Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 13 of '13

The Carrot Cake at Village Kitchen.

Well, it's that time of year again - the end of December. Time to assess the past 12 months and the 1100 or so meals I've eaten, if you consider 365 days x 3 meals/day. (Snacks and whatnot likely take that number much higher!)

As always, I've eaten very well - I've been fed amazing items at friends' houses, in restaurants, at celebrations, by caterers, as gifts, and even at meals I've cooked myself. Some readers used to get snotty if I included my own dishes in my end-of-the-year round-up; but I'm not too shabby a cook, even if I'm not a gourmet chef, and I do make some really memorable items sometimes. Why shouldn't I be proud of myself and include them?

So, there's a range of foods and beverages here that showcases some of the most decadent, most delicious, and most special things I've enjoyed in 2013 - things I'd want to have again and again or, in some cases, the best version of something that I've yet made. In honor of the year that's ending, I've decided to give you a baker's dozen (since there seems to be an abundance of baked goods featured!).

And so, in no particular order, I offer my Top 13 of '13!

Photo courtesy of
Sequin Sparkling Rosé: Its own site describes it as "captur(ing) the life of the party - light on its feet, yet dreamy and fresh. Delicate bubbles and shimmering flavors of lush strawberry, exotic lychee and lively citrus make this enchanting wine always worthy of a toast." My friend Mary said, "I can't think of anyone more perfect to receive a gift box of wines called Sequin wines!" Jeremy told me that this is "SO you!!!" Yes ... yes, it is. A lovely sweet, sparkly wine that's pink - my favorite color! What more did I need, except my handsome boyfriend to share it with?

Carrot Cake at Village Kitchen: "... I walked past the dessert case, and became completely smitten with the carrot cake .... This is so rich, so intense, so wonderful! I couldn't resist." Four layers of moist, sweet cake schmeared with luscious cream cheese frosting ... sigh.

Blue Cheese Crostini: Warm, crisp, gooey, rich, addictive. "Even Craig, who loathed blue cheese before he met me, has apparently become a convert and relished these." They'd make a great treat to serve with champagne or sparkling cider - or Sequin Sparkling Rose! - at your New Year's Eve celebration.

Amanda's Kugel: I should include this every year, and so I decided it was time to give my friend Amanda Fisher some love. Amanda is a caterer who offers simple, sophisticated, stellar food. And when she makes her sweet, cinnamon-scented noodle kugel, it's a good day at work. Amanda will be in the kitchen down the hall from my desk, preparing for an event, and we'll be taunted and teased with the aroma of kugel baking. Often, since she's a sweetheart, she'll make one just for the staff to enjoy. And we start calling our co-workers: "There's 'Amanda kugel' in the Conference Room." I'm serious - Amanda bringing us kugel is an event to announce! I brought some home for Jeremy one time, and he was very blasé. "Why aren't you eating it? I'm saving it for you." "Meh, I don't like kugel as much as you do." "But it's AMANDA kugel!" "Fine ...," he said with significant annoyance and irritation at being interrupted in the midst of whatever he was doing. Taste. Pause. "Wow. Amanda makes a better kugel than you do." I know!!! I make some great kugels, if I may say so myself. Amanda's is still better.

Maple Almond Sweet Potatoes: This dish, "enhanced with maple syrup (is) easy to make ahead and to reheat, so your holiday meal isn't any more chaotic than is necessarily inherent to putting on a feast. It was unanimously agreed at Thanksgiving that this was the best sweet potato dish I've ever made. And since I love sweet potatoes and cook with them all the time, that was exceptional praise, indeed!" There have been a lot of other dishes competing for that honor over the years, but this was the sweet potato winner of all time, apparently. That it was made with the beautiful Grade B maple syrup from Sweet Brook Farm that my friend Kate had brought me from Massachusetts only made things - yup, you know it's coming! - sweeter!

Baba Ghanouj at Ali Baba's Restaurant: I'm not usually a fan of eggplant, particularly of baba ghanouj. But that changed one day when my co-worker, Beth, and I ordered take-out from Ali Baba. I'd been there with Craig just recently, and could definitely vouch for how good the food was. But you know me - I like variety. I didn't want to order what I'd already enjoyed, so I tried a vegetarian combo that included baba ghanouj. I wasn't going to let the eggplant deter me, since it came with tabouli, hummus, and warm pita bread that I love. And when I tasted it, I was amazed - it was the best part of the assortment! It was smoky, almost - dare I say it? (I mean it as a huge compliment!) - bacon-y. When I go back to Ali Baba, I will absolutely make sure I order the baba ghanouj again ... something I've never said about any other version that I've eaten.

The King Burger at The Full House Restaurant: Just a good ol'-fashioned burger with no pretense, beautiful in its simplicity. Build a Better Burger, a famous cooking competition, wants 15-ingredient sauces, 86-ingredient marinades, 23-ingredient salad toppings, and 56-ingredient condiments (I exaggerate ... but not that much), combining far too many competing flavors and masking the purity of the burger itself. Full House lets quality ingredients shine so that you can actually taste the beef, the seasoning, the lettuce, the tomato ....

Syl's Mandelbrot: "Craig's Aunt Syl, his mother Helen's twin sister, seems to have been a particularly noted baker. And her recipe for mandelbrot - Anglicized to 'Mandel Bread' - is excellent. I've prepared a lot of biscotti and mandelbrot in my many years of baking, and this one is absolutely the easiest to mix, to shape, and to slice that I've found. The finished cookies aren't too crisp, either, as some variations on this treat require dunking rather than merely being enhanced by a dip into coffee or wine; these can be eaten 'as is.' And, best of all, the mandelbrot taste really great, too!"

Apple Fritter at Dimo's Deli and Donuts: "I dare you to walk in that door, smell all the sugar perfuming the air and infusing it with happiness — Craig and I actually stopped and stood still, just to savor the fragrance — and then order anything but an apple fritter. It looks up at you from the display case, makes eye contact, flirts shamelessly; it might even be whispering sweet nothings in French. You can't help yourself. You may briefly think about the consequences, but you know in your heart that resistance is futile. The apple fritter ... has chalked up another notch on its bedpost, having seduced you. But don't feel the least bit guilty for your lack of willpower. It was worth it."

