Coconut Cream Pie For Jakey Boy!

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A Sinful Slice

A Sinful Slice

My youngest son celebrated his 29th birthday at the end of February – the 21st to be exact.  Each year I ask him what kind of cake or pie he’d like.  I’ve told you before how much I adore birthdays, how loved I always felt as a child when my birthday rolled around, and so I try to make the day extra special for my kids and grandkids.  Since Jake is the only one of my three children living in Seattle right now, he gets the added bonus of a birthday dessert of his choosing.

It always tickles me to hear his requests because he’s not a chocolate fan …hardly even a sweets fan. Granted, he does like an occasional warm homemade chocolate chip cookie or a slice of lemon bread but most often he passes on dessert.  When forced to choose, Jakey Boy tends to like creamy, comforting types of pies or desserts: tapioca, banana cream pie (last year’s request) and such.  This year, he asked for a coconut cream pie fashioned after Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas’s creation.

The Perfect Pie

The Perfect Pie

So I got to it.  I started with a quick internet search and bingo…I found the transcript of a local TV cook’s show that included this recipe.  Of course I decided to make it a bit easier by eliminating anything I would have to buy for the sole purpose of the recipe;  for instance, I didn’t use large coconut shreds to garnish and I did not even consider making white chocolate curls (in my mind, white chocolate isn’t chocolate but just overly sweet goop!).  And 2½ cups of cream to whip for the topping?  That is so excessive for me. I used a lot less – with less sugar too.  By the way, the original recipe says it serves 6-8; in my world I could no more eat an entire slice of this pie than kiss the tip of my elbow.  I’d say it serves 10 easily… 10 normal eaters who don’t gorge themselves.  In case you are interested, here is the link to the original recipe I found online.

Despite the intricacies of the original, I must admit that this just wasn’t that hard to make.  The crust was easy for me – I had to practice patience by sticking around and waiting to roll it out, then wait another hour or so to bake it.  The bottom line is that I would make this coconut pie again – it’s not as time consuming as other desserts I’ve mastered. I’d put bittersweet chocolate curls on top but that wouldn’t be very authentic, would it?

And as the youngest (by 6 ½ years) of my three children, Jakey Boy tagged along to baseball games, attended high school and college graduations, fixed numerous computer glitches, and he’s been an on call babysitter and ski instructor for his nephews and niece…so it’s about time he gets what he desires.  Cheers to my Jakey Boy.  I’ll always make him the dessert of his dreams on his birthday!

Coconut Cream Pie

Original Recipe by Tom Douglas; Updated by Yours Truly

Serves 10

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Ingredients

1 Pre-baked and cooled 9-inch Deep Dish Coconut Pie Shell (See recipe below)

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, shake well before opening
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (substitute 1 tsp pure vanilla extract if you must)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 ½ Tbsp granulated  sugar
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish Ingredients
  • ¾  cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted until lightly brown in the oven  (300 degrees for 10 minutes or so.  Watch carefully!)
Instructions

To make the Coconut Pastry Cream, combine milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both scrapings and pod to milk mixture. (Note if you don’t have a vanilla bean, add one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract).  Stir occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until well-combined. Temper eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of scalded milk from the mixture you are cooking stovetop into egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick, four to five minutes more.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard vanilla pod. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until pastry cream is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. When pastry cream is cold and you are within a few hours of eating this dessert, fill cooled pastry shell, smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula.

To prepare Whipped Cream Topping, in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Spread on top of pastry cream, and sprinkle top with cooled toasted coconut.  Refrigerate until serving.

Cook’s Notes:

A step ahead: If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be used within a day.

The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above.

Coconut Pie Shell Instructions

Serves 8 – 10

Note: You will need to ‘blind-bake’ the pie shell, which means bake the unfilled pastry-lined pan. Use dried beans to weight the bottom of the crust and keep it from puffing up during baking. You can store your ‘pie beans’ in a jar and use them over and over. Very cold butter will give you a flakier crust. If your butter is not very cold, you could set the diced butter in the freezer for 10 minutes before making your dough.

