Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December: Italy

December is Italy

We love Italian food and Italian-American food.  It will be fun to explore this month's tablescape:

  • Chianti (red wine)
  • Struffoli  (a Neopolitan dough dessert)
  • espresso  (coffee)
  • lasagne (a flat wide noodle layered with meat and/or cheese sauces)
  • tiramisu  (a coffee flavored dessert made with ladyfingers)
  • manicotta (hollow noodles stuffed with ricotta cheese topped with a sauce and baked)
  • ragu bolognese (Tom's favorite--a rich meat sauce)
  • insalata caprese (one of my favorites--fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with basil and olive oil)
  • pizza margherita (pizza topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lasagna for the Night before Thanksgiving

Mrs. King's Lasagna

Here's the dish I like to make for Wednesday night before Thanksgiving when the grandkids arrive.  I took a photo last year before I put it in the oven.  Their arrival time is often in flux so it holds well. And we can serve a salad and rolls.

This year, I thought could make it ahead of time, but realized this past weekend that our freezer shelves are too shallow, and won't hold a 9x13" casserole.  Harummpuff.

Nonetheless, it is a very good recipe....from Mrs. King, a family friend when we were growing up.

Is it spelled lasagna or lasagne?  I think both versions are acceptable.

Mrs. King's Lasagna 
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 lb. lasagne noodles
2 T. cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef (I use beef, pork and veal mix)
2 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. each basil/rosemary
1 1/2 cups water
2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint cottage cheese
1 T. minced parsley
1/2 lb. mozzarella, shredded or sliced
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles as directed and drain. 

Heat oil in skillet, cook garlic and onion until soft.  Add meat and seasoning and cook until crumbly. 
Add tomato paste and hot water.  Simmer 5 minutes or so and set aside. 

Blend beaten eggs with cottage cheese in bowl.  Add parsley and stir to mix. 

In a baking dish (9x13x2) put a thin layer of meat sauce, half the noodles, all the cottage cheese ...  This is where the recipe stops because I have lost the second card over the years.  So, I just put a third of the remaining meat sauce on top, then another layer of noodles, more meat sauce,
half the mozzarella, another layer of noodles, the remaining meat sauce, the remaining mozzarella.
and top it with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Here are some cooking tips I used when cooking the recipe.  Salt along the way I add a pinch when I start the onions, and keep adding and tasting throughout the course of cooking the sauce, so it doesn't end up over salted.

Add your garlic well after the onions have started cooking so you don't burn your garlic.

A ground meat mix of beef, pork and veal makes a creamier, richer meat sauce than straight beef.  Be sure to buy lean meat or drain off most of the fat.

I use lots of basil only, and skip the rosemary, so the basil flavor really comes through in the sauce.

Serve it with a nice salad.  I like to make the Arugula Salad with Shaved Grana Padama.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gravy Godsends

Gravy Godsends

For me, the most stressful part of Thanksgiving is making the gravy.

Everyone is hungry.  And swarming the kitchen.  Tom is working on carving the turkey (and needs LOTS of space.) Our son-in-law, Chris, is mashing the potatoes.  And then I am trying to make enough gravy to please everyone... and one that isn't to dark and salty.

Gravy is not my forté.

Over the years, I have learned to compensate and these are my gravy godsends:

  • Wondra quick mixing flour
  • extra Turkey broth 
  • a good gravy separator

Wondra flour has made my gravy lump free.  It incorporates with the pan juices quickly.

Turkey stock is needed because from year to year our turkeys produce inconsistent amounts of pan juices.  It has really helped me control the density and darkness of the gravy.  I just keep adding it a little at a time, tasting it and then adding more, until it is nice and smooth.

I should also mention the extra large glass gravy separator that my mother-in-law gave me years ago when I didn't realize how much I would need it or appreciate it, even though it is a pain to clean.  I take it for granted.

2015 Line-up 

Over the weekend I saw that Target had the OXO gravy separator on sale, so I decided to treat myself to one.  It will so much easier to clean than the glass one.

Also, I found a new brand of turkey broth which I am hoping has more flavor than the College Inn brand.  You can always use chicken broth instead of turkey broth.