Pączki [POONCH-key] from the New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck: My BFF Wendy and I made the not-quite-hour-long trek to Hamtramck [ham-TRAM-ick], a traditionally Polish community which is mostly (but not entirely) surrounded by Detroit, for Pączki Day. "In Polish communities, all the butter, eggs, sugar, cream, lard, and other items that are about to become verboten during Lent - as Christians prepare for Easter through a combination of sacrifice, abstinence, fasting, and penitence - are embedded into sturdy, luscious pączki." Thus, while Brazilians have Carnival and New Orleans has Mardi Gras, in Michigan we have Pączki Day on the day before Ash Wednesday. Pączki are reminiscent of, but go far beyond being, mere jelly doughnuts. And the spirit of conviviality and jubilation among fellow celebrants waiting in line to get into the bakery - huddling together happily in the cold, smelling joy as the sugar perfumes the air, cheering as another customer inches back through the crowd after successfully buying dozens of treats to share with loved ones - is grand fun.  Partly it's about the pączki, but mostly it's about the experience.

The Fat Elvis Cookie from Dino's Lounge at Baconfest Michigan 2013: "... peanut butter and banana cookies with chocolate chips, frosted with strawberry jam and sprinkled with candied bacon." Need I say more??? It had the whole sweet-salty, crispy-chewy contrast party going on, all in one treat! 

Pear Compote with Gingered Shortbread Crumbs: "This dessert - sophisticated comfort food - turned out far, far better than I'd even hoped!  Sweet pears, accented by the (Gnarly Head) Chardonnay, layered with crisp and buttery cookies ... sigh.  I had planned to save some of this to take to work the next day, a treat to look forward to; but it was so exceptionally good that I devoured the entire thing in one sitting!"

Chocolate, Caramel, and Pumpkin Devastation Torte at the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Cookie Bake-Off Benefit: I had the enormous thrill of being the emcee for this event, which raises money to support troops for low-income girls, those who are at risk, and those whose mothers are in jail, enabling the girls to have all the fun and all the support of the Girl Scouts at a critical time in their lives. The Bake-off is fabulous - there are live and silent auctions, a raffle, and a competition at which area pastry chefs take Girl Scout cookies and transform them into beautiful new desserts ... as though Girl Scout cookies aren't already one of the greatest foods on Earth! Cheryl Hanewich of The Moveable Feast won not only the 1st Place Judge's Choice Award, but also the People's Choice Award, with this unbelievably luscious combination of cake, cream, caramel, spun sugar, cookies, and just utter deliciousness. There was an extraordinary array of beautiful, decadent treats, but this one - pun intended! - took the cake ... :)

I had hoped to have my "Word of the Year" post ready for the 1st, but there's been a delay. Some pending circumstances might influence my choice, but nothing will be resolved until possibly next week ... I know, what a tease! Just stay tuned ....

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Eggnog Custard Pie for a Merry, Mary Christmas!

Christmas is here, and I'm sure you're feeling that panic of having too much to do, still, in too little time. Have no fear - I'm here to help! This is an easy but festive dessert, and you can even cheat by using a prepared pie crust to make your life a bit less stressful. The rich, luxurious filling more than compensates for it. And really - those who would judge you for being efficient deserve to have found coal in their stockings this morning!

This takes about 5 minutes of prep, followed by an hour of baking while you putter around wrapping gifts or brushing up the crumbs that Santa left or shoving clutter under the bed before guests arrive. And your house will smell of holiday happiness at the same time.

I want to wish every one of you a joyous Christmas filled with love and abundant blessings!

Look for my annual Top 10 (and more!) list next week ....

Eggnog Custard Pie
(modified from the recipe for Velvet Custard Pie in Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country)

1 9" prepared deep dish pie crust in a pie tin
2 cups eggnog
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of nutmeg
whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the pie crust onto a baking sheet, to catch any drips.

In a medium saucepan, scald the eggnog over medium heat just 'til it starts to form a film.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, extract, and salt. Slowly whisk in the eggnog, then pour the custard into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle top of pie with a pinch of nutmeg.

Bake for 1 hour until the filling has puffed up a bit and wiggles slightly when jostled gently; it will deflate as it cools. Let cool completely to set (so it slices beautifully), then refrigerate. Serve chilled with whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 slices.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate Cake Truffles

I had the proverbial "epic fail" recently, when the gorgeous chocolate chip bundt cake I'd baked for my co-workers didn't come out of the pan properly. I'd let it cool for 30 minutes or so - not so cold that it had adhered to the pan, not so hot that it hadn't set yet. I'd thoroughly greased the pan. I needed this option because it was non-dairy; one of my co-workers has a severe allergy, and the fudge assortment I was also bringing was, needless to say, a rich and potential killer with all of its milk products.

But my cake ....

When I tipped the pan over, only half of the cake came out. And not the left or the right, such that I could trim the edges and slice the cake and make it look pretty on a plate ... nope. The top half came out, misshapen and crumbly on top. There was no piecing it together, gluing it with a bit of icing.

I stood and looked down at it, nearly in tears.

I thought about making bread pudding, only to realize I'd used my last two eggs in the cake. I thought about cake pops, only to realize I'd used the last of my non-dairy chocolate chips in the cake.


And then I thought of no-bake cookies. I've made some in the past that require ground cookies and nuts, a splash of liquid (coffee, brandy), some confectioners' sugar, and rolling the mixture into little balls. Well, what did I have on hand that might facilitate this???

Nilla wafers ... dairy. *#&%^@&*#&

And then, I saw them: waffle cone bowls. Were they ... gasp! They were! Non-dairy!!!

I ground them up in the blender. I smushed some of the cake. I tossed in some confectioners' sugar and a bit of almond milk. I mixed, I rolled, I breathed again.

When I brought these in the next day, they were a huge hit! They were more popular than Oreo Fudge, even!

I always maintain that if something doesn't turn out the way you expected it to, re-purpose it, rename it, and pretend it's what you'd intended to serve along.

And so, I didn't bring my co-workers a Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake. Nope. Instead, I brought them Chocolate Cake Truffles.

And they were good ... :)

Chocolate Cake Truffles

Needless to say, in my panic I didn't bother to measure how much broken cake I had, how generous the splash of almond milk was ... I just mixed and hoped and begged the fates to help this all come together. Judge by feel with whatever ingredients you might improvise with.

