Friday, December 30, 2011


In my salad days, barely a weekend went by when I wasn't entertaining friends or family. A limited space and a limited budget just required a little creativity to produce food that was fun and filling. I've never been a "chip and dip" kind of person, but I have always loved finger food. When I was putting together our Thanksgiving menu this year, I was looking for a few nibbles to serve before dinner that wouldn't send us to the table already stuffed. For some reason, crabbies popped into my head. I haven't seen or heard of a crabby since the seventies, but once the thought was there, I knew I had to make them. Let me warn you that these are not haute cuisine. When you read the list of ingredients, I hope you won't turn up your nose, because the fact is, crabbies are delicious. That they are so very simple to make is another plus.

2 pkgs English muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2( 5 oz) jars of Olde English cheese
2 cans crabmeat, drained and picked over
1 tsp garlic powder

Split the English muffins and toast each lightly.

Mix butter, mayonnaise, cheese, crabmeat, and garlic powder thoroughly. Spread evenly on muffin halves. Carefully cut each muffin half into 4 pieces. 

Place on cookie sheets and freeze. Remove from cookie sheets and place in freezer bags. Defrost in refrigerator before baking.

Preheat oven on broiler setting. Place quarters on cookie sheets, without crowding. Broil until the cheese is bubbly, watching carefully so they don't burn.

These were every bit as good as I remembered them and my guests who'd never tasted them before seemed to enjoy them as well. I still have a freezer bag full to enjoy the next time we have company because the recipe makes quite a few. The trick is to get the cheese bubbly and just a tiny bit browned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sauerbraten (German-style Beef Potroast)

DSO is a hunter; I know, HOW did that happen? While our property is filled with deer and wild turkey, these are totally off limits. If he wants to hunt, he has to go to his hunting club. I tasted venison twice and both times it tasted like old meat to me. It is a disgusting color, has almost no fat, and is not allowed in our upstairs freezer. That said, I have made venison sauerbraten for DSO in years past (I use rubber gloves so I don't have to touch that grey meat).  To his dismay, DSO has not gotten a deer for the past two years, so I haven't had to contend with cooking something I detest. That said, I did feel kind of sorry for him, so I decided to make him a "real" sauerbraten, something that's a bit labor intensive (just because you need to plan the days for the marinating), but very, very delicious.

Makes 8 - 10 servings
1 1/2 c vinegar
1/2 c red wine
1 c water
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp whole black peppers
4 bay leaves
4 onions, sliced
18 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
3 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 lb boned rump roast
2 tbs flour
freshly ground pepper
1/4 c fat
1/3 c gingersnaps, crushed finely
1/2 c sour cream

Two to four days before serving:
In large bowl, make the marinade: combine vinegar, wine, water, sugar, 1/2 tsp whole black peppers, bay leaves, 3 onions, 12 cloves, 1 tsp ground mustard, and 2 tsp salt. Place meat in large ziplock bag and place bag back in a large bowl and pour in marinade. Refrigerate 2-4 days, turning bag each day.

On the day you plan to eat sauerbraten:
Remove meat. Strain marinade and set aside. Dry meat well with paper towels. Combine flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper. In hot fat in Dutch oven, brown meat well on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. This is a VERY important step, so don't rush it. Add 3/4 c reserved marinade (refrigerate the rest), 1 sliced onion, 1/2 tsp ground mustard, 6 cloves, 1/2 tsp whole black peppers. Simmer, covered, about 3-3 1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender, adding 1/4 cup marinade, if needed.

