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...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An easy (and tasty) dessert

Last spring James made a simple rhubarb compote with rhubarb, sugar, and water. We ate about half of what he made on top of some vanilla ice cream, and froze the rest. I noticed it again recently and then happened upon this recipe from the Christian Science Monitor for a fancier compote, so I took last year's creation from the freezer, dumped it into a saucepan and heated it, then added 1/4 t of cardamom, and some grated fresh ginger. We also had about 2 T. of agave nectar left in a squeeze bottle, so I added that as well, and then a dollop of honey to boot. I cooked it all until the original was completely melted, occasionally stirring. To serve, we mixed the new, improved compote in with some vanilla yogurt. The additional flavors mellowed the tartness of the rhubarb, making an especially delectable seasonal treat.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Balsamic Glazed Caprese Chicken

I love Caprese Salad. The taste combination of fresh basil (my favorite herb) with tomatoes and mozzarella is my favorite thing about summer. Although we are a bit out of season for this one, the recipe looked so tempting I didn't want to wait to try it, so we bought the necessary ingredients from the grocery store and were not disappointed in the outcome. The chicken was juicy, and the glaze made from garlic, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar provided a sweet and sour taste. The recipe came from Café Delites and can be found here. We served this with roasted, seasoned potatoes and paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Egg & Bean Soup - A not-as-good variation

This recipe comes from our Extending the Table cookbook. It seemed like a good choice as it comes from one of our favorite countries (Nicaragua) and it looked like a simpler version of the Company Egg Dish we made two months ago. Unfortunately it was not up to snuff. Although I put in more/different spices than called for, including our fail-safe (cumin), this turned out rather watery and bland. James didn't even finish his.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sweet Corn Cake Eggs Benedict with Avocado Hollandaise

Huffington Post says there are Only 40 Egg Recipes You Will Ever Need. This complex dish is one of them. There are several pieces that need to come together, but the end result is indeed sublime. The avocado hollandaise was the easiest part and involved simply putting avocado, lemon juice, water, and oil into the blender and mixing until smooth. I put it on high to create a super creamy sauce.

I cooked the bacon while I mixed the ingredients for the corn cakes. There was a bit of time involved as I had to dice onions, peppers, and garlic. I took the advice provided in the online recipe to cook the cakes in the oil from the bacon. I poached the eggs just as the cakes were finishing. The corn cakes were topped with the bacon and egg, and then the sauce was added. As a final touch dried Chipotle pepper was sprinked on the top. This created an eye-pleasing presentation, especially when complemented with a Caprese salad on the side. The meal was an explosion of tastes and textures and was well worth the time spent to prepare it. It paired well with Chardonnay from Westport Rivers Winery.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cedar Scallops

Libraries are important. VERY important. See my Just Read post for some thoughts on libraries and civil rights, courtesy of the remarkable John Lewis. See Pam's "Library" Books Blog for her reviews of scores of books that celebrate or at least mention libraries directly. Pam is a consummate librarian, having served in a bilingual environment as a reference librarian in the McAllen (Texas) Public Library and as an academic librarian at the Maxwell Library at Bridgewater State University. Currently, she is a candidate for election to a third term as a volunteer trustee of the Bridgewater Public Library as well.

So when Pam has a library-related achievement, we need to celebrate. And recently we got news of just such an achievement. Starting in 1997 as a part-time, adjunct librarian, she has been promoted through the ranks of Assistant Librarian, Associate Librarian, and Librarian. The recent news is that she will next be promoted to the highest ranks of librarianship in our system: SENIOR LIBRARIAN. This is based on years of active service in committees, public service, outreach, and scholarship regarding information literacy.

This was a big deal, which called not only for a nice, bubbly wine from Westport Rivers, but also for a special preparation of one of our favorite foods: New Bedford scallops from Kyler's Catch. Wanting to take some time with this, I turned to the Big Green Egg Cookbook, where I found a nice recipe that called for wrapping scallops in cedar papers.

Unfortunately, we could not find such papers -- neither at Kylers nor at our trusty Big Green Egg local supplier in Fairhaven, But Kylers did have cedar planks -- which careful readers will remember I used with salmon last year -- so we decided to improvise.

Timing was tricky -- grilling outside while putting together a sauce inside. I soaked the cedar plank a couple hours ahead of time. This is essential unless the cedar is to serve simply as a way of burning the scallops.

