cooking

Friday Before the Holiday

My relatives.. This is actually a postcard dated 1912. Apparently it was all the rage at the time to make your photographs into postcards. It is addressed to my grandfather and just says “My Latest”.

We are back in the deep freeze. Seven new inches of snow and temperatures well below zero F. with strong winds. Blizzard conditions. But, hey, this is Minnesota. We trudge on.

It is the first of two holiday weekends. Family, Festivities, Fun, Food. I’m making a Hazelnut Torte to take to the Xmas eve get-together. Then I will take my father to a nice restaurant for Xmas day. And it will be cold. I lived in Mexico City growing up. Our tradition was to get up the day after Xmas and load up the car and drive to Acapulco for a week. Now, that was way more fun than any other Xmas stuff. My holidays were always related to travel. Either traveling home from boarding school or traveling to the beach or, one year, we traveled to Kenya and Tanzania to see the game parks. I might need to revive that traveling tradition.

I became interested in the show Yellowstone because a new prequel just came out with Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford called 1923. So, thinking the whole show was on Paramount Plus, I signed on. I then saw there was another prequel called 1883. I have been binge watching 1883. I figured I would start at the beginning. Then I discovered the actual show isn’t on Paramount Plus, they sold it to Peacock. So if I want to watch the actual show I have to sign up with them. This is getting to be very confusing. And expensive. Maybe I can find it at the library…

Anyway, 1883 is about the Dutton family’s trek from Fort Worth Texas to Montana by covered wagon. They are traveling with a group of Eastern European immigrants. Within the first few weeks, half the people died in one way or another. Disaster after disaster. The narrator is a teenage girl who goes from despair to elation about love and nature and god’s hand in nature and the beauty of the land and the cruelty of it as well.

It made me think about my family and their trek across the sea and then half way across America. They must have traveled the same way. Covered wagons, horses. On my father’s side my ancestor came from Ireland in 1811, and bought land in Pennsylvania. They didn’t stay long. His son was born in Ohio in 1818 and they later moved to Missouri. When he found he was on the wrong side slavery, he moved his farm and family north to Illinois. After he died in 1858, the family moved to western Iowa where they had kin. My grandfather was born in Iowa in 1880. He dug in a farm and stayed there.

On my grandmother’s side, her family sailed from England to Connecticut in 1641. The family stayed there until the mid 1700’s when their house was destroyed by fire.

The father and two elder sons went into the wilderness to clear some land and left the wife and baby in a white settlement. The father and eldest son were killed by Indians. The second son, Isaac, was fourteen when he was captured by the Genesee Indians. Several years later he managed to escape but it wasn’t until he was 70 years old when he found his baby brother who had been left behind with his mother. By that time he was living in Ulster County, New York. The family stayed in New York until about 1880, when they up and moved to western Iowa. My grandmother was born there in 1881.

You can see why 1883 draws me in.

I hope you have a super duper holiday weekend!

Hazelnut Torte

½ lb shelled hazelnuts
8 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup breadcrumbs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whipped cream
1 cup tart jelly (I like raspberry)

Grind the unblanched hazelnuts very fine. Put 2 tablespoons of the ground nuts aside for the outside of the cake.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar till very light. Add the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla and ground nuts. Fold in the egg whites whipped very stiff but not dry.

Bake in 2 layers, 30 minutes at 325 degree F. Cool in the pans.

Take out and put together with whipped cream and a little jelly spread between the layers. Whip the rest o f the jelly with a fork and spread it over the top and sides of the cake. Powder with unused 2 tablespoons of ground nuts. Decorate the top of the cake with a swirl of whipped cream. Chill before serving.

Maybe I’ll have a picture next week.

Armistice, Veteran, Poppy, Remembrance Day

photo of poppy field
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Happy Veterans Day. Or Armistice Day. Or Remembrance Day. Or Poppy Day.

I went to a British grade school in Mexico City.  We wore a uniform.  I was 7 years old. In November of my first year, kids started showing up with red paper poppies pinned to the lapel of their blazers.  I had never heard of Poppy Day but I loved the color added to the otherwise mundane clothing.  I bought one and wore it even though I didn’t understand why. I looked forward to it every year. That splash of red.

It was the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour when hostilities ended.   It was the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars. Poppies bloomed all across the fields where the battles were fought and lives were lost. A sea of red.

My first trip to Paris was over Armistice Day weekend. I was 16, and wandering around on my own. The city was empty. I was the only person at Napoleon’s tomb. I remember it was snowing that day.

