OVERNIGHT WHOLE-WHEAT, SEED, AND ONION ROLLS

So, the first thing you need to know is that this bread takes 3 days to prepare. OK, not 3 full days, but you need to start 2 days in advance. Allow me to explain. The first day you place some of the seeds in a bowl, add water, cover, and place on your counter overnight. This step – 5 minutes max, unless of course you have trouble locating one of the seeds, then – well – you’re on your own time! The second day you make the dough and let it rest in your refrigerator overnight. The third day you shape the rolls, allow them to rise, add a topping, and plop them in the oven. So technically 3 days. But actually no more work time than any other yeast bread. And what do you get for your time and effort? Well you get about 32 perfectly delicious, soft, and healthy dinner rolls.

Now I know I’ve already told you how I feel about sitting down to a fine dinner in a restaurant or a holiday or special occasion dinner at home without bread or rolls. But for those of you who haven’t heard me rant on the subject, suffice it to say, I think it’s barbaric! In other countries, it’s almost illegal to have even an everyday meal without some kind of bread being at least offered. So my question is – where did America go wrong? (Oh God, I could expand on this subject until the cows come home. But in the name of common sense and good manners, I will refrain from any political discourse at this time.)  

Anyway, for a recent pre-concert meal in our home, I planned to serve three different sauces to go on rice. What I needed was a roll that would complement each of the sauces but yet have a presence of its own. So I thought a hearty roll featuring onion, different grains, and seeds would be perfect. Through much research, I came up with this recipe which is a compilation of several internet recipes and a couple of my own standards. Fortunately the result was well received. In other words, our guests very much enjoyed the rolls.

So next time you plan a special dinner for your family and/or friends, I would invite you to give these rolls a try. But unless you know your guests very well, I would refrain from talking politics. Nothing spoils a meal faster than some fool who disagrees with your well thought out and accurate point of view!

  • ¼ c. sunflower seeds
  • ¼ c. pumpkin (pepita) seeds
  • 2 T. flax seeds
  • 1 c. room temperature water
  • 1 T. dark molasses
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1½ c. cold water
  • 2 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ c. sesame seeds
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 3 T. dehydrated chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil + more for greasing the mixer bowl
  • 1 c. spelt flour
  • 2 c. whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed 
  • Topping:
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1 T. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds* or black sesame seeds
  • coarse sea or kosher salt, for sprinkling, opt.

Place the sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds in a small bowl; add room temperature water. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand on the counter overnight. The next day, rinse the seeds with cool water and drain well. Set aside.

Pour the molasses, yeast, and cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer; stir to dissolve. Whisk in the 2 cups bread flour to obtain a batter-like consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until mixture looks active, about 30 minutes. Add the drained soaked seeds, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and dehydrated onion. Use your dough hook to stir the seed mixture into the yeast mixture. Then add the eggs, olive oil, spelt flour, and whole-wheat flour. Knead the dough until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sparingly add additional flour if needed. (Dough should be a bit sticky.)

Pour a small amount of olive oil over the dough, and using your hands, roll the dough into a ball. Make sure the entire ball is lightly greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for a slow, cool rise**.

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 90 minutes. Form the dough into small balls and place 2-inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until balls have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Uncover and brush top of balls lightly with beaten egg. Mix together the sesame and nigella seeds. Sprinkle mixture over each ball, then sprinkle very lightly with sea or kosher salt. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

Please note: If ever in doubt that your bread is fully baked, take its temperature. The ideal average bread temperature is 200 degrees F.

*Nigella seeds are used as a spice in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The black seeds taste like a combination of onion, black pepper, and oregano.

**If you wish to skip this step, leave dough to rise in the bowl covered with plastic wrap until doubled, about 1 hour. Then proceed from the sentence beginning “form dough into small balls……..”

OVEN ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI

I love roasted vegetables. Something almost magical happens while they are in the oven. But actually, roasting veggies transforms them from ordinary to delicious in two simple scientific ways. First, some of the water in the veggies evaporates during the baking process resulting in a more intense flavor. Plus, the vegetables caramelize on the outside allowing their natural sugars to shine forth. Like I said – almost magical.

