“New” Cuisine is Not Always Better

I love retro foods, so when I stumbled across Mary’s delightful website Old Fashioned Recipes, chock full of oldies, but goodies, I hit the jackpot! She provides recipes for award-winning chocolate cake, creamy scalloped potatoes, chicken pot pie, and much more!

Mary was kind enough to include one of my favorite family recipes for my grandmother’s banana cake. It’s nice to know gram’s cake recipe found an audience among people who love simple, yet delicious home cooking.

If you’d like the recipe to Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting or to browse similar fare like your Gramma used to make, then be sure to visit her site!

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Every so often I like to curl up with a good book and a glass of single malt. This weekend, the books were from my overloaded stack of beloved cookbooks. I know I typically share a favorite recipe each week, but today I’m sharing a few old friends! I hope you will be inspired to share a bit about your favorite sources for recipes as well!

Mr. Food Cooks Pasta
Art Ginsburg
Copyright 1993 by Cogin, Inc.

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I picked up my copy of “Mr. Food Cooks Pasta” back before Borders went out of business. It was tucked away on one of those bargain shelves. It’s been one of my go-to sources ever since. The writing style is easy to read and conversational. And though this little black and white book lacks any pretty photos, I still find myself using it on a regular basis.

Mr. Food, Art Ginsburg, provides a guide for pasta shapes, includes a simple chart for sauces and uses for each shape, and the opening chapter on pasta “particulars” includes a brief history and cooking instructions. Next, one of the best sections, is a quick pasta recipe chart for “meals in minutes.” The follow-on segments include pasta appetizers and side dishes, pasta soups and stews, pasta salads, pasta main courses, family favorites, and pasta sauces.

Since I love to cook and eat pasta, it’s great to have this guide to an easy and delicious meal! I think I’ve made almost every recipe in the book at least once. Many of the dog-eared corners are turned down to save the ones I like best.

Ginsburg is not Italian to my knowledge, but no matter, whether lemon linguine or chicorina soup, this cookbook is a winner in my book.

Barefoot Contessa at Home
Ina Garten
Copyright 2006 by Ina Garten

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Quentin Bacon’s photography in Ina Garten’s fifth cookbook is true food porn! After the cook’s lengthy introduction (and to be honest, I’ve never read it) she leads right into chapters entitled soup and sandwich, salads, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast.

She includes a nice section of small places to visit in the Hamptons for food. These are places she mentions on her cooking show and would be fun to add to your traveling itinerary if vacationing in the area. The last section called menus takes all the recipes from the cookbook and puts them together into menus you can try at home. I think this is brilliant!

I have not come close to recreating all the yummy recipes in this extensive cookbook, but the ones I’ve made do not disappoint. Her Sunday Morning Oatmeal is a regular in my rotation and I have zero desire to ever try another recipe for coconut cake after falling in love with hers. Where I think she really shines though is in the dinner section. From cornish hens to Asian salmon, there are several delicious and doable recipes in this section.

Holiday Cookies
Martha Stewart
2006 Issue

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Okay, so Martha Stewart’s annual holiday cookie magazine is not exactly a traditional cookbook, but if you could see the tattered pages you would know I use it often. It’s really the perfect cookie guide!

This 2006 version includes more than 100 cookie recipes and the breakdown is spot-on (as my British friends would say). The table of contents features a photo of each cookie and they are categorized as soft and chewy, crisp and crunchy, light and delicate, crumbly and sandy, cakey and tender, rich and dense, and finally, chunky and nutty. Likewise, the recipe index in the very back is alphabetized by cookie with a picture of each one for easy reference.

I wish I had the time (and calorie allowance) to make and test each and every cookie, but rest assure I have given it the old college try! It’s great to have one consolidated source to find a recipes for chocolate chip cookies identified as crisp, chewy, or cakey. After all, some days you prefer one type to another!

If you don’t own your own copy to savor, keep an eye out for this magazine next fall. A complete cookie guide is a must-have for every home baker!

What are your favorite cookbooks? I hope you’ll share the titles below!

Snowstorm Cooking Plan – Enjoy the “Comforts” of Home

Snowstorm Cooking Plan – Enjoy the “Comforts” of Home

Road salt, snow shovels, firewood, bread, and milk top the shopping lists of most people as they prepare for a winter storm. But not me! If I’m stuck at home for a few days, sustenance is where my brain goes. A thorough scan of the pantry and freezer helps me shape up a shopping list to feed my cabin fever with comfort food! (Forget what your grandmother told you about feed a cold and starve a fever. That does not apply to cabin fever!)

