I love pudding! Just a spoonful of
sugar pudding helps the medicine go down, or anything else that ails you! It is the epitome of comfort food.
This past week I had an unexpected visit from my terrific niece from New York who will be graduating this spring from college.
It seems like yesterday that we got the call that she was born. My sister and I filled the car with all the food we had been cooking and baking while we were nervously awaiting the news of my sister-in-law’s long labor.
With the food and our father in tow we headed for NYC to greet our new niece named for our beloved mother, Lily.
I was so excited to have Lily at our home one last time before we head out to the west coast the end of June.
Lily made her first appearance here at 10 months old when we celebrated my younger son’s Bar-Mitzvah with a party in our backyard under tents on a beautiful spring afternoon/evening in May.
From then on she was with us for every Thanksgiving, and for many summers when she was younger she would come and spend a week with us.
I got to experience the joys of having a little girl around…fixing her hair, picking out outfits with her for her to wear, and allowing her to have her fingernails painted blue which was her favorite color one summer.
Trips to the bookstore for storytelling time, hours at the community pool nearby, playing with the neighborhood kids, fixing her favorite foods, and trips to Jimmie Cone ice cream for a vanilla cone with all the rainbow sprinkles it could hold, are just a few of my memories of her visits.
And now here she is all grown up, beautiful and bright and on her way to find her place in the world.
She stayed with us for a couple of days while she attended some meetings in DC.
My sister came in for the occasion and for dessert the first evening I made this Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding which appears in the March issue of Bon Appetit.
According to Bon Appetit… this complexly flavored pudding owes its smooth texture to a quick spin in the blender.
I found this to be a great time to use my immersion blender, and it worked beautifully, saving me some extra cleanup time.
Here is the recipe…
Bourbon-Butterscotch Pudding ( 8 servings)
(Bon Appetit, March, 2013)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon bourbon or Scotch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar
Creme fraiche and crushed gingersnap cookies (for serving: optional)
(Note: I used just a dollop of freshly whipped cream)
eight 6-oz ramekins or bowls
For a video demonstration of this recipe click here to see this from Bon Appetite.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Although we are not Irish this day will always be one we celebrate because our oldest son was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1975 at 8:36 pm in Chicago.
With our upcoming move on the horizon we are really looking forward to celebrating birthdays with our sons once again since incredibly we will be living within a few hours of each after being on the opposite coast for so many years.
So in the spirit of celebration of my first born son and St. Patrick’s Day I almost always prepare a dinner of corned beef and cabbage.
This year I decided to put a twist on this standard dish and roast the cabbage which is unimaginably delicious. I also roasted the carrots, and made parsley potatoes to accompany the corned beef.
When the corned beef was tender after having simmered on the stove for several hours I placed it on a rack in a roasting pan, slathered it with a glaze of honey, whole grain mustard, Dijon mustard, and brown sugar. and roasted it at 350 degrees for about 20 more minutes .
It was one of the best St. Patrick’s Day dinners I’ve made, and we are looking forward to corned beef sandwiches tomorrow.
1 head cabbage, cored, and cut into 8 wedges.
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt to taste
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
Place the cabbage wedges carefully on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the slices over carefully and season again with salt and pepper.
Roast in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes until the edges begin to caramelize.
Carefully turn the slices over and roast another 10 to 15 minutes until they are crispy and browned at the edge, but still have a bite to them.
I wake up early every day, whether I need to or not. That’s just my body clock.
But I can’t really start the day until I’ve had my second cup of coffee. I love my coffee, and have since I began drinking it in college.
(I’m so thrilled that the recent health pundits have been touting the benefits of caffeine! Whew!!!)
Although I do love croissants, muffins, scones, danish pastries (especially cheese), and all kinds of coffee cakes along with a cup of coffee I really try to avoid them and have something healthier for breakfast.
Although I may cave later in the day I can get through breakfast most days without succumbing to those high carb sugary cravings.
Not so this past Sunday morning. For some time now I have had visions of sugarplums in the form of coffeecakes dancing in my head.
And this Sunday I adamantly announced to my husband that I was making a coffee cake for breakfast! That’s it…just coffee cake, my coffee, and the Sunday paper, and I would savor it guilt free.
I found the perfect coffee cake to accomplish this. It is from Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman’s blog.
It is called The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.
And it is.
See for yourself.
Just don’t make a habit of it.
