Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Char Siu is a kind of Chinese roast meat. You've probably seen it or eaten it, remarking on its signature red outer coloring. It's very flavorful, a combination of sweet and salty with a hint of spice. 

Because I try to be conscious of what I eat, particularly during the week, I decided to try to make char siu with a lean piece of pork, a pork tenderloin. While I knew I would be sacrificing some of the characteristic flavor--pork tenderloin has no fat--I wanted something to go with my cauliflower fried rice that had good flavor, but was low in fat and calories.


  • 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1/8 cup granulated white sugar 
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon five spice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • teaspoons molasses
  • 1/8 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
  • cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon hot water


  • Cut the pork into chunks about 3 inches thick. 
  • Combine the sugar, salt, five spice powder, white pepper, sesame oil, wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, molasses, food coloring (if using), and garlic in a bowl to make the marinade (i.e. the BBQ sauce).
  • Reserve about 2 tablespoons of marinade and set it aside. Rub the pork with the rest of the marinade in a large bowl or baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours. Cover and store the reserved marinade in the fridge as well.
  • Preheat your oven to the highest setting (475-550 degrees F or 250-290 degrees C) with a rack positioned in the upper third of the oven.
  • Line a sheet pan with foil and place a metal rack on top. Using the metal rack keeps the pork off of the pan and allows it to roast more evenly, like it does in commercial ovens described above. Place the pork on the rack, leaving as much space as possible between pieces. Pour 1 ½ cups water into the pan below the rack. This prevents any drippings from burning or smoking.
  • Transfer the pork to your preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip the pork. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add another cup of water. Turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even roasting. Roast another 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the reserved marinade with 1 tablespoon hot water. This will be the sauce you’ll use for basting the pork.
  • After 25 minutes of total roasting time, baste the pork, flip it, and baste the other side as well. Roast for a final 5 minutes.
  • By now, the pork has cooked for 30 minutes total. It should be cooked through and caramelized on top. If it’s not caramelized to your liking, you can turn the broiler on for a couple minutes to crisp the outside and add some color/flavor. Be sure not to walk away during this process, since the sweet char siu BBQ sauce can burn if left unattended. 
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the last bit of reserved BBQ sauce. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing, and enjoy.
I marinated the pork tenderloin overnight.  You might want to use a thermometer to make sure you don't overcook the pork; the times listed above worked perfectly with my oven. This fragrant version of char siu was very satisfying. The 5 spice powder combined with soy sauce and hoisin sauce gave the meat a rich flavor, the perfect contrast to my cauliflower fried rice . Of course I will make this again with a fattier version of pork roast, but I enjoyed every bite of my meal and combined the leftover cauliflower fried rice with leftover, cubed char siu for what will be a yummy lunch.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Maple Blueberry Scones

Last month I perused a cookbook by Joanne Chang whose Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston has been an unqualified success. When I saw this recipe in Friday's New York Times, I knew I had to try it. I've been on a quest for the perfect scone for some months now. While I love blueberries, I'm not fond of the color they tend to impart to scones, but the taste more than makes up for that muddied appearance. Since I didn't have creme fraiche or buttermilk on hand, I improvised. A shot of white vinegar in the milk will, after a few minutes, give a reasonable facsimile of buttermilk. Sour cream stood in for the creme fraiche with no one the wiser. Finally, and you may not want to hear this, I don't like real maple syrup, but I love Mrs. Buttersworth's lite maple syrup, so that's what I used. These scones went together quickly and after an hour's rest in the refrigerator, were scooped onto a parchment covered baking sheet and done in 45 minutes.

Makes 8 scones.

