this regional favorite!

What are these anyway? No one seems to really know – not even Google! In this internet age of over a million hits on any given subject, I seem to have discovered one of the last mysteries remaining on the internet. (at least culinarily)

I can tell you that they are strips of beef sold universally around New England. Most folks cut them into chunks about 2″ x 2″ for portioning and cooking. They are not the west coast “tri-tip” and they are not “flank steak” or “hanger steak” or “flat Iron” steak” – as best I can determine – they are the “tips” cut from a sirloin.

Here is an entertaining and somewhat informative discussion about what steak tips are from Chowhound.

Here is the link to Ask.com

When New Englanders move to other parts, they are  known to have friends and relatives fly down with their carry-on luggage full of steak tips to satisfy their  hankering of a taste of home! (true stories)

Of course everyone has a marinade they swear by…some use a bottled salad dressing, some use a packet, some invent their own. Terriyaki style tips are very popular too. I usually just take the opportunity to use up the last bits of any vinegar-based salad dressing I might have hanging around. Or if I am making my own marinade it always involves some “Montreal steak seasoning” blend. Whatever your secret blend, no tailgate or family gathering in the summer (or anytime of the year) is complete without “tips on da grill” (typed with Massachusetts accent of course)

They are a standard on restaurant menus as well and local places have legendary followings based on their tips. Like this local joint. (And no they didn’t reimburse me for any promo consideration – but if they are reading and want give me a free dinner – I wouldn’t say no!)

Well whatever they are, I am glad I live in New England so I can eat them….

steaktips and salad
I love me a good salad,  but don’t overlook that pile of tips back there!
If anybody out there – butchers, chefs, cooks alike can enlighten me -please do so at: cabinetstewATyahooDOTcom!

Happy Anniversary Anthony

prince spaghettiWednesday is “Prince® Spaghetti Day” if you didn’t already know that. But you probably did because their commercial ran for something like 13 years straight! That is commercial where Anthony is running home for dinner through the famed North End neighborhood of Boston. Who hasn’t yelled “Anthony” at least once in their life in that same famous way as his mother did!

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that although I knew they filmed the commercial in Boston’s famous Italian North End, I had no idea it was because this is where the pasta company started, back in 1912, on Prince Street!  duh!

So it being the 100th birthday and all, I decided to have an urban hike and visit all the famous locations in the North End.

 
 
original window 2
Above: The original window as it appeared in the 1969 commercial
Above: as it looks now in 2013 – not much has changed – just cars and roof decks!

Of course I had to track down the original location of the pasta company…or wait is it across the street from this corner? So hard to tell now that the location has been converted to high-end condos! Well anyway this is the corner of Thatcher and Prince street in the vicinity of #92.

prince street 2prince spagetti location

And of course to complete the day….