Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Holiday Recipe Swap Continues: Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

We are happy to continue our virtual holiday recipe swap with an entry from Caroline, the author of Table for 5, a really terrific blog, and a regular LTIR follower. This recipe seems like a no-brainer to add to the holiday baking. Remember, if you've got a great recipe, send it along. The more, the merrier for all. Thanks for reading! --Janet and Rachel

A long time ago, I owned a small catering company. For each lunch or dinner that I cooked, I would prepare a batch of cookies to give the host or hostess, a small token of thanks. Most often, the cookies would be Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies. Once, I was rushing to finish a job, flying around my kitchen and putting finishing touches on trays of salad, sandwiches and pasta. My daughter, Lucy, wandered into the kitchen just then, needing my attention. In an effort to distract her and buy myself a few more minutes, I handed her one of those cookies. She took a bite and slid back against the cabinets, a dreamy look on her 6-year-old face. It was love at first bite, and she never forgot that cookie.

From time to time, she would ask if we could make the cookies again, and I always put her off. Until Christmas of that year. Between batches of sugar cookies and spiced nuts, she asked again. That time, I said yes.

It was the start of a really good tradition, one we look forward to all year. There are other seasonal treats that we indulge in year-round, like pumpkin pie for Paul's birthday in July. But I like to wait for these crumbly, buttery cookies until the holidays. Each bite melts in your mouth, giving way to the maple-y pecans. They are pleasantly sweet and have just a hint of salt. An ideal cookie. Lucy and I have been counting the days until it's time for Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies. Last she told me, it was 46 days. And counting.

Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup pecans
1/8 cup maple syrup
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 sticks butter
1 teaspoon vanilla


Heat the oven to 350°. Mix the pecans and maple syrup in a bowl and spread onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 4 minutes; stir and bake for 4 more minutes. Pour the nuts into a bowl and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a few baking sheets. Break apart the pecans and chop them in the food processor. They should be chopped small, but not too fine. Add the flour and salt, pulsing. Add the butter and vanilla, and brown sugar. You may need to add more flour; the dough should not be sticky. Remove from the bowl of the processor, and divide into two sections, each on a piece of waxed paper. Form logs approximately 3" in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice the logs into 1/4" thick rounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching closely. They should be lightly browned.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Pies: The Conclusion

Rachel: As promised, here is the story of the Thanksgiving pies. I warn you; it's not pretty.

I knew I was in trouble when I was kneading the dough and it just wasn't staying together. I decided, however, that denial was the best route to take and stuck the dough in the fridge. Maybe, I said to myself, the crust will hold together after it's cooled.

That would be wrong.

But by then, it was late Wednesday afternoon and while the apples might have made a lovely apple crisp, who serves apple crisp on Thanksgiving?

So I forged ahead, rolling ve--rrr-y slowly to try to hold the crust together and then doing a little cosmetic surgery (ie. just plastering some dough bits in random places on top) and hoping for the best. The result for the apple wasn't pretty but mostly worked, although I was nervous....and you can see why here.

Fortunately, the pie looked better post baking, as you can see here.

The pumpkin pie crust was the same story---just cracking and falling apart. I was lucky to get as much of the pie plate as I did.

Obviously the crust was not going to make this pie either. I am happy to report, however, that the fillings on both pies were delicious, which I am also going to point out certainly is at least 80 percent of pie, right? Yeah, I'm grasping at straws.

So, how were your pies?

Hey Ma-

Oh man. Pie dough is a difficult mistress. My crust wasn't quite to my liking this year, though it held together a bit better than yours seems to have. Did you try adding a little more water? It's such a fine line to walk when making pie crust--you both need to get it together and not overwork it. Which has left me agreeing whole-heartedly that the proof is in the pudding (or, you know, filling)...at least 80% so anyhow. Maybe if you're lucky we'll bake you a pie or two when we come to visit next month.

Sorry it's only a picture of part of my pie. This was one of the few shots I took that doesn't have my shadow imprinted in the middle of the pie.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Recipe Swap: Turkey Meatballs

This started with a Facebook post by Meris, a regular LTIR reader, whose brother made these amazing meatballs. I saw the photo and immediately said the world needs this recipe! Send it our way for the holiday virtual recipe swap, and Meris kindly did. I would include the photo but that is beyond my technological abilities. Trust me when I say you are going to want to make this right away. Everyone will be glad you did.

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs

(Approx 50 -1” balls)


1 pound ground turkey (breast meat is 93 to 97% fat free)
1 medium carrot grated
1 small onion grated
1 small white potato grated
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup chopped dried sweetened cranberries
¼ cup Turkey or chicken stock (optional if needed)
1 beaten egg
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoonb Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

gravy ingredients
1 bunch of scallions chopped
10 ounce package of mushrooms chopped
1 small onion chopped
5 garlic cloves chopped
½ cup cognac or brandy or red wine plus ¼ cup of cognac or red wine
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups Turkey or chicken stock
1 teaspoon Gravy Master
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (use more if needed)

Line a large Jelly Roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the meatball ingredients. Using a small scooper or tablespoon make into 1” sized meatballs and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush or spray a small amount of olive oil onto the surface of each meatball. Place baking sheet on middle rack in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool to room temperature.

