Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fennel Broth

You might remember a week or so back that I made a pork loin roasted with fennel bulbs. I tossed the stalks and other unused trimmings into a ziploc bag for later use. It seemed a shame to throw away so much flavor.

Fennel Broth


  • Left over fennel stalks and trimmings from 4 fennel bulbs (about a pound)
  • 1 small potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 4 cups cold water.

  • Roughly chop the fennel.
  • Place all ingredients in a stock pot.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until liquid has reduced to half.
  • Strain and throw away solids.
  • Refigerate for 5 days or freeze up to 2 months.
Yields around 2 cups broth.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Thinking Ahead--Feb. 26

I am a huge fan of Gourmet magazine. My husband's mother had bought a 2 year subscription several years back, but quickly realized that it wasn't the sort of cooking she did, so she'd read through the articles and pass it on to me. The subscription ran out a while back and I kind of forgot about it, but then Ric bought me a subscription for Christmas this year (me receiving it pictured above).

I got my second issue in the mail earlier this week and on page 94 found the sort of article that is written just for me. It's under the Cook Smart section and the article is called Birds in Hand. Two roast chickens=4 meals. I took this as a challenge and I have based my grocery list for the next 2 weeks around these recipes which Gourmet has provided online at their website and at their partner site

Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy

Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagne

Gyros with Cucumber Salsa and Tsatsiki

Leek and Pea Risotto with Grilled Calamari

These are the sort of large meals that should have plenty of leftover potential for lunches throughout the week. With a few small meals mixed in, I'll have my whole week planned out.

Plus, the good news is that I already have some of the ingredients on hand: white wine, thyme (this stuff seems to keep forever in the fridge), gruyere cheese, parmesan reggiano. And I'll make the lasagne noodles from scratch!

In upcoming posts there should be plenty of pictures of chicken being prepared!

Sunday Brunch--Pfannkuchen or Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

This is a pancake from Southern Germany that comes to us from the Pennsylvania Dutch (thus the Dutch Baby). I first made it on Twelfth Night back in January for our breakfast and we loved it so much that I vowed I'd make it for Easter. Well, my husband has begged for it so much that we have probably eaten it at least every other Sunday! It is a large, thick pancake--cut it into wedges. Don't be surprised when the inside is creamy like a custard--it is supposed to be that way.

It is very important to heat the pan in the oven first for it to turn out correctly. Mine rose that first morning in a bizarre, assymetrical way, and I thought for sure I had goofed. But it settled down nicely and looked like the other pictures I've seen online.


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons shortening
  • powdered sugar

  • Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 10 minutes (I've read that you should never ever use anything deeper than 3 inches, but the only cast iron pot I have the right size is my 6 quart enamel cast iron dutch oven, which I have used successfully)
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Heat the milk and butter in the microwave for about a minute.
  • Whisk together the eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla.
  • Add the warmed milk slowly, whisking the batter all the while.
  • Whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter.
  • Remove the skillet from the ovenand brush the inside with the shortening.
  • Pour in the batter and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. and continue baking until puffed and golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes more.
  • Sift the confectioners' sugar over the pancake.
  • Run a knife around the edge of the skille and cut into wedges.
Serve with honey or other topping of choice. My favorite is a ginger spread that came in my stocking this year.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Experimenting with Cheese--Results! Neufchatel and Shrimp Alfredo

Fettucine Alfredo with Home Made Neufchatel and Shrimp

Another obvious choice to put the neufchatel to use would be some sort of pasta considering all the egg noodles on hand right now. I researched some recipes and came across this one: Top Secret Never Tell Neufchatel Alfredo. I did make a few changes to it, so I'll go ahead and lay it out as I proceeded:


  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TB flour
  • 2/3 Neufchatel cheese Dr. Fankhauser‘s Neufchatel
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup parmesan reggiano
  • 1/4 - 1/2 LB shrimp, deveined but with tails on.
  • 1 LB cooked pasta From Scratch
  • fresh ground pepper to taste


