Sunday, December 29, 2013

Orange-Buttermilk Pancakes

I made buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, but added a secret ingredient to the batter: the finely shredded zest of half an orange (about 1/2 tsp. for a big batch of pancakes). 

The citrus notes really came out with just butter, but they stood up to real maple syrup, too. Mmmm, good!

Orange Mocha with Rum

Hot coffee. Creamy chocolate. Fragrant orange. And rum from the tropics. What could be cozier on a winter holiday afternoon?

Of course, you can leave out the alcohol but I must confess, I never do! 

Orange Mocha

  • 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/4 c. sugar

Heat and stir till chocolate is melted. Boil 2 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups coffee (a great use for what's left in the pot)
  • 1/3 c. half & half
  • zest from half an orange
  • 1/4 cup rum, optional

Heat to steaming, but do not boil. Strain out the orange rind before serving.

Makes about 3 servings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apple Pie--Say "Cheese!"

You could say pie runs in my family. It's not quite Christmas without pie. And nothing rivals pie for a post-holiday breakfast!

I have taught my husband to enjoy apple pie the New England way, with slices of sharp white cheddar. Apparently there is even a saying for it: "Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze."

Here is the recipe my family uses. One of these days, I will also post my pastry recipe with more detailed directions for making delectable homemade crust. (Confession: I tried a Jiffy pie crust mix last month, and it worked beautifully!)

Apple Pie 

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. all-purpose flour

Stir together in a bowl. Set aside.

  • 4 large Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled

Thinly slice two apples and arrange in pie dish. Carefully sprinkle half the sugar mixture over apples. Repeat with the rest of the apples and sugar.

Dot sugared apples with 1 T. butter. Using your finger, lightly moisten edge of bottom crust with cold water. Spread top pastry circle over apples. Trim, fold, and crimp edge.

Pastry is its own art form in my family.

Bake 1 hour at 375 F.

The kids' individual pies

Sunday, December 22, 2013


It's finally citrus season and time again for this treat of a fruit salad, named for the food of the gods!

The variations on this salad are endless: pineapple, grapes, cherries, bananas, whipped cream, marshmallows, raisins... Here is my preferred version, which I drizzle with vanilla yogurt "dressing". (If I don't have vanilla yogurt, I whisk 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 2 T. powdered sugar into 1/2 cup plain yogurt.)

For a special goddess-like touch, serve in the hollowed-out orange shell "cups".

Jerusha's Ambrosia

  • 3 large oranges, sectioned
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 T. shredded coconut
  • stirred vanilla yogurt, optional

Stir together and scoop into bowls or orange cups. Serve hot* or cold. Spoon yogurt on top of each serving.

*If desired, arrange filled orange cups in a baking dish and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Serve warm and top with cold yogurt.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Gift of Granola

The only problem with the Golden Rule is individual taste. 

To acknowledge our kids' hardworking teachers this holiday season, I sent the kids to class with gift jars of homemade granola. I did hesitate, wondering how my offering would be received inside the public school system. At the end of the day, it was fun to hear their reports.

Granola is such an interesting food, from a sociological angle. I have written elsewhere about granola's fascinating religious roots: Adventist and enema enthusiast Dr. John Harvey Kellogg came up with the food for his sanitarium clients in the late nineteenth century. Nearly a century later, this breakfast of health nuts reappeared as part of hippie culture with its emphasis on returning to nature. General Mills began marketing Nature Valley granola bars in 1975.

My mom bought granola for us in the 1980's and quickly learned to make it herself with raw ingredients purchased in bulk from Seventh-Day Adventists. Granola soon went with the homeschooling movement like butter goes with bread. It was a staple at the cult training centers where I worked in the 1990's. My recipe is very similar to the one used in their kitchens. I remember my homeschooled friends concocting a shortcut version of granola in their cabins on the Nikolai Bauman, our ship-hotel in Moscow in 1993, using canned milk, hoarded butter, and rolled oats.

During my year in the Philippines, I ate granola with yogurt nearly every morning, both expertly prepared by my meticulous housekeeper and cook. Every time I slice a banana or mango over a bowl of yogurt and a scoop of homemade granola, I am carried back to tropical palm trees and volcanic mountains. A group of Filipino pastors were so taken with granola, they gathered into the guest house kitchen to see firsthand how it was made.

