Monday, December 24, 2007

English Toffee

A friend at work started a toffee making business called Bellstone Toffee. It is fabulous, and I had to give it a try for myself. This isn't her recipe, but one inspired by the Saveur article I read (see Peppermint Patties post).

Pecan Toffee
printer friendly
Makes About 2 1⁄2 Pounds

2 tsp. plus 2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips*

1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10"×15" jelly roll pan with 2 tsp. butter and set aside. Put remaining butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1⁄2 cup water into a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring constantly. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pot and cook, continuing to stir constantly, until sugar mixture is deep golden brown and registers 310°, about 20 minutes. This feels like it takes forever, but COOK ON!

2. Pour the hot toffee onto the prepared pan and, using oven mitts, tilt and turn the pan to fill it evenly. Let the toffee cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 1 minute, then use a rubber spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate and gently press them down.

3. Refrigerate toffee until it hardens, about 1 hour, then break into bite-size pieces. Serve toffee immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Note - don't line the container with paper towel like I did. It will stick!

* next year, I will try to top it with tempered chocolate. It got a little streaky if you make some without nuts, like I did, for my nut allergy family members.

Peppermint Patties

This year, instead of cookies, I made candies for Christmas. I was inspired by an article in this month's Saveur magazine, which is a really fine cooking and food mag - one of my favorites. I ended up getting this candy making cookbook (long out of print) called "The Candy Cookbook" by Mildred Brand.

Peppermint Patties


2 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1⁄4 tsp. cream of tartar
1⁄2 tsp. peppermint oil
6 drops green food coloring
2 1⁄2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl*

1. Stir together sugar, cream, milk, butter, and cream of tartar in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, without stirring; reduce heat to medium. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pot; cook, without stirring, until it registers 236°, 12–14 minutes.

2. Pour sugar mixture onto a marble slab. Using 2 heatproof spatulas, scrape mixture back and forth to make a fondant, moving it across the marble quickly until it becomes thick and just cool enough to touch, 3–4 minutes. Toward the end, completely work in the oil and coloring.

3. Gather fondant into a ball; knead until it resembles smooth dough, 3–4 minutes. (If it becomes powdery, work in a few drops of water.) Shape fondant into thirty-six 1 1⁄2"-wide disks, each about 1⁄3" thick. (Keep unshaped fondant covered while you work.)

4. Working with one fondant disk at a time, dip them into chocolate using a fork; let excess drip off. Transfer to a wax paper–lined sheet pan. Let set in a cool spot. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

* my second batch, I used tempered chocolate instead of melting the chips and they came out better.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Forcing Bulbs

How to force spring bulbs for Christmas

In the fall, when spring flowering bulbs are being sold everywhere, buy some extra. Traditionally, the bulbs are supposed to spend 12 weeks in the cold, but I have found that even less than 12 weeks will work out fine.

Buy some polished rocks in the houseplant area of any store. Decorate with permanent markers or paint pens terra cotta plant saucers (the kind you put under a terra cotta pot). You can seal them with some brush on sealant found at craft stores.

Then, put an odd number of bulbs in the saucer (odd numbers look better, like 3 or 5, depending on the saucer size) and surround them with the rocks. Keep their noses out of the rocks and pointed up. I write out instructions for forcing on an index card and put the card in a plastic bag and tie with a ribbon. If you are doing paperwhites, they get kind of tall and sometimes I tie them to some chopsticks, you could include. Lately, I've been sticking to hyacinths, because I love the smell of them.

Here are the instructions for forcing:
Instant Spring - just add water
1. Keep this saucer in a cool spot until New Year's - your refrigerator or garage is good.
2. Put the saucer in a warm spot in your house or office
3. Keep the rocks wet
4. It will be spring by February!

By the way, in January, when you are really sick of winter, if you have a forsythia bush in your yard, you can cut some of the branches and then make an "X" in the bottom of the branch with a knife and put them in some warm water in a vase. Change the water every day if you can, and you can force it to bloom, which is really nice, too.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Smoked Turkey

Here's the recipe my husband used to smoke our first turkey:

1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 quarts apple juice (or cider)
1 or 2 quarts water mixed with ice (Use enough to allow the turkey to be fully submerged in the brine)

Mix the brine well. Soak the turkey in the brine for at least 16 hours in a cooler.

