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Showing posts from 2010

Ginger Brandy Cookies

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Gingerbread people have long been holiday staples around our house. My sons loved decorating as much as they enjoyed eating the sweet treats. But these days we're a house full of grown ups and it seemed like a good idea to create a slightly more sophisticated version of our old favorite. We used mini-cutters from Williams Sonoma for crisps to top holiday flan, but two inch rounds make a tasty accompaniment for a nice cup of afternoon tea. Hope you like them!
GINGER BRANDY COOKIES 3/4 cup butter 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup sugar 1 package vanilla instant pudding 1 egg 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 shot ginger brandy FRUIT CRUMBLE 1/4 cup dried fruits (I used pineapple, mango and papaya bits) 1 tablespoon flour 1 tablespoon white sugar 4 ounces white chocolate chips (to melt for for dipping) Put fruit bits, flour and sugar in a mini-processor until finely ground. If mixture is sticky add a little more flour and sugar in equal amounts un…

Rush Hour Chicken

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Properly sautéed chicken breasts are deliciously simple. Do what you like with them when they're done: make a simple pan sauce: maybe add a few sun-dried tomatoes  and eat them as is, or slice them up to top a salad: or toss with pasta: or  fill tortillas (throw a few green peppers in the pan and a squeeze of lime). I like a side of risotto but buttered noodles are nice, too.  A few tips for great taste: thick chicken pieces take too long to cook and the middle will be bland. Use small breasts or cut each in half lengthwise to make thinner cutlets. Pounding with a meat tenderizer thins them out nicely as well; Use an all clad stainless pan instead of non-stick for better browning; Slice each cutlet crosswise before serving to allow the sauce to coat each tender morsel. SAUTEED CHICKEN CUTLETS
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves Dash of sea salt 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup dry white wine or cooking sherry 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsle…

Happy Healthy Holidays!

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Risotto is great comfort-food and an easier than you think way to wow family and friends. With a side salad and fresh fruit it makes a low calorie, high energy dinner. Fill a flute with sparkling water garnished with a few raspberries for an elegant holiday table.

Not to mention, risotto is a satisfying and filling main dish to feed your vegetarian dinner guests without meat-eaters feeling like something's missing. Just be sure to use vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.

MUSHROOM RISOTTO
3 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh arugula, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté garlic until softened and fragrant. Sprinkle dried herbs and pepper. Add sherry and simmer gently 2-3 minutes before adding rice. Stir quickly to …

Leftover Rice?

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Lots of meals call for rice as a side instead of potatoes. Braised lamb in stewed tomatoes is great with white rice. Plum chicken and pea pods is another better with rice dish. There's always leftover rice. 
Even Chinese take-out always come with too much white rice, but not quite enough to save for another day. Here's an easy and yummy solution for leftover rice. 
RUM RAISIN RICE CUSTARD 2 cups scalded milk 2 eggs, beaten 1/4 c. sugar  Dash salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/4 cup raisins or zante currants 1/4 cup rum or brandy 3/4 cup cooked white rice Heat rum and 1/2 cup water to just below boiling. Remove from heat and soak raisins for an hour while making custard. Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt in a medium size metal bowl. Bring milk to scalding in a very heavy medium pan. Pour scalded milk over egg mixture, stirring constantly. Pour mixture back into the heavy pan and cook over medium low heat until custard thickens, stirring constantly. It will take about 10-15 minutes until custard …

Steak and Salad to the Rescue

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Cold air smacked us in the face late last Wednesday night as we headed out of the airport. Bro and sis-in-law, John and Lois Kozikowski, whipped up traditional turkey feast which made our holiday enjoyable and pressure free after the long flight and late arrival the evening before.

We were back from vacation, but we just didn't want to dive back into New England winter fare. We wanted to hold on to beautiful Puerto Rico. One way to do that was to recreate this mango poppyseed dressing at home. It took a couple of tries, but my third version tickled our taste buds. Accompanied by lean grilled London broil, it made for a meal that remembered the sunny days and sandy beaches of La Isla Bonita.

