Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini Bats

By Gail Foley

Well it’s that time of year again. The zucchini are coming on like gangbusters and there’s always a couple that get away and turn into what we fondly call “baseball bats”. If you've ever grown zucchini, I’m sure you’re familiar with this phenomenon.

A freshly picked “bat” should still have tender skin for this recipe. Poke it with a fingernail to test it. I didn't feel like doing the usual  treatment for very large zucchini – shredding. My other favorite treatment is to cut them into pickle size spears and make dill pickles. I’m not quite ready for pickling yet.

I researched some stuffed zucchini recipes on the internet for something new and different. This recipe from Rachel Ray for Cheesy Zucchini Boats offered two new techniques. She baked the zucchini first, using the same technique I use for winter squash: Cut the squash in half and bake it cut side down. And the more interesting technique was to put the cheese on the bottom, under the stuffing rather than as the usual topping.

1 very large zucchini, 14 inches

¾ lb ground beef (ground sirloin)
½ onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
¼ large orange bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 can (10.5 oz) tomato soup (1 pint homemade tomato soup)
8 slices bread, white balloon (2 Kroger onion rolls + 3 slices white bread)

6 ounces (1 ½ cups) shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Trim the ends from the zucchini, enough to fit in your baking dish. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the spongy center with seeds and discard, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Place the zucchini shells cut side down in prepared baking dish and bake for 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat, while chopping vegetables.

Add the beef, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and seasonings to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring to break up meat, until no longer pink and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato soup and bread.

Using tongs, turn over the zucchini shells and line the bottoms with the mozzarella. Pack on the filling. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Cut each half crosswise into four pieces.

Serve with a side salad or another vegetable such as corn on the cob or steamed broccoli.

Tuna Romanoff

By Gail Foley

A long time ago, and far, far away, I was a teen working at J.L Hudson’s Department store. I learned to make my first casserole from Joanne, one of the ladies I worked with in the wrapping department. It was with some excitement, we would have a ladies’ night at her house and cook. This casserole is so rich and creamy with the salty flavors of tuna and the tang of the olives. It is a favorite even with those who don’t like tuna!

I don’t remember the origins of this recipe. I suspect it might have been from Kraft for the cream cheese. The closest recipe I found on the WWW is linked below. It was published in Sheila Metcalf’s, The Tuna Cookbook, in Jan. 1972, but I was making it two years earlier, in 1970. The original recipe did call for one can of tuna, but we always felt it was better with two cans. And the more olives the merrier! We didn’t bother with chives or the breadcrumb topping.

Serves 8

8 oz wide egg noodles
5 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 ½ cups milk
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 cans tuna (white solid albacore in water), drained and flaked
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
6 oz (1 ½ cups) muenster cheese, grated OR sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 2 quart (or 2 one quart) baking dish with canola oil spray. Cook noodles according to package directions.

Make white sauce. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Stir in tuna and olives.

In prepared baking dish(es), layer ⅓ sauce, ½ of the noodles, and ½ of the Muenster cheese. Repeat. Top with remaining ⅓ sauce.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let set five minutes before serving.

This makes a full meal with a side salad, steamed broccoli or another fresh vegetable.

Eat one casserole now and freeze the other for later. Cool it and wrap well with saran wrap and foil..

Tuna Romanoff

Tuna Romanoff

Serves 6

8          oz                    Flat egg noodles
2½       cups                 Medium white sauce
8          oz                    Cream cheese
1          (6 oz) can        Tuna; drained, flaked
½         cup                  Green olives; pimiento-stuffed, sliced
2          Tbsp                Chives
6          oz                    Muenster cheese; sliced
1          cup                  Bread crumbs
2          Tbsp                Butter; melted

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. In saucepan, heat white sauce and add cream cheese, which has been cut into cubes. Cook and stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in tuna, olives, and chives. In a greased casserole, make layers of sauce, noodles, and Muenster cheese slices, starting and ending with sauce. Toss bread crumbs and butter together and sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. 

From: The Tuna Cookbook, Sheila Metcalf, Doubleday, Jan 1, 1972

Basic Cheese Sauce

By Gail Foley

Cheese sauce is a basic white sauce with cheese melted in it. Start with Easy Peasy White Sauce and add cheeses.

The flavor and texture depend on the cheese used. Don’t use a stringy cheese like Mozzarella. At least, only a little bit. You want a cheese that will melt and has good flavor. Cheddar, Colby, Muenster, Swiss, Jack and American cheeses are good in any combination. Please use American cheese, NOT "cheese food". American slices can be dropped in a few at a time and stirred until melted. If cream cheese is needed, I use lower fat Neufchâtel instead. Just cut off small chunks with a wire cutter and drop them into the bowl. The addition of some grated Parmesan and Romano adds good flavor, but by themselves the texture is a bit grainy.

