Monthly Archives: March 2015

“We’ve got some beans and some good cornbread…”

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I made chili yesterday.

This, alone, by itself, was the source of much joy and happiness around chez littleredyarn yesterday morning since I haven’t made chili since last September. It also means that I can eat spicy foods again. My mouth is finally, finally, healing up.

I almost did back handsprings, naked, down Baltimore Avenue. I still may.

But you can’t have chili without cornbread. And rice. And guacamole and sour cream and salsa and grated Cheddar. Well, you could, but where’s the fun in that?

Mmmm.

Mmmm.

I’ll post the recipe for the chili later on in the week, but here’s two recipes for cornbread. The first recipe (from “Love Soup”) is the one I made last night. It’s wonderful and delicious, but it’s a little bit of work. That said, it’s definitely worth it.

The second recipe (from “New Classics”) is a much quicker one and the leftovers are great the next day with peanut butter and jam for breakfast. Yum.


 

Corn and Cheddar Cheese Cornbread

  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sliced scallions/green onions, white and green parts
  • 2 ½ oz. grated sharp Cheddar
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme (got fresh? ½ tsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter an 8 inch square baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt in a bowl. Add the cornmeal and the sugar.
  3. Combine the buttermilk and half the corn in the blender and puree until you get a rough puree. Beat the eggs lightly, then add the buttermilk mixture, the remaining 1 cup of corn, scallions, Cheddar and thyme.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing everything together thoroughly and stir in the melted butter. Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. BAke the cornbread for about 40 minutes. or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. The top should be slightly puffed and lightly browned.
  5. Let it cool just a bit before diving in.
  6. Enjoy!

Cornbread

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a 9” square baking dish.
  2. Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk together to remove the lumps.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and buttermilk. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients until just blended. Be careful not to overmix.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Enjoy. Don’t forget the peanut butter and jam.
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Peaches on the shelf, potatoes in the bin

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Well, that was a doozy.

Seriously. I’ve been cooking and baking for about 40 years and I think I’m pretty good in the kitchen. Not to brag (or humblebrag, even) but I don’t suffer too many missteps. I’ve got the eye (and the nose and the hands) of someone who’s spent a lot of time in front of a stove. I know my ingredients and my tools and can work my way through almost any recipe with the best of them.

But every once in a while I make a real dog. And boy, did I do that in spades on Saturday.

I guess the parade of wintry, comforting type foods I’ve been cooking and baking since October is starting to get to me because I’ve been craving fruit. Not citrus, not the so-called “nectarines” in the market now, either.

And definitely not a smoothie.

I had two bags of frozen fruit in my freezer, so my first thought was, “Hmm. I think I can make some pie filling with frozen fruit. Pie sounds good. With ice cream.” So I found a couple of recipes that used frozen fruit and I even bought pie crusts since I can’t make a pie crust. Short crust pastry and I haven’t been on speaking terms since 1987.

And then we came home from shopping and I had a pot of cauliflower bisque I wanted to make for dinner and a pie, even with store-bought crust, seemed like too much work. So I pulled out “Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates” and ta-da! My favorite fruit cobbler recipe! And I could use frozen fruit! And it was easy! And I pulled it out of the oven and it was gorgeous!

Just look at that!

Just look at that!

And it was, hands-down, the sourest thing I’ve ever eaten. As in, “scrunch-up-your-eyes-and-your-nose-and-pucker-up-sweetheart” sour.

Other things may have puckered up, too. I didn’t dare look.

So, here’s the recipe for the best fruit cobbler ever, but you have to promise me that you’ll never, ever use frozen fruit for this.


Fruit Cobbler

Fruit filling

  • 8 cups of fresh fruit (stone fruits should be pitted and sliced and peaches peeled)
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (I’ve used orange in a pinch)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp white flour (depends on how juicy your fruit is)

Biscuit crust:

  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (I’m thinking whole wheat pastry would work, too)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small squares
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6
  2. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a 7”x11” or 9” square baking dish. Mix well, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Run a whisk through it to remove any lumps (you can sift it, of course).
  4. With a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it’s the size of small peas. It’s easier to do this with your fingers.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla. Quickly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix briefly to make a soft dough.
  6. When the fruit is baked, drop the dough in eight, evenly spaced spoonfuls on top.
  7. Bake, uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the center of a biscuit will test clean when it’s done.
  8. Serve warm or at room temp. It’s even good cold for breakfast the next day, even though the topping might be a bit soggy.
  9. Enjoy!

This is really, really good with ice cream. Or custard. Or pouring cream.

“Up Jumped Spring”

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It must be spring.

The daffodils are poking up in the front garden, I’m clearing out my yarn basket and the college basketball tourney’s on the TV.

And with Sir Charles Barkley it gets one hundred percent better right there. Who cares if it snows tomorrow?

Yes, they do say what you think they say.

Yes, they do say what you think they say.

I finished up a couple of winter projects and I’m doing a bit of spring cleaning to make room for the new projects. There’s a sweater and an afghan and a store sample for Hidden River Yarns promoting the market bag crochet class I’ll be teaching there in May.

And socks. As long as I have luscious sock yarn, there will be socks.Tammy socks done

It feels good to get all tidied up and organized again, even though I know it’s all going to go to hell in a few days. I start out strong and then I pull everything out again like a five year old. Hell, I’m sure five year olds have a longer attention span than I do on some days.

It’s great to have the energy to do all of this, too. A month ago I probably would have looked at the yarn basket and said, “Nope. Not today. That can wait.” But now that I’m two months’ removed from all the treatment, I can finally say “yes” to some bigger things that I want to get done.

But “easy does it”. I’m not trying to conquer the world; just get back into the swing of things. The sweater is a simply constructed cardigan knitted in just one color. No colorwork or lace or anything too elaborate. The afghan is lots and lots and lots of bobbles in a deep shade of burgundy that is incredibly soothing to crochet. Even the sock patterns I’ve been looking at are simple. Elegant, but simple. It’s a good marriage.

And as long as I keep it simple, I’ll be just fine.


 

asianfish1 (1)This is about as simple as cooking gets, too. There’s nothing really complicated in here, just some great Asian flavors made with ingredients you can get at the local supermarket. The original recipe comes from Moosewood’s “Cooks At Home”, but since I can’t seem to leave well enough alone, I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it even easier. The original recipe called for making individual foil packets for everyone; I put it into a big baking dish instead. I added lots more veggies and a hit of chili garlic sauce, too. asianfish3 (1)

We usually have this with jasmine rice and shrimp spring rolls from the supermarket, but since I’m having issues with rice, it’ll be Asian egg noodles instead. There will be lots of slurping.


Asian Fish

  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping tsp. of fresh grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. of chili garlic sauce or a shot or sriracha
  • a little bit of freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 pound of fresh fish (cod, tilapia, salmon, anything firm. I’d stay away from flounder or fluke)
  • 1 bunch of bok choy (or 4 baby ones), trimmed and sliced into 2” pieces
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, slices (baby bellas are great in this)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°*. Lightly oil a 13”x9” casserole dish.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the scallions, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce and white pepper. Set aside.
  3. Place the veggies in an even layer into the casserole. Lay the fish on top.
  4. Pour the sauce evenly over the fish. Cover it tightly with foil.
  5. Let it bake for about 20 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
*Since we usually have spring rolls with it and they bake at a different temperature (I think it’s 375°), I put the fish in at that temperature. It bakes fine; it just takes a little longer.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

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I may have overdone it.

I might, just might, have thought I was a little further along than I was, a bit stronger and just a touch tougher than I have been. It sounded good, it smelled delicious and the next thing I knew I was slurping those mussels and clams in the Victory Ale and garlic and hot pepper sauce down like there was no tomorrow, and goddess, it was good. There was no stopping me.

Ha! And then the Victory Ale and garlic and hot pepper sauce kicked in and my poor, tender, still-recovering-from-radiation-treatment mouth couldn’t take it any longer. I slurped down 2 raspberry iced teas, ate the ice and almost gnawed off half of the table.

So in my infinite wisdom, I had a piece of my boyfriend’s Bavarian pretzel snack, which was covered in crab dip and crabmeat.

And Old Bay seasoning, too.

Hot-cha-cha.

I’m quickly forgetting that even though I’m two months’ removed from my cancer treatment, I still have the tender mouth of a two-year old and therefore, I have to adapt to the eating habits of a two-year old. Nothing spicy! Nothing garlicky! Easy on the pepper! Wait, no pepper!

So, it’s back to things that are easy to eat for a few more days. A couple more glasses of milkshakes made from instant breakfast powder and ice cream isn’t going to kill me. I like macaroni and cheese. And eggs. And soup.

Soup prepI made this soup yesterday because I wanted a bowl of noodles. Something hot, slurp-worthy, comforting and not swimming in cream or cheese for a change. I stopped at the store for a bag of old-fashioned thin egg noodles, diced up the usual soup veggies, and added them to a pot of simmering broth, which was made from a couple of cubes. Later on I put in some little defrosted frozen peas, shredded spinach and a cup of those noodles. A bit of salt, a touch of pepper, chopped parsley. That’s all, and it’s delicious.


Simple Veggie Noodle Soup 

  • 6 cups of broth (I used Rapunzel’s, which I get at my local natural food store)
  • 4-5 small carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, ends trimmed and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 cup of baby frozen peas (sometimes they’re called petit pois), defrosted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • a bit of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of fine egg noodles
  • 2 good handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and sliced thin
  1. Bring the broth to a simmer. Add the carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the veggies are just about done, 15 minutes or so.
  2. Remove the cover and add the peas; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Bring the soup back to a simmer and stir in the egg noodles. Cook just until the noodles are done, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, give it a good stir. Turn off the heat and put the lid back on (the residual heat will cook the spinach). Check for seasoning.
  4. Enjoy!

Mushaboom

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I love mushrooms.mushroom-illustration

Love ‘em stuffed with crab meat, deep fried with tartar sauce, on my pizza, in a calzone, sauteed in lots of butter, in a Parmesan cream sauce over pasta. And in my pre-veghead days, I’d put them in every beef or chicken or pork braise or stew that I made.

And when I became a veghead, I discovered a recipe for “Mushroom Stew” in the second “Vegetarian Epicure” cookbook. I was in heaven.

There’s nothing really fancy about this dish, but I can see how in the early ‘70s it would seem very exotic and yeah, maybe a little weird, too. Whole mushrooms and red wine and fresh thyme and little pearl onions? Where’s the beef?

ButtonMushroomsThe recipe I’m giving here is mostly the way it’s presented in the cookbook. I really haven’t messed around with the ingredients too much and my changes are in red. It’s a stew, after all, so consider this more of a blueprint than a recipe you need to follow to the letter to get good results. However, I have changed the cooking technique a bit. I love Anna’s recipes but for some reason she has you use every pot and pan in the kitchen.

I like this over those wide egg noodles (buttered, of course), but mashed potatoes would be awfully tasty, too. Polenta would be awesome and, since we’re in that vein, how about cheddar cheese grits or spoonbread? Biscuits, maybe? There’s a lot of ways to play this.

Paul doesn’t like a lot of mushrooms, and since they’re clearly the focus of the dish I haven’t made this in a very, very long time. I think it might be time for a reunion. And I can always make him something else.


 

Mushroom Stew

  • 5 Tbsp butter (I use 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 cup tomato juice (if you’re using fresh tomatoes)
  • 2 cups peeled, quartered tomatoes (I use a 28 oz can of chopped plum tomatoes in juice and omit the tomato juice)
  • red wine to taste (about ½ cup)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (I use fresh, about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 ½ lbs. mushrooms, wiped clean and trimmed (trim the bottoms and only cut them in half if they’re huge)
  • 1 lb. boiling onions (I use a handful or so of the frozen pearl onions. If you can get them, the fresh pearl onions are great in this)
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup pitted green olives. (umm…no thanks)
  1. In a large Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Add to it the bay leaves, garlic and onions. Saute until the onions are golden and then stir in the flour and lower the heat.
  2. Cook the roux for several minutes, stirring constantly, and then add the veggie broth, tomato juice and fresh tomatoes (if you’re using them) or the canned tomatoes and the wine. Bring up the heat to let the sauce thicken, give it a good stir, lower the heat and let it simmer uncovered.
  3. In a saute pan, melt the remaining butter and add the thyme and the mushrooms. Saute them over a high flame for several minutes turning them over (they’ll squeak!) and add them and the onions to the sauce. Give the stew a taste and add the parsley, salt and pepper and more wine if you think it needs it.
  4. This is good with a salad or some other veggie; I’m thinking roasted carrots.
  5. Enjoy!