Category Archives: Recipe

“Almost Instant” Chili from Fresh Ingredients

I dream about “bowls of red,” that is, slow simmered, meaty chili made with abundant quantities of traditional tomatoes. I grew up in So. Cal., so chili has always been part of what I eat by preference.

Except. I cannot eat red tomatoes in quantity any more. It isn’t worth the 3 in the morning gut ache, even when I make it myself. The result of this is that I make many “chilis” using salsa verde as the base, which I like. But it’s not the same.

Today was farm day and I was fairly conservative about the different items I got, in most cases I got more than 1 item. (You’re allowed so many items a week, this season, it has been 8 all year.) They had quantities of non-red, greenhouse tomatoes, so I got 4 lbs of tomatoes, or 2 items worth.

This was also the first PYO for peppers — jalpenos, so I got some of those too.

I put this together from what I had acquired today or already had on hand.

Take 4 large non-red greenhouse tomatoes, wash them and cut off any hard core or other not so great spots. Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan with a little oil and smash them down with a potato smasher. Simmer.

Stem, seed and then slice a med-lg jalapeno, add that to the tomatoes and keep cooking. In a small frypan, put in a little oil again, and cut up a fresh bulb onion in largish pieces. Saute the onion, add chili powder. Cook til almost cooked through but not quite. Add the onions to the still simmering tomatoes. Put 1/2 lb ground beef in the fry pan, add about 1T cumin and cook to crumbles (cooked not crusty). Add the leaves of about 1/2 bunch cilantro. Cook until well wilted. Add the meat/cilantro to the tomato mixture.

Pull some of the liquid from the pan, put it in another bowl and add about 1T flour, stir til smooth, return it to the tomatoes. Taste. Add beef demiglace to add richness, about 2t.

Serve with generous amounts of grated cheddar cheese.

This is acceptable  chili, but not an outstanding one. It would have been better for adding the meat and letting the entire thing simmer for an hour or so, but that didn’t happen. It’s closer to a “bowl of red” than I’ve had in more than a year, so I’ll take it! (The left overs, the next day, were better because the flavors had blended.)

NOTE: This is seasoned as it is because: I love cumin and my husband loves cilantro. I also like more salt than he does. He likes a lot more pepper than I do, so we add salt and pepper ourselves and I don’t cook with it.


Carrot Cake Disaster — Working Hypothesis

I’ve had various bits of the cake the last 2 days. Every time I do, for a long while afterwards, everything tastes purely awful.

I had some this morning and my coffee tastes burnt. Asked DH if the batch of coffee tasted burnt to him? Puzzled look — “No.”

So it’s me, it’s this stupid cake, again.

We have 2 layers, now crumbled up from having been split in 1/2 to eat up. I may put part of it in the freezer, I’d like to taste something  decent before next week.

Yesterday in attempt to “clean” my palette, I ate an orange, couldn’t taste it. Added demerra sugar, could barely taste the sugar. My dinner was a few slices of bread, a tomato (which tasted past it) vinegar I know I love (and couldn’t taste), olive oil, salt & pepper — tomato salad, one of my favorite things. Could barely taste it. Even the toothpaste tasted off last night.

So it’s me and this cake.

Great. Now I have to figure out what it is in the cake that takes out my palette.

What I needed — a new quest!

(I tossed all my powdered sugar of course. Now I need more, sigh.)



The Yummy Carrot Cake Disaster


I decided to make that carrot cake, you know the one the guy (Ian Cumming) made on GBBO’s finale. Not 5 layers, but the same cake. The recipe is on BBC, you can find it (here).

Except, that I’m not a patient cook. Also my kitchen and supplies are all in disarray because of the great painting project and the long-still continuing refrigerator saga. In the midst of the long rennovation effort and my fridge dying (twice!) about 1/2 the food in the fridge was pitched. The food in the fridge’s freezer was moved by DH to the new freezer, etc.

This means a few things:

  1. I don’t have the supplies I usually have on hand.
  2. If I do, I’m not sure where they are or how much I have.
  3. The same is true of my cooking tools.

So I started to make a 4 egg cake with 2 eggs in the house. I’d bought pecans, but hadn’t noticed they were to be roasted and chopped. I finally (after looking in many, many markets) found star anise, but it wasn’t ground. (Our pepper may taste “peculiar” for a while, the pepper grinder was the only thing other than the coffee grinder I could find which would work. We use the coffee grinder EVERY DAY, the pepper grinder not as much and it’s smaller.)

