Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Witches Brew Coffee

Halloween, like St. Patrick’s Day, is one of those few days when I begin my morning with spiked coffee. There is something so decadent about the combination of coffee and liqueur. It’s not often that I indulge myself like this, but this morning Witches Brew was on the menu. I enjoyed it by flickering candle light in galvanized jack-o’-lanterns.

However you celebrate, have a spooky Halloween!

Witches Brew Coffee

Demerara sugar cubes
4 cups freshly brewed Sumatra coffee
8 oz. rum
2 oz. cinnamon liqueur
Cinnamon cream (recipe follows)

In a heatproof pitcher, stir the sugar into the coffee until dissolved, then stir in the rum and cinnamon liqueur. Pour the coffee into warmed mugs or heatproof glasses and spoon the Cinnamon Cream on top. Serves four.

Cinnamon Cream: In a medium chilled bowl, whip 4 ounces chilled heavy cream with 1 ounce Cinnamon liqueur and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar until soft peaks form. Spoon big dollops on top of hot coffee.

If you prefer cocoa to coffee, you will swoon for this Pumpkin Pie Cocoa.

This post is linked to:
This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pie Squared, Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies, Reviewed

I get to see a lot of cookbooks, and I’m grateful for that. Because I love cookbooks, I generally like every one of them, but only about 40% really blow my skirt up. Among those 40% is the new cookbook by Cathy Barrow called Pie Squared (Gosh, I love that!), Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies. What is a “slab pie,” you ask? For the uninitiated, a slab pie is much like a regular pie except it is unfussy, allows you to avoid what I hate the most, that meticulous rolling out and shaping of piecrust, they are made in a sheet pan, and can make enough to serve a family at dinner, or an entire crowd. They can be either sweet or savory, and if you have even the slightest interest in trying them out, this book is absolutely for you.
Pie Squared includes more than 60 savory and sweet pie recipes along with 20 crust and toppings recipes. In addition, there are step-by-step instructions on how to make each one, a section on glazes, squiggles, and drizzles, a nice illustration on how to cut slab pies (cutting pies has always been my nemesis), and instructions on how to store and freeze them. 
I was so excited when I saw this book that I immediately went to Amazon and bought myself a half-sized cookie sheet with a rim (this one) in order to make the recipe for Just Like Artichoke Dip Slab Pie with Cream Cheese Crust. I am a sucker for artichoke dip, not just because I love the way it tastes, but also because that was the very first thing my late husband made for me when we started dating. So, I’ve always had a special feeling about it. I cut this recipe in half, something I found doable with most of the recipes in this book, so that I could have some for dinner, another slice for lunch, and freeze the rest so I have some for later. More to follow on this.

Among the recipes are Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie with a Chocolate Crust (!!), pictured above, Absolutely Peachy Slab Pie with an All-Butter Crust, “The Reuben” Slab Pie with Rye Crust, and one that looks worth trying for Thanksgiving, Sesame Sweet Potato Slab Pie with a Gingersnap Crust (Heavens!). Honestly, there is something here for everybody.


 Order your own copy and one for a friend by clicking the box below.

This post contains affiliate links.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Cinnamon Pie for “Psych-Os”

With the exception of baseball and British crime shows, I don’t watch a lot of television. Still, it does tend to run in the background when I’m cooking, working on various projects, or those rare moments when I clean. Because, during these times, I’m not paying close attention, I tend to have things on that I’ve seen in the past. Marathons are good for this. Recently I was watching a “Psych” marathon on the Hallmark Channel. I’ve seen every episode a number of times, and it’s mindless fun…or, perhaps, fun for the mindless.
Source: USA Network
One of the episodes is called “Dual Spires,” a clever take on the enigmatic “Twin Peaks. In this episode psychic detective, Shawn Spencer, and his sidekick, Burton Guster (Gus), spend a lot of time eating pie, cinnamon pie in particular. This intrigued me because I had never heard of cinnamon pie, and I wasn’t alone.

This pie is for all of you “Psych” fans (“Psych-Os”) who haven’t been able to find such a recipe. It’s based upon my mother’s cheese pie that she made and served so often when I was a little girl. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.
Cinnamon Pie for “Psych-Os”

For crust:
12 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 tbls. unsalted butter, melted

For Filling:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-1/2 tbls. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Powdered sugar for dusting
Whipped cream for garnishing

For the graham cracker crust:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, sugar, and cinnamon. With motor running, poor melted butter in through the top, and allow it to run until all is combined. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before filling. Leave oven on.

For the filling:

Place the cream cheese, granulated sugar, extracts, cinnamon, and eggs in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake until set, 25 to 35 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center of the pie and remove it cleanly. Let the pie cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve it slightly warm or cool.

