Monthly Archives: February 2014

Grandpa Joe’s Pancakes, Made Better

One of my many fond memories of Grandpa included making pancakes for Sunday night supper. This version is adapted from Stella Standard’s Our Daily Bread, and really has very little to do with Grandpa Joe’s recipe, except that these pancakes are worthy of supper. Add some fresh fruit if you want, but butter and syrup are all you really need.

1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. sugar (brown, if you have it)
3 tsp. baking powder
3 T. melted butter or light vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. milk (more or less… adjust to taste)
2 eggs, separated (this is the secret ingredient!)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (I use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, because it’s easy to pour the batter from it, but that’s just me). Add the egg YOLKS, melted butter and milk. Mix with a fork to combine all ingredients – it’s okay if there are lumps, especially if you used brown sugar. If the batter seems a little thick, add more milk, a splash at a time, mixing until the batter is nice and thick, but pourable. If you have unexpected guests, you can make the batter a little thinner, to stretch it into more pancakes.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk until your wrist gives out or soft peaks form, whichever comes first. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter. Lightly butter a griddle and heat it until a drop of water dances across it. Keep the griddle at medium heat. Spoon or pour batter to form 6″ diameter cakes. Cook until bubbles form and pop – lift the edge with a spatula to confirm browning – and flip the cake with a metal spatula. Cook the second side until it has browned evenly. Remove to a warm platter, and repeat until all the batter is gone.

Truth be told, I could eat half a dozen of Grandpa’s pancakes, but these are very filling, and i can barely finish two of them, especially if there is “side meat” (we do turkey sausages or turkey bacon) or fresh fruit as an accompaniment.

Quick Quesadillas

In a previous life, I made appetizers in the atrium dining room of an El Torito restaurant in Denver. It’s been closed for years, but I haven’t forgotten how to make a single dish. This one is pretty easy, really. The secret is to have all the ingredients prepped in advance, including the garnish. Assemble everything as quickly as possible after the quesadilla comes off the griddle, so it’s still hot when you serve it.
The quesadilla:
flour tortilla
shredded cheese – half cheddar, half jack (pepper jack is my personal favorite)
chopped green onion
chopped green chiles
Warm a tortilla on a griddle. Flip it. Cover half of the tortilla with shredded cheese, then sprinkle some green onion and green chiles on the cheese. Watch carefully. As the edges of the cheese begin to melt, use a spatula to flip the “naked” side of the tortilla over the filling, then press down so it sticks to the cheese a bit. Flip the quesadilla. Press down again gently with the spatula. Cook until the underside starts to brown, or the cheese is completely melted. Move to a cutting board, and cut into wedges. Slide it all onto a plate, keeping the original half moon shape intact as much as possible.
Garnish (this is what makes it all so special):
Make some quick guacamole: half an avocado mashed with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper, and a tablespoon or so of your favorite salsa. If you’re a pig for guacamole like I am, go ahead and use the whole avocado and make a second quesadilla!
Chop a Roma tomato and a few more green onions, and slice some black olives.
Make a little bed of (shredded) lettuce next to the quesadilla. Pile some guacamole onto one side, and an equal amount of sour cream next to it. Sprinkle the tomato, onion, and black olive combo over everything.
Serve immediately with a nice margarita or a bottle of good Mexican beer. Enjoy on the patio for lunch, preferably with a gurgling fountain nearby. 

No Bake Cookies

Family legend goes that my husband’s grandmother jumped up from the couch one Thanksgiving afternoon, after a huge dinner with the whole extended family, announcing, “I need a little something sweet.” She walked past the table loaded with pies and desserts, went to the cupboard, and opened a can of chocolate syrup. Apparently, she needed something more than sweet: she needed chocolate! Here’s an alternative.
2 c sugar
1/2 c milk
1/2 c (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/3 c cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 c oats
1/2 c chunky peanut butter
Mix sugar, milk, butter and cocoa together in a saucepan and heat until it comes to a boil, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to boil one minute. Add vanilla and stir well. With remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, pour hot mixture over oats and peanut butter and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper and allow to cool. Store in airtight container (refrigerate if you don’t have air conditioning!).
This recipe is adapted from one of those church fund-raising cookbooks. Some versions have you melt the peanut butter in the pan before you pour it over the oats. I hate to wash extra dishes, so I usually just add the peanut butter and oats to the pan. Whatever. If it’s too hot outside to bake, and you need “a little something sweet” to get you through the afternoon, these should do the trick.


Oregon Bach Festival Mushroom Cups

Seeing pictures from the Bach Festival’s dining hall reminded me of this delectable appetizer, willingly shared by the dining hall chef one afternoon.

