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Category — Recipes

Happy 89th, Dad

My dad, Gene Otter, in front of the farmhouse he grew up in on 7th Avenue and Missouri in Phoenix, AZ in 1933, on his 2nd birthday. Look closely and you can see nothing but farmland, orchards, and mountains behind him to the north.

My dad’s 89th birthday was last Saturday. Just as Easter was strange and different, so was this celebration. It was a far cry from the big Speakeasy Birthday Party we threw him for his 80th birthday. The photo below with Marissa and her Papa is one of my favorites from that day. Happily, I was able to find a way to make this year special with surprise guests.

My sister-in-law, Teresa, and her four sons all live in Idaho and Washington state. They moved there in the early 90’s, several years after she and my brother divorced. I arranged for all of them, along with Marissa and Jeff in Austin, to Zoom with my dad. His first experience with Zoom, was only the week before, on Easter Sunday when I brought him his food and he was able to see Marissa and Jeff. He was so happy and touched that everyone came together for this birthday, even if only virtually.

Since we still aren’t able to gather, I set up a social distancing dinner on his front patio. Connor and I brought the large swivel/rocker chairs from the back patio to the front and then we used a tape measurer to be sure that those two chairs, along with the loveseat and couch from the front were all more than 6 feet from one another.

I brought everything else from home, including the dishes, plastic drinkware, flatware, napkins, serving pieces, water pitcher, individual “tablecloths,” which were actually oversized napkins, and the vintage TV trays you see below. I scored those at Sweet Salvage several years ago. They are really quite hideous, but oh so nostalgic.

While the Zoom call was going on, Dave was picking up the birthday dinner I’d preordered from Beckett’s Table. It was the homestyle type of food my dad loves; Salad with Seasonal Vegetables, Meatloaf with buttery Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Dinner Rolls with whipped butter, and Carrot Cake for dessert. I’m only sorry I didn’t get any photos of it, I was too busy eating! Although I was able to snag a photo from the restaurant’s Facebook page. My presentation was not up to this level!

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April 24, 2020   6 Comments

Use what you’ve got

Before I begin with a new recipe, I have to confess, I did not make any headway on the master closet yesterday. The reason is that I spent 4 hours online at defensive driving school after a photo radar ticket came in the mail. I hate photo radar!

I admit that I speed, going the speed limit is against my very nature but I am usually hyper-alert to photo radar traps. The worst part about it is that on the day I was flashed, I was on my way home from doing good deeds, delivering face masks and food to others. As they say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Anyhow, I’ll try to get after that closet today.

I don’t know if any of you ran into the same issue with your Easter meal as I did. For weeks we were asked to only buy enough groceries for the week ahead, which I abide by. Then the week before Easter we were asked to avoid going to grocery stores altogether, if at all possible. Since Easter brunch only consisted of Connor, Dave, and myself, I decided that I could make that possible.

I knew that I had cooked chicken and caramelized onions in the freezer, about a cup of milk and eggs in the refrigerator, tomatoes on the counter, herbs in the garden, potatoes in the pantry, and, of course, plenty of cheese. I could make a tart! The only thing I was missing was butter to make a homemade crust. I generally have puff pastry in the freezer, but I’d used that a couple of weeks ago and had not remembered to replace it. No butter, no puff pastry, no crust … hmm, I could use the potatoes as a crust. I gave that a try but would advise against it. A fair amount of the egg filling ran out of the tart pans, so I’m writing the recipe using a puff pastry crust and layering in the potatoes with the other fillings.

Note #1: I also did not have heavy cream, so I boiled down my 1 cup of 2% milk reducing it to 1/2 cup. Not as rich and creamy, but it worked. You should use cream, as the recipe calls for.

Note #2: I also used 3 rectangular tart pans instead of a round, only because I was taking food to my dad and I knew that squares would be easier to cut and easier for him to reheat instead of wedges.

Our Easter tart was still delicious, and if you make this recipe, yours will be prettier with the puff pastry setting off the scalloped edges of the tart pan.