MANGO POPPYSEED DRESSING
1/2 cup mango puree
1/8 cup superfine sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Combine mango, sugar, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, cider vinegar and…

Bake All Our Blues Away

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Friends will attest to my tendency to bake after losing elections. Years ago, a good pal lost a shot at becoming state senator. I kneaded my way through the loss producing 27 loaves of poppy seed challah. The way I've been baking the last few days, you'd think we lost everything last Tuesday.

I texted that thought to an ally this morning and she immediately wrote back, "Well, we did lose a lot." Democrats, and it's no secret that I'm a Democrat, experienced sea change. Some of us saw it coming, helpless against that tide, stayed home to save ourselves. For us in Massachusetts, we had to work hard, harder than we have in a long time, to hold our fort. And we did ... but the reverb from the national landscape affected me more than I thought. Not that I'm whining. The thing about elections is there's always another one.

The good news? I've come up with a fabulous new quiche filling and savory butter crust recipe.

HERB HAM QUICHE
1 9 inch savory pie cr…

Getting Back to Basics

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It was a big accomplishment to buck national trends and reelect our Democrats in Massachusetts. Can't help myself, friends, I'm a partisan cook when it comes to stirring up a political stew. It's been a busy week.

Now, the only thing I want is to put my feet up, watch a couple of movies from the local library's DVD collection and relax. Sent JP to choose the flicks while I cooked up an old recipe of a childhood favorite. Sloppy Joes are simple really, and pretty basic. Hearty enough to settle down hungry tummies without much fuss and yummy, too. We're ready for a lazy evening and a weekend of doing nothing much at all!

SORTA SLOPPY JOES
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground meat (lean beef, turkey or veal work well)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon seasoning rub (try McCormick's Montreal or Penzey's 4S)
1 medium onion, grated
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
1 six ounce can tomato paste…

Soups On from the Founders of Democracy!

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Starting at 7 a.m., our Democratic coordinated campaign poll checkers were on the job. That meant by 8 a.m., I was on the road to deliver treats. Volunteers were happily sipping gingerbread latte and Bob's Bakery crullers and paczki (a Chicopee E-day tradition) while homemade Greek lemon chicken soup simmered away on my stove top at home.

Back at the phone bank, Democratic congressional campaign staffer Jeremiah brought in chicken and tomato pizza. Congressman Richie Neal is a big supporter of Farm to School programs. Scroll down this page link to see his picture celebrating local foods in schools. He knows first hand that fresh fruits and veggies are better for school children and that healthier GOTV eats make for happy energetic volunteers!

GREEK LEMON CHICKEN SOUP
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 ounce shot limoncello 
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup minced celery
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup cooked orzo
1 cup diced, cooked chicken meat
Lemon zest
2 eggs
sa…

More Italian Comfort Food

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Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and what did he find? Lots of wonderful new varieties of food that he brought home to the best cooks in the universe. Yummy pineapples, sweet potatoes and corn in the West Indies, and he brought sugar cane to Puerto Rico from which rum is distilled, from the Caribbean islands he brought sweet peppers to Europe. That's when the fun started.

From one generation of Italian cooks to the next, sweet peppers have been a mainstay ever since. I think you'll enjoy my slow cooker version of sweet peppers and veal stew – a mild cousin to the sweet peppers and sausages my grandmother used to make. A perfect way to use up the end of season pepper crop from the garden.

VEAL AND SWEET PEPPER STEW
1 1/2 pound veal for stew, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole allspice (or 2 whole cloves)
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
1 can ( size) tomato paste
1 cup ready-to-serve c…

Brussels Sprouts Really Taste Good ... Honest!

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Our garden is still producing fresh veggies. We made golumpki with a gorgeous cabbage over the weekend, began a batch of home infused vodka with Concord grapes and tonight, supper was a yummy pasta with fresh picked brussels sprouts and chicken in a tasty olive oil and butter sauce. This recipe is an adaptation from Food and Wine magazine. Recommended wine pairing: a crisp, cool chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars.

Backyard fresh is as local as it gets, folks. I love our garden!

CHICKEN WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND PASTA
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound chicken tenders
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh brussels sprouts, cut into halves from top to stem end (frozen can be substituted)
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound medium pasta shells or ziti noodle…

It's soup season!

