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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another Non-Post Post (aka "What Is She Doing Now?")

So that I can focus on bringing you a really spectacular post on Sunday (parsnips, chocolate, that's all I'm going to tell you -- and don't make a squinchy face, you know it's going to be fabulous), I wanted to use tonight's post to let you know about a little change I'm making at TCC.

Same Bat Channel, Same-ish Bat Time

In March I am starting a new job that I am very excited about.  I will still be doing events but on a much larger, wider scale than previously.  Only thing is that new job = lots of travel = less time in the kitchen as I get acclimated to my new gig and all that it entails.

NOT to worry though!  I am not about to cut you loose and leave you to your own devices.  I'm having way too much fun coming up with fun foods to share (did I mention parsnips and chocolate? watch for it, it will be sweeping the nation), but in order to make the transition manageable for the foreseeable future I will only be posting on Sundays, starting this weekend.

I figure, though, if time permits I will try to slip in the occasional Wednesday bonus post (say it with me -- WooHoo!), especially since I will be traveling not only to different states but the occasional different country.  The world is full of great food inspirations and I plan to continue to share those with you.

So please bear with me as I make this change and stay tuned for more interesting and exciting posts (parsnips, chocolate, spread the word).  

As always, thank you SO VERY MUCH for reading along.

Bon appetite!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Parsnips Frites

Success!  French-fried parsnips got a two forks up on the yummy new food scale.  I guess I had never noticed before since I've not done a lot with parsnips on their own, that they do sweeten up when cooked, which is why I chose to offset the sweetness with a sprinkling of chili powder and salt when they were done.  Mmm Mmm Mmm...

aka French-fried parsnips

parsnips, peeled and julienned large
canola (or vegetable) oil
chili powder

You want to cut your parsnips into thick "French fry" length pieces.

You can do them thinner, but they may not hold up so well in the next step.

Place your parsnip fries in a large pot filled with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until parsnips are just fork-tender.

You want them parboiled so that they will cook faster once you fry them.  FYI, this photo was after I had already removed the bulk of them which is why it looks kind of dreggy.

Once parboiled, drain and complete dry your parsnip fries.

I put a towel underneath the paper towel to help pull away extra moisture without leaving little fuzzies on your fries.  You don't want any water on them when you put them in the oil or it could cause excessive popping and spattering of the oil.

In a deep pot, bring 1 to 1-1/2" of canola (or vegetable) oil to full heat over high setting.  Test the heat by carefully tossing in a parsnip fry.  You want it to bubble up as soon as it hits the heat.

By using a deep pot, you cut back on the spatter when cooking the parsnips.  If you don't have a deep pot, then using a screen to cover your pan will work too.

Once the oil is ready, cook the parsnip fries in batches until a deep golden brown.

Was busy cooking and forgot to take shot of batches in pot, sorry about that.

Once they are the color you want, using a slotted spoon or ladle, drain fries on a rack and sprinkle with chili powder and salt to your own taste.

Special for Mom and Dad, I cooked up some pepper-rubbed filet mignon for them to eat with their Parsnips Frites (because it seemed like the fancy thing to do if I was going to give the parsnips such a fancy name).  The sweetness of the fried parsnips made a nice complement to the spicy taste of the pepper rub.


I used two large parsnips and the produced enough fries for all three of us to have decent portion of them.

I ended up using vegetable oil because I was out of canola.  They took a little longer to fry up than they would with canola, but the end result was the same.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Dad is on a serious roll these days tossing me ideas for posts (my brain has been a little elsewhere recently).


Parsnips are what I like to call a member of the underground veggie crowd, aka tubers. While they are most closely related to carrots, in the way they can be prepped and eaten they make me think of potatoes, probably because their skin and flesh are cream-colored.

Parsnips are native to Eurasia and were cultivated by early civilizations like the Romans. The ancient Romans considered them an aphrodisiac but in modern times they serve more often as fodder for livestock.

In the 1500s in Germany, parsnips were a common pantry staple, from there they made their way to England sometime in the 1600s, and via the English colonists, the veggie found its way to the new world where it was cultivated in the northeast.

Before the introduction of cane sugar to Europe, parsnips were used as a sweetened. This may have to do with fact that if left in the ground after they have matured, parsnips will become sweeter. And their sweet taste is heightened through cooking.

