STROMBOLI

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2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dry yeast

OR Buy a ready made pizza dough

Olive oil

1 egg, beaten
1 / 2 cup of parmesan cheese
8 ounce fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 / 4 pound of pepperoni or sopressata slices, quartered

another egg, beaten

1. In a bowl place flour, then salt. Mix with your hands. In a cup dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let it sit for a minute. Add the olive oil. Make a well with the flour mixture then pour in the water mixture. Mix together to form a dough. Knead until dough becomes shiny and smooth. (If you are using a bread machine, make sure you use only the dough setting.)

2. In a clean bowl, rub a little olive oil to cover the inside of the bowl. Place the dough in and let it rise at least for 1 hour. Take the dough out punch it down and let it rise again for another hour. The longer it rises the better the dough. (If you are using a store bought dough, place it on the kitchen counter till it is room temperature. The dough will be very sticky, so be generous when flouring the dough.)

3. When you are ready to cook your stromboli preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and pepperoni. Toss together until everything is coated.

5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle shape. Fill the dough with the cheese mixture evenly, covering the entire dough, then roll into a jelly roll, lengthwise. Grease a cookie sheet with a little olive oil or cover the cookie sheet with Reynolds wrap release foil. Place the Stromboli onto the cookie sheet. Brush the entire Stromboli with a beaten egg.

6. Bake in the over on middle rack for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on your oven) or until crust is golden brown. When removing from oven, let it sit for 15 minutes to cool down a little before slicing.

7. Optional recipe for Stromboli without meat. In a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, saute 1/2 red pepper strips, 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped and 3 garlic cloves, chopped. After everything is tender, cool down and add to beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese and follow directions the same.

7. ENJOY- Who wants a regular slice of pizza, not me, I want a slice of stromboli!

This recipe works well with homemade or store bought pizza dough. I have also made Stromboli using a white bread dough. You can put anything in your Stromboli. I use grated Romano cheese more than Parmesan cheese in mine because I like the sharper taste. Spinach and broccoli added also make for a good Stomboli. Word of caution, do not over load on the fillings, because it will become too heavy and then the dough may break open. I made two Strombolis, for this posting, one with meat and one with vegestables, because one is never enough for my family.

My recipe for Stromboli is an old one too. I actually had forgotten about it until my daughter, Marisa, asked me for it. I finally located my withered, typewritten (yep, from one of those ancient typewriters), stromboli recipe. As I read it to her over the phone, I made a decision to prepare and serve it the following evening for a gathering of friends at my house. It was a huge hit. Some recipes are always popular and this leads the pack.

Stomboli is easy to make, especially if you have a bread machine. My bread machine was a gift from my friend, Kazue, who so generously gave me hers when she went home to Japan after several years and many meals together. It’s a small machine and fits tidily on my kitchen counter, and there it will remain even if my husband wants it out of the way. It’s not going to be “out of sight, out of mind” as I use it frequently to prepare dough. I really do not like to bake bread in the machine; I don’t like the shape of that small, high bread loaf. This sweet little machine has become a time saver for me. I place all the ingredients in the machine, and it does the mixing and kneading of the dough and some of the rising. The bread machine allows me free time to work on other dishes, especially if I am entertaining that day. Along with my dishwasher, it has become a staple in my kitchen.

Have you considered getting a bread machine for your next dough recipe, perhaps making this stromboli recipe the very first thing you create with it? You may “knead” it more than you know!

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IRISH SODA BREAD

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1 cup of sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins
2 cups sour cream, room temperature

1. Oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. In a small bowl, stir raisins into sour cream and let sit till needed. In a medium bowl, combine flour with baking powder and baking soda. Sift together well, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs and add sugar, continue beating. Add the raisins and sour cream mixture to the eggs and sugar; continue beating on a low speed.
4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture. Beating until everything is mixed together well.
5. Bake about 50 to 60 minutes or until golden. Test with a toothpick until it comes out clean from the bread. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, loosen around the edges with a rubber spatula and then remove bread from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. When bread is completely cooled down, wet 2 paper towel and drape them over the bread. Over the wet paper towels, wrap the entire bread with tin foil overnight.
7. Optional – Double the recipe and make 2 Irish Soda Breads. Serve one now and freeze the other. This recipe freezes well!
8. ENJOY! – It’s a “Top of the morning” starting the day with Irish Soda Bread!