  • On medium heat saute oil, garlic and crushed red pepper, until garlic is golden.
  • Remove garlic.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  • Whisk in Neufchatel until thouroughly blended, simmer on medium heat.
  • Meanwhile in a small saute pan on low heat, melt the butter.
  • Mix in the flour until well blended.
  • A TB at a time, add some liquid from the Neufchatel mixture, whisking constantly, until somewhat thick, but well blended.
  • Pour the flour mixture into the Neufchatel mixture, blend well.
  • Continue stirring and cooking on medium heat until well blended and thickented.
  • Add the shrimp--I leave the tails on, it makes for messier eating but adds flavor.
  • Once the shrimp are heated through, turn off the heat add the parmesan and the parsley and stir together.
  • Add the cooked pasta and stir until thouroughly coated.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Artwork Above the Stove

New Collage above the Stove--From Cards from a Children's Memory Game, illustrated by Charles Harper

In between baking a cheesecake Sunday, and making noodles for a neufchatel and shrimp alfredo (you'll get the recipe tomorrow), I finally sat down the with the children's memory game I had bought at Old Navy last week. My plan was to piece it together into a collage, frame it and hang it above the stove. The art is by one of my favorite artists of the twentieth century, Charles Harper. His style reduces the subject matter, mostly animals and nature, to its essential lines, capturing its essence. Being an outdoor nut, as well as a fan of minimal art (my non-food photography tends to wander down this path) the minute I saw Charles Harper I fell in love.

I spent over an hour trying to place the cards in a way that made sense, an in the end I fell back on my experience as a quilt lover and the daughter of a quilter (Mom‘s Blog) and hopefully managed to pull the colors into some semblance of order: the pinks/reds/oranges in the left hand diagonal and the blues and greens in the right, with the whites interspersed throughout.

Read about Charles Harper here:

Charles Harper at Wikipedia

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Birthday Cake

Hubby making my birthday cake!
My husband making my cake yesterday!

Experimenting with Cheese--Neufchatel Results!


Well, I finally dipped my finger in the neufchatel today, and tasted it. Still a little sour, but not nearly so much as before I salted it. It has mellowed out over a couple of days in the fridge. I started researching cheesecake recipes looking for something really basic to showcase the cheese. I also wanted to stay away from anything with sour cream in it, since I already had a somewhat sour cheese!

I was really influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch cheesecake recipes because they used farmer's cheese.
Another thing that I pulled from the Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, was the separation of the eggs. Mixing all the ingredients with the egg yolks, and then folding in the stiffened egg whites, gave it a rich yellow color and an airier texture--almost like a souffle.

It is fitting that I should post up a cheesecake recipe today, because it is my birthday, and traditionally my mother has made me a cheesecake as a birthday cake since I was old enough to pick out what I wanted.

Mel's Basic Cheesecake

Shortbread Crust:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla



  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Beat together the ingredients for the crust--it should be crumbly like a graham cracker crust.
  • Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a springform pan.
  • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then cool.
  • Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  • Meanwhile beat together the cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks.
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture.
  • When the crust has cooled, pour the filling into the pan.
  • Bake the cheesecake for an hour.
  • Let cool on the counter and then put in the fridge overnight.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chocolate Semifreddo

Chocolate Semifreddo


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 TB chocolate powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat egg whites on medium with an electric mixer until peaks just begin to form. Add sugar a little at a time, continue beating. Turn to high until stiff peaks form. Sift chocolate over meringue and fold in a little at a time. Put aside.

Beat heavy cream on high, until peaks just begin to form.

Fold meringue into heavy cream until thouroughly mixed.

Freeze for atleast 4 hours.

Note: This version comes out at 234 calories per serving (1 cup).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Simply from Scratch -- Chili

Chili Man
My assitant--blurry enough that he didn't mind me blogging his photo!

We've been making a lot of chili this winter. I can make a big pot and leave it in the fridge and we eat out of it all week when I come home for lunches. This recipe is sooo simple. The hardest part is chopping the meat, onion, and celery. And when you have a helper it goes fast!

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 LB pork, cubed
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • small can jalapenos (can't remember what ouce, just the itsy bitsy can)
  • Bottle of Beer
  • 32 oz of canned beans
  • 1 TB sugar
On the Stove:
  • Brown the pork in vegetable oil in a large pot--I use my 6 quart enamel cast iron pot.
  • Add the onion and celery and saute for several minutes.
  • Meanwhile, dry fry the cumin until aromatic, grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  • Add spices, tomato sauce, chilis, and beer to the meat and vegetables.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Cover and cook for an hour.
  • Add canned beans and sugar.
  • Cook for 10 minutes.
Serve with cheddar cheese and flour tortillas.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Thinking Ahead -- Feb. 19

Butter Milk Pancakes

This week, I've been enjoying the fruits of last weekends labors!

