Saturday, February 28, 2009


While I am almost finished with The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression I interspersed my reading with Paris to the Moon written by Adam Gopnik. Paris to the Moon is Gopnik's compilation of essays written for the New Yorker. Based in New York, Gopnik was given the assignment to move to Paris and write about his life there. Can you imagine? What a dream! So, in 1995 he moved with his wife and infant son and stayed for five years.

Travel essays are enjoyable, giving a sneak peek into life lived elsewhere. And Parisians seem so different than most of my little circle--more relaxed, a bit hedonistic (which is great fun to read about). I did not read all 23 essays--not all of his topics interested me. I enjoyed the book but not as much as Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence (which is laugh-out-loud funny) or Susan Hermann Loomis' On Rue Tatin: Cooking and Living in a French Town. But Adam Gopnik is a good writer and if you are a serious Francophile you will enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I've been making Turkey Chili for so long that I decided to try a new chili recipe. This comes from Pinch My Salt and it is very good, very rich. Instead of two spoonfuls of tomato paste you add the whole can which is what makes it so rich. Usually I substitute ground turkey for ground beef but this time I went with the beef (85% lean)--also very good. I added two different chili powders, just used what I had on hand. I did not buy the chipotle chili powder--at over $6 for a small bottle I went for the chipotle hot sauce for 99 cents. And I added one red pepper since I love the sweetness and the color. I skipped the beer since I don't have any and wasn't sure I would like the beer taste anyway.

I served the chili over basmati rice with chopped onion and shredded cheese on top, salad from the garden (of course), and buttermilk cornbread. Everyone loved it.

Beef and Three Bean Chili (copied from Pinch My Salt with her notes)

2 tablespoons olive oil
one large yellow onion, chopped
one green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
two cloves of garlic, minced
one large jalapeno, minced (seeds and all)
one pound of ground beef (I used 85% lean)
3 tablespoons chili powder*
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder**
2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup of your favorite beer
one 14.5 oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes***
one 14.5 oz. can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes****one can of water (just fill an empty tomato can with water)
one small can of tomato paste
one can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
one can of black beans, drained and rinsed
one can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups of frozen corn (optional)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, cook onion and pepper in olive oil until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring, for another minute, then add ground beef. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, just until meat is no longer pink. Drain the fat from the pan then return to heat.
2. Add the two chili powders and cumin, and cook the spices and the meat together, stirring, for half a minute or so. Add the beer, stir, and allow to cook while you open all the cans and drain and rinse the beans. Add all the tomatoes, one can of water (just fill an empty tomato can with water), tomato paste, and beans; stir well. Bring mixture up to a slow boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer, partially covered, for about an hour.
3. As the chili simmers, stir it occasionally, and taste to see if you need/want more chili powder or cumin (don’t add salt until it’s done cooking). Once chili has reached the thickness you like, stir in the frozen corn and cook for a few more minutes, then add salt to taste. Eat immediately or wait for it to cool then refrigerate overnight. The chili tastes even better the next day! It can also be frozen.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Notes: *Feel free to use more or less chili powder depending on your preference. I probably used more than 3 T, but some people prefer a lot less! **optional, or can substitute one tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo. ***they don’t have to be fire-roasted, that’s just what I had on hand. ****You could substitute one large (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes for the two smaller cans of diced/crushed tomatoes. This chili did not seem spicy to me at all, but if you are making it for kids (or really wimpy adults), you can make these changes: remove all the seeds from the jalapeno before chopping (or leave it out altogether), leave out the chipotle chili powder, reduce regular chili powder to 2 tablespoons.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I have another little stack of interesting books piling up. Right now The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression has jumped to the top of the heap and I'm having a hard time putting it down. Amity Shlaes is an excellent writer and makes this subject come alive. The fact that I am reading about a severe economic depression while our country (and really, most of the world) is in a recession and I'm having a hard time putting it down should tell you something. As soon as I finish the book I will share more information.

Paris to the Moon is on deck for reading next and after that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm looking forward to reading another Anthony Trollope book, I loved The Eustace Diamonds, and Barchester Towers is a classic. The Game of Kings came from a suggestion in a new Wall Street Journal column, Dear Book Lover by Cynthia Crossen, but it's a different genre for me and looks intriguing. So many good books to read! Yay!

Monday, February 16, 2009


This a great dish for Sunday supper. The whole house will smell so good from the lemons, thyme, and garlic. My friend, Sherry, gave me the new Nordstrom Flavors cookbook and this recipe caught my eye.