In Washington, DC, Veteran’s day always meant Rolling Thunder. Motorcycles from all over the country converged on the Vietnam Memorial. They used to parade down to the Mall from Virginia and Maryland. You could hear them all morning. I was there for the 25th anniversary when they expected 500,000 motorcycles. It was impressive.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows. 
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win 
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, 
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain 
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
by Siegfried Sassoon, Selected Poems (1968)

I voted on Tuesday. I was relieved the red wave turned into a pink drizzle.
It also got dark this week. Short Dark Days until the end of the year.

We made this yummy cake earlier this week. It is gluten free in case anybody cares.

Almond Cake

4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2.25 cups finely ground almonds (I use almond flour)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Separate eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating 3/4 cup sugar
Fold in the almond flour

Whisk the egg whites until foamy.
Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar
Continue to beat until stiff

Stir 1/3 egg whites in to almond mixture, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday Randomness

After a week of 70 degree weather we are back to our normal 40 degrees. Everybody was over the moon about the warm sunny days. Obsessive me could only think about climate change… But apparently we had this weird weather back in the 1970’s as well. 

I received an email the other day from a former schoolmate. She was referring people to an article by Julian Fellows, the actor and writer of Downton Abbey. In the article he talks about the summer before he went to university. His aunt was living in Colombia and wanted to start a summer camp. She needed help. So his mother volunteered him and he got on an oil tanker and spent 21 days crossing the Atlantic (his father refused to pay for airfare). During the trip he decided it would be a good opportunity to re-invent himself and go from a dull boring person to a confident interesting person. He succeeded and continues to tell a humorous account of the summer. You can read the full article if you are interested.  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/03/julian-fellowes-once-upon-life

The funny part is that his aunt was the Librarian at the school I went to in Bogota, Colombia – Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG). His adventure took place in 1966, but she was still librarian in 1972 when I arrived on the scene. Two of her sons and another girl from the school helped run the camp along with Julian. The camp kept going in several iterations for years after.

I think I have mastered Wordle. I pick a random word that has at least two vowels. Next I either have to find other vowels or the most common way of placing the ones that are correct. Then I go through the alphabet to find the most likely (usually unlikely) word that fits. I have done it in three tries all week. But it is work. And I usually feel let down at the end. It is such a small non-accomplishment.

My 102 year old father tested positive for COVID this week. He says he feels fine but is bored out of his mind since he has to stay in his apartment all the time. I went to see him the day before he tested positive so now I am waiting for my results. I have no symptoms so fingers crossed.

My son arrives today for a visit. It looks like this will be on the menu.

Swiss Steak is a method of preparing meat, usually beef, by means of rolling or pounding, and then braising in a pot of stewed tomatoes, either on a stove or in an oven.   

No wonder there are hundreds of recipes for Swiss Steak. This recipe comes from my mother and I have enjoyed it for many years.

2 lbs round steak, in serving pieces
1 large onion, sliced

Brown steak dredged in flour in hot fat with onions, salt and pepper.

1 pt tinned tomatoes (1 15.5 oz can) I use crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
dash pepper and paprika
Pour over meat in a skillet (covered)

Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 2 hours (or more) I have also made it in the crock pot. The meat should just fall apart. It goes well with mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

drive empty highway lane

Friday Exploration

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Photo by Łukasz Kondracki on Pexels.com

I watched a documentary this week on Prime called the Bikes of Wrath. Five young Australian guys who loved John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, decided to retrace the trip. On bicycles. They started out with about $400 which was the equivalent of what the Joad family had when they set out. They traveled 2,600 miles on Route 66 from Oklahoma to California over 30 days. It doesn’t really work, though. These guys are well educated, fairly affluent and competent guys from another country. They are welcomed time and again by locals putting their best foot forward. People living in poverty hand them money and food and provide lodging and care. They are overwhelmed with generosity.  Because they are making a movie? Because they are non-threatening? Because they are white? Because they are male? I must say I did not have a very positive experience the time I got lost in Amarillo, Texas in the 70’s. Maybe times have changed….

I love the British Baking Show as much as the next person. But Mexican Week? Really? Brits making tacos? It was somewhat amusing to watch. They had no idea. Even the judges were a bit embarrassing in their ignorance. Luckily this week they were back on task.

Speaking of Brits and embarrassing moments… How about that Prime Minister? Five weeks must be some kind of record.

I spoke to a woman last week who said she is convinced our doom is imminent. Within the next 20 years. Climate change will destroy us all. Pollution, disease, financial collapse, food and water shortages. I think there is something in our brain that deflects all of that. When I was little, my mother was all over that. Fifty years ago, she worried about teeming landfills, water conservation, power shortages, and communicable diseases. I guess she was ahead of her time. Or was it because we lived in developing countries where all that existed already? I’ve read my share of science fiction. I know what is possible. Why can’t politicians have brains? Why can’t policy makers wake up?

Enough. Deflect deflect deflect.

And now for something completely different… (click for larger view)

I leave you with something sweet.