Experiment with those leftover bits of cheese hanging around in your refrigerator. But no extra mold please! The natural mold from cheeses like Bleu and Roquefort is eminently acceptable.

This can be made lower in fat with skim milk and low fat cheese. If you need pepper for flavor, use finely ground white pepper so there aren't any dirty specks. Cheese is usually pretty salty so be wary of adding additional salt.

2 cups white sauce
1 cup shredded cheese

While white sauce is still hot, add cheese and stir.
Microwave another minute and stir, if needed, to completely melt the cheese.
If more cooking is needed to thicken or melt cheese, repeat the one minute cook and stir as needed.

Yields about 3 cups.

Easy Peasy White Sauce

AKA Béchamel Sauce
By Gail Foley

With the advent of electric appliances, I gave up that convoluted mess of frying flour in butter and then trying to mix in the milk without making lumps. Also known as making a “roux”. Get real! Until the power goes out, or you really need that browned flour, you can revert to the classic method. My method is easier, quicker and low-fat. Only an elite gourmet palate could tell how I cooked my flour! And I barely miss the butter, especially since this is usually the base of a recipe, not eaten for itself.

The cooking times are based on a microwave power of about a 1000 watts. Newer microwave ovens are often of higher wattage. Adjust the power level to 70% or so, if the flour cooks too quickly into a hard layer in the bottom of the bowl. If by some circumstance, your microwave oven only cooks at 700 watts or so, then lengthen the cooking times accordingly.

For thin white sauce use 2 tablespoons flour. For a thick white sauce, use 1/3 to ½ cup flour.

If you have to have butter, just throw it in the blender and whiz it with the milk and flour. It will melt quickly in the microwave and stir right in.

Once you learn how your microwave cooks, this recipe is easy-peasy!

Yield: 2 cups

2 cups milk
¼ cup flour
Dash of salt and ground white pepper

Pour milk into blender, measuring by marks on side of blender jar. Add flour, salt and pepper. Cover and stir until blended, about 30 seconds.

Pour into 6 cup glass microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir with whisk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl and breaking up any lumps that may have formed.

Microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Repeat stirring with whisk.

Microwave for 1 minute. Repeat stirring. If still not done, cook another minute or so as needed to achieve desired thickness.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Corn Fritters with Ham

By Gail Foley

Every weekend morning, I cook breakfast. Well, if I am not working. The first thing I hear from my son, Thomas, is “Cook eggs?”, if I am not already cooking them when he wakes up. Which is late as usual.

This morning, I had memories of my Grandma Main and the corn fritters she made us as children. They were light, with lots of corn and egg and a little bit of flour to hold them together. We drenched them in butter and syrup. Yummy!

I had not made them in many years and looked up some recipes to refresh my memory. I remembered that there were two main types – northern and southern. One was doughy and one was mostly egg. Since Grandma is from Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, I would guess that the northern ones are mostly egg.

My recipe search yielded lots of recipes, southern, northern, Canadian, and southwest variations but nothing like Grandma’s. So I just had at it. I figured about an egg per ½ cup of corn with a little milk to make the egg fluffy.  I added a generous tablespoon of flour for each egg and put in some baking powder to keep the flour light. I added some diced ham, because my guys like meat with their eggs. I fried them in corn oil to enhance the corn flavor.

They turned out like Grandma’s fritters, with ham! Delicious!

Yield: 6 fritters

4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 pint corn kernels, drained
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup thinly sliced deli ham, diced (6 small slices or 2 oz.)
Corn oil
Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 250°F to keep fritters warm. Line cookie sheet with paper towels to drain fritters.

Heat large skillet (preferably cast iron or heavy stainless steel, heavy aluminum in a pinch) hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while preparing batter.

Put eggs and milk in 8 cup mixing bowl and whisk together.

Add corn, salt and pepper, flour and baking powder in order listed. Fold together with large spoon until all is moistened. Crumble in ham and fold several times until evenly distributed.

Put about a ¼ inch of oil in skillet and turn up heat. When a drop of batter sizzles instantly, place a 1/3 cup of batter in skillet for each fritter. Hopefully, the skillet is large enough to hold three fritters easily. Shake some more pepper over them. Fry at medium heat until nicely browned on bottom. Turn fritters over and brown other side, a few minutes for each side. Remove to paper towels and put in oven to keep warm. Repeat with rest of batter.

To serve, put one or two fritters on a plate. Top with a dollop of butter and a good splash of syrup. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bacon, Egg, Cheese and Spinach Casserole

I found this recipe posted on FB and adapted it to a smaller amount and quicker and easier directions. The 9x9-inch dish still serves 8 easily, especially when accompanied by hash browns and fruit.

