28 December 2015

Ukrainian Beet Borshch and Pampushky

Christmas always brings me at least one new cookbook and this year was no exception! My traditional first recipe from most of the cook books I get is a soup recipe. This is, perhaps, the result of looking to use leftovers from the Christmas food shopping fest or maybe just a rustic reaction to all the rich food we consume during the holidays. Soup seems simpler, less caloric, and less stressful to create.

14 December 2015

Kipferl for Christmas

It's almost Christmas and I have been so busy that I haven't done much cookie baking ! Until today ...

12 December 2015

A Birthday Cake !!!

Yesterday was a perfect day! In the midst of all the business of getting Christmas preparations made around the house and working with the children of the church to put on a Christmas pageant and trying to clean wood dust and dust bunnies from the corners and mantlepieces and finding the Christmas decorations and, and, and ... the day came to celebrate my birthday!

19 November 2015

Pecan Sandies

Today was a milk and cookies kind of day. I spent the morning baking Ina Garten's foolproof Pecan Sandies and playing Words With Friends. Periodically, I'd stare out the back window into the grey foggy drizzle that's coating New England, then back at the cheery blaze in the kitchen wood stove.

The idea of baking cookies and reheating some chicken noodle soup for a cozy lunch was particularly tempting, as it kept me in the warm kitchen. Must be getting old. I find the warmth far better for my bones than being outside on a day like today!

18 November 2015

Traditions ... Spinach Bars Get Their Due

Most foodies have onions, eggs, milk, flour, and frozen spinach ... yes? Add a few spices, mushrooms, leavening, some cheese and ... VOILA!

12 November 2015

Savory Pumpkin Empanadas

Snacks are always an important part of our holiday celebrations. I've always got a few plates and platters set out long before the main meal. Folks always say they'll spoil their appetite, but they manage to knosh a few bites of everything and STILL clean their plate! I'm trying these empanadas because they give a 'pumpkin spin' on a classic Spanish tapas offering. They'd be a fun snack for a Thanksgiving feast or for our traditional New Years Eve tapas dinner.

We'll see how they go down at a little get together this evening. I tried one and liked them; they have a soft herbal pumpkin flavour but  I feel they need more to them.. SB has tried one, too, and feels they need a bit more spice ... hmm. Perhaps more ham ... a switch-up with the prosciutto I used and larger cubes of German speck ? A smokier cheese, maybe? Some red pepper flakes? Like I said, I like them, but they could be even better. Having them with a crisp white wine would be a real treat! I'll have to think on it and get some other folks' opinions too. Nothing like experimenting on your friends! We'll put our heads together and get this filling right!

As for the empanada dough, using a conventional pie crust is pretty perfect. It crispy and flaky and has an easy bite. However, I found that one needs two full pie crust recipes - in other words enough pie crust for two two-crust pies. The filling , as stated in the recipe will easily make 60 two-bite empanadas and that's enough for a good Thanksgiving crowd! One could easily make these ahead of time and freeze them on cookie sheets. Bagging up frozen empanadas would allow you to bake as many or as few as you wish. Just a thought ...

If you decide to experiment with this filling recipe and come up with some neat additions, do let me know! One last point. Do use mashed pumpkin and NOT pumpkin pie filling ... just sayin'.

Savory Pumpkin Empanadas


1 recipe for double crust pie crust
1- 15 oz can pumpkin pulp
1 large egg
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground sage
1/8 tsp. ground thyme
2 tbsp. whole milk
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
5 slices of Spanish ham or Italian prosciutto, fried crisp and chopped small

small dish of cold water for sealing the empanadas
small dish of beaten egg for glazing the empanada crusts

Making the Empanadas:

  1. Chill the pie crust dough. While it chills, crisp the ham and chop it. Mix the other ingredients and add the cooled ham. Mix well.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 400 Degrees F.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll the crust out and cut 3 1/2 inch circles.
  4. Place a teaspoonful of pumpkin filling just off center. Moisten the edges of the circle at the edges with water. Fold over and seal with a fork.
  5. Place on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving some space between each empanada. Brush with the egg glaze.
  6. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until golden and shiny.
  7. Cool slightly before serving or leave in a single layer on a big platter and re-heat when you wish to serve them.

