19 January 2011

Stovetop Peach Rice Pudding

My pantry is too stinking deep.  Sometimes I get a little paranoid about the dusty food urchins that dwell in those dark recesses.  Like the ridiculous stockpile of canned organic pumpkin which I'm pretty sure I bought not because it was on holiday sale but rather because the labels are so cute and I'm a sucker for pumpkins.  Or the Eagle Brand milk I fetched for the daughter who had her cap set to make lemon meringue pie but then got hopelessly distracted by the love of her life... umm, how many years ago?  Then there's the veritable school of canned salmon; the plethora of exotic salsas and artisan jams nabbed on the cheap at Tuesday Morning; the chickpeas... oh heavens, the chickpeas.  

So Many Chickpeas. 

You get the picture.  Is it like this in your world?

But I am all Januaryish determination: all that stuff is coming forth into the light of Judgment Day, either to be transformed into something yummy or condemned to everlasting disposal.  Yes indeedy, I will wipe those shelves clean before the first daffodils of spring appear.  And I do here vow to greet that day with no chickpeas. 

Thus committed, I see right away that I must begin to come to terms with All This Rice. Golly.  I  must have bought the giant bag at Costco... twice.  Woops.  So... rice, what?  I remembered a huge can of sliced peaches (the Costco biggie-sized can) left over from a church meeting.  And wasn't there a half-gallon of almond milk in the back of the fridge that was within hours of its best-by date?

So, voila... I made up this recipe for peach rice pudding.  Now, I don't just love canned peaches on their own, but their satiny syrupy smoothness works against the toothy texture of the spiced-up rice.  So aromatic, so creamy, so perfect for a cold January day.  This one's a keeper.

One note:  I've been putting Garam Masala in absolutely everything lately and I've yet to wish I hadn't.  But if you don't have it on hand, you could substitute whatever strikes your fancy -- maybe nutmeg or ginger -- or just use the cinnamon and call it good.


Stove-top Peach Rice Pudding

1/2 tsp salt
2 cups rice
1 half gallon carton of almond milk (or whole milk)
1 scant cup sugar or 2/3 cup honey
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cans of sliced peaches*, drained (or fresh peaches in season)

Bring four cups of water to a boil in a very large dutch oven (at least 6 quarts) or similar pot with a heavy bottom.  Stir in salt and rice, cover and simmer over low heat about 20 minutes, or until water is almost absorbed.

Add almond milk, sugar or honey, and spices.  Lift peaches from can with a slotted spoon and carefully add to rice mixture, stirring gently.  Increase heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Reduce heat to low, stir in vanilla, and continue stirring frequently until it begins to thicken, about 15 minutes longer.

Makes a lot, which is good because it's dandy to have leftovers for breakfasts and snacks.  Can be eaten warm or cold.

*Note:  I used about half the huge can of peaches.  With the other half, I made Nigella Lawson's Spiced Peaches.  Amazing, and super fast; can't wait to have them with a little goat cheese on crostini.  There was a lot of the spicy syrup left in the pot after I jarred the peaches, which I couldn't bear to throw out, so I quickly made it into syrup for pancakes by straining the syrup through a sieve, then adding enough water to the syrup to bring it to 3 cups liquid and pouring it back into the pot with 3 cups dark brown sugar and a spoonful of maple flavoring.  I let that simmer for about 20 minutes before pouring it hot into a jar.  Keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Deeelicious.

17 October 2010

Plum Crumble

(Adapted from Molly Wizenberg at Orangette, where you can see her lovely photos of it)

This is fast becoming my favorite thing to do with late summer stone fruits (other than scarfing them down over the kitchen sink with their cold nectar dripping off my pointy elbows).  I think I've actually dreamed about eating it.  This, lovies, is tangy, sweet, spicy fruit rolling out from under a topping that is by turns custardy, crunchy, and chewy.  Serious yum.

Last September, on a whim, I rescued a gorgeous box of Italian prune plums from Costco for no other reason than I simply had to have their breath-taking shade of rich blue-purple-red piled into the big emerald green bowl on my island.  I all but crave that color combination.  I've been known to buy a few figs just so I could have that arresting play of bright green and ripe purple perched on the edge of a plate.  But I digress again, now don't I? 

So as it happens, that very week Molly Wizenberg posted a recipe for Italian prune plums on Orangette, which was serendipitous because I had never bought one in my life and had no idea what to do with a whole box of them other than stare at them with deep and happy wonder.  So, even though I was sad to slice up my beautiful still-life, I went for it. 

