Category Archives: cooking

Something simple

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Late spring means strawberries in North Alabama. Strawberries require pound cake. They just do.

Good thing is that pound cake is one of simplest things you can bake. I’ve seen a number of recipes similar to this one spread throughout the Internet. More importantly to me is that this is very similar to recipe that my Mom uses for her pound cake.

Basic Pound Cake


1 1/3 c. butter, softened
2 1/2 c. sugar
6 eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325dF. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar in portions, beating at medium until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, making certain that each egg is blended adding the next egg.

Add flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, beating at low speed until just blended. Stir in vanilla.

Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for between 65 to 70 minutes. Test for doneness if toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes, remove from pan, and allow to cool for at least another 20 minutes before serving.


Spring. Something simple for the season

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Today’s Easter Sunday. Got me thinking back to my time working in Israel and remembered a chicken dish that I really liked at one of the restaurants in Tel Aviv. After some digging in my Israeli and Greek cookbooks, I’ve pulled together something I think might be close:

Braised Chicken with Lemon, Orange, Garlic, and Olives

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Salt and black pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. olive oil
6 garlic closes
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, juiced, zested, peeled, and thinly sliced
Juice from 2 tangerines
1 tbs. dried basil
1 tsb. oregano
1 cup mixed, pitted olives

Preheat oven to 375dF. Dry chicken and season with salt and pepper. In Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sear chicken until golden brown. Add garlic and zest of lemon. Cook until fragrant. Remove chicken and garlic from the pan and reserve.

Add onions to pan and cook until wilted. Add lemon slices and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add lemon and tangerine juice, basil, and oregano and deglaze pan. Add lemon slices and olives and stir to combine. Nestle thighs skin skin side up onto onion mixture. Cover and bake for 40 to 60 minutes.


The pie whose name we cannot say on the Internet

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One of the student organizations at work put on a bake sale around campus this week. Someone had baked a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie… some of you may know of it as being a pie named after an event of the sport of kings held in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. However, I have to be rather evasive and not use the actual name as the original developers of the recipe are painfully protective of their trademark.

No matter what, the pie itself was quite tasty; tasty enough that I went back through my files and dug out the recipe I had picked up from some Kentucky friends of mine. Their recipe is very similar to one I saw recently in Southern Living. Both recipes are very similar to the classic pecan pie recipe with the only real difference being the inclusion of chocolate when you put the pecans into the pie.

Chocolate Bourbon Pie

1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
1/4 cup bourbon or water
4 large eggs 
1/4 cup butter 
2 teaspoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.
  • Sprinkle pecans and chocolate evenly onto bottom of piecrust; set aside.
  • Combine corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk about one-fourth hot mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared piecrust.

  • Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.

Tofu? You eat that stuff?

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A few friends of mine have been talking about ways to cook tofu. Being the “over-educated hillbilly” that I am, that compressed soy curd called tofu isn’t something that you would expect to see in my pantry. However, having worked for a number of years with folks from Japan and China + a few years of graduate school with people who regularly eat this stuff, I’ve tried fixing it a few different ways.

One recipe that I really like is a variation of one found in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything cookbook called “Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shitakes”:

Braised Tofu with Eggplant and Shiitake Mushrooms

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

1 lb tofu
1/4 cup peanut oil or corn oil
1 c. shiitake mushrooms (soaked and drained)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 TB garlic, minced
1 TB ginger, minced
1.5 lbs eggplant
1 TB siracha chille sauce
0.5 c. water
2 TB soy sauce
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB toasted sesame seeds
2 TB chopped green onions
  • Drain tofu and cut in half lengthwise. Place in-between four sheets of paper towels and then weight down the tofu (no more than 2 lbs weight). Let set for a minimum of 30 minutes but as long as possible.
  • Trim eggplant, cut into cubes and place in colander or strainers. Sprinkle liberally with salt and let eggplant drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and then pat dry.
  • Saute shiitakes w/ half of oil in deep skillet or wok w/ salt and peper until mushrooms are crisp (about 5 to 10 minutes). Remove to plate.
  • Add remaining oil and then sauté garlic and ginger for about a minute. Then add eggplant and sauté for until it browns. Add chile sauce and water and cook until eggplant is tender; add more water if needed.
  • Add tofu and soy sauce. Cook until tofu is heated. Add reserved mushrooms and turn off heat. Add sesame oil. Garish w/ sesame seeds and chopped green onions

