Friday, December 18, 2009

The Best Cookbooks for Holiday Giving 2009

(This post originally appeared at

Going holiday shopping this weekend? If you are shopping for a cook, cookbooks are always a good idea. Previously, I posted about NPR's selection of top cookbooks for 2009. For some additional ideas on what books to look for this holiday season, check out Caroline Russock's post over at Serious Eats where she sets forth her top cookbooks of the year. Below I've listed a few alternatives and additions to those identified by Russock.

First, Russock lists 660 Curriesby Raghavan Iyer. This is a large cookbook with, as the title states, recipes for hundreds of curries. Although it is an interesting book, 660 Curries is probably overkill for the occasional Indian cook. My suggested alternative: Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. This is a slim volume - important with limited shelf space in the kitchen - with a nice variety of dishes that are delicious and easy to prepare.

Second, Russock suggests Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods. As a newbie into the world of canning this year, Well-Preserved is a book I will check into. If there is a cook on your list who wants to try canning, consider purchasing the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. In addition to recipes, this book is loaded with the basic information that the newbie needs to know. It is the definitive book to read before beginning home preserving, in my opinion.

Third, Russock lists three specialty books,How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking, Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals, and Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana. Specialty books do make interesting gifts. I'd add to the list two books that are special, but offer a lot of variety. The first is The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger. Krieger's recipes for healthy food are amazingly delicious - I highly recommend her book. The second is Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking, which has hundreds of wonderful, traditional Southern recipes - literally from soup (gumbo) to nuts (sugared pecans). It's a cool book to give someone who loves cooking and good food.

If you do give a cookbook this year, add a small kitchen tool or gizmo to the present to spice up the package a bit. Or consider giving a small cooking tool along with an Amazon Gift Card so that the chef can select his or her own book.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Via Serious Eats: A Gift Guide for the Healthy Eater.

Check out this holiday gift guide from Serious Eats. A number of good ideas are listed.

Gadgets: Micro S'mores

Micro S'mores for some reason remind me of the Veg-O-Matic. But for that certain someone, perhaps this could be the right holiday present!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Supermarket Chicken Continues to be Gross.

From Consumer Reports: A test by Consumer Reports found that 2/3 of whole broilers bought at stores nationwide harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease. To be safe, chicken must be cooked to at least 165° F. Do not allow raw chicken or its juices to touch any other food. Read the full report here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NPR's Top 10 Cookbooks for 2009

Note: This post first appeared at Something Good to Read.

One thing I love about this time of year is the publication of various "10 best of 2009" lists. NPR recently published it's 10 best cookbooks of 2009. Some of these books look intriguing; some, not so much.

Included on the NPR list is Gourmet Today, from the folks at the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. The book is described as "a good go-to reference for basic matters of technique, like making fresh pasta or how to make a roux." Can the market absorb another giant-sized (1024 pages) cookbook such as this? I'm doubtful. And frankly, if there is room on your shelf for such a monster, consider instead picking up either Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, published in 2008, or his 2007 book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Both books are excellent.

Three books on NPR's list that did catch my eye are Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every, Savory Baking, and Clean Food. According to the book's description, Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You focuses on eating "seasonal, unprocessed, and locally-grown foods that are good for us and the environment." These are worthy goals and a new book on this topic might indeed deserve some of our precious shelf space.

Artisan Breads Every Day
sounds appealing both because Peter Reinhart really knows bread and because I'm addicted to baking it. There is nothing like having everyone in the house crowd into the kitchen to wolf down warm, freshly baked bread with butter. If you are thinking about resolutions for 2010, consider adding 'bake more bread' to the list; it's not hard to do. Currently I'm working testing recipes from Jim Lahey's My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method. I'll add Peter Reinhart's book on my to-review list.

Finally, I will check out Savory Baking because while baking sugary treats is fine on occasion, it is more interesting to use herbs, nuts, mushrooms, and cheese. This book promises new recipes to do just that.

So much to read (and eat); so little time. Top 10 lists aren't perfect, but they do assist in separating the wheat from the chaff. As I find more top ten lists for 2009, I'll post about them here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

World's Best Meatballs and Sauce

Meatballs and sauce, accompanied by either pasta or a crusty loaf of bread, is a terrific Sunday night supper - with leftovers to enjoy Monday. Make the sauce first, then spread a bit of it on the bottom of the pan in which you bake the meatballs.

Essential tip on this recipe: For a significantly better meatball, ask the butcher to grind a mix for you.


Chipolte Spiced Tomato Sauce
Adapted from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

Equipment: Immersion blender, such as the Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbs. tomato paste
1 28-ounce can tomatoes
1/2 tsp. finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce.
2 tsps. dried oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 scant tsp. salt
A few pinches of dried basil

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. I use my 8-quart stock pan. You'll be using a stick blender at the end of cooking, so use a larger pan for ease and safety.

Saute the onion in the oil until translucent (4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Minced garlic cooks quickly. Don't burn it.

Add to the saucepan: tomato paste, can of tomatoes with juice, chipotle chile, oregano, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit.

Using stick blender, blend until reaching the desired consistency.

Adapted from

Equipment: Digital meat thermometer. Something like this Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer


1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
3 Tbs. minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. of black pepper
2/3 cup of milk
2 tsp.dried oregano

Combine all ingredients. Form 2-inch meatballs. Spoon some sauce over each meatball. Bake at 350 until meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. This could take 25 to 35 minutes depending on your oven. Use the thermometer. After 25 minutes have passed, remove one meatball from the oven and check the temp. If not done, give it another 5-10 minutes and check again. Patience!

Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta or with crusty bread.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Pie

You don't cook. You don't bake. Nonetheless, if you are invited to Thanksgiving dinner, volunteer to bring a pie. In fact, volunteer to bring a pecan pie. It is absolutely the easiest item to make yourself. And it will delight and amaze your friends. Here's what to do:


Assemble these items. If you don't have them on hand, purchase at a second-hand store, a hardware store, or one of those stores with the word "mart" in the name. The 99 cent measuring spoons work just as well as the expensive spoons from a specialty store. And we will be making more pie in the future, so having these items on hand makes sense.

Pyrex pie plate. Get the big one with the fluted edges. On the back it says "24 cm".

Hand mixer.

A set of measuring cups (for dry ingredients) and a set of measuring spoons.

Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup (for liquid ingredients).

A big spoon.

Rolling pin. If you are buying one, get a French rolling pin with a tapered end if you can, but really any will do for this project. (Example: Ateco 20175 20" French Rolling Pin with Tapered End)


Pillsbury Pie Crust from the refrigerator section of the store.
1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves or chopped pecans
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
1 cup dark Karo syrup
4 Tbs. melted, unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs


Pre-heat oven to 425.
Read the instructions on the Pillsbury Pie Crust package. Bring one pie crust to room temperature pursuant to those instructions.

Take the pie crust out of the package, carefully unroll it and set it on a clean work surface. With the rolling pin, gently roll the dough out a bit. Keep it circular and don't roll the dough so thin that it tears. Just roll a bit, thinking all the while "flaky pie crust." Trust me, thinking good thoughts helps.

Gently fold the crust in half, bottom to top, and then in half again, right to left. Place the wedge of dough in the pie plate and unfold. Make it comfortable and as pretty as you can. Set this aside.

Make the Filling

Beat eggs with a fork until yolks and whites are blended. Add the syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla and blend together will with the electric beater. Stir in the pecans with a spoon. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.


Bake for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. The filling will be set, but still quiver a bit in the middle.

Let the pie cool.

Everyone will love this pie. Have fun, and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Check out this post at the NYT regarding skipping turkey and, instead, pumping-up the side dishes for your Thanksgiving feast. Going Vegetarian for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Barbeque Sauce

Tonight I needed barbecue sauce, but there was none in the larder. What I did not need, or want, was a trip to the store. I turned to the web for a barbecue sauce recipe that could be put together with what was on hand.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are a zillion barbecue sauce recipes out there. The one below is what I followed today - and it was roundly praised by all diners. Delicious, and so easy to prepare. I may not be buying barbecue sauce at the store any more.

Regretfully, I can't tell you where I found this recipe; I looked at and wrote down many formulations, losing track of what came from where. But to the chef who dreamed this up, and posted it, thank you!

Good Barbecue Sauce

1/2 C Ketchup

2 Tbs. Cider Vinegar

2 Tbs. Maple Syrup

2 Tbs. Chopped Onion

2 tsp. Mustard

1/4 tsp. cayenne

Mix together in a sauce pan and heat.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Light Whole Wheat Bread

This recipe uses King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, which produces a substantial bread that should please both those who love whole wheat bread that those who prefer a lighter loaf.

Light Whole Wheat Bread
(Adapted from Baking with Julia)

2-1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
6 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (approximately)
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. molasses
1 Tbs. salt

Two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 loaf pans.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup of warm water, the yeast, and honey. Allow to rest until foamy, about 5 - 10 minutes.

Add the remaining water, the oil, molasses, and half the flour. Stir to combine. With the bowl on the mixer, at low speed mix in the remainder of the flour. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn't come together, add a bit more flour in small increments. Add the salt. (italics so you don't forget!).

Knead the bread for 10 minutes.

Place the kneaded bread into a large oiled bowl. Flip the dough around to cover the entire surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1-1/2 hour or until doubled.

Butter or oil the loaf pans. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Working one half at a time: Stretch the dough into a 9 x 12 rectangle. Working with the short end, fold the dough two-thirds of the way down the rectangle. Now fold the top edge to meet the bottom edge and press to form a seam. Fit the roll into a loaf pan, seam-side down. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cover the pans with oiled plastic wrap and all the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake the risen loaves for about 35 minutes. Remove the bread from the pans and cool completely. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Master Grocery List

Tired of forgetting to buy items at the grocery store? Refine your shopping list using one of the grocery lists available at

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The Wall Street Journal today ran an article on canning. Hmmmm . . . they must have heard about the jalapeno jelly and apple raisin chutney I put up this summer. Putting Up Produce: Yes, You Can.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Often it is the little discoveries in the kitchen that generate the most satisfaction. This morning, that satisfying discovery was stirring together a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with a teaspoon of honey and then spreading that combined, gooey deliciousness onto my whole-wheat toast. Why skip breakfast when there is something that easy and fabulous to enjoy?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


From Readers Digest: Six Extraordinary Uses for Apples.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Matzo Ball Chicken Noodle Soup

Making Matzo Ball Chicken Noodle Soup is a project best divided over two weekends. On the first weekend, make the chicken stock. Yes, yes, yes: You can buy stock. But why would you when making your own is easy and tastes better. If you don't make your own stock for this soup, don't tell me. I don't want to know. And if you are using canned stock, I really don't want to know.