Pull the bird out of the brine. Rinse off with water, and smoke it until it's 180F.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Good for what ails ya...

My good friend K.S. is recovering from some surgery this week. I'm a firm believer that one of the best things anyone can do to help some else is to feed them. So, I always default in cooking something. For K.S., i made a pork tenderloin made with one of the easiest and best rubs I know - the 4X4 Rub. I got the recipe from Karin, my friend and hairstylist, and it is simple and it works well. I keep a big container of it in my cupboard at the ready

4X4 Rub

Equal parts kosher salt, ground pepper, paprika and brown sugar

That's it. It's great on pork or chicken.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A pair of pies

It is a very gray day here today, and I thought it would be a good idea to use up the left over pot roast I made earlier in the week by making a beef pot pie (on the left). Since I was going through the effort of making pie crust from scratch, I thought I'd make an apple pie, too. (the one on the right) I bought some Northern Spy apples (my favorite pie apple) yesterday at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.

For the beef pie, I cut up the leftover beef, and I had a leftover baked potato from the other night that I cut up, too. I cut up a small onion, 3 carrots and 2 parsnips. I cooked it in some low sodium beef broth until the carrots were tender, and then I thickened it up a bit with some flour and water.

For the apple pie, I peeled and cored 4 apples and cut them into chunks. I added a couple tablespoons of flour, a couple tablespoons sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a dash of mace. For my pie crust, I made it the same way I always make it - nothing earth shattering here.

Old Reliable Pie Crust

Double crust
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. Crisco, cut up into pats
Cold water - maybe about 1/2 cup

Mix the flour and salt and then add Crisco, and mix it up with a mix, smashing the blobs of Crisco into the flour until the blobs are pea sized with a fork. Add some of the water and mix it in with the fork, and keep adding water until you can get the flour to hold together well. Don't be afraid to add too much water, despite what my 8th grade home ec teacher said. If you don't add enough water, the crust will fall apart. I keep the Crisco in the fridge, which makes a flaky crust. Divide the crust into two hockey pucks. I roll out my crust right on my stone countertop, with lots of flour on the counter and sprinkled on top the puck to start.

As soon as you've rolled out the crust, fold it in half and bring your pie pan next to the folded side; pick it up quick and put it in the pie plate and unfold. Fill it, and roll out the top and put it on; I like to crimp it with a fork. Poke holes in the top and bake for an hour at 350F

Friday, November 09, 2007

Steak Au Poivre

Thanks to the Gastronomical3, I started to read "The Kitchen Diaries" by Nigel Slater. What an inspiring book! Then, my dear friends SC and LMcR both started NaNoWriMo, but since I have no desire to write fiction, I thought I'd try to write more about food. I love that Slater writes about the seasonality about food - what was going on in his life, what the weather was like, etc. when he cooked what he cooked. I am going to try to do the same.

So, I have been home from work the past 2 days - the kids' have parent teacher conferences, and I have vacation days left to use this year. As usual, I am trying to cram several months worth of "stay at home mom" type activities in 3 days. This means lots of cooking, cleaning and kid stuff.

I'm just recovering from this year's annual asthma attack, which usually happens to me in November, but I was spared last year. However, this year was a doozy, so all I have been wanting to eat is spicy soups. Last night, I felt like eating and since I had the time, we made a recipe my husband has been wanting to try, from Alton Brown's Good Eats. (I love you Alton Brown - you got my husband interested in cooking!).

Steak au Poivre
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

4 tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each and no more than 1 1/2 inches thick
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
1 cup heavy cream

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle all sides with salt. Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, the bottom of a cast iron skillet, or using a mallet and pie pan. Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate. Press the fillets, on both sides, into the pepper until it coats the surface. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, gently place the steaks in the pan. For medium-rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side. Once done, remove the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.

Off of the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or firestick. Gently shake pan until the flames die. Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the teaspoon of Cognac and season, to taste, with salt. Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over, and serve.

