Monday, December 30, 2013

An Early Happy New Year

Despite good intentions, I never got to blog on Christmas. I hope all my foodie friends and readers had a very Merry Christmas. As always, we had too much food (thank heavens for freezer bags). New Year's Eve will be quiet, dinner out, then home to try to stay awake to watch the ball in Times Square come down. I know it's after the fact, but I wanted to share our Christmas dinner and wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sausage and Peppers Revisited

I'm sure you've all got your own recipe for sausage and peppers. My tried and true comes from a 1983 issue of Bon Appetit and marks the first time I roasted red peppers over an open flame. When I'm lazy, I simply fry the peppers and onions. Wandering around the Food Network site, I came upon a recipe from Giada for sausage and peppers. What caught my eye was the Marsala listed in the ingredients. I decided the wine would be an excellent addition. Here is the recipe as I tweaked it.

Serves 4-6
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage (I actually used Italian turkey sausage this time)
3 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 Vidalia onions, sliced
1 tsp Kosher salt
ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine
1 can (15 oz) diced petite tomatoes put through a food mill
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
4-6 Italian sandwich rolls, optional or 1 lb. cooked pasta

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain.

Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala wine and chili flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes.

Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls over pasta. Or, serve as a sandwich., 
It took incredible will power to eat just one sandwich. I think that this preparation is every bit as good as the one with the roasted red peppers. I do not like chunky tomatoes, nor do I like my sausage, peppers, and onions with a heavy tomato sauce,  which is why I pressed them through a food mill. The resulting "sauce," which is greatly reduced, just adds a wonderful flavor. This is definitely going on the Christmas Day menu.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Classic Meatloaf

A lot of people turn up their noses at meatloaf--I used to be one of them. Then I discovered the meatloaf sandwich and all that changed. I've tried any number of recipes for meatloaf, some more successful than others. My favorites taste just as good lukewarm as they do hot, have a bit of sweetness, and have a consistency that holds together but is not dense. This recipe had an almost perfect proportion of beef, pork, and veal.

Serves 6 - 2 slices per serving

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbs nonfat milk
1/2 cup ketchup, divided
2/3 lb extra lean ground beef
1/2 lb lean ground pork
6 oz lean ground veal
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 egg whites
cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse breadcrumbs measure 1 1/2 cups.
  3. Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons ketchup and remaining ingredients except cooking spray.
  4. Shape meat mixture into a 9 x 5-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Spread remaining 6 tablespoons ketchup over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut the loaf into 12 slices.

  5. ***********************************************
  7. I enjoyed this for dinner with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots, but I enjoyed it even more on a soft kaiser roll with some BBQ sauce. Meatloaf shouldn't just be ground beef baked in a loaf and this combination of beef, pork, and veal was far more flavorful than just beef alone. I'm sure there'll be other meatloaf recipes to try, but, in the meantime, this one has a star next to it that says "make again soon."
    1. `

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool, crisp air, the changing leaves, and the wonderful root vegetables and squash that form the basis of so many hearty soups and stews. I may have come late to the party, but since I discovered butternut squash, it has become one of my favorites. My usual method of preparation is to peel it, cube it, drizzle it with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast it at high heat until it carmelizes.

I've ordered butternut squash soup at a number of restaurants and I'm almost always disappointed. What I've been served has been sweetened artificially, which is totally unnecessary. When roasted in a hot oven, the natural sweetness of the butternut squash is much more delicious. I decided to make my own soup, roasting rather than boiling the squash and the result was fantastic.

Makes 10 cups soup
  • 2 1/2  pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 " pieces
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, chopped

  • 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 4cups vegetable broth (chicken broth may be substituted)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 2 tbs. sour cream
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup toasted seeds, for garnish 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place cubed butternut squash in a large bowl; drizzle with the olive oil; season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast 30 minutes. Turn pieces over and roast an additional 30 minutes.

Place tablespoon of butter in a large pot. Add onion, butter, and sage and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add vegetable broth and water and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add roasted butternut squash to broth mixture. Use an immersion blender to puree. Add sour cream and combine. Serve topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.
This soup is a wonderful appetizer course for dinner or a stand-alone lunch. It is creamy, yet not too filling. A bonus is that it freezes beautifully. I toasted my own seeds to use as garnish (forgot to photograph them), but often swirl a teaspoon of sour cream into the hot soup for a nice counterpoint to the sweetness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Copycat Starbuck's Classic Coffee Cake

    Coffee cakes don't get the same respect as, say, a three-tier, buttercream frosted cake or a flourless chocolate torte or a cream cheese encased carrot cake. I just think that's wrong because a cinnamon laced coffee cake
     with a streusel topping  fresh from the oven is one of the best uses of butter, eggs, and sugar that I know of. It may explain why I have so many coffee cakes on my blog and why I still have a number of dog-eared recipes torn out of magazines and newspapers waiting to be tested.

