In My Kitchen – January 2015

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and that 2015 will be a happy and healthy new year for all.

Don’t you love getting ‘real’ mail?  Real mail being NOT bills, supermarket flyers, or 6 pre-approved credit card offers.  You can imagine my delight when I received a chubby envelope from Celia in Australia.  Many of you know Celia from her great blog and as the hostess of these monthly In My Kitchen features.  If you haven’t stopped by yet to see her, this would be a good time to check out what’s happening in her kitchen this month at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Inside the envelope were the seeds for making my first ever sourdough starter…so, the first thing happening this year in my kitchen is sourdough:
IMG_1673Celia very helpfully included very detailed instructions on getting the started perked up and ready to go.  She also suggested naming my starter, referencing where it came from, namely Priscilla.  I’ve named my starter Mamie, sister of Priscilla, in honor of my mother who was a world class baker.  I should warn you though, that at any time Mamie may decide to suddenly change her name as my mother did.  Yes, I have to tell you the story of the time I was visiting my mother when I answered the phone for her.  That conversation was a pretty typical conversation with my mother and went something like this:

Mamie:  Who was that?
Me:  I don’t know – wrong number, someone looking for Mary
Mamie:  Oh!  That’s for me, who was it?
Me:  I have no idea but it was someone looking for MARY, Ma. (My mother was a little hard of hearing).
Mamie:  No, that’s me.
Me:  (Who’s on first?)  What do you mean – are you Mary?
Mamie:  Yes of course I’m Mary!
Me:  When did this happen?
Mamie:  I’ve always been Mary
Me:  Then why did your parents call you Mamie?  And why did Dad call you Mamie…and your brothers and sisters?  Why is the mail addressed to Mamie?
Mamie:  They got it wrong and it was wrong on my birth certificate.  (End of discussion, next!)

So, just like that my mother decided her name was Mary and started using it on all of her documents so I guess it was legal.  One day I may take out my Mamie starter only to find that it’s now Mary, twin of Mamie, sister of Priscilla.

As Celia promised, my starter came to life and I got my first batch of sourdough bread ready to go, leaving it on the counter overnight until the next morning when it was ready to bust out of the bowl.  Alas, the dough was ready to go but I was upstairs with a rip roaring migraine.  Glenda – do you remember suggesting that my husband take up bread making during his retirement?  The idea of fresh bread was too overwhelming for him to not step up to the plate and finish off according to Celia’s great tutorial.  There were a few minor adjustments due to poor math skills with conversions (mine – and they would have happened even if I didn’t have a migraine).  End result – maybe not the prettiest but our opinion is that it tastes great!
IMG_1679Of course I got plenty of cool gadgets and gifts from my family and friends.  Now that I’ve got the first batch of sourdough under my belt, it’s time to try this butter making kit from my daughter.  It should be great on my next batch of sourdough:


I also had some temporary things in my kitchen.  Sushi:

Cute little guy isn’t he?  He was a Christmas gift for Tim, our future son-in-law and I was a wreck worrying about making sure he survived until I could get him to Tim.  Lucky for me, I turned around in time as Moe the Terrorist Cat was tap-tapping Sushi’s jar to see the how he handled gravity.  Oh, he’s also been renamed Henry (I think).

Now here’s what looks like a very fun gadget from Tim’s mother:
I have to buy some more grapes or cherry tomatoes to give this little gizmo a try but what you do is load it up with round objects and slide the slicer to cut the round objects in half.  I imagine I can come up with other round objects to stuff in there and the beauty of it is that the blade is safely inside so I shouldn’t slice off any fingers this year (at least not with this).

And how about this Fadenschneider?  I think I like that name better than just “microplane”.    It’s always useful to have a zester and bottle opener handy but I’ve never had anything to make those clever curly garnishes that all of you fancy bloggers are doing.  I sort of mangled a lime so I guess I still need some practice with my Fadenschneider, but once I do, you are going to see curly things all over my food.
And finally, moved from my kitchen to the back yard is this fun birdseed wreath from our great friends and neighbors, Tom and Sue.  It took the birds a while to figure out what that was hanging out there, but I think our recent sleet and snow storm convinced the birds to give it a try and we had dozens of birds out there yesterday fighting for treats.
IMG_1684Thank you all for sharing your stories with me this past year and especially for stopping by to read and comment on my posts.  I love hearing from you all and feel that I am a lucky person to have so many wonderful friends around the world.  Your stories brighten my days and I love learning about you through your love of good food and fun friendship.  May you all continue to share your joy of cooking and have a healthy, love filled New Year!