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Combine:

3/4  cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 egg yolks, beaten

Add:    

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk
(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)

Beat:    

2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.

Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).

Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

Friday Contemplation

Shenandoah National Park

So, we had our first freeze this week. A chill is in the air. Fall is my favorite time of year. Funny thing since I grew up in places where there was no fall. Maybe that’s why I like it. All the leaves turning. Pumpkin pie. Adding a jacket. Digging out the boots. Finding the scarves and hats. I probably need a new pair of gloves. When I lived in Virginia I always tried to make it out to the Shenandoah mountains for the fall colors. Now I trek to the river and all the parks along it.

I read an article titled twelve easy ways to switch off after work. Not one of them said, have a vodka. Guess I’ve been doing it wrong…

Pulled from the bookshelf… Western Wind, An Introduction to Poetry. It must have been somebody’s textbook. The first half goes through all the different kinds of poetry but the second half is an anthology.

Against Poets (by Alan Shapiro)

Golden leaves,
Russet leaves
Detach, float, spin
by the thousands,
Singly.

Charged with meaning
By poets,
Used as metaphor
For decline, loss.
Separation.

The poets
Come between us
And the leaves
In their meaningless
Beauty

This month my book club read a Young Adult book – The Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yeltsin. It is written in first person by a young Jewish boy growing up in Leningrad (St Petersburg), Russia. Eugene Yeltsin grew up in Leningrad and emigrated to the USA in 1983. The book takes place about 1974. His mother works for the famous ballet school linked to the Marinsky theater where Barishnikov danced. Spoiler alert – he defects. It is probably an accurate telling of life in Russia in those times. It was easy to read and entertaining.

Season 10 of Doc Martin comes out shortly. Something to look forward to. Since it is the last season I expect there to be some twists and turns.

I haven’t made this in ages. Looks really good…

Greek Lamb and Spinach Phyllo Pie

1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ cup tomato sauce
1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
8 (9X14 inch) sheets frozen phyllo, thawed

6 servings

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 9 inch pie plate with nonstick spray. (Here I use olive oil.)

Filling:

Cook lamb and onion in a skillet with a little olive oil until lamb is done.
Add: Garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper.
Stir to mix well.
Add tomato sauce and simmer until thickened – about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in spinach and feta. Add egg whites (whole egg).

Lay 1 phyllo sheet in the pie plate; lightly spray with nonstick spray (brush with melted butter). Keep remaining phyllo covered with damp paper towel (dish towel) and plastic wrap (not needed) to keep it from drying out. Repeat with 3 of the remaining phyllo sheets, placing corners at different angles and lightly spraying each sheet with nonstick spray (melted butter).

Spoon filling into the crust.

Top filling with remaining 4 phyllo sheets, repeating layering and spraying with nonstick spray (butter). Roll up edges of phyllo toward center to form 1 ½ inch wide rim.

Bake until phyllo is golden brown 30-35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 wedges.

Lamb Stew

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My brother gave me an electric crockpot and my son was begging for some lamb so this turned out to be a great marriage. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmering on the stove would probably work just as well.

Once I got into the recipe I discovered I didn’t have any coriander so I threw in some cinnamon instead. Of course, I must have just gone brain dead because obviously coriander is cilantro and I always have cilantro. In spite of it all, it turned out to be a tasty dish.

Lamb Stew

1 lb lamb shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into smallish chunks

Mix together and toss with the meat:

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp coriander (cilantro)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (I would put a little more)

¼ tsp salt (don’t really need it if you are using the full strength chicken broth)

Several turn of the pepper mill

 

1 large onion, chopped (I used a red one)

 

28-oz diced tomatoes

¾ cup chicken broth (I used half a cube in boiling water)

4 cloves minced garlic

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1 can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Mash about ¾ cup of the beans

 

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped

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Put the spiced up meat into the crockpot, top with chopped onion.

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Heat tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

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Pour the tomato mixture over the meat.

Cover and cook 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, until meat is tender.

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Mix in the mashed chickpeas, whole chickpeas, and spinach

Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until headed and spinach has wilted.

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Serve over rice.

Leftover note. We had this the next day as a sauce for gnocchi and it was really pretty good.

 

 

 

Cooking in Colorado

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I recently spent some time in Boulder, Colorado with an old friend of mine. We both have frequented the Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and gorged ourselves on Rijsttafel. I hadn’t had Rijsttafel in ages and when he volunteered to make it, I was very excited. After a quick trip to the Asian store he assembled all the ingredients and spent the afternoon cooking.

Many many ingredients

Many many ingredients

Rijstaffel means rice table. It usually consists of rice with multiple small dishes, appetizers, and condiments. The dishes can come from anywhere in Indonesia from spicy curries to dishes with Chinese influence. The Dutch colonists who had been living in Indonesia brought the Rijstaffel back to the Netherlands. Today it is virtually unknown in Indonesia but is still going strong in the Netherlands.

