Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Feasting

Lest you think, my dear and faithful readers, that I only report on my picture perfect successes in cooking.
I've had some amusing (after the fact) kitchen challenges this holiday season.
I bought some nice cornish game hens on sale and thought it would be a lovely dinner for the night I finally had everyone back under one roof. I found a recipe for some wild rice with mushroom stuffing for the game hens and started in on making the stuffing.

When I went to get the games hens washed and ready I found I had mistakenly put them in the freezer instead of the refrigerator! After I got over how mad I was at myself, I started the rounds of defrosting them in the microwave. I needed a lot of patience. It finally worked and then I used my convection oven so they ended up cooking up nicely. Whew!
Then came Christmas Eve. I decided to make this wonderful looking coconut cake with fluffy icing.
First I made the lemon curd filling. It needed to refrigerate for a couple of hours, which I did...
But when I went to put the layers together, the lemon curd wasn't firm enough so it dripped off of the cake layers and the layers started sliding off of each other. Nothing some wooden skewers coulded help!
I frosted around the skewers and the cake tasted good. However the recipe left off some ingredients in the frosting too. It needs a cup of sugar and 1t. vanilla.
I renamed it 'The Snowball Cake' and when I make it again I will refrigerate the lemon curd overnight.
Not to be out done, my dad used the handy dandy skewers to hold our Christmas Eve lamb together too!
We had some hardy laughs, but ate very well.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Food Gifts

I finally finished my food basket gifts for family. Including some pistachio, berry and chocolate biscotti.
And granola.
New this year, is this dry chimichurri rub.
We have an annual neighborhood holiday progressive dinner. We hosted cocktails this year so I served  champagne cocktails with a splash of the cranberry orange vodka, garnished with the vodka soaked cranberries.
For a non alcoholic choice and for the children I love to make  punch. I started making punch years ago when I inherited this lovely punch bowl from my grandmother. Punch seems a bit retro these days.
I make this with a bottle of cranberry juice, a big can of pineapple juice, 2 cups of ginger ale, 2 cups of seltzer. And it's nice to make a pretty ice block to keep it cold.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Food Gifts

I've been hard at work on my holiday food gifts.
 This year's liquor is cranberry orange vodka from Michael Chiarello.
You start with cranberries, sugar, and vanilla, heating them for about 6 minutes until they start to get juicy.
After they cool, put them in a jar with orange peels and cover with vodka.
Let it sit covered in a cool place (my basement fits the bill) for about one week.
Then strain into bottles. This is soooooo much easier than my lemoncello endeavor last year. Zesting all of those lemons about killed me.
Besides looking beautiful it's delicious. I already served it for a gathering, putting an ounce or two in a champagne flute, filling it with champagne or prosecco and garnishing with the vodka soaked cranberries. So festive!!
It can also be served with tonic.

This is a curry lentil soup in a jar.
And as usual, there are my jam's from summer canning.
This year I made balsamic strawberry jam, strawberry syrup, and raspberry jam.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food Storage

I am loving my new food storage system. I've always just had a set of plastic/tupperware type containers. Over the past year I started picking up different glass storage containers from Marshalls or Tuesday Morning. I even have a few from antique stores with the glass top, like my grandmothers used. Then I saw a set advertised at Big Lots by Anchor Hocking. For $20 you can get a 20 piece set.
You can freeze them or put them in the oven. We use them for leftovers all of the time and they heat up food perfectly in the microwave, and they are not plastic! (Just the tops are). They stack nicely in the refrigerator too.
I'm so crazy about them I'm even giving a set for Christmas. (Hope you're not reading this Dad!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey Talk

Turkey terminology has changed. When I went to buy our turkey this year, I saw the abundance of fresh turkeys. That used to be all of the frozen turkeys. They seemed quite hard (frozen) so I asked the butcher if they were previously frozen. He said they keep them at temperatures down to 32º but were considered fresh, never frozen. Then I noticed the butterballs and store brands were injected with the solutions just like the frozen ones used to be. It seems like they've just changed the wording on them  since more customers want "fresh" birds. 
I explained I wanted to brine my bird so I didn't want one already injected with some solution.
I finally found this beautiful 20 lb. Bell & Evans bird, on sale.
For brining this year, it fit so nicely in my canning pot. I used a premixed brining solution from World Market, covered it with water and brined it for 24 hours.
Once it was rinsed really well and roasted for 4 hours, she was a beauty. I think one of the moistest turkey's I've ever cooked.