While meatballs are cooking, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large sauté pan, and sauté the chopped onion over medium heat until softened. Remove onion to a side bowl. Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped garlic and sauté for 1 minute over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until water has drained from the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper. Remove pan from heat and pour in cognac and ignite alcohol, return pan to heat and when flames disappear, remove mushrooms to side bowl. Add 2 TBS of olive oil to pan and sauté chopped scallions over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove scallions to side bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan and 4 tablespoons of flour and stir into a paste and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add more oil if needed. Slowly add turkey (or chicken) stock and stir constantly (use a wire whisk) to blend flour paste and stock. Continue to cook until the gravy begins to thicken (3-5 minutes). Add ¼ cup of cognac (or wine) and cook for 3 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the onions, mushrooms and scallions and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Taste test for seasonings and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Place the meatballs in a large cast iron or dutch oven pan and pour the gravy mixture over the meatballs. Cover and heat in oven or stove top until warmed through and then serve. Or refrigerate overnight and then reheat and serve.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What We're Feeling Thankful For...

Rachel here: It feels a little silly to list what I'm thankful for these days, to somehow reduce the best things in my life to bullet points. It also, however, feels a little silly not to. One of our good friends came to visit us before M was born and, over dinner together each night, he stopped and said what he was thankful for in his day. He also asked for help with something. He wasn't talking to some sort of god, I don't think, but just putting it all back into the world. As a rhetoric major and, consequently, a student of the ways in which language is world-making, this idea makes a lot of sense to me. There is thanks and then there is articulating thanks, marking it for a moment and, in doing so, ensuring that you hold it consciously.

I have, obviously, much to be thankful for this year. There is this space that my mom and I have created, bridging our opposite-coast-existences, and the daily interchange I have with her because of it. There is each and every one of you, following us and sharing bits and pieces of your own lives, encouraging both my relationship with my mom and fostering new friendships through this odd little place called the interweb. There is the fact that my family has eaten everyday this year, that though operating with limited means we have had the incredible fortune of never wondering where our next meal will come from. I am thankful for John, a partner if ever there was one. I am thankful for my dad and getting to see him as M's Pamp on multiple occasions this year. I am thankful for my brothers and the journeys they have each embarked upon this year, endlessly proud of the people they have been, they are, and they are becoming. I am thankful for good friends, for the health of those I love, for the bounty of support I have been shown at every turn in the past year. I am thankful for getting to go to school, for getting to learn and for the perspective to appreciate this opportunity.

The list goes on and on and on. I am nothing if not fortunate.

There is one culminating moment of thanks for me this year, though, the cherry on top of a year that has been nothing short of awe-inspiring and humbling. I am thankful for M. You have transformed me utterly, little baby, and in every nook and cranny of my person I am better for being your mama. And so, to close, I want to follow our dear friend's lead and ask for help with one thing. Please, help me be worthy of M: help me catch my breath and pause, help me to remember that each moment is followed by another, help me to be brave enough to be the best mama I can be.

And Ma? Thanks. Just thanks.

So beautifully put, Rachel. I can't possibly add another thing other than the obvious, which is how I thankful I am for you.

From both of us, Happy Thanksgiving to all. Here's hoping you can share a meal and some love with people that matter to you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Holiday Virtual Recipe Swap Begins!

Drum roll please. The official holiday virtual recipe is beginning with this tasty recipe for carrot souffle from Jessica, a LTIR reader and fan in many ways. She sent this to Rachel, noting that her mom makes this on Thanksgiving and that is is, in a word, delicious. If you're looking for a different side besides the usual green beans or yams, this little number could be a nice addition.

Thanks, Jessica! We'll be adding recipes weekly as we get them so send them our way via email:


The more recipes we all share the merrier this season of eating for us all!

Carrot Souffle

1 pound cooked carrots (you can steam them or microwave them; your pick)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick melted margarine
dash nutmeg and cinnamon

Combine the ingredients and blend together in food processor. Pour into soufflé dish

For topping, combine

1/4 cup cornflake crumbs
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts--your choice but we think pecans or walnuts could be yummy
dash nutmeg and cinnamon

Sprinkle topping on soufflé

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pie Anxiety

Hey Rachel

I've been having pie anxiety ever since reading your pretty perfect pumpkin pie post last week. In a twisted turn of fate, my daughter, granddaughter of my father, the original pie extraordinaire baker, is apparently him reincarnated in the pie world. So now, just when I felt it was safe to try making pie — I mean, he's been dead for 23 years for goodness sake — you come along and announce that you make pretty perfect pumpkin pie.

While I am a very good baker, I have avoided pies my whole life because I grew up eating the most perfect pies ever. They were — ARE — legendary. How could I ever compete with my memory of these amazing pies? The answer is I couldn't so — I'm no fool — I didn't.

Until last year when I made my first pies at Thanksgiving. While not the stuff of yore, they were still just fine (I wrote about it here) and I figured I'd improve on them this year.

And then you came along all pie and mighty, and I've been hyperventilating about this ever since. It's probably one reason why I decided to make rugulah over the weekend, a semi-tricky pastry that I've always wanted to make but didn't because it seemed hard but now I've done it successfully so there. (I will post my recipe another time.)

But then I had a revelation. I don't have to make pretty perfect pumpkin pie. I can make good enough pumpkin pie and the world will still spin on its axis. Sometimes I don't actually have to be best. I guess that's something to be thankful for, don't you think?


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Day After Turkey Day Casserole

Hey Rachel

One of the benefits of the cooking marathon that is Thanksgiving is the ton of leftovers. Now I know you're not cooking the whole meal — just that "pretty perfect" pumpkin pie that I'm going to try to make too; I'll let you know how it goes — but someday you will, and then you're going to want to know about this easy casserole for the day after. I adapted it from Rachael Ray's magazine and it's really easy.

Turkey Tortilla Casserole
serves 6

2 limes quartered
1 pound turkey breast, cut into strips
1 large onion finely chopped
1 4 ounce can diced jalapeno chiles, liquid reserved
2 14.5 ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 pound crushed tortilla chips
about 14 ounces chicken broth
3/4 pound shredded cheese
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

Cut the turkey into strips or bite-sized pieces. Squeeze limes over them; add salt to taste.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine the onion, jalapenos with liquid and tomatoes. Add the tortilla chips and turkey and toss well. Transfer it all to agreased 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour the broth in. Top with cheese. Bake about 40 minutes until the cheese is golden brown. Serve with sour cream.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pretty Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Hey Ma-

I love pumpkin pie. I know I love a lot of things, but pumpkin pie places pretty high up on the list of inanimate-objects-I-love-unrequitedly. It's not something we ever ate on Thanksgiving growing up, though, I don't think. Or was it? Did I just not eat it because I was a fool? There were a lot of things I foolishly didn't eat as a kid. But anyway.

For the past few years we have spent Thanksgiving with our dear friend Carl and his mother Hildred. Hildred is the loveliest of hostesses and Carl is a fantastic cook. We bring the pie and the rest of the turkey feast seems to magically appear, delectable and gorgeous through and through. We all sit around, talking and snacking in the kitchen while Carl works his magic until dinnertime. It is a really warm and cozy way to spend Thanksgiving and I feel so fortunate that John and I have found such nice friendships in Carl and Hildred here in California. It is hard to be away from family on holidays, but Carl and Hildred have become key members of our California family and the day feels appropriately festive, familiar and familial all at once. Needless to say, I'm really excited to introduce M to this whole tradition of thanks and feasting (and, you know, in a few years to explain to her all of the political problems with this day).

Anyway, as I was saying, I love pumpkin pie. I'd never made it until last year, though, and it was met with rave reviews. I also made vanilla ice cream to accompany it. I'm going to be making the pie again this year and am considering making bourbon ice cream instead of vanilla. Doesn't that sound good? Anyway, I obviously don't have a picture to tempt your taste buds, but I wanted to post the recipe I used (shockingly, it's from "The Best Recipe"...as so many of my best recipes are) in case you or any of our dear readers were looking for a fabulous pumpkin pie recipe for your own impending feasts.

I'll miss seeing you on Thanksgiving and look forward to the time when we are all gathered around the holiday table together again. In the meantime, consider this recipe a formal welcome to the holiday season.


Pumpkin Pie
serves 8


pie dough
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface and dough
1/2 tspn. salt
1 T. sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 T. all-vegetable shortening, chilled
4-5 T. ice water

pie filling
2 c. (16 oz.) plain canned pumpkin puree (one of these years I'm going to make this from scratch, too)
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 tspn. ground ginger
2 tspn. ground cinnamon
1 tspn. fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tspn. ground cloves
1/2 tspn. salt
2/3 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. milk
4 large eggs


pie shell
1. Pulse flour, salt and sugar in your food processor with the steel blade. Scatter the butter pieces in, tossing to coat. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add the shortening and continue cutting in until the flour resembles coarse cornmeal. The butter bits should be no larger than small peas. Turn this mixture into a mixing bowl.
2. Sprinkle 4 T. ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold until mixed. You can add up to 1 T. more of ice water, but first make sure you can't get the dough to form without it. Shape dough into a ball with hands and then flatten into a 4-inch wide disc. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in saran wrap and chill at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).
3. When you're reading to make your pie, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature to soften enough to work with. Roll dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 12-inch disc that is about 1/4-inch thick. Fold dough into quarters and place the point in the center of your pie pan. Unfold and press the dough carefully into the pan. Trim edge to about 1/2-inch beyond the lip. Fold the edges and flute. Refrigerate pie shell for 40 minutes and then freeze it for 20. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees with the oven rack in the middle position.
4. For this recipe you are only going to partially bake your shell. Place weights (I just use rice over aluminum foil) in bottom of shell before putting in the oven. Bake until dough dries out, about 17 minutes. Remove weights and continue baking for about 9 minutes, until lightly golden brown. While the crust is baking, make the pie filling.