Why not just humor me and make some chicken stock. The recipe for the remainder of the soup follows the directions for stock.

Chicken Stock
Adapted from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food

1 1/2 gallon water
1 whole chicken, 3.5 - 4 lbs.

Place the chicken and water into a stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Skim off any foam.

Add to the pot:

1 peeled carrot.
1 onion, peeled, cut in half, with the cut sides blacked under the broiler.
1 head garlic cut in half, the loose paper removed but the head still holding together by the last layer of paper.
1 celery stalk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper corn
Sprig of parsley, sprig of thyme, 1 large bay leaf.

Simmer everything together for 4 - 5 hours. Carefully strain. Here is how I strain so that a hot mess of stock doesn't explode in the kitchen: First, line a colander with cheese cloth and place the colander over a bowl large enough to hold all of the finished stock. Using tongs, a slotted spoon or other kitchen tools, move the chicken from the pot to the colander to drain. Scoop out as much of the vegetables as you can and let that also drain in the colander. After the chicken and veg has finished draining, wrap it all up using the cheese cloth and remove from colander. Now, carefully pour the remainder of the stock through the colander and into the large bowl. Cover the bowl and put into the refrigerator over night.

The next day, carefully skim off any fat that accumulated on the top of the cold stock. Divide the stock into quart containers and freeze.

Matzo Ball Noodle Soup

Step I. Defrost 3 quarts of your homemade chicken stock and put it into a large stock / soup pot.

Step II. While the broth is defrosting, poach a chicken breast. When it is cool enough to touch, shred the meat and set aside. Peel one carrot and slice it finely. Set aside.

Step III. Make the matzo balls. You'll need:

1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. seltzer / club soda.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs. Whisk in the vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. Stir in the matzo meal. Stir in the 2 tbs. seltzer / club soda. Cover, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bring 1 and 1/2 quarts of water, plus one teaspoon salt, to boil in a medium pot. Reduce the heat to simmer. Form the matzo balls: Spritz you hands with cooking spray. Scoop a tablespoon of batter from the bowl and roll it into a ball between your palms. Drop the balls into the hot water. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Think of this process as akin to poaching an egg: The water should be hot, simmering, but not boiling. You don't want the matzo ball to fall apart.

Heat the stock. Check the seasoning. I've added up to 2-1/2 tsp. of salt to the stock in small increments, checking the taste after each addition.

Fifteen minutes before the matzo balls are finished, add the chicken and carrot to the stock. About five minutes before the matzo balls are finished, add 6 ounces of fine egg noodles to the simmering stock. Do not cook the noodles more than 8 minutes.

Ladle soup, chicken and noodles into a bowl, and then add two matzo balls.


Friday, September 18, 2009

KitchenAid Stand Mixers on Sale at Amazon Today

I love to bake bread and always use my stand mixer to do the kneading. It makes the process much easier. There are some breads, such as my Old Milwaukee Rye Bread, that I simply would not make without the mixer to do the heavy work.

If you want to start baking yeast breads, or bake more bread during the forthcoming winter, consider taking advantage of today's sale at Amazon on KitchenAid stand mixers. The mixers come in a variety of colors. Today, the white and black colors are priced the lowest, $240, with free shipping. Other colors are more expensive, but still reduced from Amazon's list price. The cost is not insignificant, but these mixers last for years and make bread baking a breeze.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cuisinart's New "Elite" Collection

The New York Times reports that Cuisinart has a new line of food processors, the Elite Collection. Among the new features: Blades that lock in place so the bowl can be emptied without the blade falling out, which is a significant improvement in my opinion. Work bowls also have a pouring spout.

The new model sounds interesting, but these changes do little to assist in resolving the abiding question for home cooks with limited budgets and limited counter space: Food processor or stand mixer?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Apple Turnover

This morning I saw in the freezer the box of puff pastry that I'd purchased weeks ago intending to make cheese straws. Cheese straws still seem like a good idea. However, it is mid-September and now apples are on my mind. Thus: Apple Turnovers.

I made a deliberate effort to keep the amount of sugar in this recipe low, and thus it is not overwhelmingly sweet. In the end, I concluded that next time I will use more sugar when making the filling; I may trying using 1/4 cup brown sugar and a 1/4 cup white sugar, and see how that works.

Apple Turnovers

3 apples (I used a combination of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith)
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch salt
1 package frozen puff pastry (17.3 ounces, 2 sheets) defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs. water
Sugar for sprinkling.


Preheat over to 400.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove puff pastry from packaging and allow to defrost, about 40 minutes. While the dough defrosts, prepare filling.

Make the egg wash: Combine an egg with 1 Tbs. water. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbs. sugar, 2 Tbs. brown sugar 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and pinch of salt.

Peel, core and dice apples.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. butter. Add 1 Tbs. flour, and stir to make a paste. Add 1 Tbs. water, the sugar/spice mixture, and the apple dice. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes.

