Embracing My Hate

FullSizeRender - Version 2I know we are supposed to be filled with the loving warm fuzzies this time of year.  But I feel it’s time to admit that as soon as Halloween rolls past and “the holidays” come into view, I feel something else too. I feel hate. Shocking, but true. And I’m not the only one.

In the past I’ve tried to hide it. I’ve tried to ignore my loathing, to be open to at least considering the possibility of tolerating if not liking. But this year I’ve decided I’m done. I’m 53 and it’s high time I acknowledge and embrace, publicly. Step back, here goes:

I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  I can’t think of any food I hate more. Kale comes close, but the sprouts still win. Sure they’re kinda cute, like doll-sized toy cabbages. Cuteness can’t quell my hate fire. Neither does the fact that you can buy them all cozied up on brussels branches and flaunt your purchase through the farmer’s market like a vegetable drum majorette. I still hate them.

Why the need to post my sprout scorn for all the world to see? Because people don’t believe you when you tell them politely. Seriously. All you fellow haters out there try it and just see what happens. The minute your server gleefully announces “we finally have our brussels sprouts back on the menu for the season” and you reply, “thank you, no, I don’t care for them,” the dance starts. You’ll be told that their preparation is different. Countless sprout-haters have been converted with a mere bite, just trust them. Then they throw bacon, or duck fat, or cranberries into the mix. Maybe roast the suckers in high heat ovens, or braise them in bourbon, or countless other ploys to make you think that somehow the offending cruciferous veg would magically shrug off its foulness.

I know you sprout lovers have the best of intentions, but please, PLEASE believe me. I hate them. You could wrap them in hundred-dollar bills, bathe them in dark chocolate and bring out Clooney to serve them to me off his chest, and I would still refuse. THAT is how much I hate them. But hey, my hatred leaves more sprouts for you, right? So the next time you ask me to try them, telling me I only hate them because I haven’t tried yours, don’t. I love that you love them so I don’t have to, and will never question nor judge why. Just let me embrace my hate.


Not a chance a brussels sprouts recipe could darken my blogstep, but since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, here are a few gems to help your holiday, including last year’s star attraction, trash can turkey!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 


imageFor some reason that escapes me, the pumpkin, or rather its incarnation as a spiced overly sweet caffeinated beverage has become quite the phenomena. The PSL (give it a minute, you’ll figure it out) is a beloved seasonal visitor to some, worthy of fan-blogs and twitter accounts. To others the pumpkin-spiced quaff is fodder for meme-worthy face booking, an aphrodisiac, and to one very earnest and a bit over serious Swathmore undergrad, the poster-child of sexist stereotyping. OK people, get a grip…it’s just a pumpkin spice latte. An overly tarted-up beverage version of beloved vegetable, and up until recently didn’t even contain the sexy orange squash it’s named for.

Seriously…what the?! I mean, I like pumpkin season as much as the next person, have even sipped the overhyped coffee version on occasion, yet I’m still flummoxed by the frenzy of pumpkin spiced everything this time of year. Is the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice truly worthy of social media over exposure, Swathmore undergrad ire, and coverage by both Psychology Today and the National Review? I’m thinking not. I get that the combination of those spices attached to a chubby and arguably adorable veggie invokes thoughts of crisp weather, turning leaves and cozy sweaters. So does a toddy with crisp apple cider with a good glug of whisky, but you don’t see it tweeting or begging for attention on instagram (and it should, it really should.)

File Oct 11, 6 05 46 PMSure pumpkins are swell, but let’s all just relax, enjoy the season, and not work ourselves into a lather about what pumpkin spice lusting or loathing really means. There are so many more tizzy-worthy things to fuss about out there…like how wrong donut-flavored beer and blueberry bagels are…

After all my squash rhetoric above, my original intention with this post was to spurn the combination of pumpkin, cinnamon, and associated spices and share a favorite recipe of the savory variety. However, when I got down to making the dish I’d planned, the resulting glop was a hot mess. Yep, happens to me too. I burn, over bake, under bake, and sometimes come up with truly awful concoctions. Such was my savory pumpkin disaster. And I’ve learned that when that happens, only thing to do is toss the offending dish, open a bottle of wine, take a look around my kitchen, and regroup.

Half a bottle of wine and two tasty local tacos later it hit me. Sure I’m tired of the usually cloying over sweet pumpkin pie, but why not take all the things I like about it, tone down the sweetness in the custard with a touch of fluffy whipped cream cheese and orange, put all that in a crust I don’t have to roll out because I’m just tired, and top the whole shebang with salted caramel because, well, do you really need a reason?

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Tart will forever be my go-to pumpkin pie recipe from now on. A beautifully light pumpkin custard covered in salty sweet caramelly goodness all baked into a buttery brown sugar crust. Oh man… You know, they just might be right about that pumpkin spice aphrodisiac thing after all. ;-)

File Nov 06, 10 23 46 AM

This is a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast because each components of this tart can be made ahead of time if you like. The crust freezes well unbaked, and you don’t even have to thaw before baking,  just add a little time to baking. The filling can sit in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a day or three, and the salted caramel sauce keeps well in a sealed jar in the fridge too. Any extra of the sauce is pretty much awesome over ice cream, on bread pudding, on a spoon, your finger…

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Makes 1 9″ tart, or 4 4″ individual tarts

Brown Sugar Crust

If it is possible to be in love with a pie crust, this is the one. And it’s ridiculously easy to prepare. The butter is melted, so you don’t have to worry about chilling and cutting into teeny pieces. It’s easy to just mix this up in a bowl with a fork and not have to pull out (and more importantly clean) a food processor. Yes, there is a major amount of butter in it. I don’t have a problem with that.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5.5 ounces or 1 stick + 3 TBPS butter, melted

File Nov 06, 10 25 34 AMWhisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the melted butter as you mix it with a fork until it comes together. Press the dough into your tart pan and pat out evenly on the bottom and up the sides. You could make this in a pie pan and decoratively crimp the edges, but with a tart pan you don’t have to bother. This is truly a lazy crust. An amazingly delicious lazy crust.

