Zucchini "BLONDIES"

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”ZUCCHINI "BLONDIES”
(slightly adapted from Kristin Cavallari)

Ingredients:
1 cup creamy almond butter, I like Justin’s
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or pink Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut sugar, I like Nutiva brand
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, I like Cocolove 2 cups grated zucchini, from about 1 medium zucchini

Make the Blondies:
        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
        In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the almond butter, egg, salt, baking soda, sugar, and vanilla. Mix on medium low speed until well combined. Add the chocolate chips and zucchini, and mix on low until just incorporated. Dollop spoonfuls into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
        Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or up to a week in the fridge.
Makes 9 squares.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Choose medium-size zucchini. Fresh ones are shiny. And, if they still have the blossom attached, even better. If you have your own garden and are overrun with them, don’t use the ones that have grown into baseball bats!--a regular occurrence in my NJ garden, they grow so fast! Those guys are filled with seeds and too mealy to bake with.
2. Grate them by hand through the large holes of a box grater. Using a food processor makes them too watery.
3. Because the almond butter can be hard to incorporate, I like to use my stand mixer to combine the batter, but you can also mix it by hand.
3. You can switch out the semisweet chocolate, for milk or white. Maybe add a handful of nuts or dried fruit if you like too. But when it comes to these, I’m a purist.

Watermelon Margarita Pops

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Watermelon Margarita Pops

Ingredients:
1 seedless mini watermelon
1/2 cup silver Tequila, I like Patron
1/3 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, 2-3 limes
flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for sprinkling

For the non-alcoholic version:
1 cup limeade or lemonade
2 Tablespoons-¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, or to taste

Make the pops:
        Cut the mini watermelon in half along the equator, Lay it on the flat side and carefully cut two 1 inch rounds from each half. You should have 4 rounds. Cut each round into 4 wedges. And then using a small knife, cut a slit in the bottom of the rind of each one. Wiggle the knife alittle to make a large enough opening and insert the popsicle stick.
        If you are making some non-alcoholic ones too, cut those into different shapes or use a different colored popsicle stick to tell them apart.
        In a 4 cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine the tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Place the watermelon slices on a rimmed sheet pan or split them between two large baking dishes. Pour the margarita mixture over the watermelon and place in the fridge or freezer. If desired, but not necessary, after every hour flip the pops. If they’re in the fridge, chill for 2 hours or up to overnight. Frozen ones, will take 3-4 hours to freeze, or pop them in the freezer overnight. they’re delicious partially frozen too. To serve, lightly sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.

Makes 16 pops.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Check out the field spot. That’s the place where the watermelon sat on the ground as it grew. It should be a creamy, yellow color, not white. The darker the color, the better—it’s an indicator of a longer, sweeter growing time.
2. The watermelon should feel heavy for its size. That means that there is a lot of water inside---another good ripeness indicator.
3. Pick a dull looking one. Shiny means it’s not ripe yet.
4. Pick perfectly round or oval ones. If they’re misshapen, that means that they got varying amounts of water and sun while growing, which can lead to a less delicious fruit.
5. You can thump away on it with your knuckles, if you like. A ripe one will kind of bounce back. An under ripe or over ripe one will sound like a dull thud.
6. Did you know that there are little black sugar spots on ripe watermelons? That’s where the sugar is seeping out of the melon.
7. You might even see bee stings! Another good sign.

A FEW MORE TIPS!
1. To make it easier to insert the popsicle stick, wiggle the knife up and down to make the opening a little larger.
2. If you decide to make non-alcoholic ones too, cut them in different shapes or use different colored popsicle sticks so that you can easily tell them apart.
3. Limes are sometimes hard to squeeze. Pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds, and you’ll get lots of juice.
4. It’s not necessary, but I do like to flip them a few times during the chilling process for even coverage.
5. Since there really are no rules here, freeze them, chill them in the fridge, or skip all that and just put them in a glass with the margarita mix for dunking.

Parmesan Crisps---FRICO!

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Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps—FRICO!
Ingredient:
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, about 4 ounces.

Make the crisps:
        Place one of the racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Evenly space 2 Tablespoon mounds, 3 to a pan. Spread the cheese evenly with your fingers, with a fork or both. Leave about 2 inches between each round. Bake one sheet at time in the center of the oven until the crisps just begin to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Don’t let them fully brown or the cheese will turn bitter. Repeat with the rest of the cheese.
        Alternatively, these cheese crisps can be made in a nonstick sauté pan one at a time, but it’s way more efficient to make them in batches on baking sheets in the oven.
        For flat frico, let them cool on the pan before gently removing and placing on paper towels. For curls or cups, let the frico cool for a minute or 2, no longer. Then, with a thin spatula, gently lift and lay each over a rolling pin, bottle, or the back of muffin cups to shape. Store the crisps in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 8 crisps.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure to evenly and thinly spread the grated cheese into a circle so that they brown and crisp with equally.
2. Consider adding a ½ teaspoon toasted and crushed cumin or fennel seeds as well as other spices for variety—but I will admit I’m a purist.
3. Shaping the crisps is a pretty way to serve them. To form them, you must move quickly, only letting the crisps cool for a minute or 2 on the pan.
4. I like them larger in size, but you can make them any size you like. Smaller ones can be made with 1 Tablespoon of the grated cheese, 12 to a pan. Bake at a slightly lower temperature, 350 degrees F for 6 minutes.
5. Since this cheese is as expensive as it is delicious, you want to make sure that you store it properly. Cut off the piece you want for now, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Wrap the rest the same way, place in a freezer Ziploc with all of the air squeezed out and store in the freezer. (Don’t forget to date it!)

Father's Day Pulled Pork with Man Slaw

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Father’s Day Pulled Pork with Man Slaw

Ingredients:

For the Pulled Pork:
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced, about 2 cups
4 cloves garlic. peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup stout beer
3- 3 1/2 pound pork shoulder
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 cups homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce, I like Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce
8-12 sandwich buns

For the Man Slaw:
1-2 jalapenos, stem and seeds removed, finely diced, to taste (1 teaspoon up to 2 Tablespoons)
5 cups cabbage, green, purple or a combination of both, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons-¼ cup cilantro, chopped, to taste
½ cup sour cream
½ cup stout beer
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon light honey
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder

Make the pulled pork:
        Place the sliced onions and garlic in an even layer in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour the beer into the pot. In a small bowl, combine the salt, brown sugar, pepper, paprika and chili powder. Rub the mixture all over both sides of the pork, and place in the slow cooker. Secure the lid and cook on high for 6-8 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
        When done, remove from the pork from the pot, and shred using two forks. Discard any large pieces of fat and the bone, if there is one. Strain the onion pan juices into a heatproof bowl, and if you like, add the onions to the meat or save for another use. Remove the fat that has risen to the top and pour ¼ cup of the defatted cooking juices into the shredded meat. Add one cup of the barbecue sauce, and gently toss to evenly coat. Taste and add more barbecue sauce if desired.

Make the Man Slaw:
        Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-size bowl, toss to coat. The slaw can be used immediately, or made ahead of time to let the flavors meld.
        If desired, brush each bun with butter and in a hot skillet, buttered side down, cook until browned and crisp. Fill each bun with the pork and top with the slaw.

Makes 8-12 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure to get Pork butt or shoulder.
2. I like a stronger more flavorful beer, a good stout or high quality IPA will work great.
3. For the slaw, I like to slice the cabbage as thinly as possible and very finely dice the jalapeno.
4. Turns out that the cilantro and beer in the slaw go amazingly well together. But, if you are one of those cilantro averse people, you can just leave it out, or use scallions or parsley instead.
5. Any sturdy bread or rolls will work. My fave is a buttery brioche bun. It’s not necessary, but I like to butter them and cook buttered side down on a hot frying pan until browned and crispy.
6. Use any leftovers for tacos, loaded nachos, or sliders.

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COQ AU VIN BLANC
loosely inspired by Julia Child
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound thin-sliced bacon, cut short ways in ½ inch pieces, about 4-5 slices
2 pounds chicken pieces of your choice, I used 3 thighs and one split breast, cut in half, taken out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
1/2 yellow onion, ½ inch dice, about 1 cup
7-8 small carrots, or 2 large, peeled, and halved long ways, cut into 3 inch pieces, about 3/8 pound
1/3 pound white mushrooms, small buttons or larger ones cut in halves or quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the Coq au Vin:
        Preheat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Rotate the pot once or twice for even browning on the bottom of the pot. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined dish, and set aside. Remove all but 2 Tablespoons of the fat 9n the pot, and discard, or save for another use.
        Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the Dutch oven skin side down. Don’t crowd the pan. You may have to brown them in batches. Cook until golden brown and crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Turn over and sear the chicken on the other side for about another 3-4 minutes. It should take about 10-12 minutes in total. Remove the seared chicken to a plate.
        Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan again. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and sherry, and reduce by about 1/3, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
        Add the butter to the pan and melt. Stir in the flour, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken. Stir in the chicken stock and bacon. Nestle the chicken pieces into the pot, skin side up, and bring to a simmer. Don’t cover the chicken skin with the sauce to allow it to stay crispy. Turn the heat down to medium low. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
        Stir in the peas, just to thoroughly warm them. If the sauce is too thick, you may need a little extra chicken stock to thin it. Remove the bay leaf and twigs from the thyme.
        Serve immediately. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Skim off any fat, if desired, but not necessary, and gently reheat to serve.

Makes 3-4 servings, easily doubled.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure you start with chicken that is room temperature before you sear it.
2. I’m very fond of a mesh splatter screen to stop any of the fat from going everywhere when you cook the chicken.
3. Any good dry white wine will be delicious. I used a Sauvignon Blanc. Remember, if it’s good enough to drink, it’s good enough to cook with.
4. Depending on the size of your mushrooms, you may need to cut them in half or in quarters.
5. Make sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan after you add the wine. There’s lots of flavor there.
6. If flour isn’t your thing, you can leave it out along with the peas, and make it carb free. You just won’t end up with a thickened sauce.

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

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Vegan Strawberry “Ice Cream”

        First choose how much fruit you want to add. 6oz. of fruit will make a creamier less sweet ice cream. 10 ounces will make a sweeter, more icy confection.
And, place a glass pie plate in the freezer to chill.

Ingredients:
about 1 cup full fat coconut cream from 1 can of coconut milk
1 1/2 cups-2 ½ cups (6-10 ounces) frozen strawberries
1-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 -5 Tablespoons coconut water, from the same can of coconut milk

Make the ice cream:
        Place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to use, remove the top lid and the hardened cream will have risen to the top. With a knife or small spoon, cut a hole down through the cream, and pour off the coconut water into a small container. Scoop out all of the cream into a high speed blender container or bowl of a food processor. Add your chosen amount of frozen strawberries, maple syrup, the vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of the coconut water.
        For the blender, slowly increase the speed, and use the tamper to push the fruit into the blade. For the processor, use short pulses. If you are having trouble blending, add more coconut water, one tablespoon at a time. Don’t add more than the 5 Tablespoons because it will become too soft. In the blender, it should take around 30-40 seconds, and 4 sections will form. So it doesn’t melt--Don’t overblend!
        It’s best served immediately. But if it’s a little too soft, it can be chilled in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Cover the top with plastic wrap to keep ice crystals from forming. Re-soften before serving. The mixture can also be poured into pop molds and frozen.

Makes 4 servings.     YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Get full fat unsweetened coconut milk, not lite, and not Coco Lopez. I like the organic Thai Kitchen brand. It seems to have to most coconut cream in the can.
2. Once the can is chilled overnight, the easiest way to get the cream out of the can without alot of squirting coconut water, is to remove the lid and poke a one inch hole thru the hardened cream (which will have hardened and risen to the top). Pour out the liquid, and then scoop out the cream.
3. To insure a thicker consistency, use as little liquid as possible to get it to blend. no more than 5 Tablespoons. And blend JUST until creamy to keep it as cold as possible.
4. For a quick freeze to firm it up alittle more, spread the ice cream into a glass pie plate that’s been chilled in the freezer for an hour. Freeze for 30- 60 minutes to get a thicker, scoopable consistency.
5. Any unused ice cream can be made into ice pops or stored in a freezer container. Make sure to cover the top with plastic wrap or parchment to prevent ice crystals from forming. Pops can be eaten right away, scoops will need to soften first.

My Fave Picnic Potato Salad

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MY FAVE PICNIC POTATO SALAD
(from the Sunday New York Times Magazine-many many years ago)

INGREDIENTS:
4-6 medium size red potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, hard boiled
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon sugar dissolved in 1 Tablespoon warm water
1/2 cup mayonnaise, I use Hellmanns
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 smalll bunch parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup
2 scallions chopped about 3 Tablespoons

MAKE THE POTATO SALAD:
        In a large pot, cover the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt with at least one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, and cook until just tender, about 3o minutes.
        Cool to room temperature and peel. Cut them into 1/2 inch dice. Separate the yolks from the whites of the hard boiled eggs. Chop the whites and add to the potatoes.
        In a medium bowl, mash the egg yolks with the mustard, blending well. Stir in the sugar mixture. Add the mayonnaise and salt and mix well. Gently stir in the parsley, and scallions. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings or one for me.    YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure all of the potatoes are the same size. That way all of the potatoes will cook through at the same time.
2. Start with cold water when boiling the potatoes. If you start with hot water, the inside of the potato will be raw, while the outside will turn to mush.
3. I use a metal skewer to test if the potatoes are cooked. They're done when I can easily push it throught the center of the potato.
4. Thoroughly dry the parsley and the scallions. You don't want any excess water to dilute the salad.
5. Stir gently to combine all of the ingredients. You want potato salad, not potato spread.

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
----------------------
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
------------------
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
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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
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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.