Having volunteered to bake for the annual meeting of a volunteer group I belong to, I decided to try something new. Among the many bookmarks on my laptop I found this copycat recipe for Starbuck's classic coffee cake. Reading through the ingredients, I knew this was the kind of cake I needed to bake and hurry out of the house--3 sticks of butter! 

I decided to double the topping as was suggested and use half to create a ribbon of cinnamon streusel through the cake to augment the streusel on top of the cake. You can never have too many crumbs on a coffee cake after all. This cake yields 18 good-sized pieces.

  • Topping
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Batter
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon saltshopping list
  • 1/3 cup half and half

  • OPTIONAL:  To get that ribbon of cinnamon through your cake, double recipe for the topping topping and reserve half (minus nuts if you like). Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan--batter is thick, sprinkle half of doubled recipe over that making sure to cover entire cake,hen spread the rest of the batter and top the cake with the other half of the topping mixture. 
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Make topping by combining 1 cup flour with brown sugar, a stick of softened butter and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl. Mixture should have the consistency of moist sand. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans.
  • In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup light brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the moist ingredients a little bit at a time. Add half n half and mix well.
  • Spoon the batter into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been buttered and dusted with a light coating of flour.

  • Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter. Be sure the topping completely covers the batter.
  • Bake cake for 50 minutes, or until the edges just begin to turn light brown. Cool and slice into 8 pieces.
  • ***********************************************************
  • I was convinced that this cake was going to be a dismal failure. There was no mention in the recipe of the fact that the batter is very, very thick. So thick, in fact, that I had to spread it on the bottom of the pan and drop it, like biscuits, over the middle layer of streusel. Imagine my delight when it baked up perfectly after 50 minutes. My half of a piece--I cannot post about something I haven't tasted--made me want to open up a quart of milk and take a spoon to the entire pan. This coffee cake is not for the faint of heart. It is a rich tasting, buttery cake with a bit of sweet crunchiness in each bite. It is going to be hard to say good-bye, but I might just give up dinner tomorrow night and have a whole piece. It's that good. Make it soon!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

I am never shy about requesting recipes because I think it is a compliment to that person that you enjoyed their dish so much you'd like to replicate it. That's how I feel when someone requests one from me. These bars were baked by a friend of mine who brought them to one of our volunteer training sessions last year. They are delicate and delicious, but very simple to make. I added some tips to the directions I'd received to make sure you get the perfect bars.

 I'm sorry to report that I was only able to get a bite for quality control purposes since they were baked for someone else. I plan to make them again for a guild sew-in, so perhaps I'll get a whole one all to myself then.

Makes 16 squares
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square pan/glass dish and line with greased foil. I used a glass baking dish and it worked fine.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and oats in a large bowl. Mix in the butter using your hands. Your objective is to distribute it throughout and form a crumbly mixture. Measure out 2 cups and press it evenly into the prepared pan/dish. It's important to get it as even as possible (especially in the corners). Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edges. Do not be tempted to add more jam or your bars will not hold their shape (trust me on this one, though I did need a "tester" and the center was perfect since I had increased the jam a wee bit). Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top and lightly press it into the jam.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned and set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
I am truly impressed with the taste of these bars. Rarely does something with so few ingredients taste this complex. They are buttery, crumbly, and have just the right amount of sweetness. The smoothness of the jam is the perfect complement to the crumbly cookie. These bar cookies remind me of Linzer tarts. In fact, I may like them better since many Linzer tarts that are commercially prepared tend to be dry. I have a Christmas cookie I've made for years that have that same Linzer tart taste, but they are much more complex to make, so I think this is going to become one of those "go to" recipes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicken and Mushroom Farro Risotto

Farro is a whole grain that has been getting a lot of attention in the foodie world of late. It's prized for its nutty flavor, delicate chew, and versatility. Many cooks shy away from it because of its long cooking time, but if you use semi-pearled farro (in which some of the bran has been removed), it speeds up cooking considerably. If I had to describe the taste of farro, I'd have to say it comes close to barley, but it is milder. When I found a recipe that relied on the slow cooker to produce this risotto-like dish, I knew I had to try it. I did, however, feel the need to make some changes to the recipe. While it may be convenient to toss everything into the slow cooker "raw" and forget about it, I don't like grey meat and vegetables. It's worth using a skillet to develop some flavor before turning things over to the slow cooker. Here's my revised recipe:

Serves 4 - 6
2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup semi-pearled farro
1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, carefully cleaned, halved, and sliced
1 piece of Parmesan rind plus 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 bay leaf
pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces (plus 1 tbs for sauteeing vegetables)
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Melt 1 tbs unsalted butter in a large nonstick skillet and slowly brown the mushrooms, 5-7 minutes. Add the sliced leeks and cook for another 5 minutes.

Mix chicken broth, farro, 1 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, bay leaf, and pinch of nutmeg in slow cooker. Add sauteed mushrooms and leeks and mix well. Place chicken thighs on top and cook on slow for 5-6 hours. (or on high for 3 - 4 hours)

Discard the rind and the bay leaf and use 2 forks to shred the chicken into large pieces. Stir in the butter and grated cheese. Sprinkle each serving with the chopped parsley.
I enjoyed the flavors in this dish, but was surprised that the farro had none of the "bite" usually associated with risotto. I would think the cooking time could be reduced by an hour, though the chicken was just perfect after 6 hours. Farro is far healthier than rice so I would make this dish again.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shrimp Francese

When you order shrimp or chicken Francese in a restaurant, you're really taking your chances. Too often you're served cornstarch and egg encrusted protein swimming in a cornstarch-enriched sauce redolent of bottled lemon juice. I am not a fan of gravies and sauces that overwhelm the star of the show. While I've made shrimp Francese at home before, I've always had to adjust or correct the sauce. When I saw this recipe in Martha Stewart Living, it looked like something I would enjoy "as is."

Serves 4
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails can be left on for presentation)
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
all purpose flour for dredging
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 sliced
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Slice each shrimp along the back to butterfly slightly. Whisk together eggs and cheese in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Dredge shrimp lightly in flour, then coat completely in egg mixture.

Whisk together broth, wine, and lemon juice; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Swirl in oil, then butter. Cook shrimp in 2 single-layer batches, adding more oil between batches, if needed. Cook until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Transfer each batch to a plate when done. Pour broth mixture into skillet and cook, swirling skillet, until reduced by half, one to  two minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon slices and parsley, and pour over shrimp. Serve immediately .
I prepped all the ingredients the morning I was going to serve these, which made the cooking time literally 5 minutes from start to stop. This preparation was perfect for me. There was sauce, but the shrimp weren't swimming in it. I served it with rice, but it would be as delicious over pasta. I will definitely make this again and, while it's certainly "company worthy," it is simple enough for a weeknight meal. I plan to try it with chicken as well. I actually preferred the taste to that of my favorite Italian restaurant's version.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Last week I took a field trip to NYC to see a quilt exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum and two fashion exhibits at FIT. Along the way I visited Mood, M&J Trimming, Mokuba, and the City Quilter. Never one to miss a little retail therapy, I came home with some beautiful silk ribbon, some picot ribbon, and a copy of Cristen Brown's Ribbonwork Gardens. Today was a perfect day to sit in front of a roaring fire and create some flowers to embellish my latest crazy quilt.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup

When I was young and a very finicky eater, my mother used to make a beef soup that I didn't eat. What I did eat, though, was the shredded beef she took out of the soup and fried along with green peppers and onions. I think she'd add a bit of tomato paste (or ketchup?) to the mix and I'd eat it on a buttered roll. It is one of my strongest taste memories. Sadly, I never got the recipe for her soup and I've tried to replicate it several times without success. I had thought she used shin beef, but that never came close to the taste.

This month's Prevention magazine had a vegetable noodle soup with beef that called for using short ribs. I decided to give the recipe--with a few small changes--a try.

Serves 6
For the broth:
1 tbs olive oil
2 lbs short ribs
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1 tsp salt
3 qts. water

OptionaL:  grated cheese

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy 6 quart pot. Sear the short ribs until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and partially cover the pot. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, skimming off foam as needed. Remove the meat to a cutting board, shred it (discarding fat and gristle), and refrigerate. Strain the stock and refrigerate. When fat solidifies, use a spoon to carefully remove it.

For the soup:
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
1 dried bay leaf
4 oz tubettini (or other small pasta, cooked and drained)

Simmer the stock with the onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, and bay leaf for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add reserved meat the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove the bay leaf, adjust for salt, and add the cooked pasta. Serve with grated cheese.