There is only one person who I think of when I think of Irish Soda Bread. That person is Mrs. Hoey. The Hoey Family moved into the house next door to my house when I was 3 years old. Luckily, for me, they had a 3 year old daughter, Maura, who became my best friend and still is to this day.

Mrs. Hoey had tremendous patience for a very precocious little girl, namely me. Maura was a good kid while I was a handful. Maura and I became inseparatable growing up together. We both have one older brother, so, we bonded as girlfriends, and as substitute sisters but without the sibling competition. Maura would join my family for outings and boat rides. I would march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with her and her dad. We took Irish dancing lessons together and just shared each other’s lives. At one point I wanted to be Irish. That’s how much fun I was having with her family. But, poor Mrs. Hoey, what I put her through. One time when I was with her, I ran in front of a bus. She nearly had a heart attack. Another time she took me with the family for a ferry ride to Bear Mountain, where I jumped into the shallow end of the Hudson River, having to spend the rest of the day in wet clothes. Didn’t I tell you I was a handful!

Besides Mrs. Hoey’s Irish Soda Bread, she had wonderful Sunday dinners with roasted leg of lamb that was so delicious. My family would have Sunday dinners with raviolis and meatballs and Maura and I would be going back and forth between our houses to share dinners. I have made Mrs. Hoey’s Irish Soda all these years and Maura has made my mom’s Pastina recipe just as long.

This Irish Soda Bread is Mrs. Hoey’s recipe. I didn’t discover the other very recognizable recipe for Irish Soda Bread till about 15 years ago when I bought an Irish Soda Bread at the store. The other recipe contains buttermilk and caraway seeds. It is crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It is tasty, but Mrs. Hoey’s will always be the true Irish Soda Bread to me, because it is hers.

All the stress and aggravation I caused Mrs. Hoey growing up, goodness knows why, but she still loves me. Some people are truly happy to see you and you can feel it. The same goes with people you are happy to see. That is my relationship with Mrs. Hoey. We both are happy to see each other and just sit together and talk. I always, I do mean always, bring her some baked goodies. Just so, she can tell me how wonderful I am (just kidding, I would bring her goodies, even if she didn’t). Now it is poor Maura who always has to hear how great I am. Who else is going to tell me how wonderful I am, but Mrs. Hoey! No one except my own mom and Mrs. Hoey is the next best thing to having my mom here.

Thank you, Mrs. Hoey for making my dull day bright, just by smiling your smile which is like a ray of sun light!

Martha Stewart & Somebody’s Mom

martha stewart and me cropped

Somebody’s Mom met Martha Stewart.  I was invited to an event at her offices in Manhattan.  My friend, Patti, came along.  We were working the room of about 200 people, trying to give my card out.

When all of sudden, who is standing in front of me, but Martha Stewart herself.  She looks fantastic.  I introduced myself and told her how I was invited, (through the Macy’s cooking demo) and handed her my card.  I forgot I had a camera with me and asked if I could take a picture with her.  She said I could, and was so nice about it.  Just as she was about to leave, I told her I brought her my sour cream coffee cake.  She took it.  Martha Stewart may actually taste my sour cream coffee cake.  After that I was done, this was enough excitement for one night.  Patti and I left to head home.  As we were getting into the elevator, Patti whispered to me, “Hold the door, hold the door!”  Who walks into the elevator with us, but Martha Stewart!

She asked if we enjoyed the event while taking the elevator down with us.  Martha and me, we bonded  together for 9 floors and then she was gone.  Maybe we will meet again.  Hey, you never know!  Thanks, Martha, it was fun!

U.S. Army Banana Breads

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2 ripe bananas
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 / 3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 3 / 4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 / 3 cup of sugar
1 / 4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

1. Oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a loaf pan. Mash bananas with a fork in a large bowl. Add softened margarine or butter and mix with beater. Gradually add sugar and eggs to the mix and continue to beat.
3. Mix flour and baking powder together and then also gradually add to banana mixture until all ingredients are well blended. (Optional: At this time, add mini chocolate chips if desired.) Pour into loaf pan.
4. Bake about 60 minutes or until golden. Test with a toothpick until it comes out clean from the bread. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, loosen around the edges with a butter knife and then remove bread from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Optional – Double the recipe and make 2 loaves. Serve one now and freeze the other. This recipe freezes well!
6. ENJOY! – Bananas without the peel!

