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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Polenta in the Crockpot

I love to cook and I love polenta, but I don't have the patience to stand and stir for 30 minutes. I have tried this crockpot version several times now, and it's been a big success.


2 cups polenta
6 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt

Place polenta in crockpot and gradually add boiling water, stirring until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, stirring every 20 or 30 minutes. If desired, a few minutes before serving stir in

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.


Spiced Pecans

Our friend Leila brought these delicious pecans to our Christmas hike and picnic, and then brought us some more the next day. Even better, she gave me the recipe. It's wonderful to find a Christmas nut recipe that isn't coated in sugar!

Spiced Pecans

3 T butter, melted
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
dash Tabasco sauce
1 lb. pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients, add pecans, toss. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring often. Enjoy!

(I think there are a few left. I'm going to go eat them now.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Beer Can Chicken, a Guest Recipe from Andy

We gave Andy and his family some dried herbs from our garden for Christmas. He coated a chicken with them, refrigerated for 24 hours, and then made this Beer Can Chicken:

We like beer can chicken. It's dead simple, easy to clean up, keeps the chicken moist, entertains Abby... it's a winner. I'd recommend getting one of the can stands; they sell them in kitchen stores or even in the supermarket for like 5 bucks. The stand makes it easy to stabilize the chicken, although I've done it with just the can as well. Any beer works or really anything in a can... I've used Dr. Pepper. Just jam a bunch of your favorite spices in the cavity, drink a little of the beer, jam some more spices in the beer can and poke a few more holes in the top of the can, shove the chicken on so its legs are hanging down, maybe put a little olive oil and spices on the outside, put it on the grill on medium (if it's gas) for about an hour and 15 minutes for a 5 pound bird... a little longer for a larger bird... easy. I take it off the grill with a couple metal spatulas and put it on a big wooden cutting board to rest and cut.

Tucson Breakfast of Champions

Anasazi beans, chopped green chile, oregano, cheese, green onions.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I needed to use some problematic okra from the garden--some was old and pretty tough, and some was young and tender, and there wasn't very much of either. I started out with Paula Deen's gumbo recipe, and made a few modifications, as usual. I used chicken thighs instead of breasts. I used butter instead of margarine and cut down on the fat amounts a bit. Also, I didn't have 5 bouillon cubes (!) so I used two chicken ones.

I sliced the elderly okra and threw it in when the recipe suggested. Then I steamed the baby okra separately and garnished each bowl with a few of those. It was so pretty, and gave the okra its due.

Eating and Drinking in Alaska

Our seven-week camper trip to Canada and Alaska has left me with some wonderful food memories.

Anchorage has many excellent restaurants! My favorite meal this time around was lunch at Muse, which is the cafe at the Anchorage Museum. I had a halibut sandwich and my mouth is watering now as I remember it. Although the place was busy, great care was taken with every detail: the fish was cooked so perfectly, and the bun buttered and toasted so that I had to eat every crumb. In Girdwood we lunched at Maxine's, where I had the lunch special, a duck quesadilla. In addition to the duck, the filling had a spicy homemade peach jam and a mild jack cheese. And slow-cooked onions, if I remember correctly.

In Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, Dad had a birthday lunch of fish and chips, but in this case the chips were "yam fries."

Russell cooked some beautiful things for us at home, particularly this sockeye salmon that he caught and filleted. Together he and I made a rhubarb-raspberry cobbler with rhubarb from their garden. The topping was made with Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix with a little sugar added.

Camped out in the forest above Hope we intended to make martinis but had forgotten the olives. So, inspired by a Spruce Tip Vinaigrette I saw on a menu in Homer, we invented the

Spruce Tip Martini

Fresh spruce tips

Estimate amounts of gin and vermouth in plastic glasses. Muddle with spruce tip and serve with lots of ice. Best enjoyed in cool, rainy forest setting.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bean Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette

This is my favorite bean salad. It's vegan, it's served at room temperature so it's great for a potluck, and it's pretty.

Bean Salad with Hoisin Vinaigrette

1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

Make vinaigrette by processing these ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.

