31 October 2008

Hearts, Gizzards and All Hallows Eve

Fillet of fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing, --
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble
Double, Double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble

Part of three witches speech from Macbeth

While making last night's dinner, I felt a little like these three witches.  Eye of newt?  Check.  Wool of bat?  Check.  Owlet's wing?  Check.  None of these really went into my pot, but what did go into my pot was chicken hearts and gizzards.  I found a recipe last week in Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews and One-Pot meals and knew I had to try it.  I had actually touched a chicken heart before when I pulled the innards out of chicken before cooking it.  I would usually throw it in a pot with the backbone to make a quick stock.  But the gizzards were a totally new and somewhat creepy thing to me.  "What is a gizzard?" you may ask?  A gizzard is part of the digestive system of birds.  It is used to grind up food and pass it back into the bird's true stomach (at least that is how I understand it)  They are a fairly thick and strong muscle which benefit from a long cooking time.
 Surprisingly, chicken hearts and gizzards were sold together in a 1 1/2 lb. package right next to the chicken breasts and legs at the supermarket.  Plus, they were cheap.  The whole package cost $1.50.  I had to buy two packages for this meal but the whole huge pot of sauce plus all of the other dinner fixings made enough to serve four adults and two children for at least three meals and probably cost about $10.
"Okay, so they are cheap, and apparently edible, but how do they taste?" I can hear you asking.  The sauce in this dish was phenomenal and if you are used to hearts and gizzards, you are going to love it.  If you are not used to them, as I was not, the chewiness may take you a bit to get past, but they are very rich and satisfying if you don't mind the chew.   Try something new and maybe a little creepy, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Happy Halloween everyone.

Chicken Hearts and Gizzards in Italian-Style Tomato Sauce adapted from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals

Serves at least 8

1/3 cup olive oil
3 lbs. chicken hearts and gizzards
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
3- 15oz. cans of chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 Tbls. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper


1.  Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Add the hearts and gizzards, season with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the hearts and gizzards to a plate and set aside.
2.  Add the carrots, onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, stir to coat the other ingredients, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the white wine, bring to a boil and let reduce for 2 minutes.
3.  Add the tomatoes, water, extra-virgin olive oil, bay leaves, basil, thyme and crushed red pepper.  Stir, return the hearts and gizzards to the pot, raise the heat and bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper, lower the heat and simmer gently for 90 minutes until nicely thickened and richly flavored.  Remove the bay leaves.
4.  Serve over toasted bread, pasta, or polenta.

29 October 2008

Magic in the Middles

The King Arthur Flour blog is a relatively recent find for me, but boy, is it dangerous!  In the past week or so since I've found it, I've made two of their cookie recipes!  If I keep this up I'm either going to gain back the 34 lbs. I've lost, or I'm going to have to start giving a lot of cookies to neighbors and friends.  This past week they featured a cookie called Magic in the Middle.  These were amazing cookies, crispy chocolate cookie on the outside, soft peanut butter inside.  The perfect combination in my opinion.  I'll just link to their recipe as I changed very little and commented on and reviewed the recipe on their site.  The only change I made was to add an extra egg yolk (as they recommended to keep the dough pliable).  My dough still cracked a little showing the peanut butter inside.  The result was merely aesthetic, but I suppose the magic is gone if you can see there is peanut butter inside.  Also, they recommend dividing the peanut butter filling into 26 balls, but I would say 32 balls would have been better as I still had enough chocolate dough left at the end to fill them.  There was a lot of hands on time with this recipe but the cookie is so good that the time was well spent.  

Class Party Cookies

When my kiddo's teacher asked if I would make 2 dozen unfrosted sugar cookies for their class party, I was of course flattered, but also a little panicked as the thought of using cookie cutters always seems kind of fussy to me.  Of course, rolling and stamping out dough does take longer than drop cookies, but the results are so cute, and the kiddos will like them so much, that it makes it worth it in the end.  I found a basic recipe for sugar cookies that I adapted a little.  The end result is a nicely flavored cookie that was easy to roll, baked up well, and will store well until the party tomorrow.

Class party cookies by Joie de vivre

Yield:  Quite a lot.  2 gallon sized Ziplock bags worth.  (7-8 dozen?)


1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
5 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp.. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. pumpkin pie spice

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla extrace, and sour cream and beat until well blended.  In a separate, medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Add this to the wet ingredients little by little, blending well after each addition.  Roll out dough a softball sized amount at a time on a floured board.  Sprinkle the top of dough a little with flour before rolling.  Roll out to 1/16 to 1/8 inch thickness and stamp out cookies using floured cookie cutters.  Place on un-greased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees F to 5 to 7 minutes.  The cookies will be set and lightly golden on the bottom.  Cool on a wire rack.

