Monday, August 29, 2016

Two Orzo Salads...and One Rice Salad - that are REALLY Good!

Our wonderful Goddaughter, Hailey, had a combined 25th birthday party and "We're leaving the East Coast and Moving to San Francisco" party this past Saturday night for around 70 of her and her Peter's nearest and dearest folks. 
Needless to say, her mom and all of us were all knee-deep in food preparation! While Jules (and daughters Hailey & Lauren) took care of the protein side of the meal, my crew took care of the salads! Daughter Brynnly, old nanny Sheila (who has been in the family for around 30 years now), other-daughter Kat and I rocked out 4 salads! I made the top roasted veggie salad, Sheila made the lemony orzo salad with cucumber and feta, Brynnly and I made the panzanella salad (photos were horrid, not going there!) and we all made the rice & veggie salad. Nice thing about all of these is they can be changed to make bigger and/or smaller amounts to fit the number of folks you're feeding. 

The Throw 'n Go:

orzo w/roasted veggies, feta and pine nuts
2 eggplants, cut into 1" cubes
1 each green, orange and yellow peppers, cut into 1" cubes
2 red peppers, cut into 1" cubes
1 large red onion, cut into 1" cubes
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 lbs. orzo, cooked to perfection, and drained
1 lb. block of feta, chuncked
more crumbled feta to taste
1/2 C. or so toasted pine nuts
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
handful of fresh basil leaves, julienned
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425º.
Place all veggies in a  bowl and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread over 1 or 2 cookie sheets and put in the oven. Roast for around 40 or so minutes, until veggies are well and done.  In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo and veggies. Just before serving, stir in the feta chunks, pine nuts and basil. Dress the salad with lemon juice and olive oil. Stir to mix, taste to correct seasonings.
Serve at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Sarah Leah Chase)

orzo w/cucumbers, lemon zest and feta

1 lb. orzo, cooked and drained, al dente
olive oil to lightly coat the pasta
juice and zest of 1 to 2 lemons, your choice
1 large English cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 - 1 C. or so crumbled feta cheese
handful fresh mint, chopped (optional)
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Toss cooked pasta with the rest of the ingredients. Taste and correct seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Original recipe from Fork Knife Swoon.
rice & veggie salad

4 C. cooked and still warm Basmti rice
2 recipes (plus more) "Our Favorite Vinaigrette"
1 red pepper, diced
1 orange or yellow pepper, diced (or both)
1 medium red onion, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 package frozen petite peas, not thawed
handful fresh dill, chopped
handful fresh basil, julienned
handful fresh parsley, chopped

Put warm rice in a big bowl and toss with 1 recipe of "our favorite vinaigrette".  After the rice cools, mix in the veggies and toss with more vinaigrette. Taste and correct for seasonings.

This calls for at least 2 recipes of "Our Favorite Vinaigrette".

"Our Favorite Vinaigrette"
2 T. Dijon mustard
8 T. red wine or balsamic vinegar
2 t. sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 C. or so olive oil

Whisk all together to combine.

Original recipe, tweaked a lot by my sis and I, from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukens and Julee Rosso

As for the Panzanella, that's a recipe in the making....not worth posting....yet!


till we feast again!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Veggie Drawer Clean-Out Stir-Fry

what you get when you clean out the veggie drawer

Yesterday afternoon (and long into the night) we had a 40th birthday party here at our home for daughter Brynnly's beau, James. Enormous amounts of food were prepared - and completely consumed; there wasn't one container of leftovers, much to our disappointment this morning! Brynn and Kat did the majority of the cooking, from pulled brisket to jambalaya to both tomato and watermelon salads to a bunch of other stuff. And then there was cousin Jules who came over with a big bag of veggies from her house. She had cleaned out her fridge's veggie drawers and decided if we cut all of it up and seasoned well, we could put all in a ginormous (no problem, we have several of them) iron skillet, and then on the outside grill and have a very tasty side dish. And it was said to be very tasty....according to other folks...I never even got a bite of it as it was gone about 3 minutes after it hit the buffet table! (The ultimate compliment!)

The truly throw 'n go: 

Whatever's in your fridge - in Julie's:

zucchini, sliced
yellow squash, sliced
multi-colored carrots, thinly sliced (mandolin) so they'll cook evenly
red & yellow peppers, cut in 1" julienned pieces
shallots, sliced
a lemon zested and the juice squeezed over all
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

grape seed oil to well coat the bottom of your iron skillet

Put all the veggies in the skillet, add the lemon zest and juice, the seasonings and toss to coat. Place on your grill (or your stovetop) and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are crisp done. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve while hot. Since you only use oil, I'm sure this would also be wonderful at room temperature as well. 


till we feast again!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Focaccia w/Rosemary & Sea-Salt MumBum (with a touch of Goldilocks)

Focaccia w/Rosemary & Sea-Salt MumBum
Our mom, Mary Bumgarner, has the amazing ability to throw together a focaccia or any other type of bread at the drop of a hat. She's been doing this for so long, she doesn't even use recipes or measures  anything anymore. Makes it hard for us, her chillun, to follow in her footsteps! Below is the closest we could get to getting the recipe written down correctly! Mom says focaccia is a much more forgiving recipe to make than traditional bread as amounts can be less exact. The amounts given are mom's best guesstimate. Oh, and mom makes all her focaccia's and breads in her Cuisinart!

