GROUND BEEF PATTIES WITH COGNAC SAUCE

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As much as I love to cook, there are just those evenings when the last thing I want to do is spend time or more time in the kitchen. What happens more often than I would care to admit, is that I have already spent my entire day in the kitchen preparing for an event. So the last thing I want to do is even think about what to do about dinner. Sometimes the answer is obvious. I grab my dear husband and drag him out the door to a local food purveyor. But that never seems quite fair. After all, the poor guy has been smelling food all day. And I’m quite sure expecting that at least some morsel of whatever I have been preparing is going to reach the dining room table. (Not usually going to happen.) So the good wife in me hates to deprive him of a home cooked dinner.

For those evenings, and for times when all I want is a simple meal fit for the most dedicated carnivore (I resemble that remark), I fix this simple recipe, along with a baked sweet or Yukon Gold potato and a steamed green veggie. Mr. C. is happy, I’m happy, the cats are happy. All is right with the world.

So if you too have extenuating circumstances that result in you not jumping for joy at spending another or even 30 minutes preparing dinner, I suggest you use the excuse I often use under this most trying of situations. I DON’T WANT TO! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! I QUIT! (I don’t actually say those things. But you can bet your favorite Dr. Seuss book my inner child is jumping up and down screaming them in my head!)

Actually what I usually do is negotiate. You know, the art of getting your own way but in a decent, respectful manner. I play to Mr. Cs always agreeable side. I merely tell him, “I’m old, I’m tired, and if I have to make dinner I might accidentally burn down the house”. No, I don’t do that either. I just tell him the truth – “I truly don’t have the desire or strength to cook dinner tonight”. That’s all it takes. Just a simple statement told in an adult and civilized manner. Sometimes it results in us going out. Sometimes Mr. C. cooks, and sometimes the best of all possible worlds happens. We cook dinner together. I can almost always garner enough strength to cook when I have Mr. C. helping me. And of course, a dish as easy as this makes our joint adventure even more enjoyable. That and one of Mr. Cs martinis! (You just have to get a little extra boost of energy wherever you can. A nice glass of wine works too.)

So enjoy how easy this ground beef recipe is to prepare, how economical it is, and how darn delicious it is for containing such a short list of ingredients. You can thank me later by replying at the top left corner of this post.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 T. minced onion
  • 2 tsp. Montreal Seasoning
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. beef stock
  • 1 T. Cognac

Combine the ground beef, onion, and Montreal Seasoning. Form into 2 or 3 torpedo shaped patties. Heat the butter in a small fry pan. Add the patties and fry the first side until dark brown and about half cooked. Flip the patties and cook an additional couple of minutes or until desired doneness.

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Remove pan from heat and transfer the patties to a small plate; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add the beef stock and Cognac to the pan. Return pan to medium high heat and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and pour over the patties.   

CREOLE MEATLOAF WITH MASHED BUTTERMILK POTATOES AND TRINITY GRAVY

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I love Creole food and I love meatloaf. So I decided that a recipe for Creole meatloaf would be next on my list of “how in the heck am I going to use up more of the ground beef in my freezer?!?!”

Having decided on the flavor theme, I went about looking for Creole recipes I could adapt. And one of the first recipes to pop up on my search was a recipe from Rachael Ray. But I couldn’t stop with just looking at one recipe, so I brought up a few more and the recipe below is the result of combining several recipes and my own ideas on the subject.

Now, unless you have done a lot of Creole cooking, you might be wondering about “trinity” gravy. If you are like me, my “trinity” in cooking is a combination of onion, carrot, and celery. I start almost every stew, soup, or red sauce with this combination of base ingredients. In French cooking it’s called mirepoix, and consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, and 1 part celery. But the Creole and Cajun cuisine considers onion, celery, and green pepper to be the holy trinity of flavor. 3 parts onion, 2 parts celery, and 1 part green bell pepper. Cajun/Creole dishes such as étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya almost always start with this base. And since I love all three of these dishes, I decided maybe a trinity gravy was right up my alley too.