Happy Turkey Day!

Friday, November 19, 2010


I made Mark an Indian feast for his birthday.
 We started with Mangopolitans, using mango vodka(2oz.), regular vodka (1oz.), mango nectar or puree (2T.) and fresh lime juice (2T.).
For starters I made the Samosas I blogged about in Feb.
Then the curry shrimp I've been making for years and he loves. It's such a good recipe I got from one of Ruth Reichl's books. It can easily be doubled and you can adjust the heat depending the kind of curry powder you use.
 Then I tried a vegetable dish from southern India I learned at my friend Kumud's cooking class.
You can use any variety of vegetables so I used butternut squash, potatoes, green beans and peas.
A recipe for Avial.
I also made basmati rice, but not the way the Indian cookbooks and rice packages suggest. They boil the basmati rice in lots of water like pasta and then drain it, steam it and fluff it. I cooked it the regular way with no time for failure in the rice department.
A really great addition to the meal and my favorite new thing was this green chutney.
I don't have a picture but here's the recipe. Great to dip the naan in.
Green Chutney
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1-2 hot green chilis (serrano)
2 cloves garlic
4-6 Tbsp. water
1tsp. salt
1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
10 cashews
Blend all of the above in a blender until ground to a smooth paste.

For dessert I made toasted coconut icecream and mango sorbet. They were served with ginger cookies.
I was too busy to take many pictures but it was a really fun meal so I hope I've inspired you to put on some bollywood music and get your curry cooking going!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie?

I know it sounds contradictory but hear me out. I was checking in on some of the food blogs I follow, which have links towards the bottom of my page. One of them is Molly Wizenburg's blog Orangette.
Her book 'A Homemade Life' is a fun read too. Anyway her latest entry is about this whole wheat chocolate chip recipe. I wasn't that intrigued until she mentioned that they taste a bit like digestive biscuits. I've had quite a thing for digestive biscuits for years. I keep them in my car so when I'm driving home and am so hungry I start looking around for kid snack droppings, I can take the edge off with a not so sweet biscuit. So because of that comparison I was compelled to give them a try. I used  White Whole Wheat Flour like she recommended. I think regular whole wheat would make them quite dense.
They are yummy! (And do I dare say "good for you too!")

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apple Season

We eat a lot of apples in our house, so apple season makes me very happy. There are a lot of wonderful orchards near where we live in Charlottesville to buy local apples and even pick your own. There's Carter Mountain, Drumheller's Orchard, Chile's Orchard and many more. My mom brought me some wonderful apples from Flippin-Seaman Inc, so I made some applesauce. I forgot how wonderful it is and  just how quick and easy it is to make. I don't have a food mill so I peeled and cored them first.
After they cooked down I mashed them with my potato masher and then hit them with the immersion blender briefly. Add what ever spices you like. I put cinnamon, ginger, cloves and a little brown sugar and lemon juice. It freezes well too.
 So grab some fabulous fall apples and make some amazing applesauce!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hachis Parmentier

This week's recipe from Dorie Greenspan's new book is for hachis parmentier. It's similar to a British shepards pie. I followed her recipe exactly, which used beef chuck and sausage but in looking around the internet it seems it's commonly made with lamb and other kinds of minced meat.
I assembled the first set of ingredients to cook with the beef.
After adding the sausage, that all goes in the baking dish and then it's topped with mashed potatoes, sprinkled with cheese and dotted with butter.
It bakes for 30 minutes and it's made to be brought right to the table.
It got two thumbs up from the whole family and really is the ultimate Fall/Winter comfort dish. It tastes like a warm hug.
I can see how easy this would be to make with any kind of left over meat. The recipe is a keeper.
The only down side is the amount of pots needed (one for the beef and broth, one for the sausage, one for boiling the potatoes and then the baking dish. That never seems to deter me though!