Baking Beans!

Baking Beans!

Pie Shell Ingredients
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • ½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup ice water, or more as needed
Instructions

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as need for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. Don’t work the dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding. The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor, it will still be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a board scraper to check that it is not sticking and add more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12 to 13-inch circle. Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don’t want to stretch dough at this point because it will shrink when it is baked. Trim any excess dough to a 1- to 1 ½-inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your finger to flute the edge. Chill the unbaked pie shell at least an hour before baking. (This step prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven.)

Coconut Crust

Coconut Crust

When you are ready to bake the pie crust, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of foil or parchment in the pie shell and fill with dried beans. (This step prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking.) Bake the pie crust for 20 minutes, or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven. Remove the foil and beans and return the pie crust to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove pie crust from the oven and allow to cool. completely.

Cooks Notes:

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen for a few weeks. Also the dough can be rolled out and fitted into a pie pan, and the unbaked pie shell can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen for the same amounts of time. Frozen pie shells can be baked directly out of the freezer.

 

 

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Thanksgiving in February – Mid-Winter Root Vegetable Salad

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Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Don’t laugh…we really did have another Thanksgiving in February… the day after Valentine’s Day if you must know.  My family in Seattle (eight adults) always attend the real Thanksgiving weekend at Kal’s Cabin.  However, we inevitably prepare for all the out of town family and never end up with enough leftover turkey and stuffing and gravy…I mean with 25 eaters all weekend, not much remains.

So it came to pass that we organized a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this month.  We all agreed we had a lot to be thankful for – so much so that celebrating our bounty once a year was simply not sufficient. My older brother arrived at our condominium Sunday morning to begin preparing  the turkey and stuffing and gravy and cranberries in my kitchen at 9:30 am!  His condo is smaller than mine and his kitchen is smaller than mine so I let him work his magic in my unit.  Yes, the room filled with smoke from the turkey fat splattering all over the inside of my oven.  Yes, the smells were incredible.  Yes, the next day I had to clean my oven and exhaust fan hood and oven racks and floors..but it was totally worth it.

I played adult and set the table with fine china and silver and real napkins, and we put everything on beautiful platters. I am going to askUncle Tim to teach the next generation how he makes his turkey, stuffing and gravy.  To round everything out, Jake brought perfect Yukon gold mashed potatoes, I provided black bottom pie, wine, spinach salad and roasted vegetables with a twist.  I must say, the food was divine.  The company was even better.

My Black Bottom Pie

My Black Bottom Pie

Kal brought the following delicious roasted yam and beet salad with a kale dressing.  Drum roll for this one.  And do feel free to make the kale-buttermilk dressing a little on the thick side and use it to dip fresh vegetables or to spread on crusty bread.

I think we’ll try for a second repeat February Thanksgiving in 2016 too.  I highly recommend replicating this special day for all of you.  Please be forewarned, however, that in February it is impossible to find pomegranates and fresh chestnuts (at least in Seattle).

Roasted Vegetables With Kale-Buttermilk Dressing

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From Kal from Food and Wine Magazine and tweaked by me.

Prep time:   30 minutes

Roasting time:  45 minutes

Servings:  10

Dressing or Dip Ingredients
  • ½ bunch (4 oz) green kale, stemmed  (I use lacinato)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ small serrano or jalapeno chili with seeds, chopped-more or less to your taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet with some oil
  • ¼ cup plain unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced white onion
  • ⅛ teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup olive oil (more if you want it thinner and less if you are making this as a dip)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper 
Dressing Instructions

In a medium sauce pan, with ¼ inch water, add kale and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook until wilted and softened, 3-5 minutes.  Drain and dry the kale.  Puree this with the rest of the dressing ingredients, adding oil last of all until it’s the right consistency.  Make it thicker if you want a dip, and thin it out more if you use it as a salad dressing.

Salad Ingredients
  • 4-6 Garnet yams
  • 1 large bunch red beets with green tops
Salad Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 and adjust the rack to mid oven.

