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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Potluck suppers

Casserole Carrier Insulated Blue Khaki with FloralAn  insulated casserole carrier from Moonlight55

I looked up the origin of this term. One theory is that it refers to communal meals served by Irish women in one pot--each woman threw in whatever she had. In the American West, the meals were community affairs with no planned menu--everyone brought whatever dish they wanted and you literally took "luck of the pot." I have been to potluck suppers where there was an assigned menu--if you signed up for the entree, you got a recipe to fix. I once signed up for dessert and made my first Bundt cake--half of which stayed in the pan when I tried to take it out. I learned the hard way that  you must take the cake out of the pan five minutes after removing it from the oven. So I made a second cake, and one of the men in the group ever after referred to me as the "two-cake" lady.
My daughter Jordan has instituted small summer night potluck suppers at her house, and she chooses a theme for each. We've had pizza (she was out of town that week, and Christian could do it), and salad suppers, and, of course Mexican night. Most recently it was southern down-home cooking--chicken (okay, from KFC), mac and cheese, turnip greens, green beans (my contribution), and the best sweet cornbread I've ever eaten. I'm not sure what she'll come up with next for the theme.
I take my dishes in a wonderful casserole carrier that my mom bought years ago at a church bazaar. When she was widowed, she lived near us and ate supper with us almost every night, always bringing a dish in the carrier. A friend said she could make a pattern from mine and copy it--and she made several. I bought them as gifts. But recently Terry Moon saw the title of my food blog and wrote me about her handmade gift ideas. She sells insulated casserole carriers, trivets, pot holder, and skillet handle coveers made of designer fabric. Check them out at I think casserole carriers are one of the greatest things invented since sliced bread.
Here's the recipe for Christian's green beans--I call them that because my son-in-law, not an avid vegetable eater,  loves them. I warned him he would have to share. He didn't realize I was joking and said solemnly, "Oh, I will." You never know how many people will be there, so I took enough for Cox's army and suspect they had lots of leftovers. I used three large cans of green beans last night, but usually only use one--and if it's just the four of us (including Christian) I often don't have leftovers.

Christian’s Green Beans
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, grease saved
3 scallions, chopped
Vinegar to taste
1 28-oz. can green beans, drained
Fry bacon crisp and remove from the skillet to drain on paper towels. Leave enough grease in the skillet to sauté scallions. Pour in vinegar to taste, and add drained green beans. Crumble the bacon over the beans. Serve hot.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Persian Bejeweled Rice

I’ve made a study of Persian cuisine for a couple of decades now, ever since marrying my Iranian-born husband. Right from the start, the unique qualities of Iranian cooking delighted me: stews that pair fruit and meat with vegetables; fresh herbs that perfume rice dishes or are served like salad at the table, unadorned by dressing; the fragrance of cinnamon in savory dishes, rosewater in desserts, and saffron in nearly everything. Like an oriental carpet, Persian cuisine is intricate, sophisticated, and a feast of color for the eyes.

 Rice lies at the heart of a Persian meal, and a cook’s skill is judged by the quality of her polo. The texture should be fluffy not sticky, with each grain lying separated from its sisters. The crispy layer at the bottom of the pot, known as tadiq, must be golden, not too dark and not too pale, crunchy without being oily.

 It was my good fortune to marry into a family of excellent cooks, and over the years they’ve shared their secrets with me. Each one has her own way of preparing Persian specialties, and each one is convinced her method is the best—this is not a family of shrinking violets. Over the years, I’ve collected tips and techniques from Iranian friends and relatives and come up with my own versions.

 My signature dish is javaher polo, (bejeweled rice), which offers a festive blend of colors, flavors, and textures. It sparkles with pistachios, orange peel, and ruby-toned barberries, with a splash of golden saffron. Javaher polo is traditionally served at weddings but can be enjoyed any time of the year. It’s good hot or cold, paired with chicken, or served on its own with a spoonful of yogurt on the side.

The secret ingredient in my recipe is a drop or two of rosewater, just enough to add fragrance but not so much that it overpowers. If you don’t like rosewater in your food, just leave it out. You’ll have a more traditional version of the dish. Noosh-e jaan! Bon appetit!

Javaher Polo


1 large orange (peel only)

2 tangerines (peel only)

2 medium-sized carrots, julienned

½ cup sliced pistachios

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup zereshk (barberries), available in Middle Eastern markets, or use dried cranberries

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of hot water

Splash of rosewater (optional)

3 tablespoons butter

For the rice:

2 ½ cups Basmati rice

8 cups water

3 tablespoons oil


 1.   Rinse the rice in several changes of water. Cover with more water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and soak for at least one hour.