What’s nice about this recipe is that you can adjust it quite easily if you have meat eaters in the house by replacing the mushrooms with chicken or shrimp (or in addition to the shiitakes). Another variation is to replace both the eggplant and mushrooms with ground pork. Good, quick, and easy way to do something far better than any Chinese takeout you get buy.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Molasses Pork Ribs

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The weather’s turned cold… time to break out the crock pot. Here’s something I clipped out of a newspaper article a few years ago. Good stuff for this time of the year.
2 lbs. country-style pork ribs 
2 T. creole seasoning (I'm partial to Slap Yo' Mama) 
1 T. veg. oil 

Chipotle Molassses BBQ Sauce
1.5 c. ketchup 
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce 
0.25 c. apple cider vinegar 
0.5 c. cajun-style garlic hot sauce (Cajun Power brand is what I use) 
0.5 c. cane syrup (or light molasses if you're not in South Louisiana) 
1 T. worcestershire sauce 
1 T. soy sauce 
1 medium onion, chopped 
0.5 green pepper, chopped 
2. T. green parsley 
1 clove garlic 
0.5 t. liquid smoke 
1 t. salt 
1 t. black pepper 
1 t. creole seasoning 
1 t. cayenne pepper 


  • Prep your slow cooker. Dry the ribs with paper towels and season ribs with the creole seasoning. Sear the ribs in a large skillet using the oil.
  • In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the BBQ sauce in your blender and process until smooth (adjust the amount of peppers, creole seasoning, and cayenne pepper if you want less spice). Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the sauce into your slow cooker, discarding the pepper seeds and any other solids that don’t go through the strainer.
  • Add the ribs into the cooker and let them cook for 4 to 6 hours on the cooker’s high setting, 6 to 8 hours on the low setting. About 30-45 minutes before completion, use a spoon or ladle to remove any fat that has risen to the surface of the sauce.

Holiday party? Hate eggnog? Try this…

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Holiday season. Christmas, to be exact. The time of the year that people go down the street to the local grocery and buy that stuff called “eggnog”. That’s a strange thing; fostered upon us by the Scots in much the same vein as they did with haggis. I can see some grizzled Highlander sitting in the cold of his castle by the Loch saying “Hah.. we’ll show those cursed pantywaists… we’ll mix some raw eggs and some clotted cream with their whisky and make ’em drink it. That’ll be the laugh!”.

Full disclosure: I do have a bunch of Scots in my ancestry. And you can tell that I’m not an eggnog fan. There’s just something about the idea of drinking raw eggs that doesn’t work for me. Going that route, go ahead and make a custard and be done with it. However, I don’t mind a simple milk punch like this one. Just remember: the nutmeg has to be freshly grated, and by gad ye’ laddies, the spice goes on top!

1 ½ ounces good bourbon or brandy
2 ounces half-and-half
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Drop of vanilla extract
Ice cubes
Freshly grated numeg

Combine the bourbon, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly until the mixture is cold and frothy. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with a grating of nutmeg.

Serves 1, adjust as needed

My favorite bread pudding recipe…

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I had forwarded a post up on Facebook about the 12 Best Bread Puddings in New Orleans and got some recipe requests. Here’s the one I use, lifted many moons ago from one of bourbon websites. Enjoy!


Bourbon Sauce:

	* 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
	* 1 cup sugar
	* 1 egg
	* 1 cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Bread Pudding:

	* 1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch squares (about 6-7 cups)
	* 1 qt milk
	* 3 eggs, lightly beaten
	* 2 cups sugar
	* 2 Tbsp vanilla
	* 1 cup raisins (soaked overnight in 1/4 cup bourbon)
	* 1/4 teaspoon allspice
	* 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
	* 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Bourbon Sauce:

In a saucepan, melt butter; add sugar and egg, whisking to blend well. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. (Do not allow to simmer, or it may curdle.) Whisk in bourbon to taste. Remove from heat. Whisk before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.