I am happy to report that both the meatloaf and the gravy are a wonderful combination of flavors, very simple to prepare, and economical to build. In fact, I would classify this dish as perfect for company. It does take time to prepare, but all can be made ahead of time, and then reheated just before serving. And although the ingredients aren’t expensive, the presentation looks like a million dollars.

Now I’ve heard, that half the enjoyment one gets from food is in the presentation. Frankly, I think that’s a load of rutabaga skins! I’ve tasted many a dish that looked terrific, but the flavor – less than satisfactory. But this delicious dish is not just beautiful on the outside. Remember – “external attractiveness has no relation to goodness or essential quality.” I know this maxim first stated by Sir Thomas Overbury in his poem “A Wife”, was meant to imply that beauty (in a wife) should not be just skin deep. But, as far as I’m concerned, his reflection speaks equally to culinary presentations! And if this dish doesn’t yell “good wife” I don’t know what dish does!! (And yes, I can make any quote or maxim have something to do with food. It’s a DNA abnormality handed down through my father’s side of the family!)  

For a small family or a senior couple like Mr. C and me, this wonderful meatloaf and gravy is a three meal delight. First night – eat until you can’t walk. Second night, eat until you remember how bad you felt after dinner the night before! Third day, argue over who’s going to get the last couple of slices of meatloaf for lunch! Enjoy, and no fighting kids!     

Meatloaf:

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for smearing on meat loaves before baking
  • 1 lg. onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced, divided
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 T. Creole Seasoning, divided (to make your own, see two very good recipes below)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. grainy Dijon mustard
  • ½ c. bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4th of the onion to the skillet, and cook to soften, 5-6 minutes.  Add half of the minced garlic and cook for one minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cool.  To the cooled onion mixture add the paprika, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the Creole seasoning, ½ teaspoon of the salt, black pepper, mustard, bread crumbs, egg, and milk.  Mix to combine. Add the ground beef and the ground pork, stirring gently just until well combined. (I use my hands for this part.) Form into 2 loaves, each about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide.

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Place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Smear the entire surface lightly with olive oil. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

To serve: Slice the meat loaves. Arrange the slices over Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and pour the Trinity Gravy over both.  Garnish with sliced scallions and serve.

Trinity Gravy:

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • small bay leaf
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. beef stock (I use beef base and water)
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce or more to taste (I use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • mashed sweet or russet potatoes (see recipe below)
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced on the bias, for garnish

Meanwhile, in the same skillet you used for the meatloaf mixture, melt the butter and add the remaining onion. Cook for about 7 minutes, then add the celery, bell pepper, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and white pepper.  Cook the mixture long enough to soften, about 30 minutes. (I usually cover the pan after about 10 minutes and let the veggies gently steam/fry.) The veggies should be kinda brown and kinda mushy. That’s what you want. None of this crisp tender for this recipe!

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Add the remaining garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the tomato paste and bay leaf; stir for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the flour and remaining Creole seasoning over the mixture and stir for another minute.  Whisk in the stock, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; cook to thicken over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. Adjust the seasoning. Turn the heat to the lowest setting to keep the gravy warm. Stir periodically.

If you are not going to be serving in the next little while, remove from heat and re-warm when ready. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes:

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ to 1 c. buttermilk

Cover the potatoes with water in a medium pot and bring to a boil, then season with salt, reduce heat, and cook for 12-15 minutes until tender.  When the potatoes are done, drain and return to the hot pot and mash with black pepper and buttermilk to desired consistency. Add salt if necessary.

EMERIL’S ESSENCE CREOLE SEASONING

  • 2½ T. paprika
  • 2 T. salt
  • 2 T. garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • 1 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. cayenne
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

CREOLE SEASONING MIX (my recipe) 

  • 1½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½-1½ tsp. cayenne (depends on how much heat you like or can tolerate)
  • ½ tsp. gumbo file

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

 

BLUE CHEESE AND BACON POTATO SALAD

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OK, so who doesn’t like potato salad? Well, as it turns out, lots of people don’t like traditional potato salad. And for more reasons than I care to enumerate on this post. But those of us who love old fashioned potato salad could argue that any potato salad worth its calories must have certain ingredients. For me those ingredients include celery, dill, onion, mustard, and of course mayonnaise! Lots of mayonnaise! But old fashioned potato salad is crazy full of calories. So in keeping with my desire to eat healthier, without forgoing every food I hold near and dear, I decided to go on a quest for a reduced fat replacement. Of course, my favorite ingredients are all in my new version, except the mayonnaise of course. But olive oil replaces the mayonnaise beautifully. (I can only go so far when I change things up, so even though green onions replace a white onion, and a bit of dill weed replaces the dill pickles, the basic flavor is still there.)

