Showing posts from 2011

The Other Woman Cooks: Eat your squash, it's good for you.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

The rocky economy of contract negotiations and lay offs at the factory where my dad worked sent my mom back to the job market when I was a toddler. The truth is that my mother's feminism was borne more of necessity than her desire to be independent.

One dish dinners were the way to go and one of my favorites was chicken and rice. Okay, so I am guilty of being a little snobby about recipes that start with a can of soup. But I loved that casserole and so came up with an alternative that has a little more sophisticated flavor but still satisfies the comfort food zone.

There's a song lyric Farmer Paul and I sang to our sons when they were young, "Chicken is nice with palm butter and rice." It's a fun song, one of those catchy tunes kids like and laugh at. There's no butter in my recipe. I tend to substitute olive oil every chance I get.  I'm willing to bet folk singer Dave Van Ronk would have enjoyed this casserole just the same!

4 boneless, …

Making the best of it...

The lights flickered but never went out at our house but lots of friends and family were left powerless from Saturday's Halloween Blizzard. My nearly 80 year old mother held out stubbornly for two nights wrapped in a sweater and a comforter flipping through magazines by candlelight. It took promises of hot cocoa, Captain America on DVD and the recliner. She's camping out here until her power is restored so we're making the best of it. And enjoying every bite!

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Dash salt
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch round (or square) pan using baking spray with flour.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and oil. Beat in eggs, molasses, applesauce and cranberry sauce. In a separate bowl,…

It's Apple Harvest Time!

One of America's fondest stories tells about Johnny Appleseed. John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774. His family moved to Pennsylvania where he left his father's carpentry shop to travel barefoot, using a saucepan for a hat. He preached a simple philosphy of life and lived as a vegetarian. He made it as far as Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he died in 1845 at the age of 71. John Chapman planted about 10,000 square miles of orchards.

From the Garden of Eden to Greek Mythology to the discovery of the health benefits of apples, everything you ever wanted to know about apples can be found here.  Fun reading while this delicious apple cake bakes!

2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup white sugar
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups peeled cored sliced apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one round 8 inch cake pan.

Beat oil and eggs with an electric mixer in a…

First Butternut Pie of the New Harvest

Our butternut squash is local as local gets, right out of our backyard. My friend June says, "You sustainable people you!" and I laugh every time. But the truth is that home farmers contribute to a sustainable world with every bite of food grown. Negative environmental impacts are reduced in several ways. We don't use nitrogen based fertilizers the way industrial agricultural operations do. That means less nitrous oxide released in the air and less toxic runoff to damage the water table.

The only transportation homegrown foods require is to walk out back and pick the fruits and veggies we grow. The small scale of home farming makes using sustainable practices like composting, crop rotation, and mulching easy to accomplish. Not to mention the benefits of preserving homegrown foods. Jars of applesauce and stewed tomatoes are delicious reminders that once next spring arrives so will another season of fresh wholesome homegrown food! I think everyone should grow at least a sm…

The. Best. Cocoa. Brownies. Ever.

Ever wonder where and by whom the first brownie was baked? It's a good question on National Milk Chocolate Day, which happens to be today! Culinary historians have traced the first “brownie” cake recipe to Fanny Farmer in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book circa 1906.  According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the recipe is similar an earlier Fanny Farmer chocolate cookie recipe, but with less flour and baked in a “7-inch square pan.” 

The next adaptation came along a year later when another Bostonian named Maria Willet Howard added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe and called it Lowney’s Brownies. But we all know there's no such thing as too many brownie recipes. For her next batch, Maria added yet another square of chocolate and named the recipe Bangor Brownies. Hence came the falsehood that brownies were invented by a housewife in Bangor, Maine. 

Not so. Just like the American Revolution and that shot h…

Uniquely American: Blueberry Buckle

From strawberries to raspberries to blueberries and then that second harvest of raspberries, fresh local berries are the belle of the summer season ball here in western Massachusetts. Cobblers, crisps, buckles, crumbles ... no matter what variation of simple fruit filled dessert you make, it is uniquely American. 

