Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

It’s spring!  Rhubarb and the first strawberries of the year are at the Farmer’s market!  So I’ve just GOT TO make a strawberry-rhubarb pie!  Which recipe will I use?  My own of course, but can I really call it my own creation after all it originated as a Rhubarb pie from a Martha Stewart recipe?   

I was re-reading a post from Diane Jacob’s excellent and informative blog, Will Write for Food about the controversial issue of calling a recipe ones own. Most recipes aren’t ever truly original. Does adapting a recipe make it possible to lay claim to it?  Some people feel that if there are three ingredients/measurement changes and the recipe is not copied verbatim from the original then it’s fair game to claim it as their own. My changes included the addition of strawberries and a change from orange to Minneola tangerines. My measurements were more specific and the amount of flour, cardamom and type of juice and rind were changed to fit my taste. Other folks say to give acknowledgement to the originator. So with all this in mind I will state that my Strawberry Rhubarb pie is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Tartan Rhubarb Pie and leave it at that. You can check out her recipe and compare the changes I’ve made.  Now that we’re done with that,” Ladies and Gentlemen, FIRE UP your oven, GET OUT your rolling pin and START baking ! Cause this pie will get you out of your winter hibernation and jumpstart your Spring !! 




Rosie’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

 Pie dough for 2-crust pie



3 cups halved strawberries

3 cups fresh rhubarb- cut into 1-inch pieces

1-cup sugar

grated rind of one Minneola Tangerine *( approx. 1 Tblsp.)

¼ cup FRESH tangerine juice

½ tsp. cardamom powder (freshly ground/pulverized the best)

1/3-cup flour

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place a cookie pan in oven to heat up. **

 Combine strawberries with rhubarb.  Add sugar, tangerine rind, juice and , cardamom. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add flour to fruit mixture and toss until incorporated.  Let sit for 5 more minutes.

Roll out bottom crust and lay this into the pie pan. Fill with fruit mixture.

Roll out second pie dough and cut into 1-½ inch wide strips.  Lay half of the strips across the top of pie. Weave the remaining dough strips over and under the first strips. Roll the dough from strips and bottom crust together to form a rim. Crimp crust together and attach parts to pie pan.

 Brush the top piecrust with some milk or cream and sprinkle some coarse sugar or white sugar on top.

 Bake for 60-75 minutes until the juices are bubbling CLEAR red.

 *You can substitute any tangerine rind or juice

** Preheating the cookie sheet before placing the pie on top will insure that your bottom crust will be crispy.









Read Full Post »

It’s a brand new year with an even tighter budget. Eeek! Since Larry and I are not into living a life of deprivation we decided to explore what we absolutely had to have besides our basic needs. Eating, cooking and entertaining were our top priorities. It’s not unusual for us to entertain friends over a home cooked meal at least three-four times a month. So how were we going to accomplish this within our budget? We decided to have two ways of entertaining. One would be to have simple suppers with a one dish entree. No frills such as dessert or appetizer, just a spontaneous invite to join us for our normal weekday meal.

We also wanted to continue having themed based dinner parties serving a complete meal of appetizer,main course,side dish and dessert. We decided to set a budget of $20 for each dinner. How would we be able to accomplish this? Here’s what we came up with. First we would ask our guests to contribute to the meal by bringing a beverage of choice and an appetizer, salad or dessert. We would cook the main dish and whatever else needed. In addition we would limit the number of guests to a maximum of four.

It would be a win-win situation for all of us. Our guest would be spending less than they would in a restaurant and they would also have the opportunity to learn how to make a new dish with the recipes I provided.

I decided upon a Cuban menu this month since a bunch of us were going to a local club to learn a new (for us) kind of Cuban dance called Son. Here’s what we made.

Cuban dinner for Six

Appetizer:  Yucca fritas ( fried yucca) with mojo criolla sauce

Yucca fritas
2 large yucca roots
1/4 cup cooking oil
Cut yucca into 4 inch lengths. Leave peels on yucca. Steam them until knife cuts into them and they are soft ( not mushy) like potatoes. Cool and strip peels off. Cut into french fry size wedges. Fry in hot oil until brown on all sides and sprinkle with salt.

Mojo Criolla sauce

6-7 cloves garlic- crushed
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 Tablsp. white vinegar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Crush and pulverize garlic cloves with salt and pepper. Add cumin powder. Combine garlic mixture, vinegar, orange,lime juice and olive oil in blender and blend until frothy. Add chopped cilantro and adjust with more salt as needed.

Salad: Orange avocado salad with lime cumin vinaigrette

Orange avocado salad with lime cumin vinaigrette

3 cups mixed salad greens
1-avocado sliced or chunked
3 oranges- peels cut off and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4-1/2 cup sliced red onions

Toss ingredients above gently with vinaigrette.

Lime cumin vinaigrette * from Deborah Madison- Vegetarian cooking for Everyone

1 garlic clove
grated rind of 2 limes
3 Tablsp. lime juice
2 Tablsp.chopped shallots
1/2 jalapeno chili- seeded and minced
1/2 tsp.cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablsp. chopped cilantro
Mash and pulverize garlic with salt. Combine with lime rind,juice, shallots and chili.
Toast cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Cool and then grind into a fine powder. Add to lime mixture. Whisk in mustard and oil. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed. Let rest for 15 minutes and add cilantro just serving.

Entree:  Arroz con pollo ( rice with chicken)

Arroz con Pollo

4 chicken thighs
4 chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic- minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp.dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
2 Tablsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tablsp. olive oil
2 cups onion- chopped
4 cloves garlic- minced
1 red bell pepper- -sliced
3-4 ripe Roma tomatoes- chopped
12 oz. of beer
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups short grain white rice
3/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas
Cut each chicken breast into 2 half pieces. Marinate the chicken breasts and thighs with the garlic, salt, pepper, oregano,cumin,coriander and red wine vinegar for 6-24 hours. Refrigerate.

In a large oven proof pan, fry chicken pieces over medium high heat in oil until browned on all sides. They should not be cooked through. Set aside chicken when browned and saute the onion and garlic with the oil from fried chicken. Saute onions until soft and yellow. Add bell pepper slices and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook at medium flame until the tomatoes are soft and juices have been released. Add beer and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add rice and mix thoroughly. Turn off heat and place chicken pieces decoratively over rice. Place a foil over the pan and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Take foil off and sprinkle peas over rice and chicken and bake for 10 minutes longer.
Rice will be soft and almost soupy. I like the rice to be soft and almost risotto like in texture. If you want it to be drier, bake it a bit longer uncovered.

Dessert:  Fresh pineapple and mango sorbet

Fresh pineapple slices with mango sorbet and guava halves*

Cut pineapple into small wedges and serve with scoops of store bought mango sorbet.
*If you are able to find fresh guava, include on plate.

Total cost for arroz con pollo and fried yucca with mojo sauce and ingredients: $18
It really amounted to less since I bought two whole chickens and was able to use the drumsticks and wings for another meal.

Read Full Post »

There’s a renaissance of creativity erupting in this country. Out of necessity people are making all sorts of wonderful things from found items. In my quest to “Waste Not, Want Not” I’ve been making my ever changing mac n’cheese. I love the alchemy that takes place when I use leftover cheeses from my fridge to make this dish. Homely scraps, wedges and lumps of different cheeses go into a white sauce that’s mixed with penne macaroni and then covered with parmesan cheese. Baked until golden brown,the interior of this dish emerges loaded with toothsome pieces of pasta bathed in a complex sauce of many cheeses. It’s magical how all the flavors deliciously merge and meld into each other.  

At different times I’ve used bits of brie, fontina, gorgonzola, manchego, cheddar, provolone, gruyere, parmesan, and asiago.It always turns out delicious. If I have some leftover bits of ham or prosciutto I’ll add them as well. Sometimes a mound of caramelized onions,handful of spinach or sun dried tomatoes get thrown in.The fun part of this dish is using whatever that’s available and experiencing something new each time. The only things I don’t change are the proportions for the white sauce and cheese. Using the Silver Palate recipe for Macaroni with Quattro Formaggi as a template I’ve been able to create my own take on their recipe by adding dijon mustard and different types of cheeses and ingredients. My latest creation had mostly provolone,some gorgonzola, asiago, and fontina cheese. I also threw in some strips of fried prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes and a handful of spinach leaves. I topped it with a mixture of parmesan and asiago cheese.Try this recipe and then try putting in your own combination of cheeses and ingredients to make your own Magical Mystical Mac N’Cheese. 

Magical Mystical Mac N’Cheese

1 lb. penne marcaroni
5 Tablsp. butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups of assorted cheeeses ( provolone, gorgonzola,fontina, mozzarella, asiago)
1/2 cup fried strips of prosciutto or ham
1/2 cup strips of sun dried tomatoes
handful of spinach leaves
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 cup of parmesan and/or asiago cheeses

Boil penne until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In an oven proof pan or casserole dish make a white sauce by melting butter over medium heat until bubbling. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and whisk over medium heat until it gets to a consistency of cream. Add nutmeg, dijon mustard,black and red pepper flakes. Add chopped up cheeses and continue to whisk until all is melted. Add prosciutto,sun dried tomatoes and spinach.Taste and adjust with salt as needed. Mix in penne and cover with parmesan/asiago cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees 



Read Full Post »

A whole lotta mushrooms !Soup's on !A fully loaded bowl of soup Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s a holiday that focuses on counting our blessings. I’m blessed with having abundance in my life. I have a large loving family consisting of a wonderful husband,a son,daughter,
grandson,mother,five siblings with their children and grandchildren. Thanksgiving dinner with my family usually means having 30-35 family members taking up every conceivable seating space in the house. Everyone contributes to this meal and there’s always enough leftovers to take home. It’s a heart-filling sight to experience and I revel in this pleasure.

Riding on this high and wanting to share the abundance of this dinner with my friends, I started a tradition years ago. I asked folks to bring over leftovers from their Thanksgiving dinner to share with each other. Over the years it morphed into a Day After Thanksgiving hike and supper.

Every year we start with a leisurely walk to work off all the yummy food eaten the night before. Since we’re blessed with an abundance of forests, wetlands and seashore to choose from, it’s a different place each year. There’s lots of time to talk, laugh,bird watch and take in nature. Cheese, bread, sandwiches or whatever anyone wants to bring is shared on the trail.

Afterwards we gather at my home for a supper consisting of whatever folks have brought and a turkey mushroom barley soup I’ve made from the leftover turkey carcass,stock, meat scraps and veggies. Someone starts up a fire while others set out the food that’s shown up. When the rich earthy aroma of the soup floods the kitchen I call out,”Soups on”. We gather together and someone makes a toast to the soup and our shared gratitude for the abundance in our lives. Life is good.

Turkey mushroom barley soup

Enriched turkey broth

1 turkey carcass
leftover turkey stock or chicken stock to cover carcass
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion-quartered
2 carrots-cut into chunks
2 stalks of celery- cut into rough chunks
1 medium parsnip- cut into chunks
2 Tablsp. butter
1 medium onion-diced
3 carrots- cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 stalks celery- cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 parsnips- cut into 1/2 inch rounds
3/4 pound of cremini mushrooms- 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried or fresh thyme
1 cup barley*
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 cup + leftover turkey meat
Optional: 2-3 Tablsp.sherry
1. Strip meat from turkey carcass. Cut into 1 inch pieces and
set aside.
2. Put carcass in large stock pot and cover with broth to almost
cover turkey. Add bay leaves with chunked carrots,celery and
parsnip. Wash and break stems off mushrooms and add to pot.
Save the caps for later.
3. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Strain turkey and vegetables and discard. Save the broth for soup.
5. Cut mushroom caps into chunks, dice remaining onion, carrots,
celery stalks and parsnip. Saute vegetables in butter until soft.
Add thyme and black pepper.
6. Add the turkey broth and bring to boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
7. Turn heat up to a gentle boil and slowly add barley. Stir and
simmer soup for 30-40 minutes until the barley is soft. Add
parsley and turkey meat. Taste and adjust with salt and more
pepper as needed.
8. Add sherry to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.

* You can increase barley to 1 1/2 cups if you want the soup to be
dense with barley.

Yield: Approximately 30-(2 cup)servings

Read Full Post »

Croque monsieur

Celebrating Spring

Spring is in the air, Ah… Choo! Green sprouts and buds are appearing everywhere. Birds are chirping, the sun is out. Yahoo! I feel like celebrating this greening, this rebirth by eating one of mother earth’s gifts. Ta Da! The asparagus!