Remove the tops from the red beets and set aside.

Peel and cube beets and yams into 1-inch pieces, toss each vegetable individually with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Keeping the yams and beets separate, place onto a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet at 425 degrees, for 30-45 minutes.  The beets take longer to soften, so if the yams finish cooking first,  remove them to a plate and continue roasting the beets.

Chop the beet greens and sauté over medium heat in a bit of olive oil (add spinach or chard if you want more greens). Toss with the root veggies to serve.

Everything can be served at room temperature.  I think it looks pretty spread out on a platter!  Place dressing on the side.

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

I don’t know about you, but when I have houseguests I like to make a little extra food to have around  so I can enjoy my company and not be tied to the kitchen.  Many recipes I prepare ahead are munchy type eats, maybe some soup, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and salad stuff … and always breakfast food.  Most of my friends and family are sick of bagels and many are not into eggs or pancakes, so I end up making a batch of these scones.

They aren’t that bad for you… really.  Yes, there is some white flour but I put in whole wheat flour too, and oatmeal along with barely sweetened dried fruit, and just a titch of brown sugar.  These are barely sweet, chewy and perfect for a little something to have with a cup of coffee in the morning before a walk or heading out.

The original recipe for these scones came from an older cookbook and I switched out a lot of the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour.  I cut the scones smaller so I end up with eight perfect sized scones.  Although best an hour after baking, who has time to get up in the morning and start in  before breakfast?  Not me!  So I cool these and stick them in the freezer, then defrost and rewarm them as needed.

I don’t put butter or cream cheese on these when I eat them – I like them as is.  I think you could use dried cranberries or even dried dates or prunes cut into raisin-sized pieces and soaked as per the directions if you want to switch out the types of fruit.

Do follow the instructions of how to make this dough carefully – it’s a little unusual not to stir things together and not to work the dough, but it does make a difference.  Happy winter baking!

Oatmeal Fruit Scones

Makes eight scones

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Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup dried sour cherries
  • 2 dried apricot halves, cut into small pieces (mine have no sulfur or sweetener added)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp flour (I use 1 cup white whole wheat pastry flour + the rest white flour but you can use ½ regular white flour and ½ white whole wheat pastry flour if you prefer a lighter scone)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Soak fruit in hot tap water 15 minutes and then drain well.

Put buttermilk and egg in bowl, sprinkle oatmeal on top and don’t stir.  Let it sit for 15 minutes, then add the drained dried fruit.

In a food processor add flour through butter until very well blended.  Gently fold into rest of the ingredients and do not overstir.  Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a one-inch thick circle.  The dough is sticky – don’t knead and don’t stir.  Handle as little as possible. Cut eight wedges, place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the tops with one tablespoon (total) of granulated sugar. Bake them 25-30 minutes on the  middle shelf of the oven.

When cool you might want to drizzle these with a maple glaze because they are on the bland, non-sweet side. Just mix together a half cup of sifted powdered sugar with three tablespoons of maple syrup for the drizzle.

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Ann’s Poppy Seed Cookies

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Crispy & Citrusy Poppy Seed Cookies

Crispy & Citrusy Poppy Seed Cookies

When it comes to dessert or something sweet, I choose either (A) chocolate, the darker the better or (B) a bland, slightly sweet type of crisp cookie.  So you won’t be shocked that I dream about these barely-sweet-filled-with-poppy-seeds cookies.  My husband loves to tell the story of how, when he was a boy in Waterloo, Iowa, his parents’ friend Ann always kept a Folgers coffee can with these cookies on top of her refrigerator.  Always.  And whenever he would go to Ann’s house, he’d help himself to several of these delicious homemade cookies.  They are like potato chips though: addicting, crispy, you can’t eat just one.

Anyway, I found a recipe card recently with for poppy seed or “Mohn” cookies tucked among my old fashioned recipe file (the kind where things are actually written out) and decided to make them just because.  Mohn means poppyseed in German and Yiddish as well.  It took a couple of run throughs, adding a bit more sugar, not refrigerating the raw dough, baking them longer and B-I-N-G-O.  These little cookies are amazing.