Boston Brown bread

I have been buying a cheap whole wheat bread at WalMart for the past few months ($2.50 a loaf).  Unfortunately, when toasted, it has this smell that is absolutely disgusting.  In the morning, it is almost more than I can handle!  I was going to treat myself this week and buy a different type of bread, but most of the other whole wheat varieties were in the $4 range.  I just couldn't justify spending that kind of money when 1.  I am capable of making my own bread, 2.  I have all of the ingredients at home, 3.  even if I don't want to make my own bread, I have a perfectly good bread machine.  It was the third reason that had me leaving the bread aisle and heading to my public library for a bread machine book.  I found a book called America's Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt that looked promising.  Their recipe for Boston Brown Bread looked easy and I also had all of the ingredients handy.  The crumb was good, the taste was better, and when toasted, the bread smelled toasty instead of rank.  What more can you ask for?  I did adapt their recipe a little by using spelt flour instead of whole wheat.  Use what you have.

Boston Brown Bread from America's Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt

Makes a 2 lb. loaf

Add these ingredients to your bread machine baking pan in the order listed:

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbls. molasses
2 Tbls. shortening
2 1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. bread machine yeast

Set your machine to the Whole Wheat cycle.

Because 2 lbs. is quite a large loaf, I cut the loaf vertically down the middle, laid the halves cut side down, and cut slices along the short side of the halves.  Doing this seemed to make good sized pieces.

23 October 2008

Squash Soup with Crumbled Bacon

I must admit, winter squash is not my favorite.  In my mind, I remember my mother making acorn squash all the time, although probably it was not more than a few times a year.  In my mother's defense, she did make the acorn squash palatable by baking it with butter, orange juice and brown sugar.  But I remember hating the squash after finishing the bites saturated with the sweet, buttery cooking liquid.  As an adult, I have learned to look past my initial aversion to winter squash, but it is still not my favorite.  It does give me pause however, thinking about what I make that my kiddos will have an aversion to when they grow up.
During fall, our CSA basket always contains some interesting squash.  Last winter, I must confess, I had to throw away some winter squash that had wintered too long in my pantry.  So when we started receiving our squash this year, I knew I had to cook it quickly or risk the same squash demise.  I have been reading Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals this week and in it there is a technique of laying strips of bacon across squash while it is baking to give it a nice smokey flavor.  Since everything is better with bacon, I took Tom Valenti's recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Minced Bacon, and changed it to suit my cooking style.  The Squash Soup I created has a wonderful, smokey flavor from using the bacon technique, and the texture is smooth and silky from the long, slow cooking.
By the way, I checked Soups, Stews and One-Pot Meals out from the library, but it is now on my "to buy" list.  This book is chock full of Italian grandmother type meals.  I want to try my hand at his Chicken Hearts and Gizzards in Italian-Style Tomato Sauce next.  If I don't tell my children what it is, perhaps their aversion won't be automatic.  

Squash Soup with Crumbled Bacon by Joie de vivre


6 lbs. of winter squash (I'm not sure of the variety I used though!)
6 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
Couple sprigs of thyme plus more for plating
Bay leaf
1 qt. chicken stock
1 can (15 oz.) beef stock
Salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Lay strips of bacon across the open face of each squash half and place open side up on a baking sheet.  Place in the oven and bake until a fork can pierce the squash flesh easily.  Mine took 1 hour to bake, you can start checking on yours after 40 minutes or so depending on the variety of squash you are using.  Remove the bacon to paper towel lined plates and let the squash cool slightly.  Crumble bacon when cool and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, pour the melted butter from the squash or drizzle in some olive oil.  Saute the onion over medium low heat until softened, but not browned.  Put in the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf and stir for 1 to 2 minutes.  Scoop squash into the bowl and stir for 1 minute constantly so squash does not scorch.  Pour in the stocks and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring soup to a boil.  After bringing soup to a boil, turn heat down, partially cover, and let simmer very gently for an hour.  Fish out the thyme and bay leaf with tongs and puree soup with an immersion blender.  

To serve:  Ladle into bowls, top with some crumbled bacon and sprinkle with additional thyme leaves.

22 October 2008

A World in a Pan

After my Pork Chop Hot Dish post from a few days ago, Laura from Laura's Paris Cooking Notebook commented that she would like to put the recipe up on her site.   Naturally, I was honored since I have been reading her lovely blog and drooling over her gorgeous pictures of the daily routines in French culture.  Every time I read her blog, I envy the cheeses, eggs, produce and everything that she has access to living in France, and now, my Pork Chop Hot Dish is on her site!  Really Laura, it is an honor and I thank you.  Here is the link to Pork Chop Hot Dish on Laura's site.

Mummy Dogs

My kids are finally reaching an age where they appreciate comedy in their food.  I've been seeing this recipe around in different women's magazines this year and it was the prodding from a friend who said they were really good that got me to go for it.  You know, they actually were pretty good.  The buttery sweetness of the crescent rolls really complimented the saltiness of the hot dogs.  Plus, it was easy and fun.
To try it yourself, buy a can of crescent rolls and a pack of hot dogs.  Unroll the crescent rolls and press the seams to seal them.  Cut the crescent roll dough into strips and wind around your hot dogs leaving a little space free for the "eyes".  Place the rolled dogs onto a baking sheet and place in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 13-15 minutes (until crescent dough is nicely browned).  Decorate with mustard "eyes" and enjoy the giggles of your children.

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches - More Excitement!

In order to keep the excitement going from the recent launch of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community, Foodbuzz has just put their promotional ad for their 24 meals, 24 blogs, 24 hours promotion up on You Tube which you can watch here.  Also, their 24 featured blogs are up on the Foodbuzz site.  Quite an eclectic group of foodies and such and exciting organization to be a part of.  If you are interested in finding other food blogs or want to be connected with other foodies, Foodbuzz is the place to be!

21 October 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I feel I am finally starting to embrace the chill in the air and the changing of the seasons.  It also doesn't hurt that Mother Nature puts on a nice show.  I have been reading the excitement fellow food bloggers are displaying over autumn and new seasonal foods, and feeling slightly left out.  There is no season whose passing I mourn more than summer.  But this past week, I decided to just throw myself in, and actually, it helped me get over my funk.  I took my boys to the pumpkin patch twice where we climbed hay pyramids, ran through hay mazes and got lost in corn mazes.  We are proudly displaying our pumpkins on the kitchen table where they await carving closer to Halloween.  I even broke out the flannel sheets this week as the nights have been cold.  All these helped lift my mood, as well as thinking about all of the hearty stews I plan on making this winter.  I was finally embracing the thought of autumn, when I came across these cookies on the King Arthur Flour blog.  What a perfect treat to celebrate the changing of the seasons and embrace the kids' excitement over Halloween.  I modified the cookies slightly to include a little whole wheat flour and changed decorating techniques to make it a little easier for myself. (They made homemade icing and piped it from a plastic baggie, I just bought the pressurized frosting in a can that has the decorating tips on it and used that)  The resulting cookie was very cute and my boys are going to flip over them.  They are extremely soft and chewy with a great spicy flavor.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies modified from the King Arthur Flour blog

Yield:  about 6 dozen

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for decorating
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 can each of the decorating icing in a pressurized can in orange and green


Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

With an electric mixer set on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugars.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and orange zest, beating well to blend together.

Slowly add the dry ingredients, beating well to blend.  Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Using a tablespoon scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  You can put them fairly close together as the dough does not spread.  You will need to mash down the dough balls a little with your spoon or fingers to make them easier to decorate  (otherwise, they bake like balls)

Bake on the middle oven rack for about 18 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.  Immediately upon removal from the oven, press chocolate chips into the tops of the cookies for the eyes and nose.  When cool, decorate cookies with orange and green frosting to resemble pumpkins.

20 October 2008

Pork Chop Hot Dish (Casserole)

I am laughing at myself for titling this post "Hot Dish" because while I was walking and talking during my recent 5K, the woman I was walking with asked if I was from Minnesota because of my "accent".  "No," I replied, "but I guess that comes from going to a Lutheran church!"  Lutherans and Minnesotans (who also happen to be primarily Lutheran) call "hot dish" what the rest of the country calls "casserole".  Since I feel very Lutheran every time I make casserole, I am now going to call it "hot dish".  This was a good, stick to your ribs kind of meal that you can just throw in the oven.  Definitely not French, but it could be with portion control.  It was still comforting on a blustery night at any rate!  I burnt it a little, so learn from me and finish it either in the oven, or let the heat of the dish finish it.  Don't finish it under the broiler!

Pork Chop Hot Dish by Joie de vivre

6 boneless pork chops
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (2.8) oz. can french-fried onions, divided
1 (24-26oz.) package frozen, shredded hash browns
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

Yield:  6 servings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Brown both sides of the pork chops.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the soup, milk, sour cream, pepper, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar chees, 1/2 can french-fried onions and stir until combined.  Add the package of hash browns and stir until coated.  Spoon hash brown mixture into a greased 9 1/2 by 11 inch baking dish.  Arrange browned pork chops on top, sprinkle with season salt, cover with foil, and place in oven for 45 minutes.  Uncover dish and broil until hash brown mixture is bubbly and slightly browned.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese and hash browns.  Either let cheese melt from the heat of the dish, or place dish back in oven for 5 minutes (make sure broiler is off or onions will burn!)