While the mixture cools, prepare dough. On a floured board, working with one sheet of dough at a time, lightly roll the dough into a 12" x 12" square. Cut the sheet into 4 smaller squares. Chill until ready to use. Proceed in the same way with the second sheet.

Working with one small square at a time, set about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on half of the square. Brush the edges with the egg white mixture. Fold the square diagonally over the apples and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Set the triangle on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining squares.

Brush the top of each triangle with the remainder of the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut one or two small slits into each pastry.

Bake for 20 minutes until nicely browned and puffed. Serve warm or room temperature.

These turnovers cry out to be eaten with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce, but are good also first thing in the morning or during a coffee break.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Brownies for Ordinary Time

Inexplicably, my original post here disappeared. Well. Here it is again, and a pox on the forces that conspired against it!

The absolute best brownies on earth are made using a recipe by Nick Malgieri called Supernatural Brownies. The recipe appeared in the New York Times in 2007. These brownies are really, really good. And rich. As good as they are, sometimes a simple brownie is what you what. For those ordinary times, try the following:

Brownies for Ordinary Time

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (the best you can afford)
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. espresso powder
2 Tbs. low fat sour cream
1 large egg
1 egg white
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 12-inch square pan with a length of aluminum foil, one length running horizontally, one vertically. Push the foil into the corners of the pan and allow a "handle" of foil to extend over the sides of the pan.

Combine the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a medium bowl in the microwave. Let cool. Into this chocolate and butter add the brown sugar, white sugar, and espresso powder. Stir until well combined. Add the egg, egg white, sour cream and vanilla. Stir the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 22 minutes and check. In my oven this recipe needs to bake 30 minutes.

Cool brownies in the pan.


This is for a 13 x 9 pan of brownies; numbers in parenthesis are for half of the recipe.
1/4 cup butter (2 Tbs)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup cocoa (2 Tbs)
2-3 Tbs. milk (1-2)
1/2 tsp. vanilla (1/4 tsp.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sun Dried Tomato Dip

It's August and fresh veggies abound. Serve raw vegetables sliced or whole with this Sun Dried Tomato Dip for an easy, delicious appetizer.

Sun Dried Tomato Dip
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

For the best taste, make this dip the day before you intend to serve it so that there is sufficient time for the flavors to combine.

Don't be shy when using the Tobasco sauce. The recipe calls for dashes, not measly little drops. Start with 8 dashes and taste; I typically use around 12 dashes. If you do not use sufficient Tobasco, the dip will disappoint.

Substitutions: Stick with regular, original cream cheese for this recipe. I do use light sour cream, but I don't like the taste of either fat free sour cream or light mayonnaise and avoid using either one.


1/4 cup (about 8 pieces) sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped.

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

10-12 dashes of Tabasco sauce

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced.

In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Add the scallions and pulse just a few times to lightly combine.

Refrigerate until serving.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julia Child Quotes

From Chow: Ten favorite quotes attributed to Julia Child, including No. 3: If you are afraid of butter, just use cream. (more)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cantaloupe Smoothie

Beautiful, locally grown cantaloupe are now available at the market. Here is an easy recipe for Cantaloupe Smoothie, a refreshing breakfast drink or, with the addition of a little vodka, a new option for happy hour.

Cantaloupe Smoothie

1 ripe, medium cantaloupe
2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut up the cantaloupe. Carefully puree the chunks of fruit in a blender. Add the orange juice and lime juice and blend until combined.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Make It Yourself: Yogurt

When the weather is hot and humid, the thought of either heating up the oven or standing outdoors over a hot grill can be unpleasant. It is a good time to put your slow cooker to work.

I got out the slow cooker this Fourth of July weekend to make pulled-pork sandwiches, a meal that has a picnic-feel but is different from the hamburger / hot dog routine. After a quick look for recipes on the web, I adapted one found at

Success! A delicious picnic meal that is effortless to make. Try it this summer.

Pulled-Pork Sandwiches.
Note: Start this the day before you intend to serve the pork.

1/2 cup whole grain mustard
2 Tbs. brown sugar
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. coarse salt
2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper.
1 pork butt (3.5 pound)
1 medium onion
Your favorite barbecue sauce.

Crusty rolls
Red onion

Sauerkraut (from the refrigerated section of the grocery store)
Potato Salad

Day 1
Mince the garlic. Combine it with the mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Remove the bone, if any, from the pork. Cut the roast in half lengthwise. Spread the seasoning paste over the meat. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
Slice the onion into rounds and place it on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add meat. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours, until meat is falling apart.

Remove the meat from the cooker and, using two forks, shred. In a bowl, combine the shredded pork with 1 cup to 1 -1/2 cup of barbecue sauce (use enough to get the look and taste that you want).

Serve the meat on crusty rolls, topping the pork with thinly sliced rounds of red onion. Accompany the sandwiches with sides of potato salad, sauerkraut and radishes.


Monday, June 22, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all . . . you know the drill.

Summer is here, and if you are not already making ice cream at home, this is the year to begin. After all, according to The New York Times, due to the economy people are now actually making more sandwiches and coffee at home. (Coffee at home? I'm "shocked, shocked.").

Whatever the state of the economy, if you are looking to make delicious treats at home for any reason, ice cream should be on the list. You simply cannot buy ice cream that is a delicious as the stuff you can make on your own.