So, now it just a matter of asking for help to pour off the juices from the big roasting pan into the new gravy separator, then de-glazing the pan with the turkey stock.  Adding flour to the stock and then returning the juices that have separated.  (To speed up the separation, I stick the gravy separator in the freezer for a while.) Then cooking it until it becomes thick and glossy. Tasting it.  And adding more stock to thin it out as necessary.

I have also read that you can make it ahead of time and freeze it, but Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without the stovetop gravy, as far as I am concerned.  But who knows, maybe next year, I will even be willing to forgo that step.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Cornbread Pudding

Etta's Cornbread Pudding has become a welcome addition to our Thanksgiving meal.

Chris S. introduced us to this chef Tom Douglas recipe.  If you haven't made it yet, it is one to put on your list.  Here is the link:  Etta's Cornbread Pudding and Cornbread recipe
The cheesy cornbread is very good.  Excellent with chili.

Cornbread cubes are used in a layer in the pudding. 
So, Saturday I made the cornbread cubes--- and froze them ----to save a step on Thanksgiving.
Here are the cornbread cubes snuggled in the freezer.  Ready to go when I need them.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Tom liked this version of pumpkin pie so much he asked me to save the recipe and make again this year.

I found the recipe in Fine Cooking magazine.  It is Abby Dodge's recipe.  She is a pastry chef, instructor and cookbook author.  http://www.abbydodge.com/

The crust was the best part.

The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance or be frozen for up to 1 month.
Today I made two dough rounds and put them in the freezer to save us time on Thanksgiving day. One for pumpkin pie and one for pecan pie.  I am going to skip making an apple pie this year.

Classic Pumpkin Pie
(Abby Dodge Fine Cooking Oct/Nov 2014)

Makes one 9 inch pie

For the dough:
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter
5 5/8 oz.  (1 1.4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 T. cold water
2 T. granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt

For the Filling:
1 - 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
pinch salt
1 1/3 cups half''n'half
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Whipped cream for serving

Make the dough
Cut the butter into 6 pieces and put in the freezer.  Measure out 3 T. of cold water.

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor using short pulses. Then cut in the cold butter using short pulses, until there are pieces just a little bigger than the size of peas.  Scrape it out into a mixing bowl.

Drizzle the cold water over the mixture and, using the fingertips of one hand, pinch and squeeze the mixture while tossing with a silicone spatula in the other hand until it begins to form shaggy clumps.

Scrape the dough onto a clean work surface.  Using the heel of your, gently smear the dough away from you in sections.  Using a bench scraper, gather and fold the crumbs on top of each other and turn the pile 180 degrees.  Repeat the smearing action, gathering and turning the dough several times until the crumbs just hold together.  Shape the dough into a 5 inch disk, smoothing the edges.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Roll the dough  If the dough was frozen, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.  Let the dough sit at room temperature until it's pliable enough to roll, 10 to 20 minutes.

She uses parchment, but I just floured my work surface and put the dough in the center.  Lightly flour the dough.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough from the center to the edges into a 13.5 inch circle that's about 1/8 inch thick.  after every few passes, rotate the dough a quarter turn.  Re-flour only as needed excess flour makes the crust tough.

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin, position the pin over a 9 inch glass pie plate, and unroll, easing the dough into the plate.  Gently press the dough into the sides and bottom of the plate without stretching it, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges.  Trim the excess dough to a 3/4 inch over hang.  Roll the overhang under itself to shape a high edge crust that rest on the rim of the pie plate.  Crimp the dough into a fluted edge.  Cover and refrigerate the crust while the oven heats (or freeze up to 1 month.)

Blind bake the crust

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375 degrees/  Line the crust with foil or parchment and then fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil and pie weights.  Bake until the crust is pale golden and looks dry, 5 to 8 minutes more.  Let cool on a rack while making the filling.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the filling  -- the easy part!

Whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk in the half-and -half and vanilla.  Add the eggs and whisk until just blended.  Pour the filling into the baked crust.  It is okay if the crust is still warm.

Bake until the center of the filling jiggles like jello when the plate is nudged, 48-50 minutes.  (Ours took a lot longer.)  A few small cracks might appear close to the crust -- that's fine.  Cool the pie on a rack until room temperature, about 3 hours.

Cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve.  The pie is best when served within 2 days of baking, and can be warmed slightly in a 300 degree oven, if desired.

Serve with whipped cream.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Cranberry Sauce can be frozen

I made cranberry sauce yesterday, and froze it.  Who knew? I didn't.

I have been researching what you can and cannot freeze for Thanksgiving...

Because it is going to be crunch-time when we return from a wedding in Chicago on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

I am getting as many things done as I can ahead of time, so I can relax and enjoying seeing our kids and grandkids.
Here is the recipe I like to make for cranberry sauce.  Click herehttp://feasteveryday.blogspot.com/2012/12/cranberry-orange-sauce.html

I applied a layer of plastic wrap to the surface to keep it more air-tight and to avoid creating a skin on on the surface.

Now I just need to remember to defrost it, and transfer to a serving bowl when the time comes.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Fanny Farmer's Pumpkin Bread

A friend of ours, Karen S., gave me this recipe after we raved about the pumpkin bread she brought with her as a housewarming gift.

This past weekend I made 3 loaves --- one for us and two to freeze for Thanksgiving weekend.
  • without any nuts, which make it grandkid friendly
  • with pecans
  • with dark chocolate chips
The bread is very moist. And it is very easy to make.

Pumpkin Bread
(from Karen S. from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups (210 g) flour
1/2 t. salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. allspice
1/2 cups chopped nuts or chocolate chips

(Note: I changed up the order of the ingredients, but otherwise it is the Fanny Farmer recipe.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.  Add the spices and the nuts/chips to the dry ingredients and mix.  Mix the pumpkin, oil, beaten eggs and 1/4 cup water together until smooth.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Do not over mix or the bread will be tough.  Pour into a well-greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.  Bake 50-60 minutes.  Mine took 65.  Until a straw comes out clean.  Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack.


Monday, November 2, 2015

November: America

November: America

This month is America.  And Thanksgiving.  The dishes on the tablescape are:
  • Turkey 
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Green Beans
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Apple Cider
  • Pumpkin Pie
Will be fun asking friends and families for their go-to Thanksgiving recipes.  We do brussel sprouts in place of the green beans.  And I have never made a sweet potato casserole.  Otherwise, it is what we serve.  

How about you?  

If you have any recipes or stories that you would like to share, please let me know at BarbBlumer@gmail.com.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Curried Pumpkin Soup

I originally wrote back in November, 2009:
Love this pumpkin soup, especially around this time of year. No one usually guesses that mushrooms are in it. It is a very simple, yet deeply flavorful soup. A crowd-pleaser.
Made this soup this week.  It continues to be one of our favorites. This time I served it for dinner --- with cheese and bacon ciabatta sandwiches---with a  little arugula salad.

Click here to see the full recipe.  http://feasteveryday.blogspot.com/2009/11/soup-of-week-curried-pumpkin-soup.html


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October: Germany

October: Germany

The truth is I am not very excited about German food.  I am hoping others have something good to share this month.  I found a German and Viennese cookbook at the library book sale over the weekend which I am hoping has some goodies in it.  I am keeping an open mind.

On the tablescape for Germany are:

  • Sauerkraut - fermented moist cabbage
  • Wurst - sausages and cold cuts
  • Pork Schnitzel - a bread pan-fried boneless pork chop
  • Potato pancakes and applesauce
  • Kasspatzen - a Bavarian dish of spaetzel and cheese
  • Pretzel - a twisted knot of salty baked dough
  • Beer stein - a vessel for quenching your thirst with beer
  • Black forest cake -layers of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties by Tom

Haggis and Neeps and Tatties by Tom

So this is the foods of England month.  Technically haggis is not an English food.  It is Scottish.  And Scotland is not part of England, but is a part of the United Kingdom.  Scotland even made an attempt at seceding from England last year in a failed referendum.  But I just spent a week playing golf in Scotland with seven other guys, and we saw haggis on the menu everywhere we went.  So that is what I am writing about in this post even if it is not technically an English food.