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Campbell's started canning tomato, cream of mushroom and chicken noodle soup in 1897 and America fell in love with soup convenience. More than 3 billion bowls of condensed soup are consumed annually in the U.S. - who doesn't have a can or two tucked in their cabinets? But there's no doubt homemade is better and the smells and subtle flavors of homecooked soup are worth the effort.

Crock pots offer up the opportunity to combine easy and slow. Once the rage, crock pot cooking rises and dips in popularity. There are pros and cons to using slow cookers: Some foods lose trace nutrients when cooked for too long. On the other hand, cheaper meats make better slow cooked meals and are great budget stretchers. For soups, the longer the better remains the rule and that's where having a crock comes in handy.

For lots of great sandwich ideas, check out pages 324-327 of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I like to make a grown-up version of grilled cheese made with French "pain de mie…

Not Your Normal Potato Recipe

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I was a picky eater as a child. Turnip? Cauliflower? Parsnips? No way! Plain simple mashed potatoes were a favorite, especially Memere's. Always light, fluffy and very tasty – never pasty or clumpy. I loved Memere's potatoes. What I didn't know was she was feeding me turnip.

Turnip-potato casserole comes from French-Canadian cuisine. Those fur traders had to survive harsh winters and found lots of ways to gussy up their boring winter provisions. I substitute cauliflower in the early fall when local veggies are plentiful and switch to the traditional turnip when the weather turns freezing.

I'm a very lucky cook, a member of a true melting pot American household. French, Italian, Polish and a touch more of this and that -- the hardest part when it comes to whipping up family favorites is to decide which part of the family!

WONDERFUL WHIPPERS
1 head cauliflower, chopped
4 parsnips - peeled and diced
2 medium white potatoes - peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter or ma…

Note from Red Sox Nation

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OK, so what if they're out of it unless they win every single game left in the baseball season. This is Red Sox nation, and the game is on TV so guess what we're doing tonight? The Sox are playing for nothing but pride and we're damned proud of 'em.

Drinking red martinis and snacking on perfect rosy cold-cooked shrimp dipped in spicy red cocktail sauce while we root for our team. Hell, it's all tied up at the end of three … time for another red martini for me and the drunk guy sitting next to me on the couch.  As for the rest of you: Just wait until next year!

Update: Despite a late inning 2 run homer by Victor Martinez and what looked like a rally in the 9th, the Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays: 11-9. Oh well.

RED CANDIED APPLE MARTINI
2 fluid ounces pear vodka
2 fluid ounces sour apple schnapps (such as DeKuyper® Sour Apple Pucker)
2 fluid ounces cranberry juice

Pour the pear vodka, apple schnapps, and cranberry juice into a cocktail shaker over ice. Cover, and sha…

Maine: New England's Potato State

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Next week, the only multi-state agricultural fair in the United States will open in West Springfield, MA. The Big E is billed as "New England's Great State Fair" -- it's the sixth largest agricultural fair in the nation and the largest in New England. Each state has a small-scale replica of their state capital on the Avenue of States.

The star attraction? Food.

Vermont has maple syrup, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and lots of cheese. Rhode Island offers clam fritters and Massachusetts' apple pie washed down with, of course, cranberry juice. Connecticut has Italian ice and New Hampshire's chocolate fudge is amazing. Then there's Maine -- the building everyone flocks to. Sure, they have lobster rolls. But it's Maine baked potatoes (move over, Idaho!) that draws hordes willing to wait in long lines for a taste of hot, buttered, sour-creamed spuds.

Did I mention they weigh at least a pound each?

What about the leftovers? Ugh. I can't count how many…

Best Butter Crust Ever

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This crust recipe is worthy of the best French chef -- the simplest ingredients using a complicated technique that delivers scrumptious results. From fussy Frangipane with pears (full recipe below) to fresh berries glazed with seedless jam (microwave the jam a minute before brushing it over the berries piled in the perfectly baked crust).

Cooked chocolate pudding (make it dark chocolate) also makes a yummy filling. Add a dollop of whipped cream. Not exactly on the low-cal diet menu but I guarantee your family will be in awe!

BUTTER SHORTBREAD TART CRUST
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
dash of salt
1 stick very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — mixture will be the size of baby peas. Whisk the yolk in a small bowl before adding it a little at a time, pul…

Applesauce!

