Friday, September 30, 2011

French Soda Bread?

So what does soda bread have to do with Dorothy Hamilton, the founder of The French Culinary Institute and this week’s selection from the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in the food world? Stick with me and I’ll explain, though this is the first week since I joined the group of food bloggers who are paying tribute to the list by posting a recipe from each woman on Fridays that the person we are acknowledging doesn’t have a lot of recipes from which to select.

It seems that Ms. Hamilton was so busy establishing one of the world’s most premier culinary schools, which has evolved from The French Culinary Institute she stared in 1984 to the current International Culinary Center, that she didn’t have time to write a cookbook!  I guess building culinary programs in New York, San Francisco, and Italy tends to keep a person busy, not to mention winning awards such as a Silver Spoon award from Food Arts magazine; the 2006 and 2010 IACP Award of Excellence for Vocational Cooking School; Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (Agricultural Merit Knighthood) from the French government; a knighting by the Association Internationale de Maîtres Conseil dans la Gastronomie Française; the Outstanding American Educator Award from Madrid Fusion, the Diplôme d’Honneur of the Vatel Club des Etats-Unis, and Dame de l’Anée of the Académie Culinaire de France in 2006.

What’s a food blogger to do when her subject was too busy training exceptional chefs to write down some recipes? (There are a few out there, but not many.) Well, this food blogger turned to a member of the FCI’s faculty.

I first heard about FCI as a fan of chef Jacques Pepin. He is the Dean of Special Programs and considered one of the best known culinary teachers in the world.

And so, that is how soda bread became today’s recipe. I first saw Chef Pepin make this with his daughter, Claudine, on a television cooking show they did together, and I have used it ever since. When you want fresh bread with a meal but don’t have the time to go through the kneed, rise, kneed, rise process, this bread comes together in minutes, though it does take a while to bake. Ironically, it's not a true soda bread.  Chef Pepin replaced the buttermilk and baking soda with regular milk and baking powder. No matter…the results are delicious. (And it makes great toast the next morning! I like it with orange marmalade.)

Soda Bread
From Cooking with Claudine by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6 to 8

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon canola oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the flour, and combine the remaining flour with the salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, and mix gently and quickly with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms into a solid mass.

Oil an aluminum nonstick baking sheet with the canola oil, and place the dough on the sheet. Using a piece of plastic wrap, press and mold the dough to create a round loaf about 7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Sprinkle the reserved teaspoon of flour on top of the load and, using a serrated knife, make two intersecting 1/4-inch-deep cuts across the top surface of the loaf to create a cross.

Place a stainless steel bowl upside down over the bread, and place it in the 425-degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover, and cook at the same temperature for another 30 minutes. [In my oven it only took another 20 minutes, so keep an eye on the bread.]

Using a hamburger spatula, remove the bread from the baking sheet, and set it aside to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. [I only waited about 10 minutes—I was in a hurry!]

Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Nancy - Picadillo

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cowboy Cookies

Ever since I joined a group of food bloggers (see their links below) to pay tribute to the Gourmet Live list of 50Women Game-Changers in the food world by posting a recipe from each on Fridays, I seem to learn something new about the food world every week.

This week I discovered dessert queen Maida Heatter—and the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever tasted!

Maida went from jewelry designer to restaurateur (with her husband, Ralph), to cookbook author. Her culinary training came from her mother, reading cookbooks, and her own kitchen trials. Perhaps that’s why her recipes are detailed and easy to follow. And if you need a dessert recipe, chances are Maida has the perfect one in the pages of her numerous cookbooks.

I love these Colorado Cowboy Cookies. According to Maida, in Colorado, any oatmeal cookie that contains chocolate chips is called a cowboy cookie. She also said these crispy cookies will keep well in a cookie jar. (If mine every make it to the cookie jar!)

Colorado Cowboy Cookies
From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
Makes 36 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) sweet butter [I used unsalted butter and it worked fine.]
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 cup quick-cooking or regular rolled oats [I used the regular.]
3 ounces (1/2 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels
2 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) walnuts or pecans, cut or broken into medium-size pieces (I used walnuts.)

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the vanilla and then both sugars and beat well. Add the egg and beat well. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and beat, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, until incorporated.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Stir in the oats and then the chocolate morsels and nuts. Transfer to small bowl for ease in handling. (The dough will be rather stiff.) [I did not do this—wasn’t necessary.]

Use a well-rounded (slightly less than heaping) teaspoonful of the dough to make each cookie. Place the mounds 2 inches apart on the aluminum foil. Bake for about 18 minutes until the cookies are golden-colored and completely dry. [Note: The cookies only took 12 minutes to bake in my oven, so be sure to check on the first batch often to determine how long to leave them in!] During baking reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back to insure even browning.

If you bake only one sheet at a time, bake on the upper rack.

With a wide metal spatula transfer the cookies to racks to cool. When completely cool, store them airtight.

Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Nancy - Picadillo

Friday, September 16, 2011

Discovering The Silver Palate Cookbook

Ever since I began food writing more than a decade ago, I’ve heard of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Fellow foodies would talk in hushed, reverent tones about the treasures to be found inside. I would pretend to agree with them, all the while hiding my secret—I didn’t own a copy of the book.

Then I joined the group of food bloggers (see their links below) who are paying tribute to the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in the food world. Each Friday we post a recipe from a woman on the list, and this week’s selection was Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, the authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook and owners of the well-known gourmet food shop by the same name that closed in the 1990s.

So off I went to my wonderful local library (any library that also has a coffee shop has to be wonderful!) for a copy of the cookbook. And I’m glad I did. The book is beautiful to look at with vivid color images and an easy-to-read recipe layout. In fact, there were so many recipes I wanted to try, my very own copy of the cookbook is on its way from

Last weekend I went to Missouri to visit my family. Since I wanted to take a dessert for dinner, I chose Bishop’s Cake from the cookbook. The cake is made in a bundt pan and has a pound cake consistency. I just dusted the top with confectioner’s sugar. It tastes lovely as is, but would also be good with a raspberry sauce or as the base for strawberry shortcake. Chocolate sauce would also be a nice addition.

Bishop’s Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring the pan
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl and add the sugar gradually; beat until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour and add to the butter mixture. Stir just enough to blend. Add the lemon juice and vanilla; stir well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour. (After 30 minutes, cover the cake closely with aluminum foil.)

When the cake is done, cool in its pan on a cake rack for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Family Recipe File Banana Bread

Yesterday my sweetheart, Michael, and I went to visit my parents at the family farm in HughesvilleMissouri. The farm has been in my family since 1909. Mom and Dad have lived there for the past 20 or so years, but when I was growing up, my grandparents called it home.

I loved visiting Mamaw and Papaw on the farm. While Papaw spent his days out in the fields, I would spend my time with Mamaw, usually in the kitchen. As I mentioned in a past blog, Mamaw was a great cook, but she hated it! Since part of the farmwife's job description includes cooking meals, she took on the challenge and did it well.

All the meals took place at the kitchen table. Mamaw woke up early to fix Papaw breakfast before he went out for the day. The meal usually included a small bowl of cereal and glass of orange juice (or Tang) to start, then eggs, bacon, and toast. (Farming requires a lot of fuel for the body!) She would fill up an insulated jug with ice water for Papaw to take with him out into the hot summer fields to keep him hydrated while he plowed, harvested, or fixed fences to keep in the cows.

The main meal of the day was dinner at noontime, so the preparations began early. The menu always included meat (chicken fried steak, roast beef, and hamburger patties are the ones I remember most--they ate a lot of beef since they raised the animals), a starch (either potatoes, bread, or elbow macaroni cooked in broth) and a vegetable or two from Mamaw’s stash of home-canned vegetables from the garden, which she kept on shelves in a corner of the basement. The meal also include some of her homemade pickles or pickled beets. Dessert was often a dish of ice cream, a piece of banana bread or spice cake, or a piece of pie (usually for Sunday dinner.) Iced tea was the beverage.

Supper was usually a simple meal of sandwiches (peanut butter and tomato, anyone!) or hamburgers. The real treat about supper was getting to eat potato chips and drink pop (soda for your east coasters.)

Mamaw died last December. She was 96 years old and had left the farm long ago—in the early 1980s when Papaw’s health made living so far outside of town a bad idea. After Papaw passed away in 1986, she moved into an assisted living facility that provided meals. No more cooking! She was glad to leave the food preparations to someone else.

Mamaw gave me what is one of my most prized possessions—her recipe box. It is full of her best-known dishes, and some I don’t remember ever trying. They are written in her neat a flowing handwriting, of which she took great pride. Most of them include short notations on what she thought of the dish (good, very good, excellent, etc) and usually the source of the recipe, such as a friend, relative, newspaper, or product packaging.

The box also contains other interesting tidbits, such as a list of all the fruits and vegetables she and her friend Velma Drake canned and froze in 1971. The list includes 114 pints of green beans, 42 pints of strawberry preserves, 40 pints of dill pickles, 32 pints of applesauce, and 19 pints of tomato juice.

I’ve decided to work my way through the recipe box and try them all—and share her and the results with you.

I started with this Banana Bread recipe, which I use all of the time. Mamaw notes it came from Mrs. L. F. Raabe, who I don’t remember meeting but probably did. She also wrote that the recipe was “good” and underlined the word—a sign she really liked it! Michael was happy I made it since banana bread is one of his favorite things.

Yield: 1 loaf
Author: Linda Ditch
Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Old-fashioned goodness from my grandmother's recipe file.


  • 1/2 cup Crisco [I used unsalted butter]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside. (325 degrees for a glass loaf pan.)
  2. Cream sugar and shortening with a mixer or by hand. Beat eggs and add to sugar and shortening. Dissolve soda in a little warm water and add, followed by flour and salt.
  3. Mash the banana until light and fluffy and add to batter. Add nuts.
  4. Bake 1 hour You can cover the pan with foil if the bread begins to get too dark.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Who Was Elizabeth David?

When I joined the group of food bloggers (see their links below) who are paying tribute to the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers in the food world, the names on the list for each week were familiar to me.

Until this week.

I had never heard of Elizabeth David, much less own one of her cookbooks. (Thank goodness the local library had copies.) And then, as Fate often works in these situations, I saw Julia Child hold up this cookbook on a show about homemade English muffins. So if Julia liked her work, I was interested.

Elizabeth David brought Mediterranean cooking to the British kitchen in much the same way Julia introduced Americans to French cuisine. She was both adventurous and aristocratic, as well as not being very concerned about the morals of the time. I read a number of British newspaper accounts of her scathing comments on bad recipes and her steamy love life. Wikipedia describes her this way, “Born to an upper-class family, David rebelled against social norms of the day. She studied art in Paris, became an actress, and ran off with a married man with whom she sailed in a small boat to Greece. They were nearly trapped by the German invasion of Greece in 1940 but escaped to Egypt where they parted. She then worked for the British government, running a library in Cairo. While there she married, but the marriage was not long lived.”

After looking through two of her cookbooks, I choose to make Omelette aux Pommes de Terre, which first requires me to make Galette de Pommes de Terre and then add eggs. I’ve made my own versions of this dish many times, which is very much like an Italian frittata. So I decided to give hers a try.

I thought it was a little bland, though my fiancé, Michael, loved it! Next time I plan to add a little onion, green pepper, and cheese to give it more flavor. (Michael is on board with my plan.) I also finished the dish off under the broiler to make sure the eggs were well cooked. (I don’t think Michael would go for wiggly eggs.)

Try the recipe out and let me know what you think. It is very easy, especially if you use a food processor to slice the potatoes. And if you think of any other ways to change it around, I’d love to hear them!

Omelette aux Pommes de Terre
From Elizabeth David Classics

The best potato omelette is made with potatoes cooked as for Galette de Pommes de Terre:
Peel about 1 1/2 lbs. of potatoes [I used Russets] and slice them very thinly and evenly. [I used a food processor.] Wash them in plenty of cold water. In a thick frying-pan heat a tablespoon of butter and one of oil (the mixture of butter and oil give a good flavour, and the oil prevents the butter from burning).

Put the potatoes into the pan and spread them evenly; season with nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper; turn the heat down as soon as they start to cook, cover the pan and leave them cooking gently for 15 minutes; by this time the under surface will be browned and the potatoes coagulated in such a way as to form a pancake [this didn’t happen for me]; turn the galette over and leave the other side to brown for 3 or 4 minutes.

For the Omelette:

When the galette is ready add a little butter to the pan and let it run round the edges; pour in 4 or 5 beaten eggs and shake the pan so that the eggs cook; turn the omelette out flat, like a Spanish tortilla. [I finished it under the broiler and served it in the pan. Ms. David would probably be horrified!]

Here are my fellow food bloggers. Be sure to check them out!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rachael Ray’s Mac and Cheese—Finally!

Last week the temperature was 100 degrees in Kansas. Today it was in the 70s. A weather front that came through on Sunday brought an autumn feeling to the air. Perfect macaroni and cheese weather!

I am part of a group of food bloggers who are paying tribute to the Gourmet Live list of 50 WomenGame-Changers in the food world. On Fridays we each post a recipe we’ve completed from a woman on the list. (Be sure to check out what my fellow bloggers posted through their links below!)

Last week featured Rachael Ray. It seems most people either love her or hate her. I have to admit, I am more of a fan of her $40 a Day television show than of her 30-Minute Meals. However, I have picked up a couple of recipes from her. I love her Beef Tenderloin Steaks withGorgonzola and her Roasted Baby Potatoes with Rosemary—both of which were from a Christmas-themed show she did in 2003 that I not only made for the holiday, but many times since.  

I did get to interview Rachael once a few years ago. It was a teleconference with other reporters from around the country to promote the release of her Big Orange Book. I was lucky enough to be one of the reporters who actually got to ask her a question. The moderator of the press conference introduced me and the publication I worked for, and Rachael was just delightful. She asked me how things were going in my city (Concord, New Hampshire) and was very thoughtful with her answer. So, from a food writer’s point of view, she is terrific.

As you know, life got in the way of my posting last Friday, so here is my contribution. I make this macaroni and cheddar cheese dish all of the time. What I like most is the fact it's created on the stove top, with the only oven time being a short period under the broiler to brown the cheese on top.

However, I’ve made some adjustment to the recipe since I first printed it off the Food Network's website in 2003. The biggest problem I had with it was the amount of sauce the recipe created for the amount of pasta—it wasn’t enough. When I make the recipe as is, I only use 1/2 a pound of elbow macaroni. One pound is too much, especially after the pasta has time to soak up some of the sauce. If I make an entire pound, I double the recipe.

I also add more cheese, and it’s not all cheddar. I think a cheddar-only sauce is too gritty. However, I remembered once reading a macaroni and cheese recipe in Cooks Illustrated that called for half cheddar and half Monterey jack cheese in the recipe. I tried it with this one, and it works well.  

Macaroni and Cheddar Cheese
Recipe from Rachael Ray,
Makes 4 entrée or 8 side dish servings

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil (1 turn of the pan in a slow stream)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese (I used 2 cups sharp cheddar and 2 cups Monterey jack cheese, saving 1 cup for the top)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated (I used 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated, and it was almost too strong for my tastes—so do this to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes or to al dente, with a little bite to it (Okay, this is were Rachel and I differ greatly—I would only use 1/2 pound of macaroni to fit the amount of sauce this recipe makes. For 1 pound, I’d double the sauce recipe.)

Heat a medium, deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, add flour and combine. Gently cook, whisking flour and butter together, until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes. Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese a handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish and tip with remaining cheese. Place baking dish under a hot broiler and brown the cheddar cheese on top..

Here are my fellow food blogers:

Val - More ThanBurnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Amy - Beloved Green
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hot Wings and Football

My favorite time of year is here! I enjoy all types of sports, but I LOVE football. For the next few months it will be a toss-up between watching the Food Network or the NFL Network. Yes, I know. It's a sickness.

I blame my love for the sport on three factors:
  • The first television show I ever saw in color was a football game. It was in the mid-1960s when I was 4 or 5 years old. My mom and I came home from a visit to my grandparents and discovered that Dad had purchased a color television. The Kansas City Chiefs were playing, and I will never forget the vividness of their red jerseys and the green grass.
  • My dad made sure I was one of the few girls in the neighborhood who could throw a football. Actually, I think he just enjoyed playing catch with me, since he also taught me to throw a softball and a Frisbee. Throughout elementary school, high school and college, guys were always asking me to toss a football around.
  • I inherited a football gene from my mom. Both she and my grandmother loved the sport. In fact, whenever we were all together watching a game, the women were shouting louder than the men!
Seems I was destined from birth to love football!

Football fever hit this weekend. My sweetheart, Michael’s family is holding their fantasy football drafts this weekend, which is quite the event. The fun began yesterday with a family golf tournament. Today features the family draft, and tomorrow is one additional draft. It is football all day and all night!

To feed the hungry “team owners” this afternoon, I broke out my favorite football-inspired dish—hot wings! I got this recipe years ago from my friend Kathy in New Hampshire. Not only is the flavor of the wings perfect—just the right amount of heat—but they are baked, not fried like the traditional hot wings. And they are a hit every time I serve them. Since Michael doesn’t like spicy foods, I also make BBQ wings using the same technique as the hot variety. (All this platter needs are the carrot and celery sticks and some blue cheese dressing for dipping.)

Now I’m ready for kickoff!

Kathy’s Hot Wings

20 chicken wings, split and tips discarded
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup vinegar-based red pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons tomato sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake wings 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together butter, pepper sauce, tomato sauce, chili pepper and cayenne pepper. (I do it in the pan I use to melt the butter.)

Remove wings from oven and dip into the sauce to coat well. Return wings to baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake another 15 minutes to set sauce.

For hotter wings, shake on a bit more chili powder and cayenne pepper after dipping in the sauce. Serve with celery, carrots and blue cheese dressing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When Life Gets in the Way

I know some of you were expecting to see a post about Rachel Ray today. She is, after all, one of the
50 Women Game-Changers in the food world according to Gourmet Live. And I really want to share her Macaroni and Cheddar Cheese recipe with you, since I use it all of the time.

Well, it seems life has gotten in the way. I'm doing so much cooking for some weekend gatherings--one recipe I will share with you tomorrow!--that I didn't have time for Rachel this week. But don't worry. The temperature is cooling off in the next few days, which is perfect mac and cheese weather! So the recipe will be posted in the near future. Stay tuned...