Alton's not kidding about taking this off the heat when you ignite it. All the neighbor kids were over when we did it, and the flames shot up to the ceiling. The kids were duly impressed. My daughter wouldn't eat this, because she is still dabbling in vegetarianism. (it's hard to be a vegetarian when you don't like vegetables!). I made it with half and half because that's all I had.

This truly was good eats - and fairly easy to make. Beef tenderloin was on sale at Busch's this week for $4.99/lb.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Katie Brown's Ribbon Jello

Jello True confession time - I suck at making jello. For some reason, it never works out right for me. In a fit of insomnia the other night, I watched this show called "The Katie Brown Workshop", and Katie made this jello that looked really cool. I love stripes! Katie is billed as the "young and hip Martha Stewart". I am going to try to make this jello.

Ribbon Jello

6-1/4 cups boiling water, divided
5 pkg. (4-serving size each) gelatin, any 5 different flavors, divided
1 cup sour cream or vanilla lowfat yogurt, divided

STIR 1-1/4 cups boiling water into 1 pkg. gelatin in small bowl at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Pour 3/4 cup of the dissolved gelatin into an 8-cup ring mold sprayed with cooking spray or a glass bowl. Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched). Refrigerate remaining gelatin in bowl about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites). Gradually stir in 3 Tbsp. of the sour cream. Spoon over gelatin in pan. Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until gelatin is set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched).

REPEAT process with each remaining gelatin flavor. (Be sure to cool dissolved gelatin to room temperature before pouring into mold.) Refrigerate gelatin as directed to create a total of 10 alternating clear and creamy gelatin layers.

REFRIGERATE 2 hours or until firm. Unmold. Cut into 16 slices to serve. Store leftover gelatin in refrigerator.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup (like Kosmos in Ann Arbor)

Kosmos in Kerrytown (Ann Arbor) makes the best hot and sour soup I have ever tasted. This is my best shot at making it myself.

1 lb. pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut in 1/2 in dice
4 14 or 15 oz cans reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup grated carrots
2 small onions, sliced thin
3/4 c. white vinegar
10 small Thai chili peppers, diced
1 t. fresh ground black pepper

1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I forgot these)
1/2 brick extra firm tofu
1.4 c. reduced sodium soy sauce

Here's how I cooked it - I put the pork and the chicken broth in a crock pot and cooked it for about 4 hours on low. I skimmed off lots of the floaties - Kosmos has floaties in it, too, so I didn't worry too much about getting them all out. I added the carrots, onions, peppers and pepper and let it cook for another 4 hours on low. I then added the tofu and soy sauce, and would probably add the mushrooms and let it cook until the tofu was heated through. It's pretty darn close to what they serve at Kosmo's!

Monday, September 17, 2007

White Bean Soup with Tomatoes and Basil

This soup is great this time of year; when the tomatoes and basil are so abundant. Thank you, SC!

2 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 19-ounce can of cannellini 2 cups chicken broth
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Heat a medium saucepan. Swirl in the oild, then add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and the broth. Heat, and then use a masher to coarsely mash up most of the beans.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for four or five minutes. Add tomatoes and basil, and heat through. Serve with cheese sprinkled on top.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


I love this recipe of Alton Brown’s from “I’m Just Here for the Food”. I do end up making these on my grill instead of broiling at the end. It works really well.

Alton Brown's No-Backyard Baby Back Ribs
1 full rack/slab baby back ribs
Kosher salt
Rub No. 9 (see note)

1/2 cup orange juice (not fresh squeezed)
1/2 cup prepared margarita mix
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee (freeze-dried, not actual grounds)
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne

You will also need:
Paper towels
Extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil
Shallow roasting pan
Saucier or small sauce pan
Kitchen shears
Broiler pan

Rinse the ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a sheet of extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil. (The foil should be 4 inches longer than the ribs on either end.) Season liberally on both sides with the salt and rub No. 9.

