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Fresh or Dried? That is the question

What are you doing with your fresh herbs?

It’s September, and if you live in Central Texas, this is the time of year when some of those fresh herbs start to dwindle. What to do? While many chefs don’t advocate using dried herbs, I’ve found that using the herbs from my garden produces much more fragrant and flavorful dried herbs that what you can purchase from the store. Plus there is the satisfaction of having something from your garden.

You can create a better dried basil that can get you through a few cold months without resorting to store-bought dried basil. Here’s how:

Pick over fresh basil. Wash it and spin it dry in a salad spinner and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let it air dry for a little longer then place it in the oven. I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome. Home-dried herbs will last a few months in an airtight container and will always be of superior flavor and quality to store-bought. Below is my favorite minestrone soup (Okay, not a purists minestrone. It has Italian meatballs in it.)

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Serves 4 Total time 35 minutes

12 oz Italian sausage formed into 1” balls

2 c beef stock or broth

1 c chicken stock or broth

½ c chopped onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 T olive oil

1 C water

1 14 oz can crushed tomato

1 4 oz can tomato sauce

2 cups frozen vegetables, such as corn, green bean, red bell pepper, and carrot

1 can Great Northern beans

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

1 t dried thyme

2 c cheese tortellini

freshly chopped basil and parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 6 or 8 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides. Remove sausage from pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion and garlic; cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, stocks, Italian seasoning, and water. Heat to a simmer and add frozen vegetables and tortellini. Cook until vegetables are heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Try pairing this with a nice Sangiovese wine and some crusty French bread. Delicious!

I would love suggestions from you on home-drying other herbs as well! Please see the upcoming article in the October 2018 issue of  Waco Today for suggestions on using your fresh basil in marinara and pesto.

Happy Cooking!

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Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

PRINT RECIPE

3 tablespoons good olive oil

3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 ½ lbs roasted San Marzano or Roma tomatoes

Large pinch of saffron threads

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup orzo

1/2 cup heavy cream

Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile cheddar on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the cheese, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on a grill pan or griddle for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

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Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting

PRINT RECIPE

PREP TIME: 25 Minutes DIFFICULTY:Easy COOK TIME: 18 Minutes SERVINGS: 12 Servings

1-1/2 cup All Purpose Flour, Sifted

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Salt

4 Lemons, Zest Freshly Grated

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature

1 cup Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 Large Egg Whites

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Lemon Extract (optional)

1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

FOR THE LAVENDER FROSTING:

3/4 cups Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature

3-1/2 cups To 4 Cups Powdered Sugar

1 teaspoon Dried Culinary Lavender, Finely Chopped

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Tablespoon Milk Or Cream If Needed

1 drop Purple Food Coloring (optional)

Fresh Lavender, For Garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a cupcake tin with liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Zest the lemons and set the zest aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add in the sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides if needed and increasing it to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar and butter is fluffy. Beat in each egg and white until incorporated, then add the vanilla and lemon extract (you can also use a lemon baking emulsion) and lemon zest until combined. Beating on low speed, add in half of the dry ingredients until combined, then add in the milk and lemon juice. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and beat until combined.
Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop the batter into the liners filling them 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 16–18 minutes, or until the tops are set. Let cool completely.
For the lavender frosting:
Add butter to the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar and lavender. Increase the speed of the mixer, scraping down the sides if needed, beating the frosting until fluffy and combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.
If the frosting seems too thick, beat in the tablespoon of milk. If it seems to runny or too thin, you can beat in more powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time. Once the frosting is a spreadable consistency, drop in the purple food coloring and mix until evenly colored. Frost the cupcakes and top with a few lavender flowers if you wish.

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An Emerald Isle Dessert

(I have a beautiful picture from the Dingle Peninsula, but I can’t get the  ______idjit computer to download it.)

Now that we’ve been to Ireland………..Here is a recipe of a wonderful dessert.

On two occasions I had this marvelously sweet, flavorful dessert–once at the fish and chips place and again at the Smokehouse which really wasn’t a smokehouse. Both were in Dingle in County Kerry.
It’s called Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake.  Added my own touches. Don’t be alarmed at the amount of soda. I thought it would ruin the cake. It did not!

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup pitted dates
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon soda
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

Toffee Sauce:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/c packed light brown sugar
1 cup English walnut pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Butter a 10-inch round or square baking pan. (I used my mother’s pan that she used to make Raisin Roll. See a previous blog.)
Sift flour and baking powder onto a sheet of waxed paper. Chop the dates fine. Place in a small bowl, add the boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a bowl of electric mixer  beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Add the date mixture to the batter and fold until blended. Pour in the prepared baking dish.  Bake until pudding cake is set and firm on top, about 35 minutes.

Toffee Sauce: Combine the butter, heavy cream and brown sugar in a small heavy saucepan; heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil gently over medium low until mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes.  Preheat broiler. Spoon about 1/3 cup over the pudding cake. spread evenly over the top. Place pudding under the broiler until the top is bubbly, about 1 minute. Spoon into dessert bowls. Drizzle with sauce, sprinkle with toasted pecans. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

It’s GRAND.

 

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A Visit to Some Painted Churches

Labor Day is not a great weekend to travel in Texas. The weather is hot, the traffic is heavy, and many restaurants are closed. However, all the stars were aligned for travel. The destination was some of the Painted Churches in south central Texas. Having heard of them for several years, three friends and I set out on THAT Monday to see them.  We took a scenic tour of Bell County, and on a country road saw twenty or more hawks circling and feeding in a field where a farmer was plowing. They were eating insects and worms. I could not identify them–perhaps Swainson’s Hawks. Exciting for an old birder.

We spent the night at Brendan’s Bed & Breakfast in La Grange; we met our guide for the tour at the Chamber of Commerce in Schulenburg for the tour of five beautiful churches in Fayetteville County. Our guide, Wanda, was informed and had a personal connection to the Painted Churches since she had been married in one of them. We toured the churches at High Hill, Dubina, Ammannsville, Moravia and St. John. On the way home we stopped at the Serbin Community to visit the The Wendish Heritage Museum and St. Paul’s Luthern Church

If you have not done this short trip, I highly recommend taking a day or two to see them. According to some references there are twenty. I haven’t found that many in any listing, but I will keep on searching.

For lunch we had some barbecue and German potato salad. Laced with vinegar, it cleared my sinuses. Potato Salad may be my favorite food.
Below find a recipe from www.whats4eats:

Kartoffelsalat

Southern region Potato Salad

Boiling potatoes–2 pounds
Hot beef or chicken broth–3/4 cup
Oil–1/3 cup
Onion chopped finely–1
Vinegar–1/4 cup
Brown or Dijon mustard–2 tablespoons
Sugar–1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper to taste
Chives or parsley, chopped (optional)–1 to 2 tablespoons

1 Place the potatoes into a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by an inch or two. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and continue to boil until the potatoes are cooked through and a sharp knife pierces them easily. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them if you like. Then cut the potatoes in half and then cut them into thick slices.  Put the potatoes in a large bowl and carefully stir in the hot broth and onions.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir this vinaigrette in the potatoes, along with the chopped chives or parsley.

4. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

Variations:
Add diced, cooked bacon if you like. Substitute bacon fat for some of the oil.
Coarsely shred a small head of Romaine or Iceberg lettuce and mix.
Add some chopped dill pickle and juice.

All of the churches have festivals. I wish I could go to all just to check out the types of potato salad that are served.

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Did You Get the Number of the Truck?

“What truck?”
“The one that ran over me”This was the exchange in our family when someone had a particularly difficult day, task, etc.It is appropriate for the past week for Gourmet Gallery and me personally. Now, this is not a BAD thing. There are many good things!

Fifth anniversary celebration with 109 friends–GOOD

Number One grandson graduating with a Master of Information Systems Degree–GOOD

A three-day holiday to West Texas to be with family to celebrate a ninetieth birthday–GOOD
(We missed the planned party, but made it for the after-party parties. Such great family time for us.)

There were a few small towns on our itinerary. What fun we had exploring in Clifton on the way there, and Roby, Anson, Abilene (not so small, but one of our former hometowns), Buffalo Gap, Cisco, Eastland, and Cranfills Gap and St. Olaf’s Lutheran Church on the way back.

Perini’s Steakhouse is in Buffalo Gap. We didn’t get to have any of their famous steaks, but enjoyed some of the other foods–a one/half pound hamburger, fried quail legs, and some of the best hominy I’ve tasted.

This recipe from “Texas Cowboy Cooking”, p.148:

Jessica’s Favorite Green Chile Hominy

1 cup chopped onion, sautéed
4 15-ounce cans white hominy (drain and reserve)
1/2 cup hominy liquid
1 tablespoon juice from pickled jalapeños
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated
10 slices bacon, fried crisp and chopped (reserve drippings)
1 cup chopped green chiles
1-2 pickled jalapeños, seeded and chopped (optional)

Sauté the onions in a little of the bacon drippings and put aside. Heat hominy in a separate sauté pan, stirring often. When heated thoroughly, add the hominy liquid and jalapeño juice, bring back to a high temperature and add 3/4 of the cheese. When the cheese melts, add half the peppers and bacon and all the onion. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, bacon and peppers. (At this point it can be refrigerated or even frozen, if you want to make it in advance.) Bake at 325 degrees F. Until cheese on top melts, about. 15 minutes ( or 40 minutes, if refrigerated.)
Serves 10 to 12.

And what truck was th

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Why Am I in Texas When There Are Cooler Places?

This is the time of the year– EVERY YEAR–that I ask myself that question. I suppose the answer is that I haven’t gone some other place. The secret to being as comfortable as possible for me is to stay as cool as possible and drink as much liquid as possible. Water , of course, is the logical choice, and it is a good choice. However, our gourmet world offers many options. Below find a couple of drinks that can be made at home–with a little help from Gourmet Gallery.

PEACH BELLINI

1) In a blender, combine 1/2 package of Wine-a-Rita mix (3/4 cup) with12 fluid ounces of wine or champagne and blend until mixed.

2) Fill blender with ice and mix until smooth.

Makes 12-6 ounce servings.

Or

LAVENDER LEMONADE

Brew 1quart of Sterling Earl Grey Lavender Tea. (2tablespoons loose tea in 1qt. hot water [185-205F] . Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea leaves and chill.

2 cups simple syrup. (Bring 2 cups sugar and one cup water to a boil stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Chill.)

Combine tea and simple syrup in a pitcher and add 1-1/2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir. Add ice and one or two sliced lemons.

ENJOY.

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A Source–“Cook’s Illustrated”

Entering the retail world of food has been a education for me. Even though I was a Homemaking teacher  when there were such animals and a wife and mother for even longer, so many new ideas, food and nutrition facts and new methods have appeared since then that I have had to really be alert to all things new. Among  the many magazines that pass through our doors, a stand-out is COOK’S ILLUSTRATED. In fact, it is our go-to for equipment recommendations, methods of cooking and their cookbook THE AMERICA’ S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK published by America’s Test Kitchen is the book we recommend for new cooks who need a starter course in cooking and baking.

COOK’S ILLUSTRATED comes bi-monthly and has a plethora of information about food preparation, pots and pans, food products–too much to cover here. There are 32 items in the contents. One of them is for frying eggs. I know, I know! Who doesn’t know how to fry ’em, and eggs are not that good for you. What about cholesterol? I eat them and I will continue to do so.

Pointers for the perfect fried egg, borrowed from August, 2013, COOK’S ILLUSTRATED, pp.12-13.

Preheat the pan for 5 minutes over low heat.
Use two fats–vegetable oil while the pan is heating and butter added just before the eggs.
Add eggs all at once. Cracking into small bowls and adding to skillet allows them cook at the same rate.
Turn heat to medium-high.
Cover as soon as the eggs are in place. Allow to cook 1 minute.
Remove from heat.
Wait 15 to 45 seconds.

Ready to serve.
(I have a glass saucepan lid that fits for 8 inch skillet; so, I don’t have to let heat out to check.)
Now, for a strip of bacon, toasted English muffins and a little orange marmalade.

Perfect breakfast–or dinner.
BTW we have both AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK and the current issue of COOK’S ILLUSTRATED available at Gourmet Gallery.

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A Summertime Favorite, or Who Doesn’t Love Peach Cobbler?

Peach cobbler always meant making a double pie crust, lining the pan with half and rolling a top crust. I still like it that way, but my niece sent me a recipe that is a hurry-up recipe that is so delicious that I usually make it that way.I have found several similar recipes, but they all require more steps than Lora’s recipe. Here it is:

( Luscious peaches. Watch at Farmers’ Market. Probably will be the best)

LORA’S PEACH COBBLER

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 1/2 cup butter in 9X13X2 baking pan and put pan in oven to melt butter. When melted, remove from oven. Set aside.

Mix together:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Add 1 cup “sweet” milk

Pour into baking pan over the butter.

Add 1 quart of sweetened peaches evenly over the batter.

Place into oven and bake until golden brown–about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

So quick. So easy. So-o-o-o-o-o-o good.

Any kind of peaches will work– fresh, canned or frozen. I remembering reading that even the peaches that don’t seem quite up to par will be wonderful in a cobbler.
Please enjoy this simple recipe.

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Berries, Berries, Berries

In “the olden days” my school would dismiss mid-April so that the children could help with the crops–hoeing cotton, gathering tomatoes for the market. Not only was school out, but the berries were beginning to ripen. First, we had dewberries. There were bigger, sweeter than the mixed berries and blackberries that followed later in the spring. We picked and ate and took them home and washed them and ate them with milk, made cobblers, and jelly. (The blackberries made the best jam.) Sometimes Dad would come in from the farm with his hat full of berries–always enough for the cobbler. Mother had a special pan for that treat. I still have it–a little enamel off here and there, but it serves the that purpose.

BERRY COBBLER

Pastry for a 9-inch double-crust
l cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for topping
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 -5 cups fresh berries
4 tablespoons butter, chopped into small pieces

Heat oven to 350 F.

Roll out 1/2 the dough and line a 9″ X 9″ X 2″ baking dish with it. Place a square of parchment paper cut to fit onto the dough. Blind bake the crust for about 8 minutes so that the bottom crust will not be soggy.
Turn oven up to 450 F.
Mix the flour and sugar thoroughly. Put berries on the blind baked crust. Add sugar/flour mixture and 3 tablespoons of the pieces of butter. Sprinkle about 4 tablespoons of water over the mixture.

Roll out other 1/2 of dough and place on top of berries folding the overlap under the bottom crust and pinch together so that the juice will remain inside the crust.* Make slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar and place remainder of butter on the top.
Bake for 10 minutes at the higher temperature; then, reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Cool a little if you possibly wait. Then, enjoy.

*To duplicate the cobbler below, roll out dough for top, cut into strips and weave over the top.
(Rachel can tell you how to do that.)

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Back to an Old Favorite

On Memorial Day I made Cream Puffs. Remember those? Home Ec Class in high school? The lesson about leavening agents–that eggs and air and steam could make desserts rise, i.e. angel food cakes, sponge cakes, cream puffs, eclairs. According to FOOD LOVERS’ COMPANION,  a cream  puff is also called choux pastry (shoo) pastry. Just in case you missed the lesson in Home Ec, during the baking, the eggs make the pastry puff into irregular domes. They are easy and fun. Not everyone in my family likes therm, but that’s just fine. (The more for me idea.)

In case you cannot find the recipe, here is the Old One from JOY OF COOKING, 1952 edition.

CREAM PUFFS
“Please cease  to think of these as something to try out in your more adventurous moments. No need to shine up your rabbit’s food–just have all ingredients at room temperature. But once the cream puffs are filled with, be sure that they are stored in a cool or refrigerated place, as they are subject to bacterial activity which maybe highly toxic and give no evidence of spoilage….”

Sift before measuring: 
     1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Heat:
      1/2 cup milk or water
Add: 
      1/4 cup butter
Bring these ingredients to the boiling point. Add the sifted flour:
      1/8 teaspoon salt
Cook and stir the batter until it leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove it from the heat. Beat in one at a time:
      2 eggs
Be careful to beat l egg until well blended before adding the other. Place spoonfuls of batter in 2 inch rounds on a greased tin*, heaping them well in the center.  Allow 2 inches between the puffs. In France the dough is chilled before being baked. Bake them in a hot oven 400 F for 1/2 hour. Reduce the heat to 350 F. Bake them 5 minutes longer. Test the puffs by removing one from the oven. If it does not fall it is thoroughly done. When the puffs are cool, cut a gash in the side of each puff and fill them with sweetened whipped cream  custard, etc.

The puffs were fun. Now I need to work on making a custard that is not lumpy!!!! However, Karyn’s ice cream was good in them.
*An easier method–line a pan with parchment paper.





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20 Bottles of Wine on the Wall, 20 Bottles of Wine. Take One Down and Pass it Around….

By Pure Luck I won twenty bottles of wine at the Kentucky Derby Party held at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and sponsored by the Lions’ Club Foundation. This was a fund raiser for the Lions’ Park that has been a place for kids to have fun for many years. Those Lions know how to give a party!!!!!

Now the question is, What to do with 20 bottles of wine? Drink some it. Yes. Share some of it. Definitely. Cook with some of it. Of course.

Drinking Some

With some Pinot Grigio or Chianti
Stuffed dates or figs:
12 dates, pitted, or 12 figs
2 to 3 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
6 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an baking sheet with aluminum foil
Cut a lengthwise slit in the date/fig. Stuff each one with just enough cheese to fill the cavity, but not spill out. Pinch dates/figs closed. Wrap each date/fig in a piece of prosciutto and arrange them, seam side down, on the prepared pan.
Bake for  10 minutes. Remove the oven and, using tongs, carefully turn dates/figs. Return to the oven and bake until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature
(From Wine Bites–Simple Morsels That Pair Perfectly with Wine. by Barbara Scott-Goodman.–Available at Gourmet Gallery.)
With some Cabernet Sauvignon:
1 – 11 oz box of Cornmeal Rosemary Shortbread Cookies from Wackym’s Kitchen (Available at Gourmet Gallery)
Some softened butter
Some crumbled bleu or Gorganzolla cheese
Mix butter and cheese.
Place a little dab on each cookie.
Enjoy with sips of wine.