Sunday, April 14, 2024

Remembering Bob Gillen


Yesterday Sweetie and I drove down between the tall redwoods to the Gillen home, remembering the many Christmas time mega-parties we attended there, the New Years Eve small dinners, and plenty of times on the patio and in the warmth of the living room by the fire. Bob Gillen was a pillar of the community, having served on both the Palm Drive Foundation board and on the Palm Drive Hospital board. He and his wife Heidi were active in lots of political campaigns and were very connected, so it was always fun to talk with them about politics, especially local politics. Bob was a Probation Officer with the county and began that work in Southern California where he and Heidi met and lived for a time.


               Heidi and Bob at Palm Drive Foundation fundraiser

We knew them because I met Heidi when she was on the local high school board and we discovered a mutual interest in education, plus walking our dogs. She was the high energy one in the duo and Bob was the quiet presence, just as potent, but in an understated way. They were excellent parents and raised three wonderful sons. They loved to entertain and to travel and to eat good food.

With the pandemic we saw very little of them and knew that they were both experiencing health issues that made it difficult to be together. Bob was never a computer kind of guy...there were even jokes about him always using 'hard copy', but Heidi was proficient on the computer and served as the Treasurer for many political campaigns. She was very active in the campaign that finally was won that allowed for a parcel tax for our local fire department, something that I was active in and interested in, too. She also helped get me a job with the health care Foundation when I finished graphic arts school. All in all our lives had touched many times over the years.

So we went to the Celebration of Life and comforted Heidi, touched bases with a few old friends and Heidi's sons and their families, and remembered a good man. I brought some lemon bars and brownies to supplement the catered items, but I started with boxed mixes. Maybe you'd like to know what I did to jazz them up a bit?



First I made the brownies. I used Ghirardelli's mix that contains some chocolate chips. It's a good one, but any brownie mix will benefit from these changes. The changes were that I added 2 tablespoons of very dark cocoa and 1 tablespoon of espresso powder to the dry ingredients. This made the brownies darker, which make them look more desirable to real chocolate lovers. The espresso powder also enhances the chocolate flavor without tasting of coffee. Then I underbaked them by a few minutes, so that they were soft and fudgy. Truly delicious for a boxed brownie.



For the lemon bars, I started with Krusteze lemon bar mix, which contains a crumb base bag and a lemon filling bag.  Another brand would likely have the same. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons melted butter for the base, but I melted 4 tablespoons, added the mix and stirred, then added about 2 tablespoons dry plain breadcrumbs. That helped to make the base a little less hard, and more delicious with the extra butter flavor. For the filling, I zested most of a lemon and added the zest to the 3 eggs called for. I took the 1/3 cup measure and added the juice of 1/2 a lemon, then filled the measure up for t he 1/3 cup called for, which was added to the egg mixture. That added lemon zest and juice really made those lemon bars sing!

Now you, too, know how to jazz up boxed brownie and lemon bar mixes. Bob would have like these!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Water Ranch in Gilbert Arizona


Haven't done much cooking or baking recently because I've been away in Arizona. Had a great time visiting with my older sister. One of  the places we found was in the small town of Gilbert, AZ. When the time came for them to treat their water and then recycle it, they decided to create a public park, The Riparian Reserve at Water Ranch. It's a popular place for people and people with dogs and people fishing. We saw couples using it for things like engagement photos and prom photos. On Sunday some folks arrived with large floating balloons that gave the year of the birthday adult they were celebrating...27th I believe. We enjoyed it so much that we went back another time.

Most of the acreage is given over to huge, shallow ponds that are rimmed with reeds and all sorts of plantings,




 including these beautiful orange mallow, and fuschia flowered cactus. 





There are winding paths between the ponds which are either bark or gravel covered or paved. They have added lots of signs with photos to help you identify the many birds and other wildlife. We saw many ducks, geese, loons, both great blue and smaller white heron, plus plenty of perching birds like red-wing blackbirds. The whole time we were walking there was bird song where ever we went! One of the ponds was shallow enough for wading birds that I usually see at the shoreline of the ocean.



