Saturday, January 11, 2020

I thought I'd share with you a documentary I came across that has caused me to greatly modify my diet. I've only begun this undertaking a couple of weeks ago, but I already am noticing increased energy and stamina.  I ask you, who wouldn't welcome either result.

In my opinion, even if you're not inclined to modify your diet, it's an entertaining production.

I'm interested in your thoughts so let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Game Changers Website

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cabbage Soup

So I haven't been on for a while. Lots of changes. Trying to sell my cookbook. (The Merlin Menu at all online bookstores)

My job ended with AT&T.

Moved to Vancouver to be close to my family and all that encompasses.

Took my time and am now seeking employment again, but very selectively.

Therefore I have time to cook again, so here I am.  Ta-Da!

One thing I have never made is Irish Colcannon. so I tried making it the other day and blew it! I actually undercooked the potatoes and used too much milk and cream in the finished prduct. (Totally rookie mistakes I must admit)

So I'm sitting there today with half a cabbage and no desire to make another attempt at Colcannon right now.

I thought of cabbage soup which I think I have had one time in the past but I remember it had Kielbasa in it. I decided I wanted to make soup but without the Kielbasa.

So I did. I made a basic cabbage soup that was clean, easy, and frankly, delicious. Not overpowering in any way, healthy for you no doubt, and simple to make. Give it a try. (My recipe uses a Pressure Cooker, but traditional cooking advice is at the end of the recipe)


1/2 head cabbage, cored, and chopped
2 carrots, washed and sliced
1 sweet onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 14.5 oz (or so) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 32 oz container chicken broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Method of Preparation:

Add olive oil to pressure cooker and turn heat to medium.
Add onions, carrots and saute until onions are soft.
Add the balance of the ingredients to the pressure cooker, cover, and turn to high heat.
When it starts to emit a steady stream of steam, turn to low and let cook for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat, and let cool down normally.
Open, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

If not using a pressure cooker, follow the same instructions but use a large sauce pan or pot and after sauteeing, simmer the soup until carrots and cabbage are tender, 30 - 45 minutes.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's official! My cookbook is finally available for sale! It'll be available at retail locations on Tuesday.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When I started cooking....

Hi, I'm Ron Merlin. I live in Seattle, Washington, and have been cooking and baking since I was a little guy who learned to cook by helping Grandma in West Springfield, Massachusetts. (I'll never forget the homemade donuts, she made them EVERY time we visited.)

Anyway, some odd years later, I've decided to share with you the recipes, techniques, and the love of fine food I've learned over the years.

Grandma lived in a red little house with white trim way up in the Country with Jim Patterson my step-grandfather. (Is there such a thing?) I remember Grampa Jim apparently didn't like kids much as he rarely spoke, just sat in his rocker, smoked a big old smelly pipe, and watched TV. Grandma waited on him hand and foot. He scared the hell out of me frankly.

But you can't make this stuff up. I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts and lived with my Mom and once at Christmas and once in the summer, we would travel to Grandma Patterson's home 85 miles away up in the woods. It was during these trips I learned about baking, and cooking, and blueberry fields, and cowpies and how all the 'neat' stuff in Grandpa Jim's garages was NOT to be messed with.

I realize now, that at the time I was living the picture card Christmas life. We would drive for two hours, up into the 'hills' west of where we lived, and drive and drive through fields, sparsely populated, covered with snow, and eventually, at the top of some hill off the highway, hit a gravel road, turn right and travel a half mile to this little red and white farmhouse, covered in snow, smoke coming from the Chimney, (which was attached to both the fireplace and wood burning stove in Grandma's kitchen), with crooked Christmas lights hung here and there, because Grandma had placed them, Grampa Jim wasn't into that kind of stuff. I would walk in, and there was Grandma, greeting her grandkids as generations of Grandparents have done no doubt, so glad to see us.

And every time, EVERY single time, Grandma would say to me...... "Ronnie (yes, grimace, I was called Ronnie in those days) would you like to make some donuts?

And Grandma and I would enter the "pantry" to the right of her kitchen......Pantry is a joke, it was the size of a small closet, with shelving on three sides from floor to ceiling, and just stuffed with canned goods, bags, seasonings, etc. etc. etc. On one side was a small wooden, well worn counter-top. She would place a wooden bowl on it, and to my amazement begin to make donut dough......No recipe, no measuring, no nothing. As liquids were needed Grandma Patterson would hand me the right sized measuring cup or utensil and send me forth into the kitchen to retrieve the liquid. Meanwhile, much to my amazement at 5 or 6 years old, begin to create a dough, with no help whatever, that within 30 minutes we would begin to deep-fry on an old wood stove. Misshapen donuts and little donut holes.......Which then it was MY job to shake around in paper bags filled with sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg.....

