BEST Pressure Cooker or Instapot Pinto Beans

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Perfect Pinto Beans

I love beans, as a side dish and as a main course.  I am not in love with beans out of a can and try my best to start from dried. That said, I do use canned beans in a pinch if I don’t have time to make my own.

This recipe is my favorite way to prepare pinto beans – they are flavorful, saucy and delicious in a bowl with grated cheese and condiments. I also like to pour them over any type of rice or as part of a lunch bowl for something heartier.  Plus – they’re lickity split easy and fast – only ten minutes of prep and 22 minutes to cook. 

Right Before Cooking

Pressure Cooker or Instapot Pinto Beans 

Yields 8 large servings

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Ingredients 
  •  1 pound dry pinto beans
  • ½ large brown-skinned onion, peeled but kept whole  
  • ½  good-sized yellow or red bell pepper, seeded but kept whole 
  • Large chunks of 1 carrot + 1 celery + 1 parsnip (optional)
  • 4 large cloves peeled garlic
  • A handful of fresh cilantro if you have it (optional)
  • 3 ½  cups water with a tablespoon of chicken stock, (I like Better Than Bouillion)
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste (I use my always ready tube)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard (the kind you put on hamburgers)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 tsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado

SUCH Simple Ingredients

Instructions
  • Place beans in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker and add enough water to cover by 2″ to 3″. Allow to soak overnight or for at least six hours. Alternatively, bring the beans to a boil before soaking and let them simmer away for two minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and let the beans sit in the hot water, covered, for at least an hour.  After the soaking time, drain off and discard the soaking water and rinse the beans with fresh cool water, draining well. Set aside.
  • Add everything above to the soaked and rinsed beans and stir well.
  • Lock the lid in place, let the pressure cooker or Instapot come to full pressure and cook 22 minutes from when it reaches full pressure.  
  • When the time is up, allow the steam pressure to naturally release which should take 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes I leave the beans in the pot after turning off the heat and go to do errands, returning two hours later.  Fine. After the natural release, remove the lid. Remove the onion, carrot, celery, and herbs with kitchen tongs.
  •  Stir, taste and season with salt as desired. You shouldn’t need much, or any, salt.
  • Sometimes I package the beans into smaller containers and freeze them.  And while the beans are cooking I often make some type of rice, which also freezes well.  

Notes: I usually do a quick soak rather than overnight just because when I get a hankering for beans, I don’t want to wait for the long soak  Also, as these sit after cooking they thicken up quite a bit, so don’t panic if they seem soupy.  Give them a couple of hours and you’ll be skurprised by how much the liquid becomes much less liquidy, if that is a word!

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Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

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Lovely Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

Worry not – I’m back to my Corona baking! This week, I chose this recipe for two reasons.  #1: it makes two loaves of dessert or breakfast bread and #2: during our video chat the other week, my sisters talked about peaches and a peach bread recipe in the New York Times.  I found the recipe of which they spoke and intended to make it too – after all, the three of us are not very independent thinkers when it comes to trying recipes.  However, I Googled Peach Pound Cake and found a recipe in the Washington Post that originated from a peach grower in Tennessee.  Peaches?  Southern baking?  OK, I’m in.

I switched ingredients because I don’t go to the store often these days, so I used what I already had in my kitchen.  I changed other instructions too — just because that is how I rock and roll.  What I ended up with is a personalized version of a pound cake that is more lemony than peachy, but very moist and delicious.  I highly recommend you try this. I ate two pieces before lunch. No shame.  

Glazed and Good to Go!

Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

Makes 2 loaves

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Pound Cake Ingredients

(Note: I always love weighing ingredients when possible so you can use either method!)

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (219 grams)
  • ½ cup medium ground cornmeal (75 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted because mine always clumps
  • ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Grated zest from two average-sized lemons
  • ½ cup plain kefir (shake before measuring) – you could also use buttermilk but I didn’t have any
  • ¼ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks of salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 medium-sized peaches, peeled* and chopped finely – about ⅓ inch cubes  
Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle.  Spray two 8×4 inch loaf pans with Pam, line the bottoms of each pan with a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom, and respray the bottom.