Crumbled chocolate cake
an equal amount of ground Nilla wafer or waffle cone crumbs
1/4 cup or so confectioners' sugar + more for coating
splash of almond milk

Combine everything in a large mixing bowl, and stir to mix well. When the mixture holds together and is sticky, it's the right consistency - not too dry or crumbly, not too soft and mushy. Roll into 1" balls. Place onto a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 20 minutes to help set the shape and start the drying process. Let cool completely, then roll in confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Maple Almond Sweet Potatoes

A perfect side dish whether you're serving turkey, ham, goose, Turducken, or Tofurkey, these sweet potatoes enhanced with maple syrup (Grade B, which is darker and richer, no less - a tremendously thoughtful gift from my friend Kate!) are easy to make ahead and to reheat, so your holiday meal isn't any more chaotic than is necessarily inherent to putting on a feast. It was unanimously agreed at Thanksgiving that this was the best sweet potato dish I've ever made. And since I love sweet potatoes and cook with them all the time, that was exceptional praise, indeed!

Maple Almond Sweet Potatoes

2 very large white or light orange sweet potatoes
1 very large Red Garnet yam
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup (Grade B preferred)
1/2 cup praline almonds (or candied almonds)

Preheat oven to 425F.

Place the sweet potatoes and yam into a 13"x9" baking dish, and prick them with a fork. Bake for 90 minutes or more, until very soft and starting to caramelize a bit.

Cut the sweet potatoes and yam in half cross-wise, then again lengthwise. Take each portion and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl, discarding the skins. Mash with a fork.

Stir in the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup; place into a serving dish. Finely chop the almonds and sprinkle on top.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chocolate Toffee Haystacks

In December, 2011, I offered a recipe for an old family favorite no-bake cookie: Toasted Coconut Haystacks.

But the recipe continues to evolve.

My friend Sassa told me, after seeing the initial recipe, that in her native Sweden they make a similar cookie, but it features a bit of coffee ... sigh. What a perfect notion! Okay, added that for future reference.

Then one evening, Craig and I wanted a little something sweet. Well, one of the perks of no-bake cookies is that they can be made very quickly; and since I actually had most of the ingredients on hand, it seemed only natural to make a batch of these treats. Except that I had no coconut. Uh oh.

But not to be deterred - a sweet tooth with a craving is NOT to be denied! - I looked through the pantry to see what I could substitute. And I just happened to have a half-bag of toffee chips - crisp and crunchy, so they would contribute some texture while also not melting into the boiled base for the cookies. And, there you have it!

Chocolate Toffee Haystacks, the best version of these cookies yet!

And if you'd like to make some holiday treats for your dog(s) - they shouldn't be left out, after all! - here's a very cute site with lots of ideas: Dog Vacay. Once my arm is functional again, I may just have to make some Dog Nog or Dog Bark for my own grandpuppy ... :)

Chocolate Toffee Haystacks

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 14-ounce package quick-cook oatmeal
2/3 cup milk chocolate toffee chips

Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner, waxed paper, or greased foil.

Bring sugar, butter, half-and-half, cocoa powder, coffee, and vanilla to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan; without stirring, let boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in oatmeal and toffee chips.

Scoop into golf ball-sized blobs and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until set.

Makes 30 cookies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raisin Streusel Pie and Going A.W.O.L. Again

On Facebook, there's been a shtick going 'round to be assigned a number and then come up with that many unknown tidbits about yourself. I was invited twice, and in the second round I noted this point:

My maternal grandmother was a wonderful home baker, and she used to make a fabulous raisin pie. The Amish call it "Funeral Pie," as they always have dried fruit on hand and the pies can then be made quickly when there's news of a death in the community. I haven't had raisin pie in probably more than 40 years … I should make one some time. I don't think any of my loved ones would eat it, which is just fine by me.

This tidbit got a lot of attention, as folks told me how unique the pie sounded; compared it to Japanese Fruit Pie (which I'd never heard of, but which apparently combines raisins, pecans, and coconut); and mentioned that they had relatives who loved raisin pie. So I offered a recipe from Marcia Adams, who included it in her classic cookbook Cooking From Quilt Country.

After the terrible windstorms that blew through the Midwest a couple of weeks ago (which, thankfully, didn't bring tornadoes to Michigan as they did in Illinois and Indiana), we had no power at work one day - a serendipitous day off! Well, needless to say, I spent it in the kitchen baking - you guessed it - Raisin Pie.

But I only had one pie crust on hand, so I prepared a streusel topping instead of the usual top crust. I didn't add rum, as my very dear friend Candace had brilliantly suggested, since there are folks 'round here whom I don't dare expose to alcohol when their sobriety is so seemingly solid now. But it's an inspired suggestion, so I highly recommend you try it and make a Rum Raisin Pie. How perfect would this treat be for Christmas???

I must say, though - as I twist my good arm to pat my own back - that this was absolutely wonderful even without the potent potable! It was sweet and spicy, with hints of crunch from the streusel. Not quite like the pie my grandmother made, but it certainly made me think of her again, which makes me happy ....

Update on my bad shoulder, whose illustrious history can be found in Cliff's Notes fashion here: I'm having outpatient surgery on Friday morning - yup, Friday the 13th! - to fix my shoulder. I'm definitely looking forward to ultimately feeling better and being able to move my arm properly again, though I'm hardly excited by the prospect of pain and of not being able to eat from midnight 'til whatever time I wake up and am semi-functional again.

So I've finished posts through January 1, and will come back in the new year whenever my discomfort, my mobility, my work and physical therapy schedules, and my ability to cook/bake/type make it possible to do so. I'm sufficiently optimistic that I'm already making post-surgery plans to try Thompson's Pizza, which recently won The Ann Arbor News' readers' poll for best pizza in the area; it's less than half-a-mile from the hospital where I'm having the procedure done, and I believe it's not unreasonable to pick up a take-out order on the way home ... :)

Raisin Streusel Pie
(adapted from the Raisin Pie recipe in Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country)

1 pie crust for a 9" pie
2 cups raisins
2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon dark rum, optional

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup quick-cook oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Make the pie: Preheat oven to 400F. Place the pie crust into a 9" pie pan and crimp the edges decoratively. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the raisins and 2/3 cup water to a boil; turn heat down to "low" and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; whisk in the remaining 1-1/3 cups water.

When the raisins are done cooking, stir in the sugar mixture and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When the mixture starts to thicken, stir constantly until translucent and dark. Stir in the vinegar and butter until the butter melts; stir in the rum, if using. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. When the raisin mixture is cool, pour it into the pie crust.