An ice cream maker is required. I use a Cuisinart, pictured below. Why? Because the product was on sale at the time I was shopping for the machine. It works great for me. I've seen advertisements for sales going on right now. Check around on the web, and you may find a good deal.

There are many recipes for ice cream on the web. If you own a large, general purpose cookbook such as Joy of Cooking, flip through the index because it's likely that such a book will contains ice cream recipes.

My favorite ice cream to make is vanilla, and it is very rich. It has a custard base made from sugar, eggs, cream, and whole milk. Because it is so rich, a small serving is not only appropriate, it is appreciated. Little bit goes a long way, and because it tastes so indulgent you will not feel deprived of dessert. Vanilla is the perfect base to add chocolate, nuts, or fruit. It can be given a cinnamon flavor for a perfect accompaniment to pie. Recently, I've made vanilla with chunks of bittersweet chocolate and bits of crunchy caramel, giving the dish a creme brulee-feeling.

The idea for the caramel came from Michael Richard's book Happy in the Kitchen. The caramel is made by stirring together red wine vinegar and sugar. The mixture is cooked on the stove until it is dark brown, then poured onto a silpat where it sits to harden for 24-hours. The chocolate chunks and broken-up caramel are stirred into the churned ice cream, and the whole thing comes together after sitting in the freezer for a day.

Is it good? No; it is beyond good.

Get an ice cream maker and try making some yourself this summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slashfood Reviews "Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking"

Should you buy Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking? Slashfood says, "For those in search of a serious, down-home pan-Southern cookbook, backed by a solid amount of cultural context, this is a goldmine." Read the entire review at this link.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Feel like you are all thumbs in the kitchen? Is opening a bag of prewashed lettuce your version of haute cuisine? Then you have sufficient skills to make strawberry freezer jam. It is so simple, and will also astound and amaze your friends. ("You made jam? Get lost!") Easy, delicious, and magical. You can do this. Here's how.

Step One: Assemble Stuff.

You'll need four cups of crushed strawberries. I purchased two quarts, figuring that if there were leftover berries, I could put them to good use. You will also need six 8-ounce containers in which to to put the jam. I purchased eight-ounce Ball jars and lids at the grocery story because I prefer glass to plastic for this project. The jars, which come with lids, are 12 to a pack. Don't worry, you'll find a use of all of them.

You'll also need a product from Ball called No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin. It should be in the same aisle of the grocery story where the jars are located. The recipe for the freezer jam is on this package. Also, make sure you have 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar in the house. Ball's recipe states that Splenda may be substituted for sugar, buy why do this? It's jam: you'll only eat a tablespoon or two at a time, which is hardly enough to destroy your diet.

Note also that the package calls for the use of five eight-ounce jars, but in making this last summer and this spring, I've always enough jam to fill more than five jars.

Step Two: Wash the Stuff.

Put the six jars and lids in the dishwasher and run them with that day's load of dishes (or wash with hot water and soap in the sink). Wash and stem the berries. This is, in my opinion, the most tedious part of the project. Because this should be fun and not tedious, I stop here, put the berries in the refrigerator, and return to this project the next day. If you want to carry on, go ahead.

Step Three: Make the Stuff.

Follow the directions on the Fruit Pectin package. Crush the fruit. I use a potato masher for this task. Measure out four cups of crushed fruit. Add the sugar and Fruit Pectin, gently combine everything together, and then stir another three minutes. Spoon the jam into jars and put on the lids. Let the jars sit on the counter for 30 minutes. That's it. You are finished. Put one jar in the fridge to eat with your next breakfast, and the remainder into the freezer.

You've made jam. Genius!

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Actor Christopher Walken Cooks

Christopher Walken rocks. Here he is at home, cooking chicken. Nice.

More cowbell, baby!

(Via. Lifehacker)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

English Muffins

I really like English Muffins. For toasting at breakfast, they are better than bread. English Muffins have a delightful, crispy exterior. When pulled open with a large fork, the interior has those groovy craters that hold butter and jam.

Often I've thought about making English Muffins, but have been held back by the procedure called for in various recipes. In some, the muffins are cooked in a cast iron skillet or on a griddle, but this sounds a bit too labor-intensive (cook a batch, keep warm, cook more, repeat). Recipes also often call for use of an English Muffin ring to hold the shape of the bread as it is cooking in the pan. I don't have such rings, and its not something I'm looking to buy.

This morning, however, I found an adaptation of a recipe at All Recipes that doesn't require either special equipment or messing around with cooking small batches of muffins in a skillet. The ingredients are simple, the technique easy, and the results are absolutely delicious.

Hurray! English Muffins baked at home. This is absolutely something you should try.

Whole Wheat English Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipies. com

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

Corn meal
2 greased cookie sheets


Place flours and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk to combine.

Melt the butter; set aside.

Heat 1 cup of water to about 110 degrees. Mix yeast and a pinch of out of the 2 Tbs. of sugar to the warm water and allow to stand for about 10 minutes as the yeast gets creamy.

In a small sauce pan, heat the milk until it just bubbles. Add the remainder of the sugar to the milk and mix to dissolve. Let stand until lukewarm.

Whisk the melted butter into the lukewarm milk/sugar mixture and then pour all of it into the bowl with the flours and salt. Add yeast and water mixture to the bowl. Stir to combine.

Knead the dough on the stand-mixer for 8 to 10 minutes. Whole wheat flour is sticky; add sprinkles of all purpose flour as necessary to get a smooth, elastic dough. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, heat the oven to 100 degrees. Lightly flour the work surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Form the dough into a log. Carefully spray a large serrated bread knife with cooking spray, then cut the log into 18 pieces. Use a sawing motion when cutting the pieces to avoid compressing the dough.

Dredge the dough slices in the corn meal and place on the oiled cookie sheets.

Turn off the oven. Place the cookie sheets into the warm oven and allow dough to rise for 30 minutes. Remove sheets from oven and leave the dough on the sheets while heating the oven to 375 degrees.

When the oven is ready, put the sheets back in and bake the muffins at 375 for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, flip the muffins over, and bake for an additional 5 - 6 minutes.

Remove muffins and allow to cool on a rack.

Freeze those muffins not eaten on bake day or planned for use in the following day's meals.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday Morning FYI: Crunchberries are Not Fruit.

Originally posted at Something Good to Read.

If you are lazin' around this Saturday morning, feeling virtuous because you are eating Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries and getting a serving of fruit in your bowl, then you have a problem. Actually, you may have more than one problem, but definitely a problem with thinking a Crunchberry is a fruit. It is not, and there is now a legal opinion confirming this point.

In a suit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, the Plaintiff claimed that the packaging and marketing of Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries misled her into thinking that the product contains real, nutritious fruit. Defendant moved to dismiss, and that motion was recently granted.

In dismissing the Plaintiff's claims concerning deceptive practices and advertising, the Court wrote:

While the challenged packaging contains the word "berries" it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term "crunch." This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a "crunchberry."

Furthermore, the "Crunchberries" depicted on the [Product's principal display panel ("PDP"), the panel of the cereal box facing consumers as they shop in a store aisle] are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the PDP clearly states both that the Product contains "sweetened corn & oat cereal" and that the cereal is "enlarged to show texture." Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. (emphasis supplied).
Not only would no "reasonable consumer" - the standard for analyzing the Plaintiff's claims - be duped into thinking that a Crunchberry was fruit, but the Court noted that the Plaintiff even conceded that "'[c]lose inspection reveals that Crunchberries on the PDP are not really berries.'"

Delivering the coup de grace, the Court ruled that Plaintiff is not allowed to file an amended complaint: "The survival of the instant claim would require this Court to ignore all concepts of personal responsibility and common sense. The Court has no intention of allowing that to happen."

Read all of Sugawara v. Pepsico, Inc. here.

And to be complete: Froot Loops? Also not fruit. McKinnis v. Kellogg USA, 2007 WL 4766060 (C.D. Cal. 2007).

And the man himself, Cap'n Crunch? Well, I'm sorry to tell you this, but . . .

(Via Slashfood)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Make It Yourself: Hummus.

It's official: I'm never buying hummus again. Not since I've made it at home and discovered how easy it is to do, and how delicious it tastes. And as an additional bonus, I don't have to deal with those small, plastic containers that hummus comes in from the store.

Below is the basic recipe.

Basic Hummus

2 cups canned garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chick peas), drained
1/3 cup tahini, well stirred
1 ounce fresh lemon juice (start there; add more in small increments if you feel it is necessary)
2-3 cloves garlic
Generous pinch of salt
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. red pepper flake

Measure 2 cups of garbanzo beans. Reserve the liquid from the can. Rinse the beans under cold water.

Peel the garlic cloves. Using a motar and pestle, put a few pinches of salt into the bottom of the motar, add the garlic, and mash together.

Place rinsed beans, tahini, salt/garlic mash, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and red pepper flake into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the walls of the processor bowl as needed.

At this point, the mixture may be too thick. Adjust it to suit your taste by adding bean liquid, or water, by the scant tablespoon until the hummus is of the right consistency. Taste, and adjust salt and seasonings as necessary.

Refrigerate. Allow several hours for the flavors to blend together.

Enjoy on pita bread, sesame crackers, and veggies!

Amanda Hesser Writing in the New York Times: The Commander in Chef

From the Op-ed pages of yesterday's paper: Amanda Hesser asks, "What's missing from Mrs. Obama's good food campaign? Cooking."

The Coffee Buzz

"Coffee? Yeah, I could use a cup."

Over at Lifehacker, brewing good coffee at home has been under discussion:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Boycott Canadian Maple Syrup

To protest Canada's baby seal hunt, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for a boycott of Canadian maple syrup. According the PETA, "[e]very year, the Canadian government allows sealers to beat, skin, and kill hundreds of thousands of baby seals for their fur. Many of these pups have their heads bashed in or are shot before they even get a chance to eat their first solid meal or learn how to swim."

