A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Lamb Meatballs in the Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot

I pretty much winged these but they turned out great, so I thought I'd record what I did. Many future variations are possible.

These were fast. I made the meatball mixture in a food processor in the morning before work and shoved the whole thing in the fridge, then made the dish in about 20 minutes from start to finish after work. I served it with broiled broccoli, sliced olive levain from the local bakery, butter, fermented collards, and some yogurt sauce.

1/2 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 scant teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
black pepper
handful celery leaves (I would have used cilantro, parsley or mint instead if I'd had them)
1 lb ground lamb
1 egg
1/4 cup or more breadcrumbs (I used panko from a bag)

Blend thoroughly in food processor. Form the meatballs and put them on the bottom of the pressure cooker pot (we have an Elite brand Instant Pot knockoff). Turn on the browning/saute function and let them brown. Add:

big splash of white wine
chicken broth, or chicken bouillon in a little water
1/2 package frozen spinach (optional)

The liquid doesn't need to be more than like 1/3 cup — just enough to moisten it all. I used the timed pressure cook function for 7 minutes. Forcibly released the pressure. Meatballs were lovely.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bourbon Fruitcake

I was really happy with my fruitcake this year, so I thought I'd post what I did.

I used this recipe from King Arthur, with several variations. As the recipe says, you can basically use 2.5 pounds of whatever kind of fruit you want. I used dates, dried cherries, golden raisins, dried mango and crystallized ginger — all things I love, with no weird green cherries or candied pineapple or anything. I think I used pecans for the nuts but maybe it was walnuts.

I used Evan Williams black-label bourbon for everything — soaking the fruit, brushing the cakes after they came out of the oven, and brushing them again a few months later.

Instead of golden syrup and juice, I used part honey, part brown sugar and part water to make up the total volume. I probably used light, not dark, brown sugar. And added a touch of vanilla.

I baked them in two loaf pans — not bread loaf, but the next size down. I lined them with parchment paper.

I wrapped the finished loaves in cheesecloth, then plastic wrap, then foil, then gallon freezer bags and stored them in the pantry.

Many recipes I read said to unwrap your fruitcakes frequently — like weekly — and brush them. To me, that seemed like inviting contamination and drying. There was plenty of bourbon in there already. So I just left them alone for three months and brushed them a week or so before eating them.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Italian Beef in the Slow Cooker

I would be happy to attribute this recipe to its author, but it's a copy of a page in a small long-lost cookbook I had thirty years ago, when crock pots were a new thing.  This beef has an amazing amount of flavor considering it's not browned first.

I don't blend up the ingredients, I just chuck everything into the slow cooker at once.  And no one but you will know there are anchovies in there!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Blue Cheese Dip

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Neighbors were coming over for a glass of wine and I didn't have a decent appetizer in the house, so I threw together this cheese dip--it was well received.
Blue Cheese Dip
1/2 cup blue cheese
1/2 cup generic grated cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
a few dashes hot sauce
1/2 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives

Mix everything in food processor, chill, and serve with crackers.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baby Pancakes

I make pancakes for me and Max at least one morning a week. Not big fluffy pancakes that you put syrup on — I'm talking thin, eggy, savory pancakes, often with vegetables in the batter. I guess you might call them fritters. 

When Max started eating solid foods, we read a lot about baby-led weaning and more or less did that — though not in any kind of dogmatic way. We sometimes fed him with a spoon, as it's pretty hard for a 6-month-old to eat soup or yogurt without one. We started with roasted sweet potato spears, and avocado, and steamed broccoli, and scrambled eggs, and worked our way on to other things. We kept salt to a minimum and thought strategically about non-choking foods, but were otherwise pretty open. 

In fact, the whole process was less about baby-led weaning than it was about eating real food. Above all, what we wanted to show Max is that food is about enjoyment, and family and friends, and health. So no puffs, no weird pouches with a nozzle, no rice cereal.
Pancakes are very good for babies learning to feed themselves. They're a good way to get eggs and vegetables into a baby. And I like them too.

You don't have to use any flour at all if you don't want to. These two-ingredient banana pancakes — just mashed banana and eggs — are quite tasty. But I like a little bit of whole wheat flour. You can mix in some baby oatmeal, which is basically finely ground oatmeal, for flavor and nutrition variation. 

My basic master recipe is:

2 eggs
1/4 cup or less flour (white, or whole wheat and white mixed), cut with baby oatmeal if you like
1/2 cup or less vegetable matter (optional)
pinch salt (a tiny pinch for tiny babies, more generous once they get older)

Mix to make a thin batter. Heat a little unsalted butter in a cast iron skillet, pour batter to make small (3" to 4") pancakes, flip when ready. Serves one adult and one baby, with a few pancakes left over for snacks. 