This is a wonderful breakfast dish. It was moist, tender and tasty. It would also be good with sausage or ham. -Gail

3 cups bread, diced (4 fresh heels from white and wheat bread)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 onion, diced
1 ½ cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1/2 cup Hormel real bacon bits (4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped)
1 1/2 cups cheese, shredded (Colby or mild cheddar)

Preheat oven 325°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add the bread cubes, stir to moisten and let sit while preparing and gathering the rest of the ingredients.

Coat a 9×9-inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

Add onion, spinach, bacon and 1 cup of cheese to bread mixture. Toss together lightly and pour into prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle with  rest of the cheese and bake for about 45 minutes, until puffed and set. A knife inserted in center should come out clean.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scalloped Chicken and Potatoes with Green Beans

I did a recipe search for a dish with chicken and green beans. This one popped up in my saved files. I couldn’t find this recipe on Google. You can always count on Russie to have something that tastes good. Thank you so much, Russie! I adapted the ingredients to what I had on hand and decided to layer and bake it like a more traditional scalloped potato dish.

This was so delicious and creamy. The sharp cheddar cheese added a little tang and the spices were a savory whisper of flavor.

Serves 6

1 (1/2 lb.) Chicken breast
2 cups Water from poaching chicken
3 Red potatoes (about 3” round), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup Milk
2 Tbsp. Chicken base
3 Tbsp.  Flour
1 small (3 oz) pkg. Neufchâtel
4 oz. (1 cup) Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp dried Thyme
1/8 tsp each ground Sage, Garlic powder, Onion powder, Pepper
½ tsp. dried chopped Chives
1 (15 oz) can cut Green beans, drained

To poach chicken: Put chicken breast in pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and turn heat to a low simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a dish to cool, saving broth in pot. Pull skin and bones from chicken and save in freezer bag for a future kettle of soup. Shred chicken.

To cook potatoes: Add sliced potatoes to pot with saved broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender when poked with a fork. Drain potatoes and save broth. Pour broth through strainer and save 2 cups for sauce. Save remaining broth to use in another recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with canola oil spray.

To make sauce: Put the saved 2 cups of broth, milk, flour and chicken base in a blender jar and whisk until mixed. Pour into 2 quart microwave safe bowl and microwave about 2 minutes at a time at 75% power (depending on power of microwave oven) until sauce is thickened, stirring every two minutes.

Drop little chunks of Neufchâtel into the hot sauce and whisk until melted and blended. Add shredded cheddar and stir until melted and blended into sauce. Stir in herbs and seasonings.

Assemble casserole:
Put about one cup of sauce in bottom of prepared baking dish. Cover with a layer of potatoes (one third of potatoes). Sprinkle with one half of the shredded chicken. Sprinkle with one half of the drained green beans. Add another layer of potatoes (half of remaining potatoes). Drizzle a good cup and a half of sauce over casserole. Continue layering with remaining chicken, beans, potatoes and sauce.

Bake for one hour or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad or steamed vegetable - broccoli or asparagus. Yummy!

Original recipe: Russie <russie2003@*******.net>
Subject: [dailyrecipes] ---Scalloped Chicken and Potatoes---with Green Beans---
Date: 1/18/2007 10:51 PM


2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
14.5 oz can chicken broth
8 oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp each dried sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper
1 cup milk
3 tbs flour
1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
4 scallions, chopped
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
10 oz pkg frozen cut green beans
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss or harvarti cheese

In pot, cook potatoes in 1 cup broth, covered, 15 min. until almost tender. Whisk cream cheese and next 8 ingredients and remaining broth and scallions in bowl. Add chicken and cream cheese mixture to potatoes in pot. Cover, simmer 5 min. Stir in green beans and Swiss or harvarti cheese, cook 10 more min. or until chicken is cooked through. MAKES 6 SERVINGS.*

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Toad in the Hole - West Virginia Style

This is a traditional British dish akin to their Yorkshire Pudding. But in West Virginia as in other parts of Appalachia, we have great pork products. This recipe uses those tasty little rolls of sausage. We bought several pounds from the FFA at the Harvest Festival and I wanted to try this dish with the last of them.

The British would traditionally serve this for dinner with lots of onion gravy and mashed potatoes. But in my house, sausages cooked in essentially pancake batter are breakfast fare and best topped with maple syrup.

I used a blender to mix the batter, but a bowl and whisk would work as well. Be sure to use a deep baking dish. This batter rises like a soufflé or popover.

This was very tasty and good looking with the nicely browned sausages peeking through the lightly browned and fluffy baked custard (pudding?). It was not soggy and not dry – just right. Yum!

Serves 3 to 4

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

2 Tbsp bacon grease

10 (1/2 pound) skinless pork country sage sausages  

Put milk, eggs, flour and salt into blender jar. Cover and process at medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Let rest 30 minutes.