I listed my menu below. The veal stew and carnitas are both items that can cook slowly all day. Of course the loss of power could alter my plans a bit since hot meals would then require preparation on the gas grill. Just in case, I will add hamburgers and chicken to my shopping list!

Day 1

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, scones, medium cooked egg in an egg cup, cantaloupe

Lunch: grilled tuna sandwich with provolone, cottage cheese, carrot sticks

Dinner: mac & cheese, pork chops, apple sauce, baked acorn squash rings

Evening: hot cocoa with marshmallows and maybe a rewarmed scone ( Shoveling snow burns a lot of calories!)

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Day 2

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, Amish baked oatmeal with bananas and blueberries drizzled with pure maple syrup

Lunch: grilled cheese, tomato soup (for dipping), side salad

Dinner: veal stew (see recipe below), home baked bread, roasted carrots

Evening: chocolate peanut butter mug cake (assuming I had to shovel for a few of my elderly neighbors!)

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Veal Stew – an old family favorite

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs. veal cubes
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1-2 chopped green bell pepper
1-2 pounds Italian sausage sliced into 1-inch pieces (I prefer sweet for this recipe since veal is so mild)
1 large can tomatoes
2 large cans tomato paste
water or stock to desired consistency. Could also add some red wine.
2 Tbs. oregano
1-2 Tbs. sugar
1 chopped onion
handful frozen peas
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp. baking soda

Directions:
Brown veal cubes in hot oil. Remove. Brown sausage in same pan. Remove. Add onions and saute until softened. Then add garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and saute a minute more. Mix in veal and sausage.

Pour can of tomatoes into blender and blend briefly to break tomatoes down. Pour blended tomatoes, tomato paste, water or stock and wine, plus sugar into pot with meat. Simmer 2 hours on low. Add bell peppers and 1-2 tsp. baking soda. Simmer to cook peppers. Add peas. Simmer to heat through.

Serve in bowl with fresh bread. Should be soupy enough to eat with a spoon and dip your bread!

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Day 3

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, ham and cheese omelet, rye toast, cantaloupe and blueberries

Lunch: rewarmed mac & cheese, raw veggies

Dinner: pork carnitas on tortillas, black beans, rice

Evening: warm chocolate chip cookies

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What will you cook this winter while snowed in? Please share your favorite comfort foods with the rest of us! Leave a comment below.

Home Baked Bread – It’s The Yeast I Can Do!

Home Baked Bread – It’s The Yeast I Can Do!

My New Year’s Resolution in 2015 was to overcome my fear of yeast. I love to bake, but had avoided this one-celled nemesis my entire life. This basic recipe for French Bread was so simple to make, it quickly became one of my favorites, and even led me to experiment with sweet rolls from scratch, Easter breads, and pizza dough. I’ll get to those treats on another day, but for now, let me share the recipe that started it all: French Bread.

Ingredients

1 heaping Tbs. active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
(Tip: Do not get the kind for bread makers.)

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups hot water
(Tip: 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit unless your packets say otherwise. I use a cooking thermometer to get it right. Too hot and the yeast will be burned alive. Too cold and they will refuse to do their work.)

5 1/2 – 6 cups flour
(Tip: I prefer King Arthur unbleached bread flour, but you can use whatever you like.)

2 tsp. salt

Directions

Mix yeast, sugar, and hot water in your electric stand mixer bowl. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, until bubbly. Add 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp. salt. Using the dough hook, mix until well blended. Slowly add 3 and 1/2 cups – 4 cups flour until good dough consistency. (Not too sticky.) Knead for 3-4 minutes on low setting of mixer.

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Add a little oil to a clean bowl and rub it around with your hands. Transfer dough into the oiled bowl and roll it over to cover with oil.

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Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. This is typically an hour.

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Punch it down.

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Split the dough into two equal halves.

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Place one half on a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle.

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Roll from wider side to form a loaf. Lay on ungreased baking sheet, seam side down. Tuck ends underneath. Repeat with second half of dough.

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Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slits across top of each loaf. Cover with the towel and leave in warm spot for another 30 minutes. Start preheating your oven to 350.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven. At this point you could butter the tops and sides if you prefer a softer crust. Cool completely before wrapping and storing. Best to eat while warm. Keeps for a day or two if you refrigerate.

