Thursday, December 30, 2021

Bourbon Glazed Ham

The holidays really rush by, don't they? One of our holiday meals had a centerpiece of Bourbon Glazed Ham, using a recipe from Martha Stewart. You begin with a fully-cooked half ham, so it's pretty easy, and towards the end of heating it fully, you brush on this aromatic bourbon-brown sugar-mustard glaze that you make while the ham does it's initial heating up. As the ham gets to the end of it's time in the oven, the glaze becomes shiny, browned and a bit sticky - altogether delicious. You don't even need to save this for a works to dress up a weeknight dinner just as well.

Bourbon Glazed Ham

Adapted from a recipe by Martha Steward, 2009

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1/4 cup bourbon (could also use brandy if preferred)
1 bone-in, fully cooked half ham, about 6 pounds

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Place ham in a roasting pan, cover tightly with foil (or put into a baking bag, like Reynolds Brown-In Bag, as I did, following directions for adding 1 tablespoon flour and cutting vent holes). Cook in preheated oven until thermometer registers 145 degrees F, about 1 1/2 hours.

While ham is in the oven, make the glaze. In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, molasses, mustard and bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. Set aside until the ham has reached XX degrees F.

Remove the cover from the ham, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and brush the glaze generously on the ham, covering all exposed parts. Bake, uncovered, another 30-35 minutes until glaze is shiny and darkened. Serve warm, sliced, or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas! The Sweetest Season


Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season...celebrate the coming of light and the love between family and friends.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Syrian Pastry for Bread Baking Babes December Bake

The time before Christmas in December is always a busy time, but this month's Kitchen of the month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, gave us such a good recipe that I had to make time to bake it.

The bread is Ekmak, which are lovely bread boats filled with ricotta cheese filling and topped with some fruit mixed with jam. Karen told us, "This bread evidently has origins in Raqqa, Syria. It's a city that, before it became war-ravaged, was the home of 200,000 people and a vibrant agricultural center with wonderful food traditions." 

Ekmak means "sweet bread with cheese" in old Assyrian, according to the article in Bake from Scratch. This Syrian pastry, Ekmak, comes from Riyad Al-Kasem's grandmother, and it is a dessert. 

Riyad Al-Kasem is originally from Raqqa and is now a restaurant owner in Tennessee. His restaurant is Café Rakka in Hendersonville. The book, The Road from Raqqa by Jordan Ritter Conn, tells Riyad's story of his life in Raqqa and how he came to the United States, started as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant and came to own his own restaurant. 

His own recipe includes a sourdough starter, so feel free to substitute. This dough is kind of like pizza dough, only sweeter. 

I enjoyed the Ekmak quite a bit, but Sweetie was expecting a flakier pastry and said he would prefer that to the pizza dough type bread. I might have to make it again, using the same filling and topping and shaping, just using puff pastry for the dough...a totally different dessert of course, but that filling really is a delight.

Do make this pastry as written both to become a Buddy and to see if you like it as much as I do or if you agree with Sweetie. To be a Buddy, bake it by December 29th and send an email to Karen along with your post's URL and a photo, plus a short description of your bake.

Also, do visit the other Babes sites. The ones I have seen so far have been beautiful and they like this recipe very much just as it is (with the usual creative Babes variations).

I made this with fresh raspberries and raspberry jam. The tang of the fresh, unsweetened berries was a nice counterpoint to the mellow cheese filling and the warm bread. Other Babes used different fruits and flours. You can make this your own recipe fairly easily.


For the cheese filling:

20 ounces (567 grams) full fat ricotta cheese, preferably double cream. 

63 grams (1/2 cup) all purpose flour

2 large eggs

28 grams (4 teaspoons) honey

3/4 teaspoons (2.25 grams) kosher salt

If you want a sweeter filling, you can add some sugar to taste. 

For the raspberry topping:

115 grams (3/4 cup) fresh raspberries, cut in half, lengthwise

112 grams (1/3 cup) raspberry preserves

For the Dough:

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast

12 ounces warm water (95 to 100 degrees F), divided

500 to 575 grams all purpose flour

1/4 cup (57 grams) butter, room temperature (super soft)

1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

9 grams (1 tablespoon) kosher salt


For the egg wash:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water


 Make the Ekmak:

First, mix the cheese filling ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate at least three hours, while you are making the dough. 

 Make the raspberry mixture:

Mix the ingredients and set aside.