Make the streusel: In a small bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Blend in the melted butter with a fork, then sprinkle streusel mixture over the top of the pie.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350F and bake 15 more minutes until the crust is golden and the filling bubbles. Let cool completely, then slice and serve with generous helpings of whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bacon-Filled Cinnamon Rolls + Giveaway Winner

First things first: I was giving away a $75 Whole Foods gift card last week, and had lots of friends hoping they'd be chosen. But there could only be one ... oh, if only I were Santa and could generate bunches of 'em! But instead, I went to to generate a winner, and here are the results (with apologies for it not formatting properly, techno-dolt that I sometimes am, such that I simply had to type in the information):

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 55
Result: 4
Powered by RANDOM.ORG

MAZAL TOV to Nikki K.!!! Put the card to good use and be sure to tell me about the fabulous dishes you cook with the goodies you buy!

Okay, now on to the food ... :)

My friend Beth frequently sends me recipe ideas, and they always seem to include bacon. Considering that we work together at a synagogue, this is fairly amusing to us! You hire shiksas, and look what happens ... oy!

So, Beth recently sent me an idea she'd found online in which a commercially-prepared refrigerated cinnamon roll dough is unrolled, a strip of bacon is laid over it, and the entire thing is wrapped up again into a spiral and baked into salty-sweet, pork-filled goodness. We drooled over our keyboards.

But as I thought about it, I thought the strip of bacon might not cook fully since it was buried in the dough; and as it cooked, to whatever degree of done-ness, it would ooze bacon fat and possibly make the cinnamon rolls soggy. So, I took the inspiration and I tweaked it a bit. I pre-cooked the bacon 'til crispy, rolled the crumbles into the dough, then baked away. The fragrance in the kitchen was astounding!

And so, for a Christmas breakfast, a weekend brunch, or "just 'cause," I give you Bacon-Filled Cinnamon Rolls - ridiculously easy to make and worth far more than their weight in gold. How can you not love a 2-ingredient recipe at this busy time, especially when it includes BACON???

Bacon-Filled Cinnamon Rolls

1 12.4-ounce can refrigerated cinnamon rolls
4 strips of bacon

Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease an 8"-round baking pan.

Open the can of dough and reserve the icing. Unroll the dough and lay it onto a countertop or cutting board.

Cook the bacon until crisp, then chop it into crumbles. Sprinkle the crumbles over the cinnamon roll dough, then roll each strip into a spiral and place it into the baking pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the cinnamon rolls are golden. Remove from the pan and let cool a bit, then drizzle with the reserved icing.

Makes 8 bacon-filled cinnamon rolls.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Recipe Ready Turkey Vegetable Curry and a Giveaway Reminder

You may still be staring down some Thanksgiving leftover stragglers. If not, then in a few weeks you'll have a rematch with the leftovers from your Christmas feast. But if any of this involves turkey and sweet potatoes, I've got a quick, easy solution for you!

I had a lot of turkey left after the holiday, 'cause I always roast the biggest one I can find - a 20-pounder, in this case. The oven's on anyway, so why not make a lot of food to feed loved ones, to nibble on for a couple of days, and to freeze? I also made some fabulous mashed sweet potatoes, which I think were my favorite part of the meal.

But as much as I love turkey sandwiches the day after the holiday - some good white bread, a schmear of mayonnaise, some crisp lettuce, and a thick slab of meat - we all know how low my boredom quotient is; it's virtually non-existent. And so, I seek to move beyond the sandwich, no matter how classic it may be.

I took some onion, some Indian spices, a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat, and some of the dark meat that's better suited to cooking than to placing between bread slices. Then I stirred in some leftover yams and - for beautiful, bright color and a boost of nutrition - some of the Bird's Eye Recipe Ready vegetables I'd been given a coupon for, so that I could try them. A splash of coconut milk to enrich it all, and I had a dinner that took maybe 20 minutes to cook but which offered enticing aromatherapy and a vibrantly flavorful dish with an underlying note of sweetness. If I may say so myself, it was stellar!

By the way, while we're talkin' 'bout food: have you entered my giveaway to win a $75 gift card from Whole Foods? If yes, then that's excellent - good luck! If not, why not??? This is free shopping money for holiday gifts and feasting - what's not to love? Click here and enter now!

Turkey Vegetable Curry

2 tablespoons oil
generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
generous pinch of kosher salt
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups chopped turkey, dark meat preferred
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup Bird's Eye Primavera Blend Recipe Ready vegetables
1/2 cup coconut milk
rice, for serving

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, curry powder, and salt; cook for 1 minute. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add turkey and cook 2-3 minutes.

Stir in sweet potatoes and vegetables; stir in coconut milk. Cook 2-3 minutes, until sauce is thickened and mixture is heated through. Serve hot, over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Whole Foods Holiday Giveaway

"This holiday season, Whole Foods Market is placing a spotlight on mushrooms – both wild and cultivated. Want to try some?"

Sure you do!

Of course, I did, too, when my friend Susan at Whole Foods sent me an email containing that very question and offering me a $75 gift card to go shopping with to make beautiful mushroom dishes. She also offered me another $75 card to give away - yes, give away! - to one lucky Food Floozie fan.

Although I know the usual giveaway procedure is designed to get followers on various social media, it's really just an annoying Lady Gaga-ish way to beg for attention; it seems as though you have to "like" 83 pages, follow 192 accounts, and sacrifice a goat at Wrigley Field ... pffft. We keep things simple, here - no fancy kitchen equipment, no exotic ingredients, no Rafflecopter.

So this giveaway is very easy, because my only interest is in making sure that one of my friends gets to go on a Whole Foods shopping spree for the holidays: leave a comment answering a question (see below) ... that's it! The giveaway starts today and will end on Friday, December 6 at 9 a.m. EST; I'll randomly select a winner from the comments (only one comment per person). I'll let the winner know by email, and will need a response by 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 7. If I don't hear by that time, I'll go to the runner-up. I'll need your mailing address (U.S. addresses only), and will get your gift card out to you right away!

Before you go on your mushroom shopping spree, remember that:

- Mushrooms remain freshest when they’re not too dry or too damp
- Refrigerate mushrooms in a paper bag or container that allows cool air to circulate
- Mushrooms absorb water easily and should never be soaked
- Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth or rinse briefly and dry with a towel
- Use a paring knife to trim stems as needed.

Since Whole Foods is featuring mushrooms for the season - everything from the simple and savory to the elegant and exotic - you should go buy a variety and make some of my favorite dishes, or some provided by the chefs at Whole Foods:

Creamy Noodle Kugel with Three Cheeses

Baked Chicken with Morels and Leeks (one of Jeremy's very favorite dishes!)