I always keep homemade cookies around, but I switch up the varieties and these are my new favorites. I cannot wait to have a cup of jasmine green tea or pour a glass of cold milk to sip alongside these orange-scented gems.

If you have a grocery store that carries bulk poppy seeds, like I do, you’ll be way ahead of the game.  The cost here in Seattle was a tenth the price in bulk as it would be in a spice jar.  And a third of a cup of poppy seeds is a LOT… probably an entire spice jar.  The orange zest and fresh orange juice here are key and what sets this apart from similar cookie recipes.

Let me know if you can only eat one, because throughout the day I usually consume three or four, as a bare minimum.  They put a smile on my face!

Ann Lipkin’s Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies

Yield: 7-8 dozen  2-2 1/4 inch diameter cookies

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Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½  cup peanut oil
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Grated zest of one large orange
  • ¾  cups white sugar plus 2 Tbsp
  • ⅓ cup poppy seeds
  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ cup sugar (approximately) for rolling the cookiesInstructions

Preheat the oven to 350.   Zest the orange and combine the zest with the sugar to absorb the oil while you finish getting everything else ready.  Squeeze the orange juice from the zested orange and measure out 1/4 cup.  Beat eggs with oil, juice and sugar/zest, blending well. Stir in poppy seeds . .  Combine dry ingredients (flour, soda and salt) together and add to the wet mixture to make a soft dough. Mix lightly with a spatula or with your hands.

Use teaspoon-size pieces of dough to form balls; if the dough is too sticky dust your hands with flour. Roll each cookie in granulated sugar.   I usually place all the balls on a tray.  Once they are made into balls, start to put them on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Place them two inches apart, 15 per sheet.  Take a flat glass (I actually use a flat meat pounder), dip it in sugar and press down hard so that the rounds are about ⅛ inch thick, (or you can pat them flat with your fingers) and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly brown on top and around the edges.  Leave them  on the cookie sheet  for one minute then put on a rack to cool completely.

These cookies freeze well for up to three months and keep, covered at room temperature, for two weeks at least.

 

 

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Savory Spanish Green Beans

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Spanish Green Beans

Spanish Green Beans

My cousin-by-marriage called me in January and wanted to visit Seattle for a few days; she desperately needed a break from caring for my wheelchair-bound cousin Michael and from her piano students.  “Sure,” I replied and assured her that I would cook for her, let her sleep in, take her on walks and just let her hang out at Hotel Marilyn.

I stocked the house with all kinds of goodies and cooked vegetarian dishes that she could eat.  To be honest, it is always hard for me to make things I love when my eaters have a lot of dietary restrictions.  In this case, I had to provide strictly kosher, non-dairy, no oatmeal, no chamomile type of food.  Alrighty then…

From her wonderful comments, I’d like to think Jessica loved Hotel Marilyn enough to rate it five stars.  We didn’t do much really, but she truly seemed revived by the time she flew back home.  We rented a terrific documentary Friday night called “Finding Vivian Meier”  – a movie we chose out of the blue and truly enjoyed.  Of course we ate ourselves silly: fish, lentil soup, challah and butter, brie and crostini and pears. And throughout her stay, music from her piano practice wafted down the back stairwell of the building.  I hope my neighbors realized it was not me making the music!  I only wish I could play half that beautifully…

In the midst of one of my grocery runs, she began telling me about a green bean dish that had Spanish overtones of shallots, smoky paprika and marcona almonds.  I Googled and happily found the recipe and decided to make and take this to my brother’s for our family Saturday night dinner.  It was easy, pretty and SOOOO GOOD!  Honestly, I could have had this with leftover challah and been a happy camper.  Before I left my house Jakey Boy came up to borrow baking soda and tasted a forkful of these beans, then another, and I had to stop him.  He demanded to know if and when I was going to post the recipe.

My Family!

My Family!

