Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roasted Roots

Pretty much any combination of root vegetables, roasted simply with salt, pepper and olive oil is going to taste good. This recipe is just one of many combinations you can do, and it's more fun and flavorful than just roasting regular potatoes.


3 beets
2 parsnips
3 carrots
1 large sweet potato
1 large sweet onion
1 cup fruity white wine or sherry
2 tablespoons dried savory
1 tablespoon dried orange zest (or fresh)
generous sprinkling of celery salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

The first step is to chop the vegetables into roughly equal pieces, I quartered most everything except the large onion which I cut into eighths. I didn't peel anything (well, except the onions) I just scrubbed the skins very well, but you can peel them all if you like. Toss the vegetables in the rest of the ingredients and place in a large roasting pan. Cook at about 400 degrees for somewhere between 45 minutes and one hour, depending on how small you cut everything. Just cook them until you get burnt-edged onions and brown-edged sweet potatoes. 

When you get these on the plate, sprinkle them with balsamic vinegar and a few gratings of very sharp cheese. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Easy and Yummy Pork Chops (But No Applesauce)


4 bone-in pork chops (as you can see above, mine were pretty big)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rounded tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning 
1 teaspoon thyme
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all of the above ingredients in a dish or pan that just barely fits the pork chops, so they are submerged in the liquid. Let them sit in this marinade for at least an hour, turning over once halfway through the time, then pat them very dry with a paper towel.

Next, in addition to your pork chops, you will need:

Olive oil for frying
salt and pepper
one finely chopped clove of garlic
1/2 cup medium-dry cooking sherry
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon hot pepper jelly OR one tablespoon of honey and several dashes of hot sauce

It's a great idea to always have a cheap bottle of sherry and a cheap bottle of port around for cooking. You know how you always hear that you shouldn't cook with something you wouldn't drink? Well I don't agree. I hate drinking sherry, but I love sauces made with it. 

Heat the oil, enough of it to just cover the bottom of the pan, on high heat. Salt and pepper the pork chops and then cook them about five minutes on the first side and about four on the second side. Then set them on a plate, cover with foil, and let them rest while you make the sauce. 

In the same pan, over medium heat now, put in your minced garlic, then after only about 30 seconds of cooking, pour in the sherry. Let the sherry reduce by a bit, not quite half, and then put in the cream and the tablespoon of jelly. Take off of the heat immediately and taste for salt and pepper before pouring the sauce over the pork chops. Serve with roasted root vegetables (recipe here) and/or a wild rice blend. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fried Plantain, or, The Giant Slightly-Sweet French Fry

Plantains- they're ridiculously tasty, and because they aren't as common on the North American table as they are in South American cuisine, you can fancy-up your next meal if you serve these as a side dish instead of potatoes. I'm picturing perfect peppery grilled flank steak, home made tortillas, fresh salsa, and fried plantains.

Here's what I did, it's so easy: After peeling them, I split the plantains down the middle, lengthwise. I heated a good sized blob of butter over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan and I put the plantain slices in, flat side down first, and cooked them for three or four minutes until they were brown and toasty. Then I carefully flipped them and cooked them another three minutes or so on the other side. (As long as you don't actually burn them, I don't think the exact time matters as long as you have nice browning and they are cooked through.)
I served them with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and a drizzle of a very simple spicy mayo sauce. For the sauce I mixed two rounded tablespoons of Best Foods mayo with one level tablespoon of sriracha chili sauce, and one teaspoon of sugar.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Zucchini Patties, or Something To Do With Little Squashlings

I'll admit it, I have to spell-check "zucchini" every time I write it. We could spell it zukini, as in, "Eat more zukini to fit in a bikini." No?
Well, bikini assonance aside, I do not mean to imply that the following recipe is in any way slimming, it's just a yummy way to use up the zucchini that your over-zealous gardener neighbor gives you every year.

5 small/medium zucchini (or the one giant one that was growing sneakily at the back of the garden) grated (approximately 4 cups)
1/2 cup semolina flour, or whole wheat flour (fine corn flour if you need these gluten free)
3 eggs
2 green onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre), crumbled 
olive oil

a lemon, some Greek yogurt, and more Italian parsley to serve

Heat the olive oil in a NON-STICK pan over medium-high heat, using enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan well. (I had my stove on 9 then had to turn it down to 8 after the first batch.)  