Turn the ribs meat-side-down and tightly seal inside the foil by folding and rolling the longer edges together, then closing the ends tight over the ribs. Place the packet in the roasting pan and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours, turning the sealed packet over once.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the packet from the refrigerator and unroll one end, shaping the foil upward like a funnel. Pour in the orange juice and the margarita mix. Reseal the foil packet and see-saw it back and forth a couple of times to evenly distribute the liquid inside. Return the packet to the pan and place the pan in the middle of the oven. After 1 hour, reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and cook until tender, approximately 2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven, unroll one end of the packet, carefully drain all the juice into a saucier or small saucepan, and add the honey, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, espresso powder, and cayenne. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently until reduced to a glaze that coats a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.

Move oven rack to the next-to-the-top position and turn on the broiler (use the high setting if you have a choice). Remove the slab from the foil packet and cut it into four equal sections (I use kitchen shears for this). Place ribs on the broiling pan, meat side up, brush with the glaze, and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reglaze and repeat until the ribs are a dark mahogany color. Flip the ribs bone side up and glaze, and broil a minute longer.

Remove and allow to cool a couple of minutes before serving, preferably with potato salad or copious amounts of cole slaw.

Makes 1 to 3 servings, depending on who's doing the eating

Rub #9
A part can be any amount - a tablespoon, for example - depending on how much is needed. For one rack of ribs, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of rub will be sufficient. The ratio of ingredients for Rub No. 9 is: 5 parts brown sugar, 3 parts chile powder, 1 part garlic powder, 1/2 part ground thyme, 1/4 part cayenne, and 1/4 part allspice

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Luscious Beet Salad

I first tasted this at an Ann Arbor La Leche League potluck a long time ago. It’s great – even beet haters love it.

It's even prettier with red beets!

Luscious Beet salad

4 large beets
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 bunch beet greens, chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 pound feta cheese (optional)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

Wash beets. Remove greens but leave beet tops and roots intact. Place beets in a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until beets are tender (about an hour). Set aside to cool. Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Remove seeds from skillet and set aside.

To prepare beet greens, fill a large skillet with water to a depth of 1 inch and heat to a simmer. Wash greens by submerging the bunch in a sink full of cold water. Shake off water and drop greens into simmering water. Let them cook for about 30 seconds, until tender and juicy. Place greens in a colander and gently run cold water over them to halt cooking.

Peel beets by cutting off the tops and slipping the skins off with your hands. Slice beets. Squeeze excess water out of the cooked beet greens and chop. Put beets, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, and scallions in a salad bowl. Shake dressing ingredients together in a jar. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Crumble feta cheese on top. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 6 servings

Friday, July 06, 2007

Roasted Garlic Dressing

I can't wait to try this recipe that was in the Ann Arbor News this week.

It can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Makes 1/2 cup
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 head roasted garlic (see NOTE)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked paprika

Whisk together the buttermilk, roasted garlic (preferably still warm), vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Add the cayenne pepper or smoked paprika 1/4 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use; shake well before serving.

NOTE: To roast garlic:
Slice the top off 1 head of garlic so that the tops of the cloves inside are exposed. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the garlic has softened and browned. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the softened garlic cloves out of their skins and discard their stem ends.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cherry Lime Jam

I bought some dark sweet cherries at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market yesterday - I bought 6 pints, with the thought of trying my hand at cherry jam. When I was grocery shopping, I saw that IBC makes a cherry limeade, and it gave me an idea....why not cherry lime jam? Many moons ago, I made a blueberry lime jam out of the Ball Blue Book that I loved. I consulted my trusty Ball Blue Book - this year's edition is terrific, by the way - and followed the cherry jam recipe on page 33. I added the zest of two limes to it.

I had never pitted cherries by hand before - I wasn't sure where to get a pitter, but suspected that Downtown Home and Garden had one. They had a couple, actually, but I went for value. My pitter cost only $1! I had heard it was a pain to pit cherries, but I have to say it wasn't too bad...only about 1/2 hour total. I had the foresight to put on a black Tshirt and sit on the back deck to do it. Pitting cherries is really messy and they stain everything. After pitting, when I was chopping, I found about 15 pits. Even when cooking the jam, I found a few. I hope my jam is pit free! Can I make it for better and cheaper than I can buy it? I think so. I have never seen cherry lime jam, but it is a flavor combination I really enjoyed upon sampling. The color of the jam was spectacular - a beautiful ruby color. To check out the value proposition:

  • I paid $20 for 6 pints of cherries (I used 2/3 of them for this recipe) - cherries cost me about $13.40

  • liquid pectin - I had never used liquid pectin. It's more expensive than powdered pectin, and they are not interchangeable. 2 envelopes cost me $2.99

  • 2 limes were $.99

  • 6 cups of sugar is about 3 lbs. I paid $2.59 for 5 total sugar cost was about $1.50.