Remove meat to hot platter, slicing it first; keep warm. Strain drippings from Dutch oven into glass measuring cup. Let stand a few minutes to settle. Pour off all except the bottom 1/3. Return these drippings to the Dutch oven. Stir in crushed gingersnaps and rest of the marinade, stirring until thickened. Stir in sour cream, then add back the sliced meat (do not boil or sour cream will curdle). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.
I'd forgotten just how wonderful a sauerbraten tastes. The few times I've ordered it out, it's been dry and stringy. Not so this with this one. The sweet-sour flavor of the marinade marries so well with the spiciness of the gingersnaps and the creaminess of the sour cream gravy. The meat was juicy and tasted even better the next day. Leftovers make wonderful hot sandwiches, too. This is just the meal for a cold night or for when you have company for dinner.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rainbow Cookies

I  could never name my favorite cookie, but rainbow cookies would definitely be in the top 10 of my favorites. In fact, one item on my foodie bucket list (more about that later) is to celebrate an upcoming birthday with a rainbow cake like the ones I've seen in my favorite bakeries in Little Italy. When DSO asked me to bake cookies for his annual Christmas "eat-a-thon" at work, I decided to bake rainbow cookies. With a little bit of luck--and some new hiding places--I figured we'd have some left over to bring to my cousin's on Christmas Day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from my kitchen to yours!

I've made rainbow cookies before, but decided to try a new recipe that calls for almond pastry filling in place of almond paste.

From Executive Editor Dana Bowen of Saveur magazine
Makes about 10 dozen

1 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 c flour, plus more for pans
1 c sugar
1 (12.5 oz) can almond pastry filling (such as Solo brand)
4 eggs
12 drops each red and green food coloring
1 (12 oz) seedless raspberry jam
12 oz semisweet chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 X 13" baking pans and line with parchment paper; set aside.

Using a hand mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add pastry filling; beat until smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour; beat just until combined.

Evenly divide batter into 3 bowls. Add green food coloring to one bowl, red food coloring to another bowl, and leave the third bowl plain. Stir colorings into batters.

Using an offset spatula, spread each batter into a prepared pan. Bake each pan until just beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks to cool.

Heat jam in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly.

Place green cake on a cutting board or foil-lined baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to spread half the jam over the green cake. Top with plain cake. Spread remaining jam over plain cake and top with red cake. Press down lightly. Chill cakes to set jam, 1 hour.

Using a slicing knife, trim cake edges to form an even block. Slice block lengthwise into 1 1/2" wide logs (5-6 of them). Separate. Use an offset spatula to spread melted chocolate over top, sides, and ends of each log until completely covered. Chill to set chocolate, then slice into 1/2" thick cookies to serve.
If you're lucky, there will be some end pieces that look a little gnarly--eat them, quickly! Don't let the length of the directions scare you off. Yes, these are a bit labor intensive, but they are so worth it. First, you get a large quantity. Second, and more important, these are mind-blowingly good.

I mentioned my "foodie bucket list" and was wondering what might be on the foodie bucket list of my favorite bloggers. What foods are you planning to try? What restaurants are on your someday list? What culinary masterpiece do you envision producing? Inquiring minds want to know....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Fill Your Cookie Tins in under Two Hours

For many years, the day after Thanksgiving signaled the beginning of holiday baking. It wasn't unusual to find me forming loaves of stollen and baking dozens and dozens of all kinds of cookies. These cookies would be frozen until I'd amassed a few gross and could make up platters of cookies to give to family and friends. I get tired just thinking of how many times I'd have to wash those bowls and cookie sheets! I've long ago given up this marathon baking. For one thing, if you've never tasted frozen cookies, you don't know what you're missing. Those treats would call my name. Nowadays, I choose one or two favorites each year and bake them as close to Christmas as possible so I know there will be other people "responsible" for eating them.

However, for the past several years I've been volunteering in my local community, assisting seniors and adults with disabilities with transportation to doctor's appointments, friendly visits, minor repairs, and clerical chores. At Christmas, our group delivers a pointsettia and a goody bag of cookies to each of those neighbors, so it was time to grease those cookie sheets and get my cookie on.

I had just a few hours to accomplish this task, so I chose 3 drop cookies--sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, and mint chip cookies--to produce the 10 dozen cookies I needed. With the help of my Kitchen Aid, Silpat mats, and 3 basic recipes, the cookies were baked, cooled, and wrapped in under 3 hours. Recipes are from the Good Housekeeping Cookies cookbook.

Makes: 36 cooikies

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz mint chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt.
In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just blended. Stir in chips with a wooden spoon.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets (I use Silpat mats). Bake until golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes, rotating cookies sheets halfway through baking. Repeat with remaining dough.
Use a wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Makes: 42 cookies

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until blended. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture just until combined, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoons, 2 inches apart, on two ungreased cookie sheets. Bake until edges are browned, about 10-12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking.  Repeat as necessary.
Use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

Makes: 54 cookies

3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, cream of tartar and baking soda.
In separate large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture until well blended.
In small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. With hands, shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture, and place on ungreased large cookie sheets, 1 inch apart.
Bake until set and lightly golden and crinkly on top, 12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet on wire rack 1 minute. With wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cook completely.
Repeat with remaining dough.
When you have a limited amount of time, a drop cookie is your best bet. The ingredients for these 3 cookies are staples in most kitchens and the recipes don't require any wait time in the refrigerator. The sugar cookies had a delicate crunch; the Snickerdoodles perfumed our house with the smells of Christmas; and, the mint chip cookies added a festive look to my goody bag. You really don't need a lot of time to bake homemade treats.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Today was my guild holiday party, a pot-luck luncheon that mixes good food, good friends, and lots of wonderful quilting. This year I was on dessert duty and I spent a few days mulling over what I would bring. Our guild is large and we're asked to bring a dish that will feed 8-10. Since I'll be baking cookies later in the week, I dismissed them immediately. Buche de Noel seemed a bit fussy (and it's always a pain to cut). I was planning on making Death by Chocolate when I realized there was a wonderful Italian dessert I hadn't made in quite a while--tiramisu. An 80's dessert, tiramisu, which means "pick me up," is a variation of zuppa Inglese, another layered dessert. It consists of coffee-and-liqueur soaked Saviorde (Italian lady-finger biscuits) layered with a mascarpone zabione and whipped cream. 

This recipe, which I happened upon many years back, simplifies the zabione, a welcome respite from standing over a double boiler and whisking for what seems like hours. I was lucky that there was one piece left over (DSO was very happy) and so was able to get a photo.

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup strong espresso, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (or rum)
  • 20-24 Itallian ladyfinger cookies, carefully cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine espresso and coffee liqueur. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise. 
  4. Arrange half of split ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish, cut side up and sprinkle with half the espresso-liqueur mixture.  Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.
Although this tiramisu does not require the whole double-boiler, zabaione-like process, it tastes every bit as good as if you had taken the long way round. I hadn't made it in years and had forgotten just how heavenly this Italian-style trifle is. I won't let so much time pass again before I make this. It is light in texture, but rich and satisfying with a wonderful, full mouth feel. While not overly sweet, you DO know you've had dessert when you're finished.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slow-cooker Pork Lo Mein

Tis the season to be busy, so with appointments to keep I happily turned to a slow-cooker recipe for pork lo mein. There was a bit of prep and some finishing touches, but mostly this one bubbled away on its own while I was out and about.

Serves 4
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
3 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tbs oyster sauce
3 tbs oyster sauce (I substituted hoisin sauce, which I prefer)
3 tbs sherry
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 large carrot, cut into 2 inch matchsticks
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup fat free chicken stock
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbs cold water
1/2 small head Napa cabbage (I substituted one bunch of bok choy), cut into 1 inch pieces
5 oz dried soba noodles
2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sherry, and ginger in a large zip lock bag; add the pork loin and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Remove the pork from the bag, saving the marinade in the refrigerator. Place the pork tenderloin in the slow cooker, then add the carrot, mushrooms, and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Remove the pork and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 2 inch long strips. Whisk the cornstarch in the water and add to the slow cooker along with the reserved marinade, the bok choy, and the slice pork. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken and cabbage wilts slightly.

