Things I Love – Spicy Mayan Chocolate Cookies

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I figured I’d share this delicious cookie recipe again. Just perfect for the one you love. (Originally posted in February 2014)

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Click here to view recipe.

Marvelous Cookies (and milk)

Marvelous Cookies (and milk)

I cannot believe I am writing about yet another type of dessert I’ve just made.  If we spoke face to face, I’d assure you that I prefer savory food, that I don’t like weird (to me) combinations like cayenne and black pepper and chocolate and cinnamon and coffee altogether, ever.  So when my middle sister Susan came to town last November and announced that she wanted to make these concoctions for Thanksgiving, I protested heartily, confident in my belief that they wouldn’t do a thing for me.

BOY WAS I WRONG!  She pulled a few out of the oven and gave me a tiny bag (just five cookies) of these to take home.  I popped one into my mouth as I was driving back from the knitting shop and …Oh-My-Goodness.  The flavors were subtle and the spiciness came at the end of the bite.  I begged for the recipe, which Susan got from her friend Jill who got it from Momofuku in New York.  A close version appeared all over the internet with minor variations as well, some adding nuts, some with semi-sweet chocolate, some with more or less spice, some with allspice, some rolled in cinnamon..some recipes posted as far back as 2002.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose.

Susan’s cookie recipe is now included with my computer recipes under “cookies” … but also under “things I love.”  And I’m sharing her recipe with you.  These one or two bite beauties are the perfect ending to a nice meal, just my style.  And the word “Mayan” in the recipe?  Ha!  Mayan refers to a culture or civilization of indigenous people mainly in Central America who had a big hand in discovering the wonderful world of chocolate.  I’ve visited Mayan ruins in Belize, Mexico and Guatemala so the word resonates with me.

Just wait until you bite into this plain looking cookie and dark warm chocolate comes forth, followed by an intoxicatingly spicy aftertaste.  Just wait…

Balls of love

Balls of love

Mayan Chocolate Cookies

…via Susan via Jill via Momofuko but who knows where the recipe originated: with my changes and explanations

Yield about 3 dozen cookies

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Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided ( ¾ for the dry ingredients/dough and ¼ for rolling the cookies)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups all purpose flour
  • 
1 1⁄2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • 
1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
 or table salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 
1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 
1⁄4 tsp fine ground black pepper (I used pre-ground)
  • 
3⁄4 cup unsweetened Scharfenberger or other great quality cocoa powder
  • 
1 large egg, room temperature
  • 
2 tsp pure vanilla
 extract
  • 1⁄2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Guittard 60% -they are pretty big so if you prefer semi sweet chocolate chips, use five per cookie rather than three)
Instructions:

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, espresso powder, cayenne, ground pepper and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In a small cup combine egg and vanilla.

Using an electric micr beat butter with 3/4 cup sugar for six minutes on high speed.  This will make the cookies lighter in texture, so don’t omit this step.  I actually set a timer, impatient person that I am.  Lower speed and add egg and vanilla until incorporated.

Add sifted dry ingredients together in three batches and stop the mixer when everything is evenly combined.  Do not overmix.

Cover the bowl of dough and refrigerate (it will be thick) for a half hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll a piece of dough the size of a walnut (about 1 inch in diameter) in between the palms of your hand. Press an indentation in the center of the ball  and place three of the large chocolate chips in the center, and then mold the dough around the chips. Roll into a smooth ball and coat in the 1⁄4 cup sugar that was set aside. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet.  I put 18 cookies per sheet since they don’t spread much.

Bake for eight minutes.  Let them cool on the cookie sheets.They form cute little half domes. Let them rest five minutes or so.

Note: these are the best right out of the oven while the centers are gooey and chocolaty.  OR I put the pre-baked, room temperature cookies in my handy preheated toaster oven at 300 degrees for two minutes.  OR I zap a few in the microwave for 8 seconds.  In addition,  I roll the raw cookies in sugar, just like before baking them but “flash freeze” the raw balls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet in the freezer.  Once solid I store them in a ziplock container, then remove a few for 45 minutes before I bake them in the toaster oven.  This way you can do a few at a time and they are always fresh.

