Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nana's Anise Cookies

A guest post from my friend V, who continues the family tradition of making these Italian Christmas treats each year. They have a very strong licorice flavor!

3 eggs
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp anise extract
1 TBSP baking powder
2 1/2 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and extract. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Roll cookies into shapes with hands. Bake at 350 for approximately 10 minutes until light brown.

1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp anise extract
water if needed
nonpareil sprinkles :)

Dip the cookies into the icing and then into nonpareil sprinkles.

Air-fried Pork Chops

This is a guest post from my friend V:

I had thin sliced pork (7 slices to the pound instead of 4), so it came out a bit dry. Next time, I'll remember to cook it less :) I used Trader Joe's Garlic Aoli Mustard (no Dijion) and it tastes really yummy!

1 pound pork loin chops
24 tsp (1/2 cup) Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Canola oil spray

Slice pork into four 4-oz. portions.
Thickly coat pork chops with Dijon mustard (you may not need all of the mustard). In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and seasonings. Dredge pork chops in crumbs. Arrange pork chops on a wire rack set on top of a sheet pan. Spritz bread crumb coating with a little bit of oil spray. Place under broiler and cook on both sides until coating is brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Monday, December 14, 2009


This is my most requested holiday goodie. Is it a cookie or is it a candy? Who cares!

  • 3 cups rice crispies
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 regular-size jar of peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/4 bar paraffin wax (usually sold near the jello, candles, or canning supplies in supermarkets)
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the rice crispies and powdered sugar. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and peanut butter together in the microwave and stir into a soupy mess. Pour the melted mixture over the cereal mixture and combine, mixing with your hands or the stand mixer on low speed, until mostly uniform. (Do not try this with a hand mixer!)

Chill this mixture, then roll into walnut-sized balls (I use a melon baller for this step), and place on wax-paper-lined cookie sheets, and chill again. Meanwhile, chop up the paraffin into little bits, and melt the chocolate and paraffin together (use the microwave or a double-boiler), stirring until smooth and liquid.

Using small tongs, dip each peanut butter ball quickly into the chocolate, turning to coat, and then return to the wax-paper-lined trays and chill once more to set the chocolate. Store in a sealed container in a cool place, or in the fridge.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Maple Granola

This stuff is seriously delicious. It's calorie-dense, but full of healthful things like nuts and dried fruit. It's certainly much better for breakfast than store-bought cold cereal.

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown's granola. My version takes out the coconut (I'm allergic), and adds more kinds of nuts. For the dried fruit, you can use anything approximately raisin-sized. My favorite is dried blueberries, but they are expensive. I've had yummy results with craisins (dried cranberries), regular and golden raisins, and dried apricots chopped into raisin-sized bits. I often mix several fruits to make up the amount.

I buy my nuts, seeds, and dried fruit at Trader Joes, whenever I can get there. Their nut prices are much cheaper than most other stores, and the quality is great. TJ's is also my best-price source for real maple syrup, which is an absolute requirement here. Don't even think about using that fake-maple pancake syrup. If you desecrate my granola recipe with that junk, I will hunt you down!

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw slivered or sliced almonds (I prefer sliced when I can get them)
1 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional)
2/3 cup REAL pure maple syrup
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, in pieces approximately raisin-sized

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon (if using).
In another bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 non-stick or foil-lined sheet pans. Toast in the preheated oven 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and dump into a large bowl. Add the dried fruit and mix until evenly distributed. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in a cool place.

Delicious in a bowl of milk as breakfast cereal, or eaten dry as a high-energy snack any time of day.

What do Librarians Love to Read?

I love to talk about books. I love to listen to other people who love books talk about books. It kind of goes with being a librarian, I suppose. So, I really had a great time at our Library Staff Book Club tonight. For a change of pace, we did not all read the same book and discuss it this time around. Instead, in honor of the upcoming holiday season, we each brought a holiday treat to eat or drink (Alesha, I have GOT to have that hot chocolate recipe!!!), and one or more of our favorite books. They could be books we'd give as gifts, or simply books we love to read.

Sue G., retired Children's Librarian and lately of the Caldecott committee, was our invited guest speaker. She talked about excellent picture books, and got to share the most books:
Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin
Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
When Marian Sang by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Olivia Helps with Christmas (and other Olivia books) by Ian Falconer
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Then the rest of the club shared the books they'd brought:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book by Terry Jones
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Chaucer's First Winter by Stephen Krensky

Jill H.:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Dinotopia: a Land Apart from Time by James Gurney
Dinotopia: the World Beneath by James Gurney
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara by James Gurney

On Christmas Eve
by Margaret Wise Brown
The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot
Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

Ash by Malinda Lo
The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Mary Lee:
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore (and the gorgeous pop-up version by Robert Sabuda)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Frank

Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Pop-Up Adaptation) by Robert Sabuda
Peter Pan (Pop-Up Adaptation) by Robert Sabuda

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

I'm Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown
Rash by Pete Hautman

Jill Z.:
Sweet Revenge (& others in the Goldy Bear series) by Diane Mott Davidson

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton

Monday, November 23, 2009

Deep Dish Pizza
(Veggie Version)

