Sunday, August 31, 2008


Shortly after I began blogging, I noticed a great many references to the Daring Bakers. In fact, many of the food blogs that I visited had their darling logo on them. After a bit of research I discovered that the Daring Bakers was a group of food bloggers who each month baked the same dessert from the same recipe and revealed their results on an agreed-upon day. Anyone could join, so after thinking about it for a few weeks, I contacted Lisa from http://www.lacucinamia/ and Ivonne from http://creampuffsinvenice/ and asked to be included. I was then permitted access to the special forums for Daring Bakers only. (Anyone can participate in the public forums; do check out http://www.daringbakers/ ).

I waited anxiously for the August challenge to be posted; I was stoked! When the day came and I discovered my first challenge would be eclairs, I felt somewhat smug. Why, I'd been making pate a choux since grade school. I made cream puffs at my mother's knee. We may not have used a pastry bag and we may have filled them with chocolate and vanilla pudding, but I'd made enough of them and plenty of gougeres to know that my skills with pate a choux had already been tested. As for a chocolate glaze, I've made enough ganache to feel pretty cocky about that, too. Bain Marie's don't scare me nor do custards and pastry creams. Yeah, this was going to be a piece of cake, forgive the pun.

I did decide to buy a new pastry bag and took a lovely field trip to the local restaurant supply store. The clerk was busy unloading a truck, but the accountant was very helpful. Between us, we figured out which tip was the 2 cm one and I left with my bag and 3 tips. I bought a couple of items that I didn't have on hand (heavy cream and chocolate) and told Larry that he and his co-workers could expect some yummy eclairs sometime in August.

I finally chose a reasonably cool--not humid--day and set about making the eclairs. The recipe was from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. I printed out the recipe (hmmm, 4 pages for 2 dozen eclairs) and read it over a few times. I set my eggs out to come to room temperature, assembled the necessary pots and pans and measuring tools, and did my mise en place. A little cakewalk here: a few weeks ago I went to the Le Creuset factory store and bought the most darling silicone prep bowls. I felt almost haughty using these for my mise en place. Pierre, je suis une DARING BAKER.
I made the chocolate sauce first. A few of the other participants had mentioned that making the sauce for the glaze seemed a bit of overkill. I have to agree. I now have a rather copious amount of sauce in the freezer since the recipe for the glaze called for a mere 7 tablespoons.

Next, I made the pate a choux. Mom and I always beat it by hand. Never mind that I have a perfectly wonderful KitchenAid mixer on my counter. I'm no wimp and I beat that dough into a glossy mass. Heavens knows, the way the pots and pans and spoons and cups were piling up in the sink, I didn't need a paddle to clean, too.

Taking my big, new pastry bag in hand, I proceeded to fill it with the warm dough. Using my template, I tried to squeeze uniform "chubby" fingers, as the recipe decreed. I was sweating now! The recipe said to expect 20-24; others had written that they didn't get that many. With tremendous exertion, I was able to eke out 17 eclairs. At this point, I was suspecting that the 2 on the tip didn't refer to centimenters, but to millimeters. These puppies looked small!!!

I had read others' experiences and placed a small bowl of water in the oven to produce steam (to help the eclairs rise). I was also prepared to leave them in the oven to prevent their deflating. As the eclairs began to bake, I finished the chocolate glaze and began the chocolate pastry cream. I kept glancing nervously through the glass oven doors. When would these babies start to rise? At the end of 20 minutes I had my answer. The horror! the horror! My eclairs--my first Daring Bakers challenge--were scrawny, parsimonious little digits, not the puffy, airy, chubby little darlings mom and I used to bake.

With sweat streaming down my face--and over other parts of my body as well--I set myself the task of cleaning up the kitchen while my--what to call them?--cooled. At this point Larry came home from work. No dummy, he! He could smell it in the air: defeat and a general air of displeasure. Then he looked in the oven. "What're these?" he asked, with barely suppressed laughter. There was no joy in Mudville, nor would there be any eclairs for the guys at work.

I went ahead and split the cooled eclairs, glazed their teeny tops, and filled them.
Larry is not as big a fan of bittersweet chocolate as I am, but he gamely tried a few of the eclairs there and then...and again that night.