There is also a botanical garden of desert plants including these armed cactus and cheerful yellow flowers that I don't know the name of.

If you ever get to Gilbert, I highly recommend taking a while to walk around a pond or two. You'll be glad you did.


Preserve Address

2757 E. Guadalupe Rd
Gilbert, AZ 85234

Preserve Hours
5:30 AM - 10:00 PM
Trails open dawn to dusk

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Savory Rosemary-Cheddar Chelsea Buns


We had a friend over for Easter dinner and so I was able to use up some dough in my fridge that I had used for sweet Chelsea buns a bit ago. I didn't post about it because it was basically the same Paul Hollywood recipe that I had posted years ago as part of a Bread Baking Babes challenge.

This time the buns were going with a savory dinner...ham, sweet potatoes, salad, pie...so I chose to flavor and fill them with rosemary and cheddar, respectively.




This dough is easy to work with and so I kneaded in the chopped fresh rosemary, flattened the dough into a rectangle, added some soft butter and then sprinkled on the shredded sharp cheddar. Once that's done, you roll it up like a Swiss roll and cut into buns with dental floss or a sharp knife.





The buns take a little while to rise, covered with a damp tea towel or oiled plastic wrap, but when you bake them at 350 for 20-25 minutes, you are rewarded with beautiful rolls with melted cheddar in the middle, plus your kitchen smells like rolls and rosemary, which is hard to beat!

I'm not giving exact measurements for this, but I did take photos to give you the picture. The rosemary can be whatever amount you choose, but I used about 2 tablespoons, minced. There was probably about the same amount of butter and about a cup of cheddar shreds. The dough was half the recipe below.

If you want to go the extra mile, brush the tops of the buns before baking with a little milk or egg wash.

Bake and enjoy!

Happy Easter! 




Chelsea Bun Dough (use half for the savory buns as described above)


Based on recipe By: http://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/chelsea-bun-christmas-tree/

Serving Size: 15

Ingredients:


Dough

800 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting (I used 400 g bread flour and 200 g white whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon salt
15 g sachet fast-acting yeast (about two packets of American dry yeast)
400 ml milk (I used same amount of soy creamer)
60 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing (I used same amount of non-dairy margarine)
2 free-range eggs

Directions:

1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. 


2. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. 


3. Pour into the flour mixture, add the eggs and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. The dough will be sticky. 


4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively this can be done in a stand mixer using a dough hook. 


5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for one hour or until doubled in size. 


6. Check to see that dough has risen enough by poking with your finger. The poke should not fill up right away.


7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead in the minced fresh rosemary.  Roll out dough into a rectangle. 


8. Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Use a small offset spatula to make a thin layer all over with the non-dairy 'butter', leaving a 1" uncovered edge along the long edge. When you roll up the dough, roll from the opposite long edge. Then sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the dough leaving a 1" border. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. Trim the ends to neaten. 


9. With a sharp knife, or crossed dental floss, cut into  thick rounds - about 1.5in. 


10. Line a very large baking tray (or use the grill tray from your oven) with baking parchment or oil. 


11. Arrange rolls on the prepared tray, cut side up. You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake; they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge. 


12. Cover loosely and let rise for 30 - 45 minutes. 


13. Preheat oven to 350 F. 


14. When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Easter Is Coming!



A number of years ago I posted on how to color Easter eggs the old fashioned way, using boiling water, vinegar and food coloring. It's how we did it when I was growing up and it still works well, especially if you don't have the time or money to spend on the coloring kits you buy at the store. I'm posting it again for this Easter, which will be here this Sunday! 

 This recipe is an easy one to do if you have food colors in your pantry. I used the liquid food colors, so I'm not sure if gel or paste or powdered ones would work for this recipe. I like the fact that you are using traditional food dyes that have been used for a long time rather than some fizzy tablets with who-knows-what chemicals in them. You can also boil onion skins and/or red onion skins, strain the liquid and add that to some vinegar for an even more natural dye.


Dad's Easter Eggs Bring to a boil in cold water as many dozens of eggs as you wish to color.