To Make the Ekmak:

1.             In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar. Add 6 ounces of the warm water and let sit until foamy. 

2.             In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 500 grams of the flour, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the butter and mix with the dough hook on low until the butter is evenly distributed, about a minute. Pour in the yeast mixture and the apple cider vinegar and mix on low while gradually adding the remaining 6 ounces of warm water. 

3.             Knead on medium-low until the dough comes together. Switch to medium and knead until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. Add remaining flour, by tablespoons, until the dough is the right consistency. 

4.             Add the salt and knead for an additional minute on medium speed. 

5.             Turn the dough out onto your counter and form it into a ball. 

6.             Place it into an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 45 min. to an hour. 

7.             Heat your oven to 425 degrees F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. 

8.             Line three baking sheets with parchment and lightly sprinkle each with flour. 

9.             Deflate the risen dough and let rest for 10 minutes. 

10.           Divide the dough into 9 pieces and cover the pieces with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. 

11.           Roll each piece into a round and place each onto a lightly floured work surface. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

12.           Stretch each ball into a 6 inch round, re-cover with the plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. 

13.           Stretch each round into a 10 inch by 4 inch oval and spoon 1/3 cup of the cheese filling onto the dough. 

14.           Fold the dough as pictured to create "boats" and stretch the dough to about 12 inches long. Place the "boats" on the parchment lined baking sheets, 3 per sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. 

15.           Spoon a tablespoon of the raspberry mixture in the middle of the cheese mixture. Brush the dough with the egg wash. 

16.           Bake the ekmak for 15 minutes once sheet at a time, turning the baking sheet half way through. 

17.           Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes on a rack.

18.           Serve warm. 

Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in a 325 degree oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

 Tip: Work with dough in stages so that you can prepare three ekmak at a time and continue to shape, fill, let rise, and bake, in stages. I worked in 5 minute intervals so that each 3rd of dough was about 5 minutes behind. 

 Either way, it's not a big deal. It's like using pizza dough. 

 This is an amazing breakfast or dessert. 


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Gingerbread French Toast

Sweetie really, really loves French Toast and he loves gingerbread. Now and again, even in the summer, we stop by Hardcore Coffee at Bloomfield Road and he orders a Gingerbread Latte. The Pumpkin Pie Spectacular that I made last month is a favorite because the inner crust is made from crushed ginger cookies. French toast and gingerbread could be an excellent combination for Sweetie.

Because we didn't use up all the crumb mixture for the inner crumb crust, I've had a container of it in the fridge for a while and it needed using up. I decided to try making French toast with a coating of the crumb mixture. I had no idea if it would work, but figured it was worth a try. I started some Pink Lady apple slices to simmering with a little pie spice and water before I began the French toast, so that was our topping, instead of pancake syrup or maple syrup.

Sweetie was quite taken with this version of French toast, although I had trouble cooking it enough without burning the coating...the extra sugar wanted to burn. You may have to experiment with how hot your burner is to get the right amount of heat to cook the egg in the batter while not burning the ginger crust.

It's a pretty easy recipe. You make the French toast as usual, soaking the slices in the milk/egg batter. The new part is that you place a layer of the ginger crumbs in a pie pan, place the soaked slice on top, then use your fingers to sprinkle some on the top and to press it in so that it sticks to the slice. Once you turn the slice over, it will have gotten some crumbs on the bottom side but you may want to add more and press it in. Then you cook it in a lightly greased skillet until the egg batter cooks and the ginger crumbs become dark golden brown and  crisper. Served with spiced apples, it's a great dish for a rainy morning like the one we had this morning.

Gingerbread French Toast 
Serves 2

4-6 slices bread, French bread if possible

2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup milk - 2% or above is recommended, although non-fat condensed (not sweetened) is fine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
For the gingerbread crumbs:
1 cup crushed gingersnaps (about 20 gingersnaps) 
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cup non-dairy butter, melted
oil, margarine, or butter if you skillet or griddle isn't non-stick

In a large pie plate or other flat dish scramble together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar over the mixture and whisk it in. Elle's note: I use a fork for all of this. Sprinkling the sugar on last helps bring that floating cinnamon down into the mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are formed.

In another pie plate, place a thick layer of the gingersnap crumbs.

Heat a large skillet or a griddle over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked on the surface sizzles. While griddle is heating, soak 2-3 slices of bread in the milk mixture for 1 minute, then turn and let soak another minute.