I created a potato salad that was better for me, while still containing the ingredients that I would argue in front of the Supreme Court, were mandatory in a great potato salad! (I’m certain Clarence Darrow would agree! He was known for taking on cases that were sure to be hard fought!)

Anyway, after looking at many recipes on the internet, I came up with this combination of ingredients. And if truth be known, I almost prefer my new potato salad to my old standby (on this site BTW – under Old Fashioned Potato Salad).

So I am going to leave the decision up to you. You can either prepare a potato salad that, in my estimation is the best potato salad ever invented (Old Fashioned Potato Salad) or this recipe which is healthier, but contains ingredients that, although not low calorie, are not as caloric as my old favorite. (And yes, I know. It’s almost cheating to include blue cheese and bacon in the ingredient list. Because, after all, who doesn’t like blue cheese and bacon?)

  • 2 lbs. good sized red potatoes, cut into quarters (don’t peel the potatoes)
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. dill weed
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3-4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 5-6 slices bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool to touch, and cut into small bite sized pieces. 

While the potatoes cook, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, dill weed, seasoned salt, and pepper. Add the slightly warm potatoes; toss to coat. When the potatoes are completely cool, stir in the green onions, celery, and blue cheese. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to blend flavors. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to serve. Stir in the bacon and adjust the seasoning just before serving.

GROUND BEEF AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM BURGERS

As I’m sure you already know if you have read any of my previous posts, I am the number one fan of ground beef. I actually much prefer it to steak, and as a breakfast meat, in my mind there is no comparison. And now, after having purchased a quarter of a Highland cow and had a good portion of it ground, I am even more convinced that ground beast is indeed a food from the Gods. (And yes I meant to write “beast”, because that was a common mispronunciation when my kids were young, and I still often lapse into “kiddie language world”.)

Anyway, I decided I wanted to serve a tasty barbequed burger to my friends who would be helping us celebrate our new trailer on our shakedown cruise. When I am trailer camping, I still like to serve great food, but I really don’t want to spend my entire day in the kitchen. (Our trailer kitchen is very nice, but never-the-less, one of the reasons I go camping is to get away from my usual routine, and treat myself to some quality outside time!) So I planned the menu around quick and easy recipes like this one.

This recipe is based on a recipe I found on the Food Network Kitchen site. Their recipe called for ground turkey, but I thought using ground beef (since I had 24 pounds in my freezer) would be perfect too. So I changed a couple of ingredients, and the following recipe is the result.

And I am telling you, all the ingredients work perfectly together to make just a delicious, succulent burger. And using grilled English muffins instead of regular hamburger buns is genius. English muffins toast beautifully on the grill and are not as filling as those puffy things you usually associate with a hamburger. I will never again buy a package of squishy buns. My heart now belongs to English muffins, or homemade rolls of course!

So do yourself a favor and mix up a batch of this ground beef mixture, form it into patties, and throw the burgers on the grill. Your family won’t even suspect that they are eating vegetables when they bite into one of these burgers. But they will notice that the burgers taste just wonderful. But do it soon. Fall is fast upon us. And even though you can still BBQ in the winter, burgers always taste better when you eat them al fresco! Plus it saves cleanup under your kitchen table. After all, any burger worth its gooey additives is going to be messy. So when you eat outside, the juices running off your elbows aren’t a problem. Plus your hose is probably nearby. (So much easier than throwing your kids in the shower after they have eaten!) Happy end of summer.

(Sorry about no picture, but we were all hungry and the burgers disappeared before I could get my camera out of its case.)

  • 1 lg. portobello mushroom cap, stem and gills removed, finely chopped
  • 1 small finely chopped shallot
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on the grill
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Monterey Steak Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • thin slices manchego or sharp cheddar cheese
  • English muffins, split
  • mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • sliced avocado

Mix the mushroom, shallot, parsley, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, Montreal Steak Seasoning, seasoned salt, and pepper together. Add the ground beef and mix together with your hands until just combined. Divide the mixture into 4-5 balls, then lightly press into 1-inch-thick patties. Place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Brush the grate with olive oil. Grill the patties, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Give the patties a quarter turn and cook until marked again, 2-3 more minutes. Flip the patties, top with cheese, and grill until cooked to your liking. Remove from grill to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to stay warm.

Toast the English muffins on the grill, then spread one half with mayonnaise, the other half with mustard. Add a hamburger patty, a couple slices of avocado and take a bite. Heaven I’m telling you, heaven! Or if you like a more traditional burger, add any of your favorite condiments. It’s all good!

 

BAKED COD WITH CAPERS, KALAMATA OLIVES, AND GARLIC

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It’s a beautiful warm and sunny day here on Camano Island. As I am typing away, Max, one of my orange kitties is dozing on a towel on my desk, Mt. Baker is out in all its glory (I can see it from my den window), Mr. C is off golfing with a friend, and I have the day to myself. I don’t even have to cook dinner, because I have leftovers from last evening.

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Mommies little helper Max (16 months) – sound asleep

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Time to add his 2 cents worth

Usually I look forward to cooking our evening meal. But when what I have to look forward to, like some more of this delicious cod, I can easily forgo the pleasure of cooking for the taste treat I know is in store for me. And frankly folks, I can hardly wait for dinner and its only 9:58 am!

I am always looking for ways to cook fish that are not only tasty but good for us. And what I mean by “good for us” is that the fish isn’t fried or needs a caloric tartar or aioli sauce to provide additional flavor.

So when I went searching for another way to bake cod, I found 3 recipes that I found interesting. Two featured capers and Kalamata olives; the third lemon, garlic, and either fresh thyme or rosemary. So I took what I thought was a good combination of all three recipes and the following baked cod dish is the result.

And oh-my-gosh the cod was good. You could still taste the fish, but the topping was just a perfect augment. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I started with fresh cod. And baking it at 475 degrees (which was recommended in one of the recipes) was genius. The fish was firm but still very moist.

So if you too want to add more fish to your diet, but don’t want to feel like in doing so you are adding a ton of unnecessary calories from frying, coating, or dipping your fish in tartar sauce, give this recipe a try. Obviously there are a few calories in the caper-Kalamata spread, but nothing compared to a breaded and deep fried piece of fish accompanied with tartar sauce.

Now don’t get me wrong. One of my favorite meals is fish and chips. But my stomach sometimes rebels when I feed it all that grease. With this recipe, there is no after dinner upset or guilt. And although you can’t measure the calories in guilt, it can still weigh you down. And not as in helping your scale show lower numbers, but as in a mind suffering from regret! So don’t let that happen to you. Try this recipe and relax. You are going to love serving this dish to your family. It’s quick and easy to prepare. And you are going to feel so good providing a healthy and delicious alternative to fried fish. A little happy dance before serving the fish would not be inappropriate! Neither would a nice glass of white wine!

  • 1 lb. cod fillet, bones removed and cut in portion sized pieces
  • 1½ T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme or rosemary, lightly chopped
  • 2 tsp. capers, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 T. chopped Kalamata olives

Place the cod in a lightly buttered 8×8 or 9×9 glass baking dish. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, thyme, capers, and olives together in a small bowl. Spread evenly over the cod.

Bake in a pre-heated 475 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until the flesh is opaque in color. I serve the cod with plain rice, spooning the juices from the pan over the fish and the rice. Add a salad or veggie, and dinner is ready!

Note: Would be great with any firm, white fleshed fish.

CARIBBEAN CORNBREAD

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When I was a child, my grandmother would make cornbread once in a while. I loved it. Of course it was liberally spread with home churned butter, so what’s not to like, right? But this was very plain cornbread and definitely not sweet. (Well it wasn’t sweet until my grandmother poured maple syrup all over it, that is.) And all my adult life, I baked cornbread for my family too. And if it had any sugar in at all, it was only a very small amount.

But in researching a cornbread to serve with other Caribbean dishes, I found most of the recipes to contain a fair amount of sugar, including this wonderful recipe from Blanchard’s Restaurant on Anguilla Island, British West Indies. But compared with other recipes I perused, even with the crushed pineapple, there was less sugar than in most.

Now something you should know – I don’t like canned pineapple. (Don’t much care for fresh pineapple either, if truth be told!) But this recipe received such good reviews, I just had to give it a try. And oh am I glad I did. You really can’t taste the pineapple, but it adds not only sweetness, but moisture and texture to the final product which is very desirable in a good cornbread. I served the cornbread to guests, and everyone loved it. In fact one of the guests told me it was the best cornbread she ever tasted and asked if she could take some home. Which of course she did.

Now that I have tasted this cornbread, regardless of the fact that it contains sugar and pineapple, it is now the house brand, so to speak. It is just too good to be true. Plus it freezes beautifully, so you can make it ahead, and freeze it until needed. (I suggest a double batch, because you are going to want more of this even before you finish the first pan.)

So go Caribbean on your family and friends, and fix them some of this cornbread to go along with Caribbean Pork Stew over basmati rice. (The stew recipe and rice recipe are on the site already.) Your family and friends will love you for it. And for dessert, vanilla ice cream topped with Caribbean Rum-Raisin Ice Cream Sauce – also on this site. And regardless of what you learned as a child, play with your food. Don’t like pork in your stew, use chicken. Don’t like basmati rice, use brown rice. Don’t like rum, forget the whole meal and go to McDonalds. (Just kidding.) Serve the ice cream with a chocolate sauce instead. People in the Caribbean like chocolate too, or so I’m told. Will let you know when I return from Belize.

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 2 T. baking powder (yes tablespoons!)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ c. canned cream-style corn
  • ½ c. canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add corn, pineapple, and cheese; mix to blend. On low speed, add flour mixture and mix until well blended.

Pour batter into a butter and floured 9-inch glass* baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 oven for 1 hour or until golden brown around the edges and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

*You can use a metal pan but glass works better. If you have to use metal, bake at 350 degrees and start watching after 45 minutes.

CHOCOLATE KAHLUA ICE CREAM SAUCE

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Now I realize that really good vanilla ice cream doesn’t require a topping, but what the heck – why not? If you are considering ice cream in the first place, you might as well indulge yourself or your family or friends, and go all the way. And if this ice cream sauce doesn’t make a believer out of you, then I don’t know what could! (Unless of course, it’s one of my other sauces (see Caribbean Rum-Raisin Ice Cream Sauce for 3 other delicious sauces.) But back to this recipe.

I made this recently for one of the desserts for a JazzVox pre-concert meal. People loved it. Then I also served it, along with my Caribbean Rum-Raisin Ice Cream Sauce to good friends at our small “open trailer” get together in Anacortes. Again our friends thought it was definitely worthy of posting on this blog.

So you, my dear readers, are getting the benefit of my friend’s unsolicited approval. And don’t you deserve it too! It’s been a rough year. If the presidential race isn’t enough to put you off your feed, there’s always the drought in California, hurricanes all over the world, and the melting ice cap! I tell you, if there ever was a time we all needed (and I mean needed) a little pampering, it’s now. So don’t deny yourself. Eat ice cream and of course vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Pardon the unpaid political proclamation, but if ever there was a time to stand up for what I believe, this is it. And I believe strongly in America and am proud of the humanitarian nation it has always been. But unless we all vote for a reasonable candidate, it could so easily dissolve into a non-respected, joke of a country. Please don’t let that happen. Don’t let hearsay or unverified accusations sway your thinking. Don’t be faithful to a party just because you have always voted their agenda. Now is the time to really think about the lasting effect your vote could make. Take time to read each party’s platform. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the same freedom and ability to succeed as I have enjoyed all my life. I want them to be able to go camping in our national parks, and know that the politicians in command care about each and every citizen, not just the people that look and think exactly as they do. And if I’m not mistaken, you probably want the same for your descendants too.

So get out there and vote. Spread the word, and don’t let anyone tell you that by not voting you are making a difference, because they might actually be correct! Your abstinence might just help the one candidate you don’t want in office, to actually win this election. The future of our country is just as much in your hands regardless if you go to the poles or not. But taking the high road and saying that you are not voting because you don’t like any of the candidates is the equivalent to indulging in a  political game of Russian roulette. Remember, no one is perfect. And our candidates are just like everyone else in that regard.  

So please accept my apology if I have offended you or you feel I have over-stepped my position as a food blogger. But I am also a real person who feels deeply about the welfare of our country. I strongly believe, that if we don’t take a firm stand, and vote to retain the integrity and intelligence our leaders have displayed in the past, our country as we know and love it, is going to change dramatically. And I don’t believe it will be for the better!

Again, I know a food blog is not the best place to voice my opinion on something other than the relative merits of dark chocolate over milk chocolate. But being a passionate person, I have interests that far outreach the confines of my kitchen. I do promise however, not to write any more about the upcoming election, at least on my blog.

If you would like to read more about my feelings on the upcoming presidential race, you can follow the steps listed below to a guest editorial I wrote for our local newspaper:

          Search under Stanwood/Camano news

          Choose e-Edition

          Click on Stanwood/Camano News – Updated Aug 29, 2016

          Click on the right arrow in the white circle at the upper right hand corner of the page

          Keep clicking until you get to page A4–the Opinion section (3 clicks, I think)

          My editorial is entitled “Fate of world on the line in U.S. election” (I did not write the title – the newspaper did!)

  • 1½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • tiny pinch salt
  • ½ c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T. Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur

Melt and chocolate chips, butter, salt, and whipping cream together in the microwave, being especially careful not to burn the chocolate chips. Remove from microwave and whisk in the Kahlua. Serve warm or at room temperature over vanilla ice cream. And please enjoy the two other ice cream sauce recipes to follow.

DARK CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE ICE CREAM SAUCE

  • ¾ c. Dutch processed cocoa
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Cointreau or other orange flavored liqueur

Whisk cocoa and sugar together in a medium-sized saucepan. Gently whisk in the water. Slowly bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and Cointreau. Serve warm or allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

FRESH STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM SAUCE

  • 1 qt. fresh strawberries, divided (raspberries, blueberries, Marionberries, blackberries, etc. can also be used)
  • ¼ c. sugar or more to taste
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

Wash strawberries and remove the stems; cut each berry into 4 or 6 pieces, depending on the size of the berry. Combine half the strawberries, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will appear too dry for a while, but then the juice will begin to appear and produce the syrup. Cook until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. When the sauce is completely cool, add the remaining strawberries. Store covered in the refrigerator. Also great over shortcake or pound cake with sweetened whipped cream.

 

 

 

CARIBBEAN RUM-RAISIN ICE CREAM SAUCE

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When it comes down to it, there really are no bad ice cream sauces. Well at least not if they are homemade. But once in a while a really amazing sauce comes along, and your taste buds go into overdrive. That’s what happened when I played with a basic caramel sauce recipe to serve with vanilla ice cream for the pre-concert JazzVox meal I served last weekend featuring Caribbean food. I knew that plain rum, both dark and light, were essential to Caribbean cuisine. But I like spice rum for desserts, so I used a combination of rums plus a bit of cinnamon to enhance the spice flavor. What I turned out was pretty darn good if I say so myself. Which of course I am saying. (Believe me, when I try new recipes and they are not worthy of your discerning palate, the paper they are printed on goes straight to the circular file and the “delete” button gets pushed sending the word document to “who knows where or cares”!)  

This recipe however, should find you running to your local emporium for all the ingredients you don’t already own and the largest container of really good vanilla ice cream you can carry. It is just that delicious and so different from other ice cream sauces. I also made a Kahlua Ice Cream Sauce (next recipe to be posted) that turned out great, but it’s more of a standard ice cream sauce. But it’s equally delicious, if you happen to like chocolate and Kahlua that is!               

And just because I care so much about all of you, I’ve included a couple other really delicious ice cream sauces for your edification – Spiced Rum Sauce and Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Both too are easy to prepare, economical, and far above any product sold on the market. (OK, there are some really good ice cream sauces available commercially. But they are really expensive, and you don’t get that happy feeling of a job well done when someone else builds a product you know you can do better, or at least equally as well.)

So enjoy the recipes and have fun with them. Believe me, there is nothing like this sauce out there. But beware. Once you have served this to family and friends, there will be no going back. If I weren’t so lazy, I would start a business selling this to local stores. But doing such a bizarre thing at my age a) sounds like way too much work, b) sounds like way too much of a monetary investment, and c) sounds like way too much work! So if you want rum-raisin sauce for your ice cream, you’re just going to have to make it yourself! At least now you have a recipe! Enjoy

  • ½ c. dark rum
  • ½ c. spice rum
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ c. golden raisins
  • ¼ c. dark raisins
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • ¼ lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • pinch salt

Pour the rum into a bowl. Add the cinnamon and raisins, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Just before making the sauce, drain the raisins reserving both the liquid and the raisins.

Whisk the brown sugar, butter, and salt together in a heavy sauce pan until the butter is melted and the mixture starts to go a darker color and develops big frothy bubbles. Usually takes 4-6 minutes.  

Remove from heat and gently pour in the reserved rum. Whisk for about 2 minutes and return the pan to the stove. (The alcohol should have all dissipated by now.) Stir or whisk continuously over low heat about 10 minutes while the mixture gently simmers to a slightly thicker consistency. (The sauce should display tiny bubbles on the surface the entire time the sauce is cooking.) Remove from heat and stir in the raisins.  Serve warm over vanilla ice cream, apple pie, bread pudding, gingerbread, crêpes, pound cake, pumpkin pie, or any other dessert item that takes your fancy. It would also be wonderful served over baked ham or pork tenderloin. And don’t get me started on what this sauce would add to a simple baked sweet potato!

Note: This is a very potent sauce. Use sparingly.

SPICED RUM SAUCE

  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. spiced rum
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon

Combine brown sugar and butter in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until butter completely melted and mixture is smooth. Add heavy cream, spiced rum, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and is reduced to about 1½ cups. Serve warm. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to a simmer again before serving or gently warm in your microwave.

BOURBON CARAMEL SAUCE

  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. good bourbon
  • pinch freshly ground nutmeg, opt.

Whisk butter and brown sugar together over medium heat in a small heavy saucepan until brown sugar is dissolved completely. (This happens after the mixture comes to a boil and is allowed to burble for a couple of minutes or until it turns kind of shiny.) Continue whisking the whole time the mixture is on the heat. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the heavy cream, bourbon, and ground nutmeg. Serve warm, or allow to come to room temperature and refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

 

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

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A long time ago, in a world far away, I used to be a mother. Well, actually I’m still a mother, but I’m no longer a “mommy”. Mommies cook meals for their children, do their laundry, and make sure they take a bath at least every other night. Mommies also read bed time stories, tuck their children in with a kiss, as well as chauffer the little darlings all over God’s creation. While, of course, at all times remaining positive, cheerful, understanding, and loving. (My children say I was all those things, but frankly I have no recollection. It’s all just one big happy blur. Not really, but some of it is!)   

But alas, those days are over. My 4 grown children, all amazing BTW, are potty-trained, know how to say please and thank you, and I’m reassured by their partners that they take showers without being cajoled. In other words – my job with them is done!

But while I was still wearing my “mommy” hat, I used to fix this cake periodically because not only was it delicious, it was flat out easy to prepare. And as a working mother of 4, I needed all the help I could get in the kitchen. And especially when I went completely crazy and invited friends over for dinner after a long day working around the house.

It was nothing to clean the house on Saturday morning, run a couple loads of laundry, work in the yard until 3:00 pm and then decide I wanted to have friends over for dinner. Oh the energy in those days!