Then of course there are the simple additives like olive oil, garlic, herbs, spices, cheeses, etc. that help transform the simple vegetable to a culinary treat. (Not too shabby for a food that is totally good for us!)

So when I needed a veggie side dish to serve yesterday to our JazzVox guests, I decided to roast 2 of my favorite veggies together using my usual “roasted veggie dressing”.

And today I decided to publish this recipe because I realized I had been terribly remiss in not doing so already. Plus I promised my good friend Laurie I would post the recipe as soon as possible. 

Laurie is a self-confessed reluctant vegetable lover. But she wanted to know how to prepare these veggies after having tasted them at the pre-concert meal. So this recipe is dedicated to Laurie and to any of the rest of you who want to eat more veggies in the worst way. Well that ain’t going to happen! However, this is the best way I know to turn one of the healthy components of a well-balanced meal into a pleasure rather than a chore.

So, eat your veggies ladies and gentlemen. But don’t limit yourself to broccoli and cauliflower. Almost any veggie can be roasted, and almost any veggie is more delicious when slathered in supplemented olive oil and allowed to spend some quality time in an oven. Well OK, there are a few veggies that maybe shouldn’t be roasted, like salad greens and cucumbers. But other than those few, all the rest are fair game!  

  • 2 c. small fresh broccoli pieces
  • 2 c. small fresh cauliflower pieces
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • tiny pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lg. clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese (I use a combination)

Place broccoli and cauliflower pieces in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Pour over the veggies and mix well. (I use my hands to mix the veggies because then I can feel if the olive oil has kissed each and every veggie piece. If the veggies seem too dry, add a bit more oil. What you do not want however, are veggies drowning in oil.) Spread veggies onto a baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender and both the veggies and cheese are turning a light golden brown.

 

CHICKEN IN A SAVORY TOMATO SAUCE

I must be getting old. I seem to be tending towards my version of “fast food” more and more. I’m not talking about using a microwave to hot up a processed product or one I fetched from the deli case at my local grocery store. That may come when I am older, but for now I still have the strength to cook something from scratch. Thank goodness! But the recipes I seem to be drawn to these days are centered around how quickly I can get the dishes on the table. (Sounds like I have regressed to my days of being a working mother and planning quick and easy meals for my poor starving children. Yikes!)

Scary thoughts of parenting aside, and as I said above, I seem to be leaning more and more towards quick and easy recipes that don’t take hours of prep work. And this chicken dish fits the bill nicely. Plus it is absolutely delicious.

Now I know this recipe does have quite a few ingredients. But there is not too much prep work, which if you really analyze what takes most of your time in preparing a dish, it’s the time you spend washing, peeling, chopping, dicing, etc. The simple gathering of items out of the refrigerator, pantry, or spice cabinet is the easy part. So never be intimidated by the amount of ingredients in a recipe. However, pay close attention to the list of ingredients before starting a dish. The worst thing in the culinary world is to be happily cooking away and find that the next ingredient called for is a cup of homemade béchamel, velouté, or espagnole that you don’t just happen to have tucked away in your refrigerator or freezer.  At that point, the 5 ingredient wonder dish that you were so excited about becomes a nightmare! (I just used béchamel, velouté, and espagnole as examples. The missing ingredient could be as simple as ketchup or Dijon mustard. Regardless, if you haven’t got the ingredient on hand, you have a problem that might take a bit of time to solve.) 

So taking this dish as an example, after you have cut up the chicken, chopped a bit of onion, and minced a garlic clove, you are pretty much home free, prep time that is! The rest is just frying up the chicken, plus a bit of hunting/gathering, and a modicum of time to deal with whatever you are going to serve this on or with while the sauce merrily cooks away on the stove. This recipe may look, at first glance, like a lot of work. But believe me, it comes together fairly quickly. And the results are fabulous and pretty darn nutritious too.

So some day when you have chicken breasts thawing on your counter, and aren’t quite sure what to prepare with them, give this dish a try. It is nothing if not totally evocative of all foods Italian. And what could be better than that?!?!