Once water has come to a boil, simmer for ten minutes. Turn off heat and cool, or turn into a colander and run cold water over until eggs are cool. (Dad used to add a little Borax -- ½ t. probably -- to the water before boiling. It takes some coating off the eggs for better coloring.)

Bring a tea kettle full of water to a boil. Set out one custard cup for each dye color. Place 1 T. cider vinegar into each custard cup. Add 3-4 drops food color to a cup for each color. Fill custard cups half way up with boiling water, and dye eggs. Spoon can be used to lift eggs out of dye bath. We used to write and draw on dry eggs with crayons or plain wax right before we put them into the dye bath.

Store in refrigerator in the cartons the eggs came in. Figure out how to use so-o-o-o many hard boiled eggs!

MOM’S NOTES: Dad loved to do the Easter eggs, just as he loved to prepare for Christmas. Sometimes he would use the fizzy tablets instead of food colors. Even when the children grew up, he would make colored hard boiled eggs with names on them for those who would be visiting at Easter.

If you prefer to have scrambled eggs and egg shells to dye, you can pierce a hole at either end of fresh eggs, blow the contents into a bowl, run some water through the empty shells to rinse them, then dye them in the dye bath like the eggs below. The eggs in the bowl can be turned into fine scrambled eggs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Sunny Birthday Tart



Sweetie is getting closer to a round-number birthday, but still isn't there as he celebrated his natal day this past weekend. Along with a breakfast celebration with our younger neighbors and a brunch on Sunday that included a corned beef meal for one of the group, he has been duly birthdayed. I think there may even have been an Irish Coffee in there somewhere.

He requested a lemon pie or tart, so I made him this fairly easy and very delicious one. You can create your own tart base from your favorite tart dough, but I was feeling lazy, so I just put a round of prepared pie dough from the refrigerator case at our local market (Pillsbury ReadyCrust) into the tart pan, folded the excess into the inside edge, pressed those two layers together against the sides and then blind baked it. That's about as easy as it gets.

The filling takes a bit longer because you have to separate eggs, grate lemon zest, juice lemons, and then mix those and a few other things (like extra virgin olive oil which gets whisked in last) together and cook until thickened and hot. The cooked filling goes into the tart crust and then the whole thing bakes at a lower temperature than the tart base cooked at...but only for a short time. 

They recommend cooling at room temperature on a cooling rack for 2 hours, but if you are running a bit behind, I think a short time in the fridge at the end...maybe after an hour on the counter...should work just as well and cut off about a half hour cooling time.

You can serve this with berries or whipped cream garnish, but it is so flavorful that you really don't need anything but a nice slice of this delicious tart. Happy Birthday Sweetie!



Lemon-Olive Oil Tart - "An Easy and Modern Lemon Tart"
From Cook's Illustrated magazine, March-April 2019

Crust   (I used a Pillsbury ReadyCrust round sheet of pie pastry instead and baked at 400 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (2 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whish flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add oil and water and stir until uniform dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble three-quarters of dough over bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough to even the thickness in bottom of pan. Crumble remaining dough and scatter evenly around edge of pan. Press crumbled dough into fluted sided of pan. Press dough to even thickness. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

Filling
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks (save whites for another use)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons) (I used two Meyer lemons and one Eureka lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Have all the ingredients ready and at room temperature. About 5 minutes before crust is finished baking, whisk sugar, flour, and salt in medium saucepan until combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping corners of saucepan, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 160 degrees F, in 5-8 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in oil slowly, until incorporated. Strain curd through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Pour curd into warm tart shell.
Bake at 350 degrees F until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 - 12 minutes.
Let tart cool completely on wire rack, at least 2 hours.
Remove metal outer rim of tart pan. Slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom to release the tart, then carefully slide tart onto serving platter.
Cut tart into wedges, wiping knife clean between cuts if necessary, and serve.
Leftover can be wrapped loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Sweetie's Pi Day Pie


Sweetie really enjoys pies and this year on Pi Day we were also remembering our beloved black lab Pi who left us in the fall. We still miss him, a lot, as you might expect since he was the best dog we've ever had...and that's difficult because we've been blessed with a number of great dogs. Here is a photo of our Pi dog when he was young:



Usually I would bake a sweet pie, but this year I went for a quiche...basically a savory cheese, veg and custard pie. We had it for dinner on March 14th and Sweetie had more today for lunch.

