Saturday, December 28, 2013

Apple Rum Cake








Since I work in the produce department of a grocery store, people often ask what we do with "old" items. It's simple. We donate them to a soup kitchen. Most grocery stores do--from dairy to bakery to market. Volunteers usually arrive in the late morning after we have "culled" the shelves to discard dated/bruised items. Even so, there is still much "throw away." There have been times when taking out the trash that I've stumbled upon "dumpster divers" carrying away food. It breaks your heart.

Lately, I've been "rescuing" apples. The bruised. The dented. The split. The misfits. How could anyone throw away anything named Honey Crisp or Pink Lady? Don't even get me started on dated, fresh-cut flowers . . . . 

But, back to food . . .

This is a beautiful cake with a delicate, moist crumb. Use a crisp apple, such as Honey Crisp. Or Jazz. The rum is nuanced, not pronounced, and it complements the white-wine savor of pure apple flesh.

And, please, use the required 8-inch spring-form pan. You want your cake high, not flat.

Next time, I will chop some of my apples into chunks larger than the one-half inch dice I used here and maybe increase the amount to almost two cups instead of the 1 2/3 cups (8 oz.). I used McCormick's Apple Pie Spice. If you don't have it, just use cinnamon or mostly cinnamon with a bit of allspice/nutmeg thrown in.

The addition of cream cheese makes this cake stand apart from other apple cakes. And White Lily Flour, the flour of the South as opposed to the North here in the United States. Cake flour works as well. Both will give a noticed tenderness to crumb texture. If using either, pay close attention to substituting all-purpose flour with it. The recipe below is for all-purpose flour.

As difficult as it may a seem, a cake such as this is best left uncut for a day to allow the flavors and the moisture from the apples to absorb into the cake. I like the top "crunchy," so I leave it uncovered but wrap a piece of foil around the circumference.


About 30-60 minutes before assembling the cake:
  • Peel, core, and dice two-three large crisp, tart apples into a 1/2 - 3/4-inch dice. You want at least 8 ounces or 1 2/3 cup. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons rum and 1 teaspoon flour. Set aside. Stir every-once-in-a-while to macerate flavors.


Meanwhile .....
  • Mix two teaspoons apple pie spice with four tablespoons white sugar. Set aside.

  • Butter/spray an 8-inch spring-form pan. Heat oven to 350 F.


Batter 

Whisk the following and set aside:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, beat together the following:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup light brown sugar (depending on sweetness of apples)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time.

Take two tablespoons of the cinnamon/sugar mixture and mix into the flour mixture. Reserve the rest.

Blend the flour mixture into the butter/egg mixture to create a smooth batter. Mix in apples.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. 

Baking time will depend on moisture in apples. Bake until cake pulls aways from sides a bit anywhere from 55-75 minutes.


*If using cake flour or White Lily Flour, adjust amount of flour according to package directions.



























Sunday, December 22, 2013

Year-Round Cherry Pie


One of the easiest pies I ever made!

A proper cherry pie is always made with sour cherries, not sweet. But sour cherries have a short season, indeed. Hello, canned sour cherries!

I was a bit skeptical that something so easy would end up so good. But it did! This is a recipe my mother gave to my sister who proclaimed it great. My mom died in January, and I've been going through her recipes, so I decided to give it a try since I can now readily find sour cherries where I live.



I did a number of searches for this recipe. Some use corn starch. Some cook the cherries on top of the stove before adding to the pie shell. I stuck with the original recipe and may give the others a try. But, for now, I'm quite satisfied with the results of this. The only things I would different is to add a bit more cinnamon, a bit less sugar. I also added a few drops of red food coloring and a bit of vanilla. Go easy on almond extract--a little goes a long way.

I used canned, Oregon Sour Cherries packed in water, and I used pre-made refrigerated pie crusts. My pie plate was a bit smaller than nine inches, but it made for a higher pie.

If you need a quick dessert for a dinner or gathering, this is it. And don't forget the vanilla ice cream.




  • 2 cans tart cherries, drained well (about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups) 
  • 3/4 - 1 cup sugar, depending on tartness of cherries
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • Cinnamon--a few shakes (optional)
  • 2-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • Bottom and top crusts to line a 9-inch pie plate


Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon (if using) until well combined, breaking up any lumps. Add cherries and flavorings. If using, add food coloring and gently mix to combine. Add cherry misture to lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Add top crust. Flute and vent.




