Saturday, April 18, 2009

The things you do to get a kid to eat fruit

When Ryan is home, my main goal besides trying to make him smile, is to try to fatten him up.

Food has always been a big issue for him, he has a lot of sensory-motor issues and didn't learn to chew until he was about nine years old.

Most fruits, and vegetables are on the "won't touch it with a ten foot pole" list and I think the only way we have avoided scurvy is because he absolutely loves my spaghetti sauce.

He won't drink juice or smoothies. To try and get a little fruit in him this morning I made oatmeal blueberry muffins to go with the couple of hot dogs he had for breakfast.

Hot dogs for breakfast? When you have an autistic kid, you learn to go with the flow.

Oatmeal-blueberry muffins


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 tsp cake spice or nutmeg or cinnamon

3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


Grease twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups or line them with paper bake cups; set aside.

Stir together flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

Combine egg, milk, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla in another bowl. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Fold blueberries into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-quarters full.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 16 to 18 minutes for 2-1/2-inch muffins or 10 to 12 minutes for 1-3/4-inch muffins or until done. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes; remove muffins from cups Serve warm. Makes 12 to 15 regular-size or 36 small muffins.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lazy chicken fajitas

Didn't feel much like cooking yesterday but I always want to eat :)

Mexican food is always a hit around here so I made chicken Fajitas. I had chicken tenders in the freezer from a buy-one-get-one-free sale the other week and green and red peppers leftover from my trip to the produce stand.

I was so lazy, in fact that I bought grated Mexican blend cheese and canned refried red beans and Rotel diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro to go with them.

Very easy chicken fajitas
1 1/2 - 2 lbs chicken tenders or boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
2 large green peppers cut into strips
1 large red pepper cut into strips
1 large red onion cut into strips
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbs oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
a couple dashes of hot sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 4:50.
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, cumin, salt pepper and hot sauce.
Put the chicken, peppers and onion in a big glass bowl or baking pan. Pour the marinade over the chicken and vegetables and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
If you marinated the chicken, etc., in a bowl pour into a large baking pan and pop into the oven for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and slightly browned.
Serve folded inside large warm flour tortillas with cheese, shredded lettuce, a spoonful of the diced tomatoes and sour cream with a side of refried beans.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Desperately Seeking Sweet and Sour Pork

When the twins were little and we were living in Tarpon Springs, on weekends we used to get takeout from a Chinese place a few miles away in Holiday.

All William would order was sweet and sour pork, chicken or shrimp.

Over the years, I have expanded his culinary horizons, but last night I decided to surprise him by making my own sweet and sour pork.

I have made versions of this in the past, skipping the battering and frying of the pork but frankly, it was nasty. This version was so good I wish there was some left this morning because I could eat it again right now. It is very important to use sushi vinegar or rice wine vinegar and brown sugar not granulated white sugar and distilled white vinegar, it makes all of the difference in the world.

I usually make pork or chicken egg rolls to go with Chinese dishes but decided to give a vegetarian version a whirl. William says now he doesn't want his egg rolls any other way.

Sweet and Sour Pork

2 lbs pork tenderloin

2 - 3 Tbs soy sauce

1 1/2 tsps cornstarch


1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 Tbs ketchup

4 Tbs dark soy sauce

1 cup reserved pineapple juice

1/2 cup rice wine (and only rice wine) vinegar

2 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 8 tablespoons water


2 /3 cup flour

2/3 cup cornstarch

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

2 Tbs vegetable oil

2/3 cup warm water, as needed

2 carrots

1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 20 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice

Oil for deep-frying.


Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Marinate in the soy sauce and cornstarch for 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, ketchup, dark soy sauce, salt, water or juice and vinegar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Set aside. Peel the carrot and chop on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the seeds and cut into cubes. Heat the oil for deep--frying to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. For the batter, combine the flour and cornstarch. Stir in the egg white and vegetable oil. Add as much of the warm water as is needed to form a thick batter that is neither too dry or too moist. (The batter should not be runny, but should drop off the back of a spoon). Dip the marinated pork cubes in the batter. Deep-fry9 in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the wok. Deep-fry the pork until it is golden brown. Remove and drain on brown paper . (If desired you can deep-fry the pork at second time to make it extra crispy. Make sure the oil is back up to 375 before you begin deep-frying again). To prepare the sweet and sour sauce, bring the sauce ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, green pepper, and pineapple. Bring to a boil again and thicken with cornstarch mixture, stirring. Check the sauce one more time and adjust seasonings, adding salt and/or vinegar if desired. Serve hot over the deep-fried pork. Serve the sweet and sour pork over rice.
Almost Emeril's Vegetarian Egg Rolls

Makes 8 - 10 egg rolls

2 Tbs good quality toasted sesame oil

2 Tbs corn oil

1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded

1 cup julienne carrots

12 oz sugar snap peas, minced
1 Tbs corn starch

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 package of egg roll wrappers

oil for deep frying

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the sesame and canola oil. Saute cabbage for 2 minutes. Add carrots and peas. Cook an additional 1 minute.
Whisk together cornstarch and soy sauce until smooth. Stir into vegetable mixture. Cook until sauce comes to a boil and is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Lay the egg roll skins on a flat surface and lightly brush edges with water. Place approximately 1/8 of the filling at one end of each skin, leaving a 1/4-inch border at the top and sides. Roll wrapper over filling, tucking in the ends after the first roll.
When the oil is hot, about 350 degrees F, fry the egg rolls until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the fryer and drain on brown paper.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Best laid plans

Days, nay, weeks can go by without my cell phone ringing and then comes a day when it seems as if everyone in my address book is trying to reach me at once. It was like that yesterday.