If you use pre-made pie crust dough for this, it all comes together fairly quickly. You can go with the filling ingredients I chose, or use your own mixture. This one had sweet breakfast sausage as the meat, and not a lot of that, so mostly the vegetables were the stars. Onions, mushrooms, potato and asparagus were also my fillings but I think if I made this again I would skip the potato. It made the pie so dense that it took longer to bake and there was less of the delicate creamy egg custard, too. There was too much custard because of all the filling, so some dripped off and cooked on the baking sheet I had under the pie and some drips got between the pie dough and the pie tin, so the crust stuck a bit. Note to self: use less solid filling to allow room for more custard filling.

If you are planning this for dinner, do remember to start a little early since you need to blind bake the crust and let it cool a bit before putting in the fillings.

Spring Quiche with Asparagus and Swiss Cheese  and Mushrooms and Onion
Serves 4 - 6

1 9-inch pie shell, blind baked at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (see notes)
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Swiss cheese, cut into ¼ inch dice
1/2 baked potato, peeled, thinly sliced
2 small, cooked Breakfast Sausage patties, each cut into 6-8 pieces 
3 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute)
1 ½ cups evaporated milk or light cream or 1 1/4 cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
dash pepper
Dash nutmeg
3-4 spears asparagus, tough bottoms trimmed off and sliced in half through the length of the spear
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small skillet, sauté the onion  in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir and cover. Turn heat to low and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell with the sautéed onion-mushroom mixture and Swiss cheese, distributing evenly. Top with the sliced potato. Sprinkle sausage pieces evenly over that. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then add the milk and beat with a fork to combine, add the salt, thyme, pepper and nutmeg and beat with a fork or whisk to combine.

Arrange the half asparagus spears in a nice pattern on top of the onions, mushrooms, potatoes, sausage and cheese in the pie shell. 

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the ingredients in the pie shell. Place in the preheated oven and bake 30-45 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. I find that setting on a parchment-lined small baking sheet is a good idea in case some of the filling spills over. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Note: Use your favorite one crust pie dough, rolled for a 9-inch pie pan, or a package of pre-made dough like Pillsbury ReadyCrust (you'll have one pack of dough ready for another pie) at room temperature. Fit the dough into a 9-inch pie pan, crimp the edge, put in baking parchment and weigh with pie weights or beans, then bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven. Remove from oven, cool 5 minutes, remove the pie weights/beans and let pie shell, now blind baked, cool for another 10 minutes before adding the filling ingredients.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Our Favorite Chili



 Memory plays a role in a lot of food preferences and this chili is no different. I think I started making chili this way...or close to this way...when I first started living with Sweetie. When you are a working Mom, you find a way to plan dinner meals that can be made ahead and reheated or started in the morning in a Crock Pot or Instant Pot using the slow cooker feature. You also learn how to put something together in 30 minutes or less, but that's for another post.

I prefer to make this chili on a day when I have some time, even though it goes together in about 30 minutes. That way I can turn the heat to simmer and let it cook for a while and become thicker. If it is also made a day or two in advance, I know that it will taste even better reheated because that seems to be one of the great things about cooking with onions...dishes taste better if allowed to sit in the fridge a day or so before eating.

I like to use ground turkey for this, but you can use any ground meat you prefer...or leave out the meat altogether. It goes together really quickly because you are using a packet of seasonings, canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes and their juice, and canned kidney and canned black beans. If you have the time you can dice some onion and sauté it before cooking the ground meat but it's fine without it if you are in a hurry or can't be bothered. After all, this is meant to be a quick and easy dish!

