Monday, December 28, 2015

Spicy Amber Ale Beans

We have cold weather!  I never thought it would happen, but it has.  I am finally getting to wear the coat that I bought last year...that it never got cold enough to wear.  I am happy.

Along with being "coat happy", I am happy that it is cold enough to make some darn good comfort food.  I was craving a pot of beans...some spicy ones, when I found a recipe in the new Sunset magazine that could not go untested.  Except that I probably never really follow the recipe exactly, but I stick pretty close.

I knew that these beans were going to be quite spicy as the recipe called for chipotle chile powder and a jalapeño...two of my favorite things.  I wasn't crazy enough to use a quarter cup as was mentioned in the introduction but I do like beans with a punch and that is what these had.  Besides, beans and beer and heat are always a good thing!  

You can lighten up on the spiciness by reducing the chipotle chile powder to a teaspoon and only use half of a jalapeño, if you like.  We found the beans to be spicy but not unpleasantly so.  I added a dollop of sour cream when I served them and that made them pretty close to perfect.

Spicy Amber Ale Beans
adapted from Sunset Magazine, January 2016

1 lb dried pinto beans
1 ham hock (about 11/2 lbs.)
1 bottle Amber Ale (I used Longboard Big Wave Golden Ale)
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
3 slices of thick bacon
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds and membrane removed, then chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
Kosher salt

4 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
sour cream 

Sort and rinse beans.  Place beans in a heavy Dutch oven.  Add enough water to cover by three inches.  Bring to a boil.  Boil two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let stand for one hour. Drain beans and put in a slow cooker.

Add the ham hock, beer and chicken stock to the slow cooker.  The beans should be just covered with liquid.  Add water if needed.  Set the slow cooker to low.

In a medium frying pan, toast the chile powder and the cumin until fragrant, bout 30 seconds.  Scrape the spices into the slow cooker and cover.

Cut the bacon crosswise into quarter inch strips. In the same frying pan, cook the pieces of bacon until crisp.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Drain all but about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of drippings from the pan.  Add the diced onion and chopped jalapeño.  Cook until the onion is light brown.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a few seconds.  Mix the bacon and oregano into the onion mixture.  Stir and add the mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the can of diced tomatoes.  Cover and cook until the beans are tender about 6 to 8 hours.

Remove the ham hock to a plate and using two forks shred the meat from the bone.  You may put the shredded ham back into the slow cooker or you may set it aside.  Set the slow cooker to high without the lid.  Reduce the liquid to your desired thickness.  Season with salt.

Serve the beans in bowls topped with shredded ham (unless you elected to mix it back into the beans), a dollop of sour cream, and the chopped green onions and cilantro.

I was sorry to see the last of this pot of beans disappear....I think I need to make more, as it is really cold once again!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Terry's Mahogany Chicken Wings

Terry's wings are a much requested appetizer for parties.  I must admit they are really tasty!  Last week he prepared about fifteen pounds of wings for two different parties.  My daughter needed about fifty and we were headed to a neighbor's get together and took fifty with us.  Mighty good!

Terry's Mahogany Chicken Wings
adapted from Betty Crocker

2 1/2 pounds chicken wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
Red pepper flakes

Trim the wings of any excess skin and discard.  Place the wings in a large bowl or gallon size ziplock bag.

Mix the next six ingredients in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the wings.  Refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil.  Be certain the foil comes up the sides of the baking sheet so that liquid does not seep underneath.  Spray a rack on both sides with cooking spray.  Place the rack on the baking sheet.

Remove the wings from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and arrange in a single layer on the rack.  Baste the wings with the reserved marinade.  Sprinkle the wings lightly with crushed red pepper flakes.

Bake the wings in the preheated oven.  In 30 minutes turn them and baste with more marinade.  Bake the wings for 20 minutes longer basting occasionally until the wings are a deep brown and there is no pink when the center of the chicken is cut.  Discard the remaining marinade.

The wings may be prepared on the barbecue.  They are placed directly on the rack.  A baking sheet is not used.  Watch the wings closely so that they do not burn.  Cook and baste as above.


If you are looking for a super appetizer for a party, these wings would be quite popular!

Warm Spicy Cranberry Drink

One Christmas many years ago, my mother-in-law filled her crock pot with a warm and spicy cranberry drink.  It was one of those cold, damp and foggy days so you can imagine how nice it was to have a hot drink waiting for us upon our arrival.  It became a favorite and we could count on this drink during the holidays.

I got to thinking about those days and sipping that nice warm drink and decided to dig out the recipe and make it.  It was different from what I remembered.  I do not recall it being so sweet so the second time I made it, I did a bit of adjusting to suit my taste.  I reduced the amount of brown sugar and added some cranberry juice to the mix.  The can of pineapple juice I had did not specifically say unsweetened but it didn't say sweetened either so I wonder if that was the error that I made.

Warm Spiced Cranberry Drink

1 can jellied cranberry sauce
2 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups cranberry juice (Optional.  I used it to make the drink less sweet.)

Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat to boiling.  Stir making certain that the cranberry sauce has dissolved.  Pour the mixture into a crock pot to keep it hot.