See also Meaty Deep-Dish Pizza. I often make one of each.
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 C olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 C lukewarm water
  • 3/4 C cornmeal
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 2 28-oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut into thin strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 C sliced portabella mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 boxes chopped spinach
  • 4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 C Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 C Parmesan cheese, shredded
For crust:
In work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine dry ingredients. With mixer running on medium-slow speed, drizzle oil in a slow stream and mix until combined. Add water in a slow stream, only as fast as flour can absorb, until dough forms and begins to clean the sides of the bowl. Increase speed and knead for several minutes until smooth and elastic. Dough may be quite soft, but if it is too sticky knead in a bit more all-purpose flour. If it is too stiff, and more water, a small splash at a time. Remove the dough hook and gather the dough into a ball. Allow to rest about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425° and prepare 2 12-inch round deep-dish pizza pans. If using stoneware bakers, no preparation is needed. If using metal pans, brush with oil. When dough has rested, divide in half and press evenly over bottoms and up sides of the pans. Prick all over with a fork. Bake in preheated 425° oven for 5 minutes
For sauce:
In large skillet, saute onion, peppers, herbs, and spices in olive oil until peppers and onion are tender. Stir in well-drained tomatoes & mushrooms. Cook lightly, then remove from heat.
For filling:
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until clear. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper, and basil and continue to saute, until the mushrooms are softened. Meanwhile, thaw the spinach in a colander under running water, then squeeze out the excess water with your hands. Squeeze again, one handful at a time, until the spinach is as dry as you can make it. Add the squeezed spinach to the skillet and stir, breaking up the clumps to thoroughly combine all ingredients. When the spinach mixture is hot through and fragrant, remove from heat.
To assemble:
For each pizza, sprinkle just a scant handful of mozzerella in the bottom of the pre-baked crust. Next, spread half the spinach mixture evenly into the pizza crust. Sprinkle the spinach layer evenly with half the feta, then cover with a layer of half the remaining mozzarella. Spread with a layer of half the sauce. Top with half the Parmesan. Use the second half of the ingredients to assemble the second pizza. Bake the pizzas 20-30 minutes in at 425° oven, or until bubbly and golden-brown.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
(4 Ingredients!)

1 box of spice cake mix
eggs, the number specified by the directions on the box (mine called for 3)
1 can of pumpkin (just pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners. Combine the cake mix, pumpkin, and eggs in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Batter will be quite thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into cupcake cups, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake 25-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before removing. Enjoy warm. No icing is needed.

Spinach & Cheese Casserole

1 box frozen chopped spinach, cooked & drained well.
1 medium onion, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 -1 tsp basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 C sliced portabella mushrooms
1/2 C Shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 C crumbled feta cheese
3 eggs, beaten
bread crumbs (optional) & Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a shallow casserole dish with nonstick spray. Sauté onion & garlic in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, & basil until clear. Add mushrooms & saute until all is very soft. In a large heat-proof bowl, combine onion mixture with with cooked, well-drained spinach and the cheeses. Spread into prepared casserole dish. Pour beaten eggs evenly over mixture in casserole dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs & additional Parmesan cheese, & bake at 350° until lightly browned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

National Book Festival = Nirvana for Librarians

Originally uploaded by librarianjill
Tess, Catherine & I made a Librarian's Pilgrimage to the National Book Festival this past weekend. It was pure book-loving awesomeness. We went by Metro, and had a minor mishap when the farecard machine ate Catherine's husband's money and didn't give him a farecard in return. It did rain a bit, but not torrentially, and we had umbrellas so it was all good.
We waited in line more than an hour to get our books signed by Mo Willems, the author of some of our favorite picture books, and when we got up to the front I got to talk to him a for a minute and tell him about our plans for a "Mo Willems book party" at the library soon. He laughed and looked delighted and said, "Sounds like fun!" Sigh...
(Dear readers, you must understand that for a children's librarian like me, meeting Mo is like meeting a rock star. Only better.)
We also went to his talk/reading later in the afternoon.
See that book Tess is holding? That's a copy of "Big Frog Can't Fit In," which is a brand-new book by Mo that was on advance sale at the festival. Not available yet anywhere else! We all got one, and Mo signed them. It is a pop-up book. It is awesome.
I had such a good time with my librarian friends!
Special thanks goes to Catherine's husband Greg, who braved the incredible crush of people in the Book Sales tent to get us those 3 books, while we waited in the book-signing line. Above and beyond the call of duty, that was, and we love him for it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Deep Dish Pizza
(Meaty Version)

See also Veggie Deep-Dish Pizza. I often make one of each.
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 C olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 C lukewarm water
  • 3/4 C cornmeal
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 2 28-oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 C mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, cooked & sliced
  • 1/2 lb pepperoni, sliced or diced
  • 4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 C Parmesan cheese, shredded
For crust:
In work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine dry ingredients. With mixer running on medium-slow speed, drizzle oil in a slow stream and mix until combined. Add water in a slow stream, only as fast as flour can absorb, until dough forms and begins to clean the sides of the bowl. Increase speed and knead for several minutes until smooth and elastic. Dough may be quite soft, but if it is too sticky knead in a bit more all-purpose flour. If it is too stiff, and more water, a small splash at a time. Remove the dough hook and gather the dough into a ball. Allow to rest about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425° and prepare 2 12-inch round deep-dish pizza pans. If using stoneware bakers, no preparation is needed. If using metal pans, brush with oil. When dough has rested, divide in half and press evenly over bottoms and up sides of the pans. Prick all over with a fork. Bake in preheated 425° oven for 5 minutes
For sauce:
In large skillet, saute onion, peppers, herbs, and spices in olive oil until peppers and onion are tender. Stir in well-drained tomatoes & mushrooms. Cook lightly, then remove from heat.
To assemble:
For each pizza, arrange half the sliced sausage and half the pepperoni in the bottom of the pre-baked crust. Cover with a layer of half the mozzarella, then spread a layer of half the sauce. Top with half the Parmesan. Use the second half of the ingredients to assemble the second pizza. Bake the pizzas 20-30 minutes in at 425° oven, or until bubbly and golden-brown.

Italian Chicken Thighs

Great over pasta (such as spinach fettuccine) or garlicky smashed potatoes.