Dust the top of the pie with powdered sugar. Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.

Another crowd-pleasing pie that makes good use of graham cracker crust is this Lemon Cloud Pie with Lemony Graham Cracker Crust.

This post is linked to:

This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Yvette van Boven’s Home Made Christmas & Brussels Sprouts à la Carbonara

When it comes to reviewing cookbooks, I try to look at each one of them with an unbiased eye. I tried very hard to do that with Yvette van Boven’s Home Made Christmas, but it just wasn’t possible. I am a big fan of Yvette’s other cookbooks (that you can find here, here, and here), and I knew before I opened this one that I was going to love it; I wasn’t wrong.
This, like others of van Boven’s cookbooks, is a feast for the senses. From the whimsically illustrated divider and end pages, to the pictures so mouthwatering you want to lick the page, to the wide array of tempting recipes, this cookbook has everything you need to make your Christmas merry.

In addition to the recipes, and charming photos — many of them with a personal touch — the early part of the book features Christmas stress-relief tips (and don’t we all need those), while the end includes comprehensive indexes not just by ingredients and recipe type, but also by course. There are a wide variety of menus as well in order to guide you in planning holiday gatherings. Whether you are a fan of meals that are vegetarian, a fan of breakfast and brunches, a server of cocktails and small plates, or someone who prefers a grand five-course meal, these menus will guide you.

The recipes go from the very simple to the complex. You don’t have to have a well-stocked pantry, or knowledge of a host of cooking techniques in order to prepare anything from this book. Another plus is that there are recipes for the basics including beef stock, chicken stock, vegetable broth, a classic vinaigrette, créme anglais, and custard. Throughout the book there are charming illustrations, a picture guide to cheeses, and photos to reflect every single recipe.

There are a few photos of the author, looking quite comfortable in her well-stocked Amsterdam kitchen. Whether you buy cookbooks to use or admire, this one will appeal on both counts. If you’re planning to give a cookbook as a gift this season, this should be one of them.

It was truly hard to decide what recipe to make from this book. Christmas generally brings sweet treats to mind; on the other hand, I’m currently planning Thanksgiving so the brussels sprouts were calling my name. These were super delicious, and tasted like they took so much longer to prepare than they did. I liked them so much that, in addition to serving them as a dinner side dish, I had them the next day for lunch served atop a scoop of cilantro lime rice.

Give this delightful book a look, buy a couple for gifts, and then treat yourself. You will love it.
Brussels Sprouts à la Carbonara
As seen in Home Made Christmas by Yvette van Boven

Sea salt

2¼ pounds Melissa’s brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  5 ¼ ounces bacon, diced
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
One small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook them for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and let stand to drain.

Fry the bacon in the skillet. Add the garlic at the last moment and fry for two minutes. Combine with the brussels sprouts.

Mix the cream and cheese and season with pepper. Set
everything aside until ready to serve.

Heat the cream mixture in a skillet. Stir in the brussels sprouts mixture and cook to heat through. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

This post is linked to:
This post contains affiliate links.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

J.W. Jackson’s Black Bean and Rice Salad

I am an avid mystery reader, mysteries and crime novels…and cookbooks…and gardening books…and decorating books. OK, you get it. I like to read. I do. I find a lot of inspiration in books, particularly when it comes to cooking. You might be surprised to learn that a lot of that inspiration comes from the mysteries that I read. 

I don’t know what it is about me, but I tend to discover authors long after they have passed away. I hate that because there are some series of books that I have loved so much that I have felt inspired to write the authors to thank them. Anne George is on that list with her Southern Sisters mysteries, Virginia Rich and her breaking-the-mold Eugenia Potter culinary mysteries are on that list, and now, Philip R. Craig is joining them. I don’t know why it took me so long to discover the J.W. Jackson mysteries, but I absolutely love them. J.W. is an ex-Boston cop who left the force in his mid-30s after a gunshot injury. He lives on and tends acreage in Martha’s Vineyard, grows his own vegetables, fishes for his own food, and cooks! Who wouldn’t love a guy like that? To make things even better, there are recipes for some of the dishes at the end of each novel. Because, in their day, this became so popular, author Craig came out with a cookbook entitled Delish! a phrase J.W. uses often in the books to describe his delicious cooking.

There are a number of seafood recipes that I plan to try and share with you, but J.W.’s Black Bean and Rice Salad struck a chord with me today, so I decided to make it, adding in (as he said I could) my own addition in the form of one of my new favorite things to eat, hearts of palm. I absolutely loved the results, and found that rather than using this as a side dish, it makes an excellent meal all on its own. I imagine the addition of cooked chicken would make it all the better if you plan to serve it as a cold evening meal.
 This salad is mentioned in chapter 3 of the 9th (of 21) book in the series, A Shoot on Martha’s Vineyard:

“We went down to eat. Grilled bluefish, fresh homemade bread, rice and bean salad, and the house Sauvignon Blanc. Delish!”

