Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grandma’s Special Halibut Recipe

     Everyone has a unique recipe or special meal that will brings them back to their childhood days. For me it is my grandmothers halibut dish. It was one of her specialties and she would serve it for our birthdays and at holiday time. We would request it often and look forward to the times she was able to prepare it for us.

Grandma's recipe

     My grandmother was one of the most important people in my life and she taught me more than I have time to record here. Today I will share this treasured recipe with my readers. It seems fitting to end 2010 sharing my most precious recipe with all of you. My grandmother was kind and generous to everyone and she would have been very pleased indeed to think her recipe was reaching so many people.

 Adding the shrimps and the halibut

     As 2010 comes to a close I am recalling  many wonderful meals shared with family and friends. In 2011 I hope all your meals are filled with good flavors and good memories. 

  Happy New Year

I love this egg slicer it lets me cut the egg in thin slices
½ lb halibut $5.00
1 hard boiled egg $.30
6 shrimp cooked $3.00
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
2 cup milk (add a bit more if needed) $.75
I use 1% milk and find that it works well
touch of nutmeg
½ tsp parsley
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
2 boiled potatoes $.75
steaming the halibut
Steam the halibut (I add a touch of old Bay)

 Hard boil an egg-about 10 minutes

Smooth and delicious white sauce
  White sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan 
add the flour and whisk to make a light roux this will cook the raw taste out of the flour
Add milk until it is a medium thickness
( a bit lighter than a chowder) 
I add a touch of nutmeg to the sauce 
Cooking the shrimp
When the sauce is finished add
Cooked cleaned deveined shrimp 
Hard-boiled egg  
Steamed halibut
add spices 
dried parsley
Grandma liked Mrs. Dash pepper  as well
The finished product

Serve the halibut shrimp egg sauce
over boiled potatoes
(I smash them with a fork and put the fish dish on top)
Total under $10.00 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Thingys : Holiday Memories For The Tree And The Tummy

 Christmas Memories
      My mother always had a real tree. She chose many different varieties throughout the years but I remember her favorite being the Scotch pine. Our trees would be so full and dense that it was often difficult to find enough clearance to put the ornaments in place. Mom always spent hours working to make the tree look just perfect. She was one of those people who would put the tinsel on the tree one strand at a time and had actually saved the older heavier weight tinsel, and used it year after year.

     One of the tree traditions of my youth were candy wreaths we used to call chocolate thingys. Each year we would visit Elk Candy shop in Manhattan on East 86th Street and collect our holiday supply. 

     These chocolate wreaths were covered in multicolored Nonpareils and my mother would always use them as tree decorations. They were perfectly designed to be hung on the end of a tree limb and we kids memorized just where they were placed because we knew that at some point we would be allowed to graze the tree for candy. These treats grew to become as important a part of our tree as the ornaments we made in school, the white angels and the colorful balls that had been handed down through generations in our family.

     My sister coined the phrase chocolate thingys to describe these holiday wreaths, mostly used as part of her traditional expression “Don’t eat all the chocolate thingys! Save some for me!” She was correct of course we couldn’t be trusted. There were four of us eyeing the tree and keeping a careful balance sheet of total available thingys with a precision that would have made our math teachers proud.

     This year far from Manhattan and separated from my sister by three thousand miles I think of those simpler times and remember the simple pleasures.
I have for the first time attempted to create home made chocolate thingys to send to her in Maryland.
Easier to make than I thought
½ bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ bar of 70% dark chocolate
Jar of nonpareils

I melted the chocolate in a double boiler
(The cooler the better)
When it’s melting 
pull it off the flame 
let the residual heat melt the rest
Keep it off the flame 
wait till it thickens up a bit and cools

The chocolate can’t be worked if it is too hot or too runny
So waiting is key
How long to wait will vary.

When it was cool enough to handle  
And cool enough to work with but still warm  
I placed it in a zip top bag fitted with a round small cake decorating tip.
(a small snip in the corner of the bag 
allows placement of the tip)
I needed to put my finger in the open end of the decorating tip between wreaths to keep the drips at bay.

On a silpat I free handed the wreaths
and finished them off by decorating them with the nonpareils
I refrigerated the sheet keeping it horizontal till firm.

I wish I could be there to see her face when she opens the package.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Accidental Appetizer : Sausage Rolls With A Kick

They looked and smelled wonderful
While chatting with the butcher as to whether we think the rain will hurt the Rose Parade he mentioned that the sausages were on sale and the California Caliente variety was the most popular flavor. It contains jalapeños, green, red and yellow peppers, cilantro and all sorts of good ingredients. I knew this was something I could use and my mind began turning over a few ideas.

