"Piehole" in Midwestern means "mouth," as in "Shut your piehole." Preferably we shut it on some tasty home cooking. We love to grow, market, buy, cook, bake and grill so we can feed our faces, chow down, pig out, scarf & whatnot. I'm a born Midwestern home cook posting foods and recipes that show up in front of me, because like all Midwesterners I eat what's put in front of me. Pull up a chair. What can I get you?

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Most Addictive Snack Mix - Party Mix Recipe: "Texas Trash"

My neighbor gave me a pound of this for Christmas and I couldn't stop eating it and begged for the recipe. It's from Cooks.com with a few tweaks (like using only one stick of butter, not two), and makes 3 one-pound bags of awesome.

Spicy Snack Mix Called "Texas Trash"

2 c. Rice Chex
2 c. Corn Chex
2 c. Wheat Chex
2 c. Cheerios
2 c. Snyders Lattice Pretzels
1 c. Cheezits
1 lb. Mixed Nuts
2 c. Fritos corn chips
2 c. pecan halves
1 stick butter or margarine
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. seasoning salt (or to taste)
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
cayenne pepper, to your desired heat level (1 level teaspoon gives it medium heat)
Mix all cereal, nuts and chips in a large foil pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan and add seasonings, except use only half the salt (you can put in more later, to taste).

Pour seasoning mixture over the dry mixture a little at a time and stir in between, until all of the dry mixture is coated fairly evenly. Taste and adjust salt.

Put pan in a 250°F oven stirring every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Spread entire pan over 6-9 paper towels and if desired sprinkle more cayenne pepper to your personal heat level (a little goes a long way) and let cool completely. Store in ziplock bags.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Three-Pound Rump Roast: Recipe

Cook's Illustrated called its recipe The Best Recipe and I decided for my first rump roast -- organic beef -- to give it a chance to impress me. I impressed myself! Tasty! My meat thermometer came from an estate sale.

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees. No, that is not a typo. Sprinkle roast with salt and ground black pepper as you like. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy pot or pan. Add the roast and sear until it's brown on every side, about 4 minutes per side.

2. Place roast in pan and roast uncovered 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the meat's internal temperature is 110 degrees.

3. Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees and roast 15 minutes longer, until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. (Because I like beef rare, I roasted only 10 minutes at 500 degrees.)

4. Remove from the baking pan and let the roast stand 20 minutes before carving it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recipe: Black Bean/White Bean Stew with Shredded Pork

Open three cans, shred one fist-sized hunk of cooked pork shoulder or loin, and dinner is ready. Meat goes in at the end. Serves 4.

1 can white beans, such as navy beans
1 can black beans
1 can tomatoes
1 can water
1/2 pound cooked pork
1 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Open the cans; pour tomatoes with their juice into a pot or into a 2-quart or 3-quart slow cooker. Open, drain and rinse the white beans and the black beans; place in the pot with tomatoes and water. Stir in salt and pepper. Cook gently and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or more on stovetop or all day on low in slow cooker. Add chopped pieces of cooked pork, heat through, and serve. Good with rice.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pasta with Caper Sauce

No-cook, tangy sauce I made in a Pyrex cup. Good for when there's nothing but capers and mustard in the fridge. Serves 4 to 6.

Pasta with Caper Sauce

1/4 cup basil pesto or 1 cup packed fresh basil
1 to 2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound pasta

Start the pasta.

Make all the ingredients except the olive oil into a paste however you can. Stir in the olive oil until it's all incorporated. Cook and drain the pasta. Pour the sauce over it and serve.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Southwestern Cream of Pumpkin Soup Recipe

I substitute evaporated milk for the cream; fewer calories and tastes just as good.