I mentioned my friend the chocolatier (Michele Sanders) recently and then received a box of her amazing chocolates as a gift from someone else. I don't know if you can order them on line yet but I think you can buy them if you visit their beautiful new winery, Glass House Winery in Free Union VA.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

Week two for me with French Fridays with Dorie. The assignment, Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. It was much easier than I imagined, but I did take a short cut. Since I already had some ground spices on hand, I used them instead of the whole spice or seeds. For instance, the recipe called for two points of a star anise, coriander seeds, and white peppercorns. I had ground anise, ground coriander and ground white pepper so I used that instead. Shown here with my fish sauce.

 Otherwise very straight forward recipe. Just a yummed up version of chicken noodle soup. Next time I get a cold, I'm making this. I wanted it a little spicier so I put a dab of thai red curry paste in my bowl.
I got my chinese egg noodles and ginger from C'ville Oriental. Look at how fresh and plump their ginger is.
And if, like me, you're wondering, 'why is Vietnamese soup in a French cookbook'?
Since Vietnam was a French colony years ago, there is still a big influence of Vietnamese food. Lucky French!
The book again is Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.

Friday, October 8, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie Greenspan

If you've ever clicked around from my blog list, other people's blogs that I follow, you may have checked out Dorie Greenspan. She's written many cookbooks and always has a lot of great information on her blog. She just came out with a gorgeous new cookbook called 'Around My French Table". The pictures are beautiful and most of the recipes have a wonderful story behind them. It doesn't seem like complicated french food, just lots of basics you can feed a family or entertain with. I think it is such a bargain from Amazon for $25 plus free shipping.
To tie in with the release of her new book she's doing French Fridays with Dorie. You sign in and then make the chosen recipe of the week and everyone blogs or comments on their experience on fridays. So this is my first week and the recipe was Gerard's Mustard Tart.
I was a little surprised the tart crust has an egg in it, but it was a great crust. The tart has dijon and whole grain mustard in it.
Here's my tart before it went in the oven.
And when it was done!
I thought is was really wonderful, especially the crust. I served it with a salad and a chilled glass of white wine. Sitting in my back yard on this warm night I was transported to France.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flank Steak

Flank steaks freeze well, so it's a great thing to pull out of your freezer when you don't have other dinner plans. I've been tweaking this marinade and am finally really pleased with the results. I think it makes all the difference to let it marinate all day. If your steak is frozen, defrost it overnight, then mix up the marinade in the morning, pour it into a ziplock bag with the meat. Leave in the refrigerator all day.

1/2 cup soy sauce (I usually use reduced sodium)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
lots of crushed garlic
lots of grated fresh ginger root
1 T. honey
lots of fresh ground pepper

Take the flank steak out of the marinade and sprinkle it generously with coarse salt and pepper. Then grill it! Let it rest and then slice it really thin across the grain. mmmmm..........

I have a friend who is a chocolatier. She makes absolutely beautiful and delicious chocolates and took special classes to learn her craft. I asked her about her favorite brand of chocolate to use, and she said she likes Callebaut as in Barry Callebaut chocolate. They have great prices on it at C'ville Market.
They also sell it at King Arthur Flour.
It comes in various size bags and they have unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet. I use my little kitchen scale to weight out the ounces needed in a recipe. I've been having great results so far.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mexican Salsa

At Kumud's Mexican cooking class they made two salsas. First up was;
 Tomatillo Salsa con Aquacate
1 lb. tomatillos, husked and washed
2 cups of water
4 jalapeno and/or serrano peppers washed
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tsp. salt
3 ripe avocados diced

Cook the tomatillos and peppers for 10 minutes in boiling water. Grind them with onion, garlic and salt in food processor (adding water as needed). Transfer to a serving bowl and add the avocados and cilantro.
Next was the;
 Salsa Macha
1/2 cup dried red chiles ( Chile di Arbol)
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp. salt
1/4 dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil (safflower)

That's what the chile arbol look like in the bag when you buy them. Also pictured is the epazote used in the authentic tasting refried black beans.

 To prepare the salsa macha, toast the chiles in the heated oil in a pan until nicely roasted and fragrant.