Bread Pudding:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Soak the bread in milk in a large mixing bowl. Press with hands until well mixed and all the milk is absorbed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Gently stir into the bread mixture. Gently stir the raisins into the mixture.
  • Pour butter into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in the bread mix and bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until set. The pudding is done when the edges start getting a bit brown and pull away from the edge of the pan. Can also make in individual ramekins.
  • Serve with bourbon whiskey sauce on the side; pour on to taste. Best fresh and eaten the day it is made. Makes 8-10 servings.

How to tide yourself over until someone restarts the Hostess brand

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Well, the maker of Hostess Cupcakes (and other pre-packaged snack cakes that might survive a nuclear attack) has gone to Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is closing down. While it’s pretty clear that someone will buy their brands, it may be a while before you can get the Hostess Twinkie fix.

The people at America’s Test Kitchen published a recipe for a version of the classic Hostess Cupcake that I’ve used a couple of times. While it may not have the ability to be used as survival food, it’s pretty darn good.

This is based on the ATK original, tweaked to address some food allergies that I suffer from… There’s a rather neat trick here for filling the cupcake by cutting out a conic section, slicing off half, and then replacing and frosting over the top.

1 cup all-purpose flour
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.25 teaspoon salt
0.5 cup boiling water
0.3 cup cocoa powder
0.3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
0.75 cup sugar
0.5 cup sour cream
0.5 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons water
0.75 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 tablespoons (0.5 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1.25 cups marshmallow creme
0.5 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • MAKE BATTER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Whisk water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and espresso in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool cupcakes in tin 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
  • PREPARE FILLING: Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes, then whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth; refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer 1⁄3 cup marshmallow mixture to pastry bag fitted with small plain tip; reserve remaining mixture for filling cupcakes.
  • ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES: Microwave chocolate and butter in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Cut cone from top of each cupcake and fill cupcakes with 1 tablespoon filling each. Replace tops, frost with 2 teaspoons cooled glaze, and let sit 10 minutes.

Finally time again to both blog and bake…

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Been a while since I’ve posted here on my blog. Lots of stuff gone under the bridge since my last post back in January of this year: job hunting, mad rush to finish the dissertation, finding a job, graduating, moving, and then starting the new job. Things are finally settled enough to where I can again pay attention to blogging.

Well, it’s time to start getting back into the flow. We’ll start things off with a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I used the other day for a picnic supper (thanks Kelley and Derrick for the invite!). This is based on a recipe I found about 5 years ago in Cook’s Illustrated. They do a few things different than the standard Toll House recipe for chocolate chip cookies. First, they do a mix of white and dark brown sugar. Then, they switch to 1 egg and 1 egg yolk rather than 2 eggs. Finally, instead of the standard creaming of the butter, they brown about 3/4 of the butter in a skillet and then add the remaining butter in before adding to the mix. Combining these things together gets you a more chewy cookie while keeping the crisp edges people seem like in their cookies.

It’s good…

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
  5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.


Memories of elementary school: Moravian Chicken Pie

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I’ve been wanting to try this for a few weeks. I saw a similar recipe in a recent issue of Cook’s Country magazine and it reminded me of a pot pie that was served in the lunchroom of our elementary school back in the late 1960s in the NC mountains (back when they actually cooked stuff in elementary school lunchrooms). The magazine version used a homemade sour-cream pie crust, this version uses pre-made crusts.

2(10- to 12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed and halved crosswise
3(5- to 7-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk 
2 prepared pie crusts
1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to plate. Pour fat (you should have 2 tablespoons) into small bowl; reserve. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin. Add broth, chicken, and bay leaf to now-empty pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer chicken to bowl. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces, discarding bones. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer into second bowl and reserve (you should have about 2¾ cups); discard bay leaf.
  • Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat butter and reserved fat in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of reserved broth and half-and-half and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gravy until thickened and reduced to 1¾ cups, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine 1 cup gravy with shredded chicken; reserve remaining gravy for serving.
  • Line pie plate with one of the pie crust rounds. Transfer chicken mixture to dough-lined pie plate and spread into even layer. Top with second dough round, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Cut four 1-inch slits in top. Brush pie with egg and bake until top is light golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let pie cool on wire rack for at least 45 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, bring remaining ¾ cup reserved gravy and remaining ¾ cup reserved broth to boil in medium saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve pie with gravy.

With a tip of the hat to the folks at Cook’s Country