2.  Cover the barberries with cold water in a bowl and let stand for at least 20 minutes so any grit will sink to the bottom. Omit this step if you’re using cranberries.

3.   Quarter and peel the oranges and tangerines. Remove the white part with a sharp knife and discard. Cut the remaining peel crosswise into thin strips. Cover with cold water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse in cold water.

4.   Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the carrots and sauté until they start to soften, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the citrus peel and nuts and sauté for another 5 minutes.

5.   Scoop the barberries out of the water, making sure that the grit remains at the bottom of the bowl, and add to the carrot/orange peel/nut mixture along with the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Salt to taste. Add the saffron water, bring to a simmer, cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, adding more water if the mixture gets too dry.

6.   Bring the 8 cups of water to a boil in a large non-stick pot and add the rice. Cook until al dente (firm to the teeth, but no longer hard). Drain and rinse with cool water.

7    Heat the oil in the same pot and layer the rice with the carrot/orange peel mixture in a pyramid shape, starting and ending with rice. Poke some holes in the top to let the steam escape and sprinkle 1/4 cup of warm water over the top. Cover and cook at medium-high heat until steam starts to rise from the rice. Then lower the heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid wrapped in a clean dish towel, and cook for 40 minutes.

8.   Mound the rice on a serving platter (the various layers will mix as you lift them out of the pot). In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of the rice with ¼ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water and arrange it over the top of the mound. (This step is optional but makes for a nice presentation.)

Serve with roast or braised chicken, salad, and plain yogurt.


Heidi Noroozy writes fiction set in the Persian-American subculture and regularly travels to Iran for research and inspiration. She has published short stories in German-language anthologies and is working on a contemporary crime novel set in the turbulent world of modern Iran, where rebellious youth push the envelope of their restrictive society and journalists find ways to report the truth under the vigilant eyes of government censors. On Mondays, she blogs about Persian culture at, where the conversation is about travel, culture, and storytelling.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cooking for a book club

Please wellcome my guest, Joan Hallford, a field editor for Taste of Home magazine.

I first met Judy when she was a guest at our book club, Books and Biscuits. She has since returned several times to give us updates on her books. We always look forward to having her join us. I was invited to join the book club a few years ago when I retired for the second time as they all knew I was an avid reader. There are about 12 of us, give or take, at any given time, so we rotate our meetings at the various homes for brunch once a month. When it came time for me to host the book club, I picked some of my favorite recipes that usually get raves. I have been a Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine for 14 years so many of my favorites are Taste of Home recipes. 
Above is a picture of my brunch table. Left to right, fresh fruit and dip, Apricot and White Chocolate Coffee Cake, Monterey Quiche, and Banana Chip Mini Cupcakes.  Except for the fruit, all the recipes are from Taste of Home.

Apricot & White Chocolate Coffee Cake Recipe
Prep: 15 min. Bake: 20 min
Yield: 12 Servings

2 cups biscuit/baking mix

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg
2/3 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup white baking chips
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup biscuit/baking mix
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter
In a large bowl, combine the biscuit mix and sugar. Whisk the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chips. Pour into a greased 9-in. round baking pan. Drop preserves by teaspoonfuls over batter. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl the preserves.

For topping, combine biscuit mix and sugar in small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Yield: 12 servings.

Nutritional Facts 1 slice equals 245 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 332 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 3 g protein.

Banana-Chip Mini Cupcakes Recipe
 Prep: 30 min. Bake: 15 min./batch + cooling
Yield: 42 Servings

1 package (14 ounces) banana quick bread and muffin mix
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 tablespoon shortening
In a large bowl, combine the muffin mix, water, sour cream and egg; stir just until moistened. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Fill greased or paper-lined miniature muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
For frosting, in a microwave bowl, melt shortening and remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Frost cupcakes. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

Nutritional Facts 1 cupcake equals 65 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 6 mg cholesterol, 57 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.

Monterey Quiche Recipe
Prep: 15 min. Bake: 40 min. + standing
Yield: 12 Servings

10 eggs

4 cups (16 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups (16 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash salt
2 unbaked deep-dish pastry shells (9 inches)
In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Pour into pastry shells.
Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. 
Yield: 2 quiches (6 servings each).

Lighter version: Makeover Monterey Quiche

Nutritional Facts 1 piece equals 452 calories, 32 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 239 mg cholesterol, 692 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 21 g protein.

We’ve enjoyed having Judy visit us and keep us up to date on what she is doing and are looking forward to having her visit us again soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these recipes.
About Joan Hallford

A grdiate of Birdville High School and TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, Joan retired from both the Federal government (GSA) and Birdville ISD. She has been a volunteer for the past five years at her church’s resale shop and is active in her church, mmediate past chair of her circle. She was chair of the committee for her circle’s church-wide cookbook published several years ago.

She and her husband were Key Volunteers with the U.S. Marine Corps, 14th Marines, NAS, JRB, Fort Worth, for five years (their son is a Marine and her husband, a Marine veteran).
Joan has been a Field Editor for Taste of Home magazine for fourteen years. She appeared on Fox 4’s Good Day morning program twice doing food demos for Taste of Home. She is also a Field Editor for Healthy Cooking magazine and on the Reader’s Council for Simple and Delicious magazine.
In the August/September issue of Taste of Home, Joan is featured at the magazine's headquarters promoting the new  cookbook; hers is a recipe for a Southwestern steak. Be sure to check out the video at

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coronation Chicken

My friend Sally Jackson sends me terrific recipes from time to time. Last week it was what she calls the world's best gazpacho--I think she's right. She's also right that it will feed Cox's Army. I ate it all week (will post another time). But yesterday I made Coronation Chicken Salad. Sally told me it was developed for Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, but I questioned that because it calls for rotisserie chicken, which sure wasn't around then, and cilantro, which I didn't hear much about until the last fifteen or twenty years. Sally sent me this documentation, but she agrees that the original dish probably used roasted or boiled chicken.

Constance Spry, an English food writer and flower arranger, and Rosemary Hume, a chef, both principals of the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London, are credited with the invention of coronation chicken. Preparing the food for the banquet of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, Spry proposed the recipe of cold chicken, curry cream sauce and dressing that would later become known as coronation chicken. The British origins are evident in the use of curry, red pepper, and mango, all tastes which the Brits undoubtedly got from India in the days of the worldwide British Empire. I’ve never cooked with mango before—or eaten it. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but it is so good. A new and welcome discovery for me.

Words of caution: I halved this to serve three and had plentiful leftovers, even after my guests had second helpings. And I scorched the curry sauce the first time I made it; had to redo it. I’m never good at reduction sauces—too impatient—and I did this at too high a heat, forgetting the sugar in the apricot jam. The second time around I cooked it much slower and stirred almost constantly (how I long for a gas stovetop!). You’ll also see some ingredient changes I made.

And a final word: it isn’t as much trouble as it looks like.

 Coronation Chicken Salad

 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used salted and couldn’t see a problem)
1 large shallot (the second time I didn’t have a shallot, used garlic)
1 large red hot chile, seeded and minced (I hate to work with peppers and used cracked red pepper and not too much)
2 tsp. curry powder
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (buy it in a squeeze tube, like toothpaste, so you don’t waste the rest of a can)
2/3 c. dry white wine
2/3 c. chicken stock or low-sodium broth
¼ c. apricot jam
½  c. crème fraiche (I used part sour cream, part yogurt)
1 large mango, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Tabasco (I omitted)
Two 3-lb. skinned rotisseries checks—leg met shredded, breast meat sliced
¼ c. sliced almonds
¼ c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
8 c. finely shredded Boston lettuce
Cilantro leaves for garnish

In a small skillet, melt butter. Add shallot and chile and cook over moderate low heat until softened. Stir in curry powder and cook over higher heat until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste, add wine and boil until reduced to three Tbsp. Add the stock and apricot jam and boil over moderately low heat, stirring almost constantly. I found it best to reduce the stock a bit by itself and then add not quite as much jam as the recipe calls for. Reduce to ¼ c. Transfer curry sauce to small bowl and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled.

Whisk mayonnaise and crème fraiche (or substitute) into curry dressing. Fold in mango, scallions, lemon juice, and cilantro. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco if using. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken thigh and leg meat with half the curry dressing. Refrigerate one hour.

Toast the almonds—the recipe says small skillet but I used a toaster oven. Keep a close eye on them. Let cool.

In separate bowl, mix oil, lime juice, mustard and sugar; Season with salt and pepper. Toss over shredded lettuce. Transfer lettuce to a platter. Top with leg meat and then sliced breast meat. Spoon remaining curry sauce over the salad (I had too much and didn’t use all of it.) Garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with pride. A great summer cool meal.