Strawberry Cream Scones (or you could call them biscuits)

Unfortunately, I missed Celia’s International Scone Week last year so when the buckets of rain came pouring down on us yesterday, I figured – hey, this is a scone baking kinda day!  Now I’ve been making these scones for years because around here the only available scones you can buy could be used for hockey pucks or building a brick adobe hut.  Hard as rocks and as tasty as sand.  Almost everyone I’ve served these to have loved them with comments like “these are succulent!”.  I say almost everyone because every time I’ve tried to get my husband to try them, he’s said “maybe later”.  Translated that means “maybe NEVER“.  I’d ask him why and he’d just say “I don’t like scones”.  So when he came home last night and saw the strawberries (his favorite) peeking out of these um, delectable little things and asked me what they were, I told him BISCUITS!  He loves biscuits – had some last night, had some this morning and took one to work.

Now I still haven’t told him that he ate the dreaded scones and I’m not sure that I will but I hope you enjoy them as much as he did.


Strawberry Cream Scones

2 1/2  Cups flour
2        Teaspoons baking powder
1        Teaspoon baking soda
1/2     Cup granulated sugar
1       Stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (cold, cut in pieces)
1/2    Cup sour cream
1/4    Cup heavy cream
1       Egg
Fruit of your choice – chopped strawberries in this case but blueberries are great

–  In food processor, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar
–  add in pieces of butter until mixture is crumbly
–  Mix in sour cream and egg, then pour in heavy cream and blend until dough becomes very sticky
–  Add berries (and/or nuts) by hand

Lay parchment paper on baking sheets and place blobs of scone mixture, about 6 per pan.  Warning, this is a VERY sticky batter and I find a big stirring spoon & butter knife is helpful to smooth and round each scone.  An alternative is to put the mixture on the parchment paper and spoon it all out as you would a cake mix, then cut the scones into squares after baking.
Preheat oven to 400°  and bake for about 25 minutes until top is golden brown.

If you have a scone recipe to share, you’ve still got time to join in since Celia’s declared this event scone WEEK!  Link to her wonderful post to add your idea.

Cleecha – Syrian Bread Rolls

Great news from the surgeon – my x-rays show that the new hip is in perfect alignment and now it’s just a matter of physical therapy and getting the muscles in shape.  As far as he’s concerned I don’t have any restrictions on what I can do and although I didn’t bring up driving – since I’ve been doing that for 4 weeks now – I’m a free woman.

To celebrate the good news, my friend and former neighbor of over 20 years took me out for a fantastic brunch.  Judy now lives north of here in a seaside town called Newburyport which unfortunately is about an hour away but she was so kind to not only make the trip down, but true to form arrived bearing gifts…

peturnias from judy
A beautiful colorful pot of pansies which brightened my day and…
Homemade cleecha, a soft Syrian bread roll which is sooo good with morning coffee.  In the 20 years that I’ve known Judy, she’s never let me go hungry and whenever I’ve had a medical problem (or just because) she’s always the first at my door bearing homemade goodies.  Judy’s mother came to America as a young bride not knowing a word of English and raised her five kids with so much love and a wonderful appreciation of Syrian foods.  Recently Judy has documented these precious recipes and posted the videos on her blog:  The Key to my Art on WordPress.  Rather than have an amateur try to explain how to make these rolls, I’ll turn it over to the experts – Sito and Judy.  I hope you enjoy their kitchen artistry as much as I do.

In My Kitchen – February 2014

Since we’ve been in the deep freeze of one of the coldest New Englander winters of all time and with the new kitchen, you’d think that I’d be spending all of my time in the kitchen whipping up new recipes.  For some reason when the weather is like this, I tend to stick with the old favorite comfort foods and haven’t made anything new or very exciting – lots of soups, roasts, and casseroles.  I tend to hibernate when the weather is so bitterly cold that you get an ice cream headache stepping out the door and your face kind of cracks, falling into little pieces on the walk.  At my age, it’s hard to put all the pieces back in the right places which might explain the eyebrow being on my chin.

