Monday, December 12, 2011

Strategies for Saving Money on Groceries...



Hey there!  This is being written in 2011, most likely halfway through the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Some say it will never get better. Who knows? But, just in case, friends and I have been talking about ways to save money during hard times...we share ideas, so I thought I'd share them with you!

Plan, Plan Plan: Planning meals and shopping for meals for a whole week ahead of time not only helps you avoid spending so much money on gas, its efficient because nothing goes to waste. No oldie-moldie leftovers hanging around looking tired. No more impulse purchases either...er, at least not as many.

It's not that hard--just get out your recipes, your Safeway ads and your calendar and figure out 7 dinners and 7 lunches you want to eat that week. Get a pen and paper and do it in front of the the TV one night a week. I do mine on Friday after work  because unless I'm busy having fun, I shop on Saturday afternoons. In addition, I usually make two freezable entrees on Sunday afternoon if I have time. Then I only have to do lots of dishes two or three times a week.

Take into account what's on your calendar and plan accordingly. If someone has a soft-ball game or a ballet lesson until 5:30 on Wednesday, you may want to defrost a hardy soup or some homemade marinara in order to make something really quick that night. Vegetables are harder--they don't stay fresh! If they aren't fresh, nutrients are lost! Plan for salads and braised or roasted fresh vegies for the first three days of your planned week and save frozen vegies and fresh fruits for the last four days. Many of this blog's vegetable dishes are really easy. If you've gone to the trouble of cooking a main dish--who wants a complex side dish?

Speaking of freezing: you should also plan for making double the amount of almost every dish you make--if it's a casserole or soup put half in the freezer for another week. If it's a meat dish that's reheatable, plan on eating it a couple of nights in a row the week you make it. This way you can get away with cooking entrees only two or three times a week. There have been times where I don't actually cook for 5 days--relying on my freezer. However, I don't let things go for more than 4 weeks in the freezer. I abhor things that taste like they've been frozen.

Shop Sales, Use Coupons: Since man (and woman) cannot live by Costco alone, every week I try to look at my local Safeway's coupon deals when planning meals. I'm not a fanatic. I don't have a big household to feed so I don't buy huge quantities and sock them away. Usually just two or three along with other essentials I need. I also won't drive across town for a bargain unless I have to go there anyway. Remember gas prices? It all adds up! But watching for sales is a great way to direct your meal-planning for the week. Sometimes Safeway beats Costco prices. It just depends. Every other week I skip Safeway and shop at Trader Joes. They have many gourmet items, their regular prices are terrific, and on sale, their low prices are rock-bottom. The computer-saavy among you can also go online to coupons.com for more good deals!

Substitute Less Expensive Products: Sometimes Martha Stewart and a host of other chefs have very expensive and hard-to-find ingredients in their recipes. And sometimes your 7 year old wakes you up in the morning to tell you you need to make 2 dozen cupcakes for her class before noon--and you don't have buttermilk! So try a substitute...

Substitutions:
  1. Don't have enough sour cream? Substitute plain full fat Greek Yogurt. If it's non-fat mix in 1T veg. oil.
  2. Don't have all-purpose flour? Substitute 1 C plus 2 T cake flour.
  3. Don't have enough tomato paste? Substitute a thick catchup.
  4. Don't have fresh tomatoes or frozen corn for soup or sauces? Substitute canned.
  5. Don't have 1 C buttermilk? Substitute 1 C sweet milk mixed with 1T white or cider vineagar.
  6. Don't have or don't want to pay for 1 T fresh herbs for soup or casseroles? Use 1 t dried.
  7. Don't have 1 C milk? Substitute powdered milk or evaporated milk mixed with water to taste.
  8. Don't have 1 C honey? Substitute 1 C sugar mixed with 1/4 Cwater
  9. Don't have Panko? Smash saltines or oyster crackers or use bread crumbs instead.
  10. Don't have 1 egg? Use two egg yolks or borrow one from your neighbor next door.
  11. Don't have 1 T flour for thickening sauces? Use 1/2 T cornstarch.
  12. Don't have 1 sq. chocolate? Substitute 3T cocoa plus 1T shortening.
  13. Don't have 1 t baking powder? Mix 1/4 t baking soda plus 1/2 C buttermilk or 1 1/2 t cream of tartar
  14. Don't have 1 C creme fraiche? Use very 1 C fresh sour cream instead.
  15. Don't have Lyle's Golden Syrup? Use the same ammount of light corn syrup.
  16. Don't have or want to buy astoundingly expensive chocolate? Use 1/2 Scharffenberger or other expensive chocolate and  1/2 Bakers or Nestle. I never use Hershey's. Guittard--my favorite!
  17. Don't have quite enough butter to fill 1 C? Substitute half with 1/2 C shortening plus 1/4 t. salt. In baking only.
  18. Don't have unsalted butter? Substitute regular butter in the recipe but decrease salt added by 1/4 t per 1/2 C regular butter. In other words if the recipe asks for 1 C butter eliminate 1/2 t salt from the recipe.
  19. Don't have the right kind of pasta? Substitute any bite-size pasta you have in a pinch.
  20. Don't have Mexican or Italian seasoning? Substitute equal measurements scooped from those little packets of Taco or Spaghetti mix on your shelf. Or look up "How to make Mexican or Italian seasoning"online and make your own.
  21. Don't have or want to pay for pine nuts? Eliminate them from the recipe or chop macadamia nuts. For some recipes (such as in salads) you can substitute sunflower seeds.
  22. Don't have or want to pay for liqueurs? Most liquor stores stock airplane-sized bottles. You will not find them in Safeway.
  23. Don't have vegetable oil? Never use olive oil for baking. Never. Yucky! For baking melt Crisco or coconut oil. Coconut oil is much better for you.
  24. Need unsweetened coconut? So you don't have a fresh coconut on hand? I AM SHOCKED (just kiddin). I actually prefer taking my sugared Angel Flake...plopping it in a colander...running water over it until the sugar is gone and drying it overnight on paper towels. It turns out a lot more moist than flaked unsweetened coconut that you find in health-food stores.  


Expense-saving note: I almost never buy fresh herbs to add to soups or casseroles, substituting the dried ones--about 1 t for each T. Do buy fresh herbs when making sauces/marinades composed primarily of herbs. Like Pesto or Mint/Ginger Marinade. Or anything with parsley or sage--they have a unique taste when fresh.

Buy in bulk-- Freeze a lotBig box stores, like Costco,are fantastic for this. Get ye to a Costco for thy meat! Buy a huge flat of meat or poultry every week. Then do three things: grill some, make some into a stew, casserole or soup to extend the meat, and freeze some for another week. I alternate between buying Foster Farms chicken breasts or thighs, buying boneless pork chops, and tri-tip steaks.  If I cook some each week,  there's some leftover for other weeks. That way we have variety for less. Here are some things I put in my freezer:

1) Buy a rotisserie chicken. Costco's famous roasted chickens are still inexpensive and taste great! Simply use what you want to eat for dinner, then use the rest of the carcass for a soup base or make an all-purpose stock to use in sauces, rice pilaf and what not. Here's how you make homemade stock from a rotisserie chicken....

After you have eaten the Costco chicken, put the carcass in a large (at least 4 qt.) pot 3/4 full of water and let it boil for 30-40 minutes. Take the pot off of stove and cool. Put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove the fat from the top of the pot with a spatula or slotted spoon.  Next, remove chicken bones and take off any peices of chicken you want to use for soup. Refrigerate chicken meat pieces in a plastic bag to use later for soup or chicken salad sandwiches.

Return pot to stove at a high heat.  Add a couple of peeled garlic cloves, a stalk of celery, a peeled carrot, 1/2 t peppercorns and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cool. Strain. Freeze homemade stock in containers or add what's left of the chicken bits plus your favorite soup ingredients to make chicken  soup. Note: most of the time you will need more chicken meat to make soup--so you may want to have a couple of boneless breasts on hand to add to the pot if soup is your goal.

2) Buy a whole Turkey and Roast It.

Everybody knows that this is possibly the cheapest way to make a whole lot of good food. First, buy an 18 lb. frozen turkey and defrost it for a few days in the fridge. If you have more than 8 people coming, always opt to buy two smaller turkeys than one 23 lb. hulk. (Is it just me, or  have you ever asked yourself how that big a turkey managed to stand up on two tiny little legs?)  Apparently the smaller ones will taste better, and cook faster.  I usually buy frozen turkeys at Raley's or Safeway. The only fresh turkeys I like are usually about $50. and available at boutique markets. I really can't say I like Trader Joes's fresh turkeys at all--you get what you pay for in fresh turkeys. So here is what to do with a frozen one...

Take the defrosted turkey, put it in your sink and  wash it off. Get to know your turkey. Pat it on the back and say "Hi there, fellah!" Remove it to a clean surface and, reaching in through the opening where the neck used to be, take out the giblet bag. Put it in a plastic container and refrigerate if you want to use this nasty little bag for giblet gravy later.  Now, starting above the bird's cavity--separate the skin from the meat with your hand and shove large pats of butter under the skin. Yes, separating the skin from the bird with your hand feels strange, but it works well for a moist turkey!!!

Poke the turkey 6 or 7 times in different places with a fork. Put it in a large roasting pan. Season the outside with salt and pepper, or Lawry's Seasoning Salt. Cut up an orange into quarters, peel a fresh garlic clove or two and put them into the empty turkey cavity. This subtly flavors the meat. It's very French to do this. Oui oui!

Set the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Push a meat thermometer into the middle of the thigh, being careful to not touch the bone. then roast the whole thing for about an hour, until it gets up to about 175 degrees on the thermometer. Create a tent for the turkey with two pieces of foil that form an"A-frame" and are secured at the sides of the pan. Roast the whole thing for about an hour, until it reaches 175 degrees on the thermometer.  At this point, remove the foil tent and let it roast until golden brown, basting occasionally, about 30 more minutes.  I used to let my turkeys go up to the poultry setting on the thermometer. Not a good idea. Take it out of the oven at least five degrees before it gets there. The reason for this is that turkeys keep cooking for a while even after you remove them oven. Then you get a DRY turkey... ewwww.  At this point take the whole thing out of the oven and let it "rest" for 20 minutes or so before carving. Carve ALL of the meat off, serve what you need, and put the remainder in plastic freezer bags the fridge or freezer within a couple of hours to use at a later date. Then you can:

a) Make soup (see Turkey Soup in Being Erma's November 2010 posts) with the carcass
b) Make turkey sandwiches with leftover stuffing from "Gaga's Turkey Dressing" (December 2011)
c) Make "Sour Cream Turkey with Tarragon"(December 2011)
d) Make a Turkey Stir Fry (using vegies and Trader Joe's bottled stir-fry sauce mixed with water)

3) Buy a 3 1/2-4 lb flat of Tri-Tip steak at Costco. Marinate a couple of strips in McCormick's (or your favorite) meat marinade. Save the rest and put it in the freezer to :
a) Chop into pieces and make into stir-fry
b) Cut into chunks and make into a stew in the crock pot or stew pot.
c) Cut into pieces after having been cooked, marinate in McCormick's Burrito marinade--or make your own, chop into 1/4 inch pieces and sautee in a skillet until browned. Use meat for Burritos or Tacos (which is pretty inexpensive).
d) Cut tri-tip into 3/4" chunks, saute and add a stroganoff sauce you make yourself (See "Easy Stroganoff" on BeingErma.blogspot.com).

4) Buy a Pork Loin the Size of Your Leg. Costco has 'em. Using your big Chef knife--cut half of the loin into 1" thick pork chops. You should get at least 6. Wrap what you are not using in the near future with plastic wrap then foil. Later you can use what you didn't cut into pork chops for: pork stew meat...pork fajitas or tacos...pork kabobs...stuffed pork loin...ground pork...etc. etc. etc.               

5) Buy ground beef or turkey in large quantities at Safeway. I do not like the ground beef that is currently at Costco. To me--it tastes funny! Make ground beef  into hamburgers, lasagna, meatloaf, a multitude of mexican foods and old-fashioned casseroles. Then-- freeze them in containers. I highly recommend NOT making too many pasta casseroles and dishes, because they are easy to get sick of. However, having home-made spaghetti sauce on hand in the freezer is aways a great idea.

6) Buying Marinara Sauce: If you are making large quantities of  homemade marinara, tomatoes and plain tomato sauce are extremely inexpensive at Costco. Those are what I use to make "Sebastiani Spaghetti Sauce" and "San Francisco Cioppino" on "BeingErma.blogspot.com". You can also get the best and least expensive ready-made marinara at Trader Joe's. I like all of them--especially the Vodka Sauce.

7) Buy Boneless Chicken Breasts. CostCo's Foster Farms brand still gives you a lot for the price. Thighs are very reasonable. And I often buy the chicken tenders. Make Chicken Cacciatore with these, adding home-made marinara sauce. There are bunches of great, inexpensive recipes for chicken that has been cooked and de-boned on "Being Erma.blogspot.com".  One of them is "Judy's Citrus-Garlic Chicken" posted April, 2011.

8) Buy Canned Tuna--it's more expensive than it used to be. But it beats almost everything else for price, except tofu. Just make a bechamel (white) sauce, throw in the tuna, add some warmed up frozen peas and serve on a bed of rice. Not that great for cholesterol, but absolutely delish if you're broke!

9) Buy Bacon--it's frequently on sale, two packages for the price of one, at Safeway. I never fry just two pieces. I fry a whole package then freeze whatever I don't use. Less dishes that way. Another, more healthy way to buy bacon flavor is to get the Hormel Real Bacon Bits or a huge bag of the Kirkland Real Bacon Bits at Costco. They're less fat, freezable, and taste wonderful when mixed into scrambled eggs, salads, baked beans, etc.. On Turkey Bacon: yes it's better for you. But I don't like it.




















Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ga-Ga's Turkey Dressing

Catagory: Side Dishes
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium

Dressing, or stuffing, is a touchy business. Everyone has their own version of perfection. This year, a lot of people are going for a sausage and cranberry stuffing, which sounds very good indeed. But not for the people in my family that don't eat anything but poultry and fish! Hence, I go for a stuffing that's all veg and bread. My grandmother (GaGa) used to make this. She got the recipe from an Italian gardener that worked alongside of her in her huge kitchen garden. If you want it to taste like a traditional dressing, use pre-seasoned dried bread crumbs. If you want to experience something very subtle and different, use un-seasoned dried crumbs. Both ways taste wonderful. Basil...that's the difference and the key.

In a soup kettle, saute in butter or turkey fat:

2 yellow or white onions, chopped to about 1/3 inch chunks
3 C celery with leaves

Add:

One bag or box dried bread cubes (I use "Mrs. Cubbison's" from Safeway) or a cubed loaf of stale bread
1 1/2 t. Accent or MSG (yah, but she used it--what can I do?)
1 1/2 t. Beau Monde (it's a spice)
2 heaping dried T Sweet Basil or 4 T fresh Basil
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t garlic powder or salt
salt and pepper to taste
a very large handful of chopped parsley
chopped giblets (optional-- personally, I prefer to not have them lurking in my dressing)

Toss the above with 1/2 C melted butter and 1 C turkey or chicken broth (I used Swansons if I don't have any home-made in the freezer). You will most likely need to use more broth than what GaGa specified. Make sure the combination is wet, but not soggy. Remember, it's better to have too little moisture than too much. You can always add more broth, but you can't take it away. Throw the stuffing into a buttered crock-pot or a large buttered casserole with a top. Turn the crock pot on until it's done, but not burned! About, 4 hours? If you use a good old casserole, put it in the oven at about 250 degrees until done, then keep it warm on a low temperature or warming tray.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cwickie Cocoa Brownies with Divine Fudge Frosting

Catagory: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty: Easy

Brownies are my favorite thing. Home-made brownies. Hot, fudge brownies with vanilla ice cream. I can taste preservatives in a brownie mix brownie a mile away. Blech! These are soooo much better. I've made them a million times...the "Brownies to Die For" I posted in January are gourmet and perfect, but if you want a quickie brownie--these are the best! No muss, no fuss and you always have the ingredients. Served them last night at church and there were none left!

Note: If you want these to taste ultra-good, use unsalted butter. If you don't have unsalted butter (I usually don't) use salted butter and decrease the salt to 1/4 t. Almost as good. If you double the recipe, use a 9X 13" pan. These brownies are much better thicker than thinner. Grease the pan with lots of shortening or oil as they have a tendency to stick. Don't use butter to grease your pan, as it burns too easily.

Note: I found my brother-in-law Mark eating brownies in his kitchen one morning. He just couldn't keep away from the Fudge Frosting that his wife made. Neither can I. It will keep you coming back for more.  I doubled the recipe so you would have adequate frosting to "snitch"--even if you put it on a 9X13" pan.

Ingredients:

1 C walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 lb. unsalted butter
2 C sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 C sifted flour
1/2 t salt
3/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Nestle or Droste-- the others are too bitter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8X8" square pan. Brown walnuts on a baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes only. Or skip this step entirely. You can even opt to not use walnuts if you wish. Up to you. Beat first 3 ingredients with a mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla. Than mix in remaining ingredients. Bake 30-45 minutes depending on your oven and how fudgy you like them. Other Options: Add chocolate chips or frost with buttercream to make them fancy.

Smith Fudge Frosting:

 After brownies are cool. Bring 1 C salted butter...12 T milk and 2 C sugar to a gentle boil in a 2-qt. saucepan with a sturdy bottom over medium-low heat boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 C chocolate chips until melted. Then place saucepan contents into a 2-qt. bol over a larger bowl of ice water and beat until thick and creamy. Immediately spread on brownies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Praline Cheesecake with Bittersweet Ganache

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Hard


This is a very intense, decadent cheesecake. If you like the richer cheesecakes at "The Cheesecake Factory" such as, "Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake", you will like this. Because it is cooked in a water-bath, the cheesecake filling itself is especially creamy. It was fun to make the praline, although I need to warn you about a few things. If you start to find little burned nuts floating in your praline filling, take it off the stove immediately and turn down the heat . I managed to get so many in mine, that by the time the praline caramel was done, I had to strain the darn things out! I was even talking to it, saying "no no no!" to the little dark varmints as they popped up from the bottom of the pan. In hindsight, I think it would be a good idea to: 1)not even put the nutz in until after the praline has cooked, and 2) not to scrape the pan while cooking. Also, if you are daunted by the length of this recipe, simplify it by substituting a graham cracker crust. I did!

Important Note: I made a "baby" cheesecake for Mr. Smith with some leftover cheesecake filling, graham crumbs and put some ganache on top. I liked it even better than the richer version below! So try skipping the praline entirely if you're not used to eating sweets.

