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#FBS4SANDY–Give til it feels better

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Pot Roast for Peace/Food Bloggers Support For SandyImage

Things here in town are, well, a shade off of normal.  My kids are climbing the walls because trick-or-treat has been postponed AGAIN.  My parents are still huddling by the light of their fireplace by night and filling the dumpster with the water-damaged remains of their basement and first floor by day.  My sister passed through town today on her way to a ten day SILENT retreat, and I almost wanted to jump in the car and go with her!  Oh, and we have about 4 or 5 inches of snow on top of the sand and silt left in Sandy’s wake, and those flakes keep falling down.

We are fortunate.  While our family members have lost a few refrigerators, a furnace, and assorted “stuff,”  it is after all just stuff and we are all fine, healthy with a good roof over our heads–more than many in our community can say.  We are fine.  Mom and Dad are fine.  We have the support of real and virtual communities, and charitable organizations like the Red  Cross.  To this end, I am posting my take on the traditional comfort dinner of Pot Roast as a contribution to #FBS4Sandy, a blogging event from Barb of Creative Culinary and Jenn of JennCuisine. Take comfort in your family, your friends, your faith and of course your food, and if you see fit, comfort those in need with a donation to one of the organizations listed here.

  • Red Cross is providing food, shelter, and other forms of support to hurricane victims.  You can donate directly to the Red Cross You can also text the word “Redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Salvation Army is providing food, shelter, and support to victims.
  • Feeding America is providing food, water and supplies to those who need it as part of their disaster relief program.


Give all you can, help all you can, and feed whomever you can!  This recipe is great for a crowd.

This is best with a larger (4lb-plus) brisket, but any cut suitable for pot roast will be great–chuck roast, round, what have you.  It’s a family favorite! My mom always kept the recipe inside the kitchen cabinet, and at my wedding shower way back when, one of her gifts to me was a large covered dutch oven holding a small copy of the recipe along with instructions “to be kept in kitchen cabinet!”

Mix together:
½ c ketchup (I use Trader Joe’s)
½ c prepared bbq sauce
¼ c cider vinegar
½ c H2O (please note that my mom tends to write recipes with chemical symbols, H2O and NaCl being the most common, but I have also seen NaHCO3. Seriously.)
½ c packed brown sugar
4 smashed cloves of garlic
cayenne or hot sauce to taste.

Slice an onion or two into the bottom of a large covered baking dish or dutch oven.  Place roast right on top, no browning required. Throw in a bay leaf and dump the sauce mixture over all.  Bake, covered, at 325F (mom does NOT convert recipes to Centigrade, but she DOES pronounce it “sahn-i-grade.” Oh you krazy medical professionals!) 3 to 4 hours depending on size, until meat is fall-apart tender.

For our comfort-food dinner, I served the roast over creamy, piquant cheddar jalapeno grits with sauteed spinach on the side.  People, pot roast is not beautiful.  Grits are not inherently photogenic.  This is not a plate that will win any beauty contests.  But when you look at it next to the photos of my hometown of Fairfield after Sandy and Athena finished chewing us up and spitting us out, it will do.
Keep the faith, Fairfield.

September #Baketogether Party–Pumpkin Spice Latte Pop’em Tarts

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Hello #baketogether Party!  As you may know, I can be counted on to show up at pretty much any party where I am welcome–and even some where I’m not, which is a story for another day! And, as usual, I am arriving on the cusp of being fashionably late, one day left to post and still be in the running to win Abby’s latest book!

This month, Abby set out as a template a lovely hand pie with a classic apple cinnamon filling wrapped in an amazing browned-butter pastry crust.  This pastry is destined to become a regular part of my baking repertoire–right along with the famous truffle tart and the easy classic boule(baking powder! who knew?!)