pie filling
1. In your food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, spices and salt for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring it to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes.
2. As soon as you remove the pie shell from the oven, increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Whisk heavy cream and milk into the pumpkin and bring it to a bare simmer. Process your eggs in your food processor until the whites and yolks are mixed (about 5 seconds). With the motor running, slowly (this is key or else your eggs will scramble) pour half of the pumpkin mixture through the feeding tube of your food processor. Stop machine and scrape in remaining pumpkin. Process about 30 seconds longer.
3. Immediately pour warm filling into hot pie shell (if you have excess you can ladle it in after the pie's cooked for 5 minutes and settled in a bit). Bake your pie on the lower rack until the filling is puffed, dry-looking and lightly cracked around the edges with a center that still wiggled like gelatin when the pie is gently shaken. This takes about 25 minutes. Cook on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

It's sooooooo good...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Guess You Could Call This Meal Fajitas...

Hey Ma-

I've been craving Mexican food for a while now. There's this restaurant that John and I really love called Juan's Place in Berkeley that's a staple in the area. We used to go with our friends Mona and Martin pretty regularly a few years back. Anyway, with M around and school and work and all that that entails we haven't been in a while. They make reaaaaaally good fajitas, though, and this is what I've been particularly craving as of late.

Anyway, the other night with Juan's on the brain I threw together this dinner. It was totally edible and fine, but it was so decidedly not Juan's fajitas that I couldn't help but feel disappointed. Also, I forgot beans. Not cool.

To make this, I sliced up a bell pepper and an onion and set them aside. Then I sliced up one chicken breast and one chicken thigh. I've been really into the dark meat on chicken lately and thought the light and dark combo would be good. It was. I tossed the chicken in a little olive oil, salt, cayenne, dried orange peel and cumin and threw it in a hot skillet to brown before adding in the veggies. I made some rice and heated up a few tortillas and voila--a totally edible if less than exciting dinner.

So it goes. I was pretty pleased with the way the chicken tasted, just for the record.

Off to school. Tonight it's leftover thai take-out (yum).


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cookies That Command Ice Cream

Hey Ma-

So, the other day in some odd moment of lull I was thumbing through Real Simple when I happened to notice a cookie recipe that they called super easy. I'd had cookies on the brain what with the round-up from last week and the recipes everyone's (yes, ahem, EVERYONE...that means send us one if you haven't!) sending us for our cyber recipe swap. Plus, sometimes when I see the word "easy" I take it as a challenge. You know those days where easy seems just completely and utterly impossible? And then something has the audacity to label itself easy to spite you? I was having one of those days and I decided I needed to show these Real Simple really!-simply!-easy! cookies what's up. I even went so far as to go to the grocery store to buy the one ingredient I needed to make these pecan lace drop cookies, all in the name of validating my sense that NOTHING is actually easy.

Oh man was I wrong. This is the view down through my cooking racks. It took but a few ingredients, a pot and a bowl to get this pretty view. And less than an hour! For all of these pretty little cookies! And goodness these lacy treats are good. Sweet and nutty and oh so delicate they're pretty darn tasty on their own, but one bite and I just KNEW they'd be even better with some vanilla ice cream.

This was totally one of those days when I set out to let the universe know once and for all that it sucked and it boldly decided not to spit in my face (as I had so hoped), but to give me a sweet little surprise.

To top the whole ordeal off (because clearly this was an ordeal, albeit a really excellent one in the end), I couldn't get good enough light at night to photograph with. And so, the day after I baked, I had no choice but to make a little ice cream sundae for lunch. Oh, the things I do to share my life in recipes with you, Ma.

Anyway, in case it wasn't clear, you should totally make these. I'm going to make them again and again and again. Click here to follow my lead.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Books That Make Us Hungry: Happy Haulidays from Chronicle Books Giveaway!

Yes, readers, the holidays are upon us soon, and Chronicle Books, a real favorite of ours here at Life Told in Recipes, is having a lovely little contest where we can all win. Here's how it works. We create a list of books we would love to win (see below). Then you just comment on the books and why you'd like to be a winner. Then on Dec. 13 Chronicle picks a winning blog AND one reader from that blog who has commented. We both then get a happy shipment of the books on this list.

How great is that!!!! Could it be any simpler??? This is the proverbial win-win for us all so spread the word to your friends etc.

