Author Archives: Patti

MAPLE SYRUP AND CINNAMON GRANOLA (ZERO CHOLESTEROL)

Part of our morning routine is to have breakfast. Sounds pretty normal, right? But you would be surprised at the number of people for whom a latte is their only nourishment before lunch. Not so at Chez Carr. We love breakfast. But the older we get, the more we have to watch what we eat. (That sounds pretty normal too.)

So, in keeping with watching our cholesterol levels and trying to help you do the same, may I recommend that you incorporate granola into your morning repast. Many granolas, like this one,  contain zero cholesterol ingredients. Zip, zero, nadda! Of course, granola on its own would be pretty hard to swallow. Literally! So we usually eat our daily ¼ cup of granola with ¼ cup of Greek yogurt, at roughly 10mg of cholesterol, or with a ¼ cup of 2% milk with roughly 5mg of cholesterol. Since the Mayo clinic recommends no more than 300mg of cholesterol for healthy people, and no more than 200mg for those with diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease, I feel OK with serving yogurt or 2% milk with our granola.

Now I realize you can buy granola with zero cholesterol ingredients. But homemade granola contains zero ingredients with unpronounceable names. (You pay dearly for those names that are too difficult to say!) You also don’t get nearly the amount of nuts and dried fruit as in a homemade granola.

And yes, I know granola is not inexpensive. But if you buy your oats, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit in bulk, you will save an amazing amount of money. And truly, making your own granola takes just minutes to prepare. And parents, those boxes of sugared cereal are not a substitute for healthy granola or a well balanced hot meal. They are never going to keep your children energized until lunch. (No guilt trip intended.)

True story. I fixed a simple breakfast for my kids every school morning. Usually scrambled eggs, toast, and juice. Sometimes oatmeal or another hot cereal, but always something hot and nourishing. When my dearly loved son Sven went away to college he told me he was excited because he could finally eat cold cereal for breakfast! His enthusiasm lasted for a week. Exactly 7 days after being away from home he called me. The first words out of his mouth were “cold cereal isn’t as great as I thought it would be, and the coffee here is terrible!” You would be proud of me. I didn’t start laughing until he was off the phone.

  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil  
  • ¼ c. real maple syrup  
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla  
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon  
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg  
  • 1 tsp. fine-grain sea salt  
  • 4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats  
  • 3 c. nuts – walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts (I use a combination)
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut
  • 1½ c. chopped dried fruit – apples, prunes, cherries, blueberries, apricots, golden raisins (again, I use a combination)

Whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add the oats, nuts, and coconut.  Spread evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (Don’t wash the bowl yet.)

Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven until lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Stir once or twice during the baking. (Watch carefully, as coconut and nuts can burn easily.) Remove from oven and scoop back into the mixing bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit. Stir to combine. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

 

CHICKEN, PROSCIUTTO, ALMONDS, AND DRIED CRANBERRY SALAD

If I could bake a chicken with as much flavor and for the same price as a Costco rotisserie chicken, I’d be one happy camper. And even though I have a couple of good recipes for baked chicken on this site, for ease of preparation, nothing beats a trip to the Costco meat department. But Mr. C. and I can’t possibly eat a whole chicken at one seating! So, we usually start with the thighs and drumsticks, and save the breasts and other bits for future use. Since Costco chicken has so much inherent flavor, it is perfect in casseroles, soups, and of course salads.  

So the other evening, wanting to serve a chicken salad for dinner, and just happening to have leftover Costco chicken in the fridge, I went on line and found a recipe on the Diethood site. I changed it up a bit to fit our tastes, and the following recipe is the result.

This salad is hearty, flavorful, and perfect for a couple of senior citizens trying to eat healthier. Of course, even if you aren’t a senior citizen, you can prepare this salad and feel good about it. Eating healthy is not just the domain of those of us in our “golden years”. (Some might have said “those of us who are elderly”, but I hate that term. Its definition is just too relevant and therefore to be avoided at all costs!)