The MumBum throw-n-go:

In a 10" round cake pan:
olive oil 1/8" deep - cover the entire pan evenly

In a small bowl, stir:
1 C. tepid water (not over 110º F. - it will kill your yeast) 
1 t. granular yeast
about 1/2 t. or so of sugar to feed the yeast

In bowl of a Cuisinart, w/the plastic blade, combine: 
2 3/4 C. or so bread flour (you can use all-purpose flour)
1 t. kosher or sea salt
generous T. squeeze honey
2 T. or so olive oil (NO MORE than 2 T.!)

coarse ground sea or kosher salt
coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
olive oil. 

You will need to preheat your oven to 425º F just before baking - gotta let that dough rise!
Pulse the Cuisinart mixture to stir stuff up. Pour about 1/2 of your yeast mixture into the Cuisinart bowl. Pulse a few times to mix it. Pour in the rest of the yeast mixture and pulse again to mix off and on to really combine well. The dough should be forming into the ball as you're pulsing and climbing up the sides of the Cuisinart. Open the top of the Cuisinart and touch the dough - if it's really wet dough, add 1 T., and no more than 2 of flour and pulse again, if it too dry (not sticky), add 1 T. and not moore than 2 T. of water. If you touch the dough and it sticks to your finger, it's just right! (Goldilocks anyone?) You don't want the dough too dry or too wet; you want a sticky stick-to-your-finger, but soft dough. Pulse a few more times and the dough should be a dough that cleans the sides of the Cuisinart bowl. Let it rest 5 minutes. Pulse a few more times. (How you're kneading the dough.) 
Put a little bit of flour on your wooden board or counter top. Turn Cuisinart bowl over and let dough fall out - helping with a scraper or your fingers if needed. Once on the board, with floured hands, gather it up, knead a few times, form in a ball and put in a plastic bag to rise. When it's doubled in bulk, turn out of the bag and work it with your fists/hands to form it into a circle that is going to fit your pan. Place in the pan and push out with your fingers until the dough is meeting the edge of your pan. Let it rise again, until it's getting good and bubbly, and bigger than it was. Then spread your fingers apart and make nice deep indentations all over the dough (see above photo). Sprinkle with coarse sea  or kosher salt and fresh  coarsely chopped rosemary. Sprinkle with olive oil so the oil goes down into your finger divots. When it's once again nice and puffy, put in a preheated 425º F. oven and bake for about 35 - 45 minutes, until it's nice and brown and ~puffy~ (see above photo). 
This can be made ahead; let it rise once then put it in a bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for 3 or 4 days. To bake, take it out, let it come to room temperature and bake as indicated above, or roll out and use for a most excellent pizza dough.
I think focaccia is at it's most delicious when served warm from the oven - and no butter needed!



'till we eat again!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Pizza, Please - Hold the Tomatoes!

white wild mushroom pizza, no tomatoes!
My sis had a taste for white pizza, and as none of us had ever made it before, off to google we went!  I don't know what I thought a white pizza sauce would be, but I never would have guessed it began with a roux! We decided to use a flatbread/pita for the crust so mom wouldn't have to make more pizza crust, and it was almost as good as homemade because the toppings were so good! Our pizza was made with sautéed wild chanterelles and caramelized onions, and we used fresh thyme leaves instead of basil because it goes so well, flavor-wise, with the chantys. (If you don't have access to chanterelles, any other store-bought fresh mushroom will do; just remember to sauté them first.) Sorry for the bad photo, but it was only the next day, right before lunch, that I realized I hadn't taken any photos of it as it was being made! 

The throw 'n go: 

1 - for preparing the toppings
chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned (with a toothbrush, no water) and torn into pieces
onions - cut onion in half length-wise and then cut into thin slices
butter, for sautéing 
(This can be done long before you assemble your pizza - mom and I did all the sautéing in the morning - just take all out of the fridge enough before dinner so they are at room temp.)

2 T. butter (if you need to make more, just use equal parts butter to flour)
2 T. flour
1 C. milk or 1/2 & 1/2
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
fresh thyme leaves
1/2 C. parmesan cheese

3 - for assembling the pizza:
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
fresh thyme leaves
BumHot (or cayenne or other red pepper flakes)

Preheat oven to 450º F. 
1 - Melt butter in a pan, add the mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the chanterelles are done, about 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from pan, add more butter if needed and add the onions. Cook onions over medium to medium-low heat for around 20 minutes or so - until the onions are nicely browned and caramelized. When done, set them aside. 
2 - Using the same pan to make the roux, over medium heat (you don't want the butter and flour to brown), melt 2 T. butter and add the flour and whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, cook for about 5 - 10 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, adding gradually. Stir in the remaining ingredients and remove from the heat. 
3 -  Coat the flatbread with your roux.  Sprinkle mozzarella over the top of that. Then cover with the mushrooms and onions, as little or as much as you want. Sprinkle that with some thyme leave and then sprinkle on your desired amount of mozzarella cheese. Add some parmesan, a few more thyme leaves and BumHot. Bake until all is nice and bubbly and beginning to brown, about 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bread (we like it as thin as we can get it) and the amount of topping you have. Serve your pizza with parmesan on the side. 



till we eat again! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Yes, I Come From a Family of Foodies...Chili Rellenos Anyone???

our version of chili rellenos (and some panko-crusted zucchini)

fettucini with chanterelles, adapted from - YUM!!

