Showing posts from 2009

Boxing Day Brunch Bake

Queen Victoria must have loved Christmas to have declared the following day as yet another holiday. Boxing Day, celebrated on The Feast of St Stephen, is an English tradition -- the one day of the year when household help was given a bonus and a full day off as a reward for providing good service throughout the year.

For upper class Victorian families it meant the kitchen help would prepare foods in advance that the mistress of the house could manage without much fuss. For modern Brits, the day of goodwill has evolved into a banker's holiday encouraging the search for post-Christmas shopping bargains. Either way what's needed is a good breakfast, easy to prepare and this amazing brunch treat can be refrigerated up to twenty-four hours before baking.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/8 cup orange favored liqueur
1 tablespoon maple syrup
8 slices Portugese sweet bread, approx. 3/4 inch thick
2 cups half anf half
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspo…

All Dressed Up for Christmas Breakfast

What we Americans call oatmeal is known as porridge in the rest of the English speaking world. In Germany it's haferbrei, havregrot in Norway, owsiaka in Poland and puder in Estonia. But nowhere is oatmeal mush more beloved than in Scotland, where the art of porridge making is a competition.

The Golden Spurtle Award is bestowed to the world's most talented porridge maker at the annual World Porridge Making Championship in Carrbridge, Inverness-shire. The event is held in October and the winner recieves a gold-colored spurtle as a trophy -- the spurtle is a flat wooden spatula-type utensil traditionally used to stir the porridge during cooking. I use a standard issue wooden spoon.
Wonder what they would say about my special Christmas porridge recipe?
2 cups cooked oatmeal
1 cup of your favorite berries (fresh or frozen are best but canned is okay)
2 tablespoons white sugar

Make 2 cups of your favorite oatmeal. I like to use Quaker's quick cooking kind, it takes 1…

Peppermint Snow, Please

Facebook friends from Washington, DC to New York City posted more snow warnings than The Weather Channel all last night. Today, my pals in eastern Massachusetts report near white out conditions.

Here in western Massachusetts, it fizzled to a dusting at best. So I made up a batch of brownie cookie bites topped with peppermint snow and we had our own blizzard right in our kitchen. The best part? Peppermint snow is a pleasure to shovel ... into our mouths. But this IS New England -- who knows what tomorrow will bring!

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup cocoa
1 large egg
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chunks
1/8 cup of peppermint snow (crush 4 or 5 mini candy canes into a coarse powder)

Sift dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat in on medium. Add dry pre-sifted ingredien…

The Joy of Holiday Cookies

Nothing sweetens the season like holiday cookies! The name comes from the Dutch koejke which translates to "little cake" -- the perfect single serving treat. Cookies have been part of cooking history for more than a thousand years and nearly every culture has a bite sized sweet that qualifies as a cookie.

Every year I try to come up with a new twist on an old favorite to celebrate the season for my annual cookie swap. These tasty morsels are my version of rugelach, a traditional Jewish pastry filled with nuts, raisins or apricots, cinnamon and sugar wrapped in a flaky crust. A few good friends sharing a bottle of bubbly then going home with the bounty of a platter full of homemade cookies and the recipes. Lots of fun and yumminess, too!
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/3 cup plain or lemon flavored yogurt

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup finely choppe…

Caribou Meatballs

It’s snowy and cold here in New England -- a good day to defrost ground caribou and simmer up a big saucepot full of spicy meatballs. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend who hunts, you can substitute the caribou with sweet Italian sausage meat. Just remove the casings and crumble into your meatball mixture.

These meatballs are delicious cooked in any good sauce, even a jarred sauce from your grocer’s shelf, though I recommend homemade bubbled on your stove all morning. Double the recipe and freeze a quart full of the sauce and meatballs for another day. Stop in your favorite local bake shop for fresh rolls and enjoy a yummy grinder or have an old-fashioned meatball with pasta dinner and a tossed salad. Pass the grated Romano cheese, please!

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound ground caribou meat
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
3 tablespoons hot tap water
1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Combine breadcrumbs, egg and water in la…

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Okay, so I haven't got a partridge. And while Farmer Paul does grow pears out in our lovely backyard garden, the tree went bare weeks ago.

But I found these lovely little Seckel pears at a favorite farm market and just had to have them. Cored, poached in a sweet delicate sauce and served cold -- yummy!