Well, it was FABULOUS.  A bit too sweet and rich for our family palate, perhaps, but fab-u-lous nonetheless.  I couldn't wait to tinker with the recipe-- tone down the sugar, play with a little honey, add some oats and a little lemon juice-- but then the prune plums, which are only in season for a month or two (Septemberish, give or take a few weeks), were gone.  A whole year later, my family and that emerald green bowl were still waiting for me to come home with another mess of them. 

By now, I've tried this recipe with other stone fruits and we've like them all just fine.  But there's something really special about those Italian prune plums.

So here is Molly’s recipe tripled, but with the tripled sugar and butter then reduced by about a third, and oats added.  Because we like to reheat it for breakfast, and oats make us feel better about that.


Plum Crumble

For the plums:

½ cup lightly packed brown sugar OR ½ cup honey
4 ½ Tbsp. unbleached white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
2/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
about 30-40 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
Optional: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use unbleached organic)
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs, beaten well
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Position a rack in the center of your oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the seasoning for the plums: the brown sugar or honey, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and crystallized ginger. Add this to the plums, and gently stir to coat. Arrange the plums skin side up in an ungreased deep 9X13 inch baking dish.

In another medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the topping: the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend well. Add the eggs. Fold in the oats.  Using your hands, mix thoroughly, squeezing and tossing and pinching handfuls of the mixture, to produce moist little particles. Sprinkle evenly over the plums.

Spoon the melted butter evenly over the topping, and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the plums yield easily when pricked with toothpick. Cool.

Serve crumble warm or at room temperature, with crème fraîche, thick yogurt, or unsweetened whipped cream.

Note: To reheat leftovers, it’s best to do it slowly, in an oven set to 300 degrees.

23 December 2009

Hammin' it up

We Bruce ladies are in the Dallas Morning News today!   For, of all things, an article about ham!

There's Nothing Like Ham For The Holidays

If you scroll down a bit, you'll see our picture and a couple of recipes we contributed -- one for a frittata and another for a wonderful ham & cabbage soup.

The author of the article, Tina Danze, was my former catering partner in an era of shared insanity. We cooked and raised our babies together in our early thirties and then went through breast cancer at the same time in our forties. She's so talented and resourceful; a battery-charger kind of friend. 

I love you madly, Tina, even though I resolutely and justifiably blame you for at least ten of the spare pounds I've been hauling around since 1989.

03 November 2009

Pioneer Woman's Mushrooms Stuffed With Brie

The Pioneer Woman's first cookbook came out last week. I confess I wasn't even tempted to add it to my already abundant collection... until I made these mushrooms tonight.

Oh my stars.

I'm pretty sure I'm now seeing those Disney sparkles in the eyes of my loved ones whenever they gaze upon me. Seriously, Ree wasn't joshin' -- you have to make these. So easy, and yet they taste like you slaved over them half the day.

Behold.



photo by Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman,
who I hope won't come after me with Marlboro Man's lasso for borrowing it.

PS. I made them with Baby Bellas, and I did use the optional splash of white wine. Which I heartily recommend.

PPS. I cannot imagine serving these without mashed potatoes to soak up the amazing pan juices. In fact, next time I make these, which may well be tomorrow, I will just make a triple recipe and a mess of mashed spuds and call it dinner. And I suspect nobody here will complain.



08 October 2009

Ratatouille and Italian Sausage Potpie with Cornmeal Biscuits

I made this for supper last night and right this minute I'm mighty sorry there weren't any leftovers!  This was a stellar one-pot supper, my favorite kind of recipe for a weeknight.  Healthy, aromatic, and very satisfying.  Dan asked me to be sure to "put it in the regular rotation," which is high praise indeed.

Do try this while there are still some summer vegetables in the stores!  I used basil instead of parsley, and frankly, I can't imagine it with parsley, or without the basil.  I want to make this again before my basil fades away with cooler temperatures!


Posted by Picasa
The recipe is from The New York Times. There are far better pictures of it here, because that blogger was smart and took her pics while the sun was still up.

30 January 2009

Salmwichin Samwiches

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By request from my friend Beka Sacran, here's my family's favorite breakfast ever (well, except for breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe, which trumps any breakfast on the planet). I opted to name it what Caitlin used to call it in her toddler years, which is, naturally, what I still call it in my head. We eat this fabulous stuff with great celebration off and on throughout the year, but we eat it ritually on Christmas Eve, July 4th, and the morning of the annual Scottish Festival. Always and anon, amen.