  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with liquid (Italian tomatoes, if possible)
  • ½ c. chicken broth
  • ¼ c. white wine
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • ½ tsp. celery seed
  • 1-2 dashes hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)

In a zip-lock bag, combine flour, seasoned salt, and pepper. Add the chicken breast pieces and gently shake the bag until the meat is evenly coated with the flour mixture. Heat the olive oil in a large covered skillet over medium heat, and brown chicken on all sides. Remove from skillet and set aside.  

In the same skillet, add the onion, and cook over low heat for about 7-8 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, chili powder, mustard powder, celery seed, and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning. Add the reserved chicken and cook only until heated through.  

Serve the chicken and sauce over rice, pasta, or whatever takes your fancy. (I use brown rice that has been steamed with chicken broth instead of water.)

 

HUNGARIAN GROUND BEEF SOUP

As you can see, I am still on my ground beef kick. And why you might ask. Well – lean ground beef is versatile, relatively inexpensive, relatively low in fat, a good protein source, and tasty. (Really, what more can you ask from a simple, easy to obtain food product?) And when combined with other healthy ingredients, ground beef is the base for many quick and easy dishes including this wonderful soup. (I call ground beef “wonder meat” because it is the perfect meat for all the working mothers and fathers (can’t forget all those guys out there who are the family cooks) who rush home from work and are greeted with those 3 little words all parents hear upon entering their home. And no, it’s not “I love you”. It’s “what’s for dinner”?) So this is yet another recipe to help you prepare an easy, healthy dish that is on the table before your kidlets have time to declare that they are about to expire from hunger. As if?? (And yes, this recipe is great for seniors too. Healthy, easy to prepare, and basically a one dish meal.)

So yesterday when I was deciding what to do with the pound of ground beef I had taken out of the freezer, I decided to search for a goulash style soup that featured ground beef. (I love Hungarian food, so I often start a search with the word “Hungarian”.)

This soup recipe is out of the Food and Wine magazine. (I did use noodles instead of potatoes, added some sour cream, and used less salt than originally called for, but the rest is straight off the Food and Wine magazine web site. Great recipe site BTW!)

So do yourself a favor and make this soup next time you want to use ground beef in a less than traditional way. And I know, spaghetti, tacos, chili, and hamburgers are delicious too. But often, a new dish is as welcome to your family as fixing a new recipe is for the cook. And always remember, it’s all about you – the cook. If you’re happy in the kitchen, your family are going to reap the benefits. And since the kitchen is the heart of any home, who knows, you might even hear “I love you” more often. Stranger things have happened in the name of good eating.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 T. Hungarian paprika (sweet, not smoked or hot)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1¼ tsp. caraway seeds (don’t even think about leaving them out!)
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (small amount)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3 c. beef broth  
  • 3 c. water
  • 1½ – 2 c. egg noodles
  • ½ c. sour cream, plus more for the table

In a heavy covered soup pan, lightly brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the paprika, cayenne, marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, tomato paste, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the noodles and cook just until al dente. Stir in the sour cream, adjust seasoning, and serve with additional sour cream if desired.

 

GARLIC BREAD

There are only a few type of people who can turn down a piece of hot garlic bread straight out of the oven. You know the type. Among them, those who have strict and healthy eating habits, or consider food just a means to keep their body alive, or those infuriating few who can even forsake Cheetos. (In my estimation, no one should be that well-disciplined. It simply can’t lead to mental stability.) So unfortunately, or fortunately (depends on how you look at it) I don’t happen to fall in any of the types who can show restraint when it comes to garlic bread (or Cheetos, for that matter)! For me, garlic bread is like a siren call that lures me away from healthy eating and onto the path of pleasurable indulgence followed by guilty regret.

So now that I have completely bummed you out, I’m going to tell you how wonderful this garlic bread tastes. And no, I am not going to tell you this bread is good for you. I am not going to lie to you, because my mother told me not to lie to people. But I will tell you it is worth going a little out of your nutritional comfort zone if offered a piece. It literally screams “Italian” and as we all know, if it’s Italian, by definition it’s going to be amazing. (I recently did the “who were your ancestors” thing, and it turns out I am 100% European, but only about 1% Italian. Nearly broke my heart.)