Saturday was the big day for experimenting with my new chitarra--and I made enough pasta for 3 meals. As quick as fresh (even after it is dried) pasta cooks, that has been a great short cut for some quick meals this week.

Sunday morning I made buttermilk pancakes for breakfast and doubled the recipe so I could freeze the leftovers. Since we only have 2 pancakes at a sit down, usually with a couple of eggs, there are plenty in the freezer for quick breakfasts and/or dinners.

I also made a milk loaf in the machine on Sunday--which takes all of 10 minutes and provides bread for the entire week to go alongside pasta or to make quick sandwiches.

This was my three day weekend--Saturday, Sunday, and Monday--so Monday I was still busy in the kitchen roasting a pork loin with fennel bulbs and potatoes. Which we have been eating for lunch for a couple of days now.
Who says you can't have a meal from scratch after a full day at work!

Buttermilk Pancakes
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • vegetable oil
  • Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
  • Wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Combine and mix well.
  • Heat vegetable oil on the griddle.
  • drop batter on the griddle in 1/4 cup measurements.
  • Cook on first side until air bubbles start to form and it is golden on the bottom.
  • Flip and fry until golden on other side.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Experimenting with Cheese (My attempt to make Neufchatel)--Day 3

Well, I unwrapped it last night. It is very nicely formed and has the texture and density of cream cheese. It still tastes a little sour--like yogurt or sour cream, though. So I'm not quite sure if it has turned out! I went ahead and salted it and am letting it sit in the fridge for a day or two to see how it tastes then. If it is still sour, I'm probably going to make a cheesy stroganoff, or something like that, and see if I can get some use out of it that way.


Light and Easy Ice Cream -- without a machine



Base Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat egg whites on medium with an electric mixer until peaks just begin to form. Add sugar a little at a time, continue beating. Turn to high until stiff peaks form. Put aside.

Beat heavy cream on high, until peaks just begin to form.

Fold meringue into heavy cream until thouroughly mixed.

Freeze for atleast 4 hours.


3/4 cup nuts (pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), ground in a spice grinder or food processor with a tablespoon of sugar. Fold nuts into the whipped cream and meringue mixture. You also could beat rum/almond extract into heavy cream in step one.

Other flavorings I'm planning on experimenting with over the next couple of weeks will include: frozen fruit, coffee, chocolate, peanutbutter, and ricotta.

Makes one quart.


We don't eat a lot of sweets, but occasionally we just get a craving for ice cream. The texture is different--somewhere between sherbert and ice-cream, but it fulfilled the craving. I figured out the calories to be around 332 per cup, which is 200 less than our favorite cookie dough ice cream at 540 a cup.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Experimenting with Cheese (my attempt to make Neufchatel)--Day 2 continued . . .

After letting the curds drain for a couple of hours in the colanders, I hung them in the refrigerator.



Experimenting with Cheese (my attempt to make Neufchatel)--Day 2 continued . . .

Well this afternoon I went ahead and ladled the curds into cheese cloth lined colanders. I'm letting them sit in the colanders in the fridge to drain for a little while before I rig them up to hang.

Making Neufchatel

Not only does it look like yogurt--it smells and tastes like it, too!

Experimenting with Cheese (my attempt to make Neufchatel)-- Day 1 & 2

Day 1

Yesterday, I innoculated the milk and the buttermilk and added the rennet. I'm using this web page Beginning Cheesemaking. Evidently Dr. Fankhauser is the cheese from scratch guy, because in my rennet box the list of recipes included his hard cheese recipe!

Day 2

The innoculated milk has been sitting overnight and this is what it looks like right now:

Cheese Making

I really thought that the milk was still completely liquid, until I looked closer and saw the separation(If you look closely in this photo you can also see the indention from my index finger where I tested the firmness this morning!):

When I scooped a bit up it had the consistency of yogurt. Since this is my first attempt at cheese making, I'm not really sure if that is set up enough, so just to make sure I'm going to wait until this evening to strain it through the cheese clothe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Girl and Her Chitarra

3 cups of flour, 6 eggs, and a couple of hours later . . . .