After spending some time hanging out with the horses and taking pictures of Jack, my Irish Setter, the plan was to go the the produce stand for salad material, bake pita or garlic bread to go with a pan of pastitsio and maybe fry up some zucchini fritters.

Took the photos, almost made it to the produce stand around noon and then the calls started coming. Around six o'clock the battery in my phone went dead in the middle of a call and I practically had to have the thing surgically removed from my ear. Then the land line started ringing. I didn't manage to make the pita bread or the fritters but the salad and pastitsio turned out pretty good.



8 oz ziti pasta

3 Tbs melted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 lb ground chuck

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 14 ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried mint flakes

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp pepper

4 Tbs butter

4 Tbs all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups milk

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese


Cook the ziti in rapidly boiling salted water for 9 minutes. Drain and return to pan.
Stir in the melted butter, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and the egg.
In a a skillet or large saucepan, cook ground beef and onion until meat loses its pinkness and onion is soft; drain excess fat.
Stir in tomato sauce, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, mint flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper; set aside.
In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, then mix in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Slowly stir in the 2 cups milk, stirring well after each addition so that no lumps form.
Cook and stir on medium high until cream sauce starts to thicken; stir for one minute more, then remove from heat.
Beat egg in a small bowl, then pour into cream sauce, stirring briskly.
Blend in the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.
Layer half the pasta mixture in a 11" x 7" (or 2 quart) baking dish.
Spoon the meat mixture evenly on top, then the remaining pasta.
Pour cream sauce over top, to cover completely.
Bake, uncovered, at 350F for about 40 minutes, or until hot and lightly browned.
Let stand for 10 minutes.

Spring salad with roasted asparagus


1 small head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 bunch of asparagus

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, sugar


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare the asparagus by cutting off the less tender end of the stems. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the stems are very tender and slightly crisped. Cut into thirds.

Chop the lettuce and halve the tomatoes and put them in a large salad bowl and top with the asparagus.

Make the salad dressing using a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to balsamic vinegar. Add garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and Italian seasoning to taste.

Just before serving the salad, emulsify the dressing with a hand blender or whisk. Emily suggests heating the dressing up for a couple of seconds in the microwave before pouring it on the salad to bring out the sweetness in the balsamic vinegar. Toss.

We loved the asparagus in this salad and the pastitsio was a big hit with Jack, too, who managed to snag the last few bites off my plate when I was looking for my napkin.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First time for everything

Like everybody else, we have been trying to economize. They had boneless chuck roasts on sale at one of the local grocery stores for $1.99 a pound this week and I bought a couple of them for future meals. I ground them up with plans to stock the freezer with meat to make pastitsio and maybe stuffed peppers but reserved some and made cheese burgers last night.

I have been increasingly annoyed at the price they are asking these days for hamburger rolls - especially since all I can ever find are the mass produced ones that are too soft and disintegrate when you are trying to eat them or the tasteless ones the store bakery cranks out for $3.00 a package. Both are also filled with an alarming array of chemical preservatives, so yesterday, I decided to try my hand at making my own. Since we prefer a more hardy bun I used a recipe for kaiser rolls adapted from the King Arthur Flour website. I do not own a kaiser stamp and didn't feel like going though the braiding process necessary to produce the characteristc whirls of a true kaiser roll so they ended up with the texture, but not the shape, of a kaiser.

Hamburger Rolls


3 cups unbleached all-aurpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 large egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup water

1/8 cup milk

1 egg white whisked with a tablesppon of water

Sesame seeds (or poppy seeds)


Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. With the dough hook, stir until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead on medium for 5 minutes, then turn off the mixer and let it rest for 10 minutes

Knead for an additional 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and supple, adding more flour if the dough is too soft and more milk, a tablespoon at a tme, if the dough is too stiff. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into six equal pieces.


Shape the pieces into round balls then gently flatten the balls int disks, about 1/2 inches thick or four inches in diameter, and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Cover the rolls, and allow them to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until they've almost doubled in size. Brush the egg white mixture gently over the surface of the rounds and sprinkle with seseme or poppy seeds.

Bake the in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: six large hamburger rolls

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Skyline Chili

In the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp, love blooms over a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

Our 21st anniversary is coming up later this month and it had me thinking about some of the food we used to eat when we were dating.