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The Perfect Pastry Mat – My Latest Kitchen Find

A Better Baking Mat

The Perfect Pastry Mat

At my age, and as an experienced cook, I’ve accumulated a lot of kitchen tools over the years.  My pots and pans, knives, and baking equipment are all top quality and old (like me) – but I love what I have and I don’t really desire anything new at this point.  Being a minimalist, I have culled and given away many items that I wasn’t using, and I am embarrassed to say that I have a closet full of catering equipment, huge bowls, pots, thousands of sheets of parchment paper, gigantic rolls of saran…all waiting for my adult children to claim.  This may never happen, but I have held onto my quality kitchen equipment nonetheless.  Note: in five years, I’ll offer these things to anyone who wants to cook for the masses.

Sorry…  I got carried away.  What I wanted to tell you is that my sister Kay called and told me about this silicone pastry mat she found to replace her cloth one. She was making strudel and reported that this mat was the best thing since sliced bread. I have an old canvas pastry cloth, and it works but sometimes slides all over the countertop and has to be laundered after every use.

Back in the dark ages, I was taught by my mother to roll my pie dough and cookies and crackers on a mat to avoid using too much flour.  I’ve used a cloth mat ever since, and at first I scoffed at the idea of a new silicone pastry mat — who needs it?  My cloth one is fine. I don’t like silicone.   I don’t want any more kitchen stuff, I argued… as I often do.

My other sister Susan followed Kay’s lead and bought the mat and raved about it.  And then I had a change of heart.  I am here to tell you, this is my new favorite kitchen tool.  My pie crust, cookies, challah braids all need less flour to roll, the mat stays put on the counter, baked goods release from the mat with ease, cleaning it is simple, storage is easy  and so I’m imploring you  — buy this now at your local kitchen shop or here’s a link so you can buy it on Amazon.  You’ll thank me.

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Marilyn’s Meatloaf

Yup – I’m reposting another winner for winter. What’s not to love about meatloaf!?? Plus you can double the recipe and freeze one raw. The perfect, easy comfort food. (Originally posted in December 2011)

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Click here to view recipe.

Truly comforting food!

My neighbors just had a baby on Monday, and my gift to new parents is often a home cooked meal delivered within the first few days of new parenthood. I was thinking about this last night because I made my famous meatloaf, onion mashed potatoes and green beans coated with olive oil and tomato slices. It is nothing exotic or particularly gourmet – just good, old-fashioned comfort food!

I’ve been preparing meatloaf of at least 30 years and don’t even know where I found the initial recipe. My global adventures made me curious about the origin of this kitchen staple so I did a little investigating. Meatloaf, or some derivation thereof, has apparently been around since the 5th century. It is traditionally a German, Belgian or Dutch dish and my Italian friends adopted it to make meatballs. In America, German-Americans made it with scrapple – which was a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal. This doesn’t sound too appealing to me – but it was likely quite a treat back in the day. Meatloaf as we know it today didn’t appear in American cookbooks until the late 19th century and I can only imagine the hundreds of variations that have since been developed.

My own recipe has been tweaked over the years but the one thing I insist on is fresh, high quality meat. The butcher near my home has wonderful fresh ground chuck which I use without fail. Though many recipes call for it, I don’t combine pork or veal or any other meat with the beef. (I do make a delicious turkey meatloaf that is entirely different – I’ll reserve that for another post.) I don’t add any type of cheese or exotic ingredients. Everything that goes into the mix is always in my cupboard and fridge – eggs, bread, ketchup, carrots and so on. During the cold, dark winter nights this hits the spot and is an easy, last minute dinner for me to serve when I am not in a particularly creative cooking mood. (Yes, that happens even to me.)