He’s right, it is delish, as well as colorful, nutritional, and good, and I don’t know what beats that. Oh, it’s also make ahead, and keeps 1 to 2 days in the fridge.
J.W. Jackson’s Black Bean and Rice Salad
Slightly modified by yours truly

2-3 15-oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pound bag frozen corn kernels, cooked (or 1 15-oz. can)
2 cups long-grain rice, cooked
1 large bell pepper, red or green, diced
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 14.8 oz. jar Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, sliced into coins
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of
Your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing, to taste

Optional ingredients: shredded cheddar cheese or feta cheese, sliced black olives, marinated artichoke hearts, chopped cilantro, oregano, chili powder, cumin

Mix and serve. It’s very good with rice pilaf, wild rice, or basmati rice.

Another “delish” way to enjoy black beans is in this Time-Out Back Bean Dip.

This post is linked to:
This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Microwavable Mac & Cheese in a Mug

I was so convinced that this recipe was not going to work, that I mocked it while I was making it. Literally, mocked it. Yep. 

The joke was on me, it worked exceptionally well. It yields a generous half-cup serving of creamy and delicious pasta that, it seems, would provide an excellent snack for hungry children when they get home from school. It’s something so easy to prepare, that they could make it themselves. I imagine that plenty of additions could be stirred into this — crumbled bacon, diced Melissa’s Roasted Red Bell Peppers, and Melissa’s Pickled Jalapeños come to mind. I do intend to experiment, but in the meantime, you might want to give it a try. Let me know how you like it, and if you come up with some interesting additions of your own. 
Microwavable Mac & Cheese in a Mug
Slightly adapted from Babble

1/3 cup elbow macaroni pasta (I used pipette)
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 cup pre-packaged shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 drops hot sauce

Combine the pasta and water in a large, microwave-safe mug.

Microwave on high for 2 minutes; stir. (The water may overflow while it heats up. It is OK if this happens. To avoid, I used a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.)

Repeat this for at least 2-4 more minutes, stirring at each 2-minute interval. The water should absorb completely and the pasta will be cooked through. If the pasta needs another minute, add one more teaspoon of water and microwave for another minute.

Remove from the microwave and stir in the milk, cheese, and hot sauce, if using. Microwave for another minute. Stir to combine and enjoy!

If you prefer cooking pasta the old-fashioned way, but hate the bother, try this easy One Pan 30-Minute Pasta Alfredo.

This post is linked to:

This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Matty Matheson's Cookbook & FABULOUS Onion Soup

I like meat in a cookbook whether it’s a vegetarian cookbook, a pastry cookbook, a cookie cookbook, or not. By “meat” I mean something that I can sink my teeth into. Stories, history, passion, I read cookbooks like I read novels, and when one comes along that provides me with all of this, plus recipes, I’m sold!
 Matty Matheson: A Cookbook is, according to his own words, “an honest recollection of the food that molded [me] and made [me] the cook I am today. This book is about his beginnings with his family at the beach where they would eat oysters, mussels, and clams harvested from the surrounding waters. It’s about early memories with grandparents and with siblings. The early days of his career, and the cities and restaurants that formed him into the chef that he is today. Along with the stories, are colorful photos, and mouthwatering recipes. The pictures are enticing, the text is engaging, and there is something in this cookbook that everyone will enjoy.
I tried a number of recipes, but the recipe that struck a chord with me the most, was his recipe for French onion soup. I have made a lot of French onion soup in my day, but never one that contained yellow onions, red onions, pearl onions, shallots, and cipollini onions. In addition to all of these wonderful onions, there are three different wines — Madeira, Port, and Sherry. Imagine the intense flavor that you’re going to get from these ingredients. Well, frankly, you can’t imagine it, you have to make it. The aroma is heady, the soup is rich, complex, and oh, so flavorful. The toasted bread and melted cheese are an ambrosial combination on top of the most delicious soup you will ever eat. One caveat, because I was raised on Famous-Barr’s French Onion Soup that has a thicker, more gravy-like texture, I did stir in a cornstarch slurry near the end of the cooking time to slightly thicken the soup.

This book is yet another wonderful offering from Abrams; the recipe for the onion soup is above. You’re going to have to buy the book (you can find it here) to get more, but you won’t be disappointed.

This post contains affiliate links.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Pumpkins are Coming! Tablescape

I always enjoy setting my first colorful table of autumn, because it is really the creation of so many people, and brings back such memories.

 If you find neutrals more pleasing than a lot of color, you will want to see this "Whispers of Fall" Tablescape.