Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Full Irish Breakfast | The Best I Ever Had


I absolutely love breakfast. But I love eating breakfast out infinitely better than cooking at home. There's so much juggling! Frying the bacon! Toasting the bread! Sauteing the potatoes! Chopping the onions before sauteing the potatoes! Baking the muffins! Dishing out the fruit! Pouring the juice! Cooking the eggs to individual tastes! And all that clean up!

How much better to go to a homey diner and be served! My standard order for my "big breakfast" out is two eggs over easy, sausage (patties, please,) hash brown potatoes, and rye toast. I'm often tempted by my all-time favorite breakfast -- Eggs Benedict -- but usually let my diet conscience persuade me to save that for a feeling skinny day.

Nowhere have I ever had better breakfasts than when I was lucky enough to visit Ireland this past spring! At every inn we stayed, we were offered wonderful cooked-to-order breakfasts, bearing no resemblance to all the breakfast buffets available at our American chain motels.

And although every place had a different menu, every one had some version of the full Irish breakfast, my standard "big breakfast" on steroids!

A typical full Irish breakfast usually includes fried eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, tomatoes, maybe mushrooms, maybe beans, black or white pudding, and plenty of hearty brown bread. And juice or fruit. And coffee or tea. Pretty substantial, wouldn't you say? Enough food to last a 250 pound Irish laborer the whole day. And certainly more than enough for a woman half that size ready for a day of shopping and sightseeing!

But I wasn't about to argue with such a lovely tradition, although I did order a half-Irish breakfast one day.

My favorite full Irish breakfast was at Number 31, a classic Georgian inn in Dublin. It's classic on the outside, with modern interior design.


I neglected to take a picture of our room but it was also lovely.


Breakfast was served in a second floor dining room with an enclosed porch. If you were seated in the porch room, you could enjoy watching the inn's breakfast chef perform, deftly juggling all those wonderful fresh ingredients.  We stayed at this inn two nights -- one morning I had to have the full Irish, but my second breakfast was Eggs Benedict, but it was hard to pass up scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.

One of the Inn's specialties is this cranberry nut loaf.  I can attest that it is wonderful -- moist, flavorful, just the right balance of sweet and tart -- although I've yet to make it at home.

I'll be sharing more of my Ireland trip. I put to bed any notion that the Irish don't eat well.

Cranberry Nut Loaf
Courtesy of Number 31, Dublin Ireland

4 ounces fresh cranberries
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
2 ounces butter
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts pieces, chopped
Finely grated rind of 2 oranges
1/2 cup orange juice

Chop cranberries and set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the peel, juice and egg. Mix well. . Lightly add to the dry ingredients. Add cranberries and nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3). Bake 350 degrees F for 75 minutes. Cool 15 minutes and remove from pan. Cool and cover.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My "TV Pie" | Mandarin Chocolate Pie


Chocolate and oranges have a natural affinity for each other. A lot of fruit goes well with chocolate, though, doesn't it?  Who can argue with strawberries and chocolate or raspberries and chocolate? Or coffee and chocolate? Nuts and chocolate. Chilies and chocolate. Heck, even bacon and chocolate is great. Okay, so maybe it's the chocolate.

Have to admit that when I was just a young cook and came across a recipe for a mandarin chocolate pie, I was:

  • incredulous and
  • intrigued

I never had heard of the combination. My adventurous self had to try it.

There was another reason I had to try it: It was simple, easy and fast. And I had to take something to a party.

It wasn't just any party. It was the big annual summer fete at an older friend's house. I worked with the woman and because at the hospital where we worked, we two were the only non-medical professionals, we became buddies. She was the director of nutrition. I was the P.R. director.

And it wasn't just any house. My friend's husband was an architect and of course their house was unique and gorgeous. And she wasn't just any hostess. In the 1960's, she appeared on the cover of Family Circle magazine as "Homemaker of the Year."

So, you see, I felt just a tiny bit of pressure to bring a dish that was elegant and sophisticated but within my realm of capability.

Thus came the Mandarin Chocolate Pie.

When I got to the party, I took my pie and put it with all the other desserts. They all looked sumptuous and my contribution looked paltry compared to the trifles and cakes and pies.

