Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fresh Blueberry Fuffins

Catagory: Breads*
Difficulty: Very Easy
Not Very Healthy

When she was a toddler... my daughter called muffins "fuffins". Happiness is a warm home-made muffin with eggs,bacon and French roast cawfee on a winter weekend. Or any weekend. The only problem is , home-made "fuffin" recipes almost always turn out a little too tough and too flour-y for my taste. Give me a wonderful store-bought muffin any day over those! But this recipe is different. I think my sister Sarah first found these... they melt in your mouth! And so easy to whip up for a lazy weekend breakfast! From San Francisco A La Carte Junior League Cookbook Yield: 12 muffins 


1 1/2 C flour--unsifted
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 C sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 C milk
4 T melted butter
1C fresh or frozen blueberries (frozen works really well!)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar into mixing bowl.
In separate bowl or in a liquid measuring cup, measure and thoroughly combine milk, egg and butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in milk mixture, stirring with a fork untill just moistened. Fold in berries, folding no more than 5 times (otherwise you will have blue muffins). Spoon into 8 buttered muffin tins all the way full. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or cool. May be frozen and micorwaved for 30 seconds any day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Company's Coming Mashed Potatoes

Catagory: Side Dishes
Difficulty: Easy
Not healthy but perfect for a Holiday dinner!

The "For Goodness Taste" cookbook of the Junior League of Rochester NY says" This special potato dish can be refrigerated for 4-5 days and baked as needed, or cooked all at once and reheated for delicious leftovers." A great side dish...this goes with any meat or poultry (see Earthquake Steak or Pork Medallions with Kalamata Olives and Capers). I believe anything that can be made ahead a couple of days is a blessing to the (harried) cook.

Snobby-Sounding Note: This is wonderful with Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignion or Coq Au Vin featured in the classic cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".


5 lbs medium potatoes
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 C sour cream
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Paprika (optional) and/or chopped chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub, peel, and boil potatoes until tender. Beat cream cheese and sour cream together with butter (anything with all of these HAS to be good). Add potatoes and smash until semi-smooth . Stir in salt and pepper. Pour into a well-oiled 2-qt. casserole. If you choose, you can sprinkle the top with paprika or some chopped chives for color . Potatoes can be warmed in the oven, refrigerated or frozen at this point. Bake (defrosted) 30 minutes before you serve, 8-10 servings. If you love garlic and can't do without it, add a couple of tablespoons minced garlic, be sure and saute it in butter first and mix it in just before baking the casserole.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Herbed Spinach-Quinoa Casserole for a Buffet

Category: Side Dishes
Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Healthy--except for the cheese!

Growing up, I remember Mom  having lots of dinner parties. About one a month. She would be sitting at one end of the table, with my father seated on the opposite end. She was so charming and gracious, you'd never know she had been cooking for two days. Heavenly fragrances wafted in from the kitchen where large pots were simmering and not-to-touch chocolate desserts cooled. The table would be beautiful, with a white tablecloth, candlelight and whatever silver we, her children, hadn't played with in the sandbox. "The secret to a good party is the people", she'd say, "and great food." Here's one of her stand-by recipes for buffets...originally from the Junior League of San Francisco's "San Francisco A La Carte". Bring it to the next Pot-Luck!

10-oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach (defrosted)
1 C cooked quinoa (Mom used rice)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 C milk or almond or coconut milk (Mom used regular milk)
1 t salt
2 T chopped onion
1 C grated Asiago or cheddar cheese (sharp is best)
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t rosemary

Note: The thing about using sharp cheddar is that you get more flavor for less cheese. So it ends up being less expensive and tastier by far.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Pour into a buttered 9X9 baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted int the center comes out clean. If you are serving this to a crowd, I highly recommend doubling or tripling the recipe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake Steak or Ribs

Catagory:Main Dishes
Difficulty: Easy

Want a recipe that will fill your mouth with an EARTHQUAKE of flavor? This is it. Found originally in the Junior League cookbook called "For Goodness Taste" from Rochester, New York, it's almost too good to be true. If you have the cookbook, you'll find it under "Baked Steak" which I thought was boring so I renamed it. Hint: if you like BBQed spareribs, you'll like this. I used large sirloin steaks from Costco that were not the highest quality, and it was still wonderful. Especially the second day...oohhh the carmelization! Serve with either baked potatoes or "Company Mashed Potatoes' which will be posted in the next blog.