Pizza Puttanesca

I love accolades (even if it is from family members).  We all have a little bit of an ego that needs stroking every once in a while, don't we?  My sister Veronica, a non-cook by anyone's standards, was so inspired by my post about pasta puttanesca, that she has since become a cook!  After the post, she excitedly called me the next day from the grocery store as she was buying all the ingredients to make the dish.  The next day the praise was overwhelming!  (I did take it with a grain of salt since she is 7 months pregnant and might have found it more amazing had I added pickles)  However, that post proved to her that cooking needn't be a complicated and overwhelming thing and that it is possible to make amazing dishes without working all day on them.  She has since made pasta puttanesca a few times and has recently discovered a new recipe, pizza puttanesca, for which she is singing the praises.  
The following recipe, and the photo above, come from Veronica.  She says she got the recipe from Rachel Ray and modified it a little.  The above photo of devoured pizza is what happens when a pregnant woman is put in charge of taking the pictures.  The recipe sounds great though and I'm sure when I make it it will look the same even without being pregnant. 

Pizza Puttanesca  by Joie de vivre's sister Veronica!

2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbls. anchovy paste or 6 anchovies
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28oz.) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped, pitted, good quality, black olives
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 prepared thin crust pizza shell
3/4 lb. very thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, or shredded


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, anchovy paste and red pepper flakes.  When anchovies are melted (if using whole) and garlic is tender, about 2 minutes, add tomatoes and olives.  Simmer sauce 3 to 4 minutes.  Top the pizza with sauce and the sliced (or shredded) cheese.  Bake until crust is crisp, 10 minutes.  Cut and serve.

15 October 2008

Crock Pot Love!

In my house, the crock pot is a well loved appliance.  I use it a couple of times a month even during the summer.  I love being able to put things in the crock pot in the morning and know that dinner is done.  Also being able to do the big dishes in the morning frees up so much time in the evening when all I have to do is pop our dinner dishes in the dishwasher.  
Yesterday in our CSA, we received 4 whopping parsnips.  Frankly, they were taking up space in my refrigerator and I really wanted to get them out of the way.  Hence, tonight's dinner was born.  I could take the kiddos outside after school and play until 5 minutes before dinner.  A quick zap with the immersion blender and dinner was ready.  

Chickpea, Parsnip, and Ham Soup by Joie de Vivre

1 lb. dried chickpeas, rinsed and picked over
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 parsnips, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 onions, peeled and diced
1 ham steak, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
A little bit of Liquid Smoke, to taste

Place all vegetables, ham and stock into the insert of your crock pot.  Cook on HIGH for 7 hours or until the chickpeas are tender.  Use your hand-held immersion blender to puree about 3/4 of the soup (the more pureed the better in my house with two picky eaters).   Spoon into bowls and season with a little Liquid Smoke.

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

I am so excited to be part of Foodbuzz!  Foodbuzz is an awesome site promoting and connecting food bloggers and food blogging.  Two days ago, they launched their official Foodbuzz publisher community comprising of more than 1000 food bloggers (of which yours truly is a part) This is their official press release.  Congratulations Foodbuzz!

13 October 2008

Peanut butter and Jelly Cake!

Last night, we hosted my Uncle-in-law's 68th birthday.  Since I have two little ones who still get so excited for birthday parties, I had them help shop for decorations.  They decided we MUST play Pin the Tail on the Donkey, have balloons that made squawking sounds, streamer and balloon decorations and have a BIG cake.  For his birthday last year, I made Uncle peanut butter cookies (his favorite).  Not wanting to repeat myself, I expanded upon the peanut butter idea to a Peanut Butter Cake, and what goes better with peanut butter than grape jelly?  Hence, the idea for peanut butter and jelly cake was born.  The kids just thought the cake was wonderful and so unique.  To say the least, we had a great time and Uncle couldn't remember the last time he had played Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  As I was tucking in my little one last night, he said, "Mom, that was a great party."  You couldn't ask for better thanks than that.

Both of these recipes I found on two different sites which I will link to but also put here.  My thanks to the brave bakers who thought of these recipes first.  I merely put them together in one rockin' cake.  I'm sending this over to Nurit at Family. Friendly. Food for her Cake Collection.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake!

Double Peanut Butter Cake adapted from cdkitchen.com

I doubled the recipe from cdkitchen.com to make two 9-inch cakes which I cut into two layers each to have a 4 layer cake.  

Yield:  2 9-inch layer cakes

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup milk

In a mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter and sugar.  Add eggs; mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; add alternately with milk to the peanut butter mixture.

Pour into two greased 9-inch round baking pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, cut each layer in half and frost, stacking each layer with frosting in between to make a 4 layer cake.

Yeild:  Enough to frost one 4 layer cake

1 1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. grape juice
1 tsp corn syrup
Red and Blue food coloring

Combine sugar, egg whites, grape juice and syrup in the top of a large double boiler.  Beat on low speed with electric mixer until well blended.  Place over boiling water; beat constantly on high speed about 7 minutes (mine took a little longer) until stiff peaks form.  Remove from heat and add red and blue food coloring until it is a pretty color purple.  Beat until frosting is thick enough to spread (mine took about 20 minutes of beating).  Spread on peanut butter cake.

Uncle Scott and the Magic Cookbook

I love old cookbooks.  They hold so much potential for magic.  One of the favorite cookbooks in my collection is a book I picked up in a used bookstore called Sunset Cookbook of Breads.  I was quickly perusing this cookbook I remember and was slightly intrigued, when my son, strapped in a stroller, started telling me in no uncertain terms that I had spent long enough in the bookstore.  Since the cookbook was only $3.50, I decided just to buy it and finish perusing it at home.  Unbeknownst to me at the time of purchase, the cookbook was filled with newspaper clippings that had been pasted onto the back of the front cover and loose recipes stuck into the pages.  The previous owner had found these recipes worthy to keep and had pasted or placed them in her well used and well loved cookbook.  Already I knew that if she had taken the time to do that, the recipes must be good.  The newspaper clipping was an old recipe for Basic White Bread that makes 6 loaves at once and has a fabulous crumb.  That was the first recipe I tried from this "new" cookbook, not one that was printed in it.  Another time I was reading the book thinking how nice it would be to find a cinnamon roll recipe that could be made the night before and merely placed in the oven the next morning.  All of a sudden, I happened upon one of these loose recipes stuck inside the book that I hadn't noticed before, "Over Nite rolls.  V. Good" it was labeled.  How had I missed this recipe on previous readings?  Ever since, I have re-named this cookbook the Magic Cookbook.  Also ever since, whenever I am perusing cookbooks in used bookstores, I look for those with loose recipes stuck in.  They tell me that the book had been loved, and that the loose recipe is probably noteworthy.
Along this same vein, my sons wanted me to make pizza this past Friday.  As I was looking in my bread machine cookbook for the recipe I usually use (yes, I do cheat and use the bread machine most times....it is a relief to finally make that confession) I happened upon a loose recipe written in my own hand, Uncle Scott's Pizza.  I faintly remember copying this recipe from my mother's recipe file although I didn't remember what it tasted like or even who Uncle Scott was, but, I was in the mood to try something new.  It wasn't EXACTLY magic, although my husband said it tasted similar to a pizza crust made by a pizza chain from Southern California called Numero Uno that he remembers fondly from his youth.  Who Uncle Scott is is still a mystery, although part of him lives on through his recipe, just as part of the woman who previously owned and loved Sunset Cookbook of Breads lives on through her recipes and magic.

Uncle Scott's Pizza by Joie de vivre

Makes 2 pizza crusts

1 c. warm water
1 Tbls. olive oil (plus more for greasing pans)
2 eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. dry yeast

Add ingredients in the order listed to your bread machine and set to dough setting.  When dough is finished, divide in two and spread each on a well greased pizza pan.  Prick dough all over with a fork, cover with plastic wrap and let rise another 1/2 hour.  Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees) Spread with tomato sauce and toppings of your choice.  Bake for 20 minutes until dough is cooked and is well browned.

12 October 2008

Apricot-Filled Pork Tenderloin

With the CSA vegetable season winding down, my thoughts have been turning to meat.  This week, I found a really yummy pork tenderloin recipe.  In the ten years or so since I've been cooking, I think I've made pork tenderloin only once or twice, and probably the pre-seasoned kind you just plop in the pan and stick in the oven.  After this recipe, I'll be making it more.  It was very easy and delicious.

