Monday, March 28, 2011

On the road again

I'm heading East to Cincinnati this morning, to teach in Springboro, OH at CooksWares, a great retail store with a cooking school.  Independent cooking school and retail shops compete in a market with Walmart, Costco, and Bed Bath and Beyond.  What you get from an independent is personalized service, and they stand behind everything they sell---don't like that pan?  Bring it in and we'll find just what you need. Too many of these stores have folded in the past few years, with the down turn in the economy, but the places I travel to are still going strong because they still believe the customer  is always right. 
I love all my students---they love to cook and they are a lot of fun--classes are always filled with lots of laughter, and the scraping of forks on the plates!
It's 25 degrees this morning, I'm getting an early start, and I'm hoping the bright sun will warm things up.
Have a great day!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's in the Bag

Friday was the Specialty Produce Farmer’s Market Bag class at Great News, and did we have fun!  If you missed it, we will be having a nighttime class in April for the first time, and we’ll be featuring Brandt Beef (which you can order with your FMB from Specialty Produce) as a compliment to the contents of the FMB.   
Yesterday we had some adorably delicious baby artichokes and as I was teaching the class all manner of delicious ideas were coming into my head.  Small, and tender, these babies can be stuffed, and roasted, for a terrific side, or appetizer.  They also do well on the grill, if you are so inclined.

Cheesy Stuffed Baby Artichokes
Serves 4 to 6

4 baby artichokes
Fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or dry vermouth

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes, and cut the artichokes in half.  Remove any of the fuzzy choke in the center, creating a cavity in the center.  
  2. Sprinkle the cut surface with lemon juice and arrange in an ovenproof dish, cut side up.  
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of the oil and saute the garlic for 2 minutes. 
  4. Remove from the heat and toss in the crumbs, cheese, basil and parsley.  
  5. Stuff the artichokes with the bread crumb mixture, and drizzle with the remaining oil.  
  6. Pour the wine into the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes until the artichokes are tender. Remove the foil, and cook another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are crispy.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. 

In class we roasted the artichokes with pee wee potatoes---aren't they cute???

We also had some amazing Gaviota strawberries, and made a syrup from Sumo mandarin oranges to put over a Dutch Baby pancake.  The berries are great plain from the basket, but another way to serve them is with this delish mascarpone crème.

Mascarpone Amaretto Crème
Makes 4 cups
2 cups heavy cream, whipped stiffly
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup Amaretto di Sarrono (or your favorite flavoring)
In a mixing bowl, whisk the mascarpone and Amaretto into the whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 4 days.  The crème can be frozen for up to 2 months. 

Leeks, a member of the onion family are mild, and are terrific to braise with salmon, or other seafood.  Try this main dish using the leeks that are coming into your farmer’s markets this week.

Salmon and Braised Leeks
Serves 4

3 leeks, cleaned, and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (such as Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Grigio or dry vermouth)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
Four salmon filets (6 to 8-ounces)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of butter mixed with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill

  1. In a large baking dish, combine the leeks and white wine.  
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the oil and Old Bay and paint onto the salmon.  
  3. Drizzle any additional oil onto the leeks.  Place the salmon on the leeks, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 15 minutes, until the salmon is cooked through and registers 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.  
  4. Remove from the oven, using a spatula transfer the salmon to serving platter, cover with aluminum foil and allow the salmon to rest for 5 minutes. 
  5. Pour the leeks and wine into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil,  add the lemon zest, and the butter and flour mixture, whisking until the sauce comes back to a boil.  
  6. Stir in the dill, and serve the sauce over the salmon or warmed on the side. 

Swiss Chard is a veg that you may pass up in the supermarket, but it is so good for you, and has so much more flavorful than spinach.  We did a frittata in class, but this pasta dish is to die for and so simple to prepare. Try it for a great weeknight dinner. 

Swiss Chard Pasta Bake
Serves 4 to 6

½ cup unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, tough stems removed, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups milk
4 shakes Tabasco
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup freshly grated imported Romano cheese
1 pound penne pasta, cooked 3 minutes short of al dente and drained
12 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes

1.      In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter, and add the shallots and garlic, cooking for about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach and toss in the butter, until the Swiss chard is tender, about 5 minutes. 
2.      Sprinkle the chard with the flour and cook the flour for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Gradually add the broth, milk, Tabasco and nutmeg, and stir until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Remove from the heat, and stir in half of the Parmesan and all of the Romano, stirring until the cheeses have melted.  Taste the sauce for salt and pepper, and adjust if needed. 
3.      Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the remaining cheese.  Stir the sauce into the penne, add the bacon and mozzarella and stir to combine.  Transfer to the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  
4.      Do-Ahead: Cover and refrigerate for 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
5.      Defrost and bring the casserole to room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown on top.  Allow the pasta to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

I've arrived in Indiana, and it's SNOWING!!  I'm so glad I have my down coat but as I told a friend, I feel like the Michelin man, only I'm wearing black!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Gettin' Down

I’m flying to Indianapolis today; left San Diego at 0-dark-30 (way too early to get up!) and my routine is usually to take a roll aboard onto the plane with a change of clothes and what I’ll need for an overnight should United Airlines lose my luggage---(this is a lesson learned from another trip where they lost my luggage for 5 of the 10 days I was gone) and a computer bag with all I need to keep me sane on the plane.  
 Today I brought my down coat on board with me, since it will be 25 degrees when we land in Chicago and it will be about 40 when I get to Indy. 

 Down coats are like those inflatable boats that start to inflate in a closet, and you can never  corral them--

-this thing has been on the floor, stuffed in the overhead, on a hanger only to fall off again…you get the picture…’s not easy traveling, but it’s definitely not easy when you have slippery stuffed coat to wrestle with!
I’m teaching this next week at two of my favorite places, CooksWares, in Springboro, OH and Cincinnati, OH, and at KitchenArt, in West Lafayette, IN.  Love the stores, love the staff(s), and love the students.  From there I go to another favorite place, The Kitchen Shoppe, in Carlisle, PA.  I’ll be doing a benefit cooking class for the Harrisburg Symphony orchestra—this is a great group of people, and they know how to party!

I'll be posting later on today about my Farmer's Market bag class yesterday--if you bought the FMB, I have a few great recipes to augment what we did at Great News.   I'm off to catch my connection to Indy, and then will have dinner with our son's a great day, I hope yours is too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Big Reveal

  I love the home and garden TV shows, when at the end, this heck of a wreck of a place is transformed into something you couldn't even imagine.....welcome to my world today.  The quartzite and granite were installed, and the last finishing touches, new toilet in the master and fixtures in the shower...we are ready to shower!


This is my vanity and the linen cabinet--the bottom is a pull-out hamper.


Dr. C's vanity

 Love this shower!!

When I saw this quartzite, I did an exorcist head turn as we turned into the slab yard---I was in love, and it looks amazing in this room!  

The Toto toilet makes it from the garage to the loo!

Unfortunately, one of the granite pieces didn't fit the top of the drawers quite right, but the bathroom is still usable, and the granite and fixtures are beautiful.

The photo was taken before the toilet paper rolls and towel bars were installed, but it looks amazing.  
We are done for a while, I take off for the mid-west and Pennsylvania for 2 1/2 weeks of teaching on Saturday, and then return to demolish the guest bathroom Dr. C. and I have been using since we started this 5 weeks ago.  

I will be back tomorrow with some words on the Farmers' Market bag class I'm teaching in the morning at Great News---this one promises to be a LOT of fun!   Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking for Rainbows

The past two days we have experienced rain, high winds and hail.  This morning, as you can see from the photo the clouds over the ocean were dark but we got a rainbow right in front of the back patio!  After all the depressing news from Japan, the suffering of the people, the loss of life and heroic efforts of those in the nuclear plants, I needed a rainbow to brighten the day. 

As we enter week 4 of the Money Pit, things are moving along....Cabinets and hardware were delivered on Monday and installed. 