24 October 2015

Frosted Carrot and Parsnip Cake

Nothing fancy here, unless you think that a cooked meringue frosting and candied orange and lemon peel embellishment makes for a fancy cake. This carrot and parsnip cake had butter instead of the more traditional oil component to the batter, brown sugar instead of white sugar, and golden raisins added with the grated carrots and parsnips. There are no nuts, no pineapple, no added falderal.

It's a tall cake, made in an 8-inch spring form and slipped to a pretty cake plate shortly after coming from the oven. I cooled it and then slipped it under the cake dome overnight to let the residual warmth in the cake create a moist environment to soften the crumb crust at the outer edges and top.

30 September 2015

Christmas Spiced Chocolate Torte - Thanks, Nigella!

I haven't been making a lot of sweets of late, but today was a rainy day - all grey and sullen, buckets of rain pouring down and this end of the state under flood watch. I was in need of sweets. To boot, my friend Dom posted a round-up of cakes that his blogging friends posted in honor of his birthday month. I digested about a million calories worth of food porn along with my morning coffee. The temptation was just TOO GREAT!

When the urge hits, a chocolate cake is called for, don't you think? I scrounged around looking for just the right chocolate buzz and found it on Nigella Lawson's website. This slice of heaven is a combination of chocolate, orange zest, expresso powder, sugar, eggs, and almond flour. Yes! It's a flourless torte that reminds me of those chocolate oranges that come foil wrapped at Christmas time!

28 September 2015

Rustic Turkey and Spinach Tart

I've decided to try serving our main meal of the day at the middle of the day - hence, what I would normally call lunch will be more like a dinner meal. That's hard for me, as years of eating a fast bite in the middle of the school day has become ingrained.

21 September 2015

Cajun Style Eggs in Purgatory with Cheesy Polenta

Sunday night and an easy cozy dinner is called for ... it was cooler today. Fall has arrived!

12 September 2015

Prune Plum Danish with Almond Sugar Glaze

Walking into a lovely, sparkling clean patisserie is one of life's greatest pleasures, don't you think? It's as if all the sweetness of life is laid out under glass just waiting for you to take your pick of the choicest, most perfect dream. For me, a layered Danish is always so tempting. The pastry cream that sits as the base to whatever seasonal fruit is at its peak is such a soft and smooth taste treat. Add flaky puff pastry crust and that ubiquitous sugar glaze and it's a sealed deal for me!

06 September 2015

Tangy Chinese Plum Sauce

... a bumper crop of plums ...

I know traditional plum sauce is made with red plums, but I have an Italian prune plum tree in my back yard. It was the saddest little tree when we first moved to the grey cottage, leaning pathetically  and constantly attacked by the Japanese beetles during the summer. Eight years later, it still leans slightly, but we've placed a cable around the trunk and 'trained it' to stand up straighter.

05 September 2015

Cheesy Corn Scones

Dinner last evening ... corn chowder, cheesy corn scones, and  fresh garden salad ... every bite was savored, as we won't have fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers for much longer ... sigh. The times, they are a changin' ! Soon we'll be making all those cozy dishes and lamenting the cost of fresh vegetables at the market.

27 August 2015

Bastelles a la Courge - Squash Handpies

The squash is getting ripe in the gardens. I guess this means Fall is at the corner! I spent the morning slicing and dicing butternut squash, onions, and garlic and rolling out a spelt flour handpie crust. It's always fun to start making those first few recipes that hale a change of season, isn't it?