It is very similar to a recipe I made from the Barefoot Contessa. Instead of putting all of the garlic inside the chicken she roasted the garlic along side the bird (she put a few cloves in the cavity). And instead of olive oil she used butter. I like the olive oil best. I served this with acorn squash and roasted potatoes.

1 whole chicken (around 4 lbs.)
1 bunch fresh thyme, lemon thyme if possible (about 25 sprigs)
10 cloves of garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, quartered
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a roasting rack and place in roasting pan. Chop enough thyme for 1 tbsp (stems removed, but set aside to use later). Mince 3 garlic cloves. Cut each of the remaining garlic halves in half and the lemon in quarters.Season the cavity with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stuff the cavity with the thyme stems and other leftover thyme sprigs, the garlic halves and the lemon quarters.
In a small bowl, stir together the oil, the remaining salt and pepper, the chopped thyme and minced garlic. Spread the oil mixture evenly over the outside of the chicken. I also tucked the mixture under the skin to spread some directly on the meat. Place the chicken breast side down in the roasting pan.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Then turn the chicken breast side up and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to roast until a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 degrees F, about 1 hour 10 minutes more. When the chicken is done, remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes (this lets the chicken absorb its juices).
After the chicken was finished roasting I didn't think it looked dark enough so I put it under the broiler for 5 minutes. Next time I would broil it for 10 minutes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I think I am officially done with baking cakes from a box--unless I doctor it up via the Cake Mix Doctor. This cake is so easy--you make it in one bowl. And it is one more recipe to use up leftover buttermilk. (I am turning into my parents--suddenly not wanting to waste anything.)

The cake doesn't need icing--just a sprinkling of powdered sugar (which I dusted over a cooling rack to make a pattern). And it is lovely.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.

Mix together 1 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

To these ingredients add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola) or melted butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix.

Turn the batter into the pan, bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

This recipe comes from one of my new favorite books, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Laurie Colwin is an author with a bit of a cult following, at least among cooks. Laurie wrote two books about cooking which I recently read called Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (1988) and More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen (1993). She also wrote several fiction books including Happy All the Time which I also read. Unfortunately, Laurie died unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 48 in 1992.

This is a woman who enjoyed cooking for herself and her family and friends. Both her cooking books (mostly essays from her Gourmet Magazine column) are a lovely read. Her material doesn't feel as dated as you would think. She writes about organic foods and trying to buy from local farmers. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Whole Wheat Baguette was Laurie's recipe and it was as easy and good as she said.

Reading about her jam anxiety, her search for the perfect chocolate cake, or describing the worst meal at someone's home is great fun. It is a bit sad to know that she isn't around anymore to provide comfort through her cooking and her writing. I borrowed these two books from the library but there is enough good stuff that I'm going to order them from Abe.

The one fiction book I read, Happy All the Time, is a delightful little story about two guys and the two girls they are crazy about. Good story, well-developed characters, it is a quick read--I own a copy if anyone wants to borrow.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I don't know if you should make this cake. If you have great self-discipline then proceed. But I am telling you it is addictive. It sits on the counter calling your name after you have had a piece. And although you have eaten more than enough it still calls your name. So you take a plastic spoon and discreetly scrape around the dish to innocently clear out the coconut cream-soaked bits of cake left after pieces are scooped up. You then will immediately throw away the plastic spoon thinking that will take care of any future (you know, future meaning 5 minutes from now) nibbles but soon you are getting another plastic spoon eating more bits of this lovely cake.

It is such a pretty cake in fact it was too pretty for a Super Bowl dinner--it is more fitting for a tea party or a birthday party. Lori never should have brought this cake to my house. She does this because she is the skinny sister and can eat this whole cake and still zip up her jeans.

Here is the recipe--don't say I didn't warn you...


1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 9 oz. carton whipped topping (Lori used non-fat Cool Whip)
2 pkgs. coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake ingredients together and beat well. Pour into a 9 x 13 greased pan. Bake according to directions on cake box. Remove from oven and punch holes on the top with toothpick.
Icing: While cake is hot, drizzle sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut on top. Let cool. Spread whipped topping over cake and sprinkle with coconut. Refrigerate.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


What a surprise this warm weather has been! The poor flowers and trees started budding in January--what happens if we have a freeze later this month?

The Sweet Peas are blossoming--that usually doesn't happen until March. Just a few have showed their little heads. Can't wait for the profusion that is to come.