Southwestern Cream of Pumpkin Soup (6 servings)

3 cups cooked pumpkin, fresh or canned
4 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups minced onion
1 large red bell pepper, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of salt
1 Tablespoon of mild chile powder (do NOT use hot chile powder.)
2 to 3 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 12-oz. can of evaporated milk

1. Combine the pumpkin and water in a soup pot. Stir until uniform. Partially cover and heat gently, stirring often.
2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and chile powder; stir and cover. Cook over low heat for about 10 more minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the saute and lime juice to the soup. Stir well, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with black pepper and salt to taste.
4. Pour in the evaporated milk and heat gently until ready to serve.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Szechuan Green Beans in the Microwave

No deep-frying is necessary.

Szechuan-Style Green Beans in the Microwave (Makes 2 cups)

3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger, peeled
1 scallion, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 pound of green beans, ends trimmed off

1. Chop or place garlic, ginger and scallions in a chopper until chopped finely. Remove to 1-1/2- or 2-quart casserole dish. Add oil and pepper flakes. Cook, uncovered, at high power for 2 minutes.
2. Remove dish from oven. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook uncovered on high for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring a few times.
3. Remove from oven. Stir and serve hot or cold.

Recipe from The Microwave Gourmet, a brilliant 1987 cookbook by Barbara Kafka, reprinted in 1998. 44 cents on Amazon.com. Try the Fudgy Brownies.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Persimmon and Black Walnut Bread: Ozark Recipe

Classic Ozark recipe. To get pulp, press whole, very ripe persimmons through a colander. Retail persimmon puree is very, very hard to find.

Persimmon and Black Walnut Bread

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
1 cup chopped black walnuts

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl, combine the persimmon, sugar, milk and eggs, then add the flour mixture and the softened butter and mix until the dough is well blended. Stir in the nuts. Spread the batter in a well-greased loaf pan and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

Recipe from Mother Earth News, September/October 1974.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Microwave a Whole Pumpkin

Stab. Microwave. Scoop. Puree. This fast technique also works for hard squashes.

1. Select a pumpkin a maximum of about six inches in diameter or weight about two pounds.

2. Stab the raw pumpkin through to its core with a long knife, in several places. This prevents explosions.

3. Microwave on high until the skin begins to brown or "tan", between 6 and 10 minutes. When it is cooked the stem will pull off very easily.

4. Remove from microwave and allow to cool. It will stay warm a long time. Now the pumpkin can easily be cut in half with a long knife, and the seeds and their strings scooped out with an ordinary spoon.

5. Using the same spoon, scoop and scrape out the cooked flesh, leaving the peel behind. Place pumpkin flesh in blender with about half a cup of water and puree. Use or freeze the puree. It's delicious all by itself, unseasoned.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oat Bran - Applesauce Muffin Recipe, and Oat Bran as a Cereal

One day I substituted Oat Bran for the oatmeal Dr. Oz told me to eat for breakfast, and discovered that Oat Bran is cheap and makes a delicious creamy hot cereal taking far less time to cook than Irish oatmeal, steel-cut oats, or that throat-choking horror, wheat bran, that makes food taste like Metamucil. On the back of the Hodgson Mill Oat Bran box is a recipe for delicious muffins and I made them, and this is it:

Oat Bran and Applesauce Muffins (makes 12)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cups Oat Bran cereal
1-1/2 cups white flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs or 4 egg whites (liquid egg substitute is okay)
1 cup applesauce, chilled
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease the muffin tin. Blend together dry ingredients. Add eggs, applesauce and vegetable oil. Mix until will blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Let stand 10 minutes. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.

It's baking season!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Green Bean Cooking Tricks and Wisdom

I learned a trick and some wisdom from this recipe I will pass on to you. And not difficult either. It's green bean time. I got a big garden-fresh bag of them from my neighbor who has the best gardening spot for beans.

