What I'm up to
  • Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon
    Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon

    everyone needs these, many of them.

  • Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan
    Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan

    Scarily, I can say I have enough copper. Not many people can utter those words.

  • Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset

    The same thing could be said for Le Creuset, but still. Great for braising and soup making.

  • The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    by Amanda Hesser
  • Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware

    What did I do before I started using this half sheet? Cry.

flora and flying. Get yours at bighugelabs.com


Reaping the bounty of pie cherries - making homemade maraschino cherries 


Life is a bowl of cherries - pits and all.  Be thankful for what you have.  #truth #thegarden #blessing #stonefruitsofinstagram #cherrygram

I knew TH was the girl for me when I opened up her kitchen drawer and found a well worn cherry pitter. Over the years we have had several cherry trees grow, some die, but most bear amazing fruit. One of the trees that was labeled dwarf at the nursery is now 20 feet tall and we can only get a few of the low hanging branches.  The rest go to the care and feeding of the crows.

Our pie cherry tree is finally bearing fruit. It is still small, but this year was festooned with beautiful little pie cherries, the ones that really do look like the color of Jolly Rancher candies.  TH netted the tree to keep the sparrows off the ripening fruit and last night, I picked all the fruit - one precious pint.

Iranians love cherries in rice dishes and refreshing sharbats (fizzy water drinks flavored with fruit syrups).  However, my mother argues that the pie cherries here are not the right ones.  Iranians love Morello cherries and those are not seen in residential nurseries as much as the more commonly grown Montmorency.  

When I was growing up, my parents would fill up the car with blankets, a hot pot of tea, some cheese, bread, herbs and cold meatballs and drive North to Mount Baker, Washington where they had finally located the correct type of cherry.  The owner of the orchard graciously allowed my parents and their friends to picnic on the grounds and go out and pick pounds and pounds of Morello cherries.  They would return to home laughing and joking about their day. They would later doled out their cherries to friends who weren't able to join them. The moms would  start the process of making jam and syrups for the following years dishes.

As a teenager, I always avoided going with my parents.  It was too boring, or I used the excuse of the Monday test.  Today I wish I had gone with them. The orchards have most likely been redeveloped into a strip mall, however the memories remain.

Last year I split a bottle of Luxardo liqueur with my friend Paola, to make maraschino cherries. I didn't get around to it, so I used this tiny stash to try the recipe.  I wanted to keep the stem intact, so I had to figure out a way to pit the cherry and keep the stem.  I figured it out, while they are not pretty, I think they will be tasty.


LuxardoBoozing. It. Up. @clarkbar @goodappetite #preservelocal

            The real deal.                                                                    Maceration Nation.


The recipe is simple, step by step I used Melissa Clark's method, but I did sterilize my jars and lids.  While these will remain refrigerated, its good sanitary practice.

Canned. Stuff.

                                                                 The final product.


Good Appetite's Maraschino Cherries, from the NYT Food Section, July 2007

1 cup Luxardo liqueur
1 pt fresh pie cherries (Morello if you can get them), pitted and if you are a rock star, leave the stem intact
2 or 3 8 oz mason jars
2 or 3 new lids and rings

Wash lids and rings and jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and place in preheated 250 degree oven for 15 minutes to sterlize.  They can be held at temperature for longer if necessary.

Place liqueur in stainless steel or non-reactive pan and bring to a simmer. Add cherries and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Pour into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, place lid on jar, screw on ring and place in fridge to macerate.Leave for at least two days before tasting.

Should make 2 to 3 8 oz jars to keep or give away.

I'm going to try mine with some chocolate ice cream and whipped cream and with a Manhattan on the side.


Brain Food - Mexican Chocolate Polenta brownies 

one bowl brownies. Really.

I have been super busy with travel, dog anxiety and classes. I meant to post a recipe right after my certificate program ended. Instead, I got distracted and enchanted with a trip to the dairy barns of Wisconsin, planning a trip to Italy and then school starting all over again. E's ruptured disc did not help things.  I have challenged myself to start writing again, here, there and over there... We'll see how well I do.

My certificate capstone project had certain aspects that were challenging - juggling five individual schedules, a client who was out of town alot, and some unclear objectives. In the end it all turned out pretty well and the client was happy.  I cooked/baked a lot during the last few weeks of the quarter, mostly for stress relief.  The last time I was in grad school, I did much the same thing, baking and cleaning for study avoidance. 

TH requested that I make chocolate polenta brownies. These were something I made in grad school that she loved very much. I don't know why I stopped making them 13 years ago, but I just did. I make all sorts of different brownies, so it isn't like I don't like making brownies or can't. They just were filed along with my large scale construction drawings somewhere in a deep recess of my brain. 

