OK, it’s a fruit cake!  But, if you do it right, and leave time to do the “moistening with brandy” part... you’ll be surprised how good it is.

3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans or your favorite combination
1 1/2 cups halved maraschino cherries
1 cup light raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teasp. sugar
1/2 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. salt
3 large eggs
2 tablsp. apricot brandy + 1/4 cup for initial moistening after baking + more for additional moistening

Preheat oven to 300°.

Combine the nuts and fruits in a large mixing bowl. Thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder & salt.  Add to the nut mixture, toss to coat. Beat the eggs until frothy; add the 2 tablsp. of brandy.  Pour egg mixture over the fruit & nit mixture and mix well. Pour batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hr. 45 min.  Cool in pan.

Remove cake from pan. Soak several layers of cheesecloth in brandy and wrap the cake snugly. Then wrap in foil. Store in the refrigerator and after 2 -3 days, unwrap foil and re-moisten with more brandy.  Re-wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for a few more days to let the brandy really soak in!

You can make small individual loaves in those disposable aluminum pans. Great for a holiday house gift...and when they stop laughing, they’ll love it.

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November 2006
Whole Roasted Milk Pumpkin

My friend, Dina, is a great cook. We were late getting a dinner together recently and had this beautiful freshly-picked milk pumpkin from Two Pond Farm that we wanted to use. She suggested we roast it and had me cut the top off in a star burst while she assembled the traditional spices for pie. What a gorgeous presentation and truly delicious.

1   3 to 5 lb. milk pumpkin

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teasp. ginger
1/4 teasp. nutmeg
1 teasp. cinnamon
1/2 teasp. cloves
1 teasp. allspice
1/2 cup Carnation evaporated milk

Vegetable oil to baste outer skin of pumpkin before roasting.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Wash pumpkin and cut top off in a sunburst design (see photo). Carefully remove top and scrap out seeds* from pumpkin and off the underside of the top. (If the bottom of the pumpkin seems to have a pinhole in the center, plug with a clove!). Mix together all the filling ingredients and pour into cleaned pumpkin swirling around to coat all the flesh.

Baste the underside of the top.

Set the pumpkin and the top separately on a sturdy cookie sheet. Baste with a light coating of vegetable oil.  Roast for 1/2 hour, then remove most of the liquid from the cavity and reserve for serving. Return pumpkin to the oven and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.

When ready to serve, put pumpkin on an attractive plate with a lip. Pour the reserved liquid into the cavity and gently scoop around the sides to loosen flesh and combine with the liquid. Top with the lid slightly askew (it will have shrunk too much to put directly back in position.)

*We roasted the seeds too!

Milk pumpkins are those flatter, more creamy colored ones that are often used for pies.  This dish is a lot like having pumpkin pie without the crust!

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October 2006
Hot Black Bean Dip

You know that fondue pot in the closet?  Put this in it!

1 (1 lb.) can black beans, drained or 1 can black bean soup
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup cubed sharp cheddar
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 tbsp. chili powder
Dash of worcestershire

Process all ingredients - 15 seconds or until smooth. Heat through.

Serve in heat proof container with corn chips or crackers. Makes 2 cups.

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September 2006
Poppy Seed Bread

3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
2 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract, divided
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350°. (Grease 2 large or 4 small pans) Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and poppy seeds in large bowl. Cream 2 cups sugar, oil,
eggs, vanilla and 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract in medium bowl. Add dry ingredients to sugar - mix alternately with milk, ending with dry. Bake in
pans 40 to 65 minutes.

Glaze: Combine orange juice, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and remaining 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Drizzle over top of baked bread. Cool on a wire rack.

Moist and delicious

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August 2006
Cranberry Barley Salad

A good friend, Anne H., devised this recipe after she tasted
a similar dish in a restaurant and they wouldn’t share the ingredients! Anne did an amazing job. You’ll see.

1 cup barley
2 cups of cranberry juice (I have also used a combination of pomegranate and cranberry)
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bag (3 cups) whole cranberries picked over and washed
(if out of season, look for frozen Ocean Spray brand)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup dark raisins

Set oven to 350° Spread barley on a cookie sheet and dry roast for about 15 minutes - don’t let it burn! In a saucepan, simmer the roasted barley in the cranberry juice for 25 to 30 minutes, drain. Peel and dice the apples putting them immediately into the lemon juice. Coarse chop the cranberries and add to the bowl with apples. Add the honey and raisins and cooked barley. Combine all ingredients and chill. Serves 8-10.

A tasty side dish with anything barbecued. And, try it mixed with vanilla yogurt.

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July 2006
Oven Roasted Tomatoes

From Saveur Magazine, these are so robust.  Use them on crostini, in omelets, or as a spread.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 chopped small onion - Vidalia
2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
2 tbsp. fresh parley
2 28 oz. cans, tomatoes, drained
San Marzano or Redpack brand

Preheat oven to 275°. Put oil in bottom of baking dish. Toss next four ingredients and spread evenly over oil. Squeeze tomatoes to release juice, and spread over oil and vegetables and herbs. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar and season with salt and pepper. Bake slow in oven for 3 hours.
Watch that the tomatoes don't burn; keep temperature low and adjust for your own oven.

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June 2006
Shitake and Warm Corn Salad

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
3 cups blanched, fresh corn kernels
6 oz. crisp, fried bacon strips, broken up
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
sea salt and pepper to taste
4 bunches arugula
3/4 cup grated, aged goat cheese

Make vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together. Heat 1/4 cup oil in skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook 1 minute. Add corn and bacon and cook 1 minute. Stir in walnuts, and season. Toss arugula with vinaigrette. Add mushroom mix on top. Garnish with cheese. Serves 6.