Then I started the coals, and after that the sauce. It involved sauteeing shallots, fresh thyme, organge zest and a bay leaf in some butter, then simmering with white wine, and finally adding cream and then reducing. It looks like a fascinating soup is under way, but none of this ended up on our plates. Rather this was sieved and then poured over the scallops (see below).
Meanwhile -- literally running back and forth to the grill -- I planked the scallops. This meant removing the cedar plank from its pan of water, and putting it on the grill for a couple minutes on one side before flipping it and brushing it lightly with oil. I then arranged the scallops on it and grilled for about five minutes on each side -- Big Green Egg lid closed of course -- being very careful with the turning of the scallops.
The result was worthy of such an occasion -- smoky scallops with a savory, complex sauce over fettucine with a nice local bubbly. 

And the best part about Pam's promotion: it is recognition for what she has already achieved: no new obligations attached. Now that was worth celebrating!

Moroccan Braised Chicken Thights

A few nights ago, I realized I would have a bit of time to make a nice mid-week dinner; it seems that this year so far our weeknights have not allowed for a lot of leisurely cooking. Pam found a package of frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, so I asked her to start thawing then, while I committed to finding a new recipe that would make good use of them.

Image -- of a somewhat different dish:
Cooking School of Aspen
I went first to Meredith Laurence's Comfortable in the Kitchen, which regular readers will recognize as a gift from my mother that has proven quite a popular source for this blog. I quickly found a recipe featuring our main ingredient -- Moroccan Braised Chicken Thighs.

Preparation of this dish begins by heating some olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other large pan) over medium high-heat. As I heated the oil, I seasoned the chicken thighs with salt (very little) and pepper (a bit more). I then browned the chicken on all sides, and transferred it to a warm zone on the stove top, using our indispensible cooking tongs.

The recipe calls for pouring off excess fat, but there was none, so I added:

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diagonal slices

I cooked these a few minutes until tender and then added 2 cloves minced garlic and cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and ground coriander. The book has quantities, but I just applied each liberally. I then deglazed the pan with 6 ounces of beer (always a good thing in a recipe -- cook with half a beer and use the other half as a treat for the chef). I simmered the beer with aromatics and spices for 4-5 minutes and then returned the chicken to the pan.

I then added:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries (not called for in the recipe, but we are in Massachusetts so we always keep some in the kitchen -- NOT Craisins)
16 dried apricots, quartered
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock

I omitted the 1/2 cup of pitted green olives called for in the recipe, because it is known the world over that PAM HATES OLIVES.

I simmered, covered for a half hour (should have been 45-60 minutes, but we were getting hungry). I then topped this with some fresh parsley and served it with noodles (instead of the called-for rice).

The result was not very photogenic -- hence the photo boosted from a cooking school above -- but it was delicious!

Scallops with Lemon-Basil Sauce

This one showed up on my Facebook feed over the weekend. Since we were at our beach house and, therefore, near our fishmonger, and because basil is my favorite herb, we decided to try it immediately. The FB post had a video with it that made it look super simple, and the written instructions said the prep time was only 3 minutes (with a cook time of twelve) so it seemed like it would be an easy weekend dish. Overall, I would say it was, although the prep time was longer than indicated, and it made a way bigger mess than it did in the video. There were a lot of dishes to wash afterwards as well. It was quite delicious though, and will be worth making again. It also made for fabulous leftovers. Find the written recipe here. I followed the recipe as presented, except I used fettuccine instead of angel hair pasta.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Irish Soda Bread

It has been over a week since St. Patrick's Day and I am finally catching up on my blogging. We eschewed the not-really-traditional corned beef and cabbage and had some truly inauthentic shamrock-shaped pasta instead (purchased from Costco). As suggested on the package I made some vodka sauce to go on top.

However, so as not to forgo an opportunity to prepare a new recipe I decided to make some Irish Soda bread to go with it. I found a good recipe in my trusty Deborah Madison vegetarian cookbook. The recipe is above. I made two changes to the ingredients as listed. I used wheat germ in place of wheat bran, and I added raisins. The bread was just a bit sweet and made a nice complement to the pasta, and made us feel like we celebrated St. Patrick's Day as we should have.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Snow Day...Pi Day!

I recently learned about something called our "aspirational selves". These are our selves who put foreign films and documentaries on our Netflix list, but never feel like watching them; or buy nicer clothes than we would normally ever really hope to wear; or perhaps save that rather complicated recipe intending to make it when you have more time. Your aspirational self really wants to believe that you will watch those cerebral films, and that you will be the sort of person who gets invited to some shin dig where you can don your fancy duds, and just knows that someday you will make that souffle.