Place soaked bread slices on the layer of gingerbread crumbs, sprinkling some crumbs on and pressing in, then turning and adding more crumbs and pressing in. Place two of the prepared bread slices in the preheated skillet (which you oil while it is preheating if oiling is necessary) and cook until first sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook the second sides are dark golden brown and toast is heated through. Elle's note: While the first slices are cooking, soak the rest of the slices, turning them over in the batter when you turn the slices that are cooking and then adding the crumb mixture as directed. Adjust the heat under the pan as needed to keep the toasts from burning.

Repeat cooking the remaining slices as you did the first ones. Serve while hot with sauteed apples, maple or cider syrup or other garnish of your choice.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole

I'm not exactly sure where the first week of December went, but here we are on the 9th with no posts yet! Everything is fine around here, but all the preparations for the holidays take time. I remember that my Mom used to complain that every year it seemed to take longer to do the things that went faster the previous year. Not just holiday prep, but most things. Grocery shopping takes longer, laundry seems to take longer (although that might be because the washing machine and dryer are over thirty years old and so are the pipes...the cold water in particular seems to dribble into the machine. I suspect the pipes are filled up with minerals so less water gets through). Even cooking and baking seem to take longer, so I guess I haven't started as many baking sessions and only a minimum of cooking.

Anyway, time flies by and it's dinner time. What to make? Well, there are a couple of cooked turkey Italian sausages in the fridge, and it doesn't take long to boil water for pasta, nor to make a simple white sauce, nor to crisp up some bread crumbs in melted margarine. Put all that together and you have a cozy casserole, perfect for a chilly, damp night.

The white sauce recipe comes from a classic cook book; the Joy of Cooking. For the pasta I found a half pound of multi-color twisty pasta. Since this casserole only serves 2-3, you don't need any more pasta than that. I served the casserole with steamed green beans and Sweetie was very happy. Hope you will be too, if you try this recipe out. The pasta and sauce are fairly bland, but the sausage lifts the flavors and the crunch of the topping adds texture so that the whole is delightful.

Italian Sausage Pasta Casserole
Serves 2-3 (Double the recipe to serve 4-6)

For the Pasta: 1/2 pound rotini (I used multi-colored, but plain is fine, too)
salt (optional)

For the White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine), melted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 Italian sausages, cooked, and sliced in 1/4-inch slices

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt if desired. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, make the white sauce: In a medium sauce pan, combine the melted butter and the flour. Cook, over low heat, stirring 3-4 minutes, until well blended and flour has had a chance to cook off the raw taste without browning. Slowly stir in the milk and simmer and stir the sauce with a wire Whisk until it has thickened and is smooth and hot. Whisk in the ricotta cheese until smooth again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to keep a skin from forming.

In a small non-stick skillet, combine the melted butter and the bread crumbs. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until the crumbs are slightly browned and a bit crispy. Don't allow to burn.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish. In the pot that the pasta was cooked in, combine the drained pasta, the white sauce and the slices of Italian sausage. Pour into the prepared casserole dish, use the back of a spoon to level the filling, then evenly top with the prepared bread crumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crumbs become golden brown. Serve at once while still hot.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Bucket List Pork Crown Roast

Over the years I've worked my way through a sort of bucket list of foods I wanted to try and, hopefully, master. From buttercream frosting through eclairs and macarons to the perfect lamb shanks and excellent guacamole, I've tried quite a few of them with success, most of the time. 

One item on my bucket list is a crown roast of pork with stuffing. It's not something you make for everyday meals since it apparently takes at least 12 ribs to create a good roast, so that's a lot of meat. This year for Thanksgiving I finally had an opportunity to make one since we decided that we wanted to try something else for the feast. We were going to a friend's home and she was game, too, so I went to the butcher section of a locally owned market. They had advertised a pork crown roast as part of the specialty items available for Thanksgiving, so it seemed like a good market to go with. Turns out I was wrong. There is a tale to be told.

I went a week ahead and ordered it for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the morning. I told the fellow who was taking the order that I had never made one before so that I needed advice on what to order. He asked how many I'd be serving and said that eight ribs would do, so that's what I ordered, to be shaped by the butcher into a crown and tied, with the bone ends 'Frenched'. He wrote up the order and my phone number was included.