Ingredients:

Crust:
Either one Graham cracker crust for a 9-inch springform pan or--
1 1/2 C vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 finely chopped pretzels
1/2 C finely chopped toasted pecans
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg white

Pecan Praline Filling:
1 C sugar
3/4 C chopped pecans
1/4 C toasted chopped pecans (I was too lazy to toast mine)
2/3 C dark corn syrup
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 t salt

Cheesecake Filling:
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 C sour cream
1 1/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light--it's fine)
2 T flour
4 large eggs
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1 C sour cream
1 1/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1 t vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make a graham cracker crust mixture and follow the directions at the end of this paragraph. OR in a medium bowl, combine vanilla-wafer crumbs, pretzels, and pecans for crust. Add melted butter and egg white, stirring to combine. Make sure your springform pan's bottom is tightly secured to the ring of the pan before proceeding. Press crumb mixture evenly into bottom and up sides at least halfway of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes, let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Wrap bottom of pan with 2 pieces of foil, being sure to secure all sides completely to form a waterproof seal for the pan. (I even duck-taped the edges of the foil together.) Place prepared springform into a large (roasting?) pan or soup pot. Set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt for filling, stirring well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Add pecans and stir. Pour into cooled, prepared crust. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese for filling at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sour cream, beat until smooth. Add brown sugar and flour, beating until fluffy. add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cream and vanilla. Pour cheesecake mixture over pecan-praline filling. Fill roasting pan or soup pot with enough water to come halfway up sides of springform pan.

Bake one hour and 15 minutes, or until middle no longer jiggles when you move the springform pan and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Carefully remove rotating pan from oven. Allow water in roasting pan to cool before removing cheesecake. Let cheesecake cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Refrigerate cheesecake overnight. Run a sharp knife around the edges of cheesecake to release sides. Remove from springform pan. Place chocolate for ganache in a small bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat cream, butter and corn syrup over midium hight heat until mixture boils. Pour chocolate mixture over top of cheesecake. Use a spatula to spread evenly. Let chocolate set, approximately 30 minutes. Garnish with pecan halves, glazed or plain. Worth the 2 1/2 hours it takes to make for a special occasion.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Favorite Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Not Healthy

I have made this fabulous cheesecake at least 20 times. You can tell, because the recipe card for this is heavily splotched with chocolate and butter stains. It is my all-time favorite, all-purpose, go-to dessert. An unusually light chocolate cheesecake in texture, the filling is more like a creamy chocolate mousse than a cheesecake. Perfect for after a big heavy meal, like Christmas dinner. FYI: it also travels well to pot-lucks. Just freeze it for an hour or so, then take it out of the spring-form pan when you get to your destination! If you're going an hour or more away, freeze it solid in the pan (with the whipped cream on top) before leaving. This is a recipe for a small cheesecake--use an 8-inch springform pan, or a 9 inch pie plate. If you're going to a party, double the recipe and use a 10- inch springform or two 9-inch pie plates. Make it the day before you serve it for best results. Oh, and eat all the leftover Oreos. It's manditory.

Note: You can use a pre-made Oreo cookie crust if you like. It's cheating, but you can do it! You will need two of them--this makes a lot of filling.

Ingredients:

24 Oreo cookies
1/4 C butter, melted
6 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 pkg. (8 0z.) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 C light brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1 C heavy cream, whupped

Directions:

For the Crust: Whirl Oreos in a food processor under they look like coffee grounds. Or crush them very fine in a heavy-duty plastic bag with a mallet or a rolling pin. Then add melted butter. Press mixture into springform pan, on the bottom and up the sides at least halfway. If using a pie pan, try to extend Oreo mix over the rim of the dish. Put in the oven about 8 minutes at 350 degrees, cool and refrigerate until using. This makes a very firm crust that will hold up to anything--refrigeration alone doesn't do it.

Cheesecake:
In a double boiler, melt chocolate over hot, not simmering, water. Set aside to cool, ten minutes. Combine thoroughly cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add chocolate, mix thoroughly. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 C sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold chocolate mixture into crust and chill 12 hours or overnight. Serve with whupped cream mounded, or piped in rosettes on top. Chocolate curls, or grated chocolate looks pretty too, when sprinkled on top of the whupped cream!

Friday, September 23, 2011

C'est Parfait! It's Cheese Souffle!

Category: Breakfast
Difficulty Rating: Hard
Not Healthy

I found this recipe card in my mom's recipe box. I'm not sure who gave it to her, but cheese souffle is so good, I had to include it. Mom used to make it for us. It was gone in about 15 minutes, it had to be. You can't let souffle wait, otherwise it becomes a frittata! Souffle is basically a science experiment some French person did to blow up a good sauce into a tasty balloon, using beaten egg whites. If you let it stand more than 10 minutes, it starts to deflate. Mom always made cheese souffle without a pan of water under it. Then you get the brown, crusty sides that are sooooo good. Makes a great inexpensive dinner for the fam or brunch for the ladies!

Ingredients:

1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1 C milk
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese (2 C--use mild Tillamook Cheddar if you can)
4 egg yolks
4 stiffly beaten egg whites

Note: Be sure and have your eggs at room temperature before beating the whites. Before you crack 'em, simply place whole eggs in a bowl of very warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes to warm them up.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in double boiler; add flour and salt; blend--remove from heat. Add milk slowly and stir constantly until sauce is thick and smooth. You have just made a bechamel sauce--which is the backbone of any cheese souffle.

Fold the sliced or diced cheese to the hot sauce, cover, and let stand over boiling water until cheese is soft. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with beater; stir the blended cheese slowly into the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (they will form stiff peaks in the bowl when you take out the beaters). Turn them into the bowl with the cheese sauce mixture. Cut and fold with a blending fork or metal spoon (wood is too blunt) until the whites are thoroughly combines and the whole mixture is light and fluffy. Don't be overzealous with the mixing! It's ok if you leave a few small puffs of egg whites un-blended. It's better to under-mix rather than over-mix.

Pour mixture into and un-greased casserole, souffle dish, or ramikens, about 2/3 full. Cook 1 hour and 15 minutes. Do not cover! It will rise and billow over the top if you get it right! If you like a crisp brown crust on the the bottom and sides, don't place the casserole in a pan of water. Eat right away!

Profiteroles: French Cream Puffs or Eclairs

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy

I taught this in a cooking class once. I actually made this over a stove while people were watching and I was talking. So it's gotta be pretty easy to pull off, yes? I mean, I really am not all that coordinated. To show you how casual I am...my assistant, Kate, wore a Tiara. These are cream puffs--widely eaten in France. The dough is called "pate a choux". If you fill them with vanilla pastry cream and frost them with chocolate ganache, they are called "eclairs". But if you don't want to make pastry cream or ganache, you can fill them with your favorite ice cream. Then, drizzle chocolate sauce on top of them to make a dessert that looks fancy but is relatively easy and inexpensive.

Ingredients:

1 C water
6 T butter, cut into small pieces
1 C all purpose flour, sifted after measuring
1 t sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 t. water

Directions:

In a heavy 2-3 qt. saucepan, bring the 1 C water and the butter to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as butter has completely melted, remove pan from the heat and pour in flour and sugar all at once. Beat mixture vigorously for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture forms a mass that leaves the sides of the pan and moves freely with the spoon. All of this happens pretty fast, so be ready for the next step: Immediately remove the pan from heat and use a spoon to make a well in the center of the paste. Break and egg into the well and beat it into the paste. After the first egg has been absorbed, add 3 more eggs 1 at a time--beating well after each egg is added. The finished paste should be thick, smooth and shiny.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter two large baking sheets. If you don't have a pastry bag, drop teaspoonfuls of the paste onto the baking sheets, allowing the same 2 inches of space between them. This will make smaller profiteroles--they will double in size. These are great to fill with chicken or tuna salad for appetizers. But use 2 t for dessert profiteroles.

Beat the remaining egg with 1/2 t water. Lightly brush the top of each profiterole with mixture. Bake for 6 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until profiteroles have doubled in size and have turned a light golden brown. They should be firm and crusty to the touch. Turn off oven and make a tiny, baby, incision near the bottom of each profiterole with the tip of a sharp knife to release the steam. Let them rest a few minutes to dry out on the inside. Then, place on wire racks to cool. On individual dessert plates, slice in half and fill with ice cream (coffee, peppermint, vanilla bean?) of your choice and drizzle on chocolate sauce. Or make the following...

Pastry Cream Filling For Dessert Profiteroles:

Ingredients:

1/2 C sifted flour
1/2 C sugar
1/8 t salt
2 C milk
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler.  Add milk slowly, blending until smooth. Heat and stir over direct moderat heat until thick and smooth. Mix 1/2 C hot mixture into eggs, then return to pan. Put over boiling water in other half of double boiler and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes, until thick. Take off the heat, stir in vanilla. Place a piece of  waxed paper or plastic wrap on top sauce to prevent a skin from forming and cool. Chill until ready to use as pastry filling.  Pipe into sliced Profiteroles, put on dessert plates and drizzle with Easy Chocolate Glaze.

Easy Chocolate Glaze:
Heat 1/2 C chocolate chips, 2 T butter and 1 T corn syrup over low heat until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly and drizzle over Profiteroles.



No-Knead French Bread

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Medium (because it takes so long)
Not Healthy

This is another recipe Chef Lauren (my daughter) has used with great success! There's nothing like a fresh, warm, loaf of French bread. Everybody in France knows that, that's why many of them buy a fresh loaf daily. Leftover bread? Make it into a bread pudding! This recipe is by Jim Lahey at the Sullivan St. Bakery. Note: before you make this, note how many hours it needs to rise (12-18), so make it the day before you need it!