But life was easier in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I didn’t have to research a new and improved spaghetti sauce recipe on the computer; I just consulted my Betty Crocker cookbook. I didn’t have to grate the Parmesan; it came all nicely fine crumbled in a big green can. And salad dressing – it came from the grocery store, as did the bread if it was a last minute get-together. All that was needed was a simple call to my friends. They were either home and I got an immediate response, or they weren’t home and we didn’t see them that evening. No leaving a message, then spending time checking the voice mail on my land line or text on my cell phone. No checking my email, and while I’m at it, making certain nothing new had been posted on Facebook! Just a simple, personal phone call that said, “Sorry for the late notice, but I miss you, and can you come for dinner tonight?” Terribly simple and for me, terribly nostalgic – just like this cake.

So next time you need a quick and easy cake perfect for any occasion, whip up one of these babies. This recipe may have been around as long as the Beatles, but just like the Beatles, it has endured the test of time. (Now if only I could say the same thing about myself! Sigh…..)

  • 2 eggs
  • 21 oz. can cherry pie filling
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 chocolate fudge cake mix
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 6 oz. (1 cup) chocolate chips

In a large bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the cherry pie filling and almond extract. Stir until well combined. Add the cake mix and stir just until combined. Pour into a buttered and floured 9×13-inch glass* baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Don’t overbake. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, butter, and milk in a sauce pan. Boil for one minute, remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate chips until the frosting is smooth. Pour on cooled cake and allow to harden before serving. (The frosting will be soft but will harden as it cools.)

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*If using a metal pan, increase the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

  

 

RICE AND PASTA PILAF

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OK, it’s time to fess up. When I am trailer camping, I almost always buy packaged rice mixes as a side dish for dinners. They are easy to store, simple to prepare, and usually make enough for 2 dinners. And one of my favorites is Rice-a-Roni. (Remember, I never said I was a gourmet!) And truly, there are some pretty good rice/risotto mixes on the market today. But even though they are perfect for camping, they are expensive (for what you get), and have that subtle background taste that I really don’t enjoy. I call that flavor – “packaged”. You find it in lots of products, from pancake mix to cake mix and beyond. (And yes, I still use cake mixes occasionally. In fact, some of my favorite dessert recipes start with a cake mix. But I digress…..)

So I have determined, after performing my own very unscientific analysis on the subject, that the unpleasant background flavor I don’t appreciate comes from the ingredients that I can’t pronounce and were never a part of my grandmother’s era. (My usual guideline for what I want to put in my mouth!)

So while looking for a fairly tame side dish to go with a simple ground beef pattie and steamed green beans dinner I was planning for last evening, I went on line for inspiration. And what I found was a recipe on Allrecipes by Sarah Billings for a homemade Rice-a-Roni. Oh the joy of finding one of my favorite guilty pleasures that I could duplicate at home. Of course I added/changed a couple of ingredients from the source recipe, and what I prepared was not quite like what comes in the little red boxes. It was much better! No “packaged” flavor. No ingredients that only a mad scientist could pronounce, and the right price since I had all the ingredients on hand. (Always a bonus!)

So if you too love a simple rice side dish, this is the recipe for you. And to change it up a bit, or even make it into a main dish, just add some cooked meat or seafood, additional veggies (mushrooms come to mind), a bit of whatever kind of cheese you happen to have, and you have a wonderful dish that is easy, fast, and economical to prepare. And bottom line, your kids are going to love it. It has that creamy mouth feel that makes macaroni and cheese such a favorite with children.

And just for the record, I am still going to buy packaged rice mixes when on trailer trips. But when I am at home, you can bet your last Golden Grain $1.00 off coupon that I am going to continue making all of my rice side dishes from scratch. And this recipe is now on the top of my list!   

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. orzo pasta
  • ½ c. uncooked white rice  
  • ½ c. diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sliced green onions
  • ¼ c. toasted slivered almonds

Melt the butter in a lidded pan over medium-low heat. Add the orzo pasta and rice and fry until just starting to turn golden brown. Stir in onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the broth, seasoned salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, and the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the green onions and slivered almonds. Adjust seasoning. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.