Archive for the ‘a recipe’ Category

Halloween and Beef Stew

Here it is, Halloween! 
Don’t you just love this time of year?  I sure do!
From the pumpkins and costumes to piles of crunchy leaves and chilly nights, Autumn is a very special time!

If Halloween hadn’t been invented, we’d have had to come up with some sort of holiday to acknowledge this season!

As a kid, I’d worry for weeks over costumes and “bag strategy.”  I grew tired of the princesses, pirates and clowns that were available at our local Five and Dime store.  My last such store bought outfit was a Micky Dolenz costume….I actually got it more for my growing Monkees collection than for actual trick-or-treating. 

What I enjoyed most of all through the years was when I made my own costumes….usually with just things I had around the house.   One year I was a sack of laundry, and when I was done with it as a costume I just popped the clothes into the washing machine! 

As I got older, I started going “Halloween Caroling” instead of begging for candy and doing tricks.  Doing this enabled me to crash parties without crashing them. 

My unsuspecting host or hostess would ask “Oh! You actually use that guitar?!  How’s about a tune?”  
Of course I’d have to oblige….with songs like “Silent Night, Haunted Night,” “Here Comes Frankenstein” (to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus”), “The Twelve Days Of Halloween,” and “We Three Ghosts” to name a few.  Most folks seemed to like it.

This year we’re celebrating the holiday in a more low-key fashion.  Jack’s health issues makes him tire easily, so rather than going through a lot of stress we decided to spend the evening together, just the two of us; a nice meal, a couple of horror flicks on the t.v…..perfect!

My “cauldron”

I wanted something for dinner that would incorporate the colors of autumn within the confines of a one pan, healthy meal. Jack suggested Beef Stew with Biscuits.  So that’s what I did. 

Grab yourself a cauldron and some Witches’ Brew, chase the bats from the belfry and tell Dracula to go get some take-out….let’s cook!

1/4 lb per person


Meat-wise, 1/4 lb of uncooked cubed meat per person is the rule of thumb
1 onion
1 large or 2 small rutabaga
1 or 2 potatoes
3 or 4 large carrots or 1/2 bag of baby carrots, cut up
1 yam
1 or 2 crowns of broccoli cut up
1 to 2 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
Seasonings to taste
2 cups of broth (from pan drippings after browning the cubed meat and veggie steaming water)
Any other ingredients you’d like to add….kitchen sink included!

Prepare almost everything in the same pan to insure maximum flavor! The exception would be those veggies that require extra cooking.  Use a steamer for things like your chopped rutabaga, carrots, potatoes.  Steam them ’til they’re about 3/4 done.  Use the steaming liquid as your “water” for the broth base.

Steaming the “hard” veggies

Brown the meat with chopped onions and garlic, set it aside.  Add 2 cups of  the steaming water to the pan drippings, let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add bay leaves, veggies, starting with the steamed ones first. Let this cook for about 10 minutes.

Add , broccoli, what ever other “softer” veggies you might have.  Let this simmer for about 15  minutes. Taste.  Adjust your seasonings.  Add meat and any remaining ingredients.  Let simmer another 10 minutes and taste again.  Some folks like a thin stew, but if you want to thicken it, mix the cornstarch and cold water together then add to the stew.  Let simmer another 5 minutes or so.  Taste again, adjust seasoning.

Let sit 1/2 hour before serving

HERE’S THE SECRET- Let it sit for about 1/2 hour before serving, this allows it to cool down for a bit, and also helps the flavors to mingle and work with one another.

Serve with a salad and  good bread or rolls.

Serve with rolls and salad

As usual, if you have any suggestions, comments or recipes feel free to share!


LIVING AND COOKING – Stuff and Stuffed Cabbage

Live goes on….and so it goes.
Sometimes it’s so crazy
sometimes it just flows…

Been going through the aging process, aren’t we all?  Remembering when things were so different.  Laughing at sounding so much like the “old heads” from our yesterdays. Funny how this window/mirror thing we glance through from time to time knows just which buttons to press. And when.
Gravity’s no friend, either.
But what the heck.

Someone asked me the other day if I wanted to die my now grey flecked hair.  I want to wear the process of my living, and what better place than my head?  Doesn’t mean I won’t trim the bangs now and then. But hey. The grey hairs are mine.  I earned ’em!