Ingredients:

3 C all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 t instant yeast
1 1/4 t salt
Cornmeal

Directions:

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 C water, and stir until blended; dough
will be shaggy and sticky. ( I really don't know what 'shaggy' dough is, but I assume that's how it looks. Wasn't Shaggy a character on the cartoon, "Scooby-Doo"?) Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, a warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when it's surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, or cornmeal. Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough it'll be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-8 qt. heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed, it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on rack.

My Indian Chicken Curry

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy

Category: Chicken
Difficulty: Medium
Healthy if you don't have it over rice (quinoa is fine) and don't use milk

Making curry is sort of like making chili--you can either make it a huge production or you can make a simple everyday version that tastes wonderful and is easy to make. Originally a Weight Watchers recipe, I used to make this light curry about once a month. It's quick, easy, delish. Common Sense Tip: I always have the ingredients--curry powder and Major Grey's chutney on hand.

Note: You can make this with fresh shrimp also.

Ingredients:

1/4 C minced onion
1/4 C sliced apple (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 C butter (or use Coconut oil if you like)
2 t curry powder
1 T flour or corn starch or arrowroot mixed with 2 T water
1/2 t sugar (optional)
pepper and salt to taste
1/2 C chicken broth
1 C milk (or use almond or coconut milk)
1 lb cooked chicken ( use a cooked rotisserie chicken to make this recipe easier)
3 C cooked rice or quinoa
Optional Condiments: 2 sliced bananas, peanuts, Major Grey's chutney, raisins, coconut and/or chopped bacon

Note: As long as you have Major Grey's chutney, or another good chutney (mango?), you don't need all the rest of the condiments. But it's really yummy if you do!

In a large pot, saute onions and apple in butter. Stir in flour, curry powder, salt, sugar and ginger. Add chicken broth and milk. Cook until thickened. Stirring constantly, add broth if too thick; add chicken which has been torn into bite-size pieces. To serve, place large spoonful of rice on plate, then chicken mixture. Layer on whatever condiments you have available on top of the mound, ending with shredded coconut if you have it. If you are serving your family, you can pass the condiments in bowls after serving them the curry on rice. Slightly exotic and fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chou Farci (Stuffed Cabbage Provencal)








Category: Turkey
Difficulty Rating: Easy to Medium
Healthy-ish

This is the perfect meal for when the leaves crunch beneath your feet and your nose gets red immediately when you step outside the door. It's warm, savory French comfort food. You will want seconds. Best of all--CHILDREN like it too!

Yes, it was formerly made with 'bad-for-you' pork sausage, but if you use Jimmy Dean's Turkey Sausage it will be halfway healthy. And still delish!

Ingredients:

One large "Lacey" leafed cabbage OR a large regular green cabbage
Mix 2 pkg.s Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage or your favorite chicken or turkey breakfast sausage
3 onions, chopped
1 C GF bread crumbs (you can stale GF breadcrumbs in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees)
2 eggs
2 t. thyme
cooking string

Directions:

Harder Option: Fill the biggest pot you have with water. Par boil the cabbbage WHOLE for about 2 minutes. Put sausage between the leaves in the cabbage, then tie the cabbage together like a parcel with string. Line a soup pot with strips of bacon. Put 1 can consomme and 2 cans water in pot. Simmer for several hours in soup pot. Take off string, cut in slices like a pie, and serve in bowls with some of the broth.

Easier Option: If you can't find a Lacey Leaf Cabbage, use a regular green cabbage and boil leaves for about one minute each in a pot of water before rolling the mixture inside them. They should be about the size of egg-rolls. Tie each roll with string. Lay the cabbage rolls in the bacon-lined soup pot and follow the rest of the directions. It's easier and less messy than using a whole cabbage.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pots De Creme (little pots of chocolate cream)

Category: Dessert
Difficulty Rating: Very Easy


 I think part of Pots De Creme's charm is that it's usually made in cunning little ramikens or pretty coffee cups. Small things tend to be so ...cute. Like Bichon Poodles or baby penguins or baby... ANYTHING! The other part of it's charm is that it is--the best, richest, chocolate pudding-type thing you ever laid your mouth on. It goes together in a blender in about 15 minutes, which is also charming. From Bon Appetit magazine, circa 1977. Yield: Serves 6.

Ingredients:

6-oz chocolate chips or broken chocolate ( use any quality SEMI-sweet baking chocolate that you like--don't use bittersweet. Not enough sugarrrrr.)
2 T sugar
Salt, a dash
1 T rum or good vanilla extract (don't use imitation vanilla-blech!)
1 egg
3/4 C milk, heated to boiling point, but not boiled
Whupped Cream ( this is optional for some, but for me, it's manditory)

Place all ingredients in blender. Run blender 1 minute on low speed (a stick blender is fine). Pour equally among 6 ramikens, demitasse cups, or pretty stoneware or china coffee-cups. Chill for 2 hours or until firm. Top with whupped cream, if desired.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brie En Croute with Roasted Garlic

Category: Appetizers
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy but Worth It

Isn't is amazing how anything said in English sounds so much better when translated into French or Italian? I took 6 years of French and only remember the first two years. Just enough to get me in and out of a French restaurant without disgracing America. This is one of my daughter, Chef Lauren's, favorite things to make for when she is asked to bring appetizers to a party. She speaks very passable French. People actually understand her and everything. Served with french bread, fruit, or crackers, the melty cheesy goodness of it will send you into another dimension! This was adapted from "The Silver Palate Cookbook" --the garlic was Lauren's addition.

Note:It's easy and it's quick, but it's expensive. If you're on a budget--beware!

Ingredients:

One package of  defrosted puff paste (such as Pepperidge Farm)
1 whole Brie wheel, not fully ripe
1 whole roasted garlic bulb ( preferably the huge kind of garlic if you can find it)
Serve on a platter with cut-up winter fruit and/or sliced baguettes!

Directions:

Roast one bulb of garlic by baking in a 350 degree oven until soft. Peel the garlic by squeezing the bulbs out of their skins. Smash them with a fork on a plate. Spread garlic evenly on top of the brie wheel and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the defrosted pastry square press together any holes with your fingers. Place brie wheel in center of square. Fold the corners and sides of the pastry square over the cheese to make a little "package". Place on parchment on cookie sheet and bake until golden. Remove and put on a large serving platter with a knife. Serve surrounded with cut up apples...pears...sliced baguettes...crackers and small grape clusters. Great for an appetizer buffet table.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Estelle's Corn Risotto

Category: Pasta and Rice
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy-ish

When Lauren was just a little girl, I went to a recipe sharing get-together at Teri Hillenga's house. There were four of us--but we all loved to cook. I was overly enthusiastic as usual, and embarrassed myself by bringing some very dry chocolate Madeleines (cookies). Estelle Stiles, however, had some amazing recipes. She is a fabulous cook! I adapted this one only slightly. Actually, I had to use another recipe for corn risotto for the directions part, because I had lost that page. But do not let this distract you! The sweet and savory taste of corn, wine and cheese together is a winner!

Ingredients:

3 C fresh corn kernels, divided (from about 4 ears) or frozen and thawed--organic is best
1/4 C butter
3 T chopped shallots (onions will do in a pinch)
1/2 C Italian short-grain rice (Arborio) or medium-grain rice
1/4 C dry white wine (I use 2-buck Chuck chardonnay)
3 C or more if needed, chicken broth--heated to boiling in separate saucepan
1/3 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Puree 2 C corn kernels in blender and set aside. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium/low heat. Add chopped shallots and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice, coat well and cook another 2 minutes until toasted. Add reserved 1 C corn kernels and white wine, turn up the heat up to medium, stirring constantly until wine has evaporated . Add hot broth to rice/corn mix, one ladle at at time, stirring frequently. Add more broth as it is absorbed by rice. Continue this way for about 20 minutes until rice is 'al dente' in a creamy base of sauce. Pour onto serving dish or dishes. Let stand about 2 minutes before eating. Perfecto!

Note: 'al dente' means 'to the tooth' in Italian. The tooth should still still find some substance from the rice grain, it should be as, one Chef said, "a presence". The rice should not be mushy, but it should not be hard either. It should be, like Goldilocks said, "Juuussst riiight".

Chasseur Chicken

Category: Main Dishes
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Pretty Healthy








Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy

This earthy French Bistro classic is literally translated "Hunter's Stew". It's origins are the (probably southern or south-eastern) French countryside where game birds and mushrooms are readily available. I can imagine a ruddy French huntsman coming into his cottage after a morning's hunt, grouse in hand, giving it to his overjoyed wife along with a bag of mushrooms. She hums "Frere Jacques"to herself as she cooks them in a garlicky white wine and tomato sauce. The hunter smiles with delight as she gives serves him a plateful with a loaf of crusty French bread. Common Sense Tip: DO buy shallots for this. But if you don't want to buy them--you can substitute 1/4 chopped onion. My husband especially enjoys this one. Think I'll make it tonight!

Note: I have used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, upon occasion. It tastes fine, but fresh is prettier to look at and better for your health.

Ingredients:

4 t olive oil
1 t butter
2 lbs chicken breasts, boned and cubed
1 C GF flour (in a 9X13 pan)
2 shallots
1 C sliced mushrooms
4 very red tomatoes, peeled and chopped ( blanch them or run hot water over them while you peel them)
2 T chopped parsley
2/3 C. white wine
2/3 C chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil and butter in deep skillet. Roll chicken cubes in GF flour and saute in skillet till brown-ish and cooked through. Set aside. Saute mushrooms in skillet until cooked, but not overcooked (don't let then shrink much). Mix in remaining ingredients except tomatoes to make sauce. Add tomatoes and chopped parsley after sauce is made and simmer with chicken about 10 minutes. Serve with a crusty loaf of French bread and butter, or on a bed of rice. Ooooooooooo!