12 skinless bone-in chicken thighs, about 3 lbs
1 14.5-oz can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/2 C chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients except chicken and stir well. Place chicken in slow cooker; pour sauce over chicken. Cover and cook on high 1 hour, reduce to low and cook 4-5 hours more. Remove chicken pieces, and use a fork to pull meat from bones. Return chicken meat to sauce and stir to re-combine. Serve over pasta or garlicky smashed potatoes. 6 servings.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Delicious! This is my preferred sauce for dressing pasta. It also makes a great sandwich spread. Use a whole pepper from a jar of roasted red bell peppers, or if you're up to the task, roast your own. See also regular Pesto, & Pesto Tomato Sauce.

  • 1 C fresh basil leaves
  • 1 fire-roasted red sweet bell pepper
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, or 2 tsp minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a mini-food processor or blender, and puree into a smooth and creamy sauce. If too thick, or won't combine smoothly, drizzle in additional olive oil. Keep in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week, or freeze (also airtight, or your whole freezer will smell like pesto!) up to 6 months.

Pesto, Made w/ Walnuts

Pesto makes a delicious sauce for pasta or pizza, and a great spread to dress up sandwiches. Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts, but V & I prefer walnuts, which are far less expenive and make a creamier, sweeter pesto. For make-ahead convenience, freeze leftover pesto in ice cube trays, then store the frozen pesto-cubes in a zip-top bag in the freezer. You can take out and thaw one or two cubes as needed for weeks! Variations: Pesto Tomato Sauce; Roasted Pepper Pesto.

  • 1 C fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, or 2 tsp minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a mini-food processor or blender, and puree into a smooth and creamy sauce. If too thick, or won't combine smoothly, drizzle in additional olive oil. Keep in airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week, or freeze (also airtight, or your whole freezer will smell like pesto!) up to 6 months.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Really Good Hot Chocolate

This makes just about the yummiest hot chocolate you can make at home. It is more involved than opening a packet and adding hot water, but once you taste it, you'll never go back.

3 heaping spoonfuls sugar
1 heaping spoonful dutch-process cocoa powder
scant 1/8 tsp salt (a pinch)
1/8 tsp cinnamon (a generous pinch)
very tiny pinch (just a few grains) chili powder
1/8 tsp vanilla extract (the real thing, not that nasty imitation stuff)
~1 Tbsp water (just eyeball it)
~1 1/2 C milk (again, eyeball it, depending on the size of your mug)

In the bottom of your cocoa mug, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, & chili powder. Mix them thoroughly so that they are uniformly combined- the cocoa powder will want to stay separate in the bottom of the mug. Add the vanilla and just enough cold water to stir the dry ingredients into a thick slurry, again being sure to incorporate all the cocoa powder. Add the cold milk but do not stir. Heat the mug in the microwave until piping hot (60-90 seconds, depending on your microwave), and then stir. For extra points, sprinkle the top with chocolate shavings or mini marshmallows, or top with whipped cream.

If you find yourself making cocoa often, it may be worthwhile to mix up a larger batch of just the dry ingredients, using the same proportions, so that you need only add the water, vanilla, & milk whenever you need a warm, chocolaty cuppa.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Peach Salsa

I love Trader Joe's. There isn't one around these parts, much to my sadness, but there is one quite near the home of my friend V. Whenever I visit her, we go there. Whenever we go there, I stock up on my favorite things, like Rosemary & Garlic Crackers, Cuban Black Beans, and Peach Salsa. Alas, last 2 times I went, there was no Peach Salsa to be had! V reports that it has since re-appeared, but I was spooked enough that, in order to ensure a continuous supply, I have set out to replicate what, in my book, is the Best. Salsa. Ever.
I have scoured the interwebs for peach salsa recipes, and read and re-read the back of my last jar of the good stuff for clues. Today I made my first attempt. It does not taste like Trader Joe's Peach Salsa, but it is really good. I think the basic recipe is right; what's missing are the mysterious herbs and spices that are probably unique to the TJ's brand. I know cumin is in there, but not what else. Anyway, what I made was tasty, so here's the recipe as it stands after one attempt. You could and probably should use all fresh tomatoes, but I didn't have enough, so I used part canned. Most of the recipes I used as source material called for cilantro, 1/4 to 1/2 cup, but I despise cilantro and so left it out. If you like cilantro, by all means add it back in.

Peach Salsa
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion,
2 large red, yellow, or orange sweet bell peppers
4 gloves garlic
4 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
5 large peaches, ripe but still very firm
4 largish roma-type tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes (plain, without Italian seasoning or other herbs)
1/3 C white vinegar (could substitute apple cider vinegar, probably would be an improvement)
2 Tbsp honey

Before beginning, prepare all your ingredients and place them ready in bowls near the stove:
Remove the seeds from the bell pepper(s), and dice into small pieces. Peel the onion and mince. Peel and mince the garlic, finely. Remove the 4 chipotle peppers from the adobo sauce, and slit them open. Rinse under running water to remove the seeds, which contain most of the heat (if you like really hot salsa, leave some or all of the seeds). Mince the chipotles very fine, almost making a paste.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full of ice water. Use a slotted spoon to place the peaches into the boiling water, leave them 30-60 seconds, then quickly remove them to the bowl of ice water for several minutes. Use a paring knife to make an x-shaped pair of slits in the peach skins on their bottoms (opposite the stems), and use your fingers to peel away the skins, which should now come off easily.
To peel the fresh tomatoes, first make a small x-shaped cut just through the skins on the bottom end of each tomato, then treat like the peaches by placing first in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then removing to the ice water to quickly cool. The skins should then peel right off with little effort.
Slice the peaches in half, remove and discard the pits, then dice the peaches into half-inch pieces. Quarter the fresh tomatoes, then scoop out and discard the seed pulp, leaving only the flesh. Dice the tomatoes a little smaller than the peaches. Drain the juice from the canned tomatoes, dice them smaller if need be, and add them to the fresh tomatoes.
Measure out your spices and liquid ingredients.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a very large pot or kettle. Add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic, and saute, stirring often, several minutes until softened and the onions turn clear. Add the chipotles and the spices and continue to saute and stir for a minute longer. Add the peaches, stir, and bring the pot to a boil. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring often.
To taste for seasoning, dish out a small sample into a small bowl or cup and allow to cool briefly, then taste with a tortilla chip. Adjust the flavors according to your taste. If you are not planning to can the batch, cool it completely and store in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. I didn't try freezing yet, but I'd bet that the salsa could be frozen with minimal loss of quality.
Or, to preserve for up to a year, can the batch of salsa while still hot in sterile canning jars, using the water-bath canning method and carefully observing all the sanitary rules for home-canning. (This salsa recipe is a high-acid food, so pressure-canning is not necessary, and would only over-cook the salsa). Store jars of canned salsa in a cool, dry place away from direct light.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Huli-Huli Chicken