But, it’s always fun to join in to Celia’s In My Kitchen posts that she graciously hosts each month.  I don’t know about you, but I love snooping in other people’s kitchens to see what they have hanging around and this month Celia’s got lots of chocolate hanging around – in case you’re in the area.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photograph of the photographer but yesterday in my kitchen, I had our designer’s professional photographer taking pictures of my kitchen.  It’s amazing to watch someone who really knows his way around a camera but I’m afraid he would have critiqued my skills if I’d brought my camera out.  I missed that shot but Mary of Wayside Kitchens very nicely brought me these lovely roses and what I call bellflowers – maybe some of you experts out there could help me out on the blue flowers.  It brings a bit of spring into my kitchen which I really love.


On the shelf on my range hood is Mr. Hooty the owl.  It was an adorable Christmas decoration from my daughter that was just too cute to put away until next Christmas.  He watches over what I do, and since owls are wise will hopefully bring me wisdom in my kitchen.  Plus, he gives the evil eye to any dogs who try to snarf up food off the counters.


Ah, here’s my NEW coffee maker.  I may have mentioned that I’m having a little trouble getting used to the granite countertops.  I broke the pot on my old coffee maker but had a spare from the last coffee maker that burnt out.  Well, that pot seems to have hit the granite and was replaced with this new Mr. Coffee machine – yes, #3 and one of the less expensive models since I’m not trusting myself with breakables yet.  It might not be an expensive Keurig but at the rate I’m going I could rent out space here to Dunkin Donuts and buy coffee from them every morning – it would be cheaper I think.


Now Celia, I thought of you on this one…I may have mentioned that my daughter is running the Boston Marathon this spring for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.  She had a very successful fund raiser for the MS Society at The Forum restaurant which was one of the places that was damaged last spring by the marathon bombers.  They were incredibly generous to donate a section of the restaurant for her to host the event and set up tables for raffle items donated by Boston businesses.  I was very relieved to not win the month membership to Beantown Bootcamp and instead lucked out with a much more appropriate prize of this decadent box of chocolates from Max Brenner’s store which also included his book “A Chocolate Love Story”.  The book has 65 chocolate dessert recipes so you should be seeing some posts titled ‘Bohemian French Toast Chocolate Sandwiches, ‘Parisian New Life Chocolate Dream Cake” or “Mon Cheri Chocolate Cherry Pie”.


Oh… it seems that the tin of milk chocolate cubes filled with hazelnut cream and caramelized pecan bits (named Addiction) is empty!  I should take that back to see about a replacement…


 Okay, a little explanation is necessary on this one.  I was reading Happiness Stan Lives Here’s post about his new Magimix that he got for Christmas.  I commented on the fact that I had this Pro model KitchenAid Mixer sitting in a box in my closet because it was going to be a Christmas gift for my daughter.  (She’d sent me a link, maybe it was a hint to this site that had them on sale).  After buying the mixer, I thought about her limited counter space and how she could really use a new laptop, so I bought her that instead.  When I told Stan about how I had this awesome KitchenAid mixer sitting in the box in my closet,  he wrote back – ‘use it’.  I don’t remember exactly what happened.  I think I may have blacked out for a few minutes and when I came to, this major mixer had replaced my 40 year old Sunbeam mixer on my counter and it was looking pretty good to me.  Of course the clock on the warranty starts ticking from date of purchase, not use and I was concerned that it might be defective – so I used it.