Parsnips can be eaten raw, but are usually cooked. They can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, pureed or fried. While the root is quite edible, you need to take care in handling the shoots and leaves. Both parts of the veggie contain a toxic sap that can be hazardous and cause a rash. Fortunately, when you buy them in the grocery store (at least the ones I've seen), they have already been stripped down and all you are buying the ready-to-prep root.

Are they good and good for you? Not to the extend that other foods I've featured are, BUT they are high in some vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium. They also contain antioxidants as well as both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. They are a great addition to any stew and in many English-speaking countries, roast parsnips are an essential part of any Christmas dinner.

I've used them in soup before, and they are great in stews too. I have seen them roasted up with carrots, potatoes and onions, but the idea of frying them is new to me so will be trying that out for you next.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Congo Bars

Was scratching my head to come up with a post for tonight, and Dad suggested (again) trying out the old family recipe for Congo Bars.  I've never tried the originals, and I think it turned out the way it's supposed to, but in any case, the best way to describe what resulted is a deep dish chocolate-chip-nut cookie bar.  Big smile.  Pass the milk.

Congo Bars

2-3/4 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
2-1/4 cups brown sugar (not packed)
4 eggs
1cup nuts, chopped
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Melt shortening in a deep, heavy bottom pan.

Add in brown sugar.  Stir until well mixed.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add in the eggs, one at a time.

this is egg #2 being added

Add in dry ingredients until well blended.

Fold in nuts, chocolate chips, and vanilla.

Pour mixture into a well-greased 8x10 baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown along the edges cooked through in the center.


I used a mix of pecans and walnuts for my nut mix because it was what I had in the freezer.

I used a mix of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and semi-sweet chips because it was what I had in the cupboard.

If you don't want to use shortening, you can substitute margarine instead.

Yes, I was too lazy to go the store so made due with what was on hand, but it did not adversely affect the results, so 'speriment away, my friends.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A New England Clam Chowder

It's a cold snowy night, so what works better against the cold than a hot bowl of chowder.  Decided to go with the classic original chowder from New England. This one's for you Dad.

A New England Clam Chowder

1 medium white onion, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2-3/4 cups milk
1 medium white potato, peeled and small chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 (6.5 oz.) can minced clams
2 tbsp. butter
fresh cracked black pepper

In a deep saucepot, cook the onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat, until translucent but not browned.

Add in milk, chopped potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and drained juice from the canned clams.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, watching to make sure your pot does not boil over.  Possibly speaking from experience, so just saying.

Uncover and add in the minced clams and butter.

Stir until butter is melted and allow to simmer until everything is heated through.  Make sure to stir often.

Serve up with oyster crackers.


If you like a slightly thicker chowder, you can substitute half-n-half for regular milk.  Or you can bring the chowder to a boil and then whisk in 1 tbsp. of flour.  Once it's mixed in, drop temperature and simmer until the desired thickness.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Since the weather is still on the nippy side these days (thanks Punxsutawney Phil), I've been thinking soups are a good thing to work on.  In tossing around ideas with my friend David the other day, the topic of chowder came up.  He suggested taking on the red v. white chowder discussion for a post...I was not even aware there was a difference.  So may I present...Chowder.


At its most basic, a chowder is defined as any slow-cooked soup or stew made in a large community pot to meant to feed a number of people as they get hungry.  Chowders are like the famous "stone soup" of the folk tale, an economical means to feed many on a little, made from local ingredients to suit local tastes. 

Didyaknow -- the term "chowder" comes from a short-handed Anglicized version of the French word chaudiere -- the large cooking cauldron that hangs over the fire in which feeding-the-masses soups/stews/gruels are made.

Chowders can be made using everything from a water to a cream base, sometimes includes pureed veggies, spices, and a thickener -- in the form of potatoes, flour, or cornstarch. Chowders can be made from corn, chicken, cheese or seafood.

Chowders started showing up in American cookbooks in the 1800s.  In the Northeast, seafood chowder was a staple for New Englanders though early seafood chowders used haddock or cod as their main protein.  It wasn't until around the 1830s that clam chowder became standard fare and by the end of the century, different regions along the Atlantic coast became known for their distinctive varieties of the dish.

Didyaknow -- chowders are traditionally served on Fridays. This is due in most part to the Catholic practice of fish-only Fridays.

New England Clam Chowder (aka Boston Clam Chowder) -- is a thicker style chowder made from a milk or cream base with potatoes, onions and clams.  NECC is traditionally served with oyster crackers which are crumbled or crushed and mixed into the chowder to give it even more "oomph."  there are no other veggies in the mix and tomatoes of any sort are a BIG no-no.

