Thursday, March 31, 2011

The unloved vegetable

Each Wednesday during Lent, our church has a mid-week service at 7pm. And, like all good Lutherans, we use this as an opportunity (excuse) to have a potluck dinner at 5:45pm. I asked my friends at our table "What would you like to see on my blog? I'm looking for inspiration."

"Rutabagas" was the reply. I don't know if they were sincere in their desire to see a recipe for that humble, under-represented vegetable, or if they tossed the name out as a challenge. Whether a joke or an urgent plea, I'm feeling up to the task. Here's my idea for what to do to add rutabagas to the list of hits coming out of your kitchen:

Roasted Root Vegetables

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound rutabagas, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
Position 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Spray 2 heavy large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Combine all remaining ingredients except garlic in very large bowl; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide vegetable mixture between prepared sheets. Place 1 sheet on each oven rack. Roast 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reverse positions of baking sheets. Add 5 garlic cloves to each baking sheet.
Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 45 minutes longer. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Let stand on baking sheets at room temperature. Rewarm in 450°F oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.)
Transfer roasted vegetables to large bowl and then serve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Dear readers. I have so very many ideas bouncing around in my little brain. Although I'm the "diva", this blog isn't about me. I'd like to write what you want to read. Yes, it's carbs. (For goodness sake, what else is there that's of any importance!). But, how to write about them?

Would you like a series of "5 ingredients or less"? "Crock-pot recipes"? "Carbs plus Spring vegetables?" "Low Cal?"

I would soooo much like to get your feedback. Leave a comment. I love hearing from you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

When 1+1+1+1 doesn't equal 4

Photo: Scott Phillips,
Fine Cooking, March 3, 2011
Do you know the history of the pound cake? No, it's not how much you'll gain if you eat a slice (or is it?). Actually the origins of the cake date back to the 1700's in Great Britain. Many people of that time were illiterate--the pound cake could be made without reading a recipe. The four basic ingredients were 1 pound each of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

The website has improved on the original recipe:

Pound Cake
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 Tbs. softened
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8-3/4 oz. (1-1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, slightly firm, plus 1 Tbs. softened
8 oz. (1-3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8-3/4 oz. (1-1/4 cups) superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-3/4-inch loaf pan with the 1 Tbs. softened butter. Line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk thoroughly.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until thickened and lightened in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Clean the bowl of the stand mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix 1 minute longer. Add the sugar 1 to 2 Tbs. at a time, taking about 4 minutes to add it all and scraping the bowl as needed.

Still on medium-low speed, slowly add half of the beaten eggs, taking about 2 minutes to add them. Scrape the bowl as needed and beat for 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the remaining eggs (divide the flour into 3 parts and the eggs into 2 parts), mixing just until each addition is incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium low for 10 seconds more.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the back of a large soup spoon, making sure to reach well into the corners. Bang the pan on the counter two times to remove any air pockets.

Bake the cake until the top is golden-brown, the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a thin wooden skewer inserted slightly off center into the cake (not into the crack) comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of baking, lightly spray a 12-inch strip of aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray and rest it loosely on top of the cake. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

To serve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 1/2-inch slices.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

If I die before my time

Picture of Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes Recipe

My maternal grandmother lived to just a few days before her 93rd birthday. My mom lived to be 90. So, genetically, I think I'm supposed to be here to terrorize my daughters for a long, l-o-n-g time. However, if my years on earth are cut short, it might be because of Ms. Paula Deen.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've never met Paula Deen, and probably never will. BUT, she has the most amazing (i.e. decadent) foods on her website. The one I focused on today was "Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes". I love shrimp, and I love potatoes. Why not combine the two? So I did a Google search, and here's what I found at the top of the list:


  • 6 large Idaho potatoes
  • Vegetable oil, for coating
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and Sauteed
  • Paprika


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Begin by washing potatoes, drying them, and gently pricking them with a fork on the sides. Coat each potato with vegetable oil, place on foil covered pan, and bake for approximately 1 hour.
Place the butter in a large bowl. Remove the potatoes from the oven and slice each potato in half. Gently scoop out the potato and place in the bowl. Using a mixer on high, mix the potatoes, butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Fold the shrimp and both cheeses into the mixture. Gently stuff the mixture back into the potato shells, making sure not to break them. Pile the mixture as high as you can on top of the potato shells. Sprinkle each potato with cheese and paprika for color. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes until browned on top.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Remember Mama


With the title of this post, I'm probably more than showing my age. "I Remember Mama" was a play written in 1944, adapted to the silver screen in 1948 in a movie starring Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes, Edgar Bergen, and Rudy Vallee. It was the story of a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910.

No, we weren't Norwegian, nor did we enter this country in 1910. (My mom was born in 1908, a first-generation German Russian. Her mother and father lived in Montana and worked a sugar-beet field.) But yesterday I wrote with a bit of nostalgia about my mom's biscuits. My older sister Marilynn saw my post and came to the rescue. She has Mom's recipe. Here it is for you:

Mom's Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp sugar
½ cup shortening

Mix until coarse crumbs. Add 2/3 cup milk at once. Knead gently. Bake 450 degrees 10-12 minutes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yes, it's a little corny


My mom made the most amazing biscuits--and not with dry mix from a box or dough "popped" out of a can. She didn't measure her ingredients--she didn't need to. She used the same mixing bowl every time and just knew by memory or instinct exactly how it should look.

Try as I might, I've never been able to replicate Mom's recipe. But I've found several recipes over the years that are pretty good. Mom always served her baking powder biscuits with beef stew--I don't remember ever having them at breakfast, or with any other type of entree--just beef stew. I like to experiment with different flavors by mixing in herbs or spices, cheese, dried and fresh fruits, or using different types of flours (whole wheat, graham, rye).

Cooks Country TV recently experimented with Cornmeal Biscuits in their test kitchen. These biscuits are soft and light, and have a great cornmeal taste and "chew" without being gritty. They go great with chili, or tomato soup, or even for breakfast with a drizzle of honey. Granted, these are a far cry from simple baking powder biscuits, but I think Mom would approve.

Cornmeal Biscuits 
Makes 12 biscuits.  

If you don’t have buttermilk, whisk 1 tablespoon lemon juice into 1¼ cups of milk and let it stand until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Avoid coarsely ground cornmeal, which makes gritty biscuits.


1cup cornmeal 
1 1/4cups buttermilk
1tablespoon honey
2cups all-purpose flour 
1tablespoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1teaspoon salt
12tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled


  • 1. SOAK CORNMEAL Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk cornmeal,
    buttermilk, and honey in large bowl; let sit 10 minutes. 

  • 2. PROCESS DOUGH Pulse flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add to bowl with buttermilk mixture and stir until dough forms.

  • 3. KNEAD Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 8 to 10 times. Pat dough into 9-inch circle, about ¾ inch thick. Using 2½-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds (dipping cutter in flour after each cut) and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Gather remaining dough and pat into ¾-inch-thick circle. Cut rounds from dough and transfer to baking sheet.

  • 4. BAKE Bake until biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes more. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature. (Biscuits can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)

  • Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Saint Pietro

    You might be wondering "Who is Saint Pietro"? Well, he's not really a saint. As far as I know he didn't perform any miracles, but Pietro Ferrero was the founder and chairman of the Italian company Ferrero SpA--creators of Ferrero Rocher, Pocket Coffee, and (best of all) Nutella.

    Mmmm, Nutella. A perfect, creamy blend of cocoa and hazelnuts. Originally made as a spread for toast, but clever cooks have elevated it far above such a humble assignment.

    There are quite a few recipes for Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart on the internet, but my favorite to date is the one that was published in the March 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine--Italian!

    Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart
    For the Crust:
    1/2 cup blanched hazelnuts
    1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt
    6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    1 large egg, beaten
    1/2 tsp. vanilla

    For the Filling:
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 cups heavy cream
    3/4 cup Nutella
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/8 tsp. salt

    1. Make the Crust. Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Transfer 1/3 cup nuts to a food processor. Add the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Drizzle in the egg and vanilla; pulse until the dough starts to come together.
    2. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Coarsely chop the remaining hazelnuts and reserve.
    3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom,then trim the excess dough. prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
    4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
    Meanwhile, make the filling.
    1. Whisk the cornstarch into 1/4 cup cream in a bowl. Combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups cream, the Nutella, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and scraping the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. Once the mixture starts to boil, stir constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour into the crust and swirl the top. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Top with the the reserved hazelnuts.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Pizza Pronto

    If you do a Google search on the history of pizza, you will learn that it has been in existence for centuries--probably as soon as flour and water were mixed and baked on a hot stone. I love pizza--it's probably one of the most flexible meals you can prepare--you can make just a little (enough for one person) our pizza for a crowd. And the list of possible toppings is limited only by your imagination.