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Only one ingredient matters when making applesauce. Pick sweet apples like Gala Fuji, McIntosh or Honeycrisp – forget Granny Smith's. They make great pie but sour applesauce. Use at least two different varieties. I have McIntosh apples and Bartlett pears from our own trees so I add a pear or two instead of a second variety of apple to enhance taste. I didn't need to add any sugar.

You can pick your own, or buy them at an orchard or grocery store. Here in western Massachusetts, the UMass Cold Spring Orchard reasearch and education facility sells all kinds of apples. If you are buying your apples from a commercial orchard, ask for "seconds" or "drops". Apples with a bruise or odd shape make great sauce and cost less than perfect apples. Not all orchards sell "seconds", but they're a bargain when you can get them. A half bushel of apples will yield about 12 pints of sauce.

Get the jars ready before you start cooking the apples. The dishwasher is…

Love Me Tender Beef Roast

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Not long after Farmer Paul and I said "I do" I tried and failed to make a proper beef roast. I underestimated how long it should cook based on a cookbook which said 20 minutes per pound. The next try, I overestimated and the result was more like bland beef jerky than a pink juicy roast. It wasn't until my mother-in-law bought me one that I realized that what I was missing was a good quality thermometer.

Boneless ribeye roast was on sale this week and today was just cool enough an afternoon to turn on the oven. A few simple ingredients and armed with your own trusty meat thermomenter, the result will be tender, juicy prime beef every time.

SUNDAY SPECIAL ROAST BEEF
One 3-4 pound boneless rib roast
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, finely grated

To cook evenly, the roast must not be cold - let it stand at room temperature, loosely covered, for one hour. If you don't let the roast sit…

Raspberry Ricotta Pancakes ... yum.

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The first day of school is coming up fast. The pace picks up when busy mornings get even busier for most families. If you think it takes too much time to whip up a special breakfast on harried weekdays, this recipe will change your mind. Hint: Mix batter the night before and refrigerate - an easy timesaver in getting food on the table and everyone out the door on time.


Special thanks to Tinky Weisblat, foodie and blogger extraordinaire, for all her encouragement and caring in pulling together so many of us to celebrate Massachusetts Farmers Market Week last week!

RASPBERRY RICOTTA PANCAKES
1 cup biscuit mix
2/3 cup low fat milk
1 rounded tablespoon ricotta cheese
1/4 cup egg sustitute (or 1 small egg)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Using a wooden spoon blend biscuit mix, milk, cheese and egg until smooth. (If making the batter the night before, refrigerate before adding raspberries.) Gently fold in raspberries. Set aside for a few minutes while lightly oiled griddle heats up ove…

Because fresh is best!

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Don't let my last name or the fact that I make golumpki and pierogi with my husband fool you. My maternal grandmother, Maria Cavelli, was my first cooking teacher. Lasagna and insalata caprese served with hot crusty bread was the first menu I learned to make. A great meal anytime of year but not as good as what came during harvest season.

Stuffed eggplant dinner was something she made in late summer and early fall when the locally grown eggplants and tomatoes are ripe and fresh. When Tiny Weisblat from In Our Grandmother's Kitchens asked me to participate in the blogathan during Farmers Market Week, I knew this was the recipe to share.

Thanks to Farmer Paul, access to garden fresh (and I mean just picked fresh) fruits and veggies are at my fingertips daily. But not having backyard bounty is no excuse for not making the best of the harvest season. Shop at farmers' markets and roadside stands -- loving local this time of year comes easy.

My grandmother was a fabulous cook…

Spice Islands Supper

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Today was not the welcome relief of a crisp sunny day at the end of summer heat. The weather here in western Massachusetts turned raw and rainy. It made me wish for a warm beach and turquoise waters.

Spicy and infused with subtle local flavors like coconut milk, West Indies and other island recipes are fusions of African, Asian, Indian, Spanish, French and Dutch cuisine. In the islands, you're more likely to find a main dish kabob prepared with goat or lamb. I use beef sirloin tip, a tender, flavorful and economical substitute. Spoon whole kernel corn over brown rice for a side and your island style dinner is served.

Add a little spice island style to your life -- I think you'll like it!

