Sunday, January 31, 2016

Deeply Darkly Chocolate

It's always fun to make a treat for a friend for their birthday. Since I'm no longer doing dairy, it's extra nice to be able to bake with butter since the resulting sweet will be given away and not tempt me.

Yesterday I made these dark chocolate, intensely chocolate brownies to give away, but saved a few for Straight Shooter, who told me that they were delicious and very chocolaty. They were moist and fairly dense, but still had crumbs and the stout just intensified the chocolate sensation. You wouldn't know there was stout in them if no one told you. They were fine as is, but I suspect that a nice ganache topping wouldn't go amiss, either, should you choose to make them very decadent.

Except for chopping the chocolate these are really easy to make. I didn't even use a mixer. I just stirred everything together. If you cut these out with a heart cutter after they baked it would make an awesome Valentine's gift...and you could eat the scraps.

Stout Brownies
From Cooking Light Magazine

1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, divided
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup stout

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8"x8" baking pan with aluminum foil, then spray pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside.

Divide the chocolate into a 3 oz. portion and a 1.5 oz. portion. Finely chop the 1/5 oz portion.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and chunked up 3 oz. of the chocolate. I used a microwave on 1/2 power, 1 minute at a time, stirring well after each minute. Add the oil and stir to combine. Cool slightly.

Add the sugars and mix well. Add the vanilla, egg and egg yolk and mix well. Add the stout and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just to combine. Fold in the remaining 1.5 oz. chocolate, chopped fine.

Put the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should have a few moist crumbs clinging to it when brownies are done.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack 10 minutes. Use foil to remove brownies from pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Note: The ingredients are as listed in the magazine, but the instructions are just a bit different.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mustard With Your Meat

When I was a kid one of the cool things was when my Dad would come home from packaging shows with new products like shrink wrapped items and Velcro fasteners and lunch boxes that folded flat. He also brought home silly things like a records. One of the most memorable was a Christmas record from a company called Line Materials. One of the songs on that record, which became a family favorite in my silly family, was called "People Should Listen To Me" or something similar to that. It was a song sung by a baritone guy who said he knew what the right way of doing things was...for everything! One of the lines called for 'mustard with your meat, galoshes on your feet' to give us two examples of what was right.

A few days ago I decided to see if that mustard with meat part was correct. I know I like mustard on hamburgers, but I had never used it for meat loaf and I was making a meat loaf using ground beef, which is rare for me...usually I use ground turkey. HERE is one I made using turkey and pork.

The other change was that I added cooked mushrooms seasoned with dried thyme. I wanted to add mushrooms but was worried that the moisture they give off when cooked would mess up the firmness of the meat loaf, so I cooked them first. Since I love the combination of mushrooms and thyme, that's what I used.

For the recipe I started with my Mom's Oatmeal Meat Loaf from the Classic Comfort Food cookbook (see link at top right corner of this blog, in web view). By cooking the mushrooms first and adding the mustard to the tomato juice, it didn't change the recipe too much and the results were not only delicious, but, according to Sweetie, the best meat loaf I ever made. I guess that officious guy on the record was right about mustard anyway.

Oatmeal Meat Loaf With Mushrooms and Mustard

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey, or a combination
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup tomato juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 onion, peeled & chopped
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup rolled oats, uncooked

Spray a large skillet lightly with cooking spray (I used olive oil spray) and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and the thyme and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms are browned and have given off most of their juice. The juices should evaporate as you brown the mushrooms. The idea is to have cooked mushrooms that will add little moisture to the meat loaf.

In a large bowl mix the ground meat or poultry, cooked mushrooms, salt and pepper.
Mix the mustard with the tomato juice and add to the mixture. Add the onions and egg and mix again. Add the oatmeal and mix thoroughly until everything is incorporated. Pack firmly into an ungreased loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F. oven. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Serves 8.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Recently there was a great buy on duck legs at the market. I rarely cook duck, so I took the opportunity to do some online searching for a good recipe. I ended up using a recipe from the New York Times, but also changed it a bit to include red wine because I think duck and red wine go so well together.

The results were awesome, like dining at a fancy restaurant, probably a French one. The dish was rich in flavor, full of roasted veggies, had a wonderful sauce in the bottom of the pot and went really well with some boiled red potatoes. It took a little more time than usual, but was well worth it.

