Monday, December 21, 2020

"Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise"

No Retro Christmas would be complete without Jello! Jello was invented by Pearle Wait in 1897 in Le Roy, New York. Wait, who was experimenting with combining a cough remedy, a laxative tea, and gelatin, came up with a fruit flavored dessert which his wife, May, named "Jell-O." Lacking the capital and expertise to market his creation, Wait sold his formula to Orator Frank Woodward, a successful medicinal manufacturer and proprietor, for $450 in 1899. After sales were slow and disheartening, Woodward sold the "blankety-blank business" for $35 to Sam Nico. In 1900, The Genesee Pure Food Company launched a very successful marketing campaign that resulted in $250,000 sales in 1902. In 1904, the Jell-O "best seller" recipes rolled off the presses with 15 million booklets distributed, and the rest is history!

At the tail end of the 19th century, the "domestic science/home economics" movement had taken hold of the Victorians, in which they became obsessed with control. The idea of a tossed salad with mixed greens made them cringe, for it was "messy"! Oh my! Instead, they preferred an "orderly presentation," in which ingredients were painstakingly separated, organized, and presented. Thus molded gelatin (Jell-O) salads were born. They put everything in gelatin, from fruit and nuts to mayonnaise and tuna! It was so prevalent, that Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom composed the novelty song "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise" for his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Bolcom based the song on his experiences playing the piano for women's clubs in his youth, after being fed absurd and unappetizing concoctions, including jello salads. Be warned: This video may induce dry heaving!

Don't worry, this fabulous recipe, which I nicked from my equally fabulous mother-in-law, for "Seven Layer Jello" is neither absurd nor unappetizing! Not only does it look like a beautiful present on your plate, it tastes light and refreshing, and is a MUST for any retro Christmas! Everyone loves it! Honestly, along with Meringue MushroomsPeppermint Bark, and Lacy Nut Cookies, I make this every year and it just wouldn't be Christmas without it! This recipe does require time to allow each layer to set, so plan accordingly! For a chic adults only gelatin dessert, see Wine Jelly with Grapes!

Seven Layer Jello

Makes one 9"x13" pan.

4, 3 ounce packages Jell-O (lime, lemon, orange, and cherry)
2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1 pint sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups scalded milk, cooled
1 cup sugar

Lightly oil a glass Pyrex 9"x13" pan. Dissolve the lime jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Carefully pour into the oiled dish, carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 cups of milk to boiling. Add the 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. 

Dissolve the 2 envelopes of Knox gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand 2 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture to the milk/sugar mixture.

Mix the vanilla extract in 1 pint sour cream. Add to the gelatin/milk/sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. (I actually just whisk it very well until very smooth.) This is your "white" mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate!*

At this point, the lime jello should be set, you will know it is set when it's "sticky" to the touch. Measure 1 1/2 cups of white mixture and carefully spoon or gently ladle over the lime layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the lime layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

Next, dissolve the lemon jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature. When the first white layer is set, carefully spoon or gently ladle the lemon layer over the white layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the white layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

When the lemon layer is set, stir the white mixture, measure 1 1/2 cups white mixture, spoon on lemon layer, tilting as before. Refrigerate to set.

Repeat each layer as directed above, using orange, then the last 1 1/2 cups white mixture, and finally the red mixture.

When done, allow the mold to set overnight. To serve, cut into squares. To store, refrigerate covered with plastic wrap. Keeps fresh for several days.

*If you must refrigerate the white mixture and it sets up, gently reheat in microwave about 10 seconds at a time, stirring each time until smooth. Don't let it get hot or it will melt into the other layers!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Flagon of Seasonal Stimulation? and a Holiday Ham!

Continuing my week of vintage recipes, perfect for a Retro Christmas, I want to share this incredibly easy and surprisingly delicious recipe for "Monte's Ham." After all, what could be more elegant than a glazed ham studded with cloves? (Beats a turkey carcass any day!) In fact, archaeologists believe that the early settlers of Jamestown raised swine, and to this day, a large ham, not a turkey, is the preferred centerpiece of Christmas dinner in the U.S.! I made this recipe on a whim and absolutely love it! The instructions made me laugh: "Buy the cheapest ham possible, glaze the hell out of it, and cook it for a long time." The result is fantastic, positively dreamy!

Monte's Ham

Serves a crowd!