So, there is nothing more to say about this bread except that you must make it sometime in the near future. It goes well with almost any pasta dish, soup, salad, or entrée. In other words, it’s versatile. Plus it’s easy to prepare. Now if it were only low calorie, it would be the perfect food. A girl can dream, right???

  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¾ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 long crusty baguette, cut in diagonal slices

Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper all at once. Stir for 5 seconds and remove from heat.

Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and spread liberally with the butter mixture. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 4-6 minutes or until the bread is crusty around the edges and the butter topping is very hot. Serve either piping hot or at room temperature.

 

DRIED CRANBERRY, PISTACIO, AND WHITE CHOCOLATE BISCOTTI

Biscotti is one type of cookie I always try to send my kids in their Christmas goodie package. They all drink coffee and/or tea, and there is nothing better on a busy holiday morning than a sweet and crunchy biscotti to help set the holiday spirit. So when I read this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis which contained dried cranberries (red) and pistachios (green), it seemed too fortuitous to ignore.

So I baked up a couple batches, decorated them in honor of the season, and sent them off to the kids via the capable hands of UPS.

Now something you should know about biscotti. THEY ARE STINKIN’ EASY TO MAKE! And why they are so expensive in bakeries or off the grocery store shelf is way beyond my understanding. I mean really! Just because they look impressive should not give providers the right to charge so darn much. And because I like to stand behind some of the outlandish statements I make on this blog, I went on line and found an example of what I’m talking about. From Etsy, 1 dozen traditional Italian Almond Biscotti – $20.00. Shipping – $13.75. I assume you can do the math on this, but in case your calculator is at the repair shop, that’s $2.82 each! You can practically prepare an entire batch of 36-40 biscotti for about double the amount of 1 of these purchased babies. And yes I know, someone had to buy the ingredients, pay for the facility, heat, electricity, labor etc. etc. But $13.75 for shipping? How heavy are these little darlings anyway? That would be my first question! All together, in my opinion, way too much money to spend on a simple to prepare cookie. 

Anyway, I’ll get off my high horse and get back to this recipe. (Steam is still coming out of my ears, but I shall contain myself for your sake.) Like I said before, biscotti are really very easy to make. And this recipe is no exception. It is just delicious and perfect for the Christmas holidays.

So give this wonderful biscotti recipe a try. You can find my other biscotti recipes under Biscotti – 6 Ways From Sunday also on this site. Cheers

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest   
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ c. pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 6-oz. good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. vegetable oil
  • red and green sugar crystals, for garnish (if making for Christmas)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and dried cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into ¾-inch thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack and cool completely. Don’t clean the cookie sheet.

Melt the white chocolate slowly in a microwave oven. Stir in the oil. Place cooled biscotti back on the baking sheet close together so they are touching. Lightly drizzle the melted chocolate on each biscotti in a zig-zag pattern. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals if preparing the biscotti for Christmas. Otherwise just leave plain. Leave on the cooling racks until the white chocolate is set. (This takes a while.) Or refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 50 minutes.

The biscotti can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container, or wrapped in foil and frozen in re-sealable plastic bags.

 

 

ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MUSHROOM, CHEESE, AND EGG BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

While I was gathering frozen items to take along on our March trailer trip, I grabbed a package of this breakfast casserole along with the other items I needed. I always start our journeys with a full freezer including several kinds of meat, extra butter (never leave home without it), ice cream (for Mr. C), a small amount of  ice (for our first nights “safe arrival” drink), and anything else that I think might provide meal variety and preparation ease along the road.

In addition to the usual items, this year I included frozen broccoli cheese soup, cinnamon rolls, a pasta casserole, and a vacuum packed 2 person portion of this breakfast casserole.