Last Saturday night, after the orgy of food devoured and loved over the past week by me, my sis and parents, mom and dad decided that Care (my sis) and I would decide the menu for Saturday night. All I wanted was chili rellenos. All Care wanted was chanterelles with pasta. Off Care went to google for a recipe. Off I went to our mom for her most excellent chili rellenos recipe! Quite a Mexican-French meal we had. Quite a perfection meal we had! 
Mom (and all her children...hmmm....that sounds familiar) bakes her chili rellenos instead of frying them, and, to us, that makes all the difference in the world! They aren't soggy, but crisp and not grease-laden. You must try it this way! I don't think you'll ever go back to the fry method! As far as the chanterelle recipes, we're beginners as well, but if SF Gate and the NY Times are sharing recipes for this most lovely mushroom, you gotta believe it's more than good! (The other veggie on the above platter are zucchini that were dipped in flour, then egg, then panko. Delicious!)

The MumBum throw 'n go for chili rellenos: 

2 poblano peppers for each person
olive oil
a wedge of melty cheese for each poblano (oxaca cheese is to die for - monterey jack will work)
2 or so eggs and some olive oil, whipped together
panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 425º. Lightly coat a baking sheet with a film of olive oil (or line the baking sheet with parchment paper and forget about the olive oil). Flame the skins of the poblanos (with a torch or on your gas stove if you have one) and when they're black, place them in a brown paper bag to sweat them. After about 1/2 hour, scrap the charred skin off the peppers - you can rinse them if you want, tho there's a lot of aficionados that will tell you that's a no-no. Cut a slit in each from top to bottom and carefully clean the seeds and spines from the inside. Put a wedge of cheese in each pepper, being sure not to over-stuff them - you want the edges to meet. Dip the peppers in flour, then in the egg bath and finally in the panko bread crumbs. Place on the baking sheet. Bake for around 20 - 30 minutes until the cheese is melty and the crumbs are browned. YUM! 
If you're doing zucchini slices as well, just repeat the above, omitting the cheese-stuffing part. They'll be done the same time the chili rellenos are. Serve as above - and LOVE! 
WORD OF WARNING: Whether the chilis come out of your garden, from a farmer's market or from the grocery store, the degree of hotness IS NOT UNIFORM! And there's no way to tell until you eat a bite of one (there's sharing at our table - if one is too hot for someone, they'll trade their pepper for a milder one who the other person wants a hotter one). Some peppers will be very hot, others very mild - you could get a batch of all hot or all mild or just all mixed up. Whatever, just enjoy the goodness! 

The not so throw 'n go for the chanterelles w/pasta recipe that we basically followed (unusual that):

(This recipe came from SF Gate and you can find it here.)

1 lb. chanterelles, cleaned (a toothbrush works well) and torn apart into thirds or fourths
olive oil
1 C. or so chopped onion
3 small cloves chopped garlic (to taste)
1/2 stick UNsalted butter
kosher salt
a splash of sherry (2 -3 T.)
1 to 1 1/2 C. cream
1 lb. fresh fettucini noodles (see here for an idea.)
salt and fresh ground pepper and BumHot to taste
parsley for garnish
grated parmesan/romano for serving

Smear the olive oil on a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and light golden, stirring frequently, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic - about a minute or so. Add the butter, mushrooms and salt to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender - about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the sherry to the skillet; bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until evaporated. Add the cream; bring to a boil, the reduce heat just to keep it warm. 
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain and reserve a cup of the cooking water.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the sauce; toss to combine and rewarm/reduce the sauce if necessary. "As the pasta sits, some of the sauce will be absorbed, so add some of the reserved cooking water to loosen it to the desired consistency if needed."
Garnish with the parsley and serve at once, with Parmesan on the side. 



till we eat again!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Country-Style Pork Ribs w/Homemade 'Kraut

pork country-style ribs w/home-made sauerkraut & potatoes w/a side of cantaloupe and tomatoes

Mom made a wonderful dinner last night that I would never be able to make at home for dinner as GB thinks he hates sauerkraut, and the chillun don't think they like it either. I, however, love it! 
When I was at the COMO Farmer's Market last week, there was a vendor there that made fresh sauerkraut and he had samples of it. I tried it and immediately swooned! Thought I'd tasted great 'kraut before, but realized I never really have had great kraut...his was sublime crunchy goodness. So, I took some back to mom and dad's home and mom decided a simmered dinner of pork country-style ribs, kraut and potatoes would hit the spot! My sis, dad and I agreed! 

