Category Archives: Cook

All American Thanksgiving

OK, I can’t help but go on a little rant here…

Were you shocked/disgusted by the recent U.S. presidential election? If so, you share that feeling with over half of the American public. I went to bed on November 8th extremely depressed, and woke up the next morning feeling nauseous. How could (almost) half of U.S. voters – people that had twice elected Obama – elect this disaster? It is mind-boggling and frightening that so many are so gullible, self-centered, and easily manipulated. The last eight years will be remembered as a golden era. I hope this country can survive the next four.

This Thanksgiving most of my multi-heritage and multi-racial family* is gathering in Nashville. Featured prominently on the menu will be butternut squash, which I’ve just started growing the last two years. For some reason I thought that winter squash wouldn’t grow very well in my Oklahoma garden, but boy, was I wrong! Tomorrow butternut will make an appearance in a dip, a roasted vegetable medley, and in a pie with chai whipped cream. Of course we are having some accompaniments to the squash – turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, arugula salad, Waldorf salad, and these rolls.

butternut squashSo, if you are overwhelmed by your winter squash harvest – as I am – you should try Butternut Squash Queso. I made this for a gathering two weeks ago, and got requests for the recipe. My inspiration came from here, but I used fresh butternut, roasted with onion, garlic and olive oil. I also added 4 oz of cream cheese, some diced jalapeno, and used pepper jack cheese.I saw some other recipes online that called for sour cream, which I would substitute for the cream cheese, if that’s what I had in my fridge. Here’s my recipe:

  •  3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Roast on a cookie sheet in a 400 F oven until squash is cooked through slightly brown – about 30 minutes. Add to a food processor along with:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chili
  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican seasoning mix (chili powder, cumin, coriander)
Heat in microwave with
  • 1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese.

Top with chopped cilantro, and serve with tortilla chips.

And if we still have squash to get rid of consume, I’m going to make this butternut hummus.
Butternut hummus
*Some of my ancestors came over from England in the 1600’s. Others came to America a bit later. I’m also pretty sure I have Native American and Negro/Creole mixed in there too. My husband has Slovenian, North African (10%, according to a DNA analysis), and British ancestors. There’s no Hispanic, as far as we know, but our daughter has always been mistaken as Latina. Our granddaughters are mixed Caucasian-Asian. In other words, we are a typical American family.

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Roasted summer vegetables

Daily harvests of tomatoes, eggplant, butternut squash, and peppers are piling up in my kitchen. So I’ve been roasting them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a liberal dose of minced garlic. (I put parchment paper on a cookies sheet for easy clean up.) After a good roast at about 400 F, some of it goes into freezer bags, some goes directly into our mouths (LOL), and the rest gets used throughout the week in pasta, curries, stews, rice pilafs, pizzas, quesadillas, tacos, omelets, etc.

Recently I made “Russian caviar” or ikra from a combination of roasted veggies. I often buy jars of this at Cao Nguyen grocery, and it’s a bit pricey. Here is a pretty standard NY Times recipe for ikra. Last night I made two pizzas – one with roasted eggplant and tomatoes, another with roasted butternut and onions. For lunch today I made homemade pasta (we’ve also got a surplus of  eggs right now), and topped it with the roasted veggies and an light Alfredo sauce. Here’s my recipe:

Homemade pasta noodles

I have an Atlas pasta roller machine, but you can roll it out with a rolling pin, especially if  you’re young and energetic. This makes enough noodles for two people.

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for “dusting”

Beat the egg and water in a large bowl, then add the flour and salt. (I start with a fork, but then use my hands.) Shape into a ball and knead, adding extra flour bit by bit until the dough feels satiny.  Divide the dough into two balls. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap. At this point you can stop, and resume making the noodles later, or continue on.

Using a pasta machine: Flatten out one ball and feed through the pasta machine, starting at the thickest level and then gradually moving the dial until it reaches noodle density. I always do several passes at the thickest level, folding the dough and re-rolling it until it looks really smooth. Each time you pass it through the rollers you should dust/dredge it with flour so it doesn’t stick or tear in the roller. My Atlas has 6 thickness settings, and for noodles I like setting #4. I’ve had problems with #6 being too delicate, but it might be good for angel hair pasta. I like #5 thickness for lasagna and ravioli. Pass the dough through the noodle cutter, then place into a bowl and dust with flour while you make the second batch.

