Monday, December 31, 2007

Mice to make me laugh

These little mice are candle snuffers. Such things are very popular in England, and whenever I visit there, I seek them out. I think I actually bought these here in the U.S. about 20 years ago, but they were imported. There's a whole series of them, all in funny stances. They really aren't a Christmas item, but I think they're cute to add to my Christmas decorating around the house. They always find a way to sit somewhere during December. To make me laugh.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


The town of Rothenburg (row-ten-burg) is along the Romantic Road in southern Germany, just north of Austria. One of the days on our cruise in November, we had almost an entire day there. It was cold. Bone-chilling cold, actually. I was bundled up in everything I had with me - scarf around my neck, gloves, raincoat and a sweater. I wandered the streets of town, which was great fun. DH and I had been to the town before on one driving trip many years ago. Stayed just outside the city walls at a cute country inn. There are lots of shopping opportunities in Rothenburg, I can tell you that. There were hundreds and hundreds of tourists in the town that day. Aisles were crowded. But on my way back out of the village, just outside the walls, I looked off at this pretty pastoral scene. The path just invited me to wander. The city wall is on the left, with the attached gate houses. If you ever get to Rothenburg, forget the shopping. Walk the walls, walk the parks (there are several) and be sure to have some local sausages. I posted a picture of the famous Rothenburg sausages when we were there. Oh, so good.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mainz Cathedral

It was cold, damp and misty the morning we walked around in Mainz, Germany. I love this picture with the cathedral shrouded in fog. A bit like it is this morning, where we are in Bodega Bay, CA. It's so dark and forbidding (and VERY windy, 41 degrees F) here that there's not enough light to even take a picture. So a photo from my archive is all that I can use today. That morning, in Mainz, photos were a bit hard to compose to get enough light, too. The open square around the cathedral was just beautiful, though. The cathedral doesn't allow group of tourists, nor tour guides into the church. But if we went in one by one, and appeared like we were supposed to be there to attend a service, we could look around. It was gorgeous inside. This was in early November.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Viennese Cookies

We're off on a trip right now, up in California wine country. It's raining today and verrrry cold. It even snowed not many miles up the road, and that's really unusual for this area. Don't know that I'll get any photos of anything! So I went through some of my old photos and am posting a few, until I get back into my kitchen.

This is a plate full of delicious - absolutely delicious - cookies we had while we were in Vienna about 7 weeks ago. Our friends picked these up at a bakery there and DH and I ate them all. Buttery crumbly. None of that shortening kind of taste. All pure butter, I'm certain. Many dipped in chocolate, or almonds, or both.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bouchon Bakery - Yountville

Oh, my goodness.

We sat outside in the 40+ temperatures (brrrrrrrr) and had a little snack with a hot latte.

This was, without a doubt, THE most wonderful almond chocolate croissant I've ever encountered in my entire life. Crunchy. Flaky. Moist. Almondy. Chocolatey. Oh my. If you've never been to Bouchon, get thy self there soon. This one is in Yountville, in the Napa Valley. Next door to the Bouchon restaurant, right on the tiny main street of Yountville at 6534 Washington St.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Kitchen Nutcracker

Isn't he cute? He's a kitchen nutcracker, with his knives, ladle, bread boards, bottles and bowls. My friend Cherrie gave me this for Christmas. Thank you, Cherrie!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Hope you are having a very Merry Christmas. We are. Yesterday we drove from Southern California to Northern California, to Placerville, where our daughter and her family live. We were apprehensive about going over the Grapevine (that's local jargon for the Mt. Tejon Pass that separates No. from So. California, the mountain range that separates the desert land from the fertile central valley, the San Joaquin, pronounced san wah-KEEN, Valley). The pass is at 4144 feet, and if there is any inclement weather, it could sock in the pass altogether. The inclemency this time of year means snow, and that means trouble in River City. It means a detour of about 50 miles on somewhat treacherous roads. So we were relieved there was no weather, just sunny blue skies and near freezing temperatures.
Then we got down to the Valley floor and found tulle (pronounced TOO-lee) fog. Every winter there is a pile-up or two of cars, anywhere from 10-30 cars) because people are insane enough to drive normal speeds when they can't see but about 2 car lengths ahead of them. There are always lots of injuries and deaths. Fortunately the tulle fog wasn't quite that bad, but it slowed us down for about an hour or two. We made it through safely. No accidents and no pile-ups.
Now we're going to enjoy the grandchildren (and everyone else too) opening their gifts tomorrow morning. I may not blog much, although I do have some photos I may post. I won't be doing much cooking in the next 10 days or so.
I wish for all of you and very Merry Christmas. Give everyone you love a big hug.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gourmet Cheesecake

To tell you the truth, cheesecake isn't something I order except on very rare occasions. Nor do I make it very often. Usually it's just too rich for me. Especially if I've eaten a big dinner. My daughter, Sara, makes a really good cheesecake, and I enjoy it every time she makes it. She's quite legendary in her family for her cheesecake. Her husband and his family often request it for family gatherings.
Here's the batter, thick and silky smooth (the cream cheese, sour cream, etc.)
But, THIS cheesecake I'm sharing with you today, is something altogether different. I must say that this has all the trappings of regular cheesecake. So how come it's different? Well, you whip up the six egg whites until stiff and fold them into the cheesecake filling. It lightens up the texture considerably. I like this lighter, almost a souffle-like, style. You slice your fork into a bite and it meets little resistance and melts in your mouth. There's a hint of lemon in it. Maybe next time I ought to add a bit of lemon zest to the filling too. I've never seen another cheesecake recipe that uses whipped egg whites. I've searched on the internet to try to find the origin of this recipe, but have found nothing. Fine print: whatever you do, don't go reading the nutrition content of this recipe, or you'll never make this cheesecake. You'll get depressed even thinking about it.

Springform pans: I own two. An 8 1/2 inch and a 10 inch. This recipe calls for a 9 inch. What to do? This time I used the smaller one and had enough to make another entire small bowl of cheesecake. Next time I guess I should use the 10 inch form. Definitely I'd need to make more crumbs, however. I already do that as it is, using about 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs in the mixture. And more butter. No additional sugar.

This cheesecake is baked for an hour, then left in the oven for an additional hour (heat turned off) to firm up. Then you remove it to cool further. Having made this several times, I will tell you that it's absolutely the best, cut and served when it's still warm. Not hot. Just warm. If you have the time to plan it, serve it that way. You can also make it several hours ahead, then put it back in a low oven for about 15 minutes. You don't want to dry it out, whatever you do.

We invited our Southern California children and the grandchildren to come for dinner last night. To open our gifts and celebrate Christmas with them. I served a ricotta lasagna with marinara sauce, a big green salad with my favorite salad dressing, the VIP dressing, and this cheesecake for dessert.

Folding the egg whites in is a bit of a chore, but lightens up the batter a lot.

It's poured in the graham cracker crumb crust and topped with toasted almonds. I over toasted the almonds (sheepish grin).