Easy Chili
Elle's recipe

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 pound ground turkey (or beef if preferred)
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 packet chili mix
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can cooked black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can cooked kidney beans, drained

In a large pan sauté the onion in the neutral oil with a wooden spoon until onion is translucent. Remove onions to a plate and wipe the pan of onion residue.

In the same pan, wiped, sauté the ground turkey, breaking it up into chunks and small pieces as you stir and cook it, until turkey is no longer pink. Some pieces will be browned. Return the onions to the pan.

To the turkey mixture, add as much of the chili mix packet as you like. I usually go with half the packet, but some folks like it hotter or spicier. Stir to combine and continue to sauté another minute, stirring.

Add the can of diced tomatoes and juice to the pan and stir and scrape with the wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Stir them into the mixture. Add the cans of tomato sauce, black beans and kidney beans. Stir to combine.

Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer, stirring occasionally to keep bottom from scorching, for another 15-20 minutes, until chili is the thickness you prefer. If you have time, let cool and then chill in the refrigerator, covered, overnight, then reheat. If you don't have that time, serve chili piping hot with any toppings you desire...or just as is which is my favorite way.

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lemon-Lime Tart for Sweetie


 Valentine's Day is always a bit of a challenge, coming as it does the day after my birthday. This year Sweetie requested a pie or tart for Valentine's Day and I had already decided to make the Queen Mother Cake for my birthday.

I bought a bag of good-sized limes, thinking that I would make a lime tart, but then we received a gift of a bag of beautiful lemons from a neighbor, so I decided to go for a lemon-lime tart for Valentine's Day.


My favorite lemon tart filling is Dorie Greenspan's, so I began with that recipe and added lime zest and juice to the lemon zest and juice, with a decoration, after the tart was finished, of strands of zest from both fruits. The tart case is fairly simple and comes out cookie-like so that the filling doesn't make it too gooey after a day. We had the last slice, shared, two days after I filled the tart shell and the base was still crisp.

As it turned out, we had the Queen Mother cake on Valentine's Day, right after Sweetie's fire board meeting. Then we had the Lemon-Lime Tart the next day and were able to share it with our daughter and her fiancé'. I was worth the wait and well worth your time to make. It would be perfect for St. Patrick's Day, which is coming up soon. It would also be delightful for Easter...or anytime, really.




The Most Extraordinary French Lemon - Lime Cream Tart 

Based on a recipe by Dorie Greenspan in Baking, From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 2 limes, (or 3 if smaller limes)
4 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice mixed with lime juice (from 3-4 large lemons or up to 6 smaller ones, plus2-4 limes)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature 
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer (if straining out the zest), and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand.

Directions:
Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a saucepan or the bottom of a double boiler.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water, or in the top pan of a double boiler. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon-lime juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, or set the top into the bottom of the double boiler, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks, which means that the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking! Continue to check the temperature. It might take a while. so be patient. Usually it's done in about 10 minutes.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove from the heat and, if removing the zest, strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. (If not removing the zest, just scrape the cream right into the blender or food processor). Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the food processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter, about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sided as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once all the butter is in, keep blending/processing for another 3 minutes.

Pour the cream into a container (I used a large Pyrex bowl), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. I like to swirl the top with the back of a spoon. If desired, decorate the top with strands of lemon and lime zest for additional lemons and limes. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Note: The filling will keep in the fridge for 4 days, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and whisk before putting into the tart shell.

Sweet Tart Dough
From Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (Frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- there will be some tiny pieces and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk to break it up, then add it a little at a time, pulsing afer each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, knead lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. In all of this, don't overwork the dough.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press clumps of the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece (about a teaspoon worth), which you should save in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust ahs puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Patch the cruse if necessary, then bake for another 8 minutes or so, until it is firm and golden brown. Keep an eye on it the last few minutes and pull it out if it gets darker than golden. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling. 



Saturday, February 17, 2024

Birthday and Valentines Fun

 In my world, a holiday or life event is a reason to bake. Since I'm doing less of that all the time in an effort to eliminate excess calories, having two dates back to back to bake for has been fun, exhausting, and calorie-laden, but full of joy.