For the scones:

  • 1 ⅔ cups/240 grams whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup/120 grams crème fraîche, Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters maple syrup
  •  cup/80 milliliters buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup/125 grams fresh blueberries

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup/60 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, briefly mix both flours, the baking powder, baking soda and salt on low speed. Add half the butter and paddle until fully mixed into the flour, 2 to 3 minutes. (This will coat the flour with butter so the scones are tender.)
  1. Add the remaining butter to the bowl of the stand mixer. Pulse the mixer three or four times to mix the pieces into the dough while keeping them whole. (This step will give you small pieces of butter in the dough, which will help the scones be a bit flaky.)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, maple syrup, buttermilk and yolk until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the blueberries. With the mixer on low, pour the blueberry mixture into the flour mixture, and paddle on low for about 10 seconds to get some of the liquid mixed into the flour. Stop the mixer, and mix the rest of the loose flour into the dough by hand: Gather and lift the dough with your hands and turn it over in the bowl several times until all the loose flour is mixed in. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 1 day. (This gives the flour time to fully absorb the liquid.)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and position a rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  1. Using a 1/2-cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, scoop out 8 mounds of chilled dough, and place them on the baking sheet a few inches apart. Bake scones for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through the baking time, until the scones are evenly golden brown and firm when you press them.
  1. While the scones are baking, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and enough maple syrup to make a thick, spreadable glaze. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Rewhisk before using.
  1. As soon as you remove the scones from the oven, use a pastry brush to brush them with the glaze while they’re warm. Let cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes, then serve.
  2. ************************************************************************************
  4. The two-step method of incorporating the butter results in a flaky exterior and cake-like interior, making this a win-win scone. No one would ever call it healthy, but the addition of the whole wheat flour adds a dimension to the taste. I loved the sticky glaze and the sweetness imparted by the maple syrup. These were very, very good and will, hopefully, freeze well since I have half of them left for next weekend.

    Sunday, June 7, 2020

    Lemon Poppyseed Scones

    I love all things lemon and I love scones, so this is the perfect marriage of the two. Don't skimp on the lemon zest--if anything, add more. I'm sure you could substitute oranges if that's what you have on hand.

    INGREDIENTS - Makes 8 scones

    For the scones:

    2 cups all purpose flour
    3 tbs granulated sugar
    2 tbs poppy seeds
    2 large or 4 small lemons, zested then squeezed
    1 tbs baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 stick cold, unsalted butter
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

    For the glaze:

    1/2 cup confectioners sugar
    1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, poppy seeds, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour in the heavy cream the the lemon juice stirring just until dough forms.

    Using your hands, gather the dough together and gently press into a ball. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into an 8 inch disk. Be careful not to overwork the dough.

    Cut the disk into 8 wedges and gently pull the wedges apart.

    Bake 12 - 14 minutes, until golden and  a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

    Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool for at least 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the confectioners sugar and 1 tbs lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled scones.
    These scones were very lemony, had a delicate crispy exterior, and a wonderful crumb. I had planned to freeze some, but someone made short shrift of them. I'll be trying them with orange next time.

    Friday, June 5, 2020

    (My New Favorite) Pizza

     Is there anything better than pizza on Friday night? Only homemade pizza. Since King Arthur hasn't disappointed me yet, I decided to try another of the pizza dough recipes on the site. The recipe looks long, but it's very easy to put together. There are directions for making the dough the day before or for making it on the day you wish to serve it, which I did.

    Here is the link.

    I love that the dough is pre-baked and then toppings are added before the final bake. I used some marinara sauce I had in the freezer. I sauteed the meat from 2 links of Italian sausage with some chopped onion and bell peppers. I put a light coating of sauce on the baked crust, added the sausage and pepper and onion mixture, spread 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella over that, added some fresh basil and a sprinkle of olive oil and baked for 15 minutes.
    My very favorite pizza is usually a true Neopolitan thin-crusted pizza. This was slightly thicker, but the crispy chew of the crust was ethereal. Generally, I prefer sliced meatballs on my pizza, but the sausage and peppers and onions was a delicious break from the usual. Two slices was all I could eat, but I'm going to enjoy the rest for a few lunches. Pizza freezes beautifully.