Growing up with granola, I tend to forget that this protein-rich whole-grain cereal was not ubiquitous in earlier generations, or in other pockets of American culture. And thus the varied responses of my children's teachers, as reported back to me:

"What is it?"
"Cinnamon granola."
"What do you do with it?"
"It's a cereal."
"Oh. I can't wait to try it over Christmas break."
"Is this granola?! Thank you!"

Cheddar-Rosemary Crackers

Crackers have been my little obsession lately. They were actually what got this blog started, come to think of it.

I am indebted to a friend for recently pointing me to this recipe from Sugar, Spice & Bacon, which I followed with just a few minor adjustments. (Click on the link for Tara's excellent illustrated instructions.)

We all love these amazing crunchy cheesy discs that are perfect for nibbling! And they are so flavorful that even just one or two feels like a luxury. The rosemary flavor deepens as the crackers sit, so do resist eating them all at once. Since my last rosemary plant didn't make it, I was happy to find packaged fresh rosemary sprigs in the produce section of my supermarket.

I took these to a holiday treat exchange, for something out of the ordinary.

Cheddar Rosemary Crackers

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Combine these ingredients in a mixer (or large bowl). Mix on medium-low speed till butter makes very small lumps. 

  • 2 cups loosely packed freshly grated medium cheddar cheese
  • about 3 T. cold water

Add the cheese one cup at a time and stir on low speed to mix evenly into flour. 

With the mixer on low, add water one tablespoon at a time until dough just comes together. 

Divide dough in two portions. On a lightly-floured surface, roll each half into a log (approximately 1.5" in diameter). Wrap dough log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours.

Slice crackers 1/4″ thick and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake 12 minutes, turn crackers over, and bake another 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack and store at room temperature in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche

I always like a special weekend brunch, but especially at this time of year. Many years I've made this quiche for the holidays. It goes perfectly with warm muffins or cinnamon rolls. Put out some sliced fruit (I'm partial to sectioned grapefruit this time of year), pour fresh coffee, and there you are! Paper plates or fancy china, you have a spread fit for any celebration.

This recipe is quite forgiving, so adapt the ingredients to your family's tastes or budget. Use your favorite breakfast meat. Sometimes I use bulk sausage, sometimes I slice up an inexpensive box of pre-cooked links. You can use less meat and more veggies. You can switch up the cheddar for Swiss or colby. For a lower-fat quiche, I've used skim milk, neufchatel cheese, and turkey sausage. It works fine!

My husband is not a fan of broccoli, but he has no argument with it in this dish. If you prefer spinach, or mushrooms, or sautéed onions, those would be good, too. I've found something that works and I'm sticking to it! I usually buy frozen chopped broccoli and steam it for this recipe, but it's also a great use for leftovers.

Of course you can make your own crust from scratch, but I always use frozen crusts for quiche. "Homemade pastry for pie, ready-made for quiche" is my rule. For gluten-free quiche, you can leave the crust out altogether, or substitute a potato crust.

This recipe makes 2 quiches. And they freeze beautifully*. I freeze them unbaked, then pop the frozen quiche into a gallon ziplock bag. You can also bake first, chill, and reheat later with a foil cover.


  • 2 frozen deep-dish pastry crusts
  • 12 oz. cooked sausage 
  • 2-4 Tbsp. cream cheese, cubed 
  • about 2 cups cooked broccoli
  • 1-2 cups grated cheddar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 dashes black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
  • dried minced onion
  • ground nutmeg

Mix sausage & cream cheese together; add broccoli. (If meat or broccoli is warm, the cream cheese will melt in and distribute the flavor evenly. But it's OK for it to be in small chunks, too.)

Sprinkle some of the cheddar in the crusts. Divide the meat and broccoli between the crusts, sprinkle with minced onion and and cover with a layer of grated cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Pour into crusts. Sprinkle top lightly with nutmeg.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or till set. Let set at least 10 minutes before serving.

Note:  This quiche freezes very well. Freeze before baking. Just be sure it's level in the freezer. :) You can wrap it up after it's solid. I use a gallon-size Ziplock bag. Do not thaw. Bake frozen quiche at 400 F for 10 minutes, then an hour at 350 F, or till set. You may want to cover the crust with foil to keep it from darkening.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Carrot-Apple Salad

An alternative to green salad this time of year, and one of my son's favorite side dishes. It's packed with vitamins and fiber and compliments many main courses, especially meatloaf. Around here, leftovers get packed for school lunches.