Gourmet Cheesecake
Recipe: came from a friend I met in Oklahoma, about 1974.
Serving Size : 12
1/4 cup blanched almonds -- toasted
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
6 whole eggs -- separated
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese -- softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons flour -- sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice -- fresh
3/4 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Toast almonds first and set aside.
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar together and press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch spring form pan, reserving about 3 T for top of cheesecake. Set aside.
3. Mix egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, cream cheese, flour, sour cream and lemon juice and beat until smooth.
4. Beat egg whites until frothy, then add 3/4 cup sugar gradually and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into cheese mixture. Pour into reserved graham cracker shell, spread top to flatten and sprinkle with reserved graham cracker mixture and almonds.
5. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off heat and leave cheesecake in the oven for another hour. Remove to cool. Best when served barely warm from the oven.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 577 Calories; 37g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 197mg Cholesterol; 383mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 7 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chocolate Kiss Treasures

Oh, this cookie is a keeper. It's from a cooking class I took with Tarla Fallgatter. I don't know where she got the recipe - I didn't find it on the internet, so perhaps it's a family favorite of hers. They're not difficult - but there are a few steps: chilling the dough, rolling into balls and coating with hazelnuts, making depressions in the dough balls, then the chocolate kiss or nonpareil pressed into the hot, just-baked cookie, then letting the tray cool before you remove them from the baking sheet. But they're really, really GOOD.

You must know by now that I like chocolate. This cookie satisfies fully in that department. Tarla said when she makes these for children, she always uses chocolate kisses (Hershey's) but for adults, she uses the nonpareils. This batch pictured was done with the latter, half of them with the white up, others down. When you press the candy onto the hot cookie, it slightly melts the chocolate so it sticks to the cookie top. But of course! Add this to your cookie list.

Chocolate Kiss Treasures
Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter
Servings: 30
4 ounces unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 whole egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg white -- lightly beaten
1/2 cup hazelnuts -- finely chopped
30 whole Hershey kisses -- or nonpareils
1. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolk, milk and vanilla and beat in.
2. Mix flour, cocoa and salt together and add just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls, then coat with egg white, letting excess drip off and roll in nuts to coat.
5. Arrange balls as coated, 1 1/2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Press thumb into center of balls to flatten, leaving a depression. Bake in batches in middle of oven until puffed slightly but centers are still soft, 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press Kiss (or nonpareil) into the center of each. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 107 Calories; 6g Fat (53.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 26mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rocky Road

When I tell you this is yum - easy - simple - quick - believe me. It is all of those things. But the YUM part is what you need to remember. This Rocky Road recipe isn't all that different from others you may have read. Until a few years ago I'd not had this, but the addition of butterscotch chips and peanut butter gives rocky road a whole different taste. Time? My guess is that making it takes a total of about 10 minutes.

My friend Chris H. gave me this recipe, and she makes it all year around, I think. What it is, is delicious. Great for the holidays. I'm making it especially for my cousin who is gluten intolerant. He enjoys Christmas goodies, but can't have most of them - like cookies, etc. - because he can't eat anything with flour in it. Rocky Road has no flour. He'll be a happy camper. We'll just have to keep the grandchildren to stay out of it. This will be just for Gary.

Here are the butterscotch and chocolate chips melting together.

And here's the mixture once it's smushed into a 9x13 pan, ready for refrigeration.

Rocky Road
Recipe By: Chris H., a friend from church
Serving Size : 24 - 36
12 ounces chocolate chips
12 ounces butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
16 ounces miniature marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts
1. In a medium saucepan melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips until just creamy. Remove from heat then add peanut butter and stir until thoroughly combined, with no streaks of peanut butter or butterscotch. Allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes.
2. While warm, add the walnuts and marshmallows and stir until combined. Do not allow the marshmallows to melt.
3. Press foil into a 9 x 13 pan and spoon the rocky road into it, press out to fill corners and edges, chill. Keep in refrigerator, although you can put them out at room temperature, but the chocolate definitely melts in your fingers that way!
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 247 Calories; 10g Fat (35.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 42mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Fat; 2 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Palm Desert

Some years ago we bought a second home out in the California desert. It took us a long, long time deciding if we wanted to buy a second home in Maine (although we'd never lived there, just had enjoyed visiting there a few times in the summer months) or Colorado, or up along the northern California coast, or half a dozen other places. Making lists helped - how often would we visit a place in Maine. Or Colorado. Really. So, we narrowed it down to places we could drive to within a few hours. Figuring we'd use it more often. And indeed we have. We love our house in the desert. It's on a golf course, and our house there looks out on a view similar to the above.

We went out to our house there this week. It was raining cats and dogs when we left home in Orange County, and it never ceases to amaze us, once we slip through the pass at Banning and Beaumont, the skies clear up, the air is clean and the weather turns to nice and comfortable. It takes us about 75 minutes to get there, door to door. We have complete sets of everything there, so all we have to take is our prescription drugs, the books we're reading and an ice chest with any food we think we'll use. Clothes do travel back and forth sometimes. As so many two-home families say, you go to your closet looking for something specific and realize, oh, it's at the other house. We feel very fortunate to be able to have this house. We bought it after DH's elderly aunt died. We didn't know that DH was named her heir. So we came into a bit of an inheritance we weren't expecting and decided to invest the money in real estate.

We zip back and forth, fitting in a few days at a time every week or so. To avoid the traffic we often drive later in the evening, after dinner. That way we avoid the crawling lanes of commuters. We went out there on a late evening, and returned at the same time. No traffic whatsoever.

After we'd had a nice lunch with friends, we were driving our golf cart back to our house and I spied this view. There are hundreds of similar views, but the sun's reflection on the water, the trees, etc. just offered a nice site for a photo. DH and I enjoy driving our golf cart around the golf paths just to look around. The development is a mile square, contains two 18-hole golf courses, and several miles of golf paths. We like grabbing a morning cup of coffee, bundling ourselves up in jackets and driving around for fun. Stopping to enjoy the multitude of lakes and streams, watching and listening to the birds, and pausing to listen to the loud whack of golf balls careening off the tees.

If you've never been to Palm Springs or Palm Desert in the wintertime, you're missing out. It's just gorgeous. The weather is usually very pleasant. People play golf there year around, but it's the best from about November 1st through April 30th. After that it gets too hot. At least it's too hot for me. The June day we took possession of the house it was 110. Schlepping stuff back and forth from the garage into the house was just outrageously uncomfortable. There are countless restaurants there, shopping galore, and new people to meet from all over the world. Thousands of people live there year around. It's just in those hot summer months that they live inside homes and offices. All the time. Every day. But the winter months are heavenly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Almond Custard

Nobody seems to make custard anymore. What happened to custard? Is it perceived as too bland? Pale? Wrong color altogether? It's a sad state of affairs. Custard is the ubiquitous dessert. Wonderful for a homey dinner. Nice enough for a company dinner, especially if accompanied by some fruit, or a cookie. I must admit that it's been a long while since I've made any custard. And yet, I like it very much.

So, when I was scouring through some recipes a week or so ago I ran across a custard recipe I haven't made in years and years. Pairing custard with almond may seem unusual. But it's a lovely match, especially since you add the apple juice concentrate as a perk at the end. What's unusual about this recipe is that there is no refined sugar in it. The custard is made with just eggs, flavorings (vanilla and almond) and the two milk types. Once baked and cooled, you put on the thickened apple juice topping, which is naturally sweet, and that provides the only sweet thing in the custard. Then you sprinkle almonds on top.This may not be a WOW kind of recipe, but it looks pretty enough, and represents good old American home cookin'. And note, this is gluten-free also, in case you're searching for those kinds of recipes.