Set oven to 450ºF. Lightly coat a deep two quart baking dish with canola oil spray. Drop bacon grease in dish and put it in the oven to preheat.

Fry sausages in skillet until just browned. Take off heat and set aside until batter is ready. (When thirty minutes of rest is done.)

When batter is rested, open oven door, slide out oven rack a bit and lay sausages in hot baking dish. Pour and scrape batter out of blender and over sausages.

Close door and do not open for thirty minutes. Do not bang or stomp in kitchen so as to jar batter while it rises. The secret to a fluffy dish is the hot fat, the hot oven and no jarring.

Serve immediately, as it deflates as it cools.

Top with hot maple syrup, and serve with an over-easy egg and some fresh fruit on the side.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Simply Elegant Chicken à la King

By Gail Foley

Creamed chicken dishes have been around for hundreds of years. Chicken à la King  can be traced to the 1890’s mostly in the New York/Philadelphia region. The earliest print documentation I found was (14 December 1893). Alumni of Princeton College luncheon. New York Times. It became very popular in the middle of the 20th century especially with women’s clubs, mess halls, and board luncheons all across the United States.

The vegetables should be sparse and fine. The sauce should be thick, rich and creamy. The chicken should be delicate.

Serves 4

¼ cup finely minced onion
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1 can (10.5 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
½ cup mayonnaise
3 oz. Neufchâtel (low-fat cream cheese)
¼ cup milk
1 can (4 oz.)  mushrooms (stems and pieces), drained
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded ½ inch, (no skin or bones)
1/2 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. Cream sherry
2 Tbsp. pimiento (canned sweet red pepper), finely diced
Hot toast points, (4 slices quartered)

Season skillet with canola oil spray.
Sauté onion and green pepper.
Stir in soup, mayo and milk. Heat to almost boiling. Stir in Neufchâtel until melted.
Stir in sherry, paprika, chicken and pimento. Heat to almost boiling.
Serve over toast points.

Used minced onion in place of onion juice. Could also grate onion.
Used cream of chicken in place of flour, butter, salt, cream and chicken broth.
Used mayonnaise in place of egg yolks, butter and lemon juice.
Used 1 can of mushrooms in place of thinly sliced fresh mushrooms.
If using fresh mushrooms, sauté with onion and peppers.
Added Neufchâtel to make thicker, richer and creamier.
Can use red bell pepper instead of pimento, but sauté with onion and green pepper.

Recipe for the original CHICKEN A LA KING

SOURCE: The New York Times, 14 April 1980, an article by Craig Claiborne citing a circa-1900 brochure from the Brighton Beach Hotel.

“Melt two tablespoons of butter and add one-half of a green pepper shredded and one cup of mushrooms sliced thin. Stir and cook five minutes and then add two level tablespoonfuls of flour and a half teaspoonful of salt. Cook until frothy and then add one pint of cream and stir until the sauce thickens. Put this all in a double boiler, add three cups of chicken cut into pieces and let stand to get very hot. In the meantime, take a quarter of a cup of butter and beat into the yolks of three eggs, one teaspoonful of onion juice, one tablespoonful of lemon juice and one-half teaspoonful of paprika. Stir this mixture until the eggs thicken a little; add a little sherry and finally shredded pimento before serving on toast.”

Dad's Open-faced Broiled Tomato Sandwich

By Gail Foley

One of my earlier memories of my father is of his tomato garden. He would grow these large Beefsteak tomatoes - most often Big Boys. This is what he made with the first ripe tomatoes.

1 slice Bread
1 slice American Cheese
1 slice of a large fresh Tomato
Malt vinegar
Ground black pepper

Preheat oven broiler.
Lightly coat a small sheet of aluminum foil with canola oil spray.
Assemble sandwich on foil – Lay down bread, then cheese, then tomato.
Put under broiler, a couple of inches from flame. Watch it carefully!
When cheese is browned, remove from broiler to plate.
Sprinkle with malt vinegar and pepper.

It is easier to eat with a fork, but have some fun trying to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich!

I should note that Dad's bread of choice was Wonder Bread. I favor a heartier bread and would recommend Sourdough, Italian or French bread. I have also liked it on various wheat breads.

My Favorite Raisin Bread and Cheddar Sandwich

By Gail Foley

I have enjoyed this sandwich since I was a child. It is probably the first recipe I created. The combination of sweet and salty, sour and bitter is a delight to the taste buds. The combination of crunchy, gooey and creamy textures is also pleasing. It is better at room temperature, when the bread and raisins are soft and the cheese is creamy.

2 slices Raisin Bread (Frosted even better!)
French’s Prepared Yellow Mustard
1 thick slice Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Generously cover one side of each slice of bread with mustard.
Lay cheese on one slice of bread and cover with other slice of bread - mustard inside.
Cut diagonally into wedges and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crock Pot Stuffed Whole Cabbage

Richard harvested four cabbages. Not really enough for a crock of kraut yet, but I need to use them up. I remembered a Paula Deen recipe I was going to try last year for a whole cabbage, stuffed and barbecued.

After reviewing several recipes on the www, I decided to hollow out a cabbage, place it on a bed of the removed chopped cabbage in a crock pot. I made a meat stuffing reminiscent of our traditional family turkey stuffing and when almost done, I topped it with a tomato cheese sauce. It cooked for four hours on high.

It was absolutely, deliciously different! The main drawback was being afraid to remove the whole hot cabbage to a platter for a beautiful display! After it cooled down, I was able to remove the leftover half cabbage entirely to a casserole dish for storing.

Serves 6-8

1 good size cabbage (needs to fit in crock pot with maybe an inch to spare)
1 cup diced onion
1 celery stalk, diced
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 Tbsp. ground Poultry seasoning
Salt & pepper
2 cups diced bread
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (10.5 oz.) condensed tomato soup
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Set up crock pot and coat inside with canola oil spray.

Prepare cabbage: Trim cabbage of ragged outside leaves and remove core. Cut circles around core to within an inch of bottom of cabbage, remove pieces leaving a nice one inch shell all around.

Dice removed cabbage and place in bottom of crock pot. Sprinkle with half cup of diced onion and 1 cup of broth. Set cabbage on top of diced vegetables. Turn crock pot on high.

Prepare stuffing: Heat 10 inch heavy skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while gathering and preparing ingredients. Turn heat to medium and sauté onion and celery with pork and poultry seasoning until pork is no longer pink. Turn off heat. Toss with bread cubes. Stir in 1 cup broth and eggs.

Put stuffing in cabbage. Cover crock pot and cook on high for four hours. Every half hour or so baste cabbage with juices from bottom of crock pot. A turkey baster comes in handy here.

After 3 ½ hours, mix tomato soup with cheddar cheese. Heat in microwave to melt cheese, stirring frequently. Pour over top of cabbage and cook for another half hour or so.

Cabbage is done when ribs near top are tender when poked with a fork.

Slice wedges from outside into center and scoop onto plates for serving.

This was very delicious accompanied by Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Easy Creamy Savory Polenta

I have tried making polenta before, but it was nothing to write about. It was yucky. Not even as good as grits. Then I saw this recipe, Polenta and Egg Breakfast, and thought I would give it a try. I didn't know which cornmeal to use. I had regular yellow corn meal I use for corn bread and a fine white self-rising cornmeal.

After research on the www, I discovered some interesting facts:
From Cook’s Illustrated: Baking soda added to the cooking liquid softens the endosperm, reducing the time it takes for gelatinization to occur, which in turn, shortens the cooking time;  and use degerminated cornmeal.

From wikipedia: “Polenta has a creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain, though it may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or hard grain such as flint corn is used.

From Chowhound: For creamy polenta, the ratio of water to polenta is 5:1.

I decided to use the self-rising cornmeal. It already has baking soda in it, it is degerminated and the fine texture would probably give a creamier texture than coarse ground.

I brought the water to a boil and whisked in the cornmeal. Yuck, a bunch of lumps. I threw it out and started over. If I want a no lump gravy, I quickly stir small amounts of water into the flour. Then stir the loose paste into simmering broth. For the creamiest oatmeal, I stir the oats into cold water. So I put the cornmeal into the pan first, whisked in cold water gradually, then brought it to a boil.

Hooray! Success! This recipe is very smooth and creamy. I even snacked on the cold leftovers.

Serves 2-4

1/4 cup Self-rising Cornmeal
1 1/4 cups Water
1/2 tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Milk
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp grated sharp Cheddar Cheese
Dash hot sauce
Dash ground black pepper

Put corn meal in 1 quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Slowly stir in cold water with a whisk, eliminating all lumps. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. Cover tightly and turn heat to very low, barely a simmer. Set timer for 20 minutes. Stir every five minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in milk and butter. After 20 minutes, stir in the cheese, hot sauce and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Cover and let set at least five minutes or until rest of meal is ready to serve.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Velvet Chicken and Pork with Broccoli and Snap Peas

Now that I am cooking for just three, there are bits and pieces left over. I picked my first snap peas and some broccoli side shoots had to be harvested. (BTW, I saw the first white cabbage moths today.) I had a small piece of pork and another of chicken. Why not combine them? I was thinking of the wonderful creamy tenderness of velvet chicken and thought that pork loin would benefit from this treatment also.

Have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before starting to stir fry. Once the wok is hot and you start stir frying, time moves along quickly. Advance preparation is a must. You can prepare the vegetables and sauce while the meat is marinating and the rice is cooking.