File Nov 06, 10 25 17 AMYou’ll want to blind bake the crust and cool it before adding in the pumpkin filling. Line with foil or parchment, then baking weights, rice or beans, and bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5-10 minutes until dry and slightly browned. Reduce oven to 325ºF, and let cool completely while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

Made a mess of pumpkin butter in my slow cooker a few weeks ago, and have been itching to develop a recipe to used some of it up. If you don’t want to make your own, pick up a jar of your favorite. I’ve found Trader Joe’s has a nice one that’s pretty affordable too.

  • 1 cup pumpkin butter
  • 1 container (about 8 ounces) whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, loosened up a bit with a few teaspoons water (start with one and add more if needed) so it’s a bit more fluid and not a solid lump of jam.
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2 TBSP dark brown sugar
  • 1 shot whisky (3 TBSPS)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • A few tablespoons of chopped toasted pecans for garnishing the finished tart

Add the pumpkin butter and cream cheese to a large bowl and beat together on low/medium until completely incorporated. I used a hand mixer, but you could use a standing one if you liked or a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat on medium until fully combined. Pour into the cooled pre-baked tart shell.

Bake the tart at 325ºF until the filling is set, about 30 minutes but time will vary based on your oven and if you have convection or not. If you are making 4 small tartlets rather than one big one, they should bake in about 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before topping with caramel sauce.

See that color? That’s what you want. And if it wasn’t lava hot when I took the picture, I’d be doing shooters.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Oh my god….this stuff….this incredible wonderful fabulous stuff…

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 TBSP water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP butter (I used salted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add the sugar and water to heavy bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-low until the sugar has completely melted. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, swirling pan occasionally but NOT stirring until the sugar is a medium-golden brown. Be brave. The darker it get’s the better it is. If you let it go too far and it burns it’s just sugar. Try again.

Once the sugar syrup is dark enough remove from heat and carefully add the cream, butter and salt. It will bubble up so be careful. Put back on medium-low heat and stir until smooth. Now raise the temp a little and gently boil about 10 minutes to let it thicken. You want about 5 fluid ounces, or a little more than 1/2 cup for the tart. Pour into a heatproof jar or bowl and chill in fridge about 15-20 minutes. It can still be warm, but you don’t want lava hot.

File Nov 06, 10 23 18 AMWhen the caramel has cooled, pour into the center of the cooled tart. Carefully tilt the tart pan to move the caramel around so it completely covers the tart. Sprinkle a ring of toasted chopped pecans along the outer edge of the tart. Chill tart in the fridge for about an hour to let everything set. Bring to room temperature before serving. This tart keeps well in the fridge, but I doubt there will be any issues with leftovers!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 

Vengeance is a dish best served with a big glass of milk

Just like the Great Pumpkin and a wealth of children wandering the streets in super hero pajamas, All Hallows Eve brings on something special in my kitchen — the annual baked blood bath…


I see dead people…Well, they are dead to me that is.  Ex-bosses who treated me like crap, sexist coworkers, catty friends, jerks who dumped me, the person who coined the phrase ‘down-sizing’: dead dead dead, dead dead. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a very nice person…really. And I truly believe that taking the high road after disappointment or heartache always makes me feel better in the end. Of course, that doesn’t prevent me from occasionally letting my imagination go a little wild and envisioning those who have done me wrong meeting gruesome fates. Problem is, I also believe in karma and what you send out to others you get back yourself. Unfortunately that means the nasty stuff too.

So what’s a very nice and occasionally vengeful gal to do? I suppose I could wish something not so terrible on them, like a nasty rash or a big zit on the end of their nose the day they are getting an important photo taken. Maybe a sudden downpour on their picnic? A really bad paper cut?  Yeah, none of that is even close to as satisfying as casting them as a victim of Jason, Freddie Krueger or Michael Myers.  But I wonder…. Maybe if I just pretend they get hacked to bits, the circle of karma won’t bite me in the ass. With Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect time to send out some good-natured grisly retribution. Yet rather than let some fictional character do the maiming, I prefer a more personal approach. Specifically, I like severing body parts.

Yes, every year for a while now, this seemingly normal woman turns into a deranged psychopath in the days leading to Halloween. Actually, I’ve been lopping off appendages, severing heads, and poking eyes out for almost two decades. Even more diabolical is I never have to worry about hiding proof of my annual blood lust. My friends and family are happy to take care of the evidence, especially my niece. She, in fact, is the is the reason I gleefully hack off appendages and put out eyes every year.

My niece was born on Halloween, and ever since her 1st birthday party I have been baking her severed body-part cookies as an annual birthday treat. There’s nothing cuter than a one-year-old baby girl in her first Halloween ballerina costume, chewing on the sugary bloody stump of a hand. And even though she’s practically all grown up now, she’s never tired of this annual birthday carnage, nor have I. It’s cathartic, really. Vengeance served, purged and conscience shiny and clean, all in a yummy cookie. And if the karmic retribution of my annual bloodbath is I have to walk another mile or two to burn off the calories? Yeah, I can live with that…

I know there are you out there who need to get in touch with your inner Dexter. Make these cookies and I promise, revenge will never taste so sweet!


Each recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending upon which body part you sever. Calories: approximately 100-125 per cookie

** Gruesome shapes: Technically, they don’t make cookie cutters in the shape of spleens, livers, kidneys, but they do make hands. These work very well provided you lop off a finger or two. Eyeballs are easily poked out using a small juice glass or biscuit cutter. I’ve also been known to sever gingerbread men heads and limbs. As for spleens, I use a holly or leaf-shaped cutter. Does it look like a spleen?  Do YOU know what a spleen looks like? Yeah, neither does anyone else, so just tell them it’s a spleen. As far as other shapes, feel free to get in-touch with the little ax-murderer inside you and make them up as you go!