Cook soba noodles according to package instructions; drain and toss with sesame oil. Add noodles to pork mixture, toss, and serve.
At 324 calories per serving (31 g protein, 34 g carb, 2 g fiber, 6 g fat, 482 mg sodium), this was a hearty serving of a tasty, simple meal. I must be completely honest, however, and say that it was a good dish, not a great dish. I much prefer the simple lo mein recipe I've used in the past (click here). But if you are looking for a slow cooker version and easy weeknight meal, you might want to give this a try.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slow-cooker Lasagna

Christmas decorating can't be rushed. I find it's best to spread it over several days and to have the house completely decorated before we cut and put up the tree. After spending the day in New York City viewing the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, the creche at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the wonderful Christmas decorations throughout mid-town, I felt ready to begin. That meant I needed something quick and easy for Sunday dinner.

I've come across quite a number of recipes for slow-cooker lasagna and decided that now was the time to give one a try. I made an exception to my general rule for using the slow cooker in that it was necessary to brown several ingredients in a skillet. While I didn't use any one recipe, I did take some suggestions for the cooking method and time. This recipe serves 8-12.

no boil lasagna noodles (use Barilla; they're the best)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
10 oz sliced white mushrooms
1 (28 oz) jar tomato sauce (I used Barilla's 5 cheese sauce)
1 (15 oz) container part skim ricotta
2 cups part skim mozzarella
grated pecorino romano cheese

Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. In a large skillet, place the ground beef, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Fit 3 no boil lasagna noodles in the bottom of the slow cooker (I broke some apart so as to cover the bottom). Use a slotted spoon to spread 1/3 of the beef mixture over the noodles (there will be lots of extra liquid extruded from the mushrooms and you don't want this in your dish). Add 1/3 of the ricotta, spreading as evenly as possible, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the layering 2 more times, finishing with the mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated cheese over this top layer, place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 5-5 1/2 hours.

Eileen, this one's for you!
I'll admit I wasn't expecting much more than a home made version of one of those boxes of pasta casseroles. I was wrong! While this will never take the place of real lasagna, particularly one made with handmade pasta, it was very tasty and had even set up when I was packing up the leftovers. DSO absolutely loved the taste and is even looking forward to eating the leftovers. This would be a great dish to round out a holiday buffet, to take as a contribution to a covered dish, or to put on the table for a special weeknight meal. It could be put together the night before and set to cook while you get your holiday shopping done. Whenever or however you make it, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Old-fashioned Apple Crisp

One of DSO's favorite desserts is apple crisp. I've made it many times, trying a number of different versions. Generally the ingredients for the crumble remain the same; it's the variety of apples and the amount and type of sugar used to enhance them that changes. Frequent fliers to The Food of Love kitchen know that I worship at the shrine of the Barefoot Contessa, so it comes as no surprise that I decided to see what the goddess of good eats had to say about apple crisp. Her first ingredient made me smack myself on the forehead and cry, "Eurkea!" DSO does not like to waste chewing time with his apple crisp and balks at any "bite" to the apple component. When I read Ina's first ingredient--McIntosh apples--I knew I had hit paydirt.

5 lbs McIntosh (or Macoun) apples
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 lb cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9X13 inch baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the prepared dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle --OR-- do what I did and crumble between your fingers until the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place in the oven on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.
Even if I hadn't tasted the crisp myself, I'd have known from DSO's glazed eyes that Ina had scored again. The McIntosh apples with their higher water content broke down beautifully and resulted in a filling that was perfectly soft and sweet and yielding to the bite. To save time I had assembled the entire crisp the night before and popped it into the oven cold an hour before we were ready to eat dessert. It was perfect with some freshly whipped cream and I'm sure would have been even more decadent with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream. Ina reigns supreme.