After you've grated the zucchini into your mixing bowl, the best thing to do is grab handfuls of it at a time and squeeze the heck out of it over the sink to remove some of the moisture. Mix the grated zucchini in with all of the rest of the ingredients and then drop rounded spoonfuls of the batter into the pan carefully, smooshing them flat as you go, so they look like little pancakes. Fry them in batches, cooking for three minutes per side. Don't crowd the pan too much because you don't want them touching each other, it makes it hard to flip them over. This recipe should make at least 12-16 patties. If your batter starts to look a little runny between batches, you can add a tablespoon more of flour and mix really well before continuing.

They can go into a warm oven until serving, or you can just enjoy them at room temperature. Serve with fresh lemon squeezed over, good generous dollops of Greek yogurt or sour cream, and roughly chopped fresh parsley. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Food, Not Fashion

"Just because food isn't fashionable anymore, doesn't mean we don't want to eat it!" 
Copyright by someone or other on the internet, not my picture
Thank you Nigella Lawson, for that quote from your show 'Nigella Bites', because while I adore cooking programs like 'Top Chef', I get really irritated when judges criticize contestants for making a dish or combining ingredients in a way that they think is cliche. I was especially irritated when a contestant (Stefan if you follow the show) was criticized for making chicken cordon bleu. They didn't say it tasted bad, they didn't say it was cooked improperly. They sneered that it was somehow corny or dorky to make that dish. What? It was a fried chicken challenge for chrissake, that's not exactly high-brow cooking.

If it tastes good, it's legit. And breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese sounds good to me.

So here's a link to a recipe from Food Network's Tyler Florence for Chicken Cordon Bleu. Let's all make it for dinner and mentally poo-poo the Top Chef judges for their insufferable simpering snobbery.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Macaroons with Buttercream Filling

First off, I'd like to say that "February Carb Month" (as I declared it) has to end early or it will be the end of my waistline. One cool thing about these cookies though, as sugary and calorie-rich as they are, they are totally gluten-free for all of my "glutarded" friends out there.

The inspiration for these macaroons was a trip to the well-appointed Ginger Elizabeth here in Sacramento. This teeny weeny boutique has delicious hot chocolate and other goodies including lovely little French Macarons. They are deliciously crispy and chewy little sandwich cookies that could become quite a habit, but at $1.75 per tiny cookie, it's an addiction I can't afford all of the time. After looking at a few recipes on the internet, I decided that, even with the high cost of almond flour I could enjoy these for much less.

For the macaroons:

1 16 oz. bag of Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour
2 tablespoons regular granulated sugar
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted if the bag has been opened
5 large egg whites (save three of the egg yolks for the filling)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat the egg whites. When they are frothy-looking, add the cream of tartar, and then whip them on high until you get stiff peaks, adding the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar slowly as you whip. If you haven't done this in a while, stiff peaks means that when you turn the beater upside down, the peak of white fluff doesn't fall over.

Next, with a big spatula, gently fold in the almond flour and powdered sugar one cup at a time, alternating them, and anytime in there put the 2 teaspoons of vanilla in as well. 

Now here's where it gets tricky. You need two cookie sheets and they must be non-stick OR you need to use parchment paper, but you must ALSO grease them well. Don't miss a spot. These cookies will stick to a pan like nobody's business. To dispense your goopy dough, you either need a pastry bag with a wide-mouth tip, OR you can be a like me and shove it all in a gallon Zip-loc freezer bag and cut one of the corners off with your scissors to make your own pastry bag. 

Dispense dough in 2 inch blobs, more or less, into even rows. I believe I fit about 20-24 cookies per large cookie sheet. Afterwards, wet your hands in cold water and use them to pat each blob until they are smooth on top and evenly round. Now the deal is, you are supposed to let the cookies sit for quite a while, an hour or even two, before baking. The reason for this is that you want a dry crust to form on the top which will give your cookies and even look and more importantly, an even crispy outer crust. If you pop them in the oven straight away, they taste just as nice, but they will have cracks on top and have uneven texture. IS that a big deal? Not really. If you don't care, then who else will? They're your cookies, you can do what you want.

Bake them, one pan at a time, on the  middle rack in a 325 degree oven for twenty minutes each. Transfer to wire racks to cool, or just lay them on wax paper or lint-free towels or a board or something if you don't have racks. Even with my greased non-stick pan I had to use  my super thin metal spatula to get them up easily, that's how sticky these babies are!

Let them cool completely before you make the little sandwiches, but they cool in half the time you might expect.