I’d planned a rice dish but when I looked at my brown rice it had passed it’s prime and not wanting to go out in the rain again I brainstormed a plan. 
It's a great idea to always keep some dough in the freezer
2 Large sausages $2.00
1 oz cheddar cheese $.50
fist sized ball of home made dough (pennies)

I always keep extra dough in the freezer and  took I took some out to thaw knowing it would be ready to use by the time I needed it.  
Break the sausage up to medium sized pieces and pan-fry.

Run the thawed dough through the pasta roller and cut it into large rectangles
Ready to Roll!
place  some cheese and some sausage in each dough rectangle
And rolled it
I topped these with black sesame seeds
place them on a cookie sheet and brush the top with a bit of water or egg wash
Sprinkle black sesame seed on top
Bake till browned and heated through
 Total under $3.00
This dish has tremendous appetizer potential
TIP OF THE DAY: This would be a wonderful holiday appetizer.
Had I known I’d be rolling them (not serving with rice)
I’d have broken the sausage into small bits. If your plans need to change, embrace it as an opportunity.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spicy Pasta with Kale and Tomato

Beautiful Kale
     A steady rain falls outside our window and thick clouds obliterate the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s not a day to venture out for Christmas errands, it is a day to stay home in our most comfortable clothes warm, dry and relaxed. After a brief trip to the grocery store we settled in catching up on our rest and our chores.
Perfect dinner to brighten a gray day

     On a gray day like this I wanted a meal that was full of holiday color to brighten our day and fill our stomachs. I think this pasta dish fits the bill. John likes a bit of spicy heat in his pasta but, the dish can easily be made milder with green pepper instead of Anaheim.
3/4 lb whole wheat penne pasta
Boil till al dente in salted water

Beautiful & Tasty

1 tbs olive oil
½ yellow onion
½ Anaheim pepper seeded and ribs removed (diced)
2 cloves garlic
2 diced tomatoes
1 small bunch of Kale cleaned trimmed and chopped
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 pat butter
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or your favorite)

In a large frying pan
Add oil then onion and pepper
Cook till almost translucent
Add kale tomato and let wilt
Add garlic last don’t let it brown
Add spices to taste
Add the cooked pasta and a bit of the pasta water
Recheck spices to taste.
Add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Finish with a pat of butter

Total under $5.00
Ready to serve

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nancy's Chocolate Mice

Holiday mice
If you are looking for a unique addition to your holiday repertoire of cakes and cookies I suggest you try these adorable chocolate mice. They make a wonderful hostess gift and are a perfect addition to any desert table. 
Place ears on before chocolate hardens but not too soon or they will droop
 My friend Nancy has a real talent for finding distinctive and interesting ways to entertain. She has a wonderful memory for retaining good ideas that she discovers throughout the year and always finds the perfect occasion to share them with family and friends. Last New Years Eve she prepared these adorable chocolate mice and everyone just loved them. They are easy to prepare and will be the hit of any gathering they attend.

A fun addition to any party     

Chocolate for melting
Maraschino cherries (remove liquid & dry)
Hershey’s kisses
Slivered almonds
A small tube of red cake decoration gel
Melt chocolate in a double boiler
Hold cherry by stem and coat in chocolate
Before its hardened affix flat side of a
Hershey’s kiss to cherry till it melts to fuse
Place slivered almonds as ears
Use red gel as eyes
Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Potato Pancakes ~Applesauce and ...a mystery

 Explore the joy of growing food flowers & friendships
    I spent this afternoon working up a new recipe for my friends Jan and Kylee, two dynamic ladies who in addition to their careers and family lives have also found time to create a blog called the The Soil Sisters . They have produced a well-designed, informative and interesting blog related to gardening and a whole lot more. One does not have to be a gardener to appreciate all they have to offer. I trust that even the black thumbed among you may, after visiting their site find yourselves tempted to give gardening another try. It is always such an honor to contribute to their site and I look forward to sending them my new recipe.

     As I prepared the dish for our dinner this evening I needed a simple delicious side dish to serve on the side. I decided potato pancakes would be the perfect compliment to the meal. If you are curious as to what I served with the potato pancakes stay tuned to this blog and The Soil Sisters. I will link to it as soon as it is published.
Grating the potato
1 Russet potato 
(Peeled and grated)
(Blotted with a paper towel)
½ yellow onion (diced)
1 egg
1 tbs flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
Place egg and flour into a bowl
Add the diced onion
Add the potato
Add the S&P
(Sometimes I add grated cheese ~ today I did not)
Make patties
Pan fry in a combination of butter and olive oil
When the first side is golden brown flip
And cook on the other side till it is golden brown 
I served the pancakes with applesauce 
(of course)

Total Under $ 2.00 
It's a classic Combination

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese for a Winter evening

   As we prepare for the holidays most of the country is blanketed in snow. We attend all the parties, run all the Christmas errands and rush to all the recitals, pageants and services that make the season extra special. At the end of those busy frosty days we crave the warm comfort of some time at home in front of the fireplace wearing big fluffy slippers and watching our favorite holiday movie on television.