25 August 2015

Manchet and a Tribute to a Book

Normally, I'd write a reaction to any book I want to share with folks over on my literature and writing blog, Buch Handling. This book, though, just has to be recommended to all my foodie friends and followers.  Lawrence Norfolk has given foodies a taste of the life of a cook during the late 17th century. I've given you ... bread!

15 August 2015

Bourbon Cherry Ice Cream

It's hot. Make ice cream.

12 August 2015

Lemon Zucchini Tea Bread

One of the things I love about social media is the sharing of recipes and foodie websites. My cousins and I pass our share of yummy food porn photos back and forth. Jenny and Gretchen love their baked goods and last week a photo of a lemon zucchini bread was smeared ALL over our FB walls. It was more than I could take, so I have grabbed the recipe they shared with gusto, whizzed up some of the copious zucchini that is coming from our backyard plot, and put together the bread for today's tea time treat.

10 August 2015

Mushrooms and Marsala Wine with Venison Medallions

Although this dish feels like fall and winter, I have a cache of venison in my freezer, dark Baby Bella mushrooms that need using, and copious amounts of garden vegetable that will be a snap to roast and steam, as I sear the venison and prepare a rich sauce to put around them.

In thinking about this meal, it occurs to me that much of the main ingredients come from our garden and from SB's passion for the hunt. Is this where I let out that primal scream that announces our sure ability to survive longer than the regular schmoe, should the apocalypse happen?  I'm not that smug, but it sure is satisfying to know that when I look at tonight's plate I can be a happy backyard gardener and look across the table at the hunting hick !

Inch thick blade steaks - trim the sides of the silver skin, but leave the center strip of fat)

Now, here's a good way to make venison ... pound out a couple steaks  (these are blade steaks, but tenderloins or chops work also!) and cut them into burger-sized medallions. Heat a grill pan until it's searing hot. Toss a pat of butter on the pan and push it around to grease the ways. Plop on the medallions and set the timer for one minute. Flip them and set the timer for another minute. Remove them to a platter and cover loosely for a couple minutes while you finish whatever sauce you've started making. Drizzle some of the sauce over top and serve them immediately.

That's it!

Pounded to about 1/3 inch thickness, sprinkled with salt, pepper, steak spice and drizzled with just a bit of olive oil

Sautéed in a bit of butter until browned and beginning to crisp at the edges, soaked in some Marsala wine and set aside to soak up the flavors... finished with cream and butter just before serving

Now, about this sauce ... it's Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thickly (because we like a bit of chew to our food), a couple tablespoons of butter, a couple sprigs of thyme with the leaves stripped off, some salt and pepper, a couple tablespoons of Marsala wine, and some light cream and butter pats to finish the sauce.

That's it!

Pour the wine and enjoy. 

If venison is not your thing, you could do this meal with beef tenderloin and it would be pretty darn good. Go for it !

A Note About Venison ...

The big thing with venison is to have really simple side dishes (or sides that you can fuss over earlier in the dinner prep process.). In our case, we have new potatoes and rosemary for roasting and fresh green beans for the steaming. I know that I've ranted on this in earlier venison posts, but it's really important. there's nothing worse than overdone venison ... think shoe leather. It must be cooked medium rare to rare in order to maintain its moisture and tenderness. Venison is so very lean that it dries out fast and then it's useless ... make it into Slim Jims or something equally gross.

So ... keep it rare. Simple as that ...

08 August 2015

Remember Fig Newtons ???

When I was a kid, my mother would pack our school lunches every day of the week. Oftentimes, she'd get Nabisco Fig Newton bars when they were on sale at the supermarket and pop three little cookies in a plastic wrap. They were so delish dunked in milk and chomped in such a way that the little seeds popped between my teeth. Loved that sensory thing ... don't know why, but to this day I love figs for their sweetness and their seed-popping chew!

07 August 2015

An Aside ...

Our wax and green beans, our tomatoes, our chives, local corn ... summer's bounty!

Easy dinners come my way in the summer ... tonight's a simple plate of Spanish rice and beans with browned butter and almonds. Meatless, full of vegetables and perfect with a cold glass of Albarino.

