Monthly Archives: December 2014

No Fuss, No Muss Tasty Hors D’oeuvre


Just in time for New Year’s Eve or football playoffs, here’s my version of the beef and cream cheese wrap appetizers. Now I didn’t measure the ingredients but went on instinct to create these tasty beauties, so adjust according to your preference.

Ingredients (estimated)

  • 3/4 lb. thinly sliced london broil lunch meat
  • 4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2-3 Tbsp. horseradish sauce
  • 9-10 scallions, greens minced, whites and light green stalks cut into 2 1/2″ sections
  • 1/4 red pepper, sliced into 2 1/2″ strips
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, with 1 Tbsp. minced

Make sure to buy thinly sliced london broil from your deli counter which should come on the rare side. You could also use rare roast beef slices. Fold the beef slices along one long bottom edge so that you get a nice clean border.

To make 21 roll-ups, I used 4 ounces of cream cheese that came to room temperature. Once softened I added about 2 or 3 tablespoons of horseradish sauce, more or less to taste for spiciness. Then incorporate about a shy quarter cup of minced scallion greens, and a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh cilantro.

Spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cream cheese mixture onto one end of the london broil slice. Top with a 2 1/2-inch piece of scallion and the same approximate size of red pepper strip. Roll up and place on platter and sprinkle with extra cilantro leaves.

They can be wrapped and refrigerated for 24 hours.

Season’s Eatings (with Crab Louis recipe)

Knowing that Russ’ daughter Julia had (mostly) omitted red meat from her diet, we decided to create our version of the Christmas Eve dinner “Seven Fishes.” The three kids (young adults in their twenties) were joining us for the feast along with Russ’ mother Mary who was in from Western PA; further planning to have a standing prime rib roast for Christmas Day dinner — when the kids would not be with us.


Main course: Seafood Paella containing mussels, clams, squid, sea scallops and shrimp. Our best laid plans came to a screeching halt though when Mary informed us she can no longer do shellfish. But the crisis was averted when we told her we’d make a seared Ahi Tuna Steak for her and she could pick out some of the mollusks from the paella if she so desired.

Dan grating tomatoes for paella.
David hugging dad while Lynn prepares Crab Loius salads and Dan checks his mobile devices.


Our appetizer was a Tuna Canapé from our Tapas cookbook by Penelope Casas. It was made with a special canned tuna from Spain on whole wheat baguette slices and everyone loved them!


And to make sure we met the seven fishes quota, our first course was a scrumptious Crab Louis Salad (recipe follows.) Now of course this contained shellfish but Mary wanted a “little” of the lump crab instead of the mound on everyone else’s plate. The dressing required horseradish sauce, which we were inconveniently out of, so I used wasabi sauce instead, and the end result was two thumbs up!

David and Julia waiting patiently for dinner to be served.

I already blogged about our dessert, the Tiramisu Yule Log. Next up will be the Prime Rib Christmas Day dinner, followed by a night out with the family at Rosa Bianca’s in Yardley the day after Christmas.

Crab Louis Salad


For dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup-based chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced scallion
  • 2 tablespoons minced green olives
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon bottled horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
  • Iceberg lettuce, shredded (we used torn Bibb lettuce instead)
  • Capers
  • Tomato wedges
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Lemon


Make dressing:
Whisk together mayonnaise, chili sauce, scallion, green olives, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, bottled horseradish, and salt and pepper to taste.

Pick over crabmeat, then divide among 4 plates lined with shredded iceberg lettuce. Garnish with capers and wedges of tomato, hard-boiled egg, and lemon and serve with dressing.

Tiramisu Yule Log


It is said that “presentation is everything” but of course, so is taste, right? Well, what about the preparation of food? At the very onset I had some reservations about making this holiday dessert given the lengthy and involved instructions. But not one to bow down to a challenge, I enlisted my mother-in-law, Mary Cochrane, who was out visiting from Western PA.

Truth be told, it was like an episode of Laverne and Shirley! Every step of the way we blundered one thing or another. The initial misstep was the separation of 5 egg yolks and whites. The very first egg I broke, I cracked the entire thing into a bowl, and realizing my mistake, I unsuccessfully tried to scoop out the bit of yolk left in the whites. Against my better judgement, instead of discarding that first egg, I continued to separate the remaining four into the bowl.

Mary getting ready to sift the 1/2 cup of flour a gazillion times.

When Mary noticed the yolk in the whites, she did say it probably would not beat into stiff peaks, but we just let it ride while she sifted the 1/2 cup of flour (again, and again, and again) and I beat together the yolks, vanilla and sugar.

The egg whites that weren’t forming stiff peaks…

Once we were ready to beat the whites, Mary held a hand mixer for what seemed like forever, without getting the results the recipe called for. Thinking a smaller metal bowl might do the trick, we dumped the mixture into another bowl and tried to beat those darn whites in vain. Finally admitting defeat, I separated another five eggs (correctly this time), but we had to wait another 30 minutes for them to come to room temperature.
Finally, stiff egg whites get folded into the batter.

Another essential ingredient was a 1/2 cup espresso and since the grocery store was out of instant espresso (was everyone making yule log cakes?), we bought a small amount of espresso beans and ground them at home. Problem was, I don’t drink coffee and was unfamiliar with how to use our state-of-the-art coffee maker—nor did Mary know how. Then I remembered Russ had bought a small espresso percolator when we were in Italy this past spring. Problem was, I didn’t know how to use that either, nor did Mary! So we did the next best thing and called Russ at work…

Mary filling the percolator with ground espresso.

And so it went… while the cake itself was supposed to bake for only 7-10 minutes, ours took longer because at one point, instead of adjusting the timer for a few more minutes, I accidentally turned off the oven temperature and neither of us noticed it and wondered why the cake was taking so long! Which resulted in an unfirm center, thus causing cracking when it was time to roll it.

Cake layer out of oven before rolling.

Another blunder? At this point Mary was doing most of the reading out loud and I was following (or more precisely, jumping ahead), when it came time to make the filling. First off, we couldn’t locate brandy or cognac, even though Russ and I “knew” we had some. Fact is, we used up the brandy for a pork dish several weeks prior and never replaced it. When in doubt, Google! Three different websites noted you could substitute scotch or bourbon. Being that we only needed 1 tablespoon, I wasn’t about to run out in the rainy weather to a jam-packed shopping center for that small amount. So what did we do? Place another call to Russ at work to get his opinion, which was in agreement with me–use the bourbon.

The blunder that did work!

Back to the filling. Just as I got done pouring the 1/2 cup heavy cream into the mixer with the mascarpone cheese mixture, Mary read aloud “Beat the heavy cream in another bowl with beaters…” Wait, what?? Realizing that wasn’t going to happen, and not having another 8 ounces of mascarpone, we decided to forge ahead and see if the mixture would all come together in ONE bowl, and luckily for us, it did!

Adding heavy cream to the melted chocolate for a ganache icing.

By this time we were more than punch happy. The kitchen was in complete disarray with pots, pans, and baking ingredients covering almost every inch of counter surface. What should have taken 1 1/4 hours took nearly four hours! Mary said she’d start washing up the dishes so I could try to finish the cake before Russ came home and saw the mess. And just as I was spreading the last of the ganache, he came walking in to find a gorgeous cake, clean kitchen, and slap happy wife and mother.
The Yule Log being prepared to wrap and refrigerate.

A couple of “touches” we opted to leave out this time around was the stumps for sawed-off branches and meringue mushrooms. Mary told me if I wanted to make those meringue mushrooms, she was leaving! That will be a challenge for another day…

In the end, it made a beautiful presentation and tasted good too!
OK, so the inside wasn’t as attractive as the outside…

Recipe found on from Gourmet Live / December 2012 by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

If you want a project, this one’s for you… Continue reading Tiramisu Yule Log

Spicy Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

2014-11-10 07.53.54
by Robin Asbell
 from Fine Cooking

With a nod to Pad Thai, this noodle dish makes an exciting, meat-free weeknight dinner with a nice “kick” to it. The short-cut trick is using slaw mix. Added bonus: the leftovers were good for lunch the next day, although the appearance wasn’t as perky.


  • 8 oz. rice noodles (preferably flat)
  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. peanut butter, preferably chunky
  • 1 Tbs. Sriracha; more to taste
  • 7 oz. shredded cabbage slaw mix (3 cups)
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with hot water. Toss with 1 Tbs. of the oil and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with 1 Tbs. of the sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 Tbs. sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter, and Sriracha.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a 14-inch wok over high heat until shimmering hot. Add the slaw and stir-fry until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Pour the eggs into the wok and scramble until softly set, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of vegetables. Put the noodles in the wok, add the soy sauce mixture, and toss with tongs until coated, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vegetables and toss until heated through, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, and toss with the peanuts and lime juice. Serve with lime wedges.

NOTE: Russ also added a couple teaspoons of fish sauce; and we almost tripled the amount of scallions—while next time we’ll reserve some as a garnish along with the chopped peanuts.


Golden Cashew-Curry Brittle

My love for cashews goes way back to when I was a little girl and used to stop into my grandpa’s bar to load up on hot salted cashews for our “war provisions” as we played outside. So when I spotted this recipe in the latest issue in Bon Appetite magazine, I knew I had to attempt making it.


Truth be told, the original candy thermometer just wasn’t getting past 180 degrees when I needed it to get to 230 before I added the cashews. So I made Russ test it occasionally with his meat thermometer until it was the perfect temp. And I took the easy way out and just spread it onto the silicone mat once it hit 300 degrees. I wasn’t about to fuss with hot molten sugar after hours and days of making Christmas cookies. As a final touch, I added a light sprinkle of sea salt which is a perfect finish!

Once the brittle cooled down, Russ helped himself to a taste and claimed “we’re not giving this away to anybody!” So naturally I had to try some for myself, and was in whole-hearted agreement. I will however, go out and buy more ingredients to make another double-batch.



  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cashews
  •  cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda

Special Equipment

  • A candy ther­mom­eter; latex or other food-grade disposable gloves (although if you’re going to just spread it with a spatula like I did, no need for the gloves.)


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a silicone baking mat or parchment paper with nonstick spray. Toast cashews on an unlined rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until just beginning to brown, 5–8 minutes. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, bring sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan fitted with a thermometer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally (at this point, you do not want to stir; doing so could encourage the sugar to crystallize), until thermometer registers 230°.
  • Add salt, curry powder, and cashews and stir, making sure cashews are completely coated and spices are evenly combined. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thermometer registers 300° (caramel will be a deep golden brown and cashews will be completely toasted).
  • Remove from heat and carefully stir in butter and baking soda; caramel will bubble and foam.
  • Immediately pour mixture onto prepared baking mat and let cool slightly. Wearing gloves (maybe even two pairs—mixture will be extremely hot), lift up an edge of baking mat and use it to fold mixture onto itself as if you were going to knead it; continue working in this fashion 1 minute. This will distribute the heat and incorporate air, resulting in a thin, crackly consistency.
  • As soon as mixture begins to firm up, stretch out, making it thin in places, but keeping it in one piece. (If today is not your day to sculpt molten sugar, simply pour mixture onto prepared sheet and use a spatula to spread it as thin as you can.) Let cool, then break brittle into uneven pieces, whatever size you like.
  • Do Ahead: Brittle will keep airtight at room temperature up to 1 week.

Lamb Shanks en Papillote with Leeks, Carrots, Rosemary, and Orange
If only I could add to this post, the aroma that wafted through the house as this dish was cooking — pure nirvana! And in the end, the shanks were “fall off the bone” tender.

Here, lamb shanks are wrapped in individual foil packets with vegetables, herbs, vermouth, and a sliver of butter and then roasted until luscious and fork-tender. Serve them as is—the vegetables cooked with the meat give you a built-in side dish—or pile them atop creamy polenta or mashed potatoes. Be sure to pour every last flavor-packed drop of cooking liquid onto the meat before serving. Do not omit the orange rind. Even a small piece will make a difference and it is subtle.

by Molly Stevens from Fine Cooking



  • 4 medium leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, washed, and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
  • 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
  • 4 (2-1/2-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 (2-1/2- to 3-inch) strips orange zest (use a vegetable peeler)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices

NOTE: Use two carrots per shank and 1/4 cup vermouth per shank



  1. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put one-quarter of the leeks, one-quarter of the carrots, 1 rosemary sprig, and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Season each with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the vegetables. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.
  4. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the vermouth, and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the vermouth evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a slice of the butter.
  5. Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap. Bake for 2-1/2 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.
  6. Transfer the contents of the packets to large plates or pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the vegetables and juice. Remove the rosemary and orange zest before serving, if you like.

NOTE: If using large shanks (about 2 lbs. each), increase cooking time by 20-30 minutes. And ours were close to 2 lbs each so we added 20 minutes.


For our side dish we wanted to use up some baby fingerling potatoes. After slicing them in half, we tossed them in a mixture of olive oil, fresh parsley and oregano, sea salt and pepper, and a dash of pimenton. Next, arrange them on a baking sheet lined with foil and cook at 375 degrees until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes, turning over once to brown both sides.

Lemon Chicken with Ginger and Pine Nuts

Pollo al Agraz Piñones

from La Cocina De Mamá: The Great Home Cooking of Spain
by Penelope Casas


What caught our eye with this dish was the interesting combination of ingredients. We’ve made numerous recipes from Penelope’s cookbooks in the past and everyone was a winner, so we figured we couldn’t go wrong with this one. And we certainly didn’t! WOW, the flavors melded together so subtly well—no one ingredient overpowered the others.

The way the chicken is cut up seems a little odd, but the best we can figure is that when the thighs are cut in half crosswise, it opens up the bones and all the good flavor seeps into the sauce. In fact, many of Penelope’s chicken recipes call for this method of portioning.

A long-time friend gave this recipe to Penelope years ago and researching assorted seventeenth and eighteenth century cookbooks, she found several recipes that were practically identical, adding the ginger, a medieval touch that beautifully accents the lemon flavor of the delicious sauce.


  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1/8 tsp crumbled thread saffron
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • One 3- to 3/12 lb chicken
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • Freshly ground pepper




  1. In a mortar or mini processor, mash to a paste the pine nuts, garlic, parsley, saffron and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Reserve.
  2. Cut the chicken into small serving pieces, first detaching the wings and legs, then, with kitchen shears, cutting the breast into four piece and each thigh in half crosswise. Sprinkle the chicken with salt.
  3. Heat the oil in a shallow casserole and sauté the chicken until it is browned on all sides. Add the onion and sauté until wilted.
  4. Pour in broth and lemon juice, add the bay leaf, ginger, salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in the mortar mixture and continue cooking for 15 more minutes. Serve over rice (see following recipe.)


Baked Rice
Arroz al Horno

This rice is not a meal in itself, but is a great accompaniment to many fish, poultry, and meat dishes and takes well to sauces. If at all possible, make this rice instead of just plain rice, you’ll be glad you did.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 2 Tbsp minced onion
  • 1 cup Valencian (or Arborio) short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 11/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • A few strands of saffron, crumbled
  • Kosher or sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Heat the oil in a deep casserole, and then add the onion and cook until the onion is softened. Stir in the rice coating it with the oil.
  3. Pour in the chicken broth and 1 cup water, stir in the parsley, thyme, saffron, and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove from the flame, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and
    let sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.