I generally use Gala apples, but any crisp, sweet apple will do. I leave the skin on the apples; it adds lovely bits of color and it's good for you!

Carrot-Apple Salad

2 apples, cored and shredded (leave skin on)
3 carrots, pared and shredded
2-4 T. raisins
about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
dash salt, optional
1-2 T. honey

Layer the apple and carrot in a large dish. Sprinkle with raisins and toss together. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and salt, if desired. Drizzle with honey. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to let flavors blend. Toss again before serving.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Simple Goodness: Carnitas

Today my kitchen is filled with delicious aromas from my friend Krista's Homemade Carnitas, cooking away now in the oven.

Our calendar is filling up with last-week-of-school activities, orthodontist appointments, holiday preparations (and even a date night--yay!) but a big pan of this shredded pork will will provide plenty of convenient meals to make my week simpler.

I plan to enjoy the meat with tortillas, and canned black beans seasoned with a spoonful of salsa. The kids appreciate the pork, but they will likely want quesadillas and sour cream to go with it.

It tickles me that this Mexican dish came to my Kansas kitchen by way of a "Danish-Canadian lass" in Australia whom I met decades ago in Russia, of all places. Hooray for the Internet!

Check out Krista's recipe for carnitas at her website.

You will need:
  • 1 large pork roast (shoulder)
  • 1 orange or mandarin or clementine or lemon or lime
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • water

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Packing Lunches

Of course I make plenty of traditional sandwiches, but this post is about some other lunch ideas we use around here.

My kids only get a 20-minute lunch break, and that includes standing in lines and packing up their stuff afterward, so they have to have a meal they can down in about ten minutes. I learned the hard way not to send foods that were too difficult to eat--I want them to get all those calories so they are fueled to learn!

Whole apples or oranges are out. I peel and/or slice everything before it goes into portion-size containers. And I cater to their individual likes. School lunch is not the time to cultivate new tastes. RJ likes celery sticks, B-- loves carrot-apple salad, M-- would rather have cold cooked veggies than fruit, with the exception of raspberries. Two like pineapple, one will eat a banana, one eats grapefruit any time, another eats asparagus, everyone likes mango. Yeah, it gets complicated.

My daily goal is to feed them some protein and a fruit or vegetable. (Thanks Mom, for letting me study your cookbooks and teaching me about complementary proteins!) The meal fills in around those essentials. I usually build each lunch around the protein element, and the kids help choose the rest. These are some recurrent themes:
  • Hard-boiled eggs (sprinkled with salt)
  • Deviled eggs
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Raw nuts
  • Hummus with flatbread, or spread in a pita pocket
  • Peanut butter with sliced apples and a cheese stick
  • Cream cheese in a bagel
  • Tuna salad, with crackers for scooping
  • Cold roasted chicken or turkey
  • Homemade pizza pockets
  • Tortilla roll-up with cheese and refried beans
  • Peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla (sometimes with thin banana slices)
  • Artisan bread with butter, and sliced cheese on the side
  • Soup, chili, or chowder (in a thermos)
  • Leftover pizza slice

I have even sent granola to school, in a lidded bowl. (They can get milk at school to pour over the cereal.) Popular as it may be here for breakfast, I have learned that granola is viewed dubiously at lunch. Oh, well. Good to have something for emergencies! As long as we don't have to resort to granola, we must be doing well! And, bless her heart, my pickiest girl would still rather have granola than food from the school cafeteria.

We seem to be raising three little foodies, with the help of good role models like the characters in Russell and Lillian Hoban's delightful story Bread and Jam for Frances:

from Bread and Jam for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

I am out of sandwich bread for school lunches, so I boiled some eggs and mixed up a batch of these hearty muffins. The original recipe came from the Taste of Home website, but I've adapted them to better suit my culinary style. 

Usually I like the convenience of paper cup liners, but the pumpkin gives these muffins a special texture that works better with greased muffin cups, so I used my canola oil spray this time.

This recipe makes about two dozen cupcake-sized muffins.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  •  1/2 cup raisins, optional

Bake at 375° for 18-20 minutes.

