Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pineapple Pie; for breakfast

When I talked about what my eating establishment might be, if I had the guts to open one, it made me hungry for my favorite pie, pineapple. Our mom/grandma used to make it and I usually requested it for my birthday. Who needed cake if you have a great pie baker, and she was.

It is pretty easy and great for winter time as you can make this one when there isn't any fresh fruit in the markets.

Pineapple Pie
9-inch pie

2 cans crushed pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
The amount of sugar has to do with the sweetness of the pineapple. This is where you'll need to taste it.

Pie crust
2 cups flour
2/3 cup shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until it's the size of small peas. Sprinkle water over flour mixture a tablespoon at a time.

Big hint: This all has to be done quickly as the flour will absorb more water than necessary. Too quick and you don't get enough moisture in the flour. It just needs to hold together. It is all by touch so I don't use a food processor to mix the dough.

Divide dough into two parts. Roll out on floured board to desired size. Line pie pan with with one piece and roll out the top.

Mix filling well and pour into pie crust, brush edges with water. Dot with butter and top with second crust. Crimp the edges, slash the top, and bake in 450 degree oven for 10/12 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 40 minutes or until nicely browned.

Another big hint: I put a piece of penne pasta upright in the top, to vent the pie. This helps with boil-overs and a mess to clean up in your oven. Don't ask me why it works but it usually does for me.

Cool and serve.

Last big hint: For the shortening, of that cup I use Crisco and a few tablespoons of butter. I've never use lard but one of the grandmothers did and it was delicious, artery clogging but delicious. I believe you use less lard.

We had one slice after dinner and one for breakfast. Now the rest is wrapped to give to the neighbors. With only two of us here, I've found it's easier to just get it out of the house and they are pretty happy with the results.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What are you dreaming about?

Occasionally we review local restaurants but none like the one Sylvie at Soul Fusion Kitchen has just visited; The French Laundry in Napa Valley. This is a great post, she'd always wanted to dine there and she tells not only the menu, which is amazing, but all she had to accomplish just to get the reservations. Do give it a read.

This did bring something to mind. What would my restaurant be like, if I'd ever given it a try? If you are a foodie and you must because you're reading a food blog, or more likely, have a food blog--what would your restaurant be like? Be honest we've all dreamed of one. Would it be fancy, with a famous chef and linen napkins and a seating only by reservations made months in advance or a burger joint with one grill, you behind the grill, and a line out the door for the eleven stools at the counter? Would you serve home cookin' recipes from your grand mom or a menu like The French Laundry?

Me? A breakfast joint that also serves pie. My beloved loves pie for breakfast. I'd have specials for the day and always two or three pies to choose from. What's on the menu? The basics and don't forget the grits. Always biscuits and cinnamon rolls and pots of properly brewed tea. It would have to be small with a few tables, a counter, and a grill that was visible. Nothing like talking to the cook while while your breakfast is being prepared.

There are so many variations to choose, if you dream of opening an establishment share your dreams with us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Glamorous: you're doing it wrong

This is a photo of our Tear Drop kitchen. My beloved and I love to camp and we are lucky enough to be about an hour from the beautiful blue Pacific ocean and have the means to sneak away for a day or three. If you are retired, why not? Plus for a few days I have a "Million Dollar View" of the ocean.

The teardrop is a 1947 Kitt Manufactured model but the last owner redid all the cabinets. They are quite fancy. My husband put in the stainless counter because there are always spill and the wood wasn't practical. The color is original but, if we ever have some down time, it will get painted the same color as our pulling vehicle, our '51 Chevy truck; green and black. We draw a crowd each time we pull into a campground but tours are easy to give. Yes, we sleep inside, notice the small door on the right.

Let me give a tour of our kitchen. On the right is a two burner propane stove which doubles as a water heater. On the left is a small bar sink and in one of the cabinets behind is a five-gallon water jug which feeds the sink faucet. When I'm cooking I try to keep a large kettle going for hot water to clean up.

The drawers under the counter hold everything I need and somethings I wonder why I brought but that's what happens with drawers. It's very compact and efficient. We do bring along a small gas BBQ because you just can't make toast on the stove, though I've tried for years and finally gave up.

We've had some pretty plain meals and a few fancy ones. Last trip, while our camping neighbors were eating cold hot dogs for dinner, I fixed grilled chicken and salmon, rice and a nice avocado salad. It's all in your prep at home. Our breakfasts are usually the plain meals since eggs are a pain to clean up. When you have a small dishpan for washing pans you are quite careful with what you cook.

Here's a tip for outdoor cooks. While shopping in a little town close by, Carpenteria, we stopped at our favorite bakery/deli Reynoldo's and purchased two fresh tamales for dinner. When we got back to camp I was trying to think of a way to heat them for our dinner. I usually only travel with a couple of pans and no steamer. All I did was crumple a large sheet of heavy duty foil and put it in my large kettle, then filled the kettle half full of water. I placed the tamales on top of the foil, put the lid on, and simmered those darlings to perfection. Now that was a yummy supper.

So, why would I do this? For this "Million Dollar View" of course. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, May 24, 2008


We'd like to take a break from cooking to wish our very own, Maltese Parakeet, a Happy Birthday today.

Lil bird, Buddy is waiting to give you a big old wet kiss.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My brownies have wings

These brownies should be wearing Dolce & Gabbana because they have that much TASTE.

America's Test Kitchen recently had an episode on Lightening Up Chocolate Desserts. I almost passed it by. Most low-fat desserts that have been re-made usually leave me colder than a Montana morning. If you don't want the calories, either eat less or not at all. I, unfortunately, don't do either so I'm always battling the pounds.

When the episode started with that same sentiment, it got my attention. What the hey, I've got 30 minutes to kill. This is the usual ATK recipe in that they use way too many ingredients but this time it pays off. I've made the recipe twice, once for friends and once for the husband. Both approved.

ATK did not supply any info on how low-fat this recipe is but just making the recipe you know it doesn't have much. Being interested in the final count made me search online and, of course, there's a site to help you count each fat gram and calories in anything you make. The site is Calorie King and it's got great info and easy to use.

I did learn that vanilla extract has more calories than I thought. I use a vanilla bean paste by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc and did not find any info for that so I used the twelve per teaspoon figure for regular extract. What else, baking powder has one calorie, go figure.

If you are worried about carbs be aware of the sugar. There is more sugar because it's actually a "wet" ingredient, it melts when baked, so you need more to make this brownie soft. Hey, ya gotta have a trade off somewhere.

Ok, to my surprise, here are the results for a 2 inch brownie?
  • Total fat 2.18 grams
  • Total cal 102.25.

A basic recipe I'd checked had at least 112 calories and 7 grams of fat for a 2 oz brownie. Even though this is not low calorie it still comes in way low in the fat column, plus, THEY TASTE GREAT!

What are we up against

Here's a shocker:
  • Starbuck's fudge brownie bite, 2 oz: 300 calories and 14 grams of fat.
  • Mrs. Fields' double fudge 2.7 oz: 360 and 20 grams of fat.

Fudgy low-fat brownies

makes 16, 2 inch brownies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces bitter sweet chocolate, chopped (I found some with zero fat)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 cup sugar

Oven 350. Fold two pieces of foil to create a foil sling the size of your pan. I used an 8-inch square baking pan. Push the foil in the corners and to be safe, spray with cooking spray.

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in medium bow. Melt bittersweet chocolate and butter in large bowl over simmering water until smooth. Cool 2-3 minutes they whisk in sour cream, chocolate syrup, vanilla, egg, egg white, and sugar. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into chocolate mixture until combined.

Spread batter into pan and into the corners, level surface with spatula. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached, 20-25 minutes. Cool brownies completely in pan, at least 1 hour. remove brownings using foil and cut into 16 squares. To keep the brownies moist do not cut until ready to serve, then stand back, they will fly off the plate.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mushroom Soup

and creamy tasty, silky texture that warms your bones...that's what I made last nite. Let me say that my sweet husband does not eat mushrooms in any way but he loves mushroom soup...........go figure.

I found this recipe over on
Simply Recipes blog.....Elise adapted this recipe from one made by Wolfgang Puck. This is my adapted version........sorry no photo.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 1 pound regular white mushrooms, cleaned, quartered or sliced
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (I like more pepper)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (I used half & half and it was fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
  • Minced parsley for garnish (no fresh parsley on hand, sprinkled a bit of the fresh thyme as a garnish)

1 In a food processor, coarsely chop mushrooms and lemon juice.

2 Melt butter in (4-5 quart) sauce pan and lightly sauté shallots on medium heat. Add mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf, sauté over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid that is released from the mushrooms disappears.

3 Add salt, pepper, cream and chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

4 Add cornstarch and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Correct seasoning and add more lemon juice to taste.