Grind the chiles (with the oil), garlic, salt, and peanuts in a food processor until the ingredients are coarsely crushed. Slowly pour in the water and continue grinding until it's smooth.
If you don't use the water but add more oil, it will keep in the refrigerator a lot longer.
This stuff is amazing.
I finally found a tortilla press in one of our local mexican markets.
Laura Lopez rolled perfect balls of masa for the tortillas.
Then she pressed them and put them on the skillet.
If you are interested in any of Kumud's cooking classes, e-mail her at and she'll send out a notice when she's doing more classes

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pot Luck Dish

The New York Times is asking for submissions for your signature pot luck dish. The top tested dishes will be featured in NY Times magazine. I don't really have a signature dish because I'm always trying new things. But one dish that is always a crowd pleaser is this spicy pulled pork. I didn't try to pass it off as my own. They asked where you got the recipe from on the form so I immediately fessed up it was from 'Everyday food'.  I tried photographing it in my slow cooker and later realized how messy it looked with drippings all over the side.
I haphazardly made my plate and took a picture but I ended up submitting it because the pot looked so bad.
I topped it with avocado, sour cream, cheese, and cilantro. And you can see my misshapen homemade corn tortilla. Maybe they're looking for quirky.

Anyway, if you want to please a big group, make a batch of this in your slow cooker.
I usually get a bigger pork shoulder/butt so I double the other ingredients. It freezes well too.


Serves 8
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 chipotle, in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) whole tomatoes in puree
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 3/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • Flour tortillas, lightly toasted, for garnish (optional)
  • Grated cheddar cheese, for garnish (optional)
  • Sour cream, for garnish (optional)


  1. In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine onion, oregano, bay leaves, chipotle, adobo sauce, tomatoes (and purée), salt, and pepper. Add pork; toss to coat with sauce.
  2. Cover; cook on high setting until meat is pull-apart tender, about 6 hours (do not uncover while cooking).
  3. Transfer meat to a large bowl; shred with forks, discarding any gristle. Return meat to pot; toss with sauce.
  4. To serve, discard bay leaves; if desired, garnish with tortillas and cheddar or sour cream.
From Everyday Food, December 2004

Read more at Spicy Pulled Pork Recipe - 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tamales con Queso v Rajas

I had the extreme pleasure of taking another cooking class with my friend Kumud. But this time instead of her native Indian cuisine she has a friend from Mexico, Laura Lopez, who showed us her stuff! It's feels so authentic watching someone make food from the country they were born and raised in. It's one thing to watch someone on HGTV make a tamale, but watching Laura put them together you could feel the hundreds of times she's done it before.
The whole menu was amazing. I've been so inspired I'm finding reasons to go by hispanic markets all over town to peruse their shelves.
Here are the prepped ingredients for the class.
She started with sauteing the filling for the tamales.
Kumud and Laura at their demonstration table. Even Laura's daughter helped out.
Laura's experienced hand pressing the masa into the corn husk.
The tamales all go in the pot to be steamed for about an hour.
A few steps to make them, but not nearly as complicated as I imagined. Can't wait to try them. Their entire menu was vegetarian but I can't help thinking how amazing some spicy pulled pork would be in the tamales.(sorry Kumud :) )
I've already tried the Frijoles Refritos con Epazote, refried beans, and they are soooo much better than the canned. Maybe it's the epazote seasoning. I haven't found a tortilla press yet but I rolled some out and they were delicious if a bit misshapen.
More to come on my Mexican binge....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sweet Potatoes

Most of my garden is a dried up weed ridden mess, but the sweet potatoes I planted in May or June were still growing.  What a blast to dig around in the dirt and hunt for the sweet potatoes. I want to try lots of other potatoes next year.
I made a sweet potato pie with them and still have enough left to try these Stir Fried Sweet Potatoes from Mark Bittman.
I hosted a 50th birthday cocktail party for a friend recently and the cocktails were a hit.

It's hard to go wrong with these pomegranate cosmos. We make them by the pitcher in advance and keep them in the freezer. Then all you have to do is shake and serve. This makes about 6 drinks
Pomegranate Cosmos
2 cups good vodka
1 cup Cointreau
1 cup Pom pomegranate juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Combine, shake, enjoy! They go down a little too smoothly so depending how crazy you want things to get, you may want to pace your guests!