    Friday, May 29, 2020

    (The Very Best) Lemon Bars

    I love lemon desserts--souffles, puddings, cookies, pies. I'm no stranger to a good lemon bar, but 
    sometimes I find the filling a bit too soft. This recipe for lemon bars combines a shortbread crust with a lemon filling that deliver a punch of flavor as it holds its own texture-wise. The crust is parbaked, but the bars come together quickly. They actually need more time to cool than it takes to make them. 


    For the crust:

    • Cooking spray or butter
    • cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed

    For the filling:

    • large eggs
    • large egg yolk
    • cup granulated sugar
    • tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
    • tablespoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 medium lemons)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


    1. Prepare the baking dish. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Line the dish with a parchment paper sling, leaving an overhang of about 2 inches on two opposite sides; set aside.
    2. Make the crust. Place the flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse 5 times to combine. Sprinkle with the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
    3. Press the crust in and chill while the oven heats. Pour the crust mixture into the prepared baking dish. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or your fingers to press the crumbs into an even layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F.
    4. Parbake the crust. Bake the crust until light golden-brown, about 30 minutes.
    5. Make the filling. Place the whole eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice, and then the flour, until combined.
    6. Pour the filling onto the warm crust. Remove the parbaked crust from the oven. Pour the lemon filling onto the warm crust.
    7. Bake and cool the lemon bars. Return the pan to the oven and bake until light brown around the edges, set in the middle, and the top appears relatively dry, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour, before serving.
    8. Dust with powdered sugar. Using a fine-mesh strainer, generously dust the bars with more powdered sugar.
    9. Cut the lemon bars. Grasping the parchment sling, lift the lemon bar slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 bars. Dust with more powdered sugar, if desired, before serving. 
    10. *********************************
    12. The addition of confectioners' sugar and flour in the lemon filling made an incredible difference in the texture of these lemon bars. The ample lemon zest and juice in the recipe for both the shortbread and the filling makes these bars a lemon lover's delight.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    Focaccia: No Fuss, KAF Blitz Bread

    If you're looking for a homemade bread that can be on the table in 2 hours, look no further. King Arthur Flour has many wonderful recipes on its site. This one ranks up there with the best.

    2 tbs olive oil (to drizzle into the pan)
    1 1/2 cups warm water
    3 tbs olive oil (for the dough)
    1 1/4 tsp salt
    3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
    1 tbs instant yeast
    4 tsp Italian seasoning

    olive oil
    rosemary (opt)

    Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Drizzle about 2 tbs olive oil atop the spray.

    Combine the remaining ingredients and beat at high speed for 60 seconds.

    Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan. Cover the pan and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes--it should be quite puffy, but not fragile looking.

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

    Drizzle the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary or other dried herbs of your choice

    Bake the bread 25-30 minutes or until it's golden brown.

    Remove bread from oven and wait 5 minutes. Turn bread out of pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    I've made focaccia using other recipes, more labor intensive recipes, and now I wonder why. This bread was perfect, not to mention quick and easy. It had a slightly chewy exterior and was soft and yeasty on the inside. The Italian seasoning gave it a wonderful flavor, not to mention the fragrance. I will definitely make it again and next time I'll carmelize some shallots for the topping.  What a perfect accompaniment to pasta, though I can see it with antipasto, a side of marinara for dunking, some pesto....

    Portuguese Sweet Bread

    You know those incredible Hawaiian rolls that have been popular since the slider made its appearance on menus everywhere? Well, that's basically what Portuguese sweet bread is. This is bread you want to eat slathered in butter or as the base of a French toast that will have you wondering how you can ever wait for the bread to get stale.