Synonyms for the word “elderly” – aged, advanced in years, long in the tooth, past ones prime, in ones dotage, decrepit, over the hill, senescent (whatever that means), and my favorite – doddery. (If elderly isn’t a horrible word to refer to oneself, I don’t know what is!)

So to all of you who are young at heart, regardless of your age – give this recipe a try. It’s easy to prepare, and tastes like one of those specialty salads served at fashionable restaurants. How cool is that?

  • 4-5 slices prosciutto  
  • ½ c. sour cream 
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T. finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 romaine hearts, thinly sliced or greens of choice
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • 1 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into ½ -inch cubes (I use a breast from a Costco rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ c. toasted slivered almonds
  • ½ c. dried cranberries (the low sugar kind if you can find them)

Place slices of prosciutto on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 13 minutes or until fairly crisp. Remove from oven and let cool. Break or cut into pieces; set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the sour cream, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, seasoned salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. Set aside. (If too thick, add a little water.)

In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, red onion, chicken, toasted almonds, cranberries, and crispy prosciutto. When ready to serve, toss with salad dressing.

 

GROUND BEEF PATTIES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

OK, so here goes yet another ground beef pattie recipe. But as most of you already know, I love ground beef. Which incidentally, is a good thing since we still have about 20 pounds of beautiful ground beef in our freezer from the quarter of a beef we purchased a few months ago.

So the other evening, after having already spent what I consider to be way too many hours in the kitchen, the subject of “what’s for dinner” entered into our conversation. (In all fairness, it was dinner time. And normally at this time of evening I would be sipping one of Mr. Cs perfect martinis, while simultaneously chopping greens and stirring a sauce.) But that wasn’t happening. Instead I was finishing the stew I would be serving guests in a couple of days. So then, what to do about dinner?

I had some fresh green beans in the refrigerator longing to be used. I had a couple extra Yukon gold potatoes I didn’t need for the stew. So into the oven they went. So that just left the entrée.

The previous evening we had eaten at the restaurant at our local golf course. I had ordered the steak and it had come with a delicious balsamic reduction sauce. So I thought, why not try reproducing that sauce and serve it over ground beef patties. So that’s what I did!

Mr. C. retrieved a package of our precious ground beef from the freezer and I nuked it until it was defrosted. Then I added a couple of ingredients, fried the patties, and threw the sauce together. It was wonderful! And oh so easy. And hardly any effort. (That’s the part I liked the most!)

So if you ever need an entrée you can throw together in just a few minutes, give this ground beef recipe and sauce a try. (And yes, I did think of entitling this recipe Hamburger Steak with a Balsamic Reduction Glaze. But the patties were just so simple to prepare, that I thought a haughty designation would be just too presumptuous.)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1T. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper (lots)

Mix the ground beef, steak seasoning, and granulated garlic together. Pour olive oil into a small frying pan. Form the ground beef mixture into 3-4 patties. Cook until medium rare or to your liking. Remove from pan. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Add the butter, balsamic vinegar, and pepper to the pan. Cook over low heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Plate the ground beef patties and drizzle with the sauce.  

 

 

  

CHEWY SOURDOUGH BREAD

Sourdough bread on top

Even if a person is one of my newest acquaintances, they probably know that I love bread. (There are just some things I can’t keep secret!) OK, not store bought white bread, but really good artisanal bread. And homemade yeast bread, as far as I’m concerned, falls into that category.

So when I want my guests to feel at home, I bake bread for them. And as scary as that might seem to some of you, baking yeast bread is not rocket science. It’s science, but there are no rockets involved. However, there are rock stars! They come in the form of tiny little, seemingly insignificant granules commonly known as yeast. And yeast is no more frightening to use than either baking powder or baking soda. (For the science around yeast, baking powder and baking soda, please refer to the articles below.)

After all, yeast is just another leavening agent. But unlike both baking powder and baking soda, you get to watch the progress the little yeasty beastie cells make as they digest food to obtain energy for growth. This results in the production of carbon dioxide gas. (The dough seemingly grows before your very eyes.)

Now, I am not going to tell you that this sourdough bread is easy and perfect for bread baking beginners. The instructions alone would probably put a beginner off bread baking for years. This bread is more for people with time on their hands and nothing better to do! So why all the falderal in the first couple of paragraphs about the ease of bread baking if you’re just going to tell me not to bake this bread? Well, I want you to consider baking your own bread. Maybe not this one, but I have plenty of other bread recipes on this site that are easy and perfect for beginners. For example – Overnight Rye Beer Bread, Soft French Baguettes, or Light Rye Bread. I would also invite you to read my article on Bread Baking 101 for more information about the fine art of baking your own loaf.

For seasoned bread bakers, go for it! This recipe, based on a King Arthur flour recipe doesn’t have difficult instructions. You just have to understand that sourdough bread dough feels “funny” and reacts differently from regular yeast doughs. But if you like sourdough bread that’s chewy and soft at the same time, and has a lovely crunchy crust, this is a great recipe.

Again for beginners, baking bread is not difficult. It simply takes some planning and time management. But the reward is worth the effort. The ingredients in bread are inexpensive. There are no added ingredients with names too complicated to pronounce, and the smell while the bread is baking is irresistible.

Look for another bread recipe coming soon. I’m on a roll. Or should I say baguette?

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic juice pitcher using a wooden or plastic spoon. (Don’t worry about lumps because the little yeasty beasties will make short work of dissolving the lumps!) Cover with lid, turning strainer in lid to pouring lip. (This allows air to reach the starter.) Let ferment 3 days at room temperature, stirring several times daily. After the third day, transfer starter to a covered glass container and refrigerate.

To use, remove desired amount for recipe and replenish starter by stirring in equal amounts of flour and water or follow the instructions for the particular bread you are making. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator.

If a clear liquid forms on top, stir back into starter. Every time you use, replenish with equal amounts of flour and water. Even if you don’t use every week, replenish every 7 – 10 days with equal amounts flour and water. (First remove about ½ cup of the existing starter. This allows room in your container for the new flour (yeast food) and water.) Use in any of your favorite bread, muffin, or pancake recipes.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (2 day process)

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded), the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works very well.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down and loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Day 1 – Sourdough Bread (3 Day Process for a tangier sourdough flavor)  

  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1½ c. lukewarm water
  • 4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2½ tsp. kosher salt

Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, or for no less than 12 hours.

Add the remaining 1 cup flour (or more as needed), and the salt. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms. (The dough will feel different than regular bread dough. Even though the dough gets to a point where it won’t accept anymore four (the bowl appears clean as a whistle and stays that way while the dough is being kneaded, the dough should still be tacky to the touch. That is what you want!)

Allow the dough to rise in the mixing bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap until it is light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. (Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer). Gently deflate the dough every hour or so by pushing it down with your fist. When the dough is light and airy, gently divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. Remove from fridge, and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours or longer. (Give the loaves sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. (If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine.) Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (I turn on the convection option on my oven about 10 minutes before the bread is due to come out of the oven. This helps give the crust a nice golden brown color.) Remove from oven, and cool completely on a rack. (Sourdough bread is fully baked when an instant-read thermometer registers 195-200 degrees.)

Store bread cut side down loosely draped with a tea towel for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

What is Yeast? Source of article – Red Star Yeast website

Yeast are single-celled fungi. As fungi, they are related to the other fungi that people are more familiar with, including: edible mushrooms available at the supermarket, common baker’s yeast used to leaven bread, molds that ripen blue cheese, and the molds that produce antibiotics for medical and veterinary use.

Yeast cells are egg-shaped and can only be seen with a microscope. It takes 20,000,000,000 (twenty billion) yeast cells to weigh one gram, or 1/28 of an ounce, of cake yeast.

The scientific name for the yeast that baker’s use is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, or “sugar-eating fungus”. A very long name for such a tiny organism! This species of yeast is very strong and capable of fermentation, the process that causes bread dough to rise.

Yeast cells digest food to obtain energy for growth. Their favorite food is sugar in its various forms: sucrose (beet or cane sugar), fructose and glucose (found in honey, molasses, maple syrup and fruit), and maltose (derived from starch in flour).

The process, alcoholic fermentation, produces useful end products, carbon dioxide (gas) and ethyl alcohol. These end products are released by the yeast cells into the surrounding liquid in the dough. In bread baking, when yeast ferments the sugars available from the flour and/or from added sugar, the carbon dioxide gas cannot escape because the dough is elastic and stretchable. As a result of this expanding gas, the dough inflates, or rises. Thus, the term “yeast-leavened breads” was added to the vocabulary of the world of baking.

The ethyl alcohol (and other compounds) produced during fermentation produce the typical flavor and aroma of yeast-leavened breads.

How Do Baking Powder and Baking Soda Work? Source of article – exploritorium.edu, the accidental scientist

Baking powder and baking soda both produce carbon dioxide, which helps raise or “leaven” baked products. Baking soda works best in conjunction with an acidic ingredient. In the case of banana bread, this may be buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses or the bananas themselves. Recipes generally include just enough baking soda to balance the acidity in the batter. For instance ¼ teaspoon baking soda is balanced with ½ cup buttermilk, applesauce or mashed just-ripe banana (note that bananas become less acidic as they ripen). This produces sufficient carbon dioxide to raise one cup of flour.

This however, may not be sufficient to leaven the whole recipe. Here’s where baking powder comes in. Baking powder contains both baking soda and a dry acidic ingredient. Since it isn’t dependent on acid ingredients in the batter, it is used to add the extra leavening necessary to raise the rest of the batter. Generally one teaspoon of baking powder leavens one cup of flour. In the case of recipes like banana bread which contain heavy ingredients, such as bananas and sometimes heavy grains like wheat germ or whole wheat flour, this may be increased to 1½  or 2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour.

 

 

 

CURRIED LENTIL AND VEGETABLE SOUP (VEGAN)

Most of the time I prefer some kind of meat in my soups, stews, and chowders. But as we are getting a bit older and health issues are starting to raise their ugly little heads here at Chez Carr, I have decided to (for the 3,659th time), try to direct our taste buds toward a more vegetable and meatless protein rich diet. Don’t get me wrong. We eat a lot of veggies already, and both of us love beans and interesting grains, but I could do better. (I say I, because I’m the one in the apron!)

So, in that vein, and because I needed a vegan dish for this Sunday’s JazzVox pre-concert meal, I came up with this soup loosely based on a recipe from the Happy Healthy Mama website.

First of all, we both love Indian curry. So why not start with curry powder. Then some turmeric (super good for us), and a few other spices and lots of veggies. Throw in some lentils and garbanzo beans, and you have a soup that is both delicious and ultra-healthy.

So if you too are trying to eat healthier, but absolutely refuse to give up the quality of the food you put in your mouth, give this recipe a try. The soup is creamy and chunky, with a wonderful mouth feel. (You know, that lovely feeling in your mouth when the consistency and flavor of whatever food you are eating feels so perfect you almost don’t want to swallow.) OK, maybe my definition of “mouth feel” falls into the category of a personal idiosyncrasy. Regardless, this soup is wonderful and perfect for a cold winter evening meal. Enjoy.

And remember, buy all the lovely spices featured in this soup in bulk. You will save yourself so much money. Which only means you can make this soup more often. See how that works!

  • 2 T. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 to ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I start with 1/8 teaspoon because I’m a wimp!)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lg. carrot, small dice
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, plus leaves, small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 c. dry lentils, washed and rinsed
  • 8 c. vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base and 8 cups water, or strained cooking water from garbanzo beans and enough tap water to make 8 cups)
  • 1 lg. sweet potato, cut into small chunks
  • 3 c. cooked garbanzo beans (see cooking recipes below) or 2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can lite coconut milk
  • ½-1 tsp. garam masala, opt.

In a small bowl, combine the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set Aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large covered soup pot. Add the carrot, onion, and celery. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute. Add the spice mixture and lentils; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the sweet potato, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils and sweet potato chunks are tender. Add the cooked garbanzo beans, coconut milk, and garam masala. Bring to just below a boil. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning. Great served with warm sourdough bread. Reheats beautifully. (Actually this soup is even better the second day.)

Instant-Pot or Pressure Cooker Garbanzo Beans  

  • 1 c. dried garbanzo beans/chickpeas, washed but not pre-soaked
  • 4 c. water
  • ½ tsp. salt, opt.

Add washed chickpeas along with the water to the Instant-Pot insert. Add salt. Close the lid with vent in sealing position.

Set the Instant Pot to High Pressure, and adjust the timer to 35 minutes. When the cooking time is up, unplug the Instant Pot and do a 20 minute NPR, which means if necessary, release the pressure manually 20 minutes after the beep. Strain the liquid and use it to make the vegetable broth. Add the cooked beans to the soup per recipe instructions.

Note: As much as possible I prefer to use cooked dry beans rather than canned beans. But of course, there are just those days when I gladly grab a can of beans out of the pantry. Consistency has always been my motto!

Regular Top-of-the-Stove Cooked Beans (Quick Soak Method)

  • 1 c. dried garbanzo beans/chickpeas, washed
  • water
  • ½ tsp. salt, opt.

Place the washed beans in a large pot, cover with several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then take the pot off of the heat and let the beans sit in the water for 1 hour.

After the beans have been soaked, drain and rinse them well. Add them to a large pot, cover with several inches of water, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 90 to 120 minutes or until tender. Add the salt after the beans have been simmering for about an hour. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, then strain the liquid and use it to make the vegetable broth. Add the cooked beans to the soup per recipe instructions.

 

 

SMOKED SALMON CHOWDER

Once in a while serendipity comes to visit, and if I am paying attention, I take advantage. That’s what happened when I decided that the menu for our next JazzVox pre-concert meal would include a soup, a stew, and a chowder. (Also Roasted Rosemary Cashews, a quinoa salad, two kinds of homemade bread, and a cake to round out the lineup.)

I knew the stew had to be Beef Stew. Not a very pretentious name, but my stew is not a humble offering. Nothing starting with lean bacon and containing red wine and rosemary need take a back seat to any other dish even if its name is terribly common.

The soup I am choosing to serve is vegan, containing curry and lots of delicious veggies. (If it works out, I’ll be posting the recipe in the next few days.) For the chowder, I decided a creamy seafood based chowder would be delicious.

I rarely make seafood chowders, mainly because Mr. C. is not fond of potatoes. (And potato is kind of the quintessential ingredient in seafood chowders.) So I promised him, that whatever I came up with, potatoes would be secondary to the seafood. I also promised him that the potatoes would not be mushy. (I knew I could achieve tender, not mushy potatoes by steaming small potatoes whole, then cutting them into very small chunks. Not adding them until the last part of the chowder cooking time would also help keep the potatoes firm.) So then, what kind of seafood chowder?

For Christmas my father-in-law had given us a 6-ounce chunk of smoked salmon (the serendipity part). And there it was, quietly sitting on a shelf in my pantry waiting to be devoured (the me paying attention part).

So I went on line and started researching smoked salmon chowder recipes. I learned a lot. I already knew how to make cream soups, so based on my knowledge and some parts and pieces from several on-line contributors, I came up with this recipe.

This is definitely not an in-your-face smoked salmon flavored chowder. It’s more of a well-balanced dish that should appeal to sophisticated palates. You might even say that it is a “gentrified” chowder. (And no, I am not trying to be cheap frugal in limiting the amount of smoked salmon in this recipe. I’m simply trying to provide you with the ideal smoked salmon chowder experience!)

So, since winter is upon us, I suggest you give this chowder a try. It is easy to prepare, and really, really tasty. Perfect for a cold, rainy weeknight dinner or weekend lunch. Great with warm sour dough bread or oyster crackers.  

  • 12 oz. small white or fingerling potatoes, peeled
  • 8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ lg. yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 stalks celery, small dice
  • 2 lg. garlic cloves, finely minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 3 c. half-and-half
  • 1 c. whole milk, or more as needed
  • 8 oz. (1 lg. pkg.) cream cheese, room temperature, cut into 1″ chunks  
  • 5 T. capers, rinsed and drained
  • 12 oz. smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 T. chopped celery leaves
  • kosher salt, if needed

Steam the whole potatoes until they are just barely done. (After the water comes to a boil, it takes 15-20 minutes.) Remove from pot. When cool, cut into small dice. (I personally hate large chunks of potato in my chowders. So I cut the potatoes into a really small dice.) Set aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion and celery; cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and black pepper; cook for one minute.

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for one minute. Whisk in the water and tomato paste. Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in the diced potatoes; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in the half-and-half, whole milk, cream cheese, capers, and smoked salmon. Heat slowly until almost simmering. Add more milk if required to reach desired consistency.

Remove from heat, adjust seasoning, and stir in celery leaves. Serve hot with crusty sour dough bread or oyster crackers.

 

FUDGE!!

When I was a much younger adult (or want-a-be adult), I went through a phase of loving Snickers. So much so, that I even kept a supply in my friends Dick and Eloise’s freezer. I just never knew when a “snickers attack” was going to hit, and I spent a lot of time with my friend’s at their water-front home in Medina. So having Snickers bars in their freezer made perfect sense to all three of us!

Well as in most things, my passion for Snickers bars eventually ebbed only to be replaced by an absolute devotion to See’s buttery brown sugar caramels with a touch of maple sugar and California almonds enrobed in smooth milk chocolate. And as of this writing, I still adore really good caramels studded with nuts and encased in creamy milk chocolate. I also happen to love fudge.

So when a friend gave me the first recipe on this post several years ago, I immediately recognized a homemade version of my favorite kind of candy.

In addition to the Chocolate Fudge with Caramels and Peanuts recipe, I am also including 5 other wonderful fudge recipes. I hope you try them all. They are all sinfully delicious, easy to prepare, and perfect for sharing with others at Christmas time, on Wednesday’s, after skiing, to impress your fellow workers, or …………. Oh heck, they’re good any old time!

So that you don’t have to go so far as to read this entire post, I have listed the names of all the recipes provided in order of appearance:

CHOCOLATE FUDGE WITH CARAMELS AND PEANUTS

CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

ROCKY ROAD FUDGE

PEPPERMINT FUDGE (previously posted)

FUDGE WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES AND WALNUTS (previously posted)  

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE (previously posted)

I hope you enjoy all of these wonderful fudge recipes. And BTW – Happy New Year

 

CHOCOLATE FUDGE WITH CARAMELS AND PEANUTS

  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli Majestic Premium Cocoa Powder. I purchase it at Cash & Carry.)
  • ¼ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 3½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 30 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
  • 1 T. water
  • 2 c. salted peanuts
  • ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips*
  • ½ c. milk chocolate chips*

Melt butter in a heavy medium sized saucepan. Stir in the cocoa, brown sugar, and milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Boils for about 2 minutes stirring the entire time. Remove pan from heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until well blended. Pour into a buttered 9-inch square baking dish.

In another heavy pan, heat the caramels and water until caramels are melted. Stir in peanuts; spread over chocolate layer. Microwave chocolate chips until melted; spread over caramel layer. Chill until firm. Cut into small squares. Store in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

*You can use all semi-sweet or all milk chocolate if you prefer

CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

  • 10 T. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1½ c. brown sugar
  • 1¾ c. powdered sugar
  • 1½ c. chunky peanut butter (not the old-fashioned kind)
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use a combination)

In a large microwave-safe dish, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Remove from microwave and stir in the brown sugar, powdered sugar, and peanut butter. Mix well and press into a lightly buttered 9-inch square pan.

Wipe out the microwave-safe dish and heat the chocolate chips and remaining 5 tablespoons of butter stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth. Pour over the peanut butter crust and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.