If you have a home baked bread recipe you love, please share it in the comments below!

It Was a Creole Christmas

It Was a Creole Christmas

I select a different theme for my Christmas Eve dinner each year. This year’s pick was “Creole Christmas.” The food of Louisiana has a rich history. The flavors are layered and rich. I have yet to come across a Creole or Cajun dish I didn’t like! The menu included red snapper, shrimp etouffee, corn maque choux, and bread pudding with raisins and bourbon sauce. Yum!

One time-saving method I used this year was to prep all my vegetables in advance. Since most creole dishes include a mirepoix of onion, celery, and bell pepper, I chopped enough of each for all the recipes.

Red Snapper with Creole Sauce

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I used a recipe from the James Beard Foundation to make the fish. I was fortunate to find two lovely pieces of red snapper at a local Harris Teeter. They usually have a decent fish and seafood department. The recipe called for sliced black olives, crumbled bacon, and chopped hard-boiled egg on top for serving. I was skeptical at first, but the overall effect was amazing. Here is the full recipe: http://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/baked-fish-creole

Shrimp Etouffee

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I had never tried shrimp etouffee before making it for this year’s dinner. It was a hit. I think this is one of those dishes that improves with time. Had there been any leftovers, I assume it would have been even more delish. I do think the shrimp, though cooked perfectly, would have tasted better if I had been able to find domestic shrimp. I don’t know whether anyone else agrees, but IMO nothing beats fresh shrimp from the waters near Savannah, Georgia. Unfortunately by the time I made it to the grocery store Christmas Eve day, all that remained was imported shrimp. I used Emeril’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/shrimp-etouffee-recipe.html

Maque Choux

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The maque choux was creamy with a slight kick. It is probably one of the best corn dishes I’ve ever eaten. I had to alter the recipe a tad because I was unable to find tasso ham. I substituted andouille sausage instead which was a perfect choice. I rendered the sausage then cooked the corn mixture in the same pan. I think it came out great! This was another Emeril recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/tasso-maque-choux-recipe.html#!

Bread Pudding

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I’ve never met a bread pudding I didn’t like! It’s a traditional Louisiana dessert. I kept it very simple and the bourbon sauce was a complete hit. I did not have whole milk, so instead I mixed half skim milk and half heavy cream. The result was pure heaven in a bowl! It was just as yummy the next morning when I rewarmed a small portion for breakfast! The recipe was from Mr. Food: http://www.mrfood.com/Puddings/New-Orleans-Bread-Pudding-with-Bourbon-Sauce-3289.

Hey baby! If you are in a New Orleans state of mind, give creole cooking a try.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies Are Too Good To Be True!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies Are Too Good To Be True!

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Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite breakfast items. This year I decided to find a new Christmas cookie to share with friends. I set my sights on a cinnamon roll cookie.

This one is delicious. I used the recipe from http://www.melskitchencafe.com, but made a few minor alterations. It still needs a bit of tweaking, but my taste testers agree this one is a keeper!

Bake 350 degrees           9-11 minutes

Ingredients

Cookie dough
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla (get the good stuff!)
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Filling
3-4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
ground cardamom
fresh ground nutmeg

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs milk

Sprinkles or toasted chopped nuts.

Directions

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  1. Using paddle attachment to mixer (or beaters) cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix only until incorporated. Dough should be smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or longer. IMG_2769
  2. While dough is chilling, mix the filling. Should be crumbly like streusel topping. IMG_2770
  3. Remove dough and separate into two halves. Work each into a log and flatten with rolling pin to 15″ x 4″.  Tip: draw two 15″ x 4″ rectangles on a large piece of parchment and flip it over. Roll your cookie sections on the parchment using the lines as a guide. IMG_2771
  1. Spread thin later of butter over each section all the way to the edges. Sprinkle streusel filling over each section, end to end. Sprinkle cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg over each section. Press topping down lightly. IMG_2773
  2. Tightly roll into logs, leaving seams on the bottom. Re-chill dough for 15 minutes. This is a good time to preheat your oven. Slice logs into equal disks about 1/4″ wide. Place each disk on cookie sheet (using parchment) about 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes. Cool. IMG_2777
  3. While baking, beat the frosting until smooth. Spread onto cooled cookies. Top with sprinkles or nuts.

Enjoy!