Bananas are one of the least expensive fruits to buy on a weekly basis. Whenever I shop at my Costco Warehouse, I always buy a bunch of bananas. The quantity is large and the price is small. My husband will eat a few bananas and then they start to get very ripe. That’s when I whip up my mini banana breads for shipping to the American soldiers. I bake about a dozen mini banana breads three times a month. I started to add mini chocolate chips at the suggestion of my daughter, Mia. Baking cookies constantly to ship to the soldiers can be a little repetitive, (so I try to add a little something different to the mix!) I like to send our heroes care packages consisting of a few dozen cookies with 2 or 3 banana breads thrown in for a little something extra.

Banana breads have been given by me for so many years to friends and family, I can’t even remember when I started to bake them. If someone comes to my house for a meal or I visit someone, I always have something baked to bring along or for them to take home. Come Christmas time, I just bake and wrap in Christmas bags and freeze. It is a great gift for someone elderly or too busy to bake for themselves. Banana breads as gifts are the most personal thing I could give someone.

I bought waxed paper liners that fit perfectly into my mini loaf pans, and it makes cleaning up so much easier. When you use the paper liners, the mini loaves just slip right out onto the wire rack for cooling.

I hope that all the people I love and all the soldiers I so admire experience as much joy in eating my breads as I do in preparing them!

BUTTERMILK PECAN MUFFINS

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¼ cup butter, softened
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 ½ cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour

¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. Grease well a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper cup cake liners.
3. In a bowl beat butter, sugar, buttermilk, egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl sift flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the bowl, mixing thoroughly. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
4. In a small bowl mix the ½ teaspoon cinnamon with the brown sugar and pecans.
5. Fill muffin cups ½ way up with batter. Spoon some sugar pecan mixture, and repeat with a little more batter to make up ¾ filling the muffin cup. Sprinkle top with the sugar pecan mixture.
6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 8 to 12 large muffins. Can be frozen after baking.
7. ENJOY! – Sunday morning never smelled so good!…..

Buttermilk is such a great addition when baking muffins and cakes. Buttermilk is usually sold in quart containers only. This is 4 cups. It would be very rare if you use the whole container when baking this recipe. Even when I double or triple this recipe I have leftover buttermilk. That is when I start baking buttermilk biscuits or buttermilk bread. For me it is fun to figure out how to use up the leftover buttermilk. I usually start searching through my very large recipe collection. I have dozens of books and loose paper recipes.

For my Japanese readers, I understand in Japan buttermilk is not common. I found an American company that sells powdered buttermilk packets and I have sent them to my friends in Japan. Also if you check your substitute charts in your cookbooks you may find a way to make buttermilk from adding lemon juice to regular milk. Then you let it sit for a few minutes before using. I have used this method in a pinch when needed, but truthfully I would run out to the store to buy the buttermilk.

I have substituted walnuts for pecans if I have no pecans in the house. My daughter, Marisa, says I am a nut because I always need to have a large supply of pecans, walnuts and almonds in the house, just in case I need them. If heaven forbid I run out of nuts, I have to go the store and buy some immediately. It drives my kids crazy. I put nuts in everything. When you love to cook and bake like I do, you have to have a fully stocked kitchen. So, I replenish all my baking supplies whenever I notice something is running low.

This recipe was originally called Noreen’s muffins because of course, my friend, Noreen gave me the recipe. Noreen lived next door to us in our old neighborhood. Noreen was very pretty, very fit and trim. Noreen never really baked; she lifted weights for fun. However, one day she was watching a television show that showed how to make strawberry buttermilk muffins and she made them. She gave me the recipe. I changed it to cinnamon pecan muffins. That was probably the first and last time Noreen baked. Fast forward 18 years later, Noreen is still pretty and still fit and trim. She didn’t even remember giving me the recipe for the muffins. I did try to make the muffins with the strawberries but they didn’t seem to come out right for me. That’s when I started to experiment with, what else, nuts.