Trader Vic's Crepes


Catagory: Breads and Brunch
Difficulty: Medium
Not Healthy but does have protein!

My grandmother (Ga-Ga or Gladys) used to make these miraculous French pancakes for us
when we stayed over at her house. I remember her poised over the stove, the smell of sizzling butter filling the breakfast room. She'd put her home-made jam in the middle of the crepe while it was still in the pan. Then, she'd roll them up on the plate. A couple of practiced shakes of the powdered sugar box later, they were done. With the sun shining through bay window, the beautiful china plates and the smell of hot coffee... breakfast was a new revelation indeed. It wasn't just breakfast, it was a celebration!

This is a very easy crepe recipe based on one from "Trader Vic's Helluva Man's Cookbook". Trader Victor Bergeron was VERY French and his mother made them for him also. The eggs make them full of protein--but they don't taste eggy at all. They are almost as quick and easy as making scrambled eggs--a perfect alternative for those of us that want something sweet for breakfast, but need protein too. You can fill them with anything: sausages and apple slices baked previously with butter, cinnamon/sugar, crab with mornay sauce, chicken with a creamy mushroom sauce, scrambled eggs with swiss cheese and pieces of bacon, or fresh strawberries mixed with a little sugar and topped with whupped cream. All good. You can try other fillings--get creative! Don't be afraid, give em a try! Oh, and you don't need a crepe pan--but it does make them come out a uniform size.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
6 T flour (This is for those who are watching carbs, I use 2/3 cup flour--mo bettah.)
3/8 t salt
1 C milk
Butter
Your favorite jam or jelly

Directions: Beat eggs slightly. Add flour, salt, and beat until smooth. Gradually add milk, beating until batter is smooth once again. If possible, cover and chill for 1 hour; then stir before using (I never do this). Heat butter ( about 1/2 t for each crepe) over medium heat in a 7-8 inch crepe pan. (You can use a regular frying pan in a pinch--Mom did!) Pour in about 3 T batter; quickly tilt and rotate pan so batter covers bottom. When lightly brown on bottom, turn and lightly brown on second side. Slip onto a plate or a clean towel. Fill with jam or filling. Roll and either serve immediately while still hot. If you refrigerate filled crepes before serving, heat them at 250 degrees until just warm, not hot. Crepes are wonderful to freeze or refrigerate before using. Simply make them all at once, and as each one is done, place it on a paper plate until cool. Then, layer the paper plates with the crepes and put in a plastic bag to refrigerate or freeze. As they have eggs, I wouldn't freeze them more than a week. Refrigerate about 24 hours at most, or they start getting rubbery.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lauren's Shrimp Scampi








Category: Fish and Shellfish
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium
Healthy

This is a favorite of  my daughter, Lauren. She used to make it in high school, when she had a cooking column in the school paper. The red bell pepper and parsley makes it just a little bit makes it fresher, lighter tasting. Not easy, but not hard, either. Lotsa chopping, so it's Medium.
From "Cooking Light", 6 servings, 383 calories per serving (which is good for scampi).

Ingredients:

2 lbs. large unpeeled or peeled shrimp
3 T butter
1 C chopped red bell pepper
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 C dry white wine
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Paprika
6 C hot cooked GF pasta (Barilla is a good brand)

Directions:

If you have unpeeled shrimp, peel it, leaving tails intact. Starting at tail end, butterfly underside of each shrimp, cutting to, but not through, back of shrimp. De-vein as you go (take the little dark vein on the back of each shrimpie off). Arrange 8 shrimp, cut sides up, in a shallow dish or pan or each of 6 gratin dishes ( I don't have gratin dishes, do you?). Set aside. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in wine, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. spoon wine mixture evenly over each serving; sprinkle paprika over shrimp and broil 6 minutes or until shrimp is done. Serve on top of hot cooked pasta. Yield: 6 servings (8 shrimp per serving).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gelato Di Tartufo

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy

When Mr. Smith, Lauren and I went to Italy, we ate Gelato. A lot. In fact, a funny waiter even called Mr. Smith "Mr. Gelato" because Alan loved that singular frozen dessert soooo much. I especially liked the chocolate gelato. This recipe is one that you can use with gelato or any rich chocolate ice cream. I found it long ago in either a Vogue or a Bazaar magazine. It's a ball of chocolate ice-cream, filled with liqueur-soaked cherries and rolled in bittersweet chocolate shavings. It looks like a truffle--you know, those coal-like black things that the French search for with pigs in the forest. But it tastes... fantastico! Perfect easy dessert for an Italian Festa.

Note: The original recipe was from the now defunct N.Y. restaurant, Cafe Tartufo. It serves 6 chocolate lovers.

Ingredients:

3 C rich chocolate ice cream or gelato
1 box (3 1/2 oz. size) glace cherries
1/4 C Cheri-Suisse liqueur
2 pkg. (8-oz.) bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate
2 C heavy cream
4 T superfine sugar or powdered sugar
1/4 t pure vanilla
6 pirouette cookies

Directions: Two days or more before serving, cut cherries in half and marinate in liqueur at room temperature,. Chop the chocolate very fine (best done in a food processor) and refrigerate. Make 6 ice cream balls and place in individual dishes. Insert in each of the balls 6 halves of the cherries. Roll each ball in chopped chocolate, coating thoroughly. Place the Tartufos in the freezer overnight (if you like they can be frozen for a week ahead). To serve, pipe a dollop of whipped cream into the center of a dessert plate. Place a Tartufo in the corner of the cream and top with a big cap of whipped cream. Sprinkle with finely chopped chocolate and then stick a pirouette cookie into the cream on a diagonal. Looks amazing, tastes even better!

Farmer's Market Pesto Sauce

Category: Rice and Pasta
Difficulty Rating: Very Easy
Fresh and Lighter Fat than regular Pesto

To make a good Pesto sauce you must have fresh basil. You can usually find pretty good basil at your local market, but the best basil at the best prices is at a Farmer's market. Mr. Smith and I usually go to the one in Aptos. Walking amidst the rainbow displays of dahlias, delphiniums, zucchini and strawberries is one of my favorite things to do. Usually there is a group of musicians playing bluegrass tunes. Parents smile and look on as their toddlers dance in front of the band. The music floats on the air as people stroll in the morning sun. Basil is easy to find, you smell it first. Sweet and pungent, it's green leaves beckon, challenging you to 'Go ahead, be Italian! Make Pesto!'.

Note: My grandmother, Gladys, (who was French/Scottish, not Italian) used to make Pesto sauce and put it on hot fettucine. I think the French call it "Pistou". They float it on top of warm vegetable soup--which is absolutely heaven! You can also put it on french bread instead of garlic butter and warm it up! It's also terrific on  roasted chicken or turkey sandwiches!

Common Sense Tip: Pesto should be made when basil is in season in fall. DO double or triple this recipe. I make my Pesto in an ice-cube tray, then dump the cubes into a freezer bag after they're frozen. Microwave for a minute or two to defrost. From The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook. Yield: 1/2 C

Ingredients:

2 T pine nuts (optional)
2 large garlic cloves
2 3/4 C loosely packed fresh basil leaves (about 1.3 oz)
2 T grated fresh Parmesan cheese (use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can afford it)
2 t lemon juice
3 T extra virgin Olive Oil (get a lighter one--it doesn't interfere with the basil taste)

Directions:

Drop pine nuts and garlic through food chute with food processor on, and process until minced. Add basil, cheese and lemon juice; process until finely minced. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well-blended. Toss into hot pasta and top with plenty of freshly grated parmesan. Mangiamo!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chef Lauren's Chicken Parmigiana

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Not Really Healthy--but has vegetables!

This is one of my daughter, Lauren's, specialties. She started making it back when she was at Harbor High School in Santa Cruz, and had a column in the newspaper called "Chef Lauren's Cooking Corner". Later on after college, she also made it, along with her tasty Chicken Piccata for our family. During that time she was living at home and commuting to work over the hill to work at Stanford. I still can't believe she had the energy to cook for us. But, you see, I was very sick at the time and often couldn't cook due to exhaustion. She did it, with the good Lord's help, for me and for her Dad. A labor of love... That, to me, is cooking at it's best.

Note: this is healthy due to the addition of fresh fresh fresh chopped tomatoes--do get the "Vine Ripened" kind for this.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced very fine
Olive Oil cooking spray
3 C peeled, seeded chopped tomato (ok, you really don't have to peel it)
1 1/2 t dried oregano leaves
1 t basil leaves
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 t salt
4 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 C flour
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 C shredded mozzerella cheese

Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray, then turn the stove to low heat. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook for fifteen minutes, or until tender. Add tomato, oregano, basil, pepper and salt; simmer uncovered for forty-five minutes. Set aside.

Place each chicken breast half between two sheets of wax papper or heavy plastic wrap. Flatten with a mallet or a rolling pin (or a covered brick?--jk) until 1/8 inch thick. In a shallow dish, like a pie pan, combine flour and parmesan cheese. Dip each piece of chicken in egg white, and put it in the shallow dish. Make sure the flour mixture covers both sides of the chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add each piece of chicken. Cool five minutes on each side, or until browned. Grease a large baking dish and arrange the chicken in it .
Pour tomato mixture evenly over the chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella and any left-over Parmesan you may have. Bake, uncovered, in the oven at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Serve on a bed of pasta or by itself with fresh, hot french bread and a fresh, crunchy salad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bruschetta

Category:Appetizers
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Sorta Healthy

Bruschetta. It's basically garlic bread toasts, with tomato salad on top. The fam and I went into "Il Pirata" down on Capitola Wharf to have dinner a few years ago and had it there. The rough-looking Italian Chef there corrected me when I called it "Brew-shetta". Apparently, it is rightly pronounced "Brew-SKET-ta". I was very happy to know this. But I was even happier to EAT it!