Place foil around edges of pie to prevent burning. Bake 50 - 55 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.





NOTES: I used White Lily All-Purpose Flour which is akin to cake flour. It mixes nicer than regular flour. Don't throw away the juice from the cans ... It's good to drink or to add to cola or ginger ale. Or vodka!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

How a Food-Blog Recipe Works. Sausages with Sauerkraut, etc.




I have now forgotten how many times I have made this particular dish in the last month or two. I call it a "dish" because it is not yet a "recipe." I think this is #4. If you are a food blogger, this is just what we do .... A recipe is like math: add/subtract/multiply/divide. Erase. Start over.

I love this particular version because I added mushrooms, onions, and thyme. I also added some bacon, but it's flavor was lost. Still, why didn't I add chunks of ham?

In all my trials, there is one thing I have learned. The sauerkraut is not that important. In fact, it is what is most left behind after it is cooked and eaten. It is an ingredient that is constantly masked by other ingredients to lessen its flavor. Brown sugar. Caraway. Apples. Wash. Drain. Maybe it's something that should be prepared as a "side" and not as a main ingredient to a dish like this.

As a child, I have fond memories of sauerkraut. For my maternal grandmother and her German husband, it was ubiquitous. Pork Chops. Ribs. Sausages.

I will get it right, yet.

And thanks to the THOUSANDS of YOU who continue to visit Kitchen Bounty even tho I have not had the time to regularly post new recipes. You humble me. Really. And by YOU, I mean those from all over the world. Just incredible.

It's cold here, even in the South! Here's a few pics from my cat, Chalk, enjoying warmth where he can find it!

New linens and sheets. Chalk is always the first to enjoy their freshness.

Once night settles in, Chalk curls next to the portable heater.
I'm kind of jealous!









Monday, October 7, 2013

Easy, No-Mess Pot Roast


Fall-apart, savory goodness!


It's easy to get snared by "food trends." Unfortunately, trends usually involve ingredients and even apparatuses that are not commonly affordable or even available to the average person.

And then there is this recipe which uses the simplest of ingredients, and only a few, to produce a pot roast nothing less than amazing. Really. And, best of all, clean up is a snap because tin foil replaces a pan--a trend I can live with!

Through the years, I've done variations of this basic, beat-the-trend recipe. I used to just stick it in the crock pot. And then one year I did it on top of the stove (technique follows) which I also love. The crock pot is probably my least favorite way. Slow cooking in the oven just gives it a kind of nuanced, "roasty" flavor.

The gravy is wonderful, so be sure to serve with a generous side of mashed potatoes. I've also done it with noodles.

Seek a chuck roast that is well marbled without containing a lot of gristle and chunks of fat. Chuck roasts used to be cheap but, like most meat, that's no longer true. Don't settle for a crappy cut. Avoid the generic soup mixes, too.


  • 1, 2.5-3.5 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 envelope Lipton's Dry Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
  • Heavy-duty tin foil


Line a cookie sheet with foil. Criss-cross two large sheets of tin foil on top of that. Each sheet should be twice the width and length of the sheet. Place chuck roast in center of cross. Sprinkle with dried, onion soup mixture. Top with mushroom soup and scatter the sliced garlic on top of that.

Some people mix the soup and dried onion soup together. I scattered some on top for the visual thrill!


Begin folding up each side of the foil, forming a kind of "envelope" or box, crimping corners as you go. Finally, crimp the top so you have a tight seal.

Be sure to line the pan with foil....I didn't here so you could see the contrast.


Place in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven and roast for three hours. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or so before unwrapping.





Stove-Top Method

Place roast in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Follow same ingredient instructions as above, but add about 1/2 can beef broth. Cover. Bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook for about the same amount of time or until the meat begins to fall apart.

Carefully remove the meat to a platter leaving behind the gravy. Whisk in several tablespoons of sour cream to create a rich gravy. Serve with noodles.






Friday, September 20, 2013

Fried Egg Sandwich with Blue Cheese, Basil, and Bacon

Never mind that spear of rosemary I stuck into the sandwich ..... Man, this was good eating!



When all else fails of what to have for dinner (or lunch or breakfast), there is always the egg. That humble oval neatly nestled in its own styrofoam or corrugated nest. Versatile. Healthy. Just waiting to be cracked. And then adorned.