Apricot-Filled Pork Tenderloin adapted from Taste of Home Winning Recipes

Serves at least 6

1 pork tenderloin (2 lbs.)
1 package (6 oz.) dried apricots  (Set aside 3 for marinade)

1/3 cup sweet and sour sauce (found in asian sauce section at grocery store)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbls. teriyaki sauce
2 Tbls. ketchup
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 onion slice, separated into rings
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Make a lengthwise cut through 1/3 of roast but not all the way through, open up the roast and slice from the center through the remaining 2/3 cutting it in half but not all the way through.  You are cutting the roast so that it opens up like a letter and lays flat with a 1/4 inch thickness.  Place all apricots (minus the three reserved for the marinade) over the tenderloin to within 1/2 inch of the ends.  Roll up from a long side; tuck in the ends.  Secure with toothpicks or kitchen string.
In a blender, combine the remaining ingredients and reserved apricots.  Cover and process until smooth;  Pour marinade into a ziplock bag;  add the tenderloin.  Seal bag and coat tenderloin in the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours periodically checking that all the meat is covered with the marinade.
After meat has marinated, place it in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.  Drizzle with about 1/3 cup of the marinade and discard the rest of the marinade.  Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees (35-50 minutes)  Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

11 October 2008

Goulash Soup

In order to fuel my cookbook obsession and not break my bank account, I have started to rely on my public library.  Every couple of weeks I load up my basket with all sorts of cookbooks that I would probably never buy, but just want to peruse.  Every once in a while however, I come across a book that I can't bear to return.  The first was a cookbook called The African News Cookbook that had the best recipe for injera I have ever found and a Doro Wat recipe I crave.  Splendid Soups by James Peterson, found just this week, may be my second.  Now that the weather is turning colder, I have been craving soup.  My library selections this week all revolved around soup as I was seeking out some warm comfort.  I found a recipe for Goulash Soup that fit the bill for me.  It used up some of the fall vegetables we have been getting in our CSA basket and was nice and hearty.  I adapted James Peterson's recipe quite a bit to fit my cooking style, ingredients on hand, and to make it quicker and it turned out quite tasty.  It made a huge pot of soup so we had the leftovers tonight which were just as good if not better than the first night.  Enjoy!

Goulash Soup by Joie de vivre

Serves at least 8

3 lbs. beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tbls. olive oil
2 medium sized onions, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. caraway seeds
2 Tbls. paprika
2 quarts beef broth
4 tomatoes, chopped, or 1- 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes chopped coarsely 
1 recipe miniature dumplings (see below)

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat.  Add the meat, garlic and onion and cook until onions are softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the caraway and the paprika and stir over the heat for 1 minute more.  Add the broth and the tomatoes.  Add the bay leaf and bring soup to a gentle simmer.  Partially cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours.  After 2 hours, add the potatoes to the soup and continue simmering for 30 minutes.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dumpling batter onto the top of the soup and simmer for 5 minutes.  

Miniature Dumplings adapted from Splendid Soups by James Peterson

4 large eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. melted butter

Wisk eggs, flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir in melted butter.  Let the batter rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator until ready to drop a teaspoonful at a time onto soup.

Walk this way

Today, I walked my second 5K since becoming "French".  I don't quite remember how well I did the first time, but today, I finished the 5K in 46 minutes.  Sometimes, I still must stop and shake my head a little as I remember how far I've come.  Before finding the book French Women Don't Get Fat, I rarely exercised.  I would park at the far corner of the parking lot at the grocery store and that was about the extent of my exercise for the week.  Sound familiar?  So many people in America get even less than that.  My excuse was that I was too tired to exercise, but I really didn't put two and two together that I would have a whole lot more energy if I lost weight and the more I exercised the more energy I would have.
In FWDGF, the author talks about how French women hate to exercise (I could certainly relate) but they walk everywhere.  They don't like to do any exercise that involves putting on anything with spandex (or sweats for that matter).  She talked about how her own weight loss began when she started walking to school every day and that two twenty minute walks a day is what kept her in shape.  Well, I thought, I could certainly make room to walk twenty minutes a day.  
I started walking after dinner around my neighborhood.  It didn't require donning any special clothing or getting in the car to go to the gym.  I saw it in fact as the ultimate time saver.  One, I saved the time in the car going to the gym, two, since there was no special clothing I saved the time showering and drying my hair, and then at the end of my walk, I was already home so I saved the home trip in my car.  There were no membership fees and monthly fees and svelte women.  Twenty minutes was not a huge time commitment and I found I was enjoying the time away from the house and the fresh air.  I started to want to go a bit farther, and a bit farther every day.  Pretty soon, I was able to go a bit faster, and a bit faster still.  I didn't try to do it all at once, didn't beat myself up for being out of shape when I was tired after a twenty minute walk, I just enjoyed my time outside and in the process, helped myself lose weight, get in better shape, and gain more energy.
Walking the 5K today I felt strong.  It is amazing to go from walking slowly for 20 minutes and feeling tired, to power walking a 5K in 46 minutes and feeling great.  I also walked in my regular clothes with full make-up.  After all, French women don't wear sweatpants