A former employee, Kathleen Heckathorn., brought this to one of our potluck lunches at Ad Masters (the ad agency I've talked about before that I co-owned), and everybody just scooped it right up. I've made it a few times over the years, although not for awhile. I hadn't input it into my recipe program, so that's why I'd lost track of it. But it was in my catch-all alphabetized recipe files - the clippings, photocopies, some of them ancient, that live in a file cabinet. I use more of the apple juice concentrate that Kathleen did - to make sure there is enough sauce to go around, and Kathleen began the thickening with cornstarch, which wasn't part of the original recipe. The concentrate is just a bit too thin, as is out of the can, for a topping, so the cornstarch helps it along well. If you find the custard odd tasting (no sugar) you could add a little bit to it. Just not very much.
After making this, I phoned Kathleen to thank her for this recipe. Hadn't talked to her in years. It was great fun catching up about our families, etc. So, thanks Kathleen for this great recipe.
I have another custard recipe that I'll be sharing with you after the first of the year. It's truly low calorie. But you'd never know it. Absolutely wouldn't ever figure it out. It is a pumpkin custard. Since I haven't had my fill of pumpkin yet this year (I only got to eat two slices of pie over Thanksgiving), it will be something nice to make in the New Year. When DH and I have agreed we're going to work on reducing the calories around here. Blog writing isn't exactly the best thing for the waistline, I'll admit. I keep wanting to share more and more of my old tried and true recipes.

Almond Custard
Recipe looks like it may have come from a Family Circle magazine or something similar.
Servings: 7
4 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups milk
6 ounces apple juice, frozen concentrate -- undiluted
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons toasted almonds
1. Preheat oven to 300. Measure milk and half and half into a saucepan and gently bring up to a simmer. Do not boil.
2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs in a medium bowl, then add extracts. Mix until well combined.
3. Pour scalded milk into the egg mixture and stir to mix up completely. Pour the mixture into a well-buttered ovenproof dish. Shallower is better than higher.
4. Place dish into a larger but flat container and pour hot water in the sides (do not get any in the custard) and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center, comes out clean.
5. Remove to a rack to cool, then refrigerate.
6. When ready to serve, combine the apple juice concentrate and the cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch, then heat until the apple juice mixture has thickened some. Add the 1 tsp. of vanilla and cool briefly.
7. Just before serving pour the juice over the custard and sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.
NOTES : Use a shallow baking dish if possible. There is no sugar in the custard, so the apple concentrate topping is a necessary part of the dish.
Per Serving: 205 Calories; 12g Fat (53.0% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 93mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fruit; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 2 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Old Fashioned Chicken & Dumplings

You're really missing out on something wonderful if you don't make chicken and dumplings once in awhile. My mother used to make this on a regular basis (never as good as this version, however), when I was young. She grew up in an era, the depression, when they basically only ate meat on Sundays, and often it was a chicken chased down in the coop on the farm.

So, one day a year or so ago, in reading The Orange County Register, the Food Editor Cathy Thomas wrote up all the joys and virtues of chicken and dumplings. It set my mouth to watering, and I promptly made hers. Oh my. Was it ever GOOD. Actually, the chicken was Jamee Ruth's version, from the book The Cookware Cookbook (had never heard of it, actually). It's relatively simple, although it calls for ingredients I don't often have on hand (6 leeks, for example and 6 shallots). The gravy/broth is just delicious, helped along with the addition of apple juice of all things. This is worth a trip to the grocery store. A good recipe for a chilly winter's evening. I like to remove the chicken from the bones (and remove all the skin too so DH won't eat it). Just reheat briefly.

Serve it in a wide soup bowl, with the light dumplings on top. And I highly recommend Marion Cunningham's recipe for Feather Dumplings which has fresh bread crumbs and onion in them. The minced onion gives a nice little crunch in the dumpling. Something a little different, but they're worth making. From her book Lost Recipes: Meals to Share with Family & Friends. Although surely this dish is one you ordinarily think of as homespun, it would be wonderful to share with family, and good friends. Here it is in the bowl with the dumplings.

If you have leftovers, when reheating, put the chicken mixture in a saucepan, heat just to a low simmer, then gently lower in the leftover dumplings. Top with a lid and allow to simmer very slowly for just a few minutes, then serve. I also find that the broth/gravy can have some added water. When I made the chicken and dumplings this time, after completing all the cooking (except the dumplings), I ladled out about 7/8 of the leeks with some broth and whizzed them up in the food processor. That made the gravy a bit thicker, which is a good thing.

Chicken and Dumplings
Recipes: Dumplings - Marion Cunningham; Chicken - Jamee Ruth

Source: Cathy Thomas, Orange County Register
Serving Size : 8
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper to taste
4 pounds chicken pieces -- skin-on
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 whole leeks -- cleaned and sliced
6 whole shallots -- diced
5 whole carrots -- cut in 3" pieces
3 stalks celery -- diced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice -- or pineapple juice

[Optional: green peas and mushrooms]
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup onion -- finely minced
1 whole egg -- beaten
2 tablespoons butter -- melted
1 tablespoon Italian parsley -- minced

Black pepper to taste
1. Prepare the chicken (called the soup): In a shallow bowl or pan combine the flour, salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour. Melt butter and oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium-high heat. Cautiously add half of the chicken using tongs. Do not crowd the pieces. Brown nicely on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown remaining chicken and remove to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add leeks and shallots, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until softened and starting to brown or caramelize. Add the carrots, celery and thyme. Stir and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add the broth and fruit juice and bring to a boil on high heat. Add the chicken on top, reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes (no more than that, or the chicken will dry out and get tough). Remove from heat and cool. The goal is to remove the fat from the broth, so you can separate the vegetables and put the broth in a flat pan to cool faster. Chill, remove fat, then you can reassemble the dish with the chicken on top. Reheat to a simmer.
3. Dumplings: In a small mixing bowl stir together the flour, bread crumbs, baking powder and salt. In another bowl lightly beat the milk, onion, egg and melted butter. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones to make a wet paste. Don't overmix. Add parsley and pepper and mix just until combined. Drop small spoonfuls (about 12) onto the top of the bubbling soup. [Add mushrooms here.]Cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. [If adding peas, heat frozen peas under hot-hot tap water and add a few to each bowl. If you cook them in the stew, they turn gray/ugly.] Ladle soup, vegetables, chicken and a dumpling or two into wide soup bowls.
Serving Ideas : Serve this in a wide and deep soup bowl. The broth is just fabulous, which you want to consume with every bite.
NOTES : If you prefer, you can remove all the chicken from the bones - in which case it's not necessary to do the dredging, etc. Just brown the chicken pieces.

Per Serving (probably not accurate, too high): 445 Calories; 15g Fat (30.7% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 1013mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 3 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gulliver's Creamed Spinach

Someone who reads my blog has asked me to share the recipe for Gulliver's Creamed Spinach. It's awfully good too. I haven't made it in several years, so I don't have a photo of it, although I found a photo for something similar on the Food Network site. Here is the recipe, directly from the same book as the Gulliver's Creamed Corn, that I blogged about just yesterday: Culinary SOS: Thirty Years of Recipe Requests, by Rose Dosti (from the Los Angeles Times). According to the blurb in the book, The Times first published the recipe in 1974.

Gulliver's Creamed Spinach
2 10-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach
3 slices bacon
1 small onion
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1. Thaw spinach, squeeze completely dry. [Separately] chop spinach, bacon and onion very fine. In saucepan, saute bacon with onion until bacon is cooked.
2. Stir in flour to make smooth paste. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes over low heat until thickened. Add salt and pepper. Add spinach to sauce and mix to blend. Heat through. Serves 6.