Green Beans with Olive Oil, Basil and Parmesan (serves 4)

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup red onion, chopped fine
1/3 cup washed, patted-dry, and chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
bowl of ice water
2 tablespoons of Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
salt to taste
fresh-ground pepper to taste

1. Put the tablespoon of salt in 3 quarts of water. Heat the water to boiling.
2. While you wait, chop the red onion and put it into a bowl of water to soak (mellows the flavor; that's the trick).
3. When water is boiling, put the beans in it. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes depending on the beans. You want them bright green and slightly crisp ("al dente"). If you cook them longer than 7 minutes they will lose their bright color. (That's the wisdom.)
4. Meanwhile, drain the chopped onion well, put it in a large bowl with the olive oil and vinegar, and prepare a separate bowl of ice water.
5. When beans are done, turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the ice water so they stop cooking. Then drain them well; perhaps pat them dry. Place in bowl with the red onion,oil, vinegar and chopped basil and grind in some black pepper and toss. Then add the grated cheese and toss a bit more. Salt to taste. Serve.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dairy-Free Ice Cream with No Ice-Cream-Maker

All you need is a blender to make your own dairy-free fruit ice cream. This easy recipe is from How It All Vegan, by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer (1999) and the photo is of the recipe made with frozen unsweetened strawberries. But any fresh or frozen fruit goes. Try peach!

"Anything Goes" Fruity Ice Cream (4-6 Servings)

2 cups soft tofu (or 1 aseptic nonrefrigerated package)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup packaged sugar-stevia blend)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups "Anything Goes" fresh or frozen fruit (your choice)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
dash of salt

In blender, combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup of the fruit, and blend together until very smooth and creamy. Place in a sealable container and freeze. Remove from freezer and defrost for 20-40 minutes. Place back in blender and blend again. Spoon back into the container and add the remaining fruit. Re-freeze. Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kitchen Tool Review: The Lamson Mini Potato Masher

Here is my new favorite kitchen tool, designed in the 1800s, that works great today.

My 20-year-old nylon potato masher had a circular "waffle" head 3-1/4 inches wide, looked dishwasher-battered and maybe toxic. At the local kitchen store I saw only a small masher with an oval 2-1/4-inch head and blades set like fish bones. That's a fey little avocado masher, I thought, when I'm a serious masher of big pots of potatoes, apples, squash, turnips and beans. I complained to the store owner. She actually uses her merchandise and I trust her. She said a food magazine had reviewed and praised this mini-masher, made by Lamson of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, as the best all-purpose masher. The store had ordered a couple of dozen to keep pace with demand. They were very cheap, too, about $8.

I thought the Lamson Sharp Mini Masher was too small and too different. Its steel tines are sharp-edged, and it won't stand on end because the tines are set on a slightly convex curve. The owner reassured me and said to return it if I didn't like it.

As it turns out, this Mini Masher was copied from a kitchen tool used in the 1800s. Surprisingly, its smaller size is a plus, not a minus. Advantages:
  • Fits better in the kitchen drawer
  • Oval head design is a super-efficient cross between the circular head and the serpentine-wire head
  • Sharp edges mash the foods quickly and thoroughly
  • Potatoes are extra fluffy because the tines act like a ricer
  • Reaches into the corners and sides of pots or bowls
  • Unlike a larger masher, it is as usable in a one-quart saucepan as in eight-quart kettles (see photo)
  • Forceful mashing won't bend or break it
  • Stainless steel is non-toxic for sure
  • The handle is comfortable
These traits combined make it one of my favorite kitchen tools, superior for potatoes. Lamson & Goodnow, established in 1837, manufactures knives from vintage designs and also a line of walnut-handled "Granny Tools." I appreciate USA-made items. My only complaint about the LamsonSharp Mini Masher (my model has three rivets in its handle that look like brass, but aren't) is that its edges are TOO sharp. Although not enough to cut flesh, the tines could scrape pans. The steel is stamped, not forged. Elegant it's not. A good tool it is.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lavender Scones: Recipe

A nearby lavender farm served these scones (and also lavender whipped cream over strawberries) and then I ordered from Etsy.com a bag of culinary lavender, one of many types of the herb. The lavender to cook with is called "Provence" lavender. Just spoon the whole buds into the batter. Yes, the buds stay bluish-purple, and the taste and the fragrance are lordly. This quick recipe makes 4 scones and can be doubled.