When we are out in our trailer, I almost always fix breakfast. This trip however, we ate out for breakfast one morning mainly for nostalgic reasons. We used to own a condo in Long Beach, Washington, so we just had to eat at least one meal at our favorite restaurant in the area (42nd Street Café and Bistro) while we were “camped” for one night at Cape Disappointment State Park. (I say “camped”, but in reality, calling a fully equipped trailer parked at a state park or RV park “camping” is nigh onto ludicrous. A walk around queen sized bed, full bathroom, three burner stove plus oven, refrigerator/freezer, microwave, furnace, air conditioner, TV, radio, etc. is about as far from real camping (sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, keeping your perishables in a cooler, etc.) as spending a night in a youth hostel compared to a 5 star hotel! Actually, even further apart. At least spending the night in a youth hostel, you don’t have to leave your warm bed and run through a torrential downpour to reach a bathroom in the middle of the night!) But I digress……………….. And no, I don’t feel guilty in the least. I did my share of tent camping when I was younger and loved every minute of it. But at a certain age, even the most avid tent camper must pay attention to Mother Nature when she starts sending out not-so-subtle hints that it might be time to make a change. (The onset of regular night calls and tender knees, to mention a couple of the hints both Mr. C and I received from Her Grace.)

For a few pictures of our “camping” experience, see pictures below.

Anyway, what I am trying to get at, in my own easily distracted way, is that for one of our breakfasts, it was a delight to open our trailer freezer, pull out the package containing this casserole, heat it up in the microwave, (yes I know I’m spoiled) and have a tasty bit of variety from our normal breakfast meat and eggs over easy.

I guess I should really get back to the subject at hand and mention that this casserole is very easy to prepare, fairly economical, and just plain delicious. And if you haven’t already gathered that it freezes beautifully, let me take this opportunity to make that fact known to you as well.

So do yourself and your family a favor. Make up a double batch of this breakfast casserole. Serve one batch and save the other in your freezer. Then some morning when even the thought of getting out of bed, much less cooking breakfast is repugnant, whip your frozen casserole out of the freezer, and treat yourself to a fabulous breakfast with virtually no preparation involved. OK, you do have to work the buttons on your microwave. But that’s where a hot, steaming cup of coffee really helps! Good morning sunshine! Breakfast’s ready.

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ¼ lb. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 c. half & half
  • ¼ tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices cubed white bread

Melt butter in medium fry pan. Brown mushrooms in butter and remove from pan. Add sausage and cook until starting to brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Pour a tiny bit of the half & half in a large bowl. Add the dry mustard and whisk until smooth. (If you add the mustard to all the liquid, you will have the very devil of a time breaking up the small dried mustard clumps. Trust me on this one!) When smooth add the remaining half & half, salt, pepper, parsley, and eggs. Whisk until the eggs are well combined. Stir in the cheese, bread, cooked mushrooms, and sausage.

Pour into a lightly buttered casserole or 9×13-inch pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake the casserole.

Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until firm to the touch and lightly browned. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Freezes beautifully.

Our trailer parked at Morro Bay State Park. Picture taken from the golf course.

Another picture taken from the golf course. (Man taking his golf clubs for a stroll – Mr. C.)

Rough life at Jalama Beach (Santa Barbara county park).

Any closer to the Columbia River while parked at Peach Beach RV Park across the river from Biggs, Oregon and we would have been IN the river! Pretty darn wonderful!

CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I am writing from my trailer parked in the rain next to a rushing creek at Beverly Beach State Park in Oregon – South of Depoe Bay and North of Newport. We have had rain every day since we left home, except for the day when we were traveling from Forks, Washington to Grayland Beach State Park in Grayland, Washington. That lovely day it was snowing heavily, which, if you have ever pulled a trailer, is no damn fun at all! But thanks to Mr. C., we arrived safe and sound.

And because we now own a wonderful new land yacht (all 24 feet, 7 inches of it from hitching ball to the back of the spare tire) complete with a fabulous walk-around bed, a shower that I can actually turn around in, a galley large enough to prepare chili gracefully, and a dining/reading/computer operating/game playing table and comfortable bench seats, it can rain its bloody head off for all I care! I’m sitting warm and dry and ever so comfortable with my love by my side and my computer ready to grant my every off-line wish. The only thing missing is Wi-Fi and a Verizon cell tower. (Most privately owned RV parks have Wi-Fi available, but state parks tend to be more rustic, which is of course why we like them to begin with!) So although I am using word to create this preamble, I won’t be able to post this recipe until I reach civilization. But enough about me, let’s get on with this recipe. (Sending this from Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon using our Verizon Jetpack!)