1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
½ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon strips lemon zest, finely grated
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup cranberry liqueur

4 Seckel pears, on the larger side

With a small knife, remove as much of the core as possible from the bottom of each pear while leaving the fruit whole. Add the pears to the saucepan. Simmer, covered, until fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a bowl. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil; boil until reduced to 2 c., about 10 minutes. Pour the syrup through a sieve over the pears. Cover and chill, turning the pears occasiona…

An American Bird Meets French Cuisine

If you love lemon flavor and believe in the curative power of some foods, then this Turkey Francaise is just what the doctor ordered. Using turkey Americanizes the classic French cuisine deliciously. The best part is that if you prefer to make it Italian, substitute the mushrooms with capers and you have Turkey Piccata.

Always a big decision for me which country’s lemon poultry recipe to favor since my ethnic heritage combines both French (my dad) and Italian (my mom) and my grandmothers on both sides were phenomenal and inspiring cooks; especially for a little girl who loved wearing her grannies’ aprons!

Ask half a dozen food historians where lemons originated from and you’ll likely get half a dozen different answers. The exact origins of the lemon remain vague, it is widely presumed that lemons were native to India and China where the tart juice was known for its medicinal properties and as an antiseptic. Lemons made their first appearance in the Arab world and the Mediterranean regio…

Died and Gone to Chocolate Heaven

Chocoholics rejoice! This one's for you ... a warm and satisying dessert. Chocolate is festive and if you're looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit, nothing beats warm chocolate soup.

Who can resist a Godiva boutique display? Or those Lindt bars on special? Everyone needs a chocolate snowman, don't they? Everything from chocolate tea bisquits to dipped dried fruits boxed and wrapped in gold and silver trimmed red velvet boxes -- a sprig of silk ivy points at you as if to say, "Just nevermind your old Aunt Alice, buy me for yourself!"

While you're at it, pick up a high cocoa content bar to make this really yummy soup. You may keel over in a chocolate coma but you and your holiday guests will lie unconscious with a smiling face. Guaranteed.

Amaretto Crème
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup 1% milk
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur

Chocolate Soup

1 cup 1% milk
1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon white sugar
4 ounces 85% cocoa chocolate squares
Dash of s…

Turkey's Last Stand

It’s the end of the long holiday weekend. You’re shopped out from Black Friday jostling for bargains and turkeyed out from two days of leftovers. But one peek in the refrigerator reveals a few more bits of perfectly good meat. Waste not, want not … give your turkey scraps new life in easy but classic lasagna.

Add a side salad, a glass of Chianti and a loaf of fresh crusty bread. You won't even notice you're eating leftover anything -- it tastes that good!

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 egg
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Italian cheeses (Mozzarella. Parmesan, Asiago blend)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (1 teaspoon dried)

2 cups shredded cooked turkey (or 1 pound ground turkey, cooked, crumbled and drained)
4 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
¼ cup grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray 13 x 9 x 3 inch deep square baker with cooking spray.

In medium bowl stir egg, ricotta, mixed cheeses and parsley until well mixed. Place 2 cups of marina…

Fruitcake Oatmeal Cookies: What's not to like?

Oatmeal, dried plums, honey and various spices in English Christmas pudding was the beginning of the Christmas fruitcake tradition. By the 16th century, the oatmeal was removed and some of the familiar ingredients of cake were added, such as eggs, butter and wheat flour. The concoction was then boiled into a plum cake, often with no plums or any dried fruits at all.

Wealthy families with ovens baked the “Christmas Cake” adding more expensive dried fruit and spices. The cake celebrated the Wise Men bringing exotic spices to the Christ child. And here’s where it gets all Dickensian.

The English upper class would give out pieces of fruitcake to the poor, who sang Christmas Carols in the streets in the late 1700's. By the end of the 18th century, there were actually laws saying that plum cakes (generic for dried fruit) could only be consumed at Christmas, Easter, weddings, christenings, and funerals. Seems to me the masses were tricked into believing that having fruitcake was special.


Leftovers and Life Have a Lot in Common

Yesterday's turkey, peas, carrots and mushrooms and a few chunks of boiled potatoes in a casserole dish along with some gussied up gravy. Add a few fresh ingredients and a rolled biscuit crust and dinner is served.