This is my new favorite winter vegetable dish, a little different from my usual blast-in-the-oven-at-high-heat cauliflower or brussels sprouts.  And let’s be clear: Marcona almonds, smoky paprika and shallots are three flavors that call my name.  These savory elements enhance the green beans, provide a little texture difference and marry perfectly.  I know it will be fantastic with any slightly sweet preparation of chicken or fish too.  In fact, I am going to make a similar version with multi-colored, tiny potatoes, eliminating the nuts.  How good will that be?!?

Spanish Green Beans

Via Jessica and adopted from Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup peeled shallots, cloves sliced into ⅛ inch pieces (I used about 3 very large ones)
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped Marcona almonds (also called Spanish Valencian Almonds).  The ones I bought were salted
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika (Paprika Ahumada)
Instructions

Put about three inches of water into a three-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the beans to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, without covering, for about three minutes or until just tender.   Remove to an ice bath until cold, then drain them and dry well with a towel.  Set aside.

Put the shallots and olive oil in a cold 12-inch saute pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the shallots begin to turn golden, stirring to break them into rings, about three to five minutes. Turn to low and sprinkle the sugar over the shallots and stir constantly until the shallots are golden all over, about 45 seconds. Quickly add the almonds, stir well, and immediately add the beans and smoked paprika. Cook, stirring, until heated through, two to three minutes. Taste and add salt if you wish – I love salt but my salted almonds gave enough punch to the beans.  Let this sit at room temperature if you wish or serve immediately while warm.

PS: My entire Seattle family agreed that this was a wonderful vegetable side dish!

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Comforting Chicken Marsala

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Chicken Marsala Accompanied by Ruby Beets, Steamed Green Beans and Oven-Roasted Carrots & Parsnips

Chicken Marsala Accompanied by Ruby Beets, Steamed Green Beans and Oven-Roasted Carrots & Parsnips

Want an easy main dish both kids and adults adore?  Ta-da! I give you Chicken Marsala.  I love this recipe both for the taste and the make-ahead attributes and it is definitely in my “favorites” section of recipes.  I’ve made this for years and years and years, but I never grow tired of it.

Most of the seasonings and other ingredients will already be in your pantry, so I most often prepare Chicken Marsala in the winter – when fresh veggies can be scarce.

Chicken Marsala

Serves 4-6

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil or dried tarragon
  • 1 ½ lbs chicken “tenders” or chicken breasts, cut in large bite sized pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp butter or peanut oil
  • ½ pound crimini mushrooms, stems trimmed, thickly sliced and mushroom caps cut into six pie-shaped wedges.
  • 1 cup or more sweet marsala wine
Instructions

Oil a 9 x 12 or oval baking dish and set aside.

Combine flour salt and basil/tarragon in a heavy zip lock bag, add chicken pieces and shake to coat. Reserve the leftover flour mix for later.

Warm two tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat and brown breast pieces with garlic about five minutes.  Remove everything from the sauté pan to the oiled casserole dish.  wipe out the saute pan.

Heat two tablespoons of butter or oil in the cleaned pan with two tablespoons of flour mixture, and add mushrooms to and sauté them for two to three minutes.  Add marsala wine and stir to make a thick gravy.  Add more marsala wine or chicken broth as needed if it looks too thick – I usually need at least a half a cup more.

Pour this mushroom sauce all over the cooked chicken in the casserole before finishing everything in the oven.

Bake covered at 350 for twenty minutes.  This happens to be great over brown rice pilaf or cooked whole grain bow tie noodles – both nice vehicles for the gravy.  Be sure to put something colorful on the plate – cooked carrots and sautéed green beans are perfect.  I always garnish this chicken dish with slices of orange to compliment the marsala flavor.

Note: You can make everything up to the baking in the oven in the morning, then refrigerate it for later.   About an hour before finishing the dish, bring the cooked chicken dish  to room temperature and continue with baking the chicken.  This makes Chicken Marsala a nice “company” make-ahead dish!

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Kay’s Kale Salad

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Colorful Kale Salad

Colorful Kale Salad

You’ll have to wait until right before Thanksgiving in 2015 to get a full rundown of this year’s family weekend and excellent adventures.  Yet I cannot in all good conscience wait that long to share with you this wonderful, different and timely recipe that is a delicious accompaniment for your holiday dinners. And yes, it’s yet another Kale salad… BUT this one features beautiful, seasonal additions of pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and roasted squash.  And anything with white miso piques my interest.  Intrigued?  You should be.

This is a wonderful light salad that can sit, dressed, overnight if you wish. For me, this is key when feeding a huge crowd – it just makes the final meal less stressful.

My sister Kay made this singlehandedly and everybody loved the flavors.  The recipe came from a friend of hers via a restaurant… not really sure about the origin.  I switched out pecans for the pine nuts just because.

Kay’s Kale Salad

Feeds 6-8

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Ingredients for the salad
  • 1 large bunch lacinato (also called dinosaur) kale, stems removed and leaves cut into a fine chiffonade
  • 1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash (ours were cut into ½  inch cubes before roasting) or roasted beets cut the same size
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries (I use dried cherries as they are a tad less sweet)
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 avocado, cubed into ½ inch pieces
Ingredients for the dressing
  • ¼ cup room temperature white miso paste
  • ¼ cup honey or pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh peeled and grated ginger (less if you are not a ginger fan)
Instructions

For the salad: in a large bowl combine all ingredients except the avocado and toss well.  Leave on the counter.

For the dressing: combine all ingredients except the grapeseed oil and ginger and whisk together.  Add in the ginger and then drizzle in the oil.  A hand blender works great for this dressing.  Store in a glass jar.  You can make this dressing up to 24 hours ahead which allows the ginger to mellow.

Up to a day before and at least  an  hour ahead of the meal, slowly add the dressing to the kale salad and toss to coat.  Sometimes it doesn’t take the full amount of dressing for this amount of kale.  Let the dressed salad  sit for a half hour to an hour or even overnight to allow the kale to soften. Right before serving, add the avocado cubes.

 

 

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Best Banana Bread … EVER!

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Beautiful Banana Bread

Beautiful Banana Bread

I am not going to sugar coat this: the recipe I am about to share is a total pain in the rear end to make, especially compared to other banana bread recipes where you take ripe bananas and just dump in the rest of the flour, sugar, eggs, etc. and voila!  This particular method  takes some advance prep, waiting for things to cool, extra bowls…but the end result is worth it to me. Rather than a ho hum type of banana bread you have had many times in coffee shops or that you’ve undoubtedly made before, this recipe produces an extraordinarily deep, complex banana flavor mixed with bittersweet chocolate chips.  I don’t serve this for breakfast but rather as a special, rustic dessert.

I made this banana bread following our family Thanksgiving weekend when I discovered we had a few leftover bananas the kids didn’t eat.  We usually keep bananas around the house for smoothies or to chop on top of granola or oatmeal and if they become overly ripe I stick them in the fridge or freezer as need be. Once  I see six overly ripe bananas…well, this is my favorite use for them.

What you read below in terms of cooking, draining and reducing the banana juice originated from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated.   Otherwise I changed it drastically: I decreased the brown sugar, added half whole wheat pastry flour, removed the nuts, added bittersweet dark chocolate, and made a few other minor changes. Shocking, I know.

Often I do the banana microwaving and draining, then measure everything out before I exercise in the morning.  When I return it’s just a matter of preparing the pan, melting the butter and stirring everything together.  No mixer needed, just using a kitchen spatula is a better system for me.

During one of these bleak, dark winter days when you feel like baking and have leftover bananas, try this recipe.  You won’t be sorry.

All the Ingredients

All the Ingredients

Best Banana Bread

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Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1
 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 6
 large very ripe (speckled or dark brown skin) bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (five for the bread and one reserved to top the loaf)
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted and left out on the counter for 10 minutes
  • 2 
large eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 
teaspoons granulated sugar (to sprinkle the loaf at the end)
Instructions

Place oven rack mid-oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom only of the pan and respray the bottom.   This makes it easy to remove the finished loaf.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.  I usually remove one teaspoon of this mix and coat the chocolate chips with it so the chips don’t sink the bottom of the loaf.