And, lo and behold, we now have sugar snap beans and broccoli! Yay! The snap beans are so good we just snap them off the vine and eat them right there in the garden.

And broccoli finally appeared almost four months after planting by seed. Too small yet to eat, but they are looking fine.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Believe it or not I did make a Super Bowl dinner. Mostly for my brother-in-law, Steve. We had sweet pork tacos, pinto beans, salad, and a delicious coconut cake made by my sister, Lori (recipe to come).

For the tacos, I cooked a pork tenderloin in a cast iron pot for six hours. Everyone loved the tacos. And thanks to Jana, we had those really good uncooked flour tortillas you can get at Costco. You just place the tortilla in a nonstick pan and heat on both sides until browned--excellent.

3 lbs pork tenderloin
1 can tomato sauce
1 can El Pato tomato sauce (mexican hot sauce, yellow can)
1 cup brown sugar
The above ingredients went in to my 5 quart cast iron pot and into the oven at the following adjusted temperatures: 375 degrees for 30 minutes, 350 degrees for one hour, 300 degrees for one hour, and 200 degrees for 3 1/2 hours. It was perfect. I needed to keep adjusting the times since I was at church for 3 hours so I finished off the dish at the 200 degree mark.

1 can refried beans
1 can pinto beans
garlic powder
hot sauce or salsa

Mix the above ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Big news! On Saturday, January 31st, I crossed off two items on my New Year's resolution list: grind my own wheat and bake bread without help. Yay! I can't believe I really did it.

I pulled out the Nutrimill wheat grinder I bought last fall and stared at it for a while before I turned the knob to begin the grinding. And voila!--ground wheat appeared.

Then I began to make Laurie Colwin's recipe for a whole wheat baguette. The night before I called Leslie and she agreed to be available by phone should I need her--isn't she a pal? But I didn't need to call. This recipe is so easy and doesn't require a strict timeline. It can fit your schedule which was great since I needed to run errands and work in the garden for a bit. When it was all finished I had beautiful crusty-on-the-outside and soft--on-the-inside baguette.

I brought a warm piece to Leslie--she loved it, and stopped by Jennifer's with a slice and she also liked it

More practice is needed to make a prettier baguette--mine wasn't as straight as it should be--but I am not intimidated any longer. Next fear to conquer: pie crust.

Recipe (Copied exactly from Laurie Colwin's book Home Cooking.)
Into a large bowl put 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 1 1/2 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour and 3/4 cup coarse ground whole-wheat flour. Add one heaping teaspoon salt and one tablespoon of wheat or corn germ.

Mix 1/2 scant teaspoon of yeast with 1 1/2 cups liquid--half milk, half water, or more water than milk--whatever you have on hand. If you are going to leave it overnight, use 1/4 teaspoon yeast.

Pour the liquid into the flour and stir it up. The dough should be neither dry nor sticky but should tend more toward the sticky than the dry. If too sticky, knead in a little more flour.

Knead the dough well, roll it in flour, put it in a warm bowl (although I have put it in a regular old bowl right off the shelf). Leave it in a cool, draft-free place and go about your business.

Whenever you happen to get home, punch down the dough, knead it well, roll it in flour and forget about it until convenient.

Some later (with a long first rise, a short second rise is fine, but a long one is fine, too), punch the dough down, give it a final kneading, shape into a baguette, slash the top with four diagonal cuts, brush with water and let proof for a few minutes (and if you haven't the time, it can go straight into the oven).

You can preheat the oven or put it in a cold oven, it matters not a bit. Bake at 450 degree for half an hour. Turn the oven to 425 degrees and bake for another 5-20 minutes.

Kim's notes: I did not add the wheat germ since I didn't have any on hand. And I added 3 tablespoons of soy lecithin. I put the bread in a pre-heated oven, and after it baked for 30 minutes I turned the oven down to 425. The bread was done after 5 minutes more.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


These sure were a hit. And this is from Cooking Light magazine--can you believe it?! I only made two small changes: instead of toasted pecans on top I added toasted walnuts. I think walnuts go better with bananas. And when I made the frosting it was a bit thick so I added vanilla soy milk to thin it out. Delicious.

2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
9 ounces cake flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. To prepare bars, combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes, stirring after 17 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
4. Weigh or lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) flour, soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in another medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
5. Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
6. To prepare frosting, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth (I added vanilla soy milk to thin). Spread frosting over cooled bars. Sprinkle with pecans (I used toasted walnuts).