Leftovers are a lot like life, a delicate combination of new and old. Tomorrow starts the beginning of another holiday season and it's only natural to think about changing a few things with the new year ahead.

Here are a few thoughts to focus on that might help you in making the best of what you've got:

1. Get outside of your head. We live in an uncertain world. Worried times puts us in our heads; fretful for many hours every day. We mistreat our bodies, eat poorly, always at a dead run to get things done without taking time to integrate our physical self with our inner selves. Reconnecting with our bodies by walking, taking a warm bath instead of a fast shower, yoga, any activity that us connects with our bodies again can release tension.

2. Allow yourself to be hu…

A Passion for Pumpkin

Even the oven challenged Pilgrims of 1621 enjoyed a sweet pumpkin recipe on that first Thanksgiving. They hallowed out pumpkin centers, filled them with milk, honey and spices, and roasted them whole in the hot ashes of the cook fire. Once settled into proper households, early American cooks created the New World tradition of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

Poet and editor Sarah Josepha Hale is credited with convincing Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 -- it took her five presidents and 17 years to get it done. Where there's a will there's away. That goes for the most famous Thanksgiving pie of all too because no matter how much turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes you eat, there's always room for a good cup of coffee and a piece of pumpkin pie. Yummy!
TRADITIONAL PUMPKIN PIE 2 cups pumpkin puree, fresh cooked or canned
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs

Dash salt
1 can (14 fl. oz.) s…

Easy Eye Popping Popovers

Food historians generally agree that popovers were created here in the colonies by English housewives who missed their Yorkshire puddings but needed a shortcut and fewer ingredients for a less fussy version of the original.

According to Wikipedia, the first cookbook to print a recipe for popovers was M. N. Henderson, Practical Cooking, in 1876. Roasted beef or pork drippings made the little puffs more savory than the popovers most folks like these days. Today's recipes lend themselves to strawberry jam for breakfast or tea as much as for a bread substitute for holiday dinner.

The higher they rise, the better they taste is my motto and this recipe is one I have been using for over thirty years. It has never let me down.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
dash of salt

Preheat over to 425 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl and using a whisk, beat the eggs until slightly frothy. Add the milk and again, using the whisk, beat until mixture is slightly fr…

Not Your Granny's Crannies

Why work so hard on your Thanksgiving turkey and skimp on the most delightful side of all? Fresh cranberry sauce is as easy as it is impressive to serve. Not to mention, fresh cranberries are good for you.

Cranberries are an under appreciated fruit. Northeast Native Americans swore by the health benefits of the cranberry as a dietary staple. Early New England sailors packed the little wild berries, rich in Vitamin C, in their ship larders to prevent scurvy. Research has since validated the old adage that drinking cranberry juice will reduce or eliminate instances of urinary tract infection, but other, more recent studies have also linked the lowly cranberry with increased benefits in fighting heart disease and cancer.

A luscious cranberry sauce is one of the easier ways to wow your holiday guests. Go for it!

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
dash salt
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons orange li…

It's Almost Cookie Swap Time

Counting the weeks to my annual cookie swap with friends. I have six really good cookie recipes and there are just about six weeks to swap day. Once a week, I'll share a cookie recipe with you and by the time the holidays roll around, you'll be too confused to choose one and possibly five pounds heavier. LOL

When our younger son was little, he wouldn't eat anything that remotely resembled a living thing. Gummy bears, chocolate bunnies, and gingerbread men were banned. We ate jelly beans, chocolate balls and I made wreath cookies instead. Now that he's all grown up and living in New York I'm free to use my favorite cookie cutter to bake up the cute little guys. And there are no tears or fears when I bite off a head!
It's a pain that this dough needs to be refrigerated before rolling but the good news is that it can be rolled and rerolled without toughening up the second batch and, while the cookies do puff up some during baking, they hold their shape pretty well.…

Elegant Italian Comfort Food

You'd think having an Italian mother I would have a family recipe for osso buco. But my mom's family didn't hail from that part of Italy. So on page 137 of The Silver Palate Cookbook you will find what I used to make my first osso buco more years ago than I care to count backwards to!