2-3 inch thick boneless sirloin steaks (3-5 pounds)
3 T melted butter
1 cup Chili sauce
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 chopped onion


Sear steak on all sides under broiler, then put in a greased 9 X 12 baking dish. Combine butter, chili sauce, Worcestershire, and onion. Pour over steak; bake 45 minutes for rare. The sauce should carmelize a bit before you serve it. Let the steaks stand for two minutes before slicing and serving. I serve it to my family this way, or for company you can make a sauce to go with it:

Mushroom Sauce Ingredients:

2 T butter
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 C Chili sauce
1 C heavy cream


While steaks are baking, saute mushrooms in butter; add remaining ingredients and cook over med. heat until slightly thickened (about 15 minutes). Serve over steak.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pork Medallions with Olive-Caper Sauce

Category: Main Dishes
Difficulty: Easy
Fairly Healthy

I've decided this is my new "go-to" recipe.  It's really convenient, because jars of Kalamata olives and capers keep in the refrigerator for about a year, so they can just be on hand for this recipe whenever you need them. Common Sense Tip: you can also buy small 'picnic' sized bottles of wine that come in six-packs if you don't want to open a whole bottle. They're good to have on hand for other cooking too. I use a lot of wine when I cook-- but I hardly ever drink it. Alcohol makes me break out! It is, however, an irreplaceable element in my cooking.

8  thin boneless pork chops
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 C flour
1 T olive oil
1/2 C dry white wine
1/2 C fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 C coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 T capers
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Directions: If you can only find thick boneless chops--buy 4 and cut each one through the middle to make thin pork chops Place each pork piece between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thickness, using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle both sides of pork with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie pan. Dredge pork in flour, turning to coat, shake off excess flour. Heat 1 1/2 t olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of pork, cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork mixture from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and pork. Return pork to pan. Add wine and broth, bring to a boil. Stir in olives and capers, cook 4 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Sombrero Salad from "Little Tampico" Restaurant

Catagory:Main Dishes
Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Ole Ole! This is my favorite salad in the world. It is featured on the menu at 'Little Tampico' on Main Street in Soquel, California. Our family went there at least once a month in the 90's. I got the Sombrero every time as part of a Fajita. Lauren always got a taco plate. My hubby got whatever he felt like at the moment--usually a pork burrito the size of a French bread! Honestly, their burritos are big enough to eat Alan! And he's not a little guy! Alas, the restaurant has changed the "Sombrero' recipe a bit through the years--no more grapefruit in the salad the last time I was there! They use tomatoes instead now, which you can do too, if you can't find pink grapefruit. But here is is as I remember it... magnifico!

Note: This is best and very pretty, served as a 'salade compose' which means it isn't tossed. So get out your salad platter or your individual plates before proceeding... Serves 4 (this can be a vegetarian summer lunch or dinner if you add sliced grilled chicken.)


1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, ripped into pieces and crisped in the refrigerator
1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned (cut into sticks)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
Optional Protein: grilled sliced chicken
1/2 C pine-nuts or toasted shelled sunflower seeds
2 large pink grapefruit , peeled, and sectioned

Salsa Vinaigrette:

1T fresh prepared salsa
2 T washed, minced, fresh cilantro leaves
4 T white wine vinegar
4 T olive oil
2 t dried oregano (this is the key ingredient)
Salt to taste

Mix cilantro and salsa with oregano with the rest of the Vinaigrette ingredients separately in a small mixing bowl. Salt to taste. If you choose to use grilled chicken, use half of the vinaigrette to marinate raw chicken breasts in a separate small bowl for at least 30 minutes.