Stella (the snowstorm, not character in the famous Tennessee Williams play) hit New England on Pi Day, so we got a day off of work, and I took the time to assess my culinary aspirations. One of the things I notice is that James and I like the idea of fresh fruits and vegetables more than we actually like to eat them. Sometimes I pick recipes based on ingredients we have so that I can use what we bought but didn't eat, and sometimes I pick the recipe and then buy only the ingredients I need so that we don't end up with a lot of stuff we really don't intend to eat. Recently we fell victims to my sister's aspirations. When she arrived for a much anticipated visit we went to the store to buy food she would like -this included carrots and celery. I am no stranger to the carrots and celery aspiration. I have bought both on several occasions with the full intention of cutting them into smaller sticks and then snacking on them, rather than Doritos, when I wanted something crunchy. I have learned my lesson, many times over, that I really just want salty chips when I come home from work. However, these were for my sister and they were purchased and put in the refrigerator where they stayed for the duration of her visit. I ended up using some (but not all) of the celery in the Succotash Chowder and so when I found myself with a "bonus" day off I decided that I would try to make something out of all of the produce I had sitting around. 

First up was carrot/raisin salad: shredded carrots, mayonnaise, raisins, and lemon juice. Prepared on Tuesday and eaten on Wednesday for lunch. I did not use all of the carrots, however. I actually did cut some into sticks to feed my dog who, my sister discovered, would eat them! Who knew? Maybe she won't be so fat now!

I made a Waldorf Salad with the celery and apples that had been waiting too long to be eaten. I used essentially the same recipe from several years ago but with raisins instead of grapes. We had this as a side dish for Wednesday's pizza dinner.

Our Pi Day creation "Pear and Goat Cheese Tart" came from Teeny's Tour of Pie: A Cookbook. We already had some goat cheese and bought some pears the day before especially for the recipe. For good measure I included one of the apples as well. As one can tell from the name of this dish this is not so much a pie as a tart. However it is round, and pie-like (see photo above), so we give it a pass for Pi day. The sliced apples and pears (mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch) were placed on top of the crust and the crumbled cheese was added, then the edges of the crust were folded up around the fruit and chėvre and baked for about half an hour. Sweet and savory Teeny says this "is one of the easiest recipes in the book". We bought Teeny's book on Pi day a few years ago, but I think this may be only the second time we've used it. My aspirational self will try to use it again before next Pi Day. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Succotash Chowder

James and I each picked a recipe from the vegetarian classic The Moosewood Cookbook this week. See James' post here. 

Until recently my only experience with succotash was strictly audible as an overused expression (sufferin' succotash) from the Saturday morning "Bugs Bunny" cartoons of my youth. This past fall I tasted a Three Sisters  succotash (made with corn, beans, and squash) for the first time and so this recipe caught my eye as a good nueva receta to try this week. This one uses potatoes instead of squash, and was more of a soup than the other one I had. I liked them both though. This is rather simple and only took about half an hour to make. I made two changes to the recipe: I used frozen lima beans instead of dried (making it a lot quicker than it would have been otherwise); and I used a mix of milk and cream, which made the chowder nicely rich. It made for great leftovers as well.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Crunchy Yummy Spinach Rice

The first thing I need to point out is that the timing estimate at the top of this Moosewood Cookbook recipe is correct, and that it needs to be read carefully 40 minutes PLUS 40 minutes. Brown rice takes the better part of 40 minutes to cook, and the chef needs to spend most of that time preparing the dish. So this is a good weeknight dish if started early in the evening. I ended up rushing it just a bit.

That said, I will jump right to the punchline and say that this is a great meal. It scores very high on the delicious-nutritious-easy-cheap trade-off matrix, scoring high on all four measures. Some time is involved, and a lot of bowls are used, but this still qualifies as easy.

I decided to scan the full recipe, since it has a lot of details but conveniently fits on one page. My variations were two: one intentional and one otherwise. First, the otherwise: I somehow mis-read the rice proportions and only used one cup of dry rice with 2 cups of water. I should have used 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water. I also did the trick we usually use in our kitchen now -- sauteeing the rice in a bit of oil for about a minute before adding the water and bringing to a boil. Incidentally, I used 2, 10-ounce bags of spinach instead of 2 full pounds. This filled our dutch oven at one point, but of course reduced to a manageable amount before I needed to mix everything together.