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

  • ½ cup softened butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 TBSP cream or whole milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Thoroughly cream the butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg, then milk. In a separate bowl mix together all the dry ingredients, then add them to the butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a ball, then pat out into a disk. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.  Roll out the dough to about ¼” thick, and cut out in gruesome shapes.**  Bake for 10-12 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheets. Cool completely on rack before “bloodying” with icing.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

  • ½ cup softened butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ tsp instant espresso powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt

Add espresso powder to the chocolate, and melt over a double boiler, or in the microwave (use 30 second intervals so you don’t scorch the chocolate). Set aside to cool a bit. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the extracts and chocolate. Whisk the flour and salt together in a separate bowl then add to the wet ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together in a ball, then pat out into a disk. Don’t chill (it will make the dough too crumbly). Roll out the dough to about ¼” thick, and cut out in gruesome shapes.**  Collect the scraps and re-roll, but try not to add too much extra flour. These are a bit crumbly and delicate to begin with and too much bench flour makes them more so. Bake for 10 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheets. Watch these carefully – burnt chocolate tastes frightful! Cool completely before “bloodying” with icing.

Royal icing

(If you are uncomfortable using raw egg white, there are several recipes for royal icing on-line that use meringue powder.)

  • 1 large egg white (you may need to add a few drops of water if the icing is too stiff)
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, vanilla or almond extract

Beat the egg white and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add 1 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar until the mixture begins to stiffen and turn opaque white. Add 1 tsp lemon juice or extract and mix in thoroughly. The mixture should be stiff but still pliable.

Separate the icing into 3 bowls. Add red food coloring to one bowl to get a deep bloody red (add more sugar if the mixture thins too much.) Add blue or green to another bowl (for the center of the eyeballs). The plain white icing will be used to create the white of the eyes.

Put the blood icing in a small plastic bag with the tip cut off (you want just a very small hole) or pastry bag with a small piping tip. Do the same in a second bag for the eye color.

Once the cookies are cooled completely, bloody them appropriately along the hacked off edges. Leave them to dry overnight. They keep well in an air tight container for about a week. Make sure you put something heavy on top of the lid…you wouldn’t want them to crawl out….MUAAAAHAAAHAAAHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 

Something About Apples

Here’s a little window into my creative process, blog-wise. Don’t be afraid, it’s going to be ok, I promise….

I need to do something about apples because it’s that time of year and I live in orchard land, and I work part-time in Washington, which is famous for its apples (and its trees…and pot, but not doing a blog about trees or pot, well not right now), and I just made a mess of bourbon apple butter and need to put in a recipe because I’m running out of shelf space and empty jars, and I have my monthly cooking demo this week, and then there’s that recipe I’ve been wanting to play with, so just what pithy snark can I surround all this with. Obviously I think in massive run-on sentences.

2013-10-22 13.20.08Google search “apples” yields: Wiki apple listing;  world’s healthiest fruit book plug; expose on some aspect of the entire world of apples meant to raise ire and righteous indignation; and Washington State Apple Commission website (nice SEO, WA apple folks). Not much pithy snark potential there. How about “apple symbolism.”  Hmm. Skip past the “forbidden fruit” stuff, too pedestrian. The latin word for apple and evil are the same, big whoop. Scan down.

The Adam’s apple is named for the forbidden fruit getting stuck in Adam’s throat, hence the lump. Interesting, but choking and a food blog, probably not. Lot’s of sin talk. Fun, yes, new, no. Skip past that, and the poisonous apple spiel from the Grimms (see choking in food blog reference above). Ooo, Norse and Celtic mythology, always good for an interesting story. Norse see apples as sacred symbol of rebirth and beauty. Nice, boring. Celtic….JACKPOT! The story of Conle.

Our boy Conle was the Red son of the high king of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles (because you’re not a high king if you only have a dozen or so battles under your belt.) Conle was traveling with his royal pop when he saw a beautiful woman, invisible to the rest of the group. The babe tempted Conle to go with her to the Plain of Delight (hussy, throwing her plain of delight at the poor boy) and there live forever. Unfortunately Conn’s druid Coran (keep up now, you’ve got kings and druids, and everyone’s name starts with “C” ) drove the temptress off by singing, but not before she threw a magic apple at the boy. And that apple fed Conle for a year, but also gave him an irresistible desire for fairyland. Oh really…. the apple did it? Not the great theater, fabulous restaurants, chic shops and cute guys?

So that’s how it works folks. And now, the recipe. It has something to do with apples.

File Oct 08, 12 04 31 PMDouble Apple Tart with Whole Wheat Crust  (Makes one 10″ tart)

I’ve been meaning to make a variation of this tart ever since I ran across an article about it several years ago. It’s one of those Julia things, reinvented every so often. What interested me was the way it uses apples two ways –  in a sauce as base, and fresh apple slices on top. It’s also visually a stunner, and it lets me place things in a pattern with purpose. I love that crap.

You could buy the applesauce or apple butter if you like and I won’t tell. In fact, it’s the perfect use for that jar of apple butter you bought on your fall apple picking trip, then realized when you got home..”what the hell am I going to do with this?” I used bourbon apple butter because had some (ok, much) which I made in a fit of apple picking autumnal equinoxy last weekend. Plus there’s a mess of bourbon in it, which pretty much has me at hello.

Yes, you could buy a crust if you like, but it’s worth making it with this one (with no rolling out headache) and the whole wheat pastry flour gives it a lovely graham quality. But, feel free to substitute all-purpose flour if that’s what you have. As far as the fuss of laying out those apples? It’s very zen, really, and with a few tricks I’ll show you, not difficult either. 

For the tart dough:

  • 1 cup (140g) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (you can use regular all-purpose flour too)
  • 6 TBSP (3 oz or 90 g) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • The zest of one orange (about 1 TBSP)

For the filling:

  • 1 cup apple butter or applesauce
  • 2-3 crisp apples of your choice (Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady or any other you like that will hold their shape when baked. I used Fuji in mine.)
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 3-4 TBSP sugar

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup apricot or peach jam + 1 tsp water, heated until it’s liquid and then strained so there are no big pieces of fruit.

Make the tart dough:

Add the flour, sugar, salt, chilled butter pieces and orange zest to the bowl of a food processor. Process about 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the beaten egg and pulse until the pastry just begins to hold together (about 15 times.) Dump the dough onto a sheet of wax paper and gather into a ball, then flatten to a disk. This is going to be a sticky dough, especially if it gets warm. If your dough is still cold and you work quickly, you can press it into a 10″ removable bottom tart pan now, then cover and chill. Mine was too sticky for that the last time I made it, so I flattened the disk in the wax paper as much as I could, then popped into the fridge for about 30 minutes before trying to press into the pan. I also used the wax paper to press it into the pan, but you could also use floured fingers. Once it’s all pressed in the pan, wrap well in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.