The asparagus is such an elegant vegetable. Proud, erect, regal in its bearing, I always feel a sense of honor eating it. Its flavor is delicate but distinctively sweet and lightly grassy. It can be steamed, roasted, grilled, stir-fried or baked. I love to roast them for a very short time in a hot oven with a light drizzle of soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seed. Sometimes I steam them until they are just al-dente and serve them with plain old mayonnaise for dipping. Other times I serve them as a light and elegant appetizer for a special meal. I change the flavor of the dipping or hollandaise sauce to fit the theme of what I’m serving.

Green and grand atop a Croque Monsieur, it makes an impressive brunch entree. A croque monsieur is basically a French style grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Over the years many cooks have fancied up this sandwich by dipping it in an egg milk batter and frying it. Others have incorporated béchamel sauce in it. My favorite version is from Tartine, in San Francisco. They serve it open faced with a draping of rich béchamel sauce and asparagus. Using their house baked bread; it is simply sublime in its richness. Here’s my version of Tartine’s croque monsieur.

Croque Monsieur
Serves: 4 (two slices each)

8 slices of sourdough bread or levain bread sliced ½ inch thick
¼ cup olive oil
16- medium sized asparagus
8 –pieces of thinly sliced cooked ham
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Cheese Béchamel sauce*
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup diced onions
3-Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 –teaspoon lemon thyme
1 –bay leaf
3 ½- Tablespoons butter
3 ½- Tablespoons flour
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
3- Tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼- teaspoon white pepper
½- teaspoon salt
½- teaspoon grated nutmeg

Add onion, parsley, thyme and bay leaf to milk. At medium heat, bring milk almost to a boil, turn off fire and let herbs steep in milk for 15 minutes. In a separate pot, make a roux by melting butter and adding flour together over medium heat. Whisk the flour and butter together and let it bubble gently for 2 minutes. Drain onion mixture from milk. Add the drained milk to this roux and whisk until smooth. Bring to boil, then turn down to low heat and cook for another 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to keep sauce smooth. Add 1 cup grated Gruyere, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard. Whisk until combined and smooth. Set aside. Blanch or nuke asparagus for 1 minute and set aside.
Brush bread on both sides with olive oil and toast in a 450-degree oven till one side is crisp. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes. Turn bread over and spread 1 Tablespoon of béchamel sauce over the surface. Lay a slice of ham, then 2 asparagus spears across the length of the bread. Spread 1 ½ Tablespoons of béchamel sauce over asparagus and ham and sprinkle approximately 2-3 Tablespoons of grated Gruyere over ham and asparagus. Bake in oven till melted and brown. This takes approximately 10-15 minutes. Enjoy !

I have served this for an elegant brunch, dinner as well as appetizer when cut into fourths.

*Béchamel sauce recipe adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Here’s an additional topping for non-meat eaters or mushroom lovers.

Wild mushroom topping

1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 lb. shitake mushrooms sliced 1/2″ thick
1/3 lb. cremini mushrooms sliced 1/2″thick
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced lemon thyme- fresh or dried
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons sherry
3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Melt butter with olive oil. Saute over medium high heat, the mushrooms until they start to give up their liquids. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and continue to saute until they is almost no liquid in pan. Add sherry and saute over high heat for 3 minutes.
Add parsley and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Read Full Post »

I’m Back !!! I’ve officially retired from teaching in the classroom. After twenty years teaching kids with learning needs it was time to strike out and spend more time on following my other bliss, writing, cooking, creating new recipes. So many projects, so little time and as I entered my 65th year of life I wanted to make sure I got a couple of these projects done before……… So first on the list was to make a list, prioritize and set goals. Got my private practice as a Learning specialist started. Next was to self publish my book “Tasting Life” a collection of food stories, poems and recipes.** Shameless promoting but that’s what old ladies can get away with these days. Got that done. Now finally, I have the time to work on completing my cookbook and attending to my neglected blog.

In preparation for retirement Larry and I talked about what I wanted to gain from this decision. One major thing was to get healthier, lose weight, exercise more and have the time to complete my writing projects. As my income would be greatly reduced, we planned how we could live on a smaller budget yet still continue to cook and eat delicious meals as well as entertain our friends. We both agreed that we didn’t want to feel deprived when it came to eating. So we started cooking differently and found that we were able save money, eat more healthfully and continue to enjoy delicious meals. I found to my delight that not only was I losing weight but also I was wasting less food in the process. So here’s one thing I’ve learned so far.