Compose salad on platter or plates by layering on ingredients in order of size, going from largest to smallest. First on the plate should be the lettuce, then sliced red bell pepper, avocado, jicama, oranges, and finally the mushrooms . Arrange them in a "wagon wheel" shape. Generously spoon grapefruit pulp on the very top of the composition, kind of like pink snow on a mountain peak. Finally, sprinkle on some pine nuts. Put 2-3 large spoonfuls of Salsa Vinaigrette on top of it all. Serve to 4 grinning people. Note: Needless to say, if you compose this earlier in the day to eat later, be sure and dunk your avocados in grapefruit or lemon juice before you put them on the plate (to avoid browning, 'natch). If you are adding chicken, grill it then slice one breast on top of each small salad in the wagon wheel shape.

Note: When making this for a crowd, I cut down on costs by just using lettuce, orange sections, jicama, cilantro and pine nuts with dressing. Less money, still good!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Joe and Lauren's Sherried Tomato Soup

Catagory: Soups
Difficulty: Easy
Not Healthy

This soup tastes like...the way you feel when you are wrapped in a blanket on the couch in front of a fire on a rainy day. It is deep and rich and full of solace. A while back, Joe, my daughter's boyfriend, went on a cross-country trip to deliver a car to another state. On the way, he ate a lot of food at a lot of restaurants. Somewhere along the way he had a delectable tomato soup with a touch of sherry in it. So, with high hopes of it's duplication he brought the description of it back to Lauren. She, being very much in love with Joe, found it...on a very good blog site called "The Pioneer Woman".

Sherried Tomato Soup:

6 T melted butter
1 whole medium onion, diced
1 bottle, 46 oz., tomato juice
2 cans (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1T (up to 3 T) powdered chicken bouillion
3 T (up to 6) sugar or Palm sugar (to taste)
1 pinch salt
black pepper to taste
1 C good sherry (do not use cooking sherry-blech!)
1 1/2 C heavy cream
chopped flat-leaf parsley
chopped fresh basil

Directions: Saute diced onions in butter until transluscent. Then add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken boullion, sugar, salt, pepper and stir. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat. Add sherry and cream and stir. Add parsley and basil to taste. Eat some, and save some for a rainy day (freezes well).

Croque Monsieur (French Gilled Cheese Sandwich)

Catagory: Main Dish
Difficulty: Easy
Not Healthy AT ALL!

Alan and I had this terrific French version of "Grilled Cheese" at a little hole-in-the-wall cafe in San Francisco called "Arlequin". Small tables, friendly folks, great food. Very neighbor-hoody! Not that they all wear hoodies, but the neighborhood people do seem to go there. Anyhoo, they used really good sliced San Francisco sour-dough bread, truly wonderful imported Emanthaller Swiss cheese, thick deli-cut slices of Black Forest ham and Dijon mustard. I honestly think that there are elves curing hams in the Black Forest. That's what makes it super-melt-in-yer-mouth good. Have this with Sherried Tomato soup (see next blog entry) and slices of crisp apple!


2 slices from a large round sour-dough French Bread
1 t Dijon mustard
3 pieces thin deli-sliced Swiss cheese
4-5 pieces thin deli-sliced ham
More butter

1)Take one slice of a round of sour-dough French bread. Butter one side and lay it, buttered side down on a work-surface.

2)Put approx. 1 t. Dijon mustard on the unbuttered side.

3)Then take a couple of pieces of deli-sliced swiss (imported is best).
Put them on top of the Dijon.

4)Put some sliced ham on top of that (about 1/4 inch of GOOD ham)

5)Put another piece of swiss on top of that.

6)Butter another slice of bread and put it, buttered side up, on top of the Swiss.

7) Place in a hot pan with more butter. (unsalted butter is best, but optional)

8) Cook, until the swiss melts on the cooked side, and it browns. Flip the whole thing over.