When you are ready to make the tart, preheat oven to 400ºF and line the tart pan with foil, then fill with pie weights, beans or rice and blind bake 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown and pull away from the pan. Decrease temperature to 375ºF, remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until the bottom of the tart is dry and starting to color a little. Brush 2 tablespoons of the apricot glaze and set aside.

Prepare the filling:

Halve the apples vertically, then remove the core with a melon baller or knife (the melon baller is the best tool for this.) Slice each half the long way into very thin slices, about 1/8″. You don’t need to peel the apples, in fact, it works better if you don’t. Toss the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar.

   File Oct 08, 6 59 10 PMFile Oct 08, 6 58 49 PM

Spread the cup of applesauce/apple butter in the tart shell, then overlap the apple slices on top around the outer edge. Now you have this big hole in the middle to fill. Here’s neat trick #1: Rather than another ring of slices, place one slice horizontally at the top of the hole, and follow with one on the right side, bottom, and left side. Continue with the next ring of apples and so on, until just one small hole in the center remains.

File Oct 08, 12 37 32 PMNeat trick #2: If you try to roll up a slice to fit in the middle of the rosette, it will likely break. But, if you put the slice in the microwave for a minute or two until flexible….rolls like a dream! (Don’t be overly impressed. I broke A LOT of apples before I figured this one out).

Sprinkle the tart with 2 teaspoons sugar, and bake for 30-40 minutes until the apples slices are easily pierced with a knife.  Now you could just brush the tart with the remaining apricot glaze, but to be even more fancy, sprinkle over about a tablespoon of sugar, and if you are lucky enough to have a kitchen torch, fire that baby up and brown the edges of theFile Oct 08, 12 37 04 PM apples and melt the sugar a bit, then brush with glaze. If you don’t have a flamethrower, you can pop under the broiler a minute or two, watching it so it doesn’t burn. I choose playing with fire, because it a hell of a lot of fun.

Let the tart cool completely before serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 


FullSizeRender - Version 2I love words. You’ve probably figured that out by now. I also love to make up words. No surprise there either. I mean, a fascination with shoes should be called a fashoenation, don’t you think? Then there are the words that sound like I made them up but didn’t. ‘Culinarily’. Definitely sounds like something I’d fake, but it’s legit.  ‘Ersatz’ sounds made up and a little gassy, but it’s real. ‘Fecund’. Not only does it sound made up, it sounds like something you’d haul off and slap someone for calling you. Yet if someone actually described me as “intellectually productive and inventive to a marked degree”, (I had the chance to look it up), I’d likely be flattered. Then I’d slap them for using such a pompous-ass word.

Now take the word ‘serendipitous’. First, it’s fun to say. Five syllables, with ‘dipi’ in the middle. If I was making up a word, I’d definitely put a dipi in it somewhere. The meaning is interesting too, and sums up my life of late. Kinda good (fortuitous), kinda not so good (erratic and uncertain), kinda fluky as in life feels like one big crapshoot. All of that can be said for the word, for me, and probably for just about everyone else too. We can all plan as much as we want, meticulously lay out the course as we’d like to see it, but there’s no guarantee that any of that is going to turn out as prescribed. Fact is, me, you, none of us has a lock on how things are going to turn out. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan, or work really hard, or hope. At least that’s how I look at it. Sure serendipity will always factor in, but I’m serendipitously optimistic that whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it eventually. After all, I’m one fecund gal.

2015-09-25 17.43.12So why all the serendipitous chatter? I had a moment of serendipity when recently contacted by someone who works for Azure Farms. Serendipity, by way of the offer of free stuff to play with. Azure Farms is a local farm that among other things, grows and mills flours. The farm is part of Azure Standard, a food and goods grower/supplier based here in Northwest Oregon that distributes through coops, buying clubs and distributors across the country. As a local baker and blogger, I was asked to try out some of their flours. I chose two of their wheat flours, one hard red, one a softer pastry flour, and I must say both are beautiful products to work with. Organic, local, great quality. Of course, being given bags to play with for free was pretty awesome too. Certainly some new recipes will follow. But what got me really excited was the bag of their garbanzo flour.2015-09-25 13.37.20

If you’ve never used garbanzo (chickpea) flour, you’re in for a treat. You could certainly substitute it for some of the wheat flour in a recipe, especially if you are trying out some gluten free options. However, I chose to make a dish this kind of flour is known for. Socca or Farinata is part flatbread, part pancake, and totally delicious. A street food commonly found in the Provence region of France (socca) and neighboring Liguria, Italy (farina), it is the marriage of golden chick pea flour, lots of olive oil, onions, and whatever herb you like, cooked in a hot oven, brushed with more olive oil and then broiled briefly. I made it as a snack/appetizer to go with a great bottle of wine, but it could easily serve as first course, brunch or lunch. Thank you Rob from Azure Farms for your generosity inspiring this tasty addition to the Cooking in My Heels recipe files!

Socca/Farinata (Adapted from Mark Bittman and the New York Times)

4-6 appetizer servings

Recipe Notes: Bittman’s recipe calls for a 12-inch nonstick pizza pan or skillet. I grabbed a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron pan to make this, which makes a little bit thicker pancake, and I liked it better than the original. You can use whichever you prefer, just make sure the pan is well-seasoned or nonstick. If using the larger, you’ll have a crispier socca; use the smaller and you’ll get crispy top crust with a softer almost creamy inside. I reduced the pepper a little, and the rosemary too. Both were great at first, but I found you lost the subtle chickpea flavor to the rosemary and pepper.

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 -3/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 more for sautéing the onions
  • ½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or whatever your favorite – thyme or sage would be great too.

You can make the pancake in about 45 minutes start to finish, or make the batter and onions ahead, park it in the fridge for up to 12 hours, and bake it off as you are making cocktails or pouring wine. The instructions below are for prep/bake/serve.