Linen cabinet and my vanity
lights are in
Shower waiting for glass doors
Dr C's vanity on the right
Loving the glass tile
That hole will soon have a Toto toilet on it!
Kids' Bathroom cabinets are in with hardware

Tomorrow the shower doors in the Master bath will go in and mirrors in the kids' bathroom will be installed.  Thursday is the big day, with the quartzite, granite and plumbing fixtures all hooked up.  I may just get to take a shower here before I leave for a teaching trip on Saturday.

Since the parade of workers continues, I've been making new muffins each morning; my designer says that they are all too comfortable here, since I've been providing food since we started--she's afraid they won't leave! 
Tonight I made some muffins that I love, and am hoping the crew will enjoy; they are the best of Hawaiiana....pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts, and a cream cheese surprise in the middle....these will wake you up in the morning!

Pineapple Stuffed Macadamia Nut Muffins
Makes 12
For the filling
1 tablespoons sugar
One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  1. In a food processor, or electric mixer, beat the filling ingredients together, and transfer to a small bowl, while you make the batter.

 Macadamia Nut Muffin Batter
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract
1/4 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with cupcake liners, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.

In the same bowl of the food processor or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, vanilla and milk, blending until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients, and beat until combined.

Using a large portion scoop batter into the muffin tins.  

 Using a teaspoon, or small scoop, top the batter with some of the cream cheese mixture.   

 Top the cream cheese with more of the muffin batter

 Sprinkle with additional chopped macadamia nuts, or coconut if desired and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before serving. 

I hope you've had a great day, and that you see a rainbow this week, too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Scenes From the Weekend

This weekend I flew to New York to visit our daughter Carrie and her family (which includes the fabulous Princess Poppy and Prince Eric) in their new home in Connecticut.  One week after they closed on the house, I got to be one of their first visitors, other than the mice we think are living in the crawl space, but I think they were there before they bought the house.

I really wish it were this mouse instead!

It was a beautiful weekend, mostly clear weather and Friday was in the 70's.  Walking part of the 18.5 acres was just beautiful....
Although Princess Poppy really wanted to go swimming we'll have to wait for warmer weather.  

They even have a Lord of the Rings tree! 

It was a great weekend, although I would love to have stayed longer there really is no place like home, and I was ready to get back to the money pit and Dr. C.   

My plane from White Plains was delayed 2 hours; as I sat there, local high school sports teams were getting ready to board planes bound for Florida, and 50 to 60 year old businessmen with golf on their minds would be on the same plane---the high school kids would be those men in 40 years---count on it--they were all wearing the same logo gear.  

When we finally landed in Washington, D.C. I still had time to get lunch and make my connection---airport food has to be some of the worst on the planet--if the smells don't get you, the the food will.  BUT, as I deplaned, I smelled burgers and fries and it wasn't McDonald's'.  

I rounded the corner, and was stunned to find 5-Guys, the burger joint President Obama made famous by asking for Dijon mustard (OK, give the guy a break)  

I ordered the little burger (one patty, not two)an order of fries and a drink.  It was heaven in a bag, but I have to admit, I couldn't eat all the fries and this is why.............

A huge cup full of fries, and then extras---there was no way, no matter how long the lay over was!

Got into the Red Carpet Club for a bit to see the scores from the NCAA's (my final four teams are still in it---goooooo AZTECS)then onto the plane and headed home to Dr. C. and the rain. I've got a slew of frequent flyer miles and I use them to isn't fun anymore, and being wedged into a seat with two other people that should actually accommodate 2 instead of 3 isn't my idea of a picnic, so this 5 1/2 hour flight I requested and got an upgrade.  I didn't need dinner but it was nice to have the extra room and spread out and knit, and work on my manuscript.  Jack, the purser on the flight was one of the rare flight attendants who loves what he does and this was an example of that:

Flowers and a candle in the loo! He could really teach his comrades a thing or two about service and making people feel at home. 

We landed in gusting winds last night, and it has poured rain with some hail this morning.  This is the view from the patio this morning as I was looking for a rainbow out over the ocean.  

