22 April 2007

Cleaning out the Fridge: Breaded Shrimp with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Black Olives

Cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer the other day, I found a package of frozen, breaded shrimp my husband sneaked in the house a few weeks ago.

"Are you going to eat these before we go on vacation?" I asked.

"They have to be deep fried, and you won't let me do that," he responded.

Looking closely at the package I saw (A) the price, and (B) that they could be pan fried. I may never be a world-class cook, but if there is a way to salvage something and not waste it, I'll find it.

Whenever there is a hint of summer in the air, I want two things: Seafood and spicy food. So Friday night seemed like a good time to experiment with both.

What I came up with was Breaded Shrimp with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Garlic and Black Olives.
  • 1 package frozen breaded shrimp
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried basil
  • Dash lemon juice
  • Dash sel de fleur
  • Dash freshly ground pepper
Pan fry the shrimp according to package directions and set aside, covered. Brown garlic, then add sun-dried tomatoes and black olives. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, adding shrimp for the last two minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Like most of my self-concocted meals, this one is a work in progress. It would be ideal, we both agreed, to make this with fresh, un-breaded shrimp. But we got rid of the frozen shrimp, used up a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and rescued a lemon from the crisper. So: mission accomplished.

Wine: I would pair this with something light and fruity, maybe with green apple undertones.

18 April 2007

Cheddar and Sun-dried Tomato Muffins

Sometimes you cannot get a recipe out of your head. It was that way with these muffins. I kept thinking about them, then obsessing about them, and the longer I refrained from making them, the more they - uh - ate away at me.

But then I am a fool for anything made with sun-dried tomato and basil. And I like beer bread, although it's not something I eat often.

Still I had to make this one. It's from the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Cheddar and Sun-dried Tomato Muffins, Made with Ale and Basil


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups pale ale beer
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 6 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, diced
  • 3 tablespoons reserved oil from jar of sun-dried tomatoes


Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a 12-muffin tin or two 6-muffin tins with baking spray.

Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and basil leaves. Set aside. In a second bowl, combine eggs, ale, cheese, tomatoes and oil. Fold this into dry mixture.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes.

Hmmm. Not bad. A little dry. But I'd either try paper muffin cups or use butter and flour to coat my muffin tins because I could not remove these from the pan without breaking them.

I'd also use a sharp cheddar next time and increase the amount of basil.

This recipe has potential.

15 April 2007

Fricassée de Poulet a l'Ail et l'Ail Confit

Fricassée de Poulet a l'Ail et l'Ail Confit

I should have made this last night. Instead I made another recipe, misreading a step, and well, coming up with something that had it's good points, but needs tweaking.

The recipe below is from Patricia Wells' "The Provence Cookbook."

Fricassee of Chicken with Garlic and Sweet Garlic Confit
  • 1 fresh chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine (Viognier is recommended)
  • sweet garlic confit

Make the confit first. Peel cloves from four heads of garlic (not as bad as it sounds!). Cook the garlic in a saucepan covered with two cups of milk. Bring to a simmer and drain. Return garlic to saucepan and cover with two more cups of milk. Cook over medium heat until garlic is soft. Drain and refrigerate. You can make this ahead of time.

Now for the fricassee: Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet. Brown the chicken, about five minutes on each side. If you use eight pieces, you can do this in batches. I used four breasts, so I was able to do it all at once. When chicken is turning golden, remove and set aside.

Add the garlic cloves to the fat. Reduce heat and add the chicken. Cover and cook for at least 20 minutes, turning the chicken with tongs for even browning and cooking. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan, cover with foil and set aside.

Drain skillet of fat, keeping the garlic cloves in the skillet. Add the wine and the garlic confit. This will deglaze the pan. Cook, uncovered, making a purée from the garlic and wine. Pour the purée over your chicken and serve.

I served it with roasted peppers and the rest of the Viognier, some very heady wine.

This is classic chicken. It tasted the way chicken ought to taste. Tomorrow I'll make a chicken salad with hard-boiled eggs and olives.

The wine We used Pepperwood Grove Viognier, which tastes of melon and peach with an unusual vanilla-custard finish. My husband tasted pear, I tasted lemon.

09 April 2007

Cabbage with Pork Chops and a Recipe for Cole Slaw

My family was never big on cooked cabbage, except perhaps when my father wanted corned beef and cabbage.

I discovered how good it could be while I was in college. What's college for if not to discover new ideas, tastes and directions?

Recently we needed a quick supper and I found one in Ships of The Great Lakes Cookbook, the subject of a recent Cookbook Spotlight hosted by The Sour Dough and Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

Braised Pork Chops with Cabbage

  • 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 thick pork chops
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium head cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


Heat oil in heavy skillet. Brown pork chops over medium heat, about 4 minutes each side. Add onion and cabbage. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl and add to pan. Cover and cook for about 35 minutes.

The pork chops were tender. The cabbage was tasty, and even better the next day and the day after that. I will make this again, and serve it with green beans and cinnamon applesauce.

Cabbage is rapidly becoming a favorite vegetable in my kitchen. Every two weeks, sometimes every week, I make two small batches of cole slaw.

My Mother's Cole Slaw

  • 2 cups grated cabbage
  • 3/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup grated green pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion
  • 3/4 cups mayonnaise
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • dash sel de fleur
  • dash paprika for color

I've tasted some great apple slaws recently, but this one remains my standard. Even when dad's a chef, there's nothing like mom's food!

08 April 2007

An Easter Basket

Among the old things I cherish is my father's childhood Easter basket, above.

I usually keep it filled with small terra cotta pots, but at Easter I use it for chocolate eggs. We're foregoing the chocolate this year (oh, the pain of it all), but I wanted to share the basket with you today.

We are not religious in any traditional way at our house, but I like to think we are deeply spiritual.

It is important to us to respect and honor other people's differences, whatever they might be.

Really, that's all I wanted to say. I hope those sentiments are one of the threads that run through this blog.

On the subject of my father, I have enjoyed making recipes from the "Ships of the Great Lakes Cookbook," provided to me for review by Creative Characters Publishing. Although the recipes were not from any of the ships he sailed on, I felt his spirit guide me as I chopped and sliced and baked and braised. I will feature another recipe in a day or so.

For links to other bloggers who participated in the cookbook review, please visit The Sour Dough and Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

Apricot-Pistachio Crisp: A Dessert in Progress

Saturday has always been pizza night in my family and it’s a tradition my husband and I have continued.

When I was a child, my mother made her pizzas from scratch, using leftovers for toppings. Meatloaf, sloppy joe mix and even wieners were used and we kids loved it. It was pizza!

We invited my mother for pizza on Saturday. It was a busy day with errands, laundry, housework and my 30-minute stint reading Easter stories to a group of children at the local mall.

Yes, we used store-bought pizzas and enhanced them with additional tomatoes, peppers, olives and sausage. I made a Caesar salad and we cracked open a bottle of shiraz.

It was a simple meal, to be sure, but that does not matter. What matters was that we all sat down together and enjoyed each other’s company.

I’m not here to write about pizzas. I’m talking dessert today.

My mother has a sweet tooth. When she is a guest at my house, my practice is to make a low-carb dessert and send most of it home with her.

I surveyed by cupboards and came up with this makeshift dessert, which I consider a work in progress. It was pretty good, but it needs more.

Apricot-Pistachio Crisp


  • 2 cups dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 15-ounce can apricots in light syrup
  • 1/3 cup sugar-free apricot spread
  • ½ cup syrup from canned apricots
  • 1 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped salted mixed nuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons oat or whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat chopped apricots in flour, cinnamon and fructose (see photo above). Set aside. Drain, reserving liquid. Chop or even puree canned apricots. Pour into bowl of dried apricots and toss.

Empty this mix into greased bar pan. Blend apricot spread with 1/cup apricot syrup and spread over dried-canned apricot mix. My thought was that this would help bind apricots.

Mix chopped nuts, flour and fructose. Cut in Smart Balance or butter and blend with nut mix. Spread atop apricots. Bake for 30 minutes or until topping turns golden.

The Verdict? Not bad. It was even better the next day. But it needs something else: More cinnamon and perhaps a dash of ground cloves, perhaps. The topping should have included oatmeal, to make it lighter. And I think next time I will up the amount of pistachios and reduce the other nuts (I used pecans, walnuts and cashews).

Your suggestions are welcome. This is very much a work in progress.

02 April 2007

Curried Turkey Salad with Dried Apricots and Cashews


The marauding bands of wild turkeys are at it again.

Every spring, they venture into town, harassing motorists and delighting — or scaring — kids. And then people call me.

Am I the turkey patrol or something?

Apparently I am. A few years ago my town was plagued by wild turkeys. OK, by five turkeys. But people were scared. Very scared. And they called me.

Finally, around April Fool’s Day, I wrote a story about them. The turkeys, I mean. It took all of 20 minutes to write and it was done with tongue in cheek. Oh, it was factual, but it was also funny.

Then the wire service picked it up. A version of it ran on the front page of nearly every major newspaper in the country. “A Current Affair” called. Someone claims they saw the story on “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.”

(Thankfully, it did not run under my byline or I would be known as Turkey Woman.)

My little town acquired a reputation for fearing turkeys. And it was all my fault.

The turkeys are back. And the calls are coming in again.

I like turkeys. Every once in a while, I find one in my yard.

Recently, I found a bag of white turkey meat in my freezer, a left over from Christmas. I surveyed my pantry, which is never as full as Lydia’s, and came up with this cold salad.

Curried Turkey Salad With Cashews and Apricots


  • 2 cups turkey, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • ½ cup sweet onion, chopped
  • ½ cup cashews or almonds
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash cumin
  • dash sea salt


1 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar-free apricot jam

Toss the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Blend the mayonnaise and the jam and drizzle over the salad.

Not bad for one of my slapdash meals. I like a hint of curry; you may want to add more for a bit more bite.

It was good the next day, too. I ate it for breakfast.