Place five bananas in a glass microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several vents in the plastic with a knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about five minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl so the juice drains, mashing and stirring occasionally. Leave it for about 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

Transfer the banana juice to a quart size saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 10 minutes. If you have more than ¼ cup at this point, measure out ¼ cup and discard the rest.

Remove pan from heat, stir the ¼ cup of reduced juice into the cooked bananas, and mash with a large fork until fairly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Scrape batter into a prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Overlap banana slices on top of either side of the unbaked loaf, leaving space down the center. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the banana-topped loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes or until done.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Keeps for 3 days wrapped tightly at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Note: For the bread itself, you can use five thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid you won’t need to cook them.  Just put the thawed bananas into the strainer. Previously frozen bananas won’t work for the top so just sprinkle sugar on top of the loaf if you don’t have a very ripe never-frozen banana!

As an aside, last week I repeated this recipe.  The raw batter seemed a little thick to me but I popped it into the oven for 15 minutes before I noticed the MELTED BUTTER SITTING IN A PYREX CUP ON TOP OF THE COUNTER.  After all my hard work, I figured I had nothing to lose and took the banana bread out of the oven, greased another pan and stirred the slightly baked contents into the butter.  The chocolate chips, of course, melted… and I had some bigger banana chunks from the topping but you know what?  It was fantastic: like a dense chocolate pound cake.  Sometimes mistakes lead to greater recipes.  Sorry I didn’t snap a picture of my chocolate banana bread but the two of us demolished it in less than two days.

 

 

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Walk Away Turkey Wings

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A Pot of Wings!

A Pot of Wings!

Three years ago, I posted a roasted turkey wing recipe that baked in the oven. Fast forward to November 2014… While in Belize, I spotted beautiful, meaty turkey wings and suddenly wanted them for dinner.  The thought of turning on the oven in 80-plus degree weather was a non-starter, so I broke out my large crock pot. By the way, I don’t own a crock pot in Seattle – just in Belize.

Like magic, I’ve quickly rewritten an easier version of my original recipe for those of you who have a crock pot on hand and want a simple, filling dinner.  For the crock pot I use less liquid, a lot more vegetables and after blasting the the wings in a disposable pan for 45 minutes, I plop the browned wings on top of the veggies and liquid.  Turn the crock pot to “high” for three hours or cook on low for five or more hours or until the meat is falling-of-the-bone tender.  We called this Turkey Wing Stew because I included so many vegetables.

Veggies in the Crock Pot

Veggies in the Crock Pot

Turkey Wing Stew

Makes 2-3 servings

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Ingredients for the spice rub*:
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ cup regular paprika
  • 1 ½ Tbsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp dried cayenne
  • ½ tsp garlic salt

 *Note – this is all I had on hand in Belize. You can also use the spice rub I created for the other turkey wing recipe.

Instructions

Mix the above and store in a sealed container at room temperature. This should keep for at least six months.

Ingredients for the turkey wings:
  • 3  large turkey wings (2 ½-3 lbs total), the wing tip (pointy part) cut off
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil to rub over the turkey wings
  • 3 Tbsp spice rub (recipe above)
  • 2  cups chicken broth (I made mine with Better than Bouillon)
  • ½ orange, red or yellow bell pepper, cut in thirds
  • 1 sweet (red or white) onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch segments
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 2 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, cut into quarters (unpeeled)
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the rack in the lower-middle part of the oven.

Dry the turkey wings well and rub the skin all over with the olive oil.  Press the spice rub into the skin of the wings.  Place the wings onto a parchment or foil lined roasting pan (I used a large disposable one) and let them roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, plug in the crock pot and fill with the prepared vegetables and liquid.  Turn on the crock pot to high while the wings are roasting.

Once 45 minutes are up, it is time to transfer the wings from the pan to the crockpot.  I don’t stir the veggies around but leave them on the bottom.  Also, if there are any accumulated juices pour them over the wings as well.  Leave the crock pot on high for 2-3 hours or turn to low for 5-6 hours or until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and the carrots are soft enough to bite.  I don’t turn the wings over.  When everything is done, baste the wings with the juice.

I serve this on top of toasted cooked quinoa or brown rice so that it is like a stew.

If you own a crock pot, and many of you do, try this during the cold weather months.  Let me know how you like it! And since you lined the disposable roasting pan with foil or parchment, rinse it out and reuse it several times!

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Hanukkah Latkes

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Freshly Made Latkes with Sour Cream & Homemade Applesauce

Freshly Made Latkes with Sour Cream & Homemade Applesauce

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are one of my favorite traditional Hanukkah foods.  I love potatoes in all forms so I make these throughout the year, sometimes as a main dish for dinner!  There are new, hoity toity recipes out there now using various root vegetables and sweet potatoes, sweet things and savory items.  But here’s the thing: when it comes to many of the foods I ate growing up… I do not like change.

No thank you to bananas added to my famous black bottom pie.  Feh to savory herbs added to a cookie dough.   I don’t want or like  vegetables stirred into my matzo ball mixture.  I crave the real, authentic deal.  I get stubborn and unyielding about this.  And so it is with latkes: I only enjoy the original, traditional mixture I remember.  With pink applesauce and sour cream, thank you very much.

Potatoes & Latkes

Potatoes & Latkes

I use a basic recipe from Cooks Illustrated … with a few personal tweaks, of course.

Thick and Creamy Potato Latkes

Makes approximately eighteen 3-inch pancakes

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Ingredients
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled but washed well
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons table (fine) salt
  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying – divided (I use organic canola oil labeled “for high heat”)
Instructions

Grate potatoes in food processor fitted with a coarse shredding blade.

Place half of the shredded potatoes in a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl and let them drain.

Fit a food processor with the steel chopping blade, add onions, and pulse with remaining shredded potatoes that aren’t draining until all pieces measure roughly ⅛ inch and look coarsely chopped – five to six 1-second pulses. Mix with reserved potato shreds (in sieve) and press against the strainer to drain as much liquid as possible into the bowl below. Let the potato liquid stand until the starch settles to the bottom, about one minute. Pour off this liquid, leaving the starch in bowl (the starch is cloudy).

Beat egg, then potato mixture and remaining ingredients (except oil), into starch.

Meanwhile, TURN ON THE STOVE OVERHEAD FAN and heat ¼-inch depth of oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Working one at a time, place ¼ cup potato mixture, squeezed of excess liquid and pressed into ½-inch thick disc, in oil. Press gently with a nonstick spatula; repeat until five latkes are in the pan.  Note: lots of liquid comes out, and I prefer to make these much thinner and crisper!!

Latkes Cooking in the Pan

Latkes Cooking in the Pan

Maintaining heat so fat bubbles around latke edges, fry them until golden brown on the bottom and edges – about three minutes. Turn with a spatula and continue frying until golden brown all over, about three minutes more.

Drain on a triple thickness of paper towels set on a wire rack over a jelly roll pan. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, returning oil to temperature between each batch and replacing oil after the second batch. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Cooled latkes can be covered loosely with plastic wrap, held at room temperature for four hours, transferred to a heated cookie sheet, and baked in 375-degree oven, until crisp and hot, about five minutes per side. Or they can be frozen on a cookie sheet, transferred to a zip-lock freezer bag, frozen, and reheated in a 375-degree oven until crisp and hot, about eight minutes per side. Best of all is to eat them right after they are done frying!

Note: I always wear old shabby clothes and an apron because the entire kitchen (actually my entire condominium hallway) and my clothing smell like fried potatoes when I make these.  When I finish, I open the windows, take a shower and burn a nice smelling candle but the smell lingers.

 

 

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