I bought cream cheese to make the topping even though I shouldn’t eat it and DH isn’t fond of it, but decided tonight that I’d put the glaze on and maybe make up icing for a few other people. Put the glaze on.

Couldn’t resist — tasted the glaze: powdered sugar and orange juice. Should be yummy — right? Tasted like soap.


Thought okay, it’s the knife, had soap on it. Got a new utensil, rinsed it, dip it in the remains of the glaze in the bowl.

More soap.

I’d already drizzled this on the warm cake layers. Cut them in 1/2. The unaffected 1/2 layers are just great big carrot muffins, unglazed or iced — right???

I can still taste that soap, and I have no idea wtf happened. The sugar was put in a clean canister < 4 months ago. All I can think is that I got something with an adulterant in it or a f’d up recipe  — which ruined mine!

The star anise is an ingredient used in the original recipe and omitted on the BBC’s version for some reason. (If you look at the baker’s twitter feed he talks about it there.) I love this recipe, will make it again, but will do these things:

  1. Do all the prep work beforehand I should have this time (like counting eggs! If I didn’t have a neighbor who raised chickens, that could have been a disaster too.)
  2. TASTE my glaze before I put it on the warm cakes.
  3. Remember that I don’t have a springform pan, but that one 9″ removable bottom pan and one 8″ removable bottom pan work just fine.

What do you do when you’re avoiding being stressed? If you’re me and you have several hours where you know you’ll be stressed, you start a complicated recipe, with many more steps and ingredients than you ever use and don’t do the prep work, you’re going to “wing it.”

I’m lucky it turned out as well as it did! If I’d only tasted that glaze first . . . .

Note: Acc to DH, the cakes are just fine. After both of us nibbling bits here and there, our conclusion is that I have an aversion to star anise, at least this much, this way, or maybe it’s the fresh-ground cloves. Either way, DH says the glaze and all is very tasty. Reminds me of what happened after the motorcycle accident: most foods smelled rotten to me, except garlic. I ate a LOT of marinara! I don’t know what this is, but the next time I make this (later this week, probably) I’ll omit the white raisins, cloves and the star anise and see what I think. If it’s okay, then I’ll make another batch. I loved the smell, but something in there. . . .


Why Make Cookies/Crackers from Scratch?

Yesterday I made a fruit/cheese pie. I didn’t know what I was doing, as I had no recipe per se. My pie is ricotta, fruit, fruit syrup (the failed apple/cherry jam, remember that? Here’s a (link)).

It’s good!

What is disappointing is the crust. The recipe I used as an inspiration had a vanilla wafer crust, made like a graham cracker crust. A few months ago I had a yen for s’mores, so bought all the ingredients, including the “name brand” graham crackers. The crackers were “off,” and when I looked at the package in detail realized that some other company had “improved” the cracker. I’d forgotten about that when I bought the vanilla wafers yesterday.

I love vanilla wafers. Because of that, I rarely buy them. I’ve been known, when really depressed, to eat an entire box with cups of hot milk. They’re dangerous, for me. So, yesterday I went from the small market in the next town (only had generic vanilla wafers) to the C store (had a hole where the vanilla wafers should have been) to the market, where I bought, with satisfaction, that yellow box.

When I got home of course, I had to sample. They tasted funny — then I looked at the box, and found that they weren’t produced by Nabisco anymore, but were Nabisco brand, made by another company.

My reaction was three-fold — 1) I will absolutely start throughly reading boxes of cookies and crackers before I buy them. 2)I will avoid everything labeled “Nabisco.” 3)I looked in a cookbook (Better Than Store Bought) where I’d looked after the graham cracker incident, and was relieved to see that there’s a vanilla wafter recipe too.

I’m going to make them from scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with the graham crackers or vanilla wafers, but they’re different. To my taste whatever they’ve changed hasn’t improved them.

I have the same sort of problem with nearly all cake mixes. The results taste like chemical fluff to me, not cake. The only brand I’ve found which I like is Dr. Oetker, so in my pantry you’ll find, almost always, one box of Dr O’s vanilla cake mix. I can add chocolate or whatever to it if I want, but the basic cake is good. I gave up on Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and . . .  because every one I tried tasted chemically to me.

Cake, like cookies and sweet crackers are not staples here, so my changed habits are not going to put “Nabisco” or “Betty Crocker” et al out of business.

I find it ironic though, that the convenience foods I would like to count on I can’t. And, while others are eating a lot more prefab entrees, we almost always eat scratch foods these days. The exceptions were baked goods, jams/jellies/preserves, and rice mixes.

Good bread became too expensive a while back, so we started baking our own. It seems sweet baked goods are next on the list. Savory rather than sweet crackers are also likely to join the list  of DIY foods here — ever read the per lb price for a box of crackers? It’s more than the price of ground beef in many cases! I always thought my cooking life would go the other way: in my youth and middle age, when I had the vigor to do so, I’d  do “from scratch” cooking, then use mixes in my “dotage.”  Guess not.

With the warning about graham cracker/vanilla wafers in mind, here’s the recipe for my Summer Fruit & Cheese Pie. Easy peasy.

Make (or buy) a sweet cracker/cookie crust in the usual way (butter/crumbs). Put it in the fridge to chill.

Clean, cut, pit, etc. about 1C sweet cherries. Repeat with about the same amount of strawberries. (The strawberries I used were just starting to be “ugly” in that some of them were soft but not slimy or black.) You want the fruit to be small cut, not minced, but not halved necessarily either.

Heat about 1/4C syrup  so that it’s runny. (I used my failed apple/cherry jam. You could probably use melted apricot jam or honey or maple syrup?). Let cool slightly. (Don’t cook the cheese.)This is not super-sweet like many baked goods/desserts. If you have kids or are a total sugar hound, you’ll probably want to add more syrup than I did.

I put the cooked fruit and syrup in the mix and thought that was a mistake, yesterday, when I tasted it, as the previously cooked fruit had a different consistency from the other fruit. Today I can’t tell the difference between the previously cooked fruit and the fruit which was added raw. Your mileage may vary.

Open a 1 lb package of part-skim ricotta. Put into a bowl, stir. Then stir in the prepared raw fruit. Finally, add the cooled fruit & syrup.  Store in fridge in between steps, if needed because of the cheese! Lastly, put the fruit mix into the chilled pie crust and pack it down firmly. Invert another pie pan over the top as a lid and put in the fridge over night or for several hours. (I don’t use plastic wrap.)

Needs to be kept in the fridge, but enjoy!




Should Have Stood in Bed

Okay, I picked up food at the farm. Small share this time, as it’s the beginning of the season:

I got radishes, spinach, 2 lettuces, and rhubarb.

I stopped at the market (go right by it) on the way home and bought:

2 avocados

1 small watermelon.

The plan was my favorite hot weather meal, requires no cooking:

spinach, lemon, avocado soup (served cold)

with salad:

watermelon, chives (original recipe had onions, but I have chives in the yard), mint and an oil & vinegar dressing.

Both things I’ve made many, many times  before. No cooking. Easy.

The best laid plans.

Except I forgot that I don’t use the food processor for the soup. I forgot (somehow) how to pick out avocadoes (a skill I’ve prided myself in since oh, high school?), and I forgot that although the soup requires no cooking, it can be messy, if you’re not careful.

Disaster on disaster.

First, I couldn’t remember how to use the food processor attachment. My brilliant spouse fixed that.

Okay. Put the washed spinach in, and get chopped spinach. Hm. Not what I had in mind.

Add lemon juice, one avocado, run some more, nope. I have a little guacamole, with lots of roughage. Nope. Okay. Put it all in the blender.

Soup — at the bottom of the jar, underneath most of the 1 lb of chopped, not liquified spinach.

Decide I should add the 2nd avocado. I CAN’T get it to separate? After a lot of work, I get the rock-hard flesh outta the shell.

Take all the “almost soup” out of the blender, add the avocado rock stuff and a little water. Buzz.Still hard. Small pieces, but hard.

Okay. Scoop that out. ( I tossed it, would you want to eat crunchy avocado “sand”?) Put the guac + 1 pile shredded spinach back into the blender . Buzz. Add a little water. Repeat until very thick soup/liquidy guac is all that’s in the bottom of the blender. Add salt & pepper. Call DH to come and get his ‘soup.’

The watermelon was cut in half and we ate it plain.

Are you kidding after the disaster of my 5 ingredient soup which is supposed to take 10 minutes or less to make? After spending an hour on the “easy” soup, I was afraid to pick up a knife, much less make watermelon salad.! [DH must have agreed; he cut the watermelon, served it and did the dishes, all without saying a word.]

Recipe: For two adult/main course servings. (Original recipe from 10 minute cooking book, I’ll have to dig it out for the source, sorry, can’t find it online right now.)

2 avocados, juice of 1 -2 lemons (you need at least one), 1 lb spinach, salt & pepper to taste, water as req’d. (I think the original recipe has Tabasco in it too?)

I use the stems and all of the spinach, omitting any brown or nasty bits. To do this in an organized fashion (not like my disaster above).

Clean the spinach, cut the stems off the leaves. Cut the lemon in 1/2 and remove the seeds (I zap the lemons in the micro for 10 seconds then cut in 1/2 and squeeze over a small strainer.) Cut the avocado in 1/2, take out the pit, chunk the flesh.

Put the lemon juice in first, then add the spinach in batches. Add the avocado. Add  a very little water if needed. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Then I decided I wanted a little ice cream before bed. I have bad wrists, I zap my ice cream 10 seconds too. Started to wipe down the counters. .  . the micro is still going? My ice cream is *boiling*??? Tastes fine, it’s coffee ice cream after all, but. After tonight? I’m going to be afraid to even pour myself  a cup of coffee tomorrow morning.




Use It Up Casserole

Well, this kinda worked, but needs to be tweaked!

There’s a raised bed of parsnips, carrots and celeriac in my veggie garden, still. I had bought a dozen eggs as they were on sale for $2 or so a dozen, couldn’t resist that price! So, what to do?

I made a casserole: 2 bread heels, chunked, 3 eggs, 2C milk, about 1C chunked cheddar cheese, 1/2 sweet onion, chopped, 2 ribs celery, sliced, about 1C diced parsnips, 3 carrots, and 1 large patty pan squash. It should have been fine.

I baked it, tested it with a knife in the center, came out clean. Looked cooked through. Top was all dry, so I chunked the cheese, put it on top, then put the thing under the broiler to brown. Pulled it out, dished up a bowl and there’s a layer of liquid on the bottom?

Stirred it all up (mixing the cheese inside) and put it back in the oven. We ate it, but it was NOT the custardy veggie casserole I wanted. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find a recipe to modify for this, so I faked it. It was tasty, but NOT what I expected, sigh.

Back to the drawing board!

A “Not Real” Food Confession

Okay, I’ve been busy and rather than making everything from scratch, I’ve been using prefab pieces to make things, well, at least I did yesterday.

Last night’s dinner was a veggie soup (squash with peas, carrots added) and BBQ ribs and cake with fruit.

The soup was made two days ago, it’s a squash soup with cider, stock, onion, curry powder. I cooked one butternut squash, needed more squash and opened a can of pumpkin to finish it. Prefab, sort of. Last night we had that as a side dish and the end of the previously cooked veggies in it, and that was our vegetable.

The ribs were put in a Pyrex lasagna pan with a bottle of Lawry’s Santa Fe Chili Sauce and some water, and a little sweet onion, then baked until the pork was cooked through.

The cake is a Dr. Oetker mix, with a package of home-frozen mixed blueberries & peaches. When I find peaches/blueberries cheap in the summer I cut up the fruit then put 1C of each into a plastic bag and freeze. I use the premeasured and prepped fruit  to make our favorite cobbler. (here) Of course, in this case, I added the fruit to the pan with the cake batter.

So, instead of making EVEN SOUP from scratch, which is my normal, I cheated, on everything. It was good, probably mostly healthy, fairly fast and (of course) frugal.

I confess. I don’t always cook from scratch. I think I should, always, but like everyone I just don’t have the time or inclination all the time.

The biggest problem with dinner? The soup, the baked cake and the rib’s sauce were almost all the same color. DH said, in mock horror, “Oh noooooooooo! Food that’s all the same color! nOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” and we laughed. But if this was a company dinner or I was cooking for kids, I would have made sure I had a green salad, had some corn or peas, mashed potatoes or something to offset the brown, brown, and dark orange-brown food.

(It was tasty just the same!)