    The following pizza is super quick because the base (bread) is a flour tortilla. If you don't like chorizo, you could substitute ground beef, ground turkey, or even veggie crumbles to make it a vegetarian meal.

    Chorizo Topped Mexican Pizza
    • 8  oz.  chorizo sausage
    • 1  cup  deli-fresh chunky salsa with corn and beans
    •     Nonstick cooking spray
    • 4  7 - to 8-inch  flour tortillas
    • 1  cup  shredded Mexican cheese blend (4 oz.)
    • 1    avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced
    • 4    green onions, chopped
    • 1/4  cup  snipped fresh cilantro


    1. Preheat broiler. In large skillet crumble and cook chorizo over medium heat until no pink remains. Drain in colander. In small saucepan heat salsa over medium heat until heated through.

    2. Lightly coat large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange tortillas, two at time, on baking sheet; top each with one-fourth the cheese. Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top each pizza with one-fourth the warm salsa, cooked chorizo, avocado, green onions, and cilantro. Pass lime wedges. Makes 4 servings.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Sweet and Savory

    Sweet Bacon and Pear Pizza

    I've found that no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to squeeze more than 24 hours into a day. When the to-do list spins out of control, sometimes one place to save a few minutes is in dinner preparation. My family always enjoys pizza, and I'm blessed that they are adventurous enough to try flavor pairings out of the ordinary. I'm going to try this one tonight and see what happens:

    Sweet Bacon and Pear Pizza


    •     Nonstick cooking spray
    • 5  slices  bacon
    • 1/4  cup  packed brown sugar
    • 1/4  tsp.  chili powder
    • 1    pear, cored and sliced
    • 1  tsp.  lemon juice
    • 1/2  of an 8-oz. tub  cream cheese
    • 1/4  cup  chopped green onions
    • 1  12-inch  Italian bread shell (Boboli)
    • 1/3  cup  chopped pecans
    • 1/3  cup  crumbled feta cheese
    • 1/4  cup  fresh basil


    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line bottom of rimmed baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Arrange bacon slices on pan; set aside. In small bowl stir together brown sugar and chili powder. Generously sprinkle brown sugar mixture on bacon slices. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned; remove and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

    2. In small bowl toss together pear slices and lemon juice; set aside. In medium bowl stir together cream cheese, onions, and black pepper to taste. Place pizza crust on clean baking sheet. Spread cream cheese mixture on crust. Chop bacon and evenly sprinkle on cheese mixture. Arrange pear slices on bacon. Top with pecans and feta cheese.

    3. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. Sprinkle with basil.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Where is Spring?

    Picture of Low-Cal Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe
    Photo by Andrew McCaul,
    courtesy Food Network Magazine

    Today is the first full day of Spring, but one look outside tells me that winter still has us in its ugly grasp. The wind is blowing, it's cold and rainy. A few more weeks of hibernation are probably in order. I had planned to share some "rejoicing in Springtime" recipes, but I think a warm, comfort casserole would be more appropriate.

    I found this recipe in my March 2011 issue of Food Network magazine. It's easy, it's cheesy, and it's light. What's not to love?!

    Low-Cal Fettuccine Alfredo
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup low-fat (2%) milk
    • Kosher salt
    • 2 tablespoons Neufchtel or low-fat cream cheese
    • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 12 ounces fresh fettuccine
    • Freshly ground pepper
    Make the sauce: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook until the garlic is slightly soft, about 1 minute. Add in the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon,1 minute. Whisk in the milk and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the Neufchatel and parmesan cheese; whisk until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the chopped parsley.

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and return to the pot.

    Add the sauce and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and gently toss to combine, adding more cooking water as needed to loosen. Season with salt. Divide among bowls and top with parmesan and pepper.

    Per serving: Calories 490; Fat 15 g (Saturated 8 g); Cholesterol 48 mg; Sodium 734 mg; Carbohydrate 66 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 20 g

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Mary had a little lamb (and potatoes and carrots and....)


    Photo: Tina Rupp,


    Have you ever heard of Shepherd's pie? Shepherd's pie is, simply put, leftovers--reinvented with a bit of necessity and a healthy measure of frugality. 