I tweaked Abby’s recipe as follows: For sweetener I used a blend of brown sugar and maple syrup. To the crust I swapped out ½ cup of the AP flour for ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs, adding a nice toasty flavor, a bit of sandiness to the texture, and offsetting the extra moisture added by swapping in the liquid sweetener(syrup).Image

For the filling, I combined mashed roasted pumpkin, maple syrup, cream cheese, Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice, and a pinch of Chinese 5-spice powder.  This, according to my resident member of coffee-shop society(the 11-year old), smelled just like a pumpkin spice latte! So. . .what the hay, I went ahead and added yet another layer of flavor with two generous pinches of espresso powder.  After all, what is better than a yummy coffee at the end of the party?Image

My first thought for presentation was to make ultra-mini rectangles and call them pumpkin ravioli, I was going to try (a few at least) deep-fried(the fryer came out this weekend for football snack purposes) and serve them with a creme anglaise as the “pasta sauce.”  Big ideas! =D
But somehow once the espresso entered the mix, I changed gears and went with a cute jack-o-lantern shape. Image Which, I guess, makes ME the #baketogether betty who makes cutesy shapes out of stuff.  When you consider my audience. . . I guess that makes sense.Image

I didn’t keep track of any measurements, I just kind of flung this one together, basing proportions on Abby’s original recipe and tasting as I went along.  ‘Cause here on Country Road, that is How We Doooo!

Thanks and #baketogether love! It’s been a great party, I wish each and every one of you could have been in my kitchen for the baking, jack-o-lantern design, tasting, and dancing–the boys and I had a blast.  And I wouldn’t have minded a hand with the clean up either!


August #baketogether–Creamy Panna Cotta/ Boozy Sauce!

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Panna Cotta di Coniglietto–does not contain actual rabbit!

Welcome to the Dog Days.  August: when the three “H’s” cloud almost every day, the cicadas are loud enough to make window glass vibrate, the kids are on tenterhooks over which teacher they will have this year, and the first Holiday Preview toy catalogs (gasp) show up in the mailbox.

It is decidedly NOT a time of year to fuss over baked goods(unless they happen to be for your favorite lifeguards), and our doyenne of dessert, Madame Abby Dodge, provided the perfect template in her August #baketogether recipe for these hazy days.  Vanilla Panna Cotta, with a cocktail-inspired sauce to bring the zing!

I had never (gasp again!) made a Panna Cotta before, so as usual for the first time I try something, I stuck faithfully to the original recipe, substituting only vanilla extract for paste because that’s what I had on hand, and adding an extra sprinkle of gelatin as Abby suggested because I knew I was planning to present a molded custard.

Baketogether is a pretty wide-open baking initiative, rules-wise–but this month Abby did exhort us to “capitalize on one of summer’s shining stars” in the sauce–hers was inspired by a berry- and-gin cocktail known as a brezza fresca.  So my original impulse toward espresso/mocha flavor profile kind of fizzled.  What summer fruit pairs well with espresso?  Anyone?  I’m stumped!  Hmmm, what other shining summer stars tickle my palate these days?  I’m glad you asked.  This summer, I have been hitting the watermelon. . .hard.  Watermelon sorbets, watermelon salads, watermelon as the star of fruity kebabs. . .I had done everything but drink it!

Now, I’ve drunk it.  As the base for my sauce, I whizzed up a batch of Margaritas de Sandia, or watermelon margaritas, plussed up with that other shining summer star: basil!  Now, since I have never made a cocktail before, I stuck faithfully. . .ARE YOU LAUGHING YET??!!  YOU SHOULD BE!   To me, mixing cocktails is more a “throw it in and drink it” endeavor than a “follow a recipe” thing. . .to this end, I threw about a shot and a half of silver tequila, the juice of a pretty small lime, maybe 8 or 9 leaves of basil,  coarsely chopped,a shake of salt and enough chunks of watermelon to fill the blender about ¾ full. Some Cointreau would be great in there too if you have it!  Whizz whizzz  whizzzz. . .eh ben voila.   Drink it, or use it as a sauce for a rich, smoooooth vanilla lovely.  Garnish with a confetti of mixed summer fruit.  Bunny face optional.