Last May, V & I went to Hawaii. It was a fabulous trip, not least of all because while we were there, V met her sweetie-pie, Sonny. A year and a half of arduous long-distance relationship later, they are still together, and we all think he is pretty certainly The One for her. Yay!
Another lovely thing that we encountered, besides Sonny, was Huli-Huli Chicken. It's sold all over Oahu, at roadside fundraisers and in supermarket delis (on the mainland we have rotisserie chicken in various flavors. In Hawaii, it's Huli-Huli). A kind of barbecue that's kind of sweet, kind of tangy, and other than that, hard to describe, Huli-Huli was also hard to replicate once I returned home. There are lots of recipes out there on the InterWebs, but none of them are quite the same as what we ate almost daily on our Hawaiian picnics.
The one I've found that comes the closest so far is this one, from Rachel Ray's Everyday magazine. I followed all the directions, except I grilled on a barbecue grill instead of broiling it. Even though it wasn't exactly the same as the real thing, all my friends (who haven't been to Hawaii) love it. Thanks, Rach! Here is Rachel Ray's recipe for Huli-Huli Chicken:

One 4-pound chicken, cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled
One 1½-inch piece ginger, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons frozen pineapple juice concentrate

Loosen the skin of the chicken breast and season underneath it with salt. Season the exterior of the chicken with more salt. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Line a broiler pan with foil and preheat the broiler.
Using a food processor, pulse the garlic and ginger until finely chopped. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, broth, rice-wine vinegar and pineapple juice concentrate and process until well combined. Strain the marinade into a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Discard the pulp.
Blot the excess salt and moisture from the chicken and place the halves skin side down on the broiler pan. Broil, turning the chicken with tongs every 5 minutes for the first 20 minutes, until the raw surfaces have cooked. Continue to cook, turning and basting with the marinade every 5 minutes, until well browned, 20 minutes longer; cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve.

Guinness Stew

This recipe traces its origins to a misadventure. While on our Grand Adventure Road Trip, V & I, fatigued from travel and a long, hot day in New Hampshire, forgot one of the Road Rules that had kept us from disaster thus far. Following hand-made signs indicating "Quilts for Sale," we deviated from the directions on The Clipboard, turned off the highway onto a gravel road that did not appear on the map, and proceeded to make numerous turns down unmarked gravel roads without making any notes on our route.
We did locate the quilt shop, in a very nice lady's front room, but then on our way back to the highway, became hopelessly lost in a vast maze of un-marked, identical, intersecting, looping gravel logging roads through dense forest. Our tummies began to growl. Hunger and fatigue dulled our wits and sharpened our tongues, and we began to snap at one another for only the second time in a month of living in our car. Storm clouds gathered, and a terrifying thunderstorm struck. The gas light came on on the dashboard. We recognized landmarks that told us, not the way out, but that we were going in circles. Stormwater sluiced down the roadside ditches and over the gravel, and the huge trees writhed like living creatures. It grew dark in the stormy woods. We were lost as we had never been lost before. There were few houses, far apart, and none of them looked like anyone was home. This was before the days of GPS, which probably wouldn't have helped us on these unmapped logging roads anyway.
At last, we did locate a house near the road with many vehicles outside and and with lights on. We asked for and were given directions, back to paved roads and the nearest gas station. The storm abated as we found the blacktop, bought fuel, and re-oriented ourselves to the map.
Ravenous, we headed back toward our campsite but wisely realized that we would die of hunger before getting a fire going and preparing a camp-cooked meal. So we turned into the tiny village, only to find no restaurants open (it was a weekday evening in the off-season of an area that only really comes alive for ski season).
Desperate, we headed back out of town, and stopped at a chain hotel with a restaurant in the parking lot. It looked like a cheesy faux-Irish pub, and we did not expect great things, but we were starving. We told the waitress a brief outline of our story and asked her, "what can you bring us right now, without waiting for something to cook?" Soup, she said. There were two soups that day, and one of them was Irish Stew. V ordered the other soup, and I had the stew. As the waitress brought it to our table, the last of the stormclouds outside parted, the setting sun broke through, and a rainbow appeared (I'm not making this up- just ask V!). The Irish stew at that tacky hotel pub was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted in my life.
Long after the Road Trip ended, I was obsessed with replicating that stew. I collected recipes and tried them, one after another, with endless variations. One day 2 or 3 years after the trip, combining at least 3 recipes from different sources, I came up with this one. It is the perfect stew. Rich, meaty, filling, and utterly delicious, it gets rave reviews from everyone who tastes or even smells it.
Guinness Stew is even better as re-heated leftovers than when first prepared. It freezes well, also.