Cutting Pasta with a Chitarra

Prepare pasta dough as demonstrated in my previous article Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket . . . .

Cut each sheet of dough into 4 pieces to fit the chitarra strings. If you want uniform pasta, cut your sheet into a rectangular shape. I don't mind if my pasta is assymetrical (personally, I think that is part of the charm of food from scratch) so I simply cut my pasta into quarter circles (quarter ovals?).

Flour the sheets of dough liberally, as though dredging fillets of fish or chicken for pan frying, and shake off the excess. I discovered quickly that the flour was my friend and not to be afraid of it. Too little, and the pasta stuck to the strings and created a mess.


Once the sheets of pasta are on the chitarra, roll pin over the sheet, firmly pressing down. Once the pasta is pushed into the strings, continue moving the pin over the pasta, but in long, smooth pushes, instead of rolling.


I plucked at the strings with my fingers, and tapped with the end of the rolling pin, to remove any stubborn strands of pasta.


Remove the tray from the chitarra. At this point you can either slide the pasta directly in boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. Or lay out to dry. Optimally, you would use pasta drying sheets, basically a mesh frame, so that the air can circulate on both sides of the pasta. As I don't have the pasta drying frames, I just laid the pasta out on cookie sheets, etc.




From Scratch -- The photos

I made a large batch of pasta to last throughout the week. I am letting the pasta dry completely for 24 hours before I store it. When I store it, each layer of pasta will be separated by paper towels in a box. If the pasta has any moisture remaining in it, and is sealed tightly in a container, mold will develop. I found this out the hard way! Pasta dried this way needs to be handled carefully, as it will become brittle and break if handled carelessly.

As my chitarra didn't come with directions I found this article at, My New Italian Chitarra Pasta Cutter, very useful.

Pasta tossed with sauteed onions, anchovies, bread crumbs, dill, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and olive oil.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday, Simply from Scratch--Hearty Open Faced Sandwiches

The following recipe is a quicky! This is the kind of thing I whip up when I want something quick after work, or something warm and simple after an outdoor hike. Serve with soup or eggs and bacon for a meal, or by themselves for a snack.

From Scratch -- The photos


  • 4 slices thick bread (from scratch)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 1-2 tsp whole grain brown mustard, horseradish sauce, etc.
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Butter the bottom of the bread and line in a baking dish.
  • Whisk the eggs in a bowl.
  • Add the shredded cheese and stir well.
  • Add the mustard and black pepper and combine.
  • Spread the egg and cheese mixture evenly on top of the bread slices.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes--the cheese should puff up. These are the best cheese sandwiches ever!

Place a layer of ham or other lunch meat on the bread before spreading the cheese mixture on top, to make a more substantial sandwich.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Thinking Ahead--Pizza

When I know I'm going to have a busy week I often think pizza. This week I made 4 sausage pizzas because I knew I was going to be putting in extra time at work. When I would come home for lunch we would zap them in the microwave (also when I was coming home way after supper time!) Not only did this save time, but it stretched the groceries!

I think we'll be taking a break from pizza for awhile after this.

Pizza From Scratch

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Space

My Kitchen
From Scratch -- The Photos

A faux Gourmet Magazine look at my work area. My kitchen is a small square with counter and cabinets against one wall, and the rest of the space taken up by an old gas stove (hanging to the side of the stove are some decorative copper pans that serve to hide the plugged up holes from the old wood stove) and the refrigerator. I do have a nice pantry cupboard to the side of the stove. The 1940s cabinets are amazing--tall and deep, and my favorite thing about this old cottage kitchen.

I'll be day-dreaming about my space as I head back to work today after a week's vacation.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Brunch--Pumpkin Pancakes


  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 2 TSP Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 TSP Sugar
  • 3/4 TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Nutmeg
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Mashed Pumpkin
  • 1 Egg Beaten
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  • Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  • Heat the vegetable oil
  • Drop the batter in 1/4 cup quantities on a hot griddle.
  • Fry each cake until bubbles form on the top surface, then flip and cook until golden.
Serve with honey or maple syrup.


Substitute 1/2 cup of the flour with wheat flour.


I usually triple my pancake recipes and toss the leftovers in a ziploc and freeze. This gives me a headstart on future meals, or a quick snack.