Serves 4. Serve sprinkled with a little parsley.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lucky to have her as my daughter

My Mother's Day was a bit different this year. In past, lil bird has fixed some pretty great fare. Last year was a wonderful yummy brunch but this year I requested a knitting lessons. You can read about my knitting lesson on my blog, French Benefits.

One of my other requests was a cooking session together. I love that. I'd been watching Jamie Oliver at home and he had cooked a quick and terrific looking fresh pasta with broccoli and cheese sauce. I have a pasta machine, it was a gift from doodles, and what better than to whip up a nice lunch together. Dad gets to benefit from this holiday, too.

The recipe on Food TV is a bit different from what he made on the show and we adapted the process for our needs.
The sauce is made on top of the pan boiling your pasta water. How great is that for an energy saver?

  • 2 hand fulls of grated parmaesan and fontina cheese
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of creme fraiche
place this in a heat proof bowl on top of the boiling water for the pasta.
  • baby broccoli, sliced thin
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • chopped fresh herbs, we used thyme
  • 2 large eggs
  • 80 grams AP flour per person
Add eggs and flour to food processor. Mix until the dough comes together. Now this is important, pinch some dough between your fingers. You are looking for dough that just holds together and isn't too sticky. If it is, add a tablespoon of flour, mix and then test again. You don't want the dough too stiff.

Give it a quick kneading on a lightly floured board and then into the pasta machine on the
widest setting; running it through about 4-5 times. It should start to become silky and smooth.

Now you need to reduce the thickness on the machine, rolling the dough twice each time, until you get to the thinnest. You'll need to cut the dough into more manageable pieces because it's gonna get real long, real quick.

Flour each sheet, fold and cut into the width noodle you'd like. Remember, they do get bigger when they cook. Toss to open up the noodles.

Yes, that is a bandadge on my finger and, yes, I cut it but I am wearing my favorite Dave Matthews Band t-shirt.

Remove the dish with the cheeses they should be nice and melty by now. Toss the sliced broccoli and the noodles in the boiling water salted water and stirring bring back to a boil and cook for about two minutes. You'll need to test the pasta. Don't overcook or they'll get too soft.

Drain the pasta then put it into your serving bowl.Whisk in the two egg yolks and herbs into the sauce and quickly pour over the hot pasta. This cooks the eggs. If you are at all concerned about this you can use Davidson's Eggs. They are pasteurized so you won't get salmonella. Their website has a nice coupon because they're a bit pricey.

Serve this up quickly, Dad was waiting, with a bit of chopped Italian parsley. It couldn't taste fresher.

This is one of the basic recipes you'd like to make again. Lil bird thought it would be great with a bit of lemon zest in the pasta and maybe some crispy panchetta tossed in too.

It was a great Mother's Day, wouldn't have it any other way, me and my little chickie cooking together.

Friday, May 09, 2008

free rice!

Help end world hunger

check out this cool site called free rice. by playing a fun little vocabulary game, you can help donate rice to the un world food program.

what's it all about? from the site's "about" page:
FreeRice is a sister site of the world poverty site,

FreeRice has two goals:

1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.

2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide. Thank you.

so pop on over and get clicking! we are lucky to live in a land of plenty where we have the luxury of access to such a wide variety and large amount of food that we actually have blogs dedicated to what we cook and eat. i know i don't need to remind you that many others are not so lucky. food bloggers unite against hunger!

just to make it interesting, we'd love to know if you visited the site, how many grains of rice you donated on your first visit and a fun or funny word that you learned. let us know in the comments...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Scalloped Potatoes

One of my sweet husbands favorites. I found this recipe several years ago on Food TV and have been a faithful user ever since. A very simple recipe but cooking the potatoes partially in the milk and water, I think, makes a big difference in flavor.

Potato Gratin

1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons butter
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 bay leaf (no bay leaf on hand but did have some fresh rosemary)
1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I had gruyere cheese)
Salt & fresh ground pepper
Nutmeg (I didn't have fresh nutmeg but did use some smoked paprika)
2/3 cup heavy cream (I used half & half)
As you can see by my notes to the side of the original recipe this as is many recipes are quite adaptable to your tastes and what you may have on hand. I might also add I cooked this in my toaster oven, my new best friend since we are in an RV.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub a baking dish with garlic clove and then with butter.

In a medium saucepan, combine potatoes, milk, water, bay leaf and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes and layer half of them in the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle on half of the cheese and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread out remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and seasoning. Pour heavy cream over potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden and bubbly.

So what's your favorite scalloped potato I know this is not a low fat dish...maybe I should send it to Cooking Light magazine so they could adjust the calorie count.