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

Monday, February 19, 2007

A snack

Lest everyone think I eat only bacon-filled soups and homemade cookies, here is my post-gym snack: plain yogurt with almonds, dates, flax seed oil, and cinnamon. Check out the beautiful Japanese stoneware bowls I found at the Goodwill this weekend for 50 cents apiece.

For Christmas we gave Lawson's parents an Omaha Steaks gift certificate, so yesterday we had them over to eat the steaks. They requested ribeye, which was gristly but really tasty. Lawson had a New York strip instead, which had much less flavor. We had to keep the meal pretty traditional, so I made beets vinaigrette and that lemon custard souffle thing I love, and Lawson made wonderful roasted potatoes with rosemary, and sauteed spinach & mushrooms.

The best things I've made lately are: a) polenta using ground heirloom corn from the local mill one of my friends works at. Wow. And b) brussels sprouts braised in garlic butter. Finally I like brussels sprouts.

Recital Refreshments and Guisado de Pollo

After my piano students perform in a recital I always put on a dessert buffet for them to make up for the trauma--complete with a lace tablecloth and 100-year-old china. Yesterday's spread included German chocolate cake, cream cheese and blueberry tart, lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, grapes, and various candies. Continuing with the Valentine theme we had pink lemonade to go with the coffee.

Tonight we are having an old favorite, Guisado de Pollo, which is a Mexican chicken stew. It's light but flavorful and simmers away with a minimum of fuss. I serve it with flour tortillas.

Guisado de Pollo

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds chicken pieces (I like thighs)

In large casserole, heat olive oil and brown chicken pieces on all sides.

2 tomatoes, diced (canned or fresh)
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 slice (1 ounce) boiled ham, chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 mild green chiles, cut in strips
1 tablespoons capers, drained
Approximately 1 1/2 cups dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste

Add remaining ingredients, using enough of the white wine to barely cover them. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes or more until tender. (White meat will cook much faster than dark.) If the sauce is too soupy, remove chicken and boil the sauce to reduce before serving.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Peanut Blossoms, The Definitive Recipe

This is the recipe Grandma Oty baked for us back in the fifties:

Peanut Blossoms

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

Cream butters and sugars thoroughly.

1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add egg and vanilla. Mix.

1-3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix.

1 package Hershey's chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Form dough into one-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375ยบ for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, squash one chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie, and return to oven for 2 to 5 minutes, or until light brown.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kale, White Bean, Bacon, and Potato Soup

This is a modified version of a Louis Osteen recipe. (By the way, we have two identical copies of this book if you would like one.) I served it with skillet cornbread.

My friend Mary has commented on how much you and I seem to use cookbooks. I suppose we do, but most of the time it's for ideas, not instruction. The night I made this soup, for instance, I was feeling uninspired and tired, not at all in a cooking mood, but I needed to use the kale I'd bought the week before, so I started poking around through some likely cookbooks. And when I found the Louis Osteen recipe for soup with mustard greens, country ham, and white beans, I got really excited. I ended up having a great time cooking that night.

Mary tends to get an idea for a dish first, then look up recipes online to get an idea of how to make it. Sometimes it works that way for me: yesterday I decided to make peanut blossoms for today's Valentine party at work. You used to make them when I was a kid and I loved them but hadn't had them since. And none of my cookbooks had a recipe, so I had to find several online and choose the most credible-looking recipe. But I hate not knowing a recipe's source well. I know I can trust Joy's cookie recipes and would rather bake something from there.

The cookies are a success. And the soup is even better left over than it was the first night.

Update 02-08-08: Now I've posted the soup recipe.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Restaurant food

This post may appear to have nothing to do with cooking, but there's nothing that makes me want to stay home and cook like a solid week and a half of restaurant food. Even when it's good, it's still too much -- too rich, too big. But I ate some wonderful food. Here are some of the highlights from my trip to see Mary, meet Alex, and watch Brent get married. Somehow Mary's hands appear in most of the pictures. I should have let her take the pictures -- she's the pro.

This Cuban restaurant was so good that I forgot to take a picture until after we'd eaten. Empanadas, beet salad, soupy beans, a Cuban sandwich, and many little roulade-type things I can't remember the names of:

Pizza at a bar in Belltown in Seattle (onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and sausage):

My daily breakfast from the bakery across the street from the hotel: a latte and a fresh fruit muffin (I failed to take a picture of the incredible lemon-lavender coffeecake):

Sushi in Portland. The best thing was albacore with basil.

Tapas in Portland (pre-dinner snack) -- that's salami, cornichons, cheeses, figs stewed in port, and crostini:

More pizza, wood-fired and incredible this time, with rare lamb in the background:

Not pictured: a falafel sandwich, a piroshky, airplane pretzels, good mayonnaise-based salads and cold cuts at Brent's wedding, and bad pickled herring at IKEA.

All in all, a wonderful trip for eating. But I'm happy to be home having a breakfast of plain yogurt, almonds, and a banana.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Piedmont Peppers and Polenta

I forgot to include this photo of our wonderful Piedmont Peppers from the weekend. The recipe is in Rustic Italian Cooking by Kathleen Sloan. Everyone should own this cookbook. You can buy a barely used copy at amazon.com for a couple of dollars and spend weeks happily cooking your way through the book.

Best Caramel Sauce

I'm here today simply to pass on a recipe of my favorite kind--three ingredients and no unnecessary fuss.

Caramel has been near the top of my flavor list all my life. When we were little kids stopping by the Dairy Queen for a treat, I would always order the caramel sundae.

This is from Bon Appetit November 2006. It was intended to accompany an apple tart; I stuck the leftover jar in the freezer and brought it out twice to serve with warm date bars and French vanilla ice cream. It didn't separate or get grainy. I suspect it would make a great drizzle over a dark chocolate brownie.


1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

Bring ingredients to boil in a heavy medium saucepan, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil gently, stirring often, until sauce coats a spoon thickly, about 10 minutes. Serve slightly warm.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Pho, and more to come

I'm back! But only for another few minutes; I'm off to Atlanta for the night with Lawson. I have many, many pictures of food I ate in Portland, Seattle, and Austin, but for now I'll just post one of the best things I had: a big bowl of pho in downtown Portland.