N.I. per serving:  276 cal.; 21 g prot; 27 g carb; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 9.5 g fat
I recommend doing all the chopping at one time, separating what is needed to finish the soup. While there is a bit of prep work, the results are well worth it. This soup, though still not the one I remember my mom making, is delicious. It's amazing how sweet the broth becomes from the addition of the carrots and parsnips. The recipe makes a great deal of soup; the servings are quite generous. With some toasted ciabatta, this was a wonderful fall meal.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Amish Breakfast Casserole

Finding a portable brunch dish isn't always easy. Certain foods dry out when reheated; others require lots of "on site" prep work. So when I was surfing through the blogosphere looking for something that would be easy to put together, would feed at least 12 people, and wouldn't have to be reheated or assembled on site, I came across this hearty casserole from Taste of Home. I read through some 90+ reviews and thought about what some of the negative reviewers had to say and amended the recipe as follows.

1/2 lb bacon, diced
12 oz Jimmy Dean bulk breakfast sausage
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
12 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
30 oz bag shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed (place in a clean dish towel and squeeze out excess moisture)
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon,, sausage, and onion until bacon is almost crisp; drain oil
In a large bowl, combined the remaining ingredients.

Butter a 9 X 13 inch deep baking dish. Transfer mixture to the dish and bake, uncovered, for 45 - 55 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting or spooning out.

N.I.  1 serving: 273 cal; 18g fat; 8g carb; 1 g fiber; 18 g protein
I let the casserole cool for 5 minutes, then loaded it into one of those insulated bags they sell at the grocery store. Forty-five minutes later, it was still piping hot. While the incidental heat did cook it a little more, it was still gooey and delicious. I will definitely make this one dish brunch again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When the Weather Turns Chilly...It's Chili

Last year I became a convert. After years of turning up my nose at chili, I found a chili that was more than some ground beef and beans with overpowering spices. I've been waiting for the weather to turn cooler so that I could make up a big pot and decided to repost the recipe with a somewhat improved photograph.

The recipe is a slight adaptation of Jamie Deen's:

Serves 8 - 10 generously
1 lb each ground beef and ground sweet sausage
1 onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
2 cups chopped celery
3 (28 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes
1-2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pkg chili seasoning mix
shredded cheddar cheese, crema, guacamole, chopped scallions (optional toppings)

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and sausage, drain, and place in a slow cooker. In the same skillet, add the onion, pepper, and celery and saute 5-8 minutes. Add to the meat mixture, then stir in the diced tomatoes and run the whole tomatoes through a food mill and add to the mix. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, beans and chili seasoning (taste and add salt, if needed). Set the slow cooker to low heat and cook 6-8 hours. Serve garnished with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

The flavor of this chili, which is wonderful to begin with, only improves the next day. I like to eat my chili with a piece of homemade cornbread and have at least 3 additional meals waiting in the freezer.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Apple Pear Coffee Cake

A few weeks ago I tasted a piece of coffee cake at a guild meeting and I couldn't get that taste out of my head. Although I was promised the recipe at our next meeting, I decided to conduct an online search to see if I could find something like it. I think I hit paydirt with this recipe from Taste of Home. With a few tweaks of my own, here is the recipe:

Serves 15
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup light sour cream
2 medium honey crisp apples, peeled and chopped
1 Bartlett pear, peeled and chopped

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 9 X 13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating until combined.

Fold in the apples and pears.

Pour into the greased pan.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 15 pieces.

Nutritional Info:  313 cal; 14g fat; 44 g carb; 1 g fiber; 4 g protein; 9 Points Plus values

I am 99% certain that this is the recipe for the coffeecake made by my fellow guild member. It is exceptionally moist with just the right amount of topping. I think it tastes very buttery, more than just a "half stick's worth."  I will have to put it out of sight and/or freeze some of it because it is way too tempting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spanish-style Chicken

I've been in a rut lately, cooking the same "old favorites" over and over again. While I do have my tried and true chicken preparations, I felt like eating something a bit different. So, instead of using boneless, skinless thighs, which are my "go to" part of the bird, I decided to use a whole chicken, skin, bones, and all.

Serves 4
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 - 4 lbs), cut into 10 pieces
Kosher salt
sweet paprika
1 tbs olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced (I used gigantic cloves and loved the flavor; you may want less)
1 heaping tbs tomato paste (I use the one in a tube)
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 cups chicken broth (I recommend low sodium)
6 jarred piquillo peppers, cut into strips
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
2 tbs chopped, fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and paprika. Heat an ovenproof skillet* (at least 12 inche) over medium heat and swirl in oil. Working in 2 batches, add chicken to pan and cook until browned (2-4 minutes on each side). Transfer chicken to a plate as it is browned.