     I don’t know a better meal for a winter evening than a dish of soul satisfying Macaroni and cheese, it’s creamy rich goodness feels like a celebration. I’ve used whole-wheat pasta and 1% milk for this dish. I know these choices don’t make it particularly low calorie but it is a nice change from the classic version. I’m dressing up the dish with the addition of lobster. I didn’t need much so I just bought a tail.

     Another version of this dish was served at our wedding as an appetizer. It was the most talked about dish of the day and it always brings back happy memories for me.
The cheese can be grated in advance
1/2-3/4 lb of whole-wheat pasta cooked 1.50 (regular is fine too)

3 tbs butter $.50
3 tbs flour
1-cup milk $.75
4 oz white cheddar cheese grated 1.50
5 oz grated fontina grated $1.50
1 small lobster tail cooked removed from shell and cut in ½ inch pieces $3.99

Slice of whole wheat bread made into breadcrumbs
1 tbs butter
I prepared the pasta in salted water

In another saucepan I melted the butter and added the flour
To create a roux which I cooked a minute or two to
Remove the raw flour taste.
beginning to make the roux
I added the milk and cooked it till thickened
It was a bit too thick so I added a bit more milk
Use your eye.

I took the saucepan off of the heat and added the
Cheeses and salt pepper and nutmeg (taste to see that it just as you like it)

I added the pasta
Stir well to get the sauce in the nooks and crannies
Placed the mixture in a baking dish & set aside
Making the fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs  
I put the bread in the food processor and made bread crumbs
Added 1 tbs melted butter
Took the breadcrumbs and topped the macaroni in the baking dish

Cook in a 350 degree oven
For 25- 30 minutes till browned
Total under $ 10.00
Ready to pop into the oven
TIP OF THE DAY: Just because a food item is typically costly don’t rule it out. There is no need to buy and entire lobster when just a tail will do. Wait till you see them on sale and make the dish that week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Holiday Cashews are back for Christmas

 On a cold day try warm spiced cashews
 With the Christmas season in full swing I thought I would repost this holiday treat. It is the perfect little nibble to put out at your next festive gathering.The only problem will be keeping them from being devoured long enough to serve to your guests. These would also make a lovely present placed in a decorative container and given to your favorite nut lover.
     It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to a relationship you will treasure for the rest of your lives. I'm sure it will grace many of your holiday tables and gift baskets this Christmas and Thanksgiving season. 
They smell as good as they look
      This is a recipe I discovered through an idol of mine, Ina Garten who I absolutely adore. She inspires me in so many ways and I've been pleased with every recipe of hers that I have ever tried. She says this is almost identical to the bar nuts at the Union Square Cafe in New York and included in their cookbook.

     I love serving these at parties and bringing them as hostess gifts during the holiday party season.

1 1/4 lbs.   cashews
2 tbs.       chopped fresh rosemary leaves 
1/2 tsp     cayenne pepper
2 tsp        dark brown sugar 
2 tsp          kosher salt 
1 tbs         melted butter
Place the nuts on a baking sheet & bake for about 
10 minutes in a 375 degree oven
till they are nice and warm  
Combine the rosemary, the sugar,the cayenne, the kosher salt and the melted butter in a big bowl.  mix well
When the nuts are done add the warm nuts to the bowl of herbs spices and butter and mix well.

When I have guests I serve these nuts warm.
Happy holidays to one and all! 

Here is a link to the original  recipe

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celeriac Soup : A lesson in inner beauty

The beauty lies within
      We often speak of the beauty that lies within being more important than outward appearance. This is most certainly true of the celery root or celeriac. The rough knobby exterior hides a pure white root that when cooked into soup and pureed becomes a velvety smooth rich treat. Lots of folks would simply pass the celeriac root while cruising through the produce department. It looks like it would be difficult to peel and that it would be impossible to cook but, it is easier to use than one would think. This holiday lets revisit our definition of beauty and open ourselves up to some delicious surprises.
Adding the cubed celeriac
Celery root $2.99
1 med-lg onion $.59
2 cloves garlic $.25
1 small red potato $.30
1 stalk celery $.05
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock $ 2.00
1 cup milk $.65
Black pepper
hint of thyme
drizzle of Real Maple syrup
Always puree your soups off the flame and off the heat

I sauté the onion till soft
Add garlic & cook for a minute or two
Add the chopped celery stalk
Add the peeled cubed celery root
Add the peeled cubed potato
Cook for a minute or two
Add 3 cups stock
Cook 30 or so minutes or till root is soft
Puree off heat with immersion blender or
Food processor
Taste and season
Add milk 
When serving drizzle a touch of maple syrup on top 
(Oh Yeah!) 
Total under $7.00
Smooth Satisfying Celeriac Soup

Tip Of The Day
Just because something in the grocery store looks unattractive or strange to you don’t just dismiss it. Do a bit of research find a recipe and see if you can work it in to your menu plan. It may become a family favorite.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lasagna in a Loaf Pan

Italian Dinner: Remembering the Amalfi Coast
     Since we moved into the new apartment we have been having a bit of trouble with our cable and Internet connections.Today was the day of our appointment to finally get it all sorted out. I was given the ubiquitous window of time for their arrival so I knew I'd better not plan on an outing of any kind for today.

