“C Is For Cookie And That’s Good Enough For Me”

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Every once in awhile, I get obsessed with something.

It might be a particular kind of yarn (no surprise there, I’m sure), the perfect crocheted afghan pattern (which I’ve finally found) or an old cookbook I remember from the 1980’s. And I have to be careful since I’ve got the kind of personality that doesn’t let go of things like this easily. I know all too well what happens; I fall down into the rabbit hole of the Intertubes, never to been seen or heard from again.

This time it was a cookie. A chocolate chip cookie to be exact, and it was a recipe that my mom made for Christmas when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. They weren’t the typical, thin, crisp cookie, either. These were thicker, a little lumpy looking, and she used the mini-chocolate chips instead of the usual Nestle suspects. She stored them in those old-fashioned cookie tins and they were hidden in the coat closet in the basement. Of course I found them when I was poking around looking for my gifts.

I hope she’s not reading this.

Anyway, they were delicious. They weren’t Toll House cookies, they was something a little different going on there. To this day, I don’t know what recipe she used and every time I see a recipe for chocolate chip cookies I’m absolutely compelled to see if it might, just might, be The One I’ve been looking for. I still haven’t found it, but you can be sure I’m still searching for them.

cookies

Nom nom nom.

In the meantime though, I made these a few weekends ago. This is one of those recipes that I’d been looking at for years, always saying, “You know, I have to make these.” There is a lot going on here that’s different. There’s whole wheat pastry flour along with regular white flour and dark brown sugar instead of the usual mix of white and light brown. And they’re not thin and crisp; they’re thick and hefty and a little bit chewy. If you like a soft-baked cookie, you’ll go nuts over these.


 

Big  Chocolate Chip  Cookies 

 

  • ¾ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts and/or raisins (I didn’t)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs until well blended.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
  4. Stir in the flour into the butter mixture, mixing well. Add the vanilla and the water and stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Add the nuts and raisins if you’re using.
  6. Drop the batter by ¼ cup measures onto the baking sheet (this will make 3” cookies), leaving about 2” in between each.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, but check them around 8 minutes in. When they’re done, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then put them on a cooling rack to finish.
  8. Enjoy! These are really, really good.
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“Only The Beginning”

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And, it’s all over.

Done. Fini. The best contract job I’ve ever had is in the books.

Strangely enough, I’m fine with that. Okay, I won’t have a regular paycheck for a while but I’m looking forward to a new challenge. And no, brain surgery doesn’t count.

Saying goodbye to the place that became my second home for seven months wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I was leaving work a few weeks ago and I really thought I was going to be a blubbering, sloppy mess on my last day. I pictured myself sobbing and driving home with mascara streaming down my face because I wasn’t going to ever see these people ever again.

I’ll see one of my former managers at a professional event next week and a few of my co-workers and I connected on LinkedIn and Facebook. Man, I love social media.

Besides, I’ve got a really sneaky feeling that I’ll be back there. It’s a nagging feeling that I just can’t explain, but I can’t shake the hunch that I’ll be seeing everyone again. It may be wishful thinking on my part, too. Time will tell.

But for now, I’ve got a little over two weeks before it’ll be time to get up at quarter to dark and take the drive up to Temple University Hospital in North Philly to get my brain clipped. I’ve got things to do before then and I’m a little alarmed at how quickly my dance card is filling up. I was thinking and hoping (and wishing and praying) that I’d have a couple of days where I could just mooch around, you know? A used bookstore, my friend Lisa’s yarn shop. Christmas shopping, for goddess’ sake.

This week it’s the event that my former manager is hosting and before I can go there, I need business networking cards, a new suit because the old one doesn’t fit my post-cancer body and a trip to have something done to this hair. I have to get a couple of quick holiday gifts for my mom and her boyfriend since we’re going up there next weekend to celebrate Christmas three weeks early. I also said I’d bring up dessert, so somewhere along the line I have to bake a coffee cake.

I have to get my transcripts sent to Villanova University so I can start the evaluation process, finish up my last problem set for my accounting class and figure out when I’m going to take the final. And that’s just this week.

That sound you just heard was my DayRunner exploding.

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One of the things that I absolutely, positively, must do before I have this brain thing done is stock up the freezer with things that just need to be warmed up on top of the stove or in the oven. To me, that means soups, stews and casseroles. I’ve already got a head (ha!) start, too. There’s some eggplant lasagna in there, veggie stew and some cream of tomato soup. I’m going to make a pot of lentil soup, so a freezer bag of that will be a welcome sight when I’m recovering and no one’s in the mood to cook and we’re both sick of pizza.