That’s the dough hook attached right now which produced these cinnamon rolls (I’ve posted the recipe in a prior post, here) .  Sorry Niki, but will you forgive me if I keep turning out cinnamon rolls to share?  You’d reap the rewards with none of the work…

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Cinnamon Rolls for special friends or occasions

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I always make these cinnamon rolls for Easter and Christmas and then randomly when I get a craving for warm, yeasty, cinnamon-y,  rolls dripping with melted butter.  These are my idea of comfort food. So I knew what I would make for a dear friend and neighbor who just got home from heart surgery (it doesn’t use that much butter & he claims that the doctor said he has no dietary restrictions…so, no, I’m not trying to kill him).  Tom may have some mechanical problems with his ticker but if ever there was a person with a ‘good’ heart, it’s Tom.  We’ve been friends and neighbors for 20 years now and there’s never been a time when I needed help that Tom wasn’t there. There was the early evening during a blizzard when I looked out my window because I heard a snowblower in my driveway.  Yup, it was Tom starting to clear the 3 feet of snow that had already accumulated so that my husband could get into the driveway when he came home from work.  Then one summer I asked for advice on the basics of building a tree house with my daughter.  We were thinking a floor and a few boards nailed on the sides but I didn’t know how to make the sides.  We had something like this in mind:

Image of a kids tree house

Next day, Tom’s construction crew was in my woods and they came up with this…

cinnamon rolls 024

And I’ll never forget the day that a huge tree fell on our house, crushing the screened back porch and punching a hole in the main roof of the house.  Tom happened to be driving by when he noticed the commotion and within a couple of hours he was on our roof putting a temporary patch on.  I could go on but I think you get the idea of what kind of guy Tom is and I have to ask you – do you think there’s anything wrong with his heart?

You do need a little time to make these rolls since it requires two risings but the process isn’t difficult but oh, they are worth it.

Sweet Dough – for Cinnamon Rolls

1/4     Cup milk
1/4     Cup sugar
1/2     Teaspoon salt
3        Tablespoons butter
1/4     Cup warm water
1        Pkg active dry yeast
1        Egg, beaten
2 1/4  Cups sifted flour

*  Heat milk in small saucepan until bubbles form on edge; set aside
then add sugar, salt & butter to the milk, stir until butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm
*  In large bowl (you will mix all ingredients in this) pour yeast over 1/4 cup warm water.  Let yeast sit for a few minutes then stir until
dissolved & all lumps are gone.  Add milk mixture.

Add milk mixture to yeast

Add milk mixture to yeast

*  Add egg and 1 1/2 cups flour, stirring with wooden spoon until
smooth and dough leaves side of bowl. At this point I use the mixer
with dough hooks as I add 1/2 cup of flour, then final 1/4 cup flour.

*  Knead dough w/mixer or by hand until it has a satin appearance
and an elastic feel. Remove from mixer & knead it a little more by hand

Finish adding flour using dough hooks on mixer

Finish adding flour using dough hooks on mixer

*  In large greased bowl, slam dough ball into bowl, then pick up &
slam it down on the other side (kids love doing this). Cover with a
cloth & let rise in a slightly warmed oven until about double in size
(usually about 1 – 2 hrs).

Put dough ball into greased bowl, cover & let rise until double in bulk

Put dough ball into greased bowl, cover & let rise until double in bulk

*  Punch dough down (another good job for kids) then knead for about 10 minutes on lightly floured board.  Roll out in a large rectangle (about 12×8″), then follow directions for the cinnamon filling.

After dough has risen, roll into rectangle then spread softened butter

After dough has risen, roll into rectangle then spread softened butter

Cinnamon Swirl Filling

1/4     Cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1        Teaspoon cinnamon
1        Tablespoon granulated sugar
2        Tablespoons softened (not quite melted) butter

1.  Combine sugars and cinnamon with a fork.
2.  Spread softened butter onto sweet dough then sprinkle sugar mixture all over.
3.  Roll dough tightly, pinching edges.  With seam side down, use a serrated knife to slice into about 10 sections.  Place each roll into a greased muffin cups & pull center up slightly.

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using serrated knife, cut into about 10 sections

using serrated knife, cut into about 10 sections

4.  Return muffin pan to a slightly warmed oven until rolls rise.  Remove from oven, preheat to 350°, return rolls for about 14 minutes (yes, 14 is how I like them because they come out not doughy but just slightly cooked & soft).

I know some people like these with a little bit of glaze or icing, but I’m a purist and prefer slicing them in half with a pat of butter on each side fresh out of the oven. If microwaving later, I cut in half with butter and warm for 20 seconds.