not your grandmother’s cucumber salad

One of my favorite cucumber salads is made by Hu Nan Restaurant in Ardmore. It’s hot and sweet. They do a similar cabbage salad as well.

I have never been able to exactly replicate their cucumber salad, but they have inspired my updating a summer staple.

I take three English hothouse cucumbers and peel and slice them into thin rounds. These are the cucumbers considered “burpless”. If I don’t like the way they look at the grocery store, I will use regular cucumbers and peel and cut them in half and scoop out the seeds.

When my cucumbers are all sliced I put them in a bowl and toss them with salt to taste and about 4 tablespoons of white sugar and set aside.

Salt. I am in love with a locally made seasoning salt my husband found for me. It’s called Jake’s Prime Seasoning Salt. It’s a small batch salt from Wallingford, PA. You can order it on their website. It is the first seasoning salt that I think can give Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt a run for her money.

Next I slice up thin one red onion and cut it into more bite size pieces. I add that to my bowl.

Sometimes I add a chopped up red bell pepper to this, but never a green bell pepper.

Following adding the red onion to the bowl, I add the fresh dill. I love dill and do not have a set pre-measured amount. I just chop up a healthy handful from my garden (if I have it and at present almost depleted thanks to the rain), or I buy a bunch at the grocery store.

Next comes the “dressing”. I usually just eyeball it but will attempt to write it down:

1/4 white wine vinegar (or half wine vinegar and half rice wine vinegar)

2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes or Hatch green chile flakes

I wisk the dressing together in a little bowl, pour it over the cucumbers and onions and dill in the larger bowl and mix it all up. Then I cover and refrigerate until it’s time for dinner (or lunch as it also makes a lovely luncheon salad.)

Enjoy!

the evolution of apple-pear butter

I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.

I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.

I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.

I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….

I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.

But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.

To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.

Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.

Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.

Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.

When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.

But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.

Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.

I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.

When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.

At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.

I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.

Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.

You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.

I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.

Try it!

fall dinner….mmmmm

Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.

I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!

I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)

So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.

First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)

Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.

As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.

After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.

Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)

Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.

Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.

My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.

Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.

Bon Appétit!

baking day: banana bread and collecting cookbooks

I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.

Start with preheating your oven to 350°.

Next, your ingredients:

3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Four eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dark raisins

Five large bananas mashed up

The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.

Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.

Put the pans to the side.

And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries

Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.

After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.

Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.

The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!

Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.

Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.

My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.

My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.

For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.

As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.

One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.

I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.

A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.

Enjoy your day!

swedish meatballs….my way

I love old school recipes.  One from my childhood is Swedish meatballs.  Not because we had any Swedish heritage – it was just one of those dishes my mother would make for us.  Over the years I have tweaked a basic recipe to suit me.

The weather has finally turned crisp and fall-like so I thought tonight would be a good night to dust off the recipe and prepare Swedish meatballs.  My recipe is NOT made with heavy cream and I add mushrooms and a couple of other herbs/spices. But the flavors work and you get that old school Swedish meatball flavor…enhanced.  Some add caraway seeds to either the gravy or meatballs, I add celery seed to the gravy

I also do something that I doubt anyone else does – I will prepare the meatball mix ahead of time the day I am cooking and refrigerate until it is time to make the meatballs.  That allows the spices to meld and perfume the meat mixture better.

Panko bread crumbs are superior to regular bread crumbs in my opinion, but the most important thing to remember is to use PLAIN breadcrumbs. This is not the recipe for flavored breadcrumbs.

Some use mashed potatoes, I like wide egg noodles.

I hope you enjoy my recipe if you try it. Watch the salt you add because of the sodium in most broths.

Swedish Meatballs My Way

  • 1 pound meatloaf mix
  • 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped x 2 or 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon White Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Splash of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms slices thin
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups beef broth or bison broth
  • 1 cup evaporated Vitamin D canned milk (also great for homemade macaroni and cheese) or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, white pepper, cumin, paprika, mustard powder, dash of buttermilk, salt and egg. Mix until combined. Put in refrigerator and chill a couple of   I do this because meat mixture flavor deepens.
  2. Roll into  20 + small meatballs. In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Quickly sauté ½ cup minced onion and baby bella mushrooms
  4. Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and milk. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and dill and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small dash of nutmeg (I mean small!) and celery seed.
  5. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another few minutes. Serve over egg noodles or as the Brits call it, a “good mash” or plain mashed potatoes. I prefer egg noodles.

savoring summer

Summer always means fresh pesto sauce. And fresh pesto is totally easy to make.

All it is is olive oil, huge bunches of fresh basil, salt to taste, fresh garlic cloves, a pinch of thyme, a sweet onion, a dash or two of balsamic vinegar,and a red bell pepper if you have one laying around.

Today I probably used about a cup and a half of olive oil. I easily used four cups of fresh basil because my plants need it to be pruned.

You blend it all together in a food processor or blender and you let it sit in the refrigerator to chill so the flavors meld. When you go to heat it up with pasta you can add pine nuts and grated fresh Parmesan cheese. I also like to sauté chicken tenders and add that to a pesto and pasta dish.

People also use pesto sauce in vegetable soups like tomato in particular. Some people also like to add anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes, but I don't really care for that taste combination with pesto sauces .

Often homemade pesto will not be as thick and gummy as store-bought pesto sauces but those sauces have thickeners and / or preservatives in them. I love homemade pesto sauce, store-bought not so much.

I will also note that I saw the "West Chester Food Co-Op" is advertising a Gazpacho Adaluz (I put them in air quotes because they aren't a real bricks and mortar store they are just a booth I don't understand at the West Chester Growers Market. ) So I thought I would remind my dear readers that I shared such a recipe with you five years ago. It is called Kendall's Gazpacho as it is named after my late mother in law who bought the recipe back from Spain many decades ago.

Click here for the recipe to Kendall's Gazpacho. and the photo you see below is a batch of the gazpacho I made recently. The color of the soup is determined by the color of your vegetables. So when I use green bell pepper it stays green. When I use an orange or red bell pepper, the soup takes a red or orange hue. This is different from other gazpachos and doesn't actually have as many tomatoes as you would put in one of those.

Anyway I hope you make yourselves a batch of pesto and/or gazpacho before the end of the summer. The flavors of fresh vegetables this time of year can't be beat!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen.

lost and found


I was rearranging my cookbooks and going through some older ones that were my mother’s at one point, and when I open one cookbook it was like opening Pandora’s box. Old photos and recipes. One recipe was hand typed by someone for my mother, and I remember her making this cake. I think this was a childhood friend’s  mother’s carrot cake recipe.

The other recipes were torn out of magazines and print publications. 

These are all from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I thought it would be fun to share.