2015-09-25 17.06.35 2015-09-25 17.25.36

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Heat a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon oil to pan, and once it is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until they are nice and caramelized. While the onions are cooking, mix the chickpea flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Bittman suggests an immersion blender. A whisk is fine, especially if you are planning on letting it sit a few hours, but if you like power tools, have at it. Once the batter is smooth, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and let sit while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours.The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

Once the onions are done, remove from pan, wipe out, put 1 tablespoon oil in the pan, and put pan in oven for about 5 minutes until oil is hot. Stir in the rosemary or whatever herb you’re using into the batter, along with the onions. Carefully remove the pan from oven and pour the batter in. Return to oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pancake is firm and the edges set.

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Carefully remove the pan from oven and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Turn broiler on. Place pan a few inches away from the broiler and cook just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm. Leftovers are great cold, or reheated and crisped up in a little oil in a pan.

 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

In a Perfect World…

FullSizeRender - Version 2“In a perfect world…” I find myself falling back on that phrase a lot lately. Been having a bit of an internal whine-fest, stomping around grumpily because it feels like things are more uphill slog than downhill jog these days. So when my days are less happy than sad, less confident than scared I try to think of what that “perfect world” might look like. Doesn’t necessarily make things better, but it does help pass the time and brighten my mood on long hikes when I’m cranky and whining to squirrels.

Of course the obvious perfect world requests that no one would get sick, suffer loss, hunger or fear always apply. So would the perfection of always being near enough to loved ones to score a hug whenever needed. There’d always be more than enough of whatever is lacking – money, time, love, laughter, peace. But what if you dove in deeper? Here’s just a few ideas I’ve come up with lately:

In a perfect world;

  • calories would magically reduce when butter, cream or bacon are added to a dish;
  • every swipe of my debit card would immediately be replenished (with 25% interest) from Donald Trump’s campaign fund account. And yes, I’d go on a shopping spree. BIG one;
  • Kardashians would still do stuff, but no one would watch, or care;
  • differing views on politics, religion, or sports would be well reasoned and discussed with respect toward all opinions, and if that could not be accomplished things would just be settled with a dance-off.
  • the only polar icecaps melting would be the one in the back of my freezer, and;
  • every day at around 4PM, there would be kaffee and kuchen.

I grew up in a world not necessarily more perfect, but one that often included the calm late afternoon break of caffeine and something sweet. As a kid who loved any break involving food, that world seemed pretty perfect to me. Call it afternoon tea or kaffee und kuchen, it was the time when the world slowed a little and you could recharge your battery before heading into the rest of the day. My grandmother was a firm believer in kaffee und kuchen. Actually, my grandmother was a firm believer in dessert after every meal, but I seem to remember afternoon kuchen the best. If you were lucky enough to stop by her home around 4, you’d likely be sitting in front of a cup and saucer of white porcelain with tiny blue flowers, a slice of cake on your plate, and the most pressing stress you’d have to deal with is deciding with or without whipped cream. With, always.

So I suggest in today’s imperfect world of too much information, too little respectful reasoned debate, and a 24/7 technology stream attached to the end of our hands,  that we reinstitute kaffee and kuchen time. No technology, just cake and conversation. I’m betting the world won’t end if we all took an hour break in the late afternoon. It might even make it just a little bit more perfect.

File Sep 10, 10 42 59 AMSince most of us don’t have the time in our busy worlds to bake a cake every day I’m sharing one that can last a few days, provided you don’t leave a knife on the plate for hungry passersby.  The inspiration for this cake was a recipe for Farm Apple Cake I found in Bon Appetit magazine many years ago. Heavy on the butter and eggs (1&1/2 sticks butter, 4 eggs), this cake is dense but not overly sweet, with fruit both mixed in the batter and sliced on top. It also has no leavening in it other than the air whipped into the butter and the eggs as they are added, giving it an almost velvety rich texture, and a bit of a crispy meringue-ish top.

File Sep 10, 10 46 23 AMI’ve adapted the original recipe to pears instead of apples (thus the name change) since that’s what I had on hand, upped the spice a little and subbed cognac for the Vin Santo the original recipe used. It’s perfect for afternoon tea, makes a great morning coffeecake, and since Rosh Hashanah begins this evening, would be a lovely addition to any sweet New Year celebration.

ORCHARD PEAR CAKE (Adapted from Bon Appetit, Farm Apple Cake,1998)

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp orange or lemon zest
  • 2 cups plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp Cognac
  • 1 medium pear, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3 –inch pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled, quartered, cored, thinly sliced

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 10-inch springform pan. Dust pan with four, tap out excess.

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Whisk flour, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and citrus peel in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating until mixture is well blended and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended. (Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled – it will smooth out when the dry ingredients are added.) Mix in all but 1 tbsp flour mixture, then cognac. Toss 1/3-inch pear pieces with 1 tbsp flour mixture in small bowl; add to batter.

 File Sep 10, 10 44 50 AM File Sep 10, 10 44 21 AM  File Sep 10, 10 43 54 AM

Transfer batter to pan. Place sliced pears in overlapping rings atop cake. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar.Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a small knife around cake to loosen. Release pan sides; cool. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome; store at room temperature).

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  


DSC02819For this week’s post, I thought I’d share a few culinary hacks. No, I’m not planning on breaking into some super secret, presumably impenetrable cache of Pentagon recipes. The hack I mean is actually a good thing, and if you perfect one you probably won’t have to worry about the NSA tracking you down, or spending any time with Vladimir Putin.

I started to hear about ‘life hacks’ (the good kind) a few months ago. Yeah, I’m a little late to the game, again. So as not to illuminate my cluelessness further, I thought I’d do a little on-line research rather than ask a friendly twenty-something what exactly this thing was. Naturally, I went to the foremost authority on everything (Google), and then to the cyber-cyclopedia (Wiki). Here’s what they had to say, hack-wise (my comments are in parenthesis):

Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. (In other words, being clever.) (Here’s my favorite part…)The terms hack, hacking, and hacker have a long history of ambiguity in the computing and geek communities… (I was unaware “computing” and “geek” were two separate communities.)