    In years gone by, Sunday dinner centered around a roast. On Monday, you ate roast again, but cold this time. Tuesday the leftovers were chopped/minced finely and reinvented as "pie". (And after that dinners for the remainder of the week went decidedly downhill).

    Shepherd's pie was so named because the meat used was lamb (or probably mutton). But now it can contain any type of meat.


    Shepherds Pie

    • 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
    • 1/2  cup  milk
    • 2  tablespoons  unsalted butter
    • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
    • 4  cups  ground beef or ground turkey*
    • 1  large carrot, chopped (1 cup)
    • 1  celery stalk, sliced (1 cup)
    • 2  tablespoons  flour
    • 2  cups  chicken broth
    • 1/2  cup  frozen peas
    • 2 cups sliced mushroom
    Heat oven to 400 F. In a saucepan, gently heat mashed potatoes and milk, stirring occasionally, until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Set aside.

    Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. (If using leftover meatloaf you don't need to cook and brown for 5-7 minutes. Just a minute or two to heat is sufficient).

    Add carrot and celery, and cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle in flour, stir, then add chicken broth. Simmer 3 minutes and remove from heat. Add peas and mushrooms. Spoon into an ovenproof casserole and top with the mashed potatoes. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes.

    *In place of ground meat you can substitute 4 cups of chopped leftover roast or meatloaf

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    There's more to St. Patrick's Day than corned beef and cabbage!


    Tomorrow begins the first of a series of budget meetings for the next fiscal year at my church. In addition to preparing the first draft budget and assembling the handouts for the committee members, I've volunteered to provide dinner--I think everyone works better with a happy (full) tummy.

    And since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, the theme will be Irish recipes. I'll be bringing my "world-famous" colcannon. And for dessert, something dense and fudgey.

    I found this recipe at

    Irish Whiskey Cake

    3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
    1 box chocolate cake mix
    1 4-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup milk
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup Irish whiskey
    >> Glaze:
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 cup water
    1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
    1/4 cup Irish whiskey

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt or tube pan. Sift flour or cocoa powder into pan and shake to distribute evenly. Pour out excess. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan.
    Combine cake and pudding mix in a large mixing bowl. Stir in oil and milk to moisten. Add eggs and beat. Slowly add whiskey and beat until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

    Meanwhile, make glaze: Combine sugar and water in saucepan; bring to a boil. Add butter and stir to melt. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey. Cool slightly, then pour into squeeze bottle.

    Remove cake from oven. While cake is still hot, insert nozzle of squeeze bottle into the bottom of cake and inject glaze. Repeat at several points around cake, using up half the glaze. (If you don't have a squeeze bottle, poke holes into bottom of cake and pour glaze over holes). Let cake rest 5 minutes, then unmold.

    Pour remaining glaze over top of cake.

    Variations: If you prefer a non-chocolate cake, use yellow cake mix and vanilla pudding instead of chocolate. For a nuttier cake, add 1/4 cup chopped nuts into batter.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    There's a spotted dog in my kitchen

     Photo © 2009 Peter Cassidy,
    Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen
    Did you miss me? Last week my husband, older daughter, and I went to Orlando, Florida to visit Disneyworld. We had a wonderful time, perfect weather, and uneventful flights to and back. We returned Saturday evening just in time to turn the clocks ahead one hour. And I found a full mailbox and 109 emails awaiting my return.

    Needless to say, the past 48 hours have been a frantic game of catch-up, but life is now starting to settle back into normal (whatever that is), and it's time to start playing in the kitchen once again.
    This week we all wear a bit'o the green, so I'm going to share with you some Saint Patrick's Day recipes.

    Darina Allen is the author of a wonderful cookbook, "Forgotten Skills of Cooking". Her story about Irish Soda bread is told so very well; there is no way I could improve on it, so I am sharing her words below:

    During my childhood, many people in the country were poor, and their daily staple would have been wholemeal bread. White flour was more expensive than brown, so white soda bread was considered to be more luxurious—a treat for special occasions.

    At times of the year when work was harder, such as at harvest or threshing, or maybe on a Sunday when visitors were expected, the woman of the house would add a bit of sugar and a fistful of dried fruit and an egg to the white bread to make it a bit more special. Nowadays, this does not seem such a big deal but back then any money that the woman of the house got from selling her eggs was considered to be her “pin money,” used for little luxuries such as hatpins. Putting an egg into the bread was one egg less that she could sell, so it actually represented much more than it would for us today.

