Mother's Day Vanilla Confetti Cake

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VANILLA CONFETTI CAKE
with Lemony Lemon Buttercream

Ingredients:
For the Cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 Tablespoons, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons whole milk
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ to 1/2 cup sprinkles, homemade or store-bought, plus more for garnish

For the Frosting:
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch salt
¼ cup heavy cream, or more if needed
1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind

Make the Cake:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 x 8 inch square cake pan. Line with a square of parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and tap out the excess.
        In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla.
        In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds. Continue mixing while gradually adding pieces of the butter until the mixture is crumbly, about 3 minutes. Slowly add half of the milk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining half of the milk mixture, scraping down bowl as needed. Beat until incorporated, another 30 seconds.
Remove the bowl from mixer and gently stir in the sprinkles. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on a counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool for about 10 -15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, and invert the cake onto another wire rack. Invert it again, so it’s face up, and let cool completely.

Make the frosting:
        Add the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or a large size bowl, if using a hand mixer. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add half of the confectioners’ sugar, the milk, vanilla and salt. Mix at a low speed to incorporate the ingredients. Add the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, the cream and lemon rind, and beat on medium high until light and fluffy. If it is too thick, add extra Tablespoons of cream, one at a time, to get a spreadable consistency.

Assemble the cake:
        Remove the parchment from the cooled cake and place on a serving platter. Slip strips of parchment under the cake to keep the platter clean. Frost the sides first, and then the top with large swirls of frosting. Carefully remove the parchment strips. Top with lots of sprinkles.

Makes 9-16 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. For me, it’s worth the effort to make homemade sprinkles because it’s fun and they taste so much better. But, you can just sub in store bought ones if you like.
2. I think you’ll like this reverse creaming method for making the cake.
3. The amount of sprinkles you add to the cake can range anywhere from ¼ cup to a ½ cup, depending on how sprinkle filled you want the cake.
4. It’s easiest to use a stand mixer, but you can also use a hand mixer.
5. Make sure to sift the confectioners’ sugar. You don’t’ want lumpy frosting.
6. I’m a lemon girl, so I put a whole tablespoon of grated lemon rind in my frosting. If that’s too tart, start with half that and taste as you add more.

Homemade SPRINKLES!

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Homemade SPRINKLES!
(inspired by Sift Magazine)
Ingredients:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
liquid or gel food colorings of your choice

Make the sprinkles:
        Place sheets of parchment paper on 3 or 4 baking sheets (or secure them on a flat counter if you don’t have that many pans) and set aside.
        Place a strainer over a medium size bowl, and sift the confectioners’ sugar through it to remove any lumps. Add the water, corn syrup, and vanilla and stir until smooth. You want the mixture to be a little thicker than the consistency of white glue. Add more water, ¼ teaspoon at time, if needed. Divide it into small bowls. I like getting 3 colors out of a batch. Lightly tint each bowl with food coloring. Start off with just a drop, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away.
        Fit a small pastry bag with a small Ateco # 2, 3, or 4 round tip. Alternatively, you can use a quart size freezer bag and cut the tiniest piece off of one corner. So the mixture won’t run out, place the pastry bag inside a glass with the tip pointing up. Fill with the lightest color first. and pipe long, thin lines onto the lined baking sheets. You will have to move the pastry bag pretty quickly to achieve a straight line. But don’t worry if they’re crooked or disconnected, because you will be breaking them up anyway. The more you do it, the more you’ll get the hang of it.
        Depending on the next color, you may be able to just refill the pastry bag. But, if the color will not blend well with the last, start fresh by rinsing and drying the bag first. Then, continue piping. If you have more colors, continue with the same procedure.
        Let the trays stand, uncovered, at the very least overnight, until completely dry and hard. Break them into small pieces. I think they are even prettier and more impressive if you don’t break them up too small, and keep the pieces longer.
        Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one month.

Makes about 1 ½ cups.         YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. You need to make the sprinkles at least the night before you want to use them, so that they have enough time to dry.
2. Mix in just a drop of food coloring first. You can always add more. 3. The consistency should be a little thicker than white glue or maple syrup, not too runny.
4. The piping will go FAST! Don’t worry if your lines are uneven or broken. Once you break them up, no one will ever know.
4. If you don’t have a piping bag and tip, you can use a quart-size freezer bag. But be very careful to cut off the tiniest piece of one corner, or the sprinkles will be too thick.

PIZZA! with a Cauliflower Crust

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Cauliflower-Crust PIZZA!
(inspired by Shira Lenchewski, “The Food Therapist”)

Ingredients:
1 medium head cauliflower, cored and green leaves removed
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ to 3/4 cup very thick tomato sauce, jarred or homemade, cooked down to make it thicker, if necessary.
5-6 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
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Basic toppings:
freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly—an absolute must for me
red pepper flakes
dried oregano
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
anything you like!