05 October 2008

Oven dried tomatoes

As the last of the warm days disappear, so vanishes tasty tomatoes for another 8 months.  (Acknowledging it in print makes me even more depressed than when I merely think it).  I had been collecting the last vestiges of these beauties from my garden faster than I could eat them, and lamenting the fact that they have been just sitting on my counter, waiting to spoil.  It was not a comforting thought to one who is now facing the bleak winter despising the hot house tomato offerings of my local supermarket.  Last weekend I canned 35 lbs. of tomatoes, so I am saving the summer bounty.   However the tomatoes on my counter, which I just can't eat, have really been bothering me.  
A solution to my problem came two days ago when I was perusing my favorite food blogs and came upon the most recent post from Antics of a Cycling Cook.  I really like reading this blog because he has an easy-going writing style and homey Mediterranean and British recipes.  His most recent post was about oven dried tomatoes.  Oven drying tomatoes looked really easy to do and sounded like a fantastic solution to my tomato problem.  For the original post from Sam the Cycling Cook, click here.
To begin, preheat your oven at the lowest setting possible, mine was 170 degrees.  Wash your tomatoes and cut in half.  Place on a slightly greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Then, put your tomatoes in the oven and leave for 6-9 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes and the temperature of your oven.  My tomatoes took about 9 hours.    A few hours before your tomatoes are finished, place your jar in the oven with the tomatoes to sterilize, and leave it there until ready.
When the tomatoes are ready, pack in the jar and cover with olive oil.  Seal and place in the refrigerator.  Sam assured me that the olive oil would not get cloudy, but after a day, my olive oil is cloudy.  Perhaps my refrigerator is colder than his or he is using a better olive oil or whatever.  This will not harm your tomatoes, but you will have to leave the jar out for a little bit before you use them to melt the olive oil a little bit.  
One of the comments from Sam's post did mention that unless you heat the olive oil before you put the tomatoes in, be sure to eat them quickly as they may spoil.  I think I may try them on a pizza next week or perhaps just straight.  Oh summer tomatoes, why are you so fleeting?

04 October 2008

Little pots of chocolate

 Whenever I'm going to be making something I'm pretty sure two little children are not going to like, I try to sweeten the motivation to try it by making a yummy dessert.  After the ham hock terrine from the previous entry, even I needed something good.  Fortunately, I had planned Petit pot au chocolate to follow said terrine (Little pots of chocolate).  This dessert is for all you chocoholics out there (and who isn't really?).  It more than made up for the terrine (yes, I'm still wincing a little to think about it).

Petit pots au chocolat  adapted from Rick Stein's French Odyssey
Little pots of chocolate

Makes 6

2 bars of plain chocolate, with at least 60% cocoa solids
1 Tbls. soft butter
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup full fat milk
1/4 cup caster sugar

Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and rest over a pan of just-simmering water.  Leave until melted, then remove and stir until smooth.  Stir in the softened butter and the egg yolks.  
Put the cream, milk and sugar into a small pan, bring up to the boil and then stir into the chocolate mixture.
Pour the mixture into six ramekins, small coffee cups and leave somewhere cold to set, but do not refrigerate.
To serve, decorate the top of each pot with a tiny dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream and dust with a little cocoa powder.

What is the deal?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that not all of my kitchen endeavors are successes.  Just last night, I had one of those flops that I'll remember (and steer clear of) for years to come.  Ham hock terrine.  Just the name of it makes me want to retch a little (as eating it wanted to make do last night).  
A terrine, is basically a fancy, cold loaf of veggies or meat that is suspended in gelatin.  Explaining it now again gives me pause about why in the world I wanted to try this in the first place, but it is absolutely a beautiful thing to behold.  My pictures do not give justice to how pretty a dish this actually is, however strange it may taste.  Separately, the components all taste good, cabbage leaves, parsley, ham hock, but to suspend them in gelatin, that is what my taste buds just did not understand nor agree with.
My purpose for this post is definitely not to share a recipe (if you're really interested I'm sure you can find your own) but to hopefully open a dialogue with other foodies about what the deal is with terrines.  Is it just my uncultured American taste buds that terrines disagree with?  Is it that I found a horrid recipe for them?  Does anyone actually LIKE them?  I had my husband do the dishes last night because I couldn't stand to look at it any more (My husband thought I was completely over-reacting and didn't find it bad at all) it was that unappetizing to me.

Company worthy

Last weekend, after putting the oxtail in the oven to braise, I canned 35 lbs. of the 40 lbs. of sweet summer tomatoes I had bought in bulk from my CSA farmer earlier that morning.  That left me with 5 lbs. of tomatoes to eat fresh, and to my heart's delight, throughout the week.  I was inspired by a picture of a tomato tart I had seen in Rick Stein's French Odyssey and came up with this recipe for my own tomato tart, along with a berry "napoleon" I created on the fly to use up the other package of puff pastry I had thawed.  The whole dinner  was very easy, quick, and pretty enough to be served to company.