At first I thought I might use mom's recipe to whip up another batch and use up all the leftover glaze and pastry cream. Then I thought not. Instead, I baked a simple yellow layer cake and used the cream as filling and the glaze as frosting. I'm sure the guys will like this just fine.
As for me, I'm humbled, but not defeated. Bring on that September Challenge. After all, I AM a Daring Baker!

P.S. I am not gracious in defeat and this failure bugged me for days. I kept going over the recipe and what I'd done. And then I had my epiphany, my "ah ha" moment. The directions for the pate a choux called for propping the oven door open with a spoon after the eclairs have cooked for a bit. I did so, and...I have a convection oven. It shuts off when you open the door. DUH!!!!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008


Ireland is a beautiful country and the week I spent there I saw more shades of green than I ever imagined were possible. The only drawback to Ireland was that I do not, nor have I ever, eaten lamb. I guess the one exception is that I do love gyros and if that meat is lamb, well then I contradict myself. But no other lamb shall ever pass these lips. That said, the idea of shepherd's pie is appealing in nearly every other way. What's not to love about a casserole topped with mashed potatoes?

I've been making the same Weight Watchers' turkey shepherd's pie for almost 15 years, so when I found another version, I thought I'd give it a try. There was an ingredient that I would have much preferred to leave out--frozen peas and carrots--but Larry loves them. I love carrots, the fresh variety, but I abhor peas. I don't like the way they taste or feel. I will give them an A+ for color. Except for this addition, the new version of turkey shepherd's pie is a big improvement. The old version used instant mashed potatoes, something I really dislike. I made it anyway because it was tasty, quick, and low in points. The new version, however, uses Yukon gold potatoes--I left the skins on for more fiber--and was just as tasty, quick, and low in points. Larry liked it a lot. The serving size is very generous as well.

Yield - 6 servings
1 1/2 lbs small Yukon gold potatoes, skins left on
3/4 cup fat free milk
1 tbs Dijon mustard

1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 lb ground turkey (lean)
1 1/2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs poultry seasoning (or sage)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen peas and carrots, thawed (OR LEAVE OUT and use fresh, parboiled baby carrots, as I will next time)

Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot filled with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are done--about 25 minutes. Drain, add milk and mustard, and mash until creamy. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large, nonstick pan with cooking spray and saute onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until browned. Sprinkle the flour over the turkey and onion and cook about 1 minute, until the flour is absorbed. Stir in the Worcestershire and poultry seasoning and cook another minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until mixture thickens (2-3 minutes). Stir in the peas and carrots.

Pour the mixture into a 9 inch square baking dish. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over the mixture. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes (until bubbling). Let stand about 5 minutes before serving. (3 points per serving)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I've been using the same recipe for banana bread for over 30 years (from my Good Housekeeping Cookbook). I don't recall making banana cake, however, so with a bunch of overripe bananas, I figured I'd be economical and make Larry some dessert. Larry and I have very divergent tastes when it comes to bananas (and music and condiments as well). I like my bananas just ripenend; he likes his very, very ripe. The problem is he doesn't care to eat a banana with his cereal every day. Usually I peel and freeze the overripe ones and, when I have a big baggie full, use them in banana bread. Yesterday I couldn't stand looking at the brown bunch on the microwave. This recipe was simple. It took about 20 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to bake. I have to rely on Larry's tastebuds. He says it has a very good banana flavor, but is not overly sweet. The icing has an odd proportion--compared to others I've made--of sugar to butter, but he said it's tasty. The toasted coconut provides a nice contrast.


4 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened (125 g)

1/2 cup sugar (115 g)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup milk (125 ml)

4 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups self-rising flour, sifted (250 g)*

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted (15 g)

*add 1 tsp baking powder per cup all purpose flour to make self-rising flour


4 1/2 oz unsalted butter (125 g)

3/4 cup confectioners sugar (90 g)

1 tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Lightly grease an 8 inch (20 cm) round cake pan; line the base with waxed or parchment paper.

Cream the sugar and butter using an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the beaten egg gradually. Add the vanilla and banana and beat until combined.

Dissolve the baking soda in the milk. Using a metal spoon, gently fold the sifted flour/spice alternately with the milk into the banana mixture. Stir until the ingredients are just combined and the mixture is smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour--or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.


