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

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pan-fried barbecue chicken wings . . .

Cooking ahead for dinner tonight: I made barbecue chicken wings according to the pan cooked recipe by Jacques Pepin but changed the sauce that went on top of the cooked wings. In a dry non-stick skillet, I placed the wings, underside down and browned for 10 minutes. Turning them over, I made sure to move them around and to brown the second side well. In a bowl, I mixed together Osawha organic soy sauce, Chinkiang black vinegar and a healthy glug of honey. I stirred that together with a tablespoon of Siraicha sauce. When the wings were cooked on both sides, I brushed on the marinade with a basting brush and made sure there was enough to drip down in the skillet to cook both sides at once. I turned them over to even out the glaze/browning step. And here they are! If you’d like to make them crispier, I guess you could run the pan under the broiler before serving. Don’t think they need it though.

homemade butternut squash soup for lunch!

During the Winter months, we have soup almost every day for lunch. Today, I melted some butter, chopped up two shallots and sliced a peeled seeded butternut squash in small pieces. After it cooked a bit, I added a glug of sugar-free Vermont maple syrup and some chicken broth. It’s simmering on the stove now. When it’s soft, I’ll let it cool and then use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If it needs thickening, I let the puree simmer until desired consistency. Then, I add some light cream at the end. It smells divine!

a homemade mushroom pizza for lunch!

Katherine Evans

I live with my husband, George, in a house he created, filled with pianos. Life is long.

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Katherine Evans

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A homemade mushroom pizza for lunch! If you have flour and yeast in the house with a half box of white button mushrooms, a pizza is a good choice for lunch! I modified a recipe I had for the crust, making a smaller amount which turned out to be perfect for a 12 inch round pizza pan later on.

Here it is: a) Combine 1/3 cup warm water with a heaping teaspoon of dry yeast; 1/2 tsp. salt; 2 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 cup +/- of flour. That’s it; knead it gently and let rise for about an hour. Spray the pan with PAM and spread out the crust until it reaches the edges. With a big spoon, put some pizza sauce on top, barely covering the crust. Lay on some mozzarella cheese, sliced mushrooms and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 for about 15-20 min. until the bottom crust is golden. Then, I turn on the broiler to finish cooking the top. Be sure to peek at the crust bottom to make sure it’s cooked enough. Place the pizza on a cutting board and cut into wedges.

This one was the best one we’ve had so far. YUM!

homemade glazed donuts! . . .

I’m a big fan of football and two big games were scheduled for today. It seemed like a good time to make a special snack, one that I had wanted to try for a long time: homemade glazed donuts! So, I made a half recipe of Mark Bittman’s recipe from the NYTimes and they came out great! crispy crust, chewy and tasty with a thin glaze of confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla. I’m content to munch on these in lieu of supper – but I made a big salad of romaine hearts, fresh raspberries, honeybell orange and an whole avocado. Yum!

small buttermilk vanilla cake. . .

RECIPE: Separate 3 eggs; Soften 1 stick unsalted butter; beat 1 cup sugar with butter; add one yolk at a time. Stop and measure dry ingredients: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt. Add flour alternately with 1/2 cup buttermilk. Scrape bowl. Beat egg whites until very stiff. Fold them by hand gently into batter. Butter a 10 inch square pan or a smaller one. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for about 30 min. Let cool.

If you’d like to prepare the cake afterwards like the one shown above, here’s what I did.

When cool, slice the cake diagonally from corner to opposite corner. Take the cake out of the pan and add raspberry preserves thickly to the bottom of one piece. Set the other piece on top with the baked side up. Then turn the triangle towards you and slice it down the middle. Place the two baked edges back to back in the middle, forming a square.

Serve with freshly whipped cream. Yum!~

small Meyer lemon cake! . . .

To allay the ongoing stress that is in the ether of our country, I cleaned out the pantry today, discarded misfit plasticware, washed the rest in the dishwasher, steamed dumplings for lunch and made a small Meyer Lemon cake. Of that list, the cake is the most notable. I had four Meyer lemons that I juiced and seeded; grated some lemon peel and put the cake together in a wink of an eye. The recipe is super easy and the cake is super delicious:

Melt 1 stick unsalted butter; using a mixer, add 1 1/4 c. sugar (I used sugar in the raw) 2 room temp eggs, lemon zest, 1/3+ cup of fresh lemon juice, same amount of buttermilk; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 11/2 cups of flour. Mix well; grease a small pan and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is golden brown. Shake some confectioners’ sugar on top. Good served with fresh fruit too!

Christmas cinnamon rolls! . . .

Our family tradition is to have warm cinnamon rolls out of the oven while we open our presents together. This year, everyone is safely at home in Minneapolis, Gloucester, Arlington and Worcester. In spite of that, these will visually start our Christmas morning together, nevertheless! Merry Christmas everyone!

Here’s a half-batch recipe: Start dough the day before:

7/8 cup warm water1 package yeast1/4 c. granulated sugar1/2 Tb. salt1/2 egg unbeaten (I just use a bantam egg)2 T. soft butter3 cups flour
Mix the water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg, with the butter. Stir it well.
Add flour and mix well. If too wet, add a handful of flour. Knead lightly and smooth into a ball.Let it rise, covered with a cloth. Knead it down lightly and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap andstick it in the fridge on Christmas Eve.
In the morning, knead the dough down – add a little flour if needed.Shape into a rectangle and brush with melted butter.
Sprinkle with granulated sugar (I use raw sugar) and cinnamonRoll up the wide end and seal the edge.
Cut into roll size and lay them out in a buttered pan. Set them a little apart so they have room to rise.Before baking, brush the tops with more butter and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar.Heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake 20 min. or until they’re golden brown and cooked through.

SNOWSTORM SOUP! . . .

SNOWSTORM SOUP! Making a big pot of my vegetable beef soup for us to eat during the Nor-easter we’re supposed to get starting tonight and tomorrow. Here’s the basic recipe: 1) brown a beef shin in vegetable oil 2) add chopped vidalia onion, carrots, celery, green beans, zucchini squash and any veggies in the fridge that would go well; 3) add 2 cans of Hunt’s diced tomatoes (with oregano, etc.); 4) add 4 cans of filtered water; 5) add one Knorr beef gelatin pak. Simmer all day.

When the beef shin is cooked through, I take it out and cut up the beef pieces, discarding the cartilage and the bone. Add cut up potatoes mid-way and fresh cabbage at the end. Taste for whether the broth is too bland and add more Knorr beef gel if needed.

Enjoy with cornbread, biscuits or popovers!

Pumpkin cheesecake pie . . .

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and G. and I will have a dinner for two. I’ve simplified the menu (and the cooking!) to having two turkey thighs roasted over chestnut dressing, green beans, parsnips with maple syrup and popovers. Not making gravy or mashed potatoes this year. BUT, I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake pie for dessert, dressed with freshly whipped cream when served.

Traditionally, I start roasting and shelling chestnuts at the beginning of November, stockpiling them in the freezer to use in the stuffing. This year, for some reason, I didn’t see any chestnuts for sale anywhere! And the line was always too long for me to go to Trader Joe’s where they usually had Italian chestnuts on sale during this time of year.

So, I ordered a large of peeled, roasted chestnuts from Ardeche, France. I’ll stir them in with the shallots, butter and celery for the dressing, adding Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing, chicken broth, Bell’s Seasoning (a new box!) and fresh parsley. Lots of salt and pepper and moist enough to bake in the oven underneath the rack on which the turkey thighs will be roasting. I already rinsed them in cold water, dried them and brined them with salt and pepper on Monday, leaving them uncovered for a day and then with plastic wrap so the skin will be crisp when roasted, the drippings will fall into the chestnut stuffing underneath.

As for the pie, I made it this morning to space out the cooking effort, using a Pepperidge Farm pie crust, rolling it out so it would fit my large pie plate. I sprayed it with PAM first, laid out the crust, crimping the edge and filled it with ceramic pie beads on top of parchment paper after pricking the crust with a fork. I baked it for about 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. While the crust was baking, I used a mixer and beat together 8 oz. of Philadelphia cream cheese with a cup of sugar (1/2 white; 1/2 brown) until the cream cheese was smooth. Beat in 2 extra large eggs, vanilla and a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree, a dollop of molasses, a large teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Added 1/2 cup of heavy cream and blended the pumpkin mixture together. Poured it into the waiting par-baked crust and slid it into the oven for 45 min. Turned out it needed a little longer because the center was still jiggly. Left it in for another 10 minutes, then turned off the oven; opened the door and let the pie sit in the oven for 10 more minutes.

After it cooled completely, I covered the pie with plastic wrap and set it on the lowest shelf of the fridge to set until we eat it tomorrow night.

Happy Thanksgiving to all – and to all the patience to weather this extraordinary time, count our blessings and appreciate those who are near and dear to us.

homemade egg rolls for dinner! . . .

shrimp, cabbage and pork filling in cooked egg roll
a dozen homemade egg rolls for dinner!

Somehow, I woke up today thinking about making egg rolls for dinner. Maybe it was because we had thin sliced pork chops for supper last night and there was some stored in the freezer. I bought a small head of regular cabbage and some green onions.

For the filling, I sliced up the pork into very thin slivers, adding cooking sherry, a little soy and cornstarch to tenderize it before cooking. Defrosted four large shrimp, cleaned, cut them up and added cooking sherry and cornstarch. In a hot skillet lined with vegetable oil, I stir fried the chopped green onions, pork and shrimp. I kept them separated in the pan until they were almost cooked through. Added the sliced shitake mushrooms and stirred them together until cooked – then I emptied the skillet contents into a waiting bowl.

To a fresh skillet, I stir fried half of the cabbage sliced into fine slivers until cooked, adding the drained shrimp, pork mixture back into the pan. Cooked over medium heat and mixed the cabbage in with the rest of the filling. Turned off the heat, stirred it one more time and let it rest and cool until time to make the egg rolls.

The filling needs to be drained as much as possible so the liquid will not spurt while deep frying the egg rolls. It should be cooled completely before filling on an egg roll wrapper. When wrapping, take a square and position it with the point at the top; use your finger to wet the edges of the left and right slanted edges. Take some filling and start rolling it snugly until you can fold the left and right flaps over the middle, then keep rolling until you can seal the whole thing with the pre-moistened edges. The point of the wrapper will be facing you. (see photos)

When ready to deep-fry the egg rolls, heat up some vegetable oil to 2-3 inches in a deep saucepan or skillet. Take a chopstick and a small piece of filling to test whether the fat is hot enough – it should sizzle gently. Make sure that the egg rolls are sealed well before frying so that liquid doesn’t leak out and pop hot fat into the air. Cook 2 or 3 of them at a time, turning them until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain.

In parallel, I cook some Sapporo Ichiban ramen in its soup and add fresh spinach to the bowl when serving. Either miso soup or some kind of soup noodles is ideal as an accompaniment to the fried egg rolls. I usually put out a small dish of hoisin sauce with a little sesame oil and soy as a dip for the egg rolls.

My secret pleasure in making egg rolls is eating cold leftovers while watching TV at night. Who knew? Yum!

cabbage, pork and shrimp filling