Friday, September 30, 2005


You will need:
Fresh orange juice
Fresh lemonade
Raspberry syrup (Torani's is okay, but try for a better brand if possible)
Soda water (optional)

Get individual glasses and fill them half-full with ice. Pour lemonade until each glass is half-full of liquid; gently pour the orange juice over the top. Droozle about a shot's worth of raspberry syrup over the top of that and do not stir— the amount will vary with the strength of the syrup so be sure to test it out. If the mix is too sweet, or you want a little sparkle, add some soda water to the lemonade before adding the rest of the ingredients. (Okay, you can add it after, and stir, but it's not as pretty.)

You might guess from the name that this is related to a Sunrise, as in Tequila. Go ahead and add the liquor if you want but I'm not going to ruin the taste.

Update: Rowan mentions that she has had a grenadine version instead of raspberry. I think that is an excellent idea, so take your pick of the two.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


To make proper hard-boiled eggs, you must start with cold water. If you're making a whole bunch of eggs at once, and merely dump the new ones in already boiling water, the eggs will tend to split and ooze. Not a good thing. You place the eggs— preferably several days old, so they will peel easily— in a pot, cover them with cold water, salt the water*, and heat until boiling. Then you cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 10 minutes. (PLEASE NOTE: That time changes with altitude; consult a high-altitude cookbook for proper timing.) Run cold water over the eggs in the sink until they are cool and safe to handle. There! Hard-boiled eggs.

*Salt in the water helps the egg to release from its shell.

But then you have to dye them. Dye kits are inexpensive and widely available, but you can make your own if you really want. It takes about 2/3 cup water and 2 tsp. distilled (white) vinegar, plus as much food coloring as needed to get the right shade. Celestial Seasonings and Home & Garden Television have recipes for natural dyes. Celestial Seasoning also mentions that adding a little vegetable oil to your dye will create a marbelized look.

If you're really hard-core about decorating eggs, you can do Ukrainian style eggs, also known as pysansky. Be aware that not only is this a time-consuming process (with the traditional tools including a candle; no doubt professional decoraters have nifty technical tools), but that a properly made pysansky is done with a raw egg, so it's dangerous to handle for several months (until it dries out entirely.) Simpler effects can be achieved with the wax crayon included in most decorating kits; leave the crayon in the sun for easiest use.

Okay. You've boiled them, now you must eat them. Last week's egg salad is one way to get rid of the suckers. Deviled eggs aren't that different of a concept, but take a little more work. They are so popular that there are platters designed just for serving them.

For deviled eggs, you always start with the basic hard-boiled egg. Most recipes I've seen ask for six, so assume all proportions work from that number. You peel the shell off, cut it lengthwise, and remove the yolk. The yolks go into a bowl with varying ingredients, depending on your recipe. has a classic recipe where you mash the yolk with 3 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp vinegar, salt, pepper, and paprika. Okay for the basic idea, but you can replace the mayo with mustard (or dijon) for a kick, or go in a new direction entirely, adding horseradish and Parmesan cheese for a new take, jalepeños, chiles, and cumin for a Southwestern feel, or you could get very swank and use a recipe that requires making the mayonaisse from scratch. Neat.

If none of those recipes does it for you, do an online search and you'll turn up thousands more. Or no doubt, the other participants of the Carnival of the Recipes will be happy to share their personal recipes.

Once you've mashed up all of the ingredients, you have to put them back in the egg halves. If you have a deft hand with a spoon, this isn't a problem, but there's a more fun alternative. You take a large ziploc bag, put the mash in there, and seal the top, then cut a small hole in one corner and squeeze the stuff out like it's a pastry bag. (You can, in fact, use a pastry bag.)

So then comes the question, Why am I pointing to all of these online recipes instead of sharing my own? Well, when I was a kid, I hated hard-boiled eggs for a while. I think it had to do with choking down a whole egg when I was sick, not precisely the stuff of good memories. I didn't develop an appreciation for deviled eggs until I was in college, by which point I didn't have a family recipe to fall back on. I suspect my recipe would feature mustard and some onion variant (like chives), but I'm not willing to inflict an untested recipe on you.

Mmm. Onion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Egg Salad

You will need:
Hard-boiled eggs
Spices— pick your favorites. I like salt-free lemon pepper, dried onion flakes, and chives, but you can also use dill, rosemary, paprika, or oregano
Dijon mustard, optional
Good bread

Okay, how's this for simple. You dice the hardboiled eggs, using a knife, egg slicer, or fork, and put them in a bowl. You stir in mayo until the eggs are just holding together, adding a little dijon if that's what you like, and add the spices. Toast the bread, spread with egg salad, and make it a sandwich.

Because of the mayo, it is recommended that you either keep the egg salad refrigerated or in a cooler if you're making sandwiches for a picnic. And remember that egg salad is also the perfect way to use up Easter eggs, even if the dye has seeped through the shell and made it more colorful.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vaguely Mediterranean Chicken

You will need:
One dozen pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers*
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp tomato purée
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper (as always, fresh ground is tastiest)

*note: if these come packed in olive oil, as is common, short the measure of the olive oil.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add peppers, garlic, olives, and tomato purée. Add a little salt and pepper. Cook with occasional stirs for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken, cover pan, and turn heat down as low as possible; cook, turning chicken once, until it is white throughout. The recipe says this should be about eight minutes, but this varies widely with chicken thickness, so be sure to check the interior doneness with a sharp knife, and be careful if you're using a non-stick surface. Serve immediately.

I think that this would go well with either a rice side or with a ranch salad. Or possibly cucumbers.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Smoked Salmon Salad

Last week, when I went to the store looking for salmon steaks (there weren't any, so I had to use a flaky fillet instead), I discovered that Bel Air (a California grocery) actually had a product I have been in search of for quite some time: dry smoked salmon.

For some silly reason, it's almost impossible to find smoked salmon that isn't close to sopping, which sort of defeats the purpose.

My purpose, at least. "Old Fashioned" smoked salmon is almost completely dry, very flaky, and won't spread. But my husband calls it "the food of the gods" and utterly loves it. Of course, he thinks it should be eaten by itself, and so the following recipe is of no use to him.

You will need:
Spring greens or torn lettuce (no iceberg, please!)
Carrot curls
Old-fashioned smoked salmon
1 hard-boiled egg, cut into slices
Kalamata olives
Feta cheese crumbles
Yellow or red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips (optional)
Olive oil

Toss the greens, carrot, raisins, and bell pepper, and put into bowls. (Yes, you can use a plate, but I've found shallow bowls much better for salads.) Scatter the egg, kalamata olives, and feta over the salad; top with shreds of salmon. (Make sure you remove bones.) Lightly drizzle olive oil over the top and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Broiled Salmon Steaks

You will need:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
4 salmon steaks (1 per person; scale this recipe as needed.)

1/2 medium roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/8 tsp salt (or a few turns from a sea salt grinder)

In a small bowl, mix lemon juice and mustard. Brush over salmon steaks; cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes. (Or marinade in a ziploc bag.) Broil salmon in pan lined with foil, turning once, until flaky, about 5 or 6 minutes. Serve immediately and watch for bones.

For the sauce, blend the roasted red pepper until smooth; add the yogurt, sour cream, tarragon, and salt and blend until just combined. Serve over salmon or in the cleaned lemon peel (cut a sliver of peel off the bottom to make it flat.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lemon Cake

You will need:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tblsp vegetable oil
2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil. lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla. Whisk in milk and yogurt. Sift in flour and baking soda; stir until just blended. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter. Pour into 8-inch greased cake mold (or shaped cake mold.) Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean— about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with fresh strawberries. If fresh strawberries ar unavaliable, preserves may be substituted.

Friday, September 23, 2005

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...Meyer Lemons, that is...

Make lemon bars!

You will need:
1 cup flour
5 tblsp melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp minced lemon peel
2 tblsp milk

1 cup granulated sugar
3 tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 tblsp flour
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350º. Crust— In medium bowl, mix flour, butter, powdered sugar, and lemon peel. Mix well. pour in milk slowly and stir until dough can be gathered into a ball. Pat dough evenly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a greased 8" square pan. Bake about 20 minutes, until crust is golden.

Topping— In medium bowl, combine sugar, lemon juice, flour, eggs, and baking powder. Mix well. Pour topping over baked crust; bake until set, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar; cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Glazed Apple Tart

This one just jumped out of my recipe box. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, but it looks soooooo good.

You will need:
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 40 small cookies, crushed)
2 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp melted butter or margarine
1 tblsp water

2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into narrow wedges
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup orange marmalade, melted and strained*

*I would probably leave the bits of orange peel in, but that's me.

Preheat oven to 375º. In medium bowl, combine wafer crumbs, sugar, margarine, and water. Press into bottom and sides of greased 10-inch springform pan. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar, egg, and vanilla until fluffy. (For an electric mixer, use medium speed.) Pour the mixture into the crust; arrange apples on top. Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples. Bake until apples are tender, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack. Spoon or brush marmalade over the top just before serving. Makes a lot.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Apple Bars

You will need:
2 small Granny Smith apples, with peel, grated (about 2 cups)
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp margarine or butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark raisins

Preheat oven to 350º. In medium bowl, combine apples, eggs, sugar, margarine, and vanilla; mix well. In a small bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Add raisins and stir; add spice mixture to apple mixture. Spread into greased 9" square baking pan; cook for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sunshine Breakfast Cookies

Hey, you're an adult, you can have cookies for breakfast if you want! (These are also good for field trips.)

You will need:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup room-temperature butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp light molasses (dark if that's all you have)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (Quaker Oatmeal doesn't work)
1 cup (or more) chopped dried fruit— apricots, cranberries (soak in a few tablespoons of water or juice first), raisins, or whatever

Preheat oven to 350º; grease baking pans or line with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking soda, and cinnamon; mix. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy; add egg, molasses, and vanilla, mix until fluffiness returns. Add flour mixture until combined. Fold in dried fruit.

Drop dough on sheets; allow room to spread. Bake until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Makes five dozen tiny cookies or a couple dozen robust-sized ones. The larger sizes tend to fall apart as you eat them, so proceed with caution.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

On New Year's Eve, there is quite naturally a need for snackage. This is where you use up the cheese logs and salami that people gave you for Christmas.

You will need (per four or five people— unless you have LOTS of snacks):
One brick of cream cheese
One small jar of cocktail sauce
One can of cocktail shrimp in water
Wheat Thins in abundance

Open the can of shrimp and drain. Put the cream cheese brick on a snack tray; spread the shrimp on top. Pour the cocktail sauce over all; eat with crackers. Alternately, you can fold all ingredients (except the crackers) together in a bowl and serve that way.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


My elder sister always made these cookies for the holidays, and I wanted to post the recipe— the particular one from the particular cookbook— but I didn't have it! Google to the rescue:

You will need:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400ºF. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Thank you, online Betty Crocker!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thick & Chunky Potato-Leek Soup

You will need:
5 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced into 1-inch chunks
3 tbsp margarine (or clarified butter ONLY)
3 medium leeks, chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 can)
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
salt and white pepper (or black if you don't mind the soup being a bit gray)
Chopped fresh chives or green onions

In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat. Sauté leeks until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken broth, water, and some salt (go easy!) Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Put half of the mixture into a blender — it's okay if all of the liquid ends up in there. Blend until smooth. Pour back over the potatoes in the saucepan, add the milk and pepper, and heat for about five minutes or until heated through. Serve with chives on top. Serves four as a meal by itself.

Friday, September 16, 2005


You will need:
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 light corn syrup
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup self-rising flour*
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda

Melt butter, syrup and sugar in a pan over medium-low heat until just blended. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Sift the flour, ginger, and baking soda over the mixture; blend until smooth. Place small spoonfuls on greased baking sheet immediately; bake at 350º for ten minutes. The cookies should be golden brown with crazed tops.

*Update by Angela: 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. Thanks Angela!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gingerbread Cookies

You will need:
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp black molasses

For the frosting:
powdered sugar
decorator candies
pastry bag or skilled hands

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease two large baking sheets. Mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, and diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (A food processor or pastry blades are ideal.) Add the sugar, egg, and molasses and mix until it starts to form a ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it becomes smooth and pliable.

Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters, preferably those shaped like people. Re-roll any trimmings. Bake for 15 minutes until slightly risen; after five minutes out of the oven, place on wire racks to cool.

To decorate, put 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl; add just enough water to make a paste. Place the paste in the pastry bag; if there is any frosting left over, place a damp towel over the bowl. Pipe designs onto the cookies and use the frosting to stick candies on where appropriate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Layer a bagel with cream cheese, cranberry sauce, and turkey. Eat over a plate to minimize the mess. Or, if you don't like that idea, use stuffing instead of cream cheese and make it into a sandwich.

Cranberry sauce also goes well on pancakes or waffles, with a little whipped cream to make it extra special, or eat it by itself for breakfast.

Shred turkey over a salad of spinach (or regular greens), bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, celery, green onions, tomatoes, and jack or cheddar cheese. In fact, if you had a veggie plate, this is the place for the leftovers.

Bake some biscuits to go with the turkey; layer the meat with gravy over them or over mashed potatoes.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ambrosia Salad

This is obviously a kid-oriented recipe, and one that the kids will heap onto their plate at Thanksgiving (in lieu of the more traditional turkey and stuffing.) It's surprisingly healthy.

You will need:
A big bowl
Fresh fruit (use any or all of the following)
-seedless grapes
Canned fruit (use any or all of the following)
-mandarin oranges
Shredded coconut (optional)
Cool Whip (or hand whipped cream if you're feeling ambitious)

Drain off the canned fruit into a pitcher; add water as needed to make a fruit juice blend. Chop any of the fruit that requires it into small pieces. Mix the fruit and the coconut in the bowl; refrigerate until needed. Add Cool Whip just before serving.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thanksgiving Appetizers

When you are planning your Thanksgiving meal, be sure to provide some appetizers. To start with, most families will skip breakfast (and lunch) in preparation for the big meal. This leaves plenty of room but is not the best idea in a family of hypoglycemics - mine, for example. Appetizers serve a twofold purpose:

1. They keep people's hands occupied and their blood sugar from crashing.
2. They keep the kids occupied and THEIR blood sugar from crashing.

Thanksgiving appetizers are in a different category from most formal dinners; the idea is to keep people from getting full. Therefore it is a good idea to avoid the cheese and crackers; they are very filling. Likewise, spinach dip is not a good idea as the bread used to dip also swells and fills the stomach. The best appetizers entertain the small fry and provide a task for older children.

A veggie platter is not a bad idea, though many vegetables are no longer in season, so this can be expensive. However, there's the typical Thanksgiving platter, which consists of:

Black olives (perfect for sticking on the ends of little fingers)
Green olives (which are almost exclusively eaten by adults)
Sweet mini pickles (dill are acceptible)
Mini corn (this really fascinates yard apes)
Sugar snap peas in the pod
Baby carrots
Bell peppers (if they're not too expensive)
Broccoli heads
Cauliflower heads
Ranch dip

When you have a child who is old enough to help and willing to do so, the following recipes are suitable.

Olive Cream Cheese Balls
You will need:
Green olives with pimentos
Softened cream cheese (you can hand whip regular cream cheese with a little milk)
Finely ground nuts
A bowl of water and a towel for washing hands frequently

Roll the olives in the cream cheese and then coat with the nuts. Wash and dry hands every few olives to keep fingers from getting sticky.

Celery Sticks
You will need:
Celery cut into proper lengths (have an adult do this)
Cream cheese
Peanut butter and raisins

Spread cream cheese in the center of half of the celery sticks; spread peanut butter in the other half and sprinkle raisins on top.

Heart Attack Salami and Cream Cheese Treats
You will need:
Sliced salami
Cream cheese
Sliced black olives

Spread some cream cheese in the center of the salami; put some black olives on top. Roll up the salami and secure with a toothpick.

Bon appetít.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Indian Cashew Chicken

You will need:
2 medium onions
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup cashews (2 oz)
1 1/2 tsp garam masala*
1 tsp garlic pulp (like through a garlic press)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp plain yogurt
2 tbsp corn oil (canola oil okay)
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tbsp golden raisins
3 1/4 cups chicken, skinned, boned, and cubed
2 1/2 cups button mushrooms
1 1/4 cups water
Extra cilantro to sprinkle on top

Cut the onions into quarters and run them through a food processor or blender. (If you're a glutton for punishment, dice them by hand.) Add the tomato paste, cashews, garam masala, garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt and yogurt; blend.

In a saucepan, heat the oil, lower the heat to medium, and put in the blended mix. Fry for about 2 minutes. Add the cilantro, golden raisins, and chicken and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms and water; stir and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Check to see that the chicken is cooked; the sauce should thicken, but if it doesn't, it's still very very tasty. Sprinkle with the extra cilantro and serve with saffron rice or potato cakes. Serves four with sides.

*This is a spice mix available at Indian markets and many large supermarkets, Cost Plus, and Trader Joe's. If yours doesn't have it, you can make your own by grinding 4 inch-long cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, 3 black peppercorns, 2 black cardamon pods with husks removed, and 2 tsp black cumin seeds together in a mortar.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fruit Lassi

You will need:
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3 tbsp puréed fruit (mango or strawberry, usually)
crushed pistachio nuts (optional)

Place the yogurt in a jug and whisk it until it is frothy, about two minutes. Add the sugar. Mix in the water and fruit and whisk until blended. Serve chilled with pistachio nut garnish.

Frozen fruits are really good for this drink; find them in the dessert section of the freezer department.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cranberry-Apple Pancakes

You will need:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten (1/4 cup Egg Beaters)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup cranberries*

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, butter, and milk; mix well. Stir in the apple and cranberries, then add to the flour mixture until just combined - the batter will be lumpy. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat; it is ready when drops of water "dance" over the surface. Pour batter in three-inch rounds; cook until the tops start looking waxy (instead of liquid), about three minutes. Flip and cook the other sides, another minute or two, then repeat with remaining batter. Serves about four.

The real beauty of this recipe is its durability: you can stick leftover pancakes in the fridge or freezer and simply pop them in the toaster to heat them up. Yes, they don't flop over like buttermilk pancakes.

*The cranberries can be very tart; if that's not to your liking, cut them in half and dust them with sugar or honey prior to using. It's time-consuming but takes the bite off.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


It's hard for those of us blessed with a pomegranate tree to understand how magical this fruit is to others. Admittedly, the fruit is wonderful, but a tree typically creates far more fruit than is practical for one family to eat, a lá zucchini. Plus it is a fact that the seeds are fragile and notoriously difficult to get out, as well as being primarily crunch with little juice.

I've seen recipes that use large amounts of pomegranate juice. Don't bother unless you own a tree; the amount of work you'd have to do for such little reward is extreme.

If you do have a tree, then the pomegranate is fair game. Pomegranate-fig-ginger juice. Pomegranate pie. Pomegranate-cream cheese balls.

Don't ask.

At any rate, a pomegranate requires care to properly enjoy, and care to keep from staining your clothes. (The stains turn yellow when exposed to soap and blue-gray after washing unless properly treated.) Mostly, however, you need to know what you're looking for, and how to tame the fragile seeds.

A ripe pomegranate is one that splits, or is just about to split. (In wet years, split pomegranates can mold very quickly; exercise caution when choosing one.) Despite what you may think in the grocery store, the pomegranates with visible stress lines are the desireable ones. Moreover, a cracked pomegranate is much easier to pull apart.

If it's not cracked, there are two places where the seeds do not lie just beneath the skin: the stem and the floweret. Use a knife to start carving away shallow slices. With practice, you can learn how to use the knife to score the outer skin without cutting into the seeds themselves. The hardest part about pulling apart a pomegranate is getting a good grip where you are not smashing the seeds underneath; a pomegranate skin is actually more easily torn than that of an orange, but you have to get the angle right.

Once you have the pomegranate apart, get a bowl (for the seeds) and a trash can (for the copious amounts of pith and skin.) Use the tips of your fingers or your thumb - NOT your nails - to gently free the seeds from their bases by pressing sideways. You'll have to break apart the pomegranate at several points as you get further in; be gentle or seeds will go flying everywhere. I have seen it suggested that you do this in a bowl of water to start. Once you have a bowl of the seeds, and hopefully not a bowl of juice, eat them in the same manner as you picked them, with the tips of your fingers.

If you *must* have a recipe, make some grenadine by putting pomegranate juice in a saucepan, adding sugar, and boiling until it becomes a syrup. You can freeze this mixture in ice cube trays and have a ready supply of flavoring to add to drinks one cube at a time.

Pomegranate stains can be removed by hand washing the clothes and leave them to soak with detergent. That usually works, but once you send them through the wash, check them for stains before putting them in the dryer (where they will set.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Twice-Baked Potatoes

You will need:
4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
2 slices bacon
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup grated cheddar
salt & pepper

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 425°. Pierce the potatos with a fork and bake for 60 minutes (70 if they're *really* large.) While baking, cook bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat. Dry the cooked bacon on paper towels; drain most of the bacon grease out of the skillet. Over medium heat, sauté the pepper and onion for about five minutes; add mushrooms and cook for an additional five. Chop up the bacon* and add it to the mix; remove from heat.

When potatoes are done, reduce the heat to 350° and remove potatoes from oven. Slice off tops of potatoes and scoop out the insides - I usually just cut them in half lengthwise, actually - and mash the insides in a largish bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mash in the milk, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and the vegetable mix. Put the mashed mixture back into the skins and put them on a baking sheet. Or, if you are not inclined to be fussy, just scoop the potato mixture into a casserole dish and parcel out the potato skins to hungry kids around the kitchen. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Serves four, or the two of us. We really like potatoes.

*I make this recipe seldom enough that I cook a lot of bacon and freeze the remainder; heat the chopped frozen bacon with the veggies in a little butter.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

$25 Brownies

The title of this recipe comes from a charity auction, where every plate sold for $25. If I ever get the recipe for the $200 cheesecake, be sure I will post that too.
You will need:
A large bowl
A mixer or a willingness to stir
A greased 9x13 pan
1 brownie mix + whatever it calls for (or use your own brownie recipe)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Bake for the longest time on the mix box; add five minutes if necessary. You will end up with dense, chocolatey brownies. You may have to use a spoon to get them out.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Insanely Easy Chocolate Cherry Cake

You will need:
Mixing bowl
Greased cake pan (or pans for large batch)
1 chocolate cake mix
1 egg
1 can cherry pie filling

Ignore the directions on the box except for the oven temperature. Mix all the ingredients and pour into the pans; bake for the longest time on the box.

That's it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fajitas With Pineapple Salsa

You will need:
a sharp knife
a broiler (oven or toaster oven)
1 package stir-fry cut meat (beef, chicken, or pork) or the equivalent amount to cut yourself
2 medium bell peppers, red preferred
1 large red onion
flour tortillas
lime juice, 1/4 cup from bottle or three limes
2 tsp olive oil
chili powder
1 small can crushed pineapple
diced red bell pepper
green onions
red pepper flakes

In a ziploc bag, mix the lime juice, olive oil, and equal parts cumin and chili powder (approximately two shakes each.) Drop the meat strips in and make sure the bag is well sealed before shaking it; marinate in the refrigerator for at least half an hour. (If you have foresight, put it in the day before.) Wedge the red onion and cut the bell peppers into wide strips. Preheat the broiler. While waiting for the meat to marinate, get a small bowl. Drain the crushed pineapple into a glass; you probably won't need the juice because it's impossible to drain the pineapple thoroughly, but you can drink it. :) Mix the pineapple with the diced bell pepper and dice some green onions (use both the root ends and the stalk ends) into the mix. The heat of the salsa is directly dependent upon the amount of red pepper flakes - add them to your taste. (If you like your salsa firey, add some diced jalepeño or habañero pepper to the mix.)

Broil the meat for 10-12 minutes, turning once. Put the meat aside and broil the onion and pepper strips until lightly charred - about 8 minutes. Divide up into flour tortillas; add the pineapple salsa. Serves about six.

*Try some other fruit-based salsas yourself. I know of at least one burrito place (Sonic Burrito in Spokane, Washington) that tried all manner of salsas - my husband raved about their strawberry salsa. Just subsitute varying types of fruit, peppers, and onions in the recipe above and enjoy the results.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Omelette AKA Scrambled Eggs With Stuff In

The virtue of this recipe is that if you screw up the first, you make the second. Don't laugh, but I was 25 before successfully making an omelette since nobody had ever bothered to tell me how.

