Showing posts from February, 2010

Butter Up Your Vegetables

This is the time of year I really miss my garden. The only local grown signs up at our favorite grocers are for root veggies and a few wrinkly skinned apples. The last squash from our backyard fall harvest is long gone. There are no more homegrown veggies in my freezer. There are California and South America stickers all over the produce aisle.

There is a way to flavor up those long distance cousins to our own local grown broccoli, green beans and asparagus. It doesn’t much matter if you stir fry, steam or microwave your veggies, whether they are purchased from the produce aisle or the frozen foods section. Add a pat of this yummy orange garlic butter to any plain cooked vegetables and you’ll add a flavor lift to get you through ‘til growing season.

1 four ounce stick of salted butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Leave butter out until soft and whip until fluffy. Fold in remaining ingredients; mold…

Almond Joy

I was 13 years old in the late 1960s when the Galloping Gourmet was a television cooking show hit. It wasn't until twenty years later, not long after Sheila Lukins and The Silver Palate Cookbook got me hooked on cooking, that I discovered Graham Kerr and his Minimax series. He taught me that all it takes is a little experimenting with a traditional recipe to make it better for you without losing the traditional flavor.

It’s not a given that I adjust a recipe to be healthier. But a pound of butter in one loaf cake always seemed a bit over the top when elevated cholesterol levels run in the family. And who doesn’t love pound cake? I read about a group of cooks who delivered homemade pound cakes to families left homeless and devastated in the aftermath of Katrina. Welcome gifts for hungry folks.

After trying lemon pound cake, chocolate pound cake (using cocoa powder to keep the fat content down) and plain Jane vanilla pound cake, my family's all-time favorite is almond pound cake. …

Devilishly Delish Sipping Chocolate

Woke up this morning craving hot cocoa for breakfast -- problem, not a single package of cocoa mix in the house. Where there's a will there's a way and a quick look through the cabinets found everything I needed to stir up a batch of homemade cocoa mix. In no time I was happily sipping away.

Adding the usual whipped cream or mini-marshmallows makes a nice finish. But a dollop of cold frothed milk with a swirl of old fashioned chocolate syrup is the final fantasy for hot cocoa lovers. A cold milk frother will run about twenty dollars at any specialty kitchen shop. Just one sip of hot cocoa or coffee coming through a cold cloud of fluffy frothed low-fat milk will make you wonder how you ever got by without it.

The secret to my homemade mix is the addition of chili powder. Measure carefully. Just the right amount will enhance the chocolate flavor of your drink to downright sinful but too much will give new meaning to hot cocoa!
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup sugar

It's No Sacrifice

I have no idea who won the Pancake Day race in Olney. Mardi Gras beads have been stashed away. Paczkis and other sweet treats are indulgences of yesterday. Ash Wednesday, the sobering season of Lent starts with a no meat fast day. On the menu -- hot satisfying veggie paninis.

Panini literally means little bread, Italian for a sandwich. Delicious and nutritious vegetarian panini is easy to prepare using ingredients you may even have on hand. Fresh mushrooms add a thick meaty texture to a vegetarian treat. Try other types of sliced mushrooms, grated Swiss cheese and spinach for a different taste.

And if Father Michael happens to ask about Lenten sacrifice, I'll simply say we had grilled cheese sandwiches for supper. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. As for Friday's fish, I'm thinkin' lobster roll. Waddaya think?

1 tbsp olive oil
2 large portabella mushroom caps
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled a…

No Sense Wasting Perfectly Good Rosemary

It was just a little sprig of green poking through the snow in the herb garden. That rosemary was begging to be picked. Grilled lamb chops suddenly sounded irresistible. Then I found the broccolini and surprisingly sweet smelling strawberries from California in the produce aisle. To hell with the snow.

In between shoveling the driveway out front, I managed to fire up the grill on the patio out back in a shake of my fist at old Mother Nature. But my defiance didn't go so far as to throw on a summer sundress -- I dressed seasonally. Flannel lined jeans, a turtle neck, several layers of clothing, but not so many that movement was restricted.

Too bad I didn't have a pair of those fingerless gloves and maybe a nose warmer. My hands and cheeks got a little cold but it was worth it. The chops were great and well, broccolini is high in Vitamin C. And the strawberries? Pure sunshine.

1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosem…

Translation: Chocolate to Die For

Courtesy of the Williams-Sonoma kitchen, right off the back of a box holding a Bouchon Silicone Baking Mold for little cakes that look like wine corks. The French word for cork is bouchon. My JP saw a picture of delectable little chocolate cakes dusted with powdered sugar and couldn't resist. The baking mold, recipe included, landed under the Christmas tree with a card that said To Mom with love.
I finally broke open the box and freed up the mold for first use last night using the recipe exactly as called for. Well, almost exactly. I substituted a whole Lindt 3.5 ounce Chili Chocolate bar for the 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate -- quite sure that any good dark chocolate would do and I was correct. Believe me when I tell you that if you love deep, rich chocolate taste, you'll be hooked on chocolate corks.