Marinate a pound of sliced mushrooms in some balsamic vinegar for at least an hour.
Sweat some chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil. (Sweating is the technical term, I learned, for using low/medium heat to barely cook the onions until they are translucent.)
Add the mushrooms to the onion, and cook until the moisture has evaporated.
Toast some pine nuts.
Crumble some feta, and grate some Parmesan.
Melt some butter.
Thaw some puff pastry, and keep between damp towels as you work.

To assemble: Brush melted butter onto a sheet of pastry, top with another sheet, butter, top with a third sheet and butter. Cut the pastry into 3-4 inch squares. Spoon a little mushroom mixture onto each square, top with a few pine nuts and a little feta. Add just a touch of Parmesan to each mound. Gather the four corners of each square into a loose “packet” to lift it into a lightly oiled mini-muffin cup. (If you don’t have these, pinch the pastry together just above the filling, and give it a slight twist, placing the packets on a cookie sheet.) Bake at 350 until the pastry is golden and the cheese is bubbly.

If the whole idea of puff pastry seems like too much work, try this:

After sweating the onions/garlic, add the mushrooms to the pan and toss to combine. Put the mushroom/onion mixture in a buttered casserole, top with the pine nuts and cheeses, and bake at 350 until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with some good crackers or toasts as an appetizer spread. Or spoon some on a plate as a side dish to a meal. Or eat the stuff straight from the pan with a spoon. (Do not share.)

Experiment with different cheeses and nuts. Play with your food!

Wild Rice Salad

This goes great with salmon – grilled or poached (we cook ours in the microwave in just a bit of olive oil, with some lemon slices and freshly ground pepper).

2 c. wild rice (or part wild, part brown rice)
broth (4 c. or so, to cover – add more water if needed)
1 c. chopped dried apricots
3/4 c. dried cranberries (or dried cherries!)
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 c. chopped fresh chives
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley

Cook the rice in the broth, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Toss with all the other ingredients in a large bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together:1/4 c. (packed) brown sugar
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1 T. brown mustard
Then whisk in 1/2 c. olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until everything is completely coated.Grind some (salt and) pepper over everything, and toss again. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least one hour. Toss again just before serving. I have learned to mix this up in a stainless steel mixing bowl (because I am a messy cook who always tries to use a bowl that is too small) and transfer it to a pretty salad bowl just before serving.My mother-in-law approves this recipe.

Becky Wright’s Carrot Cake

2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
2 c sugar
4 eggs
1-1/2 c vegetable oil (this works just as well if you cut it down to 1 c.)
2 c grated carrots
1 8.25 oz can crushed pineapple
1 c chopped pecans (optional)

Mix together flour, baking powder, soda, salt,& sugar. Add eggs & oil. Mix in carrots, pineapple & pecans. Pour into two greased & floured cake pans. Bake at 350* for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream together:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Becky isn’t married to Bruce’s uncle anymore, but her carrot cake recipe has stayed in the family. It has become Bruce’s traditional birthday cake. Ian doesn’t like pecans, so we’ve discovered you can leave them out without sacrificing too much texture. And I’m serious about cutting the oil down to one cup – it’s just too rich and greasy otherwise! But the thing we like about this cake is that it isn’t overly sweet, despite the equal parts sugar and flour.
Cook’s note: this is really easy to mix up in the food processor. Chop the nuts first, then grate the carrots. Dump all that into a big bowl, and add the pineapple. Put the sugar, oil, and eggs into the food processor and mix well, then dump that into the bowl with the carrots, etc. Sift the other dry ingredients into the bowl and mix everything up with a wooden spoon. Unless, of course, you really enjoy grating carrots with a hand grater….

Chicken and Barley Salad with Garbanzos

This salad is packed with protein and travels well to picnics.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c. finely chopped onion and 1 large clove of garlic, minced, with 1/4 – 1/3 c. olive oil. Let stand while you make the salad.
Cook 1 c. barley, rinsed twice, in 2 c. water (add a bouillon cube for some flavor), then rinse and drain it in a colander.In a large bowl combine the cooked barley with:
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into bite-size chunks
1 can black olives, drained (if jumbo, halve them)
1 or 2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
Pick some fresh herbs, wash well and pat dry, then chop and add to the salad, mixing well.
I used about two sprigs each of parsley, sage, oregano, mint, and basil, with some freshly ground pepper.Pour the olive oil mixture over the salad and toss well, coating everything. Add 1/2/c vinegar to the small bowl to rinse it out, pour this over the salad and toss again. Chill at least an hour before serving. As Bruce’s grandfather used to say, “Then eat the hell out of it.”The herbs you use are obviously up to you, but fresh really is better than not. I can’t remember which of my sons started calling garbanzos “gonzo” beans, but that’s what we call them now at our house. If you add gonzo beans to your favorite Tabouleh recipe, you’ll find it quite satisfying, and full of protein that’s easy to digest.