Quarantine Easter Tart with Caramelized Onions, Thyme, Potatoes, and Chicken

Caramelized Onions

  • 2 pounds sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chicken broth and/or white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Tart

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped, divided
  • 7-ounce package Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar (or another white cheddar of your choice), grated and divided
  • 8 ounces brie, rind removed and cut or torn into small pieces
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Garnish

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Mixed fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, sage, and basil. Stir clear of rosemary and cilantro)

Caramelized Onions: Place an extra-large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, turn the heat to medium-low and add the sliced onions, separating them into individual rings as they are added to the skillet. Once the onions are wilted down and are soft and translucent, add the garlic, and dried thyme, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly cook until the onions are a medium caramel color, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Do not try to rush, it takes time and patience to get perfectly caramelized onions. Stir often, and as needed, as the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of chicken broth or white wine at a time. This will bring up the brown bits at the bottom and prevent the onions from burning. After cooking for about 40 minutes, add the balsamic vinegar and cook for the remaining 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Tart: Soak potato slices in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Drain well; pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry to fit a 12-inch round removable base tart tin, prick all over with a fork. Place in the freezer while you cook the potatoes.

Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to reach a depth of about 1/4-inch; when the oil is hot, add potato in one layer, working in batches, pan-fry just until the potato slices are softened but not brown, about 3 minutes per batch.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer potato slices to paper towels, in a single layer and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Remember, your tart will have a puff pastry crust under these potatoes.

Remove the tart pan from the freezer, and cover the puff pastry with a layer of potatoes. Top with half of the caramelized onions; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the fresh thyme leaves. Next, add half of the chicken. Sprinkle on half of the grated cheddar.

Layer again with the potatoes, onion, and chicken. Dot with the brie pieces and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, the remaining 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and cream, and pour over the filling.

Sprinkle on the remaining cheddar. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling is set and the pastry is golden. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from tart pan and cutting.

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April 23, 2020   1 Comment

Easter 2020 tablescape

It’s been a week since Easter and I realized that the only Easter thing I’ve posted since then has been the cocktail. Priorities!

It was a strange gathering in strange times. A few days prior, my dad decided he was not comfortable coming and that he’d rather stay home. He is alone, so this made me especially sad. My dad does not have internet, own a computer, and barely knows how to use his smartphone. Last year, his cellular carrier forced him to get rid of his flip phone and get a smartphone. He uses it strictly as a phone. He does not text, open a web browser, use the camera, etc. and does not want to learn how.

So early in the day, Connor and I took him plates of our Easter meal and I brought along my computer.

I set the laptop on boxes in his garage so that we would not need to go into his house. I used the hotspot on my phone to connect the laptop to WiFi and we were able to use Zoom so that he could see and talk to Marissa and Jeff in Austin. He was thrilled.

For our Easter meal, I set up three place settings using the 6-foot social distancing requirement. Connor was at one end of my 7-foot outdoor table and Dave was at the opposite end.

I had myself set up on a tray that was 6 feet from each of them since sitting in at the center area of the table would have positioned us too close together.

The guys were required to enter through the back gate into my backyard and were not permitted to go inside the house. We had a FaceTime call with Dave’s mom, brother, nieces, and nephew in Illinois. Then another Zoom call with Marissa and Jeff where we played games with the Jackbox.TV app.

I made a small Easter Harmony Board for the guys to share at the main table, the half with the yellow and green grass for Dave and the half with the pink and purple grass for Connor. Everyone had their own serving utensils, wine bottles, pitchers for the signature cocktail, etc. so that nothing was shared or touched by anyone else.

This means that I had a little Harmony Board of my own. All for me!

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April 20, 2020   8 Comments

The George

My signature cocktail for Easter brunch came together at the last minute. I had a dozen grapefruits that had been sitting on my counter for a week or more when I noticed that they were getting soft on the Thursday before Easter. I juiced them out and put the juice in the fridge, knowing that I’d somehow use it for an Easter cocktail.

I had forgotten I had the juice until about an hour before brunch began. So I searched the web for a grapefruit juice cocktail recipe. One of the first I saw was called a Danny Ocean. George Clooney? Ocean’s Eleven? Count me in!

The recipe called for a specific brand of tequila, Casamigos. I didn’t care about that, I knew I had a big bottle of Costco’s Kirkland brand of tequila, so I was good to go. The original recipe for the Danny Ocean called for grapefruit juice, lemon juice, agave nectar, maraschino liqueur, and Reposado tequila. I only had Añejo and Blanco tequilas, this would have to do.

Blanco is the lightest of the three in color (clear) and flavor. Reposado is a golden honey color that has aged longer and is richer and more complex than Blanco. Añejo is a rich caramel color, aged even longer, and is the most complex of the three. I decided to go with the Blanco. I grabbed the smaller of the two bottles I had, put it on the kitchen counter, and low and behold it was the Casamigos brand! Casamigos is Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) and George Clooney’s tequila. I had no idea I had a bottle of it. I know that I didn’t buy it so it must have been a hostess gift. Thank you, friend, whoever you are.