Serves 4

6 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (1 small half)
6 oz boneless pork loin (1/2” chop)
1 egg, separated
2 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cream sherry
2 Tbsp golden soy sauce
1 Tbsp chicken base
1 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 shakes hot sauce
dash white pepper

1 cup white rice
2 cups water

6 cups of water

1 Tbsp sesame oil
½ cup diced onion (½ inch dice)
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small can (6.5 oz) mushroom pieces and stems, squeeze drained
2 cups snap peas

Cut the meats across the grain into very thin slices. Combine egg white, 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon sherry and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a medium bowl. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add the meat pieces and toss with a spoon until completely coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.

Put rice and water in rice cooker or 4 to 6 cup pan with tight fitting lid. Bring to boil. Immediately turn heat to very low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Do not lift cover. Let steam for five minutes before fluffing with fork to serve.
Put 6 cups of water in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to boil over high heat.

Heat wok hot and dry. Remove from heat and coat lightly with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat to season, while preparing vegetables, meat and sauce.

Clean and prepare vegetables and set aside on a paper plate or dish for each.

In a small bowl, make up sauce with remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon sherry, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved. Stir in chicken base until smooth and dissolved. Stir in water, remaining egg yolk, sugar, hot sauce and white pepper. Set aside.

When water boils, remove from heat and place meat with marinade in the hot water. Separate the meat with a spoon and let it sit in the hot water for five minutes to poach. Drain meat, put in a dish and set aside.

Heat wok to very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Stir fry onions for about 1 minute or until they start to look translucent. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry about 10 seconds.

Add broccoli. Stir fry until hot, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of water and cover for 1 minute. Remove cover and stir some more. Replace cover for another minute. Repeat as necessary until  broccoli starts to change color to bright green.

Add mushrooms and snap peas and stir fry another minute, until hot. Add meat and stir fry for a minute. Cover for a minute. Repeat until hot and peas are changing color to bright green.

Stir in sauce mixture. Cover for a minute. Repeat stirring and covering, just until sauce has thickened.

Serve over rice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Moussaka Made Light and Easy

I have been making some version of Moussaka for more than 40 years. I have been inspired to try Greek recipes by our neighbors, Tarakis, when I was very young in Detroit and my in-laws, Tsouras. This latest incarnation is made lighter in fat by baking the eggplant slices instead of breading and frying. The preparation of the Béchamel sauce is simplified by using a blender and microwave.

Prepare eggplant:
3 large eggplants (2 - 3 lbs. total)
½ cup salt
¼ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the eggplants and cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices. Layer them in a colander, salting each layer. Let them set for 15 minutes. Run water over the eggplant to rinse off the salt. Lay them out in layers of paper towels and pat dry. Coat a large baking sheet or two lightly with canola or olive oil spray. Lay the eggplant slices, slightly overlapping, on the baking sheets. Drizzle lightly with olive oil or use an olive oil spray. Bake for 15 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven temperature down to 350°F.

Prepare meat sauce:
1 ½ lbs. extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
salt, pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground allspice
Dash ground cloves
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
3 bay leaves

Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while dicing onion.  Sauté beef, garlic, onion and spices, breaking up beef into crumbles, until onion is translucent and beef is no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste. Stir in red wine and add bay leaves. Simmer five minutes. Adjust seasoning. Remove the bay leaves and set the sauce aside.

Prepare Béchamel sauce:
½ cup flour
4 cups  1% milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
pinch of grated nutmeg
Dash of salt and ground white pepper

Stir 2 cups of milk and flour in blender. Pour into 2 quart microwaveable bowl and stir in remaining 2 cups of milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir with whisk, scraping sides and bottom of bowl and breaking up any lumps that may have formed. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Repeat stirring with whisk. Microwave for 1 minute. Repeat stirring. Microwave another minute and stir, if needed, to thicken. In a 1 qt. bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Temper eggs by gradually stirring 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into beaten yolks. Pour back into hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Microwave for 1 more minute.

Assemble Moussaka:
1 cup grated Romano cheese

Coat a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking dish lightly with canola or olive oil spray. Place half of eggplant on the bottom, then spread half of meat sauce over top. Repeat with remaining eggplant and meat sauce. Pour the Béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Allow the Moussaka to rest for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Delicious with a crusty bread and tossed salad.

Eggplant Shepherd's Pie

This Greek inspired shepherd's pie is made with pork, eggplant and oregano. The mashed potato topping gets its Greek flavor from Parmesan cheese and garlic. Finish the dish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh oregano, if desired. This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. When I make them, I always make a huge pot.

