Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nun's Farts, New Lambs and Royal Blue

White Chocolate, Sour Cherry and Cardamom Rolls. Need I say more? The only change I made to the recipe (click here) was substituting chopped Baker's white chocolate for the chips, which was not an improvement as it melted a bit too much.

I was smitten with the recipe as soon as I saw it on Marie's blog, The English Kitchen. It contains white chocolate and dried sour cherries, two of my favorite things, and I must confess that I ate more than I should have of these -they are irresistible. They are also super easy to make, and when covered with plastic wrap and left overnight, delicious the following morning.

New lambs in the barn Thursday! What a nice surprise -two ewe lambs, one colored and one white, and both are doing well so far.

And I am slowly spinning this royal blue fiber, hand quilting a bit now and then on a grandmother's flower garden quilt I pieced years ago, and starting a (royal blue yarn) sock knitting project. I am so glad to see the end of April this weekend and I'm hopeful for a bit less rain next month. Happy May Day to everyone!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arabian Pizza

Arabesque -A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden is an absolutely gorgeous book I received as a gift from my youngest daughter a few years ago. Recipes, history, culture, and personal insight are all interwoven within its pages to create a delightful read for home cooks, like myself, who are interested in exploring the foods of these countries. Since we make homemade pizza almost every week, I was immediately intrigued by her recipe for Arabian 'Little Meat Pizzas.' I like to try different types of pizzas, and she offers several variations for these. Instead of making little ones as she suggests, I prefer to make regular-sized pizzas. I have made slight variations of this recipe several times now -and it always quickly disappears.

Last week when I made this pizza, I simply used half of the dough from a whole wheat farmhouse bread I was making (and crumbled on a bit of leftover feta we had in the fridge), but I've also made the traditional yogurt and olive oil dough very similar to the one in Arabesque for this pizza. It was good on both types of crust.

Pizza Dough

1/4 c. warm water
1 T. yeast

3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil

Add frothy yeast and 1 c. warmed yogurt. Mix and knead to make a smooth dough (10 minutes or so), adding more flour or water as needed. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to raise until doubled in size. Deflate, and flatten out onto an oiled pizza sheet, or make several smaller pizzas and place on oiled baking sheets.

Arabian Pizza

1 lb. ground lamb or goat
1 onion, diced (Claudia Roden's instructions are to finely chop the onion in a food processor and then drain it of its juices. Being rather lazy, I simply diced and mixed it in, but this does result in a lot of excess moisture)
3 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz. can diced tomatoes, well-drained
2 T. pomegranate molasses
1/2 t. each allspice and salt
1/4 c. pine nuts or chopped slivered almonds

Spread meat mixture evenly onto pizza dough. Bake 400 degrees for 15-25 minutes (depending on size of pizzas), or until done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monte Cristo Sandwich

When I first heard of Monte Cristo Sandwiches a couple years ago, I wasn't at all sure it was a good thing. It seems an unlikely combination, but the flavors work and it is really good. The sandwich is put together, then the whole thing is dipped into an egg mixture, as for French toast, and then cooked on a griddle. I always imagine the sandwich falling apart in the dipping process and making a huge mess so instead, this is how I make a Monte Cristo Sandwich: For each sandwich (multiply as needed), beat together 1 egg, dash each salt and cinnamon, 1 t. sugar and 2 T. milk. Dip to coat -but don't soak- two slices of bread in the egg mix, and then cook on a medium hot griddle with a bit of butter until golden, then turn and brown the second side. Spread mayonnaise (or not) and Dijon mustard on one slice of bread, and currant jelly (or jelly-style cranberry sauce) on the other slice. I layered on slices of deli turkey and ham, and Swiss (or Havarti) cheese, then closed and cut the sandwiches. I forgot the dusting of powdered sugar on top, which was fine for us grown-ups, but if you are serving these to children, it's NOT optional.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cinnamon-Orange Spice Meatballs

This charming little cookbook from the '90s has adorable illustrations and really great recipes using Celestial Teas -Cooking With Tea. I found a little note inside of it, written by my youngest daughter several years back, that, on one side, is a menu from this cookbook, and on the other side, a grocery list of the necessary ingredients. I don't remember if she made this, but it all sounds really good.