So there I was the day before Thanksgiving at 9:30 in the morning amid a mad rush of shoppers picking up their turkeys. When it was my turn, they brought out a package with a slab of ribs. I explained that I had ordered a tied crown roast. They said that I needed at least 12 ribs to do that (although no one had called when the order couldn't be made up as ordered), so I said to add the needed ribs...and then waited and waited, for almost 45 minutes. The roast came all wrapped up and it looked like the bones were in a circle, so I thanked them and took it home. The next morning when I unpackaged it, I discovered that they had tied it wrong. The bones are supposed to be to the outside, with the meat inside the was tied with the meat outside, cut into chops part way, and some were sort of splayed out, not tied in a neat roast.

It was too late to do anything about it, so I seasoned it and did the first fifteen minutes at high heat, as the recipe I had said to do. Then I roasted it at 325 degrees F for an hour and then put some stuffing in the middle, put foil over the stuffing and the bone ends, then roasted it some more. The whole thing received a heavy duty foil wrap to keep the heat in while we drove to our friends. Sweetie had nestled the roasting pan in a wooden box and used cardboard to hold in the heat, too.

Later it went into the oven for another 10 minutes to make sure that everything was hot and then I took a beauty photo and then we cut between the bones to serve it. It did look fairly impressive considering that it was tied incorrectly. Unfortunately having the meat on the outside instead of the inside meant that some of the meat was overcooked, although Sweetie got a rib that was juicy and delicious. The stuffing had chestnuts and was good, but I like my Mom's turkey stuffing better, so next time that's what I'll use. It was still a good experiment, but not successful. I will try this again, but I'll just order the slab of ribs and tie it myself. Julia Child will probably have drawings showing how to do it, or else someone on YouTube will. We'll invite our host and hostess, maybe at Christmas when our daughter and her family are here. A crown roast at Christmas sounds delicous!

In case you want to make your own, below is the recipe from The Ultimate Southern Living Christmas Book. If you are having your butcher create and tie your roast, be sure to order at least 12 ribs...14 to 18 would be even better.

Crown Roast of Pork with Chestnut Stuffing

Serves 8 

1 crown roast of pork, about 16 ribs, about 8 pounds
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (my helps with browning of meat)
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz (1/2 lb) French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (5 1/2 cups)
1 (11-oz) jar shelled chestnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash of salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
Garnishes: lady apples, fresh thyme sprigs, flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh rosemary and sage since I had those in abundance)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Brush roast with oil. In a small bowl combine the pepper, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle that mixture on all sides. Place roast, bone ends up, in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer, making sure it doesn't touch fat or bone. Roast at 475 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast an additional one hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large nonstick skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from skillet, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet and draining the rest.

Cook onion, celery and garlic in skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until tender; remove from heat. (I added the herbs and spices and pork to this mixture, stirred to combine and put in the fridge overnight Wednesday night. I think that anything with onion tastes better if it melds overnight)

In a large bowl combine sausage, onion mixture, bread cubes, chestnuts, fresh parsley, poultry seasoning, dried thyme, pepper and salt. Pour half-and-half over stuffing, stirring gently until blended.

When roast has finished the time at 325 degrees F given above, remove from the oven, leaving oven on, and spoon 3 cups stuffing into center of roast, mounding slightly. Cover stuffing and exposed rib ends with aluminum foil. Spoon remaining stuffing into a greased 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

Return the roast in roasting pan to oven and put in the dish of stuffing, too. Roast for an additional 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Transfer roast to a large serving platter. Tent with foil to keep warm if necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Garnish if desired. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Easy Dinner Rolls

Media has been full of suggestions for things to make for Thanksgiving but I suspect that most of us have already nailed down the menu and have even purchased most of the groceries and drinks needed. The turkey is probably already thawing in the fridge, if it was frozen, since it takes a few days for thawing. You may even have done some of the prep like cutting up the bread for the stuffing or chopping carrots and celery and onions or maybe you made cranberry sauce from scratch this year and it's already in the fridge melding flavors.

So this recipe could be added to your Thanksgiving menu since you can make the dough ahead and because it bakes pretty quickly, not taking up too much of the precious oven time and space on the big day. It could also be baked up as slider rolls the day after. Imagine small fluffy rolls stuffed with some leftover turkey, a bit of cranberry sauce, and a touch of gravy...sounds like a nice snack or easy meal to me.