Serves 8

1 large eggplant
¼ cup salt
Canola or olive oil spray
1 cup diced onion
¼ cup chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound lean boneless Pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
All purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup beef broth
3 cups Mashed Potatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
3/4 cup (3 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (optional)

Wash and peel eggplant. Dice into ¾ to 1 inch cubes and layer in large bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Fill with cold water and let stand 10 more minutes. Drain and layer on paper towels to dry.

Heat a large metal pot until hot and dry. Remove from heat and coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat while dicing onion and pork. Add eggplant, onion, garlic and oregano to seasoned pot and sauté until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl.

Dust pork with flour to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Sauté pork until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add wine to pot. Increase heat and boil until wine evaporates, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and broth; bring to boil. Add pork with any accumulated juices. Cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour. Uncover and continue to simmer until pork is very tender and gravy thickens slightly, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish lightly with canola oil spray.

Stir eggplant mix into pork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Put mashed potatoes in a large bowl. Stir in cheese and garlic. Drop potatoes over filling by heaping tablespoonfuls, covering completely. Bake until filling is heated through and topping is golden, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped fresh oregano before serving.

Serve with a Greek salad and crusty rolls.

Adapted from: Lamb and Eggplant Shepherd's Pie | Jeanne Thiel Kelley | Bon Appétit | March 2009 |

Butterscotch Cream Pie

This pie was a favorite of my daughter’s teacher. We tried several recipes. This one was the best.

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup

3 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pinch salt
3/8 cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a 2 qt. saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in milk and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, scraping bottom and sides, stirring constantly. Boil gently for several minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat.

In a 1 qt. bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Temper eggs by gradually stirring 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into beaten yolks. Pour back into hot milk mixture in saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook 5 minutes more over very low heat, stirring frequently. Do not let it boil or eggs will curdle.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared pastry shell.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and pinch of salt until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over filling, sealing to edge of pastry.

Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Cool to room temperature. Chill thoroughly in refrigerator, several hours or best – overnight.

Seafood Combination with Sugar Snap Peas

It is our family tradition to have fish on Fridays. This probably comes from living in a Polish Italian Catholic neighborhood as a child. My Dad worked a second job delivering pizzas for Roberto’s Pizzeria. They served the most fantastic fish and chips on Fridays!

Anyway, we love seafood and I keep my eyes peeled for bargains because it is generally pricey. Last fall and again at Christmas, the IGA had a real deal on Red Argentinean Shrimp - $4 per pound! These babies are jumbo – about 20 per pound. I had never heard of them before, so did some research before buying. They are a relatively new industry. The flesh is especially tender and sweet almost like lobster. They peel easily and must be deveined. They cook very quickly and get tough if cooked too long. And they were usually selling for $12 to $15 a pound!

For a treat at Christmas, the IGA also had some frozen sea scallops for $6 a pound. I had a half pound left. Then for lent, Kroger had some especially nice looking squid at $2 a pound! It was a solid two pound block and I had to partially defrost it, break into quarters of half pound each, repackage and refreeze.

I picked up some packages of discounted vegetables at Kroger this week – Broccoli Slaw and Sugar Snap Peas with Carrots – for $1.49 per 12 ounce bag. I separated the peas from the baby carrots and yielded 2 cups of peas per bag.

The rest of the ingredients are pretty much my pantry regulars, except for the ginger. When I was visiting a doctor in Morgantown, I stopped by the Asian/Middle Eastern store. One of the items I found was the jar of pickled ginger.

I was thinking of a seafood combination in light sauce served at the Chinese buffet. I did an extensive internet search and two recipes came close - Seafood Combination from and Shrimp with Snow Peas from

This dish was VERY tasty. I thought there would be leftovers. When I went to clean up after dinner, the wok was empty! The guys ate it all.

Serves 3 (Not 4!)
Seafood Group:
1 Tbsp. Sesame oil
½ cup Onion, large diced
9 jumbo (1/2 pound) Red Argentinean Shrimp, peeled and deveined
9 large (1/2 pound) Sea Scallops, butterfly cut crosswise
½ pound Squid, tubes and tentacles, cut crosswise in 1” slices
2 cups (4 oz.) Sugar Snap Peas
1 can (4 oz.) sliced Mushrooms, drained
2 Tbsp. sliced pickled Ginger

¾ cup White Long Grain Basmati Rice
1 ½ cups Water
dash Salt

1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbsp. Chicken base
1 cup Water
¼ cup Cream Sherry
½ tsp. Sugar
2 dashes ground White Pepper
2 dashes Red Hot Pepper Sauce (Like Habañero or Sriracha)

Vegetable Group:
½ cup Onion, finely sliced, lengthwise
2 cups (5 – 6 oz.) Broccoli slaw
1 cup (1/4 pound wedge) Cabbage, finely sliced, lengthwise
2 Tbsp. Sliced Almonds, toasted
1 Tbsp. Golden Soy Sauce

Early in the day, take seafood out of freezer to defrost. Here in West-By-God-Virginia there is no fresh seafood readily available, unless for a very dear price. Put the shrimp in cool water. Put the bag of scallops in cool water. I partially defrosted the squid in the microwave (10 minutes at 2 power) because it was still in a big (2 pound) chunk. I broke it into four pieces, repackaged three of them and put them back in the freezer. Put remaining ½ pound squid in a bag and thaw in cold water with shrimp and scallops.