Beat the butter and confectioners sugar and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Spread over the cooled cake with an offset spatula and sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes (spread coconut on cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes; watch carefully so it doesn't burn).

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I would gladly eat pasta 3 or 4 times a week if I were a size 6. Unfortunately, that is not the case and so I don't make pasta nearly as often as Larry or I would like. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, my mother didn't dish out pasta using a one-cup measure. With apologies to Weight Watchers, one cup is a tease. I decided to try a recipe for a very simple, quick tomato sauce that could be used to make a very simple, quick meat sauce and decided to make it on a weekend since weigh in day is on Wednesday (devious, aren't I?). I still have no sense of smell or taste, but I can tell you the different textures were incredible. Larry has to be my nose these days and he said this dish was very good. I made the sauce and then the meat sauce and then baked the casserole all in the same pot, my Dutch oven. The sauce is very thin, but the pasta quickly absorbs it and I suspect when it is reheated--we barely ate a fourth of it--it will require no additional sauce. As is my custom, I made double the sauce. Hey, if you're going to dirty a pot, make it worth your while. Buon appetito!

3 28 oz cans San Marzano tomatoes (or, 5 lbs ripe plum tomatoes)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced (2/3 - 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (like a Pinot Noir)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs sea salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 large fresh basil leaves

Puree the canned tomatoes, then strain them to remove seeds and pulp; set aside (if using fresh tomatoes, core them, cut into chunks, and then puree and strain)

Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven and saute the onion over medium heat about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute about 2 minutes more, being careful NOT to let the garlic brown. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 30 minutes.

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups of tomato sauce (recipe above)
1 lb fusilli
1 cup cubed Fontina cheese
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded fresh spinach

Brown the ground pork and beef in the olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar pot; season with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 cups of the tomato sauce and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the fusilli about 6 minutes (that's about half the required cooking time; they'll be very firm). Drain and transfer to the Dutch oven. Stir in the Fontina, half the mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheeses over low heat. Off the heat, stir in the spinach and the remaining 2 cups of tomato sauce.

Bake the casserole covered to 20 minutes. Remove the cover, scatter the remaining half of the mozzarella over the top, and continue to bake for 15 minutes more.

My freezer now holds a large container of the basic tomato sauce and a large container of the meat sauce. Guess what's for dinner Monday night? Good thing Larry loves pasta because I would bet on their being at least one lunch there, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


What's your Omnivore 110 score?

When I checked out Ally's blog (www.culinaryinfatuation), it seemed she'd been doing a bit of blog hopping, too. On , Ally read about the Omnivore 100 score. Like Ally, I thought it would be fun to play along and get my Omnivore 100 score. All you do is this: copy and paste the list onto your blog (if you have one), go through the list and bold all the items you've eaten. Use red to denote the items you would never consider eating. Use blue to denote the items you would like to try. I added my own notation: italicize those items that you don't recognize. If you don't have a blog, just copy and paste into a document and do the same. Here goes.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10.Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (ate it by accident; hate tuna)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (still don't like clam chowder!)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38.Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (no big deal!)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (many moons ago)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (alcohol by volume)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I did make a roadkill cake once for a big game party)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (yuk! Larry eats one every weekend)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini (had my first in Venice at Harry's Bar)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare/rabbit
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

My score is 53.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've been wanting to make these potatoes since I first saw them on Ree's blog ( While she recommends making them with small red potatoes--and I'll definitely do that next time--this was what was available at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. They were absolutely delicious and I'll be making them again and soon.

When I started photographing them, Larry remarked about the "fine china" I was using as a backdrop. Taking a cue from Ree, whose pastry brush was well worn with use, I decided that real pots and pans LOOK used. Mine certainly do.

1 1/2 lbs red-skinned potatoes
olive oil
sea salt
fresh herbs (I used chopped dill)

Place the cleaned potatoes in a pot of water and boil until soft. Drizzle olive oil on a cookie sheet. Place the potatoes on the cookie sheet and use a potato masher to "smash" them. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt, and sprinkle with your herb of choice. Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.