For my birthday I not only baked, but I also braised lamb shanks for dinner. The good news is that it can be done ahead, so I did. The lamb was uber-local...thanks AM and G!...and delicious. You can find the recipe HERE.



For the birthday cake I made one of my favorite chocolate cakes, the Queen Mother Cake. Because there are only two of us, I made it in two pans...a 6-inch springform and a heart shaped 9-inch. As it turned out, I was so full from the lamb shanks dinner, which also included steamed rice and fresh asparagus, that we had the birthday cake on Valentine's Day after Sweetie's fire board meeting.

It was one of the best cakes ever. It was super moist inside, covered in decadent ganache, and a smaller portion than usual but just the right amount. If you look closely at the photo, you will see that, contrary to popular opinion, I'm not perfect and I can and do make a ganache that isn't perfectly smooth...although it was delicious.

The second cake was served the next day to friends at an afternoon tea party.


For my Valentine, I made, at his request, a Lemon-Lime Tart, but we saved it for Thursday evening when our daughter and fiancé' arrived.  We are all happy with pies and tarts. This one is a lemon-lime one and I'll post, with the recipe, soon. Next sister down also gifted me with an amazing cookbook with recipes for making geometric inspired pies and tarts. Will post about that, too, soon.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Joy of Cooking Muffins


I've been baking from The Joy Of Cooking cookbook for longer than I can remember. This is one of those full compendium type cookbooks and it's from before there were photographs with recipes, although there are some line drawings here and there.

Another feature is that the recipes are written as directions, with the ingredients and amounts coming as part of the recitation of oven temperatures, bowls to use, pans to bake in, etc.

I prefer a recipe where the ingredients are listed first so that I can make sure at a glance that I have the stuff I need to make the item(s). Since I have a well-stocked kitchen it is very likely that I'll have the pan or pot or implement needed, but missing an ingredient is often a reason I decide to not make something.

Recently I made some healthy-ish muffins based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking book. The recipe was for Cooked Cereal Muffins. Mine also included added nuts and seeds, plus dates.

The key thing to remember for this recipe is to cook the cereal (I used oatmeal!) far enough in advance that it can cool to room temperature. While it is cooling, the melted butter can also cool a bit. The egg and milk can use that same time to warm up a bit closer to room temperature. While those things are cooling or warming, you can chop the nuts and seed and chop the dates. After that it all goes together pretty quickly. I did use brown sugar instead of white, for flavor, and added a bit of baking soda because the muffins were baked in two batches in 8-pan tins.

This past weekend we had some major storms, including a cyclone. The winds toppled trees all over the county and beyond, which meant that many electrical wires also came down. There are still areas and thousands of customers without power today. Fortunately we were only without power for about 30 hours. We have generators which we ran for a couple hours twice a day to keep frozen stuff frozen, but not a lot more. The local internet provider also lost lines so it was even longer before that was back. Still, we were lucky that there was no damage to our property and only a few pretty small tree limbs came down.

Fortunately I had made these muffins the night before, so at least we had yummy date-walnut-oatmeal-seeds muffins to enjoy. I hope that you enjoy them, too.


Cooked Oatmeal And Seedy Muffins With Walnuts and Dates

Joy of Cooking variation

2 eggs at room temperature

½ cup rolled oats cooked in 1 cup water, then cooled to room temperature

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk at room temperature

4 Tablespoons/4 oz./ ½ stick butter, melted and cooled

1 ½ cups all- purpose flour

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup walnuts, chopped

¼ cup pitted and chopped dates

1/3 cup King Arthur Baking Harvest Blend mixed seeds

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 16 muffin cups – baking spray works well.

 
Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, then mix the eggs with a fork to break them up a bit. Add to the cooled cooked cereal gradually and use the fork to break down any lumps as you combine the eggs and cereal. Add the milk and melted butter and combine.

 
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and salt. Stir in the chopped walnuts, dates and the seed mixture. Pour in the liquid mixture and use the fork to stir until just combined.

 
Scoop batter into the muffin cups to about 2/3 full. If any of the cups are left unused, add a tablespoon of water to that cup instead.