ISLAND HOPPER BEEF KABOBS
1 pound sirloin tip steak, cut into one inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, cut in quarters
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
1 teaspoon red chile paste, or 1 finely fresh chopped hot chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon groun…

Warm-your-insides Hot Cherry Peppers

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On cool weather weekends, a good pot roast with hot cherry peppers on the side is a family favorite around our house. This year the peppers will be from our garden instead of the grocer's shelf.

Preserving food was a fact of life years ago. Today it's an artful craft resurging in popularity. Bringing freshness to the family table from the family garden creates an intimate relationship with our food.  And the taste can't be beat.

It won't be long now!

HOT CHERRY PEPPERS
2 pounds raw hot cherry peppers, mixed green and red
3 cups vinegar
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Leave peppers whole, cutting stems close to the top. Set aside. Combine vinegar, water and garlic in a large saucepan. bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simme five minutes. Strain out garlic. Pack peppers into hot pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over peppers leaving the headspace. Press down on the peppers with the back of a spoon to release bubbles. Adjust two piece…

Peaches, peaches everywhere ...

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Imagine my surprise to find a 1/2 bushel box of peaches sitting on the picnic table out back. Firm, juicy and ripe and all the way from Maryland. Farmer Paul's fishing buddy Joe dropped them off -- my guess? A peace offering for sweeping said Farmer Paul off to the river for two days.
Good plan, pal, because those peaches kept me busy and happy all day. Can't wait to try this salsa on tomorrow's grilled mahi!

SWEET HEAT PEACH PEPPER SALSA
9 large ripe but firm peaches - peeled and diced
1/2 cup white onion - fine grated
3 hot peppers - chopped (I used Portugal peppers, a hot orange pepper but jalapeno work nicely)
1 sweet red pepper - chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro - loosely packed
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic - grated
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pack into hot jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Check altitude directions f…

From the Cabbage Patch

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With the tons of tomatoes, peas, pasta and beans my Italian grandmother's minestrone didn't actually taste very cabbagey. Then I married Farmer Paul. If you're part of a Polish family you can't escape cabbage. Sure I like golumpki, I would tell my husband's mother and aunts. But I unwrapped the cabbage rolls and ate the insides before discreetly tossing the actual cabbage part in the disposal.

Sometime in my mid-twenties I decided to give the whole golumpki a try and found I didn't hate cabbage at all. And from then on it was cabbage heaven for me. These days I wait impatiently for our garden to produce. Golumpki, kapusta, cabbage pierogi are standard cooked cabbage fare. Shredded cabbage instead of lettuce on tacos, and summer slaw are two favorite ways to use raw cabbage.

SUMMER SLAW
1 medium cabbage, chopped or coarsely grated
2 carrots, peeled and coursely grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 te…

Why do you think he grows cabbage?

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I married into a Polish family. Try as I might my golumpki never came out right. Tough cabbage, stuffing mix like lead, or worse -- a crumbled heap of meat and rice. I tried adding egg (meatloaf golumpki?), tomato soup, every trick I could find in the cookbooks the church ladies sold after Mass once a year. My husband poured on the Heinz to make them palatable.

After close to twenty years of frustration I threw up my hands and said, "Make them yourself." So he did. But first, he asked the experts for advice. Turned out Farmer Paul is his mother's son, his aunt's nephew and a pretty good Polish cook. It took time, but we've got a system now. He still likes ketchup on them but these Polish yummies don't need a thing beyond a fresh slice of seeded rye bread on the side.

CIOCE SOPHIE'S GOLUMPKI
1 medium cabbage, frozen whole at least 24 hours up to 3 weeks
1 cup of cooked River brand rice
1 pound hamburger, 20/80 fat to lean
1 one inch cube salt pork, chopp…

A Weigh of Life

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After a delish girls night out at Judie's in Amherst, I came home ready to tackle the beast again. It's been awhile since I've mentioned Flat Belly Diet and that's because JP and I have been lax. Down 12 instead of 14, the gain was actually less than expected after the last few weeks of lobster crazy around here.

So we're back on the program. With the garden popping, our timing is good to be trolling for yummy lo-cal recipes using summer's best.  This morning's breakfast of a half cup cinnamon sprinkled oatmeal drizzled with 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (MUFA) and a cup of fat free lactose free milk was perked up lots by a cup of fresh picked blueberries from Easy Pickin's Farm in Enfield, CT.