This dough can be made up as long as a week before it's baked. The longer you leave it in the cold, the more flavorful it becomes, but you do need to punch it down once a day. When you are ready to bake a few rolls, cut off a chunk and shape the rolls while still cold, then let the dough warm up while it rises. Mine had quite a bit of oven spring and, since they were simple balls,  right before baking I cut a slit about an inch and a half long on the top of each one to make sure they didn't pop out to the side, after I had brushed them  with some milk.

An added benefit of baking these...your house will smell delightfully of freshly baked bread...all warm and yeasty!

Refrigerator Rolls

From The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

1 cup milk, warmed ( I used soy milk)

2 packages dry yeast

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted (I used non-dairy margarine)

1 egg, beaten

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

 Stir the warm milk and yeast together in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a couple of minutes to dissolve. Add the sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat to mix well, then add enough more flour to make a manageable dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, knead for about 2 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes.

 Resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling on just enough additional flour to keep it from being too sticky. Place in a large greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and place it in a greased bowl or a large plastic food-storage bag. Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate. If you use the plastic bag, seal it loosely around the dough  to allow room for the dough to expand. Come back sometime within 3 – 4 hours and punch the chilled dough down – until it is thoroughly cold, it will rise as usual. Check the dough once a day from then on, and if it has begun to rise, punch it down.

To make rolls, simply pull off as much of the dough as you think you’ll need, and shape in into rolls, such as crescent, Parker House, cloverleaf or fantan shapes. Let rise for about 20 minutes while the oven preheats to 400 degrees F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

 This recipe makes about 30 rolls, depending on size. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week, ready to use whenever you need it. Just cut off enough for a few rolls, shape and bake as described above.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Catching Up

Most of the time this is a food blog, but sometimes it's just a blog...a way to keep track of what has been going on in my life. Been a while, so let's catch up a bit. Above we have a photo of heron in the flooded field next to the Laguna. The rains in October and early November have been just what we needed after a couple years of severe drought.

The last few months...since mid-August really...I was brought low by a persistent ear infection that had a side effect of magnifying my hearing in the right ear. We complain as we get older about loss of hearing, but increase to the point of being painful isn't great either. Fortunately a couple of weeks ago I was able to have a hearing test following two weeks of a pair of medications. Things were much better and in the following week pretty much returned to normal hearing. All of that meant that I slept better, had more energy, more focus and enjoyed life a whole lot more than the time from mid-August through the end of October. Grateful for modern medicine and good doctors...and the time to heal.

During the ear infection time the garden suffered from lack of attention...and from a gopher suffering from lack of water. Our drought really was hard on all living things but we did have drip irrigation for part of the garden, including the rose bush my brother Jim gave me for my round number birthday. The gopher figured out how to break through the bottom of the wine barrel and had a feast on the roots of the rose. Once I realized what was going on, I took the plant out of the barrel and put it into a secure pot and kept the new soil around it moist. It was touch and go if the plant would survive. My brother died from cancer the December prior to the beginning of the pandemic, so I really wanted the rose bush to survive in his memory. Just three weeks ago I finally saw signs of new leaves and now there are new leaves on a number of stems...I think it is going to live. Joyful every time I see it.

The hot water heater for the farmhouse was in service for a very long time, but it came to the end of it's useful life in early fall and was replaced by Sweetie and Win a few weeks ago. Because the washer and dryer in the farmhouse laundry are larger than our stacking unit at the main house, it is the best place to wash bed linens and towels when someone stays in the farmhouse. Since that happened last week, I was so grateful to have a new hot water heater! Thanks Sweetie.

Our daughter Kate works for the big M in Redmond, WA and her team rolled out a new game last week, so that was exciting. She has only been with them since July, so this is the first roll out she has been part of and it went very well. Yay!

I'm now a great-great aunt of a beautiful baby girl born in Colorado on Nov. 9th. Her birth went well, too. So many blessings even without looking at the delicious food I have enjoyed lately.

As we get ready for  American Thanksgiving and all the seasonal joy and madness that follows, know that you, dear reader, are wished the happiest of holidays.

Here's another photo of the Laguna, filled with water and reflecting the huge live oaks along the banks.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Update On Pumpkin Pie Spectacular

Our wonderful daughter came to visit last week and she and I decided to bake the Pumpkin Pie Spectacular together since she won't be here for Thanksgiving, but wanted a practice session with me since she will be bringing the pie to a friend's home as her contribution to the turkey day feast.