Better Jiffy Cornbread

Jiffy cornbread mix is one of my shortcuts. Much as I love good Yankee cornbread from scratch, Jiffy has a place in my pantry, too.

I keep a little blue box handy for serving with soup or chili, topping a casserole, or rounding out a menu the kids might not otherwise love. Cornbread makes any dinner more special!

Last night we had thin-sliced baked chicken breast, homemade cranberry sauce, canned green beans, steamed baby carrots, and this crusty cornbread, which is several notches superior to the recipe on the box. I love how the edges start to cook even before the batter hits the oven. And the extra egg gives such a tender texture to the golden bread.

Better Jiffy Cornbread

Pour 2 tsp. canola oil into an 8" cast iron skillet. Pop it into the oven and turn the oven on to 400 F. While it preheats, mix together in a medium bowl:

  • one box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Whisk ingredients together till batter is smooth.

Using a pot holder, retrieve the hot skillet from the oven. Tip slightly to let the oil thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan.

Scrape the batter into the center of the skillet and carefully return it to the (preheated) oven to bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cornbread sit for a minute before cutting into it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Italian Sausage & Linguine

This is my favorite company meal. I try to keep the ingredients on hand in my pantry and freezer so I am always prepared! As a one-dish meal, you can serve this pasta alone. Or dress it up with a vegetable or salad, garlic bread and wine for a special dinner.

My preferences are turkey sausage and whole wheat pasta, but you can use whatever suits your family's tastes. I love the convenience of the "three peppers and onions" blend in the freezer aisle of my supermarket. If you can't find that, you can also slice an onion and a large bell pepper yourself.

  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links
  • 3 T. olive oil 
Cook sausages thoroughly in a large skillet with a lid. Remove from pan and slice into thin medallions.

Return sausage to skillet. Saute with:
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic 
  • 1 pkg. (12-16 oz.) frozen peppers and onions 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 
  • 2 tsp. basil 
  • 1 tsp. oregano 
  • salt & pepper to taste 
Simmer 5 minutes. In another pan, cook:
  • 13-16 oz. linguine, or penne
Add noodles to tomatoes and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Garnish each plate with Parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Serves 6-8.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins

Because muffins are magical anytime!

For breakfast--with eggs or just coffee, for school lunches with cheese and a piece of fruit, for snacks with a glass of milk.

These are not overly sweet, so the butterscotch is the highlight.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins
  • 2 cups oats 
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (or 1 stick butter, melted)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Combine oats, buttermilk and brown sugar in a bowl or large measuring cup. Set aside and let stand for 15 minutes (longer for old-fashioned oatmeal). 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 F and prepare muffin tin. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.

Add eggs and oil to oat mixture. Combine with flour mixture and stir quickly just till moistened. Lastly, stir in butterscotch chips. 

Fill muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 16 muffins, or 1 dozen regular-size plus 1 dozen mini-muffins.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Manna Bread

We had this flat bread with Italian Bean Soup and sliced cheese last night.

I first tasted this recipe as a child at church, where it was served in bite-size cubes for Communion. It was clearly created to invoke biblical themes, being unleavened and flavored with oil, honey, and coriander--the flavors associated with descriptions of "manna" in the book of Exodus. The sweet morsels at church were never enough, but Dad sometimes made it for us at home where we could tear off much more satisfying pieces and wash them down with glasses of grape juice. The fragrance of coriander always brings back memories of that abundance.

Manna Bread

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
My double batch was the size of a pizza.
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 325 F.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a well. Measure liquid ingredients in a glass measuring cup, in the order given. Pour into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly.

Spread dough on a greased baking sheet and flatten with hands or a rolling pin to desired thickness. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake 15-25 minutes (depending on thickness) or till the edges start to brown.

Cool slightly, and break into pieces to serve.

Party Chicken Salad

  • dried cranberries, chopped
  • celery, minced
  • red onion, minced
  • black pepper
  • ground coriander
  • cooked chicken, diced
  • Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

When I mixed up this festive and flavorful salad, I tucked it into little pastry puffs to nibble while we played a board game with new friends. It would also be delightful in croissants with ruffly lettuce for a luncheon.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Baked Apples

Petitioner: "Baked apples, sir."
More: "To sweeten my judgment. I'll give your daughter the same judgment I would give my own: A fair one...quickly."
from Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons

This old-fashioned dessert is delightful for dark and nippy nights.