Braised Duck Legs with Veggies
based on recipe at Diners Journal/NY Times

  • 2 duck legs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used a nice Pinot)
  • 2 large onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 oz. sliced, cleaned mushrooms
  • 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade.

  • 1. Put duck legs, skin side down, in a skillet large enough to accommodate all ingredients comfortably; turn heat to medium. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brown duck legs carefully and evenly, sprinkling them with salt and pepper as they cook. Meanwhile, peel and dice vegetables.
  • 2. When legs are nicely browned, turn them over and sear for just a minute or two. Remove to a plate; remove fat to a small bowl. Add red wine to deglaze the pan, then simmer wine for 1o minutes to reduce. Pour red wine over chicken and wipe out skillet. Add just enough of the reserved fat to cook the vegetables. Discard rest of fat or use for another purpose.  Add vegetables and thyme to skillet along with some salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Return duck legs to pan, skin side up and juices/wine, and add stock; it should come about halfway up duck legs but should not cover them. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, and transfer to oven.
  • 3. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees. Continue to cook, uncovered & undisturbed, until duck is tender and liquid reduced, at least another half hour. The duck is done when a thin-bladed knife pierces the meat with little resistance. When done, duck will hold nicely in a warm oven for another hour. Serve hot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Citrus For Cake Slice Bakers January Cake

It's always gratifying when you make a cake for someone for their birthday and they love it. I did that for the January Cake Slice Bakers challenge by making The Best Damn Lemon Cake in a small Bundt pan for a good friend who is 90+ this year...I won't tell you how many years plus, because a lady doesn't talk about that, right?

Here is what my friend wrote after she and her family had enjoyed the cake, "The lemon bundt cake was without a doubt the best dessert I've ever eaten. It really hit the spot. I think I liked it better than my favorite brownie. I did share it and they all agreed. So much so  - we need the recipe. I can see this as being a household must for all the time."

So there you have it...a cake good enough for a party, but a must for all the time...and it is pretty easy to make, too. The only wild card is that you must have a full ounce of lemon extract on hand...and lemons, of course.

Be sure to visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to see what great cakes they made this month. There were so many good choices that I made another one...which will get posted in a day or so.

An update on Sweetie...he went to the doc this morning and was told that he was healing well and was lucky to have escaped with nothing broken and no impacted disc on his back either. He is feeling much better and back to modeling. Right now he is working on the masts for a wooden ship...really awesome.

The Best Damn Lemon Cake
from Maida Heatter's Cakes

1/2 cup blanched almonds  (I used 1/2 cup almond flour from King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
one 1-ounce bottle lemon extract
finely grated rind of 2 extra-large or 3 medium-sized lemons
(most of the juice will be used for the Glaze)

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Note: The recipe calls for a 6-cup loaf pan to be used, but I used two small Bundt pans and the batter was about 1/2 cup short in each pan, so they were smaller cakes but still delightful.

Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch loaf pan with a 6-cup capacity. Dust it all with fine, dry bread crumbs (I used almond flour put through a very fine strainer), invert over a piece of paper, and tap firmly to shake out excess. Set the pan aside.

The almonds must be ground very fine. It can be done in a food processor or a nut grinder, or use almond flour made from blanched almonds. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, almonds (Maida does not include the almonds here, but folds them in at the end. I also mixed the grated lemon peel into the dry mixture rather than fold it in at the end). Set aside.

In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. (Can be done in the microwave, too.)

Transfer the melted butter to the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat a bit to mix. On low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating only to mix well. (At this point I added the lemon extract and beat it in just to mix.) Then, still on low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients in three addition alternating with the milk in two additions, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating until mixed after each addition. Mix in the lemon extract (if not already added).

Remove from the mixer. Stir in the grated rind and then the ground almonds (if not already added).

The mixture will be a rather thin mixture. Turn it into the prepared pan(s).

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester carefully inserted into the center of the cake, all the way to the bottom, comes out just barely clean and dry. If using a pan that is long and narrow, the cake will bake in less time than if it is short and wide. If using two small pans as I did, check after 30 minutes and every two to three minutes after that until cake tester test works. During baking, the cake will form a large crack or two on the top; this is fine and crack(s) will remain light in color.