And then, and then, I was rewarded with the best donuts I have ever had, with ice cold milk, me and Grandma, eatin' donuts in the kitchen.

It amazed me how she could do that. And I admit, it's what got me started on being interested in cooking....and to this day, I love to cook and bake with NO recipe.....(although in this blog, I will try to measure things out)

Anyway, in honor of Grandma Patterson, I think my first recipe should be Homemade Buttermilk Donuts, compliments of her. God Rest her Soul.......

What do YOU think? By the way, when is the last time you have had homemade donuts? Huh? You a Krispy Kreme freak?

Try these, and if ya have kids, give them some. And let THEM shake 'em up in a 'sugar bag'

They might write a blog about YOU some day.....


This post was re-created at the suggestion of Patience Brewster. I thought they had a good idea for Mother's Day, so I recreated my first post.

My cookbook now available!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cheesecake Recipe Search

Recipe question. I love cheesecake. And I've made it over 50 times. But one time, I had a slice of cheesecake at a restaurant that was totally different than what I'd ever had or the recipes I've used. I don't want creamy, soft cheesecake. I want to make the one I had.

It was almost dry, and dense, and crumbly in consistency, and had a taste that exploded in your mouth. It was, and is my all time favorite. I've been unable to duplicate the mouthfeel, and texture and taste. I've searched and searched and haven't been able to find a recipe that duplicates it. And yes, I've tried all different cheeses (Ricotta, Cottage, etc.) and haven't come close.

So I thought I'd ask here if anyone has a clue?

Anyone out there know a recipe that yields that type of cheesecake? If you share it, I'll make it, post it on my blog  and give you full credit.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ron's Hot and Sour Soup

For some strange reason, last week I had a hankerin' (you know what a hankerin' is, right) for some Hot and Sour Soup. Part of that was I guess because I had a quantity of homemade chicken broth in my freezer that needed using, and also had some leftover green onions.

So I went to the old cabinet and refrigerator, and sure enough, I had Sesame Oil, Chinese Rice Vinegar, eggs, aforementioned chicken broth, pepper, sugar, and soy sauce. The basics. I then went out and bought mushrooms, firm tofu, chili sauce, and small ears of corn.

The following is what I did:

Ingredients and Method:

One can miniature corn cobs, rinsed (Substitute or add water chestnuts if you like)
6 - 8 mushrooms of your choice, rinsed, scrubbed and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon white sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 package firm tofu, sliced into small rectangles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
3 - 4 cups chicken broth
1 - 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (careful, it's hot)
1 teaspoon sesame oil green onion for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat the oil to medium heat. Add ginger and and saute for two minutes. Add mushrooms and corn and saute for two minutes more. Now here's the cool part, add the sugar, rice vinegar, tofu, salt, pepper and soy sauce and chicken broth and bring to boil, immediately lower to simmer, mix the water and corn starch together thoroughly, and add to the mixture. Simmer for about 20 minutes until fragrant. While stirring the soup, slowly add beaten egg in a very thin stream, stirring constantly.

Add chili sauce and sesame oil, and simmer for ten minutes longer.

Spoon into bowls, serve immediately, and garnish with sliced green onion.

Two friends of mine said this is the best Hot and Sour Soup they have ever had. It made my day.


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Friday, February 22, 2013

Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Easter always reminds me of Hot Cross Buns because my Mom always made them at that time. We usually were required to give up sweets for lent, so we got to have hot, fresh Hot Cross Buns for Easter morning, followed by church, and then followed by an Imperial Banana Split at Friendly's Ice Cream (NE US) as rewards.

 I've tried some store-bought buns every once in a while since but they were horrible. I mean close to inedible in my opinion. So I was thinking about making some but I wanted to make sure they were close to what I enjoyed so much as a child. And all of a sudden, it hit me, the ones I had as a kid had Cardamom in them.

Cardamom is one of the world's most ancient spices and grows wild in India. It is expensive, second only to Saffron. Therefore when I went to look for Cardamom, I found a small bottle of it was $17.00!!! Nope, I'm not paying that much for a spice. (I read where Cardamom also helps cure flatulence, so if that's an issue for you, there ya go, lol)

So I went to another market that sells spices in bulk, and sure enough, they had ground Cardamom at bargain basement prices. It wasn't the elite black Cardamom, but neither was the bottle at the first store. Now having made and tasted it, it was excellent. So I suggest you go that route. (Cost me like $1.69 for about an ounce of spice, and you only use one teaspoon in this recipe, a little Cardamom goes a long way)

Now, you can make this recipe without Cardamom, just substitute cinnamon, but I think once you try Cardamom, you'll be hooked. It's a unique taste, smell, and is very pungent. And obviously, memorable, since I haven't had it in umm, ^* years and remember it still.

I went to my reliable standby for recipes, King Arthur Flour, and adapted one to yield the recipe below.

Also, if you don't have Lyle's syrup, either omit it, or use corn syrup.

Ingredients and Method:

1/4 cup water or apple juice
1 cup raisins or dried currants (I prefer currants)
1 1/4 cups milk, heated in microwave slightly
3 large eggs, 1 separated
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 packages quick rising yeast
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour

Brush mixture prior to baking:

1 large egg white, reserved from above
1 tablespoon milk

1/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (for brushing after baking)


1 cup or so confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick icing (add a bit more sugar if it's not thick enough)

Mix the water or apple juice with the currants or raisins and microwave on high about 30 seconds. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Add eggs to mixing bowl, add sugar and mix well. Melt butter in milk by microwaving in 30 second intervals. Don't overheat. If milk is too hot to the touch, let it cool slightly before adding to bowl. Add yeast. (Excess heat will kill the yeast) Add milk butter mixture to eggs and sugar and mix.

Add spices and baking powder and mix well. Add fruit and water/juice.

Add 4 cups flour and salt and beat with dough hook until ball forms away from the sides of the pan. Add flour in additional 1/2 cup increments as necessary.

Scrape dough out onto floured board, sprinkle with flour and knead for 3 minutes.

Grease a bowl, add dough, turn dough over cover and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled.

Remove from bowl to floured board and punch down. Knead just once or twice and shape into circle or rectangle about 2 inches thick. Cut into squares about 2 x 2 inches (3 ounces) and with floured hands tuck corners under and shape into a ball.

Add rounded buns to 9 x 13 greased pan. Place close to each other but not touching. Cover and let rise in a warm place for another hour.
Beat water and egg white together and brush tops of buns. Bake at 350 for 20 -25 minutes until browned. Microwave golden syrup (20 seconds) and brush onto top of buns and let cool completely.
Make thick frosting and pipe onto buns marking a cross across the top of each one. (baggies make a great piping tool. Just snip off on bottom corner)


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Saffron Risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Do you know what Risotto is?  I didn't for the longest time, but it essentially is an Italian rice called Arborio that is cooked in such a manner as to yield a very creamy delicious rice. The creaminess is also due to this rice not being milled as much as regular rice so it has a high starch content.

Although I've made Risotto before, for some reason I've not posted a recipe. So I decided to rectify that.

I was trying to figure out what might be good in a risotto. I know often mushrooms and other vegetables are added to cooked risotto but I wanted something different. I had some leftover saffron from Trader Joe's and a partial brick of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and I quickly looked online to see if there was such a combination, and it seemed there was. So I dove in and created this.

I really, really, liked this risotto. Delicious texture, the earthy tones of the saffron, and the nuttiness of the cheese made for a splendid dish. (Also I had homemade Chicken Stock, but store bought will work as well)

I was just as good the next day when reheated.  Give it a try!  You'll not be disappointed.

Ingredients and Method:

32 oz. Chicken Stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon butter
generous pinch of saffron
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

One key to make risotto is to have the chicken stock warmed, so as it is added in increments to the cooking rice it doesn't "shock" it by being too cold.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan, and keep warm to the side.

Add olive oil another sauce pan over medium heat. Add the risotto, and saffron and stir until all the rice is shiny.(About one minute) Add a bit of salt, and the cup of white wine, stir, and turn down to simmer. Stir occasionally until the wine is absorbed and then add a cup of the chicken broth. Continue to simmer and stir occasionally until liquid is absorbed and then add another cup of chicken stock. Repeat until all stock is used up. Continue summering until rice is done and creamy about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and half the grated cheese and stir until incorporated.

Spoon into serving dishes, sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve immediately.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sea Salt Ginger Cookies

 There's a type of cookie I like but you just don't see or hear much about anymore. And that's a Ginger Cookie. When I was a kid I remember Ginger Snaps, Ginger candies, Ginger Bread! I loved the taste of ginger.  So I searched and searched for a recipe and found a good one I thought I could adapt at Dinner and Dessert. What appealed to me was that these cookies weren't thin and gingersnap like, but instead a cake cookie which is what I wanted.

I also wanted a cake-like cookie because I thought a sprinkling of sea salt might work with a ginger cookie.  All I'll say is, I was right. These are delicious!!!  The sting of double measured ginger with the saltiness and the sweetness of molasses and brown sugar. Definitely a cookie I will make again, and again, and again. Do give it a try.

Adapted from Dinner and Dessert
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger (yes, two)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sea Salt for finishing touch

Melt butter and pour into mixing bowl with both sugars. Combine well.

Add beaten egg and molasses and mix together.
Add cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and ginger and mix thoroughly.

Add flour. You may need to add 1/4 cup or two more until you get a nice thick cookie dough.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. (The stiffness of the cookie dough and the chilling will keep the cookies from spreading too much while baking.)

Spoon tablespoon size of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, or just greased pans. Leave about 1 1/2 space between each one.

Bake at 350 degrees for 9 - 12 minutes. Each batch of mine took exactly 12 minutes. The best way to tell is to take them out of the oven when the very edges are beginning to brown.

Immediately sprinkle the tops of the hot cookies with sea salt. Don't overdo it but a light visible sprinkling is perfect.

Let cook for five minutes, and then remove from baking pan to wire rack and let cool completely.

Psst, the picture below is my new Convection Toaster Oven. Bakes, browns, toasts, defrosts and broils. I'm liking this oven.


Salt on Foodista

Friday, January 4, 2013

Himalayan Salt Block

You know what a Himalayan Salt Block is?  Well, neither did I. Due to my penchant for cooking, baking, and posting on this blog, my children occasionally provide me with gifts related to food, which is kind of cool.

Last year my youngest Son gave me an Ice Cream Maker for Christmas. My daughter bought me some beautiful Creuset dishes.

This year he gave me some infused oils and balsamics. (Try some garlic infused grapeseed oil in your mashed potatoes sometime.)

My daughter this year gave me a Himalayan Salt Block.

A Himalayan Salt Block is 600,000 years old, and is pure salt mined in the Himalayas and is pink in color.

You can heat them up and actually cook on them or chill them and use them as a serving platform. In either case it imparts a bit of saltiness to whatever you cook or serve. Fancy restaurants will sometimes heat up a block (it retains heat for quite a while) and bring it to your table and actually sear steak or seafood and vegetables on it right at your table.

After using it, you merely wipe it clean and use it again and again.

I thought this was a COOL Christmas Present and couldn't wait to try it.

I drove home Christmas Day back to Seattle, and got on the internet and began reading about my salt block. I read use, and care, and preparation, and recipes etc. etc. for about two hours.

A Salt Block can be heated directly over flames such as a gas grill or a gas stove, but it cannot be heated directly on an electric stove. The block must be elevated over the electric element by 1/2 inch or so. Fortunately, my pressure cooker had a metal trivet that was the perfect height so I used that.

I decided that I was going to make (plebian, I know) a cheeseburger on my new salt block, just to try it out.

So I set it carefully on top of the trivet on the heating element, and as per instructions, starting heating it very slowly. In fact I was over conservative, and I let it heat at a certain level for 30 minutes at a time, before I raised the temperature. The first time you use it you're supposed to "temper" by slowly heating it over time. I gradually upped the temperature over a two hour period, just to be on the safe side.

The burger was ready, cheese at the ready, and a hamburger bun buttered and ready to toast on the block also. (Along with some Burgerville special sauce)

The block was HOT and water drops sizzled when splashed on it.

I was at my desk ready to go, when I heard a KABOOM from the kitchen!

I ran out and saw the salt block had exploded and cracked through the middle.  As I was standing there, it blew up again, showering me and my entire kitchen with salt. I was ducking and covering my eyes as it exploded FIVE more times! I turned off the heat, and had salt EVERYWHERE! In my hair, clothes, kitchen, floor, etc. etc. It's been a week and I still find chunks of salt somewhere.

We do have a happy ending however. The next day I called my daughter and thanked her for the exploding Christmas Gift, after which I emailed the place she bought it from in Portland, Oregon. They immediately agreed to replace it, and ended up sending me not one, but two new stones. They explained that every once in a while, a block deemed cooking worthy can have defects that can't be detected visually, and that sometimes this happens.

I'll have you know I heated one up yesterday morning and cooked bacon and a sunnyside up egg, and they were delicious.

More to follow I'm sure as I continue to experiment with recipes for the Himalayan Salt Block. As long as I don't blow myself up.  Ha ha.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Cream Cheese Bread

This is a Cream Cheese Homemade bread I make every year for Christmas which always disappears rapidly. This year I just sprinkled it with decorative sugar but you can glaze it or decorate it in any number of ways.

I find it almost impossible to keep the braid 100% intact during rising and baking so I use toothpicks to at least keep it as "together" as possible. I once made one where I painstakingly made the overlapping slices long enough that I could bind them with warm water and it held together. But I found to do that, you use much less filling and I like a lot of filling in my bread.

I say, "Let the filling be free!"

I recently moved and couldn't locate the recipe, and although I'm sure I could have made it from memory, I found a similar one at King Arthur flour, just to be certain of measurements. It worked like a charm.


2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Dough: Combine sugar, milk water and yeast and let rest until it becomes bubbly. (Proofed) add the balance of the ingredients and mix and knead them together until you've made a soft, smooth dough. Place dough in a greased bowl, turn over, and cover with a moist towel. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it's puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

Filling: While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by mixing all of the ingredients together until smooth. Chill untill ready to use.
Assembly: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, punch down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Divide it in half. Roll each half into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Transfer rolled dough to baking pan spread with parchment paper. Spread half of the filling lengthwise down the center third of each rectangle. Cut 1-inch-wide strips from each side of the filling out to the edges of the dough. Fold about an inch of dough at each end over the filling to contain it, then fold the strips, at an angle, across the filling, alternating from side to side. Secure with toothpicks.

Baking: Allow the braids to rise, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till almost doubled in size. Brush with a glaze made from 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water, and sprinkle with sparkling white sugar, if desired; then bake the braids in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack. Yield: 2 braids.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Audrey Jane....

Sorry, I just had to. I finally met my granddaughter and held her.......

My baby girl's baby girl.....  I couldn't be happier.

I'll be back to cooking and baking in a bit.....   :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Applesauce Banana Bread

Kitchenaid Classic Plus 4.5-Qt. Stand Mixer (Google Affiliate Ad)

Do you happen to have Amazon Fresh in your area?  It's a home delivery grocery service from Amazon.Com and I've used it for two years now and really like it. The
prices are very reasonable, if you buy enough from them the delivery is free.

It's very convenient to just go online and order routine items, such as paper towels, toilet paper, sugar, flour, produce, beer, milk, juices, cereal, and even produce, meats,  etc.

They have one quirk though. Sometimes, they will run out of an item just as your delivery is coming up. So, even though you ordered it, you don't receive it.

They adjust your bill of course, but it can be annoying, especially if you were going
to make something and don't receive it.

Two weeks ago, I received my order from Amazon Fresh and noticed the bananas
I ordered didn't show up.  Oh well, I figured they were just out.

10 days later, a bag I had stored in the pantry with a six pack of beer, I noticed had
my bananas in them! So I did receive them, I just didn't know it. And now they were over ripe. 

Only one solution.

Applesauce Banana Bread!

I like to add applesauce as a substitute for oil or butter. It's healthier, and adds moistness and depth to the finished bread.

Cream cheese or butter on it fresh from the oven.


Ingredients and Method:

3 or 4 bananas (over-ripe)
1 cup white sugar
2 -3 eggs
3/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour ( I used bread flour and it was fine, but all purpose works well)

Mix bananas and sugar with mixer until well blended and the bananas are completely

Add eggs and applesauce and mix.

Add the flour and baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract.

Combine thoroughly. It should be a fairly thick batter.

Spray a 8 or 9 inch loaf pan and gently spoon batter into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Check to see if a toothpick comes out clean
at 40 minutes, and bake more if still not fully baked. Do not over bake or it will be dry.

You want it done but retaining the moistness.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I have been a bit negligent with my blog. Haven't felt like creatively cooking for a while. Life has a way of getting in the way some times.

I got laid off. My daughter got married. Did the unemployment gig. Found a job. Had a small health issue or two. And, to top it off, three weeks ago, got laid off AGAIN!

And yet, I'm in a good place. I'm doing the unemployment gig again, and........yet am in a happy mood...I'll find a job. I might even move closer to Portland, OR to be closer to my Son and my Daughter, and my........ (drumroll)

I have a granddaughter.  Please meet Ms. Audrey Jane Skidmore.

And I promise to start picking up the blogging of good recipes again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lime Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Summertime. Of my favorite summer desserts. One of the blogs I follow is Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Her recipes are impressive, photography is great, and I enjoy her writing. She posted a recipe recently that from the photo alone, I just had to make. So, hats off to Peabody and thanks for sharing.

I love the taste of these bars, and there's nothing like fresh raspberries, is there?  Give them a try. They are so delicious.

Adapted from Culinary Concoctions.

Ingredients and Method:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon lime zest
4 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted
pinch of salt

2 packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice or key lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, lime zest, and salt in a bowl. Pour the butter over the mixture and mix well. Scrape crumb mixture into greased 9 x 13 baking dish, press down evenly,  and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and  set aside.

Combine cream cheese and sugar and combine with a mixer. Add egg yolks, and beat until well blended. Add lime juice and zest and mix thoroughly.

Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared graham cracker pan and spread evenly.

Raspberry Mixture
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine raspberries, sugar and lime juice  in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the berries juice and the sauce has thickened. Stir occasionally. Bring to a boil, stir, and turn off heat. Let cool until warm.

Prepare a square of cheesecloth, spoon raspberry mixture into center, (you may have to do twice, depending on the cheesecloth size) pull together four quarters, and begin turning cheesecloth to squeeze out the raspberry sauce into a bowl, leaving the seeds behind. Yeah, it's going to get all over your hands but it's worth it. I find this way to much easier than using a strainer.

Drop the raspberry mixture onto the top of the filling randomly. Using a knife or spatula, swirl the raspberry mixture into the cheesecake filling.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes until it is set in the center and starting to brown around the edges. Let cool
completely, and cut into bars. Using a knife dipped in hot water, and dried, will aid the cutting of the bars.

Store in refrigerator.

I took these to work and they "vanished"

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Savings by the Chopstickful: Send Your Taste Buds to China

Anyone who has ever lived on a student’s or otherwise restrictive budget knows that eating out can be a real luxury. The remedy for any student’s dietary blues is often Chinese food, which uses inexpensive ingredients and is filling. Here are three recipes that cut out the middleman and let you take control of the Chinese food you eat:

Chinese Boiled Chicken

Spark People provides us with this method for preparing a truly versatile dish:

  • 1 chicken or chicken cutlets, boneless or otherwise
  • Chicken bullion

Preparation is easy: bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the chicken into it once it reaches a rolling boil. When the boiling stops, remove the chicken and cover the pot. When boiling starts again, replace the chicken in the pot. Cover the pot again, remove heat, and leave for one hour. This easy preparation method readies your chicken for anything with minimum hassle!

Wonton Soup

Everybody is familiar with wonton soup, and now your wallet will love it as much as your kids! This recipe comes to us from the Food Network:

  • Meat from 1 spare rib, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 cup broccoli

Once you’ve got these items together, mix the meat, carrot, and scallions in a small bowl. You can make the wontons by filling a wrapper with a tablespoon of filling and sealing the edges with dampened water. Then, bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan, add the wontons and broccoli and cook for three minutes.

Chinese Fried Rice

Rice is so inexpensive and comes in such a high quantity that it practically pays for itself! Doctor up your plain white rice with this cheap recipe for fried rice. You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 drops soy sauce
  • 3 drops sesame oil
  • 8 ounces cooked, lean boneless pork or 8 ounces chicken chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot 
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice, grains separated
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

To start, heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok, add the onions and stir-fry until onions brown. Mix your egg with a few drops of soy and sesame oil and cook quickly in the wok. Once your egg is cooked, chop and set aside. Oil the wok again and add your choice meat along with carrots, peas, and cooked onion. After two minutes add the rice, green onions, and bean sprouts. Once these are cooked, add your egg to the rice mixture, heat, and serve!

These fun recipes will wow your guests and keep your wallet plump!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Orleans Beignets

This is a re-post of mine, but it's because I made these this morning, and ate them, hot from the oil, with a cup of coffee and a cold glass of milk, and I'm tellin' ya.   No better start to the day than these....

In my travels I have been to New Orleans about 8 times. And a mandatory stop when I'm there was always Cafe du Monde famous for it's chicory coffee and beignets, a square french raised donut. They are served warm and piled high with powdered sugar.

The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.

As I raised children, I would often make us beignets for breakfast, and sure enough as they grew up, and traveled to New Orleans themselves, they too always stop at Cafe du Monde. Do give these a try. They are easy to make, and really wonderful with a steaming hot cup of coffee au lait. This recipe was derived (and adapted slightly) from a box of Beignet Mix I bought while there.

Ingredients and Method:

3/4 cup water, very warm, not hot
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons shortening or butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup evaporated milk
oil for frying (vegetable or peanut oil, preferably)
powdered sugar (about 1 cup)

In a bowl or mixer with dough hook, add sugar, yeast and warm water. Stir briefly to mix, and let sit while it proofs and becomes foamy. (this means the yeast is good)

Add two cups of flour, salt, evaporated milk, salt, and beaten egg and mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour.

Mix in shortening or butter.

Add balance of flour and mix until sticky dough forms into a ball. Add additional flour, if needed, in 1/4 cups increments.

Transfer dough to floured board and knead briefly and form into ball. (I usually let the dough hook knead the dough for about 5 minutes which greatly decreases the time hand-kneading is required)

Transfer to greased bowl, and turn over. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour. (Or overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning let dough come to room temperature)

Roll out dough to about 1 inch thickness, and slice dough into two inch squares, or triangular shapes. Cover with plastic wrap in place and let rise again for one hour.

Heat oil in a skillet to 375 degrees. Fry a few beignets at a time in the oil, turning once when browned on one side. It should take approximately 4 minutes per side. You should tend to the frying closely as they will cook really quickly. Move to paper towels and drain well.

Place on plate and sprinkle LIBERALLY with powdered sugar.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Two Layer Key Lime Pie

One of my favorite family recipes. I've been making this for years and my kids loved it as they were growing up. Whenever my youngest son visits from college, it's mandatory I make it and let him take it with him to school.

It's a basic key lime pie but with an extra layer. You can make your own crust or just buy it in the bakery section at the store. I can't tell the difference frankly.

Ingredients and Method:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or prepared shell)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup key lime juice (Fresh if you can find them in season)
1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup key lime juice
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar and press into pie pan. Place into 350 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Combine condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks. Pour into crust and bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Remove and let cool completely.

Mix together room temperature cream cheese, vanilla, condensed milk, lime juice and sugar. Pour carefully onto key lime filling and refrigerate until set. Serve garnished with whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Meatball Spinach Pasta Soup

I like blogging for a number of reasons, but one is that you get to experiment.  I do search other recipes online and adapt them or change slightly, occasionally  or even remain the same exactly, but I always try to give credit.

And every once in a while, I just go out to the kitchen, and kinda make it up.

And sometimes I come in from the kitchen, after just having thrown away my "creation"....  but I learn from it.

But here's the deal. Every once in a while, I go out to the kitchen, and kinda make it up, and I hit a home run.

And this time I did.  It's kind of an Italian Wedding Soup theme, but man, this soup just rocked. And you don't have to take my word for it. 5 people at A Terrible Beauty tried it, loved it, and two guys I work with tried it and raved.

I'm calling it Meatball Spinach Pasta Soup. OK?

So I'm pleased to share.

And it's nice to come out of the kitchen, with something you want to share. Ya know??

And here, don't even look at the ingredients yet.

Just imagine a warm fragrant chicken broth, with a touch of Italian spice, the depth of onion, garlic, and leeks, the sweetness of tomato,  chewiness of the pasta and the fall apart tender meatballs who have their own seasonings, and then you get the spinach and dill that roll over your tongue,  balanced by a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan/Reggiano cheese.

And yeah, you gotta make your own meatballs for this. (Well, you don't have to, I guess) I know, a pain, but once you make them, try them in the soup, you'll be making meatballs forever with my recipe.  They are the same meatballs you can use in spaghetti, grinders, BBQ appetizers.... they are versatile.

And they're easy.... Here's the link:

Also if you'd like to make your own Chicken Broth, here is my link for that.

Ingredients and Method:

 6 - 10 meatballs from my recipe or store bought (Par-bake mine for 12 minutes at 350 to render some fat)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium leeks, washed and thinly chopped (white and pale green part only)
5 cups chicken broth (or a cup or two more if it's not enough)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 15 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes with puree
1 tablespoon salt (add more as needed for taste)
1 tablespoon pepper (add more as needed for taste)
1 cup prepared al dente pasta (elbow macaroni, rigatoni, or any tubular pasta)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or one tablespoon dried
grated parmesan/reggiano cheese

I made this in a Pressure Cooker, as I seem to be making all my soups in recently. To cook it traditionally, follow the instructions but cook at low heat for 90 minutes in a large heavy saucepan or dutch oven until vegetables are tender. The balance of the instructions are the same.

Heat pot or cooker over medium heat and add olive oil.  Saute onion and leeks until onions "sweat" and become translucent and add garlic and saute for three minutes more. Add broth, oregano, basil can of diced tomatoes salt and pepper, and meatballs. If broth doesn't cover the contents by at least an inch, add more chicken broth or plain water. Turn heat to medium high (on Pressure Cooker) cover, and watch until it begins to steam constantly. Immediately turn heat down to medium low, and let cook under pressure for 12 minutes. (15 p.s.i. if adjustable)

Carefully place pressure cooker in sink and run a stream of cold water over it until it pressurizes. Place back on stove, remove cover, and gently stir. (don't break up meatballs) Immediately add the cooked pasta, spinach and dill. Stir a bit until spinach completely wilts, and dill is incorporated. Slowly season to taste with salt and pepper. What I mean is, do a little of each, stir, let soak in, and then taste again before adding more. It's so easy to oversalt. I've done it more than a few times, and should know better.

Let steep for 10 - 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls with one or two meatballs, sprinkle with parmesan/reggiano and enjoy!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Country Ham Story

So I love ham. For years I have bought hams from Dakin Farms. Here's the link. They have the best ham, corncob smoked, maple glazed that I've ever had.  My kids have endured eating it for years with my potato dish, called Potatoes Grande.... And I say "endured" because I find the plates have always been empty, ya know?

And since I'm a blogger, I constantly read things on the net about food.  And I came across this:     

And I loved it. And yes, bought a smoked country ham from:

I'll be having a post or two upcoming about my experience with this hunk of meat.

But please watch the video, I't's so down home Country I can't even explain it.

But now that you've watched it, don't you want a slow cured, slow smoked, Country Ham yourself?

Just sayin'

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lemony Curried Chicken and Rice soup with Mint and Dill Accents

I had to sit home for a few days recovering from Dental Surgery. When I was finally able to get up and around, I tried to catch up on my recipes and what I should probably make. Being in quite a bit of pain, soup sounded good, in fact, chicken and rice soup sounded divine, so I decided to make some. I have already posted one recipe for Chicken and Rice Soup but I wanted to try something a bit different. And lo and behold I came across a Food Network recipe for Curried Chicken and Rice Soup. I adapted it a good deal, using a Pressure Cooker and I made my own Chicken Broth.

As I read the recipe I became more and more intrigued by the ingredients. In addition to the curry powder, it called for dill, and also for fresh mint leaves and fresh lemon juice!  Are you kidding me?  I HAD to make it.

Now, the verdict is in. This is an absolutely delicious soup. Full of flavor, and yet pulls you one way and the other as you eat it. Ever had a soup that is "fun to eat"?    THIS soup is fun to eat.  Please try it and let me know what you think.

Ingredients and Method:

1 bone-in chicken breast (Unless you made Chicken Broth, then use the chicken from that)
2 tablespoons butter plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely diced
2 carrots, washed and sliced
2 celery stalks, washed and sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup rice
3 tablespoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 lemon, quartered
Additional salt and pepper to taste

I used a Pressure Cooker to make this soup, but if you don't have one, just use a heavy pot, or dutch oven on stove top and simmer for 90 minutes until vegetables are soft after the saute step. If using a chicken breast, cook with the soup in either method, and then cool and shred and return to soup.

Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat in Pressure Cooker (or pot of your choice). Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 10 - 15 minutes until onions are translucent. Add curry, salt, sugar, bay leaf, chicken broth and chicken of your choice and rice to vegetable mix. Stir well.

 Turn heat to medium high, cover and monitor until it becomes fully pressurized (approx. 15 psi). When it begins to steam constantly, turn down to medium low and let steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove and cool down by pouring cold water from faucet over Cooker. Remove cover, stir and add mint and dill and let steep in the soup for 20 minutes. (If you made it a conventional pot, do the same, turn off heat and let the spices steep). Note: We don't cook the spices in the soup because they will get "worn out". We want them bright and fragrant when we serve.

Slightly salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls, with the lemon wedge. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into soup, and, as usual, enjoy!