    This recipe is from Peter Reihart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

    Makes 2 loaves

    1/2 cup flour1(bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine
    1 tbs granulated sugar
    2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
    1/2 cup water at room temperature

    To make the sponge stir together the flour sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

    6 tbs granulated sugar
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 cup powdered milk
    2 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tbs vegetable shortening
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp orange extract
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3 cups flour (bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine)
    About 6 tbs water, at room temperature

    1 egg + 1 tsp water for egg wash

    To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and vegetable shortening in a 4 qt mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Cream together with a sturdy spoon or the paddle  attachment until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts. Knead by hand or switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. The finished dough should pass the windowpane test.

    Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

    Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Form each of the pieces into a boule.  Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size

    Very gently brush the loaves with an egg wash. .(1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water).

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

    Bake the loaves for 50 - 60 minutes or until they register 190 degrees in the center. Remove from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool completely--at least 90 minutes.
    This might have been the longest 90 minutes of my life. Waiting for the loaves to cool so I could sneak a baker's reward was excruciating. That tiny end slice, slathered in Nutella, was incredible. What a delicate crumb! What a lovely melding of flavors! It was hard to freeze one loaf and harder still to save some slices for the weekend. The French toast made with those stale slices was probably the best I've ever eaten. A bit labor intensive, but so worth it.

    Saturday, May 9, 2020

    English Muffin Toasting Bread

    Image may contain: food and indoor

    With yeast nowhere to be found and flour a hit or miss commodity, I didn't think bread baking would be in the cards during this long isolation. Fortunately, I found a source for yeast online and managed to find some KAF all purpose flour during my last shopping trip. I was ready to bake bread. Since I am no longer shopping in person and am at the mercy of limited supplies of many favorites, I decided to start with English muffin bread.


    3 cups (361g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    1 tablespoon (14g) sugar1 
    1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1 tablespoon instant yeast
    1 cup (227g) milk
    1/4 cup (57g) water
    2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil or olive oil
    cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

    Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.

    Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don't have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.

    Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

    Using an electric beater, or stand mixer with beater attachment, beat at high speed for 1 minute; the dough will be smooth and very soft. If you don't have an electric mixer, beat by hand for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and starting to become elastic.

    Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.

    Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

    Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn't be more than, say, 1/4" over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn't very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.

    Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.
    The ease of preparation belies the delicious taste and beautiful crumb of this loaf. Whether you're an experienced baker or someone who is a little afraid of trying to make anything with yeast, this is a great recipe to have in your arsenal. I'm going to try to freeze a few slices to judge whether this is worth making in batches. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy with eggs in the morning and try it as part of a grilled cheese sandwich. I might even give French toast a try before it's all gone.

    Friday, May 8, 2020


    Image may contain: food and indoor

    I have a go to recipe for popovers that I've used forever, but the other day the King Arthur Flour recipe for popovers popped up on my Facebook feed and I decided it was time for a change. Yes, I know that popovers have only 5 ingredients, so how different could they be? As it turns out, very.


    • 4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before cracking
    • 1 1/2 cups (340g) milk (skim, low-fat, or full-fat), lukewarm
    • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt*
    • 1 1/2 cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
    • 3 tablespoons (43g) melted butter  

    • Instructions

      1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position a rack on a lower shelf. The top of the fully risen popovers should be about midway up the oven. What you don't want is for the tops of the popping popovers to be too close to the top of the oven, as they'll burn.
      2.  Grease the popover or muffin pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter.
      3. Use a wire whisk to beat together the eggs, milk, and salt. Whisk till the egg and milk are well combined, with no streaks of yolk showing.
      4. Add the flour all at once, and beat with a wire whisk till frothy; there shouldn't be any large lumps in the batter, but smaller lumps are OK.
      5. Stir in the melted butter, combining quickly.
      6. Pour the batter into the popover pan, filling them about 2/3 to 3/4 full. If using a 6 cup popover pan, you will have batter left over. These can be baked in a well greased muffin tin.
      7. Make absolutely certain your oven is at 450°F. Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .
      8. Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they're a deep, golden brown. If the popovers seem to be browning too quickly, position an oven rack at the very top of the oven, and put a cookie sheet on it, to shield the popovers' tops from direct heat.
      9. If you plan on serving the popovers immediately, remove them from the oven, and stick the tip of a knife into the top of each, to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Slip them out of the pan, and serve.
      10. *************************************************
      11. TASTE NOTES
      12. I'm officially a convert! These popovers had the highest rise of any I've made and the perfect combination of eggy inside and crispy outside. I'm guessing bringing the eggs and milk to room temperature was responsible for that. Whatever it was, this is my new go to recipe. These popovers were incredible. I just can't decide if I prefer them spread with butter and honey or with Nutella. I think I'll be making them for dessert in the future, stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with Nutella. YUM!