Rolling by hand: Put down a smooth dishcloth and dust very liberally with flour. Flatten out the dough, sprinkle with flour, and have the strongest/youngest/hungriest person in the house roll the dough as thin as possible with a rolling pin. (Or don’t worry about getting it that thin, and just go with an udon or dumpling-type noodle.) Dust the dough again, then roll up jelly roll fashion, and slice into noodles. Repeat with the other batch of dough.

Cook the noodles in a large amount of salted water. Since these are fresh noodles they don’t take very long to cook, so plan accordingly.

Warm up your roasted vegetables in the microwave. I highly recommend the roasted butternut. It adds a little sweetness that goes well with the Alfredo.

Alfredo sauce

  • Equal parts olive oil and butter (about 1 Tbsp of each)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Lightly sauté the garlic in the olive oil and butter. Add the basil and sauté just a wee bit. Right before serving add the heavy cream and heat up until it starts to simmer. DO NOT BOIL.

Toss all together, and grate some Parmesan, Romano, Pecorino, or other hard cheese on top. A grind of pepper is also advised.


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Mid-summer 2016 inventory

July 10th

  • The peppers are in full swing, especially the Anaheim, Gypsy, and jalapeño. Same for the oriental eggplants.
  • Cherry and Roma tomatoes are starting to make guest appearances in salads, bruschetta, and on nachos. Larger tomatoes are still green.
  • Thai and Italian basil are almost a nuisance.
  • Cucumbers and Butternut squash are threatening to take over the garden (they remind me of kudzu).
  • After a first heavy flush the bush green beans are giving it another go.
  • Volunteer mustard, kale, chard, and lettuce are popping up in unexpected places.
  • I harvested enough garlic for a year’s supply for four families.

And the sturdy and dependable chard is still keeping us in greens. At the height of summer it can get bitter, so I blanch it first, rinse, squeeze out the water, chop and then sauté with olive oil, garlic, and onion. Last night we had chard and black bean enchiladas with green sauce. Tuesday we’ll be having curried creamed chard with basmati rice and this curried eggplant. I’ll make another chard and green chili strata for Thursday’s dinner.

Mike and I discussed what we want to do for our winter garden. We’ve decided to let half of it (one of the two hoop houses) go fallow. But not really fallow, because we are going to grow some cover crops and let the chickens visit it on the weekends. For cover crops I plan on using some of my excess saved seed – kale, Chinese cabbage, mustard, arugula, and lettuce. Such lucky chickens – to be feasting on organic microgreens in January!

new fenceLast week Mike built this fence to replace a section that was about to fall down. Isn’t it gorgeous?


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The chard before the storm

Swiss chardEarly June is a relatively quiet time in my vegetable garden. The spring greens, spinach and lettuce are all done, and the summer crops aren’t ready. There are a few plums each day, and we will have a deluge of peaches to deal with soon. But pretty much the only big producer right now is Swiss chard. Here in Oklahoma Swiss chard is a much better bet than spinach. It will produce  year round if you give it enough room, pick it frequently, and cover it in the winter (in a cold frame or hoop house). This week I’m cooking the following:

Curried Chard and Lentils: Cook 1/2 cup of green lentils in 1 cup of water. Sauté 4 cups of chopped chard in a little olive oil until limp. Combine the (hot) lentils and chard with 1 large minced clove of garlic, 2 tsp of Madras curry powder, and 2 oz of cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is melted throughout. Serve with brown rice.

Chard and green chili breakfast strata: Butter, oil, or spray a casserole dish. Cover bottom with crushed/broken/stale tortilla chips. Sprinkle with chopped green chilis or other hot peppers. Cover with shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack is good), then cover with chopped and sautéed chard. Top with cubed white bread. Beat up eggs with milk, as you would for French toast, and pour over the top (it doesn’t need to cover the bread). Let it sit for a while – overnight also works – then cook at 350 until the eggs are just set and the bread is golden toasty. You don’t need to add salt because the bread, cheese, and tortilla chips all have salt.

Massaged chard salad: Use the smaller and more tender leaves for this. Chop or tear the chard leaves into large pieces. (I also like to add chopped Italian parsley or mint.) Massage with olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and a bit of sea salt. Top with chopped walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and grated hard cheese. NOTE: The raw garlic can sometimes be hot/aggressive, so you might want to sauté it a wee bit in olive oil first. Also, this massaged chard is also really good as a pizza topping. Put it on last, and watch to see that it doesn’t burn too much.



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This’n that jam

White roses

Before the torrential rains…

The sun is shining! – yea!!!

There’s no standing water in the yard – wow!

It got above 70 degrees today – awesome!

We are just ending the wettest month EVER in Oklahoma. And it appears we may be in for a much cooler summer than normal – which is better than a much warmer summer. But still…

I finally started my cucumbers and basil in pots indoors because my first two attempts failed from too much water and the cold temperatures. The tomatoes are doing fine – I even picked some ripe ones yesterday – but the peppers and beans are just hanging out, waiting for some sun and warmer days.

Last weekend (Memorial Day) we stayed at home and did home repair and cooking. We needed to stay here so we could take action if the basement flooded (again).  One of the things I cooked up was a small batch of jam, made from various fruits that either needed to be cooked or given to the chickens. I did this last month with some past-their-prime seedless grapes mixed with frozen fresh cranberries. This recipe makes about 3 cups of jam:

  1. 1 slightly shriveled apple, with skin, diced
  2. 1 lemon carcass, minced (zest and juice used for something else)
  3. 1/2 cup pitted sweet cherries (We finally get cherries off our tree, but they’re split from too much water!)
  4. 1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen fresh cranberries
  5. 1 cup white sugar
  6. 1/2 cup grapefruit or orange juice (I found this poor old grapefruit in a corner of the fridge)

Cook all on low heat until most all the cranberries have popped. Cool and store in the refrigerator, or process/can as for jams.

Mixed fruit jam

Served on homemade potato bread

The “trick” to this jam is using cranberries, which have a lot of pectin in them. They also provide a tanginess that might be lacking in less-than-fresh fruit. The grape-cranberry combo I made tastes like a good Concord grape jam. I really love the taste of citrus in this mix, and  although I don’t usually eat a lot of jam or jelly, this is sure good on some homemade bread, or stirred into Greek yogurt!

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Mom’s day 2015

To celebrate Mother’s Day I am posting! Woo-hoo!Strawberry Tart1

1. Fresh strawberry tarts: It’s May, and every day we have bowls of strawberries to deal with. I made these little tartlets with stuff I had sitting around and they turned out great. This makes about 18 muffin sized tarts.

  • 1.5 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melter butter

  • 1 package sugar-free strawberry jelloStrawberry Tart3
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 8-0unce block of cream cheese

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (for glaze)

  •  3 to 4 cups small whole fresh strawberries

  1. Mix the vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and melted butter. Press about 1 tablespoon into the bottom of each lined muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.
  2. Dissolve the gelatin in 3/4 cup boiling water. Beat cream cheese until smooth, gradually adding the dissolved gelatin. The mixture will be runny. Set this in the refrigerator while you prepare the whole strawberries.
  3. Put a heaping tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on top of the crumb crust. You may need to use your spoon to spread it around. Set back into the refrigerator while you make the glaze.
  4. Combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and 1 cup strawberries in a small saucepan. Mash the strawberries up, then heat the mixture and cook on medium heat, stirring. Let it come to a boil for 2 minutes.
  5. Place several strawberries in each tart, then spoon the warm glaze over the berries. Refrigerate.
  6. Eat

Strawberry Tart2

I bet these would be good with fresh peaches too.

2. I’ve been experimenting with microwave cooking this year. I know a couple of my children consider this blasphemous (I’m talking to you, Matt and Aric), but I have my reasons:

  1. Our house is not air conditioned. And we live in Oklahoma.
  2. There are only two of us to cook for now.
  3. It is fast.
  4. It is actually more “green” than using our gas stove, since our electricity is renewable (wind generated).

The mug cake recipe was a big hit when I visited the grandkids in Nashville. Everyone can add their own mix-ins, and you don’t have any leftovers: 3 Tbsp cake mix, 2 Tbsp water, 1 minute in the microwave.