The potatoes are a study in contrast--soft and smooth on the inside, crunchy on the outside. I served them with katsu chicken (katsu is a Japanese term that refers to a food that is breaded and fried; the breading is Panko bread crumbs). I can't imagine many foods that they would not taste delicious with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Everyone has his or her own favorite kind of barbecue. In the Northeast, it isn't as much of a religion as it is in the South or in the West. I'd forgotten how much we liked the rub I used on a grilled flank steak, how tender and juicy the meat was after it was seared on.

One of my freezer staples are those packages of pork loins. They generally run about 2 pounds and contain 2 small loins. DO NOT, under any circumstances, buy those already-flavored loins. Not unless you enjoy salt licks. Just buy the regular pork loins; they're inexpensive, lowfat, and can be used in any number of ways.

I chose to use a dry spice rub, then serve the pork with a spicy, vinegary sauce. While I used loins of pork, this recipe would work as well on chicken or beef or even catfish.

Yield - 6 servings

2 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 - 2 lbs total), trimmed of any visible fat

1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbs molasses
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Spray the grill or a grill pan with nonstick spray and prepare the grill for indirect heating (I turned the left and right burners on high and left the middle one off).

Combine all ingredients listed under spice rub. Rub half the mixture all over the pork loins and let stand for 15 minutes.

While pork absorbs rub, combine all ingredients for the mop sauce. Whisk until blended.

Rub the pork loins with the remainder of the spice rub and place over the indirect heat (the middle burner, in my case). Grill 13 minutes, then turn and grill another 12 - 15 minutes until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees. Remove pork from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing each tenderloin into 12 slices. Serve with the sauce. (WW 4 *'s)

I've already packed Larry's lunch with slices of pork and sauce over rice. I shredded the rest of the leftovers and have them in the sauce. They will make a tasty sandwich for my lunch tomorrow. Yum!

Monday, August 18, 2008


I haven't been posting much lately because the lack of a sense of smell and taste has seriously cut down on my cooking and baking. It's hard to be satisfied when you have no smell or taste whatsoever, so I've been eating foods that have some texture and way more cheese than is good for your system. Pizza, onion soup au gratin, and grilled cheese are about the only things that satisfy. However, that is not a balanced diet and I feel sorry for Larry, so yesterday I took advantage of the beautiful basil growing in my windowboxes and some wonderful broccoli I picked up at the farmers' market and made a healthy, easy pasta dish.

1 pkg frozen ricotta cavatelli

olive oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups broccoli florets

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the cavatelli according to package directions. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water. As they cook, heat about 1 1/2 tbs olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and cook the garlic until golden brown and crispy. Watch carefully so the garlic crisps and doesn't burn. About 4-5 minutes before the garlic is done, add the broccoli to the pan and cook; it will be crisp tender. Add the pasta to the vegetable mix and toss with additional olive oil (start with a tablespoon and add to taste), salt, pepper, grated cheese, and just enough pasta water to moisten. Top with chopped basil.

If you haven't eaten cavatelli, they are lighter than gnocchi, but more satisfying than penne or ziti. Mom and I used to make our own for Easter. You form them with your thumb and after rolling some 5 pounds, let me tell you, your thumb is numb!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


No, this is not something that I left in the oven too long. It was a planned, deliberate action that rendered some beautiful red peppers into this charred, unrecognizable thing. I love roasted red peppers. They are wonderful with just a splash of balsamic vinegar and some extra virgin olive oil. They are equally wonderful with some minced garlic and an olive bath. Whether you add them to an antipasto, a salad, a panini, or a plain old sandwich, roasted red peppers are sublime. I am not talking about those things you buy in a jar that have been inebriated in cheap vinegar. I am talking about the kind you pay $8-$10 a pound for in a specialty shop or, far better, the ones you make yourself.

Summer is the ideal time to indulge your taste for this simple, yet delicious, food. Red peppers are plentiful in the markets and so less costly. You can also do them outside on the grill, thus eliminating the charred odor indoors as well as any pans you might need to roast them in indoors.

This is simplicity at its apex. Here is the "recipe."

  • Take as many beautiful red peppers as you desire
  • Turn your grill on high
  • Place the red peppers on the grill
  • Close the cover
  • Stay close by, but I'd start with about 8 minutes, then check them; they should be nicely charred on one side
  • Turn them over with tongs and repeat; leave them on until they look like the photo above
  • Take the peppers off the grill with tongs and put them in either a paper bag which you fold over or in a bowl which you cover in plastic wrap
  • Leave them alone for 20 minutes.

