Category Archives: Rabbit Food: eat/drink/cook/love

New Recipes, adventures in cooking, my love affair with wine and restaurants and every foodie.

Saint Paddy’s Pie

When I was a kid one of my favorite things on the planet was that dopey Bing Crosby song that goes, “Who threw the overalls in Mrs Murphy’s chowder, nobody spoke so he shouted all the louder, its an Irish trick that’s true, and I can lick the mick that threw, the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowwww-derrr!” I  hated chowder and clams but I loved what my mom called, “Mrs. Murphy’s Potatoes.” Translation: twice baked potatoes stuffed with crab, cheddar cheese, and onions. Along with butter, garlic, salt and pepper and milk.

One of my other favorite things was Shepherd’s Pie, the old standby made with mashed potatoes, ground beef, onions, gravy and vegies and of course, cheese. Two recipes I am happy to share if I hear requests for them. My chef son touts his version made with ground lamb and parnsips in place of mashed potatoes, exotic no?

The ingredients, and dig the beautiful vintage Tupperware vegie steamer. Coolest toy. Ever.

Last night I wanted Mrs Murphy’s taters, but I was too lazy to put on going-to-the-store clothes to procure potatoes. Those clothes being   something besides a paint splattered tee shirt and equally paint splattered sweat pants so I poked around in the pantry and came up with the brilliant idea of Mrs Murphy’s Pie, a cross bred tasty treat. Today is Saint Patrick’s day so the nomenclature fits like a cheap tiara on a prom queen. Perfect, but don’t look too close…

To make this lovely tasty dish you will need:

A 13X9″ baking pan or something somewhere close in size. Smaller pan, deeper pie, its all good.

An onion minced fairly fine

About 2 tsps of garlic powder, adjust the level to your own garlic love

About 1.5 tsp of salt. If you cook some bacon and toss it in for fun, lighten up on the salt.

Pepper to taste

3 packages of those great Idahoan mashed potato mixes, inexpensive and easy. (Substitute 6-8 cups of any other mashed potatoes made according to package directions.)

2 cans of crab. I used Trader Joes, the size of large tuna cans.

1 stick of butter, more or less, again, ask yourself how much do I love this butter? Room temperature or melted.

2 eggs

Some milk, 1/2 cup or so

1 package of cheese shredded or about 2 cups ground up by you.

Asparagus, you could substute peas too. Cook the asparagus tips and mid sections, to medium done, not mushy.

Grease/spray grease the bottom of the pan and spread two cups/one package of the potatoes made according to the package on the the bottom of the pan. This is your ‘bottom crust’

In a large bowl, mix up another package of mashed potatoes, (drain and rinse the crab) toss in the crab, asparagus chopped small, garlic, onions (minced) and about 3/4 package of cheese along with the butter. Crack the eggs over the top and mix the whole mess together. If it’s quite thick put in up to 1/2 cup milk.Salt and pepper to taste, use a light hand here.

Dumped in a bowl and stirred up good, what good be easier?

Put this layer on top of the layer you already put in, it doesn’t matter if they mix a bit. Spread it with a spatula. Mix up and spread the last layer of potatoes over the top. Spread the last of the cheese over all and pop in a 425 oven for about 30 minutes. It should brown up and the cheese will get all nice and melted. If it is isn’t as brown as you like, slide in the broiler for a few minutes.

Slice into squares and serve with a green salad. This was so easy to make. I think it may become one of those pantry fall backs, where you always have some ingredients handy and toss in everything else that you find.

The finished product, easy-peasy and sooo good!

I’d love to hear your ideas for other versions too.


Big, Warm, German Pretzels Step-by-Step

Yummy pretzels, big crusty and warm!

There are a few secret recipes in my family that I would be drawn and quartered if I shared. This is not one of those,  but it is by far the most popular thing I have ever made, far outpacing both the secret gingersnaps and the secret peanut brittle, which makes me very happy.

Every Thanksgiving we share the day with friends and have an old school pot luck T-day. I brought warm pretzels and halfway through dinner someone stood up asked who brought them and would I share  the recipe?. So here it is in all its tasty glory. I have included photos and a step-by-description for those who would like to give them a try but have not yet ventured into the land of making bread with yeast in it. I also put the full recipe at the very bottom for those who are experienced and want to skip over the handholding part.

These are great fun to roll out with kids and the recipe doubles and triples easily, just write down the new measurements before you start, experience speaking there.  Try them with hot sweet spicy mustard or just slathered in butter. They are best warm but that’s fine because the whole batch will disappear before you know what happened.

Ingredients and recipe ready to roll.

This recipe makes about 12 large pretzels. Begin by making your “sponge”, that’s what the pros call the wet mixture with yeast and yeast food in it. In this case,  open 2 packages of yeast, (I always use dried yeast because its easiest) and sprinkle it in your biggest mixing bowl. Add to that 2 cups of really warm water. Warm not boiling hot, you want to start the yeast not kill it.  Add 2 tablespoons of sugar (that’s the yeast food)  and whisk this mixture well. Add 4 tablespoons of salad oil and 3 cups of unsifted flour. You can whisk this mixture but you’ll notice its starting to get pretty thick and not whiskable about now.

Getting gooey, time to shake out the whisk and oil up the hands to mix in the rest of the flour.

Take the whisk out and prepare to get your hands dirty. Anything that will get gooey–like your diamond ring, you might want to remove until this part is over. Add about 2-4 cups more flour and mix it in well with your hands. You are creating a kneadable dough by mixing with your hands, much easier than a spoon, trust me. I always wind up with the full four cups of flour myself and just work harder to work it in.

The dough isn’t very pretty when you dump it out to work the rest of the flour in to make a smooth dough. You need to knead.

Sprinkle some flour on your counter top and dump the dough out after you have made most of it stick together by working it with your hands. It is going to stick to you like crazy and glob up on your hands, until you get enough flour in to turn it into dough, at which point it sticks to itself not you.

I’m so short I have to stand on a stool to knead dough. My fantasy is a shorter counter in my kitchen but I’m pretty sure the reality is keep a stool handy. Kneading dough is a zen thing. All the books say ten minutes, but if I kneaded dough for ten minutes I’d be so tired I needed a nap. The goal is to turn this lump of warty looking stuff with bits falling off of it into a smooth elastic ball.

It should look smooth and elastic after being kneaded.

Put the lump in front of you, lean on the front of it with all your weight on the palms of your hands. Push the dough away from you with that weight on it. Turn the lump a quarter turn and go back and do it again. Keep turning and pushing, developing a kind of rocking motion. Its very zen and after a few minutes it feels pretty rhythmic and and accomplished. When you can roll the dough into a ball and it doesn’t pull apart into pieces but stretches like dough elastic, you are there, usually around five minutes, maybe more for beginners until you figure out you do have rhythm.

Trick: Get another bowl out, oil the bottom and the sides, use your hands, you are already covered with flour up to your elbows. Dump your ball of dough in the bowl upside down. Roll it over and you have just oiled the dough and the bowl and they won’t stick to each other as the dough rises.

Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and put it somewhere warm away from drafts for an hour or two. I have been known to heat the oven to 200 degrees and then turn it off with the door open putting my dough in there to rise, just don’t forget its there. Now, go find a beverage and relax for an hour or two. That’s the end of  phase one.

Grab a beverage and relax until its time to roll out the pretzels. A couple of hours downtime while the dough rises.

PHASE TWO: Pretzel Prep.

If you don’t have a Silpat get one or two,they are a baker’s best friend, a kitchen miracle!

Get out your cookie sheets. If you don’t have a Silpat, you should buy one or two. They are horrendously expensive, like 20 bucks each but they will save your life and make you happy when it comes time to clean up.. My cookie sheets are six years old and so are my Silpats. The Silpats look like crap now but still work great. The cookie sheets look like I bought them last week. NOTHING sticks! Nothing, seriously.  Sadly, if you are Silpat-less, oil the bejeebers out of your cookie sheets.

Go get your dough and admire it one more time before you punch it in the middle with your fist. It will deflate but it will rise again when you get down to rolling it out.

All raised and ready

Meanwhile back at the ranch, put the deflated dough aside and get a good-sized STAINLESS STEEL pot out. Not aluminum. Measure about 8-10 cups of water into it and add one tablespoon of baking soda for every cup of water in the pot. Heat this to boiling while you roll your pretzels. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and let it get up to temperature while you roll out the pretzels.

Soda is the secret to pretzels

Take your sad deflated dough and yank a chunk off of it. I am not sure how to describe the amount that works best in terms for publication. Experiment to find out what works best for you.  Roll it out into a very long ‘snake’. I have included a how to fold up a pretzel chart because the first time I did it I was really confused. Your ‘snake’ should be about 16 inches long the thickness of a kid’s fat Crayola crayon, not the regular skinny kind. Do the pretzel roll and put it the finished pretzel on your prepared cookie sheet.

By now the soda water should be boiling, set the heat to just maintain a boil. When you have two full sheets of pretzels (one for each rack of your oven) get a slotted utensil, spatula or spoon both work, and lower a rolled pretzel into the boiling water. Ten seconds on one side, flip it over in the water and give it another ten. Fish it out put it back on the cookie sheet and do the same thing with all of your pretzels. The soda boil is what makes a pretzel a pretzel and not just a piece of bread.

Boiled and beautiful

When they have all had their bath–which is what gives that wonderful pretzel flavor and color as I mentioned, sprinkle them with salt or poppy or sesame seeds. I love pink Hawaiian salt so that is what I used for these.

I love pink salt for its flavor, that and I can actually see what I’ve already salted.

When they are salted and ready to bake, slide them into the oven. I always pull them out after ten minutes and switch racks. Bottom goes on top and the ones on the top move to the bottom, this makes sure they all come out the same doneness on the tops and bottoms.

Ready to bake

Another 4-6 minutes and you can get the hotpads and fish out the goldern brown pretzels out to cool while fighting the clan off at the same time. Move them to a rack to cool just a little and dig in.

Pretzel perfection, crunchy, warm and fabulous!

If you have doubled or tripled your batch, after you pull out the first batch and moved them to cool, do the whole thing again. Just keep on rolling  and baking two racks at a time until you are done, stopping to enjoy a few tasty morsels on the way.

Try these with soup in the winter for dinner. Slather them with butter and serve with a big bowl of homemade soup, yum. Alternatively, bake them while everyone is out of the house and eat all twelve. Yes, they are that good. Best of all? These tasty treats are  stupid easy with no sifting and very few ingredients.


2 pkgs dried yeast, 2 cups warm water, 3 cups flour, 4 tablespoons salad oil, 2 tablespoons sugar.

Approx 2-4 cups more flour as needed, rock salt or sesame or poppy seeds. 8 cups water, 8 tablespoons soda, STAINLESS STEEL pot/pan for boiling pretzels (note: you can use more or less water, just use 1 tablespoon of soda for every cup of water).

Whisk yeast, warm water, sugar, and salad oil together in bowl. Stir in 3 cups unsifted flour and mix thoroughly. Work in 2-4 more cups flour (as needed) to make kneadable dough.

Turn dough out on floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable. Put in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place, about two hours.

When ready to proceed: Put water and soda in pot/pan and bring to a boil, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Use Silpats or thoroughly grease cookie sheets.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces and roll into long (approx. 14″) rolls, twist into a pretzel shape and place on prepared pan. When two cookie sheets are filled (12 pretzels)  put each pretzel into the boiling soda water for ten seconds on each side. Lift and drain and place back on cookie sheet. Do this with all pretzels until sheets are filled. Sprinkle with salt or seeds and bake in preheated oven for a total of 12-15 minutes until golden brown. If doubling or tripling recipe, simply repeat process until all dough is used. Serve warm.


The Wedgwood Mystery: Let’s dish

The plate that caught my eye.

In my by now constant quest for new trinkets and treasures in the way of vintage, I happened across a set of plates last week. They spoke to me. I wanted them. I didn’t want to sell them, I wanted them for me. Half the fun of the hunt is finding an unexpected treasure, the other half is figuring out exactly what you have. When you do this for a living you either develop “an eye for a buy” or you fail epically through bad choices.

Luckily for me, although I was raised by wolves, my mother was a wolf snob, which meant I absorbed museums and interesting places through my growing up years. It wasn’t hard to get me to go, I fell in love with old stuff early and keenly appreciated the quirky to boot.  All these years later I am grateful for the early grounding in lovely old things — and my insatiable curiousity.

I am a graduate of the Evergreen State College, with a heavy part of that degree being cultural ethnography. Anthropology of the modern eras is what that boils down to, which fits in exactly with who I am. Grads from that school know how to read and do research better than anyone else. Which is where the curiousity comes in to play. I am fascinated by what I find and do much more digging than the usual Etsy or Ebay seller. I can’t help it, I want to know what I have in my hands. Who made it? Why? Where?

I realize I would be far more wealthy if I shoveled stuff up on my Etsy sites and said “Vintage” whatever it is, but I have a need to know and the finding out is fascinating.  Let’s take my stack of plates discovered at a local thrift shop for $3.99 each as an example. There are salad plates and dinner plates and one saucer, I even found two two-handled soup bowls in a different section of the store that matched. By no means is this a complete set, but in this case I didn’t care–which is rare, it was dish love at first sight.

These are glorious. The flowers make me think of an English spring. Robust, blowsy-as in full blown roses, feminine, with wonderful color and detail. I flipped them over. Eureka! The price of $3.99 each for old used crazed plates suddenly made sense. The name on the back of the plates was Wedgwood and Co. I felt smug. I drove home, I unloaded the plates and sat down to do my research and find out what I had.

Well… I had Wedgwood, which is never spelled with an ‘e’, by the way.—-blue-portland-vase-wedgwood-.html  This link shows the usual run of Wedgwood, blue, green, or black with a relief on it, although Wedgwood also made plates, dishes, and the type of English fine china. It also shows a price tag of $750.00, so you can understand the frisson of pleasure I experienced at seeing that name on my dishes.

This is the more expected Wedgwood

I hit the internet and started hunting up maker’s marks. These are the most important clue if you can find them. Hmm…Wedgwood was founded in 1759 in Burslem, England by Josiah Wedgwood and he never used a unicorn mark. So now what? More digging and sifting turned up clues, the name Enoch Wedgwood and the location Tunstall, England, and then a red herring–Ralph Wedgwood.

The mysterious mark, this shot is big so it can be seen

Fascinating. It turns out that Ralph Wedgwood was a relation and a walking disaster who tried to cash in on Josiah (the big Wedgwood cheese) Wedgwood’s success. Ralph went into business with partners using the name Wedgwood and Co. in 1785. He was apparently so inept and caused so much breakage with his weird experiments and firing style that he was kicked to the curb in 1801 with a nice severance package of a thousand pounds. If you run into really old Wedgwood and Co. and it looks like a cheap knock-off it is probably a Ralph piece. End of Ralph. Moral of the Ralph story: Don’t pay a ton for a Wedgwood classic piece unless you can determine its the real deal and not a Ralph.

Chapter Deux: In Tunstall, England a distant cuz of the family of Josiah ‘Big Cheese’ Wedgewood, of Burslem, went into the family business himself in 1835. Enoch Wedgewood (1813-1879) was a potter who started out with the firm of Potter, Walker and Co., and by 1856 he was a partner in the new Potter, Walker and Wedgewood.The company rented the Swan Banks works and took over the Unicorn Works in Great Woodland Street. Although the company prospered, the partnership dissolved in 1859. Enoch’s brother Jabez joined him and they formed Wedgwood and Co. At one point the factory covered a full acre and employed 700 people. He apparently chose to keep the Unicorn mark because of his incorporation of the Unicorn Works in the business.

My plates say “Newport” and Made in England on the back. They also carry a Registered Trade Mark which I hope will help me date them more closely.

In 1965, the company was renamed Enoch Wedgwood and in a bizarre twist of fate in 1980 the Josiah Wedgwood Company took over Enoch’s company, naming it Unicorn Pottery Works. In this economy sadly even the great old English firm of Wegwood has fallen on tough times and its survival is by no means assured. The pottery towns where all this took place banded together and are now collectively known as Stoke-on-Trent, arguably the greatest area for china and potter makers ever in the world.

I am quite pleased with my journey down the Wedgwood rabbit hole. I learned a lot and I like knowing about Enoch, that he was married and had four children, two died in infancy which was common in those days, and the other two sons grew up to be potters and went into the family business.

Now I just have to figure out how old these are…and then find the cups and saucers and the rest of the soup bowls. The best part? These are smaller than modern dinner plates, perfect for our scaled down diet dinners.

They are now living in my kitchen cabinet which makes me happy.



Great Green Tomatoes!

At the end of each summer, those of us who attempt every year to grow vegies in the Pacific Northwest are usually left with an abundance of green tomatoes. Our lettuces grow longer than anyone in the country before they give up from heat, our green beans are to die for and our kale is amazing, but our tomatoes are always a bet hedger.  Anually my thrifty gardener’s soul seems to be left with green tomatoes.

Although you aren’t likely to find them for sale a the market, there is no shortage of green tomatoes or green tomato recipes.

Luckily, I have my grandmother’s green tomato relish recipe to fall back on. About the time we have either eaten or given away the last jar, its time to make a new batch. My Grandma Groves was from Indiana, a farmer’s wife, and man could she cook! Of course everything she cooked was fattening as hell–chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, pies from scratch, you name it. Besides the butterscotch pies she made for me especially, I loved her relishes best.

My grandparents on a visit to California. Granma loved feeding the birds at San Juan Capistrano and Grandad always had a cigar in his hand.

I was about 8 the first time I stood on a chair  to reach the counter and helped her make watermelon pickles. They were so beautiful, pink, white and green, who knew watermelon could become a pickle?  I still like the Green Tomato Relish best, she called it Piccallili and watched us pack it on top of everything but jello. Granma’s recipe calls for 5 cups of sugar, but I have cut it to 3 and it still works nicely.

Granny’s Green Tomato Piccalli

24 large green tomatoes-or the equivalent in smaller tomatoes

3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded

3 green bell peppers, halved and seeded

if you like heat, throw in a jalapeno or two, (just be careful when handling the seeds to not get them near your mouth or eyes)

12 yellow onions

2 tablespoons celery seed

3 tablespoons mustard seed

1 tablespoon salt

3-5 cups of sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

Your  food processor makes this job easy–in batches, coarsely grind tomatoes, all the peppers and the  onions. You don’t want soup, you want small chunks, think about how you like your relish to look.

Line a colander with cheesecloth, place in sink or in a large bowl, and pour in tomato mixture to drain for 1 hour.  ( If you don’t have cheesecloth, an everyday clean tea towel works just fine.)

In a big (non aluminum) stockpot, combine the drained mixture, celery seed, mustard seed, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

FOLLOW THE CANNING DIRECTIONS THAT CAME WITH YOUR JARS! Sterilize enough lids for your batch of relish. This recipe makes 12 one-pint jars, or 6 one-quart jars. Put relish into your freshly washed and clean jars, use a spatula to make sure there are no spaces or air pocket in your jars. Fill jars all the way to top. Wipe the edge of each jar with a clean wet to make sure there is nothing that will be sitting on the rim. Put on the lids and the rings.

In the old days, everyone sterilized their jars, but the school of thought generally followed now is that a 30 minute boil will kill what’s on the glass and in the relish.  Personally, I wash my jars thoroughly and rinse them out and air dry them and then fill the clean jars without sterilizing first.

If you have a canning kettle, you can use that rather handily. If you don’t, place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring it to a boil and carefully lower jars into pot using tongs. Leave a 2 inch space between jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary to make sure the tops of the jars are covered by 2 inches of water.

Bring water to a full boil, then cover and process (this means boil) for 30 minutes.  Make sure the water stays over the top of the jars by two inches.

When your 30-35 minutes is up, get your tongs and carefully remove the jars from the hot pot. Put them on a wood or cloth covered surface several inches apart to cool. Once cool, press top of each lid with finger, ensuring that seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Generally you’ll hear the lids make a funny popping sound as the vacuum seal kicks in when they cool.

Relish will keep nicely for a year in a cool location and makes a great gift. Try it with Triscuits topped with cream cheese and a dollop of relish, yummy.  And here is a killer web location for all things tomato too!



Blueberry time in Washington!

Uncle Jimmy’s Blueberry Muffins

Uncle Jimmy's Blueberry Muffins

I made scrumptious blueberry muffins this morning as my contribution to a wonderful relaxed brunch with our dear friends Jim and Connie. Jim is affectionately known as Uncle Jimmy around here to my four sons and our family tales are the stuff of legends. Jim and the boys and I go back to when the oldest was only three and the youngest wouldn’t be around to cause trouble for another nineteen years.

Jim even lived with us for a crazy-making six months when he broke his leg wearing my roller skates on a Christmas day many years ago. That memorable day started out well  with too much champagne and ended badly with an ambulance ride to the ER and Jimmy in the spare room for his recuperation. We all survived, and through the years Jim has always been there for me through the insane roller coaster that has been my life. He is like the brother I would have liked. You know, the one that tortures you, completely gets you, loves you right through the b.s. and no one is allowed to kick his ass but you. That’s Jimmy, and now we have beautiful Connie in our lives too, which brings us neatly back to Jim’s favorite thing to eat that I know of: blueberries.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with amazing fresh fruit right from fields and orchards to our tables.

Blueberry time in Washington!

Its blueberry season now, and we are enjoying them about 20 minutes after they get picked at our local farms. I love blueberries and I love this simple and yummy blueberry streusel muffin recipe.

Not blueberries, but my favorite cooking equipment! Terry made the adorable wooden lid after he broke one. The canisters were acquired in Morro Bay on Terry's first big trip from brain trauma rehab. They still make me smile!

I started out by rinsing 2 cups of blueberries, okay I cheated, I used two of the little green boxes in  the box, called a “flat”, and didn’t measure. I wanted to jam in all the berries I could. Rinse them, pick all the stems, leaves and green or mushy berries out and set the rest to drain while you get the batter put together. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get your pans ready. I like using paper liners, those little things that you use for cupcakes?

Greasing up granma's wonderful old cast iron pan. This thing is heavy!

I am a believer in grease and then grease again, especially when I’m using my granma’s fabulous old cast iron muffin pan. I used paper muffin cups BUT I still took my brush and oiled around the openings in the muffin tins. I didn’t want the tops of my muffins to overflow, making that nice ‘muffin top’ -in a good way– stick and tear the cooked muffin in half.  So, grease OUTSIDE where the paper will not reach and where batter might flow.

Dry ingredients mixed

Then get your dry ingredients  measured and stirred together.  3 cups of flour, 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar, (yes, white nasty sugar works best, trust me), 1 tsp salt,  4 teaspoons of baking powder and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Fresh butter, fresh milk and fresh eggs, perfect. I love these brown organic eggs. Amazing how something so small can make you so happy.

Set the dry stuff aside and get another bowl out. I use one of those giant pyrex measuring cups, this is for your fluid ingredients. I use straight butter but you can substitute vegetable oil if you are not a butter fan.

Some of us making struseul topping with a fork.

I was going for deluxe muffins and nothing beats butter in my book. Melt 2/3 of a cup of butter in the microwave; cover the cup with a papertowel unless you really love cleaning butter spats out of your microwave. You can also just use a saucepan on the stovetop for melting duty.

And some of us make streusel topping by using our messy fingers.

While you let that cool a bit, make the streusel topping. 1 cup of sugar, 2/3 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of NOT melted butter and 3 teaspoons of cinnamon. I also added a tablespoon of finely chopped candied ginger for a little gingery zip. Yummy! You can squash the butter with the tines of a fork and then work in the dry stuff, but I’m a get your hands dirty kind of girl when I cook and smooshing it with my fingers works best. Work the mixture until it is smaller than peas and a little larger than rice.

Go back to the butter bowl and  toss in two eggs and enough milk to make 2 cups. Stir it together and then put it in with your dry ingredients and mix it up well. At this point I put in about 3 tablespoons of French Vanilla liqueur. You could use any flavor that would go with the ingredients.  Rum, vanilla, orange, etc. I wouldn’t recommend peppermint or any flavor that would get in a fistfight with your tastebuds. I almost always toss alcohol into batters, it gives them a nice little flavor edge. State Secret, you heard it here.

Wet and dry all mixed together waiting for the blue berries. I like big spatulas, you can scrape and fold really well with them.

Time to gently fold in the blue berries. You don’t want to beat the batter at this point. Just take your biggest spatula and roll the blueberries in like you were an undertow and they were swimmers, once they are all folded in to your batter you can proceed to filling your muffin tins.

Use your big spatula to roll the berries in to the batter gently

Ready for muffin tins! All blended and berried.

I like using two teaspoons. No photo here, I couldn’t figure out how to use two teaspoons and one camera without getting me and the camera covered with batter. Basically, I fill one teaspoon with a big dollop of batter and use the other one to scrape it off and into the muffin paper. Teaspoon size glops give you a lot more control and you can actually get the batter into the paper liners  without getting all over the pan with a little practice.

topped with streusel and ready for the oven

Top each muffin with the streusel topping you made and pop them into the over for about 25-30 minutes. I let mine cool for about five minutes before I flipped the pans over and my well greased tins let go of every muffin.

I can hardly wait!

all done, hot and crunchy and juicy with berries

Enjoy with your besties!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
You will need 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries

Stir together in a big bowl:
3 cups of flour
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
about 1 tsp cinnamon

In another bowl,Melt the butter, cool a bit and then add the other wet ingredients to your  cup or bowl:
2/3 cup of butter (substitute vegetable oil)
2 eggs
2/3 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of liqueur or alcohol such as Frangelico, French Vanilla Liqueur, Baileys, rum, etc.

For streusel topping mix in a bowl with your fingers or a fork until the size of rice grains or small peas:
1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup butter, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)

Pour liquid ingredients into dry mixture and beat by hand until well blended. Fold in blueberries, try not to break them unless you like purple muffins.

Fill muffin pans to the top edge of the paper liner, and top each muffin with a good dollop of your streusel topping. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly before carefully removing by turning the pan upside down and tapping on it. Careful! use two pot holders, that pan is hot!

Cool and enjoy.



Rabbit Shares THAT Salad Dressing

I love salads. My favorite thing in the summer is green food. Simple green food, as in salads.  I grew up with a mom who was a fabulous cook, she’s 91 now and everything she makes is way too salty but she’s still in there plugging along so have to give her props for that. I don’t buy bottled “Italian” dressing because I grew up with “California” dressing and everyone I know wants to know how I make it after they taste it.

Once I was in the grocery store buying lemons and an older gentleman asked me what I was making with them. I told him, and I had to repeat the recipe about three times so he could memorize it. Therefore, due to popular demand, I share the recipe.

Weightwatchers tip: make sure you measure your oil for portions and the cheese too. Serve your dressing on the side and dip your fork in it before you hit the green stuff. Save a ton of calories and still get a good taste of yummy dressing.

Tip: If you have a Trader Joe’s handy they have the best deal on anchovies on the planet. I buy ten tins at a time so I have them handy.

You will need: a tin of anchovies, trust me, you cannot taste them in the dressing but they make it so rich and flavorful it is amazing.

Garlic, how much is up to you. I use about four fat cloves and squish them in my amazing Garlic Press. Old school, metal. Good Will, 99 cents. If you haven’t investigated the cool cooking tools abandoned at Good Will you are missing a big boat kids.

Mouli graters, best I have ever found. I own about ten graters but always go back to Mouli

I’m on the look out for a Mouli grater at the moment. Moulinex, the manufacturer, apparently doesn’t sell them in the USA now, so I keep looking at thrift stores.Those plastic ones break way too fast.  I think my next entry should be a list of my cool tools acquired that way, with photographs to entice you to go shopping too.

This is a citrus reamer. Cool tool!

Olive oil. The juices of two fat lemons or four baby ones. I use a citrus reamer to get the juice out. Amazingly useful thing. If you have a garbage disposal, run the lemon skins through it with hot water to clean the disposal and make the kitchen smell great. Lemon peels sprinkled with baking powder and salt will clean chrome and stainless steel too. So save the peels and scrub the sink before tossing.

Capers if you have them, don’t worry if you don’t. They just add a nice Piquant tang.

I have an itty bitty food processor, love it more than the great big one.  Put the ingredients in the processor. Garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and start with about a 1/3 cup of oil.Push the button and blend the whole shooting match. Blending emulsifies it all and makes it wonderfully creamy. Take off the lid and taste. Too lemony? A little more oil, too oily? A little more lemon.  This is so easy and so amazingly tasty I could probably eat just salad for every meal.

Get your salad ready. I love romaine for salads, its bears up well under the weight of dressings and has a great flavor too. Iceberg lettuce is useless, has no real food value and should be banned from anything but tacos where it is the traditional lettuce of choice.

I make my own croutons, generally a batch big enough for two or three meals. Get a baguette or other Italian style bread. Not soft white bread please. Cut it into cubes, big cubes about an 1 and 1/2 inches across. Heat about 1/2 cup olive oil and garlic in a big skillet or wok. Toss in the bread and use a spatula to toss it and get the olive oil on all the cubes. Toast the bread in the skillet, watch it because burnt garlic is heinous tasting. Salt the croutons, a nice flavor note is added with a little salt.

Yesterday I found a bag of tiny bread slices for $1.29 on the dead bread rack at the grocery store. Perfect. On its way to stale and fantastic for croutons. I kind of like the little slices too. I used mine to pile chicken on and had a salad sandwich in my bowl.

If you are on Weightwatchers, no croutons for you. Okay, you can have two. Dress your salad with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Too much, soggy. Too little, dry salad. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated and used later.

the good stuff, real parmesan

Parmesan cheese, grate some fresh or use the deli case pre-grated kind. If you use dried parmesan in a bottle I will never speak to you again. My kids used to call that stinky foot cheese and put it on their canned ravioli as small kids. Ecch. Luckily, they have grown up to have grown up palates and reject cheese that comes in plastic bottles. Weightwatchers: leave out the cheese please or measure a small portion you can control.

Chuck in the cheese and croutons and toss. For dinner, we might have some gorgeous shrimp on top or a grilled chicken breast sliced up, (hint: wrap your chicken breasts in plastic and pound them flat so they’ll cook fast and evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pound it right it in to the meat.) or add a grilled salmon fillet. My vegetarian friends put in every raw vegie on the planet.  A giant salad is my favorite meal in the world  for a summer supper. I think I just made myself hungry….



How Do You Nourish Yourself?

This little found Italian statue stands in the bird bath, it makes me happy to see it when I'm sitting quietly in the garden.

I follow a wonderful blog written by a fellow artist in the South. Lisa writes a blog called “Cheap Therapy.” I’m not sure how I “met” Lisa in the blogosphere, but I love her writing and her art work both. Some of her posters make me laugh out loud, like “Chocolate and duct tape, what more do you need?” or “Don’t worry about avoiding temptation as you get older, temptation will avoid you.”

Lisa is writing “An Experimental Year” this year, and each week she is trying on a new idea.

Beautiful fresh food like this beautiful fresh bruschetta with mozzarella nourishes both spirit and my body.

Lisa’s blog this week was on nourishing yourself which got me thinking about the word nourishment. The art of  cooking, and eating and drinking wonderful things are never far from my chubby little heart, but beyond the physical how do I nourish myself?

 I must say though,  I have eaten things that I swear were spiritually nourishing: a meal at bed and breakfast in Burgundy with handmade cider and a cassoulet,  pate made on a farm in France with a wine selected by the farm owner, my mother’s Mexican food,

France, and the most memorable meal of my life. I think Sherry and I were in tears by the time we finished four hours after we started. Everyone should have a meal like this at least once.

the first cafe creme and croissant I had at a cafe table in Pamiers, France, barbecue at Jack Stack’s in Kansas City, and oysters toasted on my grill topped with a big glop of handmade pesto and an ice cold Italian white wine. I’m not even going to start down the list of wines that took me to a heavenly place because I’d be writing all day.

That's Barbie, she went all over France with me and she has her own travel blog. This is a picture of my first cup of coffee in France in the market town of Pamiers. I got to sit here and just exist for three glorious hours.

I definitely see a connection between how I nourish myself, stomach and spirit, and how I experience fantastic food. Hmmm…what’s the commonality? Being in the moment completely would be rule number one. I can sit in my garden with a cup of coffee and have 30 quiet minutes and if I am in the moment my spirit is rested, relaxed and joyful. When I make or eat fanatastic food, I am in the moment, knowing that something magic is happening right then, right there.

I think my wonderful chair surrounded by the garden is a great place to nourish my spirit.

The hardest thing to learn for me  was that in the middle of life’s craziness and demands I can take time for me. That would be rule number two. TAKE some time just for you.  This is my life and as far as I know I won’t get more minutes to replace the ones I am using up. We all need to make quiet spots in our lives to refresh ourselves with the natural world.

 That’s a component of fantastic food too. The time given to fresh food, the best ingredients prepared with care and eaten with joy and respect for the work of the chef. Taking the time to truly enjoy the meal, to linger and give the experience the time it deserves.

I try to take time every day, to be in the moment completely. It heals my spirit and my heart and makes me a nicer person, ask my husband, LOL.

Its easy to not make time for ourselves in our busy lives, but if we don’t  make the time we won’t ever learn the pay off of being quiet. Rule number three would be to learn to be quiet. Franz Kafka said this, one of my all time favorite things, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

It’s true, it’s hard to do and so worth it. As a painter who has to draw inspiration from somewhere inside I have to top up the tanks on a regular basis. In my life these three rules work together to nourish my spirit and my stomach. Synchronicity happens.

1. Be in the moment.

2. Take time for you.

3. Learn to be quiet and wait.

Last but not least, I have to say thanks  for getting me thinking about my life and the concept of nourishment in a new light. I wound up being filled with gratitude and happiness for all the places I’ve been and the things I’ve both seen and eaten. Thanks Lisa!

The link to Lisa’s “Cheap Therapy”  blog is in this entry, go visit, enjoy!

Caramelized Brie–the Easy Way

As promised, an impressive hor d’oeuvre for the next time you have 1:) to go to a party 2:)bring some kind of  really tasty appetizer that everyone will devour and assume you spent hours making it.  I was born running late and I am always under a time crunch, so this is my go to never-fail recipe. 

Don’t be afraid of melting sugar on the stove top. Just pay attention and WATCH the pan and you will be fine. Yes. Its hot, but so is that pasta water, and we all make spaghetti don’t we? In this recipe, I love the sugary crunch of the caramel and the pecans contrasted with the creaminess of the brie. If you make this just before you serve it the cheese will warm and get just  a little gooey and it will be even better. Its yummy  even hours later, trust me and my fat hips on this one.

Carmelized brie ingredient list:

ingredients for caramelized brie

1small circular container (often how you find it at your grocery store) or wedge of brie cheese

1/3 to 1/2 cup of pecans, depending on how in love with pecans you are

about 1/3 cup of white sugar

1 baguette, baked in the oven and crisped up nicely

Other stuff:

You will need a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula that is heat proof, and a skillet that has a nice thick bottom but doesn’t weigh as much as the Titantic. You have to pick it up and pour hot melted sugar so skillet selection is fairly important. A hot pad if you don’t have an insulated skillet handle or hands as tough as mine, good luck with that…30 years of making art using hot stuff has some small rewards.  Last but not least, a pretty heatproof plate to put your brie on. My ceramic dinner ware works fine but occaisonally I like to step it and use a prettier plate.

Top the brie with your pecans and scatter them around the plate, put the plate close to the stove where you can reach it quickly.

Unwrap the brie and put it on your plate, put the nuts on the brie and around it–whole ones look pretty but are a bit more problematic to eat buried in the candied caramel sugar, your call. Put the plate where its handy to the stove and out of the way for the moment.

Take your pre-measured sugar and pour it in the bottom of the skillet. You want your sugar to cover the pan bottom as much as possible and not be too thick or too thin. Too thick takes forever to melt and can get lumpy, too thin can melt too fast and scorch. Turn the heat to medium high. Gas stoves are fabulous and the process goes quickly. Electric stoves can seem to take forever, but be patient and keep a close eye on your skillet. Do not stir it as it is heating up.

By the way, you’ll figure out the exact right amount after you make it with your own pan the very first time.  It’s only sugar and if it scorches the first time because you haven’t quite figured out the right amount of sugar, or figured out the heat on your stove, you can wash the pan out and start over. It’s not rocket science so relax and take your time.

So, the pan is on the stove on medium to medium high heat, a wooden spoon is in your hand with a death grip, and the sugar is  heating. It’s still white and looks like nothing is happening and it feels like its been hours when its only about 3 minutes. Don’t stir the sugar when it is still all white and granular. You will make nasty lumps caused by the difference in the sugar crystals. The melted sugar underneath and the not melted on top parts don’t get along real well. If you do inadvertently make lumps you can carefully use your wooden spoon and try to mix them in and melt them, be careful and keep an eye on the color because the sugar will go cooked really fast at this point.

sugar on the heat and heating, feels like forever before you see it melt but it only takes a few minutes

When you see melted patches that look almost clear keep a close eye out because your sugar is now going fast. If it is melting and getting a little tan, go ahead and move it around gently with the spoon. It will all melt suddenly and you should be stirring at that point.

sugar melting and getting clear patches, almost time to stir!

when the sugar starts to melt, stir, stir, stir. Caramel color? Get if off the heat ti avoid scorching

Watch the color and turn off the heat when it gets caramel colored. It can burn very fast so be ready to get it off the stove and onto the brie.

Turn off the heat. Pick up the skillet and pour the hot sugar CAREFULLY on top of the prepared brie, use the spatula to scrape out of all the golden goodness. Move the skillet across the brie to make sure you spread the sugar out as much as possible. Since you have to pick up a skillet and basically pour boiling hot sugar out of it, it is important to choose a pan you can handle. This one is ugly as homemade sin and older than dirt but its the perfect size for the job.

The good news is that your incredibly sticky pan will be easy to clean–water dissolves the glued on sugar quickly.

Pull your warm bread out and slice it, then just stand back and let the munching begin. I love an Alsatian white wine with this, maybe a spicy Gewurtraminer or a  sparkling Prosecco from Italy. Whatever I have stashed that is fruity and cold and crispy and not too sweet is great. Serve the brie plate with sliced apples  and grapes on the side and you have a complete sexy first course.

Bon appetit!

The perfect appetizer, caramelized brie and a hot, crispy baguette

The Wonderful Shrink Me Cake

The White Rabbit announces a new cake for the tea party!

I love finding recipes that are not fattening and still taste great, hence this “shrink me” cake, with a nod to Alice in Wonderland and the tea party. I love to eat and I love to cook and if I can find something that lets me do both without expanding my waistline even better!

I was idly watching the telly and drinking my morning coffee last week when Hungry Girl showed up with some sensational tips on removing calories and fat from food. I sat up and took notice. I knew I had to try to put my own spin on this impossible sounding cake. My personal problem with removing calories and fat from treats is that the process usually involves removing taste as well so I had some serious doubts. To the kitchen White Rabbit!

The claim is that you can take any cake mix and dump in a single can of diet soda in place of milk/eggs/oil and come up with a cake that cuts calories in half. Note: I also left out the extra water as the “recipe” was unclear about leaving out that part. The first cake I tried was chocolate with diet pepsi. It turned out great, much to my surprise so it was time for the next level. I had the cake part down, what about the frosting and yummy-on-top part?

I baked a yellow cake mix with a can of diet cherry 7 up. Turned out nicely again and tasted great. That’s the good part. The bad part is that the top of these cakes look like the surface of a dry river bed that’s been baked by the sun.

All baked up

 A little more appetizing, but you get the idea–cracks/fissures in the mud, er…cake.  This means when you slice the cake and dish it up, you will need to be really careful when you slide that nice sharp spatula under the piece and lift it out. It does crumble easily so be careful if you want to eat more than a fistful of really big crumbles.

Cake Cracks Mean Take Care in Cutting

It also has a small artificial sweetener aftertaste; thankfully, not bitter like a Starbucks skinny caramel macchiato. In a fit of behaving myself last week I tried one and it was nasty-metallic-bitter. I think I’d rather drink paint but it did make me wonder about chemistry and cakes.

I can live with the aftertaste, especially when I added 1/3 cup of lite Cherry pie filling and two fat tablespoons of extra creamy Cool Whip to the top of my piece of cake. Now this is a tasty treat.

You could do this with any combo: Chocolate cake with fresh sliced strawberries. White cake with blueberries, carrot cake with sliced bananas. The possiblities are endless. If you avoid frosting you eliminate unnecessary fat pills from your diet. If you can’t stand cool whip, splurge and add real whipped cream–just factor in the calories. Better yet, get a spray can of aerosol whipped cream at the store. Better flavor than Cool Whip and still low in calories. I just happened to have a tub of Cool Whip in the freezer, and what I have on hand is what gets used when I have a baking bee in my bonnet.

Let’s do the math: My yellow cake mix said on the side of the box that the dry mix had 190 calories in a serving. They calculate 12 servings to a 13X9″ pan, which is still a nice sized chunk. If you add a can of diet pop you are not adding a single calorie to the dry mix calculations. If you make that cake according to the instructions on the box adding oil/eggs/milk your piece of cake just went up to 270 calories! And get this: the dry mix calculations with your can of pop have 4.5 grams of fat. The regular cake baked? 14 grams of fat per serving. Holy Fat Cow Batman!

Toss on two tablespoons of extra creamy cool whip and add just 25 calories and 2 grams of fat. 1/3 cup of lite cherry pie filling has 60 calories–and no fat. If you use regular cherry pie filling you are looking at only 85 calories. I think the difference is in the amount of sugar, which works me because the lite stuff tastes great. If you use home whipped cream you are looking at 100 calories in two tablespoons. The LIGHT (as in less calories) cream in a spray can has about 15 calories in a tablespoon. That’s a tablespoon kids, not a heaping, enormous overstuffed tablespoon for measuring and dining purposes. 

Shrink Me Cake with lite cherry filling and non-dairy topping: 255 calories and 6.5 grams of fat

Regular Expand Me Cake with cherry filling and real whipped cream: 455 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Make the tea party better with a Shrink Me Cake!

I like finding things that I can enjoy cooking and even better, share. Nice to know cake can still be in my future and its soooo easy to make. Bonus! (By the way, thanks for the tip Hungry Girl)

Rabbit Cooks With Quinoa

I love quinoa (Keen-wa). While not the most low calorie "grain" out there it is the healthiest and most complete "grain" by a mile. Quinoa is not strictly a grain, it comes from the Amaranth family of plants and also sports the moniker "Inca Gold". It tastes like grain, cooks like grain and has a great nutty flavor. Its like couscous on steroids.

Quinoa in the fields of the Andes

Quinoa while having 626 calories in a cup, also has 11.9 grams of fiber, 10.3 grams of fat, the good kind, and get this: a whopping 24 grams of protein! Grain,with protein. Who knew? You don't even need meat with this stuff. Vegetarians: pay attention here, Quinoa is one of the few complete proteins in the veggie world, which means it fulfills all your dietary protein needs in one fell swoop. It is also stuffed with manganese, magnesium and phosphorus among other vitamin type things.

So as promised after that sinful crepe recipe here is a healthy recipe that will fill you up and leave you feeling good about what you ate.

If you are not a vegetarian skip to the chicken cooking part further down the page and get the chicken out of the way so it can cool.

Not a grain but it sure looks and cooks like one!

Cook the Quinoa according to package directions(available these days at most grocery stores with a health food section or at health food stores–heck my Ralph's Thriftway carries it right there with the regular boxed grains.) in chicken broth instead of water for extra flavor. Let it cool.

Inca Salad Ingredients:

Cooked quinoa

bunch fresh asparagus

1 red pepper–roast  it yourself or obtain in a jar

2 cups skinless roasted chopped up chicken breasts

1/2 c. chopped up purple onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of one lemon

2 cloves garlic

salad greens

You can get a nice smoky flavor on your pepper–and low cal healthy cooking is ALL about flavor–believe me–if you toss the pepper cored and seeded on your bbq for a while. The skin should shrivel up and you can just scrape it off with a knife. You can also hold it with tongs over the flame of your gas stove until the skin starts to blacken bubble and peel. Scrape it off.

It's not that hard, and if you are lazy pick up red peppers roasted in a jar from the grocery store. I don't know about you but I hate biting into a cooked red or green pepper, bell type here, with the skin on.  After you cook it, Its like chewing wax paper. Yuck.

So you have your roasted pepper scraped and chopped up set aside. Clean the asparagus, and snap off the bottoms. Asparagus, that's a whole separate chapter in cooking. Hold the stem and snap the bottom off. It should break a couple of inches up which takes off the tough part. Don't cut it, snap it. Lay the aspargus down sideways in a microwave safe dish with a lid. Put just a tiny amount of water in and steam it with the lid on. Try six or seven minutes, test it–but don't scald yourself getting the lid off your "steamer". Put it back until its cooked through but God forbid–not mushy. You want it just past crunchy and well before squishy. Put it aside to cool and then chop it into about 1 inch pieces, a size you can neatly stab with a fork.

Chop up the red onion into nice small bites, you don't want a mouthful of giant onion, just a nibble in your flavor profile when you take a bite. Put that aside with your pepper and asparagus.

The chicken cooking part: I get chicken breasts–never Southern grown, those are just scary factory grown chemical chickens, look for local. Its your health and you are worth it. Pull off the skin and with your kitchen scissors cut off any fat blobules you see on your chicken (that's the yellow stuff). Get out a cookie sheet or your roasting pan. I have a teeny chicken sized broiler pan which I love and use a lot.

Easy clean up on the cookie sheet? Cover it with foil and spray it with cooking spray, unless you like scrubbing up burnt on chicken. Get out some salt, some garlic powder and some pepper. Massage the chicken on both sides with your spices. Put the spices into a dish first and stir them up, that way when your hands are all dirty and chicken-y, you don't have to touch anything but the chicken and the dish. Cut up a lemon into slices, squish the slices over the chicken to release the juice and then lay the squished slices on top of the chicken for extra flavor.

Cook the chicken until its done through. I usually go at 350 degrees for an hour and then cut open the fattest part of one of the breasts to make sure its done all the way through. Sacrilege! I know, but you are chopping these ones into cubes anyway. Cool the chicken, pull it off the bones and chop into nicely fork-sized bites.

Put the two tablespoons of oil in a pan with the garlic which you have crushed and chopped finely, warm the oil and garlic through on medium to low heat until you can smell the garlic releasing its lovely cooked mellow flavor-watch it, burnt garlic is evil in flavor.

Toss the asparagus, onion and pepper into the pan along with the chicken. Warm it all through, add salt, pepper or whatever spices you love most. You could take this oriental with some soy sauce or Indian with some curry powder if you wanted to. Toss in the quinoa and the juice of one lemon. Give it a taste, correct the seasoning and then chill in the fridge until serving time.

Personally, I love putting mine over salad greens. This is a great way to get more salad into my family because the salad becomes an integral part of the dish. Sprinkle the top with some slivered almonds for a little crunch, and it adds a nice note to the whole thing too.

Experiment! Try snow peas instead of asparagus, try tomatoes and mint instead of red peppers. I think this would even be great with small chunks of sweet potato and snow peas with a little fresh pineapple perhaps and a sprinkle of curry? You don't even need chicken for a complete, filling and yummy dinner!

This should serve 3 people at least, 4 if you are polite….