The throw 'n go for 4 folks (with some left-overs):

1 1/4 lb. bone-in pork country-style ribs (they're fatty and that's good)
olive oil for browning
1 pint jar fresh, home-made sauerkraut (or your favorite sauerkraut)
8 small white potatoes
1 medium onion, chunked
1 cup moscado white wine 
fresh ground pepper to taste

mustard is a must!

Warm olive oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions for a minute or two, then add the ribs and brown on all sides. Place the potatoes in the pot. Drain the sauerkraut (and rinse if too salty) and put on top of the ribs and potatoes. Stir things around a bit so all is incorporated. Add pepper to your taste, but remember the kraut is salty, so go very sparingly with that. Gently simmer all until the potatoes poke done (the pork will be done as well). Don't overcook the pork - it will be dry! Serve with mustard. 

Mom also had a homemade (by her) spicy hot peach catsup and it was most excellent on the pork! 



till we eat again!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Venison + Blackberries + Sage = Delicious!!!

venison medallions on a blackberry-sage red wine reduction sauce
(adapted from a Moira Hodgson recipe found in the New York Times Food Pages)

As you may know, we've had an alarmingly huge chanterelle and blackberry harvest here in MO this year and have been desperately searching for new ways to use them, and have even considered paying folks to come take some of the harvest off our hands!. So...
I only ever get to have venison when I'm here in COMO (but, in the last year,we've enjoyed it a time or two at home in Norwalk as family friend, Katie, has been sharing the venison her brother hunts, with us), and in my parents freezer was a nice hunk of venison tenderloin that mom said we should have while I was here. So, off to Google I went to find out if venison and blackberries ever even go together. Yup, they do! There were several recipes out there that married the two together, and the one that sounded the very best was the one I found on the New York Times Food Page. That recipe also called for fresh sage, and as mom and dad have a huge sage plant out their side door, the triple pairing was perfect!

The not so much throw 'n go:

To serve 3 folks:

For the sauce:
1 C. dry red wine (we used cabernet sauvignon)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 C. fresh blackberries (or blueberries)
1 C. strong veal/chicken/beef stock (we used a cup from a roasted chicken - delicious!)
2 T. unsalted (always unsalted) butter
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 - 2 T. honey
6 - 10 fresh sage leaves

For the medallions: 
1 lb. venison tenderloin, cut into 6 uniform slices/medallions
1 T. grape seed or olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter

The steps:

1. To make the sauce, combine the wine and onion in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about half a cup. Add the berries and return the liquid to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 more minutes.
Strain the sauce and return it to the pan. Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the salt, pepper and honey and steep for 15 to 20 minutes, or until ready to use - keep warm. (Remove the sage leaves just before serving.)

2. Season the venison medallions with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter to nearly smoking. Carefully place the medallions in the pan and sauté for 3 minutes, being careful not to crowd the pan. Turn and sauté to medium rare, about 2 more minutes.

3. To serve, spoon sauce onto the center of your serving plate, placing 2 medallions in the center of each plate. Serve your other sides around the medallions. If you have extra sauce, serve it on the side.

Our meal:
veal medallions w/a blackberry-sage red wine reduction sauce
basmati rice
sautéed chanterelle mushrooms
green salad w/cucumbers and homemade vinaigrette
homemade bread dipped in the pan juices
Deliciousness all around!



till we eat again!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pizza Margherita on the Fly

pizza ready for the hot oven!
While most of mom and dad's friends that are their age eat out at least twice a day, mom is in a very shrunk category of fixing dinner for her and dad (and anyone else that's around) just about every night of the year. Mom still cooks because she still loves cooking, no other reason. And lunch every day for mom and dad are the left-overs from the night before. 
Yesterday we met some old friends and the five of us went for brunch at the Claysville Store. It's a wonderful family-run restaurant that's only open on Saturday nights and Sundays from about noon to 3pm. They only serve country-fried chicken and country-fried ham steaks, but with all the fixin's. Best fried chicken I've ever eaten outside of my grandma! (Do go here to find out more about this lovely little restaurant.) Since we ate there at about 2pm yesterday and mom, dad and I each had a piece of chicken left (you get 3 pieces) and a biscuit, we didn't bother with dinner, just had our chicken and biscuit and a sliced tomato when we got hungry later on. 
Thus, today we had no left-overs for lunch today.
But mom, of course, had a trick up her sleeve. There's always fixin's for pizza in her kitchen and flatbread/pita bread in her freezer to put the fixin's on!

Our pizzas were delicious! 

Major yum there!

The throw 'n go for 3 folks: 

2 flatbread/pita breads (the thinner the better) (Cham brand pitas are wonderful; it was what we used)
olive oil
marinara sauce
5 - 6 roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
oregano (fresh from their garden and then dried on the counter - very fragrant!)
fresh basil leaves, rolled up and julienned into strips

Preheat oven to 450º F. Microwave flatbread for about 10 seconds to thaw if frozen. Place them on a cookie and sprinkle olive oil on them. Spoon a bit of marinara sauce on top of the breads, just enough to very lightly coat them all over. Next, evenly distribute the chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle oregano lightly and then distribute the basil ribbons evenly over both breads. Place one round of mozzarella in the middle of each bread, then round halves around the breads (see above photo). Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and BumHot (or cayenne if no BumHot). Bake for about 10 minutes or until the mozzarella is completely melted. This is all kinds of delicious! Enjoy!



till we eat again!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Chanterelle Gold Dust

chanterelles that we picked, cleaned, dehydrated and then pulverized making...
Chanterelle Gold Dust!