Roasted Fennel and Mushrooms

Hamburger Gravy with Mashed Redskin Potatoes

Pasta Rags with Fennel and Mushrooms

Mushroom Spinach Pita Sandwiches

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Asparagus Bread Pudding

Quesadillas Italiana

Mushroom Stuffing with Shallots and Fresh Herbs

Wild Mushroom Tart

Mushroom and Gruyère Quiche

Mushroom and Chard Bruschetta

Mushroom Bourguignon

Smoky Mushroom Gratin

Mixed Mushroom Soup

Mushroom and Spinach Breakfast Puffs

Mushroom Crêpes with Creamy Mushroom Filling

Mushroom and Brie Phyllo Bites

So, now, enough blathering! Leave a comment telling me what you might make with your mushroom assortment, and YOU could win a $75 Whole Foods gift card for your holiday shopping! Remember, only one comment per customer, and I'll randomly select a winner on Friday morning. Be sure you leave your email address, so I can contact you.

Good luck!!!

Baked Chicken with Morels and Leeks

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chocolate Pecan Potato Chips

At Hanukkah, it's traditional to eat foods fried in oil to celebrate the miracle of one day's worth of consecrated oil burning in the Temple for a full eight days after the Maccabees regained control of it.

Well, potato chips are fried in oil, aren't they??? I don't know why I never thought of it before, but I'm pretty proud of myself for having this little epiphany - potato chips are a perfect Hanukkah treat! And these dipped ones have been a HUGE hit with my co-workers!

In my continuing mission to create dishes for Thanksgivukkah - the fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime overlapping of Thanksgiving with the first day of Hanukkah - I was inspired by pecan pie, by the new Lay's chocolate-dipped potato chips, and by the whole sweet-salty contrasting flavor "thing."

And so, I offer you potato chips dipped in chocolate and coated in candied pecans, with a sprinkling of sparkly sugar. These are great to snack on while watching football or ideal for folks who don't want a slice of pie but still want a little something sweet. And they're especially great as a quick 'n' easy nosh to make at the last minute when your holiday is feeling rushed.

Happy Thanksgivukkah!!!

Chocolate Pecan Potato Chips

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
32 wavy potato chips (sturdy ones)
1/2 cup candied pecans, ground
silver sugar (available where sprinkles are found)

Lay waxed paper, greased foil, or Silpats onto a countertop.

Place the chocolate chips into a small microwaveable bowl, and heat until melted; stir until smooth.

Pick up one potato chip and hold it as you dip it about 2/3 into the melted chocolate. Place onto the prepared countertop, and repeat with about 7 more chips. Sprinkle some of the pecans and the silver sugar onto the chocolate, then repeat with remaining supplies. Let the chips set for about 30 minutes or so until the chocolate is set.

Makes 32 chips.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Potato and Corn Potatonik

My very good friend, and a former restaurant chef, Kate wrote to me recently with this tantalizing tidbit: "Just discovered potatonik while reading a local obituary, and after Googling it realize that this could change everything come Thanksgivikkuh! Might be the perfect dish for blending the flavors of both traditions."

Well, remarkably - given that I work and live in the Jewish community - I had never heard of this. (Who's been holding out on me???) So, of course, I immediately did a search and found a recipe from Mark Bittman for his grandmother's recipe. A potatonik is essentially a giant latke!

But for Thanksgivukkah - the fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime overlapping of Thanksgiving with the first day of Hanukkah - we needed to incorporate some of those Thanksgiving flavors into this potato dish. So I adapted the recipe significantly while following the basic procedure, adding sweet potatoes and corn and just a bit of cornmeal.

I fried it up, watched it sizzle, flipped it (a little less than gracefully, so patching was required), cooked it more on the other side, and then plated an enormous, golden, crispy melding of Jewish and Thanksgiving culinary traditions.

Serve it with both Brandied Cranberry Apple Compote and sour cream, and enjoy every little celebratory bite!

Sweet Potato and Corn Potatonik

1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup corn kernels
3 eggs
3 tablespoons cornmeal
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup oil

Peel the sweet potato and trim the ends; grate into a large mixing bowl. Grate the potatoes and add to the sweet potato; stir together with the onion, corn, eggs, cornmeal, salt, and pepper.

Heat the oil in a 13" skillet, then carefully spread the sweet potato batter into it, flattening the mixture. Cook over medium-ish (bit more than medium, but not quite medium-high) heat for 15 minutes. Slide the potatonik onto a large platter, then cover with another platter; flip, then slide the potatonik back into the skillet and cook for another 15 minutes.

Slide potatonik onto a serving platter, then serve by cutting into wedges.

Makes 12-16 servings.

And here are some other dishes for your Thanksgivukkah feast (or for either Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, whatever you're celebrating in the next few days!):

Kugel Latkes

Loaded Baked Potato Latkes

Burek (Spiced Beef Egg Rolls)

Provolone Fritto con Marinara (Fried Provolone)

Curried Potato 'n' Pea Latkes with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Sweet Potatoes Baked with Rosemary

Pomegranate Molasses-Glazed Carrots

Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Last Chance to Vote!!!

Have you voted today in the Manischewitz "Happy Thanksgivukkah Recipe Contest?" I'd be so grateful if you voted for my Cranberry Orange Thanksgivukkah Rugelach!

There's a $1000 grand prize waiting for me, if all of you could please vote for me. The more the merrier for this party!

Just click here to vote, and then be sure to share with all your friends. Voting ends today!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Day, Another Vote!

Have you voted today in the Manischewitz "Happy Thanksgivukkah Recipe Contest?" I'd be so grateful if you voted for my Cranberry Orange Thanksgivukkah Rugelach!

There's a $1000 grand prize waiting for me, if all of you could please vote for me. The more the merrier for this party!

Just click here to vote, and then be sure to share with all your friends. Voting ends tomorrow!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Have You Voted Yet???

Have you voted today in the Manischewitz "Happy Thanksgivukkah Recipe Contest?" I'd be so grateful if you voted for my Cranberry Orange Thanksgivukkah Rugelach!

There's a $1000 grand prize waiting for me, if all of you could please vote for me. The more the merrier for this party!

Just click here to vote, and then be sure to share with all your friends. Voting continues each day (1 vote per person per day) until November 24.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Have You Voted for Me Today?