Without further ado our list of top faves:

Cake Pops by Bakerella (yes we already did one giveaway of this book but we had so many interested readers, that we would love to spread the love here some more)

Farmers' Market Desserts by Jennie Schacht (the more dessert cookbooks the better, we say)

Whoopie Pies
by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell (ditto to dessert cookbook comment)

Savory Baking Pastries by Mary Cech and Noel Barnhurst (clearly a baking theme is emerging here)

Cupcake Kit
by Elinor Kilvan (because the more cupcakes in the world, the better for us all)

The Big Book of Appetizers
by Meridith Deeds and Carla Snyder (who doesn't love throwing a dinner party with lots of great appetizers?)

Delicious Dips AND Skinny Dips by Diane Morgan (we could go low or high-fat if we had both of these wonderful books)

Soup's On
by Leslie Jonah and Frank Frankeny (nothing is better for warming the heart on a wintry day than homemade soup)

At Home with Friends
by Michele Adams, Gia Russo and Victorial Peisor (tips for fab entertaining)

Blackbird Bakery's Gluten Free Bakin
g by Karen Morgan (we're curious about this and what better way to try out the idea)

Time for Dinner by Pilar Guzman, Alanna Stang and Jenny Rosentrach (everything every busy parent needs to know to put quick, healthy meals on the table seven days a week)

Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-crafted Life
by Tom Hudgens (appeals to our obsessive recipe collection natures)

Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red Hot Dinners and Parties
by Rafael Palomino, Arlen Gargagliano and Dan Goldberg (who doesn't love spicy food?)

Love in Spoonfuls: Fast and EAsy Ways to Make Nutritious Food for Your Baby (The Divine Miss M deserves this!)

Book of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks by Bethany Keeley (one of us is a grammar freak)

Mom's One-Line a Day: 5-Year Memory Book (one of us is a new mom who STILL talks about how her mother, the other one of us, didn't do a baby book about her; this is the revenge gift)

Baby Face Nesting Blocks (another gift for the Divine Miss M)

and a few Moleskins planners and notebooks because they are the coolest books ever for keeping track of life's stuff.

So that's it. We want to win because we want YOU to win! So comment below and spread the word.....

Happy Haulidays to all!

Janet and Rachel

Monday, November 15, 2010

tex mex anyone?

Hey Rachel
As the weather gets colder, Mexican inspired food is one of my go-to comfort foods. This recipe is adapted from something my friend, Arianne, served one night. She's an outstanding cook and as soon as I had it, I wanted to know how to recreate it. It takes a little time to create, but it is totally worth the wait.

Tex Mex Lasagne

serves 4


2 onions
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
12 ounces beer
16 ounces refried beans--I prefer black
16 ounces salsa
12 small tortillas
2 cups grated cheese
cilantro to taste
sour cream


In a skillet saute the onion, pepper and garlic. Add the chicken and spices. Add the vinegar and 1 1/4 cups beer. Save the rest of the beer rather than drinking it :). Simmer.

In another pan, heat the beans with the rest of the beer and about 1/2 cup salsa until spreadable.

Heat the oil. Quickly cook the tortillas, about 5-10 seconds a side. Put on paper towels to get rid of excess oil.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a 9 X 13 inch pan create your tortilla towers. Place 4 tortillas in the pan. Spread the 1/2 the bean mixture on all four, followed by 1/2 the chicken mixture and 1/3 the cheese and some salsa. Then place 4 tortillas on top of those and repeat. Then top with the remaining 4 tortillas. Place remaining salsa and cheese on top. Bake for 35 minutes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

C is for Cookies (and G is for Give Us Your Recipes!)

Hey Folks-

Rachel here. Remember a few days back when I wrote about wanting to collect recipes from all of you to create a little communal blogosphere cookbook (click here to read the post)? I thought that, to help get us all in the holiday baking mood, I'd do a round-up of our cookie posts from the past. Man have we--and our guest bloggers!--made a lot of cookies. Click on through and then let us know what your favorite cookie (or other foods!) recipe is.

Happy weekend!


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies and Glazed Molasses-Spice Cookies
Ultimate Ginger Cookies and Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins, Cranberries, Walnuts and Chocolate Chips
Emma and Sage's Oma's (Chocolate Chip) Oatmeal Cookies
Grandma Reynolds' Date-Nut Bars and Lemon Bars
Gigi's Veganized Carrot Sandwich Cookies
Homemade Honey Ginger Graham Crackers
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Creamy Lemon Macadamia Cookies and Sugar Cookies

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Help! My Magazines Have Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Hey Rachel

There are many reasons to invite friends over for dinner. Obviously pouring over my many cookbooks and magazines to find interesting recipes to make is one. So, too, is the anticipation of good conversation and wine. But the other obvious reason to invite people over for dinner regularly is so I can rediscover my dining room table.

As the editor of a home and lifestyle magazine (shameless plug for you to check it out on Facebook at life@home magazine or online at www.timesunion.com/lifeathome), I know all about clutter and feng shui and how all our useless stuff gets in the way of our clear thoughts and emotions etc. I have written articles on it for God's sake.