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside

Combine the lemon zest, kefir or buttermilk, milk, and vanilla in a glass measuring cup.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar for three minutes, stopping twice to scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until each egg is incorporated.

Turn the mixer to medium and add the dry ingredients a third at a time.  After the flour mixture is well combined, add about half of the liquid ingredients from the glass measuring cup.

Beat for about a minute once all the flour mix and liquids are in the bowl.  Turn off the mixer and fold in the cubed peaches.

Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula.  Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Put the pans on a wire rack to cool for 45 minutes.  Gently shake the loaf pans to release the cake edges from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling for another 15 minutes.  

While the loaves are cooling the final 15 minutes, whisk together the lemon juice and sifted powdered sugar.  The mix should be fairly thick, more than maple syrup – kind of like cake frosting.  Add more powdered sugar or lemon juice if needed.

At the end of the 15 minutes, while the cakes are on the rack, they will be warmish but ready for the frosting.  I put a piece of waxed paper under the rack to catch dribbles then divide the glaze in half and spread evenly on top of the loaf.  Let everything cool completely and don’t wrap or store until the frosting is hardened.  

This would be good with a dollop of whipping cream or plain yogurt and some fresh peach slices or raspberries on the side.  Best of all, you have another loaf to give away! Or … just eat yourself.  

*PS: To peel peaches – I bring a saucepan of water to the boil, make a shallow X cut in the bottom of each peach and lower the peaches into the water. Let them simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the hot water to a bowl filled with iced water.  The skin then peels off easily and quickly, and you won’t have to struggle to peel your peaches or lose any peach flesh.

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Wild Rice Salad with Apricots and Herbs

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Wonderful Wild Rice Salad

Just so you don’t think I am only baking during this pandemic…I am sharing a concoction I have made twice in the last two weeks.  I’m finding that these days, I like to have room temperature salads or easy soups available and ready to eat at home mid-day.  I’ve never been one to enjoy restaurant food very often so the lack of being able to stop and grab a snack or lunch really is not a problem for me.   What I do miss is sharing my creations with friends, though. So here I am – sharing this with you!

This wild rice salad is delicious served warm or at room temperature.  I try to make a large amount of this when I begin because I never tire of eating it a few days in a row.  To add more oomph, you could add shredded roasted chicken or fried tofu – although I do enjoy it as a simple vegetarian dish.  It has all the flavors and textures I adore – savory, sweet, crunchy, and comforting – and it is one of those side dishes that gets better the following day.  An added bonus is that it looks pretty and colorful as well. 

Here goes, easy and yummy.

Wild Rice Salad with Apricots and Herbs

Serves 4-6

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Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cups wild rice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt 
  • About 25 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 medium white or red onion, peel and dice ¼ inch
  • 2 teaspoons fresh coriander seeds
  • ½ cup roughly diced ruby dried apricots (a pantry staple for me)
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (you can use both leaves and tender stems)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans, reserve to top the dish
Instructions

Make the wild rice according to package directions but do not overcook it.  I do this in my pressure cooker but the stovetop takes about a half an hour.  Drain and cool

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, and add olive oil.  When it is warm, add onion, pepper, and salt.  Reduce to low and keep stirring the onions occasionally so they become soft and brown.  Once the onions are soft, add coriander seed and stir on the heat for a minute.  Add the apricots and lemon zest and continue to cook for another two minutes.  

Take the pan off the heat and add the cooked drained rice to the onion mixture in the pan so the flavors combine.  Add the lemon juice and chopped fresh herbs.  Taste and add additional salt, black pepper, lemon or olive oil as needed.  Top each serving with the toasted pecans.  Serve warm or refrigerate for the next day or eat at room temperature.  

 

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Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones

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Isaiah Max Kopelovich, editor & eater extraordinaire!

**The draft of this blog post was edited (and improved!) by my oldest grandson and culinary student, Isaiah Max Kopelovich.

Here is yet another scone and baking recipe my sister Kay bragged about on our weekly sisters Zoom call.  The three “Klass girls” virtually talk every Sunday night for two hours.  Sadly, our annual Sisters trip and several family weddings have been canceled this year, so this is the best we can do. Our husbands are all perplexed about what we could possibly say during this time, but we never seem to run out of conversation.  And topics during these virtual gab sessions include recipes, food, phases of reopening, books we have read, political stunts, grandchildren, cousins…you can see that we never run out of small talk. 