I've lamented about our blackberry overload (dad has officially been forbidden to pick any more blackberries - and that also goes for cucumbers and tomatoes), and now I must lament about our chanterelle overload...

Mom and I have thus far collected 5 (!!!) pounds of chanterelles from the woods around my parents home. We've had them most nights for dinner - sautéed, stir-fried, thrown into pasta, you name it, we've done it! read an article about dehydrating chanterelles and then pulverizing them. Thus, that's what we've been doing. The end result is beautiful, and their aroma is simply sublime! We've looked at the few recipes posted online and we're going to try a few of our own over the next two weeks I'm here.  Tomorrow we are off to Walmart to get some small jars so I can take some of this magic dust back to my CT chef friends! Whether sprinkled in soup, in sauces or in something else, all I can think of is YUM!! Oh, and here are some recipes we're going to try: Trout w/chanterelle dust, chanterelle dust gravy, and maybe this chili.

from this...the dust happens (before the cleaning/gleaning):

The gleaning/cleaning of the chanterelles by the MumBum
Notice the ~Roger~ drink at the ready:

Mama Mushroom and her ~baby~ 
not really, but the photo makes MumBum happy

Beware Brynnly, James! 
Chanterelle Gold Dust coming
Your way! Create soon!



till we eat again!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Blackberry-Infused Vodka - To be Sipped at 5pm or 4pm or....

our blackberry-infused vodka
Two things are very obvious, produce-wise, during this summer of '16 visit here to my parent's most glorious COMO garden and wooded land. We are drowning in a massive amount of blackberries and chanterelle mushrooms. I do believe mom and dad are almost to the point of running an ad to let folks know they'll pay to have folks come pick! I swear at least a 1/2 gallon of blackberries are picked every day, and so far, mom and I have picked close to 5 pounds of chanterelles! Mom and I have come up with many inventive ways to enjoy chanterelles so we turned our attention to the blackberries. After doing all the normal cooking things you do with blackberries - crisps, pies, jams etc. - mom turned to me and said "Why don't we try flavoring some vodka?" Well...why didn't I think of that??? So, off we were to infuse vodka with blackberries!

the beginnings of blackberry-infused vodka goodness! slurp...

The throw 'n go: 

A 4-cup Mason/Ball jar, or equivalent jar
1 C. or so fresh blackberries, picked over and rinsed if necessary
2 T. or so sugar
3 C. vodka - we used Smirnoff

Place the blackberries in the Mason jar and sprinkle the sugar on top. Then muddle the heck out of those berries! I used mom's knife sharpener which has a nice solid wooden handle with a flat end that easily fit in the jar and smashed those berries to smithereens. Once the berries are well and truly muddled, pour vodka over them until you reach the 3 cup mark on the Mason jar. Put a lid on it and then shake it well till all is blended. For the next 3 to 7 to 20 days, taste your concoction and if you don't think it's quite blackberryish enough, recap it, shake well and let sit another day. When you finally decide it's reached the flavor you want, strain to get the large bits out. Then, to make a clear liqueur, place a coffee filter (like Melitta) in a funnel that's stuck in the neck of the bottle you're using to store your blackberry wonderfulness and pour in the flavored vodka. You'll have to do this a bit at a time and it will take up to a day for all the liquid to drip through. But the end result?? SO worth it! 

Blackberry Martini

1 martini glass
3 frozen blackberries
1 lemon skin twist
1 skewer
blackberry vodka, freezer-chilled, to fill the glass

Fill martini glass with freezer-chilled blackberry vodka. Spear 3 frozen blackberries on your skewer then spear on the lemon twist. Place the skewer across the top of the martini glass and serve.



till we eat again!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Potato Salad ala Grandma Mae

Our Grandmother Mae's Potato Salad
Yeah, it's that good!

Growing up, my sibs, parents, grandparents, uncles & aunts, cousins and all the members of our fambly had more than the average family gatherings, be they on Sunday or any other day of the week because, well, that's just what we did! It was important to us then, and it's important to us now. Though our immediate families are scattered far and wide, we've all embraced our far-flung, but close at hand, relations and made them our close relations, and over the years, we've all realized that no matter how close or far a family link is, by ~blood~, what is in our hearts is what counts the most. And what counts the family. Even when it's friends that become our undeniable blood ties needed. 