1, 15-pound smoked bone-in ham (I use boneless because it carves nicer.)*
1 1/2 cups orange marmalade
1 cup Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon.)
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 rounded tablespoon whole cloves


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a rack in the lower-middle level.

Cut off and discard the tough outer skin and excess fat from the ham. Put it in a large roasting pan and, with a long sharp knife, score it, making crosshatch incisions about 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart all over the ham.

Roast for 2 hours. Remove the ham from the oven and increase the heat to 350 degrees.

For the glaze, stir together the marmalade, mustard, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stud the ham with the cloves, inserting them at the points where the cuts intersect. Brush the entire surface of the ham generously with half of the glaze and return to the oven.

Cook for another 1 1/2 hours, brushing on the remaining glaze at least 3 times. Transfer to a cutting board or platter and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Carve the ham and serve warm or at room temperature.

*If using half a 15 pound bone-in ham (7-8 pounds), halve the glazing ingredients and cook for half the time.

Recipe courtesy of Saveur Cooks Authentic American, submitted by Monte Williams.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Retro Christmas

Even though I would love to spend time with distant family and friends, I am happy to embrace a low-stress holiday with my husband and two kids, no travel, no trying to hide "secret" gifts in your trunk, no forgetting something, it can be a real nightmare!!! So you get to stay home and begin the cheer? The best way to ensure a fun filled holiday is to go retro! These vintage recipes make things fun and easy, like mock-Polynesian "Rumaki" (a true cocktail classic), marmalade glazed ham studded with cloves, and I would be remiss not to include a spectacular jello dessert! So put up your tinsel trees, dust off those bubble lights, and get the cocktails flowing! 


Makes about 20


1/4 cup soy sauce
1, 8 ounce can whole water chestnuts, drained
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/8 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 pound bacon, preferably center cut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the soy sauce, ground ginger and curry powder (if using), add the water chestnuts and allow to macerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

In another shallow dish, combine the brown sugar and the mustard, mixing well. Cut the bacon into 4-inch strips and dredge in the sugar mixture.

Drain the water chestnuts and wrap a strip of bacon around each. Place the wrapped water chestnuts on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. 

Bake for 20-35 minutes (depending on the thickness of the bacon you use), or until the bacon is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and insert a toothpick into each water chestnut. Place on a serving platter and pass hot.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Tin Pot, a Coffee Sack, and a Bag of Seeds

John Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774. He served in the Continental Army under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. After ending his military service, he apprenticed at a nursery in Pennsylvania, where he would pick apple seeds from the pomace produced by a local cider mill. While apples grown from seed are most likely too unpalatable to eat, they are perfect to make cider. John realized a great opportunity. He packed up his seeds and headed west in a hollowed out log, barefoot, donning his tin pot on his head, and wearing a coffee sack as a shirt! He would stop along uninhabited places along the river banks, plant some of the seeds, and hire a local boy to maintain and sell the trees to future new settlers, who no doubt would be eager for some hard cider! John, who became known as "Johnny Appleseed," would then travel further west, planting his apple nurseries along the way. 

In addition to his love of apples, John was a missionary for The New Church. He would offer to tell stories and read the church doctrine in exchange for a place to sleep, if the weather dictated. According to The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan (one of my favorite books ever!), John preferred the company of children and Native Americans. In fact, it is rumored that he'd once been engaged to marry a ten-year-old girl, but she broke his heart. (Creepy!) According to Robert Price, who wrote a biography about John in 1954, he "had the thick bark of queerness on him." And finally from Pollan, "By the 1830s, John was operating a chain of nurseries that reached all the way from western Pennsylvania through central Ohio and into Indiana. It was in Fort Wayne that Chapman died in 1845-wearing the infamous coffee sack, some say, yet leaving an estate that included some 1,200 acres of prime real estate. The barefoot crank died a wealthy man."

So in honor of John's apples, and the fact that apple cider is now available in stores, I want to share this wonderful recipe for "Cider and Sage Pork!" Not only is this recipe quite delicious, it's easy and quick! Basically, you slice a pork tenderloin into medallions, sear them, set them aside, and make a sauce of shallots, sage, sherry vinegar, mustard, apple cider, and a splash of cream, all in the same pan! Done! I like to serve it with green beans (but without the pecans and basil) and whipped sweet potatoes (substituting pure maple syrup for the chipotle). It makes a beautiful fall dish that is as interesting as Johnny Appleseed!