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May 2006
Chicken Watercress Salad with Hoisin Sauce

This delicious recipe is from my friend Rozanne Gold. A perfect, easy summer salad.

1 3” piece of ginger (1 1/2 oz. ) peeled, thin sliced
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup hoisin sauce *
1/4 cup rice vinegar (or white balsamic)
1/4 cup peanut oil (or safflower)
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sesame oil

2 bunches of fresh watercress
2 purchased roast chickens, skinned and shredded (about 8 cups)
3 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced

Finely chop ginger and scallions in food processor. Add the next 5 ingredients. Process well. Combine chicken and peppers. Spread watercress in a mound and top with chicken and peppers. Pour on dressing. Garnish with thin slices of scallion. Serves 12 buffet - 8 main course

Feel free to use only 1 chicken - but make the same amount of sauce; it’s too good not to have enough.

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April 2006
Chili Con Carne

3 lbs. chuck, chopped: the good, fatty stuff
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
4 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 six oz. can tomato paste
4 cups beef stock, fresh or canned
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly cooked red kidney beans or drained canned kidney beans (optional)

In a 12” heavy skillet, heat 4 tbsp. of the oil until a light haze forms above it. Add the meat and cook over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until the meat is lightly browned. With a slotted spoon transfer it to a 4-quart heavy flameproof casserole. Add the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil to the skillet and in it cook the onion and garlic for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove the skillet from the heat, add the 4 tbsp. chili powder, or to taste, oregano, cumin and pepper flakes, and stir until the onions are well coated with the mixture. Then add the tomato paste, pour in the beef stock and with a large spoon mix the ingredients together thoroughly before adding them to the meat in the casserole. Add the salt and a few grindings of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, stirring once or twice, then half cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender.

If you plan to use the beans, add them to the casserole 15 minutes or so before the meat is done. Before serving the chili, skim it of as much of the surface as you can. If the chili is refrigerated overnight, the fat will rise to the surface and can easily be removed before reheating. Serves 6 to 8.

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March 2006
Crème Brûlée French Toast

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 large loaf country-style bread, unsliced
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp. salt

In a small, heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat. Stir until smooth and pour into a 13 x 9 x 2 baking (serving) dish. Cut bread 1” thick and fit slices evenly in one layer, squeezing tightly to fit.

Whisk eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt until well combined. Pour evenly over bread. Chill 8 hours (min.) overnight is best!

Preheat oven 350°. Bring bread to room temperature. Bake uncovered, until puffed and edges are golden. (35 to 40 min.) Cut and invert slices. Top with fresh blueberry compote!

Expect marriage proposals after this one!

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February 2006
Creamed Tomato Soup with Cognac

I changed some things from the version I first found. It originally  called for fresh tomatoes, but I can't always find perfectly ripe ones in cold months when I usually make this. The Crown Royal was my idea too!

3 lb. good quality canned tomatoes, not in puree
1 large onion
3 oz. butter
sweet basil leaves
1 pint rich cream
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. cognac
2 tbsp. Crown Royal
salt and pepper

Scald tomatoes and slip them out of their skins. Cut tomatoes coarsely and pound them in a bowl. Chop up the onion. Melt the butter in a large soup pot; add the onions when it begins to turn brown. Stir them around a little and then add the tomatoes and about 1 tsp. of crushed sweet basil leaves. Let this mixture simmer approx. 1/2 hour.

In another pot, heat the cream with the sugar until it is ready to boil. Stirring quickly with a wire whisk, pour the heated cream into the soup, which must not be boiling. Now add the cognac and Crown Royal, season well with salt and pepper, and the soup is ready to serve.  Serves 6

An easy make ahead first course for a dinner party. It is especially nice if you can serve a hot loaf of home made French bread with it, or thin slices of pumpernickel and unsalted butter.

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January 2006
Vegetable Lasagna

A meatless lasagna where the vegetables are mostly in the sauce!  All those carrots create a texture similar to a hearty meat sauce.

2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 box of lasagna noodles
2 lb. fresh spinach, wash & trim
1 garlic clove
1 med. onion
1 lb. carrots, trim & peel
1 lb. mushrooms, clean & trim; slice thickly
3/4 cup pitted oil cured olives
1 to 2  15 oz. jars marinara sauce -reserve some for bottom of pan.
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 lb. 12 oz. white cheese (jack or muenster) shredded
3 cup cream-style cottage cheese
Grated parmesan

Oven: 375 for 45 minutes
In a very large pot, boil noodles with some salt added to water, until al dente.  Remove without dumping water-spread out to cool.  Have spinach ready to cook; add to still simmering pot of noodle water and stir a few minutes until wilted. Remove carefully to a colander;  repeat until all spinach is cooked. Drain very well, gently press to extract most of water. In a food processor chop onion and garlic, remove.  SHRED carrots in processor, set aside. Heat some of the oil in very large skillet, sauté onion & garlic 2 min., add carrot shreds and cook till wilted, about 10 min. Add tomato sauce, paste, olives and seasoning. Stir well, remove from heat. 

Build the lasagna! Spread a thin layer of reserved marinara sauce on bottom of pan. Layer: noodles, cottage cheese, spinach leaves (open leaves & cover cheese completely), shredded cheese, some parmesan, then sauce. Repeat.  End with some sauce and grated parmesan. Serves 12.

Use your favorite marinara sauce. Don't skimp; more sauce won't change the recipe significantly and you don't want to come up short in the layering. If you want to eliminate the pasta, experiment with slices of broiled eggplant!  Don't make them too thin, brush with olive oil before broiling, watch carefully.

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