For the buttercream:

3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (or other flavoring you like, lemon zest is great)
2 sticks of room temperature butter (not too warm though)

Beat the heck out of the egg yolks. I'm talking at least four or five minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Then melt the sugar and corn syrup over medium heat in a small pot, and stir around until the sugar looks like it's dissolved into the corn syrup well. This takes, oh, about three to five minutes. Now you grab the pot handle in one hand and the egg beater with the other hand, and slowly stream the syrup into the egg yolks, beating (on high) the syrup into the yolks as you go. 

God help you if you are using a stand mixer. The problem with a stand mixer is that the syrup is supposed to not hit the side of the bowl or the metal egg beaters. If it does, it gets hard like candy and won't mix into the eggs! SO, if all you have is a stand mixer, I recommend you just use that arm muscle and go with a whisk for this part.

 Once you have the syrup all incorporated in, keep beating the heck out of it for another five minutes (go back to the mixer if you did the syrup part by hand!). The egg yolks will turn very pale in color and the mixture will start to cool. Add the butter at this point, one chunk at a time and beat for another five minutes until it looks creamy and pretty. This is a good time to beat in the vanilla, or other flavoring, and food coloring if you want a color.

If you frost these cookies, you pretty much have to serve them over the next day or two. Otherwise you will want to refrigerate everything. I would refrigerate the cookies and frosting separately, if for example you are making them on Wednesday to serve on Saturday. You can also assemble them and freeze, then pull them out an hour before serving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don't Embarrass Your Chili Pot by Chucking in Tomatoes

Cold. Rain, Wind. 

One hundred year old house with minimal insulation.

Arizona transplant must get warm.

Solution: chili con carne with homemade tortillas.

For flour tortillas:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (make sure your baking powder isn't ancient)
2 tablespoons lard (yes, lard)
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup water

Rub the lard and butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until it looks all crumbly. Add the water and  mix up until you have a ball of dough. Let this hang out for ten minutes while you heat up a very lightly oiled-rubbed smallish pan over medium heat (cast iron is good if you have it).

Tear off pieces of the dough, however big you want, and roll them out as thin as you can. Cook them by laying them one at a time in the hot pan for about thirty seconds to one minute on each side. You only want a few tiny flecks of golden brown on them, you don't want them to get crispy (or do you?).

 For the chili:

2 pounds of either ground beef or finely chopped beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup of your favorite hot chili powder, I like Grandma's hot chili, but sadly it's been discontinued
4 dried Gaujillo chiles (in the Mexican spice section at the grocery store) ground fine (I use an old coffee grinder)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon good cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey, or agave syrup, or brown sugar
Enough water, stock or beer to cover the meat

In a medium sized pot, heat the olive oil and bacon to medium high, then add the meat along with all of the  spices and chopped veggies and brown it all well. Cover with liquid and bring up to a bubble. Simmer covered for at least an hour. If you have time, I really recommend adding a few cups more liquid and cooking for two or three hours, or throwing it in your crock pot on low all day.

Serve with a lot of grated sharp cheddar cheese or queso fresco, this helps "cool" the chili, it's pretty spicy. I recommend wrapping your tortillas in foil and warming them up before serving- or you can get all fancy-schmancy and toast them in a pan with butter.

I would serve a crisp cold lager with this, or a very cold bottle of Coca-Cola.

p.s. Tomatoes aren't terrible in chili or anything. The chili police aren't going to arrest you. If you wanted to take the leftovers and mix them with a can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce and more beer and a pinch of cinnamon and serve it over rice, well then go right ahead and Godspeed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stuffed Mushrooms


Enough Baby Bella mushrooms to cover the bottom of a pie pan
1 cup of prepared leftover stuffing, chopped or crumbled to make sure the pieces are small (mine was home-made but commercial stuffing is fine)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped CURLY parsley
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper plus extra for sprinkling
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice
One egg
Three ounces soft goat cheese
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and place the caps upside down in a lightly oiled pie pan. Spray or rub them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Mix the stuffing, egg, lemon juice and zest, pie spice, salt and pepper, onions and parsley and one ounce of the goat cheese together. Begin stuffing the mushrooms by pressing just a small amount down in the cavity of each mushroom. Then distribute the rest of the filling evenly in little heaps on each mushroom.

Drizzle or spray the mushrooms with a little more olive oil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. You want the tops to be brown and crunchy, but not burnt. Remove them from the oven and distribute the other two ounces of cheese on top, and put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes just before you serve them. Also just before serving, drizzle over them the the thickest, best-quality balsamic vinegar you can find, I like Mia Sorella.

These go nicely with a good Sonoma County red Zinfandel.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bread-and-Milk Pie

Bread pudding by any other name tastes just as freakin' fantastic.

I had five nice big leftover Hot Cross Buns from Tuesday, but they were a bit dry for eating, so of course I thought of making a bread pudding. The best bread pudding I've ever had was in a restaurant in New Orleans where it was served with a ridiculously good whiskey caramel sauce. Ever since then, I always order bread pudding when I see it on a menu (which isn't often), although I haven't found one that's as good as the one I had in The Big Easy. 

I wanted to give today's dessert a different texture and flavor, so I decided to combine the basic bread pudding idea with a Greek dish called galopita, or "milk pie." Galopita is a traditional dessert made with milk, eggs, sugar, butter and semolina flour. In case you aren't familiar with it, semolina is the coarsely ground durham wheat that is used in pasta making, and it has a beautiful golden color and the texture of fine sand. 

If you like bread pudding, or french toast or anything like that, you are going to like this recipe.

5 large dried out hot cross buns (or brioche, or challah, but if you use those, add a dash of cinnamon to this recipe)
1/4 cup semolina
3 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Find a large baking dish, I used my white oval lasagna/casserole pan I got from Ikea. Rub the inside of the pan with the tablespoon of butter. Slice the buns or bread into big chunks. With the buns I cut them in half, then each half into fourths. Squish the pieces into the pan so you have a nice even tight fitting layer of bread. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup semolina flour over the top.

In a large bowl, mix the other ingredients with a whisk until the eggs are beaten in well. Pour this over the top  of the bread, then let the whole thing soak for at least ten minutes before you pop the pan in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, you should have a nice light golden brown color on the highest bits. 

I really recommend serving this straight out of the oven. I don't think it needs a sauce or anything, but if you do a sauce I say dotoffee sauce or caramel sauce, or serve this for a Sunday breakfast with good maple syrup.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Many Thanks To Cornwall for the Pasty

Whatever the true origin of the Pasty, they are nice looking and even nicer to eat. They were popular Cornish miner lunches back in the day, and are traditionally stuffed with meat cubes and rutabaga or turnip. They are also a fantastic make-ahead camping food. Wrap them in foil and heat them up near (but not too near) the coals and you will be a happy camper. My version is a bit different and is created like so:

Ingredients for the filling:

1 1/2 lbs beef chuck, cubed
1/3 cup flour
1 large potato, cubed
1 medium carrot or parsnip, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter
2 teaspoons celery salt (or more to your taste)
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon black pepper (let's not be stingy)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Enough water or chicken stock to not-quite cover the ingredients, this will depend on the size of your pan.

Heat the oil in a pot over high heat, then add the cubed beef that you have dusted with the flour. Brown the meat for five minutes, then throw the rest of the ingredients right in the pot. Cook on low UNCOVERED for at least one hour, stirring gently on occasion. I want you to cook it until it is really thick and dry. You want the juices to look more like gravy than soup. You will get some stuck to the bottom of the pan, which is okay (just soak the pan before you try to scrub it). Let the filling cool down significantly before you stuff your pasties.

Ingredients for the pasty dough:

1 1/2 lbs. all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 oz. cold lard
2 oz. cold butter
8 oz. cold water, or slightly more if your flour is dry

Sift the dry ingredients together with a sifter or just shake them through a strainer, then cut in the cold fats using a pastry cutter or a large fork. 

Add the cold water and mix with your hands. You want to dough to all stick together, if it doesn't, this is when you drizzle extra water if you think you need it, but the dough should be dry and stiff.

Now don't think of this as a pie crust, it's not. You don't want some crumbly thing that won't hold together. At this point, unlike pie crust, you are actually going to knead this hard dough for a minute until it feels smooth-ish instead of chunky and grainy.  Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 30-40 minutes. DON'T SKIP THE REFRIGERATION!

When the pastry is ready, divide it into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out to about a ten inch round circle with your rolling pin. You can lightly dust your board with flour, but this isn't a sticky dough, so you hardly need to. 

Place a nice generous semi-circle shaped blob of filling on one side of each circle, then fold the dough over to cover it. Press the edges together and either mash the edge with a fork to crimp it closed, OR crimp it like the edge of an apple pie (which is what I did), OR roll the edge over and squish the it down so it looks like a rope. Here's a great YouTube video that shows you how to do it: Pasty Crimping

Brush the tops of the pasties with an egg wash, and bake on a cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes, but raise the heat to 350 at the end and cook ten minutes longer to get more color on the top if you like.