This is not what you'd call a kindler, gentler breakfast. Nay, me lovies, but this be muckle hearty morning fare! If a bowl of Cheerios is your idea of a slam-bang way to start your day, no offense, but you'll need to either buck up or move on.

We started serving this in bits and slivers to all our kids while they were still in their high chairs, and they all adore the stuff. Now comes our much-beloved new son-in-law who was not similarly weaned, and it looks like he's going to be a tough convert. As yet, he'd rather have the Cheerios. But since it's one of his cousins who requested I post this (and since we've spotted a number of his kinfolk surveying our fridge for any sign of our salmwichin leftovers!), we do yet hold out hope for him!



Salmwichin Samwiches
aka Salmon & Bagels

Smoked Salmon (see my notes, below recipe)
pumpernickel bagels - 1 per person
regular cream cheese
capers
boiled egg, chopped or sliced (1/2 - 1 egg per person)
raw onion, diced
fresh lemon, quartered

strawberry jam
juice - orange or grapefruit is best
fresh hot coffee

(Yes, you'll want those last three items for the full experience. We do not consider them optional.)

At our house, we put everything on the table and everyone builds their own.

Toast the bagels slightly, just enough to warm them and give them a little crunch. Spread with cream cheese. Add 2-3 layers of smoked salmon slices. Squeeze lemon on salmon generously. Sprinkle with diced onion and chopped egg. Dot with capers, making sure to let the brine drain off the edge of the spoon against the inside of the caper jar -- you want capers, not caper juice. Put the top on the bagel, and open wide. YUM.

We like to have a little mound of strawberry jam on the plate to swab onto our bagel scraps every few bites. Kinda like progressive dessert. Oh, it's yummy.

Juice and coffee taste even more amazing than ever with this stuff. Part of the whole palate experience. Must have them. But I already said that, didn't I?

Best served with bagpipes or some Robert Burns ballads playing in the background.


On purchasing smoked salmon: I used to look for Scottish salmon, but over time we noted that we couldn't really detect that much difference among smoked salmons from various source waters. Now we buy the Kirkland Norwegian Smoked Salmon at Costco, which is far and away the best buy we've ever found anywhere -- it costs about a third of what we'd pay somewhere like Whole Foods. The way I figure it, Norway isn't all that far from Scotland. And besides, Salmon are amorous little buggers, famous for swishing off to far off places for courting purposes. So I figure these Norwegian fishies may very well have had a wild weekend at the highland coast at some point, and I'd say that counts for Scottish influence. That's my story, anyway.

Bagels - We like Einstein Bros. Bagels. We've bought the bagels the day before at times, but Dan prefers to scoot out early in the morning to buy the bagels fresh. Bagels are appreciably better the day they're made. Pumpernickel bagels can be hard to find, but there's a predominately Jewish neighborhood near us, so we can usually find them. Hey, call your local bakeries and delis! You never know, they may be willing to make them for you by request.

And one last thing: Lowfat and no-fat cream cheeses leave a tinny, chemical aftertaste on the palate, and have a slimier texture than the real stuff. Not worth it, and definitely not good with smoked salmon. I say use the real stuff and make up for the calories somewhere else!


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10 November 2008

Gigi Louise's Cornbread Dressing

Gigi Louise used to mercifully make an extra pan of this dressing for family holiday gatherings because we'd all get so forlorn and overcome with malaise when she had to tell us the leftovers were all gone. So naturally I make extra as well. I like to leave my small cast iron skillet out handy so folks can heat up a little at their whim. Cast iron makes it all crispy golden and eternally inspiring.

Now, I warn you. This is one of those real gen-u-ine granny recipes, the kind where granny assumes you're as intuitive a cook as she is so she doesn't fuss with jotting down the details. You know, piffly trifles like how much broth to use. So when you get stumped you ring granny up for the requisite empirical data and she helpfully drawls, "Well, honey, you know. Just keep tipping more broth in till it looks right fallin' off a spoon." And... that would be roughly how much? Just a ballpark, a clue, anything... "Oh, just stick your hand down in it, honey, and if it runs through your fingers kinda thick-like but not runny exactly, you're about right." Yes, this actually happened to me.

But, oh, is it ever worth navigating the guesswork. Last year,
Claire made our Thanksgiving feast and she managed to get it to fall off the spoon just right on her first try. So hey, muster your courage and give it a go.