2 1/2 lb beef chuck, or other stew beef, cut in chunks
1/2 C flour (to coat beef)
4 to 6 potatoes, washed (not peeled), & cut in chunks
4 to 6 carrots, washed (not peeled), & cut in chunks
3 Tbsp bacon fat or oil
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 can or bottle dark Guinness
salt to taste (you will need much more than you think. too little, and the stew will taste flat)

Coat beef chunks with flour. Melt bacon fat or heat oil in large, heavy kettle. Brown floured meat on all sides. Add 1 C Guinness & the Worcestershire sauce; simmer 3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add 1 C water, herbs & spices, & remaining Guinness. Simmer on medium-high 10-15 minutes. Add potato & carrot chunks. Add enough additional water to barely cover. Simmer on medium at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Or, transfer all to a large slow-cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If needed, thicken broth with a small amount of flour-water slurry. Add salt to taste and adjust seasoning; remove bay leaves before serving.

Samosa-Spiced Mashed Potatoes

Don't let the long list of ingredients intimidate you- this recipe is as easy as it is delicious. It's a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes, or whip up a fresh batch just for this recipe. Serve as a starchy side to Indian or Middle-Eastern main dishes. Especially good with Country Captain Chicken, or Garam Masala Lamb Chops.

3C hot mashed potatoes
¾ C cooked green peas (optional)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 med onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 clove garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 ½-in. piece fresh ginger root, peeled & finely minced or grated
½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp coriander

Prepare the mashed potatoes and peas; set aside to keep hot. Measure and combine the spices in a small bowl or ramekin. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic & spices. Cook gently 5 minutes or until onions and garlic are soft and clear, and just beginning to brown. Add mashed potatoes and peas, then stir in lemon juice. Mix well, remove from heat, and serve.

Garam Masala Lamb Chops

Serve with Samosa-Spiced Mashed Potatoes or Indian Spiced Couscous

1 1/2 Tbsp prune baby food
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
4 4-oz lamb rib chops (about 1 inch thick), trimmed
1/3 C dry bread crumbs
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat broiler. Combine 1st 4 ingredients into a paste. Coat lamb chops w/ prune paste, then dredge in crumbs. Coat crumbed chops w/ cooking spray; spray broiler pan w/ more cooking spray. Place chops on tray and broil 3-4 minutes per side or to preferred done-ness. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 2 servings of 2 lamb chops.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Just Not Fair

It's just not fair. I have a long weekend, what with the Labor Day holiday on Monday and a comp-time day off on Tuesday. Here in Maryland, we are having some of the most breathtakingly beautiful weather of the year to date.
Here is what I had planned to do with my time these 4 days:
  • Work 4 1/2 hrs on Sunday (the price of that full day of comp time on Tuesday- Sunday hours are worth extra comp hours)
  • Find someplace new and lovely to take my kayak for a solo paddle, with picnic
  • Buy a small chest freezer during the Labor Day sales
  • Hit up the farmers' markets for produce now that everything is at its peak quality, and prep pounds and pounds of lovely things to freeze for winter in my new freezer
  • Spend time in my hammock with books, or napping
  • Spend time on my beach with books, or wading
  • Work on my travel scrap-books
  • Possibly drive up to visit my bestest friend V, who will feel lonesome once her sweetie-pie departs early Monday for a long separation.
Here is what I am actually doing with my time these 4 days:
  • Working 4 1/2 hrs on Sunday
  • Blowing my nose
  • Coughing
  • Whining
  • Taking a cocktail of Tylenol, Mucinex, and either Benadryl or Claratin (depending on time of day) every 6 hours
  • Napping and/or lying about feeling stuffy, achy, and clammy
  • Whining some more
  • Feeling generally sorry for myself
It's just not fair. I am sick enough to be medium-miserable most of the day, but not quite sick enough to call out of work (on a weekday I would, but Sundays are always minimally staffed, so someone else would have to be called in on short notice to cover my station. My conscience would only allow me to do that to a colleague on a holiday weekend if I were at death's door.) I'm with-it enough to be bored and antsy lying about the house, but not quite up to doing much else. Also, my head aches enough that even crafts and scrap-booking are unpleasant. My neighbors are all outside riding bikes and puttering in their gardens, or carrying chairs and coolers down the path to the beach. It's just not fair.

p.s.- No, it's not Swine Flu, thank-you-very-much. It's a run-of-the-mill upper respiratory infection of the non-specific variety, not helped at all by the sudden explosion of Fall-season pollen in the air.

Chicken Enchiladas

A little more work than Chicken Enchilada Casserole, but more richly flavored.

3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 C chili powder
2 C chicken stock
10 oz tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

3 C cooked chicken, shredded
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mexican spice blend
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sm. can green chiles, drained and minced fine
sm. amount tomato sauce
2 C shredded cheese
16 flour tortillas
1-2 C enchilada sauce

For sauce:
Heat oil and add flour, stirring and smoothing w/ wooded spoon. Cook 1 min. Add chili powder and cook 30 seconds. Add remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes. Sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
For enchilada filling:
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add chiles and saute 2 minutes more. Add chicken and seasonings and stir to combine; heat through. This is the filling.
To build:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F). Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Spread a ladleful of suace over the bottom of the pan. Dip each tortilla in the remaining sauce to soften them, then divide the filling among the tortillas- making a thin line down the middle of each tortilla. Divide half the cheese equally among the tortillas atop the filling; reserve the remaining half of the cheese. Roll up the tortillas and arrange in the pan. Spread the remaining sauce evenly over the rolled tortillas and top with the reserved cheese. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and delicious and the cheese forms a golden crust. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before serving with hot Spanish rice and beans.

Country Captain Chicken

A delicious slow-cooker recipe from my friend Ben. Be sure to use Madras curry powder, as regular curry powder becomes bitter with long cooking times. Traditional garnishes include any or all of the following:
sliced toasted almonds, shredded coconut, diced Granny Smith apples, and diced bananas. Serve over long-grain rice, or a with a generous helping of Samosa-Spiced Mashed Potatoes.

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 pounds), excess fat trimmed
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped coarse
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarse
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
5 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (9-ounce) jar chutney, such as Major Greyʼs
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken to plate, allow to cool slightly, then remove and discard skin. Transfer chicken to slow-cooker.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet and return pan to medium-high. Add onions, bell pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste and, using wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits from pan bottom. Simmer until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in chutney, garlic, curry powder, paprika, thyme, and cayenne. Pour mixture into slow-cooker to cover chicken pieces.
Cover and cook on low until chicken is tender, about 6 hours. Turn off slow cooker, remove lid, and gently stir sauce to recombine. Replace lid and let stand for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve with rice and choice of garnishes.
Serves 6 - 8

Indian-Spiced Couscous

1 C water
1/2 C dried fruit bits (apricots, raisins, etc)
2 tsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp tumeric
dash ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 C whole wheat or plain couscous, uncooked
3 tbsp thinly sliced green onions

Combine 1st 8 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to boil over med-hi heat. Stir in couscous & return to boil. Cover & reduce heat to low; simmer 2 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, add green onions, cover, & let stand 5 minutes. Fluff before serving.

Faux Chicken Cacciatore
(slow-cooker version)

A ridiculously easy faux-cacciatore recipe for when you are really time-crunched, or lazy. The deliciousness is directly correlated with the quality and flavor of the sauce you use.
Bone-in chicken pieces can also be used, but you will have to fish them out of the pot when done, cut/pull the meat off the bones, and return the meat to the pot. Pull off the skin before cooking, or the result will be quite greasy.
This recipe is an excellent use for frozen bell pepper strips, often sold with onions as "pepper stir fry blend"

1-2 lbs boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins
1/3 C chopped onion
1/3 C bell pepper, chopped (or 1/2 C strips)
3 C or 1 large jar of very yummy spaghetti sauce

Ridiculously Easy Directions
Add onions and peppers to bottom of slow cooker, then chicken, then pour sauce over all. Cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 4-5 hours. Serve over pasta, with salad & garlic bread.

Chicken, Apple, & Cheddar Empañadas

If making fresh pastry dough is too fussy for the time at hand, substitute prepared pie dough, canned crescent roll dough, or simply make quesadillas using the filling below and flour tortillas.

1 sm. Granny Smith apple, diced 1/4"
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter
1 sm. red onion, minced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 3/4 tsp dried)
2/3 C sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
pastry dough (recipe follows) or 2 cans crescent roll dough

Mix apples & lemon juice. In medium skillet on medium heat, melt butter and cook onion and garlic until soft (3 min). Add apple & cook until just softened (2 min). Add chicken and cook through. Dump mixture into a bowl. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shred chicken; mix in cheese and seasonings. Fill small folds of dough (about 3-4 inches) with 2-3 Tbsp of filling, crimp shut with fork, and brush with beaten egg. Do not over--fill, or filling will leak out! Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Pastry dough for empañadas:
3 3/4 C flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp shortening
12 Tbsp butter
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp ice water

Cut shortening and butter into flour, salt, & sugar. Add water 1 spoonful at a time, stirring gently until a dough just begins to come together. Press together into a ball and knead the minimum amount needed to form a cohesive dough. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter to form 3-4 inch circles, or a pizza cutter to form 3-4 inch squares. Fill with small amount of filling (2 Tbsp is usually enough), and fold in half; crimp closed with fork.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This recipe has several steps, but is still relatively easy (easier than rolling individual enchiladas, anyway!), and the results are delicious. Assembly is very much like making lasagna. You could easily add more/different vegetables such as squash and/or beans to the chicken mixture, or even make a completely vegetarian version.
Enchilada casserole keeps well as leftovers, can be frozen before or after baking, and makes a great take-along dish for pot-lucks.

1 28-oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

4 C fully cooked chicken, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp mexican spice blend
2 Tbsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced fine, with some of the sauce
1 tsp salt
2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
12 large tortillas, cut into 3-inch wide strips

Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, to combine flavors.
Meanwhile, in large skillet, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until clear. Add spices and minced chipotles, saute 1 minute more. Stir in chicken & heat through, remove from heat, and stir in 1 1/2 C of the cheese. This is the filling.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray the bottom & sides of a 13x9-in pan. Spread a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the pan. Arrange 1/3 the tortilla strips in an even layer, followed by half the filling, then spread 1/3 of the remaining sauce; repeat another 1/3 of the tortillas, the remaining half of the filling, another 1/3 of sauce, the last 1/3 of the tortillas, and finally the last of the sauce. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 C of cheese. Bake at 400° until bubbly, golden, & beautiful- about 30 minutes.

15-Minute Beef Stroganoff

An old favorite from my childhood. Found this in my recipe folder on a yellowed piece of scrap paper, in Mom's handwriting, spattered with what I really hope was gravy ;-D

1 pound beef round steak
1 3-oz can (approx 2/3 C) sliced mushrooms with their liquid
2/3 C water
1 envelope beefy-onion dry soup mix
1 C dairy sour cream
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
6 C cooked egg noodles


Trim fat from beef; reserve. Slice beef diagonally across the grain into very thin strips. Heat a large skillet and render the fat from the beef trimmings; remove trimmings leaving melted fat in skillet. Add enough butter to the beef fat in the skillet to make 3 Tbsp. Add the sliced beef and brown.

Stir in mushrooms with their liquid, water, and soup mix, bring to boil. Meanwhile, blend together sour cream and flour. Reduce heat under skillet to low simmer, and gently stir in the sour cream mixture. Simmer gently, stirring constantly, until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened- it will still be runny. Serve hot over cooked egg noodles.

Low-Carb Variation
Omit flour and serve over cooked shredded spaghetti squash. Sauce will be runnier, but it's still yummy!

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

This recipe comes from my friend and co-worker Amy. I have not yet tried it myself, but she assures me it is delicious. I'll be sure and post an update when I do get a chance to try it.

