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Friday, December 23, 2011


Michael Chiarello has a wonderful catalog called Napa Style.  I always find something that I would want.  I have a wonderful carved pig that sits on my counter and holds fruit.  There are a few things from his catalog on my someday I won't have children in college list.  I love their Christmas decorations.  They had the most beautiful Noel sign for sale.  It was for sale for $600 I think.  It is all sold out, amazing. 

I showed it to my son Joe, the poor broke college student, and he made me a similar sign as my Christmas present for my house. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eggs and Latkes

November is a challenging month for my husband, he spends a lot of it on travel.  Today is the start of both of our vacations.  Unfortunately, we have a list of things to do to get the house ready to put on the market.  So I thought that we should begin this sure to be less than fun vacation with breakfast. 

Tom grew up in New Jersey, his best friend, Nate, is Jewish.  Nate had a big influence on Tom's taste buds.  The hungry, cross country running teenager ate everything and anything he was given.  His favorite breakfast is probably bagels and lox.  Sad to say, I make the best bagels that we have tasted since we moved to Texas.  But I don't really have time for it so I decided to make latkes with fried eggs and roasted tomatoes from Salt and Serenity's blog.   

One of the reasons that I like reading other people's blogs is that sometimes you learn more from a blog than from a cookbook.  If someone has made latkes all their lives and writes about it, you feel like you are sitting in their kitchen, at their elbow.

The recipe starts with roasted cherry tomatoes.  I used olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.  The roasted tomatoes on top of the eggs took this dish to a new level.  I may throw some tomatoes in the oven any time I want to add pizzazz to an egg dish from now on.

Then you make latkes. 

I have tried a few different recipes, this may be my favorite so far.  You grate some yukon golds.  Then you chop up some onion in the food processor with half of the grated potatoes.  Head over to Salt & Serenity's blog for more detailed instructions.  Trust me, you would prefer to be at her elbow...

The potato onion mixture is put in a colander over a ball and the liquid is squished out. 

 And then she says pour off the water and save the starch and you think what is she talking about???  Tip the bowl to the side and see the white starch on the bottom.

The grated potatoes, starch, chopped potato and onion, egg, matzo meal, and kosher salt are mixed together.  
Fry them in hot oil 4 mins a side.  Top with an egg and some tomatoes and enjoy.

Now we are ready to:  take the car with the scary check engine light to the dealer, take the left over paint from the garage to the hazardous collection site, get the kitchen cabinets ready to paint...  oh the list goes on and on.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pecan and Almond Chocolate Toffee

Grad school is kicking my butt.  Not winning, but definitely changing my routine.  I have three more classes left and a project and I will have my MSN.  I am tired of homework.  I never particularly enjoyed APA formatting and if I never see a hanging indent after grad school, it will be too soon.  My colleagues at work are tired of grad school.  They really weren't too interested in Global Health Care.  I'm not sure how they will feel about my next class, epidemiology...

So at night, instead of looking at people's blogs, I do homework.  Not to sound too petulant, but I really hate homework.  The end is in site.  Great news though, my next class doesn't start until January 9th.  So lets see if I can remember how to blog and if anyone still reads it!

We pick secret Santas at work and you get a little sheet of information about your person.  Mine loves toffee, as do I.  Generally I avoid making any Christmas candy or cookie that I love.  As I struggle with my weight, I don't need toffee calling to me.  But today I thought that I would try my hand at toffee.

Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito is one of my favorite cook books.  Everything turns out.  The recipes aren't necessarily easy, but they are delicious.

  Their pecan and almonds chocolate toffee didn't look too challenging if I could get past my whole candy making aversion.

1 cup sliced almonds, ground to a powder
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
9 oz semisweet chocolate bits  They used a mixture of dark and milk, coarsely chopped

butter a 9X13 pan

Melt the butter on low, when it is halfway melted, add the sugar and 1 T of water.  Cook over low, stirring with a silicon spatula until combined.  Clip on the candy thermometer, turn the heat up to medium high and heat until 300 degrees F, about 15 mins.

The mixture will bubble and turn brown

My favorite piece of advice... If the browning seems uneven, swirl the pan during the cooking process but do not stir...