Early American cooks were extremely talented at improvising. When the ingredients for their favorite recipes were unavailable, they made do with what they had at hand.  Berries grew wild and bountifully in many regions. Fussy English puddings were turned in for slumps, pies, buckles and cobblers filled with fresh-picked juicy fruits of the season. Homemade simplicity reliant on taste not European pastry techniques...just another example of American ingenuity!

Cake Batter:
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Seasonal Surprises: Savory Blueberry Chutney

My first taste of Sheila Lukins came after stumbling across The Silver Palate food shop on Columbus Avenue, NYC in the late 1970s.  It was a short road to discovering chutney wasn’t just a mango and ginger concoction.  Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate Cookbook fame was cutting edge back then.  I was hooked from that first taste all the way to mixing things up with blueberry chutney to glaze Asian style roast chicken.

Blueberry chutney was the inspiration for my Spicy Blueberry Barbecue Sauce, an original recipe that made me a national award winner in the Highbush Blueberry Council’s 2008 recipe contest.  Who’da thunk?  Next month will mark two years since Sheila Lukins died -- too young but not without having made her mark on a generation of home cooks like me.

This recipe is adapted from an original Silver Palate recipe.  Over the years, I’ve added and subtracted this or that.  Serve with roasted turkey, duck or goose, meat or curries.  Hint: Mix a tablespoon of chutney with with 1/2 cup…

Opposites Attract: Sweet Berries Love Tart Lemon Pound Cake

There’s no butter in this baby and the texture is amazing. Substituting olive oil for butter cuts way down on the bad cholesterol pound cakes are noted for. A sprinkle of powdered sugar finishes off the top nicely before serving. 
Add fresh local berries and voila! Heaven on a plate. Like having a diet soda to cut calories, using olive oil takes the sting out of that dollop of rich whipped cream.  LIMONCELLO POUND CAKE 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon zest
5 large cold eggs
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Limoncello liqueur Preheat the oven tot 350 °F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 loaf pans. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt thoroughly in a large bowl and sift together. Set aside. In a second large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and zest on high speed until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer an…

Thanks, Roger...that's what friends are for.

Real life friend Roger Fisk passed this recipe along via Facebook. And he attributed the recipe as having been passed along to him from another friend of his. That’s the way it works in today’s world: we keep track of friends near and far electronically. Facebook, Twitter, most recently Google+ (anybody have a spare invitation?).Lots of us post pictures of dinner and share the recipes with each other: especially when local ingredients and backyard garden bounty take center stage.

That is exactly the way this morning’s tomatoes became this evening’s summer supper! With the exception of using a pre-made frozen crust that was pre-made and frozen by me, I followed Roger's simple instructions. Roger said, “A purist-I love it. I aspire to this!” I won’t criticize if you choose the store bought pre-made route but the savory crust recipe used here for this quiche is absolute heaven ...for aspiring purists everywhere! TOMATE PROVENCAL TART ALA ROGER FISK Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Roast…

Summer Berry Brunch

Weekend mornings are for lazing around in jammies, sipping a fresh cup of tea and reading the paper while something yummy bakes up in the oven. Especially when the something yummy uses local berries and syrup and was prepared the night before. Another plus: this recipe requires little attention but to wait for the timer's buzz!
We're at the end of strawberry season here in western Massachusetts. This recipe works well with any fresh berry and jam ... try blueberries, raspberries, even blackberries work well. Once the apples are ripe, apple slices and apple jelly make for tasty seasonal substitutes. Hint: Use raisin challah and add a dash of cinnamon to the egg mixture when using apples.  
BAKED STUFFED BERRY FRENCH TOAST 1/2 loaf of Challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (approx. 3 cups) 1-4 oz. package of cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes 1/4 cup fresh sliced strawberries 2 tablespoons strawberry jam 4 large eggs, slightly beaten 1/4 cup maple syrup  3/4 cup milk STRAWBERRY SYRUP:  1/4 …

Old Fashioned and I Like It

Arborio is fat, starchy rice that makes for creamy, cheesy risotto. Though lesser known for use in desserts, it makes an amazing version of an all time favorite comfort food; rice pudding.