The Best Coffee Cake. Ever. (from The Pioneer Woman’s Blog)
For the Cake:
1 and 1/2 stick butter, softened (I used unsalted)
2 cups scant sugar
3 cups, flour, sifted
4 teaspoons powder
1 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)
1 and 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk (didn’t have whole milk so I used 1 cup non-fat milk and 1/4 cup half and half. It worked)
3 whole egg whites, beaten until stiff
For the Topping:
1 and 1/2 stick butter, softened (unsalted, again)
3/4 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar ( I used light brown, dark brown would be okay, too)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 and 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk alternately until combined. Don’t overbeat.
Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.
Spread in a well-greased 9x13 baking pan. A cake pan with higher sides would be best.
In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly.
Sprinkle all over the top.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until no longer jiggly. Serve warm. Delicious!
With spring on the horizon there still remain enough wintry days to cook up some one dish meals such as this Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses.
Soon we will be turning our thoughts to all the great grilling possibilities, and endless salads and such that will be heralded by the opening of the farm stands everywhere.
Until then consider making this delicious baked rigatoni dish which is great for feeding a crowd ( just make several) or a family dinner (with leftovers for lunch the next day).
Baked Pasta with Sausage and Four Cheeses
(The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes)
serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the baking dish
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, meat cut into small pieces
1/2 cup red wine
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup soffrito (see recipe in Giusi’s Ragu post)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup (8 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
8 ounces Fontina or Taleggio, cubed
8 ounces mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Pecorino Romano)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted (I used Panko breadcrumbs)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring the pasta water to a boil and add salt.
Ina large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and cook the sausage, breaking it up as it browns, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine, turn the heat up to boil, and cook until much of the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.
Add the oregano, soffrito, seasonings, and tomatoes along with their juices.
Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes, or until thick and savory.
Cook the rigatoni a minute less than the time required on the package (since it will continue cooking in the oven), then drain, reserving a bit of the pasta water.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the fontina and a splash of the pasta water,
then add the drained rigatoni and continue mixing.
Add the sausage mixture and mozzarella, tossing to mix well.
Oil a 9x13-inch baking dish, and then pour in the pasta. Sprinkle the Parmigiano and breadcrumbs on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden flecked and hot.
Sometimes the simplest and fewest ingredients result in the tastiest dishes. Such is the case for this Hearts of Palm Dip which I found in a Food and Wine magazine from a year ago, and made recently.
While so many of the dips and spreads that we love are filled with high fat ingredients…think sour cream, cream cheese, mayo, all kinds of cheeses… (although I use them at times the low fat versions are just not the same when it comes to flavor), I found this particular dip really satisfying and yet about as low fat as you can get.
I love hearts of palm, and will often slice them and add them to a salad. They are tasty, high in fiber, vitamin C, calcium and iron, low in fat, and have a nice texture to them.
For those, however who must watch their salt intake, the sodium count is rather high.
Blended with some olive oil, garlic, lime zest, and a bit of pepper it becomes this creamy, yet slightly chucky dip that goes great with plantain chips, pita chips, flatbreads, or just plain crudites. And, it’s guilt-free eating!
Hearts of Palm Dip ( adapted from Food and Wine, March 2012)
1 large garlic clove, minced
Salt (I prefer Kosher salt)
Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
Freshly ground white pepper (If you don’t have it, black pepper will do)
Plantain chips, pita chips, flatbreads, or veggies for serving
Using the side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Scrape the paste into a food processor. Add the hearts of palm and oil and process to a medium-fine paste.
Add the lime zest, season with salt and pepper and pulse just to blend.
Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve with plantain chips, pita chips, flatbreads, or fresh veggies.
The dip can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Our good friends from our “Chicago Days” who now live in Rhode Island spent the night with us on their way down to Florida yesterday. It was so wonderful to spend some time with them.
They were a part of a close knit group of friends we had who, like us, were all transplanted to the Windy City from the east coast in the 70’s. We were all beginning our own families at this time, and before long we became family to each other filling the void that living far from one’s roots can create.
So we celebrated holidays and birthdays together, formed a gourmet club, had play dates for our kids, went apple picking, pumpkin picking, and strawberry picking, and the dads even took the kids on camping trips (without the moms).
As is life, eventually we all found ourselves relocating, many of us back to the east coast, but all to different cities.
But those were days we cherish, and no doubt the memories of those good times for our children (now adults, and some with their own children), have impacted their lives.
As luck would have it, it was also my husband’s birthday yesterday, and what better way to spend it than with good friends!
I made a birthday dinner of Greek Chicken and Potatoes, Greek Style Green Beans and Tomatoes, and a Greek Salad, all of which was gluten free as our friend must adhere to this diet.