And now that M & M candies come in dark chocolate (another MUFA), we might just consider adding the M & M diet plan to our daily weigh of life! Just kidding. :-)

Squashed!

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I looked at the caller ID. It was my husband's buddy, no doubt calling about their scheduled fishing marathon -- something the two guys do a couple of times each year. Instead, he dove into whether or not I liked zucchini. Just another desperate gardener looking to unload an abundance of squash.

It so happens that we didn't bother growing zucchini this year and I do love both summer yellow squash and zucchini. So I said sure, but with the caveat that I only wanted small ones. No giant billy club zucchini, please. I could hear the disappointment in his voice but he agreed. When it comes to squash this time a year, you have to hold your ground.

Summer squash can make anyone yell "uncle" -- it can also be a bit tiresome to find new ways to prepare squash. And grilled summer squash gets old fast. This recipe is pretty easy and adds quite a bit of kick to a veggie that at times, can come out a bit on the bland side.

STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH
4 medium summer squash (yellow …

We're Havin' a Heat Wave

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Cook? Are you kidding me? In 90-something degree weather?  If only my family would settle for a bowl of cornflakes ... I'd happily toss in a few berries or even cut up a banana. But noooo ... they were hungry for real food. And as much as I wanted to avoid the dreaded evening meal, the very thought of take-out Chinese in this heat just had no appeal.

Solution: a nice hunk of fish lightly marinated. Fingerling potatoes cut in half and tossed in olive oil then thrown on the backyard grill. Took less than twenty minutes. And dinner was served.

Bellies full. Edy's frozen lime fruit pops for dessert. A pitcher of iced tea in the refridgerator. All is well. But I'm still sweltering.  So, I'm headed out with a couple of friends to happily shiver through a midnight movie. Nothing better than hot buttered popcorn,  a comfy seat in a theater with the AC cranked up to winter storm warning levels and the latest movie release.

EASY GRILLED FISH
Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed

Breaded Bean Season

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When we were a much younger family our backyard was so small that gardening was impossible. My late mom-in-law had plenty of yard but not as much energy to tackle the chores a good garden required. So we reached an accord. We would plant and care for her garden and we would all share in the bounty.

It worked out pretty well for a long time. I learned how to cook veggies the way Babci did. And so did my husband -- who was used to having everything cooked for him but discovered that he enjoyed kitchen duty almost as much as gardening. His yellow beans and Babci's simple recipe for them are a favorite around our house.

Sharing a garden was fun and challenging at the same time. I still miss her but the memories are sweet. When the tomatoes are ripe, I'll tell you about the tomato wars. And a good laugh will be had by all.

BABCI'S BREADED YELLOW BEANS
2 cups. fresh yellow beans, trimmed, cleaned, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup Italian brea…

Auntie Nina's Biscuits

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One of the best things about summer days at my great aunt Nina's dairy farm was her cooking. She made everything from scratch, mostly farm fresh. There are no words to describe the difference between the canned veggies too many of us grew up on and corn on the cob picked fresh from the garden. Or the milk from the cows that same morning. Best of all, one of my favorite foods to this day, was her homemade butter biscuits.

Flaky, delicious biscuits topped by sweet tart refrigerator jam made with whatever fruit happened to be ready to harvest that week. Sadly, my great aunt has since passed on and the farm sold off as a horse riders haven. But my memories of Auntie Nina's biscuits will last forever.

I tried many, many times, often with limited success, to recreate the exact taste of those biscuits. Even if I had her exact recipe, using store bought ingredients will never quite get there. After repeated experimenting, this recipe comes pretty close.


BREAKFAST BISCUITS
1-3/4 cups a…

A Pitcher of Sangria, a Boiling Pot and Thee

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There's something sexy about lobster. The idea that seafood is an aphrodisiac goes back to the ancient Greeks whose goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born of the sea. With a nod and apology to my vegetarian friends, I can't help myself -- cooking and eating lobster has a primitive, almost barbaric, appeal for those of us who are meateaters.

Add to that the summer sun, a picnic table and a pitcher of white peach and raspberry laden vinho branco sangria (Portugese table wines are cheap and tasty, the perfect sangria ingredient) and there's no denying the joy of lobster.