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Hello, gorgeous.

I’m also going to make a loaf or two of this bread. It comes from the same cookbook that the Three Grain Bread For Roy comes from and it follows the same wet-dough-no-knead method that recipe does. It’s a softer, sweeter loaf from the white flour, oats and molasses in it. It also keeps a little longer than the three grain bread does. 


 

Oatmeal Molasses Bread

  • ¾ cup of hot water
  • ¾ cup of whole milk
  • ¼ cup of dark molasses
  • 4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled (not quick and definitely not instant) oats, plus more for top of the loaf
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal, plus more for the baking pan
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil (I like sunflower)
  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, milk, molasses, yeast and salt. Whisk it all together and let it sit until it’s nice and frothy. If it doesn’t get all frothy in about 15 minutes, toss it and start over.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the flours, oats and cornmeal. Run a whisk through it to combine it and get rid of the lumps.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk it together. Add the oil and mix well. Now add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix the dough together with a heavy spoon. Make sure everything’s combined well.
  4. Place a towel over the bowl and let it rise and collapse upon itself. This is going to take a couple of hours, so be patient.
  5. When it’s ready to be shaped, preheat your oven to 375°. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet; this will create a crunchy bottom crust and keep the bread from sticking. Wet your hands with cold water and scoop the dough out of the bowl. Quickly shape it into a ball and place it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of the ball with some oats and lightly press it into the dough. Cover it again and let it rise until it’s about doubled in size, about half an hour or so.
  6. At this point, you can put a pan of water in the oven to create some steam so the bread gets a crisper crust. I don’t bother since I prefer a softer, chewier crust, so it’s entirely up to you.
  7. Let it bake for about 55 minutes. You can check it with the old toothpick test (stick it in the top of the loaf and if it comes out clean, it’s done) or tap the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow (if it does, it’s done).
  8. Let it cool on a rack. This is great for sandwiches, especially grilled cheese. Yum.
  9. Enjoy!

“If I Only Had A Brain…”

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So as of this past Wednesday, I have three weeks left on my work contract. And six weeks until I have my surgery to fix that brain thing of mine, for those of you playing along at home.

And I’d be lying if I said all of it wasn’t starting to affect me just a little bit. Okay, a lot. I’m exhausted, tired, and more than a little bit cranky, in constant need of a cup of tea and a long nap. I went through something very similar right before my cancer surgery last year. It’s a combination of the anticipation (if it can be called that), a good old-fashioned case of the jitters (Brain surgery! Eep!) and keeping overly busy to avoid dealing with both of them.

Clearly, I’m very well-versed in avoidance techniques.

In three weeks the work will be over and it’ll be Thanksgiving and then I’ll have some time to catch my breath. I’ll finish up my accounting class and get some knitting in. I’ll fill up the freezer with soups and stews and pasta sauce and some lasagna so my wonderful P won’t have to worry about cooking anything while I’m on the mend.

Man and woman can’t live on pizza alone. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, you understand.

But if I’ve learned anything from the whole cancer recovery experience, it’s that it’s much, much better to be over prepared than under-prepared. Especially when one half of the couple is snoozing away on the couch, drooling into her mug of Darjeeling, stomach growling.  And the other half hates to cook.

Of course, I’m also stocking up on yarn for the afghan, since the plan is to get as much crocheting in as possible. I’m not counting on getting a whole afghan done, but hey, you never know.

I’ll have things to read, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to get a jump on my spring semester reading or not. Macroeconomics doesn’t exactly sound like a lightweight subject, so I think I’ll stick to something that I don’t have to think about. A co-worker gave me a whole box full of knitting books and patterns and magazines she no longer wants.

Which will be absolutely perfect, especially if all I feel like doing is looking at the pretty pictures.

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Last weekend I made a loaf (okay, two small loaves) of three grain bread. I put the pictures out on the Intertubes and my Twitter friend Roy asked me for the recipe. So I sent the poor guy over here on a wild goose chase because I was pretty sure that I’d shared it at one point last year and was really surprised to discover that nope, I hadn’t. And then I remembered (or conveniently…forgot) that this time last year I was still on the semi-liquid diet and wasn’t able to eat anything that wasn’t tapioca pudding or instant breakfast. 

Voila!

Voila!

Shudder.