Cider and Sage Pork

Serves 4


1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and silver skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cider (not hard cider, usually in the produce area of the grocery)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
Fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)


Cut the pork tenderloin into 12 pieces. (Tip: Cut the tenderloin in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each of those into three pieces. Voila!) 

Sprinkle both sides of the pork medallions with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork from pan; cover to keep warm.

Add remaining oil, shallots, and chopped sage; cook 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Whisk broth, cider, mustard, and cornstarch together. Add the mixture to the pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Serve with the pork and garnish with sage leaves, if desired.

Recipe slightly adapted from CookingLight.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Pan de Muertos

Halloween is over. Now what? Let me take you to Mexico, for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 (for children and infants) and November 2 (for adults), to honor and celebrate the lives of the dead. These dates correspond to the Catholic, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, brought to Mexico by the Spaniards. However, Day of the Dead has been celebrated for centuries, all the way back to the Aztecs, when it was celebrated for the entire month of August. Day of the Dead is a time to remember the dead, by cleaning their grave sites, adding flowers (particularly marigolds), gathering pictures, favorite foods and drinks of the deceased, and by eating sugar skulls and Pan de Muertos or Bread of the Dead. It may sound morbid, but it isn't. After all, wouldn't it be nice to know that you wouldn't be forgotten?

In honor of the tradition of Day of the Dead, I'm offering an authentic recipe for Pan de Muertos or Bread of the Dead. It is an exotic yeast bread, flavored with a hint of anise, sugar, milk, and eggs. Sometimes other flavors are added, like cinnamon and orange, but it is it's shape that makes it distinctive. Pan de Muertos is traditionally decorated with sugar, two "bone-shaped" pieces of dough, and topped with a skull or tear shape to represent sorrow. Something like this:

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

Serves 14-16


For the dough
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest

For the glaze
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons colored or white sugar

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the milk and butter until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the warm water.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, and sugar, blending well. Stir in the warm milk mixture, eggs, and orange zest, mixing until well blended. Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time to create the dough. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch the dough down, removing 1 fistful of the dough and set that aside. Take the larger portion of dough and place it on a baking sheet, shaping it into a round dome.

Using the dough you had set aside, shape two small, long bone shapes to be placed on top the dome. Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, about 1 hour. Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire rack to cool slightly.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the 1/4 cup of white sugar, orange juice, and orange zest, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and brush over the warm bread. Sprinkle with colored or white sugar. 

Recipe adapted from Texas Cooking Online.

Monday, October 26, 2020

"A Soul, A Soul, A Soul Cake"

I stumbled across an old English custom of "Souling", in which the poor would go around begging for money and food, specifically, "soul cakes". In return, the poor would sing souling songs and offer to pray for the family's dead on All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (November 1). This custom, apparently, has is roots in the Druid celebration of Samhain, or Summer's End, to honor the dying sun on the last night of October (October 31). Combine these two, and you get All Hallows Evening, Hallowe'en, and now, Halloween! No doubt, souling has adapted into modern trick-or-treating, but I like the idea of helping the departed. They believed that for each soul cake eaten, one soul would be released from purgatory!

Traditionally, soul cakes contained saffron to make them yellow like the dying sun, and topped with currants in the shape of a cross. They evolved into more of a tea-time treat, omitting the saffron, adding yeast, and served with butter and jam. I chose the traditional route. I doubted that in a land of candy bars, my kids would find these to be a "treat"; however, to my surprise, they liked them! Try it, and maybe you and your family can help a poor soul!

Soul Cakes

Makes about 17-20, 2-inch cakes, palm-sized cuteness!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup currants (optional)
A pinch of saffron, or a few drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
1 beaten egg yolk, for the glaze


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Warm the milk over low heat, until just hot to the touch. Add the saffron or food coloring. Remove from the heat.

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the 2 egg yolks and blend thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and continue to mix. (The mixture will be dry and crumbly.) One tablespoon at a time, begin adding the warm milk, until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. When you have a soft dough, stop adding the milk. You probably won't need the entire 1/2 cup. I only needed 4 tablespoons.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead gently, until the dough is uniform. Roll out to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Using a floured, 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can space them closely, they do not spread.

Brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk, and decorate with currants. If you don't want to use the currants, use the back (widest part) of a table knife, and place an "X" across the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from T. Susan Chang.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Lost Your Mojo?

"Mojo" is an interesting word. It can mean different things to different people. It can mean a magic spell, hex, or charm. It can refer to a magical charm bag used in hoodoo (not be be confused with voodoo) which originated in the Mississippi Delta area by African-Americans. It can also refer to someone's sex appeal, or lack thereof. However, mojo is a sauce consisting primarily of olive oil, salt, garlic, and other spices that originated in the Canary Islands. (For more on Canary Island cuisine, see Singing Canaries and Beastly Dogs?) But in Cuba and other islands of the Caribbean, where large Canarian emigration occurred, it is a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and a citrus juice. It is typically used as a marinade or dip.

What do I do when I lose my mojo? I make Rick Bayless's "Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo!" It's like a Mexican shrimp scampi or Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and it is fabulous! You will need to make a batch of Rick's "Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo," which will require approximately an hour of baking, but once you have that you can store it in the refrigerator for up to three months. (Just make sure the garlic is always covered with some olive oil.) As long as you have your mojo, this recipe takes mere minutes to complete! You've got to try it! I like to serve it with a simple salad, plenty of crusty bread, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo

Serves 4-6

For the Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (FYI: You can make half a batch, if you prefer, and still have plenty for this recipe!)
4 large heads of garlic
2 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (Not the junk in a bottle!)

For the Shrimp and Pasta
2/3 cup Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (stir before measuring)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and finely chopped (I use 3!)
1 pound dried linguine
2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro (I use parsley.)
3/4 cup grated Mexican queso anejo, Parmesan, or Romano (I use cotija cheese, which is like Mexican Parmesan and is easier for me to locate.)

For the Mojo
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove with the side of a knife to release the clove from the papery skin. Stir together the garlic, oil, and salt in an 8x8-inch pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45-55 minutes. Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown.

Using an old-fashioned potato masher or fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you're ready to enjoy some deliciousness. It will keep in the refrigerator for up the three months as long as there's enough oil to keep the garlic covered.

For the Shrimp and Pasta
Fill a large (6-8 quart) pot about 2/3 full of water. Add 2 tablespoons salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, spoon 2 tablespoons of the oil from the mojo into a very large (12-inch) skillet. (I use my non-stick one, see Gadgets.) Set over medium-high heat. Pat the shrimp dry, sprinkle with salt and, when the oil is hot and looks shimmery, lay them in the skillet. Cook until the shrimp just lose their transclucency in the center, about 1 minute per side. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped chiles and the rest of the mojo.

Slide the pasta into the boiling water, stir, then let boil until al dente according to package directions.

Remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then pour the pasta into a colander set in a sink. Return the pasta and the 1/2 cup water to the pot. Scrape in the shrimp mixture, sprinkle with the chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro, toss together and divide among warm plates. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve without hesitation.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Simply Pearfect!

Sometimes we all get caught up in elaborate recipes designed to impress, but sometimes less is more. For instance, take the classic combination of pears and cheese. Delicious! To make a truly perfect salad, take a ripe juicy pear, a generous sprinkle of good quality blue cheese, a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and a grind of black pepper, and you have an amazing, beautiful, and healthy salad in minutes. It also makes a lovely fruit/cheese course after the main course. I LOVE it!

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Serves 4

4 ripe, juicy pears 
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (Roquefort, Stilton, or Gorgonzola)
1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar (preferably from Modena)
2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toasted chopped walnuts, optional

Cut the pears into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter in half and arrange on individual salad plates. Sprinkle each plate with 1 ounce of the cheese. Mix the oil and vinegar and drizzle evenly over each plate. Season with a generous grind of black pepper and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Czech Please!

The first Czech immigrants arrived in Texas in 1850 seeking land and camaraderie along side the German immigrant populations. In fact, according to the 1920 census of foreign born population, Mexican immigrants comprised the largest percentage at 69.2%, Germans at 8.6%, and Czechs third at 3.6%. Even today, Texas is home to the largest population of Czech descendants in the US. The Czech influence can still be felt today with Czech speaking radio broadcasts, the eternal popularity of polkas and accordions (which spurred the creation of conjunto music in south Texas that crossed into northern Mexico creating the norteno sound), and kolaches! 