A beautiful thing about this recipe is that it makes a large loaf and leftovers can be used in endless ways. I like to have meatloaf sandwiches with fancy mustard, greens, tomato, or slice and grill it and serve it as a “slider” or repurpose it open-faced with mashed potatoes and gravy for a slightly different twist. I usually double the recipe, even when I make it for the two of us and I leave one that hasn’t been baked in my freezer for times when I have no time or energy to cook.

Marilyn’s Meatloaf

Serves 6

Meatloaf Ingredients:
  • 1 slice of whole grain bread-cut off the crusts and tear into small pieces
  • ½ c tomato juice or soy milk or regular milk
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c diced onion
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • ½ c shredded carrots
Instructions for meatloaf:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dump all these ingredients into a large bowl. Put on disposable gloves and gently mix the components together until they are combined. Remove from the bowl (don’t wash the bowl yet) and pat gently into a greased loaf pan. I bake it in my 40 year old 9 x 5 Pyrex meat loaf pan.

Before it goes into the oven

Slide the meatloaf into the preheated oven for 15 minutes, and while it is baking make the topping in the same dirty bowl.

Topping Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbs. brown sugar
  • ½ c ketchup
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Heaping tsp of dry mustard
Instructions for topping:

Mix the topping ingredients together well. After the meat loaf has baked for 15 minutes without the glaze, remove it from the oven. Gently cover the top with the ketchup-based sauce and bake another 45 minutes or until interior temp hits 160 degrees.

Rest for at least 10 minutes, the cut it into slices and serve.

Note: There is a lot of juice and fat that accumulates around the meatloaf when you bake it in a pan. Generally I pour all of this into a Pyrex measuring cup and remove the fat only, and then return the juice to the meatloaf pan. OR you can eat the meat loaf as is and refrigerate the leftovers. The next morning you will see an orange layer of fat that is easy to lift off with a spoon.

Some of my friends add ½ cup of Parmesan cheese to the meat mixture.

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Comforting Cassoulet

It’s getting cold around here so I wanted to re-share this delicious, comforting recipe. Enjoy! (Originally posted January 2014)

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Click here to view recipe.

Colorful Cassoulet

Colorful Cassoulet

One of my favorite winter dishes hands down is Cassoulet. This traditional dish from Southern France, full of rich white beans, fat and chicken and/or meat, is cooked very slowly, the flavors building and melding over time. The name Cassoulet depicts the traditional casserole-like pot.

My version does not resemble the traditional Cassoulet recipe – it is certainly not as rich in flavor but it is not as time consuming to prepare either.  It’s on my “favorites” list this winter though and I think if you try this you’ll agree it warms you inside and out. Served alongside a hearty seasonal salad, with crusty bread it is regularly in our lineup of comfort foods.

I don’t know the origin of my recipe except I can tell you I have tweaked it over and over so I’m sure this version is a far cry from the original formula.

Simmering Ingredients

Simmering Ingredients

Chicken “Kind of Cassoulet”

Serves 4

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Ingredients
  • 4 ounces turkey bacon, chopped ½ inch
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large brown skin onion, sliced in half lengthwise then into 1/8 inch semi circles
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup dry vermouth or leftover white wine
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (remember the tube?)
  • 5 large crimini mushrooms, stems removed and cut into six pie shaped slices
  • ½ cup fresh tomatoes – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or larger
  • 4 cups chicken broth – homemade or canned
  • 3 ½ cups fresh cooked cannellini or Northern beans or 2 15-ounce cans of organic Great Northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (I use the whole branch)
  • 1 4-inch branch of fresh oregano
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper taste (since I use salted broth I add very little salt and do so at the end)
  • 3 cups leftover roasted chicken thighs, skin and bones removed. Cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil to add at the end
Instructions

Heat a 5-quart heavy pot and add about one tablespoon olive oil.  Add the chopped turkey bacon and sauté for about five minutes, turning and stirring at least three times. Remove the cooked turkey bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot.   Add the olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt to the pot and cook until golden brown, stirring every three minutes or so, about 12 minutes total. Add the garlic and wine and simmer for about two minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and broth.