Since it's starchy, serve it as a first course or appetizer when you serve something non-starchy like"Chicken Piccata", "Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Sauce" or a good ole-fashioned grilled steak. Got this precise recipe from Traditional Home magazine 2002, but it's so easy usually I don't even use a recipe. Serves 6-8

Toast Ingredients:

1 thinly sliced sweet French baguette
2 or 3 garlic cloves
olive oil

 Rub each slice with cut side of a garlic clove, then brush or drizzle with olive oil. Broil or grill for 1 or 2 minutes until lightly browned. Cool. (Toasts may be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours in covered container or plastic bag)

Tomato Salad Ingredients:

4 Roma tomatoes or "Tomatoes on the Vine", seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 C)
--use only the best ripe red ones!
2 T fresh basil, cut into strips
1 T olive oil

Stir together tomatoes, basil, oil, salt, and pepperto taste. Cover; chill up to 4 hours. Makes about 1 1/4 C. salad. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before topping toast.  Buono! Now you have an appetizer fit for an Italian King!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mom's Party Chicken...UPDATE!

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy

There is something about this chicken that keeps you asking for more. They loved it at our church, Elevation, the other night. It is scruuuumptious! The bacon keeps the chicken moist while the chipped beef makes it salty and the sour cream makes it---richly satisfying. Mom used to make this--it was out of a small locally produced cookbook called "Make it Now, Bake it Later". And, yes, you can. Make it one day, and bake it the next. Excellent for large groups and small. Freezes well. Serves 8.

Ingredients:

8 good-sized chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
8 slices bacon
1 pkg. chipped beef (also called "Dried Beef")
1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can use the low-fat version)
1/2 pt. commercial sour cream

Directions:

Wrap each chicken breast with a piece of bacon. cover bottom of flat greased baking dish (about 8X12X12, but 9X12 will do) with chipped beef. Arrange chicken breasts on top of beef. Mix soup and sour cream together in a bowl and pour evenly over all. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake at 275 degrees for 3 hours, uncovered. Should have brown spots here and there on the top when it's done. If it doesn't broil it for 10 minutes until it does.

Black and White Cheesecake

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

As one person said after taking a bite of this cheesecake last night, "This is a WOW!". It really is. The combination of dark chocolate cheesecake layered with vanilla cheesecake is a winning one. It sort of reminds me of the "Tuxedo" cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory restaurant. The original recipe in Women's Day magazine, September 1994, had a different crust. I substituted a cookie crust and it tasted just as good, and was a whole lot easier.Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake in a spring-form pan, or two small (8") pies.

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 lb. package oreo cookies, crushed fine in the food processor (makes 1 1/4 C chocolate crumbs)
1/3 C butter, melted

Filling:

5 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/4 C water.
3 pkg.s (8 oz. each) cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Garnish: 1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8-inch springform pan ready. Process about 3/4 package Oreos until finely ground. Add melted butter and process a couple of minutes more. Press into the bottom and up 2 inches of the sides. Bake 10 minutes and let cool.

Melt semisweet chocolate with 1/4 C water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. or, microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes in microwave safe 2- cup measure. Keep warm. Then beat cream cheese in a large bowl with electric mixer until it begins to smooth out. Scrape bowl and beaters well with rubber spatula. Add sugar gradually, beating until just smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating just until mixed. Set aside 1 cup batter in a small bowl. Spoon remainder of vanilla batter into cooled crust . Stir warm chocolate into reserved batter. Spoon out chocolate batter evenly on top of the vanilla.

Bake one hour and 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave it inside 10 more minutes as the oven cools. Take out of the oven, put pan on a rack and cool. Take a mixing bowl and invert over the top of pan, so as to slow down cooling. This hopefully will prevent large cracks which occur when a hot cheesecake hits cold air. After it's cooled cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cake can be refrigerated up to 4 days. Spoon a mound of whipped cream on the top and put on the buffet table, OR serve slices with piped whipped cream on the side! But you gotta have creammmmm!

Philadelphia Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

It's Fall, when a young man's heart turns to...not love, like in Spring. It turns to pumpkin!!! I find most men/boys I know love pumpkin in food. This cheesecake is easy, delish and a fun addition at fall gatherings--tailgate parties, Thanksgiving etc. You only see the pumpkin swirl from the side as you cut in, not the top. So heap or pipe on a pile of whipped heavy cream at the last minute for a garnish. It's luscious looking and covers up any cracks.

This recipe is from an olde "Philadelphia Cream Cheese" magazine ad. I use only their cream cheese for cheese cake. The cheaper, generic brands are too gummy. No, they aren't paying me to say that. Makes at least 12 servings.

Ingredients:
Make one Classic Graham Cracker Crust (I use HoneyMaid Grahams)
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened.
1 C sugar, divided
1 t vanilla
3 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
dash cloves
OR 1 1/4 t pumpkin pie spice instead of the above spices ( I use this--cos it's easy)

Directions for filling:

Beat cream cheese, 3/4 C of the sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time at low speed After each addition. Add pumpkin, and spices into remaining batter. Spoon 1/2 of the pumpkin batter over crust; top with spoonfuls of 1/2 of the reserved plain batter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with a knife several ( like 10) times for a marbled effect). Note: I find making alternating the batters in almost a "checkerboard"to be helpful before making swirls with a knife. And I do intentionally make swirls, I don't just run the knife through.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it "rest" inside the oven for another 10. Cheesecake is done when a tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove from pan after it is cool by loosening cake from the sides of the pan with a knife and removing sides of springform. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.


Classic Graham Cracker Crust:

Ingredients:
8 whole graham crackers (or 1 wax paper package) crushed. Should make about 1 1/4 C
1/4 C sugar ( I use a heaping T)
1/3 C butter, melted

Mix ingredients together. Spread in and about 2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, or two 8-inch pie pans. (At this point, I would like to acknowledge and thank Marie Callendar's for supplying me with so many cheap pie pans, which I still use). Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool a bit before filling.

Crust: Philly uses a ginger snap crust in this recipe. I tried it and it gets too darn wet and mushy for my taste. I love ginger snaps, but this was a bad idea.

Curried Apple Butternut Squash Soup








Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Very Healthy

This heart-warming recipe started a revolution in the culinary world in the 1970s. Butternut squash soup is everywhere now, even in boxes at Trader Joe's! But 40 years ago, in the midst of a time when most people were eating canned soup, no one had even heard of it. Then, Julie Rosso and Sheila Lutkins started a fabulous gourmet food shoppe in Manhattan, New York, called "The Silver Palate". This recipe is famous... Both Ina Garten and Wolfgang Puck have facsimiles at their food stops. Wolfie even purees roasted red bell pepper and swirls it on top . Very pretty, very good! Serves 4-6. From 'The Silver Palate Cookbook".

Ingredients:

4 T sweet butter
2 C finely chopped yellow onions
4-5 t curry powder
2 medium-sized butternut squash (about 3 lbs altogether)
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 C chicken stock (it's ok to use canned--but homemade is mui better)
1 C apple juice
salt and black pepper to taste

Garnish:
2-3 red bell peppers, washed, seeded, halved and roasted in the oven till soft and a few chopped green onions or chives OR
1 Shredded unpeeled Granny Smith apple

Directions:

Melt butter in a soup pot. Add chopped onions and curry powder and cook, covered, over low heat until onions are tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the squash ( vegetable peeler works best), scrape out the seeds and chop the flesh. When onions are tender, pour in stock and add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender, about 25 minutes. Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving liquid, and transfer the solids to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or use a food mill (does anyone have one any more?) fitted with a medium disc. Add 1 C of the cooking stock and process until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and add apple juice and additional cooking liquid, about 2 C, until soup is of the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer briefly to heat through, and serve immediately, garnished with shredded apple or a swirl of pureed red bell pepper or sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

Note: At Wolgang Puck's cafe in South Lake Tahoe, I saw them using what looked like old-time mustard squeeze bottles to apply the swirls--quick and easy if you are serving a crowd. Either save and use a clean catsup or mustard bottle, or buy one! You can also just try putting a blob of puree in the middle and swirling it with a fork. Not as pretty, tho.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gad Zukes! Shredded Zucchini!








Category: Vegetables
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Healthy

This is great for using up that extra zucchini from your garden as well as pleasing your people. Nutmeg is the secret ingredient. It looks gourmet but it's easy. And it's pretty healthy to boot!

Ingredients:

6 small zucchini (you can also add a cup of shredded, peeled carrots for color if you wish)
2 T butter
6 green onions
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Shred zucchini with a large size shredder or food processor with a coarser shredding disk. Drain on paper towels for a few minutes. Place zucchini in a large saucepan or skillet with butter and green onions. Turn on high heat and toss zucchini mixture until just heated through. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg. Serve immediately, sprinkling with Parmesan cheese if you wish.