You will need:
A medium frying pan
A big flat spatula
A sharp knife
3/4 cup EggBeaters or generic equivalent (or three eggs; 1 egg per quarter cup)
Small amount of milk
Green onions
Small tomato
Cheddar cheese, grated
Cooked ham or bacon bits (optional)

Grease the pan. I don't care if it's non-stick, do it. (Besides, if it's a high-quality pan, the things they do to make it last longer decrease the effectiveness of the non-stick anyway.) Dice all the ingredients into small pieces; remove the tomato pulp. Pour the EggBeaters or beaten eggs with milk into the pan and put it over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper if you are so inclined; you can drop the green onions in at this time.

This is the important step. As the bottom gets cooked, lift the edges up with the spatula and let the uncooked egg run under them. (Nobody ever told me this!) This is what insures a thoroughly cooked omelette. Once it is cooked through, you drop the remaining ingredients on one half of the omelette, fold it over, and put on your plate. (Save a little of the grated cheese to throw on top. It will melt from the residual heat.) Serves one for a hearty breakfast.

If the omelette sticks to the pan or breaks apart while cooking, just break it up further with the spatula and insist you meant to do it as scrambled eggs all along.

If you don't like the ingredients as listed, try some variants, such as mushroom-jack-bell pepper, or three-cheese.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Blame It On the Vinaigrette Salad

Last night I was in the supermarket and realized that their choice of salad dressings was appallingly limited. I mean really appalling - they didn't even have variants of the standards, just ranch, french, catalina, and italian. But wait - what's that? Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette? At least that's interesting... but the salad I had in mind would never go with that. So here's the one I came up with last night.

You will need:
A very sharp chef's knife or vegetable knife (sharpness is your friend)
Lettuce (green, red, romaine, iceberg, or a combination of all of the above)
Medium cucumber
Granny Smith apple
Green onions (or leeks or scallions)
Chopped walnuts
A tiny tub of crumbled feta cheese
Dried cranberries (optional)
Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette

The simplest way I have found to measure how much salad you will need is to place the bowls in front of you and fill them as you go.

Chop a handful of each main ingredient for each bowl into pieces no bigger than the last joint of your thumb. (Do two handfuls of the lettuce.) Sprinkle some walnuts on top; crumble a little feta over that. (Unless you're cooking for ten, it is likely you will have copious feta leftovers.) Throw on the cranberries if you are so inclined. Droozle a tiny bit of the raspberry vinaigrette over the top; it doesn't take more than a tablespoon. Eat. Serves as many people as you've made bowls for, unless somebody mentions that they don't like feta.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tomato and Onion Pie

Okay, first thing you have to do is get that mental picture out of your mind. It's pie as in Shepherd's Pie, not Apple Pie.

You will need:
Frying pan or wok
Oven or toaster oven big enough to take a pie
Sharp knives
One frozen pie crust
One medium yellow or white onion
One medium to large tomato (and store-bought is okay, for once)
Cheddar cheese
Small can of black olives
Olive oil
Dijon mustard

Prepare the frozen pie crust according to the package directions for a one-crust pie. (In other words, pre-bake it so it doesn't become a soggy mess.) Slice the onion into fine pieces*. Over medium to medium-high heat, fry the onions in a little olive oil, turning constantly until soft and almost caramelized. (You can turn the heat down so as to prevent burning - it will take longer.) Spread a thin layer of dijon mustard in the pie crust. Dump the onion in on top. Wedge the tomato (cut from the center) and arrange atop the onions. Grate cheese on top; spread some black olives on the cheese. Bake for 5-10 minutes in the oven (at the temperature directed by the pie crust directions) until the cheese is melted and the tomato warmed through.

I have to warn you, it looks horrible. Gallery of Regrettable Food level horrible. But it tastes so good that one gourmet-loving friend of mine who was brave enough to sample my leftovers declared that he'd always be up for it.

Serves four people, unless they're hungry.

*Onions are notorious for making people cry. Three things that help are 1) soaking the onion in ice water for 5-10 minutes before slicing; 2) keeping your knife extra sharp; and 3) having a well-ventilated area. But you will still get irritated eyes.