Add the beans, carrots, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.  Add the turkey bacon and chicken and continue simmering another three to five minutes.  If the stew is thin, let it cook, uncovered for a few minutes.  If it is too thick, add a bit more broth.  Taste to adjust the seasoning and top with chopped parsley and an extra drizzle of olive oil when serving.

Note: Chicken thighs are preferable here so the meat doesn’t dry out.  And if you eat pork bacon, by all means use it in place of turkey bacon!

 

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Chicken Piccata With Fresh Fettuccine

Click here to view recipe.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

When I wrote in May about foods that are in my regular line up and that are easy and seasonless, several of my subscribers replied and asked for the Chicken Piccata recipe. And so I quantified what I really do (because of course I’ve been kind of winging it) and…Voila.  Thanks for asking!

PS – this recipe is for chicken with fettuccine … but I’ve also served it with quinoa or mashed yams or rice or, or, or…

Lemony Chicken Piccata with Fresh Fettuccine

Serves 4

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Ingredients
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I pound mine slightly and often cut them in half width-wise)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salted butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½  tsp fresh ground pepper
  • One large lemon (for zesting and juicing)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best but store bought is fine too)
  • ¼ cup capers, drained, rinsed
  • ½ pound fresh or dried fettuccine
  • ½ lemon (thinly sliced for garnish)
Instructions

In a pie plate, combine flour with salt, pepper and lemon zest.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine chicken broth, capers, and lemon juice.  Keep by the stove top.

Heat oil and butter together in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.   Coat both sides of the chicken breast fillets in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour and add them individually into the hot pan with butter/oil. Cook until well browned on each side.

Begin boiling water and making the fettuccine noodles so they are done a few minutes before the chicken is done.

Use tongs and remove cooked chicken from the pan to a rimmed plate.

Take the pan off the burner and slowly add the chicken stock, capers, and lemon juice to the pan.  Stir in any bits from the bottom of the pan.

Use the tongs and put the chicken back in the pan, letting the liquid boil and then simmer until the liquid has reduced, basting often with the juice.

Strain the fettuccine and shake off all the water.  Divide among four plates.

Top each plate with the chicken filet and the pour the juices on top of the whole shebang. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve with either a green salad or broccolini.

 

PS: This recipe works if you substitute lime for the lemon..and fish filets that are thinnish (think Petrale Sole) can be made the same way, but I use half the broth (veggie broth in this case).

 

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Chocolate Chip Biscookies

I have to be honest … I think this is the best recipe on this entire My Global Kitchens site. I feel like it was inspired from above. I just had to repost! (Originally posted in June 2011)

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My Own Global Kitchen

As you can see from this video, I have filled my kitchen with all the things I love. But, for me, there’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked cookies emanating from the oven to warm up My Global Kitchen. And chocolate chip “biscookies” are, perhaps, my favorite recipe. They are a cross between a cookie and biscotti, hence my name “biscookie.” When I want to give someone I love a special gift for a birthday or anniversary, I often bake a batch of these treats. I’ve been perfecting biscookies for over ten years and it is the recipe everyone requests.

This recipe is very forgiving. It contains butter and eggs so it slices easily – making it far superior to other biscotti recipes that tend to be dry, rock hard and difficult to eat. And my favorite trick – using an electric knife! Typically these utensils are reserved for the one day a year when we carve our Thanksgiving turkeys. I pull mine out every time I bake biscookies and it allows me to make every slice symmetrical. I never figured I’d get so much use out of this little-utilized gadget I received as a wedding present 39 years ago!

Mise en place

I like to measure out my ingredients the night before and when I wake up early the next day I quickly put the batter together, toss it in the refrigerator and then bake the cookies. I often keep a jar of these on the counter and, from time to time, have one with my morning coffee. There are countless kinds of biscotti recipes out there. Some others I enjoy include white raisin and orange and chocolate with course ground pepper. Yet the combination of bittersweet chocolate and toasted almonds is my personal favorite.