A really good osso buco has a slightly tangy taste, a rich depth of flavor created by the layering of flavors. As is my way, I fiddled with the recipe until the ingredients made me (and Picky Paul) happy. After many, many efforts, I managed to construct an osso buco that I can confidently serve to guests knowing it will satisfy even the most discriminating palate.
That doesn’t mean I’m actually finished with my osso buco recipe. My osso buco will be forever “evolving”. That’s what good cooking is all about for me.
OSSO BUCO 6 one pound bone-in lamb shanks or bone-in veal shanks (or a combo of both) 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 shallot, finely grated 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped 1 r…

A Different Kind of Wellington

A few years back it occurred to me that pork tenderloin, with just the right seasoning, wrapped in puff pastry and baked would make a great substitute for Beef Wellington.

Looking for a special main dish that doesn't cost a fortune and doesn't take hours to prepare? This is it. And much easier to make than it looks, as long as you use ready-made puff pastry.

The result is impressive – not to mention very, very yummy -- especially when home made apple sauce (served warm or chilled) is on the menu!

1 ½ pounds of pork tenderloin
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 pat butter or margarine
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (needs 3 hours to defrost in refrigerator)
2 egg whites, beaten w/ 1 tablespoon cold water makes egg wash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll one puff pastry sheet to a size that will wrap around the pork tenderloin. Melt butter or margarine in microwave about 15-30 seconds, whip in mustard and grated garlic to…

Warming Up a Cool Night

So it's not snowing here ... yet. But today's blustery wind and an annoying case of the sniffles kept me huddled on the couch sipping hot lemon tea from my favorite mug and watching old flicks on television. It wasn't long before I nodded off.

Next thing I knew it was four in the afternoon and Fisherman Paul came rolling in after a day on the river, hoping for a stick to his ribs hot meal. Lucky for him, I had the ingredients on hand for this creamy veggie stew and a few chunks of cooked lobster to make it extra yummy!

1 small shallot, finely grated
1 cup cauliflower, chunky chopped
1 cup broccoli, chunky chopped
1/2 cup carrot, large grated
1/2 cup Gruyere or cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup light cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon arrowroot, dissolved in 1/4 cup water or semi-dry white wine
Dash of salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound mild white fish, cut into one inch chunks (flounder works well) or …

What's Your Pumpkin Pleasure?

It's Halloween and pumpkins are everywhere. So are big bowls of candy. This year we decided to have some individual packages of healthier treats for the younger ghouls and goblins who knock on our door for Halloween.

Oh sure, we'll still have a big bowl of the usual teeth-rotting candy bars because dried cranberry and apple treats might get panned by the older Trick or Treaters. But I have a feeling that the parents of the really little ones, parents who worry about too much chocolate and sticky caramel, might like the idea of fruity snacks.

Come Sunday morning, when that old pumpkin is ready for tossing, it'll be tossed into a 350 degrees F oven, baked about an hour or until its insides are tender enough to be scooped into a bowl for mashing. An easy pumpkin loaf is the perfect Sunday morning breakfast treat and will go well with a cup of cinnamon coffee. For my friends who know how bad I am at making coffee, it will come as no surprise that while the loaf is in the oven,…

Polish Comfort Food

"Are you hungry?" she'd ask. Before you answered, a plate of ham or kielbasa or a mouth watering golumpki landed in front of you followed by a generous slice of the best cheesecake ever baked or some other more recent dessert discovery. It was best not to eat for days before visiting my husband's favorite aunt.

Cioce Sophie (Polish word for aunt and pronounced chuh-chee) and her sisters were easily recognizable as siblings. Short, round women with pretty heart-shaped faces, wide smiles and carrying around Polish cookbooks bought at a church bazaar back in the 1940s. In the margins were dozens of handwritten notes, add a pinch of this, don’t use that; also tucked in the pages were recipes torn from newspapers, scribbled on cards and scrap papers received from each other or one of their friends.

There were at least ten recipes for every Polish specialty because everybody made their pierogi or kapusta just a few ingredients different from the next person. Some experimen…

Chocolate Love

Local markets carry Lindt, Ghirardelli and other high quality chocolate. But for a really special selection, Fairway Supermarket in Manhattan is an adventure. The Upper West Side icon is half supermarket, and half foodie emporium. Jam-packed with goodies, from specialty meats to gourmet chutneys, and amazing chocolates for cooking and eating.