5 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces 1/3 cup all purpose flour 3 tablespoons cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon baking powder D…

Is it Summer Yet?

A day at the beach with shrimp or lobster rolls, a bag of potato chips and a cheap wine cooler sounds like heaven about now. You might recall that I started daydreaming about summer back in January. I know that warm days are not in the immediate forecast. Hell, the Weather Channel warned me that another dusting of snow is on the way.

But there's something to be said for indulging in a little bit of fantasy -- so I headed to Costco this afternoon and bought a pound of precooked shrimp to mix up a batch of yummy shrimp salad. After all, winter is only a temporary affliction. Tomorrow I think I'll drag the grill out onto the patio. Stay tuned.

1 pound large cooked shrimp, chilled, peeled and coarsly chopped
1 tablespoon capers
2 sweet gherkin pickles, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped ( dried just won't do)\
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

In a medium bowl stir together mayonnais…

Tomorrow is Pancake Day

Forty days penance and sacrifice coming up fast but first, it's party time. Mardi Gras beignets (sweet fried dough). Paczkis (pronounced punch-keys), sugary Polish donuts. Swedish semla, a sweet bun filled with almonds and sweet cream. In the United Kingdom, pancakes became a great way to use the foods that were given up for Lent – milk, butter, sugar and eggs.

The humble pancake has been featured in recipe books as far back as 1439. And there have been annual Pancake Day races all over London since 1445 -- the most famous in Olney, Buckinghamshire. The aim of a pancake race is to run as fast as you can while tossing a pancake in a frying pan. Some races have teams doing a relay, some have competitors in fancy dress. All quite silly and great fun to watch. Now that's a tradition worth a good laugh ... let the races begin!

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon mel…

No Small Potatoes

The old expression originated from farmers who tossed the little ones aside as not good enough to please discriminating potato shoppers. Times sure have changed. Fingerlings, baby reds, gold and purples are all the rage. Have you priced small potatoes lately?

As a little girl I wanted to be Heidi -- you know, THE Heidi. Living in the mountains with her grandfather and eating porridge every day. What in the world does a childhood fantasy have to do with potatoes, you ask? Well, porridge was actually oatmeal and I wasn't too keen on having oatmeal for supper, so I convinced my mother that Heidi (AKA me) much preferred mashed potatoes. I ate nothing but mashed potatoes with peas every night for weeks. And I still love creamy whipped potatoes.
Someday I'll tell you about being six years old with dreams of becoming a flamenco dancer. Suffice it to say, the Heidi phase was far less challenging for my poor mother, who was totally determined not to snuff the creativity from a lively lit…

No Snow-mageddon Here!

Schools closed, the library shuttered early and the dairy case at the grocery store was wiped out by noon. Finally, at around two in the afternoon, the flakes started falling. So far it's a bust as snow storms go -- a fine coat of barely there white stuff slushed into oblivion by homeward bound evening commuters.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Paul brought the snow shovel and the last of our home grown butternut squash up from the basement. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, baked butternut and there's plenty of leftovers for tomorrow. The shovel is at the back door. We're ready for the blizzard ... if it ever shows!

1 large (2-3 pounds) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon grated cinnamon stick (ground cinnamon works as well)
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger root (ground ginger works here too)

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)

Place squash cubes in a 2 quart casserole or baking dish. …

We'll see tonight after dinner ...

... how much snow there will be. That's what my friend, roommate and fellow Democratic National Committee member said. We've been watching out the window, waiting for the blizzard to arrive.

Southwest Air cancelled our flights home. Sure enough it's snowing out there and we're expected to be stuck in Washington, DC until Sunday. But no white out yet. Before I left home, I baked up a batch of fudge brownies with the hope there would be one left for me upon my return. Fat chance!

6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
Dash of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth, remove the bowl fr…

Catching a Break: Tea and Crumpets

The whole idea of afternoon tea is to slow down. What goes better with a nice hot cuppa than good old fashioned crumpets? Easy to make and very, very yummy -- a cross between a pancake and an English muffin.

A pat of butter and a spoonful of sugar-free jam make for a healthier way to recharge those midday batteries than a chocolate bar. And you can make a batch then freeze them for convenience -- just pop them in your toaster until they are warm and crispy.

1/2 cup warm water (105° - 115°)
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour or bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups warmed milk (warm not hot)

In a large bowl, stir the honey into the warm water. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the top and let it sit until it bubbles, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and let it sit for about half an hour in a warm place. Lightly grease a griddle or frying pan and the crumpet rings (I use two egg rings).…