Now all you have to do is carefully pull the charred skin off the peppers and use a butter knife to scrape away any seeds. Under no circumstances should you rinse the seeds or skin off with water. That would wash away the beautiful taste you've just created.

All that's left is to slice them and decide how you're going to enjoy them. I carmelized some Vidalia onions and used them with some grilled sausage on freshly baked baguettes (no, I didn't make the bread this time). They are positively addictive and really no trouble at all. I had one pot to wash.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Fresh corn will be hitting the market soon and I'm praying my smell and taste will return in time for this once-yearly treat. Nothing beats a beautiful ear of salt and pepper corn, crunch and sweet, salted and buttered. In anticipation, I thought corn fritters would be the perfect accompaniment to my crockpot rotisserie chicken. Chickens were on sale, so this time I bought a 6 pound one. While it was not overcooked after 4 hours, I understand now the dilemma of the collapsing chicken. When I went to lift it out of the pot, it came "in sections." I'm assuming the fact that the larger chicken extrudes more fat and thus sits in liquid longer is the reason for this. It was, however, just as delicious, so caveat emptor. Remove it from the pot carefully lest you, too, have shredded chicken strewn over your curls.

Back to the corn fritters. My first cookbook--copyright 1963--was the Good Housekeeping Cookbook--and it's the first one I go to for roasting times and the answers to simple questions. I've been making their sourthern style corn fritters for years and prefer them to all others that I've tried. The bonus is they take less than 20 minutes, start to finish (I was just being cute with my title).

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tbs baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 tsp vegetable oil (more for frying)

2 1/2 cups cooked whole kernel corn

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Beat the eggs; add the milk and vegetable oil. Stir in the flour, then the corn. Heat enough oil to cover bottom of pan and fry by tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Fry 3-5 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven. Serve plain or with syrup or sour cream.

I eat mine plain, but my mom and dad always added syrup, as if they were eating pancakes. Larry said his parents did, too. I'd usually add sour cream to mine, but since I can't taste, why waste the calories? They have a lovely texture and reheat well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Our favorite local restaurant used to be Catherine's in Goshen. I say used to be because they've changed the menu recently and removed some old favorites and replaced them with too many pedestrian dishes. While their menu is seasonal, these old favorites were, for the most part, more costly dishes. Their new menu is laden with far too many pasta dishes. One of the old favorites they didn't remove from the menu is Larry's favorite dessert: apple crisp.

I don't share his enthusiasm for their version. To my taste, the topping is too sweet and far outweighs the fruit portion. I've made him countless versions of apple crisp from the CIA recipe to the local newspaper version. He's enjoyed them all, but always wanted MORE topping and CRISPER crumbs. Well, I'm here to say, "By jove, I've got it!" You will not believe what made the difference in this crisp: mayonnaise. Before you turn up your nose or mutter "Yuck!," take a look at this blueberry crisp. While I couldn't actually taste it, the topping was far more crispy and, according to my expert, perfectly sweet. It also has double the amount of topping of an ordinary crisp. My friends G and P agreed when they had it for lunch, so take the plunge. I promise, you won't regret it!

Blueberry Crisp
4 cups blueberries (I'm trying peaches next!)
2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar + 1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup regular mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pick over blueberries, then place in an 8 inch square baking dish. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, the sugars, and the cinnamon. Stir in the mayonnaise until the mixture looks almost like dough. Crumble the mixture over the fruit. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Be ready for lots of yummy noises. G really liked hers!


When I first became Principal of the Big M, we used to have monthly "salad days," so-called because our breakfast-lunch buffets would hold an enormous selection of foods. As some of us got older and busier and others were younger and less-inclined to cook or bake, we discontinued this practice, both because we were becoming more health conscious (marathon eating and menopause don't mix) and because more and more store-bought foods were showing up on our table.

My title "salad days" in this instance is far more literal. For my lunch with friends this week, I made a carrot salad and chicken salad that were long on flavor and short on healthfulness. Moderation is the key, however, and lunches like this one can be enjoyed from time to time without worry of hardening arteries or growing derrieres.