At the time, my "news bureau" was located in a strip mall on US 19 in Clearwater next to a really good Cuban cafe, but our favorite place to meet for lunch was Skyline Chili. How we managed to consume as much as we did back then I'll never know. We could never make up our minds about what to order so William usually ended up getting a cheese coney and a three way. My weakness was for the chili burrito deluxe and a three way. We both worked a lot of hours and chased around looking for things to write about the municipalities we covered, so maybe we needed the fuel.

After our twins were born and eating out was not an option, I had to find a way to satisfy the Skyline cravings at home. My recipe might not pass a side-by-side taste test but it's still pretty darn good. My twist is to use V8® vegetable juice to make this a little bit healthier.
Note: The beef in this recipe is not browned but added to the liquid and spices raw.
Almost Skyline Chili


2 pounds ground chuck

4 cups V8®

1 can of beef bouillon, undiluted (NOT consommé)

1 large onion, finely minced or pureed in food processor

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp garlic powder

2 or 3 Tbs chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbs cocoa

5 whole bay leaves


 chopped onion (optional)

 finely shredded cheddar cheese (definitely NOT optional - the more the merrier)

 kidney beans (optional)
 Oyster crackers (not optional in this house)

Combine all of the chili ingredients in a 5 quart Dutch oven.

Simmer uncovered for 1/2 hour.

Cover and simmer for an additional 2 1/2 hours, stirring occassionally.

Serve with lots of cheese and your choice of the other toppings.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A childhood memory

Every Sunday my dad would go to the B&W bakery and bring home jelly donuts, a pecan ring and a crumb cake for breakfast after church.

The bakery was next to the grocery store my mom walked to every week.. Packards.

Where Packards once stood is a Target store now but the bakery is still as I remembered...

November 19, 2006
New Jersey Weekend: Oh! The Places They Crowd -- Sunday; 7 a.m.: Crumb Cake by the Numbers
The numbers dispenser at B & W Bakery in Hackensack was empty, but that didn't matter. The eight customers stood in a neat line, waiting to order by the display case reserved for the bakery's signature crumb cake, which is about three-quarters streusel atop rich yellow cake. The rest of the bakery, which has been in business since 1948, was lined with the standard multilayer glass cases full of tarts, cakes and the like. But everyone ordered and paid near the crumb cake, and many bought it, paying $5.75 for a 5-by-8-inch piece.
Though the bakery had been open for only an hour, the ''oven guy'' had been in since midnight, and seven more bakers had arrived by 4 a.m. At 7:07, as a new tray of crumb cake replaced the first one of the day and the crowd grew to a dozen, a fresh roll of numbered tickets was inserted in the dispenser. No. 7 went to Bill Schroeder, a Rochelle Park police officer who had just finished his shift and was picking up some crumb cake and doughnuts to share at the Giants' game that afternoon.
No. 12 was Harold Hanson of the Teaneck Fire Department, on his way to work. He bought a melting ring and crullers. At 7:25, Eileen Tepe of Bergenfield, holding No. 25, ordered a loaf of seeded rye, a pecan ring and some rolls for her daughter Lauren to take back to the University of Delaware.
As a woman, Ms. Tepe was in the minority in the crowd. Buying baked goods seems to be something like taking out the trash: a traditional man's job and, maybe, one he can't mess up.
''The wife sends them out,'' said Ron Kraft, one of B & W's owners.
B & W Bakery, 614 Main Street, Hackensack; (201) 342-5577. CARL SOMMERS
QUICK BITE/Hackensack; Crumbs to Die For
It's well known that the raison d'ĂȘtre of crumb cake is the streusel topping. The cake base is merely the vessel by which the topping is transported to one's mouth. The higher the crumb, the better.
B&W Bakery in Hackensack, a 56-year-old institution that bills itself as ''home of the heavy crumb cake,'' may have one of the best streusel-to-cake ratios in the state. Nearly three-quarters of every bite consists of clumps of just-sweet-enough, melt-in-your-mouth crumb.
B&W -- the initials stand for Boehringer & Weimer, the original owners -- is a traditional German bakery that does sell other cakes, cookies and pastries. But the business is based on crumb cake, made with the same carefully guarded secret recipe used since 1948. A current co-owner, Ron Kraft, who first worked at the bakery 34 years ago, makes an average of 2,000 pounds of streusel a week, depending on the season. In addition to the amount of topping on his cake, he attributes its appeal to the fact that it is always fresh: the crumb cakes are baked all day long, until 5 p.m. ''We just bake 'em as we need 'em,'' Mr. Kraft said. ''And people keep coming back, because we're consistent.'' It doesn't hurt that the cake is also a bargain -- $5.50 for a strip big enough to serve six.

I've fallen behind and I can't catch up

I am suffering from too much information.

I have lots of stuff to post but it seems to be wedged somewhere in my head and is struggling to come out.

During my trip to New Jersey to visit Emily, I had one of the best pizzas ever at a place in Hackensack, the town where I spent the first 12 years of my life.

Just to get something new in this space I'm posting a couple of photos. Hopefully, I'll be back in the groove soon.

The New York Times wrote about them:

PS - if you want to get a better look at the photos on the blog, just click on them and they will open up into a larger view.