Kolaches (ko-lah-chees) are a sweet yeast bread with fillings of poppy seed, apricot, cottage cheese, or prune being the most traditional. However, crafty Czexans have created new sweet flavors like raspberry, blueberry, pineapple, and strawberry, as well as savory versions like jalapeno sausage and cheese, barbecue beef, and even sauerkraut! So what's my favorite flavor? Cream cheese with crumb topping! Yum! This recipe (adapted from Texas Monthly/April 2014 from Sweet on Texas) makes very delicious kolaches! You will need to allow about 3 hours to complete, but it is well worth the effort! So plan a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen and perhaps a little polka!

Cream Cheese Kolaches

Makes about 27

For the Dough
1 1/2 teaspoons + 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

For the Crumb Topping
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, yeast, and warm water. Set aside until the yeast starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the shortening and stir until just melted. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the salt, egg yolk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk well.

Add the milk/egg mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. With the dough hook, on low speed, add one cup at a time of the flour until incorporated. Turn the mixer speed to medium and mix until a soft, moist, glossy dough forms (about the time it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl).

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. After the dough has risen, punch it down to remove any air in the dough. 

Lightly flour a work surface. Using a spoon, remove small portions of the dough and drop them onto the flour surface, rolling them into egg-size pieces with the palms of your hands. Place them on a parchment or silpat-lined baking pan in rows about 1" apart, about 16 per pan. Brush the dough balls with the melted butter. Cover with a tea towel and place them back in a warm, draft-free area to rise another 20 minutes.

For the Cream Cheese Filling
Beat sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Set aside at room temperature.

For the Crumb Topping
Combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Finishing the Kolaches
Make a deep, round impression (I use the back of a tablespoon and swirl it around) in the center of each ball of dough and fill it with a tablespoon of the filling. (Don't press through the bottom of the dough or filling will ooze out!)

Let the kolaches rise again, uncovered, for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle the kolaches with the desired amount of crumb topping. Bake until lightly browned, 20-30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hatch, Hatch, Hooray!

Hatch chiles have just hit the market! Yippee! These amazing chiles are only available for a short period of time, so you better run out and get some! Every year I load up, roast and freeze them to hopefully last me all year. See Roasting and Freezing Hatch Chiles. I also make Green Chile Sauce, that I freeze in ice cube trays, which I adore with scrambled eggs. The first meal I make is always my amazing Green Chile Cheeseburgers! Delicious! In fact, I'm making them tonight! I can't wait! Other fabulous recipes from my site that make the most of these addictive chiles are Chiles RellenosGreen Chile Chicken Lasagna with Goat Cheese, and Hatch Chile Macque Choux. I highly recommend any of those!

However, I have a new recipe for you to try this year! How does "Hatch Chile and Cheddar Corn Pudding" sound? Chiles and cheese - my favorite! It's the perfect side dish with grilled or roasted meats. It would also make a fine meal on it's own with a nice green salad. If you like chiles, you'll love this recipe!

Hatch Chile and Cheddar Corn Pudding

Serves 6-8

2 large hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, and chopped (See Techniques for more information on how to roast a chile.) (Can subtitute 1, 4oz can of hatch chiles, if necessary.)
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, preferably freshly grated
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree 3 cups of the corn in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the remaining 1 cup corn, salt, scallions, chiles, flour, and 1 cup of the cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream until combined. Stir into the corn mixture.

Place butter in a 8" square baking dish (I used a 2 quart souffle dish), and place in oven until butter is melted, about 10 minutes. (Don't let the butter burn!) Pour batter into the hot baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Place a baking sheet on lower rack to catch any drips, and bake until puffed and bubbling and cheese is golden brown, 45-50 minutes. (I had no issues with any drips.) Let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Ciao, Insalata Caprese!

I think everyone has heard of and/or eaten Insalata Caprese, which is a salad "in the style of Capri," from the Italian region of Campania, made with fresh buffalo mozzarella, juicy red tomatoes, young fresh basil, the best olive oil, and salt and pepper. Typically, made only in the summer with the freshest most flavorful tomatoes, it is a real treat and is served as a first course with crusty bread. However, I do know some people who think it's bland and boring! Gasp! So, for those of you who think Insalata Caprese is "just okay," try this variation for "Fresh Tomato and Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil," by Giada de Laurentiis. 