9) Repeat 8. Smash the sandwich down with a spatula to make it melt together before serving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just for the Halibut (with Panko and Garlic)

Catagory: Main Dishes
Difficulty: Fairly Easy

Oh yes! This is so good, I had it on my birthday. Get the freshest halibut and the best cook you can find. Mix together and serve with fresh steamed vegies, sweet potato fries and a good tartar sauce with a little dill and Dijon mixed in to taste. Oh, and better remove the cook before eating--she may be tough. Common Sense Tip: This is it for a special occasion and get really fresh halibut. Note: This recipe was originally filched from "Cooking Light" the August 2007 issue. Yield: 6 servings

1 C GF Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 T fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 t onion powder
1 lg. garlic clove, smashed and minced
2 lg. egg whites, beaten
1 large egg, beaten
2 T flour
6 (6-0z) halibut fillets
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T olive oil, divided
cooking spray (preferably olive oil-organic)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Place egg whites and egg in a shallow dish. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour. Dip in egg mixture, then dredge in panko mixture. Heat 1 T oil in large non-stick skillet over med.-hi heat. Add 3 fish fillets; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 T oil and remaining fish. Bake at 450 degrees for 6 min. or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Yield; 6 servings Calories: 293 each serving.

Jane Braun's Oatmeal Blessing Cookies

Catagory: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty: Easy

These oatmeal-based cookies are truly divine! Jane Braun has used them for years to bless people at Twin Lakes Church and beyond. When I give them to people, I usually attach a little note that says "When you're down and feeling ookey, just sit down and eat a cookie". Go ahead and use my poem if you like...I don't mind. Seriously, they are the best cookies anybody has ever tasted.

Warning: DO double the recipe! They will vanish quicker than a goldfish that's jumped out of the bowl in front of a cat! They should be chewy, so experiment with your oven a bit to see how many minutes they should cook--mine were perfect at 14 minutes.


1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 C Crisco shortening (I use 1/3 C butter and 2/3 C shortening for more flavor)
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t real vanilla
1 1/2 C flour and 3 C oats

Optional Additions:

1 C almonds (chopped) with 1 C coconut OR
1 C chocolate chips and/or 1 C walnuts (chopped) OR
1 C raisins OR 1 C toffee chips OR any combination of the above!


Beat in a mixer: 1 C sugar, 1 C brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 C Crisco Shortening ( I use 1/3 C butter and 2/3 C Crisco). When well blended add, beating at high speed... 1 t salt and 1 t baking soda. Slow mixer and add: 1 t vanilla. Then slowly add: 1 1/2 C flour and 3 C oats.. Choose any of these options: 1 C almonds (chopped), 1 C coconut OR 1 C chocolate chips and 1 C wlanuts OR 1 C raisins, OR 1 C. toffee chips. Combine and distribute by adding to the cookie dough and stir well.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 min. until light brown.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

French Vegetable Soup

Category: Soups
Difficulty: Medium-Hard (lots of chopping)
Healthy (without the Pesto)

In the 1970's there was a great little restaurant at Stanford Shopping Center (before it was like a Beverly Hills mall) called "The Soup Kettle". It had a brilliant cook named Juanita Gomez who just plain knew how to make food that tasted good. My sister Sarah and I got French Vegetable Soup there every time we went shopping. This recipe is not only delicious, it's a great way to use fresh vegies from your Farmer's Market. Just throw whatever you have in the pot. Serve with fresh GF French bread and good cheese and you've got lunch! Be sure and freeze a bunch for the makes at least 14 servings.

Common Sense Tip: By the way, you can buy or use your own homemade frozen Pesto.  Just defrost and float on top of the soup if you don't want to go to the trouble of making the recipe below. Mix a tablespoon of tomato paste into it for the best taste...

Step One:

3 qts water
2 T salt
2 C diced carrots
2 C diced onions
2 C diced potatoes (optional)
1 C dried navy beans (soaked for 4 hours)

Place ingredients in kettle. Bring to a boil , then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. if cooking the base in advance, set aside uncovered until at least 20 minutes before you serve, then bring to a boil and proceed with the recipe.

Step Two:

2 C diced fresh green beans
2 C any or all: chopped zucchini, green peas, swiss chard, broccoli, asparagus
1/3 C Barilla GF spaghetti (broken into 1/2 inch pieces)
1 slice stale GF  french bread, crumbled
1 C canned white beans (if you didn't have navy beans for the first step)
Large pinch of saffron (optional)
Large pinch of pepper
Boiling water, if necessary

Add additional vegies and flavorings to the boiling soup base and boil slowly, uncovered, until green vegies are tender. Add boiling water if soup seems too thick. Carefully correct seasoning and soup is ready for the addition of pesto flavoring.