Pasties ready for the oven


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carbalicious: Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,
One a penny two a penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One a penny two a penny, hot cross buns!
2 cups warm milk
1 packet yeast
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
5+1 eggs, beaten
6 cups + 1/2 cup white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cream
a few drops of vanilla

Mix the milk, sugar and yeast, and let sit for ten minutes, then add 5 of the beaten eggs and the melted butter.  Next add the flour, salt and spices and mix well with your hands or a dough hook.

Place the sticky dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour. 

Sprinkle the dough with the  last 1/4 cup of flour and knead for several minutes. Divide the dough into 24 rolls and place on a cookie sheet in a warm place to rise until double in size. 

Use the  last beaten egg to brush the tops of the rolls before baking at 375 for 15-20 minutes. They should be light golden brown, if you're not sure, err on the side of underdone rather than overdone. 

Remove the buns from the oven to cool. meanwhile, mix the powdered sugar, cream and vanilla to make a sugar glaze. Put the glaze in a plastic baggie and snip one of the bottom corners off the baggie to make a little glaze dispenser. Squeeze the bag and make a cross shape of the glaze on top of each bun. Serve hot!

Monday, February 11, 2013

February is Carb Month: Blackstrap Bread

There are times when I just have to have bread. Thick and chewy, toasted and buttery, a slice of this blackstrap molasses bread with anise will be yummy to my carb-craving tummy.


2 cups all-purpose white flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons anise seed, plus extra for sprinkling
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses,  I like Aunt Patty's
2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
2 cups warm water
1 packet, or two teaspoons instant yeast

Mix the water, yeast, molasses and oil or butter. Add the flour, anise, cocoa powder and salt and mix well. Knead for one minute, then place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise at least a half hour, up to one hour. Knead the dough another minute or two, then form into a nice round loaf and sprinkle with more anise seed. Place on a baking pan and put in a warm place until it rises to double it's size. My house is always freezing, so I put it in my oven on the very lowest "warm" setting to rise. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes.  Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Serve this toasted with butter and jam for breakfast with Earl Gray tea, or toasted with good egg salad and a cup of frothy Guinness stout for lunch.
Quick Egg Salad: 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped, 2 heaping tablespoons Best Foods or Hellman's mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon celery salt, 2 dashes Tabasco, 1 dash nutmeg, 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped onion or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and a dash of paprika.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rummy Carrots with Bacon

Okay, it's almost recipe-cheating to say, "Here's a really great recipe. It has bacon it it." Bacon is more popular than zombies, steampunk, and saying "nom, nom" instead of "yummy", but unlike those other things, bacon actually deserves the popularity. I do think it's silly to put it in ice cream, but bacon really does wonders for a wide variety of dishes including cooked vegetables.

This a nice little side dish to serve with meat; a colorful and tasty little bed for a roasted chicken leg or a lamp chop to rest on.


6 carrots, sliced thinly
1 slice of your favorite thick bacon, chopped
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon (or more if it needs it) salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon lavender
1 dash pumpkin pie spice
1 dash celery seed
1/3 cup dark spicy rum like Zaya
 juice of 1/4 large lemon (or half a small lemon)
2 tablespoons Uncle Jer's wildflower honey

In a non-stick frying pan, cook the chopped bacon and butter on high until the bacon is nice and crispy. Add all of the spices and the chopped onion, and continue to cook on high for 2-3 minutes. 
 The star of the show, the sliced carrots, go in next. Toss them around in the pan to coat all of slices in the fat and spices. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the rum. If you have a gas stove, you can  just tilt the pan slightly to catch the rum on fire, if your stove is electric please use a LONG match or fireplace lighter and BE CAREFUL! After the flames die down, clap a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes. 

Take the lid off and pour in two tablespoons of honey and squeeze in the 1/4 lemon (I like Meyer lemon for this) and mix. If you don't have lemon, sprinkle in some good vinegar, you just need some acid to balance the sweetness and fat.
Serves 2-3 people

Braised Beef and Lettuce with Dill

Cooked lettuce. It's sweet and lovely. Please don't try to be a lettuce snob and substitute something darker like kale or dandelion greens in this dish. The whole point here is to have mild sweetness- this is a happy, smiley dish. It's a dish to make you feel cozy. You may watch re-runs of Happy Days or Mork and Mindy while you eat this, you may not discuss obscure 19th Century Russian literature or translate the works of Thucydides.