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head some nights when I can’t sleep.  Err, well….I mean when I am still awake past 3 a.m..  Of course other nights hold different thoughts.  Tonight I’m thinking of my mother….the first person who taught me how to cook.

She had a large brood to feed on a limited budget but managed to not only feed us, but instill in us a good relationship with food, and interest in cooking and the importance of sharing meals with loved ones.  Her hair is the same soft, snowy white her father wore to his last.  It is beautiful to me.  Should I ever have the great fortune to sport the same feature, I’ll grow it long and proud.

Anyway, one of Mom’s dishes was a version of Stuffed Green Cabbage. I wrote a recipe for Stuffed Purple Cabbage in the blog “Fifty Five Is The New…” .  This dish uses the tight-headed green cabbage available at most grocery stores, farmers’ markets and green grocers.

It’s the one Mom prepared for us with her own special flair. She used canned tomato soup with 1/2 can of water per soup can, made her meat mix with ground beef, rice salt and pepper.  I believe she may have diced some onion or used some onion flakes in the meat mix too.

I remember the first time helping her steam the cabbage.  She showed me how to cut the great round things in half after taking off the outer leaves.  The halving not to occur ’til after a proper washing under some cool running water, of course.

There were carrots to cut in quartered lengths, onions to be coarsely chopped and, the funnest part of all, rolling the meat/rice mixture into steam limped leaves and tucking them sweetly into the bottom of a cabbage leaf-lined and sauced oval baking pan.  Mom would toss a few carrot and onion chunks hither and yon about the pan and between the swaddling morsels. Then she’d add some remaining liquid, cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake it for 45 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees.  After 45 minutes she’d remove the foil and let it bake for an additional 15-18 minutes.

Anyway, we were in the mood for Stuffed Cabbage so I set about making it with what we had on hand.
Our last shopping foray garnered, among other things, a nice firm head of green cabbage so we were on the right track.

Oval pan

A quick pantry check showed no tomato soup around, but a can of chopped tomatoes.   Close enough.
We had plenty of rice, onion, carrots – even an oval pan!  Well, all-reet!

The plan was to make something similar to Mom’s original.  I was using ground turkey, diced tomatoes , a few fresh tomatoes, some left over broth from a previous evening’s roast as the broth, so there were going to be differences.


Ingredients for Stuffed Green Cabbage

3 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
6 -10 carrots cut in quarters – reserve tips to grate into meat/ rice mixture
1 – 2 yellow onion(s) coarsely chopped
salt (optional) pepper (optional) to taste
2 fresh tomatoes, diced fine
1 large can diced tomatoes –
     if you prefer, 2 cans of tomato soup plus 1 can of water
1 large head of tight-leaf green cabbage
2 cups stock

Remove the outer cabbage leaves.  Wash the cabbage under cool water then chop it in half. Notice the hard section at the base of each half?  That has to be removed.  There will be some other hard features that will require surgery as well, but more on that in a bit.
The trick here is to use your knife more like a scalpel than a chopper for this maneuver.
You might consider using a smaller rather than larger blade for better control. Other than that, it’s a matter of cutting around the stem base and inner core. You’ll end up with something that looks like this picture.  It’s a bit helmet-like, or even “brain-like.”

Get the steamer water boiling and add the carrots. Put the steamer on the pot and start adding raw cabbage leaves to the steamer until it is only 1/2 full. Cover and steam for 5 to 7 minutes while you prepare the filling.

If you don’t have a stacking steamer you can soften the carrots a bit by par-boiling them. I just like to partially cook them ahead of time so everything else doesn’t turn to mush waiting for the carrots to be done.

The filling is simple.  Put meat in a bowl, add the cooled cooked rice, add spices to your individual taste, grate carrots this mixture. As the cabbage leaves soften, take them out of the steaming basket and lay them out on a large flat surface.

Pour some of your stock into the oval pan, so it just covers the bottom. Take any small pieces and line the bottom of your pan with them.

.  Put this ball in the center of one of the cabbage leaves and wrap the meat like a holiday parcel!   If you run into any hard pieces of cabbage….veins, bits of leave, etc. discard them.  They will not soften with cooking.

Stuffed Cabbage with Carrots and Tomaties

You may have more meat mixture than cabbage, that’s okay.  Just form little balls and place them round the pan. They will cook in the soon-to-be bubbling broth.  Distribute the carrots and diced onion around the pan, Pour the remaining broth over everything then top with diced tomatoes.

Wrap in aluminum foil and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and allow to cook for 15 minutes more.  Serve with buttered rice.

Making and eating this dish dissolved the miles and other things between us. It was tasty and familiar, even with the differing ingredients.

As always, please feel free to share your recipes and ideas!



Freakin’ Fried Chicken

Mom didn’t do a lot of friend chicken when we were growing up.  Not that she couldn’t. she just did it another way.  She did it in the oven with her own version of “Shake & Bake,” and it usually came out moist, crunchy and tasty.

I’ve done it that way too, but once in a while I like to do it “old school.”  So sue me, I like playing in mud, too!
“Old School” to me is on top of the stove using a deep walled pan, a mixture of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grapeseed Oil (cuts the cost a little), using crunched up seasoned cereal and/or potato chips and/or potato flakes and/or crackers and/or if nothing else, bread crumbs for the crust.  Of course there’s the standard beaten egg….sometimes I use buttermilk, sometimes milk, sometimes yogurt….I’m flexible.

Flexible…this time with yogurt

Oh!  I also soak the chicken in the milk, buttermilk or yogurt for about an hour before cooking….this step really insures the meat will stay moist!

Always rinse and pat the chicken dry, do this for any meats for that matter. Pierce and season the meat  on both sides with your preference of seasonings.  I use some garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, thyme and crushed celery leaves.  Some folk like salt and pepper, some don’t. Your preference.

I mix the marinating liquid (yogurt in this case) with beaten egg and some more seasonings – crushed garlic, finely diced onion or dried crushed onion flakes, and even a dash of apple cider vinegar then dredge the chicken pieces in this mixture. 

Crumb mixture

After that it’s time to roll each piece of chicken in the crumb mixture.  Be sure to coat it evenly and shake off any excess. 

This time I used a combination of ingredients for the crumb mixture –  1/4/ cup each of crushed Cheeze It crackers, crushed Crispy Rice and Jiffy Baking Mix.   This jumble should be seasoned, just like the other components.   A dash of pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, another smidgen of crushed dried onion flakes and perhaps a sprinkle of paprika would be a good thing.   Mix everything thoroughly before dredging the chicken.

Drying on the rack

While doing this dredging, heat the oil in a deep walled pan.  I don’t have an oil or candy thermometer so test the oil temp the old fashioned way…with a small cube of bread.   When the oil is ready, add a piece of chicken.  Deep fry five to seven minutes per side, depending on thickness. Let drip on a rack for a few minutes.  If it still needs a bit more cooking time, put in an oven set to 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. 

Fried chicken is a very individual thing, and there are a million ways to do it.  This is just one.   Feel free to submit your fried chicken recipe!  Enjoy!

Diane’s Turkey Parisian

Recipes are more than instructions on how to assemble a dish, they’re little scraps of memory….bits of days gone by remembered when put into service.

Diane Sciara my friend

Diane Sciara was my best friend from 1977 through 2008 when she finally lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer.
We shared a lot through those years….parties, people, events and recipes.  We used to entertain often, which  meant inviting friends over for a pot luck supper or other gathering which usually resulted in a great meal.

She had a way of throwing ingredients together and coming up with something imaginative and tasty. We were always trading recipes, even after we were no longer roommates.  The food holidays were important to us.  We’d start planning for them weeks and even months in advance – from entrees through snacks, even if we were celebrating the event separately.  We’d even discuss what to do with leftovers.  Now that’s a friend!

One of Diane’s specialties was a dish created using left over turkey, broccoli, cheese, cream of mushroom soup and bread crumbs.  She called it Turkey Parisian.   

While at the store the earlier today, I found a special on boneless/skinless turkey breast cutlets and immediately thought of my friend and her wonderful signature dish.  Two guesses on what we had for dinner tonight!