2 cloves garlic
4 T. tomato paste
1/4 C fresh or 4 T dried basil
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C olive oil
3-4 T chopped fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Add fresh parsley last.

Step 3:

Just before serving soup, add a little teaspoon of pesto on top and stir just once so a green swirl remains on the top of the soup--if you want it to be pretty. If you don't care, just stir the whole thing in with vigor!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Cake For Breakfast.

There is nothing so wickedly good as chocolate cake for breakfast. There is something about pushing the fork through a layer of cake then a stripe of rich frosting... It's cold, it's chocolate-y,and with milk it's ... Nirvana! . But to do this one must either have a terrific bakery cake or a terrific homemade cake, yes? So,I went on a Quest to find the best Chocolate Cake recipe. What a monumental task. It felt like the Quest for the Holy Grail!

As we all know, Chocolate Cake for Breakfast is usually leftover from the night before. This is especially good if it's YOUR birthday cake because after all, it's your responsibility to eat it. If it's your husband's you sorta have dibs through marriage. Be sure and save most of it for him, however,--or you may end up with a fork in your heart and a guilty expression on your face.

The frosting for this cake had to be really special. I envisioned something that tasted like fudge, but was much more creamy. I tried 5 different recipes. I ended up using Larry Hayden's cake recipe from "The Barefoot Contessa". But I wanted to find a less expensive frosting recipe than his. Sybill Olson graciously sent me her recipe for Rich Chocolate Frosting and it was just the thing. I wanted to sit down and eat half the bowl! Here's a slightly adapted version--thanks Sibby!

Note: You will need two 8-inch cake pans. If you only have 9-inch pans, do the fractions and increase the ingredients by 1/2.

Chocolate Buttercream Cake:

1 3/4 C. flour
1 C good cocoa powder (I recommend Droste--it's mild and not too expensive)
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 C unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 C sugar
2/3 light brown sugar
2 X-tra large eggs at room temperature (put them in a bowl of warm water for 10 min.)
2 t vanilla
1 C buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 C sour cream (I just used 1/2 C buttermilk instead)
2 T brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with buttered wax paper or baking parchment. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light, approx. 5 minutes. (I have a small hand mixer and regular beaters work fine). Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Tip: never crack eggs over the mixing bowl, do it over a cereal dish instead so you don't get shells in the batter by mistake. Combine the buttermilk, sour cream and coffee. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.

Divide batter between two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, remove from the pans and allow to finish cooling.

Rich Chocolate Frosting

4 oz. good unsweetened dark chocolate (Scharfenberger is fine)
1 cup, 2 sticks, real butter
2 eggs (at room temperature)
2 t. vanilla
2 t. lemon juice
3 1/2 C unsifted powdered sugar

In a double-boiler or a 1 qt. saucepan over low heat, heat unsweetened chocolate and butter until melted ans smooth. Remove from heat; let stand 20 minutes to cool chocolate mixture slightly. Do not let chocolate solidify! In small bowl with mixer, beat egg until mixed; beat in chocolate mixture, then vanilla and lemon juice (which is what makes this frosting awesome). Beat until smooth. The mixture may look a little lumpy and strange-- that's fine, keep beating until all is incorporated, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually beat in powdered sugar. For the last cup and a half of powdered sugar--increase speed of mixer and whip it until it's the consistency of whipped cream. If you must wait to frost your cake, beat frosting with a mixer for a minute or two before you frost the cake to make air bubbles disappear.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Funny Little Things Called Funnel-Cakes

Catagory: Breads
Difficulty:  Medium Easy (but tricky)
Not Healthy

I can smell them now... My mom making them, standing in her robe with a funnel over a sizzling pot of melted shortening. It was Sunday morning, and it was time for: ' Funnel-Cakes' You know, you've seen them. They're sold as fast food now. But that is far from their origin--and their tradition in my family. But we didn't call them 'Funnel Cakes'...