It really is a Southern take on pumpkin pie since it uses lots of the gingersnap crumb crust that goes on the regular pie crust plus the pecans that are in the streusel that is sprinkled on top. There is a bit of New England in it, too, because I always associate molasses and New England due to their place in the slave trade triangle with the West Indies in colonial times. Gingersnaps just wouldn't taste right without molasses. The pumpkin reminds me to be thankful for the original Americans, the native 'Indians', who introduced food items like squash and dried corn. They kept the Mayflower immigrants alive that first snowy winter in Massachusetts and might have wished later that they hadn't been so kind since the immigrants shoved them out of their land. Lastly I'm thankful for modern technology which has allowed for the humble soy bean to be turned into a creamer that stands in very well for milk. I added an extra egg for stability and some granulated sugar for sweetness since the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, which I can't use.

It all made for a decadent, delicious pie. I was even able to show Kate how I learned to crimp the pie crust edges and, after a few tries, she mastered it. I'll bet the pie she makes for Thanksgiving will be even better than our weekend effort!

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular for Dairy-Free Folks

adapted from a recipe from Southern Living Magazine  

Pumpkin Pie Spectacular
From Southern Living magazine Nov 09

½ (15 oz) package refrigerated non-dairy piecrusts or home made single crust pie dough made with vegetable shortening
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 40 gingersnaps) made without any dairy ingredients
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup non-dairy butter, melted
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 cup Silk soy creamer, unsweetened   
1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup non-dairy Greek or regular unsweetened yogurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pecan Streusel (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp. If using home-made, roll to 1/8-inch thickness, fit into pie plate and trim dough to 1 1/2-inches from pie plate edge. Fold or roll edges under and crimp.

Stir together crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar and melted butter. Press mixture on bottom and ½ inch up sides of piecrust. Don't press mixture too hard or pie will be difficult to serve. Use any extra for another purpose.

Note – if pie pan is not a very deep deep-dish type, you may have some of the gingersnap mixture left over.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Stir together pumpkin, soy creamer, sugar, eggs, yogurt, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. Pour into prepared, cooled crust. Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes (but if you are using a shallower pie pan, only bake for 15 minutes). Sprinkle Pecan Streusel (recipe below) around edge of crust. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 or so minutes of baking if necessary. If using, insert ginger cookie halves around edge of crust.
Let pie cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Serve small slices - it's very rich.

Pecan Streusel: Stir together ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar; 2 tablespoons melted non-dairy butter and ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Flatbread With The Babes

I've mostly had flatbread at restaurants, topped with delicious things like sautéed mushrooms and melted cheese. Making my own had never occurred to me, but our Kitchen of the Month, Kelly of A Messy Kitchen challenged us this month with Norrländska Hällakakor, a traditional flatbread from Sweden, originally baked in a pan or on a heated flat rock which had been placed over an open fire. 

The recipe she gave had rye flour and caraway seeds, but I'm not a big fan of either, so I substituted stoneground barley flour for the rye flour and skipped any seeds. I used whole wheat flour, too, so there was plenty of flavor from the flours. 

This is an easy recipe. I made the dough the night before I baked the flatbreads, which allowed them to develop even more flavor. I rolled them fairly thin and used a wooden muddler to dock the dough and make the indents since I had neither the rolling pin with ridges nor any other implement to allow for some sunken places and some high places. The muddler had a pattern similar to a meat mallet and it worked well, even if it took some time to work the whole piece of dough (since the muddler is about an inch in diameter). I brought a piece to my trainer at the gym and she thought that it had come from a restaurant!

As long as you don't over-bake it, this makes a delightful flatbread. The parts that are pressed thin are a bit crisp and the parts that are higher are soft and risen. When warm it makes a great bread to scoop with, as you would some stews, or can be used in a dip.

To be a Buddy, bake the flatbread (original recipe can be found on Kelly's page HERE), and send her an email with your URL and a photo of the finished bread or post it on the Facebook page. Deadline is November 29th.

Do visit the other Babes sites to see what they did with this delicious bread! (If you view this blog in "web view", you will see links to the other Babes in a box to the right and below the archive years and below the followers.)