Food and menus and new recipes are always at the top of the agenda since all three of us cook incessantly.  When Kay raved about these scones, I poo-pooed them, but a few weeks later when she mentioned that these were her favorites, I caved and tried them.  At this moment in time, this recipe just happens to be my favorite as well. 

The original recipe recommended keeping your hands and the counter floured well, so the scones are able to be transferred from bowl to cookie sheet, but I formed a ball of the dough then plopped it down without adding any flour onto my trusty silicone mat, made the scones there and used a small spatula to put them on the parchment-lined cookie sheet!  If you don’t already own a silicone mat, this is yet another reason to buy one!

Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones 

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 2011)

Makes 9

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Ingredients
  • 1 cup (120 grams) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, sifted (mine always has lumps)
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar (remove 2 tsp from the measuring cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 heaping cup (136 grams or 4 ¾  ounces) fresh raspberries
  • ¾ cup (189 grams) whole milk ricotta
  • ⅓ cup (79 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons coarse raw sugar to top (demarada)
Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In the bottom of a large wide bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt together.

With a pastry blender: Add the butter and use the pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in raspberries and mix with your spatula.

Whisk the ricotta and heavy cream together in a smaller bowl, then pour into the large bowl containing everything else to form a dough with a flexible spatula. Using your hands, gently knead dough so it forms a ball and until all the flour is incorporated.  You can do all of this right in the bottom of the bowl. The raspberries will mush up a bit.

Once you form a ball, quickly transfer the dough to a silicone mat.  Pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. Sprinkle the top with the raw sugar and gently press into the dough.  With a large knife, cut the dough into thirds horizontally, and then thirds vertically, so that you are left with nine almost even squares of dough. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet with a spatula. 

Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool on the cookie sheet for two minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. It’s best to cool for about 15 minutes before eating them. If you have some left, cool them completely then store in a well-sealed container or zip lock bag.

For your freezer: During raspberry season, I take advantage and make a lot of these and bake them as needed.   I form the scones and cut them, then I put them on the parchment-lined sheet and freeze them raw.  Once they are frozen solid, I transfer them to a freezer bag.  When you feel like a fresh scone, preheat the oven and put the frozen square(s) on a parchment-lined sheet.  You do not need to defrost the frozen scones.  Bake them for 17-19 minutes.

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Blueberry Muffins

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Blissful Blueberry Muffins

Fasten your seatbelts, because here comes a post for Blueberry Muffins published by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, and I hardly changed a thing.  I am not one who likes to follow a recipe to the “t”, ever.  Usually, I can read the ingredients and directions, then I tweak it ever so slightly (or, from time to time, more than slightly).

OK, I did use salted butter here because I was out of unsalted, then I reduced the amount of salt in the recipe.  See?  But I raise my glass (or cup of coffee) to Deb for the easiest, most delicious way to use blueberries in the summer.  I’m not even embarrassed to share that I have made these three times in a week! 

Ready For The Oven!

Blueberry Muffins

Yields Nine Muffins

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Ingredients:

(I put weighs of ingredients here because I always defer to that)

  • 5  tablespoons (70 grams) salted butter, cold is fine
  • ½ cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest from half a lemon 
  • ¾ cup unsweetened plain yogurt, stir before measuring
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
  • Pinch of  baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups (215 to 255 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost) .  
  • FOR TOPPING:  3 tablespoons turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar 
Instructions:

Heat oven to 375°F and put the rack in the middle 

Spray nine of the “cups” of the muffin tin with nonstick spray.  I usually pour water in the remaining three muffin indentations where I won’t be putting batter but can’t remember why I do this.  (There is a reason, though)  

Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl and whisk in sugar, zest, yogurt, and egg until smooth. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt until fully combined, then lightly fold in flour and berries. The batter will be very thick, like cookie dough. 

With a ¼ cup ice cream scoop, divide between the 9 prepared muffin holders and sprinkle each unbaked muffin with one teaspoon of turbinado sugar. This will give you a crunchy top. There is no need to even out the tops!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  I then gently gently twist them and use a knife to gently get the stuck parts to release from the muffin cups and then gently place them on a rack.