    Wednesday, May 6, 2020

    One Pot Turkey Swedish Meatball Casserole

    I love Swedish meatballs, but they can be laden with fat and calories, something I try to avoid. I saw a recipe for one pot Swedish meatballs and decided it could do with some editing to fit into my weeknight meal plan. Not only was the lightening a success, it really did require just one pot--in this case a deep skillet--making clean up a snap.

    Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers for the next night, this time NO POTS) 

    For the meatballs:
    1 lb ground turkey (I use 93%)
    1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
    1 egg
    1/2 small onion, grated
    1 tsp salt
    pepper to taste
    1 tbs canola oil

    2 cups low sodium chicken broth
    2 cups milk (I used Fairlife fat free; when you boil, it will break, but it doesn't affect taste; to avoid this, just use 2% or whole milk, but it will affect calories/smart points)
    1 tbs worcestershire sauce
    4 cups dry wide noodles (I like the yolkless variety)
    2/3 cup grated cheese
    2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

    To make the meatballs, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, grated onion, salt, and pepper and form into 36 one inch meatballs.

    Heat a nonstick skillet with 1 tbs canola oil. Fry the meatballs one minute on each side.

    Add the chicken broth, milk, and worcestershire sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil.

     Add the noodles, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly for 8 minutes until the sauce coats the back of a spoon and the noodles are cooked. Add the cheese and parsley and serve immediately.
    I was very pleased with how well this lightened version of a classic came together. The original was over 1000 calories a serving. This version came in at 14 Smart Points, well within the daily guidelines for a dinner that required just a side salad and a veggie. It went together so quickly, we found ourselves eating a bit early. The upside was it was very satisfying and delicious.

    Thursday, December 19, 2019

    Italian Ricotta Cookies

    If you're Italian, this cakey, ricotta cookie may look like the Christmas cookies you grew up with, but it tastes more like the white part of those black and white cookies we love. While the dough is easy to make, I recommend making it the day before you plan to bake the cookies and to keep it chilled, which may mean forming and baking the cookies one cookie sheet at a time. Because baking is an exact science, I've included measurements in weights as well as volume, for those who prefer this.

    Yield is 6-7 dozen

    For the cookies:

    2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups (425 grams) of granulated sugar
    15 oz of ricotta cheese (whole milk)
    finely grated zest of 1 lemon
    3 teaspoons of good vanilla extract (these can be made with anise flavoring, if you prefer)
    2 large eggs
    4 cups (480 grams) of all purpose flour
    3/4 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
    2 tsp (10 grams) baking soda.

    Using an electric mixer (I use my stand mixer), cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula, then beat in the flour, salt, and baking soda, combining well. Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours, though overnight is better.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Shape tablespoons of the chilled dough into balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets--these cookies spread, so be sure cookie sheets are cool and put dough back in refrigerator between rolling out. Bake 15 minutes. Cookies will be pale golden on the bottom and will firm up a bit as they cool. Cool on wire racks while you make the icing.

    For the icing:

    1 tbs melted butter
    4 cups (450 grams) of confectioners (powdered) sugar
    2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
    1/4 to 1/2 cup milk, as needed to thin icing a bit-p

    colored nonpareils

    Melt the butter. Whisk the confectioners sugar to break up any large lumps, then whisk in melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla, and enough milk to make a spreadable icing.

    To frost the cookies:

    The easiest way to frost the cookies is to quickly dip the cookies and swirl off the excess. Do 6 at a time, then carefully sprinkle with nonpareils. It's best to set wire racks over th parchment covered cookie sheets to contain the excess icing and non-pareils. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving or packaging.
    These cookies disappear very quickly. They are like little clouds of cake, just sweet enough, and wonderful with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. They may look like those dry, crumbly Italian Christmas cookies, but they are a whole other thing.,

    Friday, October 11, 2019

    Lentil Soup Slow Cooker Style

    Lentil Soup Slow Cooker Style

    There's a diner about a half hour from home that serves "Bavarian lentil soup." I love this soup and order it whenever we go there. I've been trying for over a year to replicate it and finally came very, very close tonight. The ingredients seem like anything but Bavarian, but the soup is delicious and I will be making it often. I added a potato--because I had one--and thought it was a great addition, but you can leave it out.

    Slow Cooker Easy Lentil Soup

    Yield:  6 cups


         4 cups (1 quart)  vegetable broth
    • (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
    • small yellow onion, diced
    • medium carrots, diced
    • medium celery stalk, diced
    • 1 small potato, diced
    • cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
    • tablespoon olive oil
    • cloves garlic, minced
    • teaspoon kosher salt
    • teaspoon tomato paste
    • bay leaf
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

    • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • teaspoons red wine vinegar

    Place all the ingredients except the vinegar in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the high setting for 4 hours. Turn setting to low and cook for 2 more hours, until lentils are tender.
    1. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the red wine vinegar. 

    Tuesday, September 17, 2019

    (Slow Cooker) French Onion Soup

     What can beat a bowl of  rich, beefy broth laden with caramelized onions and topped with a golden crust of cheese?  As much as I love French onion soup au gratin, I seldom order it out. It's a meal in itself for me, not an appetizer. It's also nearly impossible to eat neatly. With a bit of fall in the air, my thoughts turn to soup and I began thinking of this hearty, cheesy meal in a bowl.

    A bit of online research yielded any number of recipes, but I was looking for a quick and easy way to put this on the table, one that utilized my slow cooker. I read through quite a few recipes and came up with this amalgam.

    I caramelized the onions overnight. They require 12 hours of cooking on low. I finished the soup the next morning.


    3 lbs Vidalia (or sweet, yellow) onions, peeled and sliced thinly
    2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
    2 tbs olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste

    10 cups lower sodium beef broth
    2 tbs Balsamic vinegar
    2 tbs brandy

    mini toasts (Joan of Arc brand or Divina are good)
    shredded Gruyere cheese (1 oz per serving)


    Place the sliced onions in a slow cooker. Pour over the melted butter and the oil, add about 1 tsp Kosher salt and pepper to taste and toss together. Cook on low for 12 hours. Do not stir or remove the lid during cooking. In fact, it's best to do it overnight and finish the soup in the morning.

    Your onions should be beautifully caramelized after the slow cook in the crockpot. Add the broth, the Balsamic vinegar, and the brandy. Stir together. Cook on low for another 6 hours.


    Preheat broiler. Place heated soup in an ovenproof bowl. Place 4 mini toasts on top of soup, then sprinkle shredded cheese over top of toasts. Place soup bowls on a baking sheet. Broil until bubbly and golden, taking care not to burn.

    8-10 servings (3 SP for the soup; add 4 SP for 1 oz of Gruyere and 1 SP for 4 mini toasts)
    It was hard to sleep with the incredible smells coming from downstairs, but the 12 hours on low gave up a pot of beautiful, mahogany--colored onions. The flavor of the soup was incredibly delicious. The vinegar and the brandy meld perfectly with the sweet onions. I would have liked to dump a half pound of gruyere cheese on top, but all things in moderation. Next time I need carmelized onions for anything, I'm breaking out my slow cooker.