6 ounces green beans

Steam or boil green beans until lightly cooked.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 red pepper, cut lengthwise in thin slivers
1 can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Heat oil and sauté garlic and pepper until pepper begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add green beans, garbanzos, and sesame oil and toss and heat until well blended.

¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
Chopped cilantro

Remove from heat and add Hoisin Vinaigrette. Taste and add salt or soy sauce if necessary. Serve at room temperature, garnished with green onions and cilantro.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I know we've both posted about frittata, but this one is a little different for me. I saw it in Parade magazine in last Sunday's paper. It includes stale bread cubes, which give it a little French toastie personality, and it doesn't get watery the way it can with potatoes. I used one cup of bread cubes to six eggs. Delicious for a light dinner, and very good the next day as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Crop Rotation in New Mexico, and a Quinoa Pilaf

We stayed at Percha Dam State Park along the Rio Grande River in southern New Mexico again last week. Last October when we visited there, the surrounding fields were full of red chile pods awaiting harvest. Now, in May, those same fields were planted with onions, with many acres of alfalfa interspersed for healthy crop rotation. If the Midwest is the breadbasket of the world, this valley is surely the salsa bowl of the world.

I made a delicious, though unrelated, dish in the camper while here. I sauteed sliced onions, garlic, sliced red bell pepper, and strips of chicken breast in olive oil in a skillet. I added 1/2 cup quinoa and stirred until lightly toasted, then added a cup of chicken bouillon, covered the pan, and simmered until the quinoa was tender and the liquid absorbed--about 20 minutes, I think.

Summer Squash with Wine Vinegar and Mint

See our zucchini plant? It's nearly ready to bloom.

I used a couple of larger yellow squashes last night to make a dish by Viana La Place. Since it is served cold, and will keep a couple of days in the refrigerator, it's a welcome change for hot weather.

Cut two summer squash in small dice. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet until quite hot. Add the squash and saute until there are brown flecks and squash is tender. Remove squash from pan and place in serving dish. Add 1/2 cup red wine vinegar to the skillet and heat to boiling. Pour over the squash.

Then add 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (I used parsley mixed with dried mint), and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and chill before serving.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

French Potato Salad

Mary Ellen loved this last night, so I am posting the recipe for her.

Cube some red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cover with water, and boil for about 5 minutes or until tender yet firm. Eat a sample, don't just test with a fork!

Drain and let cool a little, then toss with a couple of tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar. Gently fold in Dijon mustard--start with a tablespoon and add more if you like--and salt and pepper to taste. Potatoes are bland, so season generously. Add a couple of sliced green onions and some chopped fresh herbs. Parsley is okay, but fresh tarragon is best. Serve at room temperature. This is best made a couple of hours ahead.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Olive Update

Back in January I posted about curing the olives from our backyard tree. It took a long time, maybe about two months total, but they were delicious. I used this marinade featuring vinegar, garlic, and lemon:

1-1/2 cups white wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon salt dissolved in 2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 lemon wedges

2 cloves garlic

Olive oil to cover

Next time I wouldn't cover them with olive oil. They tasted best after a whole month of marinating. I wish I had some left!

Pictures above is our herb garden. Mostly you can see parsley, sage, and rosemary, but maybe there's tarragon squeezed in there. The sage is blooming with purple flowers. Since most things are in their prime now, I plan to dry big batches of each. Sage and tarragon are especially fragrant and palatable when dried.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I didn't do anything very fancy with this. I just boiled the corned beef, cooked the carrots and potatoes separately, and added the cabbage for the last 25 minutes--too long, but some people like soggy cabbage. It was flavorful and sort of homey and satisfying. I served horseradish and mustard with it. As usual, I mixed the horseradish with yogurt--it makes a perfect simple sauce.

I made Irish Soda Bread for the first time--I used the Joy of Cooking recipe--and we decided to have it for dessert because it was sweet. This version was a quick bread, sort of like banana bread with raisins instead of bananas. The traditional caraway seed made it interesting.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bread No. 1 in a Convection Oven

This is my first loaf of bread in the new oven. It's a convection oven, which I've never used for bread before. I used a plain old pizza stone on the rack. I set it to 500 degrees, which the oven automatically adjusted down to 475 because the convection is faster and more efficient.

The crust got quite brown; I haven't decided if it's too brown yet. But the loaf is wonderfully light in weight and crinkly and evenly baked, so I think with some experimentation this will be positive.

I used my go-to recipe for basic, accessible (by which I mean a little softer) European white bread, which is based on Peter Reinhardt's Italian bread recipe and is almost identical to my pizza dough recipe. Really, it basically is my pizza dough recipe, except that I make a sponge the day before, pretty wet, with 1/2 t of the yeast and half the flour (2.5 cups) and over half the water. I use only 1 T of olive oil in the final recipe instead of 3, but otherwise it's about the same. Makes two lovely loaves or four home-sized pizzas. The second half of the dough is in the freezer awaiting its fate.

I am dreaming about your olives, by the way, Mom. They were so good. Wish we had an olive tree here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tomatoes Provencale

I got this recipe from the Arizona Daily Star. I usually make a bread crumb version of these, but this is better. I use a little less oil than called for.

Tomatoes Provencale
Serves: 6
• 6 hot-house, heirloom or your favorite tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme; dry thyme can be substituted
• 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
• Sea salt
• Cracked pepper
Cut the tomatoes in half and cut a sliver off the ends so they will lie flat. Discard the ends.
Place the open or cut sides up, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, rub the open halves with fresh chopped garlic, sprinkle with sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, thyme.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375. Remove from the oven and sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese over top the tomatoes and place back into the oven for 5-7 minutes until the cheese has a golden color.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Advice About Vegetables

Here is some of Dad's beautiful pak choy. I cooked the first smaller heads whole, but these were a little larger so I cut them into slices, sauteed them in a little oil until seared, stir-fried in some garlic and minced ginger, and dressed them with this sauce from Jack Bishop. Searing the pak choy really adds to its character and flavor. Pour in this sauce at the end and let it boil up for a few seconds.

1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

And now to the matter of zucchini. It's really important to cut it into small pieces! I'm convinced that people who don't think they like zucchini are really just averse to large, wet chunks of it. I usually cut it in quarters lengthwise, then into small slices. In the dish above it is sauteed with garlic, then cherry tomatoes and black olives are added near the end. I believe I also added oregano, salt, and pepper.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sugar-Free Granola

This is delicious and easy. Most granolas are too sweet, I think.


1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)

Pour the oil in a 9"x13" baking pan and put it in the oven while the oven preheats to 300 degrees. Stir in the oats and bake for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until slightly toasted.

1 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds, or a combination of these

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Add the nuts and needs and toast for 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and stir in:

1 cup raisin, dried cranberries, or mixed dried fruit

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Our Olives

We have an olive tree behind our house and this year for the first time since we moved in, it had abundant olives. Dad picked a couple of quarts and I looked on the internet for instructions. This article seemed reasonable.

I slit the olives and am brining them now. We are into the 5th week and they are still bitter, but there's progress: after the first week I had to spit out the one I tasted. Now they are tasting rather olive-like. I'll give them one more week and then marinate them.

I used a jar to weight down the olives in the brine, and I stored them in our laundry room, which is cooler than the rest of the house.

Ono with Beurre Noir

We brought Bev a two-pound fillet of ono from Suisan Fish Company in Hilo. It is the most excellent and prized of Hawaiian fishes, and she made a wonderful dish with it. I believe she learned this in France.

Put a stick of butter in a hot skillet and cook until quite brown. Add the fish (cut in smallish serving pieces) and cook, turning once or twice, until done just halfway through. Set fish aside to keep warm. Add a cup or so of white wine to the pan and boil until somewhat reduced. Add capers to taste and season with salt and pepper. Return fish to pan and coat with sauce. Serve at once.

That pale orange side dish in the photo is green papaya salad.