Two or 3 minutes before the cake is done, prepare the glaze.

Stir the sugar and juice in a small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat only until the sugar is dissolved; do not boil the mixture.

When the cake is removed from the oven, let it stand for 2 - 3 minutes. Then, with a brush, brush the hot glaze very gradually over the hot cake(s). The glaze should not be applied quickly - it should take about 5 minutes to apply it all. (If putting on two small cakes, try to divide it evenly.)

Let stand until tepid, not quite completely cool. Then, gently invert the cake onto a rack. (If the cake sticks in the pan, cover it loosely with foil or wax paper, turn it upside down onto your right hand, tap the bottom of the pan with your left hand, and the cake will slide out.)Turn the cake right side up for loaf pan. Leave with fancy part up for small bundt cakes.

When the cake is completely cool, wrap it in plastic wrap or foil and let stand for 12 to 24 hours before serving. Or place it in the freezer for about 2 hours, or in the refrigerator for about 4 hours, before serving. This is wonderful with fresh raspberries served on the side.

This cake could probably be easily made into a gluten free cake, but I was making it for gifts, so used regular flour. If making with gluten free flour mix, use a long, narrow pan to bake it in and reduce the baking time a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Although we have been grateful for weeks of almost-every-other-day rain, the constant moisture created a hazard that we didn't think about. I guess four years of drought gets one out of the habits needed to weather rainy years well. A few days ago Sweetie was going down the back steps towards the room he uses for making train and ship models and he slipped on the wet, slightly slimy steps. His feet flew out from under him and he landed on the edge of the bottom step and then finished up on the landing. In the process he got some world class bruises, especially on his bum, but, fortunately, nothing more serious as far as injuries. His back has been pretty sore but he has been careful to ice his injuries and to rest, so he is doing much better. I am so thankful that he didn't break anything!

Usually we take turns making dinner, but I've been doing it since the fall, so last night I decided to make something that I enjoy ordering when we eat out. The dish is Vietnamese Bun salad, with shredded lettuce on the bottom of the bowl, cooked rice noodles on top of that, a scattering of matchstick carrots, cucumber chunks, minced cilantro and minced mint, and warm cooked chicken pieces. The dressing was fun to make. It has lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, water and ginger. Once the salad is dribbled with the dressing, chopped peanuts are scatter on top and it's ready to serve.

I used instructions and recipes from a number of places and put bits of them together, so I don't have a place to send you to. I read of various ways to prepare the rice noodles and finally ended up doing a blend of two of them. The dressing was based on one found on David Liebowitz's blog, but I added garlic and fresh ginger and used more lime juice and less water, so I guess it's my own dressing.

This is a light, refreshing meal with plenty of crunch from the lettuce and peanuts and cucumber and carrots. David uses fried shallots and red onion and I've seen the salad with bean sprouts, too, so feel free to adjust the salad fixin's, too.

I'm still going to order Bun when I eat at Vietnamese restaurants, but it's nice to know that I can make it at home, too.

Vietnamese Bun Rice Noodle Salad

The dressing
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • a few drops hot sauce, or Sriracha sauce to taste
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced

The salad 
  • 8 oz. dried thin rice noodles
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into bite sized matchstick pieces
  • 1/2 a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 large chicken thigh, cooked, skin removed, and cut or torn into bite sized pieces
    (you can also use other protein like barbecued pork, barbecued shrimp, or small, cooked spring rolls, or tofu)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts (I like unsalted)
For the dressing 
In a small jar combine the lime juice, fish sauce (more if you really like fish sauce), brown sugar, water, hot sauce, garlic and ginger. Shake to combine well and set aside.
For the salad  
Heat water in a large pot big enough to hold the rice noodles. There should be enough water to cover the noodles. Bring the water to a boil, then remove from heat and add the noodles, breaking the mass if necessary to fit it into the pot. Stir gently. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Return pot to stove.

In two or three or four large bowls place the iceburg lettuce. Gather all of the rest of the ingredients and heat the protein part. Turn on the heat under the noodles and bring back to a boil. As soon as the water boils, drain the noodles in a colander, rinse thoroughly with cold water, then spread noodles on a clean kitchen towel to drain.