Lavender Scones

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 Tablespoons of white sugar, to taste
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of whole milk or evaporated milk
2 level teaspoons culinary lavender

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
2. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter using a food processor, pastry blender, or two knives.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture and pour in the milk and spoon in the lavender. Use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients into a soft, wet dough.
4. Pinch off 1/4 of the dough (it helps if your hands are floured) and make a patty about 2-1/2 inches across. Make 4 of these and space them on the baking sheet.
5. Bake them 10 to 12 minutes until they're lightly browned. If desired, sprinkle them with sugar [pictured]  or powdered sugar, or glaze them lightly with a powdered-sugar-and-water glaze.

Scones are best eaten while still warm. I make only 4 at a time because if I made 8 I'd eat them all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Breakfast Pizza with Eggs & Bacon: Recipe

Ordinary breakfast ingredients reconfigured and more tempting. One 9-inch pizza serves 2 heartily or 3 more moderately. Fruit and coffee complete the meal.

Thin-Crust Breakfast Pizza with Ham and Bacon

1 9-inch thin-crust pizza shell, unbaked (don't thaw if it's frozen)
1 pat of butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon oil
2 eggs, beaten
3 ounces of cooked ham, chopped into small dice
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (more if desired)
7 strips of cooked bacon, cut small
jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the 1/4 teaspoon of oil in small to medium skillet and spread it around. When the skillet is hot, pour in the beaten eggs. Let them sit and cook in the pan without scrambling them, like an omelet. If the eggs stay wet on top, flip them over until they are fully cooked. When done, let the eggs cool on a plate. Then slice them in strips and slice them again crosswise until you have squares of one inch or less.

Brush the pizza shell to the edges with the melted butter. Sprinkle on the pieces of egg and the chopped ham. Dot with jalapeno peppers if desired. Blanket the pizza shell with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the bacon on top. Bake on a pizza pan for 20 minutes or until the cheese bubbles. Then let the pizza rest for about five minutes before cutting into it, because that will make slicing easier.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Shrimp Boil Carolina Style: Recipe

Fresh corn in the stores before grilling season...what to do? A Carolina Low Country shrimp boil using a bag of "shrimp boil" herbs and spices is just about the easiest possible way to make a hot tasty meal. I like my shrimp boil dotted with the mustard seeds and herbs, but if you don't, leave the purchased "crab boil" seasoning in the little net bag it comes in.

Carolina Style Shrimp Boil (serves 4)

-3 ears of fresh corn, cleaned and cut into 3 pieces each (frozen corn on the cob will work)
-1 pound raw shrimp in the shell (thawed if frozen)
-1 pound smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch segments
-1 packet of "Crab Boil" seasoning, such as McCormick's or Penzeys

Slit the "Crab Boil" seasoning bag and pour contents into a pot with a 3 quarts of water. Heat the water and boil for 20 minutes until it is fragrant. Over medium heat, put the corn and sausage in the pot to boil for 20 minutes. Five minutes before you want to serve, put the shrimp in the pot. Set a timer (if you cook the shrimp too long, they will get mealy) for 5 minutes. When time is up, use a slotted spoon to dish up the ingredients into bowls. Serve with hot sauce.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Good Vegan Quiche Recipe: Yes, It's Possible

Searching the fridge for food I found a vacuum-sealed box of tofu, and thought for half a second about my first tofu quiche that so traumatized me I never made another. But the fridge offered little else: asparagus, a quarter of a bell pepper, and four elderly flour tortillas which I olive-oiled and used to pave a pie plate and pre-baked for about 8 minutes as a crust. Everything else went into the blender. Knock me over with a feather, the result was good enough to serve to female company born after 1946, although if I was really serving company I'd use a normal piecrust. The original recipe from Allrecipes.com uses broccoli. Adding nutritional yeast to enhance the "cheese" flavor is my idea.