Though I’ve been asked to share this recipe countless times over the years – I’ve never disclosed all the details. I figured it’s finally time to divulge my secrets – I hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Biscookies

Makes approximately 24-30 large cookies

Ingredients
  • ½ cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder (many grocery stores carry this in the coffee section)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole almonds with skins, toasted and cooled, then coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is my favorite)
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place rack in center of oven.

Using a mixer, cream the butter with the two sugars and espresso powder. Then add the eggs one at a time.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add this mixture slowly until just incorporated. Then add almonds and chocolate chips, stirring just until mixed.

Refrigerate the raw dough for 60 minutes in a bowl, covered well.

Divide refrigerated dough in half and form into thick logs – approximately 10 inches long and one inch thick. Place each log about 2 inches from the long edge of the cookie sheet so it has room to spread.

Cover the top of the logs of dough (it will be somewhat soft) with a sheet of parchment, then place a second empty cookie sheet on top and push down on the top sheet so the tops of the logs compress, are even. They will now be about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. You can use a bench scraper to even out the sides too.

Place in oven and rotate the sheet halfway through the baking time. Bake 30 minutes total until nicely browned all over. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for six minutes.

Baked goods

Carefully lift each log onto a cutting board (I use a very wide spatula to do this, or use two spatulas). Slice on the diagonal with an electric knife into ½ inch wide strips, place slices on parchment lined sheet about ¼ inches apart from each other and bake 8 more minutes. If you don’t have an electric knife, use a serrated knife and slice gently. Remove sheet from oven and let cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature.

Store in an airtight container – they’ll keep for about 14 days. Or you can freeze them for up to two months. This recipe can be easily doubled!

End note: I have a special blade for my stand mixer that scrapes the sides of the mixing bowl while it is mixing! In other words, it’s like having a rubber spatula do the work except you don’t have to stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl, etc. It goes into the dishwasher too. If you order this, be sure to check the serial number and make of your stand mixer!

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Making Chili with the Sisters!

An oldie and a goodie … and perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash! (Originally posted in July 2011)

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three sisters

I grew up in a family of five children – two boys and three girls. I am the oldest of the sisters and the only grandmother so far.    Our mother taught us all basic culinary skills and we are constantly emailing recipes and new ideas back and forth.  When we get together – the kitchen is inevitably the place where we congregate, cook and catch up.

When I turned 40 my two sisters Susan and Kay decided to celebrate by taking me on a trip to San Francisco.  That first year we allowed Kay’s youngest son “Baby Joel” to accompany us and it’s hard to believe that he is soon going to be 21 years old. Every year since that first trip we’ve maintained this tradition. It has become sacred time for us, and we do not allow anyone other than blood sisters to come.  We haven’t missed a year – not once.

Throughout the years we have traveled  to places like Sedona, New York, Aspen, Baltimore and Virginia, to name a few. I have no doubt that the coming years will bring us to many new and exciting locales. Ironically, it was a vacation I was least enthusiastic about that remains one of my fondest memories.  In both 2008 and 2009 I was coerced into going to a knitting convention in Baltimore. I had in mind a gaggle of gray haired ladies, clicking away with their needles and gabbing ad nauseum about knitting and purling.  I was pleasantly surprised to find how entertaining and inspiring these women were. Many were young, some were older but the beautiful garments they created inspired me to focus again on knitting.

After the convention we drove to Virginia to a place called The Meander Inn and Plantation. Susan, Kay and I looked out the car windows at verdant, rolling hills and arrived at this magical place, feeling immediately transported to the old South. We stayed three nights, enjoying the historical feel of the town and the relaxing pace of life. We even experienced an indulgent wine maker’s dinner featuring wines from the region.