Make the pizza:
        Place the rack in the upper 3rd of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
        Cut the cauliflower in chunks and put in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until very, very fine. Or, you can hand grate it through the large holes of a box grater. Steam on top of the stove for 10-15 minutes until tender. You can also place it in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 5 to 10 minutes until very tender.
        Dump it onto a kitchen towel and let it cool down enough to handle. Twist inside the towel to squeeze out all, and I mean all, of the water. Alternatively, you can squeeze out the liquid in small batches with your hands. You should have about 1 ¼ cups.
        Transfer the very dry cauliflower into a medium-size bowl. Stir in the eggs, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour this mixture onto the sheet pan and press into a large, thin circle—roughly 12” in diameter. To fit on my pan, I end up with an 11” x 13” oval.
        Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes. It should feel firm to the touch, dry and starting to brown. Remove it from the oven, and evenly spread the tomato sauce on top, within about an half an inch of the edge. Sprinkle with the mozzarella, the parmesan and oregano. This is the time to add any other toppings. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, rotating the pan once half way through, until the cheese has browned. During the last minute or so, if you want it crisper, you can turn on the broiler. Watch the oven to make sure the cheese doesn’t burn (and the parchment doesn’t catch on fire), occasionally rotating the pan to evenly heat the crust.
        Remove from the oven and sprinkle with more grated parmesan cheese, thinly sliced fresh basil leaves( an absolute must for me) and/or dried oregano and red pepper flakes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

Makes one 12 inch pizza.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Cut the cauliflower in 4ths. That way it will be easier to cut the core out and remove the leaves. Then cut up into large chunks.
2. A food processor to finely grind up the cauliflower is best, but an OK alternative is the large holes of a box grater.
3. When I say squeeze out all of the moisture from the cauliflower, I mean it.
4. A good jarred spaghetti sauce will work great. Just simmer it for about 10-15 minutes to make it thicker first.
5. To make it well done, you can turn on the broiler for the last minute or 2—just keep an eye on it so the parchment doesn’t burn. But I don’t ever need it.

FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

Ingredients:
For the crust:
10 sheets graham crackers, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
pinch ground cinnamon, optional
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling and topping:
8 ounces full fat cream cheese, softened, I like Philadelphia brand
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
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6 cups halved or quartered (if large) fresh strawberries, about 2 pounds or 3 pints
¼ cup strawberry jam or preserves, I like Stonewall Kitchen

Make the crust:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9” pie plate with cooking spray.
        Add the graham crackers, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Process into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine well. Alternatively, in a medium-size bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt, and stir in the melted butter and combine well. Put the mixture into the pie plate, and press firmly, packing it into the bottom and up the sides. The bottom of a metal measuring cup or glass will make it easier. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Make the filling:
        Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat to combine. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until very smooth. Pour into the cooled crust, spreading to the sides to create an even layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, not touching the filling. Freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
        When ready to serve, gently heat the preserves, to thin them out. In a medium size bowl, toss the strawberries and preserves together until completely coated. Remove the pie from the freezer. The easiest way to serve is to cut slices first, and then spoon the berries over each slice. But, for a pretty presentation, top with all of the berries and then cut the slices. Just know that it might be a little harder to neatly slice the pie that way.
Makes 6-8 servings.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Buy organic strawberries!
2. You really want to evenly pack the graham cracker crumbs into the pie plate. The bottom of a metal measuring cup or drinking glass is an easy way to do that.
3. The crust does not have to be baked. You can freeze it for about an hour before filling. It will be more crumbly though.
4. If you notice that the crust is sticking to the pie plate, wet some paper towels with hot water and wrap them around the plate, and the crust will loosen right up.
5. For a pretty presentation, fill the pie with all of the glazed berries. BUT TO SERVE MORE EASILY, I like to cut slices from the cream cheese filled pie, and then spoon the berries on top of each slice.