Tofu Asparagus Quiche

1 9-inch piecrust, prebaked until lightly browned
1/2 to 3/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 Tablespoon oil
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
12-ounce package of firm or extra firm vacuum-packed tofu, drained
1/2 cup soymilk
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red or black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the piecrust cools, saute the chopped onion in the oil until softened, add the garlic and cook some more, and in a separate pot, steam the asparagus well. (Leave it too crisp and it will release water into the quiche.) Drain the asparagus dry and put it in a large bowl with the chopped bell pepper. Dump all other ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour this mixture over the asparagus and bell pepper and mix well. Turn this mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 35 minutes. Allow the quiche to stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vegetarian "Chicken Soup" Base Recipe: Make Your Own

Boiling a whole chicken for two hours just to get broth--no. Buying premade chicken broth in cans or boxes is expensive; it's mostly water anyway. Bouillon cubes have sodium off the charts and other yuck. So I make my own all-natural chicken broth powder, have made it for years, cheaply. Good for all uses.

Meatless Chicken Soup Base

(makes 1.5 cups)

1-1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 Tablespoons of onion powder
2-1/2 Tablespoons sea salt
2-1/2 teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Blend all ingredients in a dry blender.
Use 1 Tablespoon of soup base per cup of water. I keep it in a shaker that used to hold Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sweet Potato-Chocolate Chip Cookies: Recipe

Definitely not "same trailer, different park," these cookies will raise eyebrows. They're easy to mix. The oven is slow to keep all the "sweetness" from overbrowning. Makes four dozen.

Sweet Potato-Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato (1 medium potato)
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspooon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the cooked sweet potato, butter, eggs, sugars and extracts. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweet potato mixture and beat until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by the teaspoonful onto ungreased baking sheets and bake at 300 degrees about 20 minutes, until firm in the middle.

Recipe comes from page 17 of a recent Penzey's Spices catalog, and is credited to Sharon of Milwaukee.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Loving a Recipe: Carrot Soup with Cilantro

About 18 years ago when I became a cook with cookbooks I started noting the date and any variations on the recipes I tried. If I made it again I noted it. There are notes saying "Bob says this is the king of breads" (that's a bread recipe), or "Tasty but not pretty enough for company -- grayish" (that's cream of cauliflower soup) or "This tastes great!! Why did I doubt?" (fusilli with caper sauce), or "9/14/07 I never poached an egg in soup before, but it's GOOD!" (herb bouillon) or "blender makes gummy potatoes." The notes have made my cookbook library (about 30 books) a priceless record of my daily life and love of cooking. Here's a favorite recipe for that healthy pound of carrots I always buy only to realize that nobody is going to eat 'em raw. The secrets to the soup include the apple, the sweet potato, the rice that makes the soup creamy without cream, and the "Fresh lemon juice to taste" (about 1 Tablespoon). I whip the chopped cilantro into drained yogurt to make cilantro cream to float on top of the finished carrot soup. Recipe comes from The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook (the 1995 edition). I never have fennel seeds on hand so it's not in my recipe.

Carrot Soup with Cilantro (about 5 servings)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or corn oil
1 apple, peeled, cored and cubed
1 to 1-1/2 pounds of carrots, chopped
1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons uncooked white rice
1/4 teaspoon turmeric or curry powder
5-1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf (don't omit!)
salt and freshly ground black or white pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice to taste (about 1 Tablespoon)
2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup plain yogurt, drained
Heat the butter or corn oil and saute the carrots and sweet potatoes for about 5 minutes over medium heat, and add the apple and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the white rice, turmeric or curry powder, stock or water, and bay leaf. Cook for 20 minutes until vegetables and rice are soft. Remove bay leaf and puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Pour into serving bowls. Mix the minced fresh cilantro with the yogurt and top each serving with a spoonful.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Favorite Pasta Sauce Recipe: Pasta a la Bandit

This fast and fragrant chunky pasta sauce made with a can of tomatoes along with butter, black olives and capers, is from a cookbook that a library sold me for 25 cents, called Cooking from an Italian Garden (1984). The recommended pasta is a long, hollow spaghetti called bucatini, which cooks in 11 minutes. Bucatini is hard to find here, so I ordered a 20-pound case directly from the DaVinci company. No kidding; I did. Substitute thick spaghetti and it will be fine.