Zucchini Bread for Knit Wits

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Another way to use a bumper crop of zucchini is to make a quick bread. I know women who make many loaves of this in summer and freeze it to use whenever they need it. In any case, it's great with coffee or tea in the morning for breakfast. This is from "Delicious Desserts from the Knit Wits" from Santa Cruz Bible Church circa 2011. As I have mentioned in a previous recipe, this wonderful group of women donate their knitted blankets, scarves, hats etc. to the homeless. They also have a really good time chatting and eating desserts! And if you have a health problem that needs a quick diagnosis, just go to one of their meetings. They are incredibly good diagnosticians and will tell you exactly what is wrong with your bod. They will also feed you yummy things and teach you how to knit, which is even better.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 C zucchini, grated
2 t vanilla
2 C sugar
1 c oil
3 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
3 t cinnamon

Directions:

Beat eggs until foamy; add sugar, zucchini, vanilla and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together; flour salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; mix well; stir in nuts. Pour batter into 2 prepared loaf pans ( I use 7-inch aluminum so I can give them away). Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini Grande Ole

Category: Beef
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Pretty Healthy

There were a couple of summers in my childhood, when my mom's friends grew zucchini. A LOT of zucchini. In fact, people had so many of the ubiquitous squash it got so they wouldn't even ask if you wanted them. They would just leave a bag of them on your doorstep, ring the bell, and run away! Gad zukes! The little ones were easy to use in salads and vegie dishes. But what do you do with a zucchini the size of a small submarine? Answer: you stuff it.

Ingredients:

1 large (2 to 2 1/2 pound, 13-15 inch long) zucchini
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 small (6-0z.) onion, chopped
1 small (about 6 oz) red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 T chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilis
1 can corn, drained
1 can (8-oz) Mexican style stewed tomatoes
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1/4 C fine dry bread crumbs (it's best to buy them--unseasoned)
1/2 C shredded Jack cheese
Cilantro sprigs

Cut zucchini in half, lenthwise. scoop out and discard soft, seedy center. Scoop out amddiscard soft, seedy center. Scoop out enough flesh to make a 1/2 thick zucchini shell. Coarsley chop flesh and reserve. Place squash, cut side up, in a 10 by 15 inch baking pan. Meanwhile, in a 10 to 12 inch frying pan over high heat, frequently stir beef, onion and bell pepper until meat is crumbled and browned, 8-10 minutes. Drain off and discard fat. Mix into pan the chili powder, cumin, chilies, corn, tomatoes, and reserved chopped zucchini (only use the part without seeds). Boil on high heat, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes; stir often. Mix in chopped cilantro, bread crumbs and half the cheese. Spoon all filling equally into zucchini shells in pan.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until zucchini is soft when pierced and filling is hot in the center, 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle filling with remaining cheese; bake until cheese browns lightly, 10-15 minutes longer. With wide spatuals, put zucchini on platter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Cut in wide slices. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Calories: 209 per serving.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Cake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

When I was making this cake for the photo, it filled the house with an ultra-seductive cinnamon-chocolate scent. It smelled so good when it came out of the oven I had to give some to Mr. Smith (my husband) with vanilla ice cream in order to have a small spoonful myself. Omigoodness, it was almost as good as falling in love! Later, I found Mr. Smith, bent over the kitchen counter, rear end wagging slightly, sneaking another piece! Is there no honor among men? Actually, I don't blame him. It really is irresistible. Warning: if you are making this for company, make a double batch and make cupcakes, 2 bread pans or another bundt for your family. At the very least, make a cupcake out of some of the batter, because YOU will want some as soon as it leaves the oven!

This cake is stunningly beautiful! I put it on a plate made by "Annie Glass" --a local artisan glass company. Serve it and just look at it a while. Or take it to a pot-luck and wow the crowd. Originally published in Sunset Magazine, this makes one large bundt cake (12-16 servings).
Note: Be sure and take a little batter and make yourself a cupcake--because once it's out of the oven you will not be able to hold yourself back from tasting it!


Ingredients:

1 1/2 C butter, at room temperature
3 C sugar
6 large eggs
2 t vanilla
1 1/4 C canned pumpkin
2 3/4 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
3/4 C Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa ( I use Droste)
2/3 C buttermilk
Chocolate glaze (see ingredients below)

Directions:

In large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape half the mixture into another bowl.

To make pumpkin batter; Beat pumpkin into half the butter mixture until well blended. In another bowl, stir together 1 3/4 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed. or fold in with a rubber spatula just until blended.

To make chocolate batter: In another bowl, mix remaining 1 C flour, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, and the cocoa. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the other half of the butter mixture (start and end with flour), beating after each addition just until blended.

Spoon half the pumpkin batter into a buttered and floured 12-cup bundt pan. Note: A Bundt cake that won't come out of the pan is doomed! Be sure and get the butter (or Crisco) in all the nooks and crannys. I have also found putting pieces of torn baking parchment at the bottom of the pan to be effective along with buttering it. After spooning in pumpkin batter, drop in half the chocolate batter on top--almost but not entirely covering the pumpkin. Repeat with the rest of the batters, ending with pumpkin. Gently run a butter knife around the center of the pan several times. the draw the knife across the width of the pan in 10 to 12 places to swirl batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven or 325 degree convection oven until a wood skewer or piece of dried spaghetti comes out with a just few moist crumbs attached or clean, 55-60 minutes. Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then loosen edges with a knife, invert on a rack, lift off pan and cool cake completely.

Pour warm chocolate glaze over top of cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let stand until glaze is set, about 2 hours, or chill 30 minutes.

Chocolate Glaze: In a double boiler, melt 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, 2 T butter and 1 T corn syrup in a 1 qt. saucepan over low heat, until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly and drizzle over cake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cathy's Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Cathy Carter made these for a Women's Ministries luncheon way back in the olden times of the 1980's. There we all were, sitting around, eating lunch in our Mom jeans and permed hair! For those of you who were there, this is in the WOW Ministries Cookbook. I've made them a few times and never get tired of them. If you crave pumpkin cheesecake, but want something easy and no-fail, make these. Your friends or family will love them! Makes about 12 2-inch squares. This dessert can be a little messy looking if you don't serve it with whipped cream on top...but for the fam, no cream is necessary.

Ingredients:

2 C flour
2/3 C packed brown sugar
10 T butter (or 1/2 C plus 2 T)
1 C chopped pecans
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C pumpkin
4 eggs
3 t cinnamon
1 t allspice
2 t vanilla

Directions:

Combine flour, brown sugar in bowl. Cut in butter to make a crumb mixture. Stir in nuts. Set aside 1 1/2 C mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into a 9X13" pan. Bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. combine remaining ingredients, blend until smooth. Pour over baked crust and sprinkle with remaining crust mixture. Bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate before you serve. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a pecan if you want it to be pretty! Put it on the plates, clean up the edges a bit, put on cream with a spoon or a frosting bag, then sprinkle on chopped pecans or just one whole pecan. "Easy Peasy", as the Brits say!

Pumpkin Soup

Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Ridiculously Easy

Fall is coming! When the leaves turn amber and citrine and pumpkins grow as big as basketballs. When she was little, we used to take Lauren to Portola Valley's Webb Ranch and let her pick out a Jack O' Lantern. I remember the clean smell of cornstalks, and the sight of little one's heads bobbing up and down, searching for the perfect pumpkin. "I got one!" they'd yell. Fall is also a perfect time for pumpkin soup. Here's an easy one the Whitson clan has been making for years. From "The San Francisco Junior League Cookbook" circa 1979. Serves 6 to 8.

4 T butter
4 green onions and tops, chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 T flour
4 C chicken stock
3 C pumpkin puree (Libby's Libby's Libby's)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t mace
1/4 t white pepper
4 C chicken stock
3 C pumpkin puree
1/2 t salt
1/2 t mace
1/4 t white pepper
3/4 C fat-free half and half
Croutons and/or whipping cream

Directions:

Melt 3 T of butter until foamy, add onions and saute until limp. Sprinkle with four, cook and stir for 3 minutes, then gradually add chicken stock. Cook and stir until smooth and thickened. Add pumpkin puree , seasonings, and half and half. Reheat without boiling and adjust seasonings to tast. Stir in remaining 1 T butter until just melted. Serve immediately, topped with croutons and/or a swirl of whipping cream. To swirl cream, float a T or so of heavy cream inn the middle of a bowl of soup. Take a knife and starting from the center of the cream, swirl the cream out into a spiral on top of the soup. It should float! Then, put on chopped green onions or a few croutons. Pretty!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Olde- Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Category: Cookies
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Pretty healthy for a cookie

Lauren loves pumpkin. So I am including this recipe especially for her. There is a famous bakery in Santa Cruz called The Buttery that has pumpkin cookies a lot like this. People enjoy them in the famous yellow eatery visiting with friends and slurping good coffee. The Buttery adds walnuts and raisins. Your choice whether you want to or not. Since they are like muffins, go ahead, have a couple for breakfast with coffee. I just eat the tops off of muffins anyway--who needs the rest?

Ingredients:

2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C pumpkin puree
1 lg. egg
1 t vanilla
1 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C raisins

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets, or use baking parchment. Combine flour, baking soda, b. powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixer bowl. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla till smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake 15-18 minutes till edges form. Bake 15-18 minutes till edges are firm. Drizzle glaze over cookies when cool by "wagging" it from a fork suspended over them.

Glaze: Combine 2 C sifted powdered sugar, 3 T milk, 1 T melted butter, 1 t vanilla until smooth.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ninety-Nine Milers

Category: Cookies
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Ultra Bad for You!