What easy meals are you making at this time of year ?  I could always use some new ideas for using the garden produce!

05 August 2015

Campanelle and Pesto Pasta Bowl

The other day, a Facebook friend posted a funny comment about this being zucchini season and that everyone should begin locking their cars ... yeah, it's zucchini season all right ! My counter is starting to become cluttered with zucchini and cucumbers. By next week, I'll be threatening SB with death if he brings any zucchini into the house that is larger than a  ... you know! Sorry, but THAT is the perfect size for cooking. What can I say?

04 August 2015

Baba Ghannouj with Black Olives

Okay. So this is the next starter dip that I will prepare when next we have guests come through the door. So smooth and warm, so full of smoky, lemony, garlicky flavors ... perfect scooped onto plain pita chips or slices of cucumber or radish. My God. Could it be semi-healthy also !?!

01 August 2015

Apricot and Blueberry Galette

- High Summer on a Plate ...

30 July 2015

Summertime Fare ... Swordfish with Mango Salsa

I'd dearly love to pass the recipe on for this Branzino we had on vacation ... but I was the lazy slug sipping wine and paying no attention to the preparation of the fish other than watching Seth slash the sides and slice lemons prior to the grilling process.

Don't know how long they were grilled, but they were really good, other than the bones that made you pay attention while forking the pure white flesh off the carcass ! AND ... they're such pretty fish!

But wait !

I'm posting my annual swordfish meal - something equally easy and so full of spicy color ! Look !!!

30 June 2015

An Aside ...

If you're from New England and you keep a vegetable garden, you KNOW the joy that comes from bringing in the first of the garden peas and new potatoes ! New peas are like nature's candy - tiny and crisp and sweet as can be! And new potatoes are like velvet when cut up and readied for a slow simmer.  Add just a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and it's as close to heaven that we'll ever get here on Earth!

Plop them down next to a piece of poached salmon with dill (that also came out of the garden!) and one has a classic 4th of July summer feast! This and a glass of wine makes for a true celebration of summertime!

Here's hoping you're enjoying the fruits of the season too! Hurray for summertime gardens !!!

28 June 2015

Lime Meltaways

Back in the springtime, our neighbors travelled to Savannah, GA for a vacation junket. SB and I were left to watch the fish and the turtle and keep the house for them while they were playing with family and friends. When they returned, they brought us a small tin of lime flavored shortbread cookies that were just wonderful! I have just found a recipe for the same type cookie! SCORE!!!

These cookies are as close to those little citrus packed shortbreads that I can come! So delish and just a small bite of a cookie. Each cookie is the size of a 50 cent piece. It is loaded with fresh lime zest, lime juice, butter and a conservative amount of sugar. The REAL sugar comes when they are tossed in a bag of confectioner's sugar while they're still warm. This coating makes for a sweet hit on the tongue before one chomps into the super tangy lime burst of the shortbread. Heaven with a cup of hot tea or even a cold glass of iced tea.

24 June 2015

Gemelli and Chèvre With Cherry Tomatoes and Kale

What a snazzy name for a recipe ... but really, it's just macaroni & cheese with numerous twists !

21 June 2015

Apple Brie Bites

I recently went to the wedding of two friends from our little church in Peterborough. It was a simple sunflower-themed affair that was attended by many in the church family as well as the entire blended family of Jim and Sue, the bride and groom.

Sue had the wedding reception catered by a woman who runs a small local restaurant. This lady has such a nice touch with small bites! She had two very long tables laid heavy with all manner of hors d'oeuvres, cheese platters, and sweet treats. With a sparkling punch, the small plates provided just the right 'wedding party' feel to the afternoon. These small apple and brie bites were one of the offerings.