But first, I must tell you how this recipe came to be.

Before we left for our month long trailer adventure, I asked Mr. C. what kind of cookie he would like me to bake for the trip. His answer – peanut butter. OK, I have a great recipe for peanut butter cookies. Actually the same one I’ve been using for about 50 years. Maybe it was time to update it a little? So I asked my dear husband if he would like a bit of chocolate with his peanut butter. He said, “couldn’t hurt”, so this recipe is the result.

I wanted the soft texture of my original recipe, with some crunch added to give the cookie a bit of character. So I added whole peanuts. Then I added chocolate chunks for the sheer joy of biting into a bit of chocolate once or twice a cookie. Mighty fine!

Now, when I baked my cookies, I left them in the oven a little too long. So instead of being soft, they turned out crisp. Nothing wrong with crisp, but I was after a softer texture. As it turns out, a crisper cookie was probably better for our trip because these cookies were planned to last the entire trip. (That is, if I dole them out they’d make it to the end of the trip!) So from a longevity perspective, a longer baking time probably produced a better outcome. But regardless of how you like your cookies, soft or crisp, this recipe is probably going to work well for you.

Just as a side note from my recent near death (not really) snow travel day. If you want to challenge yourself to something a little more difficult than baking cookies, sit in the shotgun (aka passenger) seat while your beloved spouse tows your brand new trailer through a blinding snowstorm. I promise you there is nothing quite like the feeling of pending doom as when snow continues to fall, the road surface is packed with slush or hard packed snow, and you are still far from camp. (Baking cookies just can’t achieve that same level of anxiety– thank God!) During such times, even if you are not intimately acquainted with the inside of a house of worship, you are none the less going to secretly invoke the blessing of every deity you have ever heard or read about. A religious experience, especially for someone as cowardly as I am! My suggestion for myself – stick to baking cookies. Much safer and ever so much more rewarding. And at all cost, try and stay away from snow when on a trailer adventure. Ya think!?!?

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. creamy or crunchy no-stir peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter or your cookies will be oily)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. roughly chopped salted peanuts
  • 1 c. chocolate chunks or chocolate chipsPlace the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar into the bowl of your mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients gradually, mixing only until just combined. Mix in the chopped peanuts and chocolate chunks. Using an ice cream scoop, drop balls of dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets about 2-inches apart.      

    Bake the cookies in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are set but still a little soft. (Don’t overbake if you want soft cookies. If you prefer crisp, crunchy cookies, bake a little longer.) Remove from oven. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack. When completely cooled and the chocolate is hard again, store in an airtight container. 

     

     
     

MEXICAN STYLE STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS

I love stuffed green peppers. I always have. Even as a small child I favored them over a simple meat and potatoes dinner. There was just something delightful about each of us having our own delectable container filled with seasoned meat. I liked the tidiness of the presentation. And along with the stuffed pepper would always come our very own baked potato. Again a tidy package on which to heap all kinds of lovely ingredients like butter, salt, and pepper. No sour cream, bacon, or sliced green onions in those days. But as much butter as we wanted. (We had our own cows and my grandmother churned our butter. So butter was not a luxury, it was simply taken for granted and eaten enthusiastically.) Sigh……..

So yesterday while we were at the grocery store, I noticed that green peppers were on sale. I looked at Mr. C, he looked at me, we nodded yes simultaneously, and the making of our dinner menu was hatched right there in the produce section of our local IGA. (It’s OK, we’re married! Hatching dinner plans in public is still considered acceptable behavior for married couples!)

Anyway, when we arrived home I decided to work up a recipe for stuffed peppers featuring Mexican ingredients and seasonings. So I began my task and came up with this recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And don’t hesitate to serve it to your children. They might balk at the pepper part, but I bet they will love the filling. And to its credit, the filling is high in protein and some other really-good-for-growing-children ingredients. Including, and this is the fun part, you can sneak wheat germ into the filling and your kids won’t even notice. Hah – is that great or what?!?! For this recipe, I would suggest about a quarter cup of wheat germ. At least, that’s the amount I used per pound of meat while I still had kidlets at home.