Bucatini Briganteschi ("Highway-Robber Style") (serves 4 to 6)

2 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1-1/2 cups (or one 14-oz can) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup pitted and chopped black Italian or kalamata olives
1 Tablespoon whole capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, crushed or chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste (optional)
1 pound bucatini or thick spaghetti
3 Tablespoons freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place butter and 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and heat. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the hot pepper, capers, olives, oregano and garlic. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add the black pepper, if desired, and keep warm.

Cook the pasta in 4 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and place in a warm serving bowl. Add the Parmesan and sauce and combine. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and the parsley, and serve.

Every recipe I have tried from this cookbook is a good and flavorful one!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dirty Rice with No Chicken Livers: Recipe

Flavorful, savory, beans and rice you will love, a meatless replacement for the classic southern "dirty rice" which uses chicken livers. Serves 8-10.
Pecan-Bean Rice
 4-5 cups cooked rice
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
1 cup broken or chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can red beans, rinsed
1/4 cup soy sauce or Bragg's
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 Tablespoons sesame oil

Saute onions, garlic, and green pepper in the oil until soft. Add the nuts and cayenne pepper, and continue cooking. Combine the soy sauce and enough water in a measuring cup to make about 1/2 cup. Add the other sauce ingredients and stir well. Add to skillet mixture. Stir in beans. Turn down the heat and cover.

Grease a 9x13 casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350. Spread the rice in the bottom of the casserole and spread the skillet mixture over it. Dot with margarine and bake for 20 minutes; 30 minutes if rice is cold.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shorten Brown Rice Cooking Time

Above, fried rice that uses my brown-rice trick: soak the rice in its water for 20 minutes before beginning to cook it. The rice will then cook in 20 minutes or in one normal rice-cooker cycle, same as white rice.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A New Orleans Specialty: Muffuletta Olive Salad Recipe

Mixed olives and other pickled vegetables, plus garlic, parsley, celery. . .this is flavorful "muffaletta," a Sicilian-inspired New Orleans specialty invented in 1906. At Italian groceries retails for $7 a pound. Or, try this recipe from Taste of Home magazine, minus the prepared "giardiniera" (mixed pickled vegetables) I couldn't get because it's sleeting outside. No cooking, just chopping. Spread on bread or sandwiches, top pizza (pictured) or pasta, or make salad or potato salad with it.

Midwest Muffuletta

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 to 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cup green olives with pimientos, chopped (bottled "salad olives" okay)
1/2 cup pitted Greek olives, halved
1/3 cup roasted red sweet peppers, chopped (or substitute; see below)
1/4 cup finely chopped celery (or substitute; see below)
1 tablespoon drained capers

In a large bowl, whisk the first 7 ingredients, olive oil through red pepper flakes. Add the remaining ingredients; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Keeps for a week at least. 99 calories per 2/3 of a cup.

Substitute for roasted red sweet peppers: 1/2 of a large fresh red or orange bell pepper, diced
Substitute for celery: Chop finely those big white tough lettuce ribs you usually throw away.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Easiest of the Veggie Chips

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets...I love the chips made from them but could never slice them quite thin enough, and whether baked or fried, I still had a mess to clean up. But today I rubbed some washed and well-dried bite-sized kale leaves with the littlest bit of olive oil, put them on a plate (not touching) and microwaved on high for 3 minutes, thinking I was crazy--this recipe was popularized by Rachael Ray who said you need plastic wrap when you don't--and the kale came out crisp and lightweight and was tasty with only a sprinkling of salt.

I ate the whole plate of kale chips. A new way to eat my greens. Make sure the washed leaves are well dried, like lettuce leaves for your salad, or they might steam instead of crisp. And you still have to like the taste of kale. But this is the easiest veggie chip you can make and probably the cheapest.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Recipe: Thai Seafood Salad

For the jaded winter palate, a wake-up call: shrimp and scallops with authentic Asian dressing, served on greens with lime wedges. Delicious. And it's low-fat. From Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Favorites (1996), a cookbook I like so much I got a hardback copy when my paperback wore out.

Thai Seafood Salad

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon squeeze cilantro

1 fresh red chile pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon canola or other vegetable oil
1/2 pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 pound sea scallops, cut in half crosswise if large
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions

lettuce and lime wedges

Whisk together lime juice, sugar, fish sauce in cilantro in a large bowl and set it aside. In a skillet, saute the chile in the oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and saute, stirring, until they begin to turn pink and curl and are heated through, about 4 minutes. Put the shrimp in the bowl to marinate. Add the scallops to the skillet, saute for 3 to 5 minutes until cooked, and then move them to the bowl with the shrimp and sauce. Add onions and toss everything to coat it with the sauce.

Arrange the greens to cover a serving platter with the lime wedges around them, and mound the seafood in the center.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mom's Sugar Cookies, as Presented by Mom: Recipe

Mom was born in Butternut, Wisconsin, knows how to milk cows, and went to a one-room school. She can BAKE. Prior to a recent visit and by popular demand she baked her famous 1950s shortbread-like Christmas cookies shaped into stars and bells, and let me ice and decorate. Also, homemade chocolate chip cookies and her apple-cinnamon wraps were happily shared. I love my mom and just like her I am wild about cooking and eating.

Mom's Christmas Cutout Cookies
(makes 7 dozen 2-1/2-inch stars)

3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons bakng powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if your butter is salty)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 tablespoon of milk

1. Sift flour with baking powder and salt.
2. Cream shortening and butter with sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add vanilla, egg and milk. Beat thoroughly. Add flour mixture. Mix well.
4. Chill dough for one hour for easy handling.
5. Divide into 4 portions. Roll each portion 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters.
6. Bake on greased cookie sheet in moderate (375 degrees) oven, 8 to 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Berry Pie in Filo (Phyllo) Crust: Recipe

Crust-making is easy and lower-fat using fillo and cooking spray, and although unconventional, this pie tastes very good and isn't too sweet. How about a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it?

Berry Pie in Filo (Phyllo) Dough Crust

1 box filo dough, thawed
1 12-ounce bag frozen unsweetened strawberries, thawed, with their juice
1 12-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blueberries, thawed, with their juice
2 apples OR 2 pears, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
cooking spray

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Place strawberries, blueberries and apple or pear pieces in a saucepan. Add sugar and cornstarch, mix gently and cook just until the juices thicken. Add cinnamon. Allow the saucepan and contents to cool.

Grease a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate with butter. Lay one sheet of fillo dough down over it. Let the excess fillo dough hang off the edges. Spray this with cooking spray. Continue to lay fillo sheets over the plate, fanning each piece around the pie plate so there's fillo hanging off every edge; spray each sheet. When there are about 20 sheets down, pour in the filling. Lay a few more fillo sheets over the filling and spray them and and butter the top layer. Then lift the excess hanging fillo up toward the center of the pie plate. It will be a wrinkly top crust. Spray this top crust or butter it to make it dark golden. 

Pierce the top of the pie three times with a knife. Place it on a baking sheet to contain any spills, and put the pie in the oven. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, then lower the oven heat to 350 for another 20 minutes. Allow the pie to cool. Yield: one 9-inch pie. That's 4 Midwestern servings, 8 servings elsewhere.

You will be surprised how the apple or pear pieces enliven this pie!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Black Olive Bread (Bread Machine) Recipe

I sigh at those $6 olive-studded breads I see in the bakeries, but couldn't make one by hand, so I sought a breadmaker/bread machine recipe and this one gave me good results. It's from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger (Harvard Common Press, 2000). A little bit of rye gives it a boost. Don't be afraid to buy gluten if you make bread by machine; gluten gives homemade bread that nice chewiness. Notice that white sugar is not used.

To make a 1-1/2 pound loaf:

Black Olive Bread

1-1/8 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
2-1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon gluten (aka vital wheat gluten. Small boxes are shelved near the flour.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3/4 teaspoons of bread machine yeast
1 full cup pitted black olive pieces, well-drained (I use pitted kalamata olives)

1. Place the ingredients, except for the olives, into the pan according to your machine's manufacturer's instructions. (Mine says: Put the liquids in first, so I did this in order of the ingredient list.) Set the machine to the Basic bread cycle. When the machine beeps (about 14 minutes into the kneading cycle) add the chopped olives, half at a time. If needed, add a tablespoon of flour to help incorporate them into the dough.

2. When the cycle ends, remove the baked bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Triple-Hearted Onion

Making potato curry with peas, I was delighted to cut open this satin-skinned red onion and discover it was a rarity with three hearts.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mess o' Collard Greens: Recipe

Chopped onion cooked in safflower oil first until golden. Then 4 sliced chicken sausages, 1 pound washed chopped greens and 2 cups chicken broth. I add 1 dried red pepper. Cover and cook 35 minutes. I like to serve this over mashed potatoes.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Kansas State University Cornmeal Biscotti: Recipe

Biscotti exquisitely crunchy with a portion of cornmeal in the flour to make it golden, and there's no sugar (it's sweetened with maple syrup) and no grease. The finishing touch: as many roasted Sunflower Seeds as the dough will hold.

Kansas State University Biscotti

1-3/4 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup or more roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or coat it lightly with oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl,  put the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, and whisk them together. Crack the two eggs into a cup and beat them lightly before adding to the flour. Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and nuts, mixing just until the dough is smooth. Divide dough in half and form each half into a log about a foot long. Place logs about 5 inches apart on the baking sheet, and flatten the tops of the logs a little with the heel of your hand. Bake the logs 25-30 minutes until the logs are firm.

Remove the logs from the oven, carefully lift them out of the pan with spatulas, and put them on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees. When logs are cooled,  use a sharp knife to slice each log on the diagonal, each slice about 1/2 inch thick. Place slices back on the baking sheet and bake them at 325 for 15 minutes or until they are dry. When they are dry they are ready. You will have about 25-30 biscotti.

I like to just turn off the oven after the 15 minutes and let them dry in the oven for a couple of hours. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Baked Fish with Sour Cream Sauce on a Mashed Potato Bed: Recipe

Bake your fish instead of fry it and you get to put sour cream sauce on it. Enjoy this; it's easy and tasty, the mashed potatoes are familiar and comforting if you are new to cooking fish in ways besides frying it. That's my new oval baking dish; just right for this meal for two. Pick a nice solid whitefish like cod or swai. Reluctant to try the fish called "swai," it turned out I loved it.

Fish with Sour Cream-Horseradish Sauce on a Mashed Potato Bed

2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 8 to12 ounce fillet of white fish (I used swai)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sour cream (lowfat, or regular; your choice)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon dried dill
1/2 to 1 cup chopped scallions

Rinse the fish and pat it dry, or else it'll steam, not bake. Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and mash with the garlic, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil and put the mashed potatoes in it. Put the fillet on top of the mashed potatoes. Then drizzle the fillet with lemon juice. Put the sour cream, horseradish and dill into a small bowl and combine, then spread it evenly over the fish. Sprinkle the top with the scallions. Cover and bake for about 35 minutes and then serve.