The (family) throw 'n go:

5 lb. bag baking potatoes; don’t peel
1 C+ diced celery
1 red pepper, diced, don’t substitute green, omit if you only have green
1/3 C. diced red or white onion
2 T++ fresh dill weed, chopped

3 eggs
2 T. or so Coleman’s dry mustard
2 t. or so sugar
1/2 C. or so vinegar
salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper to taste

1/2 - 3/4 C. or so Hellman’s mayo
1/2 & 1/2 cream to thin to your taste

Put potatoes in a big enough pot so they’re covered with water.  Cook till fork-tender.  Drain and let cool.  When cooled just enough to handle, scrape off skin and chunk into 3/4” - 1” cubes, (not too small).  Put in a large bowl, (big enough to mix everything in), and add celery, red pepper, onion and dill.  Toss all well with your hands. 
Place eggs, mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt and peppers in a pan on the stove over medium heat.  Continuously whisking, cook ingredients until they become quite thick - like a sabayon - then remove from heat and stir in the mayo.  Pour on the potato mixture and mix all well by hand.  Add cream to thin if needed.  Taste and correct seasonings. It’s much better the second day - thin with more cream if needed on that second day.

Our Grandma Mae Reusser Heyssel’s wonderful recipe. 

A GREAT buffet or take to salad. Even Julie Murray loves this and she cannot stand mayonnaise.



till we eat again!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cauliflower Steaks Any Way You Want 'Em

Cauliflower steaks ready for the oven

Back in February, the last time I visited my parents in Missourahhh, I had a layover in Chicago that turned out to be a loooong layover because of weather delays. Some way or another, a woman who was also delayed and I started talking. What a delightful person she was and what a delightful time we had! We talked about any and everything, from family to food to origins - just everything! Along the way, my Remy came up and she empathized with me over her loss, and then her daughter came up and how she was going through some difficult life changes and had taken solace in creating a food blog, tho said daughter had never been one for much cooking. She told me that her daughter's blog was really taking off and was on the verge of becoming successful enough that she was earning from it! I was impressed, to say the least. We eventually parted ways, as her flight was called, but before she left, she gave me a lovely book that she hoped would help me in my loss of my daughter (it has, but even more her kind thoughts she spoke than the actual book) and her daughter's website at my request. When I visited her daughter's website, the blog entry that I was sent to was a recipe for ~cauliflower steaks~. Hmmm....interesting...never heard of that before... SO we made them for dinner one night while I was at my parents home. Though my mom wasn't a big fan of them, I thought they were wonderful! I used My Lavender Blues recipe as a starting point, but made it simple for the first try. Enjoy! Tho I have a few photos of my venture, please go here for beautiful photos of the cauliflower steaks. Ms. Lavender's photos are incredibly unusual and also incredibly beautiful.

The throw 'n go:

1 head cauliflower
olive oil or grape seed oil
Bum-Hot (my parents home-grown dehydrated and ground red pepper flakes) or pepper flakes
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425º F. Cut the leaves and that part of the core from the bottom of the cauliflower. Resting the cauliflower on its bottom, cut it in half. Then cut approximately 1/3" slices out of the cauliflower halves. As you can see, below, you'll get some big steaks and then some smaller pieces.

What the cut cauliflower will look like

Place steaks on a cookie sheet; drizzle olive oil over them and season with the Bum-Hot, salt and pepper. Turn over and do the same to that side. Put them in the oven and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, until they are nicely browned. No need to turn them, but you certainly can half way through the cooking time.

half-way to done deliciousness

This photo is before they were totally done. As I totally forgot to take a plated photo of the finished dish, this is as good as it gets! Sorry! Again, go to My Lavender Blues for some excellent photos of the finished product!

You can do just about any seasonings on these, whatever your whim is, try it! Last night daughter Brynnly and I added curry powder to the steaks, in addition to the peppers and salt, and it was just wonderful! I've not tried My LB's take on this, but I'm betting it's delicious! You're gonna love this!



till we eat again!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Sunday Family Dinners

Rosemary blossoms, February 2009
I wrote the below post originally in February 2009. It pretty much perfectly explains what our
Sunday Family Dinners are all about and why they are so important to all of us.
For the original post, click here. For the re-posted post, click here.
For cousin Julie's wonderful take on SFD, click here.
(The oven fries recipe, below, is often a part of our SFD's.)

My World: 

There's one huge aspect of my world that I really don't write much about here, which is really quite odd, considering how important it is to me. It is something near and dear to my heart, whatever the aspect of it is. Matter of fact, it's quite near and dear to the hearts of my family and friends as well. We have shared many wonderful times over it, and, I suspect, will continue to do so ad infinitum. 
So what, you ask, does the above photo have to do with anything at all, let alone the mystery aspect of my world I'm blabbering on about? Nothing and absolutely everything, that's what! It's a pretty enough photo that I enjoy looking at, and hope you do to, but what it really stands for Food. It's such an important part of my world and I really don't talk or write about it as much as I should. How often have we gathered together, be it two, ten or many folks, to celebrate, commiserate, grieve, just be with each other, laugh, love, play, where food is the centerpiece of the gathering? How irritated do the children of this wonderful collective family of ours get when we miss Sunday Family Dinner two weeks in a row? (Right now they're really mad - we're going on our 3rd week of missed SFD with no end in sight. It's not a good thing.) How wonderful is it to gather together and share good times over good food? It is a pleasure to be forever treasured. And I know we're sending these children of ours forth into this world with the conviction that our Sunday Family Dinner gathering is a tradition whose celebration is sacred, should always be nurtured and never ever forgotten. Food is good. Life is good. For the most part. 