My sister Sarah (Beach) used to make these candy-laden cookies for her son, Nate's, track team. Nate is a fantastic runner who actually went to Nationals a couple of times. His Dad, Sarah's hubby Tad, coached the team. Sarah and Nate actually made these cookies up. Apparently, Nate got a little crazy one day and just kept adding more candy to the dough! They named them "Ninety-Milers" because they figured people would have to run ninety miles to work off the calories of just one. HOWEVER, if you have teenage boys who are involved in any sport, make these for them. They probably need the calories, and they will be a BIG hit! Circa 2003.

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter
2 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
1 bag Heath bar chips
1/2 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips (Guitard is my favorite)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 2 sticks of butter with 2 C of dark brown sugar until creamy. Add 2 eggs, mix thoroughly. Add vanilla. Then, mix in flour, salt and baking soda. After completely combined, add any or all of the candy listed above. For the benefits of a full sugar high, do add all of them. Serving these warm from the oven with cold glass of milk is highly advised.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raspberry Squares --Easy Frangipane

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

I used to make something called "Frangipane"--a French cookie bar that required almond paste, raspberry preserves, sliced almonds and whole a lot of bowls to make. Look it up online if you want to try it...it's divine. However, I have found this easier, less expensive recipe to be almost as good. It's from "The California Farm Cookbook" by Kitty Morse. Serve with vanilla ice cream and extra (toasted it) coconut on the side. Makes 30 bars.

Note: If you have homemade preserves, you can use them in this.

Ingredients:

3/4 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/4 t almond extract
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 C pecans or almonds, finely chopped (this means almost ground-up)
1/4 t salt
1 8-oz. jar raspberry preserves (1 cup)
1/2 C coconut

In a medium mixing bowl beater the softened butter, sugar, and almond extract until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, chopped pecans, and salt. Beat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 C of the flour mixture. Press remaining flour mixture into the bottom of an un-greased 13X 9X2-inch baking pan. Spread the raspberry preserves evenly over crust. Sprinkle preserves with the reserved flour mixture and coconut. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the curst and top are golden. Cool int the pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars..

Another Scottish Shortbread

Category: Cookies and Bars (just show me to the bar!)
Difficulty Rating: Easy

While the previous Scottish Shortbread is absolutely amazing and great for gift-giving, this recipe is what I would make for my family when a quick dessert is needed. Because it contains rice flour and a lot of butter, it has a light,tender, and buttery crumb--almost like a butter cookie. This authentic Scottish recipe is from a thin paperback cookbook called : Traditional Scottish Cookery. My husband says it's the best shortbread he has ever tasted. Enjoy with hot tea on a gray day!

Ingredients:

1/2 C flour
1/4 C rice flour (in the organic section of your grocery)
1/4 C superfine sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 C butter, softened just to room temperature--not mooshy

Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and salt. Work in flour with your hands. Roll dough into a ball. Flatten with heel of hand into a circle, 1/4 inch thick. It should measure around 6-7 inches.
Put on lightly greased pan or (preferably) baking parchment on a cookie sheet. Score into triangles like you would cut a pizza. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake until a light tan (about 20 minutes in my oven). Wait 2 minutes and cut on score marks just like a pizza. Let cool before eating (if you can wait that long).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Highland Fling Shortbread with Chocolate or Caramel

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Medium

The Scots have contributed quite a few things to the welfare of mankind. Penicillin, sheep cloning, Scotch Whiskey, oatmeal, Dr. Livingston, Alexander Graham Bell (of Scottish descent), Morse Code, Sean Connery and...Scots Shortbread.  Highlanders, which are a combination Norse and Scots, tend to be larger folk...and they like to eat! Cock-a-leekie soup is delicious, and oat scones are fabulous. If  you go to the Scottish Games, DO NOT try the haggis. Do, however, find and devour the biggest piece of homemade Scots Shortbread you can find. It is, in my mind, the greatest Scottish contribution to the world. And it tastes a whole lot better than penicillin.

This superb shortbread recipe was found on the back of a shortbread pan box purchased at The Games. I bought the pan partly to get the recipe. It was worth it.


Ingredients:

1/2 C butter just at room temperature, not mooshy
1/3 C powdered sugar (unsifted)
1/4 t vanilla
1 C flour (unsifted)

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Butter should be as cold as possible--yet still creamy. Cream in powdered sugar, then vanilla. Now work in flour with clean hands. Knead dough on an un-floured board until nice and smooth. Spray shortbread pan very lightly with non-stick vegetable spray. Firmly press dough into shortbread pan OR roll into a ball, then flatten with the heel of your hand into a round about 1/4 inch thick. Place round on parchment on cookie sheet. Note: Thicker is better than thinner. Thin shortbread breaks easily.

Score round with knife indicating where future triangles will be cut (like cutting a pizza). If you are using a shortbread pan or a 9X13 pan, score squares (see Note 1). Prick the entire surface of the shortbread with a fork--about 6 times or one fork prick per shortbread triangle or square. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until just a hint of tan appears. Let shortbread cool 2 minutes before cutting on score marks with a sharp knife and removing from pan. If you have a square shortbread pan, loosen edges and flip pan gently over to remove after cutting.

Note 1: Many people like to cut their shortbread into stars, bars or circles that look like buttons with two holes in the middle of each circle. Your choice!

Note 2: I prefer my shortbread plain, but if you like chocolate on it, see Options 1 and 2. Option 3 is for caramel lovers--mmmmmm!


Option 1: While shortbread cools, melt 1 T shortening in a double boiler. Add 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. Melt and combine completely. Dip a fork into the mixture, grabbing a little chocolate on it. Suspend fork over shortbread and "wag" it back and forth. Repeat until squiggles of chocolate are all over the triangles or squares. Your choice: sprinkle on nuts, jimmies, or candy bits before chocolate cools. Or leave plain.

Option 2: Melt chocolate and shortening as in Option 1. Gently take pieces of cooled shortbread off of pan and dip the largest side in the chocolate. Your choice: sprinkle on nuts, jimmies or candy bits before chocolate cools. Or leave plain.

Option 3: Make the following caramel dip for shortbread:

Ingredients:

1/2 C dk. brown sugar
1/4 C butter
2 T heavy cream
pinch salt
1/4 C powdered sugar
1 C ground pecans or pistachios

Directions:

For the caramel, combine brown sugar and butter in med. saucepan and bring mixture to boil. Let cook for 1 minute, then remove pan from heat. Stir in cream, salt and powdered sugar. Dip largest end of cookies or one end of bars in caramel. Immediately roll in ground nuts--pecans or pistachios are best.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Uncle Bill's Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

This is another incredible recipe from the Shelby family who lived near to us when I was growing up. I think it was Julie who made these for us once. It is a white frosted gingerbread cookie that was famous for being made by Sally Shelby's brother Bill. It is a 'cozy' cookie--perfect for fall weather with a mug of steaming cider. You can also make them into Halloween or Harvest cookies by coloring the icing with orange (or a mixture of red and yellow) food coloring. Use candy corn or harvest-colored sprinkles to decorate the tops.

Ingredients:

2 C sugar
1 C shortening
1 C molasses
2 eggs
1 C sour milk (put 1 t. lemon or white vinegar in a cup of milk to sour)
1 T ginger
1 T cinnamon
1 t salt
4 t soda
2 t cream of tartar
5 C flour

Directions:

Cream sugar/shortenings. Add wet ingredients. mix and add dry stuff. Drop from a spoonon greased and floured cookie sheets. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Powdered Sugar Icing:

4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
2 T soft butter
1 t vanilla

Add enough milk to the above until it becomes a thin spreading consistency. Spread on cookies, leaving a margin at the sides after they are cool. Let them harden before eating.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Blossoms

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Everybody has the recipe for these. They are those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses in the middle? Except this recipe is not the one you will find today at the Betty Crocker Recipe Site.
This one is a Pillsbury recipe gotten from an olde magazine ad when I was about 10. It has slightly more shortening than the other one, so it makes cookies that don't split as much around the edges. Great cookies, everyone who likes peanut butter and chocolate likes them. So if you don't have the recipe, here it is, boo-boo!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 C flour
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C shortening
1/2 C peanut butter
1 egg
2 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
48 milk chocolate candly kisses

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except kisses. shape dough into balls--a rounded teaspoonful of each. Roll balls in sugar (I use a paper plate or a piece of wax paper for this). Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Top each cookie with a coandy kiss immediately. Press down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge.

Ranger Cookies

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Ranger Cookies have been around for a very long time. They go back at least to the 1950s, probably further. They used to sell them at the "Pink Pastry" bakery in Menlo Park. As children, Sarah and I used to occasionally go there with Mom. When we first walked in, the frosting-scented air hit us like a sugar-coated brick. We breathed deep and smiled. Then we saw them. Rows and rows of cookies. There were: Sugar with raisins, oatmeal, brownies with fudge frosting, white spritz with cherries in the middle, chocolate chip and ranger cookies. Because Mom baked, we almost never had bakery goods. So when we went in, it was like...cookie heaven! You will love Ranger Cookies. I found this recipe in the "Palo Alto Times" in the 1980s. The Rice Krispies make them crunchy, and the oats make them chewy. Fabulous!

Note: Do make these with shortening instead of butter. Sorry, health conservatives! :) Yield: I have noooo idea.. maybe 3 dozen?

1 C shortening
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 C quick oatmeal
2 C Rice Krispies
1 C shredded coconut

Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth. sift flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add and mix thoroughly. Add oatmeal, rice cereal, coconut and mix. The dough will be crumbly. Shape into balls the size of a walnut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet (or parchment) and press slightly. Bake 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.