I made 9 half pints of jam, so my cost per jar was about $2.10 per half pint. Not bad, for minimal effort!

Here's the recipe:

Cherry Lime Jam

1 qt. finely chopped pitted dark sweet cherries
6 1/4 cups sugar
2 T. bottled lemon juice

2 pouches liquid pectin

zest from 2 limes

Yield: About 8 half-pint jars

Procedure: Sterilize canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer's directions. To prepare fruit. Sort and wash fully ripe cherries; remove any stems and pits. Chop fine.

To make jam. Measure prepared cherries into a kettle. Add sugar, lemon juice and lime zest and stir well. Place on high heat and, stirring constantly, bring quickly to a full boil with bubbles over the entire surface. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the pectin. Skim off foam.

Fill hot jam immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ann Arbor home canning

There’s a new group started for those of us with interest in canning…it’s called Ann Arbor Home Canning, and it is for folks interested food preservation. Check it out at:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Home canning

YAY!!! I'm an avid canner and love to hear about others getting into canning. I'm going to do a "brain dump" on canning, even though itsounds like you've canned before, for the benefit of anyone just thinking about taking it up. Here's my 2 cents on the matter: Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor has lots of unique stuff, but their prices are pretty high. To go through the effort of canning, to me it's all about the value proposition, i.e. can I make this for cheaper and better than I can buy it? In that regard, strawberry jam can meet my "cheaper and better" test only if I can get cheap jelly jars (or have them left over from other canning efforts -canning is a "sustainable" hobby) and only if the strawberries are good in a given year. Meijer has the best prices for canning jars and lids around here, but garage sales are by far the best place to get canning jars. But if you were planning on making jam today, that might be a difficult task. For jam, you'll need a water bath canner (just a bigpot with a jar rack in it - again, Meijer will be the cheapest.) Look at the jar rack because the cheap one I bought many moons when I was just getting into canning doesn't hold pint jars and it rusted, so I can't use it to lift the jars out of the water. For the rack, DTH&G might have a better quality one if you want that functionality. If I had to do it all over again, I would opt for a better jar rack than the one I have. I hope to "garage sale" a better one someday.

There's a tool called a jar lifter that you can use to pull your jars out of the hot water - I have one, but don't use it oten. I find that it's easy to drop a jar with one, so I find it kind of a hassle. Instead, I use some really thick rubber gloves I bought at the hardware store - they are thick enough that I can reach into a pot of boiling water for a brief time to pick out a canning jar and put it on the counter to cool.

So, can strawberry jam be made for "cheaper and better" than buying it? It really depends...despite it's reputation as something that's easy to can, I think strawberry jam can be iffy. In my estimate, this was a bad year for strawberries. I have sampled everything at the AA Farmer's market and they tasted pretty watery. Only one vendor's tasted good enough for me to consider it. Taste whatever you are going to buy first. Watery berries mean lackluster flavor and low pectin -make sure you add some. Also, in order to can jam cheaper than you can make it, you have to make lots of it. Since my family loves strawberry jam, it makes sense for me to can jam, except I don't have time to do it this weekend, so I probably won't. I don't think there will be berries left next weekend at the farmer's market.

There is nothing to turn off a home canner than a poor outcome. Early in my canning career I bought a bushel of berries and they didn't have enough pectin and I ended up with 12 jars of strawberry syrup. Bummer! It made me give up the idea of canning for a few years, and so I recommend that folks try something different than strawberry jam forthe first time out of the gate.

The Ball Blue Book is a great resource (you can buy it at Meijer by the canning supplies) for a beginner. It will teach you what you need to know. There's a recipe in there for a blueberry lime jam that is a great thing for a first time canner to try.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cherry Pie

I made cherry pies for Easter at my son's request. There's nothing remarkable about the recipe, but make sure to use frozen red tart cherries and not canned cherry pie filling. We live in Michigan; we should use our state's bounty!