While dinner was not challenging at all, I was not so confident about making my husband’s favorite chocolate birthday cake with a gluten free twist.
I confess I have never made a gluten free cake other than the sponge cakes I make at Passover which are gluten free by nature since I only use potato starch in them, and an occasional flourless chocolate cake.
But I wanted this to be a real birthday cake, 2 layers with a special filling between the layers, and a decadently rich chocolate glaze.
When I found a bag of gluten free flour at Trader Joe’s I thought I just might be able to pull off a gluten free birthday cake worth celebrating.
I decided to follow the recipe for my chocolate cake, substituting the gluten free flour for the cake flour called for.
A Chocolate Cake That’s Got It All
Butter, for coating cake pans
2 cups sugar
1 and 3/4 cups cake flour 1 and 3/4 cups gluten free flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process
1 teaspoon instant coffee ( I used instant espresso powder)
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
14 tablespoons (13/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
2 (8-inch) cake pans
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease the cake pans with butter and dust with flour. (I prefer to line the bottom of the pans with buttered parchment as well to prevent any sticking).
Whisk sugar, flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
Place cocoa and coffee in a medium bowl. Whisk in 3/4 cup boiling water to form a smooth paste. Stir in sour cream and vanilla and set aside.
With a hand or electric mixer in medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Without cleaning the beaters, mix melted butter into dry ingredients until mixture is smooth. Immediately add cocoa mixture, and beat until batter is smooth, 2-3 minutes. Carefully fold egg whites into batter until just incorporated.
Divide batter evenly between pans and bake until a skewer inserted into center comes out with wet crumbs, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cakes sit in pans to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Invert each cake onto a plate, then onto a cooling rack.
For the filling I whipped up some heavy cream into which I folded some frozen (partially thawed) raspberries, making it a pretty shade of pink, and then covered the whole cake with a rich chocolate glaze.
Chocolate Fudge Glaze
1/4 cup (60ml) water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces (170g) sweet cooking chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 cup confectioners, sugar (2 ounces, 55g)
1 and 1/2 tablespoons dark rum (or Chambord Liqueur)
Pinch of salt
Bring water and butter to boil in a small saucepan. Keep at simmer until needed.
Metal Blade: Pulse the chocolate with confectioners’ sugar 5 times, then process continuously until chocolate is as fine as sugar. With machine running, pour water and butter through the feed tube and process until chocolate is melted, stopping once to scrape the work bowl. Add the rum or Chambord and salt and process for 5 seconds.
With the remaining glaze (I made 1 and 1/2 x the recipe) I decorated the top of the cake with a pastry tip. Allow the glaze to chill a bit to thicken it enough to do this.
Some raspberries for the finishing touch, and I would say it was a delicious success!
And by what was left I think you might agree.
I’m now a believer that gluten free doesn’t have to be taste free!
This is a delicious quick dish for any night of the week or for guests. I’ve been making it for years. Although the recipe suggests porcini and pappardelle almost any kind of mushrooms and most pastas will do.
You can’t miss with this classic blend of sauteed mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan or my favorite Pecorino Romano. Enjoy!
Papardelle with Porcini and Garlic
(adapted from Pasta, Food and Wine Books)
3/4 pound pappardelle pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound porcini or other wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used a combination of shitake and cremini this time)
5 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 cup chicken stock, or low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pappardelle until just done, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over moderately high heat.
Add half of the mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and if you want discard the garlic. I prefer to leave it in.
Repeat with the remaining oil, mushrooms, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the stock, butter and parsley. Simmer over moderate heat for 1 minute.
Drain the pasta. Toss with the mushroom sauce and and the Parmesan or Pecorino. Serve with additional grated cheese and cracked pepper.
This is the dessert that ended our Valentine’s dinner this evening.
Nothing too fancy, just a few of my husband’s favorites…homemade rich chocolatey brownies cut into heart shapes, sharing the plate with pure vanilla ice cream blanketed with fresh ripe macerated strawberries.
Dinner was a mixed green salad, steamed lobster tails with drawn butter, pan seared T-Bone Steak, and baked potatoes all washed down with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
My sister came to visit this past weekend so we could all celebrate her birthday.
Our best friends who have become good friends to her as well joined us for a terrific dinner Saturday evening in DC at a wonderful restaurant called District Commons. Check it out.
Our cocktails, appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts were all great and it was a really fun evening.
After dinner we cruised our beautiful nation’s capital which is particularly amazing all lit up at night.
We passed by The White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, numerous beautifully designed government buildings and more before heading for home.
Having lived here for the past 25 years with these treasures practically in our backyard, and knowing that by this summer they will be almost an entire country away, my appreciation of them and all they represent has grown even deeper.
We plan to go into DC more often over the next four months to savor all that is here before moving to the west coast this summer. It is one more thing to add to our growing list of things/people that will be hard to leave.
After our scenic tour we all came back to our house for coffee and yes, a second dessert. I had made a Coconut Cream Pie for the birthday girl knowing this is one of her favorite desserts.
I have always adhered to the belief that it is not a birthday unless there is a birthday cake, or in this case, pie! That’s just the way it has to be.
After scouring the internet for all forms of coconut cream pie, I landed on this version which comes from a fellow food blogger, and it is amazing. It is Lorie’s Coconut Cream Pie from her blog Mississippi Kitchen. I won’t be looking for another version after having made this one.
Here it is…
Lorie’s Coconut Cream Pie (from Mississippi Kitchen Blog)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water
1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
1 envelope (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 (13.5-ounce) can pure coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut
2 1/2 cups shredded, flaked coconut, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening and 1/4 cup cold cubed butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water, until mixture forms a ball, adding more water if necessary. Pat into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Roll dough out to fit a 9 1/2-10 inch glass pie plate. Place crust in pie plate and trim and crimp edges. Place the dish on a baking sheet for easier handling. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust well with a fork. Line the inside of the crust with a piece of foil, allowing edges to extend several inches beyond the perimeter. Place 2 cups of dried beans in the crust to weight it down during baking and prevent shrinkage.
(Note : I used parchment paper to line the pan and filled it with uncooked rice instead of beans)
Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is no longer raw on bottom. Remove the foil and beans by carefully lifting the foil out by the overhang. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Place 1/2 cup cold milk in a mixing bowl (preferably with a pouring spout) and sprinkle with the gelatin. Set aside to soften for about 5 minutes.
Bring the remaining milk and coconut milk to nearly a boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.
When the gelatin is soft, add the sugar, cornstarch, egg and egg yolks and whisk until very well blended. Gradually whisk about a 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the gelatin mixture; repeat this process once or twice using about 3/4 cup of the hot milk mixture. Pour the warmed gelatin mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 2 minutes or until mixture is very thick.
Strain the pastry cream through a fine wire strainer into a large clean bowl; whisk in the butter, coconut extract, and cream of coconut until smooth. Stir in 2 cups shredded coconut.
Pour into the cooled the pie shell and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
To make the topping, beat the heavy cream in a large bowl on high speed until foamy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until soft to medium stiff peaks form. Spread over the pie. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut. Keep refrigerated.
Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister!
Every now and then I get an uncontrollable craving for mac and cheese.
Since my husband’s love for cheese is limited to a chunk of Jarlsberg or melted mozzarella on his pizza or Chicken Parm I can’t use him as the excuse for why I would make this large pan of Cheesy Mac and Cheese in the photo above.
Yep, I must admit I made it for me…although I’m always willing to share with anyone who may walk through our door, including repairmen, painters, etc… and countless times I have walked out the door and down the street carrying something hot off the stove to share with our best friends.
They have since moved away (too far a walk now), but for 20 plus years I could always count on them to enjoy a dish I was itching to make that wasn’t on the top of my husband’s list, or if truth be known, not on his list at all.
But you didn’t think that would keep me from making this Cheesy Mac and Cheese, did you? For someone who loves to cook and try new recipes as much as I do, I find I subscribe to that tag line for Clairol…I’m worth it!
This is the second time I’ve posted a recipe for macaroni and cheese. The previous one is a bit different, but I use a variety of pasta shapes and cheeses in both.
In this one I added an over- the- top amount of shredded cheese to the bechamel sauce before adding the pasta to the sauce. It is good enough to eat right there and then, or you can pour it into an augratin dish, cover it with Panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs), and bake it off in the oven.
Either way…it is one cheesylicious Mac and Cheese!
Cheezy Mac and Cheese
(adapted from Homeroom’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese Recipe)
For the bechamel:
4 cups whole milk (I used 3 cups skim and 1 cup half and half)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 pounds assorted pasta (I used penne, cellantani, and gemelli)
8 ounces shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese
2/3 cup panko (optional)
For the bechamel:
1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat and set aside.
2.In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk, then thin out.)
4. Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg. Remove from the heat and set aside.
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.
(If you plan to top the mac and cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.)
2. Place the reserved saucepan of bechamel over the medium heat and stir in the cheeses just until melted and smooth. Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes.
Serve immediately, or, if baking, transfer to a large baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.