Since I wasn’t using the richer Reposado tequila, I decided to use all grapefruit juice and omit the lemon juice. I switched the sweeter agave nectar out and used simple syrup instead. And since I didn’t even know there was such a thing as maraschino liqueur, I used the syrup from amarena cherries.

If you’ve never had an amarena cherry, you must order a jar as soon as possible. You will never eat a maraschino cherry again… well maybe in a Shirley Temple, but that is all they are good for! Amarena cherries are a dark wild cherry from Italy and the syrup they are packed in is divine, drizzle it over ice cream and thank me later. Plus they come in the most beautiful little decorative jars.

Trader Joe’s sold them for a while, although I don’t think they are on the shelves now. You can find them HERE.

Since I changed just about every aspect of the recipe for the original Danny Ocean cocktail, I’ve named my cocktail “The George” Enjoy!

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April 15, 2020   3 Comments

recipe challenge

As I mentioned in my last post on Friday, my friend, Ronnie, sent me the challenge to come up with a recipe with what she had in her pantry and refrigerator. You’ll find that recipe and the photos that Ronnie took of the process and of the finished dish below. If you would like to participate and send me a challenge of your own, please do! Just send an email to LPGourmett@aol.com with a list of what you have on hand and I will come up with a plan for using those items to make a dish/meal. Then you make the dish/meal and send me photos of the process and the finished dish to share here. Please type Pantry/Refrigerator Challenge in the subject line of your email.

This photo was taken in front of my old house at one of our neighborhood Progressive Dinners. The theme of this one was “White Trash” – Ronnie and I made a great party planning team!

On March 31, I received this text from Ronnie:

“OK, Let’s challenge LHop. What can I make with frozen Brussels sprouts, barley, vege broth??? Oh, I do have some frozen ground beef and shrimp. Maybe ‘Challenge LHop’ can be a new addition for your website.”

My response:

“Let’s see, the only thing I can really think of with that combination would be to cook the barley in the vegetable stock.

If the Brussels sprouts are still frozen when you read this, you could process them through the food processor with a slicing blade before they thaw completely so they aren’t soft and mushy.

Then lay the slices out on paper towels to thaw and drain. Use more paper towels to firmly pat out any excess water once they’re completely thawed and then pan fry them in a little olive oil to crisp them up.

As you remove them from the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then sauté the onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in the same pan.

Return the Brussels sprouts and the barley to the skillet and if you have any cheese, such as Parmesan or asiago- add the grated cheese and maybe some nuts to it at the very end. Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts,  pecans whatever you have on hand. 

You could serve that as a warm salad with some shrimp that you throw on the barbie.

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April 14, 2020   1 Comment

new and improved

On September 16, 2009, when this blog was one-month-old, I posted a recipe for Zucchini Nut Bread. Today I’m posting an updated version. There were three large zucchini in the market box I purchased a week ago. I haven’t been inspired to use them until now. I found a recipe from the website Kitchn which used a few techniques I wanted to try on quick bread.

A quick note before I continue. I doubled the recipe, so the instructions tell you that the recipe makes four mini loaves but you’ll see that I end up with eight. That is why.

The first technique was to squeeze the moisture out of the grated zucchini. This is not a new technique, I’ve used it before, for example in this Zucchini Crostini recipe. I’d never thought to use the technique for a quick bread, but it makes perfect sense. It results in a lighter, less dense, less heavy bread. Below is a photo of how much liquid I removed, plus what was left in the wet towel.

Next, was the idea of replacing the usual cinnamon in zucchini bread with lemon zest. Less wintery, more spring and summery. You had me at Lemon!

Lastly, lay the bread on its side when cooling. The thought here is that the bottom of the loaf is the hottest part, so exposing it to more air (instead of trapping that heat between the rack and the counter -creating an unwanted steaming action) helps prevent the bottom of the loaf from becoming soggy. Brilliant! And it works!

If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see that I cooled one loaf with the bottom on the rack. It’s true, the bottom crust was not as crisp as on the others. This recipe is a winner all around. Oh and that Zucchini Crostini is a keeper too. Be sure to bookmark them both for when you have a plethora of zucchini this summer.

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April 8, 2020   2 Comments

Lisa’s Pepper Pasta

My former neighbor and dear friend, Lisa James, and I meet up to walk several mornings a week. On the mornings we don’t walk, Lisa teaches spin class at the YMCA. The Y closed several weeks ago and since then, we walk every morning. For years, I’ve heard about Lisa’s Pepper Pasta. It is one of her family’s most requested recipes. One morning last week, she mentioned that she had made it the night before. Finally, I asked her if she would share the recipe. She did one better and gave me the recipe and a container of leftovers to try.