I always look forward to holding a warm mug, the aroma of cinnamon and sipping away while enjoying the lights on the tree and music softly playing in the background.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites

It is pretty hectic, isn't it?  Sometimes no matter how much I plan, I can't get everything done so that I can snatch a few minutes for me.  Don't you feel that way sometimes?  That is really how I felt about my baking this year.  I plan. I make a list. I check it twice..then thrice...go to the store, come home to bake and realize that I forgot something.  I live a good distance from the grocery store so hopping in the car and dashing to the corner doesn't work for me.  Oh well....

Needless to say, my baking has been haphazard.  It has also been very simple.  Like these cute little brownie bites.  I would like to say that I made them from scratch but as my luck would have it, a missing ingredient means fall back and regroup...I used a brownie mix and it was fine.  But, I am including a quick brownie recipe below for those of you who don't have a brownie mix in the pantry! It is quick because it uses cocoa powder instead of having to melt chocolates.  You can use any recipe you like...or any brownie mix for that matter.  Whatever works for you!

They still taste great and they are still cute little bites that can be made in a snap and serve as a quick dessert!  Basically, they are brownie bites, dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crunched up candy canes.  Or, if you are lucky, you might have picked up a bag of already crunched up peppermints when you were at the store.


Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup flour

2 cups white melting wafers (I used Ghirardelli Candy and Dipping White Melting Wafers.)
5-6 candy canes, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. 

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, melted unsalted butter and salt. Whisk in 3 eggs, one at a time. Add the cocoa powder and flour, mix well.  

Fill the mini muffin cups slightly more than half full.  Bake in a preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until just set.  Cool for five minutes and remove the bites from the muffin tin.

While the brownie bites are cooling, melt the wafers in the microwave following the package directions.  Dip the tops of the brownies in the melted chocolate.  Sprinkle with bits of crushed peppermints.  Set aside for the candy to set before serving.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Peppermint Meltaways.....What is the Science Behind the Meltaway? - SRC

I have been saying that I want to make Meltaway Cookies since last spring.   I never seemed to get around to it until I saw a recipe for Peppermint Meltaways!  Peppermint and the holidays are such a winning combination that I had to give them a try.

The first thing that I asked myself was what makes these cookies different?   One must admit that their name creates an expectation.  Do they really melt in your mouth and if so, why do these cookies melt in your mouth?

With a little research, I learned all about cornstarch and its benefits.  Cornstarch comes from the endosperm of the corn kernel.  They are separated from one another using a lengthy steeping process. Once separated, each is ground into a fine powder.  Following that there is more processing ending with a cornstarch that has unique properties and can be used in cooking and baking.

At my house, cornstarch is used most often in sauces, soups or stews as a thickener.  I learned that when it comes to baking, cornstarch can be combined with flour which increases hydration and creates a fine texture.

In a meltaway recipe you will note that there is a combination of cornstarch and powdered sugar.  It is that combination which creates the melting sensation in your mouth due to the finer texture.

Science aside, the Peppermint Meltaways are light and delicately flavored and that is what will keep me coming back.

Julie at Little Bit of Everything inspired me to finally make the meltaways!  Thank you, Julie.  I noticed that she made the basic recipe her own by stuffing a mini Hershey's Kiss in each one.  She also rolled the cookies in a mixture of powdered sugar and crushed candy canes once removed from the oven.  I made some of the cookies in that manner but with a cookie this delicate in flavor I decided that I really wanted to put a glaze on the cookies, which is what I did for the remaining cookies.

I ended up doing three different finishes:  1) rolled in powdered sugar then topped with red sanding sugar, 2) glazed and topped with sanding sugar and, 3) since I grabbed Andes Peppermint Bits, not thinking that they would be soft, I topped some cookies with those!

Peppermint Meltaways

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

2 Tbsp butter, softened
2-3 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or sanding sugar

In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and the confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the extract.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour and the cornstarch.  Gradually combine the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.  Using a cooking scoop or spoons, shape dough into balls about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.  Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake the cookies from 10-12 minutes or until they are light brown on the bottom.  The tops of the cookies will not be golden brown.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in 2 tablespoons milk and the extract. Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar until smooth.  Adjust the mixture to glaze consistency by adding the third tablespoon of milk, or more, as desired.  The glaze must be thick enough to adhere to the cookie.  Dip the cookies into the glaze.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar or crushed peppermint candies.  Set the cookies back on the rack to dry and set up completely.

NOTE:  We really liked the Andes Peppermint Bits on the cookies.  As an additional twist, I did tuck a small piece inside of some of the cookies....just for fun, but not part of an original meltaway recipe.


I found Julie's recipe as I am a participant in The Secret Recipe Club.  This month I was assigned her blog, Little Bit of Everything.  Since it is a month for celebrating and spreading good cheer, I went searching for something sweet.  I debated about making Julie's Sparkling White Cranberry Sangria, or her Peppermint Crunch Brownie Bites for this post but the Meltaways won.  I do have everything I need for the Brownie Bites so they will be coming up later this week. It was fun exploring Julie's "creative journey" as she makes her way through over one hundred cookbooks, clippings and new recipes. Thank you for inspiring me to make these wonderful Peppermint Meltaways!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cheers! It is Celebration Time with A Randy Reindeer! - Blogger CLUE

It is celebration time!  I finally got the tree trimmed and the house decorated!  I got a bit of a late start but managed to bring it all together and to celebrate, Mr. T and I enjoyed a Randy Reindeer.  Just what is a Randy Reindeer?  It is a cocktail created by Anna at Anna Dishes.  The cocktail is filled with wonderful Christmas flavors like cranberry, pomegranate, orange and, of course, a splash of bubbly.   To me the Randy Reindeer was the perfect selection for this month's recipe exchange group, Blogger CLUE.  Each month we are assigned a blog, a theme and challenged to find a recipe that matches the theme.  The December theme was celebration!  Cheers!

I first searched Anna's blog in March as Anna Dishes was my first Blogger CLUE assignment. I was happy to pay her a second visit!  Anna's blog is packed with "homegrown, flavor-packed recipe creations".  I saw so many celebration dishes that I would prepare such as Eggnog Rum Cake with White Chocolate Snow or Almost Magic Stuffed Mushrooms, but when I saw this cocktail...well, it was decided.

Randy Reindeer
adapted from Anna Dishes

Serves 6

2 1/2 cups Vodka
2 1/2 cups Pomegranate juice
2 1/2 cups Cranberry juice
1/2 cup Triple Sec
Brut Rose Sparkling Wine or Proseco

1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Cranberry juice

White or Red Sparkling Sugar for rimming the glasses

Do Ahead:  Prepare a syrup by combining one cup of brown sugar and one cup of cranberry juice. Simmer until the brown sugar has melted and the mixture becomes a thin syrup.  Cool to room temperature.  Do not refrigerate.

In a large pitcher combine the vodka, pomegranate juice and the cranberry juice.  Stir.  Next add the Triple Sec and about 1/4 cup of the brown sugar syrup.  Stir again.

In a small flat-bottomed dish, pour the sugar for rimming the glasses.  In a second flat-bottomed dish, pour some cranberry juice.  Dip the rim of your glass in the juice and then the sugar.

Place a few ice cubes in the glass and pour in the drink mixture.  Add a splash of bubbly and it is time to celebrate!


Note:  The original recipe calls for a bit of Peach Bitters.  We did not have any so it was omitted.  We also adjusted the amount of Triple Sec to meet our tastes.


 Take a look at the celebration recipes that other group members selected!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Italian Cookies

Yes, it is early for holiday baking but it isn't too early to sample and make certain which cookies make the cut!  This cookie recipe certainly makes my cut.  They have a lovely texture, light anise flavor and are not overly sweet.

I had help making this batch of cookies.  I made a recent trip to Seattle.  While there, Sabine and I made cookies.  She helped me measure, level and dump the dry ingredients as well as signal me when the egg had been combined so I could add another.  She is quite the helper and, she is the queen of sprinkles.  We only lost a few this time!

Italian Cookies
adapted from Noble Pig

Yield:  About 50 small cookies (varies by the size rolled)
Preheat oven: 375° F.


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp. anise extract (vanilla or lemon may be substituted)


3 to 4 Tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp anise extract

Nonpareils for decoration.

In a medium-size bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a medium size glass bowl microwave the butter and the shortening together.  (The shortening should be fresh.)  Pour the butter and shortening into the mixer bowl.  Beat the melted butter and shortening together until incorporated.  Add the sugar and mix well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, about 1 minute each.  Mix in the anise extract.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture.  Mix until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Do not overmix.  If the cookie dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add a bit of flour.  The dough should remain very soft so be careful adding additional flour.

Roll the cookie dough in small balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375° F. for 8-10 minutes.  The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned but the tops should remain light in color.

When removed from the oven, immediately transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.  Cool the cookies completely before glazing.

For the glaze, slowly blend the milk with the powdered sugar and anise extract.  The glaze must be thick enough to adhere to the cookie.  Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze.  Sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils.  Set them aside to dry and set up completely.


These were the perfect little morsels to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.  I tried them with both just to make sure!

Beef and Beer Pie

While we are all putting together menus, buying groceries, or busy making turkey stock, don't forget that you must eat between now and Turkey Day...and preferably not poultry!  At least, that is what I am thinking at the moment.  We enjoyed this Beef and Beer Pie recently.  It was just right on the one cold day that we had last cold day, one fire in the fireplace, one delicious savory pie, also known as comfort food!  It was wonderful and cozy.

I found the recipe at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen hosted by Heather.  It was just perfect for us!

Beef and Beer Pie
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 - 2 1/2 pounds sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 large carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch coins
5 small red potatoes, washed, cut in half and quartered
8 ounces crimini or white mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbsp tomato paste
12 ounces dark beer, such as Guinness Stout
2 cups beef stock or beef consomme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Small bunch fresh thyme (12-15 sprigs)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 pie crust (your recipe of choice)
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, toss the beef chunks with the flour, salt and pepper, until evenly coated.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tablespoons butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  When melted and very hot, add one half of the coated beef cubes and allow to brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the browned beef to a plate and set aside.  If the bottom of the pots looks dry, add the remaining butter and oil.  Repeat the process with the second batch of beef.

Lower the heat to medium.  Return the beef, that you set aside, to the pan.  Add the onion, carrots, and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring often, until they just begin to soften, about 6 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and allow to cook for another 2 minutes.  There should be a base layer (browned bits and caramelized drippings) that has built up on the bottom of the pot.  Slowly pour in the beer, using a spoon to stir and scrape the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot.

Add the beef stock, Worcestershire and bundle of thyme to the pot along with a few twists of fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low, just so its still simmering gently.  Let it cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender and the liquid has thickened.  Remove the pot from the heat.

Remove the bundle of thyme and any stray stems.  Scoop the filling into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate or small casserole dish.

Preheat oven:  400° F.  Prepare baking sheet by lining with foil.  (This will catch drippings and save you from a messy oven!)

Prepare the dough.  Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and the size of the dish or slightly larger. Place the dough over the top of the dish.  If you are not using a pie plate, turn the edges under to fit just inside the dish, press to seal.  Gently brush the top with the beaten egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water.

Set the dish on a baking sheet, that has been lined with foil, and slide into the preheated oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust has browned and the filling is hot.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Note:  After pouring the beef mixture into the dish you may continue or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  If you refrigerate the mixture, when you are ready to bake, allow the mixture to return to room temperature before continuing.


Great comfort food and easily adaptable.  I love the depth of flavor that a good stout adds to a dish! The vegetables can be adjusted to suit your taste.  For example, the original recipe did not call for potatoes but there were some in the pantry begging to be used.  So....   Easy and delicious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle-Avocado Crema

After making that beautiful pan of carnitas and enjoying some wonderful tacos, the question beckons about what to do with the leftovers.  That was easily solved on Heather's blog, All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, she suggested making pizza!  We were up for that.  It is an easy way to use leftovers and have a tasty dinner.

The best thing about pizza is that you may select your own toppings, so really....anything goes....and any amount is just fine!

Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle-Avocado Crema
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Pizza dough of your choice
olive oil
1/2 onion sliced in half and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa or salsa verde
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 cups Carnitas, warmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickled banana pepper rings
1 avocado, cut into chunks
Chipotle-Avocado Crema (see below)

Preheat oven:  475° F.

Put a light coat of olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Roll the dough to the appropriate size.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil.  Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño and sauté about 20-30 minutes until golden and caramelized.

Spread the salsa over the pizza dough, leaving about a 1-inch border all around.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella, pickled banana peppers and sautéed vegetables evenly over the crust.

Bake in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and cooked through and the cheese is bubbly.

When removed from the oven, immediately divide up the warm chunks of carnitas, green onion and avocado chunks over the pizza and then drizzle with the Chipotle-Avocado Crema.

Chipotle-Avocado Crema
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 avocado, pitted
1/2 cup Mexican crema
1 lime, juiced
kosher salt, to taste

In a blender combine chipotles, avocado, crema, lime juice and salt.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.


What a quick and easy dinner and a great way to use up leftovers in the refrigerator.  I can see this easily's pizza....anything that you like goes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carnitas....So Easy!

Living in California we enjoy our fair share of Mexican food and we never seem to tire of it.  We love the combination of spices that never fail to tickle the palate.  We never reject a margarita either!

There are Mexican dishes that I have prepared and others that I cannot explain why I have never prepared them.  Carnitas is one of those that I had never prepared until recently.  I was exploring Heather's blog, All Roads Lead to the Kitchen trying to determine which pie recipe I would make and found a recipe for Carnitas Pizza.  Since pizza has been known as pizza pie it seemed a great choice and right up my alley.  To make the pizza, I had to first make carnitas.

Just what are carnitas?  Carnitas means "little meats" and is usually made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably, lard.  The process takes a few hours but it is well worth the wait.  The meat is moist and tender with crispy outer edges.  We usually serve it in tortillas with some diced onion, chopped cilantro and maybe some tomatoes and guacamole.  Delicious.

Heather adapted a recipe by Rick Bayless so I knew it was going to be amazing....besides, there was no oil and no lard!  We were not disappointed.  I can see carnitas being made good and so easy.  I have no idea what cut of meat I used as when I went looking for the pork shoulder or country spare ribs, I found some pork labeled "pork for carnitas".  (Guess that could be rather scary!)  I figured I would give it a try.

Slow Roasted Pork Carnitas
adapted from Heather at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
and Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time

3 1/2 - 4 pounds pork shoulder cut into 4-inch slabs
Kosher salt
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven:  375° F.

Cut the slabs of pork in half.  Salt them liberally on all sides.  Arrange them in a shallow roasting pan or casserole dish without crowding.  It may be necessary to use two dishes.  Pour 1/3 cup water around the meat.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Bake for one hour.  (If you are using two pans, pour 1/3 cup water in each pan.)

Raise the oven temperature to 450° F.  Uncover the meat and cook until the liquid is completely reduced and only the rendered fat remains, about 30 minutes.  Roast the meat about 20 minutes longer turning the meat every 7 to 8 minutes until lightly browned.  Break the meat into fairly large pieces.  Serve on a warm platter and sprinkle with salt.

Note:  If the carnitas will be served in a taco or burrito, the meat should be broken down into the appropriate size.

Did I mention that the carnitas were delicious?  Yum!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lemon Icebox Pie - Blogger CLUE

What a month....any of you who follow my blog know that pies are my nemesis.  I have tried, over the years, to overcome my frustration.  I have made a few that I think are outstanding....I have also made some that weren't even recognized as a pie.  It's the crust. I seem to fail transferring the crust to the pie plate.  That seems like a small thing to master but one would need to practice and the frequency with which I make pies could not be considered practicing!

So......when I looked at my Blogger CLUE assignment and realized that I had been assigned Heather, "Queen of Pies", at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, and that the theme for the month of November was pies, well, I took pause.  What to do?  Cherry Crunch Pie was at the top of the list...fresh cherries, not happening this time of year, frozen cherries not available.....on to the next choice....Cherry Pinot Noir Pie....I am fixated on cherries.

How about pizza pie?  Is that a cop out?  Never.  Carnitas Pizza with Chipotle Avocado Crema...that's it!!  Oh how delicious the carnitas were!!!  But, I didn't want to make that my choice.  How about Beef and Beer Pie?  That  pie was also delicious....even if I didn't have a pie bird and cut my fall leaves into the crust poorly.....delicious!  Then, I spied lemons...a Lemon Icebox Pie...the lights flashed and I ran outside to checkout out our lemon trees.

This was a super easy dessert and one that I know I will make again and again.  I used graham crackers instead of Maria Cookies as I couldn't find the cookies.  I also added some Lemon Oil and a sprinkle of lemon zest on top!  We loved the Lemon Icebox Pie as did our neighbors!  Delicious.

Lemon Icebox Pie
adapted from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
and Recipes and Dreams by Tessa Kiros

4 1/2 oz. crushed graham crackers or Maria Cookies
2 to 4 Tbsp brown sugar (omit if using graham cracker crumbs)
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
pinch of sea salt

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 large lemons, juiced, zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp lemon oil
pinch of sea salt

Line a 9" X 5" loaf pan with a long sheet of parchment paper and set aside.

Put the cookies into the food processor with the brown sugar (Start with the lesser amount and add to adjust the sweetness to your desired preference.) Pulse until there are fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and salt.   Pulse until mixed.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer into the bottom.  Set aside.

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and whip again to incorporate.  Add the lemon juice, lemon oil, and sea salt.  Whip to combine. The mixture will be thick.

Transfer the mixture over the crust and level the surface.

Sprinkle lemon zest over the top of the pie.

Cover and refrigerate until set, at least two hours.  Cut into squares and serve.


Heather loves food and cooking.  She has so many recipes from which to choose.  Perusing her blog was fun and I did make the Carnitas and the Beef and Beer Pie....both of these will be posted later this week.  I will be going back to make the cherry pies.

Take a look at the recipes that other group members selected.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Breakfast for Dinner: A Bacon, Potato Omelet! - SRC

At our house when I don't feel like cooking....when I am at a loss as to what I should prepare....I usually turn to breakfast for dinner.  I love a big breakfast but it is way too much food for me in the morning so moving breakfast to dinner takes care of the craving and I don't feel as though I "had to cook!"  

I hate to say it, but, when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment, I wasn't really feeling as though I wanted to cook. That is nothing against my blog assignment, it was a reflection of my level of energy at that moment in time.  And, yes, I had the whole month, but I also knew we had to eat dinner so on this day, I went directly to the Breakfast section of my assigned blog, The Tasty Cheapskate maintained by Jean.

Jean says that she didn't grow up cooking even though her mom was a cost-conscious cook and always prepared meals for the family.   Jean said that "whole foods" were lost on her and that she only ate foods that were fat free.  Today, she cooks and prepares healthy foods while maintaining the cost-consciousness that she learned from her mom.

As I perused the breakfast options I was almost swayed by the German Pancakes and the Healthy Pumpkin Muffins but I was looking for a protein dish.  Refocusing, I considered the Swiss Egg Bake, and the Potato, Bacon and Cheddar Egg Bake....both would have been fine but Mr. T. was "hungry" so I opted to go with the egg bake that had bacon and potato!

As it turned out the recipe Jean made was an adaptation of Ina Garten's Omelet for Two in Barefoot Contessa At Home.  I have a small library of Ina's cookbooks and always enjoy her, I was ready to give Jean's recipe a try....with a few minor adjustments.  I prefer to use onion sparingly in dishes.  To me, it can be overpowering.  Mr. T., also, really likes bacon....really likes in "Don't skimp on the bacon!"  Naturally, I increased the amount.

Breakfast for Dinner:  A Bacon, Potato Omelet!
adapted from Jean at The Tasty Cheapskate 
and, Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Yield:  2-4 servings

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise in 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup red potatoes, skin on, medium dice
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped 
5 extra-large eggs
2 Tbsp half and half or milk
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
3 scallions, chopped, both white and green parts
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, diced, plus some grated for the top

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Cook the bacon in an 8-inch ovenproof pan over medium-low heat until crisp.  Drain the bacon on paper towels and discard the fat remaining in the pan.  Add the butter to the pan followed by the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes then add the onion.  If an additional tablespoon of butter is needed, add it.  Cook the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are tender, yet firm, and the onion has started to brown.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Stir in the scallions and the diced cheese. When the potato is cooked, add the bacon to the pan and pour over the egg mixture.  Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, until the eggs puff up and are almost cooked in the center.

Sprinkle the grated cheddar on top of the omelet and return it to the oven for another minute.  Serve directly from the pan.

Note:   The onion cooked much faster than the potato.  I have adjusted the preparation process to allow the potatoes to cook a little prior to adding the onion.

This was a tasty omelet and guess what?  We are having breakfast for dinner tonight...a repeat!  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Braciole Napoletane aka Beef Rolls Stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella, Capers and Olives

Did I mention that I am going to Italy in the spring?  I am just a bit excited!  I have never been to Italy so this is an adventure that I am eagerly awaiting.   Between now and then I decided that I ought to take a look at some of my cookbooks and do some regional cooking.

The first dish we tried was Braciole Napoletane.  Braciole is a specialty of southern Italy...Naples to Sicily.   It is pieces of thinly sliced beef rolled with a variety of fillings.  The rolls can be grilled, fried or cooked in a marinara sauce.  The first time that I had this dish was years and years ago at a friend's home. It was cooked in a marinara sauce. The meat was so very tender and tasty.  I don't know why it took me so long to search out a similar recipe.

Braciole Napoletane
Beef Rolls Stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella, Capers, and Olives
adapted from How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan

Yield:  Four servings as a main course

1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced sirloin steak
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
12 Kalamata olives, pitted, sliced
1/2 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano
2 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the grill.

Pound the beef slices to 1/4-inch thick.  If needed, cut the slices so each slice is approximately 4-inches wide and 6-inches long.  Lightly season the meat with kosher salt.

Slice the mozzarella in 1/4-inch slices.  Place 2 or 3 slices on each piece of beef.  Place the olive slices over the mozzarella.  Sprinkle the Pecorino Romano on top.  Next, sprinkle on the capers and bread crumbs.  Drizzle a little olive oil over each slice.  Roll the beef slices loosely, just overlapping the ends and secure with small skewers or toothpicks.

Place the rolls on the grill.  Brown on all sides.  Cover the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until the meat is cooked through.  Serve hot.

Note:  The rolls may be assembled in advance but no more than one hour in advance.  Held longer, the rolls will become soggy.


This recipe appealed to me because I love fresh mozzarella and capers!  We grilled the rolls and they were tasty.  I still think of the long ago rolls cooked in the marinara sauce and wonder if stuffed rolls would remain in tact if prepared in the marinara....maybe tied....  We shall see....

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Baked Squash Stuffed with Homemade Applesauce, Blogger CLUE

We have had the most wonderful veggie boxes this autumn.  I think our location has a great deal to do with the variety of lovely, organic fruits and vegetables that we receive.  Our box ran over with kale, chard, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, apples, carrots, get the was amazing.

With these wonderful fruits and vegetables on hand, I happily approached my October blog assignment for the Blogger CLUE Society.....and of course, the theme is autumn!  The Blogger CLUE Society is a group of food bloggers. Each month members are paired with another food blogger, given a theme, and each blogger sets off to explore the assigned blog. The objective is to track down a recipe that matches the month's theme and that we are excited about making.

Now one would think that it would be an easy task to find an autumn recipe but guess what, it wasn't. It wasn't easy because Wendy, at A Day in the Life on the Farm has a recipe index that doesn't end and she has only been blogging for a couple of years!  Wendy and her husband are retired law enforcement.  When they retired, they moved far away from the city to the country where they have embraced farm life by raising chickens, pigs and turkeys for meat as well as canning and freezing the many fruits and vegetables that they grow on their twelve acres.  What a change of life style!

As I scrolled through recipe after recipe I spied Wendy's Baked Squash Stuffed with Applesauce! How could I pass that up, when I was looking at a box with squash and apples?  Besides, I couldn't make the Gyro Kabobs I saw, as there wasn't a lamb in the box this week!  "grin"

This was a super delicious side dish!  It popped with flavor and will appear frequently at our house....loved it!!

The applesauce recipe that I used is here:  Homemade Applesauce #2 in the Slow Cooker.

Baked Squash 
Stuffed with Homemade Applesauce

Yield:  4 servings

2 small sweet dumpling squash or acorn squash, scrubbed, halved and seeded
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup homemade applesauce (My recipe for homemade applesauce is here.)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line a baking sheet with foil.

Lay the squash halves on the foil, skin side down.  Sprinkle the squash liberally with salt and pepper. Put 1 Tablespoon of butter into each cavity.  Flip the squash over so that the skin side is up and roast for 45 minutes.  Test the squash for doneness with a fork.  Remove from the oven.

Flip the squash over and fill each cavity with 1/3 cup homemade applesauce.  Return the squash to the oven for 15 more minutes.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Note:  My squash were done after 45 minutes so I did not put the squash back in the oven after filling them with applesauce.  I did not add the sprinkle of cinnamon because I forgot!  They turned out super without the extra time in the oven and the sprinkle of cinnamon.

Store bought applesauce could be used but I am really partial to homemade!


This was truly delicious, so delicious that I almost forgot to eat the Linguine with Shrimp Scampi!

Are you looking for more autumn recipes?  Take a look below at the group's choices.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Aunt Orlean's Pie Dough

As you know, I rarely make pies.  I have a bear of a time with the dough so I pretty much have given up.  As I contemplated making the galette in the previous post, I started thinking about my "dough of choice" as was listed as number one one the ingredient list.  I realized that I did not have a dough of choice.

I did however start thinking about pies, my grandma, my mom and my Aunt Orlean....they all made pies.  They all had a dough of choice.  I remember my aunt giving me her recipe and saying it has vinegar in it, don't wrinkle your nose...just make with it.  It will turn out every time.

Could I find the recipe?  NO!  My cousin came through and sent it to me lickity split.

Of course, I do not have a picture of a piece of dough.  I was too busy trying to roll it out to take a picture and too nervous about moving it to even think about a picture....  As I worked my way through the process, I realized that it was easy.  It rolled out great.  It transferred in one piece.  It didn't fall apart.  It was easy to work with.  Hurray!

Maybe I had my "dough of choice".

Aunt Orlean's Pie Dough

Yield:  One pie/2 crusts

3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups shortening
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vinegar
1/3 cup ice water

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add the vinegar and salt. Add the water a little at a time stirring together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the dough comes together.  (I started with 3 Tablespoons of water and mixed, adding an addition tablespoon until it came together.)

If you are not using both pieces of dough, separate the dough in half.  Set one aside.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to the desired size (about 1/2-inch larger that the pan you are using) and about 1/8-inch thick.  (If the dough is sticky, additional flour may be sprinkled on the surface of the dough or rubbed on the rolling pin.) Lift the dough carefully from the counter and transfer the dough to the pie pan. Go around the pan pinching, tucking and smoothing to make a clean edge. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to an hour.

Note:  Place the other half of the dough in a Ziplock bag. With a rolling pin flatten the ball of dough into a disk.  Seal the bag and freeze for another time. When you are ready to use it, allow the dough to thaw for about 15 minutes before rolling.


While I do not have a picture of the pie dough....I do have a picture of the finished product:  Apple Galette with Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Apple Galette with Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce - SRC

Don't you love fall?  I am still thrilled to have temperatures below 100 degrees...and yes, it was 100 yesterday but I can forgive one day of heat!   It is October!  My very favorite month.  I think that L. M. Montgomery said it best in Anne of Green Gables:  "I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers."  I must agree.  I have always loved October.  The breezes become more frequent and they are cool.  The leaves start turning beautiful colors.  The days become shorter. The pumpkins and squash start to appear. The apples ripen. And, last but not least, I can turn on the oven!

Let's go back to apples.  When I got my assignment for The Secret Recipe Club I knew I was going to look for something with apples.  Why not?  It was fall and the apples are ripe!

Sarah, at Well Dined, tempted me with her Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies and the Apple Oat Muffins but the Apple Galette with Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce won!  Sarah loves to dine out as well as cook.  Her blog features dining reviews as well as recipes.  She focuses on seasonal foods and meals that "reasonably healthy".  She featured a quotation by Virginia Wolfe that I know and love:  "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, unless one has dined well."  That is so true....So let's get on with the dining!!

First, the question: What is a galette?  How is it like a crostata?  The word galette is French.  It is basically a flat, round pastry...a rustic freeform tart made with a flaky pastry dough.  It can be sweet or savory.  A galette is the same as the Italian crostata.  They are both rustic in appearance and often filled with a delightful fruit mixture, such as in today's recipe.

This galette was tasty and combined with the ice cream and the salted caramel bourbon sauce, we had a very nice dessert!  What I learned is that apples do not create as much moisture, as other fruits, without a little help. I think I will add more sugar and a pat or two of butter when I make it again.

At this moment....the mister has pretty much finished off the galette along with the sauce!

Apple Galette 
with Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce
adapted from Well Dined

Preheat oven:  400° F.

For the galette
1 pie dough of choice (The dough I used is here.)
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1 tsp corn starch
1 1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp King Arthur's Boiled Cider (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp turbinado sugar

For the caramel
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp water
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a large parchment-lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until ready to use, up to an hour.

Place the apple slices in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle the lemon juice and Boiled Cider (if using) on the apples and toss.  Combine the sugar, cinnamon, all spice, and cornstarch starch.  Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and toss to evenly distribute.

Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator.  Arrange the apples in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around.  Gently fold the border over the apples, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds.

In a small bowl lightly beat the egg and 1 Tablespoon of water together.  Brush the edges of the dough with the mixture and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake the galette 25-35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.  Use two spatulas to transfer the galette to a serving platter when cooled.

Prepare the caramel.  In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is just dissolved.  Stop stirring.  Once the edges start to brown, occasionally swirl the mixture but do not stir.  Continue to cook the mixture until it is a deep amber color, about five to ten minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the heavy cream while steadily whisking.  The mixture will bubble vigorously, be careful it doesn't overflow.  Place the mixture back on the warm burner and whisk in the salt and bourbon.

Transfer the caramel sauce to a heat-safe jar with a lid.  Allow the caramel to cool uncovered.   Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator.  It may be stored for about two weeks.

Serve slices of galette with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with the Salted Caramel Bourbon Sauce.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Homemade Applesauce #2 in the Slow Cooker: Recipe Revised

Each year we mark the beginning of fall with a trip to the apple orchards.  It is fun to drive through the trees as we make our way to the fruit stand displaying bins of apples.  There are so many varieties from which to choose that it renders me unable to choose. So, we usually bring home a box of mixed varieties such as Braeburn, Jonagold, Fuji, Red Delicious, McIntosh, etc.  Sadly, we were not able to make the trip this year but I still found a variety of apples at the Farmer's Market.

I usually start the season by making homemade applesauce in the slow cooker.  I didn't want to break the tradition but I did want to try a new recipe.  It was time to set Mom's recipe to the side.  I was inspired by Ina's recipe that I found on Food Network.  I didn't follow her method, as she baked the apples.  It is still warm here so I used the slow cooker.

Homemade Applesauce #2 in the Slow Cooker

1 large navel orange, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced 
14 apples, (about 6 pounds) mixed variety, such as McIntosh, Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold, etc., peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 Tbsp Boiled Cider from King Arthur Flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Place the orange juice and the lemon juice in a large bowl.  Add the apple dice and toss them in the juice.  Pour the mixture into the slow cooker.  

Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top along with the cinnamon and allspice.  Add the tablespoon of Boiled Cider and stir the mixture.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours.  When finished, use a potato masher to get the sauce to the desired consistency.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in a air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Note: The recipe is easily adjusted.  As it cooks down, it produces more liquid.  But after a few hours if you notice that sauce needs more liquid, add just a little additional orange juice or water.  


We loved the addition of the citrus and the fact that this was not overly sweet.  The Boiled Cider enhanced the sauce's flavor. It was perfect.  Now, if I could just put my spoon away!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lentil and Spinach Dal Over Brown Rice in the Instant Pot and Chef Sabine

Earlier this summer I visited my daughter in Seattle.  The visit just happened to coincide with Sabine's third birthday.  It wasn't planned that way, it just nice for me!

Isn't she adorable?  What a character!  She sure does keep us on our toes.  She loves to cook and spends a great deal of time on her stool at the counter or the stove....helping.  It is so much fun.  It just so happened that she got her chef's hat and apron along with some more cooking utensils for her birthday.  She was in heaven!

Sabine wasn't the only one with new play things.  My daughter had gotten an Instant Pot and wanted to show me how quick and easy it was to prepare a meal.  I had no idea about the Instant Pot.  She told me it was a combination appliance a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker....the list goes on....and that dinner could be made quickly.  Sounds like a must have for the working mom!

I must admit that I was impressed.  I have always been intimidated by my pressure cooker.  I think had I not been told over and over again about explosions and being careful, I might have felt differently.  Needless to say, I rarely use my pressure cooker.  Sorry, Debby Foodie Wife...I just cannot do it!  But, your recipes look so delicious that you have me thinking...Maybe a working mom isn't the only one who should have an Instant Pot!

On this day, my daughter served a tasty Lentil and Spinach Dal.  Each bite was wonderful!  She served it over brown rice with a garnish of fresh yogurt and chopped cilantro along with some warm naan.  Not only was dinner made in a was delicious!  The recipe directions below are for using the Instant Pot but one could easily adapt the cooking time to use the slow cooker.

Lentil and Spinach Dal over Brown Rice
adapted from Flavorrd

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 large tomato, cut into 6-8 wedges
4 cups fresh spinach leaves, about several big handfuls
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tsp unsalted butter

To serve
Brown rice, prepared separately
Plain yogurt
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves

Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot to cook over medium heat (press the "Saute" button to begin cooking at medium saute heat.)  When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and cook until they are soft and translucent.  Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Turn off the heat. (Push the "cancel" button.)  Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Mix well to combine.

Add the lentils, tomato wedges, salt and water to the onion and garlic mixture.  Cover the Instant Pot with the lid.  Be certain that the valve is in the sealed position.  Press the "Manual" button and set the cooking time to 10 minutes.  After the program has finished, press "Cancel" to turn off the warming mode, and wait 10 minutes before opening the valve to release the pressure.

Remove and discard the tomato skins.  Whisk together the lentils to emulsify.  Smash the tomatoes against the side of the pot if necessary.  Add the spinach, cilantro and butter to the mixture.  Stir to combine.  The residual heat will wilt the spinach.

Serve over brown rice with a dollop of plain yogurt, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and naan on the side.