Thursday, February 26, 2015

Italian Grisini

I spent the whole day making these yesterday.  They are not difficult but they do take time.  Of course, if you are only making one recipe they don't take nearly as long as it took me.  I made hundreds of these.
 For one recipe:

2-1/4 tsp. rapid rise yeast
2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoon honey
5 tablespoons olive oil
5-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 teaspoons of kosher salt.
Mix this into a ball and knead until you have a smooth dough.  You can flavor these any way you like.  I used caraway in some and nigella seed in the rest.  Add the seeds when you add the flour.  Place the dough in a bowl brushed with olive oil, cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

 Divide the dough into 4 parts.  Roll each part out and cut it into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a long thin rope.  You don't need to flour the surface because the oil in the dough prevents these from sticking.  Place each stick on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil.  Let them sit for about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with sea salt just before baking.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  I turn them over half way through the cooking period.

 The more rustic looking the better.  I make mine look like staffs so that they fit on the cookie sheets.

 Wrap the tops with thin sheets of prosciutto just before serving.

 It took me 6 hours to make these and I am betting they will be gone in 10 minutes at Saturday's event.  They are very addictive.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vietnamese Chicken Meatball Rice Bowls

I like to mix things up a bit when I am packing lunches.  Sandwiches can be so boring day after day.  This is a tasty healthy lunch to pack as an alternative. 

  • 2 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 large egg 
  • 4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemongrass
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh cilantro
  • 3 tsp. corn starch
 Place 2 pounds of ground chicken in a bowl.  Add the 4 tsp. of fish sauce.

 Add the diced onion.

 Add the garlic.

 Add the remaining ingredients.

 Mix thoroughly but do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough.  I use a large fork to toss it all together.

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form the meat into balls and place them on a foil covered baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. 
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 inches fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds 
  • Put the first 6 ingredients into a heavy pot and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Mix the cornstarch with some water to make a thin paste and stir it in.

Cook a minute or two until it thickens.

Here are the meatballs right out of the oven.

Toss them in the sauce.

I packed them with cilantro rice and Vietnamese pickled vegetables.  And always a couple wedges of lime.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Refrigerator Cucumber Salad

 My marathon cooking has begun for the 200 guest event I volunteered to cater for this weekend.  An appetizer that is always a big hit is my Asian meatballs served on this cucumber salad.  I made the meatballs weeks ago and froze them and I made the cucumbers this morning.  They should be made several days in advance to let the flavors blend. 

Bring 2 cups of white vinegar and 1-1/2 cups of white sugar to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tsp. of celery seeds and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes.  Boil just until the sugar dissolves and remove it from the heat.  Throw in 2 cups of ice cubes and let this mixture cool.

Thinly slice 4 cucumbers and 1 red onion.  It is best to use a mandolin to do this.

 Pack the cucumber and onion alternately in a glass jar.  I added some garlic cloves and some fresh dill too.

 Pour the liquid over the cucumbers.

Put a lid on the jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  These are good all by themselves too.

Monday, February 23, 2015


 I like weird stuff.  I always have.  I thought I would show you some I own.  These are cast iron hands which have screws on the wrists.  Apparently, someone was going to open a shop had these made of his hands and was going to use them to hang things on in the store.  His loan fell through and he never opened the place and he auctioned these off.  They are extremely heavy.

 These knitting needles are my favorites.

 Look at the detail.  I imagine these were made by a sailor who spent a lot of time on a ship.  I'm sure they are made from whale bone and were made for his wife.  Why skulls?  I do not know but they sure are cool.

 These are two Westmoreland glass witch balls and are very, very rare.  The holes in the top suck in all the bad energy in your house.

 This birdcage is an end table in my living room.  It is topped with my crystal ball and lots of hand blown glass pieces I have collected in the States and Canada.  The silver cross is from Mexico.

 My green man fire screen.  He looks really cool when a fire is burning behind him in the fireplace.

 My mercury glass collection.

 My desk in my library.  I designed every inch of that mantel. It took my woodworker and me a whole year to build it.  And on my desk....

is my magic wand from Salem.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Storm but Spring is on the Way

 We had a glorious snowstorm all day yesterday until dinner time when it turned to rain and it all went to slush.  I am still hoping for one more big snow before Spring arrives.

 I drove through the storm to a country market yesterday and when I arrived the place looked like Spring was already there.

 There were patio tables and decorative pots and gardening things everywhere.

 I bought these wonderful towels.

 You can find them here:

Wouldn't these make a great Easter present for someone?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Girl Scout Thin Mints Recipe

I've wanted to make these for a long time and finally got around to it yesterday.  It seems like everyone likes Girl Scout thin mint cookies.
Here is the recipe:

    For the cookies:
  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks)softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour 
  1. Set the oven to 350F
  2. Cream butter until light and fluffy, then add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the salt, vanilla and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter resembles a thick frosting. Add the flour and mix just until the flour is combined, making sure to not over mix.
  3. Form dough into a ball. Knead a few times to bring together, then flatten into a disk between half an inch and one inch thick, cover with plastic wrap then place in fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove dough from the fridge and roll it out really thin using plastic wrap, about 1/8-inch. Cut cookies using 1 1/2-inch cutter or into squares like I did.  I didn't want to waste any and I also didn't want to re-roll the scraps.
  5. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
I did cut off the rough edges and re-rolled them.

These were pretty big so you could cut them smaller.

Some had wonky edges but the chocolate icing fixes everything.
Coating:   16 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and 1-1/2 tsp. peppermint extract.  Microwave to melt and thoroughly stir in the peppermint.

Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate.  Place them on waxed paper until the chocolate sets.  If your room is warm, you might want to put them in the fridge.

Apparently these are really good.  I'm not trying them....bleeck!  Chocolate!  But I left a plate of them out when I went to bed last night and lo and behold....there were none left this morning.

A lethal strike by the midnight chocoholics!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bombay Potatoes

This dish was on the menu for the Indian dinner I made for my friends.  It's a great way to prepare potatoes.
3 large potatoes, cut into cubes
2 inch knob of ginger grated
3 garlic cloves minced
 tomatoes, I used a container of cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp vegetable oil
¾ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 large onion diced
2/3 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
½–¾ tsp chilli powder
Large handful of chopped cilantro leaves

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it well. Put in the potatoes and boil until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a food processor, blend together the ginger, garlic and tomatoes until smooth.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seed.

Once the cumin starts to darken, add the onion and the spices.

 Saute gently for one to two minutes.

Add the tomato mixture, stir well and cook for three to four minutes.

 Dump in the potatoes and cook for three to five minutes to absorb the flavors. Check the seasoning.

Stir in the chopped coriander and serve.