The weirdest, yet surprisingly good menu item I experienced, was haggis nachos.  Talk about crossing ethnic foods lines!  Fortunately a more traditional Scottish haggis dish was also on virtually every menu we saw:  haggis with neeps and tatties.  Neeps are turnips, and tatties are potatoes.  Haggis is mostly sheep lobes, and that is about all you want to know about haggis.  This is not a dish I would eat everyday, but it was pretty good for local fare. 
Our Scottish van driver, Billie, was disgusted when he saw the haggis nachos.  He said the best haggis is made by Grant's.  And a day or two later, he presented each of us with a can of Grant's Premium Haggis.  Not to be rude, we each took our can and "smuggled" them back into the States in our golf bags.  In truth, even the Customs inspectors were uninterested in our canned haggis.

As a "treat" for Barbara, I made her this very traditional Scottish meal.  It was actually pretty good, and we both finished our portions.  The savory beef gravy certainly did not detract from the taste.  A hint of sliced leeks in the tatties also added to the flavor.  And a wee dram is always good.

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
(from the van driver Billie, and on menus throughout southwest Scotland)

Serves 2

can of haggis
leeks - about 1" of white part, cleaned and very finely chopped
potatoes - about 1 pound, cut into 1" pieces
turnips - about 1 pound, cut into 1" pieces
gravy - I used a jar of savory gravy...much easier to use
salt and pepper
4 ounces butter
Wee dram of single malt Scotch

Boil the turnips in salted water for about 20-25 minutes.  Do the same for the potatoes.  Add the leeks to the potatoes as well.
In a small sauce pan gently heat the haggis.  Just before serving, add the wee dram of single malt Scotch to the haggis and stir in.  If you would like, you can pour another wee dram for yourself.
Split the butter in half and add to both the turnips and the potatoes.  Thoroughly mash both the turnips and the potatoes in their cooking pans.
Heat some of the savory beef gravy so that it is warm.  Put a small amount on each plate.
Then mound over the gravy, first the haggis, then the turnips(neeps), and finally the potatoes(tatties).
Pour a little more gravy over the top.

Now you have an authentic Scottish meal.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hummingbird Cake by Tom

Hummingbird Cake by Tom
Made this cake today as a treat for David's birthday. 

This cake originated in the Caribbean and most probably in Jamaica as the story goes.  In fact the Jamaican Tourist Board sent recipes to the United States in the late 60s as a way to encourage more tourism.  Whether that worked is unclear.  But hummingbird cake did become a favorite throughout many of the southern states showing up at county fairs and other baking competitions.

I had the opportunity to taste it while we were visiting New Orleans last March.  I enjoyed it because it reminded me of a cross between the denseness of a carrot cake and the taste of a spice cake.  Bananas and pineapple are two of the main ingredients, which give this cake its characteristic taste.  Throw in pecans and coconut to add texture and additional taste.  A cream cheese icing tops the cake.

And contrary to its name, there are no hummingbirds in this cake.


Hummingbird Cake
(from King Arthur Flour catalogue who got it from Sunset Magazine)

Serves 12

for the cake:
4 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (24 ounces) mashed ripe bananas, about 4-5 medium-large bananas
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) unbleached self-rising flour
2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice or cloves
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained and the juice reserved
1 1/2 cups (5 5/8 ounces) toasted chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups (4 1/2 ounces) sweetened coconut

for the frosting:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups (16 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
Up to 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) pineapple juice, reserved from the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour three 9" round cake pans.  Believe it or not, at this step I had to make an audible.  Unfortunately our oven crashed a couple of days ago, so I had to resort to our toaster oven.  Fortunately it worked out just fine, but I had to bake the three layers separately.  Not ideal, but workable.

To make the cake:

Beat the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until foamy.  Then mix in the bananas.

Whisk together in a separate bowl the flour, cinnamon and allspice.  Then add that to the mixture and make a smooth batter.  Stir in the pineapple juice, 1 cup of the pecans and all of the coconut.

Spoon the batter into the cake pans evenly.  Bake the cakes for 32-38 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans for 15 minutes.  Run a spatula around the edges and then turn out the cakes onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:  beat together the butter, cream cheese and salt until fluffy.

In a separate bowl combine the confectioners' sugar with the xanthan gum, and stir.  Now slowly add that to the cream cheese mixture, beating well.  Beat in the pineapple juice a little at a time until the frosting is of a spreadable consistency.

