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

summer fruit pie! . . .

DSCN9185I had planned to make a small batch of chocolate chip cookies this afternoon but couldn’t find the Nestle’s chips in the pantry. So, I looked around in the fridge and rescued four white nectarines from the fruit drawer.

After peeling them, I cut them into small chunks, added a half handful of flour and mixed it together with some turbinado sugar. I toasted some walnuts and golden raisins, adding them to the fruit and tossed them together. Into a defrosted Pillsbury crust, dotted the fruit mixture with unsalted butter, closed up the pastry into a small loaf shape and sprinkled the outside with a cinnamon/turbinado sugar mixture.

Preheated the oven to 375 degrees and set it into the oven to bake for half an hour or so. Plan to serve it with scoops of vanilla ice cream for dessert tonight. Yay!

updated ice box cake! . . .

DSCN9163DSCN9161DSCN9168Do you remember the chocolate wafer/whipped cream ice box dessert that your family might have enjoyed in the 50’s or 60’s? I’ve made it recently and it’s always a big hit – never mind that it’s so easy to put together with no baking required. This morning, I read an article in the Sunday Telegram and Gazette syndicated from the Washington Post containing new ideas for making ice box cakes. Suggestions for using alternative “cake” fillings got me looking at other crispy cookies at the grocery store. “Tate” cookies from Long Island were on sale, 2/$5.00 and I brought home two bags of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I had wanted something toasty almondy but this sounded good too.

Because this ice-box cake idea relies on chilling the cake for 6-8 hours before serving, I took out my mixer when I got home and whipped up a pint of heavy whipping cream and started to put the dessert together. I wasn’t altogether sure about what kind of container to use, and I ended up using a smallish glass loaf baking pan.

To begin, I spread the whipped cream over the bottom and up the sides of the glass loaf pan. Then, I lay the cookies out to cover a layer, breaking some up to fill in the bare spots. A layer of whipped cream went on top, then more cookie layers. We usually like our whipped cream without other flavors like sugar or vanilla – so it’s just plain whipped cream for our dessert. I was careful to lay the whole cookies in different places for each layer so that the weight distribution would be shared over the dessert layers. Two packs of cookies left me with about 5 layers of dessert and three cookies left over.

To store it in the fridge, I put toothpicks in the four corners and gently laid plastic wrap over the whole thing, securing it to the outside of the glass dish. It’s just before noon now, so it’ll have about 7 hours before we take it out and serve it. I’ll be curious about how it will be to serve this out of the glass loaf pan, but we’ll figure that out later, I guess.

Will post photos of the cake when we serve it tonight.


‘quick as a wink’ dessert! . . .

DSCN9136.jpgHave you ever been told that guests might be coming over after dinner, and you don’t have anything really suitable to serve? Not Danish dropped off by the mailman. Not day-old fruit salad even though it still looks good. Not ginger molasses cookies that I bought for my husband which he wants for himself. So what then?

I made this quick apple tart dessert and by the time it baked in the oven, took less than 45 minutes altogether. I happened to have some ready-made Pillsbury pie crusts in the fridge (always do!)

On a piece of aluminum foil covered baking sheet sprayed with Pam, I placed a pie crust on it and quickly crimped the edges to make it look like a pastry. Meanwhile the microwave was heating up a third of a jar of Seville orange marmalade and a chunk of butter (probably 2 tablespoons.) Mixed together, I used a pastry brush and slathered the melted butter/jam glaze all over the bottom of the pie crust. I had some medium-size honey crisp apples in the fridge and cored ONE apple without peeling it. On a cutting mat, I used a very sharp knife and cut the cored pieces into very thin slices.

There’s a nice pattern of French apple tarts with a lineup of apple slices going in one direction and then the other two rows beside it going in an opposite direction. You’d be amazed at how this simple trick makes the dessert look1. After the apples were laid out, I used the rest of the marmalade/butter mixture and spread it over the top of the apples. To top it off, I mixed about 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkled it lightly before putting it into a 400 degree preheated oven.

About 18 minutes later, voila! – a glazed apple tart fit for company! After it cooled slightly out of the oven, I squeezed a tiny rib of fresh lemon over the top. Smelled wonderful and brightened up the sweetness of the fruit.


P.S. I’ve also made this using peaches, white nectarines or plums. Might then vary the jam glaze: sour cherry, raspberry, like that.

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!