My natural inclination is to throw in the traditional handful of raisins. Chopped dried apricots make a nice substitution. Suggestion: if the apricot option appeals, use lemon zest rather than orange.

I love any and all rice pudding ... but take it from me, hands down the sinfully rich arborio sends me over the moon.

1 cup water
dash of salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups 2% milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of ground cinnamon (Ceylon is preferred)

1/8 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup brown raisins (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving

Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat to the medium-low. Shake the pan occasionally and cook until rice absorbs th…

A French Accent for America's Picnic Staple

Forget the grilled steak on a starry July evening ... there's nothing quite as satisfying as an elegant cold summer supper of shrimp cocktail, lobster salad and a creamy version of French potato salad, delicately herbed with fresh chopped tarragon and parsley.

Add a crusty baguette, a refreshing pinot blanc. Relax with the one you love while gazing at the constellations. Fireworks, anyone?

3 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water just until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Mix egg, celery, parsley and tarragon into cooled potatoes. Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice and ground pepper in a medium bowl. Mix into potato …

Over 21 Frozen Yogurt

The key to achieving smooth, creamy, easy to scoop texture in this refreshing frozen treat is the addition of what makes a lemontini - vodka and lemon flavor liqueur. Pictured here as a tart-fresh accompaniment to an apricot rustic tart, it's luscious lemony tang compliments almost any fruit dessert or as stand-alone in a fancy glass. 
Card your guests before serving. And remember, it must be 5 o'clock somewhere!
LEMONTINI FROZEN YOGURT 8 cups plain yogurt 1/2 cup honey 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use fine sugar) 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel 1 1/2 teaspoons Ceylon cinnamon 1 ounce limoncello liqueur 1 ounce vodka Place yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. At end of 12 hours, discard the liquid and cheesecloth. 
In a bowl combine the drained yogurt, honey, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and Ceylon cinnamon. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and process per manufacturer's instructio…

The Colors of June

Strip steak sizzled to medium rare perfection on the backyard grill needs only simple accompaniment. This quick cooking summer squash and a side salad makes a company ready casual dinner. So low in fat and calories, you'll have more than enough room for dessert. Fresh picked strawberries and whipped cream, anyone?

EASY DOES IT SUMMER SQUASH 1 tsp olive oil 1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion  2 cups thinly sliced yellow summer squash  Dash freshly ground sea salt Dash of freshly-ground black pepper Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the yellow onion slices, and saute for 1 minute.  Add the sliced squash, salt and pepper to the pan, and saute an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender. Serve immediately. Serves 4 -- approximately 25 calories per serving and takes ten minutes total, 5 minutes prep time, 5 minutes to cook!

Homemade Fast Food is Healthier!

When my sons were little, I wasn’t much of a cook. Not that when I did cook it was terrible but between being a Realtor to support my political habit added to family activities like Boy Scout meetings, piano lessons and soccer, we didn’t have much time to cook at home, even on weekends.  I hate to admit it but we downed more than our fair share of not so healthy fast food. 

Then I discovered quesadillas in a Tex-Mex cook booklet at the grocery store check-out magazine rack... they sounded easy and lots healthier than B-K or Mickey D’s.  That was 25 years ago, before Chili’s and Chi-chis, On the Border and even Friendly’s came along and made Mexican favorites that rivaled Chinese take-out in popularity. We’ve tried them all but we actually prefer homemade. Easy, fast and always tastes fresher! CHICKEN QUESADILLAS 1/2 pound thin slices uncooked chicken breast cutlets 1 tablespoon lime juice dash fresh ground salt and pepper  1/8 teaspoon crushed dried thyme 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro leave…

Florentine Cookies ala Massachusetts' Cranberries

Nobody seems to have nailed down who came up with the idea of lacy nutty fruity crisps, sometimes coated on one side with chocolate. They are a favorite of Austrian bakers but considered a Tuscan specialty. With or without the chocolate candy glaze they are delish!