Frost each cake layer, then frost the top (and sides if you would like).  Decorate the top with the remaining pecans and a little leftover coconut.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Prince William Cake - Part 2

Colleen continues:

So the cake is very hard to slice if you take it directly from the fridge.  So last night I left it out about an hour or so, and then Charlotte had a slice with whipped cream.  She pronounced it very good.  Basically like cookies with chocolate ganache.  I will update you on consistency of cookies over time.  I assume they will get a bit softer, but I doubt that is the intended texture.  Several of the recipes say the cake will keep for two weeks, but it never lasts that long in a proper British household.

It did strike me that there was a connection of sorts between Eton Mess and this cake.  Both involve a very crisp cookie being crumbled and mixed into another concoction that is sweet.  And trifle is also similar with the layers of lady fingers and cream and fruit.  Perhaps these sort of contrasting textures are very appealing to the British palette, or perhaps these are "short cut" recipes to dessert.  If you buy the meringues or the biscuits or lady fingers, the rest of the dessert is just assembly.  Certainly much easier than making a torte or cake or pie.  

I will try to do a little research and see what the origins are of these things.  When I was making the cake, it reminded me of the Mock Apple Pie recipe that used to be on the back of the Ritz cracker box.  I never understood WHO WAS MAKING OR EATING that pie.  Now, of course, it makes sense in that fruit distribution was much different - you might not have access to apples year round - and of course, fruit was also very expensive and Mock Apple Pie would give you the flavors of pie (sweet, cinnamon) without having to source apples. 

Anyway, the cake was good, but it really seems like something you would develop a taste for as a child and desire in a Proustian, Remembrance of Things Past, sort of way.  I might make it again for fun or if I were to have a Wimbledon party or something, but otherwise it won't go into my favorite dessert rotation.

Later, Colleen sent in a link to a Washington Post article on the Prince William cake:  "A Must Read!" 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-mcvities-biscuit-as-british-as-tea/2011/04/26/AFJtoryE_story.html "

Rich Tea on the left.  Original Digestive on the right.

If you are wondering what McVities biscuits are, like I was, here is a photo of them.  They both taste like animal crackers.  But drier.  Very simple.  

Rich Tea is thinner and snaps.  The Original Digestive is made of whole wheat and is thicker. 

It took me two trips to the store.  The first time I came home with Digestive McVities which are not used in the recipe. I should have gotten Rich Tea biscuits.

When I asked Colleen, she said:
Yes, tea biscuits are very crisp, more cracker like.  The digestives are softer and thicker usually.  
I guess I was exposed to more of this because we went to Victoria every summer growing up and we would go to proper "teas" at hotels and you'd get served these sorts of things.  My mother is an anglophile and gets very excited about all of her teas and biscuits.  
Steve had some of the cake last night and said it was good.  It is quite tasty if you are not expecting actual "cake."  
If I made it again, I would melt a little white chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the glaze to dress it up a bit.  It needs a little something.

On the second trip I noticed they had Golden Syrup which is also called for in the recipe.  So I grabbed that, too.  Who knew Wegman's carry 4 different kinds of biscuits?  They had caramel ones.  And Cadbury Chocolate ones.  In addition to the Rich Tea and Original Digestive ones.

Not sure that I will actually make the cake, but it has been fun to try the biscuits and learn about their history.  

The Washington Post article is an enjoyable read.  Here is the link again:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-mcvities-biscuit-as-british-as-tea/2011/04/26/AFJtoryE_story.html


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Prince William Cake by Colleen

Hey, I saw you are doing England.  I've never made this but I always think about it when I'm in the grocery story and see McVities biscuits.  It's the cake Prince William had at the wedding.

