Monday, October 31, 2011

Microwave Caramel Corn (Believe It)

The aroma of caramel corn is imbedded in my genes (or should I say jeans?). The smell of sugar cooking is one that’s hard to ignore. In this case my first memory of the blessed stuff is going to the Paramount movie theatre in Kankakee for the Saturday matinee. My mother used to drop us off in front and right next door was a tiny candy kitchen that made fresh, ooey, gooey, caramel corn. Popcorn and butter-not for me. This was the real stuff; the good stuff; the stuff that smelled like sugar and butter but somehow still had a little salt and vanilla to it. The kind they don’t sell anymore except at those places like on Michigan Avenue. (No, I don’t know the name but my brother would.) Yes, the movie theatre disappeared and the candy shop, too. My childhood memories gone-just like that-kaput.

And today it is Halloween. There used to be a lady in our neighborhood that passed out popcorn balls. No, they weren’t caramel corn, but yummy none the less. We aren’t allowed to do that anymore. Someone could be hurt. So sad, isn’t it? But it is fall, and I want caramel corn. On Halloween where someone might drug me if I go trick or treating-or stick a razor blade in an apple. (My mom used to tell me that but I don’t think it was true). Or toilet paper my house if I don’t give good treats. I’d give them caramel corn but they want stuff like sour skittles or warheads or pop rocks or something besides chocolate or of course, caramel corn.  Well, I’m staying home tonight and making caramel corn- for the memories of course. After all, it smells so good- the smell alone could kill me.

P.S. This came from an older cookbook of mine that was given to me twice as gifts from two very sweet people that I still think of - a lot.

SK Caramel Corn (from Gatherings Cookbook 1987 edition)

16 c popcorn or 1 c popcorn popped
1c brown sugar
1/4c lt corn syrup
1/2c butter
1/2t salt
1 t vanilla
1/2t baking soda

My Secret Tip-you can make your own popcorn in a brown lunch bag. Just put 1/4 c popcorn kernels into bag. Fold twice. Set microwave for 3 minutes. When popping slows take out. You now have made your own popcorn without all that yucky stuff that they put in the prepared bags. You also didn't have to drag out your air popper. For this recipe you should do this 4 times. When you take the popcorn out use your hand so you don't get the unpopped kernels mixed into the caramel corn.

Place popped corn in a doubled brown paper grocery bag. I cut off the top third to make it easier to fit in the microwave.

Combine sugar, syrup, butter and salt in bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes. Stir. Microwave 3 minutes stirring after each minute. This will make a nice gooey thick syrup.

Add vanilla and baking soda. It will bubble like a witch's cauldron. Stir. Pour over popcorn in bag. Shake it well by using your hips with your hands over your head. (shake, shake, shake, shake your booty.) Microwave 1 minute. Repeat again with bag overhead. Microwave 1 minute. Shake again-this is your last time. Microwave 30 seconds. (You now have worked out enough to be able to eat this safely.)

Pour onto foil line counter. Let cool and dry. Take a bite before the smell kills you. Make sure to file this under magic in the microwave.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fudge Pie

Fudge Pie has received a lot of press lately. It is featured as the winning dessert in the novel, “The Help”(, (a good read, btw) where everyone wants Minny’s secret recipe. In my life it has always been part of my husband’s requests as he grew up with the fudge pie his mother made.  Hers was a very good recipe that reminded me of a baked brownie. Though it has been a long time since I baked it, I recently came across a recipe from Emeril’s, “ Every Day’s a Party” (  that I adapted for my husband’s birthday surprise. Ordinarily I make a chocolate cake but since we are down to two in this house a giant cake seemed like to much. (Actually, we would have really liked it but our bodies might have put up a fuss.)

This recipe is like liquid fudge and who wouldn’t like liquid fudge? It is super easy- only one bowl and a good stand by when you need a quick dessert. I use the Pillsbury pie crust that is in the refrigerated section at the grocery or you could make your own. Now that I’m thinking about it, it would also be delicious in an oreo or graham cracker crust. Uh oh. My mouth is watering now. And I know what you are thinking. Yes, it does need to be topped off with a good vanilla, coffee, oreo, boy I don’t know- ice cream. Or you could also do whipped cream with a cherry on top or even all three and maybe some chocolate syrup. Man, I am overthinking this!