Budget and health tip number one. Eat less meat. As a child in a Chinese household, meat was never the main item on the table but was used to accompany vegetables in stir fries. If we did have a roasted chicken, pork or beef we only ate a few pieces alongside the variety of other dishes with vegetables on the table. Back then I was much slimmer and healthier. Over the years after leaving my mother’s kitchen I ate more meat, less vegetables and subsequently gained more weight. Now I’m back to cooking in the style of my mother and I’m finally losing weight and feeling way healthier. Last week I bought a whole roasted chicken from Costco for $4.99. I used just one breast from this roast and made this Southeast Asian chopped salad. Now I’ve got enough leftover meat and bones to make a chicken pot pie for four people, chicken hash for two and enough for curried chicken salad for both of us for lunch. Hmmm, maybe I’ll make some empanadas instead……..

South East Asian chopped chicken salad- 2 large servings

3 cups- sliced romaine lettuce ( 1 inch strips)
handful of arugula
1/2 cup – red onion – sliced thinly
1- medium carrot- cut into julienne slices
3/4 cup cubed cucumbers
1 1/2-2 cups fresh mango*- cut up into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup – chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp.- black pepper
3 Tablespoons FRESH lime juice
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup-roasted chicken- cubed into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped or crushed roasted (unsalted) peanuts

1. In a large salad bowl, toss lettuce,arugula, onion, carrots and cucumbers together.
2. Peel mango with vegetable peeler. Cut sides and then cube. Cut off any extra meat off seed and use as well.
2. Add the cut up mango pieces with cilantro to salad .
3. Sprinkle lime juice and black pepper over the mango pieces.
3. Sprinkle soy sauce, fish sauce over mango, salad and toss together.
4. Add chicken, peanuts and toss again.

* I prefer to use the Hayden or Tommy Atkins mangoes. They are firmer than the Manilla type of mangoes and have more meat.
** “Tasting Life” will be available through Amazon in late September.

Read Full Post »

Tamale Mania party


A couple of years ago I wanted to celebrate my 60th birthday by having friends over to cook and eat together.  I knew I wanted to make it a Mexican party because my husband and I had recently moved into a part of Oakland that was near a large Mexican community.  The local markets were full of the most interesting ingredients and I wanted to cook with as many of them as I could.  I knew I wanted to have a Mexican barbacoa but when I discovered  a tortilleria where freshly made masa was sold, I knew I just HAD to include homemade tamales in my menu.

So I sent out an invitation to about 75 of my friends inviting them to join me in this adventure. About 25 friends responded to the tamale making part.  The rest of the guests opted to join us  for the Mexican barbeque in the afternoon. The menu would include three kinds of tamales; chicken mole in banana leaves, pork with red chili and  pumpkin tamales for dessert.  The barbecue would have puerco pibil, grilled whole fish, carne asada, coriander rice, drunken beans and of course lots of beer and mojitos.

The day before the party I prepared enough filling for 400 tamales.  Okay, that sounds a bit obsessive now but I had a good excuse !  I’m Chinese and we’re always worried that there won’t be enough food !

pork tamales in progress

The next day 25 friends trooped into my kitchen with 9 food processors in hand along with 1 pound of butter each to make the tamales as outlined by Alice Guadalupe Tapp in her book “Tamales 101”.  The goal was to beat the masa until it floated in water.  This phenomena would insure that the cooked masa would have a fluffy texture.  It was not so easy but it was fun.  Some people got kinda competitive.  But eventually one person, then more people got the hang of how to beat it until it floated.  Then onto the filling, wrapping and steaming.  It was a grand assembly line of laughing people.  I even got a corn husk crown and skirt out of the extra husks.

tamale assembly

While we waited for the first batch to cook I fed everyone pupusas from Lupitas Pupuseria down the street.   The grassy aroma of the banana leaves steaming whetted our appetites for our first batch of tamales with chicken in oaxacan mole sauce. When it was ready we gathered around the platter, threw caution to the wind and opened up our hot little tamale packages.  It was a huge success!   Our sweaty faces shone with the pleasure of  being rewarded with these absolutely yummy toothsome tamales !  All fillings were incredible!  The Mexican barbecue was a hit also.

Steaming the pork tamales

As I sent my guests home with baggies filled with tamales I thought the best part of this party was seeing my very diverse group of friends finally meet each other, laugh and cook together.  It was the absolutely best birthday party I had ever had !  Can’t wait for my 70th !

Chicken tamale and banana leaf in progress

Read Full Post »