Here are my two favorite variations:
Zucchini Pancakes
2 eggs
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated, lighty salted and set in a colander to drain for a few minutes
1/8 cup flour
fresh mint OR 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and some oregano
grated parmesan (optional)

Autumn Pancakes
2 eggs
1/2 can pumpkin OR leftover roasted acorn/butternut squash, mashed up
cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves
1/8 cup flour

You could make baby pancakes with all kinds of veggies, I suppose, but things in the squash family to seem to work especially well. Also good: grated carrots, mashed banana (extra tasty with chopped walnuts or pecans added), cooked spinach or chard (cut it up with scissors so it's not too stringy). They're also just fine plain. 

I often eat them with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sheet Pan Supper

I keep reading about this idea in magazines--lining a sheet pan with parchment paper and roasting the whole dinner in that pan.  My best variant is chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, and (I confess, in a separate pan) baked tomatoes.  This feels really good in winter because at the same time we're craving slow, warm food, the oven is heating up the house.  No one would dream of making this in summer in South Carolina!

I used four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.  (Hey, that's a flavor revelation!  I have been using boneless skinless ones for quite a while).  I shook them in flour, chile powder, thyme, salt, and pepper and laid them on the sheet pan.  I scrubbed and pricked four small sweet potatoes and added them in a symmetrical pattern.  I baked them at 375 degrees for a little more than an hour.

In the same oven I made Tomatoes Provencale.

So--easy to clean up. delicious flavor, and hardly any prep time.  Not really a new idea, but it's good to be reminded to make simple things once in a while.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Chutney

I had unripe plums and an Indian dinner planned, so it seemed logical to make plum chutney!  I freely based my recipe on this excellent one made in a pressure cooker--an added bonus for me because I love my Cuisinart pressure cooker and am happy to expand its use beyond meat and beans.

The chutney was delicious, though a little sour--but I find most chutneys darken and improve in flavor after sitting around for a few weeks.  You'll see both Hatch green chiles and fresh jalapenos in this photo.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

More Cocktails

No points for originality here, but many for rigorous taste-testing.

The Rumarita

6 ounces Cruzan rum
1 1/2 ounces Triple Sec
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice

Shake with lots of ice, and serve on the rocks.

The Tan Lady (A Bourbon Sidecar)

4 ounces bourbon
2 ounces Cointreau
2 ounces lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into
a martini glass.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


We've had fun this past year trying new cocktails.  It started with the White Lady, which our family fell in love with.  Here is an article Eva wrote about it in the Free Times.

Pictured here is the Lusty Lady.  My sister started this by giving us a kit to make homemade gin for Christmas.  Very entertaining!  This recipe is adapted from the back of the bitters bottle.

Lusty Lady (for 4)

8 ounces gin
2 ounces lime juice
2 ounces unsweetened cranberry juice
Agave syrup --just enough to take     the edge off--try 1 teaspoon and then taste
Several shakes lavender bitters

Shake with ice and serve in martini glasses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Oyster Casserole

Okay, I have no idea what to call this dish.  I used Joy of Cooking's recipe for Oysters Rockefeller to make some appetizers in muffin cups a while back, and they were great.  This time I put  a pint of jarred oysters (drained) in a shallow buttered  dish and then covered them with this topping:

1 1/2 cups cooked drained spinach (I used frozen)
1/2 cup bread crumbs or panko
2 chopped green onions
4 strips crumbled cooked bacon
Salt and hot pepper sauce to taste

I put a little Italian grated cheese on the top just because, and I baked it at 400 degrees for ten minutes, then bumped up the temperature to 450 because it wasn't browning enough.  The total cooking time was about 20 minutes.


Way too lazy after the recent change from daylight savings time to do anything real fancy.  I had a frozen multigrain baguette, so I served that, and I sauteed zucchini and tomatoes in the leftover bacon fat.


I want to say that I miss the convection oven in my previous house so much!  It was a wall unit, maybe 25 years old by the time we left there, and it was awesome.  It baked fast, with very even browning, and everything was just a little quicker and better.  It had a conventional bake setting as well, but I only used that for egg dishes that might blow up.  I now have a microwave/convection oven combo and it's very scary.  Anything might happen when you put something in that thing.  I also have a standard electric range.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lamb Meatballs with Garbanzos and Spinach

It's harvest time in South Carolina, and we are enjoying it so much!  The last two weeks at the downtown market there has been a farm stand offering all-the-produce-you-can-put-in-your-box for $10.  Eggplant, butternut squash, blackberries, okra, summer squash, bell pepper, onions, radishes, green beans, peaches--the list goes on and on.  Tonight we're enjoying the bounty and having a dish
from a Claudia Roden Middle Eastern cookbook that we've enjoyed through the years.  I want to document it here because it's so easy and delicious.

Lamb Meatballs with Garbanzos and Spinach

1 pound ground lamb
1 chopped onion
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Mix the lamb, onion, and seasonings (I use a food processor).  Form smallish meatballs and brown in a large skillet in hot oil.  Pour off extra fat if it seems like too much.

I bag prepared spinach

Add the spinach to the skillet and cook until wilted.