        NOW AS FAR AS THAT DIRTY DOZEN: ALWAYS TRY TO BUY ORGANIC WHEN YOU CAN! If they’re too expensive, at the very least, make sure to rinse the fruits and veggies for at least 30 seconds. And if possible, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to soak them in a sink full of water with a splash of vinegar for 15 minutes.
        FYI: THE EWG GLEANS THEIR INFORMATION FROM the work done by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, who test OVER 38,000 NON-ORGANIC FRUITS AND VEGETABLES EVERY YEAR.
Here’s the full list of the EWG's 2018 "Dirty Dozen":
1. Strawberries     2. Spinach     3. Nectarines     4. Apples
5. Grapes     6. Peaches     7. Cherries     8. Pears
9. Tomatoes     10. Celery     11. Potatoes     12. Sweet Bell Peppers


Quick Pickled Spring Radishes

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QUICK PICKLED SPRING RADISHES


Ingredients:
8-10 medium/large red radishes
1 large sprig fresh dill, torn into smaller sprigs
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
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For the brine:
¾ cup white vinegar
¾ cup water
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons Kosher salt

Prep the radishes:
        Trim off the root end and tops of each radish. Scrub well to remove any dirt. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the radishes as thinly as possible. Fill up a half pint jar half way with the radishes. Add half of the sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of the peppercorns to the jar. Repeat with the rest of the radishes, dill and peppercorns.

Make the brine:
        In a small saucepan, add all of the brine ingredients. Heat to boiling and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Pour the brine over the radishes almost to the top, making sure to cover. Discard any extra brine you have left. Gently tap the jar to get rid of any bubbles. Seal tightly with a lid. Place in the fridge. Chill for at least 4 hours before using. They are best used within a week. (At the end of the week their color will fade, but still be delicious.)

Makes about 4-8 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. The thinner you can slice the radishes the better, as they will take less time to pickle. If you have a mandolin, this is a great time to use it. Or slice them as thinly as you can with a good sharp knife.
2. Find the freshest radishes you can, preferably with the green tops still attached. The plain red ones look the prettiest pickled.
3. Since these are at their most delicious eaten within a week, it’s best to make small batches.
4. Try apple cider, red wine or brown rice vinegar for variety. Balsamic is too strong though.
5. Try different spices and herbs too--- garlic, cilantro, red pepper flakes, cumin or mustard seeds, and on and on.


Quick BLACK BEAN SOUP

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Quick BLACK BEAN SOUP

Ingredients:
2 Tab olive oil
1 medium onion ¼ inch dice, about 2 cups
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 rib celery, ¼ inch dice
½ large red bell pepper, ¼ inch dice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained
2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup tomato sauce
2 cups water
½-1 teaspoon salt
Garnish:
finely diced red bell pepper or jalepeno, or red onion
fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream, avocado, crumbled bacon

Make the soup:
        In a large heavy pot, over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, celery, and red bell pepper with a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and jalepeno. Stir to coat the vegetables and cook the spices until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
        If you like, blend all or some of the soup in batches to make it creamy. I like blending about half of it, so that there’s still some chunky texture. Top with garnishes, if desired. This is easily frozen or can be stored on the fridge for up to 4 days.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Buy BPA-free canned beans, and tomato sauce too—Muir Glen tomato products are also BPA-free.
2. This is so easy, that’s it.

GREEK SALAD!

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GREEK SALAD

Ingredients:
2-3 cucumbers, seeded, sliced into ½-1 inch half moons (I prefer the thinner English ones)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 plum tomatoes cut into half moons, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 medium size red onion, halved and thinly sliced
½-3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
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1 medium size clove garlic, peeled
3/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
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4-6 ounces Feta cheese, cut in small cubes

Make the salad:
        In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the prepped vegetables and the olives.
        Drop the garlic clove through the feed tube of a food processor to mince. Alternatively, finely mince the clove and put in large canning jar with a screw cap. Add the vinegar, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper and process for a few seconds, or shake in the jar to dissolve the sugar. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube to combine, or to the jar and shake.
        Pour the dressing over the vegetables and coat well. Add the feta and gently stir so as not to crumble it up too much.
        If time permits, chill for an hour to meld the flavors. Keep stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Makes 4-6 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. I know that any fresh veggie will always taste best in the summer, harvested close to home. But you can find really good veggies, even organic ones, in the winter months too.
2. I’m not a fan of our American cucumbers. They’re loaded with seeds, and usually coated in wax which, even though they say it’s edible, means you’re gonna have to peel them. I opt for English cucumbers which have a lot less seeds, are a little sweeter, and tend to be less watery. You’ll find them next to our American counterparts, longer and thinner, usually wrapped in cellophane and sometimes called seedless—although they’re not. No need to peel them either.
3. It’s best to prep this a few hours before you want to eat it, if you can, so the flavors can mingle.