 
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and spring back when you push down gently.

 
Serve at once. Butter goes well with these muffins which are hearty and delicate at the same time.

 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Smile!


That's what they always say when it's picture time. Usually I don't mind, even though I'm not particularly photogenic. Lately, however, I'm reluctant to get my photo taken because my smile has become so uneven where my teeth are concerned. You can see above that one of my front teeth is much longer than those next to it. The eye teeth are another story for another time!

Over 40 years ago when my daughter was a few months old, I rode Bart to San Francisco and shouldn't have tried to take her in her stroller up the escalator. I found out later that it runs at a slightly faster speed than, say, department store escalators. Long story short, I flipped her out of the stroller and she rolled down while I fell and scraped my cheek and knocked out a front tooth. My daughter was completely encased in a quilted sleeping bag and so she just rolled...and wasn't hurt at all thank heavens!

The broken front tooth was replaced with a dental one and that has been replaced a couple of times over the years, but the last time was over 20 years ago and so that fake tooth is the same color and size while my natural teeth have yellowed a bit and are smaller through use. Time to get it replaced. This time they are also going to replace the rod that holds the tooth since the current one is also pretty old. 

By the time that my daughter gets hitched in the spring, I will have a much nicer smile...and will be ready for photos.

No food stuff or pics this time. Since I use this blog as a journal a bit as well as a food blog, this kind of post will show up now and then! 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Buttermilk Waffles!


My favorite waffles are the ones where you start the batter the night before...and it has yeast. In the morning you add eggs and melted butter and you are ready to put the batter in the waffle iron.

Recently I was going through some recipes found in my local newspaper, the Press Democrat, that I saved to try. A recipe for buttermilk waffles was one of them...and I had plenty of buttermilk in the fridge.

A few mornings ago I gave the recipe a try. For the batter I followed it as written with two exceptions: I added 1/4 cup chopped walnuts to the flour mixture and, because my waffle iron is ancient and slow, I added 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the flour mixture. Baking soda reacts quickly with the acid in the buttermilk, but the baking powder would continue to give lift to the waffles throughout the cooking time.

Once I decided to bake the waffles, I realized that I had both blueberries and raspberries, so I added about 1/4 cup each to the flour mixture right before I added the liquid. It takes a bit of care to mix in the liquid and not crush the berries, but it's worth it! Just the fragrance of the hot raspberries is intoxicating.



These were great waffles...light, crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside. The buttermilk adds tang and the walnuts and berries added crunch and flavor. Soooo good. Try this one yourself!




Buttermilk Waffles
Press Democrat and Washington Post by Becky Krystal

Makes 5 servings (five 7-inch round waffles)

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 large eggs,
2 cps (480 ml) buttermilk (whole or low-fat)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/57 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for optional topping 
Note: May substitute some or all with neutral oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup each blueberries and raspberries (optional)
Neutral oil, for brushing the waffle iron
Maple syrup, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Have a large baking sheet ready.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the walnuts.
In a separate medium bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the buttermilk, butter and vanilla until combined.

Add the berries to the flour mixture and gently toss to coat with flour and combine with the flour mixture.

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture gently until it forms a smooth, thick batter...any lumps should be fruit.

Brush a waffle iron with oil or spray with nonstick spray, and preheat it according to the manufacturer's directions. Ladle enough of the batter to cover three-fourths  of the surface of the iron...roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cups (120-180 ml) of batter per waffle. Close the waffle irone and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the iron alerts you the waffle is done. You will be looking for the waffle to be crisp and golden brown.

Repeat with the remaining batter, placing finished waffles on the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm, if desired.

Serve with maple syrup, pats of butter or other toppings as desired.

Friday, January 12, 2024

A New-To-Me Green

My neighbor who has the chicken, sheep and cow also has wonderful raised beds and she grows lots of veggies. Recently she asked if I'd like some spigarello leafy greens because she had a lot of them. I had to look up what kind of greens spigarello are. Turns out they are like a combination of arugula and kale, although they are members of the broccoli family. 

