Time for a Sweet Indulgence with No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake

A few days ago Emily Bell, my long-time friend and cooking assistant, pointed out that so far during the Covid19 crisis I hadn’t included many desserts on my blog. “Everyone needs a little sweet indulgence during these stressful times,” she continued, suggesting a recipe for No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake that we had worked on a while back.

As soon as I pulled out the recipe, I remembered how much I loved this cheesecake, a snap to assemble. The crust, prepared with shortbread cookie crumbs, gets baked for less than 10 minutes. A filling of cream cheese blended with purchased lemon curd (bound with gelatin) is added. Then the Continue reading

When In Doubt, Serve Soup While Staying Inside

While many supermarkets in our small New England town have low supplies of some foods (chicken and pork seem to sell out fast, and forget dried beans!), their fresh vegetables bins have remained bountiful. Whether I am ordering for curbside pick up or rushing through the store, I know there are vegetable counters that remain fully stocked. As a result in my fridge, I have a good supply of produce that I’ve been turning into soups. “When in doubt serve soup” is my mantra for nothing is more comforting and more nourishing! Here are two soups, both of which are favorites from my book, Soup Nights.

Warm or Cool Carrot Soup with Coconut and Lime is creamy with a vibrant orange hue, and is both quick and simple to prepare. It calls for easy-to-find ingredients, some of which you might even have on hand. An added bonus, it’s delicious served hot or cold!

For spicy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo, Lime, and Cilantro, Continue reading

Five Ways I’m Keeping My Kitchen Clean during the Coronavirus

Hello Everyone,

If you are receiving this post a third time, please accept my apologies. I was having technical difficulties trying to get all the text published. So here goes again.

After cooking nonstop since my husband and I have been sheltered in for the past three weeks,  I’ve developed new ways to keep my kitchen (for me the most important room in our home!) clean and running well.  I’ve included my tips and suggestions  here. I hope you are all staying in, staying well, and finding the time you spend in the kitchen calming and rewarding.

  1. Divide Your Kitchen Island or Counter into Two Areas with Masking Tape

    II you click on the link to this public service announcement about food safety during this Coronavirus, you’ll see a Michigan physician showing how he uses masking tape to divide his kitchen island into two areas, one for unloading food that has been brought into the kitchen in grocery bags and the other for foods that have been cleaned or readied to be eaten, cooked, or stored. This practical idea of defining areas in my kitchen has been a real life saver for me. I now bring grocery bags into the kitchen and put them on the unloading “dock” (the unsterile area) of my island. As I get the items out and ready them for shelves or cooking, I transfer them to the other clean, sterile side side.

    2. Dishwasher Tips

    Put cutlery in the utensil basket with handles up so you don’t pull out dinner forks, knives, spoons by the parts you put in your mouth. I usually wash my stainless steel knives, wooden spoons, metal spatulas and other cooking utensils by hand, but now I’m putting them in the dishwasher. Set dishwasher on the warmest water setting. For mine (a newer model Bosch), that setting is AUTOMATIC and includes sanitizing.

    3. Keeping the Refrigerator Clean and Uncluttered

    Clean shelves regularly with soap and warm water, and clear out any spoiled foods to provide more space. I wrap all uncooked meats and vegetables in plastic or put them in self-sealing bags. When I buy bread I discard the plastic wrap or paper and wrap the amount I’ll need for a few days in plastic or put it in a self-sealing bag. I freeze the rest as breads hold up well in the freezer.

    4. Cupboards

    I’ve reorganized the drawers closest to my cook top so that tongs, metal spatulas, cooking forks and spoons are close at hand They used to be a large pitcher where I took them out with my hands touching the part of the utensil used to cook or prep the food. Now I take them out of the drawer by their handles. I also rearranged my cupboards by category and in the process discovered extra boxes of pasta, a bag of brown rice, and a package of green lentils—great extra staples!

    5. Kitchen Cooking and Clean Up Routine

    Wash hands vigorously and rinse with warm water.

    Turn faucet off with elbow.

    Arrange ingredients for each dish on a tray or dinner plate – your mise en place. While cooking use a dinner plate to lay spoons, tongs, whisks and more on, rather than putting them on the counter top.

    For clean up, I rinse dishes as well as kitchen utensils and knives (mentioned above) and put them in the dishwasher. I wash pots and pans by hand with then dry and store them.

    For cleaning countertops, I moisten a paper towel with water and with liquid dish soap like Dawn and rub down the counter spaces I’ve used. Then I run a sponge over them and dry with a clean kitchen towel. I clean the stainless steel cook top with SOS pads. Finally I use several Clorax swipes to go over the counters, cooktop, and cabinet knobs and pulls. I add sponges to the dishwasher and turn on hottest setting.

    Wash hands again.

     

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Recipes for Cooking While Sheltering In

Like so many others around the country, my husband and I are staying in, venturing out only to buy groceries or to get to essential appointments. Although both of us are working at our computers, I am also spending plenty of time in the kitchen figuring out what we’ll have for dinner each night. Somehow in the midst of this frightening pandemic, cooking gives me calm and offers a sense of normalcy. I haven’t been trying to create new recipes, but rather to simplify some of my favorites with ingredients on hand.