Put rice on to cook first. See Foolproof Rice for my easy method. Cooks in 30 minutes overall. Keep covered on stove until stir fry is done.

While rice cooks, heat wok to high heat. Remove from heat and lightly coat with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat to season, while finishing preparation and organization of ingredients. Gather utensils and prepare ingredients. Set them out in small dishes or, my favorite – paper plates. The seafood rests on paper towels.

Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in hot oven or in a cast iron skillet on stove top. Stir and watch them carefully. They are quick to burn. Set aside.

Prepare sauce in a two cup measure. Put in cornstarch first and dissolve with a little of the water. Then add chicken base and stir to dissolve, adding a little more water. Stir in rest of sauce ingredients and set aside. Substitute 1 cup chicken broth for water and chicken base, if desired.

Stir fry the vegetable group first.  Heat wok to high heat and add 1 Tbsp. of sesame oil. Add onion, broccoli slaw and sliced cabbage. Stir and toss for several minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover for a couple of minutes. Uncover, stir and toss some more with the soy sauce. Remove from pan when broccoli turns bright green. Set aside and sprinkle almonds on top.

Lastly, stir fry the seafood group. Heat wok to high heat and add 1 Tbsp. of sesame oil. Add onion and stir fry for about a minute. Add seafood, peas, mushrooms and ginger. Stir fry for a few minutes just until shrimp and scallops are mostly colored white. Argentinean shrimp and squid will toughen quickly, if cooked too long at high heat. Peas should be bright green. Add the sauce and stir and toss a few times until it starts to thicken. Turn off heat. Serve immediately.

Place a scoop of rice on plate, then a scoop of vegetables. Indent the vegetables and rice to make nests. Ladle seafood over all. Enjoy!

Adapted from:

Just Like Red Lobster® Cheddar Bay Biscuits

This is especially for my son, Patrick, who loves these biscuits. Over many years, I have read and tried many recipes, trying to get these biscuits just right. The two recipes from Robbie and Kathy (see end of recipe) came the closest.

When I made these last week, I decided to try some techniques I saw on Alton Brown’s Good Eats for making light biscuits – keep butter cold until it hits a very hot oven and cutting the butter into the flour. I also made a few changes of my own – adding more baking powder, adding baking soda and using buttermilk for the liquid. I also added seasoning to the dough, used more cheese, and upped the flavor with extra sharp cheddar.

The biscuits at Red Lobster are very flavorful. They use yellow cheese and are brushed with butter with tiny green flecks. They are not real big, a couple of bites, and were rather oblong shaped with pointy ends.

These biscuits are exceptionally light and flavorful. Be careful not to bake too long. They are probably richer than Red Lobster’s with real butter and more cheese.

Yield: 12 Biscuits

2 cups Flour
4 tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Baking soda
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder
¼ tsp. ground Italian seasoning (try a mortar and pestle, if unavailable)
¼ cup (4 Tbsp. or ½ stick) cold Butter
2/3 cup cold low-fat Buttermilk
1 cup (4 oz.) yellow extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
¼ tsp. parsley flakes, rubbed (measure and rub over the melted butter)
1 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly coat baking sheet with canola oil spray.

Sift flour into medium mixing bowl. Gently fold in baking powder, baking soda, garlic and Italian seasoning.

Cut butter by ½ tablespoon pieces and drop on top of flour. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until mostly crumbly, like cornmeal with some bigger lumps.

Stir in buttermilk and cheese and beat quickly with fork for 30 seconds.

In small bowl, mix together melted butter, rubbed parsley flakes and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Scoop the dough sideways with a tablespoon (not a measuring tablespoon – a table spoon), creating a large walnut size lump with pointy ends. Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet at least an inch apart. Twelve biscuits should easily fit on baking sheet. Dip spoon into hot water between dropping biscuits to keep dough from sticking to spoon.

Bake about 10 minutes. Bottoms should just be golden and tops should spring back with a light tap. A light tap should sound hollow, not dull. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter mixture while still warm.


Cheddar Bay Biscuits like Red Lobster's®
Notes: Red Lobster® uses their Shrimp Scampi butter mix (a powder) to flavor their biscuits. 

FIDO, Cooking Echo by Kathy Pitts from Dec 1, 1994 - Jul 31, 1995.