Anyways, I’m making up for lost time this year. This comes from “Love Soup” and is one of those great wet-dough-no-knead-technique bread recipes which are pretty perfect to start with if you’re new to baking bread. There’s a lot of liquid and a whole lot of yeast and what you end up with is a very heavy, wet dough that, ta-daah!, doesn’t have to be kneaded. At all. You just mix it and let it rise. Then you shape it and let it rise again. You bake it and you have bread.

See? That’s about as easy as it gets.

This is a very rustic loaf of bread; it’s not fine-grained and it’s even a bit crumbly. But it’s delicious.


Three Grain Bread for Roy

  • 1 ½ cups very warm water (about 100° F or so; it should feel like very warm bathwater)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp dry active yeast (do not use fast-rising yeast)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 2 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil (I use sunflower)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, honey, salt and the yeast. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and gets foamy, about 10 to 15 minutes or so. If the mixture doesn’t get foamy, you’ll have to start over.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flours and the cornmeal to mix them.
  3. Whisk in half of the flour mixture into the yeast mixture and give it a really good stir until it’s all dissolved. Whisk in the oil. Now, with a good, heavy wooden or hotel spoon, add the rest of the flour mixture. It’s going to be heavy and thick and really tough to stir. Keep at it until it’s all mixed.
  4. Now put a towel over it and let it rise until it’s doubled and collapses on itself. This will take a good couple of hours, so just be patient. Go and knit something or make some soup. The bread doesn’t need you right now.
  5. When it’s ready to be shaped, preheat your oven to 375° F. Take some cornmeal and cover the bottom of a baking sheet with it. Not a lot; you don’t want it to burn. Just enough so the bread doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’ll give you a nice, crunchy crust.
  6. Now, wet your hands and take the dough out of the bowl. Very quickly (it’s going to be very, very sticky) shape it into a ball. Place it, seam side down, on the baking sheet. Flatten it just a bit and cover it. Let it rise again until it’s about doubled.
  7. The recipe says that you should put a roasted pan of water in right about now to make the oven all steamy and to help create a crust. Since I always manage to spill the water all over the place, I never do this but you can if you like.
  8. When your loaf has risen, put it in the oven and let it bake for about an hour. You know your oven better than anyone, so you’ll have to adjust the time accordingly. I like to turn the bread around about halfway through just so it bakes evenly.
  9. About 5 minutes before your timer goes off (you are timing this, right?), take it out and off the baking sheet. Tap the bottom and see if it sounds hollow. If it does, it’s done. If not, give it another few minutes and then place it on a baking rack to cool. I like to take it out a few minutes short of when I think it’ll be done so it doesn’t overbake. Don’t forget, it’s still baking when it first comes out of the oven.
  10. Let it cool a bit and dig in. This also freezes really well. Just let it cool completely, put it in a freezer bag, get all the air out of it and toss it in there.
  11. Enjoy!

“On Top Of Spaghetti, All Covered With Cheese…”

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I recently discovered the love of my life. They’re soft and a bit spicy and ever so good with a mug of coffee or tea. Wawa Pumpkin Spice Muffins, you are my destiny.

My gawd, these are tasty things. They’re sweet and there’s a nice little cinnamon and streusel swirl that goes through them and they’re moist and delicious and I just about died when I looked up the calorie count (630!), grams of sugar (45 grams!!) and let’s not even look at the fat content.

Okay, I did. 35 grams, or 54% of your daily requirement, for those of you keeping score at home. I’m not, and never have been, one of those people who eat a lot of junk. I keep some candy in my desk at work (Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups), ice cream in the freezer (I really love a good vanilla with the flecks of bean in it) and if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I think cookies are a food group unto themselves. But to sit down and mindlessly munch my way through a whole bag of sour cream potato chips or Haribos? Not my bag.

But every once in a while I take a look at what I’ve been eating and see if I can do better and lately I’ve become a little alarmed with all the sugar I’ve been scarfing down lately. When I was recovering from the surgery and the treatment, my sense of taste went out the window and all I could really taste was anything that was sweet. My taste buds are still coming around (it takes over a year, believe it or not), but it turns out the experts aren’t too far off when they say that sugar is addictive. Or, at the very least, it’s pretty easy to become dependant on the stuff.

And you don’t need me to tell you that it’s in everything. Everything. You can’t pick up anything that isn’t full of it and the amounts are alarming, to say the least. I mean, there’s 20 grams of it in a container of yogurt (which is at the lower end of the scale), and that’s just the fruit-flavored kind and not that…crap…that comes with mini chocolate chips.

So, time to do better. I bought a few cups of my favorite yogurt for my work breakfasts next week, but that’s going to get swapped out for some hot cereal or homemade muffins. I can give up my glass of chocolate milk before I go to bed and be happy with a plain glass of milk and a not-too-sweet cookie or two. I don’t need to go completely down a sugar-free road; I just want to be a little more mindful of how much I’m eating.

Which brings me to this recipe for homemade tomato sauce. Pasta’s on the menu at chez littleredyarn a lot and if I’m making some kind of baked pasta dish, I will grab a jar of sauce at the market. Some of them (Newman’s comes to mind) are actually pretty good and reasonably priced. So just for fun I checked the sugar content (I had an open jar in the fridge) and it turns out there’s 7 grams of the stuff per half a cup. Which doesn’t sound all that terrible, but just for kicks I weighed how many grams a tablespoon of sugar is since I’m a geek and that’s what we do. Anyway, that comes in at 10 grams, which means there’s almost a full tablespoon of sugar in a half cup of sauce. That’s kind of a lot.

Mamma mia!

Mamma mia!

So, without getting all preachy, here’s my go-to recipe for homemade tomato sauce. It’s the kind you can make a lot of since it’s really quick to make and it freezes beautifully. It uses canned plum tomatoes and dried herbs, so it’s perfect for the winter. It’s totally vegetarian and best of all? There’s only 2 teaspoons of honey in 2 quarts of sauce and if your canned tomatoes aren’t too acidic, you could even leave that out.

I like my sauce on the chunkier side, so I just chop up the tomatoes a little bit. If you prefer a smoother sauce, give the tomatoes a whirl in your blender before you put them in the pot.


Dee’s Tomato Sauce

  • 3-4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of finely diced yellow onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup red wine (I usually have little airplane bottles of Pinot Noir on hand)
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf, broken in half
  • ½ tsp each of dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • ¼ tsp of dried rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of chopped Italian parsley
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  1. Warm up the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy sauce pot. Add the onions and the salt. Let the onions cook until they soften and begin to color, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and give everything a good stir. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes or so.
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine and tomato paste. Stir and bring it sauce up to a boil. Lower the heat and add the basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Give it a stir, partially cover the pot and let it simmer for about a half hour or so.
  4. Add the parsley and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Done.
  5. Enjoy!

“I Sure Do Like Those Christmas Cookies, Sugar”

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When my boyfriend and I got together ten years ago, we thought it would be a fun idea to make a whole bunch of cookies for Christmas.

It made sense. We both liked to bake and since we weren’t going to spend the holiday together (sob!), we could “share the wealth” with our families and friends. Besides, everyone likes cookies.

So we bought butter and sugar and chocolate and I brought down my food processor. We ground nuts and creamed butter and dipped and spooned and flattened balls of dough. We both dug out recipes we loved and it seemed every time we turned around one of us was saying, “Oh! We have to make these. They’re just too good.”

And we baked and baked and baked some more. We had cooling racks on every empty horizontal spot in the apartment. We bought way, way too many zippered storage bags.

Finally, after a couple of weekends of doing this, we took a count of how many cookies we had.

536.

Yes, you read that right. 536 cookies, And that’s not counting the ones we ate along the way.

We gave away a lot of cookies that year. We had our own stash of cookies until March. Let me repeat that. March.

We had cookies until Easter. Easter, people.

And we still love cookies. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I will never, ever turn down a homemade cookie. One of the many (ahem) cookies we made that Christmas were these linzer torte bars. Bar cookies are great for when you want cookies but don’t feel like futzing around too much. And these are basically thumbprint cookies without all that faffing around.

Cuppa?

Cuppa?

Two things, though. The recipe doesn’t call for salt and the dough definitely needs a pinch of it. I know, you don’t think about salt in cookies, but most recipes do call for a tiny smidge of it. You could probably go all hipster and add a very small sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt to the top, but it’s just easier to add maybe an eighth of a teaspoon to the dough itself and not get that huge salt hit on your tongue, which I don’t particularly care for.

And it goes without saying that they’ll only be as good as your jam or fruit spread is. I used Bonne Maman’s apricot preserves in this and it worked beautifully. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.

And I had a stubborn craving for these almond cookies this week, which are also great with a brew. I haven’t made them in forever and once I pulled the recipe out, I remembered why. The recipe, as written, calls for “solid vegetable shortening”, or Crisco.

Eww. I don’t use Crisco. Actually, most almond cookie recipes call for lard, which as you can figure out, has no place in my vegetarian kitchen. So I’ll hold off on making these until I can find a substitute for the solid vegetable shortening. Yes, I can use butter, but butter isn’t used in Asian cooking. Hmm.

Clearly more research is needed. Time to fire up the Kitchen Aid.


Almond Cookies (from Martin Yan’s “Chinese Cooking For Dummies”)

  • 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 32 almond halves
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place the balls (ahem) 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press and almond half into the center of each ball.
  5. Bake until golden brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy!

“We’re Sailing On The Wide Accountancy!”

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So the new semester’s three weeks old and I’m settling into the old rhythm of being a student again.

It’s work-and-doing-the-reading-at-lunch-and-back-home-and-homework-after-dinner. It’s a Saturday where after we come home after running around with errands, I’m doing problem sets. And then on Sunday morning it’s time to submit the problem sets and listen to the lecture for the next chapter.

Taking excellent notes, of course. I’m such a swot.

Mr. Bean Counter

Mr. Bean Counter

At the risk of sounding like an middle-aged(ish) lady, the last time I did this I was hauling my ass off to a precalculus class on Saturday morning for four hours with textbook, notebook and my TI-82 calculator. This time around I’m connected with the laptop, an e-book and my TI-BA II calculator. I’m yapping with my classmates via posts on the school’s website and getting my class materials from an online platform called WileyPlus, which I’ve developed a real love/hate relationship with.

It’s all very convenient and wonderful and totally accessible, which is the whole point of taking an online class, of course. And for me, who’s up at the quarter-to-dark in the morning (and in bed at quarter-past), this is a godsend. I start turning into a pumpkin around eight o’clock. I’m not sure if this is because I’m an middle-aged(ish) lady or if it’s the hours I keep, but I don’t know how I’d do if I were still in a lecture at eight with a twenty-five minute drive home from campus.

But like most things, I’ll figure it out. One thing I do know is that I’ll have to pick up the pace a bit, or I’ll be sitting here doing problem sets when I’m in my 60s.

And that can’t happen.

But one of the casualties of going back to school is that I’ve basically given up any kind of free time I might have had before doing this. I knew that was going to happen (really) and I knew that this first accounting class was going to be content-heavy (really), but what I didn’t exactly realize was that I’d have, like, no free time at all.

So I’m thrilled that fall’s here since with the cooler weather comes that time of year when it’s finally cool enough to break out the Dutch oven and baking dishes for soups and stews and casseroles. Big, hearty dishes that you can make in advance and then just heat up throughout the week. I’m pretty sure whoever baked the first dino-noodle casserole was a busy person.

Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah.

I found this recipe for cauliflower macaroni and cheese on the BBC’s Good Food website ages and ages ago; I’ve been making it for at least ten years. I’m only giving you the link here since you can print it out from their website (not sure if you have to register or not), but I’ll give you a couple of tips.

First off, make sure your cheese is a good, tangy, sharp one. There isn’t a lot of cheese sauce in this (if you want more, you can always double up on the sauce), so make sure you choose one that won’t get lost. I made this last night and I used a “melange” of Gruyere and mild Cheddar that I got at Trader Joe’s. Good, but an extra-sharp cheese really is the way to go. And a good, gutsy, pasta is a must, too. Think imported rigatoni or mostaccioli. I bought armoniche and it was perfect.

The recipe also calls for creme fraiche for the cheese sauce. Yes, you can buy creme fraiche at some supermarkets, but you’re better off making your own. Why? Supermarket creme fraiche is, like, $5 for a dinky little container, and you’ll need two for the recipe. That’s 10 bucks, which is ridiculous. So, here you go:

Take 1 half pint container of heavy cream. Pour it into a clean, glass jar with a lid. Add about ⅓ of a cup of buttermilk. Put the lid on and give it a good shake. Leave it on the counter, lid on, for about 24 hours to thicken up. If you’re going to double the sauce in the recipe, use 1 pint of heavy cream and 2/3 cup of buttermilk. Whichever amount you decide to make, you’ll use all of it.

Done. And you’re welcome.

Bake it at 375° in a 9” x 13” pan for about 15 minutes. And don’t forget the sliced tomatoes on top. They’re the best part.

I made Giada’s Green Beans to go with it, but I sprinkle some Parm on top of the beans instead of faffing around with the crisps, as tasty as they are. These are seriously good; I make these for holidays when we have to bring a veggie along. I cook the green beans until they’re nice and soft, though. Hard, crunchy green beans are awful. 

Enjoy!

“Fall In Philadelphia”

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I’m two weeks ahead of my accounting class syllabus.

I’d forgotten what a swotty little thing I am. And it’s a good thing, too. The Powerpoint lecture presentation for the second chapter? Fifty two slides and I took six pages of notes. The chapter is sixty-four pages in my e-textbook. Twelve pages of notes.

Will you still need me, will you still read me, when I’m 64?

Bean Counting 101

Bean Counting 101

And it’s all content-heavy stuff. Definitions and formulas and balance sheets, oh my.

I’m still finding my legs with all of the back-to-school stuff, too. It’s not as tough as I thought it would be, but it’s a new routine. An entirely new routine. I’m used to filling up my spare time with sticks and string and now it’s learning about which accounts get credited, which ones get debited and when to use solvency ratios.

It’s a four day weekend for me and I’m probably done with the numbers for now. I will play around with my sticks and pretty string and do some cooking and take a couple of naps. More likely than not I’ll do some questions and play around with creating some financial statements because I am, after all, a swotty little thing.

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Earlier this week one of my friends mentioned on Twitter that she was all comfy and ready to watch the latest episode of “The Great British Bake-Off”. I tweeted back that I was jealous since our summer’s television programming here in the States has mostly consisted of really bad sci-fi shows and “America’s Got Talent”. And that I really liked Mary Berry and Delia Smith.

I remembered a recipe of Delia’s for vegetable goulash from “Complete Cookery”  that I hadn’t made in years and decided to pull it out to make this weekend. And while I was at it, there was a recipe in “The New Vegetarian Epicure” for apple pudding that I’d always wanted to bake but, for some reason, never did.wpid-goulash.jpg

So I bought a couple of bagfuls of summer veggies and early crop Honeycrisp apples at the farmer’s market yesterday and came home and got to work.

The goulash was terrific and, most surprisingly, light. Even with the sour cream served over egg noodles, it wasn’t heavy at all. There’s not a lot of seasoning in it: sweet and hot paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper. I think the next time I make it I might throw in some veggie broth and wine to replace the water and tomato paste called for in the original recipe. And maybe a little smoked paprika, too. I’ll let you know how that works or if you decide to play around with it, be sure to tell me.

Mmmm...breakfast?

Mmmm…breakfast?

The apple pudding is definitely going into the rotation for the fall and winter months. I used some leftover challah I had in the freezer for the bread cubes, but I’m going to try a whole grain bread the next time because I think this would be dynamite for breakfast and because I love whole grains. Instead of raisins, maybe diced apricots or dates. There’s a lot of room to play with here.

Vegetable Goulash

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 scant Tbsp. unbleached white flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • a couple pinches of hot paprika (if you don’t have it, use cayenne or hot red pepper flakes)
  • 14 oz. can Italian tomatoes
  • 10 fl. oz. hot water, mixed with 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 oz. cauliflower flowerets
  • 8 oz. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 oz. zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 8 oz. new potatoes, cut into chunks or halved if they’re really small
  • 1 small green pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • About ½ cup of sour cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
  2. Start by heating the oil in a flameproof casserole (I used my LeCrueset French oven for this). Add the onions and fry until they’re softened.
  3. Add the flour and paprika and give it a good stir. Cook for about a minute or so.
  4. Now add the tomatoes and the tomato water. Bring it up to a boil (keep stirring) and then add all the veggies.
  5. Add some salt, some freshly ground pepper and give it a good stir. Put the lid on and put it in the oven. Let it bake for about 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, take it out of the oven and carefully take the lid off (seriously…steam burns are no fun) and check to see if the veggies are done. If they are, dinner’s ready. If not, put the lid back on and give it another 5 or 10 minutes. You don’t want the veggies to turn into mush.
  7. When the veggies are done, stir in the sour cream and add more salt and pepper if you’d like.
  8. Enjoy!

Apple Pudding

As written, the original recipe feeds 10-15 people. Which would be great for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not so much for two people on Labor Day weekend. I’ve halved it here.

  • 2 lbs. cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp, but please use whatever’s in season and local to your area)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ¼ – ⅓ cup of sugar, depending on how sweet your apples are
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • ¼ lb. cubed bread (I used challah, but croissants or French bread would be fine)
  • 3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of raisins (or any dried fruit of your choice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • ⅓ cup of chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  1. Peel and core the apples, quarter them and cut the quarters crosswise into thick slices.
  2. In a heavy pot, combine the apples, water, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Give everything a good stir and bring it up to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and let it simmer away, stirring often, until the liquid mostly cooks away. Some of the apples will turn into a thick sauce. This is good.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour the melted butter over the cubes. Toss them around with your hands to coat the cubes and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast them for about 10 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Keep an eye on these beauties since they’ll go from golden brown to burnt in a blink of an eye.
  4. Lower the oven to 350°. Return the bread cubes to the bowl. Add the cooked apples and the raisins and give it a good stir.
  5. Mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Add the custard to the apple/bread mix and give it a good stir. Spoon it into a buttered 9-inch baking dish (I used my faithful glass Pyrex one) and sprinkle the nuts and brown sugar on top.
  6. Bake for about 40 minutes. I promise you, this bread pudding lovely and moist.
  7. Enjoy!

“Saved By Zero”

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So, I did something this afternoon I haven’t done in well over a decade.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I did homework. Income-Book

Really. I read most of chapter one and put homework deadlines and exam dates into my Google calendar. I watched my professor’s “getting to know you” video and posted my “getting to know me” student thread on the class forum. I discovered that my online textbook can be watched like a lecture and that the review questions are all interactive. I did a review session that wouldn’t let me move on to the next section until I got the answers right. It’s all very, very cool.

I won’t set foot in a classroom this semester, may never meet my classmates face-to-face. And if I play my cards right, I won’t have to drive over to the campus until it’s time to renew my ID card, which would be sometime next year.

This, my friends, is an introvert’s dream come true.

accountant-dogI could get really used to this. Don’t get me wrong; I really love the whole classroom experience, I always have. And I’m thinking that when I start taking my upper level accounting and business courses at Villanova in a few years I may have to take them in a traditional classroom setting. I can regale those youngsters with tales about how it was in the old days when all we had were 17” laptops with half-a-terabyte hard drives.

Kids these days. Hmph.

But until then, I’m perfectly happy to sit here in my little air-conditioned world, on my ass, on my comfy couch working away at my coursework at my own pace. This is a whole new world and while it looks like a lot of work right now, it’ll all get done.

How do you eat a chocolate bar the size of an elephant? One bite at a time, of course, silly rabbit.

Or one chapter, per week, until the middle of December.

“On Blueberry Hill”

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So about a week ago I started feeling a little tired. And then a little bit more, then really blitzed and finally into a full-blown case of into-your-bones deep exhaustion. I haven’t felt like that since I finished radiation and chemo back in January.

It scared the hell out of me, but it’s nothing to be concerned about, really. I just had check-ups at Fox Chase and both my surgeon and chemo oncologist said I was good for another 25,000 miles. It’s just been a couple of very, very busy weeks and I’m a little crispy around the edges. I honestly forget where all this busy-ness came from, but it was somewhere in between finishing up the first work project in early June, starting the current one and ending with the car blowing up

on me a few weeks back.

I keep forgetting (conveniently, I’m sure) that healing doesn’t always mean the physical kind. While I feel well and look pretty good, I’m a champ at ignoring the signs of needing to slow down. I really am my mother’s daughter when I say, “Oh, I just need another cup of coffee” and get a move on with whatever it was I was doing. I should be awarded a gold medal for all the times I do just one more thing because I can and not because it needs to be taken care of right at that moment. I was at my desk last week and I couldn’t focus on the task at hand because I couldn’t turn my brain off. It wasn’t coffee I needed; a snooze would have really done the trick.

My self-prescribed medicine this weekend is to take it easy and be good to myself; needless to say, lots of yarn will be involved. I also promised myself I wasn’t going to do a lot of cooking and damn it, for once I’m going to take my own advice. It’s going to be hot anyway and the last thing I need to be doing is spending a couple of hours in a steamy kitchen on some marathon bread baking session. We can buy bread this week. Other people do it all the time. Sheesh.

Same with pizza dough. I saw a recipe last night for a stuffed bread that’s filled with potatoes, spinach and feta cheese. It sounds wonderful and delicious but it’s an Anna Thomas recipe. I love her recipes, but they’re a bit chef-fy. My supermarket sells pizza dough. We’ll get by, somehow.

I am, however, going to make another pan of blueberry cornbread. When I first got my hands on “The New England Cookbook”, I remember seeing this recipe and thinking, “Oh! That sounds really good.” And I’ve been doing that for the past four years. I look at it and think, “Yeah. Have to make that” and then I move along to whatever it is I was looking for.

Pass the butter.

Pass the butter.

This isn’t a traditional cornbread. The batter starts out like a typical creamed cake batter preparation and finishes up like a fruited quick bread. It’s not too sweet, but you could definitely have this with a cup of tea for breakfast or a snack. It would probably be fabulous toasted and slathered with butter or Earth Balance. 

Tell you what. You go make the cornbread and the tea. I’m going to put my feet up for a few and grab my knitting and rest.


Blueberry Cornbread

  • 1 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp. unbleached white flour
  • ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter or Earth Balance, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (lowfat is fine)
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen (gasp!) blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease a 9” baking pan.
  2. Combine 1 ¼ cups of the flour, the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Run a whisk through to get the lumps out and to blend the dry ingredients.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar in another bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beat until just blended.
  4. Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the flour and fold them into the batter. Scrape into the prepared dish, smoothing the top.
  5. Bake until pale golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Start checking for doneness at 25 minutes, though.
  6. Let the bread rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving hot or warm. It’s also pretty good at room temperature and it ain’t half bad cold straight out of the fridge, either.
  7. Enjoy!

“Maybelline, Why Can’t You Be True?”

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Cars don’t like me.

Nope. Not one little bit. And it’s not for any lack of trying on my part, either. I’ve gassed and changed oil and refilled windshield wiper fluid doohickeys and vacuumed their interiors. I’ve fretted over weird sounds and flashing lights on the dashboards and wondered why the tailpipe drips when I turn the air conditioning off.

I’ve followed maintenance schedules, installed wiper blades and never rode my clutch. I’ve even changed my own headlamps. So there.

And how do my cars repay me? They have wonderful, huge, catastrophic, epic deaths. Engines conk out doing sixty miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway at 6 o’clock in the morning, forcing me to walk half a mile in the dark, in 15 degree weather, to the next rest area to call a tow truck.

They get rear ended by someone downshifting down a hill on a rain slicked road, forcing me to plow into the car in front of me, cracking the frame.

Or, the entire dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree on the Schuylkill Expressway and then has a complete mechanical meltdown on Lancaster Avenue on the campus of Villanova University.

Go Wildcats!

Anyway, I got two rides in a tow truck that day and really, how many people get to say that? And did you know that the tow truck company Radnor Township has a contract with charges $95 for a tow? And that they take cash only?

So try not to break down in Radnor.

I’m fine, the car is not. It looks like this car is done for and we’ll be a one car family until sometime next year, when I’ll be in the market for another car. I’m thinking of either a 20-year-old Volvo station wagon or a Sherman tank.  Something indestructible.

If you’re thinking of selling either, give me a call.


A few days ago I made pasta e fagioli for dinner. Or, pasta fazool as they say in New Jersey and South Philly. I used to work with someone who called this particular recipe macaroni and beans, which is really what it is. Small pasta with white beans in a garlicky tomato sauce with parsley and salt and pepper.  Grated Romano cheese, too. And that‘s it. A piece or two of buttered Italian bread and you’re good to go.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your spoons.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your spoons.

It’s simplicity in itself, but there’s something about it that just makes people swoon. Maybe it’s because it is so simple or because so many of us grew up eating this around the family kitchen table, I really don’t know. All I know is that I hated this growing up. Hated it. Secretly, I loved it cold (yeah, I know) and used to steal spoonfuls of this from the pot in the refrigerator. But once I started cooking for myself I began having the weirdest craving for this. There wasn’t a written recipe for it, but I remembered how my mom used to make it. So I went back to my apartment and made a pot of it. I buttered a piece of crusty bread, scooped up a big bowl of it and covered the top with Locatelli cheese. I dug in and I swooned, too. Here’s my current version of this Italian-American classic.

Pasta Fazool

  • Olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A pinch of dried red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 14 oz. can of plum tomatoes in puree
  • 1 14 oz. can cannellini beans
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 8 oz. small pasta, like ditalini or small shells
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery and red pepper flakes and cook until tender.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until it’s golden Do not let the garlic burn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and break up the tomatoes with your spoon. Add half a can of water, give it a good stir and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the beans with its juice, stir it and season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley
  4. Cook the pasta until it’s the way you like it. Drain it and add it to the beans. Give it a good stir and get your bowls ready.
  5. Add the cheese on top, get some bread ready and enjoy!