I had planned on a fried egg sandwich with ham and smoked gouda. But when I returned from the deli and nibbled on the sliced "ham off the bone," I discovered it was anything  but. Way too sweet. They mistakenly gave me the honey ham off the bone..... I hate sweetened hams.

Plan B.

I had some leftover smoked and slice pork jowl (bacon to you Yankees) and some blue cheese crumbles. And I have a porch-load of basil that re-seeded itself from last year. So that's what I did.

The trick to a fried-egg sandwich is not to overcook the eggs. Once over easy and that's it! You want that wonderful, runny yolk to act as a thick sauce to bind everything together.

I used a hearty, seven-grain bread for this sandwich. You don't any wimpy bread or it just all falls apart. 

It's a messy venture eating a sandwich such as this. Have plenty of napkins. Truly, I savored every bite. And licked my fingers. The smoky bacon played well with the earthy blue cheese. Do not omit the basil. It's what brings this sandwich home!

  • 2 slices hearty bread, lightly toasted
  • 3-4 strips smoked bacon, cooked until crisp
  • Fresh tomato sliced thin
  • Mayo
  • Blue cheese crumbles (Maytag Blue if you can get your hands on it!)
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 3-6 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2-3 eggs, light fried, salted and peppered

Toast the bread. Give a light smear of mayo. Layer it with your bacon, tomato, torn up basil leaves, lettuce and blue cheese crumbles. Then fry your eggs. Carefully place them on the bread . . . Top with second piece of toast. Lightly push down to release all that drizzly, wonderful, runny golden yolk.






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Okra with Tomatoes and Bacon (with or without Shrimp)

If you look closely, you will see the bits of bacon. They are not crisp and simply allowed
to render their fat.






Here in the South, okra is as much an essential kitchen ingredient as collards. Both are readily available in supermarkets and okra is almost always found in loose bulk at local farmers' markets during the summer months and early autumn.

Commonly, okra is simply "stewed" with tomatoes and onions on top of the stove and served over white or brown rice, usually accompanied by sausage or shrimp.

Here, I've added bacon, celery, green pepper, jalapeno and smoked paprika. A little bit of dried thyme goes a long way. Instead of using canned tomatoes, I used cherry tomatoes which impart a wonderful sweet taste that plays well with the spicier/smokier flavors. I then added tomato sauce.

While it is started on the range, it finishes in the oven at a low temperature. The baking times does great things to the okra. For one thing, it gives the stew time to marry all those great flavors. It also gets rid of any "slime" from the okra.

Some people enjoy their okra and tomatoes hot and spicy. While this recipe has a bit of heat, I prefer to let people add their own with a few shakes of Tabasco on top. Tabasco has that kind of nice vinegar base which goes well with this dish.

For this particular recipe, I used 1/2 cup diced, smoked hog jowl (readily available in the South). You may sub 2-3 slices of bacon, which will actually have more flavor (and it won't quite be as much as 1/2 cup).

I suggest grilling the shrimp for added flavor (no grills allowed where I live). Here I've simply sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, bacon grease, and Old Bay's. I finished it off with a bit of white wine and a squeeze of lemon. You can simply give it a quick boil, too, for convenience since the okra packs plenty of tastes to accompany a simply-done shrimp.



  • 1 lb. fresh okra
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked hog jowl or 2-3 slices diced smoked bacon
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and de-ribbed, and minced/diced
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-grated black pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/2- 1 teaspoon Old Bay's
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dry thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • Water
  • Olive oil



Look for fresh green okra pods such as these that have
no or few brown blemishes. If buying fresh packaged okra,
be sure to check for mold around the stems.


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Wash okra and drain. Cut off ends and slice into 1/2-rounds. Set aside. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and set aside (you'll have about 2.5-3 cups.)

Put a bit of olive oil in a large stainless-steel pan and add the pork jowl or bacon. When it just begins to sizzle a bit, add the onion, celery, and green pepper. You do not want the bacon to brown but to cook with the vegetables. Saute until soft and most of the bacon has rendered its fat. Now add the garlic and jalapeno and stir for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and stir. Stand back to admire the beautiful colors. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomato sauce. Mix the paste with 1/2 can of water from the empty sauce can and add to mixture. Stir in Okra. Stir in, Old Bay's, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Cover. Lower heat and allow to simmer for five minutes or so.

Uncover. Taste for seasonings and re-season if necessary.

If your pan is oven safe and has a cover, transfer to oven. Or transfer contents to a lidded casserole dish of appropriate size. I used an earthenware casserole dish with a glazed interior. Avoid cast iron unless it is enameled. Bake for one hour, removing lid for the last 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice. Pass the Tabasco sauce.


While it's anything but traditional, I sprinkled mine with a bit
of Parmesan cheese . . . (I'm such a Yankee!).


Monday, September 2, 2013

Buttermilk Peach Streusel Cake







Are you in a panic over peaches? In a few weeks they will be a summer memory as apples tumble in to take their place. The last few weeks I've been making all things peaches. I made a pie last week. And then jam. I did an interesting Amish buttermilk pie with the intent to add peaches, but I haven't gotten that far. Yet.

The trouble with peaches, if one could ever so sadly ascribe such a tawdry phrase as that to such a delicate fruit, is that peach recipes tend to be "stickly." Syrupy. Sugary. I wanted something with some teeth in it. So when I came across this buttermilk cake recipe by Lisa Boyle from her cookbook, The Cake Book, I knew it would great. What's not to like? A thick buttermilk batter, crunchy streusel on the inside AND the outside. And then those wonderful summertime peaches nestled in the middle.

If you make one thing to celebrate the end of summer, please make this. You won't be disappointed. It was a hit both at work and with my neighbors. And it's the kind of recipe  with which one can be creative. Next time I will tumble a few red raspberries on top of those peaches for a bit more flavor and color. 

For a great Christmas dessert, use frozen peach slices and dried, sweetened cranberries for a festive cake.

For the batter, I chose to swap out most of the white sugar for light brown sugar. I also added rum flavoring. In the future, I will just probably sprinkle a bit of rum over the peach slices. One could also certainly use a bit of bourbon.

Unlike the original recipe, I whipped the butter and then added the eggs, one by one, without adding any sugar. I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then added that to the wet mixture. When all was incorporated, I beat it for several minutes for a luxurious thick batter.


  • Streusel Topping and Filling

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar (I used 1/4 c. light and 1/4 c. dark)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 2/3 cups chopped pecans 
  • 7 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
  • Cake Batter
  • 2 cups (242g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup white granulated sugar and 3/4 cup packed, light brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, about 3/4 teaspoon rum extract, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract)
  • 3/4 cup whole-fat buttermilk
  • 2-3 peaches (one heaping cup) sliced a bit thicker than 1/4-inch.
  • GLAZE
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



Pre-heat oven to 350 F. degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. If desired, cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom.


Topping:

In a small bowl stir together the flour, sugar, spices, salt and pecans. Stir in butter and mix until moist and crumbly. I use my fingers. Set aside.

Batter:

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Set aside. (I also mixed in the sugars.)

In another medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. ( I beat the butter without the sugar and then added the eggs. At first, the eggs will seem to "curdle" and then suddenly they will "whip" beautifully into the egg mixture.)

Add the extracts to the buttermilk and stir. 

With mixture on low, begin adding flour to butter/egg mixture in three additions and the flavored buttermilk in two additions. (If adding the sugar now, continue to beat several minutes after all the dry ingredients have been added until batter is thick.)

Remove a little more than half the batter to spread on the bottom of your greased springform pan. Sprinkle half the streusel topping over the batter. Now concentrically place your sliced peaches around the pan and then in the center. Spoon remaining batter over peaches and then cover with remaining streusel mix. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before releasing from pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing.

Glaze:

Be sure to sift your cup of powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Add the cream and vanilla and mix until smooth. Drizzle over completey-cooled cake and allow to set.

Use a sharp, serrated knife to slice this cake. It's even better the next day, I think--moister.





This cake had a beautiful rise to it and took the full 60 minutes to bake.







Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Jams: Peach and Rosemary, Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger






Jams and jellies are easier to make than you think. And, in the dead of winter, they are incredibly wonderful to have on hand. They make wonderful Christmas gifts and, trust me, people will be grateful.

Canning really is not difficult. Be sure your kitchen is clean and have everything in order and ready to go. I always keep a sink of sudsy warm water with a cap or two of bleach added for wiping things up during the process.

I keep my jars in a warm water bath until ready to use. The same for the bands and lids. Have clean towels ready to place the filled jars on after they come out of the water bath. It pays to invest in a canning pot, funnel and tongs.

These are two of my favorite jams. So many store-bought jams are now made with corn syrup. It’s cheaper than sugar, but just not the same. Ironically, the sugar is healthier for you.


Peach and Rosemary Jam

My peach display at the grocery store.


One thing I miss about living in Michigan is the incredible fresh fruit and vegetables. People don't realize it, but southwest Michigan along the lakeshore produces some of the most sought-after peaches: Redhavens, which were developed by Michigan State University. Redhavens were the first red-skinned, commercial peach variety and it is now the most widely planted, freestone peach variety in the world!

Here at the grocery store, I often put out as many as seven boxes of yellow peaches in one day! And while I live in the South now, the California peaches we are getting are just incredible. 

When I first made this jam and gave it to friends, they all returned with "RECIPE, PLEASE!" 

The addition of lime (not lemon) and rosemary give a subtle balance to the peaches for a wonderfully nuanced jam. Try to use fresh rosemary as opposed to supermarket rosemary. The fresher it is, the less the needles will fall off during cooking. Also, fresh has more oil. Sometimes, I put the cut pieces of peaches in the fridge the night before with a sprig of rosemary that I have lightly crushed with a rolling pin before proceeding with the recipe.

Slathered over a fresh-buttered biscuit in the dead of winter? Oh, yea!

  • 4 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 (1.75-ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
  • 5 cups sugar

Bring first five ingredients to a full rolling boil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Add sugar to peach mixture and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Remove and discard rosemary sprigs. Skim off any foam.

Pour hot mixture immediately into hot, sterilized jars, fill to 1/4 inch from top. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rims with clean cloth. Cover at once with metal lids and screw bands.

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.



Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger Jam

Strawberry-Kiwi-Ginger jam on toasted, homemade bread. Oh,
the joys of simple pleasures!

Strawberries are now available year round. Just amazing when you think about it. If I don't have peak-of-the-season fresh berries, I purchase organic strawberries--which are unusually incredible. Even the green ones are good!

  • 3 cups crushed strawberries
  • 3 kiwi, peeled. Diced or smashed.
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 (3 oz.) package pectin
  • 5 cups sugar

Combine strawberries, kiwi, lemon juice, ginger and pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a full boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar and return to a full rolling boil (one that can’t be stirred down), stirring constantly.

Boil hard for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Skim foam. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove. Place upside down on several thicknesses of dishtowels. When cool enough to handle, place right-side up.

Store in a cool, dry place.

This is unusually good spooned over sliced bananas!





Friday, June 21, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

Video Poem # 1



or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbmadxOprS0&feature=youtu.be



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Asian-Style Sticky Chicken Legs




(I've now made this recipe too many times to recall and have made the following modifications which are now included in the recipe. Since I'm dealing with honey, cooking temperature has been a concern. I like the original higher temperature of around 400 F., but it's not enough time for the sauce to properly caramelize. Dial down to 350 F, and it's not high enough. I've found that 365 F is perfect.

Chinese Five Spice, I've decided, along with Cayenne, makes the sauce, and so I've increased the measurements along with most of the others, including the amount of chicken legs.

It's important to baste the last 20 minutes or so. If you want your sauce a bit more loose, add a tablespoon or so of liquid. I've used orange juice and whiskey with success.)


Chicken legs are still one of the best buys and this recipe could not be simpler. 

One could certainly vary this marinade. Ketchup instead of vinegar will result in a lovely mahogany color. If you have an aversion to salty foods, use reduced-sodium soy sauce. Personally, I use Lee Kum Kee.

Be sure to baste these babies while cooking.

  • 2-3 pounds chicken legs with skin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar or ketchup
  • 8 tablespoons honey
  • 2 minced or pressed garlic cloves
  • Grated zest from 3/4 of an orange
  • 1/16 - 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice 
  • In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. It's important to taste this marinade. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Place chicken legs skin side down in a metal pan. I use a sturdy 8 x 13 cookie sheet. Pour marinade ingredients over chicken and turn to baste. If you have time, cover and allow to marinate for an hour or two.


This is two pounds of chicken legs. I easily could have added another pound. These legs are on the
large side which is preferred. The leg in the upper-right corner is "skin-side down." For
this batch I sprinkled in a bit of dried thyme. It was not needed.

Bake in a 365 F degree oven, skin side down and bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn skin side up and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, basting several times as the marinade begins to thicken. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a tablespoon of liquid, such as juice from the orange or whiskey. If you'd like a darker skin, place under broiler for a few minutes, watching constantly until darkened.





Saturday, May 4, 2013

Advice to Graduates--Updated





(Since it's graduation time again, I'm re-posting this.... with an update or two....)

Receiving graduation invitations was part of having taught school for twenty years. To bring something unique, I began devising “Advice to Graduates” that I sometimes slipped into cards. I’ve added to it year after year. And I probably will continue to do so. Such is life and its lessons.


ADVICE TO GRADUATES
Gary T. Czerwinski

We live in an age of technology that is shrinking the world. Ironically, at the same time, it is alienating societies and individuals. Tribalism isn’t diminishing, it is growing. So be careful to what “tribe” you choose to belong. And that includes techy toys. Do you own them? Or do they own you?

Much of what we learn growing up is how to function in a group. Not how to function on our own. When you can function on your own, you can never be alienated. Instead, you will become a magnet. Never underestimate the power of one. One has changed the world. One idea. One action. One vote. One step. One by one.

Be an example. Examples stand alone. They are not part of the problems on the page. They are the solution of how to solve them.

Trust in the Universe, our last frontier. Learn from it. The greatest strides in civilization have come from looking up, not down. The Universe is limitless and undiscovered. There are no horizons in space. No ups. No downs. No sideways. Don’t be afraid to make your own horizons. Make your own directions. Make sure your mind is as open and as vast as space itself.

And, yes, we are not alone in the Universe. Get used to it.

Honor Nature, for we are losing it minute by minute. We live on a wonderful planet! What have you done to make it better? To preserve its beauty? To guarantee its success?

And take care of your body. Health is a life-long process. Don't be a slob. Your environment is a reflection of your brain. And personal hygiene and dress is a reflection of common sense. Even a cat cleans itself.

It is okay to be afraid. Fear is often the harbinger of growth. Don’t run. It is better to be scared and to go forward then not to be scared and end up going nowhere. As Einstein said, “Adversity is opportunity in disguise.”

There is no such thing as “absolute truth.” The purpose of being human, the purpose of being educated, the purpose of being civilized, and the responsibility of living in a civilized and free culture is to question and to learn. Learn from everything. Take what is best from all ideologies, cultures, individuals, religions. To do so means your are always building your life, not just living a life. Not to do so means others are living your life for you. And that has led to every major war in our time.

Success really is measured in “having,” “getting,” and “acquiring.” And, yes, money really can make you happy. But it is also measured in what you give to others. And the grace and manner with which you receive when given to. For those to whom much is given, much is expected in return.

Start an emergency savings account today. Put change in a jar. Put dollar bills in a can. And then put it out of reach but within easy access.

Remember Emerson who said we always know when we are about to do something that is wrong. Listen to that inner voice. Cultivate and meditate in its silence. Intuition can save your life.

There is no such thing as a good secret. The easiest way to destroy a relationship, family, business, government, even yourself, is through secrets. There are two sides to every story. In politics, there are six.

Guess what? It really does make a difference who is the President of the United States. Don't just cast a vote, cast an informed vote.

Life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. You don’t have a right to expect it to be. Treasure its challenges as difficult as they may be. Difficulties are often hidden clues that point the way to your destiny and identity. Suffering will cleanse your pride and strengthen your humility. Much of life is a fight. If you aren’t fighting, maybe you are not living.

Speaking of life . . . Life is creation! So never stop creating. Draw. Paint. Plant. Sculpt. Bake. Read. Think. Write. Sing. Compose. Share. But, for heaven’s sake, make something from nothing! Don’t be someone who makes nothing from everything.

Volunteer and praise and support those who do. 

From this moment forward, life becomes less and less about you. And remember this: marriage is less about love than it is about the other person. Anyone can fall in love. And most do. But only half can love their other half more than they do themselves. And if you have children, life is all about them, not you. Marriage is for life. Choose a partner wisely. 
  
When all else fails, family is all we got! Keep those doors open. But if you can’t, if you have to close them, don’t turn the key. Don’t lock them out. Just close the door and keep the key in your pocket.

Children are like credit cards. Easy to get, difficult to pay off. Both begin with temptation. If you can’t afford either, don’t apply!

Pray. Choose a god. Choose a deity. Choose a rock. Choose something. But spend several minutes before beginning each day with a prayer. Say thank-you. Your prayer should be a life-long quest. And remember, unanswered prayers are often the ones that actually have been answered. Learn discernment.

The most important events in our life are often the ones over which we have no control. Be receptive to chance and luck. It will change your life. Our time and the Universe’s time are not in sync. What seems bad or evil on our time often has better consequences and revelations on the Universe’s time down the road. Be patient. 

Never give up. Never stop believing that there is good in the world. Your journey in life is to be that goodness.

Most of all, be happy! The test of its fruition lies in its foundation of responsibility, respect, honesty, patience, knowledge, truth, spirit, beauty. These things actually grow. They will help others to grow, too. Their opposites: lying, cheating, greed, ignorance, jealousy, envy, pride . . . are all short-lived and ultimately lead to failure and destruction.

Now here is your last assignment: Keep this list and start adding to it!

--copyright 2013 Gary T. Czerwinski

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soubise




A soubise (sue-beez) is basically stewed onions that have been slow braised in a low oven with a bit of rice to bind it all together. At the end, a bit of cream and cheese is added. It's divine. And classic Julia Child. Is it a "side?" Is it a sauce? You decide. Here, I paired it with fresh asparagus. I've also used it on sandwiches. Paired with beef or lamb, you can't go wrong.

I really encourage you to try this one. As the onions bake, something magical happens. They sweeten and take on a whole new dimension. No, it's not a gratin. It's a bit sweeter, but with a deeper nuance.

The first time I made this, I used a mandolin to make really thin slices. I don't really recommend that route. As the soubise baked, the onions basically disappeared and melted away. The second time, I sliced them by hand. With a proper, sharp knife, it is quick going. The sharper the knife, the less tears you'll shed.



You will need a sturdy, small pot for baking. I don't recommend a baking dish. You want some depth for this dish. I used an 8-inch, cast iron, enameled Dutch oven.

Unlike Julia's recipe, I added one tablespoon of fresh minced thyme to the onions. Once, I subbed a good Parmesan for the required Gruyere. Both work equally well, but the latter will give a bit more gooey nuttiness. You may wish to mix in some chopped parsley at the end for a bit of color.

This keeps well for several days in the fridge. 



  • 2 lbs. thin-sliced yellow onions (7-8 cups, but I recommend weighing them)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons Arborio rice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme leaves
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh-grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven to 300 F. degrees. Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil.

Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat and begin adding sliced onions and thyme. Cook just until they begin to go soft and are well-coated with the butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Add rice to the salted, boiling water  and cook for just five minutes or so. Drain into a sieve. Add the drained rice to the onion mixture and stir.

Pour mixture into a small Dutch oven or something similar. Cover tightly and bake for one hour, stirring once or twice during the process.

Remove from oven and add the lesser amounts of cheese and cream, adding more if you think it's needed.

If desired, stir in a bit of chopped parsley. This makes about four cups.













Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes



Even here in the South, it's been a long cold winter. So when the spell finally broke the other day and temperatures hit the 80-degree mark, my appetite suddenly changed. I wanted to eat spring. 

Green, plump stalks of fresh asparagus are now heralding the markets. In this simple pasta dish, it takes center stage with earthy mushrooms, sweet grape tomatoes and lots of garlic. Nothing complicated. A simple but satisfying dish, as welcome as spring.

Feel free to adjust the garlic quantities to taste. Here, I used plain button mushrooms for their plump earthiness. Since this is meatless, use mushrooms that have some "tooth" in them.


  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and then cut into thirds
  • 8 ounces grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, roughly sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced, sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese or similar
  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Fish sauce (optional)
  • Corn starch (optional)
  • 8 ounces spaghetti



Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add a few slices from one of the reserved, two garlic cloves to add some added flavor to the pasta. Add spaghetti and cook until done.

Meanwhile ...

In a medium pan, melt a nob of butter along with some olive oil. Add the chopped onion. Cook for several minutes then add the asparagus and mushrooms. Cook several minutes more. Add a bit of chicken stock and the chopped garlic. Last, add the tomatoes and allow the mixture to simmer a bit. If you have it, add a shake or two of fish sauce. If the mixture appears too dry, add a bit more stock and, if you want it a bit thicker, a teaspoon or two of corn starch mixed with some of the stock. 

Keep the vegetables on the large side when cutting.

Remove pan from heat.

Drain spaghetti. Add a good drizzle of olive oil and a few tablespoons of butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Using a micro plane, zest in some fresh garlic and lemon zest. Toss. Taste and re-season if necessary. Mix in cheese. 

Serve pasta on the side of a plate with vegetable mixture overlapping a bit. Drizzle with the sauce. 

Hello, spring!



Slurp!