Here are four dishes that I hope you might be tempted to try. Caramelized Roasted Cabbage, a side dish which is made, believe it or not, with only two ingredients– julienned strips of cabbage and butter! Pair it with grilled kielbasa, roast chicken, or ham, and you’ve got a great meal. Farfalle with Asparagus, Roasted Onions, and Creamy Blue is an all-in-one dish that nods to spring, which has officially arrived even though we had snow here in Massachusetts this week! Pantry Marinade for Grilled Flank Steaks is another easy recipe that as its name implies calls for ingredients likely to be stocked in your pantry. (The flank steak might be the only item you need to Continue reading

Cooking In The Time of the Coronavirus

At a local grocery store yesterday, I discovered that shoppers had completely emptied the trays for pork and chicken at the meat counter. When I asked if there were any of these products in reserve, the young butcher politely replied, “No, maybe tomorrow morning.” Then I glanced over at the fresh seafood section adjacent to the meat department, and saw that it was surprisingly well stocked.  I ordered some cod fillets, and then made a quick tour of the store, adding to my cart a large bag of pre-washed spinach, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a couple of lemons, and a can of chickpeas.  I had a recipe in mind for dinner.

Roasted cod on a bed of spinach, tomatoes, and chickpeas, a delicious all-in-one main course, is a recipe I have shared several times on this blog. It checks off several boxes for me—it calls for easily found ingredients, takes less than an hour from start to finish (20 minutes to prep and 20 or more minutes in the oven), and perhaps most important right now, it’s healthy.

Although cod fillets are delicious, halibut, hake, or other firm fish fillets also work. The fillets are arranged atop a bed of baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, and chick- peas, all layered on a large rimmed baking sheet. A touch of minced garlic and chopped black olives (both of which I had in my fridge), add extra flavor.Line  

When roasted, the fish, scented generously with lemon, is moist, while the spinach and tomatoes wilt and meld into a vibrant mélange. Here’s hoping everyone is keeping safe, staying well, and eating healthily!

 

 

What to Buy and Cook During the Coronavirus

 

Although I had chosen a nice appetizer to feature on my blog this week, I realized that what most of my friends and colleagues were talking about was what to stock up on for cooking during these challenging times when the Covid19 seems to be advancing  across our country. I’ve made multiple trips to grocery stores in my small New England town, each time picking up additional items.  So, this week, I’d  thought I share my list as well a couple of recipes for dishes made with pantry staples.

Here are two simple recipes to assemble from easy-to-have on hand ingredients. Emergency Red Beans and Rice is my go to dish not just for emergencies (like New England snowstorm weather), but through much of the year as well. And, Broccoli Soup with Curried Creme Fraiche takes less than 45 minutes to prepare and when paired with crusty bread and a salad is hearty enough to be a main course.  Oh, and here are some of the items I’ve been packing into my shopping bags.

FOR THE FREEZER

Risotto, Pasta, and Savory Tarts- Trader Joe’s prepared risottos-either their asparagus risotto or their mushroom risotto (the small bags  will feed two modestly)– are easy to use straight from the freezer. I top each serving with 2 or 3 sautéed sea scallops for some protein, and sprinkle everything with Parmesan cheese.  Trader’s Joe’s Alsatian tart Continue reading

Delicious Apple Napoleons Are A Hit at  Book Club

When February rolled around this winter, I knew it was my time to host my book club.I just didn’t know what I was going to serve for our afternoon gathering. Besides loving to read, our members are all foodies, so naturally  I wanted the spread to be special.  I finally decided on making a bowl of broccoli soup with curried crème fraiche that I offered in small portions ladled into ramekins.  A quartet of cheeses filled a cheese board along with grapes, apples, and crispy date-studded crackers.  On the sweet side, I arranged a bowl of blueberries and raspberries next to a basket of almond and orange tuiles. But, the winning dish turned out to be Apple Napoleons, my twist on traditional French pastries known as Napoleons or mille feuilles that usually include a custard filling.

I used purchased puff pastry, cutting a sheet of the dough into rectangles and then baking them until they had risen and were golden and flaky. The pastries were halved, and the bottom layers spread with lemon- and ginger-scented crème fraiche. Next they were topped with spiced sautéed apple Continue reading

Dark Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème for Valentine’s Day

For New Year’s Eve this past year, I prepared a hearty soup supper and ended it with luscious little dark chocolate and orange pots de crème. After posting photos of the evening’s menu on Facebook, many of my FB friends commented enthusiastically about this simple dessert.  So, as Valentine neared this month, I thought why not make them again for Cupid’s Day!

 Pots de crème, French for little pots of cream, are one of the easiest confections for home cooks to prepare. They take only minutes to assemble, and then typically need less than half an hour of unattended time in the oven. After chilling, they can easily rest in the fridge overnight for serving the next day. Oh, and most of the  ingredients called for are easy to find in a Continue reading

Warming Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout for Cold Winter Nights

The French have a long tradition of preparing slow-cooked stews, dishes that require a little extra time, but reward with their fork-tender meat and vegetables. Ragouts, as they are often called, are meals in themselves, and can be served alone or ladled over pasta, potatoes, polenta, or other grains of choice. Oh, and did I mention that these all-in-one dishes can be prepared ahead, and actually improve in flavor after resting in the fridge for a couple of days? Slow Cooked Lamb Ragout with Fennell, Tomatoes, and Garlic has all  these qualities, and is perfect to stave off the cold of winter, especially here in New England where I live.

I’ve made this ragout several times this month for cooking classes and for friends. On each occasion people have commented on the tenderness of the braised lamb and vegetables and appreciated the lightness yet hearty accent of the sauce. To prepare it, lamb stew meat is Continue reading

A Delicious Salad for Eating Well in the New Year

Like most of our friends, my husband and I have resolved to eat well but healthier in the new year—plenty of vegetables, smaller portions of meats, more fish, and definitely more salads. The latter is a challenge in our house since my spouse is not enthusiastic about mounds of greens tossed in dressing. However, one salad has recently scored high points with him–baby spinach and sliced Belgian endives dressed in a sherry vinaigrette, topped with a sauté of mixed mushrooms and a trio of pan-seared scallops.

This salad is a study in contrasts. Warm mushrooms and scallops are arranged over room-temperature salad greens. The natural sweetness of Continue reading