So in other words, a ‘hack’ is just a clever way to solve a problem. Put another way, when you are missing a thingamajig or too lazy or broke to go out and get the aforementioned whatsis, you come up with a solution with what you’ve got on hand.  Invention, catalyzed by laziness seems to sum it up. Which means I’ve been using hacks all my life. Duct tape is usually involved, unfurled paperclips or bobby pins too.  And on one occasion the cap from a can of hairspray (back when big hair was BIG), and it worked quite well to fix a running toilet. You’ve heard the phrase “the right tool for the job”? I’m more a tool that is right at hand kind of gal.

I’ve repaired squeaky hinges with olive oil cooking spray, piped decorative icing flourishes with plastic baggie, squeezed countless limes with kitchen tongs, and used a vegetable peeler on butter, chocolate, cheese, and even a carrot or spud. I didn’t know we needed a trendy hipster name for it, but since we apparently have one now, it’s safe to say I’ve hacked my way through life.

When I started to think about applying hacks to cooking, I realized about half the dishes I’ve come up with were done so with hacks firmly in place. Hacks seem tailor-made for cooking, since we are constantly trying to come up with substitutions due to allergies, calories, cost, unavailable ingredients or the likes and dislikes of our eaters. Today I’ll share two recipes, one mine, the other from the Saveur. Both take advantage of the abundance of sweet corn this time of year and use it as a cream sauce hack for pasta.

File Aug 30, 2 18 12 PM Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions 

(Marc Vetri, Saveur 2015)

Serves 8-10

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, minced
  • 2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 scallions, trimmed
  • 1 lb. fresh egg yolk dough or pappardelle
  • Ricotta salata, for serving

Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup water and all but 1⁄4 cup corn; simmer until heated through and almost tender, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and transfer to a blender; purée crema until smooth.

File Aug 30, 2 17 39 PMHeat a 10” cast iron skillet until hot; cook scallions, flipping once, until charred, 2-3 minutes. Transfer scallions to a cutting board and mince. Wipe saucepan clean and add remaining oil; cook reserved corn and the scallions, 1 minute, then add corn crema and cook 1-2 minutes more. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1⁄2 cup pasta water; add pasta and reserved water to saucepan and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and grate ricotta salata over the top.

Fresh Pasta with Basil Sweet Corn Sauce

(Me, 2012 or somewhere around there)

Serves 2 as main course, 4 as starter

  • 2 small-medium ear of sweet corn (you’ll need about 1 cup kernels) – still in the husk
  • 8 oz. fresh fettucine (about 6 oz. dry)
  • 1/4 cups fresh basil leaves, plus a little extra for chopping and sprinkling on top
  • 2-3 TBSP fresh goat cheese
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 2-3 TBSP grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for table
  • Salt & pepper

Wrap the ears of corn, husk and all in a paper towel and steam in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until it is just tender. Once it cools enough so you can handle it, remove the husk and silk (this is a lot easier once it’s been steamed), and cut the kernels off of the cob. You should have about 1 cup total. Set aside 1/4 cup of corn, then put the rest, along with the goat cheese, butter and parmesan in a blender. Tear up the basil and add to blender. Add a pinch of salt and a few good grindings of pepper.

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, salt liberally (the water should taste salty) and stir until the salt dissolves. Remove 2/3 cup of water and add to the blender. Blend until you have a somewhat smooth sauce. You want a little texture. Put the sauce into a skillet and add the reserved corn kernels.

Cook pasta until it is just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, turn on the heat under the sauce and bring to a simmer. When the pasta is done, add it to the simmering sauce. Don’t drain the pasta before adding, in case you need a little more water to thin out the sauce.  Toss the pasta well on low heat until it is completely coated in the sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Top with a little chopped basil and extra cheese. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.

 If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

I have issues…

DSC04158_3They say admitting there’s a problem is the first step. So I’m admitting. I’m admitting BIG TIME. I am…a hoarder and an addict. I can’t help it and I can’t stop. You’re thinking shoes, right? I mean, look at the name I chose for my business and online yammering. But you’d be wrong. Sure, I have a lot of shoes. Actually, I had a lot of shoes a few years ago. When I decided to switch coasts I converted much of my sole assets to road trip cash.

Fine Italian leather isn’t the problem. Tomatoes are. And sometimes peaches….and plums….and figs…and… I could go on, but basically the point is I’m a summertime produce junky. I’ve tried to avert my eyes and drive past the enticement of handwritten “farm stand” signs. I’ve attempted to over-schedule myself on farmers market days, just to avoid dealers. Yet somehow I still find them. Doesn’t matter that I have a counter full at home, or a wallet that’s empty. The minute I spy those crimson or yellow or orange or green orbs of juicy goodness calling saucily from folding tables and wooden crates, I’m a goner.

2015-08-11 16.41.51Of all the farm stand temptations, tomatoes are the worst. Ripe summer tomatoes are the sluts of summer produce. I mean, just look at them. Sitting there all voluptuous, brazenly daring you to come over and give a little squeeze. They have no shame, the licentious love apples. They don’t care if I’m perilously close to overdosing from tomato gluttony, or my last dollar budgeted for such things was spent last week. They practically throw themselves at me, exploiting my want. And I want so bad. Jonesing for a caprese, a BLT, or just a fat slab sprinkled with salt is like breathing to me.

2015-08-15 10.38.07Rehab or intervention is pointless, so don’t even try. The only thing to do is jam as many of them into my mouth in as many ways possible, until the brief season of my mania has passed. So if you see me off in a corner, seeds and juices dribbling down my chin and telltale leaves of basil scattered about, don’t look away. It will be over soon. In the meantime….buddy, can you spare a beefsteak?

A thick BLT. A stylish caprese salad. Just a sprinkle of some great flakey salt. I’ve done them all and love them all. But since I’ve amassed a rather embarrassing mess of ‘maters on my counter, I thought I’d better come up with a few new variations to keep it interesting. My first recipe is a variation of tomato pie, this time with a hash brown crust. Hey Tamaytah Pie is named for my dad, who used the term as a cheeky endearment for his wife and daughter.  It works equally well as a name for this hearty summer pie, and I think he would have loved this dish.

My second recipe Tomato Tarte Tartin is a quick and really easy take on the traditional tart, substituting phyllo dough for puff pastry, and letting the oven do all the work.

2015-08-12 19.17.48Hey Tamaytah Pie

Makes one 8 1/2-inch springform pie

For the Crust:

  • 4 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and squeezed dry (do this well, it helps make a crisp crust.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 heaping cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup sautéed onions (large onion coarsely chopped, 1 T each butter and olive oil, a tiny pinch sugar, fat pinch salt, and a few grinds of pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • 1 pound tomatoes – assorted types and sizes, whatever your favorite
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • Some grated parmesan for sprinkling on finished pie

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Preheat the oven to 425F. Oil an 8 1/2″ springform pan. Once the hash browns are squeezed dry, toss with salt, pepper and olive oil. Add the potato mixture to the springform, covering the bottom evenly. Using a flat bottom measuring cup or glass, press the potatoes into an even layer, and up the sides about 1/2 inch. Bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are light golden brown.

While the crust is baking, cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 1/2″. Lay them out on a double thickness of paper towels and sprinkle with about a teaspoon salt. Let sit for about 25-30 minutes, or for as long as the crust is baking.

Mix together the cheeses, pesto and sautéed onions. When the crust is browned, turn the oven down to 350F and let the crust cool 5 minutes. Blot the tomatoes with another paper towel. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the crust, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

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Arrange the tomato slices over the top of the pie, covering the surface (you and squish them a little to fit. Sprinkle the top of the pie with a pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar. Dot with 1-2 tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Remove the outer edge of the springform, turn oven up to 375F and bake another 20 minutes. Remove pie from oven, sprinkle over a little grated parmesan. Let cool to room temperature and serve.

2015-08-15 15.22.27Easy Tomato Tarte Tartin

This one is more suggestion than exact amounts. I have these ridiculously cute mini springform pans, about 4″ in diameter. They are perfect for individual tartlets, and so the amounts I’m describing are for one of those. I got the pans on Amazon, but no reason you have to run out and get some. This works really well with a bigger pan too, 8.5″ or 10″ or whatever you have. Just adjust the amounts accordingly – about 3x for the 8.5″, 4x for the 10″.

Per 4″ mini tart

  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, or a variety of small tomatoes. You’ll need enough to fit in one layer in the pan, squeezed together a little so there aren’t big spaces in between. A variety of bigger and smaller tomatoes works particularly well here.
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • A pinch salt & a few grind pepper
  • Small splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon dry unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 5 sheets phyllo dough, cut to a square about an inch larger than the size of your pan (if you are making a bigger tart, use bigger piece of phyllo, not 3x the number of sheets)
  • 3-4 teaspoons grated parmesan
  • Olive oil spray, or a small dish of olive oil for brushing the dough
  • A few leaves of basil for garnishing

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss the tomatoes with the sugar, honey, salt, pepper, oil and balsamic. Generously oil the pan. Lay the tomatoes in the pan, in a single layer, carefully fitting them in so there is little empty space. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and a little of the parmesan.

Take one sheet of phyllo, spray or brush with oil and sprinkle a little of the parmesan over. Top with next sheet of phyllo and repeat. Keep going until you get to the last sheet. Don’t spray that one yet. Take the stack of prepared phyllo and place on top of the tomatoes, tucking in the edges around the tomatoes. Spray with a little oil.

2015-08-15 14.49.13   2015-08-15 14.55.40 2015-08-15 15.16.43

Since every springform pan I’ve ever met leaks, wrap the pan with a little foil.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes (more time for larger pans.) Check at about 15 minutes, and if the phyllo is getting too dark, cover with a piece of foil.

Remove from oven and carefully remove sides of pan. Invert a plate onto the tart, and slide a spatula under it. Now carefully flip it over, and remove bottom of pan. Do this over a plate or paper towel, since there’s bound to be some liquid. Let cool to room temperature, tear over a few basil leaves and serve.

File Aug 17, 2 03 41 PM[BTW – this technique works really well with fruit too. Just substitute halved small plums for tomatoes, honey and chopped nuts for the oil and cheese on the dough, and swap out the vinegar and salt and pepper, and add in a little more sugar, some cinnamon and butter.]

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

Rude Acts

File Aug 07, 6 08 49 PM

That’s right honey, look away….

This weekend I did something rather rude to a chicken. And despite living about 65 miles east of Portlandia, I didn’t ask the chicken her name, or anything about her life. Clearly that was inconsiderate, but not really rude. Rude came a little later, when I shoved a can up her, well…

I’ve been curious about the whole concept of Beer Can Chicken for a while now, but never attempted. I think a certain boldness is required to pursue it. The concept seemed sound enough.  Barbecues can certainly double for ovens. I’ve tested that theory with numerous grilled pizzas and stuffed flatbread. I think it was just the way the bird actually looked that was stopping me. She’s sitting there, upright, as though she was watching her favorite afternoon stories. Well, if she still had a head. It just seemed a little, um, disturbing. That was how I felt until last Thanksgiving, when I met Trash Can Turkey. That seemed a bit odd too, a turkey who looks like he’s sitting in an easy chair watching the game, encased in a garbage can. But the succulent beast that landed on the table was without a doubt the BEST turkey I’ve ever had. So if sitting under a can is good enough for Tom, sitting on one is good enough for whatshername.

File Aug 07, 6 07 05 PMAnd it was good. Really good. Especially with the barbecue sauce I made to dress her nakedness as she sat there, back to the inevitable, like she was waiting for a bus.  A bit more on that sauce in a minute. First the bird. Sam Sifton from the New York Times has a great recipe for Beer Can Chicken. I made two modifications. First, I very generously salted and peppered the beast and let rest in my fridge, covered, for about 24 hours. This is my standard prep for a bird that goes in the oven, so I figured it would work as well with barby-bird. Second, I had no beer but did have a can of hard cider. Since the purpose was mostly a perch I figured it would be fine substituting, and not being particularly fond of this brand of cider, foregoing the contents wasn’t a loss.  I was thinking of playing around with cider in a recipe anyway, so the half can I was going to dump went into the sauce.