The history of chocolate is fascinating. Mayan and Aztec cultures offered chocolate to their gods in hopes of pleasing them. After the Spanish conquered Mexico, chocolate found its way to Europe as a profitable commodity. A few sips of deep rich chocolate probably explains more than a few l'affairesducoeur ... there's a reason chocolates are favored gifts between lovers.
There are many online sources for fine chocolates if you aren't happy with what you find at your local grocers. And if you do find yourself in the city that never sleeps, head for Fairway Supermarket, wander around, read a few wrappers then buy yourself some luscious ch…

Just Peachy Pie

Rainy and cold days like today make me pine for summer. Or at least for a flavor that reminds me of warmer weather. If I had to choose one favorite summer fruit, it would be a plump, juicy peach.

The peaches grown at the Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown are as good as I've ever tasted. Every summer, I can at least six quarts of brandied peaches to break out on days just like today. Because nothing makes me feel better on a bad weather day than opening a jar of my brandied peaches made from local fruit.

Except, of course, the aroma of a cinnamon and nutmeg spiced peach pie just taken out of the oven. This is a good one. Enjoy!

1 egg white, beaten with one tablespoon of water until slightly frothy
5 cups sliced fresh, canned (in juice not syrup) or frozen peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 batch of pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie


Grape Infused Vodka Update

It took an overnight frost for our homegrown grapes to sweeten up but the wait was worth it. A big sloppy thank you smooch goes out to Mayor Mike Tautznik of Easthampton, MA for sharing his home infusion method for fruit flavored vodka.

Fiddling around with Mayor Mike's sure-fire recipe helped me come up with the perfect formula for home infusing store-bought vodka with the Concord grapes from our backyard garden. And the abundance of those grapes carefully cultivated by the Man of the House deserves another big sloppy thank you smooch, this time for Farmer Paul.

Start by boiling a big pot of water to sterilize pint-sized canning jars and their covers. Once they are cool, fill each about 3/4 full with thoroughly washed Concord grapes plucked from the ripest of bunches. Add one teaspoon of super fine sugar. Pour your choice of plain vodka over the grapes, leaving about 1/2 inch headroom before closing the jars. Shake gently to dissolve sugar before storing in a cool dark spot.

Two wee…

Butternut Squash Soup: A Good Way to Warm Up

When I was young, raking leaves was the only chore the kids in my neighborhood were quick to volunteer for. Why? We loved to run through the piles, kicking and jumping and laughing our way to making a big enough mess all so we could grab our rakes and start the fun all over again.

Never mind those leaf vacs and yard blowers. Whether you have a young one in your life or are simply young at heart, grab a rake and kick up a pile of leaves. And when you've had enough fun, this sweet and savory soup is a great choice for a lunch or dinner that will warm up your insides and tickle your taste buds. Plus it's low in sodium, high in nutrients and oh so good for you!

1 medium large butternut squash, 3-4 pounds
1 medium yellow onion, finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
6 sage leaves (1/4 teaspoon ground)
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups homemade chicken stock (*see how-to below)
1 cup creme fraiche (The Silver Palate Cookbook, Page 339…

Eat your squash, it's good for you.

There are plenty of healthy reasons to love butternut squash.

One cup of butternut squash contains nearly three times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A, which protects against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. Butternut squash has been reported to have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content and it may also reduce the risk of inflammation known to be present in arthritis and asthma.

That same cup of butternut squash provides 3 grams of fiber, 14% of the RDA of potassium which is important for bone health, 49% of the RDA for vitamin C, 14% of magnesium and 11% of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps your immune system, and with the cold and flu season about to start, isn't it a good idea to eat what keeps the sniffles away?

It’s bright orange color signals that butternut squash is full of carotenoids. Carotenoids protect against heart disease and are said to help lower cholesterol. So as you drop those extra yolks into this squash…

Something's Fishy Around Here

Most Friday mornings, I head to the market for a pound of fresh haddock or sole. I prefer wild caught to farm raised but pretty much settle for whatever's on sale. Last week, a firm white filet caught my eye. I asked about it and was told that it was basa fish, a Vietnamese import, a mild cousin to catfish and a popular choice on the west coast that more recently made its way east.

I'm a strong advocate of supporting local producers and that includes fishery but I was too curious not to give this strange new item a try. The delicate, white basa is a perfect fish for baking in a spicy tomato sauce. A word to the wise: much of what's advertised as basa is really tra, a cheaper, inferior import. If you're going to live with the guilt of purchasing an import, don't settle for less than the real thing. Ask before you buy.