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rack of Lamb with Herbs and Garlic


(Epicurious.com photo)



lamb-chops.jpg


I once received a rack of lamb as a gift. How great was that? Below is how I prepared it. I suspect that the garlic-herb mixture would be good on any part of lamb. It is now pretty easy to buy a rack of lamb already "Frenched" for you sealed in a cryo-vac pakaged. "Frenched" means the bones or ribs have been scrapped to serve as a kind of "handle."

This recipe is from epicurious.com. I did not change one thing, it is that great!
For the Lamb:
  • 2 (8-rib) Frenched racks of lamb, each about 1.5 lbs. trimmed of all but a thin layer of fat
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Herb Coating
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Instant-read thermometer

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the lamb:
Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet (I use a cast-iron skillet) over high heat until hot, at least 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and rub meat all over with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, then brown racks, in 2 batches, if necessary, on all sides (not ends), about 10 minutes per batch. Have your hood range on and/or window open. Transfer racks to a small (13 x 9) roasting pan. 

Coat the Lamb:
Stir together garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil. Coat meaty parts of lamb with herb mixture, pressing to help adhere. On middle oven rack, roast 15 minutes, then cover lamb loosely with foil and roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 120ºF, 5-10 minutes more. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Cut each rack into 4 double chops.

Notes: It's important to finely mince the herbs. A rough chop will simply allow them to burn.




Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pork Roast with Apples and Root Vegetables




My grocer stocks wonderful pork roasts that weigh less than 2 pounds. They are meant for crock pots and slow cookers. But I roast them.

Don't be put off by the Mediterranean seasonings of lemon and fennel. Nothing complements a pork roast as these two flavors. Neither is overpowering; together, they are a hit.

These small pork roasts are "netted" to keep the meat together in a cylindrical shape and usually have just enough fat to keep them moist. 

Feel free to use other roots, such as parsnips or carrots. 



  • 1, 1.5 lb. rolled pork roast
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 large rutabaga
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 large crisp apple such as Braeburn, Jazz, Honey Crisp, Granny Smith*
  • Lawrey's Seasoned Salt--a few shakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Garlic powder, several good sprinkles on top, bottom and sides of roast
  • 1 good teaspoon dried onion flakes, crushed to a powder (or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 10 unpeeled, raw garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1 strip bacon, cut in half (optional)
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Dried, whole thyme




Sprinkle the roast with the dried ingredients. I usually do this over the pan I am going to roast it in. I roll the roast in the seasonings that fall to the bottom of the pan to pick up as much as possible. Grate the lemon on top of the pork roast. Pat in. Give a light drizzle of olive oil to the roast and rub in all over. Sprinkle top with Kosher salt. The salt will give a nice crust to the roast.


Just peel and chop into chunks.


Peel raw rutabaga with a sharp knife, removing waxy outer layer and stem and root parts. Cut into one-inch chunks. Peel raw apple. Cut in half. Using a melon baller, remove the center seeds and stem and blossom ends. Cut each half into four sections. Peel raw sweet potato and cut into one-inch chunks.

Remove rutabaga, apples, sweet potato and, if using, garlic cloves to a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with a bit of dried, crushed thyme leaves, a bit of Kosher salt and pepper.

I like to roast meat on a rack so heat surrounds the entire cut of mean. If you don't have a small rack, you can easily make one using tin foil and coiling it like this:




Center pork in a roasting pan. Surround it in a single layer with the root vegetables keeping the apples closer to the pork and the rutabagas to the outside of the pan. Strip the leaves off of a rosemary stem. Mince them. Sprinkle over the rutabaga and apple mixture.

If using bacon, place strips over the pork roast. 

For this pork roast, I only used rutabagas and apples. Boring.

For this pork roast, I went all out. I added sweet potato for color. One strip of bacon cut in half
for added flavor, garlic cloves and one extra sprig of rosemary. Beautiful!


Roast for 10-15 minutes at 420 degrees. Lower temp to 150 and roast for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and, if desired, stir in about one tablespoon butter and stir around the apples and roots. Return to oven until instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the roast registers about 145 F degrees. Remove. Tent with foil and allow to rest at least 15-20 minutes. Remove pork roast and cut off netting. Thinly slice. Serve with apples and roots and a drizzle of the sauce.

Of course, the cook gets to eat the bacon!


*Because the apple is not as dense as the roots it will cook faster. As such, cut into thick slices rather than chunks