Second, the intentional: rather than topping this with just sunflower seeds and paprika, I mixed those with about a cup each of shredded cheddar and panko crumbs. This made the best casserole topping I have ever encountered.

The entire recipe -- click to enlarge.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Monger Simplicity

"What's char?" I asked, as I noticed something new in the Kyler's Catch fish counter. The young fishmonger's eyes lit up: "Delicious!" and "I'm not quite sure." She had been asking her manager about it, and could only recall that it is some sort of "cross" between a salmon and a trout. That did not sound quite right to her as she said it, but it seems to be not far from the truth. She could tell me that she had been enjoying a lot of it lately, and that customers to whom she had recommended it had come back happy.
Image: Fish Choice
As she handed me the wrapped fish, I asked how she prepares it. She said that the flavor is so good that she just uses a little salt and pepper. She said perhaps some minced garlic as well, but I decided to try the simplest option first. I even eschewed Old Bay, which I'm usually tempted to sprinkle on everything. I pan-fried the fillet in olive oil, skin-side down until mostly cooked through, and then turning it. The fish is quite delicate, and flaked apart somewhat as I did this.

Last night I looked up char on my phone, learning just enough to confirm that the monger's impression about the fish is generally correct. This morning I took a closer look online and found that Fish Choice describes char as "closely resembl[ing] salmon in appearance, but are closer genetically to lake trout." I also learned that its high fat content means that it is well-suited to broiling, baking, or smoking. I will be exploring these options in the near future.

I will also be exploring the Fish Choice web site, whose goals are similar to the Cod & Country cookbook we have cited on this blog several times. It is intended for the fish industry but is accessible to general readers, providing a good combination of ecological and culinary information.

For a simple, quick evening meal, this basic char was perfectly paired with some Aunt Annie's mac & cheese (made with cream instead of milk) and a nice bottle of, you guessed it, Malbec.

Finally, a word about fishmongers. We enjoy supporting local businesses whenever we can, especially those such as Kyler's that are mentoring young workers who take pride in learning their industry.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lots of Chocolate Flay-vor


My big sister recently came for a visit. I had seen this recipe for Stuffed Mexican Hot Chocolate French Toast with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Chocolate-Maple Ganache  show up on my Facebook feed just days before her arrival and determined that it would be the perfect sister activity for her stay. The recipe says it takes an hour to prepare, which may be true if only one person is working on it, but we had three very willing participants (my sister, my husband, and me) for this one. My sister prepared the ganache while I made the batter, and my husband whipped the cream and (natch) made the coffee - you will want plenty of black fair-trade, organic coffee to pair with this very rich breakfast. Anyway, we cut the prep time to about 25 minutes by having each of us working on a different part of the meal. We cooked some bacon to go with it so that we would also have a bit of protein with our victuals. This is a fun, dessert-for-breakfast, special-occasion, many-hands-make-light, work repast. 

While we were cooking my sister also informed me that my niece's beau loves Bobby Flay, to which James and I responded "who's that" and she answered that we were making one of his recipes. We do not watch the Food Network (or any other network for that matter).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Blue Jean Mac & Cheese

Once again, Pam has proven her prowess at finding recipes that can be made with ingredients on hand in our larder. It helps that we keep the kitchen well supplied with a variety of ingredients and very few prepared foods. It also helps that we have a lot of cook books. But mainly Pam is just very good at this.

Knowing that we had some bacon remaining from earlier dishes. Pam looked for a recipe that would make good use of it. She turned first to Comfortable in the Kitchen by Meredith Laurence, also known as the Blue Jean Chef (BJC). I think she might have a television show. The book had been a gift of my mother, and features slightly sophisticated comfort foods, such as the Comfortable Crusty Chicken and ginger salmon we blogged about last December.

On page 80, Pam found Bacon, Tomato and Green Pea Mac 'n' Cheese. The recipe begins with heating the oven to 350F, and then bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. It calls for macaroni or "other short pasta" which in this case meant penne. A couple minutes before the pasta was done, I added 1-1/2 cups of frozen peas. I had never thought of doing so at this early stage, but will certainly do so in future casseroles. When strained, the pasta and peas just rested in the colander while I continued to work with the indispensable cast-iron skillet.

The recipe calls for 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved. At Pam's suggestion, I used a can of diced tomatoes, placing them in a sieve early in the process so that they would be well drained.