The apple aisle is full this time of year, and I was pleasantly surprised to again discover familiar varieties from "home": bags of McIntosh, Empire, and Rome, with Traverse City, MI on the label.

The aromas carried me back decades to the refrigerated room at Underwood Orchards on the Grand Traverse peninsula, the apple-scented air chilling my nose as we explored the crates of yellow, red, green, and multi-colored apples. On the drive home with bushels of sweet, tart, and spicy fruit, we would drink fresh cider--tangy, unpasteurized, and so delicious.

I bought McIntosh apples for this recipe, but I would also use Jonathan, Cortland, or Rome.

Macs tend to get mushy, which I find acceptable in a baked apple. Leaving the skin on the lower half of the apple helps it hold its shape and keeps the apple from disintegrating into applesauce in the pan.

Stuffed Baked Apples

  • 4 large (or 6 small) apples
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit*, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup apple juice or water
Rinse and core apples. Starting at the top of each apple, pare the upper part, leaving skin intact on the lower half of each.

Mix sugar, dried fruit, and cinnamon and press lightly into apple centers. Spoon juice over apples.

Bake, uncovered, in 350 oven for 40-45 minutes, basting with pan juice occasionally. (Apples should be soft when pierced.) Cool slightly.

Serve apples in bowls. Drizzle each with a scoop of syrup from the pan and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

*My favorite combination is one part apricots, one part prunes, and two parts raisins. Haven't tried dried cranberries yet, but I have used Holiday Cranberry Juice for part of the liquid. It adds such a cheery color!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Italian Bean Soup

After a holiday, this is the perfect soup to balance out all those rich foods. I freeze shredded zucchini in the summer with this wintry meal in mind. It is simple to make, fills the house with delicious aromas, and dresses up easily for company. Serve with cubed havarti cheese and assorted crackers and you have a party!

Italian Bean Soup
  • 1/2 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 2 ribs celery (with leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 c. grated zucchini
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can great northern or cannellini beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can chicken or beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley

Simmer together for 2-4 hours. Garnish bowls with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Meatball-Lima Bean Stew

This stew from my childhood really is so much better than it sounds!

Warm and hearty, this stew is wintertime comfort food at its best. And the leftovers are even richer and more flavorful the next day. I like to serve this with crusty bread or rolls, but it is equally satisfying as a solo dish.

The recipe includes directions for homemade meatballs which can be cooked right in the stew, but you can also save time by using purchased frozen meatballs. Or you can make the meatballs ahead, and add them, pre-cooked, right before serving.

Meatball-Lima Bean Stew

Large Lima Beans
  • 1 cup large lima beans, rinsed
  • 4 cups cold water
In a large pot, bring the beans to a boil. Boil two minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, one hour. (Optional step: drain liquid into a measuring cup. Discard; replace with the same amount of fresh water.)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1/2 cup cold water
Whisk flour into water to form a smooth paste and pour into the bean pot. Heat and stir till liquid thickens, forming a gravy.

*For gluten-free stew, omit this step. Thicken stew after baking by adding a slurry of 2 T. cornstarch and 2 T. cold water. Stir over medium heat till the "broth" turns to a sauce.
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 can (or 2 cups) diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
Pour lima beans into a large oven-proof dish. Add vegetables and seasonings. Cover and bake for an hour and half at 350 F. Add [uncooked or frozen] meatballs and bake 45 minutes more. 

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs*
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup milk
Mix thoroughly with your hands. Shape into balls of desired size. You can let them cook in the hot stew, or bake them (in a pan with sides!) for 10 minutes at 350 and refrigerate or freeze them to use later.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Deviled Eggs & Familial Customs

Growing up, I mostly associated Deviled Eggs with springtime and Easter. It was the perfect use for all those hard-boiled eggs that had cracked when young children dropped them into the dye cups with too much exuberance. Weren't deviled eggs supposed to have tinges of pink, blue, or green along the edges?

But here in Kansas, deviled eggs are considered appropriate for any and all holidays, potlucks, picnics, whatever. Grocery store delis sell platters of freshly deviled eggs all year round.

When I was young, my mom had an objection to eating anything named after the devil, so we switched to calling them Sunshine Eggs. But now I am in good company: young Katy Perry was also not allowed to call them "Deviled Eggs", or to eat Lucky Charms!

