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May 2011

Sunday Cookfest/Sunday Supper

It's been too long since I just enjoyed myself cooking all day. So I went to the store, 2011-05-15 09.59.17

Made some tasty coffee: 2011-05-15 10.35.52

Then I made chicken stock, of course, with a good chicken to use later this week. 2011-05-15 12.24.03

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And today's dinner was so delicious, I feel I outdid myself. :-)

I prepared back ribs, baked beans, cucumber salad, and mixed berry pie.

The baked beans are my favorite part. I took the Frugal Gourmet's recipe for Boston baked beans, and adapted it slightly for my slow cooker and ingredients. One bag of Great Northern beans soaked the quick way, with the addition of a teaspoon of baking soda, plus 3/4 lb bacon, a medium onion, maple syrup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, ground mustard, salt and pepper. I made three layers of the soaked beans, chopped bacon and sliced onions, then mixed the rest of the ingredients with hot water and poured it over. Then I let it cook on high for about 5 hours. High is 300º so that could just be done in the oven in a crock with a good lid. 2011-05-15 12.56.09

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The cucumber salad is made of whatever I have around. I don't know why the picture makes it look thin and foamy. It isn't at all! Today's has sour cream, red wine vinegar, milk, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, mixed with cucumber, finely diced onion, and some chopped mint leaves. 2011-05-15 17.52.21

The ribs were just baked slowly all afternoon, coated in a seasoning blend and wrapped in foil. Wrapping them in foil helps them steam so they are very tender, and if you want to, you can put sauce on them at the end, turn up the temperature, and cook them a little longer. 2011-05-15 17.53.42

I love the mixed berry pie with the frozen triple berry blend from Costco. They taste amazingly fresh and go well together.

My usual crust is very basic; 2 1/4 cups flour (my flour is a 5:1 ratio of unbleached white flour to unbleached white whole wheat flour,) 1 tsp salt, 1 stick cold butter, chopped. I pulse that in the food processor, then add a mixture of 1/3 cup cold water, 1 egg, 1 tbs white vinegar, and pulse again just until it's all clumped together. Dumped out on a floury counter, kneaded very lightly and quickly, then refrigerated while the filling is prepared. It's important for the pie crust to be cold when it goes in the oven so the butter doesn't melt right at first. 2011-05-15 13.36.04

I use 6 cups of fruit with 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tbs flour, a splash of vanilla, and two splashes of orange liqueur. That's a basic fruit pie recipe, by the way, that you can easily adapt for different fruits. Some require a little more or a little less sugar, and some want cinnamon or nutmeg, as well, and a different type of juice or liqueur. I use almond extract for cherry pie, for example.

This pie looks messy because I didn't seal the top crust under the bottom as securely as usual. I was starting to have a random asthma event and got in a hurry. But it still tastes good! 2011-05-15 17.51.39

From the phone pic cooking files

None of these photos are any good. But I like documenting a process.

First, pizza. I can make pizza crust fine, but I really just like using Wegmans whole wheat pizza dough. And this time I used their sauce as well; Grandma's Pomodoro Sauce is good for pizza. But I went lavish with the ingredients. I'd been sick for awhile and wanted to give the kids something special.








The last two are of mine; I like to use tomatoes instead of sauce, and I like goat cheese best.

Then I made minestrone, with one vegan batch for my daughter's friend.







And I made Easter cookies. The recipe is at the end of this post.



And I made a cherry pie exactly the way my mom used to make it? We all enjoyed it but I realized I like it my way much better!

When I'm cooking just for myself, it tends to go a little differently.



Here's the Easter cookie recipe:

Italian Easter Cookies--this is culled together from an old yellowed piece of notebook paper, and some trials with various internet recipes. It's one of 4 or 5 recipes I should have asked my mother for, that I've been trying to conquer for a long time.

Yield up to 6 dozen.

6 medium eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup oil (I use butter, or half butter, but the recipe had oil written on it--I think they keep longer if you use only oil.)
1 tbs vanilla or anise flavoring (or almond extract, which is what I prefer.)
2 cups sugar
6 cups flour
2 tbs baking powder

Cream sugar and oil. Beat eggs until lemon-colored and foamy. Combine with sugar mixture, milk and extract and beat until light. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine with egg mixture, and knead lightly on a floured surface, until the dough is smooth and easy to handle, then roll dough into 1 inch balls. If you like, you can roll the balls into ropes about five inches long. Tie into loose knots or braid and place cookies one inch apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Dip into icing when cool, and let dry on waxed paper.


1 ib powdered sugar
Several tablespoons milk, add a little at a time to the powdered sugar, until it's thin enough to dip cookies in.
2 teaspoons lemon, almond, or anise flavoring (I mean, you should probably only use the lemon or anise if you used vanilla in the dough. And you could combine some vanilla and anise or vanilla and lemon for the dough, but I just like almond.)
A few drops of food coloring can be added to make Easter colors—just be sure to start with only 2-3 drops, then add more, one at a time until you have the color you like.

My grandma made these at Easter, and we each got a special one which was a braided circle with a colored hard-boiled egg placed in the center of it. She put a cross made of dough over the top, and cooked it in a slower oven. They are not very sweet, especially if you leave off the icing. They are perfect for coffee or tea, and improve after a day or two.


The Mint Julep

I like sharp, classic, bracing cocktails most of the time. But I always have a mint julep on Derby Day and occasionally on a hot day in summer. My version is mostly traditional, just culled together from several methods I've tried.

You can use 2 tbs simple syrup instead of the brown sugar and water, but I prefer mixing it on the spot, and also in separate glasses for each person instead of all in one container.

1 tbs brown sugar, packed in the spoon
2 tbs water
3 sprigs spearmint; if you can get Kentucky Colonel mint, use that because it's awesome
3 oz good bourbon
1 tray of ice, chopped up or crushed, depending on your equipment and patience

Put the sugar and water in a double rocks or large wine glass or the like, and add two mint sprigs that each have several leaves on them. Muddle with a wooden spoon or stir vigorously for at least a minute. Set it aside.

Chop or crush your ice, or if yours already came that way, just let the mint syrup sit for about five minutes, add half the ice to the glass, stir vigorously, add the other half, then pour the bourbon over it and stir lots more. Garnish with the third mint sprig.

Don't add anything else. If you do, you've made some other kind of drink. Which is fine, but not at all the point.

If you actually have a silver cup, sure, use that. But if you're using a silver cup for a mint julep, you don't need anyone to tell you how to make one. :-)