Yes, one more thing. I love, love, love the Emile Henry pie dish from Williams Sonoma. (  It truly makes pie baking so much easier because it keeps your crust nice and crusty- not under or over cooked. It bakes evenly and every one should have one or two. It isn’t cheap but about 5 years ago, maybe longer, I decided I was tired of messing with pies because the crust never turned out the way I wanted it. Well, this dish solved my problems. I know you will thank me later.

So now it is time for you to bake. Perhaps get ready for Thanksgiving. Maybe you are just in the mood for chocolate. Anyway, by the time I got to taking pictures of this pie, these two pieces were all that were left. I guess it was fitting- a mommy piece and a daddy piece. Enjoy!

Fudge Pie

1 unbaked pie crust
1 stick butter
4 oz semisweet, bittersweet or mixed chocolate
4 eggs beaten
1t vanilla
3 T corn syrup
1c sugar
1 1/2T flour
pinch of salt

Melt butter and chocolate in microwave. (It works for me at power level 7 about 1 minute, but every microwave is different.) Beat with whisk until combined. Make sure this is cooled enough before you add the eggs. (You don't want the eggs to cook in the hot chocolate. Get it?) Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix well. Add sugar, flour and salt. Mix well and pour into pie shell.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. It will have formed an upper crust, be jiggly and the top may sink, but it will be gooey and delicious. Let cool before slicing.

                                           She tried really hard to get a piece of her own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Green Chile

Three days ago the weather was beautiful. It was even hot outside which allowed us to have margaritas and cigars (well, some of us) on the deck. Today it looks like this! Typical Colorado and the truth is we had an awesome fall which means we were a bit overdue for what showed up overnight.  And the other truth is that the meal I served then would have been a better choice for a day like today. But we can’t control the weather at least that I know of.

Fall is the time for green chilies. I know if you aren’t from the WEST you may not be aware of that. Green chilies are harvested in the fall after they have had plenty of time to grow and get plump, shiny and delicious. Depending on what variety you buy determines how spicy they will be. I prefer a mild Hatch green chile from Hatch, New Mexico. I also add about 25% hot chilies also from Hatch-that way I can control the spiciness of my chile. Some people like it really HOT so they make their chile just from the spicy variety. This is my way of warning you to watch out before you taste an unknown chile!

 I buy my chile off the street in bushels from vendors that have driven up from New Mexico. They actually roast them while you watch which creates that specific chile smell which to me means fall. Really, you should carry your own tortillas so you can wrap one up and eat it right there. Man, they are soooo good. (The reason you roast them is to take off the skin of the pepper which can be quite thick. If you want you can do it on a grill but it saves a step to have someone do it for you. After they are roasted you still have to take the skin off but without the roasting it would be next to impossible. That is why you see this big plastic bag.

After they are roasted they place them in a bag not only so I can get them home but so they can steam which makes the skins come off easier.) This year I think I was shorted so during the winter I may have to resort to buying them frozen in the grocery section. They are still very good but you don’t get to eat them fresh which is my favorite part.

It took me a few seasons to really get my chile the way I like it. Many people add tomatoes or cubes of pork but I prefer the taste of pure unadulterated chile. Chile is quite simple to make once the formula is right. Many books say that what I make is a green chile sauce however I think you can use it not just as a sauce but as a soup like any other. If you want you can garnish with cilantro, goat’s cheese, Monterey or cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions or whatever you feel like. Make this your own! Of course you can also use it over enchiladas, tamales, quesadillas, chicken, etc. And the thickness of the chile is also determined by you. Thickening can be done with a bit of flour mixed with water and stirred into a warm broth. Stir it well so that it doesn’t turn into cooked lumps of flour. Let it cook a bit and it will thicken.

I served my chile to friends with empanadas and black beans, rice and tortillas as accompaniments. Of course we had lots of margaritas which caused us to take these beautiful hand shots. No, they are not my hands but I would take the rings and the hands! 

And last but not least, the hands also brought me these colorful mums that I had lots of fun practicing my photography on.

Now it is up to you. Find your green chili and get your taste buds turned on.

Green Chile

3T vegetable oil
1 large onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
2T flour
1 1/2c chopped mild green chile
½ c chopped hot green chili
Pinch of Mexican oregano
2 c chicken stock (I make this with Better Than Bouillon) Just mix a good spoonful into the hot water or directly into hot soup.
1 t salt- you may want to test as the bouillon does give it a nice degree of saltiness
 Tabasco- if you want it spicier

Heat oil and add onion. Cook about 5 minutes and add garlic. Cook another minute and stir in flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes stirring so flour doesn’t burn. Add chilies. Pour in stock and add oregano. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Bring to boil and cook for about 15 minutes on a low simmer. If you want it thicker add the flour water solution as mentioned above.