Chill the bars for several hours until completely firm. When ready to serve, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into 1-inch squares. Store remaining candy in refrigerator. Recipe from the Culinary Hill web site.

ROCKY ROAD FUDGE

  • 2½ c. granulated sugar 
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème (2 cups) 
  • 2 c. semisweet chocolate chips  
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts  
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 2 c. miniature marshmallows 

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, cook sugar, butter, and evaporated milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in the marshmallow crème and chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in the walnuts and vanilla. Stir in marshmallows (marshmallows should not melt completely). Quickly spread in a lightly buttered 13×9-inch pan. Cool completely, then refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Cut into serving sized squares. Store in refrigerator.

PEPPERMINT FUDGE (sorry no picture)

  • 3 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) butter
  • 1 small can (5-oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1½ c. chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. good peppermint extract
  • heaping ¼ c. crushed good peppermint candy (preferably King Leo or See’s, not inexpensive candy canes)

Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and marshmallow crème until melted. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts. Spread immediately into a lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan. Top with peppermint candy, pressing in slightly. Cool at room temperature for about 4 hours. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

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FUDGE WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES AND WALNUTS

  • 2 T. cherry brandy or cherry flavored liqueur (like kirshwasser)
  • ¾ c. whole dried cherries
  • 3 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) butter
  • 1 small can (5-oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Place cherry liqueur and cherries in a small heavy pan. Bring just to a boil and take off the heat. Set aside while you prepare the fudge. Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil on medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and marshmallow crème until melted. Add reserved brandied cherries, walnuts, and the vanilla. Spread immediately into a lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan. Cool at room temperature for about 4 hours. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 lg. can (1 2/3 c.) evaporated milk
  • 4 c. sugar
  • 1 pt. (7-oz.) marshmallow crème
  • 1 c. crunchy peanut butter

Combine butter, evaporated milk, and sugar in a heavy medium sized saucepan. Bring mixture to 240 degrees stirring continuously over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallow crème and peanut butter. Pour into a lightly buttered 9×13-inch pan. Refrigerate for a few minutes, then cut into 1-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

BACON, CORN, AND CHEESE SOUP

The other evening I was sick of being in the kitchen. Let me explain. I had been baking Christmas cookies and making fudge (recipes coming) all day! And here it was 6:30 and I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to fix for dinner. Now you know, there are just times when even going out to dinner seems too onerous. I would have had to put on my face (makeup) and change my clothes, and like I said – way to arduous. So I decided some kind of soup was exactly what we needed.

I opened the refrigerator door and there before me was the leftover bacon I had fried that morning for breakfast. Well then, how about some kind of chowder? But what goes well with bacon? Corn goes with bacon, and cheese goes with corn. Ah ha – a plan was hatched.

So because many of my soups start with a mirepoix, I diced up some onion, celery, and carrot and threw them in the pot. (Got to start somewhere, right?) After that all the other ingredients just seemed to fall into place.

The soup turned out really good, and it was fast and easy to prepare. Served with crackers, it was the ideal end to a long day of playing with too much flour, butter, and chocolate. (The before dinner martini didn’t hurt either. Thank you Mr. C.)

  • 4 slices lean, thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 T. butter
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • ½ c. chopped celery
  • ½ c. shredded carrot
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained 
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 2 c. grated sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • oyster crackers, opt.  

In a large covered soup pot, fry diced bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Add butter to the pan (don’t remove bacon fat) and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook just until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, salt, pepper, and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the corn and the milk that has been whisked together with the cornstarch. Slowly bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the reserved bacon and simmer until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Adjust seasonings. Serve with oyster crackers on the side.

SAVORY BAKED PORK CHOPS

OK, something you should know about me. I used to kill pork chops. I could turn them into the driest, most unpalatable piece of meat anyone could ever imagine. And how did I do it? I totally overcooked the poor babies, that’s how! Oh they were seasoned beautifully and should have been great. But I’m from the generation that was taught to beware of under cooking pork. That tiny little off chance that the provider of the meat (that would be the pig) might have somehow contracted trichinosis. Well friends, trichinosis simply isn’t a major consideration any longer. So now that I have finally arrived in the 21st century, I too can turn out a mean pork chop. (And I mean mean in a good way!)

So the other evening as I was staring at two lovely, thick pork chops, I decided to bake them. But what was needed was some kind of flavor additive. And since I am really into smoked paprika right now, I decided to use it along with some of my other favorite ingredients to make a dry rub for the chops. The combination worked. And with a little help from my instant read food thermometer, I produced a couple of pork chops that were juicy, tender, and delicious. I am so proud of me!

So if you too have been butchering (figuratively speaking) pork chops to the point that your family runs and hides when they are being served, give this recipe a try. I promise if you start with a thick chop, dry rub it, and don’t bake it to extinction, your family will beg you to fix this easy recipe again. (BTW, brining works great too, but that’s a recipe for another time.)

  • cooking spray
  • 4 boneless pork chops, 1-inch thick (no thinner)
  • 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

Lightly spray a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Lay the pork chops in the pan. Pour the olive oil over the top of each pork chop. Rub the oil all over the chop with your fingers. Wash your hands.

In a small bowl mix the salt, a goodly amount of pepper, onion powder, granulated garlic, and smoked paprika together. Season both sides of the pork chop with the mix. Rub the mix into the chops with your fingers. Yes, wash your hands again!

Bake the chops in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. No more! Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

EASY BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

I love my Buttermilk Biscuit recipe already on this site, but the other evening I wanted biscuits without yeast, without sugar, and with the fewest ingredients possible. I had company coming and I needed a recipe I could throw together in about 15 minutes. So I went on line to see what I could find. Well, on the Genius Kitchen site I found this recipe, which truly, could not be any easier to prepare. I whipped up a batch and they were as advertised – perfect!

It always amazes me when I find a recipe that could not be easier, but really couldn’t be perfected upon either. So I thought as long as I was offering a lovely simple biscuit recipe, I would remind you of some of my other recipes on this site that appear almost too simple to be true.

The first one that comes to mind is Easy Lemon and Basil Spaghetti (8 ingredients including the salt and pepper). Another favorite that I have been making for years is Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers. Even though it has a couple more ingredients, it is about the most simple and delicious pasta with meat that you can make!

When it comes to salads, the following 3 are favorites that go together quicker than you can answer “what’s for dinner, honey”? The first is Romaine Lettuce with Italian Salad Dressing. So easy, and oh so good. The second is Japanese Cucumber Salad (Sunomono) – 4 ingredients (one of which is salt). Crunchy and a perfect addition to almost any kind of entrée. The last I haven’t even bothered to write out because I have never taken the time to measure the ingredients. It’s simply greens alone or with any other additives you care to throw in a salad bowl, lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil, rice vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Toss, taste to make adjustments if necessary, and serve immediately. So easy and so good.

Now what would a meal be without dessert. Can’t leave that out! So, one of our easy favorites is really great vanilla bean ice cream topped with Fresh Raspberry Sauce, Chocolate Kahlua Ice Cream Sauce, or Bourbon Caramel Sauce. All three of the sauces are a snap to make, and turn plain ice cream into a decadent dessert. If you want a more substantial dessert, but still over the top easy, treat yourself to a Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake.  

My wish for you is that you have a wonderful New Year full of great food, great times with family and friends, and special moments that make for great memories.

  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 T. baking powder  
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt  
  • 6 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 c. buttermilk, or more as required

Whirl the flour, soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix just till combined. If it appears too dry, add a bit more buttermilk. (The dough should be fairly wet.) Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Adding flour as needed, fold the dough on itself about 5 times.

Gently pat the dough to 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into large rounds and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Gently knead the scraps together and make as many biscuits as possible.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are a light golden brown on the top and bottom. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and serve warm or allow to cool and store in an airtight container. Gently warm before serving with jam, jelly, or local honey.