The resulting Hard Cider BBQ Sauce was a nice play of sweetness, heat and a little tang. Give it a try. But if you use it on a chicken sitting on a can, at least introduce yourself first. It would be rude not to.

Hard Cider BBQ Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 a can of hard cider (your preference – I used Schilling Ginger Cider)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 6 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne, New Mexico, or your favorite
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 good shot bourbon

Add everything together in a saucepan. Whisk until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook about 30-45 minutes until thickened. I found it to be better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other. Store in a jar in the fridge.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

August Beginnings

 DSC03237  2015-08-02 07.58.51 2015-08-02 10.44.16

I noticed something the other day about me. Not exactly an epiphanic moment, just a coincidence. Or maybe not. Either way, it seems my life has a tendency towards august beginnings. As in the things I start in August tend to be important, august if you will. Maybe I’m reading a bit too much into this. Probably I’m reading too much into this, but bear with me a minute. First of all, I began in August. Well technically 9+months before, but my first breath was in August which is pretty important to me, so there’s that. Next, I began this cyber-journey into my kitchen, stomach and psyche 4 years ago in August (August 3rd actually.) And last August (the 3rd again), I started something sorta great with a pretty terrific guy. So, you can’t blame me for thinking there may just be something to this ‘august August’ thing.

Anyway, I’ve decided not to dwell on it and just celebrate it. To help me do that, I invite you to read the first blog post I ever posted 4 years ago, The Sweet Potato Incident, and try the two new recipes below. The second, Fennel Focaccia, comes from the book Savoring the Wine Country, which was given to me by the inspiration for Winemaker’s Focaccia.

Thank you for reading and sharing, and for making the last 4 years (and especially the past one) pretty awesome too. <3

2015-08-02 13.22.32-1Winemaker’s Focaccia (Adapted from recipes in Saveur and Jim Lahey’s Bread Book, inspired by a special winemaker)

Makes one 9-1/2″ x 13″ Focaccia (1/4 sheet pan). If you don’t have the pan, you can make this free-form on a cookie sheet instead.


  • File Aug 03, 4 59 54 PM3/4 cup chopped Italian plums (Damson plums)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sugar, depending upon the sweetness of the plums
  • 1/4 cup+ port wine
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 pkg active dry yeast
  • 3- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole is best, 2% ok, but don’t use skim)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for pan and dough
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • flakey sea salt

Recipe Note:  The addition of the plums is an example of how my recipes often evolve. One of the recipes I looked at called for soaking dried fruit in white wine. I didn’t have dried fruit. I didn’t have white wine. It did have a bunch of italian plums ripening on my windowsill, and a bottle of port in my pantry. Presto-chango….plums in foccaccia!

Generously oil your pan with olive oil and set aside. Add the plums, sugar and port and toss. You want enough port so it just about covers the plums. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the water and milk together until warm (about 115ºF). Add yeast and mix until the yeast dissolves. Mix the flour, salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook or food processor with dough blade. Drain the plums (save the juices) and toss in the flour mixture. Add the two tablespoons olive oil to the yeast/water/milk. With the mixer on low, slowly add the liquid and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. If it’s too wet, add flour, one to two tablespoons at a time until the dough comes together – you want it dry enough so the sides of the mixer are cleaned of dough. Remove to a floured board and knead a little until smooth. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 45 -60 minutes, or until doubled.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise, take the liquid from the drained plums (you should have about 1/4 cup), add 1 teaspoon honey and taste. If it’s too tart, add the second teaspoon of honey. Add the sprig of rosemary and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat, let sit for about 30 minutes, then remove the rosemary and set aside to cool. Once cooled, toss in the grapes and mix so all of the grapes are coated.

2015-08-02 12.09.04-1  2015-08-02 12.14.40-1

Once the dough has doubled, punch down, then pick up by one end and use gravity to stretch the long way to fit the length of your pan. Brush the dough with olive oil and use your fingers to push the dough into the corners and fill the pan. Push the grapes into the dough in rows, leaving about an inch and a half between. (Hang onto those juices, you aren’t finished with them yet!)

2015-08-02 13.23.06-1Sprinkle with a little bit of coarse salt, and let sit, loosely covered until puffed, about 45 minutes.

About 15 minutes before your dough is ready, preheat oven to 400ºF. Uncover the focaccia and push the grapes down into the puffy dough. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a rack and while still hot, brush the dough with the rest of the juices from the plums and port, and sprinkle with tiny bit of flakey salt.

2015-08-02 12.56.47-1Fennel Focaccia (Adapted from Savoring the Wine Country, Collins Publishers, San Francisco 1995)

Makes 8 6″ focaccia


  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water (about 120ºF – warm but not hot)
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP toasted fennel seeds (toast in a dry pan just until you start to smell them)
  • 2 TBSP Pernod (Anise flavored liquor)
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil for pan and brushing focaccia
  • 1 tsp+ coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

Dissolve the yeast in a cup of the warm water. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with dough hook, add flour, salt and pepper and fennel seeds and toss together to mix. Add 2 TBSP olive oil and Pernod to water/yeast mixture. Start on slow and add enough water to form a dough. Increase the speed to medium and knead in mixer for about 8 minutes (or by hand for 10) until the dough is soft and satiny. Set aside in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until doubled.

2015-08-02 12.36.19-1Once the dough has risen, punch down and on a floured board, divide into 8 balls. Using your hands, gently pat out the dough to about 6″ circles. Place four focaccia on parchment lined baking sheets. Brush with olive oil, and form dimples with your fingers. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Repeat with the other 4 focaccia. Set aside in a warm spot while the oven heats up.

2015-08-02 12.59.00-1Preheat oven to 500ºF. Once it’s at temperature, bake the focaccia for 16-18 minutes, rotating pans halfway. If they look like they are baking too fast, lower the heat to 400ºF when you rotate pans. They are done when golden brown and the bottoms have a hollow sound when tapped. Remove from oven, brush with more olive oil and sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Serve warm. If you want, you can let cool completely and freeze leftovers, wrapped well in foil and sealed in plastic bag.  Warm 15 minutes in 350ºF oven before serving.

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