Experiment with recipes; don’t be afraid to change something. Cooking should be fun and interesting. The greatest mistakes I have made have turned into some of my greatest triumphs. Unfortunately, I don’t always remember what I did wrong!

BUTTERMILK CASSEROLE BREAD

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1 3 /4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 / 3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. Grease with margarine and line the bottom of a 10- inch square casserole dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
3. In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Beat the eggs and with the buttermilk add to the flour mixture, while continually stirring with a wooden spoon. Lastly, add caraway seeds. Do not over mix the batter. Just stir until all seeds are blended well.
4. Pour batter into the casserole dish and pour the melted butter over the top.
5. Bake 1 hour or until golden and firm to touch. Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with butter or plain.
6. ENJOY – Easiest bread you will ever make and no kneading before you bake!…..

This is a most interesting bread. It was a conversation piece when I served it to my dinner guests. Bread in a square casserole dish; who thought of that? Yet, it was moist and delicious, and then the requests for the recipe came in.

When going out to dinner, I noti ced a trend. Interesting breads were served in the breadbaskets placed on the table upon your arrival. Some bread is great, like the brown breads, the sourdoughs, the ryes and the multigrain. These are very interesting to try and are a great change from regular sliced Italian bread that was served for years. Actually, the first time I noticed a change was at an Italian restaurant where the breadbaskets were placed with the sliced Italian bread and bite size pieces of their house Sicilian pizza. Of course, these pizza bites were a huge hit and probably started the trend.

Then the butter started to disappear from the tables and dipping dishes with olive oil took their place. As a matter of fact, the last fancy dinner I went to served bread along with a red spread. We all were trying to figure out what was in it. The spread turned out to be a tomato & red pepper spread. Bread is a meal in itself now, and I am happy to have bread and a salad for lunch.

Bread is Bellisimo! I love trying new kinds of bread and new accompaniments with it. I hope you do to!

ZUCCHINI BREAD

dsc072632 cups canola oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 eggs
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups flour
4 cups sugar
4 cups chopped walnuts
4 cups shredded zucchini

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour 4 loaf pans 9 inch by 5 inch.
3. Beat egg in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, oil and vanilla
until well blended.
4. Add softened cream cheese and beat on low/medium speed.
5. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking soda, baking powder,
cinnamon, nutmeg and salt with a whisk or fork. Slowly, mix
together the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with the
mixer on a low speed.
6. Fold in walnuts and zucchini. Mix the batter with a wooden
spoon at this point until everything is mixed well together.
7. Divide the batter evenly as you can into the prepared loaf
pans. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick in the center comes
out clean.
8. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes. With a
spatula, gently go down the sides of the loaf pan and loosen
the bread before turning over onto a wire rack to cool
completely.
9. ENJOY! – Zucchini and Cream Cheese, (who knew), they go
great together!

I am always intrigued by a recipe if it has something unexpected, like cream cheese in the batter of this zucchini bread. I was worried that the cream cheese would make the bread too mushy. The shortening in this recipe is the oil instead of butter or margarine. That is where the cream cheese comes in as an added shortening in my perception of the whole recipe in relation to the amounts of flour, sugar, zucchini and nuts.

Sometimes, the match of two different ingredients is great together and sometimes it is a disaster. The thing is you never know unless you try. Being a fearless cook, I am always up to a challenge.

All these years cooking, my husband can testify to some real disasters. I remember a combination dish of potatoes and carrots in particular. The potatoes and carrots had to be peeled and cut, then cooked and mashed. Preparing this dish from start to finish was time consuming. I worked hard all day on this potato and carrot dish. My husband took one bite and said, “Forget it”. We ended up throwing out most of it. My kids tasted it but everyone agreed something was missing. Most of the time I get a thumb’s up sign, knowing that I done good. But some of the time, it’s a thumb’s down. Every mistake is a lesson, whether in cooking or in life. Hopefully, you don’t repeat your mistakes.

The only thing that bothers me is wasting food. If I spent a considerable amount of money on ingredients to try a new recipe and then throw everything out, that bothers me. Plus, the fact that I do think it is a sin to waste food.

Start your engines for some fearless flying, I mean cooking. Don’t worry you can always jump out, I mean throw it out, if it doesn’t taste great!