mulberryshoots

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

“Potager” asparagus bread pudding! . . .

IMG_1006This dish is in the oven for our supper tonight. It’s the first meal I ever made for G. when we started dating. Actually, we hadn’t started dating because it was a first date, sort of. Over twenty-eight years later, it is just as pleasing as it was then and it’s a joy to revisit it.

Years ago, Georgeanne Brennan wrote a cookbook about French country cooking called “Potager.” Its name refers to growing herbs and tender lettuces in either pots on your kitchen steps or nearby in a garden plot near the kitchen door. The recipe calls for using old bread saved from crusts and ends of, in this case, homemade 10-grain bread. The bread is torn into pieces and soaks in milk until absorbed. In the meantime, fresh asparagus, a harbinger of new Spring, is cleaned, cut into 2-3 inch lengths and parboiled until bright green. Drained, the asparagus is added in layers with Fontina and Swiss cheese on top of the soft bread. An egg/milk mixture is poured over the casserole and ends with asparagus, cheeses and grated parmesan cheese with bits of butter on top of the dish*.

In a 350 degree oven, the casserole bakes for about 45 minutes. Cooled for about ten minutes, it’s ready to serve with perhaps a light, green salad with fresh oranges on the side.  It’s a sunny Spring evening with a light breeze coming in the windows – a perfect setting for a culinary reunion with an old friend!

*As there are two of us, I made half the recipe in a medium sized baking dish. For the published recipe, it will serve about 6 people and will need to be baked in a large baking dish. Be sure to bake the casserole the allotted time even if the cheese topping looks golden brown – otherwise the bread/egg mixture may not be cooked through.

 

“Katharine Hepburn” brownies. . .

IMG_0958After lunch today, I decided to try this recipe for brownies. It sounded classic and simple to make. Plus, I had recently purchased a tin of Hershey’s cocoa. There were some hazelnuts in the fridge that I toasted and cut up to add to the brownies.

I browned them in a little butter and then put them into a plastic bag. With the top side of a cleaver turned upside down, I gently whacked the nuts still in the bag on a cutting board until they were cut into medium sized chunks. Then, I added them to the melted chocolate, egg, vanilla and sugar/flour mixture.

Baked in a 325 degree oven for about a half an hour. Yummy!

rare roast beef . . . !

IMG_0947I’ve often avoided reasonably priced roast beef because they are usually a tough cut of meat, e.g., eye round, rump roast etc. When I read this recipe which instructed a very slow roast starting in a cold oven, it made lots of sense. High heat which sears meat will also make it contract. A cold oven roast will gradually increase the heat and cook the center to from 125 degrees for rare and about 130 for medium.

I tried the recipe yesterday for supper and it came out beautifully. For the final sear of the outside after it was done roasting, I used unsalted butter. I had sprinkled lots of Lawry’s garlic salt and coarse pepper on the roast when it rested in the fridge before cooking.

Now, there are slices of cold roast beef for more meals. I don’t think they will last the weekend, though!

homemade pizza for lunch! . . .

Homemade mushroom pizza for lunch!IMG_0916

Usually, I use a flatbread base and make a quick pizza with Ragu pizza sauce, Mozzarella cheese, fresh mushrooms, more cheese and parmesan cheese on top.

This morning, I found a quick pizza dough recipe and decided to try it out. I made 2/3rds of the recipe in order to ensure it would make a thin crust on my round baking pan.

Here it is: in a bowl, gently stir together 2 teaspoons yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 Tablespoon olive oil. With a spoon, stir in a cup of all purpose flour. Knead it gently, cover with a clean dishtowel and let it rise in a closed oven with the oven light left on. I did this around 10 a.m. and let it rise for about an hour and a half.

Sprayed the round pan with PAM, and spread the dough out with my fingertips to make a thin edge. With a soup spoon, I put on Ragu pizza sauce in a very thin layer on the crust. (Too much tomato sauce makes the pizza soupy.) Sprinkled a layer of Mozzarella Italian cheese mix on top with my hands.

Then cut up 4-5 large fresh mushrooms and laid them out in a pattern on the pizza. More cheese sprinkled on top and then grated fresh parmesan cheese over the whole thing.

Meanwhile the oven was heating up to 425 – and I baked it for about 12-15 min. and then boosted the heat to 450 until the pizza was golden brown. Slid it onto a cutting board and sliced it with a large knife.

The crust was tasty to eat – not doughy at all. And the rest of the pizza was delicious too.

angel hair alfredo with shrimp! . . .

IMG_0882
Here’s a fabulous recipe that I found on Youtube today.  I halved the recipe and used angel hair rather than fettucine pasta.
We enjoyed this dish so much for supper. I squeezed some fresh lemon on the pasta right before serving. I can say that this was one of the most delicious recipes we’ve enjoyed since the quarantine began.
A couple of things that made a difference were that I used a lot of spinach and it retained its presence and flavor plus the bacon I used was smoked maple flavor, adding a sweet/saltiness flavor to the Alfredo dish. We enjoyed it with a glass of Riesling wine – PERFECT!!

good afternoon cookies! . . .

IMG_0859Just made a small batch of chewy, crumbly oatmeal-golden raisin cookies. A simple recipe: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together 1 soft stick of butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup golden brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and an egg. Beat until fluffy.

Add 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt. Combine with creamed mixture at low speed. Add 1 1/2 cups of Quaker oats (not instant) and 3/4 cups golden raisins. Mix together and drop in lumps on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes in a 350 degree oven, taking them out when the tops have golden tips.

I used to make Toll House cookies and ginger snaps, but these are currently my favorite combination – especially the golden raisins! YUM!

chocolate roll cake! . . .

IMG_0844A couple of years ago, our favorite bakery in town was sold. Although the new owners kept making the cinnamon raisin swirl bread that my husband ate for breakfast all his life, the cinnamon was thinner and the raisins were hard to find. Likewise, the chocolate roll with filling that they made suffered the same consequences: very thin filling, irregularly placed so that one end of the roll was bare of filling — all the while the price went up a dollar per roll, and then another. This was their way of doing business which quickly drove this traditionally popular bakery into the ground.

Now, it’s closed, temporarily or not, but I’ve begun making the cinnamon swirl raisin bread with good results, using a challah bread dough recipe rich with eggs, golden raisins and an egg wash to hold the sugar/cinnamon swirl filling in place. Powdered sugar on top after the loaves cooled. Now that I’ve become comfortable with making these loaves, I decided to try my hand at the chocolate roll.

I’ve made jelly roll cakes before so the process of baking a thin sponge cake, rolled up with parchment while still warm was familiar to me. The filling ingredients, though, had me stumped. I looked at a few recipes online that specified a simple whipped cream filling that didn’t sound like what I had liked about the filling. As I recall, it was more robust than just whipped cream and it didn’t taste like cream cheese nor butter cream filling either.

Finally, I came across some recipes that sounded perhaps like the filling I remembered so fondly. It required butter, a dab of Crisco, Marshmallow Fluff (believe it or not) and powdered sugar. The combo of shortening plus the marshmallow and confectioners sugar seemed to make the filling more robust than just whipped cream.

So that’s what I made this afternoon. Can’t wait to try it out tonight for dessert. And, trust me, it wasn’t that hard to make! More creations resulting from the quarantine!

macaroni and cheese. . .

IMG_0758IMG_0760I haven’t made macaroni and cheese for a long time, but I’ve had it on my mind the past couple of weeks. Tonight, we had it for supper – and it turned out really well because I used sharp white cheddar cheese in a rustic cut. The cheese did well in a bechamel sauce of butter, flour, milk and cream – plus a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

I toasted the panko crumbs in a little melted butter and also grated some parmesan cheese into them before putting it on top of the macaroni and cheese.

We had a light plain green salad with a dressing with Japanese vinegar, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, Poupon mustard, Gravenstein balsamic vinegar and a drop or two of maple syrup. Sounds like a little overkill but it was refreshing and tasty!

homemade hummus – 2nd try! . . .

IMG_0714During the “stay-at-home” timeframe, I’ve used my trusty Cuisinart more than I have the whole twenty years up to now. I’ve made six loaves of bread, using the dough blade. It does an okay job of mixing the dough and processing the kneading part. It gets warm though, and the bread dough is elastic (and warm) when I set it in the large red mixing bowl to rise.

I’ve also used it to make hummus, the first time from chickpeas soaked, boiled and peeled which produced hummus to die for. So I thought I would be peeling chickpeas forever.

But wait! I bought two cans of Goya chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and made a new batch of hummus this morning. And guess what? I guess we’ll have to die twice! It is REALLY GOOD. Here’s what I did: a) drained a 15 oz. can of chickpeas; b) peeled and cut a large clove of garlic into little bits. c) stirred up Tahini and measured out a half cup; d) squeezed a lemon and saved the juice.

Put all of the ingredients into the processor. Added a dollop of good olive oil, Lawry’s garlic salt and some cracked pepper. Pulse until mixed, taste and added more lemon juice. Pulsed some more – but did not over process it with the “On” button.

The hummus was just as coarse textured (my preference) as the batch made from peeled chickpeas. YAY! And it only took about 10 minutes. Will be served with pumpernickel toast, fresh carrot sticks and some tomato soup for our lunch.

Now that I’m using it so often, I’ve made a place on my kitchen counter for the Cuisinart to live instead of having to lug it from the pantry every time I use it.

So, two new things during the quarantine: home made hummus and home-baked sandwich and cinnamon swirl bread. I’ve been tempted to get a Kitchenaid Pro 6 quart mixer to make the bread (2 min. = 12 minutes of kneading,) but I think I’ll keep using the Cuisinart until it wears out. Nice appliance.

homemade cinnamon swirl, raisin bread. . .

IMG_0702IMG_0706

Ever since I’ve known George, he’s had the same breakfast everyday. It’s 4 pieces of cinnamon swirl bread with raisins, toasted and drizzled with honey. During these times, the bakery which provided these loaves has closed. And we don’t know if and when they will open again.

Today, I made two loaves of cinnamon swirl bread with a dough enriched with an egg, honey and golden raisins. It’s brushed with an egg wash before adding sugar/cinnamon all over it and rolled up tightly to rise in the loaf pan before it’s baked.

The aroma of this bread baking was very fragrant!