It is concerning that it calls for an uncooked egg, although I read some comments that said you could leave it out, and other versions of the cake do not include egg. 
Many call for golden syrup and some also call for nuts, and raisins.  (Which I personally would leave out - I do not care for raisins mixed in with other foods. )  
I'm off to google golden syrup now.  I assume it is a simple syrup or perhaps a simple syrup combined with honey.
The next day:
Well I am now in possession of McVities rich tea biscuits and golden syrup.  Our local Piazza's market had both in their tiny intl section.  
So I've been doing research and apparently there are as many ways to make the Prince William cake as there are ways to make meatloaf.  I've seen many many recipes and about all they have in common is using the biscuits and chocolate.   
Some require the golden syrup, and others just use sugar.  The ratios are really quite different as well.  So I will just wade into the pool and let you know how I do.  I suspect you can't go too far wrong, unless the cake won't set up.  
Later that night:
I made the cake. It's in the fridge now. I'll unmold it tomorrow. Some recipes call for glazing it which I think I'll do unless it doesn't come out of the mold. I wrote down what I did so if it works I'll type it up and send it to you. It's actually pretty easy if it does turn out. 
Golden syrup is a bit like corn syrup but with more Amber color and nicer flavor. 
Cake molds were specified which I don't have. So I used a cheesecake pan. I'll update you this afternoon. The excitement builds.

Okay, so I've finished the cake and here is the recipe I ended up with (see below).  It ended up being very easy to remove the ring from the cheesecake pan, although the cake seemed a little sad and flat.

You could easily fix this, by doubling the recipe and filling up the 9 inch spring form pan.  Or you could find a smaller pan.  I created a glaze that was similar to a glaze from a chocolate tart recipe, sans cream.  It worked fine.  

When I cut the cake, it looked basically like the photos I've seen of Prince William Cakes online.  So far so good. It tastes good as well, but really, this cake is simply a very dry biscuit coated with chocolate.  

You need to use top quality chocolate, as all the flavor is coming from the chocolate.  I refrigerated the cake overnight and put the coating on in the afternoon and returned it to the fridge for an hour before cutting.  Perhaps if it sits longer, the biscuit absorbs some of the moisture from the chocolate and the consistency changes.  But if served quickly, you have a very crunchy biscuit suspended in chocolate.  

It is good, but I'm not sure why it is so popular.  It is easy and no bake, but in many ways, it tastes like a Cadbury Finger or a Tam Tam (store bought cookie/chocolate products).  

There is a lot of chocolate in the cake (1 full pound) and I thought it might be too much, but it really did need that much chocolate to coat the biscuits.


Prince William Cake

1 package McVities Rich Tea Biscuits (8 oz)
¼ cup golden syrup
1 stick butter
8 oz milk chocolate
8 oz dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla

Break cookies into small pieces.  In a saucepan, melt butter with the golden syrup.  Add in chocolate, broken into pieces.  When melted, stir in vanilla until smooth and take off the heat.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the cookie pieces and toss to coat thoroughly.  Spray the inside of a spring form pan or cake mold with cooking spray.  Press the cookie mixture into the pan, trying to make sure there are no gaps.  You can cover the top of the mixture with Press and Seal or waxed paper and use it to press down the mixture so that it is even.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.  When chilled, remove from cake mold/spring form pan.  Place the cake on a cooling rack to prepare to glaze.


8 oz dark chocolate
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2-3 tablespoons hot water

Break the chocolate into pieces  and put in microwaveable dish.  Microwave slowly until chocolate melts.  Stir in corn syrup and hot water.  Add more water as needed to make glaze thin enough to pour.  Pour over the top of the cake and use an offset spreader to spread out glaze and coat sides.  Once covered, you can refrigerate the cake again until set.  Decorate as desired and serve.

This recipe lives and dies on the quality of the chocolate.  So use a top quality bar.  You can use chocolate chips, but they will be more difficult to melt to a smooth consistency.  You can add almonds or hazelnuts and/or raisins to the cookie mixture if desired.


Friday, September 11, 2015

The Great British Baking Show on PBS and BBC

We discovered The Great British Baking Show earlier this year on PBS and thoroughly enjoyed it.

They make many desserts and pastries that I have never heard of, and then they are stumped by something as common (here) as angel food cake.

A dozen non-professional bakers ---ranging from college age to retirees ---including carpenters, scientists, teachers and all sorts of backgrounds---with one thing in common --- that they love to bake.  It is fun to watch.  They make lots of mistakes but some of the bakes are amazing!