13 June 2015

Kale Pesto

Okay. You can turn your nose up, if you want to, but we had great pasta (and far too much of it!) last evening! This was the first time that I've made kale pesto ... and I used a recipe from Diana Henry's a change of appetite cook book. It's a 'healthy recipe', so it didn't have nuts of any sort in it. I think that when I make it again, I'll try it with walnuts and a bit more olive oil than the amount that she stipulates. This batch was really yummy ... and bright green. I used the full measure of kale and I subbed spinach leaves in instead of parsley. That worked just fine ... it needed generous salt and black pepper too.

So ... kale pesto over pasta ... next time I'm making it with Udon noodles and slivers of hot chili pepper.

06 June 2015

Madeleines and Apricot/Mango Iced Cream

Desserts in the grey cottage have been few and far between of late. Madeleines, though, have such a cachet for me that I couldn't resist making them as a special treat for SB and I. To boot, I found a lovely iced cream recipe in Diana Henry's latest cookbook, A Change of Appetite that I had to try!

02 June 2015

Can I Hear It For the Casserole ?

Under all those juicy tomato slices there sits a bubbling mass of orzo and vegetables - eggplant, carrots, celery, onions, garlic. I do believe that I got my five vegetables in one sitting this evening. Not to mention fresh oregano and lemon zest that filled the kitchen with the most wonderful smell, as this casserole did its magic in the oven!

01 June 2015

Spring Garden Green Tart

Here's another tart from Eric Lanlard's Tart It Up ! collection of eye popping pies and tarts. It's almost asparagus season here in New England and the beginnings of the spears are starting to come to market. They're still from further south of here, but I always have to jump the gun at this time of year.
In another few weeks, this tart will be able to be made with fresh and local produce right from the Farmer's Market or back yard beds.

27 May 2015

Apricot, Walnut, and Lavender Cake

Today was a day for baking a cake and there is one that I have been meaning to make for a good time. It comes from a Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook called Plenty More. I have been waiting for the fruit to come into our markets, though. They have finally arrived !

25 May 2015

Giada's Hearty Italian Stew - IHCC's Potluck and Projects

So often, these days, my life revolves around my current sewing project. For whatever reason, sewing has begun to take a more important role in my creative life. I've been sewing to complete a quilting legacy project that I've had in mind for my children and nieces and nephews, but also for different charitable projects that I wish to support. Sewing takes a lot of time, folks ... so I have found myself looking for easy dinner recipes that give SB and I some leftovers for lunches. I've also been using simpler one dish meals that can be knoshed at our spots on the couch or in front of a baseball game or out at the table on the back porch. I'm not sure how SB feels about this departure from our usual formal dining table/candle light experience. He's pretty supportive, though, when I spread a new quilt out before him and ask his opinion or gush at the results.

20 May 2015

Pork (or Chicken) and Pumpkin (or Butternut) with Soy and Star Anise

This is a Diana Henry recipe ... and you KNOW how I feel about her! So just take a moment to really look at the photo above and as you do, I want you to imagine the smell of this dish doing a finish in the oven ... a kind of braise in that juice tucked down below the butternut squash and the pork fillets. Do you see the star anise? The red chile bits? The bits of ginger root? The colors alone are enough to recommend this dish, but the sauce flavors really sell it.

18 May 2015

Two Words ...

Quick Chop

12 May 2015

Pepin's Crepes With a Savory Take ...

Savory French Crepes for Dinner

Crack an egg and add some milk, water, parsley, flour, melted butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Whisk it together and let it sit for a bit.

Channel your inner Frenchman by heating a crepe pan until it's good and hot.

08 May 2015

Carrot and Apple Panini ...

Sprout Sara made me this sandwich last weekend when I visited her in Boston. She said she'd gotten the idea from a sandwich she'd grabbed in a small bar somewhere in Beantown on one of her nights out with friends. Whoever came up with this sammy combo is a genius! I loved it so much that I made them for SB and I last evening for light supper ... so good!

02 May 2015

IHCC - A Riff on Jacques Pepin's Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

This is the first major meal that I have cooked this week. Really. You see, life's been crazy busy of late.