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.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blackberry Cream Crumb Pie

Aldi’s had these beautiful blackberries on sale – 6 ounces for a dollar. I bought three. I combined a couple of recipes and came up with this delicious pie. I have made it twice, since the blackberries were available again.

Serves 8

Graham Cracker Crust:
2 cups graham crackers, ground (14 - 16 crackers)
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup (8 Tbsp or 1 stick) butter or margarine Pastry for 9-inch one crust pie

3 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen (If using frozen, thaw and drain most juice)

Cream filling:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup non-fat sour cream (non-fat plain yogurt OR low-fat buttermilk OR non-fat half & half)

Crumb topping:
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
10 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 10 – 11 inch deep dish pie plate with canola oil spray.

Prepare graham cracker crust: Melt butter or margarine. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Firmly press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and sides of a pie plate. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes.

Prepare cream filling: In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla  and cream. Set aside.

Prepare crumb topping: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. Mix with a fork, and pour in melted butter. Stir until the crumb comes together. Set aside.

Assemble pie: Put the berries in the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the cream filling over the berries. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the pie.

Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is just starting to brown and the filling is barely set. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Best served slightly warm.

Tuscan Sweet Spinach Pie

My DH heard about this pie on NPR and suggested I try it. It is an Easter treat at some Italian tables. I found the recipe at All Things Considered's Found Recipe series. “During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Italians didn't divide courses the way we do now. It wasn't unusual to have something sweet at the beginning of the meal. They thought balance with every course [would] keep the appetite interested throughout the feast." This was very tasty. The dough was rich and tender, almost like shortbread or sugar cookie. The spinach was a little sweet and savory.

Serves 10 to 12

For the crust:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon OR ½ tsp lemon extract
1-2 Tbsp ice cold water

For the filling:
12 ounces frozen chopped spinach or 1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 cup almonds, finely ground
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other aromatic liqueur
2 tablespoons pine nuts

In a large bowl, lightly mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With a fork, stir in egg yolks, lemon and just enough water to form dough. Pat the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook the spinach in a few ounces of salted water until tender. Allow to cool. Squeeze out all the cooking liquids and chop. OR Thaw frozen spinach and squeeze out most of the liquid.

In a medium bowl, beat the yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar until creamy and light yellow. Add the almonds and beat until well combined. Fold in the spinach, lemon and liqueur until well combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks form, then add in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until it forms a glossy meringue. Slowly fold the meringue into the yolk mixture.

Lightly coat a 10 to 11 inch deep dish pie plate with canola oil spray.

Take dough out of refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roll out 2/3 of the dough, making it large enough to hang well over the sides. Trim overhang to about an inch. Roll up overhang and pinch to make rim. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1 inch wide strips for lattices over the top of the filling.

Pour prepared filling into the pie crust. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and top with the remaining dough in a lattice pattern.

Bake for about 1 hour, until golden.
Cool to room temperature before serving. (It was good while still warm.)

Rainbow Easter Cake

I found this recipe at and made it for Easter dinner last Sunday. It was created by Arlene Cummings of It was easy and fun to make, delicious and enjoyed by all.

Serves 12

1 box white cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix box
Yellow, red, blue and green food color

Buttercream Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, (4 Tbsp.; ½ stick), room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 – 3 Tbsp. milk

2 cups shredded coconut

Heat oven to 325°F. Generously grease 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray.

Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and egg whites. Divide batter among 3 small bowls. Add two drops yellow food color to 1 bowl; mix well. Add 1 drop red food color to second bowl to make pink. Add 2 drops red and 2 drops blue food color to third bowl to make purple. Pour half of the yellow batter into cake pan. Carefully pour half of the pink batter over yellow batter. Carefully pour half of the purple batter over pink batter. Repeat layers (do not mix colors).

Bake as directed on box until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Place cake on serving plate.

In a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Keep it to the stiff side, because we will heat it in the microwave to soften. Divide frosting among 3 small microwavable bowls. Microwave 1 bowl on High about 5 to 10 seconds; add two drops yellow food color and stir until frosting is smooth enough to drizzle. With spoon, drizzle yellow frosting back and forth over cake in striping pattern until all frosting is used. Microwave second bowl of frosting; add 2 drops red and blue food color to make purple. Drizzle frosting over cake in same striping pattern. Repeat with last bowl, adding 1 drop red food color to make pink frosting.

Place coconut in resealable food-storage plastic bag; add few drops green food color. Seal bag and toss until coconut is evenly tinted. Sprinkle coconut on serving plate around cake and in center for “Easter grass.” Could be decorated with some jelly beans on the “grass”.

Creamsicle Cheesecake

I found a recipe for Creamsicle Cheesecake Bars in Woman's Day Magazine. I just wanted a small pie, so I adapted the recipe to lower the fat and make a small pie.

7 (4 oz) graham crackers
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 pkg. (8 oz) Neufchâtel cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup non-fat sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 inch pie plate with canola oil spray.

Put the graham crackers in a 1 gallon food storage bag and crush finely with rolling pin. Put crumbs in medium mixing bowl and cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until combined. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom and sides of the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Put the cream cheese, sugar, and flour in a mixing bowl and cream with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, then the eggs and vanilla. Add 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate and beat to combine. Reserve 2 Tbsp of the batter and pour the rest on top of the prepared crust.

Whisk the remaining Tbsp orange juice concentrate into the reserved batter and transfer to a small plastic bag (the mixture will be thin). Snip a tiny bit off one corner of the bag and pipe lines lengthwise over the batter, spacing them 3/4 inch apart. Drag a skewer down through the lines to form a pattern.

Bake until the cheesecake is just set (the center should still wobble slightly), 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cheesecake cool completely in the pan, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours and up to overnight. 

Adapted from: