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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Aunt Amy’s Giant Stuffed Hamburger

Aunt Amy is a beloved relative in New York--the Bronx to be specific--and we don't see nearly enough of her. But several of her recipes have become legendary in the family. One is a layered ice cream pie that you make in so many stages that you must start days ahead of time. Then there's one for stuffed shells and another for chicken burgers--she may not even remember some of these.
Recently I fixed Christian a birthday dinner--one of several that he enjoyed. Because he's a meat and potatoes man, I fixed Aunt Amy's Giant Stuffed Hamburger.

Aunt Amy’s Giant Stuffed Hamburger
2 Tbsp. butter
1¼ c. herbed, seasoned stuffing mix, crushed (makes about ¾ cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 3-oz. can mushrooms, drained (You could use sautéed fresh, which would be good; I omit them these days because Christian, Brandon, and Melanie think mushrooms are poison.)
⅓ c. beef broth
¼ c. sliced green onion
¼ c. toasted almonds (I put them in but didn't care for the crunch in the meat)
¼ c. snipped parsley (optional, but a nice touch)
1 tsp. lemon juice--or a little more
2 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. salt--or more to taste
Black pepper and Worcestershire to taste

Melt butter in saucepan and remove from heat. Add stuffing mix, egg, mushrooms, beef broth, onion, almonds, parsley, and lemon juice. (It’s remarkable what adding lemon or lime juice does to a variety of recipes!) Mix well and set aside.

Combine beef with salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Mix thoroughly and divide in half. On sheets of waxed paper (I have one of the few old-fashioned kitchens where there is still a roll of waxed paper), spread meat out into 8-inch circles. Spoon stuffing over one circle of meat to within 1 inch of edge. Top with second circle of meat and peel off waxed paper. Seal around edges and invert into a well-greased flat grilling basket--the kind designed for fish. Grill over medium heat about 10-12 minutes per side. Cut into wedges and serve. Makes six servings.
Don’t have a grill or it’s too cold outside? Broil it in the oven—it still tastes great. Just don’t overcook it and get it dry. And if you don't have a basket, I'm not sure what you'd do about flipping it. Me? I'd call for help.
For a side, I fixed Christians green beans. Brown three or four pieces of bacon until quite crisp; set aside. Sauté sliced scallions in bacon grease (I know, I know--it's bad for you but once in a while won't hurt). Drain and dump in a large can of green beans (about 28 oz.). Shake in cider vinegar to taste. Crumble bacon over and serve warm. This is based on my mom's wilted lettuce--I should make that soon.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kitchen Disasters and Meat Pasties

We all have disasters—the cake that doesn’t rise, the pizza that burns, something that tastes off and you don’t know why. I once made a casserole of lima beans and blue cheese—awful, but I was young and green and didn’t know any better.

The other day I made stuffed zucchini. I usually cook the zucchini, hollow it out, sauté celery and onions in butter, add the insides of the zucchini (never much), and bread crumbs. Pile it back into the zucchini shells, top with grated cheese and bake. Always good.

This time I decided to use a favorite tuna recipe.

 1 7-oz. can albacore tuna in water, drained

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar

¼ c. chopped celery

1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

1/3 c. sour cream

 To make matters worse (or, I thought, better) I mixed in the zucchini insides that I had hollowed out. Baked the whole thing—maybe I should have salt and peppered the zucchini, drained it, done something—but it was bland and watery and even the cheese mixture didn’t taste as good as usual.

 Here’s what you should do:

 Use 1 pkg. refrigerated biscuits

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

 Roll each biscuit into 4 in. oval and pus about 1/3 c. tuna mix on each of six biscuits. Top with remaining biscuits, pinch the edges together, and brush melted butter on the top.  Let sit a few minutes; bake 15-18 minutes @ 400. Makes six. They freeze well.

I like meat pasties, although when I posted earlier about my disaster, someone asked, “What’s a pasty?” It’s a dish we get from Wales and amounts to putting unbaked filling into circles of dough and baking—great for lunch boxes, etc. Sometime I’ll post the recipe I inherited for Nachitoches meat pies from Louisiana—spicy and good.

 But I have another almost pasty recipe I borrowed from Mystery Lovers Kitchen when Riley Adams was posting there. Riley had teen-age sons to feed and her recipes were always outstanding and filling. This is for chicken crescent rolls.

 6 oz. cooked, chopped chicken

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

½ c. chopped mushrooms

2 Tbsp. sliced green onions

1 pkg. 8 crescent rolls

1 Tbsp. melted butter

 Mix together chicken, cream cheese, mushrooms and onions. Roll out crescent rolls into rectangles and pinch perforations together to end with 4 rectangles. Put ½ of chicken mixture in the center of each of the four. Pull the dough up and over and pinch closed. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with crushed croutons. Bake 12-15 minutes in a preheated 375 oven. If they start to get too brown, cover loosely with foil the last five minutes. (My mother always cut up a brown paper sack to do this—even with Thanksgiving turkey; she claimed the heat killed any germs!). With four rectangles, you won’t feed many teenagers and many have to double the recipe.

 Thanks to Riley Adams, and if you haven’t checked out Mystery Lovers Kitchen, you really should. These days they do lots more desserts than main dishes, but I used to get some great entrees from the site.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birthday celebration and the easiest salad ever

We had a riotous, rowdy celebration of four birthdays tonight--belatedly, mine on the 22nd and neighbor Susan's on the 25th; in advance, son-in-law Christian's Aug. 6 and good friend Phil's Aug. 15 when he'll be out of town. Phil enjoyed Jacob's b'day so much that he said that was what he wanted for his birthday--toys. And he got them--a jump rope, an awful sqishy rubber spider, one of those paddles with a small ball attached (never could master that and neither could he). Mostly it was a no-gifts, have fun party--and we did. I am blessed with such wonderful friends, and a daughter who decorated the house with balloons, party favors, and a giant cut-out Darth Vader (remnant of one of Jacob's parties).
Dinner parties at my house are often potluck, as was this tonight. Neighbor Jay (the good looking one) brought his mother-in-law's spaghetti, I made a marinated vegetable salad and artichoke/cheese bread (even Christian, the non-artichoke eater, had several pieces). For appetizers Jordan brought salami, a sharp Irish cheddar, and a cheddar with rosemary plus an artichoke dip--all so good. For dessert Subie brought-at my request--Black Forest Cake. I'm in heaven--they left the one leftover piece with me.
I'm not sure when I've had more fun with this group of people. What I love about them is that they didn't know each other (with a couple of exceptions) until I brought them together and now they are close friends. Sophie was so excited she had to be let out twice before she would come in and quiet down but she finally did and was a good dog. Phil's guide dog, Santiago, always excites her beyond belief but Santiago is nine, a Lab, and all he wants when he's not working is to lie down and rest. Sophie does not understand that. She also pestered Susan's 91-year-old father with a vengeance, I guess because he was new, though he's been here before. Anyway, it was a wonderful evening.

Here's my easy marinated salad recipe:

1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 large can cut green beans (not French style), drained
1 small head broccoli, cut into tiny flowerets
A bunch of teeny tiny carrots
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

You can use whatever else you want--the original recipe left out corn and black beans but called for cauliflower (I couldn't see buying a whole cauliflower and I'm not particularly fond of it), avocado (which gets lost in the mix), and a shredded head of lettuce (which wilts and ruins the leftovers--without it, the salad is good for days).

I jar bottled salad dressing of your choice. I used Paul Newman's Own Vinaigrette. The original recipe called for Kraft Italian. If you're ambitious, you can make your own. I should have but I was also busy making artichoke/cheese bread--so good!

Let the salad sit several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Lovely evening, delicious food.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The ubiquitous onion soup dip and other retro foods

My daughter had a potluck gathering last night, and I love being included in this group of forty-year-olds (though Jordan will huffily remind me that she's not forty yet!). Being lazy, my contribution was potato chips with onion soup dip. People deride it as passé, so sixties, trite, etc. but they consume every bit of it. I actually serve it fairly often, It's so easy to make. One of Jordan's friends and I actually had a whole conversation about the whole onion soup thing.
Several years ago friends and I decided to have a retro potluck dinner--we'd serve the foods of the sixties that we remembered from growing up.
I announced I would make tuna noodle casserole, and one friend asked, "Do I really have to eat it?" I assured her mine is good...and it is. Another friend made orange Jello salad with carrots and pineapple in it--remember that? And we had two batches of onion soup dip--one made with no-fat sour cream, which we pronounced a crashing failure. This was back before we realized that if the manufacturers took the fat out, they put in something to substitute, probably worse. I always buy whole sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese, rarely buy anything low fat. Just eat less!
Back to the successful batch of onion soup dip--one man was so taken with it, he said to his wife, "This is delicious. Can you get the recipe?" She smiled smugly and said, "I think I can handle it."
Here's my tuna casserole recipe, which I really like (I also used to use it for leftover turkey):

One cup white wine
Handful of herbs--thyme, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, black pepper, savory, parsley, whatever strikes  your fancy, though I'd leave out cumin, chile powder and related spices
Egg noodles - maybe 5 oz. or so
1 7-oz. can chunk albacore tuna
1 can cream of mushroom soup--not low fat
Vegetable of choice--I like frozen green peas; use however much you want
Dash of Worcestershire
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dry mustard if you want
French fried onion rings or other crispy topping of your preference--buttered Ritz cracker crumbs are also good (nobody said this is a weight watchers' recipe)

Boil wine and herbs hard until mixture turns black. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil some egg noodles. Drain and rinse.

Mix tuna, noodles, soup, wine mixture, vegetable and seasonings. Top with topping of choice and bake until casserole is bubbly and topping is brown. 350 for about 25-30 minutes. Honest, it's good! But then, I like almost anything tuna.

As for onion soup dip
1 envelope original onion soup mix
2 cups (16 oz. container) sour cream--not lowfat or no fat
1 bag sturdy waffle potato chips

Mix soup seasonings and sour cream and chill in a bowl. Put chips in a separate bowl. Serve--and sit back and  laugh.

Note I wanted to post a cute picture of myself and my hostess-daughter from last night, but I can't get it out of regular email and into my photo file. Hence the picture of the onion soup box. Eye-catching, isn't it?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The ubiquitous zucchini

One year, in another house, we had a bumper crop of zucchini and I despaired over finding new things to do with them--you can only sauté in soy sauce so often or broil with olive oil, salt and pepper, and Parmesan. I did occasionally stuff scraped-out halves with a mixture of sautéed scallions, chopped celery, the zucchini's insides, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper, topping them with grated cheddar or Parmesan. I still do that often, and a half a zucchini makes a good dinner for me.
But lately I've been reading recipes for a variety of stuffed zucchini--Italian style with capicola, lemon, ricotta topped with marinara; a Tex-Mex with garlic, jalapeno, chipotle chili powder, Muenster, a chopped tomato, scallions and cilantro. A lemon-pasta version sounds good--tiny ditalini pasta, a shallot, cream, chicken broth, Havarti, Parmesan, an egg yolk, parsley, lemon zest and breadcrumbs.
But the recipe that caught my fancy was for crab-stuffed zucchini with crabmeat, mayonnaise, Creole mustard, Worcestersire, and cayenne with cayenne pepper and scallions for topping. If you've read much of Potluck with Judy, you know I'm a big tuna fan, and it occurred to me that I could stuff one of those zucchini in my fridge with a tuna and cheddar mixture I really like. Usually I put it into pasties, using refrigerator biscuits, putting the tuna between two halves, sealing the edges and brushing with butter before baking. But I bet it would be good with zucchini and maybe a bit more healthy.

