How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thanksgiving Dessert - Pumpkin Layer Cake with Caramel Buttercream

This recipe came from the New York Times Cooking. The online recipe was accompanied this lovely photograph, which looked only a little bit like my finished product. The color of the cake and icing are the same, and I did have three layers. Although mine were rather lopsided, and the caramel cream did not ooze down the sides in quite so perfect a manner. I am sure however, that mine tasted just as divine as this one must have.

With a rather ambitious ingredient list and a whopping 15 steps it was a good thing I left work early on the day before Thanksgiving to get started on this. The first problem I encountered was that I did not own three round cake pans. In fact I had zero. Off to the store went my wonderful husband to bring back the necessary baking items.

Once the appropriate equipment was procured I started mixing the ingredients for the cake. The instructions regularly refer to a stand mixing bowl, and its various attachments. In our house we have only hands, arms, and muscles for mixing. Mostly it wasn't a problem, but I will admit that in making the buttercream frosting it did present a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, my wonderful husband is also a rower and has Popeye-the-Sailor-man-type biceps and forearms (sans anchor tattoo). Ultimately I did have to pick out some biggish chunks of butter from the frosting so that I could more evenly spread the buttercream. Our college child was home for the holiday and suggested using store bought caramel sauce and/or frosting. I explained that was not an option because "on Thanksgiving we go all in". Said child also made a comment along the lines of "what, no pie!" which the New York Times Cooking page actually indicated was a possibility. Fortunately, there is always more than one dessert at Thanksgiving, and a pie was offered by one of the other families with whom we spent the holiday.

In the end the entire family had some hand in preparing this delicious dessert, and it was a hit on Thanksgiving day.

See directions below. This is not a quick one!


Monday, November 19, 2018

Pasta with Mushrooms, Fried Eggs, and Herbs

New York Times Cooking doesn't generally fool around with clever names for its recipes. The name of the dish typically accounts for most of the main ingredients. And so it is for Pasta with Mushrooms, Fried Eggs, and Herbs (although it also has some cheese, not accounted for in the name).This was a bit more complicated than I expected. It required two skillets, as well as a pan to cook the pasta, so there were a lot of dishes to wash afterwards as well. I was amused by the recipe's admonishment "red wine not optional" as James and I so often enjoy a Malbec with our meal. This time though we paired the food with a red blend that had a bit of a kick, and frankly weren't thrilled with it. Perhaps if we had just stuck with our old favorite we would have enjoyed it more. The dish wasn't bad, but it is unlikely we will have it again. Too much work for the a dish we didn't really love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Braised Salmon

Last Christmas our wonderful child gave us this cookbook as a gift.

We've used it once before with good success and last weekend we pulled it out again in an effort to get back to the original purpose of this blog. We had already bought some salmon from our local fishmonger so we selected the recipe based on the type of fish we had.

We immediately noticed that the recipe called for salmon steaks, and we'd bought a fillet, but just decided to go for it anyway. The braising actually worked to our advantage as it served as a quick way to remove the skin. 

I was pleased that the recipe called for moving the fish to a platter once it was braised because it provided me with the opportunity to make good use of this special "fish dish" which we got at a yard sale when we bought our beach house. The fish was seasoned with salt and pepper while it "waited."

Once the fish was removed from the pan the aromatics (rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon peel) were cooked and simmered with a bit of butter, olive oil, soup stock and white wine (we used a dry Riesling).

Then the fish was placed back into the pan and covered to finish cooking.

 An eye-pleasing as well as palate-pleasing meal!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pumpkin Scones

Each fall I feel compelled try at least one thing from The Pumpkin Cookbook.This year's recipe was pumpkin scones. It is important to note that none of the recipes in this book are created with canned pumpkin, each recipe calls for an actual pumpkin. The ingredient list for this one says to use 1/3 of a small pumpkin, "about six ounces". I did not weigh the pumpkin I bought. Rather I guesstimated.

Once I took out the seeds and fibers, I cut the pumpkin into wedges, removed the skin, and grated the flesh. Next I blended together 2 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, 1 t. baking powder, and 1/4 c. of butter. I did actually use my electric blender because the recipe said to use a food processor (and such an apparatus I do not own). I won't be trying that again. What a mess, and so unevenly mixed. Next time I will simply use a pastry cutter.

3 T. sugar was added to the mix and then 1/2 c. chopped candied ginger, along with the grated pumpkin. I added 1/3 cup of evaporated milk, but the mix was too sticky, so I had to add some more flour until the dough was a better texture for rolling. I rolled out the dough and used a the edge of a glass in lieu of a cookie cutter to cut out rounds, and then brushed the top of each scone with milk. The scones baked for 10 minutes at 425.

Not much flavor from the "essence of pumpkin" but a seasonal ginger spiciness came through nicely.

Paper Sack Fish Fillets

It turns out that October is National Cookbook Month - who knew? James and I were glad to discover this in time to be able to take advantage of it, since we haven't been keeping up with this blog every week of late as was the original intention.

I pulled out a never-before-used cookbook - Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Hall Foose. I don't remember when or where we picked this up, but it is definitely one of the newer additions to our collection. This looks way more complicated than it is, and was fun to make, too.

The recipe calls for Catfish, but it was unavailable at our local fishmonger, so we bought some haddock fillets instead. In lieu of lunch sacks, I found two plain brown gift bags in my closet (reused from gifts I'd received - I try to reuse resources whenever possible) and then followed the instructions to spray the bags with cooking spray and then created the sauce with melted butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. I poured some of the sauce over each filet, along with some pepper. Then then carefully placed each fillet into it's own sack along with a slice of lemon and a sprig of dill. I pulled out the twine handle from each bag and used them to tie the end of the bags closed. The fish baked at 350 for 10 minutes.

 The bags puffed up in the hot oven making for a lovely effect when serving. 

As the recipe directed I sliced the bags open at the table "for maximum effect".  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


My last post told of my adventures in apple harvesting and a simple bread-machine recipe using some of my bounty. Over the weekend I used some more of the fruit to make applesauce. I found an easy recipe in my trusty old Deborah Madison Cooks at Home cookbook. After peeling and slicing the apples I put them in a big pot with a bit of water, lemon juice, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Madison suggested using sugar or honey, and cinnamon or cloves, but I knew more was better in this case. I let the ingredients cook on the stovetop until the apples broke down into a chunky sauce.

 We had some as a side dish for the tuna steaks with mushroom sauce James made for dinner, and also used it as a topping on our waffles the next morning.

The last bit of sauce was added as an ingredient to a big skillet cake that we shared for breakfast on Monday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Of Apples and Libraries

Many years ago (perhaps 14?) we planted two apple trees in our backyard. A few years ago we noticed one apple on one of the trees, and expected that there would be more, but, alas, we waited in vain. Then, a few weeks ago, James came in from the yard with a surprise. He had picked five apples off one of the trees. And a few days later we noticed that the tree was bursting forth with fruit.

We were undeterred by the fact that they were too high for us to reach because Pam knew that the Maxwell Library (where she works) had an apple picker that could be checked out! Off we went to the library and returned with said picker and with such Pam picked a basket full of apples! Of course we returned the picker the next day because that's how libraries work.

Of course it is no good to pick backyard apples without using them in a new recipe! 

We marvel that our 21-year old bread machine still works. And fortunately the tattered manual includes a recipe for Apple Walnut Loaf. Still more good news - we already had walnuts, as well as all the other ingredients we needed. This was a "Quick Bread" so it needed no yeast and only took 100 minutes in the machine once everything was in the pan. 

Fresh from the machine!

We both enjoyed a slice with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!