I absolutely LOVE this salad! I highly recommend using heirloom, or at least home-grown tomatoes, if you can find them. This beautiful salad consists of thick juicy tomato slices, layered with light and fluffy goat cheese, drizzled with a fragrant herb oil of mint and basil, and sprinkled with toasted walnuts! Yum! It makes a stunning first course, and tastes fresh and downright exciting! If you have any leftover herb oil, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Use it to drizzle over grilled fish, vegetables, pasta, and in salad dressings.

Fresh Tomato and Goat Cheese Strata with Herb Oil

Serves 4-6

For the Goat Cheese Filling
8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup walnuts
3 ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2-3/4" thick

For the Herb Oil
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Goat Cheese Filling
Combine the goat cheese and cream in a medium bowl and beat together using an electric mixer (or stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Herb Oil
Combine the herbs in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop them. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow stream and process until very smooth with visible flecks of the herbs remaining. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the oil to a small bowl (or jar), cover, and set aside.

Toast the Walnuts
Toast the walnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until they begin to darken slightly and are fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board to cool slightly, then chop them coarsely.

Plating the Dish
Place one tomato slice on each plate. Top each slice with a spoonful of the goat cheese mixture. Top each plate with another tomato slice and another spoonful of the goat cheese filling. Drizzle each strata with some of the herb oil, and sprinkle with the walnuts.

Recipe adapted from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites, by Giada de Laurentiis.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Power to the Peaches!

Peaches are one of the most wonderful fruits of summer! I use them mostly to make Texas-Hill Country Peach Cobbler and Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese (which was my favorite recipe find from last summer). However, after a recent trip to the farmer's market, I was a little overzealous and found myself with more peaches than I can handle! James Beard to the rescue, particularly his exceedingly simple recipe for "Brandied Peaches." 

I am not someone who is a "canner," but the thought of peaches soaking in sugar and brandy for months sounded quite tempting. In addition, the recipe does not require the jars to be processed, which I am not an expert of or inclined to delve into. I'm assuming that drowning the peaches in 80 proof brandy should keep any spoilage at bay...but I'll have to wait a few months to see? According to James Beard, "these peaches stood for several months before using and developed a high degree of potency. They were served as a dessert taken from the bottle and they can be delicious when served warm or cold over ice cream." I've also read to store canned peaches in the dark to prevent discoloration, so I've tucked them in the back corner of my refrigerator where hopefully they will provide me potent peaches for desserts and peach brandy syrup for cocktails and sauces! I'll let you know!

*UPDATE: They are wonderful! In the dead of winter, they are especially nice thinly sliced with some soft goat cheese! Yum!

It looks like summer in a jar!

James Beard's Brandied Peaches

*The recipe calls for 4 pounds peaches and 2 pounds of sugar, but as I was a little apprehensive, I only used 1 pound of peaches and 1/2 pound of sugar, in case I have to throw it out. Hopefully not!

4 pounds ripe peaches
2 pounds granulated sugar
Brandy, enough to cover peaches

Place the peaches in a pot and cover with cold water.

Bring to a simmer, but do not boil, till the skins will rub off easily. (This took me about 3-5 minutes of simmering, until a pairing knife rubbed alongside one of the peaches easily released the skin.) Drain and run under cold water. Peel the skin off the peaches, cut in half and remove the stones.

Put the sugar and peach halves in alternate layers in jars (quarts are best). (For my 1 pound peaches, I used a 24 ounce jar.)

Pour in brandy to cover.

Cork tightly. Store in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks before using.

Recipe slightly adapted from American Cookery, by James Beard.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Savor Summer with a Savory Summer Tart!

Continuing my month of recipes that utilize the best the season has to offer, I must include this fabulous recipe for "Wild Onion and Spinach Tart!" I don't know if the title of this recipe gives it justice? Perhaps I should call it "Kick-Ass Summer Tart," because that's what it is! This recipe, that I was fortunate enough to run across, is from Amy Crowell of Edible Austin, and includes a fantastic "no-roll" pastry crust enhanced with Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper, a base of salsa- or jalapeno-flavored cream cheese, sauteed wild onions (I used leeks) and spinach, mozzarella cheese (I used Monterrey Jack), all crowned with home-grown or farm-fresh local tomatoes! The filling is light and luscious and packed with a wonderful melange of flavors! This is perfect for a light al fresco summer supper, along with a green salad, glass of wine, candles, and the wind gently blowing by! You'll LOVE it!