EASTER CARROT CAKE

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Peace, Love and Cupcakes CARROT CAKE

Ingredients:
For the Cake:
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
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1 cup mild flavored oil, I use cold pressed safflower oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, squeezed dry
3 cups grated carrots, about 3-4 large carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

For the Frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
18 ounces (two 8 oz pkgs plus ¼ of another) full fat cream cheese, softened
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Jelly beans or other Easter candies for decoration (optional)

Make the cake:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
        Butter or spray with cooking spray two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. If using the 8 inch pan it should measure at least 2 inches high. Cut 2 parchment circles to fit the bottoms and butter or spray the parchment again.
        Place a strainer over a medium size bowl, and sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt through it. Set aside.
        In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, combine the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Whisk in the pineapple until well incorporated. Switch to a large spoon or spatula and stir in the flour mixture until completely combined. Add the carrots, raisins and walnuts and mix until evenly distributed.
        Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and bake for 35-45 minutes until the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, the center is springy to the touch, and a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Flip right side up and cool completely.

Make the frosting:
        In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and the cream cheese, just until combined. On slow speed, add the confectioners’ sugar one cup at a time. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and a little lighter in color. Do not overbeat, or it will curdle.

Assemble the cake:
        Remove the parchment from one of the bottom of the layers. Place the layer, domed side up, on a cake plate. Scoop half of the frosting into the center of the cake. With a spoon, or spatula, spread the frosting close to the edges, but not over the edge—it will spread out when the second layer is added.
        Center the second layer on top of the first, again domed side up, and spoon the rest of the frosting on top. Spread that frosting slightly over the edge and decorate with jelly beans or other Easter candies.
        Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 12-16 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Even though it may be tempting to use a food processor to grate them, hand grate the carrots through the large holes of a box grater. The food processor makes the carrots too wet.
2. Really squeeze all of the liquid out of the canned crushed pineapple. 3. Make sure to line the cake pans with parchment for easy removal. You don’t want the layers to break.
4. Freezing the cake works really well. Double wrap the layers in plastic wrap and then place in freezer bags or wrap in foil. You can even frost the layers frozen.
5. Unlike a buttercream frosting, you want to beat this cream cheese frosting just until it becomes creamy and becomes a little lighter in color. Overbeating it will make it curdle. Been there, done that.


FISH EN PAPILLOTE

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FISH EN PAPILLOTE

Ingredients:
1 egg white, lightly beaten
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1/2 red onion, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned
1 large carrot, julienned
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) pieces cod, halibut, sole or other white fish, skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for sprinkling
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup white wine

Make the fish:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
        Cut four 12” x 16” pieces of parchment (A roll of parchment is 12 inches wide.) and fold in half so the 12” sides meet creating a 12” x 8” book. Open the parchment and brush egg white around the 3 edges of parchment on one side of the fold, to help seal the packet.
        In a bowl, mix together the onion, zucchini, carrot and garlic. Add the oil, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Center each fish fillet on one side of the fold, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables on top, dividing evenly. Top the vegetables with 2 lemon slices, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 tablespoon of white wine, and dot the top with 1 ½-2 teaspoons butter broken into 3 pieces.
        Bring the other half of the parchment over to cover the fish matching up the edges and press to seal with the egg white. Starting from one of the folded sides. Fold over an ½ inch and make a sharp crease. Continue working your way around the edge of the packet, making overlapping ½ inch folds always pressing firmly and creasing the edge so the folds hold. Make the final fold turn under the packet instead of over to keep it from opening. If any place doesn’t appear to be tightly sealed, just go back over it with a second fold.
        You’ll end up with an imperfect half-moon shape. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet. Bake the fish -- 12 minutes for each inch of thickness. If the filet is thin, bake for 10 minutes. My fish filets were 1 ¼ inches thick, so I baked them for 14 minutes.
        To serve, cut open the packets, watching out for escaping steam and serve directly in the parchment. Or, with a spatula, carefully take the fish out of the parchment and place onto a plate. Just make sure to pour all of the delicious juices over the fish.

Makes 4 servings. (Can make individual servings as well.)      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. The best way to julienne the vegetables is with a mandolin if you have one. If not make sure to slice them into very thin matchsticks.
2. Parchment is now easy to find in any grocery store.
3. The most important part of this recipe is to make sure that the packets are sealed tightly. Brushing the 3 edges with egg white will help accomplish that.
4. An oven thermometer is your best friend in this recipe. To have these cook properly, your oven temperature has to be correct. They’re cheap and you should have one anyway.
5. Don’t open the packets to test for doneness, trust the recipe. Just make sure your pieces of fish are all the same weight and size.
6. When ready, the parchment will puff up and turn light brown. And don’t worry if you leave the packets sitting in the oven a little too long, the fish (try to get wild-caught) will still remain tender and moist.