Tuna stuffing

1 7 oz. can tuna
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 c. chopped celery
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley (about the extent of my current parsley crop)
1/3 c. sour cream

I haven't tried this yet, but I guess I'd put some extra cheddar on the top and bake. More cheese never hurt anything.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Dark and rainy here all day. No complaints from me--Texas always needs the rain and we're grateful. Perfect day for desk work, which I did, and a nap. Made myself ham salad (I usually keep a thick slice of ham in the fridge) and accompanied it with leftover potato salad from Jacob's birthday. I'd made it according to the recipe from County Line BBQ, which you can easily find online. It calls for a whole lot of dill pickle relish--don't blink, be bold. The result is worth it. But the recipe will feed Cox's army (20?) so halve it except it extraordinary circumstances. After lunch, I went back to work for a while, and decided this dreary day called for breakfast for supper--scrambled eggs and bacon.
I went to sleep in a dark and dreary world  and woke to a bright sunny one. Somehow, scrambled eggs didn't seem quite right.
I decided I'd have creamed tuna. Now when I get a craving, very little distracts me. Not even the fact that I had no noodles and no milk for a white sauce. Chicken broth was frozen and I didn't feel like thawing just a bit. But I always have white wine on hand--so there was my sauce--melted about a Tbsp. of butter, sautéed a chopped scallion in it, added a Tbsp. of flour and, slowly, about a cup of wine. Then I threw in salt and pepper, a good pinch of thyme, and some frozen green peas. Finally added a small can of tuna. Served it on rye toast and there was dinner. Delicious.
I know some people cringe at the thought of creamed anything, but I like those dishes--even creamed chipped beef if it's made right. And in this case the wine makes an enormous difference. And there was hardly any cleanup left to do. I also use a healthy bit of wine in tuna casserole.
I forgot, as usual, to take a picture, so here are the leftovers in the skillet.
One point: I use really good, wild-caught tuna. Although tonight was a different brand, I usually use tuna (and salmon) from the Pisces Cannery in Oregon. Email me for contact information (it's more expensive than grocery store tuna) but don't order all the salmon! Save some for me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Not my day in the kitchen

Today was one of those days I just should have stayed out of the kitchen. I was making a meatloaf that called for two eggs. Cracked one egg into the bowl and put the shell on a nearby paper towel headed for the trash; cracked the second egg--right into the paper towel. So I carried the whole sodden mess to the trash, hoping it would drip, and got a third egg--three eggs to get two. Then I was frying bacon for a one-person wilted lettuce salad--and I burned it. So two pieces of bacon to get one usable one.
I will says the meatloaf was delicious. Lamb, with a bit of ground pork--yes, greasy, and a mess to clean up after, but because I put it on a rack, the grease all dripped down and the meatloaf itself was not greasy at all. Simply seasoned with parsley, basil, parmesan, salt and pepper but it had a great flavor. And I used a trick I learned from a Paula Dean recipe--use Ritz crackers for crumbs instead of bread. Not non-fat and I know it, but it gives great texture and richness. I forgot my mom's trick of throwing in a handful of instant tapioca to make it hold together, but the meatloaf had great texture and didn't need it. Should make great sandwiches tomorrow.
There's a great history of mystery novels and cooking. The two seem to go together, and I think sometime I'll do an article on it. You can call up several theories--in a world of blood and murder, people want comfort is one of the most common. Several classic mystery sleuths have been cooks and you can get their cookbooks today--there's a Nancy Drew cookbook and one of Nero Wolfe's recipes, along with one by Patricia Cornwall. And many more. But the recipe I used tonight was a modernized version from Nero Wolfe's book. It reminded gently that you could put crackers or bread, parley, and chopped shallots in a food processor but pointed out that in Nero Wolfe's days that gadget didn't exist. Anyway, if you want to try it, the cookbook is available online and I found the actual recipe online.
With my meatloaf, I had canned corn--left over because my daughter opened too many cans for a party dip last night--and wilted lettuce.

Wilted lettuce is an old and simple recipe from my mom:

Fry bacon (and try not to burn it--classic wisdom is when you fry bacon, stand there and watch it; do not wander away to your computer).
Drain bacon
Tear up fresh leaf lettuce into bite size pieces
Put vinegar in the bacon drippings (about 2/3 drippings to 1/3 vinegar); heat
Pour hot oil/vinegar over greens.
Crumble bacon into salad.

Optional: after bacon is fried, sauté a chopped scallion or two in the grease.

You can do this with fresh spinach, and my son-in-law, Christian, particularly likes it if I do it with canned green beans.

Happy cooking--and watch your bacon!