PEACH MELBA SANGRIA
1 750 ML bottle of white table wine
1/2 cup peach infused vodka or brandy
1 cup sparkling lemonade
2 white peaches, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup fresh washed raspberries

In a large pitcher half-filled with ice, gently mix wine, vodka and lemonade before adding fruit. Pour into individual goblets, if needed use a spoon to make sure each glass has a share of the fruit. Enjoy!

Breakfast of Champions

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If you've never slathered low fat pound cake toast with homemade low sugar refrigerator jam, or store bought marmalade or peanut butter or even a whisper of butter or margarine, you've been missing out. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sunflower seeds on top and you have an under two hundred calorie Flat Belly Diet breakfast complete with MUFA.

So brew a pot of tea and pull out your toaster -- eating healthier never tasted so yummy.

And So Begins Canning Season

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Jam challenged? I sure am. Just because there's a row of raspberry bushes in the backyard and my husband happens to have a green thumb doesn't make me an expert anything. Some things I struggle with and jam is one of those things. If you have a hard time with fruit jams then this is the recipe for you.

It works with crushed strawberries just as well -- has low sugar content and is easy to spread. Next Saturday morning, serve your homemade jam slathered on store bought lo-fat corn muffins (heat them up in a 325 degree F oven for ten minutes or so) with the morning joe. Your house will feel more like a B & B than an average family kitchen.

Now that's the way to start a pleasant weekend.

RASPBERRY REFRIGERATOR JAM
4 cups washed and drained raspberries
1/2 cup sugar

2 ounces orange liqueur
One squeeze of a lemon
1/2 package Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin
2/3 cup water

Add sugar, orange liqueur, and a splash of lemon juice to raspberries in a medium saucepan. Stir thor…

Cheery Cherries

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Not everything in life is easy. Take pitting a pound or two of fresh cherries -- a real PITA (Pain In The Ass) but once you bite into this Cheery Cherry Tart it'll all be forgotten.

Today was Father's Day. Ask any dad who worried that the mother of his children would never forgive him for his part in convincing her to make him a dad. OK, so the truth is that we never forget and we do tend to talk about it in gory detail for months afterward. Especially to other new moms -- it's like comparing notes after final exams. But we don't mind so much once it's over and the babies are so loveable that most of us are willing to try it again.

Having reason to celebrate Father's Day and/or Mother's Day is worth it. Kinda like pitting cherries.

CHEERY CHERRY TART
Crust:
1 -1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioner sugar
Dash of salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, allowed to cool to room te…

Thank you, George W... I mean it..

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Our backyard raspberries are ripe for the picking. For the next two weeks, I will pick a cup or two of luscious homegrown raspberries daily. So by now you must be wondering what do my fresh juicy berries have to do with former White House occupant George W. Bush -- I finally found something to thank him for.

This Berry Angel recipe is adapted from an angel muffin Bush years White House executive chef, Bill Yosses insists on calling breakfast food. Before arriving at the Bush White House in 2007, Yosses had three decades under his apron strings as a French pastry chef and at some of New York's finest restaurants. His new cookbook, titled The Perfect Finish features these fluffy meringue based cakes that Chef Yosses calls "the eighth wonder of the world." Add a dollop of fresh whipped cream and  I couldn't agree more. When it comes to yummy ... mission accomplished.

BERRY ANGELS
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
dash of salt
1 cup fresh berries (raspberries…

Plum Good Chicken

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The Chinese method of poaching chicken before baking guarantees a far more tender chicken than traditional western baked chicken and lends itself to using the juicy leftovers for fabulous chicken salad. I learned about this by reading a Chinese cookbook more than twenty years ago.
I'd bought the book hoping to learn the secret of making Chinese boneless barbequed pork. The pork was a failure but this chicken method has become my favorite. The glaze is my own version of Chinese plum glaze -- apricot jam or mandarin marmalade make a lovely glaze too but I always come back to plum. All fruit sugar free jams can be substituted for a low sugar diet. Yummy.

FRUIT GLAZED CHICKEN
1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plum jelly
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1/2 teaspoon honey

Rub chicken with soy sauce inside and out, generously season with black pepper. Put it in a pan with about 1 inch of cold water. Slowly bring it to a …