IRISH Soda Bread

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Irish SODA BREAD

Ingredients:
4 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup currants or raisins tossed with 1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter cut into 1/4“ cubes
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk, well-shaken
1 large egg
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4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Make the bread:
        Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed half sheet pan with parchment paper, or grease very well. Set aside.         In a large measuring cup, add the buttermilk and egg. Mix lightly with a fork. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Mix only long enough to incorporate all of the ingredients---not a second more! about 15-20 seconds. Remove the paddle, take the bowl off the stand, and with floured hands, knead the tough 4 or 5 times into a ball. Place on the prepared sheet pan, and form into a round loaf about 8 to 9 inches in diameter. Using a floured knife, or razor, cut a ½” deep “x” on the top of each one, re-flouring the knife after each cut. Brush with the melted butter, making sure to get some of the butter into the cuts.
        Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and brush the bread again with the melted butter. Return to the oven and bake another 30-40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer in the center comes out clean. Alternatively, if you have an instant read thermometer, when they reach 210 degrees F, they’re done.
        If there’s any left, it can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. The loaf freeze really well too.

Makes one 9 inch loaf.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure the butter is cold. Soft butter will make a pasty loaf.
2. This really is a quick bread. So don’t fuss with it too much. It’s better if the dough is a little rough.
3. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by mixing 1 ½ Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar into the 1 ½ cups of whole milk. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes to thicken.


Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

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STUFFED Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients:
4 portobello mushrooms, try to find all the same size
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
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1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz. baby spinach, rinsed but not dried
pinch salt and nutmeg
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¾ cup - 1 cup tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
¾ cup-1 cup grated mozzarella, fontina or mild cheddar
2 Tablespoons grated parmiggiano-reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
extra ground pepper

Prep the mushrooms:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the stems, reserving for stock if you like. On some paper towels, use a spoon to scrape the black gills from the undersides of each mushroom. Rinse or wipe with more paper towels to remove any left over gills.
On a large rimmed sheet pan, place all of the mushrooms cap side down. Drizzle each with ½ Tablespoon and brush or use your fingers to coat the tops. Flip them over, cap side up, and drizzle each with another ½ Tablespoon of the oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When done, pour off any juices that have accumulated inside the caps. Keep the oven on and reduce temperature to 425 degrees F.

Make the spinach while the caps roast:
In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the washed spinach and a pinch of salt and stir constantly until wilted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg, stir and set aside.

Stuff the mushrooms:
Spread with 3-4 Tablespoons of the tomato sauce inside each cap. Divide the spinach between the mushrooms. Sprinkle with 3-4 Tablespoons of the mozzarella and 1/2 Tablespoon of the parmesan. If using, sprinkle each with a pinch of dried oregano that you’ve rubbed between your fingers first. Then lightly drizzle with olive oil and a grind of black pepper.
Broil the mushrooms until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If using, place a few thinly torn pieces of fresh basil on top of each cap.
Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Always buy them loose, so that you can pick the freshest ones.
2. Look for plump rounded edges, with gills on the underside of the mushroom that are dry, not wet and mushy.
3. To clean them, first scrape out the gills, over some paper towels for easy clean-up, and then wipe any dirt off with a damp paper towel. Sometimes I just rinse them off, but supposedly they’ll absorb water that way.
4. Use a paring knife to cut off the stems. They’re too woody to eat, but you could freeze them and save for stock.

Honeyed Turmeric Ginger Tonic

HONEYED TURMERIC AND GINGER TONIC
(from “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” by Coco Durante)

Ingredients:

6 cups water
1 -4 Tablespoons light honey, I use 2-3 Tablespoons
2 cinnamon sticks
2 inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 inch knob of fresh turmeric, sliced ¼ inch thick, or 1 teaspoon powder
1-2 fresh chiles, like Thai, halved and seeded, optional
----------------------
Garnish:
fresh lemon slices and extra cinnamon sticks
more honey to taste
coconut milk, optional

Make the tonic:
        Combine all of the ingredients in the Instant Pot. Stir to dissolve the honey. Secure the lid, and select the Soup/ Broth setting. Adjust pressure to “less” and set the timer for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, and then release the rest of the steam with the pressure release valve.
        Open the pot and use a slotted spoon to remove all of the solids. Ladle into mugs. If you like, top with a lemon slice, a cinnamon stick. A splash of coconut milk at the end will make it creamy. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes 4-6 servings.      HEALING!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Get the freshest raw ginger you can find. It should be firm and plump with no dried ends or mold.
2. Fresh turmeric is getting easier and easier to find now. It’s a regular item in my health food store. But if you can’t find fresh, you can substitute one teaspoon of the powder.
3. You can make this as sweet or pungent as you like. I usually add 2-3 Tablespoons. And if I want more sweetness, stir a little more into my cup.
4. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer on the stove for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste once or twice for strength during the cooking time.