It was a tough call to give creative credit until I tasted my version of the the yummy little discs (pictured here both with and without the chocolate) with a luscious Tuscan Vin Santo for dessert. As far as I'm concerned that sealed the historical origin ... Italy wins!

2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup raw sugar (white sugar works too)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or low cholesterol margarine suitable for cooking)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped dried cranberries 
1 teaspoon finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 teaspoon zest of lime
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips to melt (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine c…

Brunch: Easy, elegant and scrumptious.

Whether planning a lazy Sunday morning family brunch or a bridal breakfast for your BFF, this is the perfect recipe. Add a platter of fresh fruit, bacon or sausage, juice and coffee (or maybe Mimosas and Bloody Marys).

And the best part? 

These pretty little pastry quiche cups can be baked ahead, refrigerated and re-warmed about 10 minutes at 350 degree F before serving.

3 eggs
¼ cup low fat milk
dash salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup broccoli crowns, chopped cooked
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
1 sheet ready made puff pastry, thawed

Unfold the thawed pastry and roll lightly with a rolling pin to smooth it out. Cut into 6 squares per sheet. Lightly spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray. Fit a piece of dough into each cup, pushing into the cup but leaving the edges sticking up.

Mix together broccoli and goat cheese crumbles. Divide equally among each muffin cup lined with puff pastry. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and pour equal amounts into each mu…

Cocoa Meringue Almond Bark

Farmer Paul pours through the Boston Globe food pages regularly looking for something that appeals to his picky palate. Every now and then he finds a winner.

Light, crunchy and chocolate ... what's not to love? Last week's Boston Globe recipe for Cocoa meringue almond bark is worth the effort.  And simply because I can't help myself from tinkering ... I used Hershey's dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa instead of regular cocoa.


Looks Like You Slaved Over the Stove

But didn't. Chicken Marsala is one of those easier than you can imagine dishes that everyone raves about. It goes with almost any starch side: smashed or roasted potatoes, buttered noodles, or a simple risotto.
The history of wines have always interested me. Here's a great little website to poke around. And what better place to start then with the Marsala page!
CHICKEN MARSALA 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon basil 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon white pepper 1 cup low fat milk 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4 halves 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1 cup sliced baby Bella or button mushrooms  1/2 cup Marsala wine 1/2 cup chicken broth 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Using a shallow bowl or plate combine the flour, basil, thyme and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly. Soak the chicken breast halves in the milk 2-3 minutes, then quickly dredge each piece in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking to remove any excess flour.  Heat the oil in a medium skillet over …

Small Treat: Big Taste

There is nothing like chocolate to pull me out of the winter doldrums. Though calories count, there's one easy way to give in to temptation. Make small treats with big flavor by whipping up a batch of mini-cupcakes. German chocolate minis weigh in at 55 calories each. And they freeze well, so no excuses to overindulge in one sitting! 

GERMAN CHOCOLATE MINIS For the frosting: 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Dash salt
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
For the cake:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt
1/4 cup cocoa (my fave is Hershey’s special dark chocolate)
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup Splenda sugar blend
3 eggs, room temp
For the frosting: Whisk yolks, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Beat in the butter, and then gradually …

As Comforting as Comfort Food Gets!

Shoot, who doesn't love a perfect golden crusted grilled cheese sandwich? There's even a Baltimore based restaurant chain dedicated to the joys of every mom's fall back dinner special.

With a big flavor boost from homemade lightly herbed bread sliced thick, the classic grilled cheese sandwich is still the perfect partner for a bowl of homemade tomato soup. Both recipes below are easy and delish.

3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon finely grated cheddar
1 teaspoons fresh ground sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried winter savory (or oregano)
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon very warm tap water
1 quarter ounce package quick rise dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey

Combine flour, milk powder, cheese, salt and herbs in food processor with a dough blade attachment. In a small bowl mix warm water honey and dry yeast. Allow yeast mix to sit 3-5 minutes.

Using 1 tablespoon oil, grease a large bowl, set asid…