Bruce’s Quick Salmon Soup

1 can salmon, skin and bones (mostly) removed
1 onion, chopped
1 can green beans
1 chicken bouillon cube
3-4 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
water (enough to cover all ingredients in the pot)

Use more potatoes if you like a thicker soup (or have more bowls to fill, in which case you’ll also want to add some water and another bouillon cube). Use fresh parsley if you have it, or parsley flakes if you don’t. Put everything in a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 – 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Serve with good homemade bread and butter, and some sliced cheese. Have Aunt Ellen’s Sour Cream Apple Pie for dessert (See the first of these “If You Can Read,…” notes back on 6/27).

Taylor’s Tamale Pie – with or without “meat”

It’s 57 degrees here in the Twin Cities this morning, which means using the oven is not such a bad idea today. This hot dish (casserole for you non-Minnesotans) always disappears at pot luck dinners, even if it is a little spicy for Swedish taste buds. Thirty+ years ago, I was the appetizer cook in a fancy Mexican restaurant in Denver, working out of the Exhibition Kitchen in the main dining room. My favorite quick lunch was a simple tamale, but the only kind on the menu at El Torito was a beef version. I don’t eat beef anymore, so the following variations use turkey, chicken or beans. And a 9×13 pan is a lot easier to fill than all those little corn husks…

Tamale Pie (with ground meat)

1 pkg. Jiffy cornbread mix (just as good as homemade, with no measuring spoons to wash)
    + egg and milk, per package directions
1 c. frozen corn (or canned corn, well drained)
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb turkey sausage
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste + 1/2 can water (or picante V-8 juice, if you have it)
2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and chopped (or 1 can chopped chiles)
2 tsp. ground cumin (I’m guessing – I don’t actually measure)
2 tsp. chili powder (see above)
olive oil
1 c. shredded cheese – half cheddar, half Monterrey Jack

Put the corn out to thaw. In a large, heavy skillet, warm enough olive oil to coat the pan, and sweat the onions and the garlic over medium heat. Add the loose meat and fry it, stirring constantly to avoid chunks, and to incorporate the onion/garlic throughout the meat. Turkey has a lot of water in it, so cook this down until most of the liquid is gone. Add the cumin and chili powder (and the Anaheims, if you are using fresh peppers), stirring well to combine flavors. Add the tomato paste and just enough water or V-8 juice to make a thick sauce – about like you’d use for Sloppy Joes if they were a little runny. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally while you assemble the cornbread.Mix up the Jiffy cornbread, adding milk and egg according to package directions. Add the canned chiles (if you didn’t use fresh Anaheims) and half of the shredded cheese, along with the corn to the cornbread mixture.Pour the meat mixture into a buttered (or cooking sprayed) 9×13 pan, and top this with the cornbread mixture. Sprinkle the other half of the shredded cheese over the top, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes (it depends on your oven, and how wet the sauce is), until the cornbread is golden brown.If you want to add the El Torito touch, sprinkle a combination of chopped tomato, green onion and black olive over the top of the casserole to garnish just before serving.

Chicken variation: Cook 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned with oregano, basil, thyme, and ground pepper, and one chicken bouillon cube, in the microwave (or on the stove, in about an inch of water). As the chicken cooks, remove it from the microwave and cut off the already-cooked portions occasionally, so they don’t get tough. Cut up the cooked chicken – to be authentic, you should shred it with two forks, but you can cube or chunk it for this recipe.Sweat the onions and garlic as above, add the cooked chicken (and all its microwave liquid, or 1/2 – 3/4 c. of the stovetop liquid) to the pan, and continue the recipe…

Meatless variation: Instead of ground turkey and sausage, use one can garbanzo beans and one can kidney beans, with a vegetable bouillon cube and some thyme. Throw in some chopped celery. You may want to add a can of diced tomatoes, adjusting the liquid with the tomato paste accordingly. Continue with the recipe…

Vera’s Apricot Chutney

This stuff is so good, you can eat it with a spoon. But don’t. Put it on grilled meat or chicken. Or wrap it up in a warm tortilla that’s been smeared with some cream cheese, and add turkey breast or ham slices. Eat the wrap over the sink, I am not kidding.
3 large sweet red bell peppers, diced
12 oz. dried apricots, diced
1 c. raisins
1 c. sugar
1 large onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. red wine vinegar (or use some cider vinegar)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp salt (I go lighter here – maybe a scant tsp.)
1/4 tsp ground ginger (experiment with grating some fresh ginger root – maybe a tsp?)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground mustard seed
Combine ingredients in a large heavy saucepan. I use a dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate for up to a month, if you can manage to make it last that long. I’m thinking about processing this in half-pint jars to give away at Christmas…