Susan, Kay & Marilyn in front of the Inn

For me, the highlight of the visit was the cooking school where we learned how to make “sophisticated, Southern cuisine.” There were two full days of classes led by their chef and Suzie Blanchard, executive chef and owner of the Inn. We learned how to prepare apple pie, stuffed butternut squash, English muffins, focaccia, apple cinnamon cheesecake, and a honey and pine nut tart.  Surprisingly, one of my favorite things we made was chili.  Chili is chili, you might think.  I quickly learned that this is not the case. The Meander Inn recipe has quite a kick.  It has lots of warm spices and yields a huge pot of satisfying, perfectly seasoned chili.

As with most dishes, I altered the chili recipe to make it my own. I decreased the cayenne and red pepper flake quantities for my family, and added black beans in addition to the red kidney beans; I use fresh cooked beans. This recipe makes an enormous amount which can seem overwhelming. However it freezes beautifully and is the perfect dish to defrost and reheat on cold winter days.

And now, here comes the chili!!

Chili Meander

Chili Meander

Serves 10-12

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (Use more if you like a lot of kick)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼  tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1-15 oz can rinsed black beans, or 2 cups fresh cooked
  • 1-15 oz can rinsed red kidney beans, or 2 cups fresh cooked
  • 1-28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1-28 oz can tomato puree
  • Salt to taste
Instructions

Heat oil in very large dutch oven (or non stick large pot) over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano and cayenne and cook until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high and add half of the beef and cook, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon until no longer pink and just beginning to brown – about 3-4 minutes.  Add the rest of beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon until no longer pink, another 3-4 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bring to a boil, then change the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove cover and simmer 1 more hour, stirring occasionally,   If it gets too dry, add a bit of water.  Adjust seasoning with salt.

This chili is especially delicious served with corn bread and a crisp salad!!

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A Better Butter Keeper

My French Butter Keeper

My French Butter Keeper

Along with my pepper and salt grinder, I have kept a French Butter Keeper on top of my kitchen counter for many decades now, and I consider it indispensable.  But when I have overnight guests and I take this out at breakfast time, I am inevitably asked, “What is that?”

“THAT” is a French butter crock, a useful type of pottery designed in the late 1800s.  There are two parts to this device: a base that holds water and forms an airtight seal, keeping oxygen away from the butter, and a cup to hold the packed butter. This little device will keep unrefrigerated butter fresh and soft for around a month provided it is kept at temperatures below 80 °F (27 °C) and the water is changed regularly.  A French butter crock allows me to have softened, spreadable, room temperature butter any time.   

Believe me, this is handy for buttering pans, egg cups, or for spreading on scones or toast.  My butter crock is from Emile Henry – I am a huge fan of this brand.  I have seen very artsy butter ceramic handmade crocks at art fairs recently too.

Pssst, this makes an awesome gift for a foodie in your life!

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Turkey Soup

In case you still have some turkey in your fridge (or freezer!) – give this soup a try. (Originally posted November 2011)

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Click here to view recipe.

The Thanksgiving Table

One bit of sage advice I can give to parents and parents-in-law is this: from the moment your child marries, sit down and mutually decide where holidays will be celebrated.  Even if your entire family lives in town, it is nice to “own” one or two events.  My daughter Rachel suggested this a couple of years ago and, as she aptly put it, “if you don’t reserve one or two holidays for our family, no one will bother to consider the day sacred in terms of always including our siblings and their families.”

We all decided that Thanksgiving and Passover would be our family get-togethers. Ever since Rachel and Jonathan got married five plus years ago, we have gathered together – committed to making these times meaningful. My three kids reside in three states: Iowa, Washington State and California. I know that they look forward to seeing each other as much or more than they anticipate sharing the day with us, the parental units.

For the past six years we have made Thanksgiving a three or four day celebration. One year our brood was comprised of twenty people including three generations, several toddlers, and a few turkey-obsessed dogs. Everyone loads up their cars full of food and family and drives ninety minutes through winding roads to my brother’s remote “cabin.” He built this expansive log structure himself and we always set up extra mattresses and create sleeping areas to accommodate everyone. The log walls lend it a lovely, rustic feel and overstuffed furniture nestled around the wood burning fireplace creates a very comfortable atmosphere.

The in-town family has assignments for food which we bring ready for the oven, grill or table.  I always have a large “to bring” list as I arrive with the most extended family.  Last year I pulled up to the cabin with nine pretty hefty eaters – so I brought a lot of food! The kitchen is, of course, the centerpiece of the house and my brother built it to be much larger than the one in his home in Seattle.  As soon as we arrive we load in bags and pots and containers of food, filling every square inch of kitchen counter space. Then we get to cooking.

Every year we have our “tried and true” dishes front and center – yam casserole, mashed potatoes and Black Bottom Pie.  But we inevitably try new recipes. I can’t recall how many versions of cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce we’ve cooked.  Last year we decided to experiment with the turkey. We bought a turkey fryer and dropped the entire 12-pound bird into the vat of boiling peanut oil.  A mere 90 minutes later we had a beautifully browned, perfectly moist turkey to enjoy. In fact, we had three turkeys last year – fried, roasted and smoked!

Brother Kal – the Deep Fry Guy

One tradition I started years ago is the creation of a huge pot of turkey soup. It’s often hard to imagine eating after the hours-long, early afternoon Thanksgiving meal. We often push back from the table, vowing to never eat again! Regardless, every year I head into the kitchen to attack what is left of the turkey. I break apart the carcass and pull apart the bones and begin simmering my soup.  This past year we were treated to an early snow so my kids headed outside to build an army of snowmen and others hiked the tree-lined trails around the property. Several of us huddled around the fire reading, knitting, visiting and napping. By the time the sun set, the kids were wandering into the kitchen, lifting the top off the pot of soup and inquiring about our next meal. Everyone helped pile leftovers into mismatched dishes and Rachel threw together a huge salad. As soon as I settled the steaming pot of soup in the middle of the table, everyone dug in.

Thanksgiving is truly a day filled with gratitude. I can’t imagine any Thanksgiving celebration more wonderful than ours, particularly because we spend three days sequestered in the mountains, eating, playing and just being together. Cheers to the fourteen of us last year (21 this year!) and especially to my brother Kal who organizes this get-together!

Marilyn’s Turkey Soup

Serves 10-15

Ingredients
  • Carcass and bones remaining from 7-10 pound turkey
  • 2 cups leftover turkey meat
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled but left whole
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • 3 stalks celery, diced into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups of pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 cup dried split peas (yellow or green)
  • 1 ¼  cup dried large lima beans (or northern beans)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions

Prepare the turkey carcass by ensuring there is some meat left on the bones if possible.

Place the carcass into a large soup pot and cover with water by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and skim off grey matter that floats to the top.

Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 2-3 hours.

Open lid and remove onion.  Season with salt and pepper.

The soup thickens after it stands and cools and is really better the next day, although we never wait.  This makes enough for 14 of us with a bit left over!!

Note: if your turkey is larger than 10 lbs, just cut it into pieces and use as much as will fit in your soup pot with the other ingredients.  The rest of the carcass can be frozen for up to 2 months when you can make the soup again.

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Thanksgiving 2014 Recap – Insanity & Seabass

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The Gang's All Here!

The Gang’s All Here!

Whoa!  Thanksgiving 2014 had a trifecta of craziness.

First, my brother Kal took a few of the nephews in his old Land Rover to see the snow and to cross the river by his house.  Ahem, his truck almost overturned and it took a lot of finagling and machismo and human power to get the truck out of dodge.  In the process, a newer Ford pickup truck got stuck as well.  Lesson learned, don’t drive a truck through a river.