PETA argues that boycotting the syrup will help pressure the Canadian government into stopping the seal hunt. In reply to the call from PETA, Canadian Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean "showed solidarity with Canadian seal hunters by eating a slice of seal heart on national television" according to

The Humane Society also opposes the baby seal hunt. According to its web site:
Seal hunting is an off-season activity conducted by fishers from Canada's East Coast. They earn a small fraction of their incomes from sealing—primarily from the sale of seal pelts to European fashion markets. But the vast majority of the sealers' incomes are from commercial fisheries. Canadian seafood exports to the United States contribute $2.4 billion annually to the Canadian economy—dwarfing the few million dollars provided by the seal hunt. The connection between the commercial fishing industry and the seal hunt in Canada gives consumers all over the world the power to end this cruel and brutal slaughter.
Opposing the seal hunt is reasonable and joining the boycott is an easy step for consumers to undertake.

Use your clout as a consumer and join this boycott of Canadian maple syrup until the seal hunt is stopped.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's in the salad? Weeds.

The Wall Street Journal reports about the new trend among yuppies (yes, they are still here) for buying and using common weeds as their salad greens. Dandelion greens are reportedly going for $9 a pound.

This food trend is not for me. Not weeds. And I am certainly not buying weeds.

What about you?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe Test: Martha Stewart's Asparagus Spears with Dill Shallot Vinaigrette

Recently the Executive Chef prepared a roast chicken, pictured below. Fabulous! Side-dishes included the "it" vegetable of the moment, asparagus. Yours truly was in charge of the preparing the asparagus.

Thus far this spring we've steamed asparagus, roasted asparagus, enjoyed cream of asparagus soup. All good treatments for asparagus, but what's new for this veggie? In need of inspiration, I turned to Martha.

At, a collection of asparagus recipes was posted recently. Scanning the collection, I elected to try asparagus spears with dill vinaigrette. Was it good? Yes. The vinaigrette is excellent, and the preparation is easy.

The vinaigrette is a snap to prepare and can be whisked together up to eight hours before serving. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup minced fresh dill. Two issues with this: First, I had no fresh dill on hand. Second, a 1/4 cup seems like a lot of dill. I used a teaspoon of dried dill, which was more than enough for our taste.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart:
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
The asparagus is steamed. Steaming takes only a few minutes using a vegetable steamer and a covered sauce pan containing shallow water brought to boil.

The verdict on this recipe? It's very good. You should try it this spring.

This chicken needs asparagus.

Tools required for this asparagus recipe:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dreaming about Oatmeal Cookies

The cookie trifecta: chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal. Of these three, oatmeal is arguably the most versatile. Some recipes use more oats (up to three cups) to create a chewy cookie while others call for less oats, producing a leaner and crispier cookie, such as the batch pictured above. Additives can vary from the classic raisins to chocolate or butterscotch chips, other dried fruit such as dates or cherries, coconut, walnuts, or a combination of these.

There are a million oatmeal cookie recipes out there in the big city. When you are ready to bake, choose one that calls for butter rather than vegetable shortening. Why? Taste. Butter provides a lively taste to what may otherwise be a heavy cookie. Shortening? Not so much, in my opinion.

Additionally, a key technique in cookie baking is to refrigerate the dough 24-hours (or at least overnight) before baking. According to Shirley Corriher, a chemist and author of Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, "[o]vernight, the proteins and the starch soak in liquid, the enzymes break the starches into sugar and big sugar breaks down into smaller sugar. Small sugars brown well . . . ." Chemist Divulges How To Bake The Perfect Cookie, (December 17, 2008). Try this when you next bake oatmeal cookies; I think you'll agree that it produces better results.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grilling Affordable Steaks

Planning to grill steak tomorrow at your Memorial Day picnic? Check out this excellent story from the Washington Post on affordable cuts of beef that are great for grilling. The related article on grilling a tough piece of meat is also recommended - and interesting to watch.

(Via Lifehacker)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eric Felten on the Great Scotch Controversy: Rocks or No Rocks

Just spotted this column by Eric Felten from last weekend's Wall Street Journal: A Chill to Scotch Purists' Hearts, discussing the issue of whether or not it is appropriate to add ice to a glass of Scotch. Of the many long standing, international feuds and controversies that grip the world, this one is sadly neglected by the major media outlets. Kudos, WSJ.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's for Breakfast: McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal

If you don't like oatmeal, it may be because you are eating the yucky instant or rolled oat varieties. These products have their place in the world - rolled oats are used in baking - but for breakfast something better is needed. That something better is steel cut oatmeal.

Steel cut oatmeal has a wonderful whole grain flavor. It also has a superior texture compared to the paste-like instant stuff. It does, however, have a long cooking time, up to 30 minutes. But there is a short cut.

The quick way to make one serving is as follows. In the evening, get out your smallest sauce pan that has a lid. Pour one cup of cold water into the pan and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup steel cut oatmeal to the water. Put the lid on the pan and forget about it until the morning. When you are ready for breakfast the next day, heat the oatmeal on low, stirring occasionally, for around ten minutes or until the consistency looks right to you.

Add a little maple syrup to the cooked oatmeal and - voila - fabulous breakfast. If you need more than one serving, keep in mind that the ratio is one cup of water for each 1/4 cup of oats. Thus to make two servings, use two cups water and 1/2 cup of oats.

If you already know that you love McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal, check out Amazon this weekend. You can buy a package containing six (6) boxes of oatmeal for $14.70, which works out to $2.45 per box, and is a meaningful savings over the price it is sold for at my local supermarket. (Buy something else you need to work your way up to Amazon's $25. / free shipping deal). There are 11 servings to a box of McCann's. Spending about 22 cents for breakfast ain't bad!