Reduce heat to low and add the garlic and tomato paste, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Return chicken to the skillet, increase the heat to high, and pour in the vinegar. Boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Turn chicken pieces to coat all over.

Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Add the peppers and olives. Transfer to oven and braise for 25 minutes (until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast reaches 160 degrees and liquid is reduced by half. Garnish with parsley.

*I wrap my nonstick skillet's handle in aluminim foil and it works fine
Chicken on the bone almost always tastes far better than boneless, skinless pieces of the bird do (and that's even when you take the skin off before eating). This dish smelled wonderful and tasted even better. My only regret was that I couldn't dunk an entire loaf of garlic bread into the wonderful sauce. The sauce is very thin, but could be thickened at the very end with a simple slurry. I had planned to use leftovers to make a soup, but I'm having second thoughts and may just eat it as is.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spiral Table Runner

As soon as I saw one of these spiral table runners at a guild "show and tell," I knew I wanted to make one. Since I couldn't find the pattern in several local quilt stores or at shows, I was happy to see that a friend was offering a class at her home. Along with 6 other quilting friends, I spent a pleasant 6 hours putting this together. You have to love a project that you can begin and finish in the same day. Strictly speaking, however, the decision to quilt this runner meant another few hours at home, but it was the perfect opportunity to practice my free motion quilting.

One of the roadblocks to free motion quilting for me is having to negotiate the basting pins, so I decided I'd hand baste this. After doing so, I realized that while I wouldn't need to remove the pins as I was quilting, I'd still have to remove the thread or chance "sealing" it into the runner with my quilting stitches. Out came the basting thread.

Remembering that I'd purchased a can of fabric adhesive spray, I decided this piece was small enough that I could use this method of basting. I'm happy to report that even with the curves and odd shape of the spiral, it made my free motion quilting a less daunting experience.

I had initially thought I'd practice my paisleys, but the shape of the runner seemed to call for quilting each fabric separately. What better shape for my spiral runner than the spiral, the one pattern I have a bit of confidence with. I'd purchased some Superior metallic thread and was pleased that with a few tension adjustments, it quilted beautifully.

I was nearly done with the quilting when I broke my needle. I don't know why, but it was easily changed and I did not emerge sweat drenched with an aching neck. I think the combination of not having to dodge safety pins and having done a bit of practice with my FMQ made all the difference.

Next up, I'm considering using the basting spray on my strata quilt which is currently pin basted. It's largish, but I think it's worth a try. Any suggestions??

Friday, September 6, 2013

Brownie Wars Revisited

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but I have been busy, busy, busy, mostly with my quilting, but with other pursuits as well. For those of you who are also retired, you'll understand when I say that I don't know how I ever fit work into my schedule.

I decided to post today because I want the recipe for these two incredible treats where I can always find them. The debate as to which brownie is superior--cake-y or fudge-y will never be won. And then you can throw into the mix the devotees of blondies and all I can predict is lots of yummy moments nibbling on the "contestants."

For the fudge-y brownies, I went to the King Arthur baking site. If you haven't visited this site, you've been missing out on some cooking and baking magic. Here is the link to these brownies (click here).


4 large eggs
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan
2) Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
3) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.
7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 brownie (63g) Servings Per Batch:24 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260 Calories from Fat: 130 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat:0g. Cholesterol: 55mg Sodium: 130mg Total Carbohydrate: 36g Dietary Fiber: 2g Sugars: 27gProtein: 3g.
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For the coconut macadamia blondies, I refer you to my blogging friend Deb of Kahaki Kitchen (click here).

Coconut Blondies 
Adapted from Ruth Cousineau, Gourmet Magazine 2008 via Epicurious
(Yield : 24 )
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 6 oz toasted and and chopped macadamia nuts

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. 

Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave, stirring, until smooth. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk in brown sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth. 

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt, then whisk into butter mixture. Stir in chopped macadamias and 1 1/2 cups coconut. 

Spread in pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until a pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. I started checking mine at 35 minutes, then cooking in 5 minute intervals before checking again. A cake tester inserted into the middle should come out clean. Cool completely.

The smells in my kitchen were intoxicating. Both these recipes are very simple, but the results belie that simplicity. The brownies have that classic glazed and crackled top with just the right amount of chewiness and chocolate magic.