Funnel-cakes are German--originally called 'Dretchterkuke' and were brought over from Bavaria by the Amish to in Pennsylvania. But that's not my heritage! My mother's family has one line of ancestors named "Constant" that originally was French. These French-Americans (wisely) settled near the Amish sometime in the early 1800's when they migrated to Pennsylvania to set up their farms. Apparently they were very friendly with the Amish and learned how to make Funnel Cakes from them. And since they all spoke English by then, my ancestors re-named "Dretchterkuke" NOT 'Funnel Cakes' but 'Plowlines'. And my mother's family has been passing down the recipe for them ever since--about six, almost seven generations.

'Plowlines' were so named because that's what they look like. Some farmers still plow their acreage in spiral rows (look up Crop Circles?), especially in Europe. Funnel cakes or "Plowlines", are basically pancake batter, put through a funnel into hot grease, in a SPIRAL shape.

Note: You will need a large soup pot for this OR a large (10-12- inch) frying pan with high sides. You will also need a funnel with a 1/2 inch hole. Oh, and a good pancake syrup...

Plowlines or Funnelcakes:

33-34 oz. any kind of cooking oil plus 1 C melted Crisco (for flavor)
4 large or 3 x-tra large eggs
2C flour
1 1/2 t salt
about 1 1/2 C milk--enough milk to make a pan-cake like batter.

Directions: Make batter by first beating eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually add flour and salt, alternating with milk. Start with a cup of milk then add more milk until you gradually have a thick but easily poured batter--like pancake batter (see picture above). Generously ladle the batter into a funnel, holding a finger over the hole at the bottom. Then, with the grease is hot, hold the funnel over the middle of the pan, removing the finger that is serving as a "stopper" and start moving the funnel around, creating a batter spiral (see pic below). It is best to work from the center of the spiral out. At this point the thing will sizzle and spit and turn golden on one side very quickly. If it cooks in seconds and if it hurts to hold your hand over the pot, the oil is too hot. If the "plowline" takes longer than a minute or two for one side to get brown, the oil is too cool. You might get a too-oily turn up the heat ! After the thing is brown on both sides, take two forks or a set of tongs, grab the whole plowline at once, and turn it over. After cooking the other side until golden, grab it again. Holding it carefully above the pan, let it drip a minute before placing it on a plate (see picture below).The plowline should be served and devoured immediately while still warm. With syrup or powdered sugar. Then go out and work in the fields all day, or for a couple of hours in the gym to use up the calories. They have a lot of fat, but they also have tons of protein! Go Forth and Build Muscle!

IF YOU GOOF UP the spiral shape, don't stress. They fall apart easily. Plowlines just become "Funnelcakes" when they no longer are in a spiral, that's all. They're still good in any shape they happen to wriggle into. Who cares if they end up looking like fried amoebas! Have fun!.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poppy Seed Bread Pudding With Amaretto Caramel Sauce or Lemon Sauce

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Medium

There used to be a wonderful restaurant in Scotts Valley called "Hooked On Fish". I remember many nights I watching the summer sun go down from their tented deck. Our daughter  Sadly, it closed when the owner ran off to Mexico. But the restaurant will always be in our memories for the good times we had there as a family, their excellent fresh fish, and this delectable dessert. My daughter Lauren found this recipe by Martha Rowlands--Sunset magazine, and it's darn close. I adapted it slightly by substituting poppy seeds for golden raisins to make it like the pudding at "Hooked On Fish". As an alternative...try making a light Lemon Sauce instead of the Amaretto Caramel Sauce. But don't forget to use Limoncello in the Bread Pudding! Yield: Approx. 8 servings.

1 loaf (1 1/2 lb) crusty French Bread (sour dough)
5 large eggs
2 C milk
2 C half and half
1 C sugar
1/4 C Amaretto OR Limoncello
2 t. vanilla
2 t. poppy seeds

Option: Trade all Amaretto for Limoncello Liquer and make Lemon Sauce instead of Caramel Sauce. See recipe for sauce below

Cut bread crosswise into 1-inch thick slices; trim off and discard most(but not all) of the crusts and cut slices into 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, half & Half, sugar, Ameretto or almond extract and vanilla until well combined. Gently stir in poppy seeds and bread cubes until evenly moistened; pour mixture into a 9X13" baking pan. Coverloosely and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake pudding in a 350 degree oven until center is set (stick in a knife) about 1 hour. Scoop out portions or cut and lift out with a spatula.