Broccoli spigarello, or spigarello for short, has the bluish-gray hue of its cousin cavolo nero (Italian black kale). Its leaves are like long, thin broccoli leaves with ruffled edges that twist and twirl upward from the stem.

She brought over a produce bag full and we enjoyed them for a couple of meals.



Never having cooked these greens, I decided to go with a method that would allow the greens to shine. I sautéed a half onion in a little olive oil, turning the heat to low after a minute, then stirred frequently until they were translucent and a little bit golden in color. I rinsed the greens briefly in cold water and then threw them into the pot where I stirred them quickly to coat with the onions and oil. In just minutes they wilted. I sprinkled in a bit of good balsamic vinegar, about a 1/2 teaspoon, stirred that in and served the spigarello greens as a side dish to the hunter's style chicken.



They made a great contrast to the mellow chicken and tomatoes and mushrooms since the greens were slightly bitter but flavored with the slight sweetness of onion and vinegar.



If you don't have access to this particular green, try arugula, chard, kale, broccolini...all of them would be great prepared this way.



Saturday, January 06, 2024

Italian Hunters Chicken Stew



Just imagine yourself out in the woods, someplace in Italy. It's a frigid January evening and you and your hunting companions have bagged yourselves a brace of some kind of wild fowl. While you were kneeling behind shrubbery under an oak tree, you noticed that there were mushrooms and later, in a meadow, wild parsley growing. Various members of the group had brought some tomatoes, an onion, some olive oil, salt and pepper and a pot with lid. Of course all of you had sharp knives.

After the fire had gotten going and the most intrepid of you had cleaned and cut up the poultry, the designated cook for the evening put together a delicious hunters stew using what was available. Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the alcoholic beverage consumed as you waited for the chicken to stew, maybe it was the fresh air and freedom, but you were certain that you had never tasted a better stew!

Fortunately, we don't have to cook out of doors to have a delicious Hunter's Chicken Stew. We can make it in the kitchen and the simple ingredients allow us to put it all together fairly quickly and then into the oven for about 40 minutes to stew.

You start by browning the chicken in a tiny bit of olive oil. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but a cut up whole chicken or a mixture of parts, with skin or without work well, too.

After you remove the browned chicken from the pan, you sort of stir-fry the thinly sliced onions quickly. Once those are removed, you add a bit more olive oil and brown the mushrooms. A can of diced tomatoes and juice get added. The acid in the tomato juice allows you to scrape up the browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, adding great flavor to the stew juices.

Everything goes back into the pan after you've added salt and pepper to taste. Then you sprinkle on a good amount of Italian parsley, cover the pan and into the oven it goes. Much easier than the time the hunters had! When it's finished, you have a wonderful pan of tender, falling-of-the-bone (if you used chicken with bones) flavorful chicken, plus a savory pan sauce to enjoy.



Serve this up with something that will soak up the juices...polenta, mashed potatoes, rice, or chunks of crusty bread. A green salad on the side is about all you need to have a wonderful meal. Still have things to do? That's O.K....you can leave the pan in the turned-off oven for up to an hour more before serving.



Chicken Cacciatore
Based on a recipe from Women’s Day 12-14-82

1 chicken, cut up (I used 7 chicken thighs)
1 large onion, sliced thin
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 16 oz. can tomatoes, cut up
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt & pepper to taste & olive oil for the bottom of the pan & an oven-proof pan

Sprinkle chicken with salt. In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, brown chicken in hot oil. (I use just enough oil to coat the pan bottom to keep the chicken from sticking. If you have a large, heavy ovenproof non-stick skillet, you don’t even need the oil.)
Add the onion; cook about 3 minutes, stirring, until the onion is crispy-tender. Remove and put with the browned chicken. Add another tablespoon olive oil and the sliced mushrooms. Stir to coat, cover, turn heat to low, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove pan from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and pepper. Add back the chicken and onions. Sprinkle with the parsley. Cover the pan.
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender.
Serve, or stand in turned off oven up to 1 hour.
Serves 4-6.