mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

indian pudding . . .

indian-pudding

Well, it turns out that the homemade slightly runny meyer lemon meringue pie was G.’s brother, Jim’s, favorite dessert. Today, I mentally went through my dessert rolodex from the past and remembered that one of G’s favorites was indian pudding. I don’t make it too often because it takes a long time to cook (90 minutes after stirring stovetop for 15 minutes.)

Plus, I wasn’t sure if I had all the ingredients on hand. (It’s usually a test of the pantry when it gets to be 4 p.m. and I’m scrounging around for something nice to make for either supper or dessert!) I wasn’t sure whether I had yellow corn meal but I came across some blue corn meal – which I put aside when I came upon some corn grits polenta. That should be okay, I thought. Then I didn’t have enough milk for the halved recipe but thankfully found some light cream after stirring the mixture that made the pudding more like it was meant to be. So here’s the recipe I used –

Indian Pudding:

Combine in a non-stick pot, 2 1/4 cups of whole milk, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1-2 tablespoons of dark molasses, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Cook it over low-medium heat for 15 minutes (that’s right!) stirring it constantly so it doesn’t stick. Towards the end of that time, add 1/4 stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir until everything is thickened. This is also when I added in about a half cup of light cream because I only had about 1 3/4 cup of milk to begin with.

I buttered a low fluted white porcelain dish and folded the thickened pudding into it. I also took a pan that would hold the dish and filled it halfway with water. This would make a bain marie to cook the pudding. The recipe didn’t call for it but I didn’t think it would hurt.  It’s now baking in a 325 preheated oven for 90 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with cream or vanilla ice cream. Nice to reheat the pudding in the microwave so it is slightly warm before serving if it cools completely.

For dinner, I’m using the left over Ciabetta bread in the fridge which I’ve refreshed with a little spring water and warming the bread cubes in the oven before dipping them into a gruyere/swiss cheese fondue tonight for supper. Maybe I’ll make a small spinach salad with avocado and navel orange segments on the side.

I think I’m going to wait to spring the indian pudding dessert on G. not until after he’s returned from next door, helping his mother to retire for the evening – a daily ritual.

BTW, I tasted the thickened pudding bits after I filled the fluted baking dish with the bulk of it. They tasted divine!  Can’t wait to see how it is when it’s finished baking.

Postscript: This Indian pudding (which does turn out to be my husband’s favorite dessert) had a texture closer to a cake than a pudding. I think that this was due to using corn grits polenta (which is all I had on hand) rather than regular cornmeal plus perhaps not enough milk might have accounted for this.

If you want to try it yourself, either use this recipe, please note these changes in milk and cornmeal. It might be more like an indian pudding than my little corncake. With freshly whipped cream on it, it was very tasty.

 

meyer lemon meringue pie! . . .

pie

Since today is Saturday and G.’s out on tunings for the afternoon, I harkened back to an inspiration that I had the other night – a lemon meringue pie which I didn’t have enough time to make. Turns out also that as a substitute for cream of tartar in the spice cabinet, you can add a little fresh lemon juice as an alternative.

So after lunch today, I took out my batch of meyer lemons, made lemon zest on the microplane and squeezed half a cup of fresh meyer lemon juice. This is the same proportion of zest and juice that I use in making key lime pie (but with limes, of course) but the zest and the fresh juice make all the difference.

I separated 4 eggs and removed the little bubble of white egg stuff from the yolks and from the whites which I kept in a separate stainless bowl to whip up later. Put 3 tablespoons of butter into the microwave to melt to add along with the lemon juice and zest.

Into a clean pan, I heated up a cup and a half of granulated sugar, 1/3 cup of corn starch and a cup and a half of distilled water. This mixture thickened after a few minutes of constant stirring. I added a little of it into the stirred egg yolks, then added it back into the mixture, making sure that the mixture was mixed well with a small hand whisk, mixing until well combined. The pan was off the heat for the egg yolk combining – added the melted butter, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, mixing well but gently.

With a whipping attachment on the hand mixer, I beat the egg whites, adding six scant tablespoons of sugar gradually and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (to replace the cream of tartar) until it was thick and stood up on its own.

Meanwhile, the prepared pie crust had been baking for about 12 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Lightly browned, I poured the warm filling into the pie crust. Then, I scooped up the meringue and made swirls on to the pie, making sure the egg whites extended to the crust.

Back into the 400 degree oven for about eight minutes until the meringue was lightly browned. Can’t wait for G. to see it – and for us to enjoy it for dessert tonight!

P.S. the lemon custard was a little runny when we cut the pie to take some next door. It was still warm and had been sitting on the table since it was taken out of the oven. I put it in the fridge to chill and by evening, the filling stayed in place – and the pie was delicious!

 

 

(almost) instant dessert when you don’t have any . . .

dscn8826

So tonight, we had pizza for dinner. Yep, courtesy of Papa Gino’s! I had a late appointment so stopped by and picked up three large slices of pizza. It was tasty. Afterwards, I asked G. what we might have for dessert? Hah!

I decided to make something that took a minimum of effort and would be tasty. Plus, the ingredients all had to be on hand. I thought about making a lemon meringue pie, believe it or not, because I have a bunch of Meyer lemons in the fridge. I know that was a crazy idea, especially since it takes a lot of effort to make the lemon filling – plus you had to beat up all those egg whites to make the meringue after the lemon filling had baked. Plus, I didn’t think I could lay my hands on cream of tartar required to make the meringue stay up which was probably somewhere in the spice cupboard but I didn’t know where, offhand.

So, I decided to make shortbread cookies, cutting a recipe in half so that all the ingredients would fit into my mini-Cuisinart processor:

1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar (confectioners or fine granulated), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. water and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Cut up into small pieces, 1 stick of chilled unsalted butter. Whir the little processor engine, back and forth until the mixture comes together. I dumped it out on a piece of aluminum foil, patted it down into the thickness I would use to cut out the cookies, using my little square cutter with crimped edges. I put the foil wrapped dough into the fridge to chill for half an hour. I’ll use my antique meat fork to make pretty pin pricks into the cookies before baking.

When G. goes across the street to help his 98-year old mother get ready to retire for the evening, I figured I’ll take the dough out, bake the cookies at 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, sprinkle with a dusting of sugar, and they’ll be ready to have for dessert when he returns.

So, there’s my idea for a quickie home-made-from-scratch-dessert with the least amount of effort, ever!  Bon appetit!

valentine brownies! . . .

still warm from the oven!

still warm from the oven!

My husband and I are of an age where we like to keep things simple when holidays arise (except for Christmas!) So, this morning, I looked around our pantry and found an unopened bar of unsweetened Baker’s chocolate, organic sugar and best of all, a batch of macadamia nuts! I thought that making a batch of brownies with macadamia nuts might be a special treat for this sweethearts’ celebration day.

The recipe I used was the one on the back of the Baker’s unsweetened chocolate box except that I had already melted two sticks of unsalted butter on the stove. To it, I added the whole bar of chocolate to melt; then two cups of organic sugar and three extra-large eggs, beaten into the warm mixture, one at a time. A teaspoon of Maldon salt and a teaspoon of vanilla went into the brownie mixture – and then, I coarsely chopped a cup of macadamia nuts which I added after folding in a cup and a fourth of flour. I have a favorite oval fluted white porcelain baking pan that was the perfect size for this batch of goodies. Into a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.

To keep things simple but still delicious after the brownies are out of the oven, I’m heading out to our local seafood shop to pick up some Maine crabmeat for do-it-yourself sliders. There’s a half of a butternut squash that will roast in the oven and be combined to make a butternut soup to go along with the crabmeat rolls, coleslaw – and macadamia brownies for dessert!

Plus, we don’t have to get in the car, drive to a restaurant but instead can look forward to  relaxing at our own kitchen table tonight.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

 

“salad nirvana”! . . .

salad

It’s not often that a new taste treat enters our habit of eating simply most of the time. Last year, it was truffle salt, an inexpensive condiment from the San Francisco company that has a fragrant umami taste and is divine on soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. It’s also delicious on many dishes and roasts!

For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, my daughters gave me two graceful dark bottles of oil and vinegar from the Cape Ann Olive Oil Company, located in Cape Ann New England – (often confused with Cape Cod, but surrounded by the towns of Gloucester and Rockport.)

One was a bottle of walnut oil and the other was a bottle of fig balsamic vinegar. I placed them carefully on my stove top with my own olive oil and looked forward to trying them out. January has gotten away from me but tonight, I decided to try it out on a butter lettuce, avocado and navel orange salad. I used 1 tablespoon of fig vinegar, 3 tablespoons of walnut oil, a clove of crushed garlic, a tip of a spoon of sweetener and a half teaspoon of Poupon Dijon country mustard. I whisked it together as usual, amalgamating the dark syrupy vinegar and the walnut oil.

Tasted it.

Well, you have to get some and try it on your own because I can’t describe in words how wonderfully delicious it is. It’s slightly sweet with a deep flavor of ripe figs. It’s smooth with the subtle taste of walnuts along with the crackle of mustard and garlic in it. Heaven!salad-2

I looked online and found the Cape Ann Olive Oil Company to reassure myself that I would be able to replenish my supply – and also to let you know where you may order some to try yourselves!

 

 

macro-bowl #3 . . .

macro-bowl-3

So tonight, we’re branching out a little bit – from the two previous macro-bowls with freshly cooked brown/sweet rice. Instead, I’m going to cook a batch of cellophane noodles added to ground pork, soy and cooking sherry. Green onions and a little chicken broth to help it all meld together. This recipe is known as “ants crawling up a tree” – but don’t ask me why. All I know is that it’s a tasty dish that we enjoy.

At the same time that’s simmering on the stove as it cooks down, pieces of cut up chicken thighs marinated in Korean Bulgogi barbecue sauce are broiling in the oven. In a small skillet, some zucchini squash is pan fried to round out the one-bowl meal.macro-bowl-3-c

[“Ants crawling up a tree:” Soak cellphane noodles in warm water until soft. Cut into smaller pieces with a knife. Marinate a quarter cup of ground fresh pork with soy, cooking sherry and a spoonful of cornstarch. Mix well – (the cornstarch will tenderize the pork as it cooks.) Cut up a stalk or two of green onions. Heat up some vegetable oil in a skillet; brown the ground pork and separate. Add more soy, sherry and chicken broth until well mixed. Cook until all liquid is absorbed.]macro-bowl-3-b

 

 

tea sandwiches . . .

tea-sandwich-2Even though I’m supposed to cut down on eating bread for glycemic reasons, not gluten ones, I’ve discovered that it’s almost impossible to do without bread. Or English muffins for that matter. Anyhow, I’m writing about tea sandwiches as a way to cut down on bread consumption but still enjoy bountiful and delicious ways to have something flavorful to accompany homemade soups for lunch and/or dinner.

Last night, I had some almost stale thin white slices of bread that I put together with some leftover cream cheese, prosciutto ham and half a cucumber. I cut off the crusts and slathered on the cream cheese, added the ham and thinly sliced cucumber and then piled them on top of each other. I used a trick I learned years ago about keeping tea sandwiches fresh, wrapping them in slightly moistened clean paper towel and storing them in the fridge for an hour before eating. When they’re unwrapped, the bread is less dry and the sandwiches are refreshed.

Taking this idea a little further – like the macro-bowl concept of only preparing what you’re actually going to eat, I’m going to experiment with some ideas while making a split pea ham/onion/carrot soup during this zero degree weather. With tea sandwiches, one consumes about half the quantity of a regular sandwich but still enjoy the taste.

  1. tea-sandwich-1Shrimp salad tea sandwiches – buy a few cooked shrimp at the fish counter, chop them up and add to finely chopped celery heart leaves, finely chopped red onion, Hellmann’s mayonnaise with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Spread on the bread with crusts off (I also like lite-oatmeal bread that has a moist crumb and is more tender than the thin-sliced white bread. tea-sandwich-3
  2. Smoked salmon tea sandwiches – spread cream cheese, lay out thin sliced smoked salmon, very thinly sliced tomato, red onion, capers?
  3. Branston pickle spread (from the UK); slices of good cheddar cheese
  4. Tuna salad with mayo, pickle relish mixed together well
  5. Egg salad with mayo, truffle salt, cracked pepper
  6. Thinly sliced smoked gouda cheese with avocado and tomato, red onion

So basically, this is a way to enjoy flavor in small bites that are quick to prepare. Hallelujah!

 

macro-bowl supper redux . . .

macro-bowl-2-tempuraOur first macro-bowl dinner was such a hit the other night that I thought I’d make another one today. I defrosted 6 extra-large shrimp from the freezer, shelled them and placed them back in the fridge ready to go when it’s time to make shrimp tempura tonight.

Found some fresh small Chinese cabbages in the pantry too – will cut up the leafy parts and saute with garlic and a little lemon juice.

If the avocado ripening in the kitchen window isn’t ready yet, I’ll briefly heat up a few fresh edamame beans and season with a little soy.

So tonight’s macro(biotic) bowl will contain:

fresh-cooked brown and sweet rice (in a little dashi and soy sauce)

sauteed Chinese cabbage leaves with garlic and lemon

warmed edamame beans

tempura shrimp in panko crumbs

Tempura shrimp: The shrimp takes a few steps to prepare: a) defrost, shell and devein the shrimp; b) dry them off; c) cut tiny slits in the curved end of the shrimp and devein as well (the shrimp will now lie flat on the cutting board; d) insert a bamboo skewer or toothpick in the shrimp to keep it straight while frying. Make some tempura batter (boxed or with a little flour and ice water); Dip the dry prepared shrimp into the tempura batter, shake off excess and roll immediately in plain, dry panko crumbs. Deep-fry in a small skillet or small saucepan to conserve how much oil is used for the 6 shrimp. Cook and turn until golden brown – drain on paper towels and remove toothpicks.

Serve with a some hoisin sauce mixed with a drop of soy, sesame oil and a little sweetener (I use stevia.) I just put a small dish of this on the table.

The process change for making macro bowl dinners is that once I’ve settled on what will go into the macro bowls, I scale down the amount of vegetable and protein sides to the size of the servings that will go on top of the brown rice melange. This reduces the amount of food prepared and cooked. And there’s no leftovers either! YAY!

Some other macro bowl side dishes that might be appealing are:

  1. teriyaki broiled chicken thigh pieces (yakitori)
  2. pan grilled salmon in teriyaki
  3. cucumber and wakame salad
  4. instead of rice, cooked cellophane noodles with ground pork & green onions, e.g., “ants crawling up a tree” – a yummy Chinese classic
  5. soba noodles in soy-ginger sauce
  6. teriyaki flank steak slices
  7. beets, sliced and dressed with a little vinegar/lemon juice
  8. broccoli florets

etc. etc. etc. . . .

 

 

 

snowstorm soup (from the cupboard etc.). . .

snowstorm-soup

I’ve written about making soup a number of times: all day-beef vegetable soup; quick and easy vegetable soup; stone soup and so on. Tonight, I’ve been watching the weather report to expect some inches of snow to fall tomorrow between noon and midnight. However much snow that turns out to be, the first thing I thought about was to make a hearty soup from what I already have in the cupboard and fridge in the morning just in case the power goes out (which is an emergency we like to be prepared for.)

Leaning towards a veggie melange, I decided not to use the frozen beef and marrow bones that I have in the freezer. Instead, I’m going for onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, barley, broth and stewed tomatoes.

Here’s the actual ingredients I put together this morning: chopped vidalia onions, 2 stalks of celery and two small zucchini browned in a medium sized soup pot. Sent G. to look for carrots because I was out of them. He returned with four small ones from the tenant who lives downstairs (I invited her to share a bowl with us for lunch.) Added five large mushrooms cut into big chunks, soaked a handful of barley in boiling water; added a Knorr beef broth gelatin pack, spring water and a can of Del Monte stewed tomatoes. After soaking, added the drained barley. The barley will make the soup thicken as it cooks. One bonus of making this kind of soup is that as it is consumed, you can make more broth to bring the liquids back up and make more servings. We’re enjoying soup, not a stew, after all!

scones-1Might make a batch of “scones” to go with a cup of soup for lunch. This is a twenty-five year old recipe that is easy to make at the last minute. (a cup and half of flour, a 3/4 cup of milk; and half a stick of hard butter & a pinch of salt.) This is actually half a recipe but the proportions are easy to fit into a small size Cuisinart. I whizz the flour and cold butter bits together with salt; add milk and blend until it’s mixed. Scoop out on a cookie sheet with a soup spoon and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. It creates a buttery biscuit that someone famously said was missing the “scone powder.” It’s because there’s no leavening in it but the blobs of dough and butter crisped up on the edges are divine.scones-2

The soup will simmer while the snow falls and with it for supper, I’m going to try a sandwich idea I saw in one of the cooking magazines that either float through the house or that I saw at Barnes and Noble the other day: a grilled cheese sandwich with prosciutto and granny smith apple slices on pumpernickel bread. I have some nice grated swiss cheese and might add some gruyere, one crispy apple and a pack of prosciutto that I picked up at Whole Foods the other day. Glad all these ingredients are on hand that helps me to avoid making a trek to the grocery store this morning!

A gourmet sandwich and soup made from the larder for dinner; and a cup of soup with buttery scones for lunch! I guess we’re glad we’re going to be inside while it snows – plus we can watch the wild card football game this afternoon at 3:30 while the snowstorm gets going outside.

Sounds pretty good to me!

“macro” bowl for dinner. . .

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

macro bowl of brown rice, avocado, yellow squash and salmon poke

Now that the holidays are over with all that rich food (I’m guilty!) I’m feeling like simplifying our food intake and making them appetizing at the same time. I studied macrobiotic cooking a long time ago when I had a viral condition for which Western medicine wasn’t helpful (they said you can’t treat viruses.) However, in Chinese traditional medicine, there’s a concept that parasites (viruses and bacteria) grow and thrive in “damp” conditions in the body. And so, if your diet is prepared to “dry out” the damp, then, there’s no place for them to hide. At least, that’s what I like about Eastern approaches to health and the body. That’s not to say that when I fractured my ankle a few years ago, that the orthopedic care I received in the Emergency Room was of the highest degree possible – the two orthopedic residents were so professional!)

Anyhow, I digress. The real reason for this post is that I’ve come across a way to prepare meals that might simplify the preparation time, but also offer us a nice way to eat healthy prepared meals without feeling deprived in any way. In fact, I think the presentation of macrobiotic foods (grains, vegetables and a little fish) in one-bowl will be fun. It also serves to customize the amount of food prepared so that there’s less chance for leftovers left in the fridge.

So tonight’s menu includes making salmon poke (pronounced “po-keh”) a Hawaiian version of sliced raw fish with soy sauce, a little wasabi and sesame seeds. The one-bowl presentation will include warm brown rice, cooked yellow squash with onions, sliced avocado and the salmon poke. The fish needs to be “sashimi-grade” for which I rely on my fishmonger’s advice. She cut a center piece and skinned it for me.

One unexpected benefit of the freshly cooked warm brown rice is that it gently heats the raw salmon without cooking it, making it even more tender and tasty.