Archive for the ‘Holiday Foods’ Category

I Confess!

Monday, November 23rd, 2015


I have a confession to make that may seem a little sacrilegious, particularly at this time of year as everyone is gearing up for Thanksgiving.

I’m not a fan of pie.

I love fruit. I just don’t really see the point of putting it into a pastry crust. I dutifully make pies in the summer, of course, because friends and family members enjoy eating them. And at this time of year, pies are de rigueur; they fairly shriek “Thanksgiving.” So I bake them—and I try to be cheerful while doing so.

Sometimes I cheat, however. This recipe is an example of that cheating.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie is something I learned to make from my late neighborhood matriarch Mary Parker, a.k.a. Gam. What I love about it is … it isn’t really a pie. It’s more a cross between a cake and a huge cookie.

It’s also remarkably easy to put together—no rolling of crust, just a bit of washing, a bit of tossing, and a bit of whisking. Try it, and the pie part of your Thanksgiving preparation will be a snap.

I love the recipe so much I put it in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook, which makes a lovely holiday (or hostess) gift, by the way. Sorry to blow my own horn, but it IS that time of year, and as most of you know selling books is how I make my living!

Ashley Kohl and I had fun making (and tasting) the pie recently on Mass Appeal. For technical reasons I am unable to embed the video, but if you visit this link you can watch it (after a brief advertisement inserted by the TV station).

I wish you all a Thanksgiving full of fun, family, and of course gratitude. And maybe a tiny piece of pie.


Nantucket Cranberry Pie


2 cups raw cranberries
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional but good)
3/4 cup melted sweet butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract


Grease a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and pick over the cranberries. Put them in the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the walnuts. Make a batter of the remaining ingredients, first combining the butter and the remaining sugar and then adding the eggs, flour, and flavoring. Pour the batter over the cranberries.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Top with whipped cream. (Ice cream works well, too. Or just serve it alone.) Serves 8.

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Holy Pumpkin!

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

witchhat copy

Readers of this blog may be under the impression that I eat rich desserts all the time. Actually, my usual dessert (if I eat one) is a piece of fresh fruit. I do post a lot of dessert recipes, however; I’m proud of my baking, and I love to see people enjoy something sinfully sweet, even when I’m dieting.

In any case, one HAS to post something sweet for Halloween! So I’m sharing the formula for the chocolate-chip pumpkin cake I made this week on Mass Appeal. My appearance came the day after co-host Seth Stutman’s 30th birthday so I felt obliged to make a cake. Seth appeared pleased—and he certainly enjoyed the cake.

(Bill Collins, who cooked on the show the day before, did light a candle on a cheesecake, but that chef didn’t sing “Happy Birthday.” And a birthday isn’t a birthday without a serenade.)

I also made a satisfying version of my Irish Stout Cheese using yellow cheddar cheese to make it seasonal and an Oktoberfest ale instead of the stout. Personally, if I had to choose between cheese and cake, I would choose cheese. I’m glad no one is forcing me to make this excruciating decision!

The videos are embedded below. The gist of the cake-making is in the first video about that (the second one below); tune into the follow-up video only if you’re a fan of sprinkles and loud singing. (I like both.)

Cocoa, Rhubarb, and I wish everyone a Happy Halloween!

Halloween dogweb

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Chips


1-1/2 cups non-GMO canola oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3-1/8 cups flour
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15-ounce can)
2 cups chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a large bundt pan. Mix the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each egg. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the baking powder, the baking soda, and the spices. Stir in the flour, followed by the pumpkin and the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake tests done (about an hour). Ice with cream-cheese frosting and seasonal sprinkles. Serves 10 to 12.

And here are the videos:

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YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

Cast-Iron Inspiration

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

cast iron

A friend recently decided to outfit a new kitchen and asked for my advice. She was getting ready to purchase a high-end set of cookware, she informed me, and wanted to know what brand I recommended.

I dismayed her by telling her that I wouldn’t recommend purchasing one full set of ANYTHING. Instead, I thought (and still think) that a kitchen needs a little bit of a lot of types of cookware.

I like my stainless-steel saucepans. I like to have both a nonstick and a regular frying pan. I like a huge pot for stocks and soups. And I believe that every kitchen needs a bit of cast-iron.

In my case, that cast-iron consists of one enameled Dutch oven in a convenient size (about 5 quarts; larger is hard to lift!) and black cast-iron skillets of varying sizes.

Most of my skillets came from relatives or tag sales, although I do have one new one, from Lodge Manufacturing Company.