When we make it for Thanksgiving here in a few days, I'll try to take some helpful pictures of the kinda-thick-like-but-not-runny-exactly stage to post here for you. But then again that might take all the fun out of it for you.



Gigi Louise's Cornbread Dressing

2 large pans of cornbread
(NOTE: Do not use sweet or cakey cornbread! Optimally, it should be baked in cast iron skillets for good crust. Gigi's cornbread recipe is here. Note that her recipe makes a small pan of cornbread, so for the 2 large pans needed for this dressing you'd need to make two double recipes. You can make the cornbread a couple of days in advance - the dressing is improved by slightly dry, stale bread. You can actually bake the cornbread a month in advance and freeze it.)

2 hamburger buns, toasted (or 4 slices of toasted white bread)

1 big onion, chopped

2 cups chopped celery (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice)

4 beaten eggs

1 T sage*

black pepper to taste (Be very generous! Even more generous than that!)

salt if needed (this depends largely on the amount of salt in your broth)

Broth - Gigi told me she cooked her Thanksgiving turkey with one quart of water in the bottom of the roaster (I assume she used a rack) so she would have a head start on broth, and then she supplemented with canned broth until she had enough to make the dressing "a bit soupy." I usually make the dressing ahead of the turkey, though, so I use all chicken broth. I buy the free range organic broth that comes in aseptic boxes by the case at Costco. Swanson's canned broth is good also.

A large glass Pyrex casserole dish, buttered, will give this a good crunchy crust on the bottom and edges.

Cook at 350 until firm and golden on top -- at least an hour.

*If you're serving nursing mothers, you should warn them about the sage in the dressing, as it can significantly limit breast milk production.

Gigi Louise's Cornbread

I think my bones must be made of cornbread. Wonder how far back up the old family tree you'd have to go to find a woman who didn't make cornbread? Gigi's was perfection. It had a substantial, crunchy crust that smelled like hot buttered popcorn. A hearty, toothy texture -- nothing cake-ish about it. Never sweet and never foo-foo'd up with corn or green chiles. No no no.

I've flirted around with all sorts of cornbread recipes. When I'm tired or pressed for time, I confess without shame that I whip out a package of Morrison's Corn Kit mix. Surprisingly good and not expensive. But this is a purely psychological boost -- it's really no harder to make from scratch.

I prefer an organic stone ground yellow meal from non-genetically modified corn, which, thankfully, is getting easier to find these days in stores like Whole Foods and Central Market. Sometimes I mix some flour in with the cornmeal, but generally I like a southern style corn-rich batter. And being the first native of the southwest on a solidly southern family tree, I have to whip out a batch made from southwestern blue corn every now and then just for the Dr. Seuss-ish spunk of it.

(For any beginners out there, it's handy to know there's a difference between 'corn meal' and 'corn meal mix' even though the packages can look very similar. Be sure to read labels!)

Gigi would also sometimes use a mixture of cornmeal and flour, but she told me she liked it best with cornmeal only. She said the very best she ever made was when she could get her hands on some freshly ground corn and make it right away the same day it was ground. I've done that a time or two with my grain mill. Wow. That and some butter and a big glass of tea... most salubrious.


Gigi Louise's Cornbread

corn oil for the skillet

1 cup corn meal (plus extra for priming skillet)
1 T sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg
1/2 c buttermilk (plus more to adjust batter thickness)

butter, for serving


Preheat oven to 425.

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix egg and buttermilk and stir into dry ingredients. If the batter seems too stiff or thick, add a little buttermilk. It should be a little thicker than pancake batter, but thinner and lighter than muffin batter.

Prime a 6-8 inch cast iron skillet as per note below.

Pour batter into the primed skillet. Check at 18-20 minutes; cornbread is ready when the top is dark golden yellow. (A double recipe will need a 10 inch skillet and will probably need a half hour or more in the oven.)


*Priming the skillet: Pour a shallow layer of corn oil in the bottom of your cast iron skillet and swirl it around so that the oil coats the sides. Use your fingers if necessary. Put the pan in the preheated oven for a few minutes to thoroughly heat the oil, then carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and quickly sprinkle a light layer of stone ground corn meal in the hot oil. Put the pan back in the oven for a couple of minutes, until the cornmeal starts to smell like popcorn. Now carefully pull the hot pan out of the oven, quickly pour in the batter and return the skillet to the oven. This is an old trick that will give your cornbread that fantastic crisp, aromatic crust.

24 October 2008

Where's That Link? Vol. 1

A few recipes online that I've known and loved and wouldn't want to lose...