Place some noodles over the iceberg lettuce. Scatter carrot, cucumber and warm protein (chicken in my case) evenly over the portions of noodles. Scatter the mint and cilantro evenly over the portions.

Drizzle some of the dressing over each salad and top with peanuts. Serve additional dressing at the table for those who want more dressing. Serve at once. Makes 2-4 servings, with some noodles and dressing left over for another time.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bread Baking Babes Boat Bread

Georgia, Georgia... That's the place in Russia where this month's recipe comes from. Thanks to our Kitchen of the Month, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, we were treated to an easy to make, delicious boat-shaped bread, Acharuli Khachapuri, that is usually filled with cheese, topped with a soft-cooked egg and butter and eaten hot.

I made the dough in my stand mixer and used the optional egg, which meant I needed more flour. It made a very nice, supple dough which was easy to handle and shape like a boat. I made the dough without dairy since I wanted to be able to taste it and to use one of the two boat shaped breads for a filling I could eat.

I made the first one with the filling given, just making up half the amount. I skipped the egg topping and the butter at the end, but Sweetie still really enjoyed it and even asked for more for breakfast this morning. The second boat was filled with a thin layer of plain yogurt, sprinkled with a bit of sugar, then topped with small blobs of cherry jam. I enjoyed that, even though the dough is a bit salty. If I were to make it in a sweet version again, I would reduce the amount of salt in the dough by at least 1/2 teaspoon.

This is a fun bread to make and fairly quick since it doesn't require a second rise. I'll bet you could come up with quite a few topping ideas yourself! To become a Buddy, be sure to e-mail Aparna with a photo and brief description of your baking experience. Here is a link to her site.

Be sure to check out the breads made by the other Babes. Links will eventually be at the bottom of the post.

Acharuli/ Adjaruli Khachapuri (A Boat Shaped Georgian Egg & Cheese Bread)


For the Dough:
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2/3 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg (optional)*
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt

For the Filling:
1 1/2 cups grated/ shredded Mozzarella
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 eggs (or any other topping of choice  - I used  sliced tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and herbs)
Skipped the eggs or any topping except the cheese for one, used plain yogurt and cherry jam instead of any cheese or other topping for the second Acharuli.

For topping after baking:

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed

I usually make my bread dough using the processor but this is easily done by hand.  Put all the ingredients for the dough into the processor bowl and knead together until everything comes together into a smooth and somewhat loose elastic dough that’s just short of sticky. (I used my stand mixer and some additional flour since I used the egg in the dough.)

Transfer the ball of dough to a well-oiled bowl, turning it so it is coated all over. Loosely cover and let it rise till double in volume – about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Place a pizza stone, or a baking sheet on a rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 250C (500F).

Combine the cheeses in a bowl and  set aside. Deflate the dough and divide it into two halves. Working with one piece at a time,  roll it out to a rectangle about 10” thick and 1/8” thick on a piece of lightly floured parchment.  This makes it easier to transfer the dough to your baking sheet.

Roll the long sides in a bit curving them inwards at the ends and seal well (with a little water) or the edges will open up during baking. Then bring the edges close and pinch together on both ends to form a “boat” like shape. Again, make sure the ends are sealed well. Transfer the “boats” to the baking sheet, but if you’re going to bake them directly on the pizza stone just omit this step.

Dock the centre “well” area and fill with half of the cheese mixture so it is a little higher than the edges of the dough “boat”. Repeat with the other half of dough and  bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes until the Khachapuri are golden brown.

Take the breads out of the oven and gently crack an egg on each bread without breaking the yolk (or add the sliced tomatoes, pickled jalapeƱos and herbs like I did) and return them to the oven. Bake for another 3 to 4 minutes till the egg is set. Take the Adjaruli Khachapuri out, and place a couple of cubes (2 tbsp) butter on each. (Skipped the eggs and the butter both.) Serve them hot. It helps to wait for about 10 minutes before eating them so you don’t burn your mouth! This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mushrooms and Rice and Bacon, Oh My

Not sure why, but yesterday I wanted mushrooms with my dinner. We had about 6 oz. of whole crimini mushrooms in the fridge so I just needed to decide what to make. Sweetie didn't have any preferences when I asked him, so I went with a rice dish. There wasn't a recipe for this and I didn't measure some of the ingredients, so I'll write up a recipe as best I can to keep it for the next time and to share it with you.This is a wonderful side dish with nutty flavors and delightful savory notes. If you like mushrooms, you'll love this dish!