Polenta in brownies? What? Well, the polenta adds a crunchiness and a heft that isn't as caloric, but is nice nonetheless as well as great if you are avoiding nuts.  I love combining the flavors of Mexican chocolate - cinnamon, some orange and a little kick of pepper if you desire.  These are a riff on the Baker's classic one bowl brownie, very simple and most people who have dried unicorn horns in their pantry will have most of the ingredients on hand. For the rest of you, just work with me.

Note: I have become a lazy cook. Instead of slaving over a hot double boiler to melt the chocolate and the butter, I bung the chocolate and butter in a 150 deg F. oven for 30 minutes until melted. I remove the bowl and add the polenta. I let the mixture sit for another hour to soften the polenta up a bit a bit. You don't have to be me (trust me, you don't want to be) and actually follow the directions.  At the end, you should have a nice pan of brownies that remind you of grad school - that last paper, simpler times and maybe a trip you took somewhere sunny and festive to forget your troubles.

orange polenta brownies
Mexican Chocolate Polenta Brownies
Makes one 9" pan that yields between 24-36 brownies depending on your cutting skills.

Pan Prep - For ease of clean up , line pan with parchment paper cut to come up the sides of pan (don't want brownie mix to stick to side of pan).

Preheat oven to 350 F.

4 oz of 70%  or 60% bittersweet chocolate cut into chunks or chips
3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour or gluten free all purpose mix  (Bob's Red Mill) + 1/2 t xanthan gum
1/2 cup quick cook polenta or cornmeal
3 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 t orange extract or 1/2 orange zested
1 1/2  t cinnamon
1/8-1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional - I don't care for it)
1/2 c chocolate chips (60% or semi-sweet), optional but a nice addition

Conventional way - Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat and add polenta and stir polenta into the chocolate/butter mixture.  Let sit for one hour if possible to soften.  Add sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla, orange extract, orange zest, cinnamon and optional pepper and mix well.  Add flour or flour mix and optional chocolate chips. Stir until blended, but do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use spatula to smooth out batter. Have assistant lick bowl and spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on oven's temperament) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a baking rack until cool. Wait at least an hour before cutting into squares.


Coming out of the cold of May - Shepherd's Pie with Horseradish Mash

solomon and grandma color

Solly and Grandma draw in hopes of better weather.

It’s May 3 in Seattle.  My lilacs are finally blooming, the late tulips have a few days left and the lawn needs a mow. It is also the same May, the time that the weather rears its temperamental head in ugly way – all those apple blossoms you are coveting – whooshed away by the stiff breezes, driving around wearing a skort bare legged and flip flops with the heater blasting on my feet.  Seattle, after all is the home of the four season cashmere sweater. 

Many blogs and instagram feeds are full of lovely spring treats – baby peas, rhubarb, spring chickens with poached asparagus and tiny little salad greens.  That is all lovely and so luscious and cold. Brr.   This kind of weather calls for a hearty dish that sticks to our freezing ribs and maybe uses up the last of the root vegetables that are moldering in the back of the refrigerator crisper.   The first thing that comes to mind when I look up at the dark, damp and grey of a Seattle afternoon is a Shepherd’s pie.  My friend Paola, makes a proper British Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and all that, I tend to stray to the American version, fashioned after Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes delicious beef filled one.  In making mine, I tried to use what I had on hand, which were a few wizened turnips, rutabagas and carrots that I was excited about in January, but not so much in April.  Root vegetables make the winter to spring transition in Seattle interminable.



Wizened veggies from the crisper.

Shepherd’s pie is pretty basic, take some sort of minced meat product, slightly season it, add whatever root vegetable you have on hand, mix it together and top with a potato crust.  Bake and serve.  It freezes beautifully and tastes better the following day.  It is a leftover I actually look forward to eating.  It can be fancied up with cheese or more spice, but I like it left a little plain.  I have substituted turkey meat for the beef, but it is not as flavorful. I suppose if you loved ground lamb, then a mix of beef and lamb would be even tastier.  The potato crust is where you can get really crazy – add cheese, garlic, jalapenos (I hear Paola shuddering), herbs or just keep it simple. The key is to make sure the crust gets a little crispy and the mixture h piping hot all the way through.



 The mince and the ridges.

As I finish writing this up, the rain is drumming against our windows. Ernest refuses to go out and I can’t blame him. It is better to dream about a sunnier tomorrow.

Shepherd’s Pie with Horse radish Mashed Potato Crust (adapted from Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes Shepherd’s Pie)

Makes one pie, feeds 6 with no leftovers

Meat filling

1 ½  lb. ground beef (I used 15% fat)
1 medium onion, chopped – yielding 1 cup
3 carrots (more if you don’t have other root vegetables), chopped
1 medium turnip, chopped
1 medium rutabaga, chopped
1 parsnip (if you have it), chopped
1 c frozen peas
½ cup water or stock
2 T butter or fat of choice for sautéing the vegetable mixture
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t fines herbes or some sort of herb mix containing (savory, thyme, marjoram)
½ t salt or more to taste
Pepper to taste

Mashed potato crust:

1 ½ lbs of Yukon gold or new potatoes, washed and halved or cubed depending on size
1/3 cup Greek yoghurt, sour cream or what you wish as creamy liquid
1 T creamed horseradish, or less if it’s hot
1 T butter

Under medium heat, melt butter in generously sized sauté pan.  Add onions and cook for five minutes, or until they soften. Add carrots and other root vegetables and sauté for another 10 minutes to soften. Mix in fines herbes or herb mix to the vegetables.    In a separate pan, boil chopped potatoes until fork tender (15 minutes). Remove from heat, drain and set aside.  Crumble beef into the vegetable mixture, cover pan and cook until meat is no longer pink (approximately another seven minutes), add water moisten the mixture if it is dry.  Remove from heat, add peas and Worcestershire sauce and season to taste.  
Note: Add peas late, because you want them to stay nice and green. I can’t cotton to grey peas in this dish. They will cook when the rest of the dish is assembled and baked. Ditto for the vegetables, you don’t want to over cook them because they will be mushy. 4 out of 5 Shepherds prefer their vegetables to be cooked just right.

Coarsely mash potatoes you have set aside with a potato masher (you may actually have one in the back of your utensil drawer) or a fork.  Add yoghurt, butter and creamed horseradish and mash some more (you may still want some chunky bits in your potatoes). Season the mashed potatoes to taste with salt and pepper.

In a  buttered or oiled  2.5 quart baking dish (I used a something like this), pour in the beef and vegetable mixture.  Top with mashed potatoes mixture spreading as best as you can to the edges.  Elise suggests making pretty wavy patterns that ensure more browned and crispy bits and I second that.  Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes until hot and burbly and the top starts to get golden brown, but does not burn.

In our household, we would pair this with a green salad and a side of cottage cheese.  Yup, cottage cheese and it is delicious, just ask TH.


Coconut Pancakes with Ginger and Lime - Sunny days are ahead


A lovely combination.

I am trying to change the way I eat. It is not easy with travel and a lot of social activities, but when I pay attention to what I am shoveling into my gullet, things seem to be easier on my body and mind.  For the last three months I have avoided eating wheat or wheat products and refined carbs.  I feel much better and other than a few wistful glances at the cannoli in Rome, it has been pretty easy.  I have been tested for gluten intolerance and I’m fine, so don’t go on about that.  This is my choice and since I see some marked results in my mood (partly sunny) and skorts (loose again), I am not going to complain.


Ah, Kauai. How I miss you.

In my quest for new foods that will keep me satisfied, I started hunting around the internets for breakfast recipes. I came across a lot of mentions of coconut flour. I have been using a lot of coconut milk for smoothies and other things and love it, so I figured I would give it a go.

Coconut flour is a strange thing.  I think that coconuts are fatty delicious nuts, but when you extract out all that oil, you are left with a lot of fiber and some protein.  Let’s embrace that shall we?  The recipe comes from a Paleo way of cooking. I’m not going down that road either, but the concepts surrounding the way of eating intrigue me. The recipe is high in protein (eggs and coconut flour), low sugar (honey) and low carb (coconut flour). I like the results and honestly, so have others (excluding TH, who is not a fan).  It leaves me with more pancakes than I need, but they freeze and keep well.  I modified the original recipe to remind me of places where flip flops are required and coconuts fall from palm trees just like in the cartoons.


Serving suggestion.

Coconut pancakes with lime, ginger and vanilla (adapted from www.paleospirit.com)
Makes 18 3”pancakes

4 eggs at room temperature
½ cup coconut flour
1- 1 ¼ cup coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, dairy milk, any liquid will do, but coconut milk has a rich flavor and the vanilla coconut milk I used is a little sweeter
2 t vanilla
1 t baking soda
1 T honey (you can use sugar or any sweetener)
½ t cinnamon
¼ salt
¼ t dried ginger powder
½ t lime zest (zest a quarter of a lime)

Oil for skillet I used coconut oil, but would work great with canola or butter.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with liquids until well blended.  Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients and whisk or mix until no lumps remain.  If the batter looks too thick, slowly add more liquid until you are happy with the consistency.

Over low-medium heat, melt fat of choice in your skillet of choice.  Turn down the heat to low and start making pancakes. Be patient, these pancakes do not like high heat.  When the top of the pancake appears to be drying and there are the telltale bubbles forming, it is time to flip them over to the other side.  Keep pancakes warm until you finish the batter.

I served them with lime curd I made, some lovely tropical fruits on the side and chicken sausage. 

Bon Appetit!



Orange Almond Cake infused with cardamon - New Year's Keeps on  


Torte, styled.

When we get invited to out to a friends’ for dinner, I am usually asked to bring dessert.  I don’t mind this as I love making desserts, but I am pretty much in pattern of creating seasonal fruit desserts with the occasional lapse into the chocolate box.   I stick to crisps, tarts and sometimes just macerated fruit with ice cream.  I am trying to change this around a bit and at the same time, trying to not go shopping for the one ingredient that is crucial to my dish and that can only be procured on alternate Wednesdays fifty miles from home. I am trying to simplify my life, not complicate things for the sake of cake.

For Persian New Year, I wanted to make something that was vaguely Persian, but was going to leave the cookies to my mother who I simply cannot compete with for taste and quality of her cookies.  I thought about doing something with rice flour and rose water, but then decided that that combination was too sweet and floral.  I wanted to use things that I had on hand – almonds, fruit, eggs and yogurt.  In my googling/epicuriousing/searching I found several great recipes for a Persian Orange Almond Cake that are derived from Claudia Roden’s 1968 cookbook, The New Book of Middle East Food.  In my years, I have never heard of such a cake.  I was all for trying to change things up and the recipe required no searching a store for an ingredient I didn’t have on hand already. Note: not everyone has unicorn horns in their pantry, but I do.

oranges and almonds

Unicorns need not fear.

The recipe is pretty simple, whole oranges are boiled twice to remove the bitterness. This is the same technique that jam makers suggest for extracting the bitter oils from citrus for marmalade.  The whole oranges are pureed in a food processor, and then added to an egg and sugar mixture.  All are incorporated with nut flour and a few more things and a beautiful rich moist torte is created.  The torte sits well on its own, but is even better with a side of crème fraiche ice cream or an orange blossom flavored strained Greek yoghurt.  We loved it so much; we ate it for breakfast the next day.  It does require a little preparation, as the oranges need to boiled twice, but I started the boiling the night before and that saved a little bit of time.

I am a big fan of the nut torte.  I am trying to limit my exposure to wheat, and nuts are something that seems to be easy to process and work wonderfully for some cakes and cookies. 

orange almond cake

Folding in ingredients. Do not over mix.

Orange Almond Cake for a New Year feast – Adapted from Claudia Roden with great props given to Australia’s Taste.com

Serves 12 

This recipe calls for oranges to be boiled and then pureed. I used my Cuisinart, the original calls for mushing up the cooked oranges and pressing them through a sieve. The pureeing using modern machinery is much easier and adds way more fiber.  I did end up weighing the sugar and almond powder because they seem to vary if those ingredients settle. My oranges were medium sized and pretty juicy which means that my cake remained nice and moist.

2 medium sized oranges
300 g. almond meal
1 t baking powder
½ t cardamom
½ t cinnamon
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar (would use a little less 2/3 c. next time)

Cake Instructions:

Wash oranges and place in a sauce pan with enough water to cover the oranges.  Turn on stove and bring oranges to a boil and then turn to a simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and drain water.  Add cold water and repeat process again.  Drain oranges and let cool. Note: This can be done the night before, just put the oranges in the fridge until you need them. They will be squishy and that is a good thing.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease a 9” springform pan with cooking spray or olive oil, cut parchment to fit the bottom, coat sides with almond flour.

Puree oranges in food processor until smooth. I didn’t bother to remove the pips as I had navel oranges, if you have seeds, you may want to go to the trouble of removing them first.

Place sugar and eggs in mixing bowl and beat with electric beater until pale yellow and thick.  Turn off mixer.  Add pureed oranges to the egg and sugar mixture. Combine almonds, baking powder, and spices together and fold into the orange/egg/sugar mixture.  Mix to combine, but do not over mix.  Pour into prepared springform pan and place in oven.  Cook for 40 minutes, check for doneness by using a wooden skewer, if it comes out clean, it is done. If not, cook for longer. Once the cake is done, remove from oven and let cool on cake rack. Remove from springform pan after 20 minutes.

Orange Glaze
Juice of one medium juice
Slivers of peel from one orange, zest would probably be fine
¼ c Sugar
1 t orange blossom water

Combine sugar, orange juice and zest in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook until thick and syrupy.  Remove from heat and add orange blossom water and let cool. If it thickens further to the point of gloopiness, add a 1 T water to thin. Thinly brush glaze on cake and use remaining as a garnish on the side.

Orange Blossom Strained Yogurt  (can be made ahead of time):

1.5 cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)
1 t orange blossom water

Combine ingredients until blended.  Place mixture in a coffee filter and let sit in a sieve/strainer overnight in fridge until thickened.  Remove from coffee filter, place in container, in fridge and cover until use.

Serving Instructions:

At this point, you can serve the cooled cake with a lightly sweetened ricotta, the Greek yoghurt described above or a crème fraiche ice cream.  I think the cake is better after it has sat a day. If you are going to do that, wrap cake well in foil until you are ready to serve it.