Hallakor - Swedish flatbread

Makes: 8 pieces

350 g wholemeal wheat flour
62 g wholemeal rye flour (I used stoneground barley flour)
1 g (1/4 teaspoon) baking powder dissolved in water ( or use deer horn salt or baker's ammonia)
6 g yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
25 g golden syrup or honey
20 g butter
235 g milk (dairy or non-dairy are both OK)
1/2 teaspoon caraway, aniseed or fennel seed, crushed in a mortal/pestle - optional

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead thoroughly for 15 minutes. (I had to stop and let the machine cool about half way through...this is a very stiff dough). Let rise for 6 hours at room temperature and knock back and briefly knead 2 - 4 times between. (The dough can also be chilled overnight, which I did.)

Cut off ~85 gram portions and shape into round balls. Flour lightly and let rise briefly, about 20 minutes. Roll out round dough circles to about 25 cm or 9-inches with a notched or regular rolling pin. Dock well is using a regular flat rolling pin. If using a grooved pin, follow with the notched pin. (I used a flat pin to roll out and then docked with a 1-inch diameter wooden muddler.)

Preheat the oven (and a baking stone or steel, if possible) to the highest possible temperature - about 500 degrees F/260 degrees C. Ideally place the flatbread directly on the preheated baking stone or steel and bake them into golden soft flatbread, baking for 3 - 4 minutes each piece. If you don't have a stone or baking steel, bake on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Serve warm. Good with slated butter or grated cheese.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Cooler Weather Means Oven Roast Chicken Thighs With Veggies

I love the fall! Trees turning all the fall colors, air turning crisp, and, around here, foggy some mornings. Time for pumpkins and walnuts and apples. This year the acorns have masted, which means that they have produced an enormous crop that carpets the ground. It's also a wonderful time for using the oven. Not only am I drawn again to baking with the cooler weather, but increasingly I'm ready to move away from entrees cooked on the BBQ to ones cooked on the stove top or in the oven.

For dinner last night we had a great dish of boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked in a Dutch oven. The bottom of the pot held seasoned pieces of various veggies including potatoes, red onion, carrots, and celery. I use a recycled clean produce bag to hold all the cut up vegetables, add the seasonings, close the bag and shake, then add the olive oil, close the bag and shake to distribute the seasonings and oil. Then they go into the pot. The seasoned chicken was placed on top, along with some whole green beans. They roasted for about 20 minutes, covered, then another 10 or so uncovered. 

It's the kind of dish you can prep in the morning or the night before, stash the filled Dutch oven in the fridge, then put it in the oven after work, leaving you time to have a glass or wine or a cup of tea while everything cooks and makes the house smell wonderful. Almost effortless, plus you'll have time to set the table and put together a salad if there will be hearty eaters. No Dutch oven? Use as deep a casserole as you have and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

You can use other veggies - peppers, mushrooms, parsnips or turnips all come to mind - and you can vary the seasonings, too, with other spices like oregano, fennel, tarragon or cumin, or by adding some mustard and/or lemon juice. Just remember that the juices from the chicken bathe the veggies below so the seasonings should go with chicken. All the vegetable pieces should be about the same size so that they are uniformly cooked through by the time the chicken is done. You can pierce the larger pieces with a sharp knife at the end to check for tenderness. The internal temperature for the chicken should be 165 degrees F, or you can cut on and the juices should run clear.

Roast Chicken Thighs with Veggies
Serves 3-4

3 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces, (not peeled)
1/2 medium red onion, peeled, ends removed, cut into wedges
2-3 large carrots, cleaned, ends removed, cut into bite-size pieces
2-3 large stalks celery, ends removed, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cups fresh whole green beans, ends removed
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, rinsed, dried, salt and pepper to taste added to both sides

If baking right away, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If baking later or the next day, preheat the oven when you are ready to bake.

Place the pieces of potato, onion, carrots, and celery in a large plastic bag (a clean produce bag works well). Add the pepper, salt, thyme, and rosemary to the bag. Close the bag tightly and shake vigorously to distribute spices. Open the bag and add the olive oil. Close the bag tightly and shake vigorously to distribute the oil to all the pieces. Open the bag and pour all the seasoned veggies into the bottom of a Dutch oven or deep casserole. Place the green beans and seasoned chicken thighs on top. Cover with the lid or with aluminum foil (tightly) and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Check to make sure that internal temperature for the chicken is 165 degrees F, or you can cut on and the juices should run clear. Pierce the largest pieces of veggies with a sharp knife to make sure they are tender. If necessary, bake longer until proper temperature for the chicken and tenderness for the veggies is reached.