Those Oven Fries

baking potatoes, chunked, quartered, cut in wedges, whatever
extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat everything
garlic and/or onions, chopped
fresh rosemary leaves, stripped off tough stem
fresh ground pepper and salt
(lemon juice is a most excellent addition)
oregano or other herbs if you think necessary - I don't

Now you know why I can't bake - I don't measure anything...ever. Preheat oven to 425º. Wash potatoes, cut into whatever shape you want. Using whatever amounts you want, place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes. Turn potatoes over and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes. Serve immediately. 
Delicious with just about everything, but especially good with roast chicken, lamb and salmon. It goes without saying (so why am I saying it?) they're delicious with hamburgers and steak. Heck, they'd be good with liver!


'till we feast again!

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Spa Chicken Dish by the Incomparable Charlie Trotter

Steamed Chicken with Preserved Carrots, Peppers and Daikon with Marine Cider Vinaigrette

Mr. Trotter writes: "A perfectly steamed chicken breast is hard to beat. Here, I have coupled it with crisp vegetables flavored with marine cider vinaigrette and a touch of Thai fish sauce. If you are unable to find marine-flavored cider vinegar (cider vinegar seasoned with marine herbs and sea salt), any good-quality cider vinegar may be used."

(Photo by Julie)
Cousin Jules is one of the very best home chefs I know - she's right up there with my mom as far as her culinary expertise and imagination go. She, too, rarely follows recipes, and when she does, it's very hard for her not to get bored half way through the cooking process, as happened with the above dish when she made it (7.13.16), but persevere she did, and, boy were we all happy she did! All of Charlie Trotter's recipes are very detailed, lengthy with many ingredients and steps, and it's quite easy to get quite bored before you're anywhere near done. That said, the two recipes that we've (I made his mussels recipe) made from his Spa Cuisine: One & Only Palmilla cookbook were over the top and all kinds of wonderful! His subtle use of ingredients, (some of the combos which are just down-right weird), and how they combine are simply sublime! We're both anxious to test our patience further and try the other gems in his cookbook. This is so worth the time and trouble! Note: No where was there information on how to make marine-flavored cider vinegar, thought there were many articles on chefs that use it in their restaurants (google "marine cider vinegar") so Julie used plain Bragg cider vinegar and it worked just fine!

The so not a throw 'n go: 

For the marine cider vinaigrette:
2 T. olive oil
4 t. apple cider vinegar
4 t. chopped fresh cilantro (hate cilantro; I'd use parsley)
4 t. thinly sliced scallion
sea salt

For the chicken:
1 T. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T. finely chopped lemongrass, from the bulb portion
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables:
1 C. peeled, julienned carrot, steamed (blanched)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1/2 C. peeled julienned daikon radish (use regular radishes if you can't find daikon)
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro (again, hate cilantro; I'd use parsley)
1 t. black sesame seeds
1 t. white or toasted white sesame seeds
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 T. toasted sesame oil (Trader Joe's has a great one)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the red bell pepper puree (optional - it's not on the above plate):
2 T. chopped roasted red bell pepper (in a jar - Trader Joe's has a great one)
2 T. water
sea salt

To prepare the Marine Cider Vinaigrette:  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. 

To prepare the chicken:  Combine the ginger, garlic and lemongrass in a small bowl. Season the chicken with 1/4 t. each salt and pepper and then place the chicken in the bottom of a bamboo or other steamer. Top the chicken breasts equally with the ginger mixture and set steamer over a pan of simmering water. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked. Brush the ginger mixture off (at least the hard lemongrass pieces then thinly slice the chicken and toss with 1/2 the vinaigrette; use more vinaigrette if needed. 

To prepare the vegetables:  Combine the blanched carrot, bell pepper, daikon, cilantro (or parsley) and black and white sesame seed and toss to mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce and sesame oil. Add this mixture to the vegetables and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper. 

To prepare the (optional) red bell pepper puree:  Combine the roasted bell pepper and water in a blender and process until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and season lightly with salt. (Julie forgot to buy the red peppers so served it without - didn't hurt a thing!)


Mound some of the vegetable mixture into the center of each plate, top with some of the chicken mixture, and then more of the vegetable mixture. Drizzle any juices from both mixtures around the plates and then spoon some of the pepper puree around the plate. 

Now eat up that deliciousness!


'till we feast again!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Seafood Cioppino Connecticut

Seafood Cioppino Connecticut
The hubs said: "This is delicious! But next time you make it, you really don't need to add the broccoli."
When daughter Brynnly isn't working the restaurant dinner shift and her beau is, she'll come have dinner with us, her parental units. It's always a loverly evening when this occurs! Unless she or I have a specific craving, we usually have no idea what we're eating until we get to the grocery store! This night Brynn was craving seafood, but there wasn't a fish for sale that we wanted at Stew's for less than a bazillion $$ a pound. (I refuse to pay $23.99/pound for a piece of wild salmon!) So, we decided to go the shellfish and calamari route as the wild shrimp were on sale for $4.99/lb and the cockles and calamari inexpensive as well. Brynnly said she wanted to make some sort of seafood stew kind of dish and we came up with the below - truly a throw 'n go rendition! It was absolutely wonderful! 