Crockpot Mexican Beans/Bean Soup
Serious yum. I always add several cloves of garlic, at least one teaspoon of cumin, and, after the beans are tender, a little salt. Also, the recipe doesn't mention that you should drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans before putting them in the crockpot... but be sure to do it. This little step will make your beans more sociable. Mema was convinced that a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger made them more agreeable as well, and after much experimentation I've come to suspect she was right. So toss in some ginger. I've used all sorts of salsas, but my favorite is Herdez Salsa Casera Medium. Tastes like fresh salsa, great texture. I keep several jars at all times.

Martha Stewart's Always Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
Okay, for real, that's not what Martha calls it. But it is. Always Perfect, I mean. I will never make mac & cheese by another recipe for the rest of my life. It's a bit of work, but oh baby, it's dinner all by itself. And breakfast the next day. The Beehive kids always want this on Christmas Eve. And does The Mamadah make it for them? Why, yes. Of course she does. Because she loves her children through food, like all good mamas do. NOTE: If you love yourself you will NOT omit the nutmeg or the cayenne. Do you hear me? I mean it. We always have it with Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider, which we buy at Costco (Sam's carries it also but I support Walmart as little as humanly possible). Or, if we don't have that on hand, baked apples. Oh wow. Oh. Oh. Wow. Okay, I'll stop.

Martha Stewart's Fruit & Nut Refrigerator Cookies
You have to make these. That's all I'm sayin'. Well, no it's not. I'm also going to say that having a log or two of this dough handy in the freezer when company drops in will completely take care of that ruse you're trying to pull off that your house is always homey and you're just the kind of gal who always has fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven right when people want them. Which is all the time. Terrific cookies. We don't bother to ice them. Beware of slicing them too thin -- they'll burn or get too crunchy. Closer to 1/4 inch than 1/8, I say.

AND...

How cool is that?! Haven't tried it (I have a Salton YM9 that makes yogurt in quart jars), but judging from the copious comments, this recipe makes really good yogurt, and will save you a chunk of change on the weekly yogurt bill.

19 October 2008

Cranberry Bread Brody

When I was a little girl, I thought bags of cranberries looked like pretty pretty red beads. I wanted to string them and wear them. A few years ago I found a wagon load of red wooden cranberry garlands on deep sale after Christmas and I bought an embarrassing amount of them. I've thought about wearing those, too, when they come down from the attic to see me every winter.

Cranberries make me happy, see. Pair them with oranges in recipes, and I'm borderline giddy. This Cranberry Bread is like a happy happy treat with pretty pretty red beads in it. Practically glamorous with a nice pot of something like English Breakfast or Earl Grey.

Great Scot is very fond of this stuff, in fact he's been known to say it's his favorite. But I suspect he's never thought of it as glamorous.

If you double this recipe, like I do, you can use up one 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries. There won't be any left over to play dress-up with, but you'll feel all thrifty using the whole bag like that.


Cranberry Bread Brody
from Jane Brody's Good Food Book

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar, to taste
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt, if desired

1-2 small oranges, used thus:
4 tsp grated orange peel (doubled = 2 T + 2 tsp)
3/4 cup orange juice

3 T vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/3 cups fresh cranberries, sliced in half or coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, orange peel, orange juice, and egg. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring the two mixtures just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Fold in the cranberries and nuts, and pour the batter into a greased 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan.

3. Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour (about 50 minutes if you're using mini loaf pans). Set the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning out the loaf to cool completely. Wrap the bread well, and let it stand overnight before slicing it.

Note: Jane Brody says this bread freezes well, but in my experience it doesn't keep well in the freezer longer than a month -- the texture suffers a little. You can, however, buy fresh cranberries in season during the holidays and freeze them in their original bags for year-round use.

Road Scholars' Carrot Cake-ish

Back when I had two little girls who could still fit all their school books into their pink and purple backpacks, we used to pack up our school and go on road trips with my parents whenever we could. We've done so much school on interstates that my daddy started calling us Road Scholars. (We called him our guest lecturer because he always had interesting stuff to add to our lessons.)

I often took loaves of this carrot cake on those trips, pre-sliced and wrapped in foil, because it keeps everyone satisfied between meal stops and all but eliminates the temptations (and expense!) of junk food at truck stops. Daddy used to start dropping broad hints about how good it was about a week before our departures, and then he'd show up all hopeful with his ancient green thermos full of hot coffee.