You are now ready to grab your tortillas and eat.

Use Hatch chilies!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall's Bounty

I love Fall. Maybe it is the air when the evenings get chilly, or the leaves change color or the pumpkins shine in all their glory. Maybe it is because I can hear the football games from Littleton Stadium and it sounds like everyone is having a great time. Or because I love the sound of the drums. Or because Thanksgiving is coming and I love smoked turkey. Fall also brings the smell of green chilies roasting and I love green chilies. Well, whatever it is I love the feeling I get as it becomes fall.

This past weekend brought me several gifts from some of my favorite people. They know me well as you can see. I’m passing on their gifts to remind us that it really is the simple things that can bring a lot of joy. It is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so it is that I thank my friends for all that is beautiful.

Look at nature’s bounty. Yes, a friend brought me this, arranged like you see. She said it was from her walk that day. All I can say is that it must have been an awesome walk.

Another friend brought me these mums and bittersweet. I love bittersweet. And my mother loves bittersweet. She used to arrange them in brass Chinese vases. Bittersweet reminds me of fall and her; and now my friend-who remembered.

And I picked these leaves from my son’s snowball bush. He said he wanted a snowball bush so we planted them one year. They are pretty in the spring but I think they are prettier now. Aren’t the leaves stunning?

And my husband took me for a ride down Federal Blvd. The chilies were roasting and it smelled like gas fumes and chilies. The perfect smell. Now I have 6 lbs of chilies to peel and freeze. Soon I can have friends over for green chili. And tortillas. Yum. Anyone for green chili?

And last but not least I received this in the mail. It must be a gift from my brother but alas, there was no card. Yes, I was in heaven though my husband assured me that this was definitely an acquired taste. His childhood did not include Monical’s Pizza. He didn’t have to pick the hard parts out of the iceberg lettuce family meal bowl and give them to his brother. He didn’t have salad with bright orange dressing. And he didn’t have the best thin crust pizza in Kankakee, Illinois. Well all I can say is, “More for me.” Now, if my brother can figure out how to send me a Jaenicke’s sauce bun with onions from the root beer stand it would be much appreciated. On the other hand-make that two.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sage Roasted Chicken with Bread Salad

What hasn’t been said about Judy Rodgers famous roast chicken? OK- Judy Rodgers of the Zuni CafĂ© in San Francisco. Yeah- I know you don’t know her, you were probably racking your brain, like who is Judy Rodgers? Well, it doesn’t matter as long as you have this recipe. I first ate this in Denver at a restaurant that unfortunately is no longer there. But the food memory stayed and I discovered that I too, can be Judy Rodgers for a few hours.

I LOVE THIS DISH!! It makes your house smell like you could devour it; plus it is insanely delicious. And it is easy. I like easy. Especially on a Friday when you are anxious for the week to end and a day of relaxation to start. (Well, wishful thinking never hurts anyone.) So, as you are probably surmising from the title of this recipe is that it is composed of two parts: the chicken and the salad. Honestly, the chicken is superb but the bread salad is divine. Think about it- you have these wonderful crunchy bread cubes and the peppery green arugula to soak up all those delicious chicken juices, combined with the sweetness of a few raisins or currants which totally satisfies that mystical combination of combining salty and sweet. Chewy and crunchy. Whatever-hopefully you get the picture. The recipe has several steps- trust me- they are fast and easy. And remember this is your entire meal. You need nothing else to complete it except maybe a great bottle of pinot. And your best pal…

Roast Chicken

1 3.5-4lb chicken
2 t Kosher salt
1/2 t Pepper
2 t chopped minced garlic 
1 T chopped fresh sage or 1 1/2 t dried
1 T fresh thyme or 1 1/2 t dried
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix the seasonings together with the juice of 1/2 of the lemon. Rub seasoning mixture   inside and out over the chicken. You can even rob some under the skin. Place the used lemon half inside the chicken cavity. I pop this into a big Zip Lock bag and refrigerate until the next day.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Turn your fan on as it does smoke up the kitchen. (I don’t know, maybe my oven wasn’t clean enough?) Place the chicken on its side in roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes. Turn over to other side for 20 minutes. Now turn it breast side up and roast for about 15 minutes longer until the inner temperature reaches 170 degrees. Squeeze the  other half of the lemon on top of the chicken. Let sit for about 15 minutes tented with foil, before carving.

