Guinness and Cheddar Potted Cheese: Part I of a St. Patrick’s Day Feast!

I want to stick my face in this bowl.

Update:  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  I made a mistake on the quantities for the recipe.  It should've read '1 pound extra sharp cheddar'.  A friend pointed out that her cheese ended up 'pourable'.  My apologies and this recipe can be saved by adding an additional 1/2 pound of cheddar and re-processing or blending.  It should freeze jim-dandy, too, so the extra quantities shouldn't be a horrid burden.  And if they are, ship 'em to me.  I'll eat my mistakes. I am, like most people I know, a true American mutt.  I know we can account for Irish, German and Native American ancestry.  And I believe I've heard tell of some Romany and Scots heritage tossed in for good measure.  I love being the melting pot personified.  There's something romantic about knowing there are all of those wonderful cultures with me, before me, behind me, within me.* Growing up, my parents always made a very big deal of St. Patrick's Day.  I don't know if it was because our family tree is vastly dominated by Irish roots or if it was because it was just plain fun, but green was definitely the theme!  My Mom managed to make everything at the table some shade of green.  We looked forward to it for weeks ahead of time.  Around here, I save the green for the ubiquitous Shamrock Shakes but the fun continues in other ways.  We read "The Last Snake In Ireland" in our best Irish accent, play The Chieftains at top volume on the stereo, read a certain piece of historic literature*, and put on a massive … {Read on...}

Purple Cow Smoothies

My kids are clinging impatiently to my thighs while I take this picture, 'scuse the angle.

It is simply gorgeous outside here today.  And for that reason, I will not be long winded here.  (And there was much rejoicing...)  My kids are standing on the porch, pressing their faces against the window asking me when I'll be out.  They're also waiting for their smoothies so I have to make like a bird here, and fly. When I was a wee thing my favorite snacks and desserts were milk shakes, purple cows, and my Mom's version of an Orange Julius.  There is something so exciting about using the blender to whip up dessert.  It seemed like such alchemy to put all those bumpy, multi-textured ingredients into the carafe and spin it into perfectly smooth thing of beauty.  Plus I just dug anything I could drink with a straw. A couple years ago I realized -and not for the first time, I might add- that my mother is a genius.  Look at the list of ingredients that go into a Purple Cow: plain yogurt, frozen bananas, and grape juice concentrate.  That's it.  It's cheap.  It's simple.  It blows the doors off of most other snacks in terms of nutritive value.  The yogurt gives you protein, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamins B-6 and B-12, and vitamin D.  The bananas give you vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and manganese.  The grape juice concentrate gives you a power punch of vitamin C and antioxidants.  Not only that, but Purple Cows take 5 minutes or less, start to finish.  Thank you, Mom.   For a printer-friendly, photo-free version of this … {Read on...}

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

If you heeded my advice, you will now be grateful you made two...

May I talk to you for a moment about cake?  I have a love/hate thing going with cake.  When I was a kid I disliked cake.  My poor mother.  I asked for a pie every year for my birthday and my Mom has what borders on piecrust making phobia.  I was a selfish little child. After much contemplating over the years-which included eating many, many cakes of many, many varieties-I realized that what I really hated was frosting.  And after playing around with frosting a bit I realized that what I actually hated was bad frosting, specifically.  As in frosting made just with shortening, sugar and food coloring. What really changed my opinion of cakes was learning to think outside the pastry bag.  By chucking the ubiquitous buttercream I discovered that cakes -simple buttery cakes- weren't just merely edible.  They were sublime.   For years now I've topped my cakes with ganache, whipped cream, fruit preserves, syrups, and all sorts of other goodies.  If you haven't made the leap, give it a try.  In fact, try it with this cake. Because this cake, in particular, is my favorite cake ever.  And The Evil Genius's favorite cake ever.  And three of my five children (but not the one who doesn't like fruit and not the one who doesn't like anything that the non-fruit lover dislikes.  Please, Lord, let this be a phase.) I originally made this from the recipe that appeared in Everyday Food Magazine. I made it as written the first couple times and changed it out of necessity (was missing the … {Read on...}

Hot Lemon Shrub

Hot Lemon Shrub.  So they DID have tastebuds in the 18th century after all...  This is good!

Several years ago I got into the Aubrey/Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian.  And by 'got into' I mean that I obsessively read all twenty one books (including the unfinished one)  back to back so quickly that I can't remember what happened in which novel.  There was hardly a moment when one of O'Brian's books left my hands for longer than it took to whip up a meal or change a diaper.  The books, aside from being some of the best, if not THE best, historical novels ever written provide a wonderful chronicle of foods prepared in the Napoleonic Era by both lubbers and sailors.  Among others, Spotted Dog (or Spotted Dick), Boiled Baby (NOT really a baby, so don't freak out!), Skillygally, Jam Roly-Poly, Solomongundy and Lobscouse were all prepared and enjoyed (?!?) by cooks of the time.  Jack Aubrey, a ship's captain, and Stephen Maturin, his friend and ship's surgeon -both central characters in the books- share a love of music and food. Which brings me to another (and related) obsession. My sweet friend of too many years for us to decently admit, Alison (the mother of Leif's future wife), got me the book "Lobscouse & Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels" by the mother and daughter team of Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas.  I have now read this book cover to cover twice.  The first time was for the sheer enjoyment of the book.  The Grossman ladies were brilliant, humorous and thorough.  They tested and … {Read on...}

Eggs in A Basket: Baked Eggs in Toast Cups with Melty Cheese

This one is for Liam.  "Straight up with green onions, please, Mom."

Update:  This recipe was submitted as an entry in the NYC Eggland's Best Recipe contest... Yesterday, Bacon Toffee.  Today?  Eggs in a Basket.  Bacon and eggs.  See?  I'm practical... And this dish?  It hits all the right buttons. It is flavorful, cheap, easy to prepare, simple to customize, cheap, and kid friendly.  And did I mention it's easy on the wallet?  Seriously.  Can you think of a less expensive complete protein than eggs? We're talking about bread, eggs, and cheese in the dish's simplest form.  It is a classic combination that doesn't need much tinkering.  You can, of course, add anything else you want to the mix; crispy bacon, diced ham, a spoonful of lentil soup or beef stew, sauteed or caramelized onions... Let your tastebuds be your guide.  And you can vary the overall flavor by playing with the type of bread you use; rye, whole wheat, white sandwich, cinnamon raisin... The sky is the limit. I would be remiss if I didn't emphasize just how easy this dish is to customize for various members of the household.  Around here we have three who like their yolks runny and four who like the yolks firm.  Since I cook these in ramekins, I put the runny-yolk lovers' ramekins in the oven several minutes after I start baking the ones intended for the firm-yolk camp.  No ramekins?  No problem.  Use a muffin tin.  When the runny-yolk E-I-Bs are done, pull out the muffin tin and carefully remove the requisite number of toast cups.  Return the tin to the oven and finish … {Read on...}