Friday, May 26, 2023

Ina Gets It Done Again πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

Ina's flag cake deserves its own post. It is a true classic. You can find the recipe here.

I did make some changes. I wasn't entertaining hundreds of people at my pre-Memorial Day barbecue last weekend, so I opted to make the cake in a 9" by 13" dish instead of the half sheet pan that Ina uses. And I used an old favorite recipe - The Joy of Cooking's fabulous White Cake. It's not my recipe to give, but email me if you want me to send it to you. 
I also did not need boatloads of icing (well maybe 1/2 a boatload), so I used 3/4's of Ina's Cream Cheese Icing recipe. Quick! What is three quarters of 1 1/2 lbs of cream cheese?*
It IS a pain to figure out three quarters of one pound of confectioner's sugar (still with me?) in cups** (or 12 oz.), so I did weigh that.  

One other wrinkle. My star nozzle was bent and wonky, so I had to redo the stars part of the flag cake. Instead of the top left of the cake having Ina's blue background with white stars, I ended up with a white icing background and blue stars. More icing though! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
Make the cake and icing a day before, but decorate it with all the fruit the day you're serving it.
Enjoy your weekend and remember all the brave souls who we are honoring this Monday. πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

* 1.125 lbs of Cream Cheese OR more usefully 1 lb of cream cheese plus 2 tablespoons. 
** It's about 2 3/4 cups of confectioners sugar.

Forgetting The Slaw, Bits and Bobs for Your Memorial Day Barbecue And Warm Honey Is The Only Way To Go…

I always make too much food for big barbecues. The proof is that I don’t even notice when I invariably leave a dish or two in the back of the fridge. Luckily, of course, no one misses what wasn’t served. 

For some reason, it’s often the slaw. I remember a long time ago, we had a big family barbecue with H(usband)’s grandparents in attendance. We were cleaning up the kitchen in anticipation of whatever I was planning to overserve for dessert and I found the red cabbage slaw in the back of the fridge. Big Mom Mom instantly said, “Never mind, we’ll have it now.” And the whole family was directed to have little bowls of red cabbage cole slaw before anyone could have dessert. (Grandmothers are the best!πŸ’“πŸ’“πŸ’“)

Last weekend in a prelim Memorial Day barbecue, I was so excited to make Smitten Kitchen’s absolutely divine sounding Mango Slaw

It came out wonderfully, even though I had to leave out the cashews for fussy family members. But guess what? I found it in the back of the refrigerator AFTER we had dessert. The good news is that it’s been pretty wonderful all weeklong (and particularly pretty with some pomegranate seeds added), but I’m sorry it wasn’t enjoyed by a wider audience. One hint – if you make it this weekend, put it in the FRONT of the fridge!

Hamburgers and Hot Dogs are must-haves, but I also like to serve Honey Mustard Chicken. Use whatever you want – bone-in or boneless, breasts or thighs. 

Most times, I actually cook the chicken inside, because the grill is filled with other things. Or precook it inside, don't worry about getting it browned and get some nice grill marks on before serving. The chicken can be served on its own or in buns with extra honey mustard dressing. 

The dressing is an incredible recipe that I’ve had taped to an inside kitchen cabinet for eons. (If this is your recipe - Bon Appetit maybe? - please let me know and I will immediately credit you.)

The recipe makes a lot, but you will love having it in the fridge for salads or as a marinade for any protein (or vegetable for that matter) and for drizzling on afterwards. I use safflower oil as the plain vegetable oil. It keeps forever in the fridge.

One more thing – it is SO much easier to warm up the honey before attempting to mix it with other ingredients. But please NEVER put the honey bear or any other plastic honey container in the microwave. Just coax out what you need into a small glass bowl and THEN zap it for 15 seconds or so until it becomes liquid. Then it will truly be blended in and you’ll be so happy with your perfectly emulsified dressing.

Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing (serves 4)  
(If you double or triple the chicken, you'll still have enough Honey Mustard Dressing)

Honey Mustard Dressing:
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup honey, melted in glass bowl in microwave for 15 seconds
1 cup vegetable oil (I use safflower oil)

6 boneless chicken thighs
optional: 1/3 cup orange juice or stock

For dressing, place all ingredients in blender. Mix well. Pour into jar and keep in fridge until you finish every last drop. (2 weeks is fine.)

Place chicken thighs in medium bowl. Mix with a few spoonfuls of dressing. (Don't let the spoon that touched the chicken back in the dressing!πŸ™€) 

Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray. Or if you want a bit of sauce, place in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Cook in a preheated 400 deg F. oven for 45 minutes or until nicely browned. If desired, place under a hot broiler for a minute or two to brown more, or grill outside quickly before serving. 

(If using the baking dish, add the optional orange juice and a yummy tiny bit of sauce will emerge with the cooked chicken.)

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Two ideas for EASY starters. This is a pared down version of a Food Network recipe 

Goat Cheese and Honey Endive with Pomegranate Seeds
(The name of the recipe is almost longer the recipe.)
2 heads of endive
2 tbls. honey, melted in glass bowl in microwave for 15 seconds
3 oz plain goat cheese
½ cup pomegranate arils

Cut the hard stem ends off the endive. Separate the leaves carefully. You will need to cut a bit more off the bottom as you get to the center. Plunge into cold water, drain and dry gently. 

Warm the honey in a small glass bowl for 15 seconds in the microwave or until it’s liquid. Mix it with goat cheese. (Or you can swirl it through the goat cheese for a fun look.) Smear it on the pointed ends of the endive leaves and place on platter. Pop a few pomegranate seeds over the goat cheese. Cover with a lightly damp paper towel until ready to serve.
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A friend just introduced me to these Trader Joe’s Marinated Chickpeas. They come in a tuna fish style can, and, omg, they are wonderful in a salad or even by themselves. I use them to zhuzh up (that’s one way it's spelled…weird) hummus for a super quick hors d'oeuvre.

Hummus Platter

Take your favorite hummus, homemade or not, spread it on a square plate. Surround it with cucumber slices and spoon over some of these wonderful chickpeas. I serve it with toasted pita triangles.  Voila! A lovely appetizer!

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Great leftovers this week:



Have a great weekend and don't forget to honor the service people who honor our country with their service.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Blanched Broccoli And Grated Garlic

This is a fun way to cook broccoli. I blanch the whole head with the stem attached, peel it and THEN cut it into stalks. This way it can relax in the frying pan early in the day and it’s all ready for its final spin in olive oil and garlic just before serving. 

>Jump To SautΓ©ed Broccoli with Grated Garlic

Pick nice, firm, fat green heads. The florets should be dark green and tight.

Cut off the end of the stem and make sure it can stand up on the cutting board, so it will stay straight in the pot. 


I blanch it for 2 minutes in boiling, salted water. Always add the salt after the water is boiling. Why? Because old wives say that it prevents corrosion on your stainless steel pots. Dunno, but I still do it that way. 

If you’re doing two heads, blanch them one after the other. 


As it’s cooking, I spoon the boiling water over the top of the broccoli to begin the cooking of the florets. 


If we’re being classical, after blanching, dump the broccoli heads in a bowl of ice water, but (don’t judge me) honestly I don’t usually bother. 2 minutes is definitely not overcooking the whole broccoli head, so I’m not manic about stopping the cooking time. But definitely do it if you can’t see your way to skipping this step. You’re right and I’m wrong, but I am happy with my non-ice-water bath results.

I rediscovered my love of garlic when I started grating it with a microplaner. 


It's a good way to add garlic when you're doing a sautΓ©. It seems to give the garlic a ramped-up flavor, which is wonderful in a simple dish. When you’re grating, definitely avoid the center stalk of the garlic clove. I have a grudge against it as I believe it’s the source of garlic’s indigestibility. Getting rid of that center piece or in this case stopping the grating when you get to it, renders the garlic much more benign with fewer bad after-effects.

SautΓ©ed Broccoli with Grated Garlic 
(serves 4)

2 nice heads of broccoli with stems attached
1 tbl. Kosher salt
1-2 tbls. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled

Cut a little off the stem end of the broccoli, making sure it can stand up on its own. Bring a 5 quart pot of water to the boil. Stir in salt. Add one broccoli head. Spoon the boiling water over the top of the broccoli a few times while boiling for 2 minutes. Place on plate to cool. (Or plunge into a bowl of ice water.) Repeat with second head.

Peel the stems off the broccoli with a little paring knife. You won’t get everything, just do the best you can.

Place the broccoli on the cutting board so it’s lying down sideways. Cut the individual florets off the head, by rotating the broccoli to get to each new floret.








After they’re all cut, if you get a particularly wonky looking stem, just trim it up.

Place in large sautΓ© pan until ready to heat up. 

5 to 10 minutes before serving, drizzle the broccoli with olive oil and cook over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate the garlic over the pan using a a microplaner. (Avoid the bitter center stalk.) When you have a little char on one side after 2 to 3 minutes, turn it over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.