About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blueberry Scones and the Baseball Moms

The very first recipe I posted on this blog was from Debbie, one of the group of friends I affectionately call the "Baseball Moms."  We bonded some 26 years ago watching ours sons play Little League and on through high school. About 14 years ago, Debbie invited a few of us on a weekend retreat to her place in the North Carolina mountains. It took me back to the giggly spend-the-night parties of my youth and this adult "girl" trip became an annual ritual.  When my husband asked me what we do, I said "NOTHING" - except sleep, eat, drink and talk until our jaws are sore.  We sleep late, drink coffee and eat a bit in our robes until noon, wander through the local shops, eat lunch out, drink a little wine or beer, eat dinner and stay up late talking.  We've shared the joys & sorrows; the ups & downs and so forth but the point is, we pause for 48 hours, escape our usual responsibilities and let our hair down. It's an essential event for me and contributes to my security and well being.

I brought along some blueberry scones to go with our lazy mornings.  They are England's version of a biscuit and are most often associated with afternoon tea but they are just as delicious with coffee.  Made with butter and a little sugar, they are less sweet than a blueberry muffin but sweeter than a traditional biscuit.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
3 tbls sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1  cup washed and dried blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Wisk dry ingredients together. Add cold butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or use clean hands.  Add blueberries. Stir into dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just blended.  Mix buttermilk, egg and vanilla together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surace and knead a few times. Pat into a 1 inch round. Wrap in plastic and chill 15 minutes. Cut into 12 wedges and bake 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ultimate Tomato Sandwich with Basil Aioli

It's prime tomato season and I was thinking I'd make myself a really nice juicy tomato sandwich for lunch but all I had in the kitchen were the tomatoes; ripe Pink Ladies with wonderful flavor.  Since it's farmers' market day, I headed over there to collect the rest of the ingredients and got inspired.  I wanted a great tomato sandwich with the best ingredients available.  On market day, I can buy both farm fresh produce, artisnal baked goods, charcuterie, cheese and dairy.  I know the classic tomato sandwich is made with white bread but I dodged that with H&F Bread's "Southern Sandwich Bread".  They must have read my mind.  Grocery store white bread is too gummy and frankly, beneath my dignity.  Their's has a bit more egg, an even texture with a glossy crust and is cut in about half inch slices.  Perfect for sandwiches.  I also purchased Pine Street applewood smoked bacon.  It's my favorite with the right mix of smoke and sliced thick enough but not where you can't bite through it.  It crisps up nicely, too.  I picked up fresh Arugula and couldn't resist a nice bunch of basil.  I had homemade mayo in mind and then got carried away - basil aioli.

  The real mark of a good tomato sandwich is the tomato.  They should have plenty of red juicy flesh and the skin should peel off with little effort from the knife.  Tomato sandwich etiquette allows for tomato juices and mayo to mingle and run down the side of your hand and just below the wrist before you lick it off. Tell your mama I said it was OK
, it's just too good to waste.

For the Basil Aioli, in a food processor:

3 large egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice

Process all ingredients for 1 minute

Add 3/4 cup olive oil through the feed tube.

Process until thickened, about 2 minutes

Add 8-10 large basil leaves and pulse 12 times the process 30 seconds.

Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sweet Cherry Cobbler on the 4th of July

  The Viet Namiese manicurists looked at my hands and gave me that "What have you been doing?" look. I had trouble making her understand I had spent quite a bit of time pitting several pounds of fresh cherries for a cobbler. I invested in a cherry pitter a few years ago and put it to work for my favorite cobbler.  Pitting cherries is a bit messy but a labor of love. It's got to be better than cleaning fish and I can never resist a fresh fruit in season (frozen works just fine if you're saner than me). Boy, was this a hit! Big sweet, juicy cherries baked in a batter that crusts up and browns with the chewy top and corners paired with vanilla ice cream.  Everyone from my 90+ parents to my 21 month old grandson loved every bite.  It's moments like these you wish you could bottle.

Happy Birthday America!!

3 cups cherries

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place the stick of butter in a 9x12 baking dish while the oven heats and let it melt.  In the meantime, mix the flour, sugar, milk and cinnamon together until smooth.  Remove the baking dish as soon as the butter is melted and pour the batter into the melted butter.  Do not stir!!  Spoon the fruit over the butter and batter but do not stir!! Return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Vegetable and Cornbread Bake

Ah, those one pot wonders are handy on a weary work day.  This is a nice way to take advantage of summer's bounty without much effort and it's a vegetarian alternative if you're so inclined or just want a lighter meal. Much earlier in my marriage, we decided we would have one meatless meal a week to economize.  It turned out to be a lot more work and not much savings since I had a husband and two hungry boys to feed. I always seemed to turn out mac n' cheese, succotash and black eyed peas with rice (known as Hoppin John).  Things have calmed down around here but a meatless meal is still not a bad idea, especially during the summer.

I was tired and wandering around the grocery waiting for inspiration - nothing struck in the meat department or anywhere, so I went to the magazines and thumbed through an issue of Cooks Illustrated's Summer Favorites.  This is my spin on something I saw that turned out to be an easy pleaser if you don't mind a little chopping. I did use fresh corn, but frozen may be used.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large heavy skillet heat:
2 tbls canola oil


1 cup chopped onion
2 cups diced poblano(seeded)
1 red pepper diced
2 cups fresh white corn
2 cups zucchini chopped
1 tbls minced garlic

Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften the add:

1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dry thyme
2 tbls chopped fresh parsley

Cook another few minutes and add:

1 20 oz can dice fire roasted tomatoes and juice

Combine and cook until just bubbly.  Turn off heat and sprinkle;

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a seperate bowl:

 mix 2 cups self rising corn meal mix
1 1/3 cups milk
1 large egg
1/4 canola oil

Spread cornbread mixture over vegetable mixture and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top.