But later while we were eating, my hostess came up to me with a woman who wanted to meet whoever made that wonderful pie! She just gushed. How did you make it, she wanted to know. What was in it? Will you send me the recipe. Here, I'll give you my address. (This was all pre-e-mail.)

So, I put this little gem of a pie in my go-to repertoire.

A few years later, my local PBS TV station was assembling a "C is for Chocolate" collection of viewer's recipes. I contributed the pie recipe.

Then I got a phone call . . .  Would I like to make this pie on TV?

Of course! Tell Mr. deMille I'm ready.

I knew my husband wouldn't want to go, so I asked my mother-in-law. She was always ready for any kind of outing. Although I thought I told her that I was going to be demonstrating how to cook this on the show, it must not have registered with her. She thought we were just going to a show, not that I would be part of the show!

So that's how this little pie became what my family calls my TV pie.  My 15 minutes of fame.

The recipe came from a cookbook I bought while vacationing in New Hampshire in the late 1970's. We ate at a lovely little tavern and I bought the cookbook, I liked the food so much.



Mandarin Chocolate Chip Pie
Serves 8 to 10
from Peter Christian's Recipes
5 eggs
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or 1 teaspoon orange extract)
1/4 cup melted butter
dash salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained

Mix the eggs, orange marmalade, sugar, Grand Marnier, butter and salt together well in a  large bowl. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and oranges.

Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Turn oven to 350 degrees F. and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Cake | A Delightful Oxymoron



"Flour-less" and "cake" are just two terms I could never get to go together in my head. How could a cake have no flour, I wondered. It could hardly be called a cake, could it?

I was wrong. But it took me a long time to get on the flour-less bandwagon. Within the past couple weeks, I made one and ate another.

The first time, I made one with my 10 year-old cooking student. It was a first for both of us. His mother eats a gluten-free diet and so I do try and accommodate her.  The recipe we tried was from All Recipes.  It was good, but not quite as good as the one my sister made when our Tampa daughter came north (!) for a visit.

And now I know why . . . my sister's recipe was baked in a water bath, like cheesecakes are often recommended to be baked. And it had a lot more eggs that had to be whipped until double in volume.

They're both keeper recipes -- the first one is simpler, easy enough for a weekday, and more brownie-like. The second one, duplicated below, from Cook's Illustrated, is just richer, fudgier, just plain ol' more chocolaty!

Both deserve to be topped with a dusting of confectioner's sugar and fresh berries, raspberries, if you want perfection!



Flourless Chocolate Cake
from Cook's Illustrated
8 large eggs, cold
1 pound bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup strong coffee or liqueur (optional)
Confectioners' sugar or cocoa powder for decoration

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F.. Line bottom of 8-inch springform pan with parchment and grease pan sides. Cover pan underneath and along sides with sheet of heavy-duty foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring kettle of water to boil.

Beat in bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whip attachment at medium speed (speed 6 on a KitchenAid) until eggs double in volume, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter, adding coffee or liqueur, if you want, in large heat-proof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, until smooth and very warm (about 115 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), stirring once or twice. Fold 1/3 of egg foam into chocolate mixture using large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible; fold in half of remaining foam, then last of remaining foam, until mixture is totally blended.

Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until cake has risen slightly, edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust (like a brownie) has formed on surface, and an instant read thermometer inserted halfway through center of cake registers 140 degrees, 22 to 25 minutes. Remove cake pan from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight to mellow. The cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

About 30 minutes before serving, remove springform pan sides, invert cake on sheet of waxed paper, peel off parchment pan liner, and turn cake right side up on serving platter. Sieve light sprinkling of Confectioners’ sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder over cake to decorate, if desired. Top with fresh raspberries or strawberries, too, if you'd like.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Playing with Phyllo | Greek Meat Pie


The first time I played with phyllo, I was young . . . and fearless. I was unfazed by the prospect of working with the paper thin sheets, of tearing sheets or wasting them. I became famous in my small world for being brave enough to make baklava and spankopita.

Now I'm older, maybe wiser, and I don't play with phyllo much any more. I tend to keep a box of frozen sheets in the freezer. One of puff pastry, too. And every once in a while, I look at the expiration dates and tell myself to use them.

So when I needed a little dessert to take to a party, I make phyllo cups and filled them with a chocolate mousse.

The trouble was deciding what to do with the half a package that remained!

A quick survey of what was available between fridge and pantry didn't leave me with too many choices.

But I did land on this meat pie. I think the only thing that really makes it Greek is the addition of sweet spices and feta.  I bet it would be great with lamb.

If I make this a next time, I would use butter instead of cooking spray.  The pastry still browned and had a nice crispiness to it, but it lacked richness. If you're going to the trouble of playing with phyllo, use the butter!


Meat Pie with Phyllo Dough
from Bonnie Traynor 
Servings: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1pound lean ground beef
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon allspice
salt and pepper
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
olive oil-flavored cooking spray
10 sheets phyllo dough

Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.

In a medium skillet, heat the garlic with half of the olive oil. Add the ground meat and onion.When the meat is almost cooked through, add the tomato paste. Add salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice to your taste. When cooked completely through, remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.

In a large lasagna size glass pan, coat the bottom of the pan with cooking spray.
Carefully place one sheet of the phyllo dough in the pan. Be sure and keep the rest of the phyllo covered with a damp towel as you're working. Spray that sheet and add another layer the same way until you have 5 sheets coated with the spray and layered on top of each other. Once you have 5 sheets, spread the meat mixture evenly over the phyllo. Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly on top of the meat mixture.

Then layer the remaining phyllo sheets, one by one, on top of the meat, spraying each sheet.
Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until it is lightly golden on the top.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Love, Downton Abbey and "I Want to Marry You" Cookies


I know Valentine's Day is over, but I've still got love on the brain.  Could be because I love my husband and we had a nice (although non-traditional) Valentine's Day celebration of our own.

Could be because it's so &#*=!$/ frigid outside! (I wonder how many babies will be born nine months from now.)

Could be because I'm still thinking about Downton Abbey. I really don't watch very much TV at all and there are very few television programs I faithfully watch. I confess that Downton Abbey is one of them. I set the DVR. I sit down and binge watch if I have, too. I'll even watch programs over and over. Nice to know I can watch on my iPad, too.

I could apologize for this guilty pleasure of watching what is becoming just a bit soap-opera-ish, but I won't. The dialogue is often (not always) so witty, and the costuming and setting so wonderful to see (always), there will be no apologies.

Last Sunday's episode, which I just happened to watch in real time,was all about love. There was romantic love, of course, but there was also parental love, unrequited love, marital love, even love for a pet and love between friends.  There was no crime, no real melodrama, just the very real drama of love, on so many levels. I don't think I've enjoyed an episode quite as much as this one.

And since there were three potential marriages on the table, what better way for me to end this post than with "Will You Marry Me Cookies?"


These cookies are unique in two ways:

  • The method is unusual. By melting the butter first and adding the sugars, then the eggs and vanilla, and then all the dry ingredients, there's just one pan to dirty. 
  • The hint of cinnamon adds just a touch of spiciness that complements the chocolate well.

My plan was to make these Mr. Rosemary's Fat Tuesday treat, since he always gives up sweets for Lent. He loves chocolate chip cookies more than anything, except maybe brownies. I thought offering him chocolate chip cookies that were a little different, a bit extra special, would show how much I love him. And they came so highly recommended. I thought they were great.

But he was not overly impressed. He prefers his standard issue chocolate chip cookies. He likes the tried and true best. "Don't mess with something that works," is his mantra.

Good thing he likes me.


"I Want to Marry You" Cookies
The original recipe appears to have come from Melissa Stadler and The Cooking Channel's "The Perfect Three" in 2011, although there are other versions, from  Chris at The Cafe Sucre Farine and BakerGirl and several others. And, of course, Pinterest.  This version has pieces of several. The original used dark brown sugar and The Cafe Sucre Farine's used pecans.
makes 24 cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (may add up to 1/4 cup more if desired)
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts


In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Remove from the heat.
Add both the sugars and mix until smooth.  Chill the mixture for 10 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.
Stir in the the nuts white chocolate chips and chocolate chips.
Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Leave on pan for 1 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kale Pesto | Why Didn't I Think of That?





It was one of those heel-of-hand to forehead moments when I realized that I could make pesto from kale! Duh!  Didn't I make pesto from spinach years ago, when there wasn't enough of my own basil? Wasn't it pretty good? Hadn't I read about using cilantro in a pesto?

So I had a minor epiphany when I skimmed a magazine at the doctor's office and saw "kale pesto" featured. Genius, I thought. But then, as I looked for recipe variations, I found that it was not so genius, after all. Pretty common, in fact.

I must have been living under a rock.

Still, and even though kale has lost its luster as the #1 super food, I have been looking for more ways to make kale a part of my meal planning.  And I'm lucky that Mr. Rosemary likes it.

My favorite way to use kale is to saute it in garlic and oil and then add cooked brown rice to it, dressing it up with pieces of roasted red pepper and a bit of feta. I've made kale chips and even convinced a few finicky teenagers to eat them. And I love massaged kale salads. Just plain, though, kale's a bit much.

But kale pesto? That made it a whole lot more versatile. Now that I've woken up, I've added kale pesto to mayonnaise to spread on sandwiches and added it to spaghetti sauce and soups. Just like traditional pesto. (Duh!)

Isn't it funny that pesto has gone mainstream and become almost ordinary, like marinara or mayonnaise. One of these days, McDonald's will be using pesto!

Pesto -- in its original form of basil, Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts -- didn't enjoy widespread popularity until the 80's. It used to be considered "gourmet" before then.

But when food processors invaded every day kitchens, pesto was catapulted to universal popularity, a popularity that doesn't look like its going to end anytime soon. (Just like kale.) It certainly makes sense that kale could easily substitute for basil.  So could mint. So could cilantro, although I have a few friends who wouldn't go for that, no matter how much cheese and garlic was in it.

The first time I veered off the traditional pesto path, I used spinach and walnuts. And, to be honest, the difference between the basil and pine nuts version and this one was minimal. 

So why did it take me a few years to use kale? Slow learner? Late bloomer? 

Whatever the reason, I'm now sold on kale pesto. It was wonderful in this pasta dish with mushrooms, using pipette rigate, a pasta shape that's not just fun to eat, but allowed the pesto to sneak into all those ridges.


Kale & Walnut Pesto with Mushrooms and Pipette Rigate
adapted from Real Simple

1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves torn (about 12 cups)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound pipette rigate, or any other small shaped pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered

Bring a large pot of  water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until it's bright green; doesn't take long, half a minute. Using tongs, move the kale to a colander, reserving the cooking water. Squeeze dry when cool enough to handle.

In a food processor, combine the kale, Parmesan, garlic, and the walnuts. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream.
Bring the reserved cooking water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, and saute until lightly brown. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta when done, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pesto and ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water and toss to coat. Add the mushrooms, adding more cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Serve the pasta and feel noble that you're eating kale.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Red Lentil Soup | National Homemade Soup Day


Any day -- especially a gray, wintry day -- is a good day to make soup in my book. Tell me that it's National Homemade Soup Day, and I'm all over it.

It's not just the eating of it that's comforting, it's in the making, too. There's the first couple minutes of the butter melting, then the onions softening, then the warm aroma of the spices joining the party, the satisfying pleasure of stirring, the familiar awe when something creamy deliciousness evolves from nearly nothing. Every sense is touched. The process itself is soothing.

I don't have much experience cooking with lentils. Only once or twice have I made soup with the brown lentils I found at the supermarket. And it was met with a murky, sidelong glance from Mr. Rosemary. About the same reaction I got from split pea soup.

So it was a bold move I made when I picked up a bag of red lentils at Trader Joe's on one of my semi-annual trips to the "city."  Maybe it was the color he didn't like, I thought to myself.

Still, that pretty bag of coral colored beans sat in the pantry for several months. I hid them behind a bag of rice so they wouldn't chastise me any more. Then one day I relented.

I was naive enough to believe that the red lentils would remain a pretty color when they cooked. But they weren't brown nor green, so I was still on safe ground. I also -- although I didn't write it in the recipe below -- added about a cup of cubed sausage, knowing full well my life partner does not deem beans a fair substitute for meat.

The curry added just a nice dash of sweet spiciness to the soup and the coconut milk, as you'd expect, the right amount of creaminess.

Mr. Rosemary had seconds.

Red Lentil - Coconut Milk Soup
Adapted from Good Food Matters
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup diced onion
2 carrots, about 1/2 cup, diced
2 stalks celery, about 1/2 cup, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup red lentils
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can whole coconut milk

In a large pot, over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. Stir in onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook for about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 3 cups of chicken broth and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes and the coconut milk. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes and serve.