For more information about the health benefits of wheat germ for children, visit www.parentinghealthybabies.com, then search under Health Benefits of Wheat Germ for Children.

Please note: For my recipe for a delicious, unmistakably Italian stuffed green pepper, search under Stuffed Green Peppers on this site.

  • 4 green peppers, tops sliced off and seeds and membranes removed and discarded (save the top to finely dice and add to the filling)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (first carefully remove the seeds and membranes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano (Mexican preferably)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce 
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c. cooked brown rice
  • ½ c. low-fat sour cream
  • ½ c. grated shredded sharp cheddar or cheese of choice, plus more to sprinkle on top for presentation

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and fry until cooked through and browned. Add onion, jalapeño, and the finely diced flesh from the top. Cook until the veggies are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, chili powder, tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and add the cooked rice, sour cream, and cheese; mix well. Adjust seasoning.  

Lightly grease an 8×8-inch baking pan. Place the peppers, cut side up in the pan and fill with the meat mixture. (If you have extra filling, bake it in another small baking dish.)

Bake the peppers in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 75-90 minutes or until the pepper is very soft and starting to brown. (If the filling gets too brown during the baking process, cover with aluminum foil.)

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a small amount of grated cheese. Serve immediately.

 

 

CURRIED CHICKEN CASSEROLE WITH BROWN RICE AND BROCCOLI

In my opinion, people who think casseroles are uninteresting, too fattening, and a thing of the past, simply don’t have enough empirical study on the subject. And I mean to help with that problem by offering up one of my favorite casserole recipes to assist with said research.

Now I know broccoli, chicken, and curry casserole (Chicken Divan) has been around for decades. But my version is healthier, less caloric, and if I may be so bold, tastier than most. (If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be posting this recipe in the first place! Duh!)

So what makes my spin on this classic different?

  • no cream of mushroom or chicken soup
  • no sharp cheddar cheese
  • no bread crumbs
  • no butter
  • no sherry or white wine
  • the addition of a small amount of cooked brown rice
  • broccoli and chicken cut into really small pieces so that each bite contains a small bit of each ingredient
  • the addition of a small amount of onion
  • the addition of Dijon mustard to give the sauce a bit of a kick

So as you can see, this recipe has just a few ingredients either lacking or added to make this casserole just a tad bit unique. It’s still really Chicken Divan. But I think my execution of this dish better reflects the current taste for more sophisticated yet wholesome preparations. But as they say – vive la différence! If you have a favorite recipe for Chicken Divan, I say, stick with what you know and like. But if you are a novice to casserole preparation, and feel up to the task of researching casseroles to enhance your culinary expertise, I would recommend this recipe. You have to start somewhere after all, so you might as well start with a casserole that is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, and just plain delicious. In Mr. Cs words, “this is really wonderful”. (I love it when those words pop unsolicited from his mouth. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Of course the pre-dinner martini helps with that feeling too. But it’s healthier mentally to believe that Mr. Cs comments are the real reason for my elation!)

  • ½ c. uncooked brown rice*
  • 1 c. water
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • 3 c. very small pieces of broccoli flowerets and peeled stems  
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite sized pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. finely minced onion
  • 2 tsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/3 c. light mayonnaise    
  • 1 T. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley, opt. garnish*or 1 cup leftover cooked rice

    Combine rice, water, and seasoned salt. Cook while you are assembling other ingredients. (I use my rice cooker.)  While the rice cooks, steam or blanch the broccoli until crisp tender. (You don’t want the broccoli tender at this point. It will continue to cook while it cools and during its tenure in the oven.) Set aside.

    Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the diced chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken cubes just until done. (They should have some brown on them.) Remove from pan and set aside.

    Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Do not let the onion get brown. When the onion is done, whisk in the flour and curry powder. (The flour will be quite dry.) Cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning. Bring to just under a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in the cooked rice, broccoli, and chicken.

    Scoop into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the casserole is hot. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.