I've used this recipe for years with homegrown catfish. It also works with any mild white fish. For the optimum result, make sure it's a filet n…

Mama Newton: Apples are good brain food.

No doubt young Isaac brought that fallen apple straight into the kitchen and his mom baked it into something delish before setting it before the lad with these words, "Apples are good brain food."

Obviously correct because some years later, Isaac Newton came up with the Law of Gravity. Probably while his mother furiously searched for ideas on how to cook something new with all those damned apples falling off that tree! And now here I am, more than three hundred years later, facing the same dilemma as Mama Newton.

I've sauced 'em, canned 'em, baked 'em, baked tarts and even a few pies with 'em. There are a number of good apple almond cake recipes out there but I wanted something just a little different and really easy. According to my live-in taste testers the experiment was a success.

1/4 cup slivered almonds
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup granulauted sugar
1 ounce shot of amaretto liqueur
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teasp…

Slow and Spicy and Really Good

Yesterday seemed like the perfect day to roast a pork shoulder with that Adobo Seco recipe the ladies at the Harvest Festival shared with me last month. Think about it.

If Christopher Columbus hadn't bumped into Puerto Rico while looking for a rest stop on his second trip to the New World, Juan Ponce de Leon would have never come back some fifteen years later to claim the beautiful island for Spain. As the first governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon used the island as his base of operations for his forays into North America. He died at age 47 from complications associated with a wound he recieved while looking for what he never found: The Fountain of Youth.

To this day, thousands upon thousands of East Coast retirees carry on the tradition of heading to Florida to avoid the ravages of winter and so find their own version of the famed fountain. So really, I couldn't imagine another holiday best suited to the long slow process of cooking pulled pork seasoned in the Puerto Rican w…

Rolling in Dough

We're still flush with apples and that means I'm rolling in dough -- or rather rolling the dough.

It's no secret that I don't often bake whole pies -- except for family holiday dinners or when company's coming. And whether I bake a traditional all-American apple pie, a blueberry beauty or late harvest peach-raspberry melba, I like to use my own original yogurt crust recipe. This recipe works well for one crust pies like lemon meringue and pumpkin, too. Try it with vanilla yogurt instead of lemon for a baked shell worthy of your best cooked chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream after chilling. For savory recipes like quiche or even French meat pies (Stay tuned, my grandmere's tourtiere recipe will grace these pages before you know it!) eliminate the sugar and substitute plain yogurt for the flavored kind.

For a fancy finish, pick up a set of decorative pie crust cutters from your favorite kitchen boutique. My fall leaves came from Williams-Sonoma last year. …

Flex Some Mussels

Looking for an easy way to wow your dinner guests on the cheap? Watch for mussels to go on sale in the seafood department of your local grocer and try this simple recipe.

Before you wine snobs out there start shaking your heads at my serving the leftover Pinot Grigio to my guests, read this piece by Lettie Teague at Food & Wine. Serve mussels with hot crusty bread to sop up the flavorful liquid at the bottom of the pan.
Easy Mussels
2 pounds mussels (rinsed) 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 shallot, grated 1 cup Pinot Grigio 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a 3 quart capacity French oven, melt the butter on a medium hot stovetop burner. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add wine and continue cooking until liquid is reduced by half. Turn up the burner to medium high. Add clean, rinsed mussels and cover, steaming until mussels shells open fully to indicate doneness. Toss parsley on top of cooked mussels.
Serve with any crusty bread heated through in your oven while the …

Chasing the Chill Away

Woke up this morning and the tip of my nose was cold, marking the official end of the summer that never was. I asked my Facebook friends if summer had ever shown up in their neck of the woods. "We had summer here in Maine. I think it was a Tuesday," posted Marianne.

The best cure for a chilly morning is a pot of tea and a warm breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and made-from-scratch cornbread. Not great for the cholesterol count but an oh so yummy way to start the day.

Old-fashioned Corn Bread

2 medium eggs
1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the milk and the oil. Mix this up until it is blended well. Add in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and honey. Use a whisk or a wooden spoon and a strong arm to mix this all up until it is smooth. Turn batter into a round, oiled 9-inch cake pan. You can use a 9-inch ca…

Harvest Fest: Celebrating the Island Way

The weather was perfect and people were out in droves at the 16th annual Festival de la Consecha. The event, sponsored by Nuestras Raices at The Land of Providence in Holyoke, Massachusetts last Saturday afternoon, was a grand success.