I use my skillets for a variety of tasks—most commonly for toasting nuts or for baking cornbread, frittatas, or upside-down cake.

Reading Dominique DeVito’s brand-new Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook, which publisher Cider Mill Press sent me for review, has given me a number of additional ideas for cast-iron cookery.

In addition to my favorites, DeVito provides cast-iron-friendly recipes for unexpected dishes: casseroles; coffee cakes; vegetable roasts; and a variety of breads, from dinner rolls to Indian naan.

I have to admit it would NEVER have occurred to me to try preparing General Tso’s Chicken in my cast-iron pans—or to bake a giant chocolate-chip cookie.

Most helpful of all, DeVito provides hints on caring for cast iron. I knew one wasn’t supposed to wash these pans with soap. It turns out that I have been seasoning my pans incorrectly all these years, however!

If you’d like new ideas for your old pans, or if you are thinking of adding a cast-iron pan to your cookware collection, leave a comment below. The comment can describe your own favorite use of cast iron—or anything else you would like to express.

Cider Mill Press has generously promised to send a copy of the cookbook to one of the commenters. Please comment by next Tuesday, March 24. The next morning I will select one comment (randomly, I promise!) and get in touch with the winner to get his or her mailing address.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a recipe from the cookbook suitable for this week. I have already made my own favorite soda bread, but I’m seriously considering trying this savory take on a Saint Patrick’s Day favorite as well.

Let me know if you make it—and don’t forget to sing a few sentimental Irish (or Irish-American) songs today. My solo for our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert will be George M. Cohan’s “Mary.”

And the whole assembled group will sing “An Irish Blessing.”


Cheesy Chive Soda Bread

   Courtesy of The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook


3 cups white flour
2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1-1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, and egg.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir vigorously to blend. Dough will be sticky. Stir in the chives and 1 cup of the grated cheese.

Liberally grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Scoop and spread the dough into the skillet. Grate pepper over the top; then sprinkle the remaining cheese over it. Using a sharp knife, make an “x” in the center, about 1/2-inch deep, to settle the cheese further into the dough as it cooks.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the bread is golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit in the skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

A Saint Patrick's Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

A Saint Patrick’s Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

Meredith’s Easy Moo Shu Pork

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

My nephew Michael at a recent hockey game. Teenagers get cold and HUNGRY.

My family and I were going through some of my mother’s old files this past weekend, and my brother David chuckled as he ran across one of my report cards from Sixth Grade. He reported that the teachers seemed to like me but that I had apparently needed improvement in posture (I still need it!) and punctuality.

With this history of tardiness perhaps it’s no surprise that I fed David and Company their Chinese New Year feast a bit belatedly, just a few days ago in fact.

The formula for our meal came courtesy of Meredith Deeds. Meredith is a chef and cookbook author who recently published a recipe for Moo Shu Pork in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, encouraging readers to experiment with different international cuisines.

My nephew Michael happens to love LOVE Moo Shu Pork. (Well, who doesn’t?) I don’t usually repost other writers’ recipes, but Meredith’s was such a hit with my family that I asked her whether I could use this one. She graciously gave her permission.

Unfortunately, Michael refuses to believe that Moo Shu can be served without pancakes so I used tortillas instead of the lighter lettuce leaves Meredith prefers. Maybe over time I’ll convert him to the lettuce leaves. More likely, I’ll end up going to a specialty market and purchasing Chinese pancakes.

Everything else in the recipe was available at the mid-sized supermarket I visited.

mise en placeweb

If you’re a Moo Shu fan, do try Meredith’s recipe. It’s easy, and it’s fresh (all those vegetables!). And you’ll feed the whole family for little more than you’d pay for one serving of this dish in a restaurant. Note: the pork is easier to slice if you pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before you deal with it.

moo shu in bowlweb

The Moo Shu


1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 (3/4-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly (I had some button mushrooms in my fridge so I ended up using those and augmenting them with shiitakes.)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 (10-ounce) bag finely cut coleslaw (without dressing). You may of course shred your own cabbage in season, but it’s awfully easy to purchase it shredded!
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
16 Bibb lettuce leaves or small flour tortillas as needed


Whisk the hoisin sauce and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Add the pork and marinate for at least 10 minutes. (I got distracted and ended up marinating it for more than an hour. It was still terrific.)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the eggs and the salt in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the hot wok and stir until the eggs are just set. Transfer the eggs to a plate, and cut them into thin strips. Wipe out the pan.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the same wok or skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade; allow the excess marinade to drip off (reserving the remaining marinade). Stir-fry the pork until it browns, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork and any liquid in the wok or skillet to a plate or bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet; when it is hot, add the mushrooms and stir-fry until slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and the coleslaw and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the pork, the reserved marinade, and the green onions; stir-fry 2 more minutes. Toss the pieces of egg into the mixture at the last minute.

Serve the stir-fry in the lettuce leaves or the tortillas, with more hoisin sauce OF COURSE.

Meredith says that this dish serves 6. When one of those 6 is a hungry teenager who loves Moo Shu and stuffs his pancake VERY full, it may serve only 5!

No, it isn't the pork I'm sniffing in this photo--but I couldn't find my hat so I used an older photo. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

No, it isn’t the pork I’m sniffing in this photo–but I couldn’t find my hat so I used an older image. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

More Blessed to Give

Thursday, December 18th, 2014


I LOVE December. I know there are many who think that our streets and homes are too full of lights during this season and that materialism has taken over Christmas (and to a lesser extent Hanukkah). I am not one of those people.

The lights perform a vital function, reminding us that the world is full of illumination at the darkest time of the year.

As for the materialism, well, materialism is just stuff. And STUFF is what I love to give at this time of year.

To the very young Tinky, Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrated both in our home) were primarily about what I would receive.

I still remember the thrill I experienced when I was seven and Santa brought a Petite Princess furniture collection for the dollhouse my mother had passed on to me from her own youth.

The house and the furniture eventually collapsed, but thinking about them still makes me smile.

A few years later, however, I began to realize that there’s something even more fulfilling than receiving gifts.

Giving them.

According to the bible, Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s also more fun.

I love the way the holidays remind us to give to charities. Last Tuesday was Valley Gives Day in western Massachusetts, a time to donate online to some of my favorite causes.

A few days ago I made a special trip to stores to stock up on food items and toys to donate to local organizations. And as the year’s end approaches I’m working on donations to other nonprofit groups I support. I like to give a little something to some of my mother’s favorite groups as well. As I donate, I remember her.

With my mother in 2008.

With my mother in 2008.

Of course, we should give funds and labor to charity all year round. And I try to. But at this time of year, as we sing songs about hope and birth and love, giving becomes even more joyful.

Charity begins at home, of course, and I enjoy giving to my friends and relatives as much as I enjoy giving to charity. Planning what each person will get seems to take a certain portion of my brain that I don’t use for anything else.

Certain people are VERY difficult to shop for. In my experience many of those people are male. If men want something, they generally just go out and buy it. This habit can be very frustrating to gift givers.

As a result of this tendency, many of the men and boys on my Christmas list get food. It’s the perfect gift. They like it—and they can get the same gift year after year without complaint.

Among my favorite food gifts for men and for neighbors are my mother’s fruitcake, my brother’s favorite Indian cashews, fudge, and mustard.

On my last TV appearance of 2014 Ashley Kohl and I whipped up two other edible gifts I like to pass along to friends and relatives, my Aunt Lura’s Cranberry Chutney and my sister-in-law Leigh’s Lemon Pound Cake.

The chutney recipe is in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook (which it’s not too late to order as a Christmas present, by the way!). It’s detailed in the video here, although I think I forgot to add the chopped orange pieces on camera.

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Below is the recipe for Leigh’s pound cake. As I mention on camera in the video at the bottom of this post, it’s a very odd recipe. Its ingredients are added in an unusual order, and it starts baking in a cold oven.

As I FORGOT to mention on camera, it’s delicious—very dense and intensely orange-y.

Happy shopping and baking to you all. If you have to take on extra work at this time of year in order to afford all the gifts you want to give (I do!), work with a song in your heart.

And cook with a song in your heart.


Leigh’s Orange Pound Cake


1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
the juice and zest of 1 large orange


Grease and flour two standard loaf pans (or five to six smaller pans) or spray them with a grease-plus-flour spray like Baker’s Joy.

Cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in half of the flour and half of the milk. Mix well; then add the remaining flour and milk. Beat in the eggs, and then stir in the juice and zest. Pour the batter into the loaf pans; they will be reasonably full.

Place the loaves in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 325 degrees and cook for 40 minutes, then raise oven to 350 and cook for about15 minutes. The loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cakes may split a bit down the middle, but they will taste lovely. Cool the loaves in their pans for 10 minutes; then release them and let them finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Makes 2 large loaves or 5 small ones.

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