But then the reality of my life hits, and I put things aside to read later and suddenly what began as a small pile of paper takes on a life of its own. This little foible is particularly problematic when it comes to magazines. I am a magazine addict and in particular magazines that feature recipes. I regularly turn down pages of recipes I want to try, and then place the magazine on the dining room table — where I promptly forget about it for the most part until it looks like this.

And this is just the magazines with recipes. The table also included my many (very organized in my head, thank you) piles of research for this book I was working on. Needless to say, we hadn't eaten there in a while.

Enter the dinner party. I was sick of looking at the mess and wanted to celebrate the fall and create a nice tablescape for the table, so I invited friends over and started tossing. I was conflicted about what to do with the recipes and decided to rip the pages out of the magazines. So now I have a nice (much thinner) pile of magazine pages. It's not the best organized concept, but at least it's a step. And the dinner party was a blast.

Does anybody have any suggestions for how to handle this magazine recipe addiction? How do you all organize your recipes? I could seriously use the help!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sleet? Soup!

Hey Rachel

Oh, I feel your pain. That whole everyone-is-sick deal is absolutely awful, because of course as the parent — wait, I am going to amend that to as the mother — you don't actually get to be sick. Ever. Even when you are the only person in the house who aches and is throwing up, you still have to perform, especially when your children are the size of Miss M.

Remember that time when at least two of you and I had a stomach bug at the same time? I don't want to go into too many details or no one will want to read the rest of this food blog (and I have a delicious recipe coming), but it was grim. We'll just leave it at that and let everyone imagine their own nightmare. I do remember looking at the clock and wondering why the minute hand was not moving. Peter, I was sure, was never actually going to come home from work and I would be lying on that floor with you and G until we passed on. I was obviously delirious.

But soup is perfect for colds. It's also perfect for cold weather, which is what prompted me to create this wonderful soup I really recommend. I was inspired by some soup I had in our company cafeteria last week. They called it Baja Soup and it was definitely Mexican in its influences. My version isn't exactly the same, but it is damn tasty. I encourage you to make it when you are all feeling better.

Mexican Soup
serves at least 6

2 skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cans petite cut diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed
about 1 cup of frozen corn
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
16 ounces or so of vegetable or chicken broth

Saute the onion in a couple tablespoons of oil. After a couple of minutes, when they are just beginning to get translucent, add the chicken and spices. Cook until the chicken is just done, stirring frequently.

In a large stock pot, add the tomatoes, broth, black beans and corn. When the chicken and onion mix is done, add to the pot and adjust the amount of liquid to suit your soup tastes. I like my soups thicker, but you might like yours brothier. Adjust seasoning as well. Serve with some good bread and cheese, and you're good to go.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sick? Soup!

Hey Ma-

So, I had plans. Not big plans, but fresh vegetable plans. I was going to make egg noodles with green beans, mushrooms, those little grape tomatoes (I could eat these by the cup) and fresh grated parmesan cheese. It wasn't going to be fancy, but it was definitely going to be good and I was really looking forward to it.

And then the plague happened.

Not the real plague, but our first full-on, everybody's-down-for-the-count family-wide illness. I thought I had been sick before, but I now know that you have NEVER been sick until you've had a baby (ok, not really...I'm only talking about illnesses that come and go within a week's time). I did not know what it was like not to be able to sleep all day and all night, waking only to blow your nose or pull the tissue out from your sweatpants that somehow weaseled its way in there while you were snoring (blissfully!) through two nostrils with--yup, you guessed it--tissues stuck in them. I did not know. But I digress...

The byproduct of the arrival of the plague was a complete and utter lack of desire to make the aforementioned dinner. In fact, I can't even remember what we ate during those days of disease. What I was left with, then, was a bunch of vegetables on the brink of turning.

As I know I've mentioned before, we often have portions of homemade chicken stock in our freezer. As of late, I've been saving our vegetable bits in a bag in the freezer to, all in the name of letting them accumulate and turning them into soup one of these days. Yesterday was just the day.

M and I thawed the stock, chopped the veggies, sauteed them and combined everything. A sprinkle of that parmesan from the dinner-that-never-was on top, a piece of toast, and I am one happy eater.

(Ok, maybe M was more into her new dinosaur booties than our kitchen project, but I can dream...)


Monday, November 8, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Get Out Your Recipe Cards

Hello folks:

It's that time of the year again. That time of hanging out with friends and family, staying up late, sleeping in, feeling cozy...and eating lots and lots and lots of food.

In our family there are foods that get made every year. There are gingery treats that appear in each of our homes, chocolate candy that I have to go to my mom's house in order to devour, and my Grandma's shortbread that barely makes it through November here in California. There are also lost recipes, like my Grandy's red cabbage, that we try in vain to recreate since she didn't leave a recipe behind.

The point is this: the holidays are about many things, but one of the main ones--that spans denominations, traditions, families...the list goes on--is coming together over cherished annual recipes. We've been thinking that it would be really cool if during this holiday season we all--that means YOU all, too--shared some of our favorite recipes. We'd love them with a memory attached, we'd love them alone. Just shoot us an email at lifetoldinrecipes@gmail.com and we'll post your recipe to spread the holiday cheer across tables. We can post it anonymously if you'd like, we can credit your great great great aunt Betty...you tell us how you want to share it and that's how it will appear here on the blog. Our idea is to create a big communal holiday cookbook here and a space for us all to come together and pause--however briefly--and reflect on what fortune we find in holiday feasts.

So, get out those recipe cards and send us an email. We can't wait to hear from you. And in the meantime, enjoy these really awesome photos from holidays past of each of us (you're welcome, Ma and John).


Friday, November 5, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Halloween is over and that means we're starting to think about holiday baking. Rachel and I are planning a virtual holiday recipe swap with you all and will be kicking that off soon. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here are some of my remembrances of my dad.

I did not grow up in a household with a strong Christmas baking tradition. My dad made legendary pumpkin and apple pies for Thanksgiving, but come Christmas, he was much more focused on the ham and side dishes. My mother, probably in part due to my father’s pie-making prowess, mostly didn’t even try to compete in the baking arena. Sure, she made tasty chocolate chip cookies and various other dessert dishes in general — her sour cream cheese pie is still one of my go-to desserts when I need a cheesecake fix but don’t want to put in all that time — but she didn’t go out of her way to make anything special at Christmas.

But then my father retired, and he became fixated with making holiday candy. He called the recipe Bristol Road Kitchens Toffee, a reference to the road in Maine he and my mother lived in at the time, and added this little subhead on the recipe card: expensive but worth it.

The expense part undoubtedly stemmed from his days of scrimping as a young man during the Depression. Today, I regularly use butter and the darkest — read more expensive — chocolate bits in all of my recipes. I wouldn’t think twice of substituting anything else.

But the real worth, if you will, of this toffee was that my father made it. My dad was a tall man, broad of chest, with hands the size of kitchen mitts. While gregarious in social situations, he was reticent with his emotions at home. His hugs, while solid when they occurred, were not daily occurrences, and he preferred to show his love rather than say, “I love you” out loud.

And so he cooked. Not all the time but on the weekends and holidays, sometimes for the cocktail parties he and my mother would throw. It was his way of saying he cared.

His holiday candy became an annual tradition, eagerly anticipated at our house each December. He would mail the candy from Maine or, later, California, and then call to make sure it had arrived in the proper condition. One year the box included the recipe card, a moment that made me both happy and sad, because while I was pleased to receive the secret, I knew it also meant that his days of making it were nearing an end.

Like my father, I have made creating certain foods as much a part of Christmas as Advent calendars and candlelight Christmas Eve services. Come the day after Thanksgiving, you can find me making the first of many loaves of Swedish gingerbread. A couple of weeks before Christmas, I’m busy making rolling out dough for Swedish pepparkakor, a kind of ginger snap.

And, of course, I make a batch of the toffee. Pulling out the recipe card filled with my father’s chicken scratch (seriously, if unreadable handwriting is a criteria, my dad should have been a doctor). By now, the red ink a little smeared from having been picked up with wet hands, and the card is dirtied with bits of chocolate and sugar from toffee-making sessions over the years.

As our children have aged — the last one is in college — I’ve cut back on the quantity of these goods. Where I once made two batches of pepparkakor, I now make one; loaves of Swedish gingerbread are down to about 6 now, depending on who is receiving one as a housewarming holiday gift.

And the toffee is now just one batch. About two years ago, I asked our youngest, who was still at home and is the main consumer of this toffee, if maybe I should forgo making it. After all, plenty of other holiday edibles were in the house. “Are you kidding me?” he said in the inflection only a teenager can muster. “Not an option.”

I was secretly pleased, of course. I want to keep making the toffee and other special items. Making these annual recipes is a way of connecting with my father, who is gone, and with my children and our happy memories of the holidays when we were all together under one roof. Some day I’ll be ready to pass the wooden spoon. But not just yet.

(Illustration is available for free at Dreamstime.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie: Or, Projects Not to Start at 6 pm After Spending All Day with Your Kid

Hey Ma-

Ok, so first off, the chicken pot pie I made was totally, totally delicious. G and I both think, though, that it wasn't quite as good as the ones you'd buy at the Otis Poultry Farm when we were growing up. G said that he thinks the difference is that (somehow!) their crusts were even thicker and I think he's right. Regardless, John and G both ate second helpings and I devoured what was on the plate before me.

This picture above is part of why I'd advise going about this whole project a little bit differently, though, should you choose to embark on it. I made a COLOSSAL mess (ok, there are two more pictures of my mess...I just couldn't stand to keep looking at it in its entirety and so I'm only posting the one). And, though actually a pretty simple recipe, it takes a lot of time. I had to make the dough and then cook the chicken and then the vegetables and then make the sauce and then...and then...well, you follow. Let's just say that by the end I was drinking wine straight from the bottle. And by the very end? It was very, very late. We all joked that at least we were eating the meal on the same day I'd started it.

The moral of the story, I guess, is this: Make chicken pot pie from scratch! Do it! It's good and it's satisfying. But start much, much earlier in the day...and maybe don't do it when you're starting out exhausted (as I was from hanging out with M all day). Oh, and keep a bottle of wine handy.


recipe from "The Best Recipe"

for dough
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tspn. salt
8 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 T. vegetable shortening, chilled

for pot pie
1 1/2 lb. chicken thigh, de-boned and de-skinned
2 c. homemade chicken broth
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
2 small celery stalks, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
4 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 tspn. dried thyme
3 T. dry sherry
3/4 c. peas (I used fresh, but you can use frozen...I'll allow it (that's a joke...I'm never sure how well those translate here))
3 T. minced fresh parsley leaves

for dough
Mix flour and salt in workbowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five one-second pulses. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, keeping some butter bits the size of small peas, about four more one-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice-cold water over the mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into flour mixture. Then press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more cold water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes while preparing pie filling.

for pie filling
Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken and broth in small Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat. Cover, bring to simmer; simmer until chicken is just done, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer meat to large bowl, reserving broth in measuring cup. Increase heat to medium-high; heat oil in now-empty pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. While vegetables are sautéing, shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside. Heat butter over medium heat in again-empty skillet. When foaming subsides, add flour; cook about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth, milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and thyme. Bring to simmer, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in sherry. Pour sauce over chicken mixture; stir to combine. Stir in peas and parsley. Adjust seasonings. (Can be covered and refrigerated overnight; reheat before topping with pastry.)

to assemble
Roll dough on floured surface to approximate 15-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. If making individual pies, roll dough 1/8-inch thick and cut 6 dough rounds about 1 inch larger than pan circumference. Pour chicken mixture into 13-by-9-inch pan or any shallow baking dish of similar size. Lay dough over pot pie filling, trimming dough to 1/2 inch of pan lip. Tuck overhanging dough back under itself so folded edge is flush with lip. Flute edges all around. Or don't trim dough and simply tuck overhanging dough into pan side. Cut at least four 1-inch vent holes in large pot pie or one 1-inch vent hole in smaller pies. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 minutes for large pies and 20 to 25 minutes for smaller pies. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oatmeal for All

Hey Ma-

So, the weather has taken a turn (generally) for the cool and crisp which leaves me wanting a warm breakfast. One of my favorite things to eat on a chilly morning is steel-cut oatmeal. It takes a while to cook, though, which is a luxury most mornings don't afford me these days.

My solution to this issue was to bake a giant batch on Sunday morning and chill it for the week. Now, each morning I scoop an individual portion into a bowl, add a teeny bit of water, throw it in the microwave for a few minutes and then add whatever seems yummy, from dried fruit to brown sugar to peanut butter. It's been a nice thing to wake up to this week so far and I think I'll pause my weekly granola baking for the time being in favor of this warm and wintry way to start my day.

Do you do anything differently now that the weather's cool? Or, are you still eating granola and yogurt?

Also, M is eating oatmeal these days. She eats hers for dinner, though, and absolutely LOVES it. I promised you a video a few weeks back. I swear I'll post it for you to see here SOON.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Books That Make Us Hungry: Rachael Ray's New Cookbook

Rachael Ray falls into a similar category as Martha Stewart for a lot of people: You either love her or hate her.

I happen to be a fan so I was thrilled to get in on a group conference call last week with Ray about her new cookbook, Look + Cook, which goes live today. When I say "live," I mean that literally because the book, in addition to feature 100 "can't-miss main courses in pictures," also includes interactive 30-minute meals online where she cooks the recipes with the clock running in real time. In other words, you can follow along online or in the book by pictures and see how things really are supposed to look as you put the meals together. It's multi-media all the way, which is impressive.

In the interview, Ray said the first 100 meals "are the equivalent of a paint by numbers set." You can also, from the pictures, see if you're really interested in making this particular meal. How many pots will you really need, for instance?

Anyway, the photographs look positively yummy, and I will definitely be trying a few out and let you know what I think. In the meantime, if you want to see the videos, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Congrats to Audrey, the winner of our Barefood Contessa cookbook, How Easy is That? Thanks to all who joined in. We're working on some other giveaways, so hopefully we'll be able to announce those soon.

In the meantime, on Meatless Monday, we'll leave you with this recipe from Ina Garten's book. I have made five of her recipes this point and every single one was a winner so you might want to pick the book up on your own or maybe put it on your holiday wish list. This recipe even works well with tomatoes that are off season for those of you who live outside California and basically avoid tomatoes except for about two months at the end of the summer.

Scalloped Tomatoes
serves 6 or 8


5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced bread from a round rustic bread, crusts removed
3 pounds plum tomatoes 1/2-inch diced, about 14-16 tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are even browned.

Meanwhile combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread cubes and continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6-8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.