Watercress, Belgian Endive Salad with Black Olive Vinagrette

I was really prepared to NOT like this salad. I mean, Kalamata olives are strong. Pungent. Overwhelming in flavor sometimes. I certainly don't like eating them straight away. And I thought they'd just overwhelm the tender watercress and Belgian endive leaves. I should know better than to distrust Phillis Carey, one of my favorite cooking teachers. She made this salad at the cooking class I attended in San Diego, at Great News, about 10 days ago.

She made this salad as part of a tenderloin of beef dinner. And it was absolutely delicious. I'll be making this again and again. It would be perfect with nearly any kind of grilled meat. Even fish. It would make a lovely first course too. It's colorful. Delicious.

Phillis soaked the red onion in acidulated water (with the vinegar) for 10-20 minutes. I'd forgotten that technique of getting the pungency, the bitterness, that sharpness out of onions. I might soak them longer, depending on the onion I used. And I found another use for my ball bearing whisk. I forget to use this thing, but it was perfect for the dressing here, so you didn't mash up the olive pieces.

Watercress & Belgian Endive Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Recipe By: Phillis Carey, author, cooking instructor
Servings: 6
1/2 cup pitted black olives -- Kalamata, divided use
1 clove garlic -- minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary -- chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt & pepper to taste
1 small red onion -- halved, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 whole Navel oranges -- skinned, cut in sections
2 bunches watercress -- thick stems discarded
2 whole Belgian Endive -- halved, thinly sliced, cut at last minute
1/2 cup Italian parsley -- chopped
1. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup of the olives and place in a small, separate bowl.
2. Place remaining olives in food processor with the garlic and rosemary, pulse to chop. Add vinegar and pulse to combine. Add this mixture to the separate bowl of olives and using a ball-bearing whisk, combine the mixtures. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead. May also be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
3. Salad: place the onion slices in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Stir in the vinegar and allow this to stand for at least 10 minutes (more if you'd like less pungency to the onions). Drain.
4. Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the white pith. Cut between the membranes to release the orange sections and place in the salad bowl. Do this job over the bowl to save any of the orange juice. Add the watercress, endive, parsley and drained onion. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 162 Calories; 13g Fat (66.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gulliver's Creamed Corn

If you've never had Gulliver's corn. . . Well, what can I say. You're missing out. Uh, yea, missing out on a whole lot of calories and fat, I suppose. But missing out on undoubtedly the best creamy corn you're ever gonna eat. We're lucky to still HAVE a Gulliver's Restuarant here in the county where I live. Although I can't say that I've been there for at least 4+ years. They do make some mighty fine prime rib. But it's the corn - only the corn - that I'd go there for - just to have seconds.

The recipe was printed in the Los Angeles Times Food Section, back in the 1970's. I've made it dozens of times since. I can remember, really I can, the day it appeared in the Times. My face lit up like a lightbulb. I never thought I'd get the recipe! What's funny is that it's nothing fancy. No unusual ingredients - just rich cream, a little sugar and Parmesan cheese on top. And likely, back in the 70's it was that green canned Parmesan, not the real thing.

It's a staple at Thanksgiving dinner for some dear friends of ours (yes, Maggie, that's you!). They hosted our family many a holiday and I made a triple batch to serve the multitudes on one of them. When I went to look for the recipe today, it wasn't there, so I turned to a book, given to me by a dear friend, Linda T., when she worked at the Times. She was the outside sales rep for the Times, we were the customer, our ad agency, Ad Masters. Linda kindly brought me a Rose Dosti autographed copy of the book in 1994, when it was published. Dear SOS was the column in each week's Food Section with requests from readers for "special" recipes, or more often, ones from popular restaurants, bakeries, even some dives, in and around Southern California. Restaurants like the Brown Derby, Chasen's, Benihana, Bullock's, Clifton's (a venerable old cafeteria), El Cholo, Lawry's, Love's Barbecue, Marrakesh, and the Velvet Turtle. Dear SOS: Thirty years of Requested Recipes, by Rose Dosti. It's a treasured book in my collection; one I refer to occasionally. It's particularly fun to see the restaurants mentioned in it, many no longer in business. The book was printed just once in 1994- it's long out of print. I was so pleased to get one. In doing a Google search, ebay has one for $12.99 plus shipping. In case you always wanted one.

Back in those days I took different clients of our ad agency on a tour of the Times, probably about twice a year. It was a perk for our clients - the management at the Times would kindly entertain the client, the actual advertiser - we were just the middle man, the encourager, the ad writers and designers. (Because then, and even today when newspaper advertising is down, the Times charges an arm and a leg to advertise.) The tour included a lovely lunch in their executive dining room (not open to the public, not even to most employees). In taking the tour, we always walked past the test kitchen. It was all enclosed, with a big window. And a wide shade. In all the years (17), only once was I able to peek in the kitchen - the shade was UP. But alas, nobody was in there. No tasty goodies being prepared. No Rose Dosti popping in or out of an office or door. I'd heard stories about the aromas wafting in and out of the halls. Oh well.

So this recipe came from that book, and I am sure it's an authentic one pried from the owners of Gulliver's. Otherwise it wouldn't be in the book under the Gulliver's name. Gulliver's Creamed Spinach is on the same page. Also very good. But it's the Creamed Corn that is a favorite around our house. Made only on very, very special occasions. And although the recipe indicates it serves 8-10 people, if you have hearty eaters, or people who like seconds (ah-hem) this won't feed but about 6-7 people is my guess.

Gulliver's Creamed Corn
Recipe By: Gulliver's Restuarant via the Los Angeles Times
Servings: 8-10
8 ears corn
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cut corn from the cob and place in saucepan with whipping cream. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in salt and sugar.
2. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in flour. Do not brown. Stir this roux into the corn and cook until slightly thickened. Turn corn into oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with additional butter. Brown under the broiler and serve.
NOTES : You can use frozen corn, but make sure it's a superior quality. Defrost before proceeding with recipe.
Per Serving: 166 Calories; 11g Fat (56.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 504mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Book Club Comes for Dinner

Once a year my AAUW Evening Books group (American Association of University Women - you have to be a college grad from an accredited school to be a member) gathers at my home for an annual potluck dinner. Other months of the year we trade around what house we visit. But December. Well, it's always at my house. I have a big kitchen and this enormous 12 foot square island which makes easy work for a buffet dinner. And a dining room table that seats 12 with ease. And a view of the twinkly lights looking towards Newport Beach and Palos Verdes. I enjoy the Christmas decorating too. Everybody brings a salad, vegetable or salad, and a few people sign up for desserts (otherwise we'd have too many) and I provide the beverages (red and white wine, soft drinks, etc.) and an urn of coffee.

We enjoy our dinner - always lots of raves all around - we have some very good cooks in our group - and the desserts with coffee, then we gather in the living room, around the fireplace and tell stories. Or read a passage from a book, about Christmas. We don't read a designated book in December. Nor do we do our normal sharing of other books we've read. This is just a time for reading aloud an article or very short story about the Christmas season. Some years people don't have much to share; other years we have several who do. In many of the past seasons I've not shared because I didn't have anything I thought appropriate. But this year I found a new book - A Family Christmas. See the red covered book below. I can't say enough nice things about it. It's an anthology compiled by Caroline Kennedy, with chapters divided up by aspects of the season: Santa Claus, Deck the Halls, the Christmas Feast, Winter Wonderland, with related poems, the words from Christmas carols, that pertain to these subjects. There are stories that could be read to children, others that are more complex, some almost academic in nature, about the history of Christmas, and lovely illustrations too. I have read about half the book so far and have pink stickies poking out of it in many places. All possible reads for the book group in coming years.

Speaking of Christmas books, I must share another book I own. Valerie in our book group brought this one December, and I had to have it. Seasons Greetings from the White House. It's an absolutely charming book about the history of Christmas cards sent from the White House. Lovely photographs, fascinating history, and a nice coffee table book to put out in December. We've received 3 or 4 White House Christmas cards and I keep them in this book.

Ever since reading that book I've watched the Christmas special on HGTV, the one that shows the frantic decorating that goes on at the White House starting a few days after Thanksgiving. And it usually includes a segment about this year's Christmas card. The White House Christmas 2007. Hundreds and hundreds of workers come in, working 24 hours a day, to get the White House completely decorated before the first Christmas celebration held at the White House every year, usually on December 1st. My Tivo has been programmed for a couple of weeks for this show - it's on Sunday night, the 16th at 8:30 pm.

But, back to Caroline Kennedy's book: if you're still looking for something for someone on your Christmas list, this might just be the perfect answer:

So, I'll close this particular posting with the first page in this book. It's a letter found in the Kennedy family archives. Kennedy finds it "really embarrassing, but everyone else insisted we use it in the book." It was Caroline Kennedy's letter to Santa, December 19, 1962. She was just 5 - not old enough to write it herself, but dictated it to her mother, Jacqueline. It was to be her last Christmas at the White House.

Dear Santa:
I would like a pair of silver
skates - and one of those horse
wagons with lucky dips - and Susie Smart and
Candy Fashion dolls and a real pet
reindeer and a clock to tell time and a
covered wagon & a farm and you
decide anything else -

And interesting planes or bumpy thing he can ride in or some
noisy thing or something he can push or pull for John.

Love from Caroline
PS I would like a basket for my bicycle

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Von Trapp Family Children (Singers)

Last night, it was absolutely great fun to meet with friends of ours, Marty & Julie, to attend a performance at our gorgeous Concert Hall here in Orange County, CA. The acoustics are amazing in this place. I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble to buy the tickets for this show, knowing very little about the Von Trapp group other than they are descendants of the famous Sound of Music family. But our friends did, and asked us to go along with them. I'm so glad they did...

It was a wonderful program. Our Pacific Symphony played for the first half, a combination of secular and non-secular music of the season. Even a sing-along was included. Then the Von Trapps arrived on stage. The four children, ranging in age from 13 to 19, are the four grandchildren of Kurt, one of the imps you'll likely remember from the movie. These four, great grandchildren of Georg Von Trapp, billed The Von Trapp Family Children, have their own CD's and have traveled the world over giving performances. They're adorable. They're sweet, with lovely, mostly undeveloped voices, although certainly professionally trained voices. The 13-year old, the boy, has a near soprano voice. So far. He was and is the imp, I guess. All the children performed in native Austrian dress, including using coins as buttons, which were ones Maria and Georg brought with them on the escape. They're singing was good. Very good. They sang some of the tunes from the musical, told stories about themselves and their family (they live in Montana, one of the few Von Trapps who live outside of Vermont, where the family's inn is located in Stowe), and sang Christmas carols and other songs which got us all in the Christmas spirit. If you go to their website here, you'll learn all about them, their tour schedule, etc. In case you're interested. If you'd like to read an outsider's article about the facts behind the Von Trapp family, read Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family, by Joan Gearino from the National Archives.

We did learn that the musical compressed the Von Trapp story into a mere 3 months of time with Georg and Maria. By doing some online snooping today from the National Archives story above, I learned more about the true facts: in actuality, they met in 1926, when Maria was hired to be a tutor to one of the Von Trapp daughters who had contracted scarlet fever. Georg fell in love with Maria. Maria fell in love with the children. When Georg asked her to marry him, he specifically asked that she become the mother to the children. She wasn't in love with Georg, but agreed, because she adored the children. She eventually fell in love with Georg too. So, by 1938, they had been married for 11 years, and had two of their own children, before escaping in 1938, by train to Italy (and then on to the United States). The family says that Georg was not the tyrant portrayed in the movie; he was actually a very loving and kind man, also extremely musical. Nor was Maria quite the sweet young, demure thing portrayed by Julie Andrews. Maria was a strong woman, knew what she wanted in life, and even had a temper.

Oh yes, the children also told us that Maria never did make clothes out of drapes. Poof. Another myth blown into thin air.

Spiced Fruit for a Holiday Breakfast

It was one Christmas about 10+ years ago and I needed some kind of fruit to serve with Christmas morning's breakfast. I always try to have food partially prepared ahead of time. I didn't want to be stuck in the kitchen cutting up fresh fruit while everybody else was around the tree passing presents around, and missing out on the joy of all that. So I found this recipe for a spiced fruit, and having prepared it several times I've made a few changes to it, but haven't tinkered too much with the basic concoction. It's mostly canned fruit, you combine it and let it marinate for a couple of days, then I usually add in some sliced apples the night before or the morning of. It can be served hot or cold. It might depend on what you're serving for breakfast as to which you'd want. I usually serve it cold, since it's a nice contrast to whatever hot breakfast dish I'm serving.

Because my DH is a diabetic, I always use Splenda or some kind of artificial sweetener for part of it. He really enjoys this side dish, so I like to make it so he can enjoy a little bit of it. I've tried to make it with all Splenda, but it doesn't taste right, so I just use some Splenda. By all means, use all sugar if you're able to.

Just remember that it should be made ahead (a good thing in my book) and you can vary the canned fruit you add to it. Don't use soft fruits (like apricots) because after a week or so they kind of become mush. I have used canned cherries, but the juice is dark and it colors the liquid significantly. I prefer a clear juice. I'm not making Christmas breakfast this year, so don't have a photo of it. I found the one above on the internet.

Spiced Fruit
Serving Size : 12
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
29 ounces canned pears -- light syrup
29 ounces peach slices -- canned, light syrup
16 ounces canned pineapple chunks -- in own juice
8 ounces prunes -- dry pack, pitted
1 large cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
3 packages Splenda
1. In small saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves and bring to boil and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and spices have had some time to blend. Allow to cool slightly. In a large refrigerator container (with lid) pour the juices from all of the fruit, stir, add artificial sweetener, then add the pickling mixture. Add canned fruit and stir.
2. Cover and store in refrigerator. Will keep for several weeks (maybe even months). If you served just the fruit and almost no juice, you should be able to just add more canned fruit without remaking the pickling mixture.

Per Serving: 169 Calories; 1g Fat (5.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 14mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 Fruit; 0 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New York Special Slices, aka Nanaimo Bars

Oh, just looking at the photo of these makes my mouth water. This is an older picture in my archive, and I don't think I took this one, but yep, that's them. In some parts of the world these are known as Nanaimo Bars (Nanaimo is a small city in western British Columbia). What I know about Nanaimo Bars is that usually they contain mint. Mine do not. I don't like the mint version at all. But if that intrigues you, do a Google search for Nanaimo Bars and you'll find lots of variations. I haven't made these yet this year, but didn't want to dilly-dally around waiting in case you wanted to make them.

I got this recipe in 1963. My first husband and I had moved to Washington, D.C. and stayed briefly with family friends of my parents who lived in Virginia. The wife introduced me to a neighbor of hers, and told this unbelievable story about this recipe. It bears a resemblance to other stories you may have heard. But in this case I MET the woman who'd been "done in," so to speak. She and her husband had celebrated a milestone anniversary and had gone to New York. They'd stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, and had dinner in their fine restaurant. After dinner, she'd ordered this dessert, titled on the menu as New York Special Slices, and was blown away by the taste, so asked the waiter for the recipe. The chef said, through the waiter, get her address and he'd send it to her. It arrived, but with a bill for $200. Now back in the 1960's, a $200 recipe would set anybody back more than just a little bit. So, this woman consulted her attorney, found out it was useless to argue. Pay it, he said. So, she gave it away to anybody she could find. Our friends served these bars to us, and I fell in love. Right there, on the spot.

These aren't hard to make, although they do take a bit of time in or around the kitchen because you need to chill the layers inbetween creating them. Overall, though, these will come together in a jiffy. They need to be refrigerated - you can't leave them out at room temp for very long or the unsweetened chocolate on the top layer gets soft. And it will come off in your hands if you pick it up.

These became a Christmas tradition in my family from then on. You can cut them into very small pieces, or into large squares to serve as a dessert. They're very rich, very chocolatey, so might not be appropriate to serve at the end of a very heavy, rich meal. I usually serve them as you would a cookie, allowed to warm up at room temp for just 5-10 minutes only. I recommend that these be cut into bars ahead of time, as they're a bit tricky to cut. Best not to do that while your guests are waiting at the dinner table.

First you make a graham cracker, coconut and chocolate base, chill it. Then you make a custard filling. Bird's Dessert Mix (Powder) is a dry mix, similar to instant pudding mixes we'd buy at our local market, BUT, Bird's does not have any sugar or butter in it. My local Ralph's carries it, and I've found it at some specialty markets too. It's British in origin if that helps you find it. If you can't find Bird's powder, use instant pudding mix, but don't add the sugar or butter, just the milk noted in the filling ingredients. You're after a thick filling, not a soupy one, so be careful and don't add too much milk. That gets spread on top of the base, and is then chilled. Wait a bit for the next step, then gently melt some unsweetened chocolate and a bit of butter, cool it a few minutes, then pour it over the custard and carefully spread it over the the top, filling in any spots. There is just barely enough chocolate to cover. Chill again, then use a knife dipped in hot water to cut the cookies. They will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

New York Special Slices (aka Nanaimo Bars)
Recipe: Supposedly from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City
Servings: 32
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 pound butter
1 whole egg -- beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup walnuts -- chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Bird's Dessert Powder (see notes below)
4 tablespoons milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1. Melt semi-sweet chocolate with butter. Add the egg, vanilla, coconut, nuts and graham cracker crumbs. Press this mixture into the bottom of a 9x9 greased pan. Refrigerate.
2. Melt the 4 T of butter and add it to the powdered sugar, mixed with the Bird's Dessert Powder and milk. Pour this mixture over the first layer and refrigerate again for about an hour.
3. Then, melt the 3 squares of bitter chocolate and 1 T butter. Pour this carefully over the top layer and spread to cover it all. Chill again. Cut into small squares to serve, and if you have trouble, dip the knife into a tall glass of very hot water. Keep the squares refrigerated, although they can be left at room temperature for a little while.
Note: if you can't find Bird's Dessert Powder (mix) use instant vanilla pudding mix and just add the milk, not the sugar or butter noted in this recipe.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot Buttered Rum - Cream Style

Photo from the food network)
At least 20 years ago I was wanting a hot drink to serve when we went up to our local mountains for Thanksgiving, to a cabin we had rented for the weekend. I had enjoyed hot buttered rum, although it seemed like the butter floated on top (which I didn't like since that got sipped first). I guess I found it "wanting." So, as I was glancing through an issue of Bon Appetit (don't know the date), this recipe popped up.
This is hot buttered rum, but it's taken to a different dimension altogether. Maybe when I read the ingredient list in the recipe I was a bit dumbfounded that this would be anything like hot buttered rum. Mixing ice cream with brown and white sugar and butter? What is this?
Well, what I'll tell you is this mixture just WORKS. The mix can be made ahead and just refrigerated. And this keeps for absolutely months. Amazing, but true. Even without any alcohol in it, it's just dandy for a long time. It would also make a lovely gift for friends, or to take to someone's home if you're celebrating there. According to the recipe, it originated at a Montana ski resort in Big Sky. You scoop some of this mixture into a mug and pour in some rum and hot water. Done. I may yet make it this year, but I don't have a photo of it. However, I wanted to post it for the holidays, since it makes such a delicious Christmas seasonal beverage.

This drink is just scrumptious - soothing on a cold day, and particularly festive around the holidays. My only caveat is: It's very filling, so don't plan a heavy meal to follow. If you'd like a little toddy before dinner, this makes a lovely one. And I never add the whipped cream. It doesn't need it.

If the mixture isn't hot enough, warm the mug with the cream mixture and rum in the microwave briefly before adding the hot water.

Big Sky Hot Buttered Rum
Recipe: Bon Appetit Magazine
Servings: 16
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/3 cups brown sugar -- firmly packed
1 cup butter
18 tablespoons dark rum
3 cups hot water
1/2 cup whipping cream fresh grated nutmeg
1. For batter: Combine ice cream, sugars and butter in medium saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. Cool and store in airtight container until ready to use. Will keep in the refrigerator for months.
2. For each serving, pour boiling water into coffee mugs to heat the mug. Pour out water. To each mug add 3 tablespoons of batter. Add 3 tablespoons of rum to each mug, then add about 1/2 cup of boiling water. Stir to dissolve batter. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
Per Serving: 281 Calories; 16g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 139mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cheese Fondue - our Christmas Eve family tradition

(photo from
Everybody knows cheese fondue. But recipes do vary, based on parts of the world from which they come (using local cheeses) and because people are wont to make changes. Not me. Uh-uh. I've stuck with this recipe almost from day one, when I had this version. And that's at least 40 years ago. A friend, Sandy Jenkins, served this to me, lo these many years ago. I liked the combination of the Gouda and Swiss. Often fondue is strictly Swiss, and I think Swiss has a sharp edge on it, that almost gives it a sour taste. Not liking that, but wanting to stay somewhat true to the origin of fondue (Switzerland and Swiss cheese), I like the mellowing characteristics of the Gouda with it. And I generally buy Emmental cheese for the Swiss. It's more expensive, but it's probably the original fondue cheese. Whatever you do, don't buy domestic grocery store, generic Swiss. It's just awful in this.

Back in the 1960's and 70's it was a popular thing to serve fondue for dinner. I was given a pot a long time ago (a ceramic one, can only be used for cheese or chocolate, not for oil for beef fondue) that came from Switzerland. It's weathered the years, thank goodness, and has nary a chip on it. It uses Sterno for heat. I bring the cheese mixture to a simmer on the kitchen stove (to totally melt the cheese) and then pour it into the fondue pot and deliver it to the entertaining location, usually on a coffee table in front of the fireplace.

This became a family tradition back in the 1980's in our family because on Christmas Eve, generally, my DH and I sang in one of the three church services that are held at our Presbyterian church we belong to. So preparing a traditional dinner that night was difficult. Yet we had 5 hungry mouths that needed some sustenance. And it was Christmas Eve, a festive night, and I wanted it to be special. So, I was able to get a lot of the prep work done ahead of time. I usually double the recipe. If you have hungry eaters, they may eat more than their fair share. I've also made a 1 & 1 /2 scaling of the recipe, which was about right for our family.

I chop or grate the cheese, sprinkle in the little bit of flour, nutmeg and paprika and put that in a plastic bag and leave it at room temperature. Next is to cut up the French bread. Having made this a lot of times, I've become very particular about the French Bread I use. It can't be the cheap grocery store variety (the bread doesn't hold us in the thick cheese, plus it has zero taste), but it can't be really hard-crust artisanal bread either (because it's just way too hard, and you poke your finger trying to get the fondue fork through the crust). So, you need to scout out your bread source and find something that's in between. Discard any bread that doesn't have a bit of crust on it since those generally get lost in the cheese anyway and bag those up too. The seasonings would be all ready by the stove, including the bottle of white wine, measuring cup at hand. I'd set up the fondue burner, napkins, plates, etc. in front of the fireplace, so it was only a matter of melting the cheese and we'd be ready to eat. We'd try to sing at the early service, at 7:00, would be back home by a few minutes after 8:00 and dinner would be on the coffee table within about 20 minutes.

Our daughter, Sara, has made this a Christmas Eve tradition for her family too, and she's added a nice touch - she puts out some blanched vegies to dip also (broccoli and carrots mostly), in addition to the bread. For Christmas this year, we're going to our daughter Dana's home in Placerville (the old gold country of Northern California). She wants to do fondue too, so I'm going to take my pot along, and she's going to do chocolate fondue in her pot. The kids will like that, to be sure. I'll try to take a photo of the fondue so I can update this posting with MY photo, rather than Cabot Cheese Co.'s.

Cheese Fondue
Recipe: Sandy Jenkins, a friend I knew in the 60's
Servings: 4
1/2 pound Swiss cheese -- prefer imported
1/2 pound Gouda cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic
5 tablespoons sherry
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg -- prefer fresh grated
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 large French bread loaf -- (see notes below)
1. If time and your patience permits, grate the cheese. Otherwise, cut both cheeses into small cubes (as small as you have time to make them), which makes for easier melting. Place grated/cubed cheese in a large plastic bag and add flour, nutmeg and paprika and mush around a little. This much can be done ahead and refrigerated or left out at room temperature if it's to be made within a few hours.
2. Select a very heavy saucepan and rub the cut garlic clove around the bottom of the pan. Add white wine and garlic clove to the pot and bring to a boil. Remove garlic. Add cheese mixture and stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Add sherry and stir. Pour into cheese fondue pot and serve with chunks of bread.
3. Note about bread: I'm very particular about what kind of bread to buy for the fondue. Hard baguettes are too hard, and some of the grocery store french breads are simply too soft (like Weber's bread). So, select a loaf which has a medium crust and is long and narrow. If you buy a big fat loaf, the cubes of bread from the middle of the loaf have a tough time in the thick cheese. The crust makes it easier to hold it onto the fondue fork.
Per Serving: 801 Calories; 35g Fat (42.3% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 66g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 1307mg Sodium. Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 4 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ah, the poor fruitcake

Chocolate Steamed Pudding

Now then. This is about chocolate. A chocolate dessert suitable for Christmas Dinner. A dessert not too difficult. A do-ahead one, at that. And it's gluten-free, actually, low in sugar (yes, really), and serves a whopping 12 people if you're judicious in slicing it.

To explain the background on this recipe, I should back up and reiterate about how I detest fruitcake. Never have liked it. One Fall, back about 1964 or so, my former father-in-law took a trip to England and brought back a suet fruitcake from Fortnum & Mason (a bastion of fine food, coffees and teas) - a suet pudding I believe it was - and was so proud of bringing it to our house for Christmas. I'm sure I smiled brightly and thought, oh dear, what do I do now? Serve it with a smile and give myself just one bite, smother it in sauce and pretend it's wonderful. I didn't like the suet pudding. It even came with a can of hard sauce too. But, when my teeth hit those bits of tiny fig seeds, I cringed. Even raisins can get those little bits of dry seedy things.

The following year I determined to give myself at least a steamed pudding that I liked. This recipe just popped up, very timely, and I've made it umpteen times since. It came out of Gourmet Magazine, back in the years when they wrote every single recipe in sentence form, so you had to hunt through for the ingredients. They weren't even highlighted in different type. Many a time I missed some items because I skimmed the sentences. This one was in the letters page, because I have the original clipping - a woman from England, Mrs. M.E. Pout, of Worplesdon, submitted it, thanking the magazine for its interesting and inspiring articles. Having never heard of chocolate steamed pudding, I thought I was onto a winner. Way back in the 1960's it was difficult even finding a steamed pudding mold. Where I bought this thing, I don't recall, but I DO remember that it was expensive. But I splurged. It's seen a lot of wear. Because it sits in water once a year, it has developed a kind of mineral dusty exterior because of our hard water, and I see a few signs of rust. But it's served me well, all these 40+ years. Now, if you decide you want to make this, and you don't have a pudding mold, don't despair. Just use a medium-sized ceramic bowl (higher sides preferred) and a lip that you can somehow secure foil to. Cover it with a piece of cloth (a thin towel, or a dishtowel, cut just to cover it and over the edges). What you don't want is for the steam to get INSIDE the bowl (the steam turns into water and drips onto the top of the pudding), so that's why you want to tie the foil down as securely as you can. If the bowl sides are too slanted, you'll never get it to stay, so straighter sides are better.

The ingredients in this pudding are simple: butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate and almonds. That's it. The butter and sugar get whipped up, you add egg yolks and grated chocolate, then the ground almonds. It's a thick batter, as you can see above. Lastly you fold in the whipped egg whites. I happened to have added an additional 3 egg whites to this (because I had some languishing in the refrigerator), to I actually used 7 egg whites. But 4 are sufficient. If you want a lighter pud, add a couple more. Pour it into a mold, cover, simmer it in water and that's it.

Here's the finished pudding, just out of the oven, resting, cooling.

About the chocolate: I'm giving you a picture of the chocolate mound. I was astounded, really, to see how big a mound was created by finely grating 4 ounces! It must be finely grated. In some years past I've chopped it finely, and I suppose that would suffice, but grated is far better. It takes awhile to grate chocolate - this 4 ounces probably took me 10-15 minutes. I tried a coarser microplane, but settled on the thin one, the one I use mostly for grating citrus zest. It made a heavy dust of chocolate. I used Scharffen Berger's unsweetened chocolate that comes in a 9+ ounce bar.