GRANDMA'S SPAETZLE

Grandma’s “Spetch-lee”—--Eggy German Dumplings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold water
--------------
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
extra salt to taste

Make the dumplings:
        Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt to the water. Melt the butter in a saute pan and keep on very low heat nearby, so it doesn’t brown.
        While the water is coming to a boil, in a medium size bowl, combine the eggs. water and salt. Stir in the flour until all ingredients are completely combined. It will be a very sticky batter.
        Do this in two batches. Hold the bowl over the side of the pot, and using a butter knife, scrape off very small amounts of dough into the pot of boiling water, about ½ teaspoon each. Dip the knife into the hot water after each scrape to release the dumplings into the pot.
        When the they have risen to the top, let them boil for another minute, and then using a slotted spoon remove to the saute pan with the melted butter. Repeat with the second half of the batter. Sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

Makes 4 servings (easily doubled).     YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Scrape off small pieces of dough-- no larger, about ½ teaspoon’s worth. They’re gonna swell up when they cook.
2. If you dip the knife in the boiling water every time you scrape off a piece of the sticky dough, they will easily fall off into the pot.
3. They will come out looking very shaggy and uneven, which is a good thing, all the better to coat them with the butter and salt.
4. Don’t forget to toss them in the butter right out of the pot, so they don’t stick together. I melt some butter in a saute pan as they cook, so it’s ready and waiting to coat them.
5. Not having inherited their gymnastic’s genes, maybe it‘s best for me to stay rooted to my kitchen floor and get my applause from serving these to everyone I know.


Carrot "Tabbouleh"

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Carrot Tabbouleh
(inspired by Maureen Callahan at Cooking Light)

Ingredients:
8-10 ounces carrots, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into ¼ inch rounds, 4-5 medium (about 2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh curly parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon finely slice scallion, one scallion or more to taste
1/4 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Make the Tabbouleh:
        Place the carrots and cumin seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10-12 times or until chopped into fine pieces. Add the walnuts and pulse 4-5 times more to chop and incorporate the walnuts. Transfer the carrot mixture into a bowl, and add all of the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Store in the fridge. Will keep for 3-4 days.

Makes 3-4 servings.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Get organic veggies if you can. And before prepping them, soak and rinse them well, a few times in cold water.
2. A food processor is a must, grating them just won’t be the same.
3. Usually I recommend Italian flat leaf parsley for everything, but in this case, you want to use the curly parsley for it’s texture.
3. You need fresh mint. Don’t replace it with the dried version, which will add a saw-dusty kind of texture.
4. To toast the cumin seeds: add to a small dry skillet and over medium heat, stir constantly until just beginning to smell fragrant. Immediately remove from the pan, so they don’t burn.
5. So why couldn’t you do cauliflower tabbouleh? Hmmmm....

Red Wine MEATLOAF

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Red Wine Meatloaf
(adapted from Lynne Rosetto Kasper)

Ingredients:
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup cubed (about 1/4-inch cubes) whole-wheat baguette, or other chewy bread
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 thick slice bacon, or 2 regular slices, ¼ inch dice
1/4 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice, about ½ cup
1/4 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice, about ½ cup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 large fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup (1-1/2 to 2 ounces) shredded Asiago or extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (on the large holes of a box grater)
2 large whole scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg yolk
3/4 pound ground 85% beef chuck
¼ pound ground pork
1/2 cup dry red wine

Make the meatloaf:
        Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9-inch square cake pan with cooking spray or oil.
        Turn on a food processor and drop in the garlic. Then drop in the bread cubes and process until pieces are a quarter the size of a pea. Scrape everything into a large bowl and moisten the crumbs with the wine. Let the wine soak into the bread while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
        In the same bowl of the food processor, add the onion and red pepper and process until minced. (some pieces will be larger than others)
        In a small skillet, cook the bacon until beginning to brown, add the onion, and red pepper, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
        In a medium size bowl, add all of the ingredients except the 2 meats. Combine well, and then add the ground beef and pork. Using a fork or spoon, gently work in the meat until everything is thoroughly mixed. Turn the mixture into the pan and shape into a plump loaf.
        Bake the meatloaf for 20 minutes. Pour the 1/2 cup of wine over it. Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the meat loaf’s center reads 160ºF. Remove the meatloaf from the oven; let it rest about 15 minutes before slicing. The defatted accumulated juices in the bottom of the pan can be used as a delicious gravy.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Although you can use just ground beef, it will taste even better with both ground beef and pork.
2. You only need one Tablespoon of tomato paste for this recipe, so buy it in a tube, that way you’ll always have some on hand in the fridge, and you won’t waste any of it.
3. Mix gently, combining well, trying not to compress the mixture too much. Packing the mixture to tightly together will make it a tougher texture.
4. Any leftovers make for the perfect sandwich the next day!