I have to confess that part of my desire to lunch "in" this week was to coerce P and G into coming to the house to install my new router. Both groaned when they saw the brand (Netgear). I was inclined to agree given that there were virtually no instructions and their 24/7 helpline was useless. My brilliant friend G managed to hotdog her way through the installation and my laptop is now wireless and I can join Larry in the living room after dinner instead of squirreling myself away in the sewing/computer room.

These salads would work equally well on a brunch buffet and are lovely to look at (my photography not withstanding).
Carrot Salad
1/3 cup raisins
1 lb carrots
2 tbs lemon juice

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup diced fresh pineapple

Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes, then drain.

Place grating blade on your food processor. For ease in processing, cut the carrots in half and place lying on their sides in your feed tube. Process in batches.

Place carrots in medium bowl and add the lemon juice. Toss. Mix the dressing in another bowl: whish the sour cream with the mayonnaise. Add sugar and salt and blend. Pour over carrots just before serving. Add the pineapple and mix well.

4 split chicken breasts (about 3-3 1/2 lbs)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup pecans
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tbs chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 cups green grapes, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Cool, then remove skin and bones and dice into 1 inch pieces.

Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Mix the dressing: mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream and season with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Fold in half the tarragon.

Place chicken in a large bowl. Add the pecans and grapes. Pour over the dressing and mix well. Sprinkle with remaining tarragon.

Go ahead! Invite some friends to lunch!

Friday, August 1, 2008


There isn't much I dislike about retirement except perhaps that you don't see good friends as often as you used to. Of course, that can always be remedied by "doing lunch." I have to say that lunch is probably my favorite thing about retirement. It doesn't much matter what I'm eating. It's the fact that I'm eating it at a leisurely pace without frantic phone calls or knocks on my closed door. It's also about taking more than four and a half minutes to actually eat it. What's all this got to do with scones? Hey, I'm retired. Let me tell the story in my own way.

Last week I saw a wonderful segment of the Barefoot Contessa. Though I've watched Food TV for a long time, I fnd I've been watching it less often as some of the new "stars" just don't float my boat. This segment was "Ladies Who Lunch" and I immediately determined to replicate most of the menu. I've made scones before, but haven't always liked the consistency of the dough. These scones were savory--cheddar dill, to be specific. Although I hunted through several kitchen stores while we were on our Adirondack weekend, I could find no square biscuit/cookie cutters. When I saw the nonstick scone pan, I decided to buy it and am I ever glad I did. I was able to make the scones in the early morning, put them in the pan (I froze half the dough for later use as the recipe yields 16 large scones), and refrigerate them until just before lunch.

While I still have no sense of smell or taste--3 weeks and it's near killing me--my friends G and P prounounced them delicious. I can attest to the wonderful feel of them. They're flaky, moist, and feel creamy on the tongue. I wish I were better at photography. The women were patient while I took photos of each dish. The rest of the lunch consisted of carrot salad, chicken salad, and blueberry crisp. Come back tomorrow for another of the recipes.
Here are my friends P and G getting ready to enjoy lunch (while I snap away).

Cheddar Dill Scones - Yield 16 large scones
4 cups plus 1 tbs. all purpose flour
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 lb unsalted butter, diced
4 extra large eggs
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 lb sharp cheddar, shredded
1 cup minced fresh dill
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs milk for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a scone pan with nonstick spray OR preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet.

Combine the 4 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt and place in the bowl of a a stand up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream together and quickly add them to the flour and butter mixture, combining just until blended (don't overwork the dough). Toss the cheddar and dill with the 1 tbs flour, then add them to the dough and mix until they are almost incorporated.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for exactly one minute. Pat the dough to a 3/4 inch thickness.

IF USING A SCONE PAN: divide dough into 16 pieces; gently pat a piece into each section of the scone pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Scone pans hold 8 scones, so either bake in 2 batches or freeze half the dough for later use.

IF USING A BAKING SHEET: use square cutters to cut dough into 8 squares; divide each in half on the diagonal and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Use 2 baking sheets OR bake half and freeze the other half of the dough.

When Larry tried a scone at dinner, he declared that they would make a great breakfast sandwich with a fried egg and some bacon. I'm inclined to think he's right AND I still have another batch of dough in the freezer.