We had beef in red sauce with tomato chili and coconut cream, chicken Bali with lemongrass and coconut cream, Gado Gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), two kinds of Satay, rice and multiple condiments.

It was a feast and all delicious. I am going t have to try to make the chicken one day soon.

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Starting chicken Bali

Starting chicken Bali

Chicken Bali almost done

Chicken Bali almost done

Condiments with Gado Gado

Condiments with Gado Gado

My plate is full!

My plate is full!

Veal with Lemon Cream Sauce

vealplate

 

Veal with Lemon Cream Sauce

1 lb veal cutlets, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness (you could use pork if you are not a veal eater)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups Panko

2/3 cup flour

2 large eggs

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon Thyme

¼ cup chopped green onion

10 tablespoons butter

¼ cup whipping cream

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Put Panko on one plate, flower on another, and beaten eggs in a bowl. Salt and pepper the veal. Cover the veal with flour, dip in the egg, and press into the Panko. Put it on a plate or baking sheet, cover and chill.

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In a saucepan, add wine, broth, lemon juice, thyme, and onion. Simmer until reduced – 10 to 15 minutes. Add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly. Add cream to thicken and remove from heat.

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Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet and cook veal until brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Make sure the pan is hot when you start cooking the veal. Transfer to the oven to keep warm if needed.

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Serve veal with sauce drizzled on top. Add Scalloped Potatoes and Baked Asparagus.

Greek Power Food

 

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I bought the Weight Watchers Power Foods Cookbook because it makes it easy to count calories.  Everything is broken down for each recipe. The problem is I can’t follow a recipe. There is always something that isn’t right with it and I have to change it to my liking. I am going to present the recipe as it is in the book.

I made the following changes. Ground chicken? Just didn’t appeal to me somehow. So I substituted ground lamb. Don’t know why that is better but it just is. Non-stick cooking spray. What is that? Really. Sorry, I can’t do it. I used butter. Plus I used a whole egg instead of egg whites. Everything else is in there.

Of course, it kind of throws the calorie counting out the window. With the butter and the lamb I figure if I double the calories, I’m good.

Greek Chicken and Spinach Phyllo Pie

1 lb ground skinless chicken breast

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ tsp curry powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ cup tomato sauce

1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

8 (9X14 inch) sheets frozen phyllo, thawed

6 servings

239 Cal. Each

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 9 inch pie plate with nonstick spray. (Here I use olive oil.)

 

Filling:

Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray (again- olive oil) and set over medium heat.  Add chicken (lamb) and onion. Cook until meat is done.

Add: Garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper.

Stir to mix well.

Add tomato sauce and simmer until thickened – about 5 minutes.

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Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in spinach and feta. Add egg whites (whole egg).

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Lay 1 phyllo sheet in the pie plate; lightly spray with nonstick spray (brush with melted butter). Keep remaining phyllo covered with damp paper towel (dish towel) and plastic wrap (not needed) to keep it from drying out. Repeat with 3 of the remaining phyllo sheets, placing corners at different angles and lightly spraying each sheet with nonstick spray (melted butter).

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Spoon filling into the crust.

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Top filling with remaining 4 phyllo sheets, repeating layering and spraying with nonstick spray (butter). Roll up edges of phyllo toward center to form 1 ½ inch wide rim.

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Bake until phyllo is golden brown 30-35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 wedges.

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Blogging and Chocolate Cake

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“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I have been blogging for two years now. Seems like just yesterday. I started my blog to promote my book, Expat Alien. I didn’t know what I was doing or if anybody would even read it. What I found was a whole new world. There are millions of bloggers out there. I had no idea. People blog about everything. Some blog a lot, some not so much.

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To mark the occasion I though I might find one of Julia Child’s cake recipes. It seemed appropriate since she was an expat. However her recipes tend to be three and four pages long and that is a lot of work. So here is my favorite chocolate cake recipe that I have made a million times. It comes from the Joy of Cooking 1975 edition.

And keep on blogging!

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Cocoa Devil’s Food Cake

Two 9-inch round pans

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F

Combine, beat until well blended, and set aside:

1 cup sugar

½ cup cocoa

½ cup buttermilk or yogurt

Beat until soft

½ cup butter

Add gradually and cream until light:

1 cup sifted sugar

Beat in, one at a time:

2 eggs

Beat in cocoa mixture.

Sift before measuring:

2 cups cake flour

Resift with:

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

Add the flour in 3 parts to the butter mixture, alternately with:

½ cup buttermilk or yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

Beat batter after each addition just until smooth.

Grease the pans and cook for 35 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.

When cooled, spread the cake with your favorite icing.