Wild Onion and Spinach Tart (aka., Kick-Ass Summer Tart)

Serves 4-6

For the crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 tablespoons ice water

For the filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup wild onions (bulbs and/or leaves), finely chopped, or 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (To clean leeks, see Techniques.)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups firmly packed spinach or other tender greens
4 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk (I used heavy cream, because I had some!)
1/3 cup jalapeno- or salsa-flavored cream cheese, at room temperature (I mixed 3 spoonfuls of my favorite salsa to 1/3 cup plain cream cheese.)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (I used Monterrey Jack because that seems more appropriate for this recipe.)
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta, optional (I didn't use.)
4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 2 home-grown tomatoes.)

For the crust
In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, Parmigiano, salt, and pepper. Pulse to combine. Add in the butter using a few short pulses until the mixture contains pea-sized lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse, adding more water gradually by tablespoons, if needed, just until the dough is moist enough to clump together in a ball.

Hand press the dough gently and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10"-diameter tart pan. (I used a 9 1/2" tart pan and it was fine, no overflow of filling!) Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Into a fine-mesh sieve or strainer set over a medium bowl, transfer the mixture and, using a wooden spoon, gently squeeze out most of the excess moisture; set aside.

*To make ahead of time, stop here until ready to proceed.*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; set aside.

To assemble the tart
Remove the tart pastry from the refrigerator. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and the feta, if using, evenly on top.

Spread the onion/spinach mixture evenly over the cheese.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the spinach mixture. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on top.

Bake the tart until the center is puffed up and lightly browned and no longer wet to the touch, 35-45 minutes. Allow the tart to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


After being tantalized by The Meatwave, I made their delicious recipe for Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers. Yum! However, while my poblanos cooked over indirect heat (not over the coals), I didn't want to waste the direct side (over the coals) of my grill, so I tried their recipe for "Bacon-Wrapped, Jalapeno and Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp." Apparently this recipe was inspired by a restaurant in Houston, Texas, and being a native Texan myself, I had to try it!

The shrimp are seasoned with a simple dry rub, slit open, filled with a small slice of Monterey Jack cheese and slice of jalapeno pepper, then held together with a slice of bacon! The shrimp are then threaded onto skewers, brushed with melted butter, and grilled to perfection! Could anything sound better? They turned out beautifully with a nice balance of heat and baconess. My only comment is that the recipe calls for 2 pounds of large shrimp to serve 4-6. I used 1 pound of medium shrimp, keeping the other ingredients as written and found that not only did it take me almost an hour to stuff and wrap the shrimp, it made enough to feed an army! So, keep that in mind when purchasing your shrimp. (It was not a husband was more than happy to down more than his fair share!) These shrimp were so fantastic and would be perfect at any barbecue! And finally, a nice cooling Retro Wedge Salad makes a nice accompaniment!

Bacon-Wrapped, Jalapeno and Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp

Serves 4-6

For the dry rub
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the shrimp
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled with tale on, deveined, and rinsed
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into thin strips (I recommend cutting as you go...)
3 jalapenos, halved, seeded, and cut into thin slices (I recommend cutting as you go...)
1 pound bacon strips, halved (I recommend using thin cut bacon and I cut them into thirds because I used smaller shrimp, see above)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 lime, quartered

In a small bowl mix together garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Place shrimp in a large bowl and season with 3/4 of the spice mixture, tossing to evenly coat.

Working with one shrimp at a time, make a slit about 3/4-inch long at the base of the shrimp. Place one jalapeno slice and one cheese slice in cut slit, then wrap base of shrimp all the way around with half a slice of bacon. Repeat with rest of shrimp.

Thread shrimp onto skewers (I recommend threaded through just above the tail then through the body to help stabilize the shrimp onto the skewers) and season lightly with remaining spice mixture. Brush shrimp lightly with melted butter.

(I grilled them in batches,
because I only had half the grill available.)

Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill shrimp over high heat until bacon crisps and shrimp just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and serve with lime wedges.