How would the explanation go in the er.   Yes doctor, I wasn't stirring, I was swirling the 300 degree mixture.  This is why I don't like making candy.

When it reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat, remove thermometer, add pecans and pour into prepared pan.  It will even out.

wait one min and top with chocolate, wait three mins and chocolate will melt.  Spread with offset spatula and sprinkle with almond powder.  I added a little salt to the almond powder.

Put in the freezer for 30 mins and break into pieces.
Secret Santa gift.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oatmeal bread with Cinnamon, without Raisins

I haven't been baking or blogging much lately.  I have too many balls up in the air, and the heaviest is grad school.  What does it say when you would rather bake bread than work on your papers?  Anyway, people were excited when I pulled out my scale last night.  

There are several delicious loaves for August's Mellow Baker's Challenge.  There are two Oatmeal Breads, one with cinnamon and raisins, one without.  I opted to make the cinnamon version but without the raisins since no one in my house likes their raisins cooked. 

It is an easy loaf.  Oatmeal is soaked in water and then high gluten flour, whole wheat flour, milk, honey, vegetable oil, salt, yeast and cinnamon are added.  The dough fermented over night, was shaped and baked.  Joe came down when the morning house was filled with aromas and the bread was still in the oven and wanted to know how long it had to cool. 

I love breads with oats.  I can't wait to try the non cinnamon version but this one is a keeper..

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cooking with Joe

Joe is home for ten days.  He has moved into an apartment in Pittsburgh with his brother.  They plan on installing an air conditioner in one of the windows but the kitchen is hot and will remain hot.  Until winter comes, and then it will be the place to be.  With thoughts of keeping the place cool, I thought we would try out some crock pot recipes this week and some old favorites

I've ordered another cook book.  If there is an intervention available for people who have too many cook books send it my way.  I really enjoy the slow cooker.  My husband cooks a meal at least once a week using it.  So, when I saw some reviews for Michele Scicolone's  The Italian Slow Cooker, I had to buy it. 

I can't wait for it to come.

Until it comes, we will have to try some other recipes.  So we started with Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork from NPR's web site.  Disclaimer, this is not really pulled pork, no crunchy outside, no vinegar mop.  But it makes for some good sanwiches.

Joe made an easy basic dry rub.

1/4 cup paprika
2 T kosher salt
2 T ground pepper
1 T garlic powder
1T dry mustard

He cut a 6 pound boneless Boston butt into 3" chunks.  Rubbed the meat with 1/4 cup of the rub.  Put it in the crock pot and added 1/2 cup liquid smoke.  It cooked on low for 5 - 6 hours or on high for 10 - 12 hours.  Pull the meat apart and serve on buns with your favorite barbeque sauce.

Did you know that you could cook potatoes in the crock pot?   3 pounds of small new potatoes simmered in 1/2 cup of water for on high for three hours.  We covered them with butter, salt and pepper and some herbs. 

We made perhaps the best enchiladas.  I'll post that later.

Simple Slow Roasted Tomatoes = FFWD

This Friday's French Fridays with Dorie was a very easy recipe.  Cherry tomatoes were cut in half, sprinkled with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Garlic and herbs were added and they were roasted in a 225 degree oven for three hours.  I have a similar recipe that we serve with goat cheese and baguettes.

This method brings out a sweetness in the tomatoes.  I mixed mine with some cannelloni beans, red onions and a vinaigrette for a salad for lunch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Salads

It has been over 100 here in Texas for more days than I can remember.  Our back lawn is dead, our front lawn is dying.  Water once a week really isn't working for the plants.

Salads are the way to go.  I love the coleslaw salad with broccoli flowerettes, cranberries, nuts, bacon, shredded cabbage.  Make a dressing out of mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, diced onions and sugar.

Whenever we have ripe avocados I make this, sometimes as a side, sometimes with tortilla chips. 

Black beans, red onions, avocado, cilantro, lime juice and s&P.  Quick, easy and delicious.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Skillet Eggs with Squash

Do you have too many zucchinis?  This is a delicious recipe.  A great way to use up some of those squash in a unique breakfast.  Think healthier hashbrowns, with a zing.

