Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rustic Texas Marmalade

We may have created a new holiday tradition. Or I may have just moved my non-cooking friend Bonnie a little bit closer to cooking. Either way, the marmalade we made just before Christmas turned out to be beautiful jewels, lovely sweet/bitter treats, if a tad "rustic".

I used an Alton Brown recipe and as not uncommon to me and many cooks, skipped over the part involving equipment I did not own, ie a mandoline for slicing the oranges paper thin. Actually I didn't even work too hard at slicing the oranges, lemon and grapefruit particularly thin at all. Hence, when you spread this marmalade on your toast, you need to be prepared for some chewing and/or navigating around the big bits. But the flavor in the jelly parts makes it all worthwhile. And think of the fiber!

We used Texas grown organic oranges (not pretty and kinda small) and one gorgeous Rio Grande Valley Texas grapefruit, and a couple lemons - I think some Grand Marnier too (can't remember...). Hence Bonnie's labels: Rustic Texas Marmalade.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another apple enthusiasm

After using up the Paula Reds (see below) in applesauce, bought the next bag to catch my eye at the local grocery in MI: Ginger Golds from Friske Orchard which is about 40 miles from us. Good eating out of hand. Small apples, kinda yellow but not as bright as Granny Smith. Very nice sweet tart flavor. Not something our ancestors enjoyed as are apparently a 20th century apple, created when an orchard crashed in VA due to Hurricane Camille and the owner found an accidental hybrid sometime later. Nice accident.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Beware Californians bearing fake cake

As we were wined and dined at their cottage last summer, our neighbors from the LA area and who spend 4 weeks in Northern Michigan each summer, were invited to dinner at our house last week. Husband Bob "caught" some really nice fresh salmon at the Tiki Fish Market. I roasted the home grown baby potatoes the tile man had gifted us with, ditto some green beans and threw together a lovely green salad with ranch dressing. But the piece de resistance which I was hugely proud of and salivating over all day, was going to be The Driskill's 1886 Room Chocolate Sheet Cake (Driskill = historic Austin TX hotel), which has got to be the best chocolate almost anything I have ever put in my mouth. In case you want to slam down the laptop and go to it right now, here's the recipe from Texas Home Cooking:


1 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup water

1/2 heaping cup cocoa (secret #1: Hersey's dark)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs beaten lightly

1 cup buttermilk (secret #2)

2 teaspoons vanilla (have used liquer of some sort before eg Cherry Herring, Cointreau)

1 heaping teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 heaping tablespoons cocoa

3-4 tablespoons half and half

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup chopped pecans toasted (yes, you need to do this step)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat over to 350. Grease and flour 9X13 pan.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add water and cocoa, stir well. Sift together flour, sugar, salt and stir into the chocolate mixture. In another bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda and add to the chocolate mixture. Pour into cake pan and bake 30 minutes oruntil toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Melt butter with cocoa in another pan (can be smaller) over medium heat. Add the half and half, heat. Mix in the remaining ingredients ie nuts, blend well and remove from heat. Pour over cake while both are warm hopefully covering cake somewhat evenly but icing will flow to lowest points.

Unfortunately our guests arrived - bearing a (so called) chocolate cake! Turns out this was a Weight Watchers version made from (wait for it...) black beans and (I am not kidding) chocolate cake mix! The flavor was OK but the texture was something like chewing on chocolate erasers. I dutifully put a small piece of it next to the real thing on each plate although no one (even the Weight Watcher herself) opted to forego the real thing. Can't ever see making this kind of substitution a lifestyle choice, regardless of the wasteline.

Accidental best lasagna ever

Bought a box of those pre-cooked lasagne noodles on impulse - still don't trust them entirely. Had some left-over fresh tomato sauce from a previous pasta dish. Brought home a pound of ground chuck and some shredded mozzarella. That's as far as the planning went. Had to substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta and threw in a layer of spinach just for fun. Oh...also a little nutmeg on top of the spinach and meat as I've been craving Greek food lately. Stretched some spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes and built some layers. The best improv was that I didn't buy enough mozarella so had to cut little circles from the mozarella snack sticks and threw them over the top along with some shavings from a rind of old parmesan. Voila. Who wudda thought.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Michiganders brave Mexican

Been meaning to invite the locals who live up the hill and decided they would be a good match to the annual renters next door as some common ground as retired teachers and boat people. One in fact is a retired Spanish teacher. Being mostly non-drinkers and un-accustomed as they are to cocktails of any sort, I cut them off at one (powerful and from scratch) Marguerita and then served the following:

Chips & Chili con Queso
Cucumber Salad with Tarragon
Fresh Guacamole
Wayne's Wonderful $50 Beans
Southwestern Beef Fajitas with fixings:
Pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, peppers, onions
Blueberry/Blackberry Tart
Sadly, failed to convert one of the native Michiganders who ate her fajita totally plain on a bare plate, and did not experiment with any new flavors, but the rest seemed enthused and ate with enthusiasm. NOTE to cook: not much actually cooking here but way too much preliminary prep required - think again before agreeing to this menu next time even if hubby begs!

Paula Red's ready

Couldn't resist the bag of "local" apples at the store last week - harbinger of the fall season. Never heard of Paula Reds but from a well known local orchard. Apparently a recent variety, discovered in Michigan and named for the grower's wife (nice). Make good eating and good applesauce so I better get busy.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Something I just found out about butcher blocks - who knew?

How to Clean a Butcher Block

Method #3 is the part I was interested in. Read about having to rub the cutting boards with salt every night after the day's work was done in the butcher shop in
Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsessions
by Julie Powell, the author of the previously fascinating Julie and Julia about cooking through Julia Child's cookbook. The more recent one is about her apprenticing as a butcher but in between rhapsodies about eating fresh liver, she goes on and on about her problems being married to a perfect man while lusting for another. It gets a tad tired, but overall, still learned a lot about meat. Like how to clean up after.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Feeding Texans Locally

We did have several memorable meals last week when we had three female houseguests for three full days and approximately...was it 10 meals?. Lots of talking. Lots of eating...and more eating.
For the first evening meal we bought frozen Perch from local fish market and I fried them. Have learned not to try and get fancy with fried fish. Dregged in flour, slightly seasoned with S/P and Paprika. Very hot canola oil spiked with leftover bacon grease in the bottom of the cast iron skillet. Tend to be impatient with the first ones when the oil is not quite hot enough. Final batches always come out the best. Made tartar
sauce with my homemade B&B pickles.
All yum. All fun.

Happy Cinnamon Roll Birthday Cake

Made this for Bob's birthday instead of a cake. I think he kindly didn't mention that they're really not alot like his favorite Cinnabons. Mine actually have real ingredients, not alot of air and way less icing and are labor intensive! It's the thought that counts, right?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I just want a good cup of coffee please

Much coffee angst. Broke old Krups glass carafe, discontinued. Read reviews. Studied up on Cooks Illustrated equipment reviews. Selected high end Krups discounted appropriately on Amazon. Looks nice, doesn't it? Nothing but problems...hard to see how much water going in, drips when pour, and weak coffee to boot! Amazon supplier has agreed to take it back so guess I will pack it up. Believe I will go and get $20 Black & Decker at Wall Mart. I need my coffee.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Missing El Fenix

Seriously multi-tasking yesterday morning, I had 3 things working at once. The ice cream maker was humming on vanilla ice cream, a small saucepan was bubbling with the packaged bread and butter pickle mix; and I was regularly stirring and tasting the Cowpoke Beans, which finally took almost 3 hours to get tender - which took alot of tasting. Fortunately I did not cross contaminate any of the three and all turned out just as they should.

Especially the beans were interesting. Served the Cousins and Aunt Gail with Fajitas, beans and gucamole last night. We imitated our favorite menu items at El Fenix as best we could given the geographical disorientation. Except El Fenix serves refried beans with the Sizzling Fajitas and these beans were more like what they serve at Herrara's, another Tex-Mex place we frequent for a change of pace, and mostly for the beans. There they put Pinto Bean Soup in front of you as soon as you sit down and this recipe is very similar and seems very homestyle Mexican. Very interesting depth of flavors. The use of Coke is intriguing and probably more from the Southern cooking tradition.

Recipe from Texas Home Cooking of course.

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight

8 cups water

12 ounces Coca-Cola

1 14 1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained

1 1/2 medium onions, choppeed

1/4 to 1/2 cup tomato-based BBQ sauce (made this the night before...almost like Sonny Bryans')
2-3 slices slab bacon, chopped

3 Tablespoons chili powder (I substituted red papper flakes+powered cumin+tabasco)

2 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce

4 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 fresh serranos or 2-3 jalapenos, minced (used jalapenos as we are wimpy)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground (this is going too far...powered did fine)

1 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste - added at finish.

In a big pot, combine all except salt. Bring to boit then reduce to simmer. Cook slowly, adding water if needed (mine did not). When done the beans should hold their shape but be soft and just a little soupy. Serve in bowls with cooking liquid.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Muffins for the cousins

OK so this it the other one I used to go to all the time. Really can't beat it for a quick look up on basic items like roasts, cakes, quickbreads, and muffins.

This morning not only did I make a dozen blueberry muffins from fresh Michigan blueberries, I sent half of them up the hill to the cottage to the cousins. What a woman (Betty, too).

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This has become my go-to cookbook

Like the chocolate cake recipe from the Driscoll Hotel in Austin that I made Fourth of July for the relatives which may be the very best chocolate cake I've ever made. Like the grilled flank stake recipe that's become one of my regular recipes for guests who appreciate basic steak and potatoes type food. This cookbook has more post it notes and turned down pages than even the Betty Crocker, Joy of Cooking or At Home with Julie and Jacques. Tonight we had stuffed peppers made from the Milagros Meatloaf recipe and they were excellent. How did that happen when I don't think I'm cooking regionally? OMG. Have I accidentally over the years become a Texas cook?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

About Holiday Food

I really need deviled eggs at Easter.
And ham or fried chicken.
And lemon pound cake.
And if possible some family who are visiting.

Burgers are the thing for the Fourth.
And cooked outside of course.
And beer is nice.
And some people to watch fireworks with.

Thanksgiving requires turkey.
And the other stuff that goes with.
And pumpkin pie.
And I crave having a table full of noisy people.

I'm even more needy at Christmas.
And am cooking and hoarding for weeks.
And way too much.
And absolutely require having people to share with.

Otherwise it's just food.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Having Pot Roast in June instead of grilling

Weird concept, isn't it? Just shows what a cool and rainy June can do to one's appetite. Pulled a 5 pound chuck roast out of the freezer and babied it for about 3 hours in the oven. We enjoyed it with company the first night while sitting in the dining room with all the windows closed and looking at the cold wind play on the lake. The second night we had it out of mugs for early supper as beef stew while sitting in our sweatshirts on the porch in the crispy June evening sunshine. Just stashed the leftover meat in the freezer for vegetable soup later - perhaps a cool September day. Normally would be thinking mostly about grilling this time of year.

In fact today I read Mark Bittman in today's New York Times about all the ways there are in the universe to grill something, and alot of it is not meat. I really wonder if it was hard to stretch this list to 101 items or if they just rolled out of his head in gush of creativity.

Lesmeatarian: what I would like to be and what Mark Bittman is now calling his vow to be vegan during the day and omnivore at night - not that I've tried really hard to emulate it yet - so I admire the inclusion of recipes for grilled tofu, radishes and of course fennel. Actually am going to try those radishes.