Have you voted today in the Manischewitz "Happy Thanksgivukkah Recipe Contest?" I'd be so grateful if you voted for my Cranberry Orange Thanksgivukkah Rugelach!

There's a $1000 grand prize waiting for me, if all of you could please vote for me. The more the merrier for this party!

Just click here to vote, and then be sure to share with all your friends. Voting continues each day (1 vote per person per day) until November 24.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cranberry-Orange Thanksgivukkah Rugelach + A Voting Request

According to Wikipedia, rugelach [rug-uh-LUCK] are "a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazic (European) origin. Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling." Some are filled with chocolate, some with apricot, and they always seem to contain nuts. They're a bit like pastry, a bit like a cookie.

These are more cookie and less pastry, and I've varied the fruit filling because next Thursday is Thanksgivukkah - a mash-up of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah - and Turkey Day flavors were warranted for the traditional Yiddishche treats.

Remember that Jewish "days" actually begin at sundown and then continue through the night and the day, ending at the next sundown. The first day of Hanukkah begins on the evening of Wednesday, November 27 and continues until sundown on Thursday, November 28. That means that it coincides with Thanksgiving!!! It's only happened once before, since Thanksgiving is a relatively new holiday; and it's not going to happen, by mathematicians' calculations, for another 70,000 years. Yup, 70,000! Thanksgivukkah is literally, truly, amazingly a once-in-a-lifetime holiday!!!

This calls for a celebration!

So for the next few posts, I'm taking traditional Jewish foods and putting a Thanksgiving-ish spin on them in honor of the holiday ... like with these rugelach filled with cranberries, which are also featured (very slightly tweaked) in the Manischewitz "Happy Thanksgivukkah Recipe Contest."

There's a $1000 grand prize waiting for me, if all of you could please vote for me and then share the link on Twitter or Facebook or email or even good ol'-fashioned word of mouth so your loved ones can help, too. 40% of the judging to determine finalists will be based upon votes, so the more the merrier for this party!

Just click here to vote, and then be sure to share with all your friends. Voting continues each day (1 vote per person per day) until November 24. There has been some mishigas with the site and with difficulties in voting; so if you have trouble, don't start schvitzing - I appreciate the thought! THANK YOU to everyone for your help - it's a mitzvah (good deed)!

Cranberry-Orange Rugelach

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons orange marmalade

In a medium saucepan, toast the walnuts over medium-low heat just until fragrant; place into a small mixing bowl.

Add the cranberries, sugar, and water to the now-empty saucepan; bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium. Cook until mixture is very thick, stirring constantly and pressing down onto the cranberries to mash them. You should have 1 cup of filling; stir filling mixture and marmalade into the walnuts and set aside.

1 cup butter-flavor shortening, at room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 325F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine shortening and cream cheese; stir in egg and salt. Stir in sugar, then stir in flour - dough will be crumbly. Empty the dough onto the countertop and knead until it comes together. Divide dough into 4 portions.

Roll one portion at a time into a 12" circle on a lightly floured countertop. Spread with 1/4 of the cranberry mixture, spreading to within 1" of the outer edge.

Cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 4 equal portions to make 16 portions. One at a time, starting with the outer edge, roll a portion of dough towards the center to form a spiral. Place onto the prepared cookie sheet and repeat until the entire circle of dough has been rolled.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cookies are golden and feel set when pressed. Let cool on a rack. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

To finish the cookies, place a scant 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar into a large freezer baggie. Add two dozen cookies, shake to coat them in sugar, then remove them to a serving tray and repeat with remaining cookies.

Makes 64 cookies.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cappuccino Chip Kugel

I received a package of granola in the mail - I always appreciate gifts of food! Jessica's Natural Foods, based less than an hour away in Birmingham, had sent samples of its Almond Cherry variety and also its new chocolate-hazelnut one, Motor City Crunch.

Because the products are made with oats that are certified gluten-free, I started thinking about other dietary concerns, as well, and decided to make a dish that is normally off-limits to those who have issues with gluten and also with dairy. Since one of my very favorite foods is kugel - a sweet noodle pudding which is prohibitive to many because of its pasta, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, and crumb topping - I thought it would be a perfect thing to make.

Often, foods that make significant substitutions of ingredients to accommodate health concerns can have an odd consistency or an "off" taste. This kugel, however, baked up beautifully and was a huge hit with everyone who tried it; until I told them that it was both gluten- and dairy-free, no one knew there was anything different about it.

I love kugel, and so I'm happy to welcome those who couldn't eat it before to the party! It's a great cold weather comfort food.

Cappuccino Chip Kugel

8 ounces medium gluten-free noodles
1 12-ounce container Tofutti sour cream
2 tablespoons instant decaf coffee granules
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup pareve/non-dairy chocolate chips

1/2 cup Jessica's Gluten-Free Motor City Crunch granola
1/2 cup Jessica's Gluten-Free Almond Cherry granola
1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped
1/8 cup brown sugar
small pinch of cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9" round baking pan.

Cook the noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together sour cream, coffee granules, vanilla extract, sugar, and eggs. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drain noodles, rinse briefly under cold water, then add to the sour cream mixture; combine well, then pour into prepared baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together granolas, almonds, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted margarine over the granola mixture, stir to combine, then sprinkle over noodles.

Bake for 35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes about 10 servings.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pear Compote with Gingered Shortbread Crumbs

Ah, the joys of being a food blogger! One of the significant perks is getting to taste, try, and tinker with all sorts of products; and when that product just happens to be some lovely wine ... well, it's a good day in Mary Land.

I was the very happy recipient of a bottle of Gnarly Head Chardonnay, described as having "bright, tropical fruit aromas and flavors of pineapple, citrus, pear and melon with a touch of vanilla on the finish." And while I was not at all averse to sipping the wine with dinner, you know I always like to cook with it, too. The brightness, the acidity, and the hints of fruit offer a tremendous boost to flavors.

We all know I have a sweet tooth, although the Chardonnay would be lovely in savory dishes, as well. So - of course! - I spent an entire day craving a dessert. When I first tasted the wine, I felt it would be perfect with pears; it was a bit tart, a bit sweet, and it immediately triggered a sense that these ingredients would be ideal complements to each other.

I thought about poaching pears, but that's been done many, many times before; and so, I varied the theme a bit by cooking a fragrant compote instead, and teased a bit of the vanilla hints from the wine, as well, by using vanilla sugar rather than the plain ol' variety as everything simmered.

But I didn't just want soft fruit - there needed to be some crunch, some texture. And regular readers know that I have an obsessive love affair with shortbread cookies, with their richness and beautiful simplicity; they seemed to be a stellar contrast to the luscious pears. And how could anything go wrong when adding a touch of spice with candied ginger?

This dessert - sophisticated comfort food - turned out far, far better than I'd even hoped! Sweet pears, accented by the Chardonnay, layered with crisp and buttery cookies ... sigh. I had planned to save some of this to take to work the next day, a treat to look forward to; but it was so exceptionally good that I devoured the entire thing in one sitting!

Quick, simple, and oh, so luxurious! Gnarly Head Chardonnay, ripe pears, and shortbread ... all you need for a beautiful fall dessert.

Pear Compote with Gingered Shortbread Crumbs

2 large Anjou pears, very ripe
1/3 cup Gnarly Head Chardonnay
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced candied ginger
1/2 cup shortbread cookie crumbs

To finish:
whipped cream

Peel and core pears, then cut into 1/2" dice. Place into a small saucepan, then add wine and sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes. Mash pears with a fork until they're the consistency of applesauce, then boil 5 more minutes to evaporate most of the liquid. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar, ginger, and cookie crumbs; cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, just until crumbs are lightly golden.

Layer the crumbs and pear compote in small parfait glasses, or just place some of the compote into small bowls and sprinkle crumb mixture on top. Serve warm, topped with whipped cream.

Don't combine the compote and the crumbs before serving, or the crumbs will soften; they're very nice with a bit of crunch to them.

Serves 2.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin Polenta with Sausage, Peppers, and Greens

After indulging in a lot of junk and convenience food lately, I was feeling the need to eat better, to get back to the way I prefer to eat.

Craig would eat burritos or pizza every night of the week; throw in some chicken fried rice for variety, and also his daily bagel, and you've pretty much got his eating regimen. He also likes burgers. He eats like a college kid, which I can personally vouch for 'cause I've got one of them, too. Even though they're both capable of branching out and are both, truth be told, willing to try new things, Jeremy and Craig would happily eat only three foods for the rest of their lives.

I'm not like that. I have a very low boredom quotient, so I almost never want to see the same thing again. Even if I go to a favorite restaurant, I try new dishes. And as much as I like sweets and chips and other stuff I shouldn't eat - and I completely take responsibility for baking and for buying the naughty items at the grocery store! - I also really love simple but sophisticated dishes with spices, vegetables, and other nice things.

And so, for an evening when I was eating and working alone, I had a vision of what I wanted for dinner. It started with the notion of pumpkin, which is ubiquitous now; but I wanted to go beyond pumpkin muffins and such. So I thought of stirring it into polenta, a.k.a. cornmeal mush. (Everything sounds better in Italian!)

To top this warm comfort food, I wanted lots of vegetables - the stuff that Jeremy and Craig are none too keen on. Neither will eat peppers, one will eat only white mushrooms, neither is keen on greens, one can't eat spicy food or have alcohol ... groan. But they weren't having dinner with me and imposing their little quirks! I threw it all into the mix!!!

I'd looked forward to this meal all day long while I was at work. I turned on the tunes and danced a bit as I chopped and stirred, since I had the house to myself. The kitchen smelled amazing as everything bubbled and simmered, and then it was ready. I tasted the dish and it was everything I'd hoped for - comforting, warm, and elegant. Full of nutrition and color and flavor.

A perfect dinner for fall!

Pumpkin Polenta with Sausage, Peppers, and Greens

2 links hot Italian sausage
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1" pieces
1 small red pepper, seeded, cored, cut into 1" pieces
8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups chopped kale
1 cup baby spinach leaves
freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
generous pinch of kosher salt
2/3 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup pumpkin purée

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage on all sides; set aside.

Add the oil to the skillet, then add the onion and red pepper; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softening and starting to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and the salt; sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the kale and the spinach, cooking for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and the wine to a boil with the salt. Turn heat down to medium-low, then slowly whisk in the cornmeal; cook for 1 minute, until thick. Whisk in the pumpkin.

To serve, place a generous dollop of polenta onto a plate, then top with the sausage mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan.

Serves 2 generously.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Guest Post from Jenn's Food Journey: Big Red Chili

I can't tell you all how happy I was when Mary emailed me the other day and asked if we were going to keep up our tradition of a recipe exchange in honor of the Nebraska vs. Michigan football game! She and I have both been quite busy and I really thought we might pass on it this year, but some things just can't be passed by ... and this is one of them!

We have had two great years of recipe swapping which have included two different cornbread recipes from Mary on my site - Cheesy Cornbread and Amazin' Maize 'n' Blue Cornbread - which, by the way, I have made and they are both DE-Licious!!

This year, I had a hard time trying to come up with something that was traditional for Nebraska, so instead, I decided to showcase a chili recipe that I came up with a few years ago that I believe is a good tribute to Nebraska and its football fever. If you have never been to Nebraska, let me just tell you that there isn't a lot to do - not that it's a bad thing, it's just the truth. I believe that is why Nebraska football is so loved and so very big in the state. We have no professional teams and no inner state rivals, so our love does not have to be divided! Although Nebraska has not done very well in the last two years against Michigan, I am still hopeful that they will surprise everyone and pull out an upset!!

So, here is my tribute to all things Nebraska - football, beef and more beef (the only thing missing is the corn)! And here's to another great year of recipe swapping and rivalry!! Thank you, Mary for this fun tradition!!

Nebraska at Michigan
Saturday, November 9
3:30 p.m. EST on ABC

Big Red Chili

Created by Jenn's Food Journey

Printable Recipe


2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and stem removed, chopped
1 pound boneless bottom round steak, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup beer
3/4 cup beef broth
2-3 Tablespoons chili powder (add two, taste, add more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used chili garlic Cholula)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato paste OR 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 teaspoon beef broth
salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes on medium low or until the onions are tender. Add the jalapenos and saute another 3-4 minutes. Add the steak and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes and add the ground beef; stirring occasionally. Cook until the steak and beef are no longer pink. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the beer and beef broth, stirring to combine. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, hot sauce and tomato sauce. Stir until everything is well combined. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add the tomato paste or cornstarch slurry and stir. Cover and allow to simmer another 2-3 hours or until the steak becomes tender and the chili has thickened. Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Kid Hungry ... and How You Can Help

How can your sweet tooth help to feed hungry children???

By tempting you to click on this link to make a contribution (any amount is welcome!) to No Kid Hungry, which will then give you access to download an e-cookbook from Solo Foods that's filled with 35 recipes for sweet treats and desserts that were contributed by "the top bloggers around the internet" ... including li'l ol' me, with my recipe for Bear Claws. I am enormously proud to have been invited to contribute to such a cool project, and to support the exceptional work of this organization.

No Kid Hungry is "a nonprofit organization that works to end childhood hunger in America. Hunger in children affects everything from nutrition to socialization and education. It has been proven that hungry children are distracted at school and lose the basic skills needed to achieve higher education. No Kid Hungry funds school breakfasts, summer meals, and solutions community-wide. They are working to educate kids and families about nutrition and budgets to encourage healthy shopping. No Kid Hungry works tirelessly to raise awareness throughout the United States, where many Americans are unaware of childhood hunger. By placing a spotlight on this important issue, we can make a difference in thousands of childrens’ lives."

Especially now that November is here and food benefits have been cut to millions who were already struggling (working poor, people with disabilities, people who just need some help because of unforeseen circumstances), it's more critical than ever to support organizations that help to provide nutrition and sustenance to children.

So click on this link and donate, then download, and then share both the link and the fabulous baked goods you'll make with all your new recipes ... :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boo! It's Almost Hallowe'en!

Tomorrow is Hallowe'en, a feast and festival of candy. Whatever its pagan origins, it has evolved into merely a sugar rush and a chance to play dress-up. Have some fun with your food, even if - like me - you have no little ones to take Trick or Treating or even many kids in the neighborhood anymore to ring your doorbell. It's still a holiday, and you know we always celebrate holidays - religious, secular, literary, whatever! - here ... :)

Candy Corn Cake

Jack-o'-Lantern Pizza

Hallowe'en Dipped Marshmallows

Sweet 'n' Salty Caramel Corn Mix

Perfect Pumpkin Bread

Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding

Jack-o'-Lantern Cheeseburgers

Monday, October 28, 2013

Triple Chocolate Toffee Fudge

A treat for adults!

There are actually more than three kinds of chocolate in this fudge, but "Multiple Chocolate Toffee Fudge" didn't quite have the same panache. This obscenely decadent indulgence - which was a tremendous hit at a friend's recent potluck gathering - features milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate (technically not "chocolate," but ...), mini chocolate chips, chocolate frosting ... sigh. Rich and luscious, one or two pieces will definitely suffice; so it's great for a party, where everyone tastes a bit of this and a bit of that.

The recipe for this fudge is probably the easiest one I have, shared with me years ago by a friend. In its most basic form, there are only two ingredients: chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. No need for candy thermometers, no intimidating temperatures or stages to gauge. Melt together two ingredients, then let them set. Make it more festive as you see fit with add-ins and decorations: crushed cookies or pretzels, sprinkles, dried fruit, nuts, whatever.

Keep the ingredients on hand at all times, and you're ready for last-minute invitations, guests, or gift-giving ... or for spontaneous cravings!

Triple Chocolate Toffee Fudge

1 16-ounce can chocolate fudge frosting
1 12-ounce package milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chocolate toffee chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

Line an 8"x8" baking pan with foil, letting the edges extend over the pan, then grease the foil.

In a small saucepan, melt together the frosting and the milk chocolate chips over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth; pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and toffee chips, pressing lightly. Refrigerate until set.

Melt the white chocolate chips, then use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate over the fudge. Let set.

Using the extended edges of the foil, pull the fudge from the pan. Pull sides of the foil down and trim edges from the fudge to get clean lines. Cut into 1" pieces, and place into decorative paper cups for serving.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kaffee Klatch and "American Foodways: The Jewish Contribution"

A $6 tray I bought at a flea market in Midland, MI this past summer; it's from the 1950s - older than I am!

And for those of you who can't get to Ann Arbor to see "American Foodways: The Jewish Contribution" - the cookbook (and much more!) exhibit I worked on at the University of Michigan Library - here's a link that will let you peruse the materials. The food festival section is my own personal baby; and I did a lot of sorting and choosing among the culinary ephemera, as well ... :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gumbo Bread Pudding

Two N'awlins classics, baked into one: gumbo and bread pudding!

With some leftover chicken, a Cajun-spiced bagel, and the makings of "the trinity" - celery, onion, and peppers, which are the heart of Louisiana cooking - it only seemed fitting to take some of the essential elements of gumbo and combine them with the legendary dessert ... only making it savory. This is quick, easy, no-fuss, and delicious! It's a bit reminiscent of a frittata, and perfect for a light supper or a brunch.

You could also add some shrimp, which is often an ingredient in gumbo. But my dear friend Candace, a native of Louisiana who now lives in New Hampshire, told me that "Shrimp would be delish but they are unnecessary" given all of the other goodies already in the mix.

A colorful way to spice up leftovers - enjoy!

An update on my shoulder (mentioned in this post): I've been vindicated - my shoulder pain is more than just tendinitis! Not necessarily good news, but at least an answer to symptoms that weren't supported by the initial x-ray and MRI and an explanation of why physical therapy made it all worse. New x-rays show that the top bone in my shoulder, the acromion, has a slight dip to it that has apparently spent 50+ years abrading the tissue underneath it. So I have an impingement, to quote the orthopedic surgeon, which is severely restricting movement because of considerable scar tissue. I have edema in the bursa, and I do indeed have rotator cuff tendinitis - a trifecta! Had the thrill of a steroid shot (with ABUNDANT thanks to Craig for being the brave one who held my hand and actually looked at the needle), with hopes that it will reduce inflammation and pain as well as breaking up scar tissue. In a month, I get reassessed. No sling, as immobilizing it is counterproductive to maintaining already limited motion ... gee, and I was making plans to bedazzle one!

Gumbo Bread Pudding

2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped red pepper
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 Cajun-spiced bagel (or 1 plain bagel and 1/4 teaspoon Cajun spice)
generous pinch of kosher salt
generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped chicken
1 cup chopped Andouille sausage
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Grease a standard souffle dish or 8"x8" baking dish.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, pepper, and onion; cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Place into a large mixing bowl.

Cut the bagel into 3/4" pieces and add to the mixing bowl along with the salt, red pepper flakes, chicken, and sausage.

Combine the eggs and milk; pour over the bagel mixture, stir, and let soak for 10 minutes. Pour into the prepared dish and bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden and puffed and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm.

Serves 4.

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