Harvest Spice Veggie Dip w/ Veggies
Raspberry Zinger Vinaigrette -Salad
Lemon Zinger Sea Bass with Zinger Salsa
Peppermint Chocolate Cake

With this week's meatball recipe in mind, my eye was caught by this. Doesn't it sound (and look) great!?! But then, everything in this book sounds and looks great!

Of course, yesterday when I made the meatballs (they will be thoroughly chilled tonight, and dinner will be a snap with them already made), I didn't actually follow this recipe.

Cinnamon-Orange Spice Meatballs

Heat 2-3 minutes in microwave:

1/2 c. white wine (I used homemade carrot wine. Honest, it's not bad!)
3 cinnamon-orange tea bags such as Seattle Pike Place Market Spice or Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice

Steep 10+ minutes and then discard bags.

Mix/Process in food processor:

1 lb. ground meat (beef, pork or half each. I used rabbit)

1 c. torn bread crumbs with half steeped wine-tea poured over to soften

1/4 - 1/2 diced onion

1/4 t. each salt and pepper

1 small egg

Form small balls. Chill or freeze.

Tonight I will:

Brown the meatballs in 2 T. oil. Remove meatballs, pour out excess grease and add:

remaining half wine-tea and mushroom broth to make 1/2 cup mixed with 1 T. cornstarch, and 1/2 c. orange marmalade. Stir until thickened and then add meatballs and simmer 10 minutes.

I think I will serve these with either chow mein and egg foo yung, or white rice and a vegetable. Either way, I know it's going to be great!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lolita's Turkey Curry

Lolita, my mother-in-law would often make this easy curry the day after Thanksgiving when her house was filled to bursting with her six adult children, their significant others, friends, and various children. I first joined them for the Thanksgiving weekend as a girlfriend of one of her sons, and over the years since that first holiday, I've watched and helped her make this curry many times. Making Lolita's curry with leftover turkey became a holiday tradition I wholeheartedly embraced. The past few years though, I have been terribly disappointed to find that all our leftover Thanksgiving turkey meat has been completely devoured as turkey sandwiches, well before dinner time of the day after (our heritage breed turkeys are much smaller than the commercial behemoths). Turkey sandwiches are all well and good, but I really like this curry! I'm a bit slow to think things through, but it occurred to me last week, that instead of lamenting the absence of this curry in my life forever, I could make it happen easy enough, AND I DIDN'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THANKSGIVING TURKEY LEFTOVERS! Lacking turkey in the freezer, I substituted some chicken breasts, which was every bit as good.

Lolita's Turkey Curry

2-3 T. vegetable oil

1/2 chopped onion
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
1-2 T. curry powder
Saute until onions brown a bit.

1/3 c. flour
Cook 1-2 minutes.

Whisk in:
2 c. milk or soy milk
1 c. leftover gravy (or roasting pan drippings)
15 oz. can lite coconut milk
dash Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 t. salt, or to taste
Cook gently to thicken, 5 minutes or so.

2-4 c. chopped cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/4 - 1/3 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro
(lacking fresh mushrooms to add with the onions, add a can of sliced mushrooms here)
Serve over hot, cooked rice with crushed red peppers and mango chutney.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chai Pie

Chai Pie. I just love saying it! Chai Pie, Chai Pie, Chai Pie! Aside from the catchy name, this is a scrumptious, non-traditional creamy dessert that's my non-dairy adaptation of my more classic Butterscotch Pie (click here) recipe.

First, prebake a pie pastry. I use Crisco vegetable shortening, lard, butter, or a combination of the three, depending on what's in our cupboards and who I'm serving the pie to -a frozen purchased pastry, or a graham cracker crust would also work here.

Chai Custard
Heat 4 minutes in microwave:
2 c. almond milk
4 slices fresh peeled ginger root
2 Chai tea bags
Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes, squeezing gently a few times to extract all the spicy essence from the bags.

Mix in top of double boiler:
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
Add chai-spiced almond milk, after removing tea bags and ginger root slices, and stir until it thickens a bit. Cover and cook 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, beat 4 egg yolks with 1/2 c. brown sugar. Lighten with chai custard and add to top of double boiler. Cook an additional 2 minutes.

Stir in 2 T. butter until melted. Remove from heat and add 1/2 t. vanilla.

Pour into the prebaked pastry shell. At this point, the pie can be topped with a meringue made by whipping the egg whites separated from the egg yolks, as I did with the Butterscotch Pie. Or as I did here, it can be topped with non-dairy whipped topping, or whipping cream.

For a cream pie, cool the hot custard a bit, cover with plastic cling wrap, and then chill until it's cooled completely. In the past, my impatience has resulted in more than one occasion where I have had the unfortunate experience of watching helplessly as the lovely fluffiness of the cream topping melted into an unappetizing pool atop the custard.

When the custard has thoroughly cooled, top with non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream, and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kashmiri Meatballs

Kashmiri Meatballs Mix:
1 lb. ground lamb
1 T. (or more) grated ginger root
1 1/2 t. each cumin and coriander
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. each ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne
1 small egg, beaten
2 T. yogurt
1/4 c. bread crumbs

Form 1 1/2 T. sized meatballs and chill one hour or longer. Heat large skillet. Add 2-3 T. ghee or oil, add meatballs and brown. Mix 2 T. yogurt and 1/3-1/2 c. water. Add/Pour over meatballs and cover and cook, turning occasionally, until moisture is absorbed (2o minutes or so).

While the meatballs were cooking, I made a pot of plain white basmati rice and the following red lentils -which turn yellow when cooked with the turmeric.

Red Lentils In pressure cooker, bring to high pressure over medium high heat:

1 c. red lentils
4 c. water
4 slices fresh ginger root
1-2 T. ghee
1/2 t. each salt, turmeric, cumin and coriander

Lower heat and cook 5 minutes. Shut off heat and allow pressure to drop naturally. Add 2 T. minced cilantro before serving.

Carrot and Onion Salad

Peel and grate 3 carrots. Halve a half of onion, and cut into thin lengthwise slices.

Mix together with:
1 t. grated ginger root
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/8 t. cayenne
4 t. lemon juice

Serve immediately or can be made several hours ahead. I made this salad before I started cooking anything else for this meal. In all honesty, I was a bit dubious about this recipe, but it is really quite good and we polished off every last bit. Do give it a try!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cinnamon Craisin Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls -there are few things I find more cheerful in the morning. I don't make them all that often, but I always make them Christmas Eve so they are ready and waiting for us at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. I often use different bread recipes -sometimes whole wheat, sometimes milk and honey, sometimes oatmeal- each has its own character and charm and I am always happy with the results. Here I've used a whole wheat dough, substituted craisins for the usual raisins, and I used pecans instead of walnuts -Yum!

After the first rise, I roll out one bread loaf's worth of dough to form a rectangle approximately 12 x 20 inches, melt 1/4 - 1/3 c. of butter and evenly spread it over the rectangle. I then sprinkle it with the following sugar mix, and add craisins/raisins (our kids find both craisins and raisins offensive and always petition they be omitted, but my husband and I like them included) and/or nuts.

1/4 c. sugar
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon

No matter the bread recipe used, the key to exceptionally light rolls is to make a softish dough, and then to allow the shaped rolls to rise a bit longer than for a loaf of bread. Bake until rolls spring back when pressed gently in -350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Cool somewhat and drizzle with glaze. When they are left overnight, we pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds to warm.

1 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1-2 T. milk as needed to make a thin glaze

Cinnamon rolls are perfect for those special mornings like Christmas, but I think it is particularly nice to wake up and find a pan ready and waiting on an ordinary weekend morning -immediately made special 'just because.'

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Red Pesto

And speaking of pasta, a topping for pasta made of olive oil, Calamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, fragrant rosemary, and crushed red peppers can't be beat. I came across the recipe for red pesto (along with several other gems) in the cookbook, Trattoria by Patricia Wells. I like this topping served on angel hair pasta for a simple one-dish supper, or as a pasta side dish for special meals, and it is pretty amazing when spread on a slice of good Italian-style bread. Tonight, I am using it as the base ingredient for a pizza: red pesto, mushrooms, caramelized onions, red pepper and Canadian bacon. Red pesto is a snap to make with a food processor, it stores well, and with its bold flavors, a tiny bit adds a lot of taste. The admittedly somewhat costly ingredients in red pesto are a definite splurge, but this recipe yields a quantity sufficient for several (nearly instant) meals -and that, my friend, is priceless.

Red Pesto

Adapted from Trattoria by Patricia Wells
10-20 (or an 8 oz. jar) oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes
4-8 cloves garlic, minced
20-30 pitted Calamata olives (or 6 oz jar), drained
1 T. fresh rosemary, finely minced (I had to make do with dried)
optional: crushed red peppers to taste
1/3 - 1/2 c. olive oil

Process all in a food processor to make a chunky paste with a bit of texture. Makes almost a pint, which will store well for several weeks -if it lasts that long.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Plate of Pasta and Meatballs

Did you see this article in the paper on Sunday? I was thinking about making meatballs and pasta for this week's meatball recipe, and so it immediately caught my attention. After reading this, I measured out plates -our small ones are 8-inch plates, and the ones we normally use for dinner are 10-inch plates. According to this article then, my serving of meatballs and pasta that I had for dinner last night (about 1 1/2 c. pasta, 1 1/2 c. sauce, and 3-4 meatballs) was between 700-800 calories. I will say, that when I diet (or overeat), I know its simple math -if you are losing (or gaining) weight, then you are eating less (or more) calories than your body needs to maintain. It's not complicated -though it's not necessarily easy or fun to reduce oneself in size. I have found counting calories to be the only way to keep myself honest -and to be successful with weight loss or for maintaining a healthy weight. Watching portion sizes and using a modest sized plate are excellent tools when watching your calories. I eat everything I want -and I love to eat just about everything- I just try and not eat too much of it!

Remember the meatballs I froze when I made the meatball sandwiches last week? Well, there the little bag of them was waiting in our freezer just waiting to be meatballs and pasta. Meatballs and spaghetti is the classic (remember Lady and the Tramp?), but when I went to the pasta drawer, there was only a 1/3 of a pound of spaghetti in the box (which I promptly spilled into the drawer), so I used a box of mini penne instead.

I sauteed garlic, onion, celery (with some leaf attached), grated carrot, and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, before adding a can each of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to a can of commercial spaghetti sauce, and a good sprinkle of Italian Seasoning. I added the meatballs to the sauce and served it forth. My husband and daughter (with their Italian genes) are always happy to be served any type of pasta. With meatballs and tomato sauce, it just makes it that much more cheerful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

More Sandwiches

I found Smart Duck's nest of eggs this afternoon. She hasn't been sitting on them yet, and my first thought was -egg salad sandwiches! This may sound mundane but trust me, it won't be!

I made the Italian-style meatball sandwiches for a hectic weekday dinner last week. They were as good as I thought they would be. We were hungry when we sat down to eat them and this was the 'hurry up, I want to eat!' photo I took before we tucked into them. The meatballs were made ahead and frozen, and the sauce was a combination of several containers of frozen odd-bits (tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce and a bit of pizza squeeze) which made putting this together a snap. Simply brown the meatballs, make a quick thick tomato sauce, combine and eat.

Today, I picked up a Vietnamese Banh Mi for lunch, and tonight I made myself a BLT -it's been a sandwich kind of day. I adore BLT's and even when made with the lamest of ingredients, I am still happy to eat one -I admit mine tonight wasn't stellar, but I am content. It was made with good bacon (though the two pieces I used were breakfast leftovers and had been in the fridge for several days, and in the freezer for over six months before that), homemade bread from earlier in the week (a bit on the stale side), pallid iceberg lettuce and hot house tomatoes (it's March and I wasn't expecting much from either), a thin slice of yellow onion, and Best Foods mayonnaise. Years ago, I worked as a cook in a cafe where I ate a BLT almost every single day for several months on end. True, I was pregnant for the first time, but all pregnancy aside, I still think a BLT is hard to beat. I have eaten some pretty mediocre BLTs, a few decidedly dreadful ones, but mostly I've made a lot of good, though not perfect, BLTs. I know how to make the perfect BLT -really I do- but in all honesty I never have actually done so. The perfect BLT is made with bacon fresh from the curing process (typically that's in October for us here), farmhouse bread made fresh the day before, tender lettuce from the garden (in the Spring), dead ripe and still warm from the vine sliced tomatoes grown in our own garden (in late Summer), and Walla Walla Sweet Onions just trucked over the mountains in the middle of summer. And Best Foods mayonnaise, of course. So I only dream of eating the perfect BLT, and I am content with what I have.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Check out (click here) and (click here). I think this is so fun -just don't tell anyone between the ages of 2 and 20 if you value your scanner!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saxony Ducks

These are our Saxony ducks and I love to watch them duck about, especially when the weather is nasty. When it's cold and miserable here and it has been raining for days on end, the sheep and goats will be looking grumpily out of the barn door, but the ducks will be out in the mud and wet acting as if to say, "Hey, isn't this FANTASTIC!! It's pouring down rain, and wet and cold today! Hurrah!"

Aside from the simple fact that I am enormously cheered up by their enjoyment of life despite our dismal weather, I also love keeping ducks because I love duck eggs (and duck meat, too). Duck eggs are a bit larger than chicken eggs, they are a bit different in texture and preferred by many for baking, but they are essentially interchangeable with chicken eggs. I think that they taste, well, eggier, and I consider them a gastronomical treat. Since I try and only eat an egg once a week, I make a bit of an event of my weekly egg -a duck egg if I have the option.

I refer to our Saxony ducks as 'the crazy ducks' because compared to the rather placid Muscovy duck, they are a bit skittish. "Oh No, RUN!" is their normal response to most things.

The Saxony duck eggs we set to incubate last month was unsuccessful. I'm not sure what the problem was. We will check everything and try it again, and hopefully we will have little yellow ducklings hatching in a month. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Sandwich Issue

Have I mentioned how smitten I am with Pear Vanilla Jam? A dollop warmed in the microwave and eaten with ice cream is pure heaven, and I am planning to use a pint of this today to make a pear gingerbread upside down cake (I know, doesn't that sound good!).

But the very best way to eat any jam is on a slice of toast, and that is how I (we, I AM sharing) mostly eat this jam. My favorite bread to eat it with was this oatmeal, raisin and pecan loaf. Jam on toast is the simplest open faced sandwich. I am a big fan of a good sandwich, and have whole heartedly embraced the open faced sandwich.

We Americans have our PBJ (and our iconic hamburger sandwich). The French have Nutella, and of course, a chocolate and hazelnut spread is pretty hard to beat. My kids were pretty impressed when they were first introduced to it (by a French teacher) and it's been in our cupboard ever since -though I did periodically threaten to stop buying this luxury for them when I would catch them with a spoon making a full-meal-deal out of a jar of Nutella -it is a bit expensive for that!

A slice of Irish soda bread with a smear of butter and freshly grated horseradish, alongside corned beef and cabbage pot leftovers, is humble fare, but its taste is out of this world. We grow horseradish, and in both the fall and spring dig up the roots, peel and grate them (the fumes can be quite overpowering), put it in a wide-mouth pint and cover it with white vinegar. It never lasts long, since we all add it to all sorts of sandwiches and sandwich fillings. I could go on and on about sandwiches -from the simple fried egg sandwich (the survival food of farmers everywhere) to the Muffuletta sandwich of New Orleans; from a Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich (my favorite) on a French roll to a tofu and alfalfa sprout sandwich on whole grain bread- the scope and variety of the world of sandwiches is never ending.

So naturally, I was pretty impressed with the latest issue of Saveur -the Sandwich Issue. It is so fun! Sandwiches from around the country, around the world, humble and hoity, simple and over the top. I had a hard time choosing a sandwich from the many featured in this issue (Cubano, Fried Calamari, ....?) to make first. Instead of following one of the recipes given, its inspired me to make classic Italian-style meatball sandwiches this week -beef and pork meatballs, covered with the just the right amount of spaghetti/tomato sauce, served on a soft (but not too soft) sandwich roll, with a bit of Parmesan sprinkled on top. I know it's going to be really good.