Many cooks prepare deviled eggs without measurements. While I am all for instinct and experimentation, this is one dish where I prefer consistent results every time. I've had too many disconcerting potluck experiences, I suppose. And my recipe is rather basic. In the South, they like to add pickle relish or stronger spices, but I like my eggs smooth and just slightly tangy. If you like gourmet eggs, think of this as a stepping-stone to more exotic things. Add capers or Cajun seasoning, hot sauce or dill--whatever floats your boat!

Deviled Eggs

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 tsp. prepared mustard
  • dash black pepper

Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Gently "pop" yolks into a medium mixing bowl. Arrange whites on a plate, or in a container lined with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Using a fork or pastry blender, smash the egg yolks until they are fine crumbs. Add seasonings and mayonnaise and mix well.

To fill whites, spoon filling into a decorator tube or bag, or a zip-lock with one corner snipped off. Pipe into egg whites, sprinkle lightly with paprika, and store (covered) in the refrigerator until serving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pies

Isn't pumpkin a funny word? One of those words that looks and sounds sillier every time you repeat it.

This recipe uses pumpkin from a can, though it works just as well with pumpkin--or any winter squash--you've cooked yourself. (Canned pumpkin is actually a variety of butternut squash, anyway!) If you decide to bake your own pumpkin, I recommend processing it in the blender to ensure an even texture.

The important thing about canned pumpkin is not to confuse it with the can of "Pumpkin Pie Mix", which is already seasoned and sweetened and takes all the fun out of it.

Pumpkin Pies (makes two 9" pies)

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large (29 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk)

Mix eggs and sugar with an electric mixer. Add pumpkin and spices and mix thoroughly. Add milk gradually and beat till well blended. Mixture will be very thin!

Pour the filling into two unbaked pastry shells*.

Bake pies 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes. Cool before storing in the refrigerator.

Serve chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream.

*For a gluten-free dessert, pour filling into a greased baking dish. Place dish in a water bath and bake as directed for pies.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tapioca Pudding

My gluten-free sister is heading here for the holiday, so I am cooking up some treats she can enjoy on her vacation. Tapioca pudding is good warm or cold, so she can sleep in as long as she likes and still have a delicious breakfast waiting for her when she's ready. :)

Since tapioca pudding doesn't last long at our house, I made a big batch.

Tapioca Pudding

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. minute tapioca
  • 2 eggs
  • dash salt
  • 5 cups milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In a large pan (3-quart or larger), whisk together the sugar, tapioca, eggs, and salt. Let sit for five minutes.

Add milk and mix thoroughly. Stirring constantly, heat to a rolling boil. 

Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and cool. Pudding thickens as it cools. 

Serve warm or cold. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Real Hot Cocoa

I promised everyone real hot cocoa this morning.

The recipe on the Hershey's container is fool-proof, and the variations are pretty much endless. I enjoyed mine with equal parts of strong coffee for a breakfast mocha.

Family Hot Cocoa

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • dash of salt

Mix in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil two minutes. Add:

  • 4-5 cups milk (I like to use 2% or higher)
Heat to desired temperature, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Before serving, stir in:
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
Ladle into mugs and serve. 

Garnish with one or more of the following:
  • marshmallows
  • stick cinnamon
  • whipped cream
  • peppermint candy cane "stir stick"
  • sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • orange zest
Refrigerate leftovers. You can heat a mug of cocoa in the microwave in the time it takes to make toast. An instant before-school breakfast! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Piquant Pizza: Losing the Pepperoni

What says "Friday" like pizza?

It took more than a decade, but I've finally found a vegetarian pizza my husband and I can both enjoy.

I sprinkle mozzarella over the sauce (a can of crushed tomatoes seasoned with oregano, basil, garlic, minced onion, salt & pepper, and 2 T. olive oil). Then I layer on some fresh spinach, sliced kalamata olives, purple onions, and crumbled feta cheese. Tonight I had some marinated artichoke hearts, so I threw them on as well. I dusted the top with Parmesan and baked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Happy Weekend!

Chilly Day Chili

Dark red and light red kidney beans, beef, onions, peppers, canned tomatoes, garlic and chili seasonings, slow simmered to bring all the flavors together...

A cold front came through last night. And we had to hustle to get the kids to two different concerts at schools in opposite directions. If ever there was a night for hearty, simple, one-dish chili, last night was it.