The blondies were the surprise of the day. The only blondies I've ever eaten contained white chocolate, which I abhor. These reminded me of caramel. I confess to licking the bowl clean before washing up. The combination of toasted macadamia, caramel, and coconut put me in mind of the gentle trade winds of Hawaii. Thank you Deb. And thank you King Arthur. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pollo al Ajillo (Panamanian Garlic Chicken)

Lately, it seems that every time I plan to grill, it's raining. I had originally intended to grill this chicken over a charcoal fire, but had to settle for using my gas grill. I can't stress enough how much better chicken (or other proteins) are when grilled over indirect heat. To do this, simply heat all burners on high for about 5 minutes, then turn off the front burners, which is where you'll place the protein, close the lid, and achieve perfect results every time. This recipe was adapted from Saveur magazine.

Serves 5 (or 2 with leftovers)
5 pieces quartered chicken (leg and thigh)
3 bay leaves
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 tsp Kosher salt (plus more, to taste)
2 tbs water
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp ground allspice

 Puree garlic, salt, and 2 tbs water in a food processor to a smooth paste. Add juice, vinegar, black pepper, Worcestershire, and allspice and puree until smooth. Place chicken and bay leaves in a large freezer bag set in a bowl. Carefully pour in mixture, being sure to rub over all the chicken quarters. Seal well and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight (I highly recommend overnight and turning the bag several times over that time period). Reserve some of the marinade to brush over the chicken while grilling.

Preheat the grill as described above. Add the chicken to the front burner (which you turn off after preheating) and close the cover. Cook for 16 minutes. Brush with reserved marinade, then turn over and cook for about 19 minutes more. The thickest part of the thigh should come to 165 degrees.
This chicken, heavily spiced and intensely garlicky, is sold at roadside restaurants all over Panama and I can see why. I seldom eat chicken skin--not because I dislike it, but because of the calories and fat. I would have gladly eaten much, much more than was on my piece of chicken. The meat was incredibly moist and flavorful. This is a marinade that really permeates the meat with flavor. The skin--well, just look at the photo. I can't wait until corn is in season to make this again. Yes, there's a bit of prep involved, but it is so worth it. Make lots more than you need and revel in the leftovers.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Big Yellow Taxi and My Foray into Modern Quilting

It's not that I've stopped cooking (exactly); rather, I've been cooking old favorites or eating salads and other light meals. Since I haven't posted any recipes in two weeks, I thought I'd blog about what I've been doing with the time usually spent in the kitchen.

Last week I took a workshop with Rayna Gillman, a fabric artist known for her free form quilts. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of person. While crazy quilting may seem to have fewer rules than sane quilting, that is not the case. And while I am comfortable not following patterns and seeing where my own designs will lead, free form quilts and/or modern quilts are not genres that fall within my comfort zone. That said, I actually ended up enjoying the process.

Rayna had suggested that we bring orphan blocks and strips of fabric in a multitude of hues. My quilting friends and I turned up with bags, boxes, and piles of fabric (probably enough fabric to make several very large quilts and there were only about 15 of us).  I chose a pieced block, an extra from a year-long color study course I'd taken and a foundation pieced block I'd made when I was experimenting with that technique. Having listened to Rayna's suggestion that we include black and white fabrics in our stash, I began cutting and piecing and cutting some more. At one point, I had 4 free form blocks which I ultimately decided to square up and piece together. This produced a 9 inch block which cried out for a thin, yellow border. As soon as I made that decision, the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" started running through my head. That yellow border (and those lyrics) lead me to the black and white checkered fabric and my outside border.

I hung the finished piece on my design wall and stared at it for the next few days, but my original idea to quilt it in gold metallic thread won out over several other ideas. Understand that I am brand new to free motion quilting. I recently took Leah Day's class on Craftsy and she has fanned the flame of interest in FMQ. In fact, be sure to check her blog to see what others are doing on FMQ Friday. After several trial runs on my trusty muslin sandwich, I decided it was now or never and just did it. A few ripped out lines of quilting and one broken needle later, I was done. It took me approximately 3 hours to quilt. I did some simple wavy lines, horizontal and vertical on the block itself. I quilted a chain of pearls in the thin, yellow border. And in the black and white checkered border, I quilted spirals.

To finish the quilt, I applied a facing. All that remains is to add a label. I'm calling the quilt "Big Yellow Taxi" and, though it's far from perfect, I will admit that I'm rather pleased with the results.