The throw 'n go:

1 1/2 lbs. raw wild shrimp, deshelled
1 lb. cockle clams, cleaned
4 tubes with tentacles calamari, cleaned and cut in rings, tentacles included
2 T. or so butter
2 T. or so evoo
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 C. or so white wine
1 can (13.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
1 C. or so marinara sauce, preferably Rao's or homemade
1/3 C. or so 1/2 & 1/2 cream
1/3 C. or so sour cream
bum-hot (or cayenne) to taste
black pepper, fresh ground, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 lemons, juiced
basil, a handful chopped
parsley, a handful chopped
salt to taste
1 1/2 C. broccoli cut into small flowerets, blanched (optional)
parsley, chopped, for garnish

2 packages Buitoni (or similar brand) fresh linguini/fettucini pasta

While shrimp, calamari and cockles are what we used, any combination of firm white fish and shellfish could be used - just vary for the cooking times as thick fish, large scallops or lobster would take longer to be done.

Clean the seafood - for the cockles, rinse them and then place in a bowl/pan of ice-cold salted water for at least 1/2 hour and up to an hour, stirring occasionally, but let debris settle before you gently lift the cockles out of the water so no debris clings to them before cooking. (Go to this link for more info.)

Heat to boiling a pot of water to cook the pasta.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil together. Add minced garlic and onion and saute until they are just beginning to brown. Throw in the wine and simmer until it's reduced by about half. Add the petite diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, cream, bum-hot, black pepper and lemon juice. Whisk until all is combined and smooth. (Cream may separate because of the wine or lemon juice - whisk long enough and all will be well.) Add sour cream in dollops until your sauce is smooth - and tastes just right. Add the basil and parsley, turn to low and cover, simmering for 5 or so minutes so all flavors combine, but be sure not to let your sauce get too thick. As you add the pasta to the boiling water, add the seafood and broccoli to your sauce base, stir well and cover with a lid or foil. The seafood will be done just about the same time the pasta is - about 5 minutes. All the seafood is done when the cockles' shells have opened. If the sauce is too thick, add a ladle-full of the pasta water to the sauce pan until it's the right consistency. Taste to correct seasonings, if needed. Drain the pasta, return it to its pot and toss with a bit of melted butter and/or olive oil. At serving time, add more chopped parsley to the top of the seafood mixture to make it purty. 

To serve, put pasta on a plate or in a bowl and ladle the seafood mixture over the top. 

Lots of folks like to add grated Parmesan to their serving. Garlic bread is a big draw as well, though I think a loaf of warm crusty French bread would be over-the-top delicious and help sop up all that wonderful sauce. 

Made for the first time on 7/10/16

'till we feast again!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Confetti Rice & Veggie Salad

Confetti Rice & Veggie Salad inspired by The Silver Palate
This is one of my very favorite salads! Major yum going on here. My sis, Carrie, discovered the original recipe in The Silver Palate Cook Book by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. They called theirs Rice and Vegetable Salad and you can find the original recipe here.  While the original is delicious, over the years my sis and I have tweaked it so it's perfection for us! It's always a hit whenever and wherever we serve it. And, if you add poached and shredded chicken breast meat, you have yourself one fine meal - perfect for a special luncheon! Notes: Basmati is by far our very favorite rice. It has a wonderful nutty smell and flavor, and if you rinse it before cooking it, it's never sticky! The original "Our Favorite Vinaigrette" recipe calls for adding minced fresh parsley or chives to taste. While we'll do that for regular salads, because the salad already has parsley, basil and dill in it, we don't add it the dressing for this salad.

I made this for yesterday's family 4th of July celebration. 
There was nothing left for me to take home... :-(

Our throw 'n go:

4 C. cooked and still hot basmati white rice
2 recipes "Our Favorite Vinaigrette" (below)
1 C. more or less red pepper, cored and chopped into confetti-type pieces
1 box frozen petite peas - add frozen to the salad
1/2++ C. purple onion, diced and then rinsed off (kills the sulfur taste and smell)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green tops too and then rinsed off
1 shallot, minced and rinsed (optional)
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 handful fresh dill, chopped
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar (optional - I rarely add, sis usually does)

You can add, and we always do for a buffet or luncheon:
1 - 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been poached and shredded (or use a rotisserie chicken)

Put cooked and still hot rice in a very large bowl and pour 1 recipe of "Our Favorite Vinaigrette" over it. (If you're including chicken, this is the time to add it to the rice.) Toss thoroughly and allow to cool to close to room temperature. (Warm/hot rice absorbes the dressing brilliantly.)
After rice has come to room temperature, add the rest of the ingredients, except the balsamic vinegar, and toss again. I find tossing with your hands is the very best way to mix everything together. Taste and correct seasonings, using more of "Our Favorite Vinaigrette" and the balsamic vinegar if you want. 

"Our Favorite Vinaigrette"

1 T. Grey Poupon mustard
1/4 C. red wine vinegar (Sclafani and Pompeian are my favorite brands)
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. each salt & fresh ground pepper
1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all but the oil together. Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the oil until dressing is thickened. A stick blender works wonders doing this. 

Serves 6 - 8 generously.

'till we feast again!