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

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hot korean shrimp, green beans and mango salsa . . .

DSCN9133.jpgDSCN9130.jpgI remember reading a recipe for a broiled shrimp and green beans using Korean hot sauce a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t have any at the time so I waited for some to arrive on my Amazon conveyor belt! It’s called Korean chili gochujang sauce and I thought I’d open it today to make a marinade for some extra-large shrimp from the freezer and French green beans from Trader Joe’s.

As I recall, the recipe called for two tablespoons of the hot sauce, some soy sauce, grated garlic and fresh ginger root and honey.  I had a batch of homemade teriyaki sauce (soy, mirin, sake, sugar heated and cooled) and added a couple of tablespoons to the mix. Squeezed in some fresh lime juice. Sounds like a classic combo, doesn’t it? That recipe didn’t call for parboiling the beans, but as I make Asian green beans quite often, I find that it’s an essential step before finishing the beans either in the skillet or under the broiler. After trimming the ends, I boiled a handful of beans for about 15 minutes, drained them well, rinsing under cold water. When they had cooled, I dumped them into the plastic bin that held the marinade, shook them up and left them to absorb the sauce. Two thirds of the marinade had already been siphoned off for the shrimp in their shells.

The recipe called for heating the broiler and placing the baking sheet of beans and shrimp as close to the heat as possible. Instead, I think I’ll put it on a top level but not right up to the top. I’ll broil the beans first, turning them over with tongs as they cook. When they’re close to being done, I’ll place the shrimp on the sheet until just cooked. This meal might be a little messy to peel the shrimp from their shells, but I can guarantee you that the shrimps will be more tender with all the flavor of the shells than if cooked unshelled. But that’s our preference.DSCN9126

To go along with the heat in the shrimp and beans, I’m serving couscous with pine nuts at room temperature in a bowl. And to complement the meal, I made some fresh honey mango salsa: 2 peeled ripe mangoes, chopped red onion, fresh lime juice and fresh cilantro leaves – chilled in the fridge while everything else was cooking away.


“pillow (covering) talk” . . .


Do you sometimes get the urge to change the cushions on your sofa but don’t want to pay $49 a pop for new covers? I had three 20 X 20 inch pillows that I found at TJ Maxx in June.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of changing the look and using some Japanese fabric that I’ve collected over the years. As I wrapped one up to preview how it might look, I folded the back together like a gift wrap with straight pins. I did another one in a different fabric, and then the third.

To fasten them semi-permanently, I’ll probably sew them lightly together or even try out some double-sided fabric tape for easy removal later. This process also skips having to dig out the sewing machine, hand hemming and wasting fabric that you can’t use for anything else – except to make pincushions!

I’m posting this description and photos to illustrate how easy it is! And how flexible this “gift wrap system” might be for those who like to change things around a lot – but not having to cut into fabric that will be useless for anything else later. These fabrics can also used later on as table runners or coverings to hide the foodstuffs in your pantry!

Oh, and the dimensions for each piece of fabric were approximately 28-30 inches length of a 44-45 inch wide piece of fabric. So, for a little less than a yard of fabric, who knows what the possibilities might be?

P.S. I’m staying with the three blue striped “covers” for now.

chicken liver pate redux! . . .

fullsizeoutput_7cdWe’ve had a long heat wave up here in Massachusetts and today seemed like a good time to make some chicken liver pate to have on hand in the fridge. It’s especially good served on Triscuit crackers or whole grain toast (Dave’s 21 seed thin bread) for a lunch or a snack. Sliced cucumber and cream cheese would be good on the whole grain bread too, sliced in fingers like British tea sandwiches.

I was going to post the recipe I followed this morning but double-checked my previous posts on this topic and found that the steps are the same except I used one hard boiled egg instead of two. The Madeira sherry makes this dish although I noted previously that Marsala was okay too. Not.

So, I thought I’d leave it at that and provide a photo I took this morning. I’m looking forward to enjoying this savory treat during a slightly cooler time.


a chocolate sour cream cake . . .

