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

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Chinese winter melon soup! . . .


Every time that I buy a wedge of fresh winter melon at the Asian market, I give consideration to how to cook it up before it gets neglected in the fridge. It is highly perishable and after it’s cleaned of seeds and the green peel sliced off, it can be sauteed with shitake mushrooms and chicken broth; or cut up and cooked in a classic winter melon soup.

So, today – while watching Nadal and Kyrgios slug it out at the Australian Open on TV, I took out a slab of smoked ham from the freezer and sliced up a three inch square piece of it into strips; made a broth of half chicken broth and half dashi, soaked about 7 dried shitake mushrooms until they were soft – sliced them up and added them along with slices of the winter melon sans the tough green outer skin.

This pot of ambrosia is now simmering on the stove. We’ll have it as a main course for tonight’s supper, along with some broiled teriyaki chicken legs. A cold salad of cucumber slices and wakame seaweed with soy, vinegar and honey should taste good as a contrast to the warm dishes.

Best of all, I’ll freeze whatever leftover winter melon soup there is and we’ll have it anytime we’d like it – and I’ll feel heartened knowing that it has all gone to good use!



soba noodles with cucumber & wakame. . .

IMG_0329Most of tonight’s supper is already made – I put it together after lunch so the flavors can meld together.

Heated up some boiling water to soak a handful of dried wakame seaweed. It volumes up quite a bit so not that much is needed for a generous serving. While the wakame is soaking, I boiled a half pot of water and added a packet of soba noodles (it comes 3 to a package, and cooked it for five minutes. In the meantime, I seeded and sliced thin strips of fresh cucumber – the regular kind.

When the soba noodles were cooked, I rinsed them in a sieve with cold water and fluffed them up with my fingers so they wouldn’t stick together. In a small bowl, I poured some Ohsawa soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey and sesame oil. I stirred it up and poured it over the wakame and cucumber mixture, mixing it together gently.

Then added the drained cooled soba noodles and added a tiny bit more soy sauce, mixing the entire dish with my hands. I’ll cover it with some plastic wrap and think about what else to cook for supper: maybe some eggplant and sweet potato tempura?


Easiest homemade apple tart ever! . . .

Here’s a shortcut method to make what looks like a French Patisserie glazed apple tart when it comes out of the oven. It requires only one Pepperidge Farm refrigerated pie crust and one large Cortland apple. Orange marmalade & butter, cinnamon and sugar.

  1.  On a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, spray with Pam and roll out one pie crust. With your fingers, smooth it in place on the cookie sheet so it fits.
  2. Peel and core the Cortland apple. Slice in very thin slices.
  3. Heat up 2 healthy spoonfuls of orange marmalade and 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Nuke until melted – stir together so combined. With a pastry brush, spread the marmalade/butter glaze all over the pie crust.
  4. Place apple slices in reverse order, row by row to make it interesting.
  5. Baste the apple slices with more marmalade/butter – sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden grown. Sprinkle a little fresh lemon juice on the cooked tart after it comes out of the oven.


homemade buttermilk biscuits! . . .

IMG_0323It snowed last night and George went out to remove the snow from the driveway this morning – about 4-5 inches. While he was outdoors, I heated up some vegetable beef soup from the freezer, adding more beef broth and fresh cabbage.

Because I had some buttermilk in the fridge, I decided to make some homemade biscuits. We ate them for lunch with bowls of hot soup – these were the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted. Why? They were crunchy crisp on the bottom and tops, and chewy in the middle. Here’s the recipe and process I followed.

I made a half batch with the following ingredients:

  1. in a food processor, measure all of the dry ingredients and pulse gently to mix together. 1.5 cups plus .25 cup flour; 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tsp. salt
  2. Cut up a cold stick of unsalted butter – lengthwise twice and then cut into small bits horizontally. Add the butter bits and pulse gently just until mixed and slightly grainy. Pour mixture into a bowl.
  3. Add 1 cup fresh buttermilk and mix gently together. Do not handle very much and just add a little flour if needed to not stick to the parchment paper surface you will shape the biscuits on.
  4. Press the dough out gently with your hands until it is about an inch thick. (Like pie dough, the less you handle biscuit dough, the more tender the result will be.
  5. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and place each layer onto the others. Press the dough down again to a single layer of dough – slice into 12 pieces and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper on it. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with Maldon salt on them.
  6. Place the biscuits on the sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes while the oven is warming up to 425 degrees.
  7. Place the biscuits in the oven and turn it down to 400 degrees right away. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the bottoms and tops.

Honestly, we all agreed these were the best biscuits EVER!! Will definitely make these again!



lentils to begin the New Year! . . .

IMG_0297I saw this recipe online and wanted to make lentils. The only steps I changed is that instead of 4 cups of water, I used 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups of water. In addition, I used only a teaspoon of dried thyme, not a tablespoon of fresh thyme.

The lentils cooked for exactly 28 minutes and then I shut off the heat. When it cools, I’ll add soy sauce, mustard and salt as instructed in the recipe. Can’t wait to taste it tonight for supper! Will also make some cornbread to go with it, and a green salad.

Happy New Year, everybody! And thanks for reading my blog!

stuffed mushrooms galore! . . .

IMG_0213(These photos are of the stuffed mushrooms ready for the freezer.)IMG_0217

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I’m having two different sets of guests – and wanted to make stuffed mushrooms as one of the side dishes for each meal. For many years, I’ve made them, sometimes using fresh crabmeat and sometimes not. Our local seafood market has been increasing the cost of fresh Maine crabmeat from $14.99, gradually now to $20.99. It’s the same stuff. But they hike it up especially for the holidays, something I think is both unkind and unnecessarily pushy to take advantage of customers.

So, this year, I decided to forego it. I was in Wegman’s this morning and they had large boxes of Bella mushrooms for sale – so I bought two of them, not knowing how many I would need for the two meals. When I got home, I emptied them out into a large pan and de-stemmed them all, wiping them if they needed it. I ended up with two bins of mushrooms, sorted by size. I did some research online to see what the best way would be to prepare them so that they tasted best four days from now. All advice pointed to freezing them stuffed ahead of time, and without cooking the mushrooms.

All right then, as Freddy Mercury used to say! For the stuffing, I peeled and finely chopped a fresh shallot instead of using garlic. I melted half a stick of unsalted butter and put in the shallots. I then chopped up some fresh Italian parsley and added that to the pan – it became aromatic pretty quickly with some Bell’s seasoning powder sprinkled on top. I noticed that I had two squares of leftover homemade cornbread from the other night, so I crumbled them by hand into the pan. Then, I added my good old stand-by – Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing crumbs – added a little chicken broth just to meld the stuffing together, but not for it to stick together. A little more Bell’s seasoning (it smells and tastes so good!) and I left the crumbly mixture to cool.

When it had cooled, I cut up some Philadelphia cream cheese (which was sitting out at room temperature) and with two small knives, I cut the cream cheese into the stuffing until it was pretty well incorporated. Then, according to some online advice, I put a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and with a spoon and my fingers, I filled the largest mushrooms first – pressing the filling into the mushrooms and placing them on the parchment paper. I created a level space in my freezer (this might have been the hardest part of the whole exercise!) and placed the sheet of stuffed mushrooms to freeze. Most instructions said 3 hours should be enough time for them to freeze solid.

When frozen, the stuffed mushrooms can then be put into freezer bags or lined up in serving course containers until ready to cook. For that, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the frozen mushrooms directly on into baking dishes sprayed with Pam. Bake for about 30 minutes or so until browned on top and cooked through. I won’t know for a few days how these will taste but I’ll add a footnote and photos when we have them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fingers crossed!~ and happy holidays, everyone~!



beef vegetable soup on a rainy Sunday. . .

It’s been raining hard all day – and it looks like it’s going to keep raining during the late afternoon kickoff for the Patriots vs. Cowboys football game. So, I put together a robust beef vegetable soup for our dinner tonight:IMG_0144

1. Browned a chopped Vidalia onion in olive oil

2. Added four large beef rib soup bones to brown

3. Added spring water to cover, frozen mixed vegetables, a can of stewed diced tomatoes and stirred the soup together, letting it simmer with the top on.

4. Cut up small yellow potatoes into fourths with the skins on; after a couple of hours, removed the soup bones, separated the beef pieces from the cartilage and bones, added meat back into the soup.

5. Sliced cabbage and added to soup. Tasted for flavor and added 2 spoonfuls of  beef flavor “Better than Bouillion” to deepen the beef taste. Simmered soup, covered for another hour or so.

Will serve for supper with sliced Pannetonne bread on the side. YUM


maple-oatmeal scones! . . .

IMG_0098I’ve made this recipe for maple-oatmeal scones before. I used a fancy round cutter and they were pretty and pretty tasty too. This time, I halved Ina Garten’s recipe and used my Cuisinart to process the very cold unsalted butter with the dry ingredients. Took only a couple of pulses (because I cut the hard butter into small pieces before putting them into the processor.

The dough was sticky and I didn’t handle it much – just added a few pats of flour where it was really moist. Patted it into a rectangle and cut the scones with a serrated knife into triangles, transferring them to a baking sheet with parchment paper on it. I forgot to brush egg wash and sprinkle oats on them before baking. But almost baked to the end but still light colored, I opened the oven, swished them with egg wash and sprinkled oats on the top. Then, back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so.

Tonight, we’re having grilled chicken thighs, yellow squash with bacon and these maple oatmeal scones. They look much lighter, puffier and more delicious than the first time around. Yum!~


baked apples! . . .

DSCN9394A friend gave me some freshly picked baked apples a few weeks ago. I cored them and stuffed the apples with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, golden raisins and walnuts. Baked in an oven for about an hour at 350 degrees, the apples ballooned up and looked luscious when cooked.

They tasted even better than they looked – with a little cream in the bowl alongside the warm apple. I think I like these even better than when they’re baked in a pie!



cream scones for tea! . . .


A friend is visiting tomorrow and we’re going to enjoy a lunch with tea sandwiches and a cream tea with scones. I made the scones today so as to be free to make the sandwiches tomorrow. The scones keep at room temperature, lightly covered.

I used the cream scone recipe from Bon Appetit because it called for mixing chilled butter with the flour mixture by hand. It also allowed for patting out the dough and cutting it into triangles with a knife, or cutting them out with cutters. I used a scalloped cutter and a square one.

Before baking them in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, I brushed the tops with cream and sprinkled demerera sugar on them  (which I used in the recipe too.)

Tomorrow, I’ll heat them up briefly in the oven, split them and fill with warm raspberry jam and creme fraiche. Lapsang Souchang tea alongside. Yum Yum!