1 can garbanzo beans

Drain the garbanzos and add to the skillet and heat everything together until the meatballs are done to your liking.  You may add a little water to make a sauce if necessary.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and then add  this condiment:

3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Olive oil

Brown the garlic in a little olive oil in a small skillet, then stir in the coriander until fragrant.  Add into the meatball dish at the last minute.

We serve this with pita bread or couscous, a cucumber/yogurt salad, and some sriracha or other hot red sauce.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Homemade Granola

When I was pregnant, I finally started eating breakfast regularly, and now I can't imagine missing it.

And because I'm now breastfeeding and oats are a galactagogue, I started eating a lot of oatmeal. I love oatmeal. I cook basic Publix-brand old fashioned oats with a big pinch of salt, a drizzle of honey and some ground cinnamon, and eat it with milk or soy milk and some kind of fruit, depending on the season. Sometimes it's blueberries, sometimes sliced bananas, sometimes dried prunes cut up with scissors.

But I don't want oatmeal every day. And something I gained a taste for while pregnant was granola. But storebought granola is horribly expensive, especially when you compare it to the cost of basic Publix-brand old fashioned oats. Which, seriously, is almost all it is.

Will has done most of the cooking since Max was born, but granola is one nice, easy thing I can make that scratches my cooking itch. I can mix up a batch and throw it in the oven as soon as Max goes to bed, and it makes the house smell good. One batch lasts me about a week and a half.

Here's my basic recipe.

Mix in a big bowl:
3 cups oats
1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I like it relatively salty; you could use less)
1/2 cup almonds

Mix in a Pyrex measuring cup:
1/3 cup olive oil
a few tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix with hands until thoroughly coated. Press into a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for around 30 minutes, until slightly browned. (Stir partway through if things are looking too uneven.) Let cool on sheet, then remove and toss in any dried fruit (raisins, etc.).

Of course, you can add all kinds of stuff into the granola. Here are some thing I've tried that didn't work:
ground ginger - just didn't do much
cayenne - heat without flavor, didn't work for breakfast
diced dried apricots - meh
an egg - I'd read that adding an egg white would make the granola clump up more, but it just made it tough and not crispy

And here are some that did work:
raw almonds
raw quinoa

The version I've made a few times successfully has cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, giving it a sort of chai flavor. I use maybe half a teaspoon of each spice.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cranberry Orange Relish

I made cranberry orange relish today, just like every Thanksgiving. It's the earliest thing I can remember cooking — grinding the oranges and cranberries with Russell, the hand grinder clamped on a chair covered in newspaper.

The recipe is unimportant; I basically use what's on the back of the Ocean Spray bag — one orange, one bag of cranberries, and between a half-cup and 3/4 cup of sugar. No cinnamon or any of the other fussy stuff.

What's absolutely critical is the hand grinder. I tried it once in the food processor and it was mushy. I tried it once with the meat grinder attachment on my Kitchen Aid and it was...OK. But the hand grinder is perfect.

I think it has something to do with this:
All that juice runs off during the grinding process, and I use it to make drinks. It's not sticking around mingling with the sugar, making things mushy.

Here was my setup today.
 I use the middle grind size.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still Baking Bread

I was nominated to bring bread to a potluck last week, so I contributed two loaves.   The back loaf is my regular whole wheat bread, which I posted about back in 2008.  The front loaf is a version of the no-knead artisan bread which has been making the rounds for years.  Jack sent me a recipe for it recently, and I tried it with 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup white flour, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons gluten flour.  It was very good, and was by far the favorite of the dinner guests.

Today I'm making it with all whole wheat flour, and a little more gluten. It's looking good so far.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chicken and Vegetable Tagine

I really get a kick out of finding a great recipe in a newspaper or magazine.  It's like a treasure hunt, or a needle-in-a-haystack hunt, to be more precise, since there's so much dross to sort through before discovering a gem.

Back in November of 2006 I posted a link to this recipe from Parade magazine, but when Mary Ellen asked for it yesterday I saw that the link had expired.  So here's my version.  You can cook this ahead and reheat it, making it a very good thing to serve to company.

Chicken and Vegetable Tagine

6 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups slivered onions
6 large cloves of garlic, minced

Heat half of the olive oil in  large skillet or pot.  Saute the onions and garlic for 10-15 minutes, stirring, until softened.

1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste

Stir in the spices and cook for another minute.  Than add:

1 1-pound can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes and then stir in

4 large chicken thighs, cut into two or three pieces each

Make sure the chicken is covered with sauce.  Simmer, partly covered, for about fifty minutes, turning the chicken pieces over halfway through.

1 large eggplant

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the eggplant, peeled if desired, into 1-inch cubes.  Toss with remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow baking pan.  Roast for about 25 minutes until tender and golden, turning once or twice.  Remove from oven and set aside.

When chicken is tender, add the eggplant.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes to blend flavors, then serve topped with:

Chopped parsley or cilantro
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds