Wednesday, January 27, 2010


We have a family emergency to handle. My elder son, James, an attorney who lives in San Diego, is very sick and needs our help. We are leaving for San Diego and don't know when we'll be returning. Tomorrow is my birthday, and the best birthday present I could have is for him to pull through. He has two brain aneurysms (13 mm & 4 mm) in addition to previous head trauma and a concussion and we're trying to find a neurosurgeon to deal with it. If you're a praying person, I would so appreciate your prayers for him. And for us, as we're not feeling travel worthy at this particular time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


On a cold wintry day, there is nothing like a bowl of steaming hot stew, with tender chunks of meat and potatoes, and a flavorful gravy.  So how about some Irish Lamb Stew? 
You can buy lamb shoulder for a reasonable price, or even meaty lamb bones, to make this stew.  Lamb is a nice change from beef and offers a slightly sweeter taste.  I found this highly rated recipe on where several Irish readers noted that it was like a dish they remembered from their childhood. 
Hubby and I both are lamb lovers, so we gobbled this up with glee.  I hope you’ll click on over to The Bear Cupboard where I posted this recipe.  I rated it 10 out of 10 points, because it was just that good.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The best part of a cold winter is eating comfort foods.  The kitchen gets cozy warm from the oven heat, and heady aromas fill the air; and that’s before you sit down to eat. 
Here’s a very easy Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipe  that really delivers on flavor and comfort.  001
You can use chopped cooked ham in place of the hot dogs, if you prefer.  And you could use fat-free half and half instead of the cream and milk. 
Easy Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Hot Dogs
Adapted from
Rating:  9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 (8-oz.) pkg. (2 cups) Six-Cheese Italian Blend Cheese
3 oz. chopped or sliced hot dogs (about 2 medium)
6 oz. dry elbow or medium shell pasta, cooked and drained

Spray a 1-1/2 quart baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set it on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Heat oven to 400F. 

In large bowl, whisk the flour and cream till no lumps remain.  Add milk, salt, pepper, parsley and cheese, whisking till combined.  Stir in meat and pasta.  Transfer to baking dish.  Bake till sauce bubbles and cheese melts and begins to brown on top, 30-40 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack for 10-15 minutes to let it settle.  Yield:  4 servings

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Gera, of  Sweets Foods has passed on the Happy 101 Award to me.

Thanks so much, Gera, for this award.  I will put it with my other awards.  Each one is precious and appreciated.

Happy 101 award from Gera

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My Sicilian mother-in-law always made her version of Zuppa Inglese  (literal translation:  English Soup – a spin-off of English trifle) for holidays .  It was a layered dessert with a delicious homemade custard, whipped cream, rum-soaked lady fingers and maraschino cherries).  Zuppa Inglese was a  popular dessert in Italian households in the 50’s and 60’s.  Some people believe that Tiramisu is a variation of Zuppa Inglese.  More likely, it’s a variation of a dessert I used to make, Italian cream cake, aka Italian rum cake,  that was popular in that same time period.  Italian cream cake consisted of a hot-milk sponge cake soaked with coffee and rum,  frosted with rum whipped cream and sometimes topped with shaved chocolate.   The missing ingredients, of course, were mascarpone cheese and zabaglione.

Although many people believe that Tiramisu is a very old traditional Italian dessert, the truth is it probably didn’t come into existence until the 1960’s sometime, according to Cooking for Engineers.   It was made with zabaglione (zah-bye-yonee), a very smooth, light and frothy egg custard made only with egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar, and mixed with the other ingredients of cream, mascarpone and espresso-alcohol-soaked ladyfingers.   Today, the trend is to make a shortened version, leaving out the zabaglione, where much of the flavor resides.  I’ve made it both ways, and I much prefer Tiramisu made with zabaglione.


Some things you might like to know: 

1.  Don’t leave out the Mascarpone.  Mascarpone (mas-car-poh-nay) is not a true cheese, because it’s not aged.  It’s a triple cream cheese made from crème fraîche with the excess whey removed.  It’s flavor is unique and can’t be duplicated by substituting anything else. 

2. You don’t have to use Marsala wine.  I don’t ever use it in Tiramisu, and no one has ever suffered.  Rum, Cognac and coffee brandy are all good substitutes.

3. You don’t have to use espresso, especially if you’re cooking for older folks, like me, who are caffeine sensitive.  I use decaffeinated coffee with coffee essence.  It’s enough to impart a nice coffee flavor with a little kick, but not enough to keep someone up all night.

4. Tiramisu is wonderful made with hot-milk sponge cake, but  regular lady fingers or the imported lady finger biscuits (savoiardi) that are now available in almost every grocery store, are good substitutes, even if they are expensive.

5. If I’m putting eggs in Tiramisu, I want them cooked.  Raw eggs can harbor nasty little germs that can make you very sick. 

6. My adapted version below cuts a few calories, but all of the flavor is there.  Subbing Neufchatel for part of the Mascarpone works really well, because you get the flavor of the Mascarpone with some of the fat reduced.  Trust me when I tell you that no one will ever know.  But if you don’t care about calories, cholesterol or the exorbitant price of Mascarpone, go for the full-fat version and use 12 oz. of Mascarpone.030

Really Good Tiramisu
Adapted from
Rating:  10 out of 10
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup 1% milk, or milk of choice
8 oz.  heavy whipping cream, chilled
1-1/4 tsp. good-quality vanilla extract (I used 1/4 tsp. extract + 1 tsp. homemade vanilla powder) 
8 oz. mascarpone cheese, chilled
4 oz. Philadelphia brand Neufchatel (lower-fat cream cheese), chilled
1/4 cup freshly brewed regular or decaf coffee, room temperature 
1 Tbsp. instant coffee
1/4 cup rum
1 (7-oz.) pkg. savoiardi (imported lady finger biscuits)
About 2-1/2 oz. grated dark chocolate bar (Ghiradelli’s Bittersweet, for example)

1. In medium heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks and sugar until well blended.  Whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, till mixture begins to boil (about 20 minutes).  Boil gently for 1 minute; remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Cover with plastic wrap that is placed directly on custard surface; chill in fridge 1 hour.
2. In medium bowl, using medium speed of electric mixer, beat heavy cream with vanilla till stiff peaks form. 
3. Add Mascarpone and Neufchatel cheeses gradually to cooled custard, beating till smooth after each addition.  Fold in whipped cream.  Refrigerate till ready to use.
4. In a small,  shallow bowl, combine brewed coffee, instant coffee and rum.  Quickly dip the savoiardi, one at a time, into the liquid, dipping one side, then quickly flipping to the other side.  Do not let the biscuits sit in the liquid, just dip, quickly count to 3, flip, quickly count to 3. (Or you can brush the liquid onto both sides of the biscuits, using a pastry brush.) Lay the glazed biscuits, one at a time, into a 9x9” glass pan (or two 9x5” glass loaf pans).  When one layer of biscuits fills the bottom of  the pan, spread half of the mascarpone-custard-cream mixture over top.  Sprinkle with half the grated chocolate.  Repeat.  Cover loosely and refrigerate 4-6 hours, until set.  Yield:  About 12 servings

Sunday, January 17, 2010


My dad always made the most amazing oatmeal.  He would get up early and cook old-fashioned oatmeal slowly in a double boiler for hours.  It was creamy, hot and delicious. 

Today, it seems we’re all looking for shortcut cooking methods to produce fantastic results.  Instant oatmeal?  Yeah, I guess it’s creamy, and it sure is fast; but my go-to oatmeal has always been old-fashioned oats (5-minute).  I’ve never cooked it in a double boiler like my Dad, so it’s not as creamy as his, but it is satisfying, hearty and delicious. 

Lately, though, I’ve been using steel-cut oats.  They’re not as processed as rolled oats, have slightly more nutritional value, and are slightly less glycemic.  I particularly like Country Choice Organic Steel Cut Oats


available online or in many food stores for very reasonable prices.  (I’m not being compensated in any way to make this endorsement.)  The catch is they take longer to cook (about  1 hour).  And who wants to stand over a pot for an hour?  Not me. 

I’ve found some shortcut methods:

1. McCann (the Irish oatmeal people) suggest pouring boiling water over the oats before you go to bed, then reheating the next morning for a shorter cooking time.  I haven’t tried this method, but it sounds interesting, and if I can remember to do it before I go to bed some night, I’ll give it a try and report back to you.

2. Eating Well has a recipe for overnight crockpot oatmeal, as does Alton Brown of the Food Network and many food blogs.  When I had company recently, two of us wanted oatmeal in the morning, so I tried a recipe from for the  overnight cooking method.  I added apple chunks and extra water, thanks to reviewers’ comments.  The texture of the oatmeal was great, but there just was no flavor.  I also didn’t like the thick crust that formed all around the insides of the crockpot.  However, if I had a large family to cook for, this might be an option, using dried, not fresh,  fruits as additives.  For just one person, though, the crockpot method isn’t practical.  Some people cook a big batch, refrigerate the leftovers and microwave as needed.  That doesn’t appeal to me, since I avoid the microwave as much as possible and don’t want food sitting in my fridge to grow mold.

Here’s how I do it:

The first thing I do in the morning is to measure out into a 1-1/2 quart pot a scant 1/4 cup of oats1-1/2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt.  I bring this to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium high (or hot enough to maintain a low boil).  I let this boil gently for about 10 minutes.   It’s not necessary to stir it until it starts to slightly thicken, which should be about the 10-minute mark.  I continue to boil the oats uncovered for another 15 minutes or so while I’m reading the paper and watching the news on my kitchen TV, throwing a load of laundry in, or gathering ingredients for something I’ll be baking… get the picture.  It doesn’t require my constant attention, unless, of course, the burner is set too high and it starts to boil over.    After about 20-25 minutes of total cooking time, the liquid should have reduced somewhat.  Time to give it a good stir, put the lid on, and reduce heat to the lowest point, a simmer.  Just hang around for a few minutes to be sure the pot won’t boil over from retained heat.  Now go do something for a good half hour and come back to your oatmeal.  The liquid should have reduced more as the oats absorbed it.  Stir  it again and either continue cooking it with the lid on at a simmer till you’re ready for it, or finish it the way you like.
I Iusually add my homemade apple-cranberry sauce and extra cinnamon.    The applesauce goes in the pot with the oatmeal; the heat gets cranked up, then it’s scooped into my bowl.  Into the pot goes my milk (which happens to be soy milk since I’m allergic to milk) to just get warmed.  I spoon flax oil and toasted crushed walnuts over the oatmeal, then top it off with a sprinkle of Chai Spice  Blend and my warmed milk.  002 QUESTIONS:  So, have you tried steel-cut oats yet?  If yes, what is your preferred cooking method?

Friday, January 15, 2010


Last April, we bought a whole, boneless rib from Sam’s Club and dry-aged it for 14 days.  We cut the rib into steaks and separated out the rib caps to be braised as stew.  This is the recipe I used to braise the end caps, and they were everything I hoped they would be:  succulent, tender and memorable, the stuff dreams are made of.  We aged a second rib (this one bone-in from Harris Teeter),  for 21 days, and enjoyed that meat even more.  We’re on our third rib, and aiming for 28 days.  Once you’ve tasted dry-aged beef, it’s next-to-impossible to settle for less. 
For you beef lovers out there, you can check out Colicchio's original recipe.  Below is my adapted smaller version, made in a crockpot.  I’ve added mushrooms and eliminated Tom’s last step of broiling the meat till it’s black, developing a charred crust.  We like the meat soft and tender.  Final word:  if you think a rib steak is good, wait until you taste this!
Tom Colicchio’s Braised Short Ribs, Adapted
Rating:  10 out of 10

2 Tbsp. oil, divided use
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. boneless rib end caps,, or 1-1/2 lbs.short ribs with bone
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
1 cup dry red wine,  drinking quality
1 large fresh thyme sprig
1-1/2 cups  chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Season meat with salt and pepper; cook till browned and crusty on all sides, about 10 minutes; transfer to crockpot.
braised rib caps (2)
2. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. fat from skillet; add mushrooms, cook about 5 minutes, or till they start to brown.  Transfer to crockpot. 

3. Add 1 Tbsp. of the reserved fat back to the skillet; add onions, shallots, carrot and celery and cook over medium heat until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes.  Cover pan, reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes, or till onions start to caramelize.  
braised rib caps (10)
Uncover pan; raise heat to high.  Add salt and pepper, wine, thyme sprig and broth and bring to boil.  Pour over meat in crockpot.braised rib caps (3)
Cook on high 1-1/2 hours, then switch to low setting for an additional
1-1/2 hours.  .
4. Cool crockpot contents; pour broth into one container, meat and veggies into another.  Refrigerate. 
5. Next day, remove hardened fat from top of broth.  Heat broth in skillet on medium high till reduced by about 1/2.  Add meat and veggies to heat through.  Serve this wonderful “stew” over cooked wide noodles that have been tossed with butter and chopped fresh parsley, or with mashed potatoes.
Yield:  2 servings

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


This  year marks the 300th anniversary of New Bern, and celebrations and events are scheduled throughout the year.  Settled by the Swiss in 2010, New Bern was once an important port  city and the colonial capitol of North Carolina. 
With a rich and interesting history, and a vibrant downtown revitalization, I wanted to write about my adopted town.   So I’ve started The Bear Cupboard
The first post has a prize-winning recipe for scones that I highly recommend.  I hope you’ll check out  this great recipe, and my new blog. 

Friday, January 8, 2010


Sauce Magazine is St. Louis' Award winning metro area culinary and entertainment magazine and guide.  It has trendy recipes that are unique and different, and the original recipe for  this mac 'n' cheese was in one of their issues.  It was adapted by Lynsey Lou, another blogger, and I adapted it again. 

One of my pet peeves with crab recipes is that too many people (including chefs) cover over the delicate taste of the crabs with all kinds of heavy ingredients.  I want to taste the crabs.  This recipe allows you to do that.  All the ingredients blend beautifully to enhance, not cover, the crab taste. This is one recipe I will make again and again, and I heartily encourage you to try it. You won’t be disappointed. You can find the recipe On my crab blog..

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The Internet can be overwhelming, and it can be a pain; but there are some opportunities worth mentioning.  Bite of the Best is definitely one of them.  A seasoned food writer reviews featured products and invites readers to submit comments.  Right now, Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread is being reviewed.

Readers can register once a month for product prizes.  I've already won a 5-lb. bag of Eagle Mills Ultra-Grain flour; a case of Swanson Low-Sodium Chicken Broth and 3 (8-oz.) pkgs. of Melissa's Baby Beets.  The products are mailed to your home, and Bite of the Best asks that you submit a comment after receiving your prize and trying it.  Once you win a product, you are not eligible to enter that particular drawing again, but you can continue to enter your name for the other products.  You will have to register at the site in order to be included in the drawings.  And if/when you do win, you'll receive an email notification.  Plus, you'll receive additional email notifications when new products are reviewed. 

How neat is that?

Friday, January 1, 2010



Want an excellent muffin recipe? This one bakes up very moist, flavorful, and tender, with nice chunks of apples and whole cranberries. The almonds work in the background, providing more depth of flavor without taking center stage. This muffin is more like a moist apple cake in texture, and everyone who’s tasted it has raved, even my fussy hubby. Really, give this one a try.


Apple-Almond-Cranberry Crumble Muffins
Adapted from Robin Hood Company of Canada
Rating: 9 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
Topping: 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1 tsp. NuNaturals Stevia + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar)
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
3 Tbsp. quick (1-minute) oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted (If using unsalted, add a big pinch of sea salt)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix with fork or fingers. Set aside.

Muffins: 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup almond meal* + 1 cup AP flour + 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour)
1-1/2 cups brown sugar (I used 3/4 cup brown sugar + 3 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups peeled chopped apples (I used 1 large Rome apple)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed, picked over, drained & patted dry
1 large egg
1 cup yogurt ((I used Stonyfield Farm plain low-fat)
1 Tbsp. almond liqueur (or 1/8 tsp. almond extract)
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

Heat oven to 425F. Prepare a 12-cup standard muffin tin and a 12-cup mini muffin tin by spraying with nonstick cooking spray, greasing, or lining with paper cups.

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; whisk thoroughly; stir in apples and cranberries. In large bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, almond liqueur or flavoring, and oil. Stir in dry ingredients with spoon or spatula, just till barely mixed. Fill muffin tins with batter and sprinkle some topping over each. Place in oven; close door; turn heat to 350F. Bake standard muffins about 16 minutes, minis about 12 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.
019 *Finely grind blanched almonds as a substitute for almond meal, being careful not to overgrind and turn them into paste. You can do this in a coffee grinder or food processor. When the almonds are finely ground, measure 1/2 cup for recipe, saving remainder for future use. Place the 1/2 cup ground almonds back in the grinder with 1 Tbsp. of the flour and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar. Grind again to get the almonds finer.