Thursday, April 28, 2011

Very, very good potato salad

Everyone has to have a favorite potato salad recipe.  As for me, I am always game to try something new.  Our daughter makes fantastic potato salad and we do request it often when we visit.

But, I have found a recipe for potato salad that is rated by us among the top!  I found "browneyedbaker" and her website and this recipe told me I had to try it.  We loved it and will be making it often. 

Best Ever Potato Salad
courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker

Yield:  6-8 servings

4 cups cubed red potatoes
10 slices bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped

Boil potatoes until they are fork tender.  Drain and set aside.  (I did not use the red potatoes this time as I had Yukon gold potatoes to use.)

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon and brain on a paper towel lined plate.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

Add the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar and salt to the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery, onion and green pepper.  Pour the dressing over the ingredients and gently stir to evenly coat.  Stir in the bacon.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter to all!

A blessed Easter to all!  It has been a beautiful day so far.  We so enjoy the church we attend when we are in Florida.  It is large....something like 9000 to 10,000 members.  Therefore, the choir and orchestra and local talent is over the top.  I just love that. 

In contrast, the church we attend while we summer in Montana is very, very small.  Maybe 30 show up on a Sunday morning.  We are at 7000 feet altitude over-looking the mountains and all the beauty of God's world.  It is over the top also.

Easter has changed for me a lot since I was a child.  It was always a family event with church together and a large dinner and then the Easter egg hunt for all the children.  The Trout and I are always alone now, the children living in different states.  They have their own traditions to establish and carry on. 

So this year, no beautiful dyed eggs and not even a piece of chocolate within the walls of this home.  But, we did have a beautiful dinner.  Our outdoor temperature is in the mid-80's, sunny.  Over the top!!

Grilled butterflied leg of lamb, grilled  asparagus and wild rice.  No dessert.  It was a very lovely dinner embraced with a bottle of  Chateau la Couspaude 2001, Grand Cru from France. 

We eat lamb often because we like it so well.  I have a grilled leg of lamb recipe where the lamb is marinated in yogurt.  This time I tried a recipe I found on a German cooking newsletter.   I changed it a little bit, but the meat was very, very tender and tasty.

Grilled Leg of Lamb

1- 3 lb. leg of lamb
2 lemons
5 springs of rosemary
1 onion, diced
12 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
A small amount of olive oil to help the marinade cover the lamb

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into a plastic Ziploc bag.  Cut one of the lemons into pieces and add to the bag.  Slide the rosemary off of the springs and add to the juice.

Butterfly the leg of lamb by cutting around the bone and then flattening the piece of meat until it is quite uniform in thickness.

Marinate overnight.  We grilled on a gas grill though had thought about using the charcoal grill also.  Flip it after one side has crusted nicely.  Temperature at 140 degrees is medium rare and can cook longer to your desire.  Let the meat rest before serving.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our beautiful sky

It is 8 p.m. Tuesday evening, Central Florida.  This is the Eastern sky.  I just had to share.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scones are now a favorite!

Tuesday I bought the blueberries.  Wednesday I saw blogger friend, Mary, post perfectly looking blueberry scones on her blog, One Perfect Bite.  So by last evening, my scone batter was resting in the refrigerator only to be awakened early this morning for baking.

I like to think that I can analyze what a good recipe is by reading through it quickly.  Especially in baking, I have found that if the ingredients include sour cream, fresh cream or cream cheese, every time the recipe will be a success.  Mary's recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream.  I just knew this would taste great.

This was my first time baking scones.  I think what turned me off before was that every scone I have ever purchased tasted so dry and crumbly that it needed several cups of coffee or glasses of milk to wash it down.  I never understood what the cheering was about concerning scones. I know.  It took much restraint to keep me from eating them all before The Trout was even out of bed!  The recipe comes together quickly.  No need to even use your mixer.  It does not make an outrageous amount of scones, though that would have been a treat!  I will definitely be looking into more scone recipes.  I hope you try these.  Thank you, Mary, for sharing your excellent recipe.

Blueberry Cream Scones
from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup blueberries
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut butter into dry ingredients.  Stir in blueberries.

Add heavy cream and stir by hand just until dough forms.  Dough will be soft and sticky.  Cover and refrigerator 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough just holds together.  Press dough into an 8 to 9 inch circle, 1 inch thick.  Cut into wedges.  Place scones on baking sheet and sprinkle with the reserved sugar.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until scones are a light golden brown on top.  Yield:  6 scones.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Israeli Couscous with Balsamic Glazed Vegetables

You know how it goes.  You are reading a blog and your eyes drift to the writer's favorite blogs.  You take a moment...ha check it out and then it takes you to another blog, and so on and so forth.  I just love doing this, but the time does get away from you.

I found a blog this week and I no longer remember where I found who led me to it.  But, I am glad I found Susi.  Her blog is delightful and tonight her Israeli Couscous with Balsamic Glazed Vegetables are on our table!!

I have had a box of Israeli Couscous in my pantry and I always like to clean out as much of the pantry items before we head north for the summer.  This recipe was perfect.  Check out Susi's Kochen und Backen Adventures.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Freshly picked Florida blueberries

The young man said that these blueberries were freshly picked this morning.  Who could refuse?  When I first moved to Florida, I did not realize that blueberries were actually grown down here.  I remember very well, going with my girlfriend, Carolyn, and her two daughters along with my two daughters, to pick blueberries when we lived in Michigan.  I believe each of us (Carolyn and I were the only true pickers) picked 90 pounds and they cost about 35 cents a pound.  Of course, this was in the 1970's.  Our daughters had blue mouths, blue tongues, blue hands and were totally filled up with blueberries by the time we got home.  I love those memories.

So, if you can't enjoy freshly picked blueberries today, I hope you will enjoy my photos. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Salade de Gésiers

As the weeks are quickly creeping by until our trip to France, I am getting my mind in the mood.  Thinking food, mostly.

This precious can has been sitting in my pantry for quite a while.  I guess, just waiting for the right moment.  It seems, that moment arrived this evening. 

Parlez vous français?  Ya, I know, I don't either, much.  After 10 weeks of French lessons, The Trout and I should be doing so much better.  I blame it on my German background.  I seem to take the English word and translate it to German first and then try to put it into French.  Very time consuming and not very productive.  But, we have definitely learned a lot. 

Gésiers d' oie are goose gizzards.  Don't get that look on your face.  You really have to try them.  This evening we ate them the same way we ate them in the Dordogne.  In a salad...a beautiful way to enjoy this tasty part of the goose.  In fact, every time I see them on a menu in France, I order them...they are that good.  Tender, sweet and tasty.

I boiled a couple of Yukon gold potatoes and let cool to room temperature.  Added them to some mixed greens and then opened the can of gizzards.  I cut them into smaller pieces and sautéed them in their own goose fat until slightly crisp.  I removed them and scattered them on the salad.  I then added some red wine vinegar to the goose fat and let it cook up and then poured the hot mixture onto the salad for the dressing.  Truly, I believe you need a true love for French food to really enjoy this.  

This trip we will not be in the Dordogne, but Provence.  The gésiers will not be as available, but I still have hopes to find a can to bring back home to the pantry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Passion Flower is Blooming

The season is Lent and fittingly, my Passion Flower is blooming!  In fact, it is prolific in blooms.  I hope you are familiar with this beautiful plant and flower.  If not, let me explain it to you.

I grew up with a Passion Flower blooming in the dining room bay window and then it was transplanted into the outside"Rabatt" or raised bed next to our brick home in the spring.  It was always a beautiful  memory of my childhood and when I found this plant in Florida, I knew I had to have it.

The legend of the Passion Flower is this:  Five petals and five sepals are ten apostles leaving out Judas and Peter because he denied knowing Jesus.  The purple corolla had seventy-two filaments, the number of thorns in Jesus's crown.  The three pistil stigmas are nails.  The five stamens are the number of wounds, so that to this day, Catholics in South and Central America call it "The Flower of the Five Wounds."

The leaf represents the spear that placed the wound in Jesus's side.  The dark spots under the leaves are the 33 pieces of silver paid to Judas.  When the flowers are spent after a single day (the time Jesus spent on the cross), the petals do not drop from the vine but re-close over the ovary.  This symbolizes the Hidden Wisdom that constitutes the Mysteries of the Cross, and is like Jesus enclosed in the tomb.

It is a beautiful, climbing vine.  If you have never seen it or not familiar with it, I hope you will research it.  It gives off a delicate fragrance.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thin crust pizza, Roma style

Before Baking

We have been to Italy several times, but I think the trip to Rome in 2003 (before we went to the digital camera), was one of the best.  We ate traditional Italian pizza quite a bit.  We loved the crisp, cracker-like crust with very few toppings, but very high on flavor. 

We rarely order pizza out in the US, but I do try to make it at home quite often.  Never have I been able to get that real Italian crust.....until today!!!

We stopped for lunch in Tampa on Friday at The Toasted Pheasant  which is a bistro that is as cute as its name.  We had the Niçoise Pizza.  It was a crispy, cracker crust and topped with goat cheese, fresh basil, marinated olives and anchovies.  We loved it.  I asked the waiter if the crisp crust was a secret.  He revealed that semolina was used.  A-ha!  Now I get it!!

So I started searching and found this recipe for a semolina pizza crust on "Hide the Cheese".  I followed the directions exactly and we had the crispy, crackling crust that we both love.  Topped it with a thin pizza sauce out of the freeze and some browned Italian sausage, a basil-Parmesan spread, chopped olives and goat cheese.  It was perfect!!! 

We have never been fans of the deep dish pizza crusts since visiting Italy.  It is just tastier and less filling to eat the crisp crusts.

This first time, I also did not use my stone in the oven.  I picked up this fantastic, slick, pizza pan at a local restaurant supply store this winter, and I really love it a lot.  I do plan to use the stone next time to see the difference it might make. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Oma's Burnt Sugar Cake

Sometimes memories smack you right in the face.  This happened to me; twice this week.  I was re-reading a beautiful cookbook from my heritage with stories of the past and the present.  And then, once again, I was reading on the Internet, the hometown weekly newspaper where my friend, Barbara, reminded me of the cakes that were always baked by certain cooks.  My grandmother was mentioned for her special cake, Burnt Sugar Cake. 

I remember this cake so well.  My father's parents lived downstairs in our home, and my Oma was a wonderful baker.  When I was asked which cake I would like, I always asked for the Burnt Sugar Cake.  And Oma would always bake it in her heart-shaped pans.  I wonder if that is why I have always loved heart shapes?  Or perhaps this is why I have always loved this special cake.

So today, I simply had to bake this special cake.  Besides, I have my Oma's heart-shaped pans.  It doesn't matter that it is not Valentine's Day.  Hearts are special every day. 

Thankfully, I asked my Aunt Louise, my Oma's daughter, to write down the recipe for me back in 1976.  Otherwise, I would not have it today.  Of course, something always gets lost in the translation, so instructions like "bake until done", or "beat until just right", and "a little butter" for the frosting, just made me chuckle.  It also brought on some "angst" or anxiety, because I really wanted to get this right.
I had also promised myself back in 1976, that I would bake this cake when I had extra retirement.  Well, we have been retired for almost 12 years it really is time to bake this cake.  It is tricky though.  In fact, The Trout entered and kitchen and proclaimed that it smelled like burnt sugar.  My thoughts were that I was on the right track.

In the Amana Colonies in Iowa, whenever there was a wedding or a funeral, the ladies of the villages would bake their cake specialties to take to the receptions.    Marie would bake her marble cake, my Oma's sister, Tante Kätchen, would bake Mystery Cake or known by it's second name, Lady Golden Glow.  That cake is an interesting story which I will have to share, along with the recipe, someday soon.   Then there was always a contest as to who could bake the best nut cake.  Hickory nuts and black walnuts were always available as the trees grew either in our yards or in the neighboring woods.  Hickory nut that was very, very good.  I can't imagine where I would go to find hickory nuts now.  Of course, big competition on the Feather Cakes.

Burnt Sugar Cake
from my Oma Susanna Kippenhan...1940-1950's

First:  1 cup white sugar.  Pour into a cast iron skillet.  Place over moderate heat and stir while it is melting.  This will take a few minutes.  As it starts totally melting, stir in 1/2 cup warm water and stir until smooth.  I did have some sugar crystallize and I merely fished them out to leave a smooth liquid.  Set this aside.

In a mixer, cream 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup softened butter.  Separate 2 eggs.  Mix the egg yolks into the creamed sugar and butter.  Add 2 tsps. vanilla.

Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and 2 tsps. baking powder.  Add alternately to the butter mixture with 1 cup milk.  Beat until smooth.  Now beat the 2 egg whites until stiff and set aside. 

Now pour the burnt sugar mixture, which has cooled some at this point, into the cake batter.  Stir until smooth.  Then fold in the stiff beaten egg whites.  Bake in greased 9 x 13 or 2 round cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  Be sure to check to see if the cake is done.  Do not over bake this cake.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 Tblsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Cook in the skillet where you burned the sugar.  This gives it the color and flavoring.  Cook this frosting until it begins to thicken, but don;t cook too long.  Everything should melt together and then beat it, off the stove,  until it is thick enough to spread.

My first suggestion would be to not use this frosting.  Unless Oma had some culinary skills or unwritten directions, this frosting simply does not work.  I would suggest the following instead...

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place butter and brown sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir until mixture cools and add 3 cups powdered sugar gradually with milk, beating well after each addition.  Add more sugar if needed to preferred consistency.  Add vanilla.

I am really hoping that if someone from Amana is reading this and knows the secret to this frosting, that they contact me.  The cake was perfect!  Very moist and the flavor I remember.  Being that Oma passed away when I was 13, I did not spend a lot of time in the kitchen with her.  That is very sad for me.  I could have learned so much.  After all these years, I still miss her terribly.  I sure could have used a lesson in frosting today.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My favorite blogs are gone!

Blogger, I am not happy that this morning all my favorite blogs in the right hand column have disappeared.  That means I have to re-find all of them one by one and place them back in.  Just doesn't seem fair.  I will accomplish this though..eventually.

A later addendum:  I have added most of my favorite blogs back.  I know I have forgotten some, but they will come back to me in the following days.  If Blogger decides they made a mistake and put all my favorites back...I guess then I will have to delete the doubles.  Nothing is easy....I believe this more every day.