1 1/4 lb fresh ground pork
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp rosemary
2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)


Thoroughly combine all ingredients. Form into patties and cook on a medium-hot griddle or skillet until browned and no pink remains in center; drain on paper towels. Or, layer uncooked patties between waxed paper and freeze in airtight zip-top freezer bag.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Veggie & Black Bean Fajitas

I made these tonight for dinner. I used squash & mushrooms, but really, you could use any veggies you have on hand, as long as their flavor is compatible. (Brussels-Sprout Fajitas would prbably be pretty nasty, for example).
Ever since I discovered them, I have been using frozen bell peppers and onions for recipes. Just look for the "bell pepper trio" or "pepper and onion stir-fry" in the frozen vegetable section. It will be a blend of red, yellow, & green bell pepper and onion, cleaned and cut into strips ready for cooking. It's cheaper than fresh red & yellow bell peppers, won't go bad in the produce drawer, and did I mention it's already cleaned and cut? I also buy and use frozen diced onion, and those jars of minced fresh garlic in olive oil. So convenient, less wasteful, not expensive, and lets me use smaller amounts when cooking for 1 or 2 (which is most of the time).

3 smallish summer squash and/or zucchini, about 2 C when sliced
1 small onion (1/2 C diced or sliced)
2 Tbsb minced garlic
1 C sliced mushrooms (I used re-hydrated dried shitake, but use whatever you've got)
1 C bell pepper strips, any combination red, yellow, & green
1/2 C black beans, canned or home-cooked & drained (I like Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans)
2 Tbsp fajita spice mix, or 1/2 store-bought packet
3 Tbsb olive oil
Flour or corn tortillas
cheddar or jack cheese
favorite toppings, such as salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc

Cut the squash into quarters, lengthwise, then slice 1/4 inch thick. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add prepared vegetables, mushrooms, onion, garlic, & fajita seasoning; stir to coat everything with the oil and seasoning. Turn heat up to high and cook, turning and stirring only occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown nicely. Do not stir too much, or the delicious browning will not occur and your veggies will be soggy. Add the beans and stir to combine; if beans are juicy allow excess moisture to cook away. Remove from heat and serve with tortillas, cheese, and any desired toppings. For maximum nutrition, use either whole-wheat or flour tortillas, which make a complete protein when eaten with beans.

Carnivorous Additions:
Bacon makes everything better, so add a few slices of cooked, crumbled bacon. Cooked chicken and/or shrimp sauteed in a little more fajita seasoning and olive oil or water will add extra protein & flavor- you won't need much, just a few small pieces per fajita, on top of a hearty helping of veggies.

Fajita Spice Mix

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. bouillon, or one large cube (chicken, beef or veg, whichever kind of fajitas you usually make)
1-1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp sugar (don't leave out; enhances browning & "sizzle")

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Recycle an old, empty spice bottle, perhaps- but be sure to label it! 3 Tbsp is about equal to a store-bought packet of fajita mix.

The flavor that is missing from this blend is lime- commercial fajita mixes have "lime juice solids". Simply add the juice of one lime (About 2-3Tbsp) to your finished fajitas after cooking, when you remove the skillet from the heat. Lemon juice is an acceptable substitute, or if you don't usually keep either on hand, reduce the cayenne in the spice mix and add some lemon-pepper seasoning. Or leave the pepper as it is, and add some lemon or lime zest.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peruvian Pulled Pork

This is my version of a dish I first had at Cheeseburger in Paradise, which is sadly no longer on the menu. I combined several recipes I found around the interwebs to come up with something similar. Caution- the tumeric in the marinade will stain cloth, and even some light-colored countertops! Wear an apron, and handle the marinade over the sink, or you may regret it!

I use this deliciously savory pork for sandwiches: spread split crusty rolls with garlic/onion butter and lightly toast, layer with pulled pork, caramelized onions, and sharp cheddar cheese, then toast again to heat through and melt cheese. It's incredible.

2 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
1/4 C white vinegar
1/4 C water
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper or to taste

Remove the bone and skin from the pork shoulder and cut the meat into several baseball-sized chunks. Place in slow cooker.
Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over pork in slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or overnight, or high 4 hours, or until the meat is falling-apart tender. Remove pork from cooking liquid and allow to cool slightly, then shred with 2 forks (or your fingers). Use in sandwiches or burritos.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Sad Day

A sad day. We lost Ruby, the lead mare of our little herd. She had been sick since Saturday with a severe colic, which despite all my parents' and the vet's best efforts, steadily worsened. She couldn't eat or drink and by this morning, her poor belly was swollen to twice normal size. She fought the good fight, but about 10am today, her body couldn't take it anymore and her heart just gave out. Mom and Dad were with her, Mom having spent the whole previous night in the stall to monitor and comfort her.
Ruby was a terrific little horse, an American Miniature, and like most of her breed she was sweet-natured and intelligent. She was very gentle, affectionate, a willing worker, very steady, and patient with children. There is a little boy in my parents' neighborhood with Down Syndrome who loves to stop by and visit the horses, and Ruby seemed to know that he needed extra gentleness. She was a very attentive mother, and gave us a beautiful filly, Rosie, who survives her along with Star, another mare. Poor Rosie seems bewildered and distressed by Ruby's absence. I know how she feels.
Ruby was beloved by our whole family, and many friends besides. She will be sadly missed. Goodbye, sweet girl.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Simon's Cat

I have seen this video before, and now I have discovered the source! See, cat people, isn't it so true?!

Biscuit Mix

Think of this as a home-made version of Bisquick- use it as you would any other biscuit or pancake mix. I sometimes substitute powdered soymilk for the nonfat dry milk, when making recipes for my friend V, who is allergic to dairy. A stand blender with the flat paddle is the perfect equipment for mixing this stuff up.