Chili is so versatile. You can serve it alone, or with cornbread. With saltines or oyster crackers or tortilla chips. On a baked potato or with a dollop of mashed potatoes. To encourage my youngsters, I served Fritos this time. And jack cheese, and sour cream.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting Cultured: Yogurt

My grocery store had a sale on milk the other day, but the expiration dates are coming up a little too fast. I made a batch of hot cocoa, a pot of tapioca pudding that disappeared in no time, and still there was plenty of milk in my fridge.

But, behold! There was also a partial tub of plain yogurt! What are the odds? I hadn't made yogurt in... years? But I already painted a hallway this week. And sorted out tubs of toys to give away. I attended a screening of a new feminist film last night, and I was feeling courageous this morning.

* * * * * * * * *

So... I poured a half gallon of milk (2%) into a big pot, whisked in a cup of powdered milk for extra body and protein (please don't ask how long that box has been sitting in the back of my cupboard), and heated it till the surface got bubbly (180-190 F). I took it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. I decided I want my kids to enjoy this batch too, so I went ahead and added some sugar and about a tablespoon of vanilla.

When the milk was cool enough, I scooped a cup of plain yogurt into my blender, and added a few scoops of the warm milk. I mixed it on a slow speed till the yogurt was well blended in. I added some more milk and blended it again. Then I poured the mixture back into the pot of milk and whisked it all together.

I turned the oven on at the lowest temperature (150?) and set some clean jars on the oven rack to warm while I got out some clean lids. Then I ladled the warm milk into the warm jars and stuck the jars back in the oven*, which I turned completely off.

I left the light on inside, partly because it releases just a tiny bit of heat, and partly so I wouldn't forget the yogurt till tomorrow morning. Because I would do something like that. Like the leftover corn that sat in the microwave overnight instead of making it to the dining table the other night. Yeah. I want my yogurt cultured, not decayed.

I popped the jars in the oven before rushing out to my kids' school this afternoon, and literally pulled them out on my way out the door headed back to their school after dinner. In the warm oven, the yogurt was ready in just four hours.

I've been doing some reading on the science/chemistry of yogurt, and I want to experiment with different temperatures next time. I took my first course in biology last spring, and am now more curious than ever about the magic that happens in my kitchen.

I mean, seriously. What kind of magic makes this possible??

*If you need your oven for other things, you can also grow your yogurt in an insulated picnic cooler. Find a spot where it won't be jostled or disturbed while the yogurt works its magic. I usually add two extra jars filled with hot tap water, just to help maintain an even temperature. Nestle them between the jars of milk, close the lid, and wait.

Cranberry Salads

What do you like to do with cranberries? These three holiday side dishes have been popular at our house over the years.

I've experimented with cranberry sauce variations, but always return to the recipe on the Ocean Spray bag (pictured). The jello salad is refreshingly tart-sweet and allows the texture of the raw berries to come through. And Frozen Cranberry Fruit Salad is almost a dessert: cold, creamy, colorful, with a medley of flavors and palatal sensations!

Whole-berry Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce 

1 bag berries, rinsed and sorted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring a boil. Simmer 5-10 minutes and ladle into jars. Cool and store in refrigerator.

Cranberry-Strawberry Jello Salad

1 (12 oz.) bag cranberries, rinsed and sorted
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. boiling water
1 small box strawberry jello
1/2 c. cold water
1/2 c. chopped fresh or frozen strawberries, optional

Process raw cranberries in blender till finely chopped. Scoop the pulp into a mixing bowl and stir in sugar. Dissolve jello in boiling water. Add cold water and stir into berries. Add strawberries, if desired. Chill till firm.

Frozen Cranberry Fruit Salad

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits
3 medium-firm bananas, sliced
2 cups cranberry sauce (or one can whole-berry sauce)
1/2 cup sugar
1 carton Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Drain pineapple juice into a medium bowl; set pineapple aside. Add bananas to the juice. In a large bowl, combine cranberry sauce and sugar. Remove bananas, discarding juice, and add to cranberry mixture. Stir in pineapple, whipped topping, and nuts. Pour into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish, or divide into individual serving cups. Freeze until solid. (Remove from the freezer at least 15 minutes before cutting into square servings.)

Makes 12-16 servings