Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh KitchenAid, Oh KitchenAid....

There was a time, long ago and far away........when a hand-held mixer was all I used for my baking. For about 10 years, in fact, early on in married life. Somehow, I managed to produce desserts for dinner parties; freezers-full of Christmas cookies; and even sheet cakes and frostings for my sons' birthday parties. I've been using a stand mixer for twenty years now, but it wasn't until less than 10 years ago, that the stand mixer became my 6-Quart Kitchen Aid Pro. You know how some people can't wait to buy a new car? It was that way with me when my new toy found its way into my culinary garage. I think I slept at the counter when I brought it home. I aquired the smaller, Artisan--Pistachio Green--when I needed to borrow the Pro for cafe' use. It's interesting, I think, what we get used to, and oddly enough, even though I feel that my two KitchenAid mixers are indispensable appliances in my present kitchen, I still find myself reaching for the hand mixer--almost like a phantom appendage.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What's for dinner?

"As a child, my family's menu consisted of two choices: Take it, or leave it." -- Buddy Hackett
So true....but not the negative sentence that quote might imply. Mom was a great cook, as I've mentioned, and the Italian heritage didn't hurt either. Who could complain when arriving home after a harrowing several hours ice skating on an outdoor rink to be welcomed with a delicious bowl of homemade Pasta e Fagioli or Minestrone? Every Sunday before church, mind you, the pot of "gravy" (Italian tomato sauce) would be put to a simmer on the stovetop....laden with homemade meatballs and bracciola. We'd stop at the bakery on the way home for our crusty, semolina bread and enjoy our family dinner at 2:00. The typical time for Sunday meals.
Now, though Mom's homemade cannelloni and manicotti (made with homemade crepes; rather than macaroni shells) are legendary to those who passed through our doors.....we did have a few less than popular dishes....but we had to eat them anyway, as per the Buddy Hackett rule. One comes to mind: Kidney stew. That one has never made it to my own kitchen as an adult.....but even with that meal, mom had a way with the gravy....thick and that it made sopping it up with great bread a delicious treat. Don't even mention Wonder Bread to my dad--he'd call it, "Like gum....a waste of food."
Just because Mom was a great cook and most of our meals were homemade, she wasn't opposed to trying new trends, such as Chicken Pot Pies or TV Dinners. What a treat that was for me! All the food was separated into little compartments--nothing touching the other food--and what about that little dessert treat! Oh, we knew it didn't taste as good as Mom's food, but the novelty was special for us, and she'd always want to make us happy. Mom would make her famous Stained-Glass Window cake using Jell-O and Cool Whip, for company dinners ("Doesn't it look pretty?"), but alongside would be a meticulously prepared cake from scratch....and then some.
No, we surely didn't suffer in the meals department when it came to my mother. She'll always be the gold standard for kitchen excellence in my book.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pirates' Day

At around this time last year, I was preparing the cafe' for the annual Pirates' Day celebration in Barnegat. The township closes off a portion of the main drag and people gather from miles around--drawing up to 10,000 residents and vacationers--to enjoy the fun and games, street vendors, and local merchants. We had a special menu--printed on a parchment scroll background of course, and some of my desserts included: "Doubloon Macaroons," "Walk the Plank Coconut Cake," and "Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle o' Rum Raisin Rice Pudding." Lots of fun......everyone dresses as, well pirates....or wenches, in my case. This pic was taken with my "girls," as I called them--servers extraordinaire--and Giovanni, the silent type, whose job specs involved holding the blackboard with the daily specials.......or on this day, The Hook. Argh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mmmmmmm, cake.

Need I say more?

Seven-Minute Frosting....Happy Birthday Eric

Twenty-eight years ago today, my first son was born. It is sometimes incomprehensible to look at this adult man and place him with the same, tiny newborn I held in my arms all of those years ago. Both he and his brother are the lights of my life, and have made their dad and me very proud parents. Here's looking at you, Eeej.....we'll stick the candles in this cake later.

Seven-Minute Frosting
This recipe makes more than enough to fill and frost a two-layer cake. I like to use my stand mixer along with the hand-held that you'll need in the first part of this recipe; I place the ingredients in the stand-mixer's bowl, so that the transition is easier, and use my whisk attachment.
I love the old-fashioned, free-formed look to this frosting. Once frosted, this cake just screams, "Cut this cake!" And.....I guarantee, it'll be difficult to keep your fingers out of it.

1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
6 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a heatproof metal bowl, add the sugar, egg whites, water, and cream of tartar. Set this pan over simmering water, and mix on high speed using a handheld mixer; beating until mixture holds stiff peaks; about 5 to 7 minutes. (The weather can influence egg whites--if there's a lot of moisture in the air, you might have trouble getting this to beat correctly).
If continuing to use a hand-held mixer; remove mixing bowl from over heat, and place on kitchen towel to prevent bowl from slipping. Continue to beat the mixture until it's completely cool--about 2-4 minutes more. Beat in vanilla.
This frosting is best made the same day you plan to serve it, as it does weep.
Note: The cake used here is my recipe for "Grandma's Chocolate Cake." I spread 2 tablespoons of seedless raspberry jam on the layer before adding the frosting. Any flavor jam works nicely.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Egg and I

Before I begin this eggciting post, a nod to "you know who" with many thanks for your too generous words.....and yes, I really did grow up in the 60's.

Ok...back to the topic at hand: Eggs. What can I say about an egg? Why am I even posting about eggs? Your guess is as good as mine, but suffice it to say, I was watching Sabrina again (more times than I'd like to admit), and the scene where she's in Paris, at the Cordon Bleu, being taught how to crack an egg always brings a smile. "Today, we will learn the correct way how to crack an egg. Voila! An egg. Now an egg is not a stone, it is a living thing. So when we crack it, we must not torment it. We must be merciful and execute it with the guillotine. It is done with one hand....kindly watch the wrist. Voila! One, two, three, CRACK! You see? It is all in the wrist. Now everybody take an egg. One, two, three, CRACK! New egg." (All said with a thick French accent).

The incredible, edible egg. There was a time when I felt it necessary to remove the "chalaza," those icky, stringy strands found in raw eggs. They just, well, were nasty looking. It took me a long time to get over it. Probably around the time that baking and cooking became an integral part of my life........and certainly, when I worked at the cafe', it wouldn't have been prudent to take the time and remove all of those ropes from all of those cracked-open eggs. And apparently the fresher the egg, the more prominent the chalaza. Who knew? How to tell if an egg still in its shell is raw or cooked? Give it a spin. If it whirls around like a top, it's cooked. If it looks like a weeble-wobble, it's raw.

This whole egg topic brought to mind another old movie, The Egg and I starring Fred MacMurray (Bob) and Claudette Colbert (Betty), and introduced Ma and Pa Kettle to audiences. (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, respectively). It was adapted from the memoirs of author Betty MacDonald and apparently caused a lawsuit or two....which I won't get into here. Bob informs Betty--on their wedding night--that he's purchased a chicken farm. Betty is none too enthused about their prospective new 'digs,' and when glamorous neighbor (Harriet Putnam) sets her sights on Bob, Betty is just, well, fed up with the muck and mire. All-in-all, a cute movie, guaranteed to scramble you up in all the fun. (Don't say it....I know).

Savory, not Sweet Talk

Do you remember back a bit--August 11 to be exact--when I posted about Penzey's Spices? Well, the pork tenderloin shown here, is one of those times when Penzey's has "just the right" seasoning for the dish. Their Southwest, is a blend of salt, ancho pepper, onion, garlic, black pepper, Mexican oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, chipotle, and cilantro. Great on chicken, fish, and pork, I took two tenderloins; mixed about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl along with a tablespoon of soy sauce, a splash of lime juice, and a generous tablespoon of Penzey's Southwest blend. Whisk together and pour over the tenderloins. (I like to marinate in a zip-lock bag, since the marinade stays nice and close to whatever I'm marinating). Refrigerate for at least an hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees; place pork on a baking sheet; pour marinade all around; add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary. Cook until desired degree of "doneness," turning once or twice to brown nicely on all sides. Remove pork from pan, and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing; pouring juices on top.
I served this with delicious pan roasted potatoes. Again.....a little olive oil, a pat of butter, freshly chopped garlic, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cover, and cook on medium-low heat until tender; turning frequently.

Ode to "Anonymous"

Firstly....thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, and for thinking that mine has great potential to be one of the best. That's quite complimentary, and I thoroughly appreciate your words. As to the perceived slips in grammar........believe me, I understand! Those who know me (hmmmmmm, and maybe you do.......) understand how critically important it is to be Katharine Gibbs, aka, Giblet correct. But ya know what? Sometimes it's more fun to just relax the reins a bit.......and I do slip in the occasional play-on-words.....and won't point it out as I caved in to do on my profile.
Thank you again; I hope you keep reading my posts whoever.........wait, whomever.........wait, whoever..........oh, fudge. No matter who you are.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chocolate Ganache

"If there's no chocolate in Heaven.....I'm not going."

3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds bittersweet, not unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Bring cream to a simmer in a heavy saucepan, then remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate until melted and smooth. Transfer to a metal bowl, cover, and chill--stirring occasionally--until chocolate is thick enough to spread, about 3 to 4 hours. If chocolate gets too hard, you'll have to melt it, and chill again.

Makes enough to fill and frost a 9" cake.

Grandma's Chocolate Cake

"Everyone has a price--mine is chocolate."

I call this Grandma's Chocolate Cake because it's a recipe that my mom always baked when I was a child. When she became a Grandmother, we all lovingly referred to her as, "Gramma." Mom would make the chocolate layers and fill and frost them with either 7-Minute Frosting (My favorite), Whipped Cream (Dad's favorite), or a Chocolate Buttercream. I've baked this cake many times for my cafe' customers, and they loved the chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache frosting. The photo here shows the cake decorated with chocolate transfer sheets.

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten in separate bowl
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup whole milk, not low fat
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray; line the bottoms with parchment paper; spray the parchment lightly.
In a large bowl of stand mixer, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix on low speed. Add the eggs oil, extracts, and milk; mix until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes. Reduce speed to low again, and add boiling water, mixing until blended. The batter will be thin...a soupy consistency.
Pour the batter into the two cake pans; place into oven, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove pans from oven and let cool on racks for ten minutes; then turn the cakes out onto the racks to finish cooling. Place the completely cooled cakes into the freezer for no longer than 30 minutes (unless wrapping for future use) before frosting.
Fill and frost as desired.
Serves 10-12

An Evening with the Beach Boys

What a great evening I had last night! The goal was to see the Beach Boys at The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, and that goal was accomplished. But let me rewind a bit. Prior to the 8:00 concert, the group of 10, needed to find a place to dine.....and it was decided that we'd go to Dorian's On The Beach which is a few steps away from the Asbury Park southern end, casino pavillion. We came without wine for dinner, since Ocean Grove is a dry town, but discovered that Dorian's is a "BYOB." No problem. We had terrific views of the crashing waves, and the food was great. Not knowing what to expect, we were suprised when our dinners came and the seafood was not only prepared perfectly--salmon was nicely grilled; scallops were large and tender--they were eye appealing as well. A few of us had the Sorella Salad (sorella means "sister" in Italian), and it was a unique combination of apples, pears, gorgonzola cheese, sautee'd onions, raisins, and strawberries on field greens with a strawberry vinaigrette. My friend, Joanne, chose to add grilled chicken to her salad; I chose grilled salmon. The service was cheery and attentive; we decided it was worth the trip to make a return visit. For a boardwalk restaurant, we were all pleasantly surprised. I've provided a link below from Trip Advisor, which shows reviews on Dorian's from some previous visitors.

Ocean Grove, NJ is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is steeped in a religious background that still exists in this beautiful, Victorian building-laced community. I had never been to The Great Auditorium, (a magnifienct wooden structure that conjures up visions of Noah's Ark--built by hand with wood and steel in 1894), and it proved to be quite an experience for all of us. When the building was erected with the original bench seating, it could accomodate 10,000 worshipers! With its present, stadium-style seats, the concert was at capactiy: 6,500. Quite an incredible showing for the "Boys." Really, with Mike Love being the only original, original, we called them the "Boy." The audience was treated to their "....sometimes, occasionally, very famous.....taking time off from rehearsing for Bye-Bye Birdie on Broadway.....talented actor and musician," John Stamos. Yes, the ladies LOVED him! But, he's quite a talented drummer and guitarist, and he remarked how thrilled and awestruck he is to be playing with the Beach Boys.

Oh, did I happen to mention that the auditorium is not air conditioned? Let me tell you. This Italian lady requires temps between 68 and 70 degrees. Above 70, I'm cranky. But, last night, in the spirit of a great concert and good friends, I somehow survived the heat. If those musicians could stand on that stage with the glare of the lights, singing and moving around with their instruments, I could deal with the lack of cool air. There was a prayer delivered before the show, followed by the audience participation in the singing of the National Anthem accompanied by the magestic sound of the Hope-Jones pipe organ. All-in-all, a unique and fun evening.

As mentioned, here are a few links to sites with some great photos and info on Ocean Grove and Dorian's. On the "Little Views" link, one of the photos shows Dorian's. It's a white building with red awnings.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Menu for the Ages

My treasured menu collection

Patricia Murphy's in NY

Atlantic City Boardwalk

The Gingerbread Castle (A magical place for me when I was a little girl)

Howard Johnson's.....I'll have a "Tommy Tucker Plate," please.

South of the Border NC/SC......"Good morning, Amigos!"

Black Angus, Miami Beach

Ah. Road trips. My dad had a severe case of wanderlust. To make that statement, one would think he traveled to exotic parts unknown on regular occasion. Not the case in reality....but he did the next best thing. Pack his wife and two daughters into the Oldsmobile and drive as far as a day trip could get him, and wait for the big reward: Two weeks vacation during the last two weeks of July. I can still remember my mother saying, "Don, I'm not driving all the way to Miami Beach unless we have an air-conditioned car." Say no more, comes the Dynamic 88. (Thanks, Rich for making me check this out....). So, at midnight, July 1964, two sleepy girls, one reluctant mother, and one very excited dad, piled ourselves into the car and set forth for the Sunshine State.

"Follow the White Dove signs...." to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel........"Mom, tell her to stop touching me"........."Don, I absolutely will not stay in that place"......."Pam is carsick again; we need to stop" (Did I mention that my dad smoked cigars in the car?)........"Mom, she's touching me again! Make her stop!"

Wait. Something to distract the girls. What are all of these signs? Pedro? Pedro, who? South-of-the-Border, 175 miles. What's this South of the Border? There's another sign! "Chili Today; Hot Tamale." "You Never Sausage a Place." "Keep Yelling Kids. They'll Stop." (We had that one covered). This place was awesome. At that time, 1964, South of the Border consisted of a little restaurant, and a cozy hotel. It was quite a shock when more than 20 years later, my husband and I took our two sons and two nephews on our first pilgrimage to Disney World. We now refer to the hotel as having "spider pizza." I won't elaborate.

But, we arrived at our destination: Miami Beach. Wow. Palm trees. Roadside orange juice stands. Angus Beef. Dining out every, single night! This was awesome!

In addition to our two trips to the southern part of the USA, dad's wanderlust took us to The Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, NJ; Hot Dog Johnny's in Buttzville, NJ whenever we'd take the drive to visit family in Pennsylvania; numerous restaurants at the Boardwalk in Atlantic City; Patricia Murphy's in New York, and too many Howard Johnson's to remember.

Well, in any event, here are a few menus that I saved for who-knows-what reason.....maybe to place on this blog at this point in time. And maybe to give someone else a taste of the past.

Look at some of the prices!

Apple Crumble Pie

"I don't think a really good pie can be made without a dozen or so children peeking over your shoulder as you stoop to look in at it every little while." -- John Gould
Pie crust for 9" pie, unbaked
4 pounds Gala apples (I love the sweetness in these apples)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Jack Daniels
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons minced, crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Crumble topping:
1 cup all-purposed flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" slices
Prepare topping:
In a food processor, combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter, pulsing, to cut in until mixture looks crumbly; set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare filling:
In a large bowl, combine sugars, flour, ginger, and spices; add apples, Jack Daniels, and butter; toss with spatula to coat apples thoroughly. (Try very hard not to eat the entire bowl of apples at this have a pie to bake). Mound apples into prepared pie crust, distributing more in the center of the pie. Carefully, arrange topping over apples to cover. Place pie on a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if crust is browning too quickly. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling at edges. Remove pie to rack; cool to warm, and serve with ice cream.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Cake Dome

To the unknowing eye, this photo might appear to be bland....boring....uninteresting.....not worthy of a post. But that would be a gross misconception. To my sister and I, this aluminum cake dome represents memories as far back as our childhoods (50's & 60's). It has been on the critical list for a long time now......dents-a-plenty surround the once smooth, rounded upper edges.....the Bakelite knob has been replaced by a cabinet pull to match my cabinets, and it certainly isn't chic or fancy. But the visions of this cake dome which always sits on the same serving dish it did when I was a young girl, hold delicious and tender memories of my mother's painstakingly baked and frosted, delicious cakes. There are many more beautiful adornments to conceal--or even show off--one's desserts, however, it would seem an injustice to my mother (though she would roll her eyes and laugh--telling me, ("You want that old thing?") for me to use any other dome for my cakes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Cookbook Chronicles

In speaking with a few foodies, there is one thing that we have in common....other than our love of food. And that is our addiction to cookbooks. Many of us just buy a new cookbook because of the cover....some for the author.....some for the topic (one would think that the author had that purpose in mind)......but whatever the reason, we're drawn to cookbooks. I was a subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine for almost 30 years, made every recipe that was on the cover, and then some. I'm sure many have uttered what I usually say, "I need a new cookbook, like I need a hole in the head." Or, "I'll never make all of these recipes." And the next thing you know, you're standing in the checkout line with your new treasure. I know, I know. And with blogs, foodbuzz, Epicurious, and so on, we've got recipes galore at our fingertips! But still, we buy new cookbooks.

So, with this in mind, I thought I'd cronicle all (most) of my cookbooks, and list them right here on my blog. Perhaps someone will see a book that piques their interest or they'll see a book that they "used to have a recipe, but can't find it," or will just enjoy reading through my list. Now, I'm not going to list food magazines or all of the little booklets one gets with appliances, for instance or all of the ones I have received through food or beverage companies (though some might sneak their way onto my list). Just the ones that I consider, "books." They are in no particular order, and I haven't listed all, since I gave my son a collection when he bought his first house.

Another thing: If you see a book and would like more information or a recipe, please let me know, and I'll be more than happy to provide it for you. Ok, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy, Pam's Cookbook Chronicles.

Lidia's Italy
At Home with Michael Chiarello
ABC's of Food (I am a food contributor in this book)
Cooking the Whole Food Way
Party Hearty
Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics
The Williamsburg Cookbook
Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook
Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals
Calphalon Cooks Weeknights
Cookery, New Orleans Style
Southern Legacies
Cooking with Mickey
Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen
Encyclopedia of European Cooking
Craig Claiborne's International Cookbook
Cooking with Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey
Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American
Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine
Best Ever Vegetable Recipes
The Pirate's House Cookbook
McCall's Cookie Collection
Sweet Miniatures
Irene Chalmer's "France"
The El Paso Chile Company, Rum Tiki Cookbook
Sweet Talk, Recipes from Domino Sugar
Standing Ovations (One of my own--self published)
Bill of Fare (Another of mine--self published)
Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook
The Recipes of Madison County
Wolfgang Puck's, Pizza, Pasta, & More!
Mario Batali, Simple Italian Food
The Bon Appetit Cookbook
The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
Cooking with Mickey & The Disney Chefs
The Cookie Bible
Craig Claiborne's, The New York Times Food Encyclopedia
"Celebrate," San Antonio, a Cookbook
Suzanne Somers, Get Skinny
The New Italian Cooking
The Settlement Cookbook
McCall's Cookbook
Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, & Jars
The Talisman Italian Cookbook
The NY Times Cookbook
The Italian Market Cookbook
NY's Master Chefs
Cooking with the NY Mets
Good Housekeeping Cake Book (1958)
Ada Boni, Italian Regional Cooking
Recipes: Classic French Cooking
The Culinary Arts Encyclopedia of Cooking
Chocolate Box
The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook
Cooking for Friends
Nestle's Recipe Collection
Emeril's New Orleans Cooking
Hallmark, Celebrate the Seasons
Microwave Cooking from Litton
The Ultimate Food Processor Cookbook
Pie Shell Creations
Cakes to Dream On
The Secrets of Baking
McCall's Cooking School
The Cake Bible
Bon Appetit Recipe Yearbooks, Volumes 1989, 1990, 1991
Bon Appetit, Every Night Cooking
McCall's No Time to Cook
The Family Circle Christmas Treasury
The Cupcake Cafe' Cookbook
Mix it Up
Thyme, Love, & Tenderness
The Lady & Sons, Too
365 Ways to Cook Pasta
Simply Scones
Paul Bocuse French Cooking
Treasured Recipes
Duncan Hines Bake Shop in a Book
Gingerbread for All Seasons
Bon Appetit Christmas Season
Tupperware Stacked Cooked Meals
Gifts from a Country Kitchen
Chocolate Delights
Gorgeous Cakes
Williams Sonoma, Desserts
Sweet Serendipity
Magnolia Bakery
Cupcake Cafe'
A Passion for Ice Cream
The Flavors of Bon Appetit, Volumes 2000 & 2001
The Best of Coffee, a Cookbook
110 More Cookie Recipes
Best-Loved Foods of Christmas
Joys of Jell-o
Good Housekeeping Book of Delectable Desserts (1958)
Land o' Lakes Top 50 Recipes, 1997
Culinary Arts Institute, entertaining Six or Eight
Pillsbury 2nd Grand National, 100 Prize Winning Recipes (25 cents!)
Crock Cooking

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Thoughts of Christmas don't usually enter our thoughts in August, but for those who give food gifts, they do. Rumtopf is a wonderful rum-soaked fruit topping that is great way to take advantage of summer's fruits and prepare for gift-giving. My mother-in-law used only strawberries, but other fruits--even mixed--work out great for this dish. (Apples, bananas, and certain other berries are not recommended). We only serve ours over vanilla ice cream--something to do with tradition--but you can certainly use it to "spice" up pork or chicken.

The basic "recipe" or method:

Take your washed, fresh fruits (cut into pieces) and add an equal weight of sugar to a large crock or glass container. (I inherited a beautiful Rumtopf crock from my mother-in-law, photo shown). Add rum--dark or white--or mixed to cover fruit and sugar; stir. If necessary, weigh down the fruit with a dish to keep them submerged, then cover the crock. Do not seal if using a mason jar. Periodically, stir the mixture, and you can add new fruits with the addition of sugar and rum. It takes at least 6 weeks for the mixture to be ready for serving.....longer is fine, and refrigeration is not necessary. Just keep covered in a cool place. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Julie and Julia

Today, I went to see Julie and Julia. I was unprepared for my reaction as I sat in the fairly packed theater as I watched this movie. Perhaps it's because I've been cooking and baking for as long as I can remember.....perhaps it's because I truly live to eat, rather than eat to live.....perhaps it's because I was lucky enough to fulfill a dream in co-owning and baking for a dessert cafe'--albeit for a brief period of time......perhaps it was because if I had to do it all over again, I would have moved to Paris right out of high school and gone to the Cordon Bleu......perhaps it's because writing and self-publishing two, modest cookbooks was a thrill.....perhaps it's because I've had meltdowns in my kitchen where I've cried over failed attempts, or have just been too exhausted after taking care of whatever was going on in my life but needed (or was driven) to make company dinners from scratch--soup to nuts--baking over 20 batches of Christmas cookies and freezing them......perhaps it is the relationship I had with my own mother who inspired my love of cooking and baking.....perhaps it is almost 30 years of Bon Appetit magazines piling up in my attic (I've recently purged most).......perhaps it was the love, dedication, and adoration in the relationship between Julia and Paul Child..........whatever it was, or a combination of all of those elements, this was a 4-tissue movie for me. Yes, it was funny--but those scenes created teary moments as well. When Paul asks Julia, "What do you really love to do?" And her reply was, "Eat!" "And you do it so well." I so related to this movie that I felt it was my life on the screen. Or at least, my emotions and thoughts. I loved this movie.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wedding Cake

Years ago, I was asked to cater an intimate wedding--about 30 guests--and also make the cake. I had never baked a wedding cake, and explained this to the bride, but she wanted one of my desserts. This was the final result, and I can tell you, that I was so anxious to deliver it, so that I wasn't the caretaker of the bride and groom's sweet ending any longer! They were pleased, as was I, with how it turned out.

Spice Cake with Pear Filling and Rum Glaze

Take a moist spice cake......add apple preserves to pear nectar and thicken to a syrup......toss in the sliced pears to the cooled mixture and spread on bottom layer.....then top with an old-fashioned vanilla and rum glaze.....and you've got a comfort dessert that is sure to satisfy the "something sweet" urge. This is a frosting that you can't keep your fingers out of.......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lidia's Italy

Not that Lidia Bastianich needs any promotion from me....or anyone for that matter, since she and her children are accomplished culinary professionals--Lidia is the owner of several successful restaurants. Stop in to Lidia's Italy, and enjoy all that her site has to offer. Her television show of the same name brings the viewer into her warm kitchen where she shares her heritage and expertise of traditional Italian cuisine. Lidia might even treat us with a song....and she ends her show by inviting her guests: "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!" Everyone, come to the table and eat!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nutty Coconut Scones

I've just added the above recipe and photo to my profile on foodbuzz.

On Cheesecakes

It is very important to bring cream cheese and eggs to room temperature before mixing or you'll have a lumpy mess. Mix at low speed to prevent excess air from being incorporated into the batter, as that can be a cause of cracking. To bake evenly and promote creaminess, wrap the outside of the springform pan with a triple thickness of aluminum foil, then place the springform in a large roasting pan, and fill with hot water 1/3 up the side of the springform.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memories of Mom

Not a day goes by when my beautiful mother's memory is not with me. My mom, Ann, inspired my love of cooking.....but moreso, baking. I can remember standing at our linoleum kitchen table that was surrounded by Naugahyde breakfast-nook seating in the early 60's, as she held my little hands and instructed, "Don't scoop the measuring cup into the need to spoon the flour into the cup, so that it's lighter and not packed.....then, level it off with the back of a knife." We'd then sit down and shell walnuts or pecans, carefully separating the shells from the meat, then dropping them into our little hand operated chopper.....the one with the plunger handle. I loved to bake with mom, but I believe it was the time spent with her that will live in my memory. Mom taught me patience in the kitchen.....the passion for experimenting......and the joy and pride of successful results.

Penzey's Spices

If you're a serious cook or baker, you're probably already aware of Penzey's Spices. For those of you who haven't heard of this company, they are, in my opinion, the gold-standard for unique blends, freshness, variety, and bulk. I buy no other crystallized ginger for baking, since theirs is just the right size, texture, and sweetness for my carrot cakes and ginger-molasses cookies. I could rave on, but I'll just supply the link so you can try them out for yourself:

Mango Sorbet with Raspberry (Melba) Sauce

It's hot here at the Jersey Shore, so here's a quick and easy iced dessert for the dog-days of summer.

4 ripe mangos, peeled and seeded
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Fresh Mint

Raspberry (Melba) Sauce

For Sorbet:
Puree mangos in a food processor. Set aside.
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool. Combine mango puree and cooled syrup. Pour into an 11" x 7" x 2" freezer-safe dish, and freeze until frozen, stirring about every 30 minutes. Spoon or scoop into dishes. (This looks pretty in Margarita glasses or other glass bowls). Ladle Melba sauce over sorbet, and garnish with fresh mint.

Melba Sauce:
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 Tablespoon of fresh lemon or lime juice
1/8 cup orange juice

Puree' all ingredients in a food processor or blender; strain to remove seeds; serve.

*Mango Sorbet recipe can be found in my cookbook, Bill of Fare, located at:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Automat

I was reminded today of a wonderful childhood memory: Horn & Hardart's Automat in NYC. The first was opened in Philadelphia in the early 1900's; in NYC around 1912. For those of you who grew up in the metropolitan area prior to the 1970's, which is when fast-food restaurants began replacing this gem of an eatery, you'll remember the unique thrill of the coin-operated slots that unlocked your choice of main course to dessert. My dad worked as a cook in H&H NYC during the 30's. If you missed it.....or would just like to stroll down nostalgia lane, here's a link to a site where a great book honoring this place can be found:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

I'll be posting the above recipe on foodbuzz, if you'd like to check it out there. It's also in my cookbook, Bill of Fare.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Walnuts and Caramel

Had a thought today to develop a recipe for a spice cupcake--of the large muffin variety--that includes flecks of chocolate and has a filling of gooey, homemade caramel studded with chopped walnuts. I'll frost it with a orange cardamom cream cheese frosting. I'll get right on that.