Ricotta Panna Cotta with Watermelon-Basil Margarita #Baketogether

Makes 6 servings
For the Panna Cotta
1/4 cup water
1  1 /4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
1 1/2 cups (13 1/8 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup ( 3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch table salt
For the Watermelon Basil Sauce
About 3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
juice of one lime
8 leaves freshly picked basil, chopped
1 oz of silver tequila, or more or less to taste
dash kosher salt.
To make the panna cotta:
1. Have ready 6 small dessert glasses, cups or bunny/teddy molds and make room in the frig.

I have a lot of random stuff in inventory. . .

2. Put the water in a 1 cup Pyrex measure or a small, heatproof ramekin and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Set aside to soften. Once the gelatin has absorbed the water and is plump, microwave briefly until it is completely melted, about 1 minute.
3. Put the melted gelatin, ricotta, sugar, vanilla and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and well blended. Pour into the prepared glasses,bowls, bunny or teddy molds. Cover the tops with plastic. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
To make the sauce:
1. Whizz all ingredients in a blender until liquified and no large flecks of basil can be seen.

To serve:
Pool sauce onto serving plate and carefully unmold panna cotta in center.  Garnish with additional fruits such as kiwi, cantaloupe, more watermelon and tiny basil leaves.

The grown-up version. Oh yes.

If serving children, you may eliminate the tequila, and maybe the basil too depending on whether the child in question will freak out over green flecks in his sauce.

Bunny and Teddy: because just a bunny wasn’t weird enough.

If serving children who do not tolerate any sauce under any circumstances whatsoever, a fruit kebab makes a lovely accompaniment.

Plenty of crazy over here.

Thanks as always to Abby and my comrades in #baketogether.  Recipes can make you smile, make you remember, move you forward or bring you together.  They can also just end up being pretty freakin’ funny and making you laugh out loud(tequila optional)!



Luxurious Leftovers, or, I call it “The Allison”

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My kind of mash-up.

Do you have a sister-in-law who is just cool? The kind who feels more like a real sister than one “in-law?” I am lucky enough to say that I have one’a those!

Allison is the relative who will make sure ALL the kids (we are talking ten. Ten kids) are front and center in the Memorial Day Parade crowd. The one who will grab her nephew and walk right up to the dude launching flying paper lanterns in the crowd before the fireworks, just because she saw a spark of interest and wonder in his eyes. The one who yells louder than all ten kids for the ice cream truck, puts the worm on the hook, finds the best bottle of wine for under ten bucks and brings it to you, just because. Teacher, mom, partner-in-crime, die-hard Madonna fan, Scorpio.

One of her favorite things is Alaskan King Crab. So, when he saw Stew’s special this week (lowest price in three years!), my husband decided a little crab fiesta was in order, with his sister the crab-eater and our families chilling in the backyard. The crab legs were fab, the company great, and all the little people swam, played tag and told ghost stories. Even a sudden thunderstorm and downpour did not chase brother and sister inside until they finished slurping the heavenly crab!

In addition to the crustacean love, we ransacked the garden for basil and heirloom tomatoes, yummy with fresh mozzarella. Allison loved them almost as much as she loved the crab, so tonight’s dinner is a mash-up of the bounty of the garden and the bounty of the sea, the kind of leftovers that transcend the original. I call it “The Allison”

First, take your leftover THESE:

crustacean celebration!

mix the cleaned, flaked meat with some mayo, grated parmeggiano and a squeeze of THIS:

lemon love

broil til bubbly, it will look like THIS:

delish on a cracker, baguette or anything, really. . .

scoop onto a slice of garden tomato seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  EAT IT RIGHT AWAY,  or, top with fresh mozzarella, basil and a little balsamic vinegar.  

hello, dinner!

YUM.  Perfect with a very cold vinho verde from Portugal(under $10).Wish Allison were here to eat it with me!

My Favorite Things: Pendleton Picnic Blanket

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Do you have a favorite gift of all time?  This blanket is definitely one of mine!  It was a Christmas gift from the Rock Star Husband’s sister the first Christmas we were married (back in 1996)!  In the intervening years, it has seen us through everything from rock concerts to clambakes to pee wee soccer games to Shakespeare in the Park. The spreads it has carried have likewise run the gamut from take out sushi or pizzas to PBJ’s and juice boxes to (most recently) lobster salad and roasted local beets with chevre and walnuts.  I love that Pendleton is still proudly made in the U.S.A. by the same family who started the mill  over a hundred and forty years ago.  The quality of this lovely wool blanket should take my family through the next 140 years of picnics–whatever is on the menu!

Tomorrow I will pack up the big cooler, the boys and this blanket for a new adventure: we are visiting a local island lighthouse for a pirate picnic! The menu? Stay tuned. . .


May #Baketogether: Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Mini Muffins

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This month, #baketogether Goddess Abby Dodge asked our loyal group of bakers a question for the ages:  are you sweet  or savory?  Abby posted a morphic muffin blueprint featuring buttermilk and cornmeal which is wide open to interpretation, be it a sweet version or a savory one.  As May progressed, I hopped back and forth from sweet ideas to savory, then back again.  Finally, Team Savory posted so many amazing riffs on this muffin  (check out the links on Abby’s post here), that I had to do my part to prop up the underdog by lining up with Team Sweet.

These Lilliputian Lovelies were inspired by a set of berry-licious mini muffin papers which jumped into my basket in TJMaxx the other day(does this happen to you? The merchandise in that store is downright aggressive, I swear).  They just NEEDED something raspberry in there! Image 

Fresh berries were both expensive and mushy looking in my market, so we will wait another month until my backyard bushes begin providing those–today I used good ol’ Polaner Spreadable Raspberries(no straining seeds=bonus!), plus cream cheese, roughly chopped white chocolate and toasted pecans.  This decadent flavor profile  was saved from being too sweet by the cornmeal-laced base.


My recipe made 24 mini-muffins.  Well, 23 actually–my sous-chef got a little over zealous with the filling and topping there, so we suffered one casualty.  Such losses are perfectly acceptable in the pursuit of happy sous-chefs!

ImageThe muffins came together in a snap, this recipe(which yields 6 standard size muffins) is an asset to anyone’s repertoire.  Quick.  Easy. Yummy. And oh, so changeable!  Make them sweet, make them savory, Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian, the world is your oyster, er, corn muffin!Image

Look at that beautiful, slightly shaggy crumb.  That is because I did not mix them into oblivion.  Seriously, people, it’s like pancakes: Over mix at your own peril.

Lilliputian Raspberry Cheesecake Corn Muffins

(adapted from Abby Dodge)


3/4 cup (3 3/8 oz) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz) finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp table salt

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 large egg

3TBSP melted unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves

2 oz best quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces, roughly chopped


1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F, or 325 F if using convection bake.  Line 24 mini muffin cups with cute paper refugees from your local discount store.

2. Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Measure the buttermilk using a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Add egg, melted butter and vanilla and mix with a table fork until well blended. Prepare raspberry filling: blend cream cheese and raspberry preserves thoroughly (I placed both in the cup from my stick blender, softened for a few seconds in the microwave, and blended. Easy Peasy.) and fill into pastry bag fitted with plain tip. Keep at the ready as you don’t want to overmix these babies!

3.  Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and fold together BRIEFLY until evenly moist. A light touch is best. Do not over mix. 

4. Fill muffin papers about 3/4 full.  Pop a squirt of raspberry cream cheese filling into each cup.  Top with chopped white chocolate and toasted pecans.

5.  Bake about 9-11 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Image

 Cool on wire rack for as long as you can resist eating one.  If you wait 10 FULL minutes, the muffin will come away from the paper nicely.  I know it’s hard to wait, but a hot muffin sticks to the paper and you don’t get to eat as much.  It took me until I was about 41 years old to get this right. . .  Maybe one day I will learn not to burn the roof of my mouth on the pizza!  Hope springs eternal.

Thanks to Abby Dodge and all the #baketogether beauties for the inspiration!  Thanks to sous-chef Bijou for assistance and comic relief, and special thanks to my mom for help with the housework this week so I ended up with a free hour to bake and post these!  Can I pay you in muffins, Mom?