About the almonds: in years past I've always whizzed the almonds up in the food processor. And if you don't have a Trader Joe's in your town, that method will work, although it does leave some little bits of almond, so you actually chew a bit of almonds now and then. It's what I did for years, so am sure it would continue to work. But Trader Joe's carries a package of "Just Almond Meal," which makes it so very easy. It's a finer grind - almost like flour, actually. Maybe you can find almond meal in other stores as well.
Once you finish preparing the batter, you pour it into the mold, cover, and put into a pot large enough to hold the mold, plus some, as you fill the pot about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the mold. I weighted mine with something heavy to keep the mold from floating. It takes 90 minutes to steam the pud, then you carefully remove it, unveil it, let it cool a bit, then remove from the mold. It's best served warm, but I've always made it ahead of time, so just cool, chill, then warm it in the oven (wrapped in foil) for about 15-20 minutes at 200. So, if you're looking for something a bit different this year, this may be your ticket. It makes a nice traditional dessert for Christmas Dinner, but it's not all that traditional in taste.
Steamed Chocolate Pudding (and Gluten-Free)
Recipe: Mrs. M. E. Pout of Worplesdon, England, via Gourmet Magazine, 1960's
Servings: 12
1/2 cup unsalted butter -- at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
4 whole eggs -- separated
[2 additional egg whites, optional, added to the other egg whites]
1 cup ground almonds
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate -- grated
Butter for greasing the mold
1 cup whipping cream -- whipped
1. Beat the egg whites until stiff and able to hold peaks. Don't overbeat.
2. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar until mixture is creamy. Stir in the 4 egg yolks which have been lightly beaten, the ground almonds and the unsweetened chocolate. Combine until it's smooth.
3. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and stir and fold until there are no major streaks of egg white showing.
4. Pour the mixture into a well-buttered steam mold (or use a heavy ceramic bowl and tie several thicknesses of foil around the top).
5. Stand the mold in a large kettle and add hot water to reach 2/3 of the way up the outside of the mold. Bring the pot to a low simmer and steam the pudding for 90 minutes. Remove from water, dry it off on the outside, then gently remove the steamed pudding from the mold. Cut into thin slices to serve, with a mound of whipped cream on the side.
NOTES : Be sure to grind up the almonds very finely, but not so much that they turn into glue. If possible, buy already ground almond meal/flour.
Serving Ideas : If you prefer, this can be served with a rum or brandy sauce (1/2 cup softened butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and about 2 T. of rum or brandy, chill before serving).
Per Serving: 230 Calories; 21g Fat (75.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 26mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 4 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rainy Day and Sunday

Is this not gorgeous? There it was, all wet and dewy from the rain we'd had on Thursday night. My DH cut this very last rose on Friday morning and brought it to me, all trimmed and vased to set in front of me here at my kitchen computer. He's the gardener in the family. I positively have a black thumb. His specialty, I'd say, is roses. And this one, a hybrid tea rose, a Mr. Lincoln by name, is so very fragrant, even here in December. Even though I don't garden, I know what I like when it comes to roses. I love the hybrid teas. Our favorite is the Chrysler Imperial, for its fragrance. It's similar to Mr. Lincoln. On the rare occasions when we visit some gorgeous commercial gardens, I usually have a notepad in hand, stopping to admire the varieties and to smell each one, making notes about the more fragrant ones to add to our small collection. In this house where we live now we have few places to grow roses, but we've hollowed out a little space about 6 feet square and it houses a few plants.

But this Mr. Lincoln, we've both stopped to admire, to smell it's glorious aroma several times since. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us the beauty of nature to admire and enjoy.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Sea Scallops

My friend Cherrie and I went to yet another cooking class this week. You'd think we'd get tired of doing this, but no. We went further afield than usual (about 1 1/2 hours away, to San Diego). Where there's a cooking school and cookware store called Great News. It's in Pacific Beach, about 2 miles from I-5. We drove south, stopping in Oceanside for lunch and to watch the wind and the waves, then shopped at a fabulous meat market called Tip Top Meats (that also has the glorious sausages, and tons of imported grocery items from Greece, Scandinavia, Germany - it's introduced as a German meat market). Spent 45 minutes wandering the aisles and buying some fresh sausages (those wonderful Nuremburger ones, like we had IN Nuremburg last month). Check this link to information about Tip Top Meats .

Then we went further south to Little Italy (very near downtown San Diego) and shopped at Mona Lisa, a very old-school kind of Italian delicatessen. Oh, the wonderful aromas from cheeses and salamis. An Italian friend of ours who lives in Fallbrook, says he does all of his Italian foodstuffs shopping at this market (and restaurant). Lots of Italian wine you don't find even in wine stores. Fresh vegetables too, including really large fennel bulbs and cardoons. A small gem of a store. I bought some pasta, some fresh Italian sausages (with cheese and their own herb mixture) and some herby olives.

The class, titled "Entertaining with Style," was taught by one of Cherrie's and my favorite teachers, Phillis Carey. She lives in San Diego, but commutes to Orange County to teach occasional classes, which is how we learned about her. She's very fun, witty, cute, and is a fantastic cook. An author of several cookbooks too. Phillis recognizes us now, we've been to so many of her classes. Great News is her favorite teaching venue, and I certainly can understand why: a gorgeous designer kitchen with a prep counter that must be 18 feet long, all granite. Lovely facility. We had time to shop before in their incredible store - it has more merchandise than nearly any cookware store I've ever been in, and at intermission. You get a 10% discount on purchased items if you attend a class.

So, this was the first course of our 4-course meal - soup, salad, entree [and sides] and dessert. It was a delicious evening, and contained recipes I will make. Maybe every one of them. So, on to soup. This is very, very simple to make, although it does require a few steps:
  • create the soup (stock, cream, onion, cauliflower, garlic)
  • blanche the leeks
  • saute the scallops
  • chop the chives
But, these are not hard, not a one of them. I'll be making this soup soon. My DH really likes scallops, although you undoubtedly could substitute shrimp. Or ham, Phillis suggested, instead of the scallop. I did learn a bit about a muscle attachment on a scallop - called the "foot." I am certain I've had scallops that still had this muscle (where the scallop itself attaches itself to its shell) still attached. It's very chewy, so Phillis showed us how to find it and remove it. You run your finger around the outside edge of the scallop until you find a slight nub - it will usually open to a small flap. That's it - and you use a sharp knife to remove it (and discard). Don't dig into the scallop flesh much - just remove the nub portion. Go for it:

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Sea Scallops
Recipe: Phillis Carey, author, cooking instructor
Servings: 6
3 tablespoons canola oil -- divided use
1 cup onion -- chopped
1 clove garlic -- minced
1 head cauliflower -- about 3 3/4 cups
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whipping cream coarse sea salt to taste white pepper to taste
1 whole leek
6 whole sea scallops -- "foot" removed, patted dry
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons chives -- minced
1. Heat 2 T. of oil in heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute about 4 minutes. Add minced garlic and continue cooking until onion is soft. Do not burn the garlic. Add cauliflower, broth and cream. Bring soup to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, partly cover it and simmer gently until cauliflower is tender, about 18 minutes. Puree soup in small batches in blender (don't overfill, or it will blow the lid off the blender), until smooth. Return soup to same saucepan, season with salt and pepper. Can be made one day ahead to this point. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.
2. Cut and thoroughly wash the leek, discarding all but the white and just a little bit of the green. Cut leek into 1/8 inch slices. Blanch the leek in a small saucepan of boiling water, about one minute. Drain. Place a small mound of leek in each wide, flattish soup bowl (not white, preferably). The scallop will sit on top of this mound.
3. Heat remaining 1 T. of oil in a medium, nonstick skillet over high heat. Sprinkle scallops with salt, pepper and lemon zest. Sear until brown and JUST opaque in the center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Immediately place the scallop on top of the leek mound and ladle the hot soup AROUND the scallop (not on). Sprinkle the soup with chives and serve.
NOTES : If you don't know how to find the "foot" on the scallop, feel around the outside edge until you find a little bump or edge that sticks out (this is the part that attaches to the shell). It's a firmer kind of muscle meat and should be removed. Use a knife to cut it and discard.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 306 Calories; 30g Fat (82.2% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 57mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 6 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.