Over the weekend, I stumbled upon The Meatwave, a blog completely dedicated to barbecue and grilling. I was immediately impressed with the fine photography (I need a better camera!), tantalizing bbq and grilling recipes, and the many humorous puns all focused on meat! Ha! Ha! However, I'm not naive, a lot of food blogs are loaded with recipes that are ho-hum and with incompetent directions that clearly indicate that the writer didn't even try the recipe! Annoying! But having been lured by The Meatwave, I fired up my grill and gave a few recipes a try, starting with "Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers."

This recipe caught my eye because I love poblanos and happened to have Mexican crema and cotija cheese lingering in my fridge. Perfect! I followed the recipe exactly and when the aroma of simmering chorizo, onions, and garlic hit me, I knew this was going to be great! Not only did these savory poblanos look fantastic, they tasted even better! A nice cooling Retro Wedge Salad makes a nice accompaniment!

Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Serves 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2/3 pound raw Mexican chorizo, removed from casings
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
2 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
1/4 cup grated cotija cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese


Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in onion and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in chorizo, breaking sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon, and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Add rice, tomatoes, crema, cilantro, and cotija cheese to bowl with meat mixture and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into cavities of split poblanos and top with pepper jack cheese.

Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. (I didn't oil it and it was just fine!) Place poblanos on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until cheese has melted and poblanos have softened, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from grill and serve.

***You may also be interested in Bacon-wrapped, Jalapeno and Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp.

Thursday, May 14, 2020's really schnitzel...

Chicken Paillard may sound fancy, but it's really just schnitzel. The word "schnitzel" comes from the word "der Schnitz" meaning a slice or cut, and is a boneless piece of meat, hammered thinly, breaded and fried, and dates all the way back to the Romans, around the 1st century BC. In the Middle Ages, it became very popular in Northern Italy (Cotoletta alla Milanese), and Austria (Weiner Schnitzel), and made of veal. In fact, in Austria, "Weiner Schnitzel" is required BY LAW to be made of veal. However it came to be, it is a perfect way to cook a thin piece of meat quickly without drying it out, and is popular all around the globe. In Australia it is known as "Schnitty" or "Schnitter," in Iran it is called "Shenitsel," in Japan it is called "Tankatsu," in Latin America it is known as "Milanesa," and even in Texas, it was transformed into "Chicken Fried Steak." Traditionally, it is served simply with a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. It is so versatile, with any cut of meat or fish, I think everyone should know this classic technique.

This recipe for "Chicken Paillard with Salad Greens and Creamy Parmesan Dressing," was inspired by Tyler Florence, from his book, Tyler Florence Family Meal. I love making this because everyone in my family LOVES it!!! After all, it's just about the only way to make a boneless, skinless chicken breast taste great! It is a complete meal on one plate! Add a glass of wine, and it is simply sensational!

Chicken Paillard with Salad Greens and Creamy Parmesan Dressing

Serves 4


For the paillard
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko bread crumbs, or more if needed
Canola oil, for frying

For the dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad
4 good handfuls of mixed salad greens or arugula
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 ounces bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls), halved, or pearl mozzarella

Fresh lemon wedges, for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, for garnish


For the dressing
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar, cover and chill.

For the paillard
Place one chicken breast on a cutting board. Place your left hand horizontal to the chicken breast, with the fatter side facing your right hand. With a sharp knife, make a slice through the center, but not all the way through. Open the breast up to where it should resemble a heart shape.

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin, until a uniform thickness of about 1/2-inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.

Prepare the Panko breading by setting up a breading station. Place flour on a plate, beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, and then the Panko on another plate or shallow bowl. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Now dredge each breast first in the flour, then the egg, and then the Panko, shaking off any excess after each step. Place the breaded chicken on a cookie sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 10-20 minutes. (This ensures that the breading will not fall off when cooking.)

In a large skillet, (I like non-stick or cast iron), heat about 1/4 inch or so of the oil to about 350 degrees over medium to medium/high heat until the oil looks shimmery. I actually don't check the temperature. Instead, I drop a small piece of bread (usually taken from the end of a loaf) to see if it starts to bubble around the bread. Cook the chicken about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, tray, or cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts. You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

To serve
Mix together the salad greens, tomatoes, and mozzarella in a large bowl. Add as much dressing as you like, and toss well. (Refrigerate any remaining dressing for another use.) Plate each paillard on individual plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil and top with a good handful of the salad. Garnish with a lemon wedge to be squeezed at the table. Pop open the wine and serve!