These are great warmed ever so slightly if it is a day later, then smear with salted butter.  I have also cooled and frozen them for a couple of weeks but truth be told, we eat them or give them to friends and family the first day.

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Kefir Coffee Cake

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The Most Delicious Coffee Cake

I need another coffee cake recipe like I need a hole in my head. However, if you read my last post,  you have learned by now that my need to bake every day has become a full-blown sickness.   I read this recipe for coffee cake in the Food Section of the Seattle Times where it was presented by a 14-year-old aspiring chef as an option for Father’s Day.  How could I turn away?

What tempted me most was the use of oil in lieu of butter – especially since my butter stash was running low and I was not due for my COVID Grocery Store foray for a few days. Plus it was 6:30 am – my favorite time to bake. This cake required just a medium and a large bowl and a little elbow grease to make (no mixer needed). I had every ingredient in the house to boot!

I did not have buttermilk but I had kefir, which worked well.  I used avocado oil in place of corn oil, dark brown sugar in place of light brown sugar – and I was quite happy with the result The cake looks different (darker) than my usual sour cream coffee cake and I actually appreciated having a non-sour cream-yet-still-moist option. It didn’t taste quite as overwhelmingly rich to me.  

My recipe-tasting husband loved the breakfast cake, the cleaning woman for our condo gave it a thumbs up and a large chunk will go to my pregnant-with-twins daughter-in-law and my overly busy daughter and family.  

Hot Out of the Oven

Kefir Coffee Cake

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Ingredients:
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea  salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (DIVIDED)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup avocado oil
  • 1 cup raw chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup plain kefir, shake well before measuring
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 x 2-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, white sugar, and oil. Remove three-quarters of a cup of this mixture and put it in the small bowl. Into this smaller bowl, also add the nuts and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside for the topping

To the remaining mixture in the large bowl, add the baking powder, baking soda, egg, and kefir to the flour mixture and stir everything together. It’s OK if you have a few small lumps. Pour this mixture into the greased pan.

Sprinkle the nut mixture from the smaller bowl evenly over the top of the batter. I kind of pressed down lightly on the topping so it wouldn’t immediately crumble off while eating.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry and free of wet batter.

Cool on a rack for an hour-the cover tightly with foil or saran.  You can also freeze this cake for up to a month.  Enjoy!!

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Huge Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Seriously – The BEST!

I came home on a “rescue” flight from Guatemala in late May, just as the president was locking down the country.  Truly locking it down – as in no one was allowed to be outside for four days each week—which meant no shopping, no walking, nada.  Nisht.  I encountered these rules the weekend before we were to leave as our flight was canceled. But that is another story for another day. I’m just relieved to be home!

My mornings in Seattle begins around 6:30 am.  My barista (aka husband) makes me a mug of cappuccino so I can start my engine.  I then start putting my flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla, and everything I need for baking on the counter.  This morning, which is already three weeks since I’ve been back, he remarked that I was a sick individual with a severe baking addiction.  I cannot argue that point.  Every single day I make bread, some type of pastry or pie or cake and then the ho-hum soups and good, fresh dinners. 

I know, I know, I know!  I have no reason to have yet another oatmeal cookie recipe but come on…my daughter Rachel stocked our kitchen before we returned and quarantined with too much bread flour, white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, bittersweet chocolate, and other baking (and cooking) stuff. So bake, I must.

I can also blame this insanity on my sisters.  We Zoom every Sunday evening for 80 minutes then send flurries of texts so we compare notes on what we are cooking and baking, then recipes are sent back and forth and reviews of the food are unabashedly made.

Skeptic that I am, I don’t trust most people when they tell me a cookie recipe is really good.  But my seesters?  They have genetic taste buds like me and are baking snobs as well.  None of us would consider white chocolate or light chocolate or even semi-sweet chocolate, heaven forbid.  We are intense chocoholics after all.