Salad and Dressing Ingredients

6 c Stale Artisan Type Bread (You could also use Corn Bread) Cut into 1” cubes
4 t Pine Nuts
3 t Olive Oil
1 t Red Wine Vinegar
1 T Warm Water
2 T Small Raisins or Currants

Preheat broiler. Toss bread with 3 t olive oil.  Broil  until lightly toasted.  You may have to shake and turn bread a few times so it doesn't burn. Add pine nuts when the bread is almost toasted so they get a bit toasted, too. Combine raisins with vinegar and water and let stand for 1 hour.

Salad Dressing

2 t Dijon mustard
4 T Champagne or white vinegar
2 1/2 t Olive Oil
1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Pepper
2 cloves Garlic chopped
4 Green Onions or Scallions finely chopped
3-5 c Arugula

Whisk mustard, vinegar and 1/2 t salt and pepper with 2 t olive oil. Add bread mixture and toss to coat. Heat ½ t olive oil and sautĂ© garlic and scallions for about 2 minutes. Drain raisins and toss them with garlic/scallion mixture and add to bread. Bread should be toasted but still a touch chewy. Toss well. 

Mix greens with about 2 T of the pan juices from chicken. Mix rest of pan juices with bread. Place the bread in the oven to get warm while chicken is resting. I serve this with the greens on the bottom, then the bread cubes, with a piece of chicken on top. OR you can toss the bread and greens together and then just put the chicken on top of that. Doesn’t matter, just MAKE THIS NOW!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Onion Lover's Twist

It all began with challah-an onion lover’s challah. I think I was 20-ooh-I was really 20-once. But back to that challah and the person that baked it with me, my grandfather’s new wife’s daughter-in –law. (What a mouthful.) When you want to get to know someone one way to really get to know them is to cook, and boy did we. I learned about her and she about me and together we made something that wasn’t just food. It was friendship and I only wish we were closer that we could do it again. That day in that knotty pine, tiny kitchen was special- not just because it produced this heavenly smelling bread but because it left a warm memory that will never be forgotten.

For me it is a new year and it is fitting that I start a new blog with a challah. I’m choosing to think of this as a “challah of friendship” or you may think of it as a gift from me to you. So, get ready, you too, can make your own memory. This is super easy-you don’t even have to knead it. Get out your mixer, gather your friends, pour a glass of wine and start baking.

And for future reference, I take requests. If there is a recipe you haven’t tried or want me to try, let me know. My plan is to make this a compilation of all that is good to eat. And this is also for my kids-finally a place they can go when they want the recipe I made many moons ago or maybe just yesterday. This is my recipe box that I am opening just for you. And hopefully it will also contain stories-good stories-for good food should contain good thoughts. Right? It tastes better that way. And one more thing—This IS how I cook.

Onion Lovers Twist (Enid Hayum)

1 pkg active dry yeast
¼ c hot water (when it is hot-but not so you burn yourself)
4 c unsifted flour
¼ c sugar
1 1/2t salt
1/2c hot water
½ c milk
¼ c butter or margarine, softened
1 egg


¼ c butter or margarine melted
1 c finely chopped onion
1T grated parmesan
1T poppy or sesame seeds
1 t garlic salt
1 t paprika

In large mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in hot water. Add 2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, hot water, milk, butter or margarine, and egg. Blend at low speed until moist and then beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Slowly add remaining flour until mixture forms a ball around beater. Form into ball and place in buttered clean bowl and cover with a clean towel. Place in warm spot to rise for about 45-90 minutes. (Tip-you can preheat your oven to lowest setting and the turn it off. Place dough inside oven with oven door cracked. This makes for a nice rising.) Dough is ready to be shaped when you put two fingers into it and the imprints remain.

While dough is rising combine filling ingredients.

Turn out on to floured surface and knead gently until no longer sticky. Roll out to 12x18 rectangle. (Do not be afraid of this step. It is really easy. You have to trust me.) Spread filling on surface and roll up lengthwise. (You could cut this into three strips and then seal each strip. Then you get to braid it. I prefer to use the babka twisting method which may not be as pretty but is a bit quicker.) Then pick up the one big strip and twist it two turns. Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise again until doubled-about 45-60 minutes.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until you rap the bread with a wooden spoon and it sounds hollow. Really. Makes one large or 2 smaller challahs. Good warm or at room temp.