Serve at once making sure to have a piece of chicken and some of all the veggies, in all the servings.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Raspberry Bread Pudding

When the days grow shorter and the evenings dark sooner, comfort food calls my name more often. The last few days the call was for some reason for bread pudding. I like mine served both warm and cold, so I made enough so that Sweetie and I could enjoy it warm one evening and then again another day served cold. The star of the pudding was the fresh, zesty raspberries. They were a great counterpoint to the mild and milky flavors from the bread, milk, eggs and almond extract. Some lemon zest added another layer of flavor. It's a great way to use up stale bread, too.

My usual way to make bread pudding is with raisins and lemon zest and some vanilla as the flavorings, but I have made it with other enhancements and I've made it savory, too. It really is a versatile treat. You can bake it in a wide casserole, for more crispy pieces, or in a narrow dish for more soft custardy bites.

This is an easy dish to make and truly worth the minimal time. The recipe is over 50 years old and given by a friend, then updated with the raspberries and switching to almond extract. It might not look like much, but everyone loves this pudding.

Bread Pudding with Raspberries      

A variation on a recipe from 1971, from a Fredricksburg, Maryland friend, Gale 

5 cups dry bread cubes            1/4 teaspoon salt           
3 cups milk, scalded                 1 teaspoon almond extract            
1 tablespoon butter                  1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries                  
4 slightly beaten eggs              1/4 cup golden raisins             
3/4 cup sugar                         
½ teaspoon lemon zest                                 
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Melt the butter in the milk. Add a little of the milk to the beaten eggs, then add eggs to rest of milk. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract.

3) Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the egg/milk mixture over, stir gently, and let sit 15 minutes.

4) Butter a large baking pan. A deep one will give a softer center, a shallower one will give more crispy crust. Gently stir raspberries and raisins into bread mixture and pour into baking pan.

5) Bake in a pan of hot water until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Family Cookbook Version Three

I recently got the third version of my cookbook back from the printers. This book started with a spiral bound black and white typed version with black and white seasonal illustrations and really none of the food! Of course this was ages ago when a photo of each recipe wasn't expected. I created that book to be a collection of our family's favorite recipes, mostly from the time when I was growing up and it was meant for my Mom and my siblings.

About ten years later I created a printed version in full color with lots of photos of the food made. It also had an index, something the first book lacked, plus it was organized in a more traditional way...beverages, breakfast foods, side dishes, beef, chicken, fish, desserts, cakes, that. The first version had been organized by seasons. I actually sold this version, so it's tone was aimed at non-family members.

So for this third version is back to being for the family. Because of that it includes seven pages of family photo collages focused on my siblings and their progeny, plus spouses and significant others, with another page showing thumbnails and all of the names of the folks in the photos. It has more stories and tips from family members, more recipes and more photos of food. It took months but I enjoyed every minute of it! Guess what family members will be getting for Christmas this year?

Because Thanksgiving is coming ever closer and because this year many of us will actually be able to have dinner with family on Thanksgiving, I think that sharing a recipe for my favorite stuffing is a good idea. This recipe makes enough to stuff a 15-19 pound bird, but I use it to stuff a 12-15 pound turkey, plus extra to bake in a casserole dish on the side. This is a version of my Mom's stuffing recipe and uses both stale bread and corn bread. Each time I make it I very it slightly. Sometime I use pecans, sometimes I add dried cranberries or chopped apple. The breads differ, too, because I'm often using ends from breads that I baked over the previous three months. I keep those ends in the freezer for just this purpose! The point is that if you keep the proportions the same, you can make your own signature stuffing. You'll be glad you did! This will taste so much better than the stuff you get at the grocery.


1 cup margarine, melted (you can use butter if you prefer...I think Mom did in the mid-century version)
4 medium onions, minced
¾ cup parsley, chopped
1½ cups celery leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons pepper
4 quarts soft stale breadcrumbs/bread cubes and corn bread - I use a mixture of leftover bread ends of many kinds, plus corn bread

1 cup chicken broth 

Saute’ the onions, parsley, celery leaves, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper in the melted butter for 5 minutes. Combine sautéed mixture with the breadcrumbs/bread cubes (may substitute some cornbread). Moisten with chicken broth. You may also add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped apples, dried fruit, chopped toasted pecans, or oysters. Use
stuffing to stuff bird. Extra may be baked in a greased casserole dish in a 4250 F. oven ‘til brown (after turkey is out of oven). Enough for a 15-19 lb. turkey.