I hope you all had a great weekend, I'll be back with some food related posts later today or tomorrow, I'm still getting back onto Pacific standard time!  Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Luck of the Irish, Wearing of the Green and Guinness

A purple shamrock plant; I have three in my yard, and love them!

I've talked a lot about my Italian family, but the other side of my heritage is Irish.  My grandmother on my dad's side was one of 11 children (holy cow!) and came to Boston in the early 1900's from Connemara near Galway to work as a domestic for the Cabot family (of the Henry Cabot Lodge family)

When she made enough money she sent it home to bring her next sibling, her sister Maureen, (later renamed Mary) to Boston.  These women worked hard, and although they were used to hard work, they also had a lot of ambition and they didn't mind serving other people.  

The best story from this side of the family was about the next two girls, who came over together, Annie and Elizabeth.  They got to Boston, after a horrific (I can't even imagine steerage in those days) sea voyage, and were told the Irish quota was full, they would have to go they turned around, went back on the same ship, only to leave again several weeks later from Ireland to return and finally be granted entrance. 

For years, they would tell this story, embellishing it as they drank their whiskey and ginger-ale which they would offer small children at 10 a.m. Hard work was a hallmark of the memories I have of these women; even as a teenager I saw them come home after several days at their jobs to sink into a chair, rub their feet and put them up, exhausted beyond what I could comprehend, but still with great stories to tell about the household they served or reminiscing about the "old sod".  Although I've never been to Ireland, it's on the list, and I can't wait to see the old house where my grandmother was born, I understand it is still standing, a miracle in itself.  

I'm hoping it looks more like this than.......


Tomorrow as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I like to remember my Geary Aunts and all their stories about Ireland.  They made it sound like a magical place, but I know it had to be a hard life, and even harder to leave your parents and all you've known to go to a new world.  

People always ask me if we have corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day, and I have to be honest, I never remember my grandmother making it, she would usually do lamb (mutton actually) with gravy that you could skate across it was so greasy.  Corned beef and cabbage isn't one of my faves, so I usually make lamb, or Shepherds' pie or something that I could imagine being served in Ireland--I've never met a potato I didn't like! 

I almost always forget to wear green---it's not a color I have in abundance in my closet, so I mostly remember when I see people in their day-glo green shirts.  With a maiden name like Fitz-Patrick, you'd think I'd remember! 

Today, I decided to make Guinness cupcakes.  I had a Guinness cake when I was in London and it was really delicious, but I could never find a recipe; this one is adapted from a few that I found on the internet, and it actually made some dynamite cupcakes.  I made a cream cheese and Bailey's Irish Creme frosting to go along with them, and it's awesome---you could spread it on tongue depressors it's so good!  

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Creme Frosting

Makes 18

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
1 1/3 cup Guinness or other Irish stout
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with liners or coat with non-stick cooking spray. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, add the eggs, one at at time, and gradually pour in the vanilla and Guinness.  The mixture will look curdled. 

With the machine on low, gradually add the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda and beat on medium speed until smooth, and well combined.  

Using a large portion scoop, scoop the batter into the cupcake tins, filling 2/3 to 3/4 full.  

Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when touched in the center.  Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

Bailey's Irish Creme Frosting
Makes enough to frost two 8 inch layers or 24 cupcakes

5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
4 ounces cream cheese, softened, and cut into cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Creme

In a food processor, process the sugar, and with the machine running, add the butter and cream cheese until blended.  Add the Bailey's a bit at a time, until the mixture is spreading consistency.  

Pipe onto cupcakes using a large star tip,or frost using a small off-set spatula.  The cupcakes and the frosting can be frozen for up to 2 months. I think green sprinkles might ruin the effect, but if you have them (I don't) you could sprinkle the cupcakes with them for a bit of wearing of the green! 

Tomorrow I will be flying, so I may not get a chance to post, unless the airline food/service warrants a good laugh....we can all use that right now as we watch the tragedy unfold in Japan.  I wish you all a happy St. Patrick's day!