     I needed to make myself busy while I waited for the technicians.I decided that it was a perfect day to create lasagna in a loaf pan, lasagna because its delicious and a loaf pan because I left my big lasagna pan in Texas.

     I love this dish because I can prepare it early in the day (or even the day before) and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees till hot and bubbly. I suppose I could even freeze it but we can never wait that long.

      The cable technicians arrived shortly after I began the preparation process and I got the impression the don't often go on a service call to find the customer kneading homemade pasta. I think they were amused.

Meat Sauce
½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground pork
(Many grocers don’t grind pork to order. I bought 1 small pork chop and ground it in my food processor. Problem solved!)
½ large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
3 cans fire roasted organic Muir Glen diced tomatoes (I had no fresh on hand today)
½-cooked carrot pureed in food processor
½ Serrano pepper also spun to bits in the food processor
Smells and tastes wonderful
 I cooked the meat first then the cooked onion and garlic
Added the tomatoes, pureed carrot and pepper
Added red pepper flake
Garlic salt
Tsp sugar
And a pinch of Italian herbs
Add your favorite spices and experiment.

1 tbs butter olive oil mix
1 tbs flour
½ cup milk
Hint of nutmeg

I melted the butter & oil then added the flour
I cooked it while whisking for a minute then added water and heated it to a boil
It thickened and I pulled it off heat.
smooth and creamy a little goes a long way
Pasta (home made)
1-cup flour (I used mostly AP with a bit of cake flour)
1 egg
Touch of olive oil 
$.50 for the Pasta
I made the well of flour for the egg and hand kneaded it for about 10 minutes
Then ran it through the pasta machine to make the sheets. Super easy!

Making pasta is easy and delicious
Then the fun began…
I put a ladleful of sauce on the bottom of the loaf pan
Then a cooked lasagna sheet
Spoonful of Béchamel
Layer of sauce
Lasagna sheet
Spoonful of béchamel
Layer of sauce
Lasagna sheet
Spoonful of Béchamel
Layer of sauce
,,,,etcetera etcetera etcetera,,, 
Layers of tomato goodness in progress

 Somewhere in the middle I grated a bit of Parmesan
For a surprise treat
I topped with the last bit of sauce cheese and some leftover
Mozzarella balls I had on hand.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sweet and Savory Festive Pumpkin Soup

    I’m really getting into the holiday frame of mind even though this will be a different kind of Christmas for us. We are in an unfamiliar area and away from our full time home but, we are together and that is all that really matters.

      Seeing all the decorations and hearing the familiar carols takes me back in time and I remember family, friends and the good times shared with them. This is the first year we may not be able to get back to Cincinnati to spend the holiday with John’s family and we will miss being with them and enjoying an old fashioned Ohio Christmas. Being here in California will cause us to reinvent the celebration, keeping our traditions while exploring the exciting possibilities involved in a California Christmas. 

     It is good to be back in Los Angeles after a great weekend trip to Las Vegas. We enjoyed two days of fun and visiting with friends but, now its time to settle in and gear up for the season.Today feels like a cozy stay at home day and I found myself craving pumpkin soup.

¾ large onion $.50
2 cloves garlic
large pinch red pepper flakes
½ tsp cumin
¾ tsp sweet curry powder
15 oz organic pumpkin $1.99
2 cups organic chicken stock $1.25
½ large carrot roasted $.20
½ sweet potato roasted (boiled is OK for these also) $.20
¼ cup brown sugar $.25
2/3 cups 1% milk (use whichever milk you have on hand) $.35

In your stock pot cook down onions (don’t brown)
Add garlic cook a minute or so (don’t brown)
Add your spices
Add the remaining vegetables
Add organic chicken stock (home made if possible)
Process in a food processor or (off heat) use an immersion blender till smooth
2/3 tsp salt
2/3 cups milk
An oz. or two of half and half
stir,sample and adjust spices to your taste
I’m serving this topped with delicious roasted pumpkin seeds
We purchased at the farmers market $.75
Total $5.14

Delicious Pumpkin Curry Soup

TIP OF THE DAY: When strolling through the farmers market you may find a tasty treat like roasted pumpkin seeds. If they are especially special design a dish around the ingredient. It will be fun to explore your options.