Kay and I heard about these cookies from Susan, who got the recipe from her daughter-in-law Nicole who probably made them gluten-free.  Susan sent us both her recipe and Kay made them not once but three times in the past week!  Today was my maiden voyage. And I am here to testify that these are really good and really easy. Plus – they make enough for me to give some to my two offspring who brilliantly decided to settle in Seattle so they can always have food from their mother.  And if my freezer isn’t packed I’ll have an excuse to make yet another batch of cookies or scones or breakfast bread.

“BIG ASS” (Susan’s title) Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield 24 large (4” in diameter) cookies 

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Ingredients
  • 1 cup salted butter softened
  • 1 ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 ⅓ cup rolled oats (old-fashioned) 
  • 1 (12 oz) pkg. bittersweet chocolate chips (my bittersweet chips only had 10 oz which     Kay said was plenty, but I, of course, added two more ounces from another pack)
  • 1 ½ cup chopped toasted nuts (salted and/or smokey almonds are great I hear, but I just had pecans on hand which I toasted.  I try to go to the store no more than once a week right now.)
  • Coarse cane sugar for sprinkling on top
Instructions

Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer until creamy; beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly.

Add oats, chocolate chips, and cooled toasted nuts; mix well by hand or quickly in the machine.

Shape each cookie by scooping into a ¼ cup measure for large cookies, six per sheet.  I then cover the balls of dough with a piece of waxed paper and flatten them evenly. Next, sprinkle a few flakes of coarse sugar on top.  

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 13-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets for five minutes then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Cook’s notes:

  • In general, when I bake cookies, I do all the scooping at once and put the balls of dough onto a parchment-lined tray, then refrigerate until I am ready to bake.  This keeps the dough cooler and I can wash the pans and equipment while the first batch of cookies is baking.  I hate having a bunch of dishes to do at the end, truth be told. 
  • My sister Susan noted: these are “very similar to mom’s oatmeal ccc’s. Easy to make gluten-free w/substitute flour, tastes the same I swear.”
  • These freeze well up to two months, or you can freeze the dough balls and bake as needed.  
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Anti-COVID Soup

Comforting & Colorful Anti-COVID Soup

I’m writing this on March 17 from Antigua Guatemala. My husband and I are down here and were scheduled to return home to Seattle at the end of March.  Seattle, as you know, is like 9/11 Ground Zero with respect to the Coronavirus, and at first, it was very chill and relaxing to be here in Antigua, away from the constant changes related to the virus.  However, almost two weeks into our visit the panic hit (for good reason) and all flights and roads and waterways into the country were canceled.

I sat on the phone with United Airlines for three hours the other day, trying to figure out return reservations, and still, no one knows anything for sure.  Everything is closed for at least two weeks, all eat-in restaurants are closed, yoga studios and gyms are not open, stores are closed, just pharmacies and banks and the supermarket are still open for shorter hours.  No public transportation is available, no one is to be out after 4 pm, no alcohol from 6 pm until 5 am. Lots of rules, not as much panic as in Seattle – but this is just starting here.

Wayne in the Bodegona (the “supermarket” in town) loading up on staples. Plenty of TP and no hoarding!

These new regulations were announced by the president and began yesterday and we decided not to eat food that we did not personally prepare.  I have a teeny weeny kitchen in our rented apartment with three pans, one frypan and maybe 10 utensils. It is enough, really – particularly when I compare what I have to what the poor Guatemalans cook with every single day.  I mean, there is electricity in this apartment and I have soap and running water too.

This morning we got up at 5 am and walked to the one large supermarket in town to be there when it opened at 6 am.  Last night it was bustling and people’s carts were loaded, not to mention that everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder.  No thank you! I took my hand sanitizer and Chlorox wipes and an N-95 mask in case it was crowded. We watched the store unload pallets of canned fish, Coca-cola, laundry detergent and the like.  FINALLY at 6 am, we entered and within 20 minutes we had our non-perishables-lots of kinds of rice and grains, several varieties of beans, Corn Flakes (not for me, but for Wayne), eggs, boxed and canned milk to name a few things.  We came back, washed our hands for 20 seconds, cleaned all the containers with bleach and water and then realized how tired we felt.  

Post-shopping — not a soul on the streets!

My yoga teacher here did an online (Zoom) yoga class that I followed virtually. I had to manage on our tile floor, but it was just what I needed.  Meanwhile, I heard a lot of cupboard doors banging, a lot of chopping, water running, the fridge opening. When I finished my virtual class, Wayne was almost done making chicken soup using the bones and a little meat from a rotisserie chicken along with leftover white beans, fresh carrots, fresh corn kernels from two ears of corn and tomatoes and cilantro and lime and tiny new potatoes and and and.  We now have a large pot of this soup – really more of a stew – and I made some couscous to add alongside. What is left of the couscous will turn into a couscous salad with diced veggies, lime and olive oil.

We decided after eating a couple of bowls of the soup that every week that we are self-isolated, we will come up with a different version of vegetable soup.  It will be simple, it will not be gourmet, but it will be comforting and nourishing and hopefully keep us healthy until we can fly back to Seattle.

The “recipe” here isn’t really a recipe, but here is how it happened.  First, take any bones from a previously cooked chicken and cover them with water by two inches.  Add about one tablespoon of water and one teaspoon of pepper. Simmer 45 minutes, and strain. Next, add about two huge peeled and sliced carrots, two cups of diced potatoes (I like mine abut ¾ inch in diameter), three sliced tomatoes (don’t bother to seed and peel-this is a rustic soup), about two cups of trimmed green beans, a cup of fresh corn kernels, two cups of leftover beans if you have them, and a handful of chopped cilantro.  Add and simmer another 20 minutes and season with more salt or pepper or cilantro to taste. Make some couscous or rice or barley to add to the soup when you serve it.

Wayne’s mise en place (perched on the table that doubles as our counter).

Stay healthy and stay safe!

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Carrot Cake – Again!

A Girl and Her Cake

When my granddaughter speaks, I listen. She – and everyone else in my family if I’m being honest – tells me that my carrot cake is better than any other.  So I figured I’d remind you all about this amazing recipe.

I cooked this up for her 4th birthday, grinding up the nuts (the kids don’t like them big) and adding sprinkles and princesses on top, per my granddaughter’s request.

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Old School Carrot Cake

Click here to view recipe.

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

The other day I was in a cleaning frenzy and decided to tackle my cookbook shelves – arranging the books from large to small and determining if any of my very old cookbooks could be gifted, sold or donated.  I stumbled upon a cookbook my daughter’s class produced in her early elementary school – 30 plus years ago!  Actually, Rachel recently connected with a former classmate from this second grade class – both of them are now almost 38-years old, and the friend told Rachel she still makes the carrot cake published in this cookbook – my very own recipe with my handwriting and all! At this point, I have no recollection of who passed this recipe on to me – but I am eternally grateful.

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

My Chicken Scratch

My Chicken Scratch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gazing at the worn spiral bound book, I realized it was a precursor of how Rachel would turn out as an adult.  She was an early adapter and defender of the recent Supreme Court Ruling – way before everyone put a rainbow background on their facebook profile page, she was coloring rainbows and hearts.  And it never occurred to me back then how talented and artistic my 7-year old daughter would become.

Here is a toast to old recipes, to not abandoning butter and sugar and flour and…to carrot cake.  This is still one of my favorites to put together and to eat.    It’s a great recipe to make with kids, too.  And here is a bigger toast to daughters who become mothers and who teach their mothers about creativity, and who always stay in touch with past friends.

I love this recipe – I changed it from what is in the book by toasting the walnuts and reducing the frosting by one half.  I mean, how much frosting is really necessary in one serving?   I love this cake so much that I never, ever order carrot cake at a restaurant.  I’ve tried it at various places and it always falls short of this old, tried and true recipe.  And what you see here, the rectangular sheet cake rather than a beautiful round layer cake, is the result of my need to freeze this for future family gatherings.  Yes, it freezes so beautifully.

My Carrot Cake

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Cake Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups (yes one and one half!) cooking oil
  • 1 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp soda
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • ¾  cups chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk together the first four ingredients, oil through vanilla.  Sift together all dry ingredients and incorporate this into the egg/oil mix.  Finally stir in the shredded carrots and toasted nuts.  Put everything into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan or two round 9-inch cake pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and then frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with toasted nuts.  NOTE: I cut the frosting called for by half, so if you are into frosting  you might want to make double the recipe here!

Frosting Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ pound powdered sugar (looks like a little over a cup)
  • To top the frosting if you’d like: ¼ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
Frosting Instructions

Mix cream cheese and butter and vanilla until smooth, then slowly add powdered sugar and enough milk to make a thick but spreadable frosting.

Refrigerate or freeze the frosted cake and eat with a tall glass of milk.  This tastes great for up to a week, but it never stays around my kitchen that long.

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Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

This post was originally published over three years ago! It’s so comforting – such an oldy-AND-a-goody – that I couldn’t resist posting it again. Some days – nothing can beat the food mom used to make.

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Click here to view recipe.

Tasty Tuna Noodle Casserole - A Modern Twist

Tasty Tuna Noodle Casserole – A Modern Twist

If any of you were born in the mid 1900’s (THAT sounds old!) you will absolutely know what tuna noodle casserole is.  This comfort food graced every table in my youth in some form – usually that of canned tuna (not line caught, not wild), elbow macaroni or thin egg noodles (certainly not penne made from fine Semonlina flour) and cream of mushroom soup (from a can, naturally).  School cafeterias served this, some called this “end of paycheck casserole” and it was kind of a go-to meal for many families.  Oh, and some lucky kids had it served with crumbled potato chips on top!

At my house, my mom must have prepared this from time to time.  For sure it was an option for hot school lunches.  Believe it or not, I sometimes get a hankering for the taste of mushrooms, tuna and noodles.  But I’m happy to report that today, I have what I believe is a much better version.  I even tried it out on my grandkids when they were in town. The verdict? Huge hit! Of course.

Basically, this is an easy dinner with leftovers to boot.  You make a white sauce, stir in sauteed veggies and spices, then fold this into cooked bowtie pasta along with high quality canned tuna and frozen peas.  Crispy panko crumbs (available in most grocery stores in the Asian section) which have been sauteed in butter are added as topping during the final part of baking.  Oh, and because my grandsons pick cooked mushrooms out of foods, my daughter had the brilliant idea for me to put the mushrooms in my Nutribullet and chop them to almost a mushroom paste.  In other words, you end up with a mushroom taste without the visual look and texture of mushrooms.  In other, other words, the perfect way to fool your kids (or adult sons, not that I am naming names…Daniel) who THINK they don’t like mushrooms.

Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 6-8 (at least)
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Ingredients:
  • 2 cups 2% milk (heat in microwave or saucepan until hot)
  • 8 oz bowtie pasta-egg noodles or whole wheat if you can find them 
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • ½ large onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • ⅓ c red or orange or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups sliced brown mushrooms (If you have kids, put these in the food processor or nutribullet so they become mushroom mush and are not identifiable as mushrooms.)
  • ¼ cup unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas
  • 3-5 ounce cans of water packed tuna – drained (15 ounces total)
  • ½ tsp dried dill or 1 ½ tsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 20 grinds black pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko which was crunchy and good)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter (for breadcrumbs)
Instructions:

Butter or oil a 9 x 13 pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle.

Start a large pot of water to boil the pasta – add a half a teaspoon salt.  When it is boiling, add bow tie noodles and cook until al dente but not totally soft.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, (noodles can be cooking away) melt butter and sauté the diced onion, celery, pepper and mushrooms or mushroom moosh.  When everything is soft, sprinkle with flour.  Stir and cook about three minutes. Continue stirring then add heated milk slowly until it makes a thick sauce.  Cook another minute.  Turn off the heat and add the  dill, drained tuna, and frozen peas, salt and pepper  Stir to combine and taste to see whether you might need additional salt or pepper.

Scrape everything into the prepared baking pan and bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes.  

While the tuna casserole is baking, heat the 1 ½ Tbsp of butter in a small fry pan on medium heat, add panko crumbs and stir until they get a little brown. Remove from the heat.

After 20 minutes pass, remove the baking pan from the oven and top with browned panko crumbs and bake an additional ten minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, let it rest about ten minutes and serve with a nice fresh fruit salad and green salad.

Leftovers reheat well!

Cook’s note:  this is also good if you prefer leftover or canned salmon or even cubed chicken/turkey in lieu of tuna.  

 

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