Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

We are heading to a potluck New Year's Eve house party tonight.  Fun for all ages!

  • Toasts at both East Coast and West Coast time (just in case bedtime is before midnight pacific daylight time)
  • Noisemakers, funny hats and confetti
  • Good friends and good cheer!
I have developed a reputation as a cake maker among my friends (dunno why :).

Happy 2010 to you and yours. Wishing you Love, Peace and Hairgrease!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Breakfast 2009

We actually had this meal for lunch.  Without a youngster in the house, our morning was pretty slow.  Add to that the fact that my Mr. doesn't like a heavy breakfast, and this was definitely a meal on the heavy side.

I hope you had a wonderful day and made the meaning of it that matches your own beliefs.  For me, it was a Merry Christmas.  My best gift was getting to skype with my daughter who is out of the country and away from home for the first time over Christmas.


Sliced mandarins and persimmons
Oven roasted potatoes and red onions
Eggs benedict

Sparkling grapefruit juice/water

These recipes were all from the mind of Juanita.  If you are interested, email me and I'll send them along to you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Millissa's birthday cake

It is christmas cookie, cake and dinner season, I know.  I may be making a family recipe cake this weekend.  We'll see how time works out with a few other must-do activities.
But about a week ago, I made a cake recipe from Cake Love mastermind Warren Brown.  It was the banana cake featured in his cookbook.  First time attempting with the potato starch.  I don't know if that was the key, but everyone who had the cake said it was my best yet.  And it was Banana of all things!  Well, let me tell you, banana can go upscale from the common banana bread to an awesome light flavored and textured cake.

I made it with the chocolate glaze, also from the Cake Love cookbook, because even I could not fathom using four sticks of butter in the frosting for a 9" round cake.  It would have required too much extra gym time just to think about it much less eat a slice.

Here is Millissa's birthday cake.  Happy Birthday Girlfriend!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner - Yum

Happy Thanksgiving!

The dinner was okay.  The right elements, but everything needed salt, which is a real bummer.  I don't cook with much of it and I don't eat a ton, but for special ocassion meals, I have to remember to be a bit more liberal with the NaCl.

But, we finished with a BANG!!!  I think all the desserts were the bomb.  And there were several.  I made two and guests brought another four.  Can anyone say calorie filled heaven???

The Menu:
Creamed Spinach (my husband made)
Homemade yeast rolls (my husband made, these were very good)
Corned Bread Stuffing
Cornish Hens
Honey baked ham
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Mushroom gravy
Baked Squash with apples (my s-i-l made)
Candied Yams (my s-i-l made)
Cranberry relish

Pecan Pie bars
Pumpkin spice cake with chocolate covered hazelnuts
Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin pie
Apple pie
Sweet potato pie (friend Ashley made

There was also plenty of good white wine, sparkling cranberry juice, coffee and water

Thanksgiving is really a great harvest meal and a chance to give thanks for another year. Thanks all around!

pictured:  Cranberry relish (before and after) and Pumpkin spice cake with chocolate covered hazelnuts.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner - plan

So, now that Veteran's Day is out of the way, we are full steam ahead to Thanksgiving.

I/we am/are hosting this year.  I think there will be approximately 12-15 of us.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Stuffed cornish hens (as opposed to the traditional big bird, I'm going for little birds.  I think 1/2 per person is a reasonable expectation for portion size, except for the college and twenty-something men coming over for whom I will plan for 1.5 birds each)
Twice baked sweet potatoes
A corn/bean dish
Honey glazed ham
Creamed spinach
Macaroni and cheese


Wines and warm cider

I am still open to suggestions though, so if you don't see your favorite holiday dish on the list, please post a comment with a suggestion.  Also, your favorite recipes for any of the above dishes are welcomed.


*(pictured - twice baked sweet potatoes with spiced walnuts artfully arranged on top)

Veteran's Day on the casual tip

So, I've been distracted, travelling and not cooking.  That changed at the beginning of November.  Why?  Because one of my favorite food holidays is approaching.... Thanksgiving.

But there is a smaller holiday that comes up first.  I'd been on the road and didn't plan anything big.  But my husband and I did have one guest over for a homey Veteran's Day meal:

Panned spinach with onions and garlic
Spinach and ricotta ravioli with a red sauce
Toasted Baguette
Lovely Zinfandel!

Apple Cobbler

One hostess note:  If any of your guests or relatives are college age men or twenty-something men, double the amount of food you are making!  If it seems like you have a ridiculous amount of food..., you have make just barely enough.

Monday, October 26, 2009

That looks like a scary picture of something. Did you eat it before your tri?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Personal Celebrations - Triathlon Afterparty

This year I did my third triathlon. It was a sprint distance-- 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run, and was held early in the morning. Since it wasn't a killer distance race (anything longer than the sprint distance), I decided to have friends over for a celebratory breakfast after the fact. I'd hoped my husband would be the main chef, but to thwart me, he came down with the flu just a few days beforehand and I had to yank his food handler's permit.

Luckily, the menu I had in mind centered around a 'must do ahead of time' dish. Got me thinking of other 'do ahead' food and the menu was born:

Mexican Egg souffle
(oven) Home fries
Fruit Salad

Pomegranate sparkler

The coffeecake was made a day ahead. The egg souffle has to be assembled a day ahead. I popped it in the oven when I left for the tri, and my family took it out of the oven when they came to spectate. The fruit salad was made a day ahead. The home fries were prepped a day ahead. I even made the chai a day ahead! I wanted to make biscuits, but I was tired when we got back from the tri. I had just enough energy to shower and pop the cork on the champagne for the mimosas! Cheers!

BTW, most of the recipes for this meal are made up or are in inaccessible cookbooks. If you want one, just email me or post a comment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Personal Celebrations - Family Reunion

The family reunion was held in Washington State last month. My cousin, my husband and I developed a cool series of events that culminated in the big reunion dinner held at a gorgeous retreat center on the water in Gig Harbor WA. Glorious setting and weather was the backdrop for a great spirited gathering. The center piece, a fantastic and fully self-catered spread of Northwest flavor for 50.

PNW Flavor
Smoked Salmon
Dungeness Crab
Burgers/Dogs/Veggie Burgers
Spinach and Strawberry Salad (vegan)
Pasta salad with organic veggies (vegan)
Rustic garlic bread
Assorted Fresh Fruit

Coconut Layer Cake
Double Chocolate bundt with a Ganache, Fresh Raspberry Garnish and a Raspberry Ribbon
Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Fresh Peaches and Whipped Cream

Soft drinks/Water/Coffee/Tea

Quite a bit of cooking, but definitely a labor of love. That's what its all about, right?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Personal Celebrations - Going Away Party

We had lots of changes in the cast of characters this summer.

First, my daughter has gone on study abroad and will be out of the country for a year. This is really changing how I think about holiday cooking already - don't have to make so many veggies.
Second, my oldest nephew has gone off to college. So two of the collective young'uns are launched for now. Well, these aren't your holidays, but their goodbye parties were ours.

Now the guest of honor gets to set the menu at their going away bash, usually, unless the cook is not their mother. For my daughter's event, we had pigs in blankets, deviled eggs and fruit, finished off with a baskin-robbins ice cream cake in her favorite combination (pink/white).

My nephew was at our (husband and my) mercy. I think he was satisfied with barbecue food -- burgers, dogs and elk steak. yes, you read correctly. There was also fruit and a nice creole cole
slaw. For dessert I made a lemon pound cake dressed with strawberries and whipped cream.
To the boy: Good luck in dorm food.
To the girl: Good luck with a new cuisine.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All Cakes, All the Time

I love dessert best. I love holiday meals and the best part of the best type of meal is the dessert. They are often overlooked because people stuff themselves on meat and starch and the occasional vegetable dish for forms sake. But the desserts are really the meal homerun, if you save space.
Here are few that I’ve tried over the years. Some are light and airy and designed not to send you into a coma because you are sure you can’t eat one more thing. Some are events all by themselves. You have the tiniest piece, because that is all you can handle but the thought of passing them by makes you want to cry.

From, lime bundt cake
This cake recipe does not include a glaze or a frosting, but I think either would fancy it up a bit. I did use a cream cheese frosting with a bit of lemon (not lime) zest and juice. Result: One of the tastiest cakes I’ve had, but it seemed to separate into layers. The top was dense cakey, but the bottom was dense clay-like. If I try this again, I will cut the shortening (lots of butter) and see if that makes a difference. Otherwise, it really is a great lime-y dessert, perfect after a heavy meal to have a dessert that is so not cloying.

From, the Double Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze
We had this one for my birthday. Bundt cake onslaught coming on, because they really are lovely and relatively easy. Adding anything raspberry (fresh raspberries, raspberry ribbon, etc) would probably be a nice finishing touch, although this one didn’t need any help to be elegant and delicious.

I hosted gathering at my house to introduce my friends to some of my recent finds and planned to include the chocolate bundt. My sister, who has some unexplained pull on me, convinced me that I needed to have something without flour represented! So I canned the dbl choc bundt in favor of this Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe from The reviews say it is unsinkable unless you are a moron. I may be many things, (including a dummy at times) but I am NO moron, so I felt pretty confident. The reviews were right. The cake was dense, moist and delicious. The real concern with chocolate is that you not scorch it or your product will be garbage. This cake is really easy, so go for it and your friends who don’t cook will think you are some kind of baking goddess/god!

From Joy of Cooking (1975) French Apple Cake
This cake was delicious. Firm and dense but not overwhelming because it is apple (after all, fruit is barely a dessert at all given how good it is for you). To up the fat content and make it fit with my notion of ‘special occasion’ baking, I served it with whipped cream enhanced with whiskey and sugar.

From HomemadeS blogspot, the Almond and Orange Cake
This is a beautiful cake and it tastes fantastic. A few cook's notes on things I learned to make this:
1. Almond meal is ground almonds – you can make them in your food processor. Blend them for a good while
2. Caster sugar is superfine granulated sugar – I couldn’t find this in the store either but the Joy of Cooking said it could be made in the food processor so I did. It takes a long time and sends up clouds of sugar dust so you’ll have to dust your whole counter after.
3. Note conversions, including the cooking temp. 175 is not a Fahrenheit temp. The Fahrenheit temp is about 350.
The cake doesn’t need powdered sugar on top, but I thought it was pretty that way. I also refused to pour the orange syrup over the cake. Instead I put a pool on each serving plate and put the cake on top. A much better option in my opinion.

From the imagination of Juanita Ricks, a Butter Pecan Ice cream cake with a Carrot Cake base
This year for her birthday, my daughter wanted an ice cream cake. Of course, thinking about the blog, I planned to make it. She burst my bubble and directed me to call Baskin-Robbins. Fine! Her birthday, her choice. But I wasn’t deterred. Since she didn’t want me to make the white cake with strawberry ice cream cake for her birthday, I could be a bit more adventurous with the pairing of flavors, but darn it, I was going to make that cake.

Starting with a recipe for carrot cake from the New Basics Cookbook (Rosso and Lukins), I paired with butter pecan ice cream. Using this recipe as a basis for assembly, although I only had one layer of ice cream and one of cake, I think I pulled it off!
A few variations from the carrot cake recipe. I didn’t have any pineapple in the house so instead used apple sauce. To add a bit of texture, I added about ½ cup oat bran. I also left out the nuts. Oh, and I cut back on the oil by ½ and added carrot juice to make up the correct amount.
And of course in the recipe for the ice cream cake, they use whipped topping for frosting. Of course I whipped my own whipped cream for the cake.

For the cake gathering, I made Ice Cream Cupcakes so that they would be portion sized and so I could leave them in the freezer until people were ready to eat them. Cookies and cream ice cream seemed a good crowd pleaser. I had a yellow cake and a chocolate cake for bases.

Dulce De Leche Cream Cake inspired by these two websites:
Just thinking about this cake makes my mouth happy. This cake is deceptively heavy even though it is not at all cloying. Serve your guests meager portions and they won’t fall asleep on your couch or at the wheel of their car heading home after dinner.

Roll cake with fruit
I wanted to have one roll cake at the gathering. I remembered a roll cake that I made for my husband several years ago. It was a white cake, rolled with some jelly filling (don’t recall the flavor of jelly) with whipped cream, fresh sliced strawberries and fresh peach slices on top. It was heavenly. I knew I could pull off another one for this party and reintroduce this old fashioned gem as an option for holiday cake desserts
Inspirations: - but a gluten full version since I’m not wheat allergic. - but of course, with homemade cake, nothing with pancake batter (good grief, it is NOT THAT HARD)
But the real winner was this one: It won because I had a peanut butter and jelly scone at my favorite coffee shop recently and the idea of having a peanut butter and jelly cake really called to me.
This cake was tasty. Maybe peanut butter and jelly roll cake is a better option for a kid’s birthday party than a national holiday. But hey, what is a birthday but a personal holiday? I guess it fits. The other thing is the cake was pretty flat. Finished, it looked more like a crepe than a cake, so if you are interested in something fuller looking, experiment with doubling the recipe or a smaller pan (but the smaller pan could create problems for you when it is time to roll the cake.)

Cheesecake is fancy by design, so it doesn’t have to be over the top with flavoring. In fact a nice simple cheesecake lends itself to being jazzed up if you choose with toppings, or kept simple with fresh fruit on top (or even nothing on top – gasp!). I went for simple, but did mix it up a bit with my cheese choices.
I made this goat cheese cheesecake recipe:
Served with potted strawberries on top and made with a gingersnap crust. It was very good and I think just about everyone liked it. The cake was lighter than traditional cheesecake and had a slightly different taste to it, although folks won’t necessarily know that it is made with goat cheese unless you tell them.

Pound cake
Finally, if cake is the perfect holiday dessert, we have to push the traditional holiday pies to the side (I’m talking about the holy trinity of pumpkin or sweet potato, pecan, mincemeat.) To prove my theory about cakes replacing holiday pies, I included a sweet potato pound cake. Try this one for Thanksgiving!
I did not include the glaze and that was fine. I did find that the recipe was more than enough for two cakes. I made one in a bundt pan and a second in a loaf pan. I also sprinkled chopped pecans in the bottom of my cake pans so that they were baked into the top of the cake. Just a touch to make it special. If you are inclined to frost this cake, you can adhere the pecans by sprinkling them on the frosting. The cake was dense, moist and not too sweet. Lovely. I think it went a long way to proving my theory.

Spice Cake

Things had come together perfectly for the cake gathering, when I went into a last minute panic. There were kids coming. My kid has always been pushed to eat whatever we serve (and like it), but I know that some people are more kid friendly. What to do? I added one more cake to the menu with T-2 hours until guests arrived.

A Quick Spice Cake with whipped cream cheese frosting. My daughter added the finishing touch of sprinkles to make it clear that this one was unadulterated kid joy! I did monkey with the recipe and cut down on the liquid and substituted in some applesauce. My husband liked this one best. The kids liked the ice cream cupcakes best.

In true West Indian fashion (did I mention I had a West Indian-influenced upbringing? Well, I did), I managed to make twice as much food as I needed, but at least I didn't run out (a deadly sin).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Junetieth, or so. Also Father's Day

This post is a bit skim, so upfront I apologize for no pictures associated with the post.

Also, this post is late for two reasons: I won't even pretend that we had this meal on Juneteenth, which is commemorated on June 19. June 19th was a Friday night. I don't cook full meal deals on weeknights and especially not on Friday nights when I have worked a hard week and am tired. We had pizza that night at a cool little restaurant in our neighborhood. The other reason it is late is that after we had the meal on June 21st, I was busy and didn't have a chance to post it.

Actually, June 21 was a busy day. I also had a 'We'll let you eat cake' mid-day gathering at my house. My feeling is that cake is the perfect holiday dessert for just about every meal. So I've been making and tasting a lot of cake lately (good thing I am also training for a few triathlons this summer, or I'm not sure I would have any clothes that fit by now). More on that in another post.

June 21 also being Father's Day, this meal served a double celebratory purpose. Since we'd already had dessert earlier in the day, there is none associated with this menu. If I were going to make a cake for Juneteenth, it might be something with peaches. If I were going to make something specifically for Father's Day, I'd have to go with one of Andy's favorites: either a pineapple cake or coconut cake (both from the Paul Prudhomme family cookbook).

I did go with a southern theme. My good friend, Mrs. T suggested cheese grits and shrimp and almond honey fried chicken. My mouth watered at the thought of it and immediately I was decided that I would make that. With a few minor modifications. So our Father's Day/Junetieth commemoration meal consisted of:

Cheese grits

Oven fried honey-mustard chicken

Spinach salad

White wine sangria/Sparkling lemonade

What, no bread? No, no bread. We'd already had a lot of dessert earlier in the day so this was a somewhat skim meal. Too, folks in my house have somewhat small appetites. Chive biscuits with lots of butter), but I knew that it would be over the top for our stomachs and wouldn't be appreciated.

What happened to the shrimp? Good question. It may be the mystery of the ages who took the shrimp out of the refrigerator and dumped them in the garbage. No one remembers doing it (there are three of us in the house and we are all sticking to our stories). I checked the refrigerator 5 times and checked my car one time before I remembered the awful stink that was the garbage just before the cake party. The garbage went out in a mostly empty bag to get that smell out of the house and so it was easy to confirm that the culprit was my once beautiful and never cooked/tasted shrimp. And they had been beauties. And expensive. Needless to say, the meal went forward without them.

So a modest meal. I guess better modest but good, than contaminated or with some silly last minute substitute.

Oh, yeah, here is an appropriate photo choice. Happy Father's Day Andy! Thanks for letting us double it up as Junetieth and for the Cake eating event!

Cook's note: There are no recipes attached or links provided. I know. I did all of these using a tried and true grandma method - guestimating. I can give you details if you ask....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Why not do a new spin on an old-fashioned recipe. Like a black-eyed peas salad? Hoppin John - black-eyed peas and rice - is a good luck dish on the first of the year. It's a southern tradition and a southern black staple. You heard it here first.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What's cooking this month?

We'll be celebrating Juneteenth on June 19th. Juneteenth is a liberation celebration. It commemorates the day that slaves in Texas finally learned that they were free. Well after the Emancipation Proclamation and even after the end of the Civil War.

Not sure what's for dinner that night. Maybe some modernized 'southern' favorites. I am not from the South, so this isn't my cuisine, but I like smothered food as much as the next gal, so I'll cobble something together. And try to make it look good (Lord knows it should taste good) and try to make it vaguely healthy (which may turn the whole tasty thing on its head.)

Also, I am hosting a 'cake' party mid-month. No real reason other than that I've been making a lot of cakes lately. I've decided that cakes are the perfect holiday dessert in most cases. For instance, tradition dictates pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but you could make a pumpkin cake in its place!
There are a number of cakes I have made over the last few holidays. I'll be repeating a few of those and adding a few new creations. I am particularly proud to have pieced together an ice cream cake. I worked during college at Baskin-Robbins and was a scooper extraordinaire, but never earned my stripes as cake-maker. Well, I have now corrected that deficiency in my training. It is actually pretty straightforward to make an ice cream cake.

Anyway, just giving an update because it will be at least another week before you see food here this month and I wanted to let you know what to look forward to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day QUE!

Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, is commemorated to celebrate US war dead. Started after the civil war for Union soldiers, it was expanded after WW1 to include all war dead (so says Wikipedia). In a family with very few war dead –knock wood—we didn’t really do anything on this holiday other than barbeque. I recently looked up the meaning and think it deserves a bit more acknowledgement from me as an adult member of this society. There are faults with this country, but it is also a country with benefits for its citizens; I enjoy many of them. I have many current and former service members in my family and I love them, so I should and will do better from here on out. So I’ll be observing the 3:00pm moment of silence….

And then it’s time to start the QUE!!!

As an extension of my make-do kitchen, I have a make-do barbeque grill. It is an old school charcoal grill that my dad bought for us when we moved to Seattle over a dozen years ago. So it is old and it is rusty. One day soon we will need to replace it before the rust molecules give way and flaming charcoals tumble out of the bottom of it. But for today, I will press my luck once again to make dinner for the family. A simple American meal complete with steak and potatoes!
On the menu:
Grilled steaks served with a ribbon of Karam’s Garlic Sauce (this stuff is awesome!);
Potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce;
Grilled corn on the cob with chili-lime butter;;
Oh! snap ice cream sandwiches;

Cook’s note:
· Both the ginger cookie recipe and the potato pancake recipe are from the Great Entertainer Cookbook. I renamed the cookies from ginger cookies because I took major liberties with the recipe. First, I used mostly whole wheat flour because I ran out of white flour. More importantly, I didn’t have any ginger in the house. Some time ago I’d read somewhere that you could substitute cardamom for ginger in things like apple pie. So I tried it here. Delicious!
· A trick with the potatoes. Potatoes start to discolor the minute you start shredding them. Don’t worry about it. That is the starch in the potatoes interacting with the air. I now let them get good and pinky-orange until I’m ready for them. Then I put them in a colander and rinse them until they are back to white. The stuff that runs off is the starch so this will change the consistency of your finished dish a bit. It is a good idea to let a lot of the water drain out of the potatoes or to press the water out or dry them in a dish towel.
· On the ice cream sandwiches, I went with plain vanilla ice cream because I didn’t want any flavor that would clash with the flavor of the cookies. I let the ice cream soften a bit so it was easy to serve. Next time, I’ll just make them ahead and put them back in the freezer. That way the ice cream doesn’t get too melty while you are eating it.
· No recipe for the grilling. It was pretty common sense. The steaks were NY Strips, about ¾ inch thick, so they did well on the grill and I didn’t have to sweat too much about overdoing them with reasonable attention. Just a touch of kosher salt, pepper and a shmear of olive oil. Scored on one side. Cooked about 5 minutes on one side and about 10 on the next. The corn was another where I went from memory. You pull down, but not off, the husks and remove as much of the silk as you can. Rearrange the husks and soak the corn in water for a while. Then the corn goes on the grill for about 15 minutes. It is okay if it gets a bit smoky and it is fine if the husks burn because you don’t eat the husks, you eat what’s inside them.

This meal is a total keeper. The flavors are subtle, smoky and go well together. My husband was skeptical of the idea of potato pancakes with this meal, but I really liked the variation on the standard potato theme.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Guest Blogger Alexandra: Mother's Day Brunch

Hello! It's Alexandra, and I am here to guest blog about the Mother's Day brunch I made my mom today!

O Cardapio (The Menu):
~Cinnamon Swirl Bread French Toast w/ powdered sugar, whipped cream, raisins, and pecans on top!
~Orange Slices

~Sparkling Pomegranate Juice

Let me start off telling you about my cooking background. Meals I can cook:

~Cereal (Pouring milk on)
~Toast with jelly or butter
~Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
~Ham Sandwiches or wraps
~Baking Frozen Cookies
~Defrosting Eggo Waffles
~Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (and if my parents disappeared I would eat these three meals a day)

So I was THIS excited that I made a decent meal. Actually, I am going to go so far as to say it was better than decent! So you know I'm happy!

I'm not into the whole "detailed" blog postings. I write random things and who knows... maybe it only makes sense to me! But here is my overview of the meal:

French Toast=Yummy
~It really was good! I didn't mess up! I didn't mess up! I didn't mess up!!!!! Anything that I have to cook to make stresses me out! But if you actually follow the recepie, it will work!

~Yeah, I didn't actually make it. But it was good! Because I was using the skillet for the French Toast, he made it in the oven. It was better this way! It was more chewy and less burnt/crispy! :D

~Yeah, whatever.

I still think cooking is really stressful. Getting the timing right to do everything, set the table, make drinks, etc. It sucks. Butttttt, it's getting easier.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

Normally, we don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but for the purpose of this blog, I've branched out a bit. Would've done May Day, as the poll suggested, but we had plans to go out that night. And in keeping with my I-don't-do-big-cooking-projects-on-work-nights policy, we celebrated CdM on the third (a Sunday) with our friends the Thomases.

Chips, Salsa and Homemade Guacamole
Chicken Enchiladas
Spanish Rice
Steamed Vegetables with Green Chili Butter
Dulce de Leche Cream Cake
White Wine Sangria & Jarritos

Spanish rice from The Feast of Santa Fe (by Huntley Dent); Steamed vegetables with Green Chili Butter (also from The Feast of Santa Fe); Enchilada Sencillas from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (by Diane Kennedy); Dulce de Leche Cream Cake , inspired by
White Wine Sangria

Cooks notes:
  • For the veggies, I chose cauliflower and carrots because I thought they'd add interesting color. Would've thrown in green beans too, but they looked quite unappetizing at the grocery store. The chili butter is not green, but it is quite tasty.
  • I made the enchiladas with flour tortillas against my better judgement because they are bigger than the corn ones. Corn tortillas simply taste better in my estimation. It is worth making more enchiladas to have that taste and texture in the dish. next time, I'll do right.
  • Spanish rice is awesome and will replace white rice in my everyday cooking. Ridiculously easy and just plain tasty.
  • Sangria is not Mexican (it's from Spain), but I didn't have tequila in the house. Sangria is unbelievably awesome! White wine sangria is refreshing, fruity and deceptive. In a word, it is heavenly and I will be drinking it all summer. It may just be my signature party drink. But I'll have to be sure to collect car keys from my guests upfront!
  • More than a note on the cake. This cake is unbelievable. You have to make it. Don't be afraid when you pour the cream mixture on the cake. I too was worried that there was no way it would all be absorbed and not turn to mush. But it did absorb and the cake wasn't mushy. In fact it was incredibly incredible. My eyes cross just thinking about how luscious it was. Oh, and unless you are trying to kill your guests, consider serving this after a fairly light meal. The cake itself is probably closing on most people's recommended daily calorie allowance.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poll: May Holiday Meal(s)

I see that there are several likely holidays for a MAY write-up:

  • May Day

  • Cinco de Mayo

  • Mother's Day

  • Armed Forces Day

  • Memorial Day

Beyond the typical US holidays, there are holidays around the world, including a Flag Day in Poland and Labor Day in several countries.

I've never done big celebration meals for any of these, but in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I plan to do at least one.

So, which one/ones should I make holiday meals for in May? Your suggestions will be taken for the next week or so. Send your suggestion in the comments section.

Easter Dinner

Roast Leg of curry-rubbed lamb
Minty Chickpea Salad with Couscous
Deviled Cauliflower
Panned Spinach with Pine nuts and Golden raisins
Pita triangles

Almond and Orange Cake

Libations: A nice Shiraz or Orange-Berry Spritzer, and Tea with cake

Luckily, Easter is always on a Sunday. As a non-church attending type, I can get straight to cooking without having to go to Church first.
It was a fairly simple meal, so I took my time and it took ALL day. I made the cake a day ahead, so I didn’t have the oven trauma that often comes with too many baked/broiled items in one meal.
The half-leg of lamb, from Bob’s Quality Meats, was just the right size for a family of three with plenty for leftovers. About three pounds, it fit in my roasting rack just fine. I did a curry rub, but it didn’t add much. Next time I’ll just do rosemary, garlic and olive oil.
The couscous was tasty (love the surprise lift that the orange zest gives) if a bit dry, the tomato accompaniment was fabulous. The panned spinache with golden raisins and pine nuts, a solid side. The surprise winner was the deviled (or on a day such as Easter, Angeled) cauliflower. We all loved it and the naysayers who hate cauliflower had seconds.
A note on lamb. Obviously you will serve first the pieces on the end. They will be the most dry pieces because they are well done. Everything else will be moist and tender; perfect for take two tomorrow.
And of course, the meal is just the permission you need to gorge on dessert. I made Almond and Orange cake which was heavenly. Just served with a cup of regular tea. Just the thing to end the meal and the day.

Curried Leg of Lamb – follow cooking directions in your favorite standard cookbook. The marinade/rub recipe:
Deviled Cauliflower - (Bon Appetite, December 1994)
Minty Chickpea Salad with Couscous - (Real Simple, August 2007)
Spinach with pine nuts and golden raisins - (I think this is an recipe that I’ve made so many times that I no longer need to look it up)
Almond and Orange cake -

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We will have a lit-tle lamb (can you hear the melody?)

For Easter this year.

These posts do not have the sexiest titles out there. That's a fact. But what can you say about Easter Dinner? Jesus rises from death so we eat a baby sheep! At least in my house we do. The main course for this meal was my idea. My teenager, the one who would likely raise a fuss about eating a lamb, said ‘cool’ so I’m going for it.

One leg o’ lamb coming up. I’m thinking about curried leg of lamb. Stay tuned for the sides. I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

St. Patricks' Day Dinner

Corned beef and cabbage
Tangy Glazed Carrots
Apple Cake Cockaigne
Whiskey whipped cream

Beer/Sparkling Pomegranate Juice played a lead role in the meal. The beef brisket was brined in a recipe from, but otherwise the main meal elements were epicurious creations. A traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage was called for, but the thought of a 100% boiled dinner didn’t seem so special to me. I deviated by making a separate carrot dish. For dessert, I thought a cake would be nice. We have had and enjoyed the Apple Cake Cockaigne recipe from the 1975 edition of the Joy of Cooking several times. I ditched it for the French Apple Cake recipe just below it on the page. It looked good and since I had already bought the cream, I offered a whipped cream dollop for each slice.

Cook's notes:
  • be careful not to overcook the cabbage. It was tasty but softer than it needed to be (you can tell in the pix);
  • if you want pink corned-beef you have to add salt petre or sodium nitrate, which is a color fixative. It tastes the same regardless;
  • you can half the recipe for the sauce that the carrots are tossed in;
  • the cake is very good on its own and even better with a flavored whipped cream.
My troop and our the relatives who were over for dinner thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

Corned beef and cabbage:
Champ (for the uninitiated, this is a potato dish):
Tangy Glazed Carrots:
From the Gooseberry Farm Family Favorites Cookbook
Apple Cake Cockaigne:
From the Joy of Cooking, 1975 edition
Does Whiskey Whipped Cream actually need a recipe? Even I’m not that needy. Anyway, if you do need a recipe for that, let me know and I’ll figure out the proportions for the ingredients (which are whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and whiskey)

Sparkling pomegranate juice for those who don’t imbibe
Beer for everyone else (No, not green)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yes, I will feed this to my family

Homemade is best made. When I was ducking through the kitchen all those times as a kid, I missed watching my mother make food from scratch. She made everything from scratch. And she also did not use a microwave.

The ideal of homemade rubbed off on me. I don’t cotton to store bought soup unless I’m sick, in which case Campbell’s Chicken Noodle is my thing. I make soup from scratch, spaghetti sauce, gravy… you name it. I don’t buy pre-seasoned food except in very rare cases.

So this explains the picture. St. Paddy’s Dinner will be corned beef. Pictured is the beef brisket in the homemade brine that has been in my refrigerator since last week.

This is the recipe I followed for the brine.

The brisket will be in there for 10 days by the time I cook it. BTW, making the brine was easy sneezy. Much more difficult was finding a supermarket that had a brisket that wasn’t already in the puff pack with seasonings already on it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Holiday Cooking in a Make-do Kitchen

For years, my line was “I don’t like to cook.” I also didn’t really know how to cook. I was the girl who ducked through the kitchen, hoping I wouldn’t be asked to do something. Somewhere along the line, my dad decided that wasn’t acceptable so as a teenager, I ended up having to make dinner twice a week.
Fast forward to adulthood. The boyfriend who became my husband liked to cook. The food was good too! What luck! I looked forward to growing old and never developing dishpan hands. Well, all good things come to an end and he decided that my complete freeloading wasn’t okay either (notice it’s always the men who punch my ticket?)
I started cooking occasionally. Because I don’t have any real sense of what works with what, I follow recipes. And I have figured out that I do like cooking; I just don’t like cooking on weeknights after work. Weekends are another story. I will make batches of soup or roasts or other hearty family meals.
But the real pleasure for me has become holiday cooking. We’ve lived in our house for 6 years. I think we’ve had Thanksgiving dinner three times (One year I was out of town and my family went out for Chinese food; and my sister-in-law has hosted it twice), we’ve done Easter a few times, we do Christmas Eve annually and of course there are the birthday dinners and desserts.
Maybe I like the holiday meals best because I get to pull out my wedding china, crystal ware and the real silver that was in deep storage from the time I got married until we bought our first house nine years later. Maybe it’s the thrill of hunting for recipes in cookbooks and on-line and from relatives and friends, then putting together a good menu (complete with wine recommendations even though I can’t taste the difference.) I don’t really know why, but I do know I enjoy holiday cooking. Hence the birth of this blog.
Now as to the name, I have a make-do kitchen (don’t we all?) It is as far from a gourmet kitchen as you can get. I think it is the smallest kitchen of any house I’ve ever lived in, measuring 8’ x 12’. The stove is a ‘Murphy-style’ stove in that the stove top can collapse in, thereby leaving more space in the room. But since it is ancient, the delicate wiring won’t put up with all that movement so it has to stay put. The refrigerator and dishwasher compete for space on opposing walls so they can’t both be open at the same time. One of the two counters serves as home to the cereal box collection, and the table (if you have a tiny kitchen you have to cram your kitchen table in there) is the home for the unopened mail. The floor space, after counters, refrigerator, stove, etc, measures around 4ish’ x 7’. That means one cook at a time.
Now let me tell you about the fittings. I already mentioned the old stove. Built in, electric. It is a geriatric piece and we have to be kind to it, because when it goes it will spur the remodel that we can’t afford. Of four burners, one doesn’t work, one only burns on high and one seems to only burn low (it’s okay to laugh; I’m laughing too). My husband doesn’t believe in microwaves, so we don’t have one. We do have an over the hill toaster oven. It makes toast. The oven works and so does the sink. The refrigerator is pretty new so it’s fine. It’s a basic model, no bells or whistles. Most importantly, it fits in the kitchen.
We have pretty decent pots, Le Creuset (I recommend them highly) and many of the gadgets that help move a cooking project along. But you can bet that once each holiday, I have to play MacGyver to make something work. Sometimes it works, sometimes someone gets burned, something falls on the floor or the dish simply fails (which is the nice way of saying the cook fails).
Oh, and one more very helpful bit. My sister was a gourmet magazine junkie. Unfortunately, she moved from her spacious west coast apartment to New York City and she had to sacrifice her magazine collection. So I inherited about 100 pounds of recipes and cooking information from her in the form of a several year collection. We also own a pantry full of cookbooks and I am not beyond calling on my good friends at,, or any of several other cooking and recipes sites to help me out. One of my finer finds recently was a recipe for chip-chopped ham so that I could make a Pittsburgh staple to eat while watching my Steelers win the Superbowl. The dish was good and the game was AWESOME!!! Technically, I guess that counts as a holiday, but I am getting off the point.
So, now that I’ve spilled my guts, let me invite you into my kitchen. I’ll share with you the thrill of victory, and when it happens, the agony of defeat when preparing holiday meals in my make-do kitchen.