The first thing I did was to chop some yellow onion and saute it in olive oil. Then I added the sliced mushrooms and cooked those together with some dried thyme and a little water. It smelled wonderful!

After that I decided that I wanted both bacon and pecans with the rice mixture, but first I started some brown rice mixed with chicken broth in the rice cooker and some wild rice and water in a pot on the stove.

While the rice cooked, I rendered the bacon enough so that it would crumble when it was cooled, poured off almost all of the bacon grease, then toasted the pecans in the pan I cooked the bacon in.

For timing, the wild rice was the key since it takes a little longer to cook than the brown rice. Once the wild rice was done I drained it and added it and the cooked brown rice to the mushroom mixture, along with the crumbled bacon and toasted, chopped pecans. After a quick stir and a minute on low heat to make sure everything was warm, I served it up. It was really delicious. The rice had a little chew, the nuts added crunch, the bacon and caramelized onions perked up the flavor and it all went really, really well with the mushrooms. This is a dish worth making again, and soon.

Mushroom Rice with Bacon and Pecans
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
6 oz. small crimini mushrooms, cleaned, dried and sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed
2 cups water
1-2 strips bacon
1/2 cup pecans

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-hot heat. Saute' the onions in the hot oil for 1/2 minute, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until onions become dark golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the thyme and the water, stir, cover and let cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When time is up, turn off the heat and set aside.

While mushrooms are cooking, put the brown rice into a medium heavy bottomed pot or rice cooker and add the broth. Cover and cook over medium to low heat (mixture should simmer) until rice is cooked and tender. Set aside.

While mushrooms and brown rice are cooking, put the wild rice into a medium heavy bottomed pot or rice cooker and add the water. Cover and cook over medium to low heat (mixture should simmer) until rice is cooked and tender. Drain. Set aside.

The brown rice will take 20 - 30 minutes and the wild rice closer to 45 minutes.

While rice is cooking, in a small frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crisp enough to crumble when cool. Let cool on a paper towel, then crumble. Discard the extra bacon grease in the pan, but don't wipe it. OK to have a little bit of grease left in the pan.

In the pan the bacon was cooked in toast the pecans for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring and turning them over as needed to keep them from burning. Set aside to cool, then chop the nuts.

Once all the rice is cooked, reheat the mushroom mixture over medium heat for about a minute, then add the two kinds of rice, the crumbled bacon and the chopped pecans. Stir well to combine, heat another minute over medium-low heat, covered, then serve while hot.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Buddies Bake Anadama Bread

Not sure what happened, but I completely forgot to do a round-up post for the Anadama Bread. So sorry dear Buddies! Perhaps this being my first post for 2016 will make it more acceptable.

We had at least two lovely breads baked by our Buddies Kelly of A Messy Kitchen and Carola of Sweet and That's It.   I thought there was a third one, but can't find any e-mails. Many thanks to each of your for baking with the Bread Baking Babes!

Kelly of A Messy Kitchen  found this month's bread a stroll down memory lane since she had made the bread in high school. She says, "For my loaf, I used a blend of flours, all purpose, spelt, and einkorn.  Because spelt and einkorn don't absorb liquid like regular flour, I ended up having to add a lot more, between ¾ and 1 cup of regular flour (to boost the gluten).  I still left the dough on the sticky side though because too much einkorn can give you a dry or dense loaf.  I must have hit it right because I got neither of those.  The loaf was hearty, for certain, but not heavy and still nicely moist.  I only figured out today that I used double the sugar as the original post, because I looked at another babe's post first which did the same.  Maybe that was why my loaf took so long to rise, the sugar inhibits the yeast.  I might use less next time but it was really good as it turned out!  And I still got fantastic oven spring."

Carola of Sweet and That's It posted on our Facebook page and not on her blog, but her Anadama bread was gorgeous, with a lovely pattern made using the seeds on top. She found that not all cornmeal is created equal but I hope she will try again to make this bread, even using the fascinating pan she tried.

I think a lot of the Babes had a good time with the Anadama bread and the variety of seeds was stunning. The Bread Baking Babes will be posting the January recipe on Jan. 16th. It's a different one, so do check back then.