The Land Rover & The River

The Land Rover & The River

Next, the power went out the morning most of us planned our returnto Seattle, back to our homes or to the airport.  Laundry was undone, cleaning had to be left, poor Kal had to come back to the cabin a few days later to do the lion’s share of work.  Mind you, there had been 20 of us who lived and ate and played together from Wednesday night until Saturday in his home…  I only wish every family had a dentist/brother/uncle/great uncle/husband/brother-in-law half as wonderful as my little (age 60) brother Kal.  Oh, and most out of towners arrive a day prior to our family gathering just to have Kal clean their teeth.  This guy is something else.

Finally, there was a big Seattle Seahawks football game at 5 pm on Thanksgiving day.  Not a problem for us since we ate our huge Thanksgiving meal at 3 pm.  Those that wanted to watch the game departed for our motel a few miles away and crammed into a tiny room to watch football.   Since turkey soup making commenced immediately after the turkey carving by 8 pm we ate the soup (with gusto) and ended with apple pies and special cookies that Kay made earlier in the week.  You might want to try our method of serving the huge meal mid-afternoon and ending with soup late at night.

We tweaked the menus this year, as always.  Family requests were granted.  Less variation of food, more mashed potatoes, different (three!) types of cranberries, more black bottom pie. And as always, sister Kay (Kal’s twin) kept meticulous notes for next year’s shopping list.

This year the two youngest grandkids, Yael and Asher, were three years old.  They played non-stop, talked to each other the entire time ; both were delighted to find another small human as a friend.   All four grandkids slept on blow-up air mattresses together  The rest of the cousins and my siblings played bananagram, put together puzzles, read, knit (I made Kay two pair of fingerless stripy gloves, knitting goddess that I am.  She made me mittens.)

Daniel became our official photographer for family photos and sent us all a beautiful album of our weekend.  Can’t wait for 2015!

Full Stomachs - But Not Too Full for Turkey Soup

Full Stomachs – But Not Too Full for Turkey Soup

I am in charge of turkey soup and make all the food for our family Friday night Sabbath dinner.  The menu is usually “clean” healthful food and always includes some type of fish.  I prepared glazed Sea Bass, sauteed asparagus, mac and cheese with butternut squash folded into the mix, my pomegranate salad, cranberry applesauce and black bottom pie for dessert.  Oh yea. Our family literally inhaled the food and so little was left from my dinner, it was embarrassing.

I always listen to my fishmonger Kenny for fish recommendations.   In 2014 he cut me thick  Sea Bass fillets that I picked up Thursday morning.  Twenty pounds for 16 adults and four kids under the age of six disappeared.  The best part of all is that the fish was made, start to finish, in 30 minutes.  We baked the fillets in two disposable metal pans that went into the recycle bin after dinner.

Jake made the fish glaze under the watchful eye of Brother Tim.  He fashioned the topping with ingredients suggested by Mark Bittman, and cooked it so perfectly it melted in our mouths.  I’m thinking I might have to repeat fish preparation next year.

Sea Bass with Miso Glaze

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Ingredients (for ten pounds of fillets)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white organic miso
  • ½ cup mirin or white wine
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground white pepper if desired (I desired)
  • Juice of one large lemon or more (Tim’s major suggestion, a good one)
  • 1 bunch chopped parsley or cilantro to garnish
  • 1 additional lemon, sliced into thin circles to garnish
  • 12 vine ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
Instructions

Whisk the pepper, sugar, miso and mirin in a small saucepan and and let it simmer over low heat for two minutes, stirring often. Add lemon juice. The glaze will not be thick.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Dry off the fillets with a paper towel and place them in a full sized  oiled foil disposable pan.  Brush the sauce over the top of the fillets and place into the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes per inch of fish thickness.  This took us 22 minutes, but check a little before you think it will be done as it continues to cook a bit out of the oven.

Let the finished fish rest for 10 minutes.  Brush any accumulated glaze on top of the fish, sprinkle with fresh parsley and use some lemon and sliced tomato to garnish the platter.  Eat and enjoy.

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