4 1/4 C flour (up to half can be whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 C nonfat dry milk (or substitute soy milk powder)
1 1/8 C vegetable shortening

Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand blender fitted with the flat paddle attachment, and mix on low until thoroughly combined and sifted. Add the shortening gradually in large dollops, mixing between each addition, then turn the mixer up to medium until all of the shortening is cut in. No visible shortening bits should remain larger than a sesame seed, and the mixture's texture should resemble cornmeal. Store in an airtight container, and use as you would any commercial biscuit or pancake mix.

Without a stand blender: sift the dry ingredients together and combine them thoroughly, then cut in the shortening with forks or a pastry blender until the mixture is uniform, and resembles cornmeal in texture.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Pesto Tomato Sauce

V & I invented this one summer evening while making grilled pizzas. They were delicious, and so is this sauce. Variations: Regular & Roasted Pepper Pesto.
  • 1 C fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, or 2 tsp minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C prepared tomato pizza or pasta sauce (we used Pizza Quick b/c that's what we had on hand)
Place all ingredients in a mini-food processor or blender, and puree into a smooth and creamy sauce. The color will be a kind of gross greenish brown, but it will taste outstanding! Use as you would any pizza or pasta sauce.

Afghan Biscuits

This recipe comes from my friend K, in New Zealand. (A "biscuit" in NZ is what Americans like me call a "cookie) I had some of these biscuits at little bakeries & cafes all over New Zealand when I was there 2 years ago, and K very kindly converted the recipe to American measurements and sent it to me. Thanks, K!

  • 14 Tbs. butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups cornflakes (measure without crushing)
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. water
¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 24 walnut halves
Cream the 14 tbs. butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and cocoa, and stir into creamed mixture. Add vanilla. Lightly crush the cornflakes, then gently and thoroughly fold into the batter. They should be well distributed without crushing them too much – which is what gives this cookie its special crunch!
Grease a cookie sheet. Form balls about the size of a walnut, and place on sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool on a rack.
Icing: melt the 1 tbs. butter, the water and chocolate chips over low heat. Then stir in the powdered sugar, and beat until it is spreading consistency. Add more sugar if necessary. Ice the cookies and decorate each with a walnut. Makes 2 dozen.

Shrimp Fried Rice

The important thing with fried rice, or any stir-fried dish, is to have all your ingredients cut up in little bowls or dishes and ready to go, before you ever turn the burner on. The egg should be cracked and beaten, ready in a little bowl. The herbs and spices and liquids should all be pre-measured. The shrimp should be peeled and, if they're big, cut into smaller pieces. Vegetables should be fully cleaned, peeled, and cut to size. To save on dirtying dishes, you can put your sliced/diced/minced/measured ingredients in together in combined bowls according to what goes into the pan at the same time.

If you follow this recipe exactly, you will have fabulous fried rice. You will also have fabulous fried rice if you follow this recipe very loosely. Use up any kind of veggies, including leftover cooked veggies, and use the recipe as a rough guide to the relative proportions of veg to protien to rice and flavorings.

A time-saving hint: hit up the salad bar in the produce section for small amounts of pre-cut and pre-shredded veggies to stir-fry. You can get exactly how much you need, and the prep is already done. In small quantities, it barely matters that the unit price is higher than whole veggies.


  • 1/2 lb peeled & de-veined shrimp
  • 1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1/3 C chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 C sliced green onions
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 C chilled cooked brown rice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp lo-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp water

Combine shrimp, ginger and crushed red pepper in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Heat sesame oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add bell pepper, green onions, and garlic; stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until tender. Add shrimp mixture to pan; stir-fry 4-5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Add cooked rice; stir-fry 2 minutes. Push rice mixture to sides of pan, forming a well in center. Add egg to center of pan, and let cook 30 seconds; toss with rice, and stir-fry until egg is cooked. Stir in soy sauce and water; cook until thoroughly heated. 4 servings.

New Boots

I am feeling a little silly, clomping around my house in laced-up hiking boots with hi-tech smartwool socks, doing laundry & chores. Why, you might ask? Well, remember when you were a little kid, and you got brand-new shoes, and you mother wouldn't let you wear them home because you had to wear them in the house on the carpet only for several days to make sure they really, truly did fit? Because once they got scuffed or dirty, there was no returning them?
Well, it's like that. These are really nice hiking boots and I paid $$ for them @ the LL Bean outlet. So I'm wearing them around the house for hours on end just to be sure, because this coming Saturday they'll get a trial by fire at the CERT disaster drill, and after that there will be no going back. These will be my boots for the forseeable future. (And when I say "trial by fire," I mean actual fire!)

Chicken Satay

This recipe makes enough of the sauce/marinade for 2 pounds of chicken. My favorite use of this fabulous chicken is to slice or dice it up, warm it briefly, and wrap it in a flatbread (also warm) with fresh baby spinach and cheese. I suspect it would also make kick-booty chicken salad.

  • boneless skinless chicken tenderloins, or breasts cut into strips.
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 C. peanut butter
  • 1/2 C. milk (can substitute soy or coconut milk)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 C. hoisin sauce (Chinese sauce found in jars on Asian/ethnic aisle)
  • juice of 1 lime, or 2 Tbsp
  • 3/4 tsp ground dried ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh grated)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper


Whisk together all ingredients except chicken until smooth and combined. Scoop 1/2 C mixture per each pound of chicken into a large zip-top bag (save the rest in the fridge for later). Add the chicken, seal the bag, and skoosh all around to coat the chicken. Refrigerate 3 hours to overnight.

Remove chicken and discard marinade left in bag. Cook the chicken strips by:

  • Threading onto skewers and searing on a hot charcoal or gas grill, 2-3 minutes per side
  • Searing on a hot griddle, 2-3 minutes per side
  • Cooking on a counter-top grill (George Foreman-type), approx. 4 minutes
  • Broiling, turning once, 2-5 minutes per side.

Serve immediately with reserved sauce for dipping, or refrigerate for use in other recipes.