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.