Here in the U.S., the new season started just a few days ago on September 8.  It is easily viewed on the PBS app or via the various medium for streaming PBS these days.  But I still prefer to wait for each episode to air on traditional TV on Sunday evenings.

It is actually the 10th season of the highly successful show on BBC in the U.K.  It is called the The Great British Bake Off there.  Their season started in August.  The U.S. version is delayed by a few weeks.

US:  http://www.pbs.org/food/shows/great-british-baking-show/

UK:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013pqnm

Thought it would be appropriate to share the links, since this is England month, in case you haven't heard about the show.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad from Gretchen

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad from Gretchen

Excellent salad for a picnic lunch or a pot-luck supper.

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad
(various versions are online.  This one is Gretchen's)

Salad ingredients:
1 16-ounce bag coleslaw mix
2 3-ounce packages of ramen noodles, crumbled (you will not use the seasoning mix)
1 cup shelled and cooked edamame (look in the frozen food section)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and julienned (or diced)
1/2 cup thinly-sliced almonds
1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions (scallions)

Asian honey vinaigrette:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey (or agave, to make this vegan)
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 t. soy sauce
1/4 t. sesame oil
pinch of salt and black pepper

Optional first step:  Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Spread the crumbled ramen noodles and sliced almonds out on a baking sheet, and stir a bit to combine.  Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the almonds and noodles are slightly toasted and golden.  Remove baking sheet, and give the mixture a good stir to toss.  Then return it to the oven and toast for an additional 3 minutes.  Keep a very close eye on the mixture so that it does not burn.  Remove and set aside to cool.

To make the vinaigrette:  whisk all the ingredients together  until combined.

In a large bowl, add ingredients, including the vinaigrette, and toss until combined.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. This salad is much better eaten the first day, as the noodles lose their crunch the longer it sits, and the avocado  may brown.  Still,  it is perfectly edible and enjoyable after a few days!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September: England

September is England

Summer is now officially over and all of the kids are going back to school this week here where we live.  

We spent Labor Day weekend at the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence with Tom's sister and family.  We didn't cook much --- because it was so hot--- but Gretchen made a delicious crunchy salad to go with our hamburgers and hot dogs --- which I will post tomorrow.  

In the meantime, it is time for a new month of cuisine.  This month is England.  The tablescape is set for tea.  
  • battenberg cake -- see photo below
  • scones  
  • victoria sponge
  • jam
  • clotted cream
  • butter
  • builder's tea
  • milk
  • sugar
  • cucumber and egg sandwiches
Battenberg cake -- photo from Wikipedia


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rogan Josh Chicken Curry by Tom

Rogan Josh Chicken Curry Simmer Sauce

Heard about this shortcut while in Wegman's one day, in the International aisle, from our friend Nancy L. and her daughter.  This is absolutely one of the easiest recipes that I have ever made.  But easy does not mean limited taste.  This simple Indian curry recipe is very flavorful and not too spicy. 

Short on time?  It only takes 15-20 minutes to prepare and cook.  Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, some vegetables, and you have a complete meal.


Rogan Josh Curry Chicken
(adapted from the jar)

Serves 4

one jar rogan josh curry Patak's Original simmer sauce
~1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb. bag of multi-colored small potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

Super simple.  Cut up the chicken.  Cut up the potatoes.  Simmer in the sauce for 15-20 minutes while the rice cooks.
Microwave some creamed spinach.  And add a steamed vegetable if you wish.  Warm naan to really make your meal Indian.



Monday, August 10, 2015

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies by Tom

King Arthur 2015 Recipe of the Year

Another visit to the grandkids occasioned making something sweet.  Last year my granddaughter Grace and I made chocolate chip cookies that featured mini-M&M's along with the semi-sweet chocolate chips.  But not to be boring, this year I thought I would try something different. 

Interestingly we had just received the King Arthur Flour catalog in the mail, and lo and behold, there was a chocolate chip recipe that looked very enticing and easy to make.  These cookies were touted as the 2015 Recipe of the Year.  Now that I have made them, I support that decision.  These cookies are REALLY GOOD!

The only change I would make to the recipe is to reduce the salt by just a little.  It calls for one teaspoon of kosher salt, which is exactly what I used.  I would cut it back to 3/4 teaspoon.  They were just slightly too salty for my taste.  But otherwise they were delicious.  And the grandkids and adults alike gobbled them up.