Caramel Sauce:

In a 1-2 qt. pan over low heat, stir 1 C sugar and 1/4 C. water until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high and boil, without stirring until mixture is amber-colored, about 8 minutes, remove pan from heat. Meanwhile, in another 1-2 qt. saucepan, bring 1/3 C whipping cream to a boil. Turn off the heat and carefully add hot cream and 1/8 to 1/4 C amaretto (I found 1/4 C to be too much) or 2 t. to 1 T. almond extract (your taste again) to the carmelized sugar and stir until blended (the mixture will bubble up). Serve delightfully warm over warm bread pudding. Makes one cup.

Lemon Sauce: (from "The Joy of Cooking")

Combine over boiling water in a double boiler until thickened: 1/4 to 1/2 C sugar...1 T cornstarch...1C water.  Remove sauce from heat. Stir in : 2-3 T butter...1/2 t grated lemon rind...1 1/2 T lemon juice...1/8 t salt.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chard & Cabbage Stir-Fry with Bacon --YUM!

 Catagory: Fruits and Vegetables

Let's face it. When it comes to bacon... most of us are like the animated dog on that "Beggin' Strips" commercial: "Bacon Bacon Bacon BAAACCOOON!" So, if making something healthy, like vegetables, it just makes sense to destroy the healthiness of all that green stuff by adding bacon to the mix. Just kidding! Here is a delightful recipe ripped out of a Sunset magazine many years ago. Once you get the hang of it, it can be varied with different vegetables, and made with or without bacon. But DO try it once with bacon--it's outstanding, and a great way to make your kids eat greens!

Chard and Cabbage Stir-Fry with Bacon:

Note: Have all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start to cook, because it goes together raawther quickly...This feeds 4 as a side dish, 2 for dinner. But it's easy to double...

1/2 head of cabbage
1/2 bunch Swiss chard
1 T. Sesame Seeds (try not to skip these, they really add something)
4 slices bacon or 4 t Hormel bacon bits (see, that's not much, --it won't kill you)
1 bunch green onions OR 1/2 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. each soy sauce and water

Shred cabbage with a knife; you'll have about 2 cups. Wash chard; cut white or red center stalks from leafy green parts. Thinly slice stalks, then slice leafy parts;keep separate. In wok or wide frying pan, toast sesame seed over medium heat, stirring constantly; remove from pan. Add bacon, cook till done, chop up and put aside. Leave about 1T bacon drippings in pan, setting rest aside.Turn heat to high and add the onion; stir-fry 4 minutes, adding more drippings if needed. Add cabbage and chard stalks; stir-fry 4 minutes, adding more drippings if needed. Combine garlic, soy and water. Add to pan along with chard leaves and stir-fry about 2 minutes longer or until wilted. Add bacon and sesame last, tossing until combined.
If you plan to serve this on a platter, save the bacon and sesame for a topping instead of mixing them in before serving. Looks pretty!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gentlemen Prefer Blonde Enchiladas

Catagory: Main Dish
Difficulty: Easy
Not Healthy

This was part of a Girls Nite Out celebration about 30 years ago when we wore long hair, bellbottom jeans and t-shirts. Wait! Sounds like today! Well, just as jeans and t-shirts are timeless, so is this dish. Everybody loves it. Serves five or six, but remember to double or triple the recipe for a crowd. Especially if you expect people of the male persuasion. They WILL come back for seconds. The key is to bake them until they are browned a bit around the edges and bubbly. DO over-bake!

Gentlemen Prefer Blonde Enchiladas:

1/2 cube butter (1/4 C)
1 onion (small), chopped
1 pkg. chicken breasts (4 half-breasts)
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 can mild green chilis, diced (you can use 4 oz. green salsa in a pinch)
about 6 large flour tortillas
1 pint whipping cream
2 C Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chicken in butter, remove and chop or rip into bite-size pieces. Salt to taste. Put onion back into pan, saute in remaining butter till limp. Add cream cheese and chilis and saute with onion until melted and combined. Add chicken and combine thoroughly. Wrap chicken mixture in tortillas and place in greased 9X13" pan. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top, then pour whipping cream all over the top. Bake until slightly browned and very bubbly.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lauren's Favorite Molasses Cookies

Catagory: Cookies
Difficulty: Easy

My daughter, the gourmet cook, sometimes attends cooking parties. Everybody brings a dish and the recipe printed out in multiple copies for others to take home. This can set up a little friendly competition. So good recipes are a MUST. On one such occasion Lauren found this recipe for Molasses-Spice cookies in the "Cooks Illustrated" Best American Classics cookbook. The people that write these recipes try many recipes until they find the best one. Saving us a whole lot of trouble! Try these, they are spicy, fragrant and taste wonderful with lemony tea in winter or lemonade in summer. Oh, and they were a huge hit at the party!

1/3 C granulated sugar
2 1/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t ginger
1/2 t cloves
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t finely ground pepper (I would use 1/8th)
1/4 t salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
1/3 C packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, yolk only
1 t vanilla
1/2 C light or dark molasses (depending on your taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1/2 C sugar in pie pan or on paper plate for dipping. Whisk flour,soda,spices,and salt in a medium bowl until combined, set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle (a hand held mixer will do), beat the butter with the sugars at med.-hi speed until light and fluffy. Beat in yolk and vanilla--about 20 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl as you go. Reduce speed, add flour mixture until just incorporated. Scrape bottom of bowl to make sure you incorporate all the flour pockets at the bottom. Dough will be soft.

Make heaping tablespoon-sized balls and roll in sugar (see above). Space balls on parchment -covered baking trays 2 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven. Bake until the cookies are browned with edges that are set and the middle still looking raw. You will still see shiny dough through the cracks. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool thoroughly.

Optional Glaze: Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar and 2-3 T. milk or, if you're living dangerously and your Aunt Agatha doesn't mind, dark rum. Drizzle with a fork over cookies with a back and forth swinging motion.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meyer Lemon Poundcake

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Easy

Meyer Lemons...tangy and delightful. Their tangerine-tinged lemon taste brings a little summer into any winter day! My mission: to use meyer lemons in the perfect lemon pound cake recipe. But what recipe to use? It had to have a delicate crumb--yet be dense and buttery. It had to be moist and keep moist for days. It had to be easy to make. And above all-it had to be lemony without being too tart or too sweet.
So here it is,folks! After trying SIX lemon pound cake recipes,and finally adjusting the ratio of lemon juice vs. buttermilk in the Fannie Farmer Lemon Buttermilk Poundcake recipe... But people tell me it's the icing that's the best part.

4 eggs (at room temperature-- before cracking, stick them in a bowl of warm water for at least 10 minutes)
3 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 C sugar
1/3 C freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
2 T Meyer lemon zest
2/3 C buttermilk

Whisk together once cup confectioner's sugar and 1-2 T. freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice until you have a thin glaze. It should be thick enough to dry a transluscent white. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan or two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and sift them together onto a large piece of waxed paper. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until it is smooth and creamy. Slowly add the sugar, beating constantly, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs, all at once, and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Sprinkle half the flour mixture over the batter and beat until well blended. Stir the lemon juice into the buttermilk. Beat half the buttermilk mixture into the batter. Add the remaining flour and buttermilk mixtures and beat until the batter is smooth and well blended. Stir in lemon zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or pans. Bake the bundt cake for 1 hour, the loaf cakes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a piece of spaghetti inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cook for 10 minutes , then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. After cool drizzle glaze over cake by holding a whisk dipped in glaze directly over cake and moving it until it dribbles down the top and sides of the cake. Do not drown cake--drizzle it!

Note: This cake is so good, it's even good without the glaze. But try it anyway! Oh, and you can freeze it! And speaking of freezing--if you find a good price on Meyer lemons, you might want to juice a flock of 'em and freeze the juice in ice trays. You can freeze the rinds, too.