Archive for January, 2009

Normally, we ring in the New Year safe and sound slumbering away in our beds. No wild parties, no midnight champagne, or funny hats for us. Our celebration begins the first day of the New Year. A champagne Mimosa will suffice, thank you, very much. It’s so important to maintain a steady supply of vitamin C. A nice omelet and some toast will start the day off nicely. It will also give me the nutrition necessary to prepare the main meal of the day, one destined to provide all the “good luck” for the year.

Hoppin’ John, sauerkraut, pork, all these are tradional good luck foods in the United States, Hoppin’ John mainly in the South. I have made  Hoppin’ John Salad that was good, but as a whole, I don’t particularly like Hoppin’ John, and I’ve tried many variations. Usually, we will have pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. 

Here’s how I prepare it:



3 lb. pork loin, boneless

2 slices bacon

1 chopped onion

1-2 apples, peeled and chopped

2 c. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 c. fruity white wine (Riesling)

6-10 crushed juniper berries

1 bay leaf


1. Preheat oven to 325. Cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels, chop and reserve.

2. Saute onion in bacon grease. Add apples, cook 3 minutes. Add wine, juniper berries, and bayleaf.

3. Heat to boiling. Put into a casserole. Add sauerkraut and stir to combine. Nestle pork in the kraut.

4. Cover and Bake for 3 hours. Remove pork to a platter and cover with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes.

5. Slice pork and serve with kraut.


Option: Add smoked pork chops and polska kielbasa for a choucroute garni.

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Making Do

Most certainly you have found yourself perusing recipes looking for just the right dish to prepare later that day. How often have you found one that looked good only to check the ingredient list and be disappointed by the inclusion of heavy cream, or shallots, or vermouth, or whole-grain mustard, or fresh tarragon – any particular ingredient that you don’t have on hand? It seems to happen to me once a week, at least. 

Unless you’re extremely organized, wealthy, or blessed with a well-stocked grocery on the bl0ck, you occasionally find yourself without what seems to be a key ingredient in a recipe. Let me tell you that unless it is the eggplant in Eggplant Parmesan, or chicken in Chicken Cordon Bleu, or pasta in Spaghetti and Meatballs, you can usually work around the roadblock. Will your final outcome be sublime? Maybe not, but then again, even with the missing ingredient it might not have been sublime. With some kitchen experience, however, one can usually guess how a particular recipe will turn out without the missing item.

For example, I never let the lack of shallots prevent me from trying a new recipe. Regular onions or scallions will substitute. Will there be a difference in taste? Certainly. You can guess that the onions will produce a more pronounced taste, that the garlicky-component of the subtle shallot  will be missing. Can you add a smidgeon of garlic to compensate? Give it a try. Unless the Queen or some other dignitary will be a guest, it really doesn’t matter. I usually go for scallions as a shallot substitute and forget the garlic.

Did you use the last of the whole-grain mustard on that ham sandwich last week? The use regular dijon. No dijon? Well, I would definitely not use yellow mustard. There is too big a gap between the tastes of yellow and dijon. But check you frig. You may have some honey mustard that could do the job. 

Herb substitution is a little trickier. Fresh herbs and dried herbs are as different as night and day. You can substitute dried for fresh, using the general ratio of 1/3 part dried to 1 part fresh. The result will be different, not necessarily bad, just different. Dried basil on a fresh tomato  is nothing like fresh basil leaves. In fact, I wouldn’t use dried in that case at all. But I would put it in spaghetti sauce.

Dried parsley is an abomination, in my opionion. I don’t even have it in the house. Fresh parsley is readily available and keeps for at least a week in the frig in a plastic bag or on the counter for a few days as a bouquet  with stems in water in a small vase. Other frequently used fresh herbs can be grown or bought as needed, although I’ve never had good luck growing them on my kitchen windowsill. But I do grow them outside in the summer. It’s great to have a ready supply.

So, the moral of this story is this:  Don’t let the lack of an ingredient stop you in your tracks. Unless you feel that it is absolutely essential, go ahead and make a substitution. Use your best judgement, and, if nothing will suffice, just leave that ingredient out altogether.

Here’s a recipe that adapts itself well to all the substitutions mentioned in the first paragraph. 


Substitutions noted

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 1/2 T. butter, or olive oil

1/3 c. shallots, or onion, or scallions

1/3 c. vermouth, or dry white wine, or chicken broth

2 T. whole-grain mustard, or plain dijon, or honey dijon (NOT yellow mustard)

1/2 c. whipping cream, or heavy cream, or evaporated milk if using broth

2 1/2 T. fresh tarragon, or scant tablespoon (2 t.) dried, divided


1. Pound chicken to even thickness between waxed paper or plastic wrap. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Melt butter in skillet. When foamy, saute chicken until cooked through, 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm, or put in warm oven.

3. Add shallots or onions to skillet. Saute two-three minutes. Add vermouth and bring to a boil. Reduce  heat to simmer and add cream and 2 T. fresh or all of the dried tarragon. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring often.

4, Return chicken to the pan with any pan juices on the platter. Simmer three minutes. Sprinkle with the rest of the fresh tarragon and serve.



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I enjoyed one of my favorite breakfasts this morning – poached egg whites on toast with warm milk and butter.  I know, it sounds rather bland, milquetoasty and all that. But it’s the ultimate comfort breakfast food for me. My mom would fix it for my dad and me occasionally and I love it.

I fix it differently than my mom did. She would heat up milk and a little butter in a cast iron skillet and slip the eggs into the simmering milk and serve the egg on toast with some of the milk drizzled on top. At the time, I hated egg  yolks so I would carefully peel off the whites and give the yolks to my dad or to the dog, if he was around. Now I save the uncooked yolks for pies.

41xysel3qql-1_sl160_aa160_Now, I use my handy-dandy three compartment, nonstick egg poacher which I set into a pan of simmering water. I cover it, set the timer for six minutes, fix my toast, and warm up the milk in the microwave. I cut the toast into triangles, set the eggs on it, and pour over the milk. I add a small pat of butter, a little salt and pepper, and I am in breakfast heaven. Most people think I’m crazy to like this. So, call me crazy.

My husband likes to make pies, especially cream pies. The recipe he uses requires three egg yolks. Because he never makes a meringue topping for his cream pies, I get to have the egg whites for my breakfast the next day. It’s a good symbiotic relationship. However, today, I felt like my poached egg dish and so I would provide the three eggs for his next pie. So, I thought.

I had a little extra time this afternoon and I made a butterscotch pie to surprise him tonight. You can find the recipe here.  

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A Well-Stocked Pantry

Behold the pantry in my kitchen. I just cleaned it and reorganized it today and am glad I did. Now I know I can stop buying cans of cannelini beans because I found 4 stashed in the pantry behind various other things. 

I’ve tried to group similar items together although I am constrained somewhat by the size of the items and the height of the shelves. Most tomato products are on the same shelf, as are cans of soup, beans and fruits. I usually can easily find what I’m looking for because the shelves are only seven inches deep. That’s deep enough for about 2 cans.

If pressed, we could survive for a long time on the contents of the pantry. I also have a stash in the basement. When I shop at warehouse clubs and buy cases of food, I keep those in the basement and bring up two or three items at a time to replenish the pantry. I also keep items in the basement that are too large to keep on the pantry shelves or items that are rarely used. I have a Sharpie in the basement for marking the month and year the items were bought so that I can use the oldest products first. If only I could remember to do so! Along with my food in the basement, I have lots of candles and matches and a few cooking utensils, cooking pots and cans of sterno and a spare hand operated can opener.  I have two or three squeeze bottles of alcohol-based hand cleaner in case water isn’t available, and a few gallons of bleach in case available water is questionable. I also have several cases of water in plastic bottles. Paper towels and plates are handy as well.  could survive for weeks in an emergency. Fortunately, I have the extra space in the basement.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not a “survivalist”, just a realist.  It only makes sense to me to keep enough food and other necessities on hand for those times when the power goes out or a blizzard strikes. We had a severe wind storm a few months ago and power was out in many neighborhoods for days or even weeks. Fortunately for us, we were without power for only eight hours. 

Sometimes, instead of going to the grocery, I like to just make a pantry meal. 

Here is a partial list of my kitchen pantry:

Tomato products: canned tomato sauce, puree, whole, diced, and crushed tomatoes, salsa, catsup and chili sauce

Soups: tomato, mushroom, cream of chicken, and lots of broths, beef, chicken and turkey

Fruits: peaches, applesauce, pears, pineapple, cranberries, canned and dried

Vegetables: corn, all types of beans, mushrooms, chilies, olives, pickles and relish

Pasta: all types of pasta, rice, couscous, and noodles

Baking supplies: baking powder and soda, flours, sugars, salt, oatmeal, cornmeal and grits, chocolate chips and coconut

Proteins: canned tuna, ham, “Spam”, chicken, beef, evaporated milk


I hope you all have at least a 3 day supply of the essentials, especially water and any necessary medications. Your life, or at least convenience, could depend on it.

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Happy New Year’s Day!!

Not interested in pork and sauerkraut, this year. No red cabbage, no hoppin’ john for me. I am so tired of cooking, washing dishes, and menu-planning that all I want is a good, juicy hamburger for dinner. Add some fries to that and I’ll be fine, and take my chances on the  lack of good luck for 2009. After all, this has not been a good year in many ways, and I had all the traditional good luck food January 1, 2008. 

UPDATE: However, I did take a look at Pioneer Woman’s blog this morning and found a black-eyed peas salad  recipe that I think I will make today. Just covering my bases, you know. I will try it and give you a full report later. In the meantime, here is the recipe, direct from  the Pioneer Woman. Thanks, Ree.

UPDATE: I made the salad and we had it on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck. The only can of black eyed peas I had was a can of seasoned “southern style” peas. They were very smoky and I’m sure would have been delicious fixed in another way. However, for this dish I should have used just plain ol’ peas.  In spite of that, the recipe was good and tasty. 


Black Eyed Pea Salsa/Dip/Salad

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine (or regular) vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

3 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeno (optional), seeded and chopped
1 cup (more if desired) chopped cilantro

2 cans black eyed peas, drained.

Mix together dressing ingredients. Set aside.
Combine all vegetables (except cilantro) with black eyed peas. Pour dressing over the top and gently stir together. Add cilantro and stir gently.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips and have a Happy New Year!

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