    This bread was called Spotted Dog, and when it was still warm, she’d wrap it in a tea towel and bring it out to the fields with hot sweetened tea in whiskey bottles wrapped in newspaper or cloth to insulate them. The farm workers would put down their tools and sit with their backs to the haystacks. She’d cut the bread into thick slices and slather on yellow country butter. My memories of sitting down with them are still vivid.
    —Darina Allen

    Here is her recipe, as published in her book:

    4 cups white flour, preferably unbleached, plus  more for the work surface
    1 level teaspoon baking soda
    1 level teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons sugar
    3 ounces sultanas or golden raisins, more if you’d like
    1 organic egg
    1 1/2  to 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (see “A Note About Buttermilk” below)
    Butter and jam or Cheddar cheese, for serving

    Method1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

    2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Add the salt, sugar, and sultanas. Mix the ingredients by lifting the flour and fruit up into your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air, and therefore more lightness, to your finished bread.

    3. Now make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Break the egg into a measuring cup and gently stir it. Add enough buttermilk to reach the 1 3/4 cup line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement) and combine. Pour most of this buttermilk mixture into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, combine the ingredients, moving your hand in a full circle, drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl and adding more of the buttermilk mixture if necessary. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky. The trick with Spotted Dog, like all soda breads, is not to overmix the dough. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.

    4. Wash and dry your hands. With floured fingers, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds—just enough to tidy it up. Then pat the dough into a round about 2 1/2 inches high. Transfer it to a baking sheet dusted lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross in the center, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread.

    5. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom. It will sound hollow when it is done. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg would brown too fast at a higher heat.

    6. Serve the freshly baked bread warm, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with Cheddar cheese. Soda breads are best eaten on the day they are made, but are still good for a day or so more. They also make great toast.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    So wacky it just might work!

    Eggs on Potato Chips
    Photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy; Styling Karen Shinto
    Sunset Magazine
    When my girls were growing up, I was working full-time (and then-some) outside of the home. Nevertheless, we rarely if ever had fast-food or home-delivery pizza. Some evenings I relied on my slow-cooker, other times it was the pressure-cooker, or something I had made the previous weekend and stashed in the freezer. And then sometimes it was "breakfast for dinner".
    I think "breakfast for dinner" was always the favorite. Why reserve pancakes, waffles, or french toast for breakfast only? If they're good enough for start-of-the-day, why not for last meal?

    But, while those things were always on the top of the list for my girls, I've always preferred "savory" rather than "sweet". So, once in a while I would slip in a breakfast casserole--something with potatoes, eggs, maybe some cheese.

    I found this recipe in my June 2008 issue of Sunset magazine. Honestly, I've never tried it. Sounds a little wacka-doodle to me, but who just might work!

    Eggs on Potato Chips
    1 1/2 tsp olive oil
    1 1/2 tsp. butter
    1 small onion, minced
    1 small clove garlic, minced and then mashed into a paste with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    1/2 tsp. finely shredded fresh ginger
    2 or 3 fresh serrano chiles, finely chopped
    1/2 cup rough-chopped cilantro
    4 large handfuls of plain potato chips*
    4 eggs

    Heat butter in a sturdy, well-seasoned medium frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown. Stir in garlic paste, ginger, and chiles. Stir for a moment or two, then add cilantro. Crumble in chips, tossing or stirring the contents of the pan to combine them thoroughly.

    *use good-quality chips--medium- to thick-sliced. Low or no-salt would be a good option.

    Make 4 depressions in the surface of the potato-chip mixture—they don't need to be perfect hollows—and crack an egg into each. Pour 1 tbsp. water down the inside edge of the pan to generate some steam. Cover skillet tightly and reduce heat to low. Let eggs steam just long enough to set whites (6 to 8 minutes; gently touch one with a spoon to see if it's done the way you'd like).

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    It's the weekend!

    Artichoke and Goat Cheese Strata
    Photo: John Autry; Styling: Shapiro Levine
    Cooking Light Magazine
    I love the idea of brunch. A leisurely mid-morning meal--too late to be called breakfast, but not quite ready to be lunch. Supposedly the time for creamy, savory, crispy, rich, indulgent (not health?) foods.