Food network posted the recipe from their magazine on their web page along with a nicer picture of gooey eggs, if you liked gooey eggs. 

I used half the squash mixture with four eggs.  Toms were gooey, mine stayed in the oven for a little longer.  Great way to start the day. 

Skillet Eggs with Squash  Food Network Magazine July/Aug 2011


  • 3 pounds (6 medium) summer squash and/or zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated pepper jack or sharp white cheddar cheese


Grate the squash into a colander using the large holes of a box grater (or use a food processor fitted with the shredding attachment). Toss with 1 tablespoon salt, then let drain in the sink, 30 to 40 minutes. Squeeze the squash to remove as much liquid as possible.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside 3 tablespoons scallion greens. Add the remaining scallions (white and green parts), the jalapeno, and salt to taste and cook until the scallions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the shredded squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and let cool, 5 minutes.
Spread the squash evenly in the skillet. Make six 2 1/2-inch-wide indentations in the mixture with the back of a spoon; put 1/2 teaspoon butter in each one. One at a time, crack each egg into a small bowl and pour into an indentation. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the cheese.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are cooked to desired doneness, 10 to 12 minutes. Scatter the reserved scallion greens on top.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

June - French Fridays with Dorie

Things fell apart in June.  My mother went into the hospital in the end of May with hip problems.  And then on to rehab where she said that she had no desire to exercise, none.  Not at all.  And she fired everyone...She wanted me to find her "some place Catholic to die."  Fascinating thought, but as far as I can tell, she isn't dying any time soon.  But, she has moved in with the grey habited Polish nuns, going to Mass every day and seems to be a little higher on the happiness continuum.  Still enjoying a good piece of cake.

Scout and I are tackling my summer to do list.  She is incredibly supportive.  I had a list of things a mile long that I intended on doing this summer while I was off from school.  I am now playing catch up.  How many can I do in the few weeks remaining before school starts?

My husband walks around and talks about bread longingly.  You used to bake bread, I hear him muttering.  It has been a sad month or two.  My starter is a little grey.  I'm sure it will come around.

One day in June, I decided to make the majority of the French Fridays with Dorie's recipes for June.  We started with the tomato strawberry salad.  I knew that I had some delightful mozzarella in the fridge, my husband knew that he had eaten it.  Oh well.  This still was a great salad.  Ripe tomatoes, strawberries, basil and mozzarella combined with a smidge of olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar.

We moved on to the ribs with jam and Coke.  So, here in Texas, Tom cooks ribs.  In the backyard.  Maybe in a smoker, maybe the edge of a mountain of charcoal, maybe on a gas grill.  Not in the oven.  Not with jam.  I tried to hide the ingredients from his prying eyes.  But he was onto me the night before when I rubbed the ribs with the spice rub.  Five spice powder, ginger and salt and pepper are rubbed onto the spareribs.  Then they are covered with a mixture of apricot jam, orange juice and the juice of a lemon.  They are the refrigerated for several hours. 

Into the oven in a roasting pan with a few tablespoons of water.  They are cooked, basted every so often for an hour and a half.  Then the Coke is poured around the ribs and they are basted every five mins for another half hour.

These were delicious.  An oriental flavor, fall off the bone tender.  #2 son would love these.

For dessert we had roasted rhubarb over ice cream.  Rhubarb is trimmed and cut into piece, tossed with sugar and zest of an orange.  Covered with foil and roasted in a 400 degree oven for 20 mins.  When it had cooled, we put it on ice cream.

I grew up eating rhubarb.  I love it.  I had never roasted it.  It is my new favorite way to prepare it.  Not that I see it much here in Texas.

In the beginning of July, I went to DC for a school nurse conference.  I stayed an extra day and we went to the Newseum.  A new museum in DC that is not free, sad to say.  But it was fascinating.  Below is a picture of world.  The green indicates countries with freedom of the press.  Something that we tend to take for granted here in the US. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Healthy Potato Salad - Daring Cooks

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

We have a couple of potato salad recipes that we like, but I have been intrigued for some time by the idea of a french potato salad.

French potato salad is made by boiling sliced potatoes and coating them with a dressing while the slices are still warm.

I used a recipe from The New Best Recipe Cookbook.   Red potatoes were sliced and boiled in salted water.

When they came out of the water, they were coated with a dressing made with mustard, wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of the water from the boiling potatoes, olive oil, garlic and pepper. 

The potatoes were left to soak up the dressing for 10 minutes

and then tossed with parsley, chives and shallots.

This was a delicious, easy recipe.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mustard Batons

This weekend we welcomed a new addition to our mustard family.  Some of you might be wondering how we can accept any more members into our family.  Each one brings something to our lives, sometimes it is as simple as a little spice, maybe some sweetness, maybe a little French attitude but we relish each member of our family.  

This week's French Fridays with Dorie was a simple recipe for Mustard Batons.    I took my visiting brother in law to Rustlin Rob's in Fredericksburg, TX.  Rustlin Rob's is a condiment heaven.  I knew that I was making mustard batons for an appetizer for Easter so I visited the mustard section.  Maybe that was a mistake.  How many mustards are too many mustards?

When I tasted the Creole Cognac mustard  I knew that she had to come home with us.  The tangy, delightful flavor would be perfect for an appetizer.

 I unfolded some thawed puffed pastry and rolled it out to the required size.

 Mustard was spread on half of the pastry, it was folded, cut into one inch strips and brushed with a beaten egg.

I grew up outside of Philadephia, we used to go downtown to ride the escalators and eat hot pretzels.  When I hear mustard and bread, I can only think of topping it with flaky salt.

Delicious easy recipe.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish for Lent

It really isn't a challenge to eat fish on Friday's for Lent.  I think to make a true act of penance we should all switch to liver on Fridays...

We had mussels steamed in wine, shallots, parsley, bay, pepper and a little butter.  We dunked bread in the broth and enjoyed ourselves.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Edible Containers - Daring Cooks

For April's Daring Cooks; Challenge we had a creative challenge.    Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

I love chili rellenos, but try to stay away from batter fried food.  I decided to stuff roasted, peeled poblanos.  First, I asked my husband to bring home the straightest poblanos that he could find.

Then, I roasted them and peeled away the blackened skin.   I made a small slit in them to remove the seeds.

After they were peeled, they looked pretty dark.

I roasted some chicken and made a tomato sauce with garlic, tomatoes, onions, cinnamon and cilantro.

I mixed up some mexican cheese, the chicken, some black beans, a little jalepeno, corn, some of the tomato sauce and cilantro and stuffed the peppers.  They were delicious and I am looking forward to seeing what else I can stuff in them!

éclairs - FFwD

My husband walked into the kitchen and glanced at my opened copy of Dorie Greenspan's around my french table and then he said "you're not an éclair maker are you?"

Does the man know me or what.
When I saw this Friday's selection for French Fridays with Dorie, I almost skipped it.   I know the people in this house and they aren't eating éclairs.  But then I thought, I can take them to work.  They eat anything at work.  Someone is always hungry.

This week's recipe calls for vanilla éclairs, cream puff dough filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with white glaze.  To get the people in this house to try them, I knew that I needed to add some chocolate, so I decided to top them with a ganache.

I made the pastry cream early in the morning and put it in the refrigerator to cool.

I like making puff dough.  We eat gougeres on Christmas Eve.  However, they don't involve a pastry bag.  They can easily be spooned onto a cookie sheet.

Eclairs need a pastry bag,  I have previously been identified as not an éclair maker and I am comfortable with that label.  I am not comfortable with pastry bags.  How do you get the sticky puff dough into the bag without making a mess?  Perhaps it is a skill thing, one that I may not develop at this stage in my life.  I think a third hand would come in handy.  I got the dough into the bag, made the four inch strips and baked them.

I went out to work on the yard and let the elairs cool.  We had such a long, hard freeze, we have lost some plants.  By my front door, I have two bicolored iris plants.  They are perhaps my favorite plant.  They bloom and bloom.  Unfortunately, a lot of the plant had to be cut back after the freeze.  But today, there is one flower.

When I had finished with mulch, I returned to the eclairs.  The cooled eclairs were cut and filled with pastry cream and then topped with chocolate ganache.  They were tasty, it was a fun experience.