Tomato tart by Joie de vivre

One package of puff pastry (will have two pastries in there, thaw them both)
5-6 really ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
goat cheese
sea salt and black pepper

Lay out thawed pastries on lightly greased baking sheets.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork leaving an inch border around the edge.  Bake pastry according to directions (around 20 minutes) until very lightly browned.  On one pastry, sprinkle garlic and lay the tomatoes over the tart, overlapping them slightly and leaving a 1 inch border around the tart.  Sprinkle with cilantro (to your liking) and then with goat cheese.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Broil tart for about 5 minutes until the goat cheese is slightly melted (watch closely so your tart doesn't burn).  Cut into rectangles and enjoy.

Improvised Napoleon by Joie de vivre

Baked puff pastry
Frozen berries
Whipped cream

Cut the pastry into thirds after baking (or beforehand if you have the foreknowledge of wanting to make this dessert)  Lay 1/3 on your serving plate, top with whipped cream and then top with frozen berries.  Cover the frozen berries again with whipped cream and then top with another pastry.  Repeat the above, whipped cream, berries, whipped cream, and then the last pastry.  Top this pastry with whipped cream.  Leave to rest while you eat the tomato tart.  The berries will thaw a little and make the cream a delightful purple when you cut into the napoleon.  Enjoy!

Sunday night comfort food

I've been on a vintage cookbook kick for a little while now.  You gotta love eBay and the books you can find for dirt cheap.  I justify my cookbook obsession in terms of entertainment.  For $0.99 plus shipping, I get a week of reading entertainment.  You can't beat that.  Sometime in the spring, I bought The Meat Stretcher Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens, copyright 1974.  Although overall it didn't offer too much inspiration outside what to cook in the future for two ravenous teenager, I was introduced to recipes for cuts of meat that in 1974 were cheap, and now, almost impossible to find.  Of course, my desire to try the weird and wonderful from cookbooks lead me on a non-intensive search for some of these cuts of meat, like beef heart and tongue and tripe.  A few weeks after reading this cookbook, I was ambling through the slim spring pickings of the farmers market, when I happened upon a beef rancher who was selling these cuts of beef.  I settled on an oxtail thinking I would find some way to cook it, and put it in the freezer.  There it has languished since spring, calling my name ever so quietly.  The recipes I was finding for oxtail were very uninspiring to me.  I just couldn't bring myself to make the unappetizing sounding Oxtail Gumbo (from the same Meat Stretcher cookbook) or the Oxtail Stew from a 1965 Betty Crocker vintage called Dinner in a Dish.  It wasn't until I was perusing The Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte that my inspiration came to me, Coda alla Vaccinara (Braised Oxtail).  The picture looked so comforting and homey, I was salivating and knew I had found the recipe.
Oxtail is a very tough and gelatinous cut of meat and needs the long cooking time that braising gives.  Sadly, when I mentioned to my neighbor that I was making oxtail, she said that oxtail is her Filipino father's favorite dish but she had always been too afraid to try it.  Go ahead and try it!  It is well worth it.  Since I started this dinner Saturday morning for a Sunday night supper, it made the big family dinner extremely easy come Sunday.  My mother-in-law called it a keeper.  I'll definitely be making it again.

Coda alla Vaccinara (Braised Oxtail) adapted from Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte

You need to make this dish a 1-2 days before you are planning on serving it to let the flavors meld.

2 1/2 lbs. oxtail
1 lb. pork belly (unsmoked bacon)
3 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. chopeed fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
scant 1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbls. tomato paste diluted with 1 cup beef stock
2 cups thickly sliced celery 
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the pork belly into 1 inch strips.  Put the pork belly, olive oil, parsley, garlic, onion and carrot into a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and saute until soft.  Add the oxtail and fry gently for a few minutes longer.  Splash with the wine and boil rapidly to reduce, turning the meat over a few times.  Add the diluted tomato paste and salt to taste.  Cover the pan and place the casserole in the heated oven.  Cook for about 2 hours unti the meat is tenter, turning it over 2 or 3 times.  Remove the pot from the oven and leave to cool, then put it in the refrigerator until required.
On the day you are serving the dish, remove and discard the solidified fat (it was all solidified for me so I couldn't remove anything, everything in moderation right?) from the surface.  Put the Dutch oven on the stovetop and bring to a boil.  Add the celery and cook, covered, for 20 minutes longer.  Add a generous grinding of pepper, taste and check salt before serving.