Ahh, those were amazing years. When God gives you fleeting chances to do great things, by all means do them.

I'm never sure whether to call this stuff carrot cake or carrot bread. Hence cake-ish. Terrific stuff to have handy, at home or on the road. Stellar with good hot coffee mid-afternoon. If there's any left over next day, we toast it slightly and spread on a little cream cheese for breakfast or teatime. Delightful, that.


Road Scholars' Carrot Cake-ish

3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup raisins
2 cups finely grated carrots (4 medium large)
1 T butter
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (optionsl)


Combine first 8 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover the pan and let the mixture rest for 12 hours on the stovetop.*

Combine remaining ingredients, and add to the carrot mixture after it has rested for 12 hours. Stir just enough to combine the ingredients and no more!

Divide batter into two oiled loaf pans, about 9 X 5 X 3 inches. Bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for one hour and ten minutes. (I find that it needs the full cooking time.)

Freezes fairly well, but I've never frozen it for longer than a month. Frankly, I can't imagine why you would put off eating it that long.


*Yes, this resting step is rather odd, but it makes a big difference and you don't want to skip it. It infuses the carrots and raisins with incredible flavor and greatly improves their texture. Plus, this quirky little step makes these loaves so easy to make for breakfast for company-- get the dry ingredients together and let the carrot/spice mixture rest overnight, then bake it in the morning. Your guests will wake up to an amazing, spicy, homey aroma wafting through your house!


~adapted from Jane Brody's Good Food Book

14 October 2008

Caitlin's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


These are happiness on a crisp fall day. By all means, serve them with a pot of hot tea (Earl Grey or Stash Chocolate Hazelnut tea would be my top picks to pair with these muffins). And some happy fallish music. Like Haydn -- maybe the Surprise Symphony. Or maybe James Taylor's October Road. Mmmm perfect. Or Mark O'Connor's The American Seasons. Luscious. Oh, how does one choose?


Caitlin's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
dash ground cloves
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream*
3 T orange marmalade
1/3 cup oil
1 cup cooked pumpkin (canned is fine)
1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients well. Combine wet ingredients and stir into dry mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients disappear -- do not overblend or muffins will be tough.

Line muffin tin with paper cups, and fill. Bake 20-25 minutes.


*I'm obsessed with my new homemade yogurt cheese maker. Why did I not know about this glorious stuff before? So I'm going to try yogurt cheese as a substitute for sour cream next time I make these muffins. I'll let you know how it goes.

Bran Muffins

from The Best Recipe

These muffins are Caitlin's specialty, and they are amazing. I don't know if it's brave or foolish for me to confess that I think they're (gasp) even better than my mother's.

Now then, let me say that Mother's bran muffins are miiighty fine. But they use a lot of All-Bran cereal, which contains a load of sugar in addition to high fructose corn syrup, which I've eliminated from my diet in my post-cancer life. (I would post Mother's recipe except that I think you need to eliminate HFCS from your diet, too. Once you've survived cancer you get to be horsey like that.)

Everyone needs really tasty bran muffins in their life, so I was extremely enthused when Caitlin found this recipe and began to regularly rise up and bless me with them. I guess now that she's all married and everything I'll have to start making them for myself. Sigh.

This is our go-to recipe when we need to use up that last glug of buttermilk lurking in the back of the frig.


Caitlin, I'm wondering here... do you ever substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream? More whole wheat flour and less white? Less brown sugar? Do tell.



Bran Muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins

Wheat bran is available at natural food stores. It is also available in supermarkets in boxes labeled Quaker Unprocessed Bran.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
7 T unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 T packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T unsulphured molasses
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup plus 3 T buttermilk
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup raisins

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Cream butter with mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, increase speed to medium-high and beat until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute longer. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly before adding the next. Beat in vanilla, molasses, and sour cream until thoroughly combined and creamy, about 1 minute longer. Reduce speed to low; beat in buttermilk and half the flour mixture until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in remaining flour mixture until incorporated and slightly curdled looking, about 1 minute longer, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Stir in bran and raisins.

3. Spray 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center withdraws cleanly or with a few moist particles adhering to it; about 25 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm.

04 October 2008

Couscous Pudding

My beloved friend Tina Danze is a freelance writer and food photo stylist, and a regular contributor to the Dallas Morning News on food related topics. Back when Tina and I were both living in a whirling cloud of very small daughters, we got together every few days so the little angels could rearrange everything inside our property lot lines while we wallowed in the rare chance to have real conversation (whoopee! big words! irony! subordinate clauses!) with another rational being. On one such day, we were being serenaded by a quartet of tiny Belle-wannabes warbling discordantly about life in "a qui-et vil-lage" (of all things) when Tina abruptly levelled her professional gaze at me and all but shouted over the cosmic din, "So, Lynn, do you like couscous?"