I had it that same evening for dinner and I can see why her family loves it so much. When I went to the store to buy the Italian sausage and canned tomatoes, the store was out of canned tomatoes.

So I decided to make it with what I had in my freezer, shredded chicken and roasted cherry tomatoes. Below is my “use what you have” take on Lisa’s recipe. To make Lisa’s original version, switch out the chicken for sweet or hot Italian sausage and cook the sausage in the skillet first and use a 32 to 35-ounce can of plum tomatoes in place of the roasted cherry tomatoes. Also, you may not need the reserved pasta water for the original, since you will have the juice from the canned tomatoes. But it never hurts to reserve a little pasta water for any pasta recipe, just in case you need it.

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April 7, 2020   1 Comment

virtual family time

My son, Connor, came over yesterday afternoon for a Virtual Happy Hour with my daughter and son-in-law, Marissa and Jeff, who live in Austin, Texas.

We used Zoom to connect online and then went to JackboxGames and played two different games from that site, Drawful, and Fibbage. We had a blast and we are going to “gather” again next week.

Marissa and Jeff had leftover pasta for dinner. I made a Harmony Board to share with Connor. And once he arrived, we made my version of our favorite drink, a Frozen G & T, from an Austin restaurant we love, Loro.

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April 2, 2020   1 Comment

a boost

Every little thing we can do for ourselves, our family and friends during these frightening days enables us to feel a bit better. For me, making immunity boost shots helps fill that need.

I first spotted and began buying the little immunity shots at Trader Joe’s late last year. A few weeks later, I found them at Costco for a better price. Eventually, I got tired of them and stopped putting them in my cart.

But all along I’d wash out and save the little bottles with the thought of using them for some sort of homemade Christmas gift to give in 2020. I hadn’t given any thought about exactly what I’d fill the tiny bottles with, but I knew I’d think of something by December.

Well, the use of the bottles came sooner than expected. Last week, I created a homemade version, filled the bottles, and gave them to family and friends to give them a boost of immunity. Here is a list of what is in the recipe and the benefits of these immunity-rich foods:

Ginger: anti-inflammatory, supports digestion, helps with motion sickness, reduces pain, is rich in antioxidants, and boosts the immune system.

Citrus: excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient that strengthens the immune system and keeps your skin smooth and elastic.

Coconut Water: has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that can help increase your body’s immune system and fight viral infections like flu.

Turmeric: a natural way to help bolster the immune system by increasing the immunomodulating capacity of the body. Add turmeric to your diet during periods of stress or during flu season to help give your immune system a boost.

Raw Honey: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, rich in antioxidants, strengthens the immune system, and anti-inflammatory.

I did not use honey in my batch only because I drink at least three shots a day and I didn’t want the added calories. Also, I only had 20 little bottles, so I filled those to give away and then I poured the rest into the empty coconut water box and keep that in the refrigerator. A serving is 2 ounces or 1/4 cup.

If you were to use an actual shot glass to drink from, you’d need to fill it three times for one servicing. I use a 1/4 cup liquid measuring cup made by OXO to drink my shots. WARNING: This is a strong drink, especially without the honey, so slam it back like you would a shot of tequila, the faster the better. This is by no means a sipping drink. 🙂

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April 1, 2020   6 Comments

“An apple a day” and ‘Eh, What’s up Doc?’

I am sure it has become abundantly clear to all that my top comfort food is soup. During these turbulent and uncertain times, I bring you another soup recipe. Once again it is inspired by the produce I received in the farmer’s market box from McClendon Select. I used the onion, leeks and the two bunches of yellow carrots from the photo above. When you purchase carrots from the grocery store, they rarely have the green tops attached. These carrots looked as if they were freshly plucked from the ground the very morning they were received. I just had to use those gorgeous tops for a pesto garnish. Of course, you do not need to use any garnish for this soup, but if you have the tops, please do not waste them. I also used the leeks from the box for a second garnish of frizzled leeks. Frizzled leeks are often used to garnish grilled meats but they are equally wonderful atop soups and salads.

Since carrots are once again the main ingredient of a soup recipe, I have a little carrot trivia for you:

Did you know?

Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant carrot-chewing standing position originated in a scene in the 1934 film It Happened One Night, in which Clark Gable’s character leans against a fence, rapidly eating carrots and talking with his mouth full to Claudette Colbert’s character.

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March 31, 2020   4 Comments