The Miracle Boule

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Laura Calder's MIRACLE BOULE
(slightly adapted)

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups cold water
extra flour or cornmeal, as needed

Make the Boule:
        Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water to blend. What you'll have is a wet, shaggy, sticky, batter-like dough. Cover the bowl with a clean tea/dish towel and let it rest in a warm place for at least 14 hours, and up to 24 hours. It's ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
        Flour a work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover with a tea towel and let rest 15 minutes.
        Place a clean tea towel on a half sheet pan, and coat the center of the towel where the bread will rest with at least 1 cup of flour. Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, scrape the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a ball, or boule as they say in French. Lay the dough on the towel, seam-side down. Dust with more flour. (Again, you'll need quite a lot because you want to be sure the dough doesn't stick to the towel ). Pull the sides of the towel up around the dough folding over the top and let rise for about 2 hours. The sheet pan will allow you to easily move the dough to a warm place. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.
        Half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 4 quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven inside to heat.
        When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and literally dump the dough out of the towel into the pot. Aim for seam-side up, if possible. It may not fall that way, and it may look messy, but that's OK. Shake the pot to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is nicely browned, another 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes. Get the butter ready!

Makes One 8 inch round loaf.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Yes, the 1/4 teaspoon of yeast is all you need. It's not a misprint.
2. And, Yes, 1 1/2 cups of water is not a misprint either. It will be more like a batter than a dough.
3. Have patience. 14 hours is the minimum rise time and will yield a delicious bread. But if you can let it sit longer, it will be even better.
4. Tea/DishTowels? You can cover the bowl with plastic wrap for the first rise, if you want. But for the 2nd rise, a tea/dish towel is mandatory. Not only does the towel loosely cover the dough, but it's the easiest and safest way to transfer the dough into that very hot pot. I tried parchment once. It stuck to the paper, and became very difficult to get into the screamingly hot pot. Not a good idea.
5. Don’t be stingy with the flour either on the tea towel for that second rise. You'll need at least one cup. I tried to use less once. Again, that sticky problem occurred. Getting the dough into the hot pot was nearly impossible with the dough sticking to the towel. Again, not a pretty sight.
6. Make sure you preheat the Dutch oven for the full 30 minutes--that extra blast of heat is crucial to the bread's success.

ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES with Rosemary and Kalamata Olives

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ROASTED WINTER VEGETABLES with Rosemary and Kalamata Olives
(slightly adapted from Bob Blumer)


Ingredients:
1 large Idaho or Yukon gold potato, skin on, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large yam, skin on, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
9-12 Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
1 large red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
2 Tablespoons-1/4 cup fresh rosemary or thyme, or a combination, stems removed
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the vegetables:
        Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and prepare all of the vegetables. On a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan, add the potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. Add the olive oil and salt, and toss thoroughly. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, turning once or twice, while they roast. At this point, if any veggies look well browned, remove to a bowl, and add back in at the end.
        Add the garlic and shallots, and toss with the oil already in the bottom of the pan. Roast for 20 more minutes, turning once or twice while they roast. If some of the veggies are very brown, remove to a bowl to add in at the end.
        Add the bell pepper, olives, rosemary and black pepper. Toss with the oil already in the pan and return to oven. Cook for another 20 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice or until the vegetables are nicely browned but not charred. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.     YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure to coat all of the veggies with the oil.
2. If some of the veggies are getting too dark, just remove them to a bowl to add back in at the end.
3. Feel free to change up the veggies. Parsnips, onions, fennel would all be tasty.

James Beard's POUND CAKE!

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James Beard’s POUND CAKE
(slightly adapted from “American Cookery”)

Ingredients:
For the cake:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
8 large eggs, room temperature, separated
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract or cognac, or a combination of the 2
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

For the glaze (optional):
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 ½ -3 Tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the Cake:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly butter and flour, or coat with cooking spray with flour in it, a 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Place on a sheet pan and set aside.
        In a medium size bowl with a strainer that fits over the top, sift the flour, baking powder and salt through the sieve. In a second bowl, sift it again, and then one more time, for a total of 3 times.
        Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or an electric hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Then, very slowly, about 2 Tablespoons at a time, add 1 cup sugar of the sugar. The whites will look shiny and soft peaks will flop over when the beater is lifted out of the whites. Set aside.
        If using a stand mixer, switch to a paddle attachment, and cream the butter at medium–high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ¾ cup sugar and beat until well combined and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, and beat until light and lemon colored, and then add the vanilla and lemon zest.
        On the lowest speed, add the flour, one cup at a time and mix only until just combined. No longer or you’ll toughen the cake!
        On the lowest speed again, add about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites, again just until combined. Gently fold or stir in the rest of the whites by hand just until no streaks of white remain.
        Evenly spoon the batter into the pan, smoothing the top. You can make the batter alittle higher on the sides than the center so that the finished cake is more level on the top. Rap the pan 3 times on a counter to remove any air bubbles, and bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, and unmold onto a baking rack to cool completely. If using a straight sided tube pan, you can run a knife around the outside edge first. This can be stored, covered at room temperature, for 3-4 days. It actually tastes even better a few days in.

Make the glaze:
        In a medium-size bowl fitted with a strainer, sift the confectioners’ sugar to remove any lumps. Add 2 ½ Tablespoons of the milk, the vanilla a tiny pinch of salt. Stir until smooth. If the consistency is too thick, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time to thin it out. Place the cake on a serving platter, and evenly pour the glaze in a circle over the top of the cake. It will naturally run down the sides.

Makes 8-12 servings.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Before you start, the eggs and butter MUST be at room temperature. If you forgot, zap the butter in the microwave for 10 seconds, and let the eggs sit in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
2. The pan needs to be generously coated with butter and flour. Or, make it easy on yourself and buy a can of cooking spray with flour already in it, like Baker’s Joy.
3. Beard will sift the flour no less than 3 times to lighten it up—do that too!
4. Make sure that the bowl and beater you use to whip the whites are completely clean and free of any fat or oil. Otherwise, the whites won’t whip up and increase in volume.
5. It’s a pretty thick batter, so I like to add the flour using the mixer. Just stop the instant it’s incorporated! You don’t want to create gluten which will toughen the cake.
6. The mixer can be used to stir in about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the batter. Then, gently fold or stir in the rest by hand, so that they deflate as little as possible.


Hungarian GOULASH

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Hungarian GOULASH

Ingredients:
1- 1 1/4 pounds beef stewing meat, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1” inch cubes, I use beef round
¼ cup all-purpose flour,
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
-----------------------
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced, about 4 cups
2 cloves garlic minced
pinch salt
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 /4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups beef broth, low-sodium or homemade, divided
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, ½” on the diagonal, halved again if too large, about 1 ½ cups
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
½ teaspoon salt,
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
another 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
minced fresh parsley

Make the goulash:
        Add the flour and pepper in a large Ziploc bag or bowl. Shake or stir to combine. Add the beef and shake or toss to coat well. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy, lidded pot, and add the beef, a few pieces at a time. Do it in 2 or 3 batches, so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook, turning the pieces until the beef is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Add more oil as needed. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside.
        In the same pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, garlic, and the pinch salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, about 7-10 minutes.
        Move the pot off the heat and stir in the paprika and caraway seeds. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring up the browned bits at the bottom of the pot.
        Put the pot back over the heat and stir in the remaining broth. Add the browned beef, carrots, tomato sauce and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 1 ¾-2 hours. Stir the goulash occasionally to avoid scorching on the bottom. If the gravy is too soupy, continue to cook, uncovered, to thicken it.
        Stir in the lemon juice or vinegar, and if needed, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over wide egg noodles, boiled potatoes, homemade egg dumplings or even with a few slices of good crusty bread.
        Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Find a good quality Hungarian paprika. I used a sweet version, but smoked would be delicious too.
2. Make sure to move the pot off of the heat when you add the paprika, that way it won’t scorch and become bitter.
3. I have carrots in mine, but you could leave them out. Or, go the other way and add a peeled, diced potato or 2 with the carrots.
4. If you want a thicker gravy, leave the lid off or ajar during the last 30 minutes or so.
5. This needs some occasional attention. Stir it every once in a while to avoid sticking on the bottom of the pot.
6. Make sure to freeze any leftovers. That way, you’ll be ready to be soothed at a moment’s notice.
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NEW YEAR’S KIR ROYALE

        A toast is always called for to welcome in the New Year. This is beyond easy. The hardest part for me was uncorking the Prosecco bottle. I actually had to drive to a nearby restaurant and ask them to open it for me!

Ingredients:
one bottle of the bubbly of your choice, I used Prosecco—inexpensive and delicious
2-4 Tablespoons Crème de Cassis
fresh raspberries (optional)

Make the Kir Royale:
Put 2-3 teaspoons of the Crème de Cassis in 4 champagne flutes. To control the fizz, fill each glass about ¼ full with the Prosecco. Then slowly fill to about 2/3 full. Drop 3 or 4 fresh raspberries in each glass and CELEBRATE!

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Crème de Cassis is only about 20% alcohol, so unlike other liqueurs, it needs to be refrigerated after opening.
2. If you pour a small amount of the Prosecco, about ¼ full, in the glass first, and let those bubbles subside, it will help control the bubbles from overflowing.
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