There I had been cooking bacon. The BJC called for six slices, chopped into one-inch pieces. I had missed that detail until just now, and failed to chop up the bacon. Fortunately I had gotten it crispy enough that it easily broke into pieces in the mixing bowl. I removed the bacon and then cooked a small, finely-chopped onion until it was translucent and added six tablespoons of flour and one tablespoon of mustard powder (the BJC had suggested only two teaspoons). I then gradually whisked in four cups of milk (not too cold) until a roux was formed, brought it to a gentle simmer and cooked it until thickened.
Photo: Comfortable in the Kitchen
I removed the skillet from heat and then stirred in the grated cheeses. I used a total of about three cups of sharp Vermont cheddar and parmesan, but the BJC calls for 3 cups Gruyere or Swiss, 2 cups cheddar, and one cup parmesan.

Once the cheeses were incorporated into the sauce, everything went into a big mixing bowl for thorough stirring. I then combined panko crumbs (in lieu of the homemade bread crumbs BJC suggests) with thyme and parsley (again substituting dry herbs for the fresh ones called for) as a topping. I put the penne mix in a 9x13 casserole and topped it with the crumb mix. I baked this for about a half hour.

The result: excellent comfort food and plenty of it. It will be a significant part of this afternoon's Saturday linner. The only drawback to this recipe is that it turned what is often a one-dish recipe into an every-dish-we-own recipe. This made me grateful for our dishwasher!

Dos Nuevas Recetas that we invented ourselves

It has been over six years since we started this blog. We usually find our recipes within our collection of cookbooks, although lately we have be finding more on the interwebs. Last week, however, we collaborated on a meal in which each of us created a new recipe, with one shared ingredient. Pam made a pasta-berry salad; James' innovation came in the way of a new steak rub.

I had found a thick, grass-fed sirloin that I wanted to use as a main course. I set it on a plate, and pierced it several times on each side with a fork. Regular readers will know that I frequently prepare a rub based on something I learned from our friends at Equal Exchange -- a mix of black pepper and ground coffee (fairly traded and organic, of course). In this case, I used home-roasted, hand-ground coffee from East Timor by way of our other friends at Deans Beans. Something I learned the first time I used this combination is that the amount of pepper and the amount of time resting with the rub should both be limited, so that the pepper does not begin to pre-cook the meat. In other words, it is possible to over-do this. But using about 1:4::pepper:coffee and resting for 20 minutes or so seems to work well.

Just before grilling -- on the Big Green Egg -- I added a couple of ingredients to the steaks. First, I sprinkled each side lightly with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Then I pressed fresh blackberries into each side, using a fork to get them stuck a bit better. This was a bit messy. I then grilled at about 450. One problem with the coffee rub is that it masks the steak, so there are no visual clues to doneness. I should have used the Thermapen, but instead ended up putting it back on the grill once I had divided it. No harm done.

We had decided to use bow-tie pasta in some sort of side dish with the steak, and Pam remembered that we had previously made some mighty fine fruit-and-pasta dishes (see Pasta with Grapes and Strawberry Pasta). We had just made a trek to Trader Joe's and bought blueberries and blackberries, so we decided try inventing a new recipe. The cooked pasta (about 2 cups) was mixed with a handful of each of the berries, along with a sliced banana. Pam made a dressing by mixing about 6 of each berry, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of blueberry balsamic vinegar (from L.O.V.E. Oil and Vinegar Emporium), and 2 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves in a blender. The dressing was tossed with the berries and pasta. An eye-pleasing, as well as palate-pleasing dish, and it turned out to be a perfect complement to the steak rub...
Love will keep us together.
But blackberries tied this meal together.
Final verdict: this meal was just a bit different, delicious, and fun to make. And of course it paired well with Malbec.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Company Egg Dish

Last week we wound up with 2 1/2 dozen eggs in our house. Luckily I remembered that I had saved a link some time ago claiming to have The Only 40 Egg Recipes You Will Ever Need. There I found this recipe for Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Pepper Jack Cheese. In addition to a recent house guest who will be with us through the spring, we had invited a friend to join us for dinner as well. Since this called for a dozen eggs it seemed like it would make plenty of food, and use up some of our plethora of cackleberries. The recipe itself was simple enough to follow, although it did take longer to prepare than I anticipated, so I am glad I started the prep work early. It is cooked and baked all in the same cast-iron pan, so fortunately clean up is pretty easy. This was a big hit with everyone, and made for dandy leftovers as well.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Yummy Valentine Fudge

For Valentine's Day, Pam found a recipe by searching in one of our several romantic cookbooks for recipes that would use ingredients we already had on hand. As the book sat open on the counter for a day or two, we each realized that it was a recipe we had enjoyed before -- Grape Snausages. It ended up being a little different this time,in a good way: I had purchased hot Italian chicken sausage without any particular plan, and it made for a nice hot-sweet main course.

For dessert, Pam (the brains of this operation, as careful readers will have noticed by now) suggested a recipe source that has served mainly as a decoration since we received it some while ago. Java Jolt is a cute little box of cards, each with a recipe or two involving coffee.

I looked through the entire box, and found just one that looked feasible for a holiday that was to fall on the busiest day of my week.
The card entitled Avalon Gold Rush begins with a story about real, old-school fudge like we still find here in New England. It then offers quite a simple recipe for a short-cut fudge.
I varied this only slightly. First, I knew that in my hands, the foil-lining method would just be a way to get shreds of foil into the fudge. So I used a silicon pie-pan liner that my mother had recently given us (and that Pam had remembered). Although we actually had Amaretto on hand, I decided to use cherry Schnapps (this was Valentine's Day, after all). We of course do not have instant coffee on hand, so I added about a half cup of coffee left over from the morning. (We usually do not have leftover coffee, but I had reserved some on purpose.)

The result was yummy, soft fudge that is so rich that we have enjoyed the tiniest of servings over the course of the rest of the week. My Valentine pronounced it extremely delicious.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quesadilla Pie

James and I do love Mexican food, so when I noticed this recipe for Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Pie on my Facebook feed, and realized that we also had a few chicken breasts just waiting to become part of a nueva receta we starting making our plans.

This simple dish uses one large tortilla shell as the pie crust. It is placed in the bottom of a spring form pan and then toppings and batter are added. Once everything is in the pan it is baked for about 20 minutes. We forgot to get the green chiles the recipe called for when we went shopping, so I substituted a dollop of hot pepper jelly in the toppings, which turned out to be a good idea. This was simple and delicious.We will definitely be having this one again.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Orange-Cinnamon Pancakes

Image:from a Shortbread Recipe on Saturday Evening Post.
Two things readers of this blog might know about me: I am passionate about pancakes, and even more passionate about Nicaragua. And for the past few years my annual visit to coffee lands has included CEN, a cloud-forest research station that is fascinating for its ecology projects, its beauty, and its breakfast! When we are lucky, the research in charge, thespian, physicist, ethnopharmacologist, and all-around genius Dr. Alan Bolt makes us pancakes.

I cannot possibly replicate his pancakes at home. First of all, I am not Alan. Second, I have no cinnamon trees nearby. But this morning I had success with a CEN-inspired adaptation of my usual pancake recipe. In place of a small amount of nutmeg, I used a lot of ground cinnamon -- probably two tablespoons. Instead of a mix of milk and yogurt totalling 1-1/2 cups, I used 1 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of orange juice. I increase the leaving agents (baking powder and baking soda) just a tad. I completely forgot sugar, and I used olive oil instead of melted butter.

The results: light, delicious pancakes. CEN's reputation for pancake mastery is still intact, but this was a fine way to start our snow day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe comes from the W.I.N.O.S (Women in Need of Sanity) Cook with Wine cookbook. It didn't take long to make, and was quite tasty. Next time I make this, however, I will be sure to prep all the ingredients before beginning to cook. I did some chopping, cutting, and grating in advance, but once the cooking starts on this things move so fast it is best to have everything ready. I did realize that the shrimp (which goes into the sauce at the end) and the angel hair pasta have similar short cook times (about 3 minutes) so I did put the shrimp in at the same time I started cooking the pasta. I think this would also be very good as a vegetarian sauce if one wanted to leave the shrimp out.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

Well, we're finally back in the game for 2017. We had a rough start to the new year and mostly were trying to keep our heads above water in January, so scouring recipe books/sites fell to the back burner (so to speak). This weekend we finally had some breathing room and took the time to get back to cooking and blogging. The recipe for Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins showed up on my Facebook feed on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, James had recently bought some blueberries and they were just waiting to be used. I've made blueberry muffins many times before, so I checked the recipe to see what was special about these. The magic comes from crushing some of the berries and adding the juice to the batter, which gives them a moister texture. They really are good. Also, importantly, I discovered the New York Times Cooking app for my iPad. It is superior to using my browser and going to the New York Times cooking page online because it does not constantly close while I am cooking.