4 to 6 boneless/skinless turkey breast cutlets seasoned and browned
2 – 2 1/2 cups steamed broccoli
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or make your own white sauce w/ mushrooms)
1/2 of soup can worth of broth, sherry or white wine (apple juice is a good substitute for sherry)
1 1/2  to 2 cups breadcrumbs or crushed crackers – I used crushed Cheese It crackers this time.
Poultry Seasoning, salt or low salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F 
Lightly spray or grease the bottom and sides of a square casserole dish. Line bottom of dish with a thin coat of breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs.  Then slice the turkey cutlets into manageable pieces and line the dish with them. 

A fine veneer of cheese

Sprinkle a fine veneer of cheese on top of the turkey pieces – don’t use all of the cheese, this is just a tad for flavoring.  While your at it, sprinkle some spices around too…but don’t overdo it!  We’ll be putting some more on top.

Spread the broccoli evenly on top

After the cheese bit comes the broccoli. Spread it out evenly across the top of the cheese and turkey.  Slice any pieces that seem too large.  This will make portioning – and eating- a lot easier! 

Pour sour/sauce over broccoli

Mix the cream of mushroom soup or your home made white sauce with the sherry, wine, broth or juice in a small sauce pan and stir until blended. It should thicken slightly.  Pour  this sauce over the broccoli.  

Cheese then bread or cracker crumbs

Next, sprinkle the remaining cheese over everything.  Make sure you get a nice, even coating over it all.  Then sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs over top.  Finish assembly with a final flourish of spice, then cover it loosely and put it in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes covered.  Remove cover and cook for an additional 15 to 25 minutes until top starts turning golden and sauce and cheese are bubbling.

This is a yummy stand-alone dish that can also be served with other holiday left overs, salad and/or veggies.  Great for pot lucks, too!

So here’s to Diane and her Turkey Parisian! 
As always, please feel free to share your recipes, memories and comments!

Diane’s Turkey Parisian piping hot and ready to eat!

Corn Bread Chronicles

Being corny

Isn’t it an amazing feeling to open a door and have the wonderful aroma of corn bread greet you?  That sweet, rich almost textured scent….letting you know something special is waiting to be served. After a long, hard day there is one thing for certain….

Comfort comes with corn bread.

Done right, this baked good can be a very pleasing gastronomical experience….done wrong, a brick for yon garden wall. The question is, how can something so simple to produce go so horribly wrong?

But first, a moment to acknowledge the traditions of maize…of Corn Woman,  of the ancestors who first grew the maize, dried it and ground it to a flour to make food.  This grain is one without whom entire societies would not exist. Including our present one here in the United States.  Corn, its raising and preparations as taught by Native Americans made it possible for settlers to survive those first several mean seasons.

Corn Bread has gone through a lot of changes since those early times.  Once a simple thing made of coarse ground cornmeal, water and salt, it’s gone through a series of make-overs to the point where there are as many variations as there are type of corn and stars in the sky.

There’s Cheesy Corn Bread, Jalapeno Cheesy Corn Bread, Bacon Corn Bread, Bacon Cheese Corn Bread and of course Corn Kernel Corn Bread….Blueberry Corn Bread, Brown Sugar Corn Bread, Cranberry Orange Corn Bread, Banana Corn Bread….and so on.  See what I mean?   I’ve even heard of Chocolate Chip Corn Bread and Cherries with Corn Bread a la Mode. Honest!

We’ll get to a few of those other recipes in other blog entries.

Suffice to say we humans must love the stuff; why else would we have it in so many varieties? 
Since we’ve been at it for so long, why is it we occasionally end up with something more akin to masonry than maize?  What gives?

Some say it’s the addition of flour to the mix….the gluten wreaks havoc when it starts to react with the corn/egg/oven heat thing.  Purists don’t allow flour anywhere near their cornbread! They shun the whole idea as if hearing blasphemy.  Go ahead!  I dare you to bring a flour sack to the mixing table in a proper Southern (or even Northern) traditionalist’s home!  I’ll sit over here until the storm blows over.

I’ve tried it both ways.  In fact, the first way I tried it was with cornmeal, flour, sugar, eggs, milk and shortening, cooked in a loaf pan. It was heavy, kind of gummy and well,  I wasn’t pleased.

Luckily this wasn’t a Home Economics assignment or anything….just an experiment.

Through the years I’ve tried dozens of recipes and methods.  Some of them were successful, brilliantly so.   Others were….well….not so brilliant. But from these trials and errors I learned a great deal.  The first thing is that maybe loaf pans aren’t such a good idea for cornbread.  Such pans tend to force this bread’s batter into strange behavior.  It wants to be cooked on the outside but stay pudding-like within.

Store brand yellow corn meal

Ingredients play a role too. Some people will insist on adding flour….saying that without it the bread will be hard as a rock.  I’ve had that experience too, which is why even without the flour I add “lifters.”  What are these “lifters?” Eggs and baking soda, plain and simple.  Baking powder is another “lifter.”  And don’t forget to include the air that you beat into the egg before adding it to the batter – it has merit, too.

The type of cornmeal used can be important.  Stone or Coarse ground will act differently than fine ground.  The bread’s texture and density will vary depending on the type grind used.

For cornbread, my favorite cooking vessel is a cast iron skillet, heated in the oven with bacon drippings or oil. Periodically I try a batch in a regular loaf pan with limited success.  When it does work out, it’s because I’ve pre-heated the greased pan before filling it only half way with batter and placing it in the center of the oven all by itself for around 40 – 50 minutes.

So here are a couple of recipes that have worked for me.  I hope they work for you.  Let me know!

Preheat oven to 375 F.

3 Tbs. bacon drippings, lard or oil
1 1/2 to 2 cups of coarse ground cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
Salt to taste (optional)
1 egg, beaten.

Put the bacon drippings, lard or oil on a cast iron skillet, then put it in the oven to heat.

Add dry ingredients (cornmeal, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl, pour in buttermilk, beat egg before adding to the batter.
Check to see if the pan is ready. It should be smoking hot.  Pour the batter into it. The pan should sizzle and begin to fry as it hits the fat-lined pan.  Put in the oven and bake until golden brown.  Check after about 30 – 40 minutes

You can add a can of creamed corn to this recipe if you want real corn “berries.”  If you do, reduce the amount of buttermilk to about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Preheat oven to 400F 

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1/4 cup bacon drippings or vegetable oil

Grease a heavy loaf pan and put it in the oven to heat. This step is very important.
While pan heats, blend all the dry ingredients together. Add remaining ingredients until dry ingredients are just moist. Check to see if the pan is ready.  Again, it should be smoking hot.  Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Serve warm.

To add a can of creamed corn to this recipe, you’ll need to lessen the amount of milk in your recipe to about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

Cornbread is a great thing for any time of day….from breakfast through midnight snack.  It’s a great accompaniment to chili, is perfectly at home sliced thin and pan toasted with melted cheese and can even be coaxed liven up that old stuffing recipe you’ve been using for years.

Here’s to cornbread!!!
Please feel free to share your ideas, recipes and comments!

Skillet cornbread
Loaf pan cornbread

Mmmmmmm! Coffee Cake!

Sit back and imagine for a moment if you will….you pulled an all nighter trying to get the last minutes of something important done, now you’re tired. And hungry. And also in charge of having food ready for everybody when they wake up. 

Coffee Cake on my mind

Cold cereal would be okay….I mean, why not?  But after looking through the selection you come up with a different idea.  Something to warm the body and soul.

That exact situation is what got me thinking of coffee cake. I was too awake for sleeping, too sleepy for anything complicated but wanted something….something that tasted like morning that was good with coffee.

So here’ my version of a Quick Coffee Cake.  This one doesn’t have coffee as one of the ingredients, but a few of my other recipes do….so watch for them in upcoming blog entries!

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (low salt is okay, too)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 tsp cardamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar – some folk like it sweeter. Start with smaller amount first.
1-2 tsp lemon or orange rind
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup margarine

A quick bit of heaven

Grease a cake pan.  (Release spray is fine, so is a thin film of butter and flour)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt (if used). Add cardamon, mix and set aside. Cream butter, add sugar and cream some more. Beat egg, milk and salt (if used) together. Add to sifted ingredients. Add rind. Mix until well blended. 
Put batter into cake pan, spread it evenly around. Hit bread pan against counter to let air out and get dough even on bottom. 
Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle over cake batter.  Do not push topping into cake batter- let it rest on the surface. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Place in pan on rack to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.
Then grab a cup of java and enjoy!

If you have any suggestions, comments, questions, recipes or what ever that you want to share, please feel free!