So much so that my son, JP, and I worried we’d never find a convenient spot to park. The on street parking situation looked unlikely and the nearby high school lot was not full but fairly packed with cars. On our second sweep we were lucky enough to find an available opening just a few hundred feet from the festival entrance. We were feeling great.

The piquant aroma of island cuisine, grilled chicken and penil (spicy pork shoulder) greeted us at the gate. Live music while strolling through the exhibits and gardens made for happy dancing feet. There were lots of fun things to do and watch throughout the afternoon. Succumbing to a plate full of grilled adobo chicken with rice was inevitable.

Adobo is a seasoned salt generously sprinkled or rubbed on chicken,…

Sick as a Dog?

My friend Shawn has been reporting on Facebook to all of us about how sick he's been for days now. He's missed work during the day and his favorite televison shows at night because he just needs to sleep.

When he finally wakes up, he's going to be hungry but might still have a tender tummy. So, let me suggest that his spouse consider having a pot of this recipe waiting for the poor guy to sip on over the weekend. Scott? Are you reading this? And no cheating with a can of Campbells chicken noodle, too much sodium!

Nani's Chicken Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole medium onion
1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), cut into pieces
Dash of salt
1 small bay leaf
4 large peeled and chopped tomatoes (1 16 oz can diced tomatoes)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into carrot coins
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 cup soup pastina (The Silver Palate Cookbook, pasta glossary, page 67)
Ground black pepper and salt, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (1 tablespoon dried)

Heat the oil over medium-…

Something Special

Something special is happening in Holyoke, Massachusetts. A 25 acre parcel of farm and woodlands situated alongside the Connecticut River will become the newest reservation in the Pioneer Valley under the stewardship of The Trustees of Reservations.

The Sisters of Providence, a religious community with deep roots in the city of Holyoke, donated the land in June of this year and tomorrow marks the official dedication. A portion of the property is farmed by Nuestras Raices (Our Roots) a vibrant urban garden that helps immigrant communities grow harvest and provide fresh ethnic crops while training and supporting immigrant farmers.

At my house, Farmer Paul has a golf tourney on Saturday having pretty much hung up his hoe for this season. We're cleaning out the garden in readiness for its well earned winter's nap. But this weekend you'll find me and my JP at the 16th annual Festival de la Cosecha (Harvest Festival) taking place on September 26th from noon to 6 PM. Live music, tr…

A Nice Warm Cuppa Tea

No sooner has our garden's harvest come in and there is a sudden turn in the warm days and comfortable nights. It's feeling downright chilly around here in western Massachusetts.

Our backyard crops are slowing to a trickle. The yellow beans produced a single serving in the last three days and the tomatoes are nearly gone, the cherry tomato plant still offers modest clusters to brighten the flavor of store bought mesclun mix tossed with raspberry viniagrette. But I know it won't last much longer.

Farmer Paul climbed his way to the uppermost limbs of our apple tree earlier this week and we wrapped the less ripe in newspaper for cold storage, gave away about two bushels worth of some pretty nice fruit and still managed to leave a generous number of beauties on the lower branches for friend Laura's little guy to snatch in an apple adventure today. It was an awful lot of fun to share our garden with so enthusiastic a picker.

There is consolation in seeing the ripening butternu…

Buying, Growing and Eating Local is My Bag

There are still a few weeks left to this year's summer crops harvest season in my neck of the woods and longer in other parts of the country. Apples and winter squash are just coming in and root veggies, potatoes and turnips and the like will be appearing at roadside stands and farmers markets soon.

Finding your area’s local harvest hot spots is trendy and socially responsible. But if being hip isn’t reason enough for you to jump on the locavore bandwagon and join the In-crowd at your regional Farmers Market and roadside stands then read on, you’re bound to find a good excuse to Buy Local!

Top 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food

10. Eating local means more dollars get pumped into the local economy.

9. Locally grown food is thousands of miles fresher.

8. Buying, eating and growing local fruits and vegetables is politically correct.

7. Eating local is better for air quality -- fewer miles driven for delivery, less exhaust.

6. Buying local food helps our awareness of each seasonal bounty.

5. Buying…