"The End of Overeating" by Dr. David Kessler

Originally posted at Something Good to Read.

Dr. David A. Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, was interviewed on the Diane Rehm show last Wednesday. (Link to the program here. Kessler was the guest for the 11:00 hour). After listening to the show, I looked over the book.

Kessler makes the case, based upon various studies, for the conclusion that foods containing tasty proportions of sugar, fat, and salt make the brain as hoppin' crazy as a teenybopper at a Jonas Brothers concert. An amped-up brain sends signals to eat even more, and consumption of food we perceive as delicious makes other areas of the brain send out positive vibrations.

Thus, when eating Cheetos, a complex set of chemical reactions occur in the brain/body that make some folks say, "Ahhh, delicious Cheeeeetos. I think I will eat until the bag is empty." Overeating can result in weight gain, feeling like an idiot, or both. By contrast, this compulsion to continue eating without regard to satiety or common sense does not typically occur when eating celery, a food that lacks sugar, salt, and fat.

Kessler also describes how manufacturers use this knowledge, that an attractive product loaded with sugar, fat and salt will sell like crazy, to invent items sold as "food" for the marketplace.

For those interested in the details as to why the sugar, salt, and fat combo can exert such a hold over some people, Dr. Kessler's book is for you. He also offers proposals on how to change undesirable eating behaviors.

If you don't want to read the book, do this instead:
  • Eat three meals a day, at approximately the same time every day.
  • Pay attention to how you feel at a meal. When you feel 80 percent full, stop eating.
  • Don't eat between meals. Note: Beer is food, people. This rule applies to beer and other alcoholic beverages.
  • The more something has been changed from its original state, the less of it you should eat. Example: There are no streams flowing with Brandy Old Fashioned and candy bars are not dug out of the ground, so consume them rarely.
Knowing and doing are different things, of course. Merely reading my rules, like reading Dr. Kessler's book, will not change what goes on in someones head. But for people interested in doing the hard, hard work involved with changing how they think about food, The End of Overeating may help.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Clams Casino

Clams Casino. Fresh clams on the half-shell, stuffed with diced peppers and onion, bacon, bread crumbs, and appropriate seasonings. Bake and - voila - enjoy a feast!

Last night my husband, Bill, prepared the Clams Casino pictured below using cherrystone clams from the Chesapeake Bay. Absolutely delicious with crusty bread and a glass of white wine.

I don't know the details of his recipe but I do know this: If someone offers to make you a dish of Clams Casino, accept immediately!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Some Families With Kids are Eating Now

Pressure in the economy has families with children eating at home. And what are they eating? The Financial Times reports today that sales of Kraft macaroni and cheese increased by more than 10 percent during the first quarter of this year. Sales of Kool-Aid and Jell-O also increased. Mac and Cheese can feed three children for about $1.50.

Saving money is good, but the orange packet of stuff in the mac and cheese box has always made me deeply apprehensive. Check out a simple, low-fat alternative to the boxed stuff here, from

And Jell-O . . . We'll talk about it more in the future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Look at Cookbooks

Lengthy story by Laura Miller in last weekend's Wall Street Journal about the latest offerings in cookbooks.

Cookbooks not mentioned in Ms. Miller's story, but that I know that I want to check into include:

  • The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. This book was mentioned recently by Lynne Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table. It's been out there a while, the original copy right is 1966, but it might turn out to be one of those fundamental, must-have works.

  • La Technique by Jacques Pépin. In The New York Times magazine last Sunday, chef Tom Colicchio named this book as the one he uses most often.

  • In the New York Times, Colicchio said, "Recipes tell you nothing. Learning techniques is the key." Along that line of thinking, I'm interested in checking out Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, which the Times described as "an elegant book on technique."

Cookbooks: Because if we aren't eating or cooking, we should be reading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Indoor S'mores

Today the weather is 70 degrees and sunny. It is definitely still spring, but summer is on the horizon. It's the perfect time for Indoor S'mores.

S'mores are, of course, a classic campfire treat. A sweet sandwich is made when a chocolate bar square and a marshmallow, which was toasted on a stick over the fire, are laid between two graham cracker squares. For me, camping is not on the agenda this Monday in May, so it's Indoor S'mores.

Indoor S'mores combine chocolate chips, graham crackers and marshmallow into an easy pan of bars. The bars I made, pictured below before being cut into individual servings, are based upon a recipe found at All Recipes. In the linked recipe, part of the crumb mixture used for the crust is reserved and then sprinkled on top, mimicking the two-cracker sandwich of a real s'more. I skipped that step and used all the mixture for the bottom crust.

Additionally, I scattered walnut pieces over the crust and put the pan into the oven for four - five minutes before adding the marshmallows and chips. The nuts give a little more depth to the flavor of the bars.

Hints for success: First, buy the best chocolate you can afford. Second, buy and use fresh, good quality butter. Good, quality butter and chocolate chips will significantly improve the taste of these bars. Third, when pressing the graham cracker crumb and butter mixture into the pan, press firmly. If not firmly compacted, the crust will be too crumbly.

Indoor S'mores are easy, and go perfectly with that afternoon cup of coffee. In fact, I think I'll go have a bit of both right now.