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(from King Arthur)

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (my recommendation)
3 cups (18 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease several baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Whisk in a separate bowl the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips - the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  After whisking to combine the dry ingredients, add to the butter mixture.  Mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated.  Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix this in briefly as well.

Now stir in the chocolate chips so that they are pretty evenly distributed in the cookie batter.

You now have a major decision to make...your only one!  How big do you want your cookies to be.  If you want quite large ones, using a 1/4 cup measure you will get about 20.  If you use a teaspoon scoop, you will get about 100.  I used an ice cream scoop, which yielded three dozen cookies.  In my opinion the perfect size.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets leaving an 1 1/2" to 2" in between.  For my ice cream scoop-sized cookies, I got 12 scoops onto each baking sheet.

The original recipe said to bake for 12-15 minutes.  I think for small cookies that may be just fine.  I needed about 16 minutes to get the cookies brown on the edges and still gooey in the middle.  Once cooled that made for a chewy cookie.

Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes.  Then transfer once the cookies have set to a cooling rack.

We transferred them to a plastic Ziploc bag once completely cool, which made it very easy to travel to Buffalo!

These are really good and worth making.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

August: India

August is India

Indian food is one of our favorite cuisines so we are looking forward to adding Indian dishes to our repertoire.  However, there will be lots of competition from our local produce which will be at its peak:  corn, tomatoes, peaches.  Maybe I will write about both this month.

On the tablescape for India:
  • papadum -- a thin, crisp seasoned dough
  • banana chips 
  • pazham  -- banana
  • rice
  • parippu payasam -- a dessert made with coconut milk
  • mathanga erissery -- a pumpkin side dish
  • sambar -- a lentil-based vegetable stew
  • pachadi -- a chutney condiment
  • kaalan ---a yoghurt coconut vegetable side dish
  • avial  --a vegetable dish with a thick cumin curry coating
  • rasam --a South Indian soup with tamarind in the base
  • chai tea --a spiced sweet Darjeeling tea with milk
  • mango sharbat -- a mango iced drink

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Broccoli on the Grill

Broccoli  --- Hot off the Grill

We've had success putting our broccoli on the grill while we cook our meat, so I thought I'd share how it is done. It is a twist on the technique used for Hayden's Sprouts.

The moisture from the recently rinsed broccoli steams the broccoli and the direct heat from the grill browns the bottom.  Using garlic powder eliminates the risk of bitter or burnt garlic, but adds flavor.

Broccoli on the Grill

1 head of fresh broccoli, rinsed
aluminum foil
olive oil
garlic powder
salt and pepper

For an average sized head of broccoli, you will need two equally sized sheets of aluminum foil, approximately 16-18 inches long.

Place one sheet on the counter, drizzle some olive on it.

Then, be sure your broccoli is recently rinsed, and not dry, you will need a little moisture for success.

Cut the broccoli into pieces, including the stems, so they are all about the same size for even cooking.

Place the flat side down into the olive oil and rub it around to coat the flat side with the oil, and pack them closely together in one layer.  Leave about an inch or two all around the outside.  In other words, keep them in the center of the foil.
One layer is important for even cooking and getting a browned bottom.

Drizzle more olive oil over the top.  Add a generous amount of garlic powder (not garlic salt) and then season with salt and pepper.  Be sure to get the spices on all of the pieces of broccoli.
Now, place the second piece of aluminum foil on top.  Start in one corner, and fold the bottom edge over the bottom, as if you were sealing a pie, or a parchment packet for fish, until you are all the way around the foil, and have a tightly closed packet of broccoli.  If you need to, squish the broccoli together to ensure that there are not any gaps.  If you tear the foil, just crimp it together.  You don't want any places for the steam to escape.
Place the packet on a tray or small cookie sheet for transportation to and from the grill.
Coordinate the timing of the broccoli with whatever else you are grilling.
Grill for about 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat.  12 minutes is too long.  You don't have to turn it.
Be careful when you open the packet.  It will be steamy and very hot.

The broccoli will be bright green but browned on the bottom if you have your timing right.