The pastry recipe is right out of Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cookbook, which is a cookbook I wholeheartedly recommend for anyone that doesn't cook much. The filling for two pies was just a bag of frozen cherries, sugar and flour in the ratio that is suggested in that trusty cookbook.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Common Grill Bread Recipe

The famous bread recipe is found on page 21 of his second cookbook, which is called "Return to the Common Grill" and it is called "Kosher Salt/Poppy Seed Foccacia Bread". He said the bread they serve at the restaurant is the same recipe, just formed in a baguette shape. If you haven't been to the Common Grill, the bread is very similar to bread that used to be served in Chuck Muer restaurants (locally the Gandy Dancer). Is this bread still served there? I haven't been there in a long time. Craig used to be their executive chef there.

Here is the recipe:

Common Grill Bread

Bread dough
2 c. warm water
2 pkg. yeast ( 1/4 oz pkg)
4 t. sugar
1 t. kosher salt
4 T. olive oil
6 c. high gluten flour

Mix everything but the flour together to dissolve yeast in a mixer bowl. Add flour and mix about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth. Remove from mixer and divide into 4 portions, brush with olive oil and shape into 4 long pieces. Allow to rise.

Herb Mix - this makes more than you need, use the remainder as a marinade. I mix it with and equal parts of vinegar and oil for a marinade.

4 cloves garlic
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 T. fresh oregano
1 c. olive oil, divided

Process in food processor or blender, 1/2 at a time and blend well.

Top bread with 2 T. herb mix, and sprinkle with a "blessing" made of:
4 T. kosher salt
2 T. poppy seeds

Bake in 350 F oven until golden in color (about 25 minutes).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lentils that my husband will eat...

Thank God for Alton Brown. He has inspired my husband to cook and taste more foods than I had ever dreamed. Here's a recipe for lentils that my husband actually ate that was featured on his show about lentils. My husband actually suggested we try it...that truly is a miracle.

Lentil Salad

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 recipe basic cooked lentils, see recipe below
6 to 8 slices thick-sliced bacon, cooked and chopped

Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme together in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm lentils and bacon and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Basic Cooked Lentils:
1 pound brown or green lentils, approximately 2 1/2 cups
1 small onion, halved
1 large clove garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound salt pork, optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pick over the lentils, rinse and drain. Place the lentils along with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pork into a large 6-quart saucepan and cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Place over high heat and bring just to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and discard the onion, garlic, bay leaf and salt pork. Stir in black pepper and taste for salt. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Parmesan Chicken

Here's a great recipe that my dear friend Sharon made for me. I had some ankle surgery and I am on crutches, so I can't cook things easily. I can't wait to make these myself someday!

Four chicken breasts
2 Tbs mustard
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs dried thyme
1 package shredded parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine mustard and olive oil. Whisk together. Add thyme, mix. Place chicken in a baking dish. Season breasts with kosher salt and pepper; spread a thin layer of the mustard mixture on top of each breast. Cover each breast in a thick layer of parmesan cheese. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until breasts are cooked through and cheese is beginning to brown.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hoppin' John

Before I forget, I must write down this year's version of Hoppin' John that I made on New Year's Day. It was the best I have ever made. Eating Hoppin' John on NY day is supposed to bring you good luck. Here it is:

Hoppin' John (click title for printer friendly version)

1 lb. bag black eyed peas
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
2 large onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 smoked ham hock
1 t. kosher salt, or more to taste.

Soak beans overnight in enough water to cover then by a couple inches. Drain and put in a crock pot. Brown bacon and drain off fat. Add bacon to pot, drain off grease, leaving a tablespoon in the pan. Add onions and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute further until fragrant. Don't burn it. Add to pot. Add ham hock. Add enough water to cover. Cook in crockpot on low for 10 hours, or on high for 6, skimming occasionally. Add salt at end of cooking time. Remove hock and dice up meat and add before serving, if desired. Serve over hot white rice with plenty of Frank's Hot sauce.