Fun fact -- in 1939 a bill was introduced to the Maine legislature to make illegal the addition of tomatoes to a New England Clam did not pass, but it certainly made a statement on where folks stand when it comes to their clam chowder. 

Manhattan Clam Chowder (aka New York Clam Chowder) -- is made from a combination of clear broth and tomatoes (gasp!).  It is said that it was the Portuguese immigrants who introduced tomato-based stews to the region.  All other ingredients are similar to what you find in NECC.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder (aka South Country Style Chowder) -- is made from tomato broth, but does not contain chunks of tomatoes, and includes quahogs, bacon, onions, and sometimes carrots or beans.

Didyaknow -- quahogs are hard shell clams, as opposed to soft shell clams, they tend to be bigger and meatier which is why they are used in chowders.

New Jersey Clam Chowder -- cream-based chowder made with clams, bacon, onion, peppers, potatoes, Old Bay crab seasoning, asparagus and tomatoes slices.

Hatteras (NC) Clam Chowder -- is a clear broth chowder made with bacon, potatoes, sliced green onions, but uses flour as an additional thickened, lots of pepper (white or black), and hot pepper sauce.  We do love our Texas Pete in NC.

Minorcan (North FL) Clam Chowder -- it's like Manhattan Clam Chowder with a powder keg kick.  All ingredients for this tomato-based chowder are the same but with the addition of Datil pepper. To give you a sense of how hot, on the Scoville Scale, Datil peppers rank higher than a Cayenne pepper, but not quite as hot as a Habenero chili.

I've never made a clam chowder before so think that will be this week's project.  So keep an eye out for a cool new chowder recipe coming to a blog near you!

I'm pretty sure my Dad just did a happy skippy dance with that bit of news. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Homemade Croutons

I like to think of this as a "wing and a prayer" recipe.  I invited some friends over to watch basketball this past weekend.  Since they were bringing the pizza I thought I'd toss together a big salad to go with.  Knowing that my friend Jan is a big fan of the crouton salad accessory and knowing I had the butt end of a couple artisan loaves sitting in the cupboard, I figured I'd get online and find a make-it-yourself recipe.

What's that thing about best laid plans?  Well about 10 minutes before they were to show up at my door I realized I'd not gotten online and not found a recipe, so instead I "wung" it.  Gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised by the results and will be adding these delicious tidbits to many more of my future salads.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

K2's Holycraptheyaregoingtobehereanyminute Croutons

3 cups old artisan bread (but not moldy bread), cut into cubes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic salt
3-4 spritzes spray butter or 1/2 tbsp. butter melted

Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, toss together the bread cubes, seasonings, and butter.  They don't need to be saturated or overly coated, just a couple of light turns around the bowl should do.

Pour the coated bread cubes into a small baking dish or onto a small cookie sheet.

Put them in the oven and set your oven on broil.

Stir/flip the cubes every 1-2 minutes until browned along the outer edges. Should take about 5-6 minutes total, if even.

Once nicely browned, turn the oven OFF and leave the croutons in the oven for another 3-4 minutes.  This will allow them to dry out in the center, but not burn.

Remove from oven and toss on salad...or in mouth...


I buy artisan bread loaves (not bagged sandwich breads) which tend to be denser and work best for making croutons.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Plum Spice Cake

The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean we can still eat like they're here...with some moderation, of course.  As promised, here is the recipe for the tasty plum spice cake that Sofia's mother and sister made for our Christmas feast. 

The cake is moist and makes the perfect date for a cup of hot tea (or coffee).  Plus with plums being a super food, how can you go wrong indulging in a piece or two.

Plum Spice Cake

1/2 lb. (8 oz.) dried plums (aka prunes)
1 cup water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) butter
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
powdered sugar, for decorating

In a pot over medium heat, cook the plums, water, and baking soda for 5 minutes.

Mash the cooked plums together create a thin paste and set aside.

In a mixer, cream the sugar and butter until smooth.  Add in the eggs.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour and spices.  Add the spiced flour to the wet ingredients and mix together well.  Add in the cooked plums.

Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake at 350° for 4-50 minutes, or until cooked through.  I used a spring form pan for easier removal after the cake is done.  Keeps the sides looking nice too since this is not an iced cake.

Remove finished cake from oven and remove from pan.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.