    Have I ever had brunch? Hmmm, not for a long, long time. But, if I ever had time to "do" brunch, this is one of the things I'd eat:





    Artichoke and Goat Cheese Strata


    • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
    • 1/2  cup  finely chopped shallots (about 1 large)
    • 1  (10-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
    • 2  garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2  teaspoon  dried herbes de Provence
    • 1 3/4  cups  1% low-fat milk
    • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
    • 4  large eggs
    • 1/3  cup  (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    • 1/2  (1-pound) loaf country-style white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
    • Cooking spray
    • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese, divided


    1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in artichoke hearts and garlic; cook for 8 minutes or until artichoke hearts begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in herbes de Provence. Cool 10 minutes.

    2. Combine milk, black pepper, salt, and eggs in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bread; toss gently to combine. Stir in artichoke mixture, and let stand for 20 minutes.

    3. Preheat oven to 375°.

    4. Spoon half of bread mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of goat cheese, and top with remaining bread mixture. Sprinkle remaining half of goat cheese over top. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Pizza--a whole new spin (Part 5)

    Picture of Thanksgiving Pizza Recipe
    Photo: Con Poulos, Food Network

     OK, for the past four days I have presented some "unique" pizzas. Yesterday, one of my friends remarked "I haven't seen anything that I wouldn't want to try. Nothing that makes me say yuck!"

    Well, this one is just odd enough that it might elicit a yuck, or perhaps it's simply genius. I don't know. I haven't tried it. But it's creator is Duff Goldman, the "Ace of Cakes" (Food Network).

    Duff (Jeffrey) Goldman studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. He started working for acclaimed Baltimore Chef Cindy Wolf while attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After graduating, Duff left Baltimore to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif. Duff left California to become Executive Pastry Chef of the Vail Cascade Hotel and Resort in the mountains of Vail, Colo. There, he worked with such notable chefs as Jessie Llapitan, now Executive Chef of the Houstonian in Houston, Texas, and Chef Jason Rogers, late of Olives in Aspen and now at the Borgata of Atlantic City. Duff then left Colorado to bake bread for Todd English's Olives in Washington, D.C., where he worked under Executive Chef Steve Mannino. Duff left Olives in 2000 when he came back to Baltimore to open Charm City Cakes.

    Duff is very creative and talented. He's an aritist, and in his spare time a musician. But can he make a pizza that you are willing to try? Tell me what you think.

    Thanksgiving Pizza 


    • 1 pound pizza dough
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting
    • 1 teaspoon cornmeal
    • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 3/4 cup mashed potatoes
    • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 2 teaspoons whole milk
    • 1 cup prepared stuffing
    • 1 roasted turkey or chicken thigh, with skin
    • 1/4 cup chunky cranberry sauce
    • 1/4 cup gravy


    Put a pizza stone or upside-down baking sheet in the oven; preheat to 500 degrees F. Stretch the pizza dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface. Dust a pizza peel or upside-down baking sheet with 1/2 teaspoon cornmeal and put the dough on top. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornmeal. Slide onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet and bake until golden on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes.

    Meanwhile, mix the mashed potatoes with 1/4 cup cheese and the milk in a bowl; set aside. Roll tablespoonfuls of the stuffing into 1-inch balls to look like meatballs. Shred the turkey meat and julienne the skin.

    Slide the crust back onto the peel. Spread the cheddar mashed potatoes over the crust, then top with the shredded turkey. Spoon the cranberry sauce over the pizza and drizzle with the gravy. Arrange the stuffing balls on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the turkey skin.

    Return the pizza to the oven and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 more minutes.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Pizza--a whole new spin (Part 4)

    I've recently stumbled upon a new blog -- I found the genesis for today's recipe on Dara Michalski's blog and then added a little of this and a touch of that to make it my own. If you've never eaten brie, this might be a good introduction. If you love brie, you'll love this pizza. And, if you have hated brie.......well, this could change your mind.

    Brie, Apple and Caramelized Onion Pizza
    2 tbsp olive oil, divided
    3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced thinly into semicircles
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    1/2 cup water, divided
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp kosher salt, divided
    1 lb of pizza dough
    Flour for rolling dough
    One large sweet apple (Golden Delicious or Cameo) thinly sliced
    8 slices (4 oz.) Brie cheese

    Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in brown sugar. Cover and cook until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan again and cook until the onions are deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and an additional 1/4 cup water. Cover the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

    Roll out dough to about 1/8-inch thickness to cover a 15-inch pizza pan.

    Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread 2/3 of the caramelized onions over the dough and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and arrange apple, Brie cheese and remaining carmelized onions on top.

    Return the pizza to the oven and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and crisp to the touch (careful - it's hot!) Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

    Makes 8 large or 16 small wedges.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Pizza--a whole new spin (Part 3)

    Photo by Noel Bamhurst, Bon Appetit March 2007
    What do the movies "Barbarella",
    "Three Days of the Condor", "Dune", and "U-571" have in common with the photo to the left?

    All of them were produced by Dino De Laurentiis, and this beautiful chocolate-chocolate-chocolate pizza was produced by his granddaughter, Giadda De Laurentiis.

    Giadda was born in Rome, Italy but raised in southern California. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and then returned to the United States where she worked as a professional chef and food stylist. She was contacted by the Food Network after one of her styling pieces appeared in Food and Wine Magazine. Her cooking program, Everyday Italian, has been broadcast on the Food Network since 2003.

    This recipe is on the Food Network website.

    1 pound homemade pizza dough
    2 teaspoons butter, melted
    1/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
    1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    2 tablespoons milk
    chocolate chips
    2 tablespoons
    white chocolate chips
    2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted

    Position the oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.

    Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough to a 9-inch-diameter round. Transfer the dough
     to the prepared baking sheet. Using your fingers, make indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough with butter, then bake until the crust is crisp and pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. Immediately spread the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the pizza then sprinkle all the chocolate chips over. Bake just until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the pizza. Cut into wedges and serve. 

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Pizza--a whole new spin (Part 2)

    Photo from Wikipedia

    Yesterday I told you about Rebar, an imaginative, innovative restaurant in Victoria, B.C. Another pizza they have devised is equally amazing. The name "pizza verde" means green pizza. Green pizza? Really? No, this isn't a Dr. Seuss tale. It's a southwestern-flavored pizza with green tomatillo sauce.

    Pizza Verde
    1 pound pizza dough
    2 tablespoons cornmeal
    tomatillo-cilantro salsa (see below)
    1 lb. oyster mushrooms
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    balsamic vinegar
    6 Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and sliced (see below)
    2 bulbs roasted garlic (see below)
    1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
    3 cups grated Jack cheese
    1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

    Place the dough on an oiled 15-inch pizza pan that has been dusted with cornmeal.

    Separate the oyster mushrooms from the main stem and slice the larger ones in half. Heat olive oil in a skillet; add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Saute several minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook until the mushrooms are golden. Deglaze the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cook until it evaporates and then set the mushrooms aside.

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Paint the pizza dough with tomatillo salsa to cover the surface; sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with mushrooms, roasted garlic, chile slices and tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake the pizza on the bottom rack for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden and cheese melted. Serve with chopped cilantro sprinkled over top.

    Tomatillo-cilantro salsa
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 small yellow onion, minced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 tsp. salt
    3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
    24 oz can tomatillos, drained
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    1 tsp. sugar
    1 tsp. salt

    Heat olive in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic, salt, and chilies and saute until the garlic is lightly golden. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. Prepare the remaining ingredients and combine them in the bowl of a food processor along with the cooled onion mixture. Pulse to desired consistency. Season to taste and served within 3 days.

    Roasted Peppers
    4 sweet peppers (or chiles)

    There are 3 ways to roast peppers, depending on your equipment--a brabecue, gas stove, or regular oven. On the flame of a barbecue or gas stove roast the peppers whole until the skins are charred and blistered, using a set of tongs to turn the peppers over to expose all surfaces. Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Remove wrap, cool slightly, and peel away the seared skins.

    Alternatively, to oven roast, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve and seed the peppers. Place them cut-side down on an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until the skins puff up and blister (about 15 minutes). Proceed as with flame-roasted peppers.

    Whole roasted garlic
    2 garlic bulbs
    2 tsp. olive oil
    pinch of salt
    pinch of cracked pepper

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, slide the top off the garlic bulb, just enough to expose the tops of the garlic flesh. Center each bulb on a square piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and spinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the bulbs securely and pop them into the oven.

    After 45 minutes you should start to smell the sweet roasting aroma, but depending on the size of your bulb, it may need a bit more time. Test by slipping the sharp point of a paring knife into one of the cloves. If it slides in effortlessly, or the bulbs are starting to poke out of their skins, then the garlic is ready to serve.