Her kids are cute but they're getting to her, I thought.

"Tina," I chided, "did you really just say 'koos-koos'? Surely that's not a real word. It's just a cutesy name your kids came up with, right?" Whereupon she hooted, grabbed a pen, and set about inking my ignorance into the public record. In the opening paragraph. Of the lead article. Of the most popular section of the Wednesday paper.

That's what I get for being pals with the food paparazzi.

So look, there were plenty of perfectly cool people in the early 90's who had never heard of couscous. I'd been busy reproducing and whatnot, okay?

But I'm a good sport, I am, and always curious, so I fetched me some couscous straightaway, I did. And all was forgiven when I pulled the first pan of this Couscous Pudding out of my oven. Reminiscent of rice pudding but faster to make, it has long ranked high on my children's list of comfort foods. Nowadays my girls make it for breakfast or just for an afternoon snack. So yeah, Tina, I like couscous.


Couscous Pudding
(8 servings)

2 cups water
1 cup couscous
1 T butter
3/4 cup milk or milk substitute
2 eggs
3 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 - 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325. Stir couscous into boiling water; turn heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the water is absorbed (less than five minutes). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the butter.

Beat together: milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon juice & rind. Stir into the couscous. Stir in raisins.

Pour into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired. Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is set (45 minutes for a double recipe). Serve warm or room temperature. Leftovers are good reheated with a little milk.

03 October 2008

Sarah's Chicken Stew with Limas and Okra

This nourishing stew is a family recipe, and it's truly comfort food for me on a chilly day. I like the beautiful color palette it makes in the bowl, the creamy weight of the broth, the homey aroma -- everything. My copy of the recipe is a sight to see -- in my mother's handwriting, a spare and rushed list of just the ingredients, over which I scrawled in the details as she talked me through it. I can see it now, her darting around the kitchen methodically cleaning up the mess while telling me Exactly How The Stew Should Come To Be, and me sitting there simultaneously trying to make my spoon keep up with my mouth and my pen keep up with hers. Below a few splatters on the page she has jotted "Dig up ferns, get 3 books for Brother Douglas, close house vents and attic vent. Kit hot turn off." (I have no idea.) This tells me I got the recipe from her in 1997 in my Gigi Louise's old Tennessee farm kitchen, now gone; Mother was putting in a hard, sad, homesick year there clearing out and shutting down the beloved family homeplace, because my widowed grandmother could not do it and it had to be done.

Mother falls in the straightforward, pragmatic camp when it comes to cooking -- she's a salt-pepper-butter cook all the way. That random tablespoon of ketchup in this recipe tickles me; it's so like her. Fast, no fuss, no muss -- and yet it really does do the trick.

I suspect this stew has never been served without a pan of hot cornbread. Which is as it should be.


Sarah's Chicken Stew with Limas, Creamed Corn and Okra

1 large frying chicken
2 pkgs frozen lima beans
1 T salt

Stew chicken in 4 quarts of water with limas and salt until chicken is tender. Lift chicken out with a strainer, de-bone and shred, and return to pot.

Add to pot:
2 c potatoes, diced small
1 large can tomatoes or 2 cups fresh, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 T ketchup
1/2 cup okra (or more)

Cook till the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add:
2 pkgs cream style corn (or 1 or 2 cans)
1 pat of butter

Cook on low burner for 20-30 minutes.

02 October 2008

AHA Apple Cake

I rarely bake cakes because we're just not huge cake fans at our house. I'd much rather risk my skirt size on Great Scot's legendary cookies or a big bowl of warm cobbler. But I make an exception for this Apple Cake, probably because it's so swell for teatime or breakfast, which means it actually gets eaten around our house. Plus it's really quick and makes the house smell so cozy.

Easy Apple Cake
adapted from the American Heart Association Cookbook

2 cups diced apples
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 cups flour, unsifted (whole wheat would do fine)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Combine apples and sugar in a mixing bowl and let stand 10 minutes. Blend oil, vanilla and egg with the apples. Combine dry ingredients and mix in well. Stir in the raisins.

Pour into a greased 8-inch square cake pan. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes. This cake does not rise like light cakes do, so it's okay if it looks a bit flat.

NOTE: It is very good just as it is, when served soon after baking. Any leftover cake would be delicious served with a lemon sauce.

01 October 2008

Gigi Louise's Cucumbers

I always thought this dish had an odd, monochromatic beauty about it when set out to "sweat a while" on Gigi's worn countertop -- a clear glass bowl of sparkly ice cubes holding submerged a bed of ivory discs that bore only the barest memory of having been green just moments before. Once bathed in the sweet vinegar brine, it becomes a shimmery sour sight that makes your mouth do that pickle-y puckery watery thing. I don't know whether to call it a salad or a relish -- it's somewhere in between, I guess -- but whatever it is, it was a hot weather staple on Gigi's table. She served it with everyday meals of fresh vegetables from the garden, big slabs of Granddaddy's organic tomatoes (oooh, how I miss them!), cornbread and iced tea.

My cousin Stephanie, who inherited far more of Grandmother's legendary cooking talents than I did, makes her own variation of this dish, which I've seen her serve chilled on a stifling hot day to happy multitudes at summer camp. Maybe I can persuade her sometime to let me append her version to this one.


Gigi Louise's Cucumbers


Put in a large glass bowl:
a couple of large cucumbers, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch thick or so)
water to cover, with 1 T salt per quart

Cover cucumbers with water/salt solution and 2 trays of ice until bowl sweats, up to an hour. Drain. (This step is vital as it makes the cucumbers crisp and crunchy.)

Mix together 1 cup each sugar and white vinegar, plus 1/2 cup water. Pour over cucumbers to cover.

Sprinkle liberally with black pepper. May stir in sliced rings of white onion if desired (we always do).

Serve cold. Stores well in a wide mouth canning jar in the refrigerator.

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Cheese Blogs

Moments after Great Scot polishes off his post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, he begins dreaming about me making cheese blogs for him for Christmas Day. I make enough for him to share; such a big batch in fact that I have to haul out my punchbowl-sized mixing bowl to mix it up.

You can shape this into two or three semi-squashed balls, which makes it a nice shape to give as gifts and looks quite spiffy on a plate. However, we veteran cheeseblogophiles much prefer it formed into logs about the diameter of its destination -- a Ritz cracker. This way, every slice has a lovely ring of chopped pecans all around the edge. Very hoo hoo.

Which brings me to why we call them blogs. Great Scot kept on calling the logs "cheese balls" out of habit, so our kids coined a new hybrid name for the things... cheese blogs. And of course it stuck.


Lynn's Cheese Blogs

12 oz cream cheese
12 oz sharp cheddar, grated (I like extra sharp white cheddar)
12 oz medium cheddar, grated
1 T + 1 tsp Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder (to taste), or 1-3 cloves minced fresh garlic*
2 tsp paprika
pecans, finely chopped

Note: These cheese amounts are very forgiving -- if you have a little more or less on hand, just go with it. It will still love you. Kraft Cracker Barrel cheeses work beautifully for this, though I usually try to buy the big economical blocks of Tillamook at Costco or Sam's.


If you're using a food processor, first chop the pecans and set aside; wipe out the workbowl with a paper towel. Next, if you're using fresh garlic, drop it down the processor tube and mince fine, then add the cream cheese and Lea & Perrins sauce and blend till smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl (one big enough to hold the big mess of grated cheese you're about to create) -- sort of plop it off to one side because you might want to spoon some of it back into the processor in a few minutes (you'll see). Now fit your processor with a grater disc and grate all the cheddar, transferring the batches to the mixing bowl as you go.

Here you can give yourself a little headstart on all the stirring by spooning the cream cheese mixture back into the processor (put the chopping blade back on first!) with a cup or two of the grated cheese; pulse a few times to mix. After that, I dump it all in the big mixing bowl and get my hands in there and work it till it's thoroughly mixed.

Form the mixture into logs of a length that will fit on your serving platter, and sprinkle them lightly with the paprika -- this is optional but it makes it all so pretty. Roll the blogs in the chopped nuts till thoroughly coated, then wrap them up tight, first in wax paper and then in foil. Then I usually put them in ziplocks to keep out moisture -- overkill perhaps, but hey, good cheese is precious to me. The blogs will keep in the refrigerator for longer than you'll need them to.


*I love fresh garlic, but even I use garlic powder here if the logs aren't going to be polished off within a few days, because raw garlic becomes practically flourescent in these things after three or four days in the frig. Oh, and do NOT use garlic salt!