DSCN9104For the past few days, it’s been a heat wave here in Massachusetts similar to the Eastern seaboard and most of the Mid-West. I haven’t wanted to turn on the oven but today, I thought it might be nice to bake a small chocolate sour cream cake. I don’t recall making chocolate cakes without sour cream because it gives the crumb so much richness and moisture. You don’t need many ingredients and this is the kind of cake that you can make on the spur of the moment with what you have in the pantry.

I used a recipe among the numerous ones on the internet, mostly because it seemed simpler and less contentious than many with comments too numerous to mention. I also like to bake the cake not in a metal pan, but in a buttered fluted white porcelain casserole pan, one of my favorites because of its size and graceful appearance. Here’s the recipe I followed, halving one that was online:

1/2 cup Hershey’s cocoa

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, testing doneness with a toothpick

Steps; 1) Melt butter and stir with sugar, vanilla and eggs; 2) Loosely measure flour, add baking soda and powder, salt and stir into creamed mixture. 3) Boil water, measure out half a cup and add cocoa, mixing with a fork until melted and smooth. 4) Add chocolate mixture to batter; gently mix together and 5) add 1/2 cup of sour cream, folding it in without overmixing. 6) butter pan, fill it with batter and bake in oven until toothpick comes out clean. Cool.

I also made a scrumptious topping that is a combo of chocolate ganache and cream cheese because that’s what I had on hand: a half bag of Toll House semi-sweet chips; combined with half cup of heavy cream heated to almost boiling. Stir until melted and add about a third stick of Philadelphia cream cheese, stirring until smooth. I chilled it in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then added this “frosting” to the cooled cake.


cool as a cucumber . . . salad!

DSCN9100It’s the middle of July, and even though it’s hot, it’s dry today and we’ve had a fairly cool breeze find its way through the house. For tonight’s supper, I thought I’d try out the cucumber-peach salad recipe that came in my Bon Appetit magazine that arrived yesterday.

As usual, I simplified and adapted it a little since it was meant to serve 6 and we’re just the two of us. I used the small crunchy persian cucumbers (2) and 2 ripe white nectarines. This stone fruit is more reliably juicy, tasty and not mushy as some peaches are sometimes wont to be. I sliced the cucumber more thinly than usual, and cut the fruit into small diagonal segments, not full slices.

The dressing calls for a chopped shallot, salt, white wine vinegar, lemon and lemon zest. I have champagne white vinegar in the cupboard and picked up some fresh Meyer lemons today. Yummy!

The only ingredient I had to go out to the store for was feta cheese, which I don’t often have on hand. After dropping off a package at UPS, I went to the grocery store found a small bin of crumbled feta cheese. So, the salad is all set to put together, along with fresh basil and mint, torn up on top of it when ready to serve.

In addition to this salad, I had three almost black bananas in the fridge that I’ve been too lazy to throw out and equally lazy to do anything with them. I decided to make some banana walnut muffins with golden raisins – feeling rather virtuous about salvaging the bananas, but frustrated that I couldn’t find the muffin baking pan. Fortunately, I did find some paper cups to bake them in, and besides the fact that they look floppy, they’ll be fine. At least, I think they’ll taste great even though they look funny!

Before I made the banana muffins, I had taken some large shrimp out of the freezer and defrosted them. No hot deep frying them tonight to make shrimp tempura, I’m just going to boil them until cooked, chill them and serve them in the shells with some Meyer lemon mayo (Hellmann’s.)

So that’s it! I’ve been in a rut with dishes I’ve been cooking too often lately and so this is new combo for dinner tonight: cold shrimp, cucumber and nectarine salad with feta and banana walnut muffins. Oh, and for dessert, we’re looking forward to sharing the last of the key lime pie I made a few days ago. Yum!

a cool dish for a hot night . . .

We live in New England – and it’s forecasted to be hot and humid tonight – around 88 degrees today. So, this morning, I made part of our supper for tonight – cold soba noodle, persian cucumber and wakame seaweed salad. I happen to have a boat load of soba noodles in my cupboards so that was easy to find, boil water and cook on the stove. I drained it, spritzed it with very cold water and then drained it well again.

For the cucumbers, they’re the small ones that you get in packs of 5 or 6 at the grocery store. I like them because they’re very crunchy and less full of seeds and juice compared to the bigger ones. After I cut off the ends, I quarter-cut them (cut on a slight angle, turn it a quarter, cut, turn, cut, turn) until you have small chunks of cucumber. In parallel, I heated up some water and soaked some dried wakame to reconstitute the seaweed. A little bit goes a long way and I usually use too much. This time, I used half of what ballooned up in the soaking liquid. Rinsed it with cold water and chopped it up into smaller pieces, draining it well.

In a small bowl, I mixed together some homemade teriyaki sauce (soy, mirin, sake, sugar heated in a pan and cooled, kept in an old honey jar,) Marukan seasoned rice vinegar, Asian chili sauce, honey and sesame oil. Tasted it and added a little more vinegar to make it more piquant. Shook it up in a small jar and then added it to the drained soba noodles, cucumber and wakame seaweed. Mixed it together gently, covered it with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge until tonight. DSCN9087

With the soba noodles, I’m planning to prepare some extra-large shrimp, either stir fried in the shell with ginger, scallion and garlic or fry as tempura with hoisin sauce dip. There’s a brand of “colossal” size shrimp that I keep in my freezer so that I can take out a handful for meals like this. They’re now thawing in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter.

So that’s it for tonight. I’ve been striving to cook two dishes a meal for supper – rather than the usual 3, so combining vegetables with noodles is a good option, made in many ways – also with risotto (Lundberg parmesan risotto or Near East couscous with pine nuts.)  Last night, I sauteed cut-up asparagus with the risotto and have also done the same with zucchini and mushrooms to add to couscous. Handy & dandy too!

a small sponge cake . . .

DSCN9056DSCN9061DSCN9062To celebrate the last batch of seasonal strawberries, I made a small sponge cake this morning that’s baking in the oven right now. It’s a recipe that I have made many times in its regular size with fresh sliced plums on top, sprinkled with sugar.

But for this little treat, I halved the recipe and baked it in a 5 inch cake pan. Here’s all it requires:

1/2 stick unsalted butter (soft or melted)

1/2 cup turbinado sugar (the grainy sugar is nicer than fine white sugar)

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt (which I forgot)

Cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla by hand – beating it gently until mixed together. Add flour, baking powder, salt  and blend well. Butter a small baking pan and fill it with the cake mixture. Preheat the oven to 345 degrees (a little less than 350 because the baking pan is dark metal.) The cake took about 25 minutes to bake.

Later tonight,  I’ll serve the cake with some prepared strawberries (I sliced them up this morning and added some sugar and fresh lemon.) Then, whip up a little heavy cream and add a dollop or two on the strawberry topped sponge cake. Delicious!



“Faux” Pho . . .

IDSCN9000I’m usually a purist when it comes to cooking. You know, making bone broths and homemade stocks, storing quart tubs of them in the freezer to use for various dishes. But when it comes to making Vietnamese Beef Pho broth, I’ve decided to take a short cut by not making the beef stock from scratch. That’s because it requires 10 pounds of beef bones, a beef brisket for the stock – and THEN, a choice piece of beef to thinly slice and place on top of the Pho before you add the broth (a kind of inverse Shabu Shabu way to cook the raw beef.

As a first step, I trimmed the bone off of a beef strip steak and put it in the freezer to harden up so as to make it easier to make very thin slices with a sharp knife to serve on top of the Pho. I put the bone into two cups of spring water and cooked it for about 45 minutes, skimming off the scum that rises to the top. Once that was cleared, I added one box of Emeril’s organic beef broth. To this combination, I added some Vietnamese Pho spices in a cheesecloth bag and set the heat on low. DSCN8998

After simmering the beef broth spice mixture for an hour, I let it cool a little and tasted it. Disappointingly, it tasted watery and lacked flavor. I added a half gelatin of Knorr beef flavor and it still tasted very bland. So in the rest went. After that, I added about half a teaspoon of instant Dashi granules – (probably substituted for fish sauce which I couldn’t find in the fridge.) After these additions, the broth started to taste quite a bit better – especially after the dashi was added. Next time, I might try College Inn robust beef flavor and see how it does. In any case, it tasted more robust than the tepid pho broth I had in a restaurant a few weeks ago.

Anyhow, I sliced up the semi-frozen beef strip steak and it looked appetizing. Running the hot water, I soaked a section of Vietnamese rice noodles which will be boiled briefly when soft. On a platter,   I set out rinsed Thai basil with purple edges, fresh bean sprouts, a lime, hoisin and siraicha sauces to dip the beef slices in the hot bowl.

So. Would I do this again? Definitely – but I would look for a more robust starting beef broth than the Emeril brand I tried this time. And who knows, maybe I’ll take on the multi-hour task of making making the beef broth after all,  but not in the summertime. I’ll do another run at this again soon – and see if I can capture what hours of cooking produces without actually doing it.

Footnote: After all the hand-wringing about the broth, the dish, with the sliced beef on top was surprisingly tasty – the fresh bean sprouts, lime and condiments all added to this light supper on a warm night.


a cool supper on a warm night!

DSCN8933It’s Saturday and we enjoyed a casual platter of romaine, persian cucumber spears, sliced campari tomatoes with fresh basil, coarse pepper and a nice pile of cooked shrimp. The centerpiece of this feast was a bowl of homemade Ranch dip which made everything taste delicious! Alongside were some warm biscuits from the oven and after dinner, some chocolate chip walnut cookies.

This idea came from a Pinterest photo of a half head of romaine sitting on a board with some creamy dip topped with coarse pepper, some barbecued meats and so on. It stuck in my head as I went to the store and picked up some packets of Ranch salad dressing and dip mix. I’ve always liked the taste of freshly made dip because it contains sour cream, a little Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a little whole milk. How thick or thin it is depends on you. I mixed it up and it was a little runny, so I scooped in another big dollop of sour cream, stirred it together – and tasted it. Really yummy. It’s particularly good with cut up spears of the small Persian cucumbers – crunchy and so tasty!

I was thinking that if we had a bigger crowd, I could add some prosciutto ham, rolled up, deviled eggs with smoked paprika, and more fresh basil cut up and sprinkled all over along with other herbs from the kitchen planter: cilantro, parsley, thyme. Cut up fresh lemon adorned the plate – for squeezing on your shrimp or other vegetables.

We enjoyed this way of eating a lot – and will try other combinations for evenings when it’s too warm to cook (except to bake some biscuits!)




DSCN8925The other day, G. said in a kidding voice that he’d like “pizza and beer” before the Stanley Cup Game 5 tonight. As you might know, the Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara was hit by a deflected puck and broke his jaw in Game 4. Alas and alack! More injuries for  our home team, the Bruins. So we’ll have to see how the Bruins do tonight with so many injured players.

Earlier, I was going to take the easy way out and make an “easy” pizza using whole wheat tortillas, sauce, cheese and mushrooms. But this morning, I read a review of a pizza place in New York that made little round puffy pizza pies that looked delectable.

So, I looked up a pizza crust recipe, an easy one mixed in a food processor and let to rise just a little while before storing away in the fridge. And just like the recipe, the ball of dough came together with a little olive oil, salt, yeast and warm water. I kneaded it as the recipe directed – making a 6 X 8 rectangle, making indentations with my fingers, folding it one third, then the other side. Wrapped it back together and let it rise on the kitchen countertop. Pushed it back down, divided into two balls and set it in the fridge until dinnertime.

I’m kind of excited to have made the crust. I’ve tried it before but this one seems more promising. When the time comes, I think I’ll make two small puffy rounds, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and then thinly slice fresh mushrooms on top. The directions say to spread out the crust on parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal, then set the baking sheet in a very hot pre-heated oven (450 degrees) and bake until the pizzas are done, no more than about ten minutes. Sprinkle fresh basil leaves on top just before serving. Yum!

If these turn out well, I’m game to make more pizza crusts to freeze and perhaps fine tune the recipe so that we’ll be able to enjoy margherita pizzas at home, right before the night of any game – and be happy eating our own little pizza in front of our TV set!