8 ounces of lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes slices in half
1 small head green lettuce, or half of a normal sized one, roughly chopped
1/2 sweet onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons of sherry
1/2 cup warm water
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill (very important)

Over med-high heat, cook your ground beef in the olive oil until it is well browned. Add the sliced onions and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, still on med-high. Add the tomatoes, sherry and water. Let this bubble up, then stir in the dill and lettuce and turn the heat down to a low setting (like a 3) and cook for another 7-10 minutes. 

I took the picture before adding cheese, but if you are a dairy fanatic like I am, you can sprinkle on top a mild soft cheese, a dab of Greek yogurt, or a knob of Irish butter. 

This recipe serves two, with each serving adding up to only 325 calories, assuming you use lean beef and limit yourself to 1 ounce of goat cheese to top each serving. I am not suggesting you count calories, but you have to admit, that's a nice lunch for that caloric price!  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Breakfast With Color, and I Don't Mean Fruit Loops: Eggs & Zucchini

I've been eating toast and cheese, or cereal, for breakfast during my illness, and to be honest it probably made me worse. Today I finally had a good breakfast that left me feeling light and energetic, but had lots of fresh flavor.

If you don't like eggs, just make the same thing and add more zucchini or some mushrooms- and just know that I think you're a little weird.


2 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon (or more) garlic salt
several dashes of black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce of crumbled feta, or whatever sharp cheese you have
2 good quality organic eggs

In a non-stick skillet heat your olive oil on high and add the zucchini and garlic salt. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the savory, a bit of pepper and the tomatoes. Continue to cook on high for another 3-5 minutes, depending on how much you  like your veggies cooked, making sure you stir them around once in a while. 

After the veggies are cooked, add the feta cheese evenly over the top, then crack your eggs over the top as well. Now COVER the pan with a lid or foil, and turn the heat down to low/med-low. On my stove the eggs were done to over medium-ish in four minutes, but you can lift your lid after 3 minutes and poke your yolks gently to see if they are the way you like them. This method  is kind of nice because your eggs are basically steaming, so you don't have to flip them.

Salt and pepper the eggs and serve yourself  right away, with good hot coffee of course, and if you're a bread person I would go with toasted sourdough.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Stew...You Need Some

Well it's been awhile. Between having two different flu viruses and a cold, plus moving, I've been too sick and tired to cook for the past six weeks. I've been eating a lot of street tacos from the little Mexican place down the street, and more Chipotle burritos than is good for anyone. I'm also heartily sick of In-n-Out, and tired of turkey sandwiches. It's about time for some REAL food. 

It doesn't get any more "real" to me than beef stew. 


1 to 1 1/2 pounds of beef (or lamb) stew meat
1/4 cup of some kind of organic flour
1/4 cup of good olive oil or Irish butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped (don't peel them)
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 clove of garlic, whole
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon dried or fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon A1 Sauce
1/2 cup tawny port
1-2 cups of warm water, just enough to cover the ingredients

Cut the stew meat into small even pieces and then toss them in the flour to coat. Heat the oil or butter up in a medium sized pot, and then brown the meat pieces over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes (you don't have to brown them evenly, just get some brown stickiness going on). Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside, and yes, you have to do that. 

Now you can throw in all of the chopped veggies, I like to chop them pretty small so they sort of melt into the stew. Plus I've noticed kids and grown men who are weird about eating cooked vegetables like it better that way. Put the salt and pepper in with the veggies, and cook them, still on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. After about ten minutes, add the tawny port and then let it heat heat up before you add the stew meat and juices back in and turn the heat down to simmer. 

Next, add the warm water, just enough to cover everything, and also add in all of the spices. Cook on a good simmer, on my stove it's about a 2, uncovered, stirring occasionally for at least one hour.  
Use a wooden spoon to stir, I swear it makes it taste better. 

You can cook the stew up to 1 1/2 hours, or even two, but if you go up to 2 hours, turn the heat down to a slow simmer after the first hour. More than two hours will dry the meat out, so don't leave it too long. 

Serve over mashed sweet potatoes (not yams, that would be sort of redundant with all the carrots) or mashed sunchokes.

You're a fool if you don't at least consider drinking a big mug of porter or stout with it. Tonight we're drinking Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout