Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Perfect Soft-boiled Eggs

Which came first – the turkey or the egg? In this case it was the turkey.

It was the morning after Thanksgiving and we were dribbling into John’s parents’ kitchen in search of our traditional breakfast fare – leftover turkey dressing, or maybe a slice of Grandma Ginny’s soon-to-be-world-famous apple pie.

But I had something different in mind: An egg.  Last summer when we were on vacation at Lake Tahoe, my father-in-law demonstrated “the perfect soft-boiled egg”. He had a new method he had learned from some expert chef with years of experience in test kitchens. I watched him do it, but there were a few gaps in my memory and I needed a refresher course.

This time I decided to take notes and pictures, and now I will never forget Grandpa Frank’s perfect soft boiled egg method. (With due credit to that unnamed chef who worked all those long hours with uncounted eggs in the test kitchens.)

You can do any number of eggs at the same time. That’s what’s nice.DSCN8338

Put about a half inch of water in the bottom of a pot and bring it to a boil.

DSCN8341While the water is coming to a boil, run a little warm water over the eggs so they’re not super cold. (If they’re too cold there’s a risk that they will crack when they come in contact with the boiling water.)

DSCN8347When the water is boiling, put the eggs in. The water will not cover the eggs. Put the lid on the pot and let the eggs boil (or steam) for exactly 6 minutes.

That’s it!

Run the eggs under cold water for about 30 seconds, which will stop the cooking process, but will keep the eggs hot.DSCN8348

DSCN8351Grandpa Frank advised that we should put the toast down in the toaster when the eggs were at 4 minutes. That way the toast and eggs would both be ready at the same time.

DSCN8354Voila! Every one of the eggs was soft-boiled to perfection!

So which came first? The turkey, of course. But I am thankful for this foolproof way to make a perfect soft-boiled egg!

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March Forth to Carrot Cake

If it’s true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then this carrot cake might be the main reason John and I have been married for 32 years.  I made it for his birthday on March Fourth, a few weeks after we met. And I’ve made it for his birthday every year since!

It’s pretty easy and very delicious! – and it freezes well even with the icing. (If there is any left!)

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Preheat oven to 325°

Grease and flour two 8” round pans, and cut a circle of wax paper to fit on the bottom of each pan.

Cake ingredients:

¾ cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

½ cup raisins  (optional)


Directions:

 Beat eggs, oil and sugar

Mix in flour and other dry ingredients

Fold in carrots, nuts and raisins

 Divide batter into the two pans and bake at 325° for about 30 minutes.

(Cakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.)

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Cool cakes until they are room temperature. (Peel off the waxed paper while they are still warm.)

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.  (This is the best part!)

Frosting ingredients:

1 stick butter at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 pound (or a little less, depending on your taste) confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Frost thickly between the layers and all over the top and sides of the cake.

This is the hardest part for me – it’s difficult to not just sit down and eat this right out of the bowl!

Happy Birthday John!

March forth!

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Grandee’s Granola

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I’ve been making this granola for more than 25 years. John and the kids love it, and I’m pretty sure our grandkids will love it too, so I’m going to officially call it Grandee’s Granola.

My little cousin is excited about making granola with her grandparents!

 

It’s so fast and easy…and healthy!DSCN1142

 

8 cups of Old Fashioned Oatmeal. (not the quick kind)

3 very ripe bananas

6 ounces of canned pineapple juice concentrate

1/3 cup sugar

Raisins, almonds and banana chips are optional

*The pictures on this post show me making a double batch.

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Pour the oatmeal into a flat roasting pan or cake pan about 2” deep

You can also add at this time if you want them to be toasted.

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Blend the pineapple juice, sugar, and bananas.

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Mix well.

My little cousin is doing a great job of stirring the mixture.

My little cousin is doing a great job of stirring the mixture.

 Bake at 250° for 2-3 hours.

About every half hour take it out of the oven and stir with a metal spatula, breaking up the bigger clumps.

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The granola will be done when it is completely dry to the touch.

DSCN1191Allow to cool.

Beware of sneaky fingers (as pictured above) that will tend to snitch “tastes” as the granola cools.

 

When the granola is cool, you can add raisins and banana chips.

You can also add the almonds at this point if you prefer them raw.

Zya granola 3

Stored in an airtight container, this granola will be good for months.


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Chestnuts Roasting…

imagination“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  I’ve always pictured a couple – seen from the back – sitting on the floor gazing into the fire.  They have their chestnuts sort of setting on the hearth, near the flames, maybe just inside the fireplace…and they wait for the nuts to pop open from the heat.  And then the guy reaches over and pulls one of them out. They laugh merrily as he waves his hand around.  “They’re a little hot,’ he warns, holding the fragrant chestnut meat invitingly toward her…

This was not the scene that played out in our house last night.

undauntedI was so excited to finally see chestnuts for sale. I had looked all over for them last summer, when I was making several Italian meals that called for chestnuts. “They are a seasonal item,” the produce man told me.

So finally, ‘tis the season!  I saw them for $4.75 a pound and promptly bought two pounds. I wanted to have plenty to last all year for those Italian recipes, and John and I had become obsessed with the idea of bringing Mel Torme and Bob Wells’ song to life right in our own home!

So how do you roast a chestnut? I looked at several sites on the internet and found all kinds of – often conflicting – instructions.  Most people roast them in the oven or on the barbecue grill.

Combining bits of information from here and there, we came up with our plan.

photo2To begin with, the nuts need to really be above the coals to roast. Not on the hearth near the flames. In fact the flames should be pretty much gone while the coals need to be very hot. So while we were waiting for our nice roaring fire to die down, we came up with the idea of using an 18” pizza screen, and sort of setting it across the metal basket that holds the burning logs in the fireplace.

photo8You are supposed to cut an “X” in the top of each chestnut. Which is not easy. The shells are hard and the slippery. I even discovered that there are special knives for cutting that “X”

My X’s were more like little slit holes.

photo 11It takes 20-30 minutes for the nuts to roast. Or 15-20 – depending on which instructions you follow.  And probably on how big the chestnuts are, and how hot the coals are.

And you are supposed to move them around so they won’t burn. Sure.

I have to say they smelled wonderful about 10 minutes into the process!  The shells were burned on the bottom, but they hadn’t popped open so we turned them over and let them go a little longer.

roasted nutFinally we figured they had to be done.  Once again, the scenario didn’t match the one in my mind. The guy had to carefully pull the pizza pan from above the coals, being careful not to dump the nuts into the fire. Balancing it in his oven-mittened hand he carried it to the roasted nuts burnedkitchen and plunked it down on the counter.  You have to open them while they are still hot or it will be hard to get the shells off. So the man and woman worked together, both of them waving their hands around…   “Hot, hot, hot!”

Most of the nuts were too hard to bite into. John said he is certain that song was really written by a dentist.

But one or two were perfect!

roasterSo here I am, still with about two pounds of chestnuts. ($4.75 a pound)  Undaunted, I will try again, but the next time it will be in the oven in this cute little chestnut roaster I found at a yard sale.

“And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from 1 to 92. Although it’s been said many times, many ways Merry Christmas to you!”


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Ciabatta

Ciabatta is the Italian word for a comfortable old shoe or slipper.  Sound appetizing? It’s also the word for this comfortable, easy Italian bread.   It’s a very light loaf which is crusty on the outside, and chewy on the inside. It’s  very porous, with all those nooks and crannies we always heard about from the English muffin folk.

Ciabatta – to be honest, sometimes the brown misshapen loaves do look like old slippers. It comes by its name honestly. There are a lot of steps, but this is really one of the easiest breads I have ever made, and undeniably one of the most delicious.

ciabatta

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon yeast

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

You will also need:

Parchment paper

A Dutch oven or heavy covered casserole dish.

1

Mix all the ingredients together in a big mixing bowl.

You may need to add a few more tablespoons of water. You should have thick, but stirrable batter.

2

Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand overnight (12-18 hours)

4

The batter will have doubled in size.

6

Place your covered Dutch oven in the oven at 450° for 30 minutes.  Set a timer.

floured pp

Place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and lightly sprinkle it with flour.

5

Carefully scrape the batter onto the parchment paper.

Sprinkle the top of batter with flour, and cover it lightly with the plastic wrap.

In half an hour when the timer dings and the Dutch oven is hot, take it out of  the oven and carefully remove the lid.

Lift the plastic wrap from the bread batter.

Pick up the parchment paper by the four corners, so the batter is carried in it like a little pouch.

ready to bake

Place it in the hot Dutch oven.

Place the HOT lid back on the Dutch oven and straighten out the edges of the parchment paper so there are no big creases inside.

7

Return the Dutch oven to the oven, still at 450° and bake for 30 minutes. (Set the timer).

8

Take the lid off and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.

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Lift the loaf out of the Dutch oven by the corners of the parchment paper, and let it cool on a rack or serve it hot.

Either way it will be one of the stars of your wonderful Italian meal!

Italian meal with ciabatta


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Habañero Peach Sauce

Farmer FrankWe were on a mission to find the juiciest, tastiest peaches the farmers had to offer. And it was quite a job. As we walked through the farmers’ market there must have been a dozen people standing in front of their stalls offering samples. Almost all of the peaches were great, but we decided on Frank. Not only because his peaches were big and perfectly ripe and delicious – but because he had the widest smile and friendliest attitude! I told him about my project and he ran from variety to variety, telling me the finer points of each.  “Oh look at the deep red color! Did you ever see anything so pretty?”  He pointed with the tip of his pocket knife as he cut open yet another peach for me to try.

habañero peppersAs I mentioned to Frank, we’re having a banner year with our habañeros, so I needed peaches with a particularly strong peachy flavor to balance the zip of the peppers. The goal of the day was to create a delicious habañero-peach sauce for grilling chicken and fish.  And we did it!

It’s so easy to make, and just wait till you taste it!

diced fruit

Habañero Peach Sauce

5 pint sized canning jars with new lids and rings.

3-5 big juicy peaches (enough to make 5 cups of finely chopped fruit)

4-5 habañero peppers, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice

One yellow onion

6 cups sugar

1 pouch of Certo liquid pectin

The first thing to do is fill the jars with hot water so they will not crack later when you pour in the boiling hot sauce.

The next thing to do it cut the top off the Certo package and stand it upright in a coffee cup so it will be handy, and ready to pour when the time comes.

place in saucepanNow put the diced fruit, peppers and onion into the saucepan.

(You don’t need fancy kitchen equipment – I have an indestructible old pressure cooker that I use for a saucepan since it no longer holds pressure. It must be 50 years old, but it’s perfect for things like this. I think I got it at a yard sale for a dollar about 10 years ago.)

Add the salt, lemon juice and sugar to the peach mixture.

mix well

Mix well and begin to cook it.

rolling boil

Stir the mixture until it comes to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.

Now add the Certo, as you continue to stir. The boil will diminish a little.

Let it return to a full rolling boil.

Boil for one minute, then turn off the heat.

Ladle into hot jars and close with canning lids and rings.

That’s it!

Habañero Peach Sauce

Allow the jars to cool on the counter and listen for the “ping” that tells you each one is sealing.

That very evening we had mouth-watering habañero peach chicken. We just brushed the sauce on the chicken before we put it on the grill and a couple of times while it was grilling.

Habañero chicken with grilled zucchini and mushrooms

I filled a little sample sized jar of sauce and took it down to Farmer Frank, and he was thrilled.


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Ginny’s Piccalilli

green tomatoesThe last time I visited my in-laws, John’s mom reminded me about Piccalilli. Dad and I had been out walking around in his garden, both of us bragging how many green tomatoes we already had, and who would produce the first red one. He’s still bitter about the fact that my wisteria is laden with abundant flowers, and his much older vines have yet to bring forth a single bloom.  But I digress…

Little GinnyAs we were talking about green tomatoes Ginny suddenly said, “Do you remember that relish you made for me? It was so delicious! It was like what my mother made back in Massachusetts…”  My mother-in-law’s face was ecstatic!

I had to laugh. It’s been more than 25 years since I made that piccalilli, and to think that the memory of it is right up there with my mother-in-law’s cherished childhood memories.

I must be getting old!

inspiration cookbook

It had been so long since I made piccalilli that I don’t even know what recipe I used, but I remembered most of the basic ingredients. Since it’s an old fashioned sort of food, I decide to look in my 1942 Woman’s Home Companion Cookbook.  I have at least 50 cookbooks crowding two shelves, but I hardly ever follow a recipe to the T.  This was no exception.  But it’s pretty close.

*The process is very easy but it takes at least 8 hours or overnight to prepare.

About 7 medium-sized green tomatoes

2 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 yellow onions

1/2 cup salt

1 quart cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon celery seed

2 tablespoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon horseradish

½ teaspoon whole cloves

Canning jars (5 or 6 pint sized jars or 2 quart sized jars)

Canning lids and rings

chop vegetables

Cut the tomatoes in half and then slice them into nice chunky bite-sized slices.

Slice peppers and onion to about the same size

stir in salt

Place in a large bowl and mix in the salt.

Cover, and let stand overnight.

vegetable water accumulates

In the morning (or after about 8 hours) drain off the salt water that will have formed.

Do not rinse.

drain

While vegetables are draining, wash your jars and fill them with hot water. (In the past I have had canning jars break when I put something hot into a cold jar – quite a mess!)

lids

Place the canning lids into a pot of water and bring it to a boil, then turn it off. The hot water softens the rubber so you get a better seal on the jars.

brine

Mix the cider vinegar, sugar and spices in a large pot, and bring the mixture to a boil.

add to brine

Add the drained vegetables, and bring it back just to a boil. Turn off heat.

seal jars

Fill the clean hot jars, put on the lids and tighten the rings.

waiting for the ping

Allow the jars to stand upside down on the counter for an hour or so, then turn them upright.

I love hearing the “ping” as each jar seals!

And I can hardly wait to see mom’s face next week when I bring her a few jars of “Ginny’s Piccalilli”

Ginny's Piccalilli