This week I found several recipes for mac and cheese in a mug. They are all pretty much the same, but I add one ingredient that most do not: a teaspoon of cornstarch, which makes it extra creamy. This recipe makes one serving, and keeps you from over-indulging. Use a large mug to avoid the liquids boiling over.

1. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on high.

  • 1/3 cup dry macaroni
  • 1/3 cup water

2. Add to mug, stir, and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

3. Stir into mug until cheese melts. Eat.

  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1  tsp butter (optional, I don’t do this)





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Savory lentil and rice pancakes – oothappams

DSC_0329Also oothapams, uthappams, uthapams, uttappa, or a dozen other spellings…

  • Daughter of the bread-like idli, and half-sister to a dosa, which is more crepe-like.
  • Gluten free – not important to me, but about half of the world is demanding this.
  • Vegan – ibid
  • Naturally fermented – not exactly sure how this happens, but it’s cool!
  • Versatile – you can make idli, dosas, and oothappams all from the same batter.

WARNING: This is not a spur-of-the-moment recipe. You don’t just whip up some oothappams in 30 minutes.

DSC_0331So Mike was organizing the pantry a couple of weeks ago.

Mike: Do you know you have two unopened bags of something called urad gota? What is this stuff? A grain, or a legume?
Me: I think it’s white lentils.
Mike: It doesn’t look like lentils.
Me: See here, it says matpe beans?
Mike: OK, whatever. Are you going to do anything with them, or should I feed them to the chickens?

Well thank Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet, you can find anything if you can read, are persistent, and have one or two keywords to search. (Does anyone really use an analog cookbook anymore?) White lentils – which are actually black lentils with the outer layer removed – can be cooked like regular lentils, but they are often used to make bread type foods. Probably because they are white and look more appetizing? IDK, just a hypothesis.

Here are the recipes I referenced (I never follow a recipe exactly):

Yesterday morning I soaked 1 cup of urad gota/matpe bean/white lentils, and 2 cups of white rice separately in water. I didn’t have basmati rice, so I just used a combination of short-grained and jasmine rice. (You may notice that I used a 1:2 ratio of lentils to rice, and most other recipes call for a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio.) Then last night I ground them up in my blender to a smooth batter, mixed them together, added 1 tsp salt, covered the bowl with plastic wrap and left it on the counter. (This morning I -oops!- quickly put the bowl into a much larger bowl because the fermentation had the batter about to overflow.)

For lunch today I minced some green chili, green onion, garlic, and shredded a carrot. Mixed these with some of the batter (which was too thick and fluffy, so I watered it down a bit), and fried little pancakes in a non-stick skillet with a tsp of oil. I used my little bitty egg pan, so they were really easy to flip over, and came out perfectly round. I ate them with some tomato jam mixed with cranberry chutney.

My Garden and other stuff

This spring was busy – my day job, teaching adjunct at UCO, developing material for a grant, a new granddaughter in Nashville, and Matt & Erin’s wedding shindig in Georgia. And through it all, of course, keeping up with the garden.

We had an abnormally cold winter here, which was good for reducing the insects that overwinter, but not so good for our fig trees. The little one died back to the ground. The large one is coming back strong from the base, and strangely enough, about 10′ up on several branches. So far the early summer has been mild – even chilly some mornings – which is giving the tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and cucumbers some time to get established before the heat kicks in. We will start eating our earliest peaches this week, and once again it seems that we have almost no insect damage. I have to think it’s because we feed and water the birds (mostly sparrows and wrens) all winter.

Every year the garden changes – something doesn’t do well while another plant flourishes. In my flower beds this will be the year of verbena bonariensi and threadleaf coreopsis. These newcomers reseeded like crazy, and I’m not complaining. The gaura in the front reseeded, and somehow found its way into the backyard. Of course the corn poppies and larkspur have already finished their glorious explosion, and I’ve been pulling the orange cosmos out by the handfuls to give away (they are deceptively sturdy).